Warren A To Z: An Entertaining Guidebook to the 275 Year History of Warren Township, New Jersey


For both new residents and old-timers alike, Warren A to Z takes you on an informative tour of Warren Township including the land, places, people, issues, and events that have shaped “the greenest place in New Jersey.”

Almost from its beginning 275 years ago, Warren was a scattering of small villages that included only a post office or church, general store, a blacksmith shop, tavern, and a few houses. Like many other communities in fast-growing Somerset County, Warren Township ...

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For both new residents and old-timers alike, Warren A to Z takes you on an informative tour of Warren Township including the land, places, people, issues, and events that have shaped “the greenest place in New Jersey.”

Almost from its beginning 275 years ago, Warren was a scattering of small villages that included only a post office or church, general store, a blacksmith shop, tavern, and a few houses. Like many other communities in fast-growing Somerset County, Warren Township has changed dramatically during the last half century. Gone are the shimmering fields of hay and corn, the sheep and cows grazing in the sun, and the weather-beaten barns. Author and historian Alan A. Siegel arranges his entries alphabetically in an easy-to-read format as he explains how the forested mountains and pastoral valley have given way to progress. In 1982, there were still 150 working farms in Warren, but now almost all are gone—victims of the very charm of the surroundings that have attracted so many newcomers.

Warren A to Z will transport you on a fabulous historical journey that highlights the churches and schools, noteworthy buildings, famous people, and political movements of this beautiful area nestled in the Watchung Mountains.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780595406487
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/29/2006
  • Pages: 175
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.43 (d)

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An Entertaining Guidebook to the 275 Year History of Warren Township, New Jersey
By Alan A. Siegel

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Alan A. Siegel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-595-40648-7

Chapter One


ADVENT LUTHERAN CHURCH: The South Stirling Chapel on Reinmann Road was built in 1934 using secondhand lumber. Boxes, barrels and boards were used for seats in the early days. Now a private residence at No. 71, the tiny chapel was home to the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Gethsemane Church (later, the Ascension Lutheran Church), a congregation founded in 1932 by Rev. Joseph E. Bergquist. Epiphany Lutheran Church, successor to Ascension, dedicated its new home on the corner of Mountain Avenue and Stirling Road on April 13, 1969, with Nils Johnson as pastor. In 1996 the church was renamed Advent Lutheran when it merged with another congregation.

AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY: Warren's first settlers came from Turkey (now New Providence) via the Passaic River and into Washington Valley through the gap (now Somerset Street) in the First Mountain. The lands they settled on were well-watered and fertile, products of the Passaic's periodic flooding and the erosion of the mountain ranges that border the valley. Perhaps the town's oldest working farm was that owned until recently by the Wagners and before them by the Coopers and the Kirkpatricks. Situated on the Passaic River plain, the land has been farmed since c. 1736. Later settlers complained that all of the best tillable land (and there was precious little of it in Warren) had been taken. The northern slope of the Second Watchung Mountain, thickly forested in places and littered with stones and rocks, was early on known as Stony Hill. Other sections of the township were less formidable but still required enormous effort before becoming productive. Except along the Passaic River and in the valley (where the soil is formed of material that weathered out of the Newark sediments—see Geology), the soil was thin, with a clay-like consistency not at all conducive to large-scale cultivation. Rocks ranging in size from pebbles to boulders were everywhere.

We have scant information about early faming practices. Thomas Terrill (c. 1730-1777) acquired a 250-acre farm at Mount Bethel about 1760. His land was stony and heavily wooded with oak, chestnut, tulip and cedar when he began working it, probably with slave help. Through years of unremitting labor, trees were felled, their stumps burned out, rocks cleared and the resultant fields planted with hay, wheat, flax and corn. Soon, cows, sheep, pigs and steers grazed in the woods or within rough enclosures. What the family did not consume was sold to villagers on the plains below the mountains. Successful farmers—and Terrill was one of them—shipped their surplus wheat and corn, after it was ground at a local mill, down the Raritan River via skiffs to New York. Honey, milk and pickled beef and pork would be sold locally. During the winter months cordwood would be gathered and hauled to Scotch Plains, Plainfield or Somerville for sale. An inventory of Terrill's estate taken in 1778 included numerous farm implements, hay, flax, wheat and corn, nine horses, 27 cows and steers, 35 sheep, six pigs, two bee hives and ten pounds of wool. Fruit and vegetables were not mentioned.

