Long Valley’s German Roots

by Elsie Walker


Folklore has it that in the 1730s, some German immigrants came through the port of Philadelphia on their way to starting a new life in America.  They were headed for New York, but in travelling through part of New Jersey, they stopped and went no farther.  They wrote family back home  that there was an area in New Jersey that looked just like their homeland and to come there.  The area eventually got the name “German Valley”, and later became known as Long Valley. Today, the German Valley Historic District, a small part of Long Valley, is a reminder of those early days and the influence of the Germans who settled there. Recently, Eileen Stokes of Washington Township, a member of  the Washington Township Historical Society, shared a little about Long Valley’s German Valley Historic District.

Stokes noted the early German immigrants came from what was then called the German Palatinate area. Germany was not as we know it now, but was separate duchies and principalities. German immigration to America came in three waves.  It was immigrants in the second wave in the 1700s that came to this area.  The Germans immigrated  for a few reasons.   One was that things were unstable in their homeland due to conflict.  Another was that the lower class was subservient to the wealthy upper class and  wanted  the freedom to have property.  Finally, there was the lure of religious freedom and being able to evangelize the Lutheran faith.   

Stokes noted that German Valley was one of the earliest settlements in the town.  When the immigrants came, there was no village, just wilderness.  “The area was settled by early German settlers in the 1730s.  The German Valley Historic District itself is predominately located on what was the 262-acre Johanne Philip Weise tract of land.  The Weise family arrived in Philadelphia on Sept. 11, 1738, on the ship Robert and Alice out of Rotterdam.   They settled on William Logan’s tract of land and had completed purchasing 262 acres from William Logan (son of James Logan, colonial secretary to Willaim Penn) by 1749 when they picked up their deed in Trenton.”  James Logan had received several large tracts of land in New Jersey as compensation for working for Penn.  Immigrants coming here found that land wasn’t free but they could obtain tracts of land, and the valley was divided up like watermelon slices. 

 Those who settled built up an area whose life centered around a  number of entities, some of which either no longer exist or have taken on a new life.  Included in those was  “a Union Church (now in ruins and preserved) of two congregations – the Lutheran Church and, originally, the German Reformed, which in 1813 became the current Presbyterian Church, “ Stokes noted.  The significance of the Old Stone Union Church is denoted on its historical marker which explains it is “ the site of the pastorate of Henry M. Mulenburg, D.D., known as the father of Lutheranism in America.”  Among the other buildings important in village life  were “a school (now the Historical Society and Washington Township Museum), a grist and saw mill (now the Washington Township Land Trust headquarters), a tavern (currently the Chesapeake Bay Tavern), and Neitzer’s store which attracted German speaking customers from the entire region.,” shared Stokes.  She noted that Neitzer’s store no longer exists.

As for the area’s name, there’s some history to that, too.   “The area that is now Washington Township was part of Roxbury Township.   It became Washington Township in 1798.  The area was first known as Deutsche Valley which morphed into Dutch Valley.  In 1805, Dutch Valley became German Valley,” Stokes shared. However, that name changed with World War One.  In 1918,  the Hackettstown Gazette reported that German Valley had celebrated July 4th in a special way: “By virtue of an order of the postmaster general, the village was permitted to change its name from German Valley to Long Valley. Ever since America entered the war, the residents of that place have been restive under it appealation.”  The article went on to say that anyone having to send mail to a place called “German Valley” might view it as a place of divided allegiance.  For patriotism’s sake, the name was changed.

Why was the name “Long Valley” taken?   “Long Valley is actually an even older appellation for the area, the Lenni Lenape having referred to the entire valley (Flanders to Califon) as The Long Valley.   Historically, in addition to Long Valley there is/was Middle Valley and Lower Valley.  Middle Valley is its own historic district here in Washington Township.  Lower Valley is a section of Lebanon Township adjoining the Borough of Califon.  Flanders in Mt. Olive Township was considered the Upper Valley,” explained Stokes.

Today, German Valley’s story still lives with the German Valley Historic District.  It was placed on the NJ State Historic Register in December 1977 and on the National Historic Register in July 1983.  Stokes shared that the district is “ comprised of sections of East Mill Road, West Mill Road, Fairmount Road, Schooley’s Mountain Road, Fairview Road.  It is the downtown crossroads/the center of Long Valley.  The 1870 quadruple-arched, stone bridge crosses the South Branch of the Raritan River.”  She continued to share the make-up of the district in which, as previously mentioned, some of the buildings of the German Valley have now become home to new uses.  “currently the German Valley Historic District is a mixed commercial and residential area that includes the Washington Township Municipal Building, Zion Lutheran Church, the Historical Society, the Washington Township Land Trust, a popular coffee shop (The Coffee Potter), a realtor (Stony Brook Realty), a restaurant complex, Cake Fiction custom cake bakery, the Long Valley Fire Company (one of three in the Township) and several shops and office space.”

When asked about the oldest building in the district, Stokes shared that and some other interesting historical facts and a legend.  The oldest building is Obadiah Latourette Mill which dates to circa 1750 and many of the stone houses in the district also date back to the late 1700s.  Neitzer’s Tavern billeted some of George Washington’s officers for a winter during the American Revolution.  The Fort, a large stone house that was Victorian-ized in 1876 dates back more than a hundred years and legend has it provided a room for General Washington during the War. The Philip Weise House, the Jesse Weise House, the Tunis Trimmer House also date to that late 18th-century period,” said Stokes.

Finally, echoes of the German heritage are felt each fall.   Stokes shared that The Long Valley Pub and Brewery, located in an early Pennsylvania-German fore-bay, banked stone barn, and is part of Restaurant Village in the German Valley Historic District, holds an annual Oktoberfest.  

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