Sign project traces history

Sunday, October 07, 2007
By Siobhan A. Counihan

If you've driven down Hessian Avenue in National Park lately, you may have noticed some very different road signs.

Bright blue with white letters and the white silhouette of a running boy, these signs commemorate the run that a teenager made 230 years ago to warn Fort Mercer of a pending Hessian attack and the signs themselves are based on the work of a Haddonfield teen.

Jackie Castorino, a 17-year-old senior at Haddonfield Memorial High School, designed the signs for her project as state president of the New Jersey Children of the American Revolution.

As president of the organization, Jackie a direct blood-line descendant of someone who provided services or fought in the American Revolution was required to complete a project that would preserve American history that has to do with the American Revolution and the state of New Jersey.

After doing a bit of research, Jackie and her mother decided that memorializing Jonas Cattell's run would be the perfect project.

"It's interesting because it draws attention to something a teenager did, whereas we always honor adults," Shelly said. "It just worked out, it was just a really beautiful fit."

Jackie began working on the project at the beginning of this year, and the six signs were installed by the state Department of Transportation on Oct. 2. The signs cost roughly $200 apiece, a cost that Jackie covered through fundraising.

"I had to make the whole sign myself and send it to them [DOT], then they would tweak it," Jackie said. "It took months. We probably sent somewhere around 10 different versions in."

The signs go along the route of the annual Jonas Cattell Run, which was started in 1969 to commemorate the original event. The route of today's run is much different than Cattell's actual route, though.

Cattell was working in Haddonfield as a blacksmith when one day, he was captured by the Hessians for violating the local curfew. They detained Cattell overnight, during which time he overheard the Hessians planning an attack on Fort Mercer. A resident of what is now Deptford Township, Cattell ran through swamps and woods after the Hessians released him the next morning to warn the fort of the impending attack.

The annual commemorative run starts at King's Court in Haddonfield and finishes at Fort Mercer in National Park. Sponsored by Gloucester County Parks and Recreation, this year's event is set for 1 p.m. on Oct. 14. Anyone interested in running should contact the county parks office at (856) 251-6710 to register.

Now that the signs are up, Jackie said she's proud of what she did.

"It's nice to have done it and worked through it and now, finally, I have something to show for it," Jackie said. "It's fun to be able to walk down the street and be able to say, Hey I did that.'"

© 2007  Gloucester County Times
© 2007 All Rights Reserved.