Edward FitzRandolph, who died c. 1830, owned several farms in what is now Green Brook. The farms, one of 162 acres and the other of 140, were probably located below Washington Rock, to the west and east of the intersection of Washington Avenue and Rt. 22. Beers' 1873 map of the township shows at least three Randolphs still living in that area. Although Randolph lived outside the bounds of present-day Warren, his life was typical of farmers of this area. His journal, now at Rutgers Special Collections, "is generally mute about his activity during the winter," wrote the authors of Land Use in Early New Jersey, "though it does occasionally note that he hauled cordwood in February, probably from the rocky slopes of the Watchung Mountains. Early in March he received hives of bees, heifers, veal, mutton, and apple trees from neighbors; by the end of that month and in early April shad began to appear in his record. The book's frequent mentions of veal suggest that dairying was a major enterprise in the area. In May Randolph plowed and carted corn to Perth Amboy; in June he mowed hay and washed sheep. In July he credited one neighbor for hoeing his potatoes and 'halling in wheat' and another for supplying him with 100 clams. Also in July, he mowed again and began to pull flax; he also credited neighbors for lamb. Randolph harvested his rye early in August and began to make cider at the end of that month. He credited neighbors for veal, lamb and a pig. After the middle of September he began to top his corn and husk it; then, in the third week, he harvested his buckwheat. Early in October Randolph dug potatoes, slaughtered hogs, and credited a man for a dozen blue fish. He threshed buckwheat throughout the month; judging from the number of ledger entries, it was an important crop. In November Randolph continued to husk corn and haul corn tops, work on flax, kill hogs and haul cordwood. His year closed with slaughtering hogs (one of 287 lbs. and one of 238 lbs.), bringing in turnips, corn and buckwheat, and working 'over the mountains.'"

The 1860 Federal census revealed that of 10,465 acres of land in Warren Township (then twice its present size), less than half was improved: The cash value of the town's farms was $687,500, the lowest in Somerset County. The primary crops were wheat, rye, Indian corn, oats, buckwheat and Irish potatoes. Seven hundred and fifty-two milch cows produced 73,375 pounds of butter. An 1881 history of Somerset County reported that "the industries of the township are chiefly agricultural, including stock- and grain-raising and dairying. Dairy farmers mostly sell their milk to supply the Newark market." Of industries there were few: "There are two saw mills, one owned by the estate of Elias Bird, and operated by Peter D. Baldwin; the other is owned by Aaron A. Stites. Mr. Baldwin also manufactures brush-blocks, whitewash-brush handles, belaying pins, and pumps for water casks on shipboard. A great many hoop-poles are cut in the township and taken to market. Cord-wood is marketed to a considerable extent, and also charcoal." Forest products were the town's earliest and longest-lasting industry (see Sawmills). Jacob Reinmann (1863-1911) regularly logged his 88 acres on Reinmann Road, then hauled the poles to the train station in Millington for export to points east.

During the first half of the 20th century dairy farming came to predominate. Fields that could be tilled were used to raise corn, wheat, oats and hay to feed the milk cows. At the peak, in the l950s, there were 12 working dairy farms in Warren. Other farmers planted peach, pear and apple orchards, raised berries, kept sheep, pigs and steers, raised chickens or logged their woodlots, much as their predecessors had done for 200 years. Post World War II residential development inexorably forced the business of agriculture into decline as many farm families sold their land to developers. "What it comes down to," said one farmer, "is you can make a lot more money planting houses than you can planting corn." Even those who wanted to continue farming found the pressures unrelenting: Farm help was hard to come by, animal veterinarians and farm supply stores scarce, and the fields the farmer needed for planting too expensive to rent. When Wagner's, the town's last dairy farm, closed in 1987, it marked the end of an era.

