The Tall Tales of Jonas Cattell
Jonas Cattell was born in 1758, on a farm called Lavender Hills. The farm was located just outside of Woodbury in what is now Deptford. He was listed in Ripley's Believe It Or Not for hand delivering a letter from Woodbury to Cape May and back, 160 miles, on foot in two days. At the age of 18, in 1776, Cattell became a hero. The Hessians were camped in Haddonfield. They were planning a surprise, early morning attack against the American troops at Fort Mercer. Jonas Cattell was familiar with all of the back trails in the area. He was known to have created a number of trails. Cattell took all of the back trails from Haddonfield to Ft. Mercer. He arrived well before the Hessians. Because the American troops were able to prepare for the battle against the Hessians, they were able to defeat and almost totally annihilate them.
Jonas Cattell was known to wear a red flannel shirt, a heavy overcoat, fisherman's boots, and canvas leggings. He also carried a gun and a tomahawk. He was also famous for his tall tales.
One tall tale involves Jonas sailing a small boat at Big Timber Creek. All of a sudden an eighteen- foot sturgeon jumped on board the boat. The sturgeon sprang overboard; but Jonas was able to grab it. Jonas Cattell rode the fish all the way to the shore. When he was on land, Jonas threw the sturgeon into a creek.
Another tall tale involves a similar story. Jonas and two friends were fishing in the Cohansey River. A shark started to circle their boat. Hoping to get rid of the shark, Jonas and his friends threw flour, sugar, and lemons at the shark. The shark swallowed the items and still circled the boat. The men were desperate. They threw wood, oars and tools at the shark. Again, the shark swallowed the items and still circled the boat. One of the men got really desperate and thought of Jonah and the whale. He threw Cattell overboard. The shark swallowed Cattell in one big gulp. The two remaining men were able to lasso the stuffed shark. They rode the shark to Bridgeton. They were proud of their catch and they hung it upside down. The shark began to stink in the hot sun. The men cut the shark open. Jonas walked out of the shark. While he was inside the shark, Jonas, being ever resourceful, built a refreshment stand with the wood and tools that were thrown overboard. He used the lemons and sugar thrown overboard to make lemonade. He sold the lemonade to people who came from all around to marvel at the huge shark that was caught.
Jonas Cattell died in 1854 at the age of 96. He is buried in a tiny wooded grove in Deptford. The grave is located on Melvin Avenue, one block south of Caulfield Avenue.
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