By: Daniel del Ben
Celebration of the history of Chester Township is obviously what a group called the Chester Historical Society would do year in and year out, but 2019 marks the group’s fiftieth anniversary where they look inward to celebrate and remember their own history throughout the last half century. President Edward Ng stated, “Just as in the adage, ‘A cobbler’s children have no shoes’ we have been remiss in documenting our own history, so it is a project for this year.”
They are dedicated to researching as well as preserving Chester’s long and rich history. And although there will not be any fireworks display, they do have plans to celebrate this milestone year by reflecting on their accomplishments while also looking ahead.
The formal anniversary celebration will take place at their annual meeting in September. This year, their annual Historic Merit Awards will be revamped to highlight their fiftieth. Another staple is the history hike which takes people around the town and through trails to see old architecture and landmarks like the Chester furnace. They also have history hike bingo for the middle schoolers. Plans for an anniversary version of the hikes are on the way.
There are also plans to revamp from the inside. A new logo is in development for the first time in the group’s history. They want to pay homage to the original logo by one of the society’s founders, Glenn Taylor, while also incorporating the Lenni Lenape Indians who were there before the town was settled.
The Chester Historical Society’s mission statement is to discover, preserve, share, and educate. They have published three books about town history plus two newsletters per year. The next one should be out near the end of May.
Edward Ng has been with the group for 13 years and has been the president since 2010. “We cohost preservation workshops by archival experts. Since the advent of the internet, newspapers have been digitized so now we can discover a lot more about Chester in the 1800s than we ever have before,” Ng said. “We have an extensive archive, mostly paper but also glass and metal, artifacts leftover from Chester furnace.”
“We get lots of donations of historic materials about Chester. For example, portraits of Captain Tompkins and his wife were donated which led to a discovery about Captain Tompkins and his relation to Chester. One of his descendants was doing genealogical research and we piggybacked on top of that research to find out more, so that’s an example of how donations spur our research.” After a little research, it was discovered that the naval commander in the War of 1812 was a Chester resident.
The Chester Historical Society Campaign also works to save historic buildings from being demolished. They push for renovations and preservation for these magnificent structures that are so important to local history. There has been a recent push to save the Larison’s Turkey Farm Inn and the Rockefeller Building.
If all that weren’t enough, they also publish two newsletters a year as well as five books about the town history. Scrapbook of History is considered as the bible of Chester history by the society.
To learn more about any books, activities, or plans, visit the Chester Historical Society’s website at www.historicchesternj.com or call (908) 866-6717.