Actor Aries Spear once said, “To sustain longevity, you have to evolve.” That is exactly what the great state of New Jersey has been doing over the past 350 years as it emerged from being an English colony with a only a handful of scattered settlements to a bustling economic center with a population of over 9 million people.
The Garden State began in 1664 as a royal gift. Charles II of England granted a sizeable parcel of land on the east coast of North American to his brother James, Duke of York. James in turn gave a piece of this valuable real estate to two loyal noblemen, Sir George Carteret and John, Lord Berkeley, and named it after Carteret’s homeland, the Isle of Jersey. Since its creation, New Jersey has played a pivotal role in the shaping of American life and culture.
Within New Jersey’s borders, the counties and the towns that comprise the great state, also have been evolving, growing and maturing.
Morris County is one of the most historically significant regions within the state. It was once recognized as the home of the greatest concentration of wealth in the United States, the place where the modern communication age was born and the spot from where the first television broadcast was beamed in 1927.
Some of Morris County’s other distinctions include being the home of New Jersey’s first mint and gun powder factory, the place where the engine powering the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean was built, and where the first school to train guide dogs for the blind was located.
At one point in their lives George Constant Louis Washington, the inventor of the first instant coffee process; Gustav Stickley the furniture-maker associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement; and, businessman George Macculloch, who envisioned a commerce route – the 102 mile Morris Canal – that could surmount North Jersey’s rugged terrain to ship coal, iron ore, farm produce and other products across the state, all lived in Morris County.
Morris County also contributed to the events of the Revolutionary War with Swiss mining engineer John Jacob Faesch overseeing the local furnaces producing the biggest supply of ammunition for General Washington’s troops. Later, the traitor Major General Benedict Arnold, was court-martialed at the Norris Tavern, a spot now behind Headquarters Plaza in Morristown.
In terms of the key buzzwords – Diversity, Innovation and Liberty – marking New Jersey’s 350 year anniversary celebration, history did indeed unfold here as each of the 39 municipalities in Morris County has made a contribution.
In the area of “Liberty” Morristown was put on the map in January 1777 by General George Washington, when he and 3,000 troops marched into the then-village of 250 people and made it his winter headquarters. He stayed in Jacob Arnold’s tavern while his troops stayed in villagers’ homes.
In 1779-80 Washington returned to Morristown with 13,000 soldiers, who survived a brutal winter in huts in Jockey Hollow while Washington stayed in the Ford Mansion in town. Both sites are part of the Morristown National Historical Park.
Then almost 100 years later a contribution of “Innovation” was made when Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist and caricaturist and one of the most well-known men of his time, made Morristown his home from 1872 to 1902. He is responsible for creating such visual icons as Uncle Sam, the Democratic Party donkey, the Republican elephant, and Santa Claus.
With a diverse population and a vibrant downtown Morristown continues to thrive. Mayor Timothy Dougherty explains, “Morristown was called the Military Capital of The Revolution because of its strategic importance both in its proximity to key destinations and its natural resources. Today, Morristown, as the County Seat of Morris, is the hub of northwest New Jersey. It is a regional center of commerce, with great dining, shopping, entertainment and history and one of the premier communities in which to live.”
He added, “Morristown’s future is very bright. With smart development, improved mobility and continued economic growth, the quality of life in Morristown will continue to get better and better.”
The Morris County tourism board has embarked upon a year-long celebration of the state’s milestone anniversary by scheduling dozens of events. For a list local events including a description and location details go to www.morristourism.org
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