ABSTRACT

In 1901 the Chancery Court of New Jersey heard arguments in one of the largest property lawsuits ever held in Atlantic County. The suit, filed by the Estell Family, alleged that Philadelphia businessman Daniel Risley had failed to repay mortgages held by the Estells on thousands of acres of pinelands along the Tuckahoe River. Risley had developed the lands as the Estelle Colony. The lawsuit opened a window onto the economic decline, real estate speculation, and demographic changes transforming the landscape of the southern New Jersey Pine Barrens. As the colony's mostly immigrant residents struggled with building homes, farming the sandy pinelands soils, and filling a vacuum of governance with a unique example of a village improvement association, they transformed their landscape and crafted community identity out of hardship. The first years of their settlement present a significant story of placemaking in Philadelphia's nearest wilderness.

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