On May 3, 1775, at the home of Garret Garretson in Hillsborough Township, the citizen-farmers of Somerset County gathered to elect officers and form several companies of militia. Chosen for the Hillsborough company were John Ten Eyck, Captain; Peter D. Vroom, Lieutenant; Jacobus Quick, Second Lieutenant. Thus began the military career of Hillsborough's first war hero.
|The Vroom homestead at "Pine Bank" circa 1915.|
Peter Dumont Vroom, Sr. - father of the future New Jersey governor - was born on January 27, 1745 to George Vroom and Garretje DuMont. The Vroom family came from Holland to Long island, New York, about 1638, and were subsequently early settlers of Somerset County, NJ, making their home on the banks of the Raritan River.
|1850 Somerset County map showing the location of the Vroom homestead.|
Vroom lived for a time in New York City, but returned in the years before the Revolution, married Elsie Bogart of Somerset County and made his home on the south bank of the Raritan River east of the village of Branchville (South Branch). This spot, long favored by Native Americans because its location at the bend of the river permitted views east and west, is known as Pine Bank.
Vroom was a prominent citizen of Hillsborough before the war having been elected High Sheriff of the County of Somerset in 1774. When hostilities began, he was quickly promoted from Lieutenant to Captain, and was then elected as First Major of the 2nd Battalion of Somerset Militia and received a commission on June 6, 1777. On September 9, 1777 he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
|Continental forces attack the Chew House |
at the Battle of Germantown, October 4, 1777
The only specific war activity mentioned in the scattered brief biographies of Colonel Vroom is that he participated and was wounded in the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777. As part of the New Jersey Militia, his objective that day was to march overnight on Washington's left, engage the enemy in the flank at dawn, and get behind the enemy lines. Plans were hindered by dense fog and poor communications, and the NJ Militia failed to find the enemy, so it is unknown how Vroom sustained his wounds. The fact that his Lieutenant, John Brokaw, was killed in the battle, may point to Colonel Vroom not accompanying the Militia that day, but rather being attached to another command.
After the war he resumed public service: elected Somerset County Clerk in 1784, elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1792 - and re-elected through 1798. A staunch Federalist, he was nominated for a US House seat in 1800, but the Democrats were in ascendance in New Jersey, and Colonel Vroom was locked out of state and national office until convulsions of the War of 1812 put the Federalists back in power in 1813, and he was returned to the General Assembly for the final time.
In between and sometimes concurrently with his state and national service Colonel Vroom also held several elected Somerset County offices, as well many Hilsborough Township elected and appointed positions. Apart from his public service he was a farmer and surveyor and an elder in the Reformed Dutch Church at Somerville.
He lived a long life - long enough to see his son elected governor - and died at the old homestead on November 17, 1831 aged 86.
|The Vroom Burial Ground, |
in the woods between River Road and The Raritan River
|Gravesite of Colonel Vroom. His memorial, center, is inscribed, |
"Sacred in the memory of Peter D Vroom 86y 8m 10d"
Colonel Vroom is buried in the Vroom Burial Ground on River Road just west of his home at Pine Bank. The house stood until the early 1930s, when hunters wandered in and attempted to start a fire in the 17th century Dutch oven, burning the house down to the foundation.