As we prepare for the annual feast of Thanksgiving, let us consider the turkey. When this area was first settled there were wild turkeys roaming the woods. Today we are seeing more and more woodland creatures coming out of the woods, walking our streets, strolling the sidewalks, since automobile traffic is less intense. Of course, the fox, the deer and the bears we have come to expect and have a certain degree of familiarity with. Lately we have seen gangs of wild turkeys running amok in Morris County. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection estimates that statewide there are 20,000 to 23,000 wild turkeys. They typically will not harm you or anyone else.
There are plenty of places in New Jersey named for the turkey:
Turkey Point Road in Brick
Turkey Swamp Park in Freehold
Old Turkey Swamp Road in Freehold
The Town of Turkey Foot in Gloucester Township
The Town of Turkey Point in Downe Township
Turkey Hill Road in Bethlehem
There are three towns in America also named after the turkey: Turkey, Texas, Turkey Creek, Louisiana and Turkey, North Carolina. Each town has less than 500 residents.
New Providence in Union County was originally named “Turkey” by its earliest settlers (c. 1720) for the large flocks of wild turkeys in the area. The name was changed to “New Providence” in 1759 when worshippers in a crowded church were hurt in the collapse of a balcony. It was considered a miracle that no one was seriously hurt. The miracle was referred to as a divine act of “providence” which led to the new town name, which everyone in town preferred to “Turkey” anyway.
Turkeys are in the same family as pheasants along with partridges, francolins, junglefowl, and grouse. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus, who thought he was in India when he arrived in the “New World,” dubbed the pheasant a “tuka,” an Indian term for a peacock. The name stuck.
Have you ever been to Morris County’s “Turkey Brook Park?” It is located at 30 Flanders Road in Budd Lake/Mt. Olive. The park, situated on 267 acres, opened in 2003, and is one of the best parks in New Jersey for families and children. There are fields for soccer, football, baseball, and lacrosse. There is a 1.5-acre dog park. You can play tennis, volleyball, and basketball. There is a ½ mile walking track and 1.5 miles of asphalt walking pathways. There are several memorials in the park–the All Veteran’s Memorial, a September 11th Memorial, and a Memorial Garden for Children of Mt. Olive.
A popular feature in the park is called Mount Playmore with swings, slides, see-saws and more. Open in summer is the Pirate’s Cove water park. Seasonal activities include ice skating, the PAL fishing derby, the Mt. Olive Week Carnival and more.
The historic Seward House is located at the entrance to Turkey Brook Park. The mansion was built in 1858 by Beulah and Henry Seward. Henry’s father, Henry Seward, was a first cousin to William Henry Seward, the U.S. Secretary of State in the Lincoln administration. The mansion has 9 large rooms, a grand staircase, chandeliers, ornate mantels, and a wrap-around porch. Architecturally, it is an important example of an 18th century stone farmhouse in a mid-Victorian style. It is being renovated by the Mt. Olive Historical Society.
Wondering why the country of Turkey is named Turkey? It is not named for a wild bird. At the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey (1922) was named for its local population—the Turks. Get it?