27 February 2021

Turtle Lake Cascades. Then and Now

Water features were one of the most photographed elements at Duke's Park - the early 20th-century estate of tobacco millionaire James B. Duke in Hillsborough, New Jersey. The Raritan River, Duke's Brook, and a dozen man-made lakes all found their way to the viewfinder of the shutterbug and professional lensman alike.


Postcard circa 1918

Especially intriguing to the early picture-maker were the dozens and dozens of fountains - both practical and ornamental - and the water that cascaded down the falls from one lake to another.  

Postcard circa 1910

Each vista was a carefully planned scene of water, rocks, trees, and bushes - including the one you see here which featured in no fewer than four different series of postcards between 1910 and 1920.

Postcard circa 1913

What postcard publishers dubbed simply "The Cascades" is a small waterfall with a fountain between what Duke Farms has named Otter Lake and Turtle Lake. 

Postcard circa 1915

Viewing the scene as pictured in these scans from postcards in my collection is difficult if not impossible today. The fountain at the top of the falls has long been disconnected and dismantled, leaving just an unornamented metal pipe. And the area around the falls is badly overgrown - not just at the falls themselves, but also at most of the viewing spots on the banks of Turtle Lake. The photo below is the best representation I could get after trying off and on for about five years.

Turtle Lake Cascades, 2018

Perhaps there is an ecologically-minded way to return this scene to at least a representation of Duke's vision. If it ever happens, I will be there with my camera.

22 February 2021

The Belle Mead Farmers' Cooperative Association (1920 - present day)

Long before the Belle Mead Co-Op was Hillsborough's "go-to" store for all of your home, patio, and garden needs, it was the Belle Mead Farmers' Cooperative Association - supplying Hillsborough and Montgomery farmers with fertilizer, feed, and anything else for operations both large and small. In 2020, the Co-Op celebrated its 100th anniversary. Here are some things you might not know about the Belle Mead Co-Op and how it got its start.


11 July 1985 Home News - 
Ignore the caption,
 the Co-Op is proudly in Hillsborough Township

Belle Mead as a place did not grow organically but rather was a planned community centered around the railroad. Real estate developer and entrepreneur William B. Van Aken bought over 1,000 acres of property along the proposed route of the Delaware and Bound Brook division of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad in the early 1870s. He donated the land for the original grand 3-story railroad station and by the middle of the decade, trains were stopping at Van Aken Station. When Van Aken's planned industrial community halfway between New York and Philadelphia didn't get any traction, he sold the property to US Senator John R. McPherson - who decided to abandon the industrial development plan and instead started a large-scale farming enterprise that he named Belle Mead (probably NOT named after his daughter).

The home of JVD Bergen at Maple Lane Farm, circa 1939

One of the people who was likely pleased by Senator McPherson's decision to go into farming was JVD Bergen, Sr. He ran Maple Lane Farm on Township Line Road and lived in the circa 18th-century house that was built by Reverend Peter Labagh of the Harlingen Church. By the 1880s the railroad had run a spur to the large hay press at the intersection of Township Line Road and what was then called the "Princeton-Somerville Road", and in 1890 Bergen contracted with the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad to construct a second spur right to his corn crib. As can be seen in the plan below from the 1890 contract, there was also a cattle pen along the spur.

Plan from the 1890 contract between JVD Bergen
and the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad
(Collection of Gillette on Hillsborough)

For decades around the turn of the last century, farmers would bring their hay by wagon to the corner of Bergen's farm where it would be compressed and baled by a machine powered by a horse turning a jackscrew in the cellar of the barn. The bales could then be easily loaded on railroad cars to be transported to markets. In the other direction, farmers could receive rail shipments of feed and fertilizer at the same location. 

2008 aerial view from the Belle Mead Co-Op website.
The buildings at an angle to the railroad tracks
 are a reminder of the long-gone railroad spur that once served the Co-Op

It was the desire for better and cheaper fertilizer that was one of the main objects of organizing the Belle Mead Farmers' Cooperative in the fall of 1920. Somerset County farmers realized they could use their combined purchasing power to get a better deal. The Co-Op would be owned by the members with any profits being shared. The original incorporators were John A. Drake, Harlingen; Charles N. Hoagland, Princeton; and Peter A. Garretson, Belle Mead. In 1923 they were one of the eight purchasing associations that joined to form New Jersey's first statewide cooperative. It was also in that year that the Co-Op added a mill to the operation for farmers who were growing their own livestock feed. Processing and mixing grain for feed is a service that continued right into the 21st century. Beyond commerce, the Co-Op became "the Club". A place for area farmers to hang out and fraternize away from the labor of the farm.

