Morgan Memories – The Remains of the Old Spye Inn
The more I think about what was the essence of Morgan, as I knew it from my time growing up there, the more I think it was the Old Spye Inn. Combined with what I have learned in my now over five years of research, it appears that Morgan “started” in the area right around where the Old Spye Inn was located. In its original configuration, Cheesequake Creek emptied into Raritan Bay a few hundred feet away to the east. To the west was where Crossways / Back Creek emptied into Cheesequake Creek from present day Oak Tree Village. It was and still is between the site of the Old Spye Inn, and the bluff immediately next to it, where what is now Old Spye Road transitions from Cheesequake Creek’s sea level elevation to the 30 to 40ish feet of elevation at the top of the road in front of the Morgan Fire House. For many decades until the 1926 opening of what is now the north bound lanes of present day Route 35, the main pathway from all points north to the shore lines of Monmouth County, indeed all of the Jersey Shore from Sandy Hook south, ran right past the Old Spye Inn. With immediate access to a sheltered area right next to the mouth of Cheesequake Creek, the most logical place to put a building was right where the Old Spye Inn was located. If it wasn’t the first building in Morgan, at the time of its sad destruction in 1976 it certainly was the oldest.
This posting doesn’t contain – still – the definitive history of the Old Spye Inn. I still don’t feel like I have accumulated a sufficient amount of factual information about this beloved structure. I did manage to acquire a copy of the 1975 book by Stanley L. Wojcik about The Old Spye Inn but still don’t want to read it until I feel comfortable being able to differentiate the fact from the fiction I assume it contains. Kids in the neighborhood during my time there had known and passed down the name Abe Mussey as being the name of the spy for whom the building was eventually named. We heard he had been hung on a tree next to the Inn. We heard he had been doing some form of signaling to British ships in Raritan Bay when he was caught. What he was signaling, who caught him, what form of trial – if any – occurred, who was the judge, was there a jury, did he actually do what he was accused of, what was the date, how old was he, where was he from, and many other specific questions remain to be answered. Hopefully we’ll be able to eventually find this out. I still have not found any records of this event.
When it actually became known as Ye Old Spye Inn vs. whatever it had been known as previously, when it was built, whether it was actually was the Morgan family that built it originally or the Applegate Family – and when – I don’t yet have confirming documentation. Of the on-line research I have thus far accumulated, the most interesting web site to read is New Jersey History’s Mysteries. No doubt some of the information contained in it is true and I already know that some of it isn’t accurate but the real challenge is in knowing which is which.
The December 1976 photos contained in this posting are brought you courtesy of Mr. Robert Bender. Mr. Bender, a longtime resident of the Morgan area, sent me three very faded slides taken by his father containing the originals of the images in this posting. Mr. Bender also recalled finding mortar shells at the Samsel School sight on Ernston Road near the Sayrewoods Shopping Center as well as the building of the Sayrewoods Shopping Center. At the time the shopping center was built, Route 9 was only a one lane road each way. Mrs. Bender is from Morgan and remembers the graves in the Morgan Family cemetery as well as the old chicken farms. I am enormously grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Bender for sharing their Morgan memories and artifacts with all of us so they could have been posted on this web site.
I’ve been hearding what I hope to be only rumors regarding the possible paving of Old Spye Road with asphalt. That would be truly sad – at least for me.
Originally posted on December 18, 2011.