By Anya Bochman
The history book of the borough of Madison hasn’t been updated since 1985, something that the Madison Historical Society and the Madison Public Library plan to change in the near future.
Enlisting the help of Frank Esposito, author of the original book and distinguished professor of history and education at Kean University, the two entities have made plans to bring Madison up to modern times.
Partnering with Esposito is his fellow Kean University history professor, Brian Regal, his partner on another book project, as well. With illustrations to come from Madison Library photo archives and changes not only to the cover art, but the title as well, the original tome is being revamped.
David Luber, of the Madison Historical Society, explained that Regal will focus on events that have occurred since 1985, while Esposito will be making additions to the original work using research that has been conducted since the book’s publication.
“A number of us went through the original volume and submitted a list of things that should be changed,” Luber said. “There has been an archeological dig on the Luke Miller House that suggests the Miller Forge isn’t a forge, as originally thought. There are also buildings and stores that have new names, references that are different now.”
The Historical Society is also seeking contributions from townspeople who may have valuable historical information about Madison.
“We’re more than happy to have people share valuable information,” said Susan Simon, a trustee of the society.
“People who lived through the 1960s and 70s are still around, so we thought now would be an appropriate time to use their accounts for an update,” Luber added.
Simon also commented on the possible change from the original “Madison Heritage Trail” title.
“We’re considering something with ‘The Rose City’,” Simon said, referring to the city’s unofficial name, a nod to the post-revolutionary rose growing industry that once flourished there. “People always wonder about that name, but they don’t know its origin, because that industry is now by the wayside.”
Established, like many surrounding towns, on land occupied by the Lenni Lenape Indians, Madison officially got its name in 1834, in honor of president James Madison.
The first history of Madison was written in 1855 by Samuel Lawrence Tuttle, a minister of the Presbyterian Church, who drew primarily on personal accounts by town residents. His work provides much of the book’s pre-Civil War history, with the rest of the information contributed by back issues of the “Madison Eagle,” dating to the 1870s.
“There is good history here,” Simon said. “It’s important that people know about it.”
The realization that Madison’s continuing history was in need of an update brought Simon and former Madison Library Director Nancy Adamczyk together to plan a revitalization of the now out-of-print and unavailable-for-purchase book.
Funding was secured from a bequest by Larry Taber, former town historian, who stipulated in his will that the money be used for historical purposes. This summer, the Historical Society and the library signed a contract to share the monies for updating Madison’s history. The funds will be used to compensate the authors, as well as secure a publisher, as the original publishing body – the Madison Bicentennial Committee – no longer exists. Self-publishing is another possibility those involved are exploring.
Some of the town’s points of interest outlined in the original volume are Revolution-era Luke Miller House, the oldest existing house in Madison, which once belonged to Major Luke Miller; and the Anthony Wayne House, where General Wayne stayed during the Winter 1777 Morristown Encampment.
“Frank Esposito’s book is considered the go-to reference for townspeople for historical information,” said Luber. “The timing is perfect now for an update.”