The Somerset County Book Mobile visits the
Belle Mead Farmers' Picnic, 1938

One of the first things the Belle Mead Co-Op became known for was helping to revive the Farmers' Picnic of the olden days which hadn't been held for many years. The first new picnic was in August of 1921 at Miller's Grove. A county-wide affair, that first picnic included not only lunch (including lemonade, candy, popcorn, and saltwater taffy!) but also speakers from the Belle Mead Dairymen's League, the State Grange, and the State Department of Agriculture, as well as demonstrations, games, and a big brass band. The Co-Op continued as the main sponsor of the picnic for many years.

16 March 1953 Courier News

The first major change to the operation of the Co-Op came in the spring of 1953 when, for the first time, goods were made available for sale to the general public with the opening of a "farm-and-home" showroom. They were ahead of the curve here as Hillsborough and Montgomery were still a couple of years away from the massive suburban growth that was to come in the late 50s and 60s.

23 April 2009 Courier News

In 1998 the Belle Mead Co-Op expanded its property by purchasing eight acres of the old JVD Bergen farm and a couple of smaller lots in order to expand its landscape supply business. In 2001 the Co-Op changed legally from a Farmers' Cooperative to a Limited Liability Company. This became necessary because, under the Farmers Cooperative act of 1920, the business was obligated to distribute dividends to all of its patrons - something that was unfeasible with a retail store.

A quarter of a century ago, longtime Co-Op manager Kevin Lyon was quoted as saying, "There's a lot of new construction in the county and there are potential opportunities there...we used to grow crops and took care of that. Now we grow houses and we're taking care of those people." That's as true today as it was in 1997 and probably foreshadows another successful 100 years for the Belle Mead Farmers' Co-Op.

20 February 2021

John F. Kennedy International Village, 1965

John F. Kennedy spent about four months in New Jersey in the fall of 1935 as a freshman at Princeton. Although an illness forced the future president to leave Princeton in December, can we imagine that on at least one weekend that fall he and his buddies took a drive out to the country? Maybe even to the Sourland Mountain?


JFK as a Princeton Freshman, 1935

Thirty years later - about a year after Kennedy's assassination - the International Student Research and Development Council Inc. (ISRDC) began making plans to bring the spirit of JFK to Hillsborough. John F. Kennedy International Village would have been a massive cultural exchange center for young people from around the world covering a minimum of 45 acres on Montgomery-Zion Road. 

What the JFK Village would have looked like

The Hillsborough Township Committee was first made aware of the plan in January 1965 when 15 homeowners showed up at a committee meeting. They had become aware of the ISRDC when they were approached with offers to buy their property. The village was designed by Tectonic Associates. As reported in The Courier News, the property would include:

"an administration and information center, a chapel for all faiths, a theater and museum, three classroom buildings, a food service building, a gymnasium, an athletic field, a guest house, eight male housing units, five female housing units, five parking lots, a heliport, practice fields and a summer campground."


The initial 45-acres was gifted to the ISRDC for Christmas of 1963 by C. Benjamin Curley. Curley and his wife Alma had owned a summer home in the Sourlands since the 1930s and had even run a summer camp for black children called  Rainbow's End. You can read more about the Curley's and the camp here. Over the years the Curleys added to their property and were actively involved in attempting to acquire adjacent properties for the proposed center even after their donation.

C. Benjamin Curley as a student at Howard University in 1910

The finished $3.5 million project - essentially a conference center for young people - was expected to encompass 100 acres and also include a swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, a cultural exchange center, and "50 units of small buildings that will bespeak the lands they represent in every aspect and detail." This final revelation caused planning board member James Older to wonder aloud who would issue the building permits for "thatch huts and Arab tents"?

13 October 1965 Courier News

Local residents initially had more questions than complaints - would there be enough water for the center? how would sewage be handled? would the roads need to be improved? how would this affect zoning on the mountain? These were the questions being considered by the township officials even as the Curleys' summer home was being renovated as the JFK Village information office and 5 acres in the immediate vicinity were being cleared for use as a summer camp.

