Federal Hill has a very extensive history that goes back all the way to the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately its future is in peril. Located in Bloomingdale near Route 287 it provides an excellent view for miles around, making it a prime target for real estate developers.
MUTINY ON FEDERAL HILL
In January 1781, General Washington was advised by a Commander that a mutiny was being planned. Washington replied that the “army is ruined” if the mutiny succeeds. He ordered the commander to quell the mutiny by asking those in question to surrender, and to execute them if they refuse. At Federal Hill, the potential mutineers were surrounded, the two most vocal leaders executed, and the remaining men were ordered to surrender. “The spirit of mutiny seems to have completely subsided and have given place to a genuine repentance.” Ya think?
The area lay quiet for 150 years until 1917 when an ammo dump was established at the base of Federal Hill for the purpose of storing ammo for use in WWI. Stored in a closet (not much more then a small cave in the hillside), the foundation of the building can still be seen today on the top of the southern hill.
Not long after this the area was settled by Germans who started a Bund Camp called Bergwald. (Bund means German society or Federation, I’ve heard it translated to mean both things so I’m not sure which is correct) In NJ during WWII there were over 100,000 German Americans in NJ, making them the largest ethnic group in the state next to Italians. Most did not support the behavior the Nazi’s, but a small following did and in the mid 30’s they establish a Camp at Federal Hill dedicated to the Nazi cause.
Fritz Kuhn was the leader of the Camp, having been picked by Hitler himself, and he secured funding for the camp from Germany. There were several camps in NJ, the largest being in Andover. The camps were a place where Germans could sing German songs, speak German, & discuss German issues without fear of being observed by others. Although the Camps maintained a pro-peace & pro-American attitude their true beliefs were not easily concealed and eventually locals began complaining about the camps.
The Camps toned down their public rhetoric, but still gave fascists salutes and marched around in uniforms with swastikas. Eventually scandals & legal problems began giving the Camps problems as well. Andover lost its liquor license after serving liquor to minors. One leader was accused of rape & molestation. By 1939 Jewish group and even Germans were protesting the presence of the Camps. In 1940 Kuhn was convicted of grand larceny for stealing money from the Bund Treasury.
Eventually the Camp was on the verge of collapse so they did what any modern day corporation would do: they tried a merger. They invited the KKK to join them for a rally, hoping to unite with their fellow racists against the mongrels they both hated. This so incensed the locals that they attacked the camp, causing the camp leaders to call the police for protection. Things began getting really ugly when terrorist attacks began, including an explosion at the Hercules Powder Company which killed almost 50 people. By 1941 we were fully participating in WWII and Nazi’s were officially enemies of the state. The IRS had been going after the Camp for tax evasion, but once we joined the war, the camp was doomed to die. The Camp at Nordland (Andover) now stand within Hillside Park.
RUMORS AND ARTIFACTS
There are rumors of lost artifacts and hidden things to this day. The Iron Door and the remnants of the Ammo Building & Bund Camp buildings are an easy find. But a surveying party allegedly found a brass cannon. How old it was is unknown but most likely it would date back to the revolutionary times. The surveyors left it there intending to return and retrieve it but were unable to locate it again.
There also is an odd carving, which appears to be a grave marker (possibly) as it looks to have been cut professionally into the rock face, it lists several names & dates, but it doesn’t say why the inscription was carved. Many artifacts have been found here including bullets and weapons dating back to revolutionary days, as well as remnants of the Bergwald Camp. When I explored, I found the remains of a rusted bunk bed.