Batesville, Booze and the Burning Rag

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The intersection of what is now Kresson Road (l.) and Haddonfield-Berlin Road (r.) in Cherry Hill in the days before paving.

After some New Jersey municipalities banned the sale of alcohol in 1873, businesses sprung up along their borders to cater to the drinking population of dry towns, a situation that exists until this day.

For Haddonfield, one such place is on Haddon Avenue, just across the line in Westmont, home now to P.J. Whelihan’s but the former site of a dive known as the Haddon West.

Another is the point where Kress Liquor has been in operation for decades at Kresson and Haddonfield-Berlin Roads in Cherry Hill.

A picture I saw on Facebook showed the intersection as it was more than 100 years ago with deep rutted dirt roads where paved roadways now exist.

There on the point was a large house with a side porch, which I assumed had to be a tavern.
A little research proved that was the case.

According to a historic preservation document on Cherry Hill Township’s website, the hamlet in what was then Delaware Township was called Batesville. (Haddonfield-Berlin Road was then called Haddonfield-Long-a-Coming, the latter being Berlin’s original name.)

The tavern had one of the most unique names I have ever encountered — The Blazing Rag — and was founded by Joseph Bates, according to William Farr’s “Place Names in and around Haddonfield.”

Where did Blazing Rag come from, I wondered.

A check on Google showed that it is the name of several pubs in Britain as well as a soccer team in the city of Buxton.

I found one explanation of its possible origins on the British Ashton-Under-Lyne.com website.

Reporting on the Blazing Rag pub in Mossley, it said: “The pub had been popular with followers of the sport of dog trailing, in which a rag soaked in aniseed was dragged along the ground creating a trail for the dogs to follow, as dogs are particularly keen on the scent. When the hunt was over it was the practice to throw the rag onto the fire in the bar, giving rise to the nickname ‘The Blazing Rag,’ or just ‘The Rag.’”

Seems plausible, but I can’t imagine dog trailing was a big sport in South Jersey in the 19th Century. Or was it?

If you have any ideas, email me at jgambardello@phillynews.com. Put ‘blazing rag’ in the subject line.

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