Robert and Ted Kennedy in 1965

What eventually turned public opinion against the ISRDC was the fact that the Kennedy family had no knowledge at all about the village. Senator Robert F. Kennedy replied to an inquiry about the project from the Hillsborough Township attorney in October 1965:

"I don't personally have, and as far as I know, no other member of my family has any knowledge of this organization. Our approval or sanction was neither given nor ever requested."
In January of 1966, the ISRDC officially dropped the project.

18 February 2021

Rainbow's End Camp (1936 - circa 1940)

In 1936 a unique children's summer camp opened on the Sourland Mountain. Although only operating for a few years, Rainbow's End Camp was an important institution - not just for what it was but also for who it was associated with. Yet almost nothing is remembered about the camp today.


25 August 1936 Courier News

In the mid-1930s, New York City residents C. Benjamin and Alma Curley bought a summer home on Montgomery Road near Zion. They soon decided to build a camp on the property. The Courier News reported about it on August 25, 1936:

"Atop Neshanic Mountian to the south of here has been established the first summer camp for Negroes in Northern Jersey. It is along the Zion-Montgomery Road and is known as "Rainbow's End." The place is operated by Mrs. A. C. Curly [sic] of New York City. One large dormitory building has been constructed with individual bedrooms on the first floor and a large sleeping room on the second. Mrs. Curly [sic] plans to erect another building before next summer."

This one brief paragraph contains practically the sum of what we know about Rainbow's End today.  Other newspaper mentions in the 1930s concern a New York African-American Women's club The Gothamettes having a family outing at the camp in 1939, and Alma Curley's big birthday party there in 1938. No information is ever given about who the Curleys were and how these New Yorkers came to Hillsborough. As we will see in a future article, Rainbow's End was not their final connection to Hillsborough history.

Clarence Benjamin Curley was born in 1889 in Memphis, Tennessee. This remarkable man graduated cum laude from Howard University in 1911 majoring in business. While studying law at night he worked at the treasurer's office of the university. He married Alma Duncan on the night that she graduated from Howard. 

C. Benjamin Curley - which was the name he went by for the rest of his life - decided he was more interested in business than law. so despite finishing his law degree in 1914 went back to Howard in 1916 as a professor of commercial arithmetic. He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant at the outset of World War One and did so well as a clerk with the 368th infantry that by the time he got overseas he was promoted to assistant disbursing officer at 92nd division headquarters - the only African American disbursing officer in the entire 92nd division. 

After the war, he went to New York and graduated from NYU's graduate school of Business Administration in 1923. After that, he embarked on a series of successful business ventures - Harlem's largest five and dime store, a printing shop, a cafeteria/lunchroom, and the first African American illustrated newspaper in the US. 

It is often said that the business of America is business. Mr. Curley agreed from a uniquely African American perspective. By the 1920s he started The Curley Business Service, an organization devoted to helping black businesses with their organization and administration.

23 July 1927 Pittsburgh Courier

He had some interesting ideas, including that the church could and should play a larger role in business. But his overarching view was that with guidance and support "Negro businesses" would become "businesses". 

In 1930 Mr. Curley founded the People's Credit Union of New York - an organization that helped countless individuals and businesses in Harlem with loans as little as $150. He was also greatly involved with the Colored Merchants' Association founded by Montogomery, Alabama grocer A.C. Brown in 1928. The CMA was a national cooperative of black-owned businesses that promoted cooperative purchasing, advertising, and selling.

C. Benjamin Curley had many other ventures, but always maintained his commitment to helping the African American businessman. Perhaps his intentions can best be summed up by a verse of a hymn that he wrote for his fraternity at Howard, Alpha Phi Alpha:

"As we move through time and space,
Let us all real brothers be
Pressing on to one great goal;
Help the needy and deserved,
And uplift the common whole." 

As noted above, Mr. Curley makes another appearance in Hillsborough history 25 years after the Rainbow's End Camp. Look for that in a future article.

16 February 2021

The Boat House, Then and Now

Around 1898 James B. Duke had a rectangular boating lake constructed on the north side of the residence at his Hillsborough, New Jersey estate. Shortly thereafter he built a boathouse at the west end of the lake. 