AIRCRAFT SPOTTING TOWER: During World War II the American Legion sponsored a two-story aircraft observation tower near Mountain View Road. The tower was hastily erected after Pearl Harbor when there was widespread fear that the Nazis might send aircraft to attack the East Coast. Officially part of the United States Army Air Force 1st Fighter Command, Ground Observation Corps, the Civil Defense volunteers who manned the tower during the war were trained in aircraft identification at Central School, then assigned to rotating shifts where they spotted and identified aircraft and telephoned their observations to a central station. The tower was taken down after the war.

AIRFIELD: Warren's first and only airfield was dedicated in August 1946 by Haydu Bros. Laboratories, manufacturers of precision parts for televisions, radios and telephones, which claimed that air deliveries via the new field behind their factory on Mount Bethel Road would speed up production by eliminating parts shortages. Hangers for 12-16 planes were planned. Company officials said raw materials would be parachuted from planes, saving even further time. The 2,000-foot long strip was used until about 1958.

ALLEN FAMILY CEMETERY: The Allen family settled in what is now Watchung c. 1750 in the vicinity of the now-closed O'Connor's Restaurant. The Allen family burying ground, where the remains of several family generations were interred, was "at the foot of the Second Mountain, a short distance east from the road crossing to Mount Bethel," in other words, in the vicinity of the restaurant. An 1849 observer noted that "the grave-yard is now almost covered with forest trees." Tombstones were still visible early in the 20th century, but the site has now been lost.

ALLIANCE BIBLE CHURCH: Founded in North Plainfield in 1921 as the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the church acquired its Mount Horeb Road property in 1977. No stranger to the area, the congregation had held Sunday services in the nearby Round Top School in 1934. Alliance Bible Church's unique building, following a design pioneered by R. Buckminster Fuller in 1947 which then pastor Rev. David Luck said was chosen because no interior supports were needed, was completed in the mid-1980s. The two attached geodesic domes house a large sanctuary, classrooms and office space. One dome is 75' in diameter and 29' high, the other is 45' in diameter and 23' high. Some 19 tons of shingles were needed to cover the exterior of the domes.

AMERICAN LEGION POST 293 (Mantz-Cavaliere Post): Chartered on February 16, 1941, the post has been a fixture on the Warren scene since that time, participating in civic and patriotic events. The town's annual Memorial Day Parade has been sponsored by the post since 1963. The post's name honors two Warren soldiers of World War I who gave their lives, Carmine Cavaliere and Judson C. Mantz. The post home on Community Place, completed after World War II, stands on land donated by Leon Touchon Sr.

AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY Unit 293: Established two years after Post 293, the Auxiliary is currently collecting donations for our soldiers overseas.

ANGELO L. TOMASO SCHOOL (Washington Valley School): Anticipating major growth, the school board called for a referendum in 1956 to purchase 13 acres on Washington Valley Road as a future school site. After a bitter contest, the bond issue passed by only five votes. Several years later a bond issue to build a 500-student school on the site failed by a narrow margin. The next year, in a compromise, the public approved a $385,000 plan to expand Woodland School and build the first eight classrooms of the Washington Valley School. Completed in 1959, the school was closed in 1975 due to declining enrollment. Rented for a number of years to the Center School, a private school for children with learning disabilities, the school was enlarged and reopened in 1991 as the Angelo L. Tomaso School.

ASSESSED VALUE: Back in 1882, Warren's assessed value for tax purposes was only $350,000, or 2.1% of the total for all of Somerset County. Throughout the 19th and early 20th century Warren was the county's poor relative. Much has changed since the end of World War II: For the year 2006, Warren's total assessed real property value was $4,201,859,602 (that's four billion), roughly 8% of the total county assessment.

AT&T ARCHIVES: The nondescript warehouse on Reinmann Road behind the Kirch-Ford House contains AT&T's archives, the nation's oldest and largest repository of corporate history. The warehouse is a treasure trove, with holdings ranging from Alexander Graham Bell's 1876 patent for the telephone to hair-thin strands of fiber-optic cable. The more than 700,000 artifacts include local phone books from the l880s, a 1907 pay telephone (exact change only, please), the microphone used at Warren G. Harding's 1921 inauguration, a television set exhibited in 1927, and scale models of the 1972 Telstar communications satellite. The archives are not open to the public.

BACKUS, ALBERT (1870-1935): An Irvington stone contractor, Backus lived on Deerwood Farm, his home on Mount Horeb Road across from where the Round Top Swim Club is now. Deerwood Swimming Pool, located on his farm across the road from his home, was a mecca during the hot summer months for locals as well as out-of-towners trying to escape the heat in those pre-air conditioning days. Active in Republican politics, Backus served as County Coroner in 1930 and president of the township's Republican Club. He also headed up the Warren Township Civic Association in the late 1920s.

BANKING: The Township was without banking facilities until 1962 when the First National Bank of Central Jersey opened an office in the Bardy Farms Shopping Center.

BARBERRY HILL: A cottage community on Hillcrest Boulevard, with eight houses and a large spring-fed swimming pool, it began life as a Jewish summer camp during the l920s and l930s.

BARDY FARMS: Robert Bardy, who runs the well-known produce market at 149 Washington Valley Road, is the third generation of farmers in the Bardy family. The family farming tradition began in 1904 when his grandfather, Abraham, came to this country from Russia and settled in Union, in the days when that town was a farming community. The family business prospered over the years, growing from a small roadside stand selling Abraham's produce to a store and finally one of the first supermarkets in the area. The family moved to Warren in 1959, then as rural as Union had been in 1904. Abraham's sons, Philip, Jack and Edward, built the Bardy Farms Shopping Center in 1961, then sold it to concentrate on the family produce market and greenhouses on Washington Valley Road. A large portion of the original farm was recently sold and is slated to be the site of the Four Seasons at the Promenade development.

BARDY FARMS SHOPPING CENTER: Warren's first shopping center, Bardy Farms (now the site of Kings Market) was originally known as Bardy Farms Country Square Shopping Center when it was built in 1961. The supermarket, Warren's first, was called The Golden Key.

BECKER'S GROVE: Located on Mount Bethel Road, across the street from the new Mount Bethel Baptist Church, Becker's Grove was a Depression-era fixture of Warren's social life until the mid-1950s. A friendly place for home cooked food, dancing (particularly barn dancing on the parquet floor in the "ballroom") and drinks, Becker's Grove advertised "supper and all the beer you can drink from 9 to 12 pm" for $1. In 1946 or 1947 Federal revenue agents raided a barn behind the bar, breaking up a still hidden on the second floor. Rumor had it that 5-gallon cans of illicit beverage had for years been shipped to New York in vegetable delivery trucks. August and Lena Becker, who owned the place, had worked in the Paterson silk mills until retiring to Warren in the l920s to take up puppy raising. When the Depression struck, they like so many others were forced to supplement their income, in their case by opening a bar and restaurant. The long abandoned buildings were finally demolished in 2002.

BENNETT, FRANK F. and BILLIE WEST: Stars of the silent screen, who worked with such luminaries as D. W. Griffith, Wallace Reid, Harold Lloyd, the Gish sisters and Blanche Sweet, they departed Hollywood in 1917 at the peak of their careers, eventually settling down in Warren, where her mother had a summer place on Mountain Avenue. Frank Bennett's greatest role was in Griffith's monumental film, "Intolerance," as the weak French king who signed the order expelling the Huguenots. In his later years, Bennett served as Township Recorder or judge of the local police court and supervisor of the town's first police force.


Excerpted from WARREN A TO Z by Alan A. Siegel Copyright © 2006 by Alan A. Siegel. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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