Visit Piscataway High School on Behmer Road and you’ll find a large sprawling school complex, a well kept parking lot and a small stadium for the football team, the Chiefs. You will also find the FitzRandolph Cemetery, a collection of barely a half dozen graves belonging to one of Piscataway’s most prominent families in the 1800’s.
Archive for the ‘Cemeteries’ Category
The story of Centralia, the town which has had a coal fire burning beneath it for fifty years is the stuff of legend. I won’t retell the story in this post but search for it in the search box and you’ll find numerous posts about it. In short, the town decided to burn its garbage in 1962 and it lit a coal vein on fire which still burns to this day. Thousands of residents moved away, the local highway was ruined and a bypass built, and now after decades of fighting, the remaining residents (all seven of them) have made a deal. They will get a settlement of 218K and get to remain on their land but upon their death the state takes it by right of eminent domain. There had long been pressure on them to sell but they resisted because of the value of the coal that could be mined once they sold. Now those issues are resolved.
When the fire will stop burning, no one knows.
Located in Bridgewater about 5 yards from a major road and yet completely invisible from it, lies a small burial plot of slaves from the 1700’s.
Located approximately 500 feet from Foothill Road and Bridge Rd in Bridgewater is a burial plot. Known as the Prince Rodgers cemetery, (it has also been referred to as the VanderVeer Burying Ground), there are a handful of headstones, several of which are broken. Prince Rodgers was born in 1813 and was a slave of Cornelius Van Horn until being freed from slavery by his master at age 25. Other sources claim that Rodgers was a slave of the VanderVeer family. Completely forgotten despite being yards from the road, it sits between two homes one of which is owned, the other appears abandoned. Several years ago efforts began to restore the cemetery. Black plastic and wood chips have been laid down and the brush was cut back, but not much progress has been made since then and the weeds and brush have returned.
Waterloo Village is situated alongside the Morris Canal, in Byram Township. It was once a 70-acre rural farm community. More recently it functioned as a historical society, teaching visitors about the history of the area, the early European settlers and Native Americans, and the Morris Canal. Over the winter, 2013 I drove by Waterloo Village, not knowing for sure if it was open or if it was abandoned. I knew that for years it had been closed and had read somewhere that it had reopened, but there were conflicting reports. At the time of my visit, there was no one there except for a few people walking their dogs. We took some pictures and left as it seemed obvious that the Village was not abandoned but was closed for the winter. Upon coming home I researched the Village for this blog entry.
All my pictures from Waterloo Village can be found here.
The retreat of glaciers from northwestern NJ 15,000 years ago left a fertile landscape, which combined with an abundance of wildlife and rich natural resources to make a desirable living area for early humans. The area was first inhabited by Paleo Indians around 8,000 BC, followed by the (Munsee) Lenape and Delaware Indian tribes. European fur traders arrived in the 1600’s with colonization to soon follow. The colonists would start mining iron and soon many forges were creating metal goods which were transported on waterways. One such waterway was the Morris Canal, opened in 1831 and running from Phillipsburg to Jersey City. Barges carrying numerous goods were towed by mules on paths alongside the canal. To accommodate changes in elevation, loches and inclined planes were incorporated into the canal.
After the Civil War, in the late 1860s, a significant amount of transportation business shifted from the waterways to the railroads. Traffic declined noticably along the Morris Canal and so did the population of Waterloo Village. By 1900, sometimes only one boat would use it in an entire year. The canal closed down in 1924, its utility eclipsed by the modern railroad. By the time of the Great Depression the Village was totally abandoned.
Due to its close proximity to local rail stops, hobos found the town a good place to stay and they protected it from vandalism through the 1930’s and 40’s. In the 1960’s, Percival H.E. Leach and Lou Gualandi spearheaded an effort to preserve the village. Slowly the village was restored and it would eventually become incorporated into Allamuchy Mountain State Park.
A non-profit organization, The Waterloo Foundation for the Arts, was established and enabled the two men to raise the funds necessary to not only restore the village, but also to offer classical and pop concerts that brought in additional revenue. By the mid-1980s, Waterloo had become a popular destination for performing artists and there were hopes that an amphitheater would be built and would become the summer home of New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
Waterloo Village was at its peak of popularity when Lou Gualandi died in 1988. Following his death came numerous questionable moves by Percy which would eventually lead to his ouster as head of the non-profit. The size of the crowds drawn by the concerts overwhelmed local roads and strained relations with local towns. A land swap deal which allowed the construction of BASF headquarters created a furor among historians and those dedicated to preserving the area. New management brought in during the 1990’s downsized the concerts, and by the 2000’s the state had grown even more leery of how the site was being managed. The non-profit received in excess of a million dollars in funding from the state of NJ from 2000-2005, but by 2007 the state funding was cut entirely and the village remained closed after the 2006 season. Control of the Village was turned over to the NJ DEP Dept of Parks and Forests. The only part to remain open to the public was the 150 year old, independently operated Waterloo United Methodist Church.
- Waterloo Village today
PROGRAMS AND TOURS:
Winakung at Waterloo Heritage Program is a collection of different educational interpretive tours that incorporates elements of the Lenape Village Program and Waterloo Canal Town Program. The Lenape Village program re-creates an old Native American village named “Winakung”. Visitors learn about Native American life before and after European colonization. The village includes a wigwam and a longhouse as well as activities including crafts, games, interactive activities, and storytelling. Every Thursday, the Village is open to visitors for a tour. The tour visits the blacksmith and gristmill where visitors learn about the importance each played in the history of the Morris Canal. Visitors can shop in the store and learn about items commonly bought by 19th century shoppers. Additional hands-on activities allow both adults and children to learn about rural farm life on the Morris Canal.
Popular Waterloo Village Events
Waterloo Canal Day – Held annually in late June early July – for information call 973-875-2068. A two-day music festival featuring as many as 15 different bands on two stages, comprising of country, country rock and bluegrass. Proceeds go towards restoration efforts at Waterloo Village.
Canal Heritage Days – Second and fourth Saturdays July-October. Admission free. Guided tours are provided of the village, the canal, the blacksmith shop, gristmill as well as NJ Canal Museum. In addition boat rides on the canal are offered.
Highlands Festival at Waterloo, September. An environmental festival featuring local food and music, with a focus on the arts, history, cultural and natural resources of New Jersey.
You can learn more about Waterloo Village and the Morris Canal at the Friends of Waterloo Village webpage.
Cemeteries are for most of us a communal place. Our loved ones are laid to rest alongside hundreds of others, row upon row of headstones. On certain holidays you will find many decorated with wreathes or flowers as surviving family members pay their respects in a manner that is private and personal, yet also on public display. It was not always like this. Many times families would bury their dead in plots on their own property. As these (often large) properties were sold or as parts were sold off, eventually these family burial plots would find themselves hemmed in by development both commercial and residential. Sometimes when the last pieces of the family estate are sold, the dead would be disinterred and moved to some nearby cemetery. In some cases though, the plot remains untouched. One example would be the Mary Ellis grave in the middle of the parking lot of an AMC movie theater.
The Morse graves are another example. The Morse family was one of 80 colonists who, though a combination of grants and sales by local indians came to own nearly 1 million acres in what would now be the Careteret-Linden-Iselin area. They settled in the area in the late 1600’s 200 years later they still owned several hundred acres. and owned several hundred acres of land. John Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil decided that the Morse land would make an excellent site for his new refinery. The land was purchased in 1907 and was cleared with the exception of the family burial plot. By 1910 the faciliy was produced crude oil and 100 years later Standard Oil was broken up by the Sherman AntiTrust Act and the Bayvway Facilities are owned by Exxon. Despite changing hands and name several times, the Morse Plot has never been disturbed. Surrounded by a tall, large hedge it is highly sheltered, rendering it nearly invisible to the people who drive on Lower Rd and Stiles Rd. There are three headstones as well as a marker that tells some of the history behind the Morse family. There is a small ball park across the street where people walk their dogs and watch their kids play baseball. I venture few if any of them known that they are doing so a few dozen yards from the graves of some of the earliest European settlers to live in America….
All across NJ there are historic black cemeteries, Many in poor condition
Bergen Record article on a study of some really really old rocks in Passaic County
AMC is bringing it’s “dine-in theaters to NJ, but they’re only coming to central jersey for now. I wanna try this even if it means going down to Bridgewater just for a movie.
A stockpile of 2600 tons of mercury has finally been relocated out of Hillsborough, NJ. Only took 50 years….
A Hunterdon man grew (then carved) a 500 lb pumpkin
Scott Willman doesn’t just take care of Mount Pleasant cemetery. He lives there. Speaking of cemeteries, A pair of retirees have been working hard to research the locations of veterans buried in forgotten cemeteries in Morris County. In another cemetery story, a slave headstone is beyond repair, but a locals are pitching in to replace it with a new one
Speaking of odd jobs, apparently people go around the state gathering acorns (fighting off squirrels) so they can plant them and keep oak trees alive.
I once was young and stupid. (note: I’m now old and stupid). I stole road signs and dropped bowling balls from great heights. But I still can’t help but be amused when idiot teens get busted for… I dunno… stealing stuff for a scavenger hunt.
Finally, the state has decided that the best way to handle the over 20,000 toxic waste sites is to farm out the cleanup to private contractors and let the DEP handle only the worst of the worst. Yeah, I can’t see anything wrong with that.