Duke's Park Boat House circa 1905

The small one-story building originally had two rooms - a lounge with a fireplace on one end and a room to store boats.

The Boat House at Duke's Park, 2018

Only the west and south facades are easily viewed today - the building itself is inaccessible to visitors.  In the photo above of the west facade taken from behind the security fence, one can just glimpse the stone bridge on the left so prominent in the first postcard above.

The Boat House at Duke's Park circa 1907

Above we see the east side of the building in an early postcard. In the distance, the riverfront factories of Raritan can just be made out.

The Boat House at Duke's Park, 2018

Shown above is the south side of the boathouse. A half-dozen years ago the building was in disrepair and was generally worn out. Minor repairs stabilized the building and a coat of fresh paint brought it to the state you see in the 2018 photographs.

The Boat House at Duke's Park circa 2010

The boathouse was much photographed a century ago also. No fewer than six series of postcards featured views of the building.

The Boat House at Duke's Park, 2018

The Boat House has been much altered over the years. Windows and doors have been changed and moved and the bracketed posts supporting the overhanging roof on the lakefront side have been replaced with simple posts at the front edge of the roof as can be seen in the photo above.

The Boat House at Duke's Park circa 2010

In the photo below of the west side - opposite the lake - we can observe that the covered porch with the gabled roof as seen in the first postcard has been enclosed to form a new room.

The Boat House at Duke's Park, 2018

Doris Duke enjoyed boating on the lake as a child as we can see in this selection from her home movies below which also includes a glimpse of the Boat House.

The Urchins' Band, Then and Now

Of the many bronze figures that inhabited the Hillsborough, New Jersey estate of tobacco mogul James B. Duke in the last century, the grouping of the barefooted boy musicians has always been one of the most beloved. 

The Urchins' Band, Duke's Park, circa 1905

Not only were the bronze figures well-loved, but also much photographed. Images of the boys appeared in no fewer than eight separate postcard series between 1905 and 1920.

The Gypsy Band, Duke's Park, circa 1905

The musicians have gone by several different names over the years - the Gypsy Band, the Brownie Band, even the Wandering Minstrels. But we know from correspondence between Duke and Italian fabricator Sabatino de Angelis & Fils that the figures were originally called "Urchin Band of Musicians".

The Urchins' Band, Duke's Park, circa 1910

Sabatino de Angelis was responsible for many of the bronzes at Duke's Park, notably the Thorn Puller, and the Farnese Bull.

The Urchins' Band, Duke's Park, circa 1910

The boys with their makeshift instruments were originally placed in what was called the Coach House Woods. This was a wooded area near the Coach Barn and Stables that no longer exists. In the first four postcards above we can observe what was likely their original configuration.

The Wandering Minstrels, Duke's Park, circa 1912

In the postcard above and the two below, we observe that the orientation has changed somewhat.

The Brownie Band, Duke's Park, circa 1915

The Brownie Band, Duke's Park, circa 1915

And finally, in the last historic postcard below we see that the statues have been moved once again.

The Brownie Band, Duke's Park, circa 1915

In the years after Doris Duke inherited the estate, she moved the Urchins' Band one final time to an island in a lake near her residence. This area of the estate has only been open to the public again in the last couple of years. Unfortunately, the passage of time has not been kind to the urchins as you can see in the photo below.

The Urchins' Band, Duke Farms, 2018

15 February 2021

The Hunting Lodge, Then and Now

Sometimes referred to today as the "Hunting Lodge", this gothic cottage on the estate of tobacco king James B. Duke in Hillsborough, New Jersey appears much the same today as it did 120 years ago. The cottage is 1 1/2 to 2 stories high and constructed of uncoursed boulders. It is said to have been built shortly after the coach barn and stables and is believed to be where Duke stayed during the many early extensive renovations to his main residence, the Veghte house.


Duke's Hunting Lodge circa 1905

The Gothic Revival style of the cottage differs from the later architecture of the estate - including the Veghte house remodeling - which is in more of a Tudor style. Today, the cottage with its two stone chimneys and interesting irregular rooflines remains nestled in the woods of Duke Farms much as it was in 1900.

Duke's Hunting Lodge in 2019

14 February 2021

In The "Red Coats'" Power - The Capture of Thomas Van Camp - 1777

In The "Red Coats'" Power is one of the tales published by George Quarrie in his 1910 collection Within a Jersey Circle. It is the story of the capture of Branchburg farmer Thomas Van Camp by the British during the American Revolution as told to the author by the then 83-year-old grandson of the protagonist, Peter Van Camp. I am reprinting it here along with notes and images of my own inserted for those interested in Hillsborough, New Jersey history.


One day in June, 1777, five men were drilling and practising target shooting in a wood, near the South Branch River. It was at a place a little above the vil- lage then called Branchville and now known as South Branch. They had met there every day for some time and were very earnest in their work, first learning the military steps and turnings for marching and afterward firing with long-barreled muskets and the round, leaden balls of those days, at a barked spot on a tree.
On the day in question, which, to be accurate, was the 
16th of June, having finished their drill evolutions, four 
of the men grounded their muskets and began loading 
them. First they measured the charges of powder in 
the palms of their hands and poured them into the ca- 
pacious barrels; then they rammed them down with 
pieces of paper doubled up into wads, and next they 
hammered the charges home with their ramrods, until 
the latter bounced back clear out of the barrels. The 
balls being put in and driven down beneath more paper 
wads, the guns were loaded. After that the flint-mailed 
hammers were raised and some extra powder poured into 
the flash pans. This was called priming. Having fin- 
ished loading, the four men, under instructions of the 
fifth, formed in firing line. 
Just two days earlier, on June 14, 1777,
the Continental Congress passed a resolution
adopting the United States Flag.

One of the four, a tall, lanky youth called Hank, 
was exceedingly awkward at drill but a “dead shot” and 
proud of it. He was about to shoot when right in the 
line of the target and not much beyond it, he saw some- 

“Tom, do you see that ‘redcoat’?” he asked in an ex- 
cited whisper. “That’s my target! I’m going to shoot 

“No, don’t!” ordered Tom, who was the instructor. 
“That’s one of our men in disguise, most likely. Hold 
on a bit till I see.” 

Hank frowned. He wanted to show his marksman- 
ship on the real thing, and again he leveled his gun, de- 
claring that he would shoot the man. 

“Don’t do it, I tell you!” Tom commanded, and again 
Hank was restrained. But as Tom shifted his ground 
for a better view, “Lanky Hanky,” as they called him, 
covered his man with his gun and was on the point of 
firing when one of his mates interfered. It was lucky 
he did, for at that moment a crackling of many feet over 
the twigs behind them was heard and they found them- 
selves surrounded and taken prisoners by a strong com- 
pany of British soldiers. If Hank had shot the man the 
five of them would have been shot or hanged on the 
spot and this story would never have been told. 

“Tom,” the instructor of Hank and the others, was 
Thomas Van Camp, who had served in the Continental 
army from the first skirmish down to the glorious ac- 
tions of Trenton and Princeton. His time having then 
expired he had repaired to his ancestral homestead, which 
is now the home of his grandson, Peter Van Camp, to 
whom I am largely indebted for this story. 
[The Van Camp homestead was located in Branchburg where the Neshanic Valley Golf Course is today. It was in the Van Camp family from when the land was originally partitioned in the early 1700s until it was sold in December 1933. Peter Van Camp, the grandson of Thoams Van Camp, died in 1923 at the age of 97.]
Thomas Van Camp’s activity in collecting and drilling 
men for the army he had fought with, showed that he 
was a true patriot. But for the time his lamp was ex- 
tinguished ; for he and his recruits were in the hands of 
the enemy. And, as he used many a time to tell his 
grandson, who now retells it, the worst of their capture 
was that, being all big fellows, they were subjected to 
far more indignities than if they had been of smaller 
stature. For instance, they were made to run the gaunt- 
let, one at a time, between two facing lines of their 
enemies, every one of whom administered the best kick 
he was capable of to each runner as he passed down the 
line. The redcoats seemed to hugely enjoy the work, 
too; for with every kick they would shout some taunt. 

“Why don’t you fight, you lumbering rebels,” they 
cried. “You’re big and ugly enough,” etc. 

But the captives soon had the satisfaction of seeing 
their enemies themselves cowed. For they had only pro- 
ceeded a short distance further up stream when suddenly, 
like a clap of thunder, a cannon belched from the hills 
to their left and a ball came whistling over their heads 
and tore up the earth only a few -yards beyond them. 
Simultaneous musketry fire from a wood ahead of them 
seemed to fill the invaders with terror, for sheltering 
themselves in a convenient wood, they beat a double- \ 
quick retreat along the river, taking good care, how- 
ever, that their prisoners were well surrounded and made 
to scamper away along with them. For some time that 
well-planted cannon kept guessing their whereabouts, by 
shot after shot. Just opposite the Van Camp home- 
stead, where the river is now crossed by a fine bridge, a 
ball went crashing among the trees right over their heads. 
This brought down a heavy limb which pinned several 
Britishers under it, hurting one or two badly, and nar- 
rowly missing Thomas Van Camp. 
Branchburg and Hillsborough circa 1850 - 

The men thus sent back the way they came were a 
force some seventy strong. They had been sent on a 
reconnoitering and foraging expedition by General Corn- 
wallis, who, with Colonel De Heister, was posted with 
two divisions of their army at Middlebush and Som- 
erset Courthouse. They had marched there from New 
Brunswick in the hope of drawing Washington from his 
stronghold at Middlebrook, which event they awaited 
with impatience but in vain. At the same time General 
Sullivan, by order of Washington, having come from 
Princeton, had left small corps of observation on Haunts 
Rock, on the Sourland Mountain, and encamped with his 
main body at Clover Hill. It was from there that the 
gun was sent by Sullivan, and it, with a few sharp- 
shooters, successfully defeated the purpose of the for- 

Major General John Sullivan

Nearly a hundred years after this occurrence, two can- 
non balls were unearthed on the Van Camp farm. They 
are still in the possession of Peter Van Camp, the grand- 
son of that same patriot soldier, Thomas, at whose cap- 
tors while he was among them, these very balls were fired. 
As there is no record of any other engagement ever having 
taken place in the vicinity, there seems to be no doubt as 
to the origin of these balls. 

When Cornwallis saw that Washington was not to 
be enticed from Middlebrook he marched back to New 
Brunswick, determining to move on Philadelphia by way
of the sea. Thomas Van Camp and his fellow-prisoners 
were shipped under hatches in a vessel and taken to Long 
Island. There Hank and three of his mates received bad 
treatment in prison for five months; but Van Camp, who 
was wonderfully good natured, did whatever was re- 
quired of him, and knew so well how to humor his jailors 
that he got off after two months of imprisonment. He 
was paroled on leave to go and see an aunt, and needless 
to say the moment his feet touched the Jersey shore he 
took to his heels through swamps, rivers and woods, till 
he got back to his home. 
Interior of the British prison ship New Jersey,
moored at Long Island during the American Revolution

Peter Van Camp tells me that his grandfather lost his 
gun and other equipment at the time of his capture, but 
the musket used in the Revolution by his great uncle, 
John Van Kampen, as well as the latter’s sword, after 
he was made an officer, is still preserved at the old home- 
stead. Mr. Van Camp has also a very old French gun, 
supposed to have been among the first firearms ever used 
in Jersey. It was brought here by his great-great-grand- 
father early in the seventeenth century, and is said to be 
at least 250 years old. 

It does not appear that Thomas Van Camp re-entered 
the army. Subsequent to his capture and release from the 
British lines, tradition and history seem to conflict a good 
deal as to his movements. In the second series of New 
Jersey Archives (as pointed out to me by Arthur S. Kim- 
ball, a relative of the Van Camps, through the Halls) 
there appears a letter, dated at Newark, February 7, 1778, 
which says: 

“A correspondent informs us that one William Pace, 
of Schoolie’s Mountain, and Thomas Van Camp, of Som- 
erset County, both bound for Staten Island, the latter 
with a quantity of flour, and the former with four quar- 
ters of beef which had been stall-fed two years, and was 
intended for a British general, were apprehended and 
brought before the President and Council of Safety the 
twenty-eighth of January last. It not fully appearing to 
the board that their respective cargoes were to have been 
carried into the enemy’s lines, which would have been 
high treason. Van Camp was adjudged to forfeit his 
flour and to pay the fine prescribed by law for asking more 
than the regulated price, and also the fine for asking a 
higher price in continental currency than in specie and 
Pace to forfeit his fat beef and to pay the fine for asking 
for it more than the regulated price, and both being 
bound over they were dismissed. 

“Evidence being produced the day after that one Jacob 
Fitz-Randolph, who lives at the Blazing Star, had met 
them (Van Camp and Pace) at Spanktown (now Rah- 
way) and engaged to take their cargoes if they would 
bring them to his house, and to convey them to Staten 
I Island so soon as the ice would permit; the said Pace and 
Fitz-Randolph have since been committed to gaol for pro- 
curing provisions for the enemy, and as dangerous to the 
present government; and a warrant is issued to apprehend 
the said Van Camp.” 

History failing to note any further penalty as inflicted 
upon Thomas Van Camp, we may fairly assume that his 
I actions were satisfactorily explained to the authorities. 
Martha Washington arrives at the Ford mansion in Morristown, 1779

Tradition here enters and informs us that Thomas Van 
Camp conveyed Martha Washington in a supply wagon 
from Princeton to Morristown in the month of Decem-
ber, 1779. Although there is no official record of this, it 
had undoubtedly as good a chance of being authentic as 
most other family traditions have. And as to Thomas's 
attempted contraband transaction, perhaps he was not the 
first loyal citizen up to that time or since then who has 
been tempted into making large profits at the expense of 
an enemy of his country — if he really did attempt that. 
But the natural inference seems to be that he was ulti- 
mately exonerated from everything, except, perhaps a lit- 
tle pardonable venality in those hard times. 

The present Peter Van Camp, Thomas’s grandson, is 
the oldest surviving descendant of two very old and im- 
portant families, the Halls and Van Camps, or Van 
Kampens. He lives at the original Hall homestead, one 
of the first places of the kind established in Somerset 
County. The Halls of this line especially have an ancient 
and decidedly interesting lineage. 

I have on several occasions noticed how remarkably old 
people in these regions seem to carry their weight of 
years. But wonderful as former instances have appeared 
to me, I am bound to admit that they are surpassed in the 
person of Peter Van Camp. He is eighty-three years of 
age, or as he humorously puts it: 

“Yes, next year I’ll have come of age four times.” 

And yet he is so alert in mind and body, and so very 
far from looking his great age, that no man could hon- 
estly guess him to be over sixty. Though he does not 
now do the heaviest work on his farm, he takes full care 
of his own horse, cows and chickens, does his own garden- 
ing and raises what are admitted to be the finest pigs to be 
seen for miles around. 

12 February 2021

The Battle for the Sourland Mountain (1953 - 1959)

The Battle for the Sourland Mountain didn't take place during the American Revolution, though it lasted nearly as long as that entire war. Rather, the battle began in January 1953 when Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing - better known today as simply 3M - announced their intentions to build a stone quarry and roofing granules manufacturing plant in Hillsborough and Montgomery Townships.

24 January 1953 Home News

The Minnesota company began buying options and researching titles of mountain properties in the last few months of 1952. They planned a $2 million operation with the mining being conducted in Hillsborough and the manufacturing taking place in Montgomery Organized opposition to the plan from residents in both towns arose almost immediately after a public information session was held at the Hillsborough Consolidated School in February 1953. 

14 April 1953 Home News

Residents raised questions about water use, noise from blasting, increased traffic on local roads, and general quality-of-life issues for mountain property owners. They focused on opposition to the approvals that would be necessary for both towns to change the zoning from residential and farming to industrial. Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing responded by publishing two open letters on consecutive weeks in April in an attempt to allay the public's fears.

April 1953 Courier News

Enter Dr. George Gallup - Montgomery Township resident and founder of the famous Gallup Poll - and the Community League of Montgomery. They presented the Montgomery Planning Board with an 840-signature petition in opposition to the quarry focusing on the tax impact of industrial development. 

29 April 1953 Home News

According to Dr. Gallup and the League, "the long term effect of industry is to increase taxes", "municipal debt and bonded debt increase rapidly as industry moves in", and, "industry increases population density, and population density brings high taxes."

23 May 1953

Opposition to 3M - and to the proposed zoning changes - was just as strong in Hillsborough as it was in Montgomery. At a May 22, 1953, public meeting attended by 225 residents, 3M went so far as to offer to buy the house of every concerned citizen within one mile of the quarry.

28 July 1953

With the various government bodies in both towns in favor of the development, the opposition turned to a new tactic - changing the forms of government. From their inception in 1771 and 1772, Hillsborough and Montgomery Townships respectively used the township committee form of municipal government. In the 1950s this consisted of a three-member committee, elected at-large for three-year overlapping terms, with each committee member having an equal vote and a nominal mayor being selected among themselves.

28 July 1953 Home News

New Jersey state law offers a couple of different ways to change government forms. The one attempted in Hillsborough and Montgomery was to petition for a special election. Hillsborough's Community League submitted a petition to the town clerk at the beginning of August requesting an election on August 25th to change to a council-manager form of government. Montgomery had already submitted their identical petition a week earlier.

4 August 1953 Courier News

The council-manager form allows for 5,7 or 9 Council members or Mayor and 4, 6, or 8 Council members with the Mayor elected at-large. The Council is elected all at-large or a combination of wards and at-large and serves 4 year concurrent or staggered terms. A municipal manager serves as the chief executive and has responsibility for the budgets and the appointment and removal of department heads. Eight out of nine former Hillsborough committeemen weighed in with their opposition to a change, and even Doris Duke was asked for her opinion (she declined to provide one).

19 August 1953 Home News

After Montgomery's voters rejected the change by a vote of 538-382, the writing was on the wall for Hillsborough. And indeed Hillsborough voters followed suit, keeping the township committee form by a vote of 981-410. For many residents of both towns, these votes were more reflective of a desire to keep their nearly two-century-old government than they were indicative of acquiescence to the quarry. Dr. Gallup compared the tumult that raged all summer to the Civil War. "Sometimes a father will be on one side and a son on the other. Men who have been good friends all their lives are arguing. Next-door neighbors are no longer in agreement." And so the battle continued.

26 August 1953 Home News

After the defeat at the polls, the Hillsborough Community League directed its energy towards stopping the zoning change. They argued that the quarry and plant would depreciate home values and that the zoning laws would be neutered if changes were made solely for the benefit of individual companies. At a three-hour meeting in October, many residents were still voicing concerns. Even Dr. Russell Carrier - of the noted clinic - testified that his patients would be adversely affected by the quarry one mile down the road.

9 October 1953 Home News

The battle had its first political casualty a month later when Hillsborough Mayor Richard Van Doren was upset in his bid for reelection by the Community League backed candidate Richard Musa. Van Doren cast one of the two Yes votes in the 2-1 approval of the "3M" zoning ordinance on October 8. 

15 January 1954 Home News

The ordinance was passed again due to technical errors on December 10, 1953 - but with a new township committee in January with a seeming 2-1 opposition to 3M (as well as a new planning board), all bets were off. Thus began six years of constant litigation in the courts and changes in stance by the governing bodies, especially after Van Doren was elected back to the committee in November 1954.

6 July 1956 Courier News

The various lawsuits between and among the two townships, residents, and #M were consolidated in 1954 and came to trial in 1956 with Hillsborough prevailing in Superior Court. Zoning ordinances were again proposed and adopted and the New Brunswick Home News even ran a headline on December 16, 1956, that read, "Battle Nears End". But the zoning ordinances were ruled invalid upon appeal by the plaintiffs to the New Jersey Supreme Court in April 1957.

31 January 1959 Courier News

In March of 1958, the Hillsborough Planning Board again recommended an amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow 3M to operate on the mountain. This set off another round of lawsuits with Hillsborough prevailing in Superior Court on January 30, 1959. A ruling on June 1, 1959, by the Supreme Court, upholding the validity of Montgomery Township's zoning ordinance seemed like it would be the final shot in the six-year battle but Hillsborough residents were back in court that October with more objections to the zoning ordinance - namely that the setback requirements for the zone (reduced from 1,000 feet to 100 feet to satisfy a previous lawsuit) were "arbitrary and capricious".

17 January 1960 Home News

A final ruling was handed down by the Supreme Court on November 23, 1959, upholding the Superior Court's previous decision, and within weeks contractors were on the site resuming the engineering work required to build the facility. 

Gibraltar Rock Quarry, 2011

The quarry and roofing granules plant opened in 1961 and was operated by 3M until being sold to Gibraltar Rock in 2009. Gibraltar continues quarrying at the site and in 2011 stated that they could continue digging there for another 100 years!