30 July 2007


In recognition of my 35th blog entry, I'd like to pay tribute to my blogging predecessor by reprinting this short article that appeared in the November 8, 1933 edition of the Hopewell Herald. This anonymous profile is an appreciation of one of the many fine elected officials from Hillsborough's past.

Chris Horner, Tax Collector at Neshanic

Sterling character is the very greatest asset a man may possess - particularly if he be a public figure. Representative of this type of personality, the newspaper's attention is drawn to the activities in Neshanic of Chris G. Horner, popular and well regarded citizen of that community. Mr. Horner has been tax collector for Hillsborough Township for many years, having originally received this post in 1910. During the ensuing years, he has, by his methods and policies, proven conclusively that the choice of the people was not misdirected when he was elected to office, for Mr. Horner has the best interests and welfare of his neighbors ever at heart.

In our feature reviews of those men who have done much to promote better conditions in their vicinity, and who have always placed the good of their community before personal gain, this writer is happy to mention the name name and activities of Chris Horner....tax collector at Neshanic.

Two things I find interesting about this article are that the position of tax collector was apparently an elected position (I wonder about dog catcher!), and that someone would gush about the tax collector! I'm sure people in 1933 complained about their taxes too.

28 July 2007

8 AM to Dusk

For a boy growing up in suburban central New Jersey, there should be no better time than the summer of your 10th year. A time of no school, no worries, few obligations, and many friends. Old enough to appreciate life, and young enough to think it will be like this forever.

My best summer took place in Monmouth County in 1973, Freehold Township. A community very much like Hillsborough circa 1998. A town riding high on a ten year housing boom, but also dealing with all of the problems the come with that - traffic, school construction, and open space preservation. In fact, one of the reasons we moved to Hillsborough in 1993 was because it reminded me of the community where I grew up 25 years before.

In 1973 the best thing about being a 9 year old boy was baseball - and summer was the season for it. We played every day, from dawn to dusk, practically. One of my friends had a near regulation-sized Little League diamond in their backyard. Home runs generally landed in the neighbors pool. Games started out nine a side, but we kept playing as kids left for dinner until there was no one left to pitch or hit.

Why am I writing about this today? If you look at the photos I think you'll have an idea. When I visited Flagtown Park Wednesday, on an absolutely gorgeous summer morning around 10AM - there was no one to be found.

Baseball diamond complete with backstop - empty.

Full size basketball court with goals on each end, in near-perfect condition - empty.

Playground with swings and climbers - empty.

Picnic area - empty.

Flagtown Park (entrance off Equator Avenue at 7th Street, parking available) is a wonderful recreation resource - in above average condition - and there is no one to use it.

Why? There are many answers, all unsatisfactory. Two income families need to have their kids in day care or summer camps. It's not safe anymore to let kids take their bikes and play out across the neighborhood. Or maybe just blame it on the iPod and the Xbox, and the other indoor trappings of the text message generation.

Whatever the reason, I do know this: no matter how many times I think "Ya Gotta Believe" - we can't go back to 1973.

And no matter how much I love living in Hillsborough now, it will never give me a summer as good as the one I had when I was nine.

"Play Ball!"

27 July 2007

Strong (undersized) Mayor Seeks Oversized Job

This week's Hillsborough Beacon editorial, partly about Money Magazine's ranking of Hillsborough as the country's 23rd best place to live, made me think about some of the towns and cities that will never be on that list. And unlike the editor of the Beacon, I think a town's leaders, and effectiveness of the government, can make the difference between being included on the list or not.

Yes it is true that Money Magazine likes to highlight as many towns as possible by having very different lists each year. A town may be ranked highly one year, and not be on the list at all the next. But it still remains true that there are some towns that will never be on that list, in any year. And of all the miserable rotten towns I can think of on this stormy night, I keep coming back to just one.

The municipality I'm speaking of sure has its share of problems. First of all, there is a housing crisis. Not a shortage, or a problem with a slumping real estate market - this is more of a building code problem. A house fell recently and a woman was killed. The woman's sister is blaming the current occupant of the house, but I believe a terrible storm played a role in the tragedy.

Which brings us to our second problem: crime. Particularly crime scene investigation - there is none. Absolutely no forensic evidence is taken, and there is no one in the lab - leaving the pompous coroner to issue death certificates practically on the spot!

There is also currently a problem with one of the labor unions in town. The rank and file are obviously frustrated by their current contract, and have been seen walking around town kicking at the ground with disgusted smirks on their faces.

At least the union employees have jobs. The town is not business friendly at all, with a dearth of retail shopping. A grown woman and a teenage girl were seen fighting over a pair of red shoes - right in the street.

And speaking of streets, there are only two decent roads out of town, the red one and the yellow one. The yellow one is the major highway which can take you to the city, but it is also the town's parade route. Talk about a traffic nightmare. This is one town that really could use a bypass!

But the most serious problem in town is a medical condition that afflicts nearly all of the residents. Maybe it's something in the water, but no one in town is much taller than 3 feet 6 inches. And we're worried about a little mercury.

Is it any wonder that the voters in this mayor-council form of government have recently recalled their rotund mayor? After all, it is reported that he spent most of his day reading proclamations, creating holidays, and sculpting busts for the local hall of fame.

Let's hope he doesn't show up in Hillsborough looking for a spot on our new town council - that is sure to put us out of the top 100!

Maybe if we just keep repeating "there's no place like home, there's no place like home".

26 July 2007

CSC Final Vote!

After 8 months we finally get to the meeting that matters. On Wednesday night, Hillsborough's Charter Study commissioners had their final deliberations leading up to their recommendation for a new form of government.

Commissioner Bill Page started things off at this poorly attended meeting by comparing and contrasting the Mayor-Council (MC) form and the Mayor-Council-Administrator (MCA) form. He concluded, that although the forms had many similarities, he prefers the MCA form because the mayor presides over council meetings and therefore the whole government is together and available to the public.

Commissioner George Ostergren reiterated his preference for the MC form, stressing the need for strong checks and balances. He also stated that although it has been said that his mind has been made up from the start, that isn't exactly true. Yes, he was biased towards the MC form because of his decade long research into the topic, but he was "willing to sit here and listen" for 8 months, and his mind was open to other opinions.

Commission Chairman Chris Jensen disfavors MCA because there are no options available. He said that one day Hillsborough might want to have wards, or non-partisan elections, or a different number of council members - but that would require changing the form of government once again. He is in favor of the Mayor-Council form because it allows options to be changed as the town evolves.

Commissioner Glenn van Lier strongly desires the separation of powers that are inherent in the Mayor-Council form. He believes the town needs a mayor that "has authority - the buck stops here". He also likes the idea that the directly elected mayor in the MC form serves four years, unlike the appointed mayor of the Township Committee who might serve only one.

Commissioner Gloria McCauley is opposed to the Mayor-Council form because it is too much of a big-city form of government: "it does not make sense to take something that works and turn it upside down". She recommends a special charter which would follow from the Township Committee and MCA forms, and have a directly elected mayor.

At this point a motion was made to recommend the Mayor-Council form of government. The vote was as follows:

George Ostergren - yes

Gloria McCauley - no

Glenn van Lier - yes

Bill Page - no

Chris Jensen - yes

After a short recess, the commissioners added the following options to their recommendation:

1. At Large Council members - no wards

2. Partisan Elections

3. Staggered Terms (elections every two years for four year seats)

And after a lengthy discussion about whether to have five or seven

4. Five Council Members

So there you have it. What do you think of the recommendation, and the job that the commissioners did? Let me know in the comments section.

25 July 2007

Winding Up

Reading Katherine Watt's Blog "On North Plainfield" this morning has got me thinking about the future of the "On Hillsborough" blog. Ms. Watt announced yesterday that she will be "winding down" her blog over the next few weeks. Since its inception in March of this year, "On North Plainfield" has provided a wealth of information, and opinion, on the issues facing that town. Ms. Watt is an excellent and tireless writer, incorporating diligent research and unique insights into her chronicle of life in North Plainfield. I have especially enjoyed her many photo essays, and will be saddened to see her go.

So what about "On Hillsborough"? Is it possible to run out of ideas for the blog? The Courier News would like their bloggers to publish five out of every seven days. With that kind of volume it is easy to use up ideas in a hurry. But a bigger problem for me is my unwillingness to merely recapitulate news stories, or do a "What's Happening This Week" type of piece. These are things you can read in the newspaper - and I don't feel the need to repeat them here.

So what's left? There are still a lot of topics deserve further attention, and some that I have barely touched upon. And there are ongoing topics that won't get old for a long time.

Here's a list:

  1. The Charter Study Commission - a final decision on a recommendation for a new form of government is expected tonight - and then things should really heat up.

  2. The Route 206 Bypass - I have a feeling we haven't heard the last of this "final" proposal.

  3. The Town Center - Many long-time residents have strong opinions both for and against the idea of a pedestrian friendly "downtown" for Hillsborough.

  4. Quiet Trains - I promised to write about my proposal for silencing the horns, and I'll get to that soon.

  5. The Transit Village - I have a specific proposal for the train station and transit village.

  6. Parks and Recreation Facilities - I am going to continue this series weekly through the rest of the summer and into September.

  7. Historical Items From the Newspapers - I will continue to dig up news items from the past, and try to relate them to what's going on now.

  8. Your Turn - What other issues need exploring? Let me know in the Comments section.

With all of these topics, it's clear that I'm not yet ready to "wind down", in fact I'd say I'm still winding up!

23 July 2007

Sunny Thoughts for a Rainy Day

The following anonymous account appeared in the Hopewell Herald, November 1, 1894.

Last Saturday afternoon we accepted the invitation of a kind neighbor to take a drive over what is known as the Neshanic Mountain. The day was one of the most beautiful that we have ever beheld, even in October. From a cloudless sky the sun was shining with just enough warmth and brightness to render it comfortable, while the stillness that prevailed lent its aid to make it a day of rare beauty.

As we commenced to ascend the mountainside, the trees and shrubs, robed in their beautiful autumnal attire, presented a scene calculated to inspire the mind with the highest and noblest of thoughts. Soon we reached the wooded summit where the solitude was only broken by the singing of birds and the voice of the katydid. What a picture of rare beauty!

In making our descent down the other side of the mountain a scene even more grand
and picturesque was presented to our view. In the distance, with their church spires pointing heavenward, are to be seen towns and villages, back of which a range of mountains, known as the Somerville range, forms a perfect background.

A short drive from this point brought us to a substantial farmhouse, the property of Richard Wyckoff, situated in a cosy nook amid the hills of old Hunterdon. The above named gentleman gave us a hearty welcome, and although our stay was brief, we discovered the fact that he is a model farmer. Among the improvements which he has recently made is an arrangement by which the best and purest of spring water has been brought from a long distance to the door.

Bidding our friend good-bye, we commenced our journey homeward, but our return was not so pleasant. A chilly wind had set in and when we arrived at home by our own fireside, our thoughts reverted to the following lines:

"Home, sweet home,
Be it ever so humble
There is no place like home".

21 July 2007

Short and Sweet

My quest to visit all of Hillsborough's parks has finally taken me east of Route 206. Today I visited the cluster of recreational facilities near the Woods Road Firehouse, at the corner of Pembroke Terrace and Flagg Way. This was a really short visit - it was just too nice out today to spend too much time researching for the blog! This is going to be short and sweet.

The playground consists of the usual climbing elements and slides, along with swings and a springy seesaw. There is a small parking lot here for a few cars, and a picnic table under a very shady tree.

The playground area was very well kept, possibly due to being underused. There were many geese in the area by the small creek that runs down to the pond, but droppings were not evident on the lawn. My kids enjoyed the seesaw and climber, but we didn't stay long because I wanted to check out the tennis court across the street.

The court seemed to be in good shape, and the grounds around the court were very well kept. Also in this area are the two ball fields that are behind the Woods Road Firehouse.

Well, that's it! See you next week.

20 July 2007

The Good Old Days

I must admit that when I walked to the microphone at Wednesday's Charter Study Commission public hearing, I was quite nervous. Committeeman Carl Suraci had just finished addressing the Commission, mostly concerning the validity of their conclusions regarding the Township Committee form of government. Mr. Suraci's main concern was that the testimony of the current township committee was discounted during the Commission's evaluation of our present government.

What reporter Pamela Sroka-Holzmann described in the Courier News as a "heated debate" actually included much gavel-pounding, arguing during the ensuing recess, and, eventually, commissioners abandoning the dais. Ms. Sroka-Holzmann is decidedly NOT a sensationalist reporter!

After the recess, Mr. Suraci concluded his remarks by pointing out the inclusion of Hillsborough as No. 23 in Money Magazine's list of the top 100 places to live in the U.S. This is what I was thinking about when I got up to speak.

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. Looking back fondly on by-gone days can give one a sense of happiness and peace. The problem with the "good old days" is that you can never recognize them until they're gone - although there are often clues.

Could it be that we are living in the good old days right now? One clue certainly is that Money Magazine ranking. Can't you imagine people looking back on Hillsborough 30 years from now saying, "I remember when this was the 23rd best place to live in the country, they didn't know how good they had it".

Another clue just might be our form of government. The Township Committee form is a living piece of history that has served this town well for 236 years. There is no doubt in my mind that one day it will need to go - vanish like the buggy whip and washboard - and that is going to be a sad day. But there is a reason that it has lasted so long - from Washington drilling his troops on the mountain, to the heyday of the railroads, and beyond - and that is because it works.

Until Hillsborough becomes so complex, so populous, and so full of problems that we need a full-time professional mayor to run the town, we should be very careful about losing what we have - a simple, effective, and responsive government, of the people, by the people, and for the people - just like in the good old days.

17 July 2007

Yes Deer, No Deer

There are approximately 200,000 [2007] white-tailed deer in New Jersey. That's a lot of deer - in fact, we may now be living among the greatest deer population New Jersey has ever seen.

A Piebald deer like the one pictured has been known to roam Hillsborough

It wasn't always like this. In pre-Columbian times, natural predators and Native American hunters kept the deer population in check. And there was even a time, not very long ago when New Jersey's white-tailed deer numbered approximately zero. That's right, z-e-r-o.

20 March 1916 Courier News

According to the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, the General Assembly of New Jersey began regulating the hunting of deer as far back as 1722. By 1862, the deer population was so threatened that there was a five-year moratorium on hunting. Even with protections and regulations, the deer population continued to fall, and by 1900 was at its lowest level.

There is no doubt that James B. Duke would not have been able to construct his magnificent Hillsborough estate  - with its hundreds of thousands of trees, shrubs, and flowers - were it not for the fact that deer were basically absent from Central New Jersey during the first decade of the 20th century.

There was another moratorium on hunting from 1902 to 1908 - but the deer population didn't rebound. Why not? Well, something else was going on between the beginning of European immigration in the 1600s and the beginning of the last century - and that was the near-total loss of New Jersey's forests.

17 May 1920 Courier News

Between 1904 and 1913 the state actually imported deer from Pennsylvania and Michigan to try to restore the herd - but the habitat was still the missing piece of the puzzle.

A common sight for Hillsborough runners, bicyclists, and dog-walkers.

A casual study comparing aerial photographs of the 1930s with the present day shows that while the large contiguous forests of previous centuries are long gone, the last century has seen a great increase in treed areas - especially in suburbia. With its lack of predators, minimal or no hunting, and all of the tasty trees and shrubs you can eat, Hillsborough makes the perfect suburban address for our white-tailed friends.

"The Good Life", indeed!

16 July 2007

"The Good Life"

"Hillsborough - The Good Life" - you've heard that phrase before. It is officially our unofficial motto, or something like that. Some say the moniker goes back about 30 years, but I think it may go back further. The phrase appears on page 9 of the 1964 booklet "Illustrated Fact Book and Map, Somerville Area of New Jersey". "The Good Life" is used to describe the Somerset Hills, but the booklet also contains a section on Hillsborough - "a rural community, with much of its acreage in farmland".

Today "Money" magazine announced its list of the top 100 places to live in the United States. To the surprise of many of our neighbors, Hillsborough made the list at number 23. It is no surprise however to the people that live here. This is indeed "the good life".

My question for you is, What made you choose Hillsborough? Let me know why you moved here in the comments section. The things that attracted us to Hillsborough are the things that make Hillsborough a great place to live.

And who knows, maybe next year we can be number one!

15 July 2007


Hillsborough Township's Charter Study Commission. I've managed to avoid the topic up till now - how, I don't really know. Changing our form of government is potentially the most important issue facing Hillsborough today, and it needs to be here in the Hillsborough Blog.

I suppose I have steered clear of this topic because I have never been able to figure out how to get started. Now I have an idea, and I need you!

In just a few weeks the CSC will make their recommendation, and I am sure to be covering it extensively. But in the meantime, I want to hear from you right here.

What do you need to know about the CSC? What don't you understand about the various forms of government? Is your mind already made up? Are you pro-change or no-change?

Let me have your input in the comments section of this blog. I am not an expert on this by any means, but together we can figure it out.

14 July 2007

A Walk in the Park (Watch Your Step)

How many dogs are there in Hillsborough? I have no idea. But I am sure that they outnumber bicyclists by at least a ten to one ratio - in my neighborhood anyway.

I live near the intersection of two major dog-walking boulevards - Beekman Lane and Triangle Rd. Another favorite nearby dog walking spot is Auten Rd. What makes these roads popular with the pup-set is that they are near developments, have sidewalks, and are not fronted by houses. Apparently some pooches prefer a little privacy to do their business - and that's fine with me!

Today I visited two parks that are just sitting up and begging for dogs to visit. The first is Triangle Rd. Park, located on the north side of Triangle Rd. between Beekman and Auten. There's not a lot to distinguish this park - there is a paved path that runs from Perrine Pike (a good spot to leave the car) and Triangle Rd., a few benches, and a large lawn.

But there is something you can see in Triangle Rd. Park that is very hard to find in Hillsborough - a true rarity.

Yes - Hillsborough has a pooper-scooper law. Fortunately most pet owners know about the law. I see them out there with leash in one hand and plastic bag in the other. But if they do know about the law, it's not due to all of the advertising! I took a ride to see if I could find any more signs - especially on those dog-walking boulevards - but no luck.

I finally found one in a little patch of open space on Hampshire Drive near Longfield Drive. This field is designated as the Hampshire Drive Soccer Field on the township GIS map - but nearby residents say they have never seen a soccer game being played there. And indeed the field is not maintained for soccer or any organized sport, but it is mowed - and it welcomes dogs! Since this parcel isn't used for soccer, I think I'll unofficially rename it "John Doe Field" in honor of an anonymous friend who enjoys this blog.

So I found a couple of pooper-scooper signs, and there may be more out there - let me know if you see any. But the point is there don't seem to be any where people actually walk their dogs!
On the other hand - it seems we have an overabundance of Bike Lane signs along the various bike routes. On some roads they seem to be every few feet. In fact on Beekman Lane there are all manner of signs - almost a case of sign pollution.

Now look, I'm all for bike safety - but there is some kind of incongruity here. All of these Bike Lane signs to protect a handful of non-existent bicyclists, and almost NO signs to protect the entire public from dog excrement.

And that just stinks!

11 July 2007

This Way to the Egress

I first met Sid Bernstein almost 25 years ago when he was a guest lecturer for a class I was taking at NYU. He was the legendary promoter and manager who brought The Beatles to America - we were a bunch of 19 year old kids who were still naive enough to thing that getting into the music business was like getting a license to print money. He soon set us straight.

To be really successful in the music business, including producing and promoting concerts, you must take risks. Sid was all about being bold, taking chances. His autobiography is filled with stories of climbing out on limbs. He was the first white promoter to promote shows at the Apollo Theater - he introduced Ray Charles and James Brown to mainstream audiences - and he famously booked The Beatles, completely unknown in America, to play a concert at Carnegie Hall - having never heard a note of their music.

The last time I saw Sid was a couple of years ago at a book signing in Freehold. He had some great stories - and was still talking about taking risks. He made and lost a lot of money in the music business over the years, and lives very modestly with his wife in a small apartment in Manhattan. You could probably say that he just about broke even - and it took him over 60 years to do it!

Which brings me to the Somerset County Parks Commission and their Commerce Bank Ballpark concerts. A recent Courier News story detailed how the Parks Commission has lost $500,000 over the last 8 years on the twelve concerts that they have put on. The interesting thing is, the Parks Commission was never trying to be bold or take chances with their concerts - they were trying to play it safe - just break even. Certainly this is our money they are spending, and we have an expectation that it won't be spent recklessly.

We don't have 60 years to break even - the public is not that patient. For that reason, I am suggesting that we get out of the concert business - it's just too tough.

The Parks Commissioners should know there are no licenses to print money - there is a law against that. And there is a law against burning money too!

So, in the words of another famous promoter, "this way to the egress".

10 July 2007

Now, Clean Your Room!

On Saturday my wife and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. Adding the six years we dated before getting married makes a total of 23 years we have been together - happily!

There are no secrets to a happy marriage, but there are some constants. One constant is negotiation. Sometimes it seems like everything that can be negotiated, will be negotiated. and contrary to what you might have heard, it's not always "win-win".

Before I began this blog entry I spent a few minutes "googling" articles on negotiation. Surprisingly, some of the pieces I read did not even mention the word "compromise". That's hard to understand, since I have always believed that to get something you want, you need to give up something you want. It's a rare person that has everything.

Reading Pamela Sroka's article in Sunday's Courier News got me thinking about how negotiation and compromise played into the current Route 206 bypass proposal. Of the three major players - Hillsborough, Montgomery, and the New Jersey DOT - who gave up the most, and who gained the most with this "comporomise" bypass.

Initially, Hillsborough wanted a four-lane bypass from Belle Mead-Griggstown Rd. to Old Somerville Rd. NJ DOT also wanted this bypass - and they also wanted a four-lane Route 206 from Belle Mead-Griggstown Rd. south to Route 518. Montgomery wanted no bypass through the Pike Run development, and no dualization of Rt. 206 through their town.

Just based on these facts, it is clear that Hillsborough's interests were perfectly compatible with the interests of the DOT. Whereas Montgomery's interests were incompatible with everyone else's.

But it was never just about these facts. There were two other crucial factors that came to the fore near the end of the process - Time and Money! Hillsborough wants the bypass now - NJ DOT wants it cheaper - and Montgomery doesn't care about either of these issues.

In the end, Hillsborough will give up the idea of building the bypass through Pike Run in order to build it sooner. The DOT will give up the idea of a four-lane bypass to build it cheaper - and Montgomery, by default, will get everything it wants.

I guess in this marriage that makes Montgomery the 8 year old daughter. I just hope now that she has everything she wants, she'll clean her room!

07 July 2007

Surprise! There's a Park in Here!

Officially designated "The Rohill Playground" on Hillsborough Township's GIS map, my kids just know this place as "the park". Nestled amongst the backyards of the Rohill development near Beekman Lane and Conover Drive, the park is all but invisible from any of the access streets: Peterson Rd., Lewis St., and Lane Rd. You'll be surprised when you find it!

The playground area consists of swings, slides, a climbing wall, and other elements - but there are some surprises in this "pocket" park.

The first surprise is the basketball court. Just one hoop - but a really nice court surface with all of the lines painted, including the three-point arc. Perfect for a game of half-court. There are even court-side benches, and a really nice looking hop-scotch game board painted in the back court area.

The next surprise is the picnic area. Five tables laid out nicely in a small grove, including trash cans to make clean up easy.

The park is encircled by a dog bone-shaped paved path - five laps for a mile. The great thing about the path is that it makes a perfect "road" to help the kids graduate from the training wheels. The path is wide enough for dad to run alongside, but narrow enough so that the spills have a good chance of ending up in the grass!

If you haven't been by here in a couple of years, there is another surprise waiting for you. In 2005 the park experienced a makeover - you can see the work being done in this photo from July of that year. The entire playground used to sit in a giant sandbox. Now the sand has been replaced with the more usual wood chips, and the old wooden slide/climber combination has been upgraded to the colorful contraption you see in the first picture.

All the surprises aren't happy however. Near the playground stands the old horse-shoe pits - overgrown and definitely out of service. I'm sure we'll see that area cleaned up or removed soon enough, and that won't surprise me at all!

06 July 2007

Rockets Red Glare

Hillsborough Township, June 30th 2007. Enjoy one more time. Wonderful even without the sound - or the sound of my two-finger typing.


04 July 2007

What Price Freedom?

The "Mary and John", a three masted galleon-sized sailing vessel, departs from Plymouth, England on March 20, 1630. This is not the first time the Mary and John has sailed to America - but it is the first voyage for nearly all of the 140 passengers on board.

Puritans, persecuted by the Church of England for their religious beliefs, they are setting out to settle a new land where they hope to find freedom and liberty. One of the settlers is my great great great great great great great great grandfather, Jonathan Gillett.

Jonathan is just one of 12 bachelors in the company that also had 27 married couples and 72 children. I can't decide whether being single made it easier or harder on that voyage, but I do know that it was a welcome relief when they finally set foot on dry land on the 71st day of the trip. It took several days to unload the 150,000 pounds of provisions and livestock by ship's tender from the anchorage to the sandy beach of Nantasket, 15 miles south of their intended destination near the Charles River. After some days spent scouting the area, they removed to the river, bringing all of their belongings with them.

Their troubles were only beginning. Arriving too late in the season to plant a decent crop, they subsisted on ship's stores, mussels, and fish - fishing around the clock from their small boat. By November supplies were running low. When Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop visited the settlement in mid-November he found the colonists living in "bark wigwams or sail-cloth tents, that almost in every family, lamentation, mourning, and woe were heard".

When the Charles River froze over on December 27th, they found themselves without a supply of water for fighting fires, and many of their crude dwelling were lost. Many people did not survive the winter. Some were taken by fever, some merely froze to death.

By February 1631 there was no food left. Just when the settlers thought they were beaten, a relief ship, the Lyon, arrived with supplies - and the settlement, now named Dorchester, survived.

As for Jonathan, he went back to England to be married, and then returned to Dorchester. By 1635, he was ready to start all over again, as overcrowding (!) drove the whole of Dorchester to move 100 miles west to the wilderness of the Connecticut River Valley. They founded the first permanent settlement in Connecticut, Windsor, spending that first winter in mud huts by the river bank. It was in Windsor, three years later, that Reverend Thomas Hooker preached a sermon later re-titled "Fundamental Orders of 1638" - the first written constitution giving the people the right to govern themselves.
The family Bible of Jonathan and Mary Gillett of Windsor, Ct.  Commonly known as the Bear Bible because of the claw marks left by a bear as he tried to gain entry through a window propped open by the Bible.
Jonathan fought in the Pequot war of 1637, survived a bear attack that left claw marks on the family bible, lost two of his sons to Indian uprisings in 1675 and 1676, and died in 1677.

Mandatory Hillsborough Content: Just how much did the entertainment and fireworks on June 30th cost?

03 July 2007

Do Look Back

Did I really write in Sunday's blog that Hillsborough's "town center" was still 40 years in our future? Surely that must have been a typo?

Umm, no! Master planners (those people that work on the master plan) have reminded Hillsborough on more than one occasion that a completely mature town center, with all of the elements in place - retail, housing, parking, parks, etc. - will take a considerable amount of time to construct and mature. Zoning is only the first step. After that, the developers control the timetable.

And that's not a bad thing. A successful "main street" needs to evolve - organically - over time. Otherwise it will be as unreal as Disney World. The town center must serve the needs of the residents. The first developers will be taking risks, and should necessarily proceed cautiously. Subsequent development will learn from the successes and failures of the pioneers.

And can anyone really foresee what the town will look like in 40 years? Forty years ago, did anyone envision the Hillsborough of today? Well, in 1966 the Somerville Area Chamber of Commerce published a brief book titled, "Presenting - Branchburg, Bridgewater, Hillsborough, Somerville".

In 1966 the emphasis seems to be squarely on industrial development, no mention of open space preservation or the environment. On page 18, we read how the proposed I95 Maine to Florida Highway will bisect Hillsborough: "The alignment of this freeway holds the key to speedier industrial development here".

Forty years later we are still waiting for the highway, or its equivalent, and the industrial development. Is that good or bad?

Only time will tell - meet me in 2047 at the coffee shop on Main Street and we'll chat!