Barbara Solem has worked as a special education teacher, trainer, principal and administrator.
With her third book set to release this month, it may be time to add author to that list.
Solem, a resident of Tuckerton Road in Shamong, used the surrounding area as inspiration for her first two books, “The Forks. A Brief History of the Area” and “Ghost Towns And Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens”
The inspiration remains the same for her third book, “Batsto Village. Jewel of the Pines.”
“Batsto Village” presents a detailed history of Batsto, an early iron town and glassworks situated in the Pine Barrens in Hammonton. First used by Native Americans for short visitations, Batsto was the site of a sawmill in the 1760s before Charles Read, a prominent businessman and farmer, established an iron furnace there in 1765.
Strategically located along the Mullica and Batsto Rivers, Batsto played an essential role in the Revolutionary War. Its ironworks became a vital supplier of arms to George Washington’s army, while its shipping landing located at The Forks of the Little Egg Harbor nurtured a “nest of rebel pirates” that would confound British forces and help turn the tide for independence.
“The story of Batsto Village is brimming with early American history. A story complete with smugglers, privateers, British spies and titans of industry. It needed to be told,” Solem said.
Solem’s interest in the region’s history was born out of spending weekends in Wharton State Forest.
“Local history became an interest to me because of where I live, hiking and kayaking in Wharton State Forest,” Solem said. “I always wanted to write and this area interests me. It’s sort of amazing that this all happened. It was kind of stumbling on it that happened to me. I started to do research and was astounded at the depth of history in the area.”
The changes in the area surrounding Wharton State Forest have been drastic, Solem said.
“The Pine Barrens were a very different place than they are today. It was really an industrial center,” Solem said.
Solem’s ability to document the region’s history has not gone unnoticed.
“Barbara Solem is a persistent researcher with a knack for bringing history alive,” said Budd Wilson, a historical archaeologist who played a major role in excavations at Batsto beginning in the 1960s. “It’s surprising that it’s taken this long for someone to finally pen the story of Batsto Village, but in this author’s capable hands, I can honestly say it was worth the wait.”
Solem will be speaking at the Indian Mills Historical Society’s next meeting on Monday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be at township building, 105 Willow Grove Road.