Through a historic bus tour, a township proclamation, and old photos posted on Facebook, Randolph residents are celebrating New Jersey’s 350th Anniversary.
Incorporated in 1805, Randolph is made up of five sections: Mt. Freedom, Ironia, Center Grove, Shongum and Mt. Fern. Known for its high quality iron ore, having the first mine in its borders, and the place to go for a summer resorts, a great deal of rich history of NJ falls right in Randolph’s borders.
To celebrate NJ’s milestone, the Randolph Township Landmarks Committee asked the Randolph Township Council to issue a proclamation in commemoration of the anniversary. That proclamation is currently framed and sitting on the mantle in the Randolph Museum.
“It is fitting and desirable that we commemorate these beginnings of our State together with its subsequent history and its present and future role in the family of the United States for the benefit of all the people of New Jersey and the Nation, with particular focus on the Core Values that have shaped our State and Randolph Township,” as stated in the proclamation issued on April 3, by the Randolph Twp. Council and Mayor James Loveys.
“The Council urges all its citizens to reflect upon the significance of this event and the role that our State and development of our nation and to participate in this important commemoration,” the proclamation states.
As part of the celebration, the Randolph Township Historical Society and Randolph Township Landmarks Committee offered a bus tour of Historic Randolph on Sat., May 10. The tour included visits to landmarks; the area where Mount Freedom was loaded with hotels, cabins and motels; a stop at the Randolph Museum and the Friends Meeting House, the oldest continuously operating house of worship in the county.
The landmarks committee has so far identified and preserved 27 landmarks for historical places in Randolph.
“We were really booming,” says Gail Hari, Randolph Twp. Municipal historian and president of the Historical Society of Old Randolph. “Randolph was really an important part, not only during the Revolutionary War, but industry with mining, ice industry and hotel industry. We had Quakers here who didn’t believe in war; Presbyterian Baptist Church; the Jewish faith. We were diverse.”
The landmarks committee also recently created a Facebook page requesting citizens to post photos of old Randolph. That page is located at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RandolphALookBack/.
In October, Randolph will join other towns in participating in the fifth annual Pathways of History Tour. Set for Oct. 12, history enthusiasts travel to various towns to visit historic sites.
Randolph is comprised of 24 square miles, and was settled by the Quakers. Hartshorn Fitz Randolph was a Quaker – a “comfortable man in property” who helped division the land of Mendham, describes Hari. In 1805, he helped to establish Randolph by separating the land from Mendham.
The Quakers came into Newark at first and then toward Randolph, the only area to have a Friends Meeting House, on Quaker Church Road, describes Hari.
In the early days, “we were very rich in iron ore,” says Hari. “We have coal mines and iron mines all over the place, that’s why it’s known as Ironia.”
The Mott family was one of the early Quaker families who established mills around Millbrook. All kinds of mills existed such as cloth, grain, leather, forges and distilleries, describes Hari.
Other founding families were the Hedden and Crane families, who established Newark, and then moved to Randolph, says Hari.
The first mine in NJ was established within the borders of Randolph (now in Mine Hill), according to Marcia Rumsey, secretary to the Randolph Township Landmarks Committee and secretary of The Historical Society of Old Randolph.
“It is said that some of the iron that was used in the U.S. Liberty Bell was extracted from Randolph mines.”
Due to Randolph’s supply of iron (for making cannon balls as well as other needed war implements) and because Randolph was located about half- way between British-occupied New York City and our then-capital of Philadelphia, George Washington’s Revolutionary War army wintered two winters in nearby Morristown.
“He named our Mt. Freedom section of town, since he used to travel over her to escape the war,” says Rumsey. “His wife Martha also liked to visit with friends here.”
Randolph had a stop on the Under Ground Railroad. It was inhabited by Quakers, who hated slavery.
“The Quakers were seeing that slavery was against the Bible and God’s commandments,” explains Hari, and ordered that all citizens in the area free their slaves in a certain time period.
Randolph was also known for its ice-harvesting. The property where the County College of Morris utilizes was once an ice harvesting business that ran for almost 100 years, says Hari, until CCM bought the land in 1969. Owned by the Dalrymple family, the ice harvesting business was successful in that area because of the natural springs that serviced Mendham and Dover.
Randolph also enjoyed a reputation as a popular summer resort. Benefiting from its high elevation and resulting cooler temperatures, the Mt. Freedom section was a summer destination up until the early 1960s.
The area was similar to an area like in “Dirty Dancing,” says Hari, but instead of going to the Catskills, they came to Mt. Freedom. Many Jewish families would visit and then soon settle here. The Levines, who bought a farm in the area, was the first Jewish family to settle in Randolph. They operated a boarding home, which became useful to people who were prescribed to visit the mountains by their doctors, says Hari.
The mountainous area and natural springs attracted people to come and it “boomed from there,” says Hari, with people staying in cabins and hotels in Randolph.
Its first hotel, Vannier Hotel, near Route 10, dated back to 1887. Owned by Emila H. Vannier, the mansion style building was the mainstay for miners in route to Lake Hopatcong, says Hari. The building was destroyed by fire in the early 20th century.
“It was a beautiful building,” says Hari.
The Jewish people that came to the area also became great customers to the Quaker farm owners. “Farmers were glad to have truck farming delivered to their hotels,” says Hari. The establishment of the Mt. Freedom Jewish Center in 1975 also attracted a more diverse group to settle in the area, other than Quakers, Baptists and Presbyterians, says Hari.
“We were diverse,” states Hari.
Victory Gardens used to be part of Randolph up until 1951, says Hari. It was designated by the U.S. Government as an affordable housing area for Picatinny Arsenal employees.
One of the greatest restorative sites in Randolph is Golden Corners, at the corner of Calais and Dover Chester roads, says Hari. Situated on “vast farmland,” a house from the 1800’s known as Golden Corners was recently “beautifully” restored when its lacey architectural pieces started falling off.
As one of Randolph’s 27 landmarks for historical places, Golden Corners was owned by the Bryant Family. Employees who worked on that farm were paid in gold rather than paper, says Hari.
“They had enough property and sold enough crops so by the end of summer, people who worked there got gold,” says Hari.
Randolph, like its gold, is so rich in history.
For more information on Randolph’s history, go to the township website, located at:
http://www.randolphnj.org/about_randolph/historical_society; and http://www.randolphnj.org/government/landmarks; or visit Randolph Museum located at Freedom Park on Millbrook Ave.
As stated in the township’s proclamation, “the year 2014 will mark the 350th anniversary of the charter conveying all the lands between the Connecticut River and the east side of the Delaware River from Charles II to James, Duke of York.”
It will also mark “the execution of deeds of release by the said James, Duke of York, to John Lord Berkeley, Baron of Stratton and Sir George Carteret of Saltrum, of these lands, which said tract of land is hereafter to be called by the name or names of Nova Caesarea or New Jersey” and the “the signing and publication of “The Concessions and Agreements of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New Caesarea or New Jersey to and with all the Adventurers and all such as shall settle or plant here” a declaration of the organic law of the Colony and truly “The Magna Carta of New Jersey.”
These “foregoing events mark the beginning of the separate history of New Jersey as a Colony.”
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