It was a sad day for New Egyptians and conservationists alike, when Elizabeth Meirs Morgan
passed away at the age of 90 in February of 2004. Her insatiable love of the outdoors was an inspiration to many. Her friends nicknamed her the "Pine Baroness"
as the Pine Barrens was one of her favorite spots.
She loved New Egypt, her birthplace, once describing it as "a place you wouldn't believe, like the back of beyond. There are no houses and
sand roads, some that are passable and some that aren't."
She was a confirmed conservationist, having saved many a piece of land from the developer's backhoe by identifying an endangered species
on the land or a historical aspect, thereby preserving it from development. One such piece was the area now known as Wells Mills - a county park
that recently dedicated its observation deck to the person who made it all happen.
Following is an article published in the Asbury Park Press after her death:
By KIRK MOORE, STAFF WRITER LACEY -- Even into her late 80s, Elizabeth Meirs Morgan was always up for an adventure in the woods -- hunting
the cellar holes of some long-lost Pinelands ghost town, perhaps, or tracking down the last chestnut trees surviving in the forest.
Morgan, a well-known local historian and naturalist, died early yesterday morning of a stroke at age 90, family members said. She lived
in the Forked River section. People who knew Morgan said she will be remembered as a great teacher who passed on generations of local history
and folk knowledge to new generations who arrived just as the Ocean County landscape was dramatically transformed.
"She's always been an inspiration to everyone who has met her," said Kerry Jennings of the Forked River Mountain Coalition, of which
Morgan was a founding board member. "She's gone now, but we have a lot of expertise and a lot of knowledge."
"Friends of mine have said that when Elizabeth dies, it will be like losing
a whole library," said longtime friend Caroline Campbell of Toms River. Morgan, sometimes nicknamed "The Pines Baroness," was well-known for
her environmental and historical activism, her prodigious knowledge of the history and nature of Ocean and Monmouth counties, and her
Episcopal church work.
She was intellectually generous, and often seemed intent on downloading as much information to others
as she could, friends often said. When local conservationists organized to preserve the Forked River Mountains -- a region of low, gravelly
hills west of Forked River and Waretown -- Morgan supplied them with carefully drawn maps and reams of lore she had heard over the decades
from woodsmen, hunters and longtime area families.
"She was a great lover of history," recalled Pauline S. Miller of the Ocean County Cultural and
Heritage Commission, who met Morgan in the 1960s and collaborated with her on projects. While Miller delved into books and old documents
to trace the county's history, Morgan "liked a different kind of history. She liked old places," Miller said. "She had this curiosity about
many things, the environment especially."
A painting in the nature center at Wells Mills County Park outside Waretown shows Morgan attired in
hiking garb, with a broad-brimmed hat, long coat and walking stick. In the back country, hunters and horseback riders were sometimes
surprised to see her behind the wheel of her Jeep, accompanied only by her dogs, miles from the nearest paved road.
"She was really interested in people, and in listening to them and their stories," Campbell said.
The firsthand knowledge Morgan learned in those travels often helped local residents and
activists save pieces of Pinelands heritage, such as a campaign some years ago to head off demolition of an old-time hunting cabin at
Wells Mills Lake. Publicity about the Forked River Mountains has led to major land purchases there by the state and non-profit conservation
groups. "Elizabeth always knew the key people to contact if something needed to be done," Campbell said.
After difficult health problems last year,
Morgan seemed to be doing well and was planning to host a small meeting of local conservationists at her home next week, Jennings and
Campbell said. "She had to ration herself, but she did more under those circumstances than a lot of people in perfect health do," Campbell
Morgan was born, and grew up in, the New Egypt section of Plumsted, the daughter of John and Sarah Hen-shaw Meirs, a family with roots
in the area going back to the 1700s. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, with a master's degree in history, she was a
teacher and social worker before marrying the Rev. Luman J. Morgan in 1941.