A Bit of Local Groundhog Day History

The HARRISON TOWNSHIP HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Inc.

Old Town Hall Museum

62 South Main Street P.O. Box 4 Mullica Hill, New Jersey 08062 www.harrisonhistorical.com

 

About a century ago the Men’s Bible Class of Richwood United Methodist Church began holding an annual dinner on Groundhog Day. Members of the class prepared the entire meal, including making the main course—sausage (the ground hog!) from scratch.

Memories of this long forgotten local event surfaced during the Harrison Township Society’s oral history project twenty years ago, inspiring the Society to revive this old tradition again as a fundraising event to support programs at Old Town Hall. This year the dinner takes place on Saturday, February 4, 2017, 6 PM, at Ewan Fire Hall, 312 Ewan Rd. The menu features “Down Jersey” sausage links, sausage gravy and biscuits, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, candied yams, fried apples, green beans, and a dessert buffet, all for $15. Tickets are available at Amazing Grace Resource Center, 46 S. Main St., Mullica Hill, NJ (856-478-9800) and on-line at www.harrisonhistorical.com.

Groundhog Day marks the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, a time to look for signs of spring, including the hibernation habits of groundhogs.

German immigrants introduced the groundhog legend to America, so it is appropriate that our local tradition has its origins in Richwood, where a number of German farming families settled in the 19th century.

The entrée choice—a culinary pun—is appropriate to the season, for the cold winter weather was ideal for hog-killings. Indeed, South Jersey was famous for its pork products as far back as the 18th century. Genuine “Jersey sausage” was a favorite item on Philadelphia breakfast tables. The meat was of the best quality, seasoned principally with sage and stuffed in small casings. The thinner diameter helped them cook quickly and evenly and presented a more delicate appearance.

The Harrison Township Historical Society is pleased to have revived this local Groundhog Day tradition, a celebration of our local food ways.