1912 - April 14, 1912, Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, who lived in what is today the Bernards Township Administration Building, perished in the sinking of the Titanic. 1,523 people perished in the accident.
1919 - The Frothingham/Sloan House (USGA Museum) was constructed in 1919, built for Thomas Frothingham, and later sold (1926) to John Sloan, a prominent furniture retailer.
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(Basking Ridge, Liberty Corner, Lyons, & W. Millington)
and Official Township Historian
A Basking Ridge resident for 31 years, June Kennedy has been Bernards
Township Historian since 1990. She lectures and gives tours to school
and civic groups on local history, researches houses and genealogy
and is a member/trustee of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills.
She is author of:
Around and About Basking Ridge, Liberty
Corner and Lyons, a pictorial history of the area;
A History of the Library in Basking Ridge,
both written in 1995.
She has written detailed histories of:
the Maple Avenue School
the Municipal Building
The Washington House/Store Restaurant
The Bonafides of Somerset Hills
the Bernards Township Police Department
The Stained Glass Windows 'of St. James Chapel and Church.
June Kennedy has conducted a summer history camp for fourth through
sixth grade students at the Brick Academy for nine years. She was
a contributing writer of Past and Promise,
the 1990 Women's Project of NJ, her subject Mary Alexander, mother
of Lord Stirling. She was a staff member of the Bergen Evening Record,
now The Record of Hackensack, a daily
newspaper. She also contributed to the Encyclopedia
of New Jersey, 2004, with an article about Basking Ridge
Kennedy resided in Little Silver, NJ for 14 years and was its first
Borough Historian, writing A Sketchbook of Little Silver
History, now a fourth grade textbook. She was editor
of the Little Silver Newsletter, public
information officer for Red Bank Regional High School, and a teachers'
Active in the community, she is secretary/treasurer of the Somerset Hills Fellowship of Christian Churches; past president and active
member of The Bonafides of Somerset Hills; and a lector at Church
of St. James Church. She taught creative writing at the U.S. Veterans
Hospital at Lyons and business writing at the Somerset Hills Adult
Education School in Bernardsville.
A graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, Rutherford, with
a degree in Journalism, she earned a second degree in Humanities
from Thomas Edison State College, Trenton. She and her husband,
Robert B. Kennedy, are parents of two married daughters and grandparents
of four grandsons. A lifelong New Jersey resident, she has been
featured in several local cable (TKR) productions focusing on Bernards
Bernards Township Historical
The 1880 Federal Census listed Bernards Township
with a population of 2,622 which included 218 farms. The area
consisted of Basking Ridge, Liberty Corner, Lyons, Far Hills and
Bernardsville. When Far Hills withdrew, it took 1/8 of the area
of Bernards, with Bernardsville taking 113 of the remaining area
and leaving Basking Ridge, Liberty Corner and Lyons and their
environs the Township of Bernards.
In 1898, Colonel John Jacob Astor IV donated
stones from his property adjacent to the Great Swamp to the Rev.
Joseph Appley, pastor of the Basking Ridge Methodist Church, now
called Bishop Janes Methodist Church. Fourteen years later, Colonel
Astor perished in the sinking of the Titanic in April, 1912. His
expectant wife delivered a son in August, 1912. In 1968 that son,
born posthumously, John Jacob Astor VI, sold his English Tudor
mansion, the present Municipal Building, to Bernards Township.
Basking Ridge Post Office began operations
September 18, 1802. Previously, mail was carried from Philadelphia
to Morristown via Princeton and Basking Ridge on horseback, sulky
or stage and was called "The Post". With the arrival
of the railroad from Summit to Basking Ridge in 1872, mail service
over the road went into effect. Rural delivery service was launched
at Basking Ridge on December 1, 1905.
Four U.S. Senators representing New Jersey were College of New Jersey (Princeton University) graduates, and
received their earlier education at the Basking Ridge Classical
School. They were: Samuel Lewis Southard (1787 1842) Theodore
Frelinghuysen (1787 1961), William Lewis Dayton, (1807-1864) and
Robert Field Stockton (1795 1865).
At the June 1941 dedication service of the new Liberty
Corner flag pole an the village green, the soloist was
a former Metropolitan Opera soprano, Anna Case Mackay, whose daughter,
Ellen, was the wife of Irving Berlin, America's beloved songwriter.
Where does Bernards Township rank in age, with
respect to its sister communities in Somerset County? Research
found during the Township's 200th Bicentennial in 1960 revealed
that Bernards ranks fourth oldest. Franklin Township broke away
from Piscataway in 1735; Bedminster and Bridgewater Townships
were chartered by King George II in 1749. Bernards was chartered
by King George II on May 24, 1760 and is the second oldest government
in the Somerset Hills. The Township was much larger in 1760 than
it is today. In 1806 Warren became an independent government.
Others that followed were Far Hills in 1921 and Bernardsville
About the handsome black iron pump located
in the flower garden of the Brick Academy: On April 25, 1948,
this pump served as an emergency source of water for many Bedminster
residents because an excavating shovel cleaning debris from the
North Branch of the Raritan River broke the town's only water
main, causing 115 families to be without water in their homes.
The pump was in the backyard of Bensley Field's grandfather, Dr.
Frank L. Field, whose house still stands at 454 Route 202 in Bedminster.
Dr. Field has his residence and medical office there. The pump
was installed when the house was built in 1910.
1779 - Jockey Hollow - this area was where
jockeys tested their racing horses! In 1779-1780, there were 10,000
troops who built 1,200 log cabins on 900 acres. When the men were
at Jockey Hollow, the nearest tavern (for news, a warm bed, good
food, drink. etc ) was the Vealtown Tavern, known as John Parker's
Tavern, and known today as the former Bernardsville Library building
in Bernardsville. The colonial troops cut a footpath through the
mountains. That is why the road is called Old Army Road in Bernardsville
and also in Bernards Township!
The Friends of the Oak Tree was organized in
1923 to save the 600 year old oak tree in the Basking Ridge Presbyterian
Churchyard. The tree trunk was cleaned of its disease, leaving
space for four men to stand in its trunk. Three tons of Concrete
were poured into the cavity. The tree, a landmark for centuries,
is Bernards Township's logo two oak leaves, representing the villages
of Basking Ridge and Liberty Corner.
On April 6, 1917, the United States formally
entered World War I. June 5, 1917 was Registration Day in Bernards
for men ages 21 31 There were many parades and demonstrations
with special services held in all the churches. Young men left
for training camps, By November, 1917, Bernards had oversubscribed
by 80% its quota of the Second Liberty Loan, and the government
raised letter postage from 2 Cents to 3 Cents!
Transportation caused the development in the Somerset Hills. The railroad arrived in 1872, creating development.
Almost 100 years later, completion of Routes 287 and 78 caused
further population increase and a housing boom. Transportation
can be called the cause and/also the culprit.
Among the many artifacts owned by The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills is a V E R Y long bobsled, built and used
in Basking Ridge by Countless children in the early 1900s. Presently
stored in the Township's Public Works garage where it is suspended,
it was a gift of the Scheurman family and could accommodate many
passengers. It is reported to have been guided through heavy snow
from the top of Dykeman's Hill (in the area off Cedar Street)
to the bottom of Rankin Avenue, all in a matter of seconds!
The Indian display of more than 200 arrowheads,
tools and artifacts in the Brick Academy were obtained from the
Indian grounds in the Madisonville Road area (formerly AT&T
building location, now the site of Verizon). The custom made exhibit
case was built by Samuel Corbett, a cabinetmaker; all Lenni
Lenape memorabilia was donated by Ruth Corbett Dennison, his
Vail, who collaborated with Samuel
F.G. Morse on inventing the telegraph in
1838 was related to the Basking Ridge family of Vails. He was
a city cousin. Vail and Morse sent messages to each other at Historic
Speedwell over two miles of wire. The factory on Route 202 North
is a national landmark. Country cousin Israel Vail lived in Basking
Ridge; a small Vail family cemetery is on Tilcon quarry land,
Stonehouse Road. Theodore Vail, former president of American Telephone
and Telegraph Corporation, also is related.
Lord Stirling's estate, Stirling Manor, was
built in Basking Ridge in 1761. Local people called it The
Buildings, because of its size; the road was called Building
Lane. and the name was changed in the early 1940s to Lord Stirling
Road. Stirling's other name was William Alexander. The estate
Nathaniel Greene's headquarters in 1777.
Do you know what were two of New Jersey's pre
historic lakes? They were Lake Passaic (The Great Swamp) and Lake
Hackensack (The Jersey Meadowlands).
September 23, 2006 marks the 78th anniversary
of the founding of the Basking Ridge Historical Society, forerunner
of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills. In 1928 a group
of Bernards Township residents met and decided to organize and
foster local history. The Society leases the former municipal
offices (The Brick Academy) from Bernards Township and preserves
its history, provides factual information and offers programs
an history to all. In 1998, in an effort to broaden its horizon,
the name of the organization was changed to The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills.
In 1990, a new 50 year lease was written, for
the continuous use of the Brick Academy, from the local government,
The Society "shall have exclusive use of the premises and
shall endeavor to restore, renovate and preserve the building,
in view of its historical significance." The public is invited
to become members of the Society.
Did you know that Elias
Boudinot, president of the First Continental Congress was
a Basking Ridge resident? Boudinot's daughter, Suzanne, became
the bride of George Washington's attorney general, William
Bradford. Boudinot married Hannah Stockton, sister of his
Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence for New
Jersey. Stockton, in turn, married Boudinot's sister, Annis, a
noted poetess, their residence in Princeton called Morven,
the former New Jersey Governor’s Mansion. His wife, Annis
Boudinot Stockton, was a prolific poet who named their house "Morven"
after a mythical Gaelic kingdom in the epic poems of Ossian.
Basking Ridge, Liberty Corner, and Lyons