Morris Township then and now

Morris Township then and now

By Cindy Forrest

As the state of New Jersey celebrates its 350-year anniversary, many of the counties and municipalities across the Garden State are also looking back on their histories, rich in both lore and tradition.

Locally, historically significant Morris Township is on the verge of a commemorating a special milestone that highlights its important role in America’s past.

Next year, 2015, will mark Morris Township’s 275-year anniversary.

The original Morris Township was formed on March 25, 1740. Over the years the boundary lines were chipped away to create many of the surrounding municipalities. On December 24, 1740 some land was taken from Morris Township to form Roxbury Township and on March 29, 1749 a little more was ceded to form Mendham Township.

In its early years Morris Township was George Washington’s American troop winter headquarters twice.  Once in the winter of 1777 and again in 1779-1780 at Jockey Hollow (which is now a part of Harding Township).

An Act of the New Jersey Legislature on February 21, 1798 formally incorporated the township making it a part of the state’s initial group of 104 municipalities. In the ensuing years still more of Morris Township’s land was portioned out to create Chatham Township on February 12, 1806, Morristown on April 6, 1865, and what is now Long Hill Township on March 23, 1866.

The Township train station was built in 1876 and is halfway between Morristown and Madison. It was named Convent Station because it was requested by the Sisters of Charity, who founded Saint Elizabeth’s Academy. Their superior, Mother Mary Xavier Mehegan (1825-1915), successfully petitioned the railroad to make a stop near the Academy in the 1870s. The sisters donated the land and had the wooden station house built in 1876.

The station house functioned as a post office until a separate post office, which served “Millionaires’ Row” along Madison Avenue, was erected in 1900. In 1913, the railroad constructed the present Renaissance Revival train station. The old post office was replaced with the existing building in 1961.

In 1914 the Morris County Traction Company ran a trolley line from Dover all the way to Newark via Morristown and Summit and included service to Morris Township.  In 1928 the trolleys were replaced by buses and today major roadways passing through Morris Township include Route’s 124 and 24, CR 510, U.S. Route 202 and Interstate 287.

Once home to several one-room schoolhouses, Morris Township is now home to several acclaimed private schools including, the Rabbinical College of America, St. Mary’s Abbey / Delbarton School, Morristown Beard School, and Villa Walsh Academy.  New, however does not replace old, and in this case the past has been preserved through the restoration of the Washington Valley Schoolhouse, which is still being actively used by the Washington Valley Homeowners Association.

Today Morris Township is home to approximately 23,000 residents.  It is a bedroom community with many businesses, corporations and companies. It is the home for Colgate, Schindler Elevator, Covanta Energy, Travelers Insurance, Honeywell, Atlantic Health and the Morris Museum.

Morris Township is also home to many large parks and recreation facilities including Lewis Morris Park, Loantaka Park, Frelinghuysen Arboretum, Fosterfields Living Farm, William G. Mennen Sports Arena, and over twenty small parks, hiking and biking trails and two municipal swimming pools.

It is a Township form of government with five elected officials who serve three year terms, employs approximately 170 full time personnel and has one of the lowest tax rates in Morris County. A yearly budget of $35,000,000 with low debt and a AAA bond rating.

Mayor Bruce Sisler comments, “Morris Township is the jewel of Morris County and a wonderful place for families to be raised, people to work, and embodies all the things needed for a community that provides a special quality of life. It is an exceptional community with many resources for recreation, shopping and cultural events.”

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Cindy Forrest

Cindy Forrest - was born Cindy Provenzano in Brooklyn New York on June 26. Grew up in Bergen County and attended Catholic school for ten years before graduating from Monmouth College (yes before it became a university). After many years in marketing, training and the travel industry spent the last ten years deliriously happy as a full-time journalist for North Jersey Media Group. Cindy, her husband Fred and their Portugese Water dog, Bess, now split their time between Hampton, NJ and Hobe Sound, Florida.

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