Thursday, January 11, 2018

January 11th, 1994

On this day in South Brunswick History...
January 11, 1994--Wetherill-Mount House Opens to the Public
by Ed Belding South Brunswick Historical Society
The Wetherill-Mount House, at 269 Georges Road in Dayton, was opened to the public on January 11, 1994. This two-story Georgian style colonial home, located on a three-and-half acre site, was renovated by the South Brunswick Heritage Foundation with funding provided by Marcal Paper, BASF, Carlton Homes, and several other companies. Part of the structure may date to the 17th century, making this museum house one of the oldest in South Brunswick. It was originally an integral part of a 1,700 acre plantation owned and operated by Colonel John Wetherill, colonial Assemblyman for Middlesex County prior to the Revolutionary War and military and civilian leader during the war. His son, Vincent, was to have inherited the plantation, but he died a hero's death in the war, and his widow, Sarah, remarried. Thus, the Mount name for the house when she wed William H. Mount. They occupied the house from 1823 to 1840. Later on, it exchanged hands and became known as the Everett farm. Dr. Milton Sprague, a physician in Dayton, was the last to live in the house with his wife. It was occupied up to 1977. After that, it fell into disrepair until the Heritage Foundation sought to restore this important landmark. It now serves as the Township's first cultural and historic center. Artifacts of South Brunswick history are preserved and displayed there. Tours, lectures, meetings, and displays have been conducted there. Thus, it serves as a centerpiece for educating people about the rich history of the Township.

January 10th, 1948

On this day in South Brunswick History...
January 10, 1948--Steely Dan's Donald Fagen Born
by Ed Belding South Brunswick Historical Society
Music seems to be big in the DNA of South Brunswick Township. A dominant gene in our multi-cultural mix, old and new, is the music of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker--more popularly known and internationally acclaimed as "Steely Dan." South Brunswick, but more specifically, Kendall Park, can claim half of this platinum album duo as one of its own. Donald Fagen was born in New York on January 10, 1948, but he moved with his family to Kendall Park. He attended South Brunswick High School. The 1965 yearbook labeled Fagen as a "class wit" and the "most dramatic" male Senior. While in South Brunswick, he learned piano and immersed himself in the jazz medium. He joined a jazz trio, which included his teacher, Mr. Orzi, on bass guitar, and drummer, Rickey Schenck. Fagen's piano playing could be heard at such local gigs as the Dayton Grange Hall. After high school, Fagen attended Bard University where he met Walter Becker. The pair went on to produce several albums that went platinum. "Two Against Nature" was named Album of the Year. Steely Dan won Grammies and was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Several of the Steely Dan recordings are autobiographical. Some are Fagen's reflections on his years spent in South Brunswick. I recommend that the reader listen to the tracks on Fagen's solo album "The Nightfly" for a taste of this musical genius's take on a teenager's life experiences in South Brunswick. Many of the Steely Dan recordings are available on loan at the South Brunswick Public Library. Come peruse the collection and give a listen.

January 9th, 1983

On this Day in South Brunswick History...
January 9, 1983--100th Anniversary of Miller Memorial Church
by Ed Belding South Brunswick Historical Society
In 1877, the Methodist Episcopal congregation in the South Brunswick area built a one-room church on "Old New Road" in Monmouth Junction. The building was sold to Reverend John Miller for $482 in 1884. This controversial pastor, who had been suspended by the New Brunswick Presbytery for heresy in books (such as--"Questions Awaked by the Bible" and "Fetish in Theology") he had published, established his own churches in South Brunswick, Plainsboro, Princeton, and New Brunswick. All of his churches became associated with the Cumberland Presbyterian movement. Thus, at that time, the original "Miller" church in Monmouth Junction was referred to as an independent Presbyterian church. In 1895, after Miller had passed away on a Palm Sunday, his daughters deeded the old church to the Cumberland Presbyterian organization. Visiting Cumberland ministers and Princeton Seminary students conducted services there until Rev. George Ashforth Burslem took the helm in 1913. By that time, the church came to be known as the First Presbyterian Church of Monmouth Junction, because the Cumberland Presbyterians had united with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in 1907. In 1922, Pastor Raymond A. Eckels succeeded Burslem and served until 1942. During his tenure, the old church was sold at auction and the congregation moved into the former Saint Paul's Episcopal Church on the corner of Ridge Road and Pierson Street in Monmouth Junction. This location is reputed to be the exact geographic center of Monmouth Junction. Since 1936, the old church had been called the Miller Memorial Church. At the first service, when the new church was dedicated on October 9, 1938, the name remained the Miller Memorial Presbyterian Church. The 100th anniversary of Miller's church was celebrated on January 8, 1983, during the tenure of Rev. John H. Maltby, who assumed his position in 1962. The Centennial was celebrated at a Sunday service with guest speaker, Rev. Russell W. Annich, Pastor Emiritus of Trenton's Bethany Presbyterian Church. Rev. Maltby conducted the service. A display of the church's history was featured after the service. Eldest church member, Mrs. Ethel Emens (92) was available to reminisce about the "old days" when men and women sat in opposite pews, when she was a child.

January 8th, 1973

Today in South Brunswick History...
January 8, 1973--Ordinance for Realignment of Ridge Road
by Ed Belding South Brunswick Historical Society
The ordinance to realign and improve Ridge Road was approved by the South Brunswick Town Council on January 8, 1973. This venerable road had been in use since the early 1700's when it stretched from Barefoot Brunson's house near the Millstone River all the way to South River. Before that, legend has it that the dirt road was originally a native-american trail. In the early days of South Brunswick, the road ran from Mapleton Road, south of Kingston, through Monmouth Junction (formerly known as Longbridge Farm) paralleling Heathcote Brook. From there it passed through Dayton (formerly known as Cross Roads). For a time, Ridge Road was also called Monmouth Junction Road or Jamesburg Road. The ordinance, at the start of 1973, had to do with acquiring lands for the realignment project. The original appropriation of funds ($210,000) and issuance of bonds ($110,000) was increased by amendment to $855,000 for appropriations and bonds and notes to $755,000. The improvements would come from the purchase or condemnation of lands where necessity to realign Ridge Road, now also known as Middlesex County Route 522, from Kingston Lane to U. S. Route 1. This particular ordinance did not include new road construction. When all is said and done, the general consensus is that old Ridge Road as Route 522 is a welcome addition for getting from one point in the Township to another.

January 7th, 1850

Today in South Brunswick History...
January 7, 1850--Deans Lane Dedicated
by Ed Belding South Brunswick Historical Society
The straight road running northwest to southwest, connecting what is now Route 1 and old Georges Road, might have been called Martinsville Road or McDowell's Road when it was dedicated on January 7, 1850. The area which the new road ran through was called Martinsville up into the 1860's. It was named after John Martin, a prominent resident in the area. This name appeared on several maps in the early 1800's. However, the two earliest families to settle in the area were the Deans and the McDowells. The Dean family arrived in the late l8th century. The McDowells came shortly thereafter. Local sentiment favored the Deans name for the road, as well as changing the name of the area from Martinsville to Deans. The Camden&Amboy Railroad line, which crossed the road, built a depot on the north side. It was decided to go with the shorter name for the station there. Deans Lane served as an accommodating road for to-and-from traffic for those using the railroad line as well as for residents clustered at the southern end of the road, and businesses such as H. G. Werner & Sons, as well as the Deans Post Office at the corner of Deans Lane and Georges Road.

January 6th, 1982

Today in South Brunswick History...
January 6, 1982--Switzgable's "In Our Water" Released
by Ed Belding South Brunswick Historical Society
The Frank Kaler Family of South Brunswick discovered that their drinking water was being contaminated by a nearby landfill. Frank, a house painter, and his wife, Rita, were getting water from their own well. Their neighbors were getting the same from their wells. However, Frank took the lead in getting the government to acknowledge the problem and fix it. His attempts to reach local agencies and the State Department of Environmental Protection failed. Mr. Kaler ended up going to Washington, D. C., to testify at a Congressional hearing. Meg Switzgable, a documentary film director, heard about Kaler's efforts and decided to produce a film for Foresight Films of Brooklyn, New York, which followed five years of Kaler's struggle to find out what had happened to the groundwater and why it was happening. The release date for the film, "In Our Water," was January 6, 1982. The film was reviewed in the New York Times and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and an Emmy Award. It won a Columbia/DuPont Award for Journalistic Excellence. Kudos to Ms. Switzgable for daring to reveal the truth about a crucial local issue . . . and double kudos to the Kaler family for going that extra mile to serve as the whistle-blowers on this issue.
http://people.com/…/picks-and-pans-review-in-our-water-vol…/
Just when it seemed as if the docudrama had all but done in the documentary as an art form, Meg…
PEOPLE.COM

January 5th 2016

Today in South Brunswick History...
by Ed Belding South Brunswick Historical Society...
Kathy Clayton, Town Historian, dies on January 5, 2016
In a quaint farmhouse at the corner of Stouts Lane and Ridge Road in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, Katherine Kenny was born. The year was 1918. She lived her entire ninety-eight years on this farm and, later, close to it. She married Charles Clayton (who passed away in 1995) and raised a family on land where the South Brunswick High School is located. She graduated from Princeton High School in 1935 and went on to work as a proofreader for the Princeton University Press. She had two children, Karen Clayton Bang and Gary Clayton. She served as a Deacon and Sunday School Teacher at the Kingston Presbyterian Church. In her later years, she served as the "unofficial Township Historian." She contributed to the Township's bicentennial remembrances and provided historical resource materials via the "Katherine Clayton Collection", which is at the South Brunswick Library. Katherine Clayton passed away on January 5, 2016, at the Brandywine assisted living facilities in Princeton. She lived a rich, full life and gave of herself to many in the local area. In the process, she made her own history.