By Steve Sears
The month of April was the kickoff of Wayne 175th, a celebration of the township’s anniversary. The yearlong commemoration is being hosted by both the township itself and the Wayne Museum.
“175 years is very exciting,” says Tessa Payer, Museum Assistant at the Passaic County Department of Cultural & Historic Affairs. “We have lots of community events that we’re trying to do in person, and then we’ve also got lots of virtual content. We’d love to have community members come have a good time both here at the museum, and at events we have over at the Dey Mansion as well.”
A Native American population and activity was evident in the area well prior to an actual European settlement, which can be traced back to 1695 when Dutch settlers purchased property in Wayne. Early in 1847, the New Jersey legislature passed an act that created Wayne Township, which at that time was part of Manchester Township. The act became official at the first township meeting, which was held on April 12, 1847 at the Casey House on Hamburg Turnpike.
Bruce James has been a member of the Passaic County Board of Commissioners since 2006, and is the current Director. “We’re using the Dey Mansion and other historic places because they’re part of the county, and they’re an important part of the county,” James says. “It (Wayne) is a great town with a great history. There’s so many things that are historic about our whole county, Wayne in particular. (George) Washington stayed several times; it wasn’t just once he stayed at the Dey Mansion. He stayed there first in July of 1780, and then in October and November of 1780.”
Payer gives a brief rundown of online activities. “We’ll have virtual content, so people can feel free if they have Facebook or Instagram to leave comments. Or, if they have questions, we’re happy to answer them. We also for the 175th have a virtual community scrapbook that’s up on our website right now, so people can submit memories of Wayne if they’ve lived in Wayne for a long time, or even for a short amount of time. We’re happy to take any sort of recollections, memories, photos – anything that they want to share about living or being in Wayne Township. The 175th isn’t just about remembering the past and understanding where Wayne has been, but also really celebrating its current community as well.”
Payer, who moved to the area a year ago, has embraced Wayne and its long background. “I have just been blown away by the history that I’ve been able to research and discover in Wayne,” she says. “There’s just always something new that I’m learning. Besides, obviously, the Revolutionary War history, you’ve got the long history of Native American settlement in Wayne, and then you get into the 19th century, and you’ve got a really fascinating mix of agriculture but also industry. It’s been fantastic to spend time learning about the Wayne community, and the people that have lived in Wayne throughout history.”
A special Wayne 175th page can be visited at www.thewaynemuseum.org/wayne-175th, where viewers can stay updated with the museum blog, weekly Wayne Wednesdays, learn more about Wayne’s history on the Timeline and Map, and share memories of their time in Wayne in the community scrapbook. Also, a full calendar of in-person events can be found at www.thewaynemuseum.org/visit-1.