Derewal: Poison & Treasure
Derewal: Poison & Treasure

Derewal: Poison & Treasure

A few steps south of Frenchtown in Kingwood Township is a new nature preserve located on the site of the former DeRewal Chemical Company. The site transformation came about in 1996 when the site was designated a Superfund Cleanup Site.

The story of this site is one of irony that seems too strange to be true. As excavation began to remove the toxic substances on the site, the treasure was found under the poison of corporate irresponsibility and maleficence. This treasure provided concrete evidence of the ancient Lenape history of Frenchtown and Kingwood Township NJ.

Frenchtown NJ Superfund Site Archaeology

Above, is pictured a path in Frenchtown NJ near the Delaware River near the site of our story.

It was quite by accident that Frenchtown and Kingwood Township NJ learned just how old they are. In 1988, the Environmental Protection Agency came to an old chemical company site in Kingwood Township, just one-fifth of a mile beyond the city limits of Frenchtown. They were here to instigate a Superfund Site toxic waste removal project. As part of standard EPA procedures, a cultural resources survey was done to insure that the excavation of the site would not harm any historical or archaeological artifacts.

It was discovered that indeed there was a site in this location near the creeks of substantial importance in New Jersey Archaeology. In 1996, a group of archaeologists and geologists came to Hunterdon County to begin their expedition to unearth this hidden history.

The expedition stretched out over a period of several years and by 1999, over 3,000 artifacts had been found, some dating back to 841 BC or earlier. They included ceramics, stone tools, and food remains. This site is now referred to as the DeRewal Prehistoric Site, named after the DeRewal Chemical Company. The land that is now Frenchtown NJ, Kingwood Township, and Alexandria Township has a history that stretches back over 2,800 years to when the Lenape and their ancestor tribes were making tools, hunting, using pottery, cooking, and living on this land next to the Delaware River.

The artifacts were originally turned over to the State of New Jersey and then passed along to Kingwood Township. This treasure of Lenape archaeology resides now in the offices of the Kingwood Township Building that are located a few miles west of Frenchtown NJ and just north of Baptistown NJ near the intersections of Route 12 and 519 in Hunterdon County.

A report of their findings on the site is available from the Archaeological Society of New Jersey, published in 1999, Bulletin #54, written by Ian Burrow, Donald Thieme, William Liebeknecht, and Joseph Schuldenrein.

Be sure and see our Main Frenchtown NJ Lenni-Lenape Page for information about this proud Native American tribe that loved this land. On that page, you will find links to Lenape/Delaware informational sites to learn more about their religion, creation myth, culture, dress, pow-wows, and history.