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