celebrating a sense of place

The Fox Hill Preserve in Tewksbury Township is a more welcoming place for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, thanks to a trio of Eagle Scout projects recently completed by twin brothers Henry and Stuart Fechhelm and Finn Wintz, all of Mendham.  Read More


Tewksbury Tree

& Menorah Lighting

​A Community Celebration

Going home for the holidays has been intrinsic to the fabric of our culture since the invention of planes, trains and automobiles. The holidays, unlike any other time of year, beckon us to a time and place where hospitality and love abound, and the warmth, security and familiarity of being home washes over us. Read More

A Jolly Antidote to This Year's Drizzly Fall

By Alex Obercian

Fox Hill Preserve Enhanced by Three Eagle Scout Projects

By Sandy Perry 

Black River Roasters



You’ll find heroes, heritage, history, equestrians, destinations, music, musings, seasonal spirits, holiday fare and more… in our winter issue - on newsstands now.

Don’t miss this fun-filled and rousing edition featuring classic cocktails at Sammy’s Ye Olde Cider Mill, a Metropolitan Seafood/BRJ Celebration Crab Sauce, the Thomas Nast Collection at Macculloch Hall, more Barnyard Moments from Teresa White, the inspiring journey of Para-Dressage Rider, Alanna Flax-Clark, the “Wonderful Life” of Leo “Red” Jennings, an interview with singer/songwriter, Gordon Thomas Ward, and much more… to warm hearts on a cold winter’s day. 

The winter sun began to set, and luminaries lit the way up both sides of the main road through Oldwick, New Jersey, while people gathered around the Christmas Tree and Menorah at the Tewksbury Township Library. Folks, families, and friends sipped steaming hot cocoa and munched homemade cookies in the frosty air as “Here Comes Santa Claus” played... Read More

In Our Current Issue...

The Belsnickel

Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter...

no, it wasn’t St. Nick. 

By C.G. Wolfe




"Belsnickel" by Ralph Dunkleberger in Alfred L. Shoemaker, "Christmas in Pennsylvania: A Folk-Cultural Study."(Photo: ancientartpodcast.org via flickr/CC Attribution)

Woody Brunet

BRJ Online

Including  new and expanded content and images not available in our print edition 

Naturally, most kids would scream and look for the first place to hide, but when their parents opened the door to let him in, they would be gathered together to greet the surly Belsnickel. The Belsnickel would demand to know who had been naughty and if he thought you were fibbing, he was liable to give you swat with his switch. Then he’d ask each child to recite a bible verse or sing a song. If he was satisfied, he would toss a generous handful or two of candies and nuts on the floor. Those greedy children who jumped too fast for the goodies, got another lick with the switch.

When German immigrants came to America in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought the Belsnickel with them, where he continued to be part of the yule time celebrations in the heavily German settled areas of Pennsylvania, Appalachia, and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. German Palatines that settled in our area of New Jersey, in places like Long Valley, Oldwick, and Califon also continued the tradition but over time, the menacing Belsnickel was replaced by groups of merry roving Christmas revelers, as Helen Haggerty Geist described in her book, The Califon Story, first published in 1966 and still available in reprint from the Califon historical Society.

“Another custom, which is peculiar to this section at Christmas time, was ‘bell snickling.’ In case yiu are not familiar with this term, or its practice, may I tell you that the observance of ‘Halloween’ had not yet been introduced to this section as a time to disguise oneself in any way possible… Instead, the disguising was done on Christmas Eve as the ‘Fun Makers’ knocked on the door and waited for it to be opened and for the people to guess who the folks were who had disguised themselves. Of course, each family was to treat his guest on candy or cake or some other goodie which he might possess. If a stranger were present, who was not familiar with this strange custom, he often would be scared when the door was opened, and the callers were found to be the ‘bell snicklers’ of Christmas Eve.”


If the thought of a stranger coming down your chimney at night and leaving a lump of coal isn’t enough to induce good behavior in your kids at Christmas time, then maybe you need a fur-clad, masked man with a switch – who is not afraid it use it.

In Germany, particularly in Lutheran or Reformed households, the Belsnickel, a dark and mischievous figure, would start arriving two weeks before Christmas. Wild and ragged looking, his face was often blackened with coal or covered in a mask that had a long tongue sticking out. With a switch (or even a crop or a whip) in one hand and a sack of goodies in the other, he’d arrive at a house, unannounced, and tap menacingly on the window with his switch. 


An Interview with 

Singer/Song Writer

Gordon Thomas Ward

​By C.G. Wolfe

If this unseasonably wet fall has you yearning for the season’s traditional pleasures of brisk blue skies, golden leaves and rosy apples, think past the pumpkin spice latte and head to the bar at Sammy’s for a bracing glass of autumnal cheer. Two seasonal cocktails are on the menu, both featuring the bar’s mulled apple cider (this is Sammy’s Ye Old Cider Mill after all). 

In the Apple Cider Martini ($13) Skyy Honeycrisp vodka is shaken with chilled mulled cider and served up for a take on the Apple Martini that perfectly balances 

Storyteller, Gordon Thomas Ward, has returned from the studio with another gorgeously produced album, Providence, once again showcasing his multi-stringed artistry and poetic, folk lyricism. In the true vein of the Celtic bards, high lonesome Appalachian pickers, and American balladeers, Ward weaves a tapestry of emotions and poignant visualizations...

Read More


Granny's Celebration

Blue Crab Sauce

By C.G. Wolfe

​with Mark Drabich

tart and sweet notes. The Apple Martini, a relatively recent addition to the cocktail canon — the drink made its way east from California sometime around the year 2000 — is traditionally made with vodka or gin and an apple-flavored ingredient such as calvados or green-apple schnapps. In unskilled hands the drink has all the appeal of cough syrup or a Jolly Rancher. Woody’s version avoids those pitfalls, and is a refreshing and well-crafted take.  

The Drunken Apple Pie ($11), which ups the sweetness quotient, makes a perfect after-dinner drink. It is served up and features the intriguing Italian liqueur Tuaca, a brandy flavored with Mediterranean citrus and vanilla. (Woody tells us that Tuaca is a traditional bartender’s handshake or shift drink in Reno, akin to the Fernet Branca popular with New York bartenders.) The name says it all with The Drunken Apple Pie –– this is a boozy, sweet drink. The various spices from the Tuaca and mulled cider make this drink reminiscent of a holiday punch and create the illusion that one is drinking a slice of grandma’s homemade pie. 

For the apple-averse, we recommend the bar’s aged Manhattan ($13), mixed with Maker’s Mark Bourbon and served up. All are a jolly antidote to this year’s drizzly fall and had us feeling refreshed as we headed out into another rainy fall evening. (Read more in our Winter 2018/2019 print edition.)

Sammy's is located at 353 Mendhan Road W., in Mendham, NJ. sammyscidermill.com

Home Sweet Home

By Julianne Harris

Veterans’ Winter

Clothing Drive

Inspired By Late Vietnam Veteran

John E. McDonough, the son of a World War II veteran, was born on the fourth of July, in Elmira, New York. Described as a “gentle, fun-loving athlete and accomplished musician,” John enlisted in the US Air Force in 1969,  just a few months after his 18th birthday.  Read More

As if there weren’t enough to worry about, now many of the cooks in the family have another reason to lie awake at night this November – Thanksgiving dinner! For most of us, it’s the one time a year we are asked to roast something the size of a small Volkswagen (except for those crazy enough to make a second attempt at Christmas) and have it be cooked to crowd-pleasing perfection.  Read More


The Curse of the Turkey:

A Thanksgiving Horror Story

(or Tell Ben Franklin to Stuff It!)


The market at Metropolitan Seafood was closed, as it always is on Monday, when we slipped through the front door and locked it behind us. We had come to recreate my Granny’s Blue Crab Sauce, or as Mark Drabich described it, “perform a culinary séance.” The dish was Granny’s spaghetti course for the Feast of the Seven Fishes... Read More

The Black River Journal

Winter Edition 2018/1019