The Morgan Range Beacon, a.k.a., “The Rocket Launcher”

Morgan Markers – The Morgan Range Beacon, a.k.a., “The Rocket Launcher”

Morgan Range Beacon - View from Luke Street

The Morgan Range Beacon on the South Side of the Raritan Bay Side End of Luke Street, Circa 1952. Photo is Courtesy of Bert Buehler who grew up in Morgan and Features (left to right): Bert’s Father John Buehler; Uncle Bill Buehler, Aunt Margaret Buehler, and Aunt Louise Sprague (Sister-in-Law of Previous Sayreville Police Chief Douglas Sprague).

We’ve waited nearly 7 years until a Morgan-NJ.org reader found one, but finally we have an image of the Morgan Range Beacon in its upright position!  As an added bonus, we also have a pretty accurate location of where exactly the beacon was located.  A big thank you goes to Bert Buehler who, while rifling through his late aunt and uncle’s photos from their time building their house on Luke Street in 1952/53, took the above image showing a dirt surfaced Luke Street, their cinder block basement top, Bert’s relatives, and the Morgan Range Beacon.  Here’s the original article about the Morgan Range Beacon with a few updates reflecting information learned since it was first posted:

Morgan Range Beacon

The Morgan Range Beacon, Circa 1919. Source: 1919 Annual Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor of New York.

The 1919 Annual Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor of New York cleared up another long time Morgan mystery. In 2009, The Sayreville Historical Society asked me what I knew about “large metal reflectors on the sand cliffs at the end of Luke Street that were used during WWII for ships to find their way”. Well, sadly, at the time I didn’t know anything about them. Again, unknowns such as this are a big reason why I am doing this web site. Fortunately my Selover School classmate Ritchie, my Morgan neighbor Al, and Morgan-NJ.org reader Paulras were able to provide some hometown info about it. Per Ritchie, “On the path leading to 40 Horses, you would also pass what we called the ‘Rocket Launcher’, which was some kind of old metal tower that was on its side”. Per Al, there “was a single reflector metal plate that stood on three steel uprights. It fell down during Hurricane Donna in September 1960. There was a tombstone that indicated it was used for navigation between NJ and NY.” Per Paulras, “I was told that it was an old lookout tower or a type of lighthouse or beacon that was used in some war.”

The 1919 report indicated that this structure, named the “Morgan Range Beacon”, was actually a beacon lying on an extension of the “Morgan 2”/Romer Beacon line (see the NY/NJ Boundary page), i.e., it became a visible part of the boundary separating New Jersey from New York. By being located on the raised terrace of land some 30 to 40 feet above sea (bay) level, the 56 foot tall structure would have been even more elevated, hence able to be seen from further distances in Raritan Bay.

Here is what the 1919 report said about the Morgan Range Beacon:
“Consists of a triangular steel tower, about 56 feet high, set on three concrete piers, with a large rectangle of steel at the tops as the beacon; all in good condition. It is located on the highland about one mile south of South Amboy, N.J., and about 1,000 feet north of Morgan Station on the New York and Long Branch R. R., on land of the Otis Sand Lime Brick Co., back of their brick manufactory. It is in the prolongation of the line between the Romer lighthouse and the permanent monument. Underneath the rectangular beacon there is an 8-inch by 12-inch granite monument, the southeast corner of which is slightly chipped; otherwise it is in good condition. The steelwork needs repainting. ”

Monument at the Base of the Morgan Range Beacon

Granite Monument at Base, Circa 1919. Source: 1919 Annual Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor of New York.

Before I read the above report, I thought this tower might have been used as a reference point by ships navigating through the channels in Raritan Bay. Now I believe the tower and beacon was primarily used by navigators on the bay to determine whether they were in New Jersey or New York so as to know which state’s laws were applicable. In the days when Oystering in the bay was a huge enterprise, it was useful to precisely know where you were (these were the days before GPS). Around the time of World War I, Oystering was about to suddenly come to a halt due to the industrial pollutants and effluents from sewage plants released into the bay. To this day, nearly 100 years later, the bay is still trying to recover from the pollution.

Al also later recalled, “I remember the granite monument that was underneath had the latitude and longitude engraved on it. It also told you what the site was used for. It was about 8 x 8 x 18 inches. I wonder who has it now since it was dug up when they built the homes up there”.

Originally posted on March 21, 2010.  Bert Buehler image added October 2, 2016.

5 thoughts on “The Morgan Range Beacon, a.k.a., “The Rocket Launcher”

  1. Stacey Thalmann

    Hi, Just read this. I was raised on Midland Ave. in Morgan between Norton and Luke Streets. The path to “down the back” was a continuation of Norton Street through a vacant lot to the woods right beside my house. As a kid I remember finding “the sign” in the woods. We used to go back there and jump around on it as it was downed. Too young to be sophisticated enough to look for bases etc. we were simply told it was a “sign” erected during WWII for enemy ships. Anyone else remember this ? It was mostly behind Seigs house.

    Reply
    1. morgannjadmin Post author

      I don’t ever really remember ever seeing it in person. Hopefully some day someone will provide an image of it in the prone position.

      Reply
  2. Darrell

    I remember seeing the remnants of this in the woods off midland ave. Me and my friends were wondering what it was who new that 40 something years later I would find out…. LOL .

    Reply
  3. harry smith

    Hi Folks! I didn’t grow up in Morgan, but because my mother and her parents were South Amboyites, I’m sure I spent back-seat time on your very street while they drove all over the place. So I feel like the kid you saw every summer on the beach and then was gone till next summer!

    I’m writing because I’m trying to find some information on my grandfather McKinley Cash. It’s far too long ago to hope to meet anyone whose grandparents knew him, or knew OF him, but I’m hoping someone might know of the DAYTON MAHOGANY COMPANY, which I think was on Bordentown Avenue. I’m not sure when it opened, but I think it closed around 1939. Cash was critically burned in an accident there in 1925, and I’m hoping to find out just what processes they used there, and anything else anyone might know — even an exact address. Thanks in advance!

    Also, if I WERE a Morganite, I’d’ve been right up there with you, climbing on that beacon. I’m a 1953 model, so you can figure if we would have been climbing mates. And RIP to Peterpank — I ate more chicken croquettes there than any other place on earth.

    Harry Smith
    215-876-7220
    harringtonsmith21@gmail.com

    Reply

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