Get Out!

Yesterday my husband and I took advantage of the surprisingly warm weather and took a ride to an area of Sussex County we’ve been wanting to explore for quite awhile.

I can’t tell you how happy we did.

If you aren’t a fan of the winter (like us), it is easy to just hibernate and wait for the weather to get above your age. When we heard the weather would be above freezing, we decided to make the effort to actually step outside. What we discovered is an area of Sussex County almost frozen in time with open space and houses that predate the Revolutionary War.

1977 map of New Jersey (source: Rutgers Special Collections)

We met someone who was quite knowledgeable about the area and owned an amazing home built in 1791. He freely shared information about the area and his ongoing effort to preserve as much of his property and the town’s history buildings. The town’s historical society works hard to preserve and educate on the area, from the time of the Lenapehoking to present day.

So why am I telling you all this and why am I not saying where we went? Simple. I want you to GET OUT! Grab a map (yes, a printed map) and take a ride. Is there an area in the state you’ve always wanted to visit? Plan a ride into your unknown. Visit the local historical society and ask questions. Patron their locally-owned shops and restaurants. Even consider joining their historical society (or at least make a donation).

I promise you; you’ll be happy you did!

Remembering the Heroes: NNJ Veterans Memorial Cemetery

Since I was a kid, I liked going to the cemetery. I know it may sound strange. I grew up in a big Italian family and, unfortunately, as each family member passed, they would go to the cemetery. Once I was old enough to go a little further away from home on my bike, I would ride to the cemetery on weekends when it was nice. I would sit on the ground, clean the headstones of my loved ones and talk to them. When I was able to drive, I went more often.

Now that I live almost an hour away from Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield, I don’t get there as often as I would like, but I am still fascinated by cemeteries. They hold not just our loved ones, but the history of our country.

nnjvmc-logoEnter the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

If there is one group of individuals who should always receive our respect and care, it is our nation’s veterans. And those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us deserve our highest level of respect. The Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery’s focus is to make sure vets receive a respectful resting place in Northern New Jersey nearby their families.

It took a long time, lots of planning, and plenty of effort to get this cemetery in place. It is the only veteran’s cemetery that is privately owned and receives no funding from the State or the Federal governments. It relies on their small burial costs and donations to stay in place and available for vets and their families in Northern New Jersey.

This cemetery is the brainchild of John Harrigan, president of Wallkill Valley Chapter 1002 in Vernon, New Jersey. He took on the mission of creating this cemetery and enlisted the help of the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, VFW organizations, Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, Sussex County, and services from individuals like Attorney Kevin Kelly, and businesses and organizations Mark DeVenezia of Mulch Concepts, Gardell Land Surveying, Pompton Lakes Elks Lodge 1895, and from the Sussex County Technical School. Local veterans’ organizations also have supported the effort.

The New Jersey State Legislature has approved the addition of the cemetery non-profit on the state income tax check-off list.

Now add my partner-in-crime Lisaann.

She is an amazing individual – a breast cancer survivor, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Chinkchewunska Chapter; the National Society Daughter of the Union 1861-1865, and the cemetery’s Administrator and she can trace her blood line to many veterans who fought during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. It wasn’t until she attended a good friend’s Father’s Military Funeral at the Veterans Cemetery in Goshen NY, that she decided she wanted to be part of the mission of the new cemetery in Sussex County. She takes her position seriously and does all she can to make sure the vets who are buried at the cemetery receive the care and respect they deserve.

They do fundraisers periodically, but rely heavily on donations from individuals. This iscemetery-enterance an important place in New Jersey for vets and their families. If you are able, I hope you will consider making a donation to this important location in New Jersey.

If you are interested in planning a service at the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery, please reach out. I am sure Lisaann and John will help you plan a service fitting of a vet!

The Old Guard in Morristown

Yesterday my husband and I had the pleasure of hearing the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp give a concert at the Washington’s Headquarters Museum. It was the first time I saw them in person and it was a great event!

20160703_135637

The Old Guard Fife and Drum at Washington’s Headquarters.

For those who are not familiar, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp was formed in 1960. They perform in traditional uniforms modeled after the musicians of General George Washington’s Continental Army. Military musicians wore opposite colors of their assigned regiments so they could be easily identified by officers so they could give orders to the army via different musical calls. If you would like to hear some of the music they perform, you can download it here.

The Washington’s Headquarters Museum is a great place if you have never visited. I have blogged about it in the past and I highly suggest you visit it. Known as “where America survived,” they mark the sites of General Washington and the Continental Army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780. It includes Jockey Hollow, Washington’s Headquarