17 August 2017

Hillsborough School

Children had already been attending the "Hillsborough" School - on the east side of Willow Road just north of its intersection with Hillsborough Road - for perhaps 100 years when the school board voted in December 1928 to wire the school for electric lights. It was hoped that the work would be completed quickly so that the building could be used for "Winter entertainments". Four months later they voted to close the school altogether.


1873 map showing the Hillsborough/Crossroads District

The 1850 Somerset County map shows a schoolhouse on the site, and it is likely that a school had been there since the time the area was fully settled decades earlier. By the 1860s the Cross Roads District 45 was one of fifteen school districts in Hillsborough Township - each with its own one or two-room schoolhouse. By the 1870s the short-lived Mercer & Somerset Railroad crossed Willow Road - then known as "the dirt road leading from the Millstone-Wood's Tavern highway [Amwell Rd.] to Blackwell's Mill" - just north of the school.


1872 Hillsborough Township School Districts

The school had an active parent community and even some social clubs for students - primarily revolving around "home economics" types of activities like sewing. Hundreds of students attended the school over the decades, but perhaps the story of just one might be worth remembering.

George Prove was an orphan born some time in the years before the turn of the 20th century. From the time he could work (ten? eleven?) he boarded with the Wyckoff family near the school and labored on their farm. His teacher Miss Ferguson inspired and encouraged him to attend school and finish the 8th grade even though farm work kept him away much of the time.

New Brunswick Daily Home News 4 June 1916

According to a profile which appeared in the November 3, 1921 Courier News titled "What a Boy Can Do", George enrolled at Bound Brook High School, paying for room and board nearby by working farm jobs. He took his studies seriously; local newspapers noted his achievements between 1914 and his graduation in 1916.

He started at Rutgers College, earning his tuition by working at the Jersey City freight station. He was called to war in France, and when he returned he decided to continue his education by studying chemistry at West Virginia University. He graduated in June of 1921 and continued at the university in pursuit of a post graduate degree.

The story trails off there.....but to think he got his start with no family to support him, working all the time, and attending a one-room school on a dirt road in Hillsborough, is really amazing.

During a very contentious year of 1928 - Manville schools overcrowding, state aid being withheld - the new four-room building being built at Bloomingdale was set to make the Hillsborough School obsolete. A last ditch effort to save the school by building an addition to it was ruled out, and the school was sold on August 24th, 1929.

10 August 2017

Montgomery School

On the occasion of her 100th birthday in 1967, Mrs. Anna Van Fleet Huff Cronin sat down with one of her many relatives and answered questions about her life that had been written out for the hard-of-hearing centenarian. Of interest to us are her reminiscences of growing up in Montgomery, New Jersey.


Detail from the 1873 Hillsborough map

I know what you're thinking - what does Montgomery Township have to do with our survey of Hillsborough Township schools? The answer: Montgomery, NJ is not in Montgomery Township! Don't believe me? Go to Bing Maps right now by clicking here and you will find that the village of Montgomery lies at the crossroads of Montgomery and Wertsville Roads in Hillsborough.

Montgomery Blacksmith Shop 1970s
One of Hillsborough's two covered bridges spanned the Neshanic River just north of the settlement where a saw mill and grist mill were in operation from at least 1850. By 1870, when the three-year-old Anna Huff watched her father - prominent farmer Thomas Peter Huff - build their home northeast of the intersection, the hamlet included on the other corners the blacksmith shop of Jacob Wyckoff, the home of Constable Garret Docherty, and the C.N. Allen and Bros. General Store. 


T.P. Huff House photographed in 2009 
The one-room Montgomery Schoolhouse was located on a little knoll behind the store on Montgomery Road. It is present on the 1850 map, and was probably in use from an early time. By 1873, the school served the students of Pleasant Valley District 51 - but it seems that the school never went by the Pleasant Valley name, and the district was both officially and unofficially called the Montgomery district.


8 May 1929 Courier News
The school was very successful, winning many Somerset County awards in the teens and twenties, and graduated many 8th grade students, including Anna Huff, who went on to successful high school, college, and business careers. In 1919 the school was lauded for its innovative use of "project teaching." Here is how this was described in the November 14, 1919 Courier News:

In the Montgomery School, Hillsborough Township, project teaching is effectively carried out. For instance, the larger pupils have calculated the contents of two silos in the vicinity by measurements made themselves. In the same way they are working out other local problems, such as the cost of plastering the school room, painting the school house, etc. All these problems are worked out in exactly the same way as would be done by men actually engaged in doing the work.
In April 1929, as the new Hillsborough Consolidated School (Bloomingdale) was being constructed, the school board decided to close Montgomery and other one-room schoolhouses. A major factor in the decision was that at that time the state paid 75% of transportation costs to bus the 15 remaining area students to the Clover hill School. Despite parents' protests, the school was closed and sold in February 1930.



03 August 2017

Camplain Road School

After Johns Manville relocated their manufacturing plant to the northwest corner of Hillsborough Township in 1912, the population explosion was overwhelming. The number of residents in the traditional farming community doubled in a decade. And they brought their kids.



Camplain Road School circa 1930s
Camplain Road School, an eight-room school erected in 1916, was the second school built in the Manville section of town as the number of schoolchildren increased. The first was a re-build of the school on Main Street called Harmony Plains School in 1912. After the school on Camplain Road was constructed, the schools were remained Manville School 1 and Manville School 2; the schools didn't acquire their "Road" and "Street" names until after Manville seceded from Hillsborough in 1929.


1868 Hillsborough Township Schools

What distinguishes Camplain Road School, at least for me, is that it was the first new school built in a new area of Hillsborough, i.e. not replacing an older structure, in more than 60 years, at least. In the page above from the 1868 report on New Jersey schools, you will notice the fifteen district schools - sixteen with Branchburg Township's Branchville (South Branch) school added to the end. These were the same schools still serving students in 1916 - minus the original Flagtown (Washington) school that closed in the mid 1870s and the Woodville School that closed around the turn of the century. And all of those schools, in various incarnations, were in service since 1850 or before.

Camplain Road School closed and was demolished in the mid 1970s due to decreased enrollment and the fact that it contained substandard rooms.

01 August 2017

Anna Case Takes Flight

Metropolitan Opera soprano and concert star Anna Case spent the summer of 1919 at her "country home" Brevoort Farm in Mamaroneck, New York. She hosted a widely publicized garden party for World War I wounded veterans who were recuperating in nearby hospitals in July, but her greatest adventure came in August.


Major Sidney E. Parker and Anna Case - August 11, 1919
Now that she was a movie star - her first, and only, feature film The Hidden Truth having debuted at the beginning of the year - it was high time for a movie-star-worthy escapade. British RAF Major Sidney E. Parker was planning an air trip from New York to New Orleans via the Hudson River, Great Lakes, and Mississippi River piloting a Curtiss-Seagull Flying Boat. He planned to touch down near the Mamaroneck Yacht Club to pick up the mechanic that would be accompanying him on his trip - and somehow ended up with an extra passenger! 



A Curtiss-Seagull Flying Boat circa 1919
I will let Anna Case tell it in her own words as printed in the August 21, 1919 issue of the trade magazine The Musical Courier:

Well, it was wonderful, just wonderful! Afraid? No, not a bit of it. At any rate, it came in such a hurry that I had not time to think about any fear. The original plan was altered, so I thought the flight was off for the present, then the bicycle policeman came rushing down the lawn, shouting 'There is a chap up in the air looking for you; he was down in front of the Yacht Club asking where he could find you. I told him I would run up and tell you and fire my revolver so he would know where to come down.' In a few minutes the plane was on the water a short distance from shore; I hurried out in my canoe and climbed in. Up and on we went, down the Sound, across New York and up the Hudson, flying most of the time 2,000 feet up. It was simply glorious to see the great city, the Hudson, the Palisades, from above. You hardly realize that you are thousands of feet in the air. The only trifling uncomfortable feeling is when the machine makes a turn; that gives a sensation akin to seasickness. There were three in the plane, Major Parker, his mechanic and myself. The noise of the propeller is terrific and you cannot talk; if you want to say anything you must write a note. I was dressed as I am now, [ordinary street dress] with the addition of a flyer's cap. I surely will go up again if I have the chance.



Anna Case flew as far as Poughkeepsie, where the trio landed and had dinner. Miss Case then caught the 8:45 train back to New York and was in her bed at Brevoort Farm by midnight!

1919 Publicity Photo

In later years Anna Case also spoke of another flight she took in an early machine where the nose went straight down upon landing and they wound up propeller down in a farmer's field!