Dr. James Still Nature Trail – Dr. James Still State Park and Education Center – Medford, Burlington County, NJ
Distance – 3/4 of a mile total
Type – Loop
Difficulty: 1 of 10
Dr. James Still Center
Dr. James Still Historic Office Site & Education Center (Medford Historical Society)
Dr. James Still Historic Office Site & Education Center Facebook
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – Woodlands and meadow
Surface – Dirt with a few boardwalks
Directions – Located at 211 Church Road, Medford, NJ 08055
Parking – Lot has been built at the Education Center.
Dog friendly? Unsure
Stroller friendly? Offroad strolled should work, but it would be some work
Benches? Not yet, future Eagle project?
This trail, kiosk, and herb beds are courtesy of the hard work of Eagle Scouts Matthew Mason of Troop 26 and Matthew Maguire of Troop 48. Excellent job guys.
I saw on Facebook that the Dr. Still Historic Site and Cultural Center was having a grand opening for a new nature trail, so when t-ball finished a little early, the whole family hopped into the car to make the grand opening.
So who was Dr. Still and why does he have a historic site? Dr. Still was the son of a pair of former slaves (one bought his freedom, the other ran away from her master), born in 1812. Despite his poverty, the racist attitudes of the day, and having little in the way of formal education, Dr. Still taught himself how to create medicine out of plants and herbs and apply it to heal people. While he was never allowed to formally become a doctor through an institute of higher learning, he saved many lives in his years of service, earning the title “The Black Doctor of the Pines” through respect for his fine work, which often cured people after “regular” doctors had failed.
He was hugely successful, becoming quite wealthy with a prosperous practice and a great deal of land. Dr. Still built an office and house in Medford, the site of which is now a state park dedicated to preserve his memory and his office building (the house is long gone).
Dr. Still is an absolutely fascinating individual, and I highly recommend his autobiography, Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still, which has been recently republished by the South Jersey Culture & History Center and which is easily found on Amazon. It’s also well worth seeing Samuel Still III’s presentation on Dr. James Still and/or Francine Hick’s presentation on him, each are quite different in their approach to teaching about the man
The new nature trail takes you on a walk through part of his old property. You’ll start behind the Cultural Center, next to the barn. Look for the new kiosk.
We accidently took the trail backwards, so you’ll be getting it backwards. It starts on a mown path through a meadow in what used to be farm fields.
Along the whole trail, look for lift up signs. These contain information about plants along the way. They are great, and the whole family worked on our trees as we walked.
The trail continues along the edge of the old farm fields. The flowers were looking pretty good for June.
Along the back stretch, things really get interesting. There’s a long straightaway, then a small path to the right. The small path takes you two a pair of trees estimates at 180 and 200 years old. They are along an old roadway, and Dr. Still would have walked by these during his time on this earth.
Once back on the trail, you’ll cross the first of two little bridges over a muddy area. The trail will then soon head into a shadier area with trees around you.
Once in the forest area, you’ll find the second of the two small foot bridges.
From here, keep an eye out for signs from the old farm as you approach the trail head.
And then you’ll arrive back at the trail head!
But although you are done the trail, you aren’t done. Head right and walk across the field to check out Dr Still’s office. It’s still in the process of being fixed up, but it’s slowly being brought back to its former glory.
You then walk back toward the cultural center. Check out the herb gardens, which grow many of the herbs that Dr. Still would have used in his practice.
And finally, if it’s open while you’re there, you can’t miss the Dr. Still Cultural and Education Center. Inside is a bust of Dr. Still, as well as excellent exhibits on the Lenape Indians, Dr. Still’s practice, and the Underground Railroad (his brother William Still was a HUGE player in the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia, and worked closely with Harriet Tubman. He also wrote a book about his experiences, The Underground Railroad, which on my “to read” list for this summer. It is available from Plexus Publishing.
The trail and the stroll to the office and garden are about 3/4 of a mile total.
You can pay your respects to Dr. Still, who is buried at nearby Jacob’s Chapel on Elbo Lane in Mt. Laurel (for the life of me, I can’t find my pictures of his grave at the moment).
Just down the street is the Medford Historical Society at Kirbys Mill. It’s not open much, but beautiful just to stop and look around.
Variety of different plant life for such a short trail! History! Can learn plant IDs!
On the short side.