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Somerset Hills Area: Bernardsville

Written by Marion Kennedy & Jean Hill

Biography l Contact Information:

Marion Kennedy: a Bernardsville resident for 36 years and a volunteer in the Bernardsville Library Local History Room for 35 years. She has found these years to be ones of fascinating research and exciting discoveries about Bernardsville the town, its architecture, and the people.

Jean Hill: Born in Bernardsville and still lives here. Attended Bernardsville schools, graduated Bernards High School in 1943. Jean’s father’s family has lived in New Jersey since late 1700’s, especially in the Mine Brook and Liberty Corner areas. Jean has been a Local History Room volunteer since 1991 and has always had an interest in local history, especially that of Bernardsville and the surrounding area.

Bernardsville Library 908 766 0118

10 Historical tidbits about Bernardsville
  1. Bernardsville is the only town in USA with that name.
  2. Bernardsville was a section of Bernards Township (like Lyons and Liberty Corner) until 1924, when Bernardsville residents voted to become a separate borough. So much of the Bernardsville's early history is also Bernards Townships. Schools remained in the Bernards Township School System until 19, when the Borough and the Township voted to go their separate ways.
  3. In 2000 the Bernardsville Public Library moved into a new building on Anderson Hill Road. It meant leaving the old library with its historic background and atmosphere, but the new building is roomier, more easily accessible and readership has grown. Previously housed in a former Revolutionary War tavern, the library was complete with its very own ghost. Come visit the library and we will tell you all about her.
  4. Several churches, buildings and businesses are over 100 years old! Bernardsville News - 1897. Bernardsville Methodist Church est. 1843. St. Bernard's Episcopal Church est. 1897. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church est.1898. Olcott School opened 1905.
  5. The "Mountain" area once considered forming a separate borough.
  6. From Bunn's Mill where apple jack was once made comes the expression 'to get a bunn on."
  7. Bernardsville separated from Bernards Township in 1924 and became a borough.
  8. In the late 1700 s and early 1800's there were iron mines in the area.
  9. In the heyday of the Mountain Colony there were two local builders who built many of the estates and who each had their own millwork shops, Dobbs & McWilliams.
  10. Samuel S. Childs was first resident to erect street lights on his property.
  11. Brooke Astor’s first husband was Dryden Kuser, former State Senator and local Mountain Colony resident. They were married in 1919 and lived in the area for nearly 10 years.
  12. Scenes for a silent move, "Madame Butterfly" starring Mary Pickford, were shot in Bernardsville on the Pfizer Estate.
  13. Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra occasionally joined the 'locals' in a friendly softball game.
Recommended Readings

Both volumes of Among the Blue Hills

Millicent Fenwick, Her Way by Amy Shapiro

George B. Post, Architect by Sarah Bradford Landau

New Jersey Country Homes: the Somerset Hills by John K. Turpin and W. Barry Thomson

Photograph and Post Card Collections

The Local History Room (named the Edward Spinning Room) has an extensive collection of photographs, both old and current, of local scenes, houses and events. It is constantly being added to. We also have a large early post card collection, the nucleus of which was Mr. Spinning's own collection and to which we have added greatly over the years. The collection comprises local scenes, covering Somerset Hills and New Jersey scenes and a very large group of holiday cards.

Other Documents

There are a great many maps of historical interest housed in the Local History Room. Included are many survey maps of local properties, topographical maps of the area, maps of local estates and many other county and state maps. In addition, newspaper articles pertaining to local people and events are constantly clipped and added to our files.

Favorite projects

Cleaning out Dobbs real estate files, preparing oral histories.

A Memorable Incident

A woman came into our room seeking information on the Quimby family, one of Bernardsville's early families. Among my genealogical information at home I recently had found a large chart of the Quimby family done by Laura Frost, my father's cousin. Since it didn't pertain to my family directly I nearly threw it out, but decided to bring it to the Local History Room instead. I was so glad I had saved it as this chart. as it contained much of the missing Quimby family information. This woman was so amazed and happy that she broke into tears, and had the other volunteers in tears as well.

The Local History Committee Volunteers

Marion Kennedy: acts as Chairperson of the Local History Committee, coordinates, and is responsible for research requests, maintains correspondence files, assists in updating the index to our vertical files, reviews and gives approval to requests for material.

Maud Thiebaud: indexes all marriages recorded in the Bernardsville News, assists visitors with research by retrieving material from files, and assists in indexing and updating material.

Jean Hill: oversees postcard collection, helps maintain photograph files, assists in updating index to vertical file, and assists with requests for material in files.

Mary Elizabeth Young: maintains files of local real estate sales/purchases, assists visitors with research, and assists in updating vertical files.

Laura Cole: assists with newspaper clipping, filing, and computer work. Currently involved in writing a children's history of Bernardsville.

Mary Lee Waldron: helps with publishing, editing and layout when needed, is responsible for publishing a book on the gardens of Somerset Hills.

Nancy Widmer: an experienced library worker and assists with cataloging.

Margaret Riddleberger: indexes obituaries from current issues of Bernardsville News.

Philip Pitney: enters obituaries and marriages from Bernardsville News on our computer system on a monthly basis.

Items of Interest

1. Mr. Riel at the flagpole
2. Locating site of NJ Brigade
3. Mine Brook
4. Olcott School
5. Newspapers News, Times, Beacon &
6. The RR station not built
7. F. L. Wright house
8. Bernardsville Hills magazine
9. 1850 map and other maps
10. Kuser family High Point Brooke Astor Pheasant Book
11. Anderson diary
12. Sir Francis Bernard
13. Old library, ghost
14. Various snow and ice storms, floods, fires
15. Inns Bernards, Claremont, Old Stone, Somerset
16. Hair Wreath
17. Tommy Dorsey
18. Millicent Fenwick
19. James Davis WW RCAF
20. Noted BHS attendees: Douglas/Riddle, Houston, Giles, Streep Ban, Blumenson

The best tidbits...
The Best stories...
See their recollections and recommendations.
Bernards Twp
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