Grave of Henry Charlton Beck
1640 Haddon Ave
Camden, NJ 08103
GPS Coordinates – 39°55’27.20″N, 75° 5’19.56″W
It started with a slow news day…
“…the foreman of a newspaper composing-room, always ready with ideas for making busy people busier, proposed that an honest effort should be made to locate the town still indicated on maps of New Jersey by the mysterious name of Ong’s Hat,” (Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey, 1936)
Henry Charlton Beck, a reporter for the Camden Courier-Post, was the one sent out in an old car down suspect roads with a photographer who could also double as a mechanic. He found Ong’s Hat that day, and was soon making regular excursions across South Jersey to track down old forgotten place names in far off corners of South Jersey. His fascination and his newspaper stories soon became a series of books on New Jersey history and folklore – Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey (1936), More Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey (1937), The Jersey Midlands (1939 – originally published as Ode to Midlands), Jersey Genesis: The Story of Mullica River (1945), The Roads of Home: Lanes and Legends of New Jersey (1956), and Tales and Towns of Northern New Jersey (1964).
A man of many talents, Beck also wrote a series of five mystery books and even co-wrote a book of comics of church humor. Why church humor? Because in 1949, Mr. Beck got out of the newspaper racket and because the Reverend Henry Charlton Beck, serving as an Episcopal priest for the remainder of his life (which also serving as editor of various church publications). His love of South Jersey never ended though, as he led tours of the pine barrens for the remainder of his life and continued to write newspaper columns on New Jersey history for the Newark Star-Ledger (you can read a few of his articles from that time period at njpinebarrens.com). The Reverend Beck passed away from a heart attack at the age of 62 back in 1965.
Beck’s books (borrowed from the Camden County Library) are what initially got me so excited to go out and explore the various corners of South Jersey. These books are a must own for anyone who loves New Jersey, stories lovingly written in a way that has fascinated thousands (tens of thousands?) of people in ways that dry history just can’t. If you don’t own them, go buy one now before you finish reading this. Seriously. Now. I’ll wait.
Back? Good! So when I stopped by Harleigh Cemetery in Camden on a FRIGID January day to visit Walt Whitman (I drove past this every day to and from work for YEARS), I had a little part of my brain that kept bugging me about something (did I leave the stove on? Did I forget to return my library books again?). My brain finally worked it out – Henry Charlton Beck was buried here. His grave wasn’t listed on the cemetery map (although I did find some other fascinating graves, which I’ll share in another post), or have a location listed on findagrave.com (what, you don’t all routinely visit findagrave.com?), but I stopped at the office to sheepishly ask if they knew where it was. The incredibly friendly staff went through the records and figured out the section he was buried in. Unfortunately, it was a part of the cemetery that was not well gridded. The friendly, helpful, wonderful lady who helped me out offered to drive out there with me to look for it, but I felt it would be more in the spirit of Henry Charlton Beck to go out exploring for it myself (plus, it was really cold and I felt bad).
After a good deal of searching, I found it. He’s buried next to his wife, his final resting place marked by a small, flag stone that was partially covered in grass, which I cleared off the best I could. His stone modestly contains only one word about his life – “Priest.”
I took a few minutes to think about the many adventures this man had in a life well lived.
How to find the Reverend Beck’s grave:
NOTE: This cemetery closes at night, with the gates locked. Don’t get locked in.
This is also located in Camden. I felt very safe here in the middle of the day during business hours, but I also teach at a school where 2/3 of my students come from Camden. Take appropriate precautions.
He is located in the Linden Section of Harleigh Cemetery, which is along Haddon Ave.
Park the car between the Highland and Linden sections of the cemetery. Look for the Ledden headstone and walk straight for the road.
The grave is located to the right of the red Davis-Stratton grave and in front of the grey Sylvester grave.
Back toward the Ledden grave –
Walt Whitman’s grave is a must visit in the cemetery. Civil War General Sewell, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, is also buried here.
Around the corner is the Camden County Historical Society, which is a fascinating place.
The Ben Franklin Bridge walk is not far away.
Cooper River Park is located in nearby Pennsauken.
Camden also contains the Walt Whitman House, the Battleship New Jersey, and Adventure Aquarium are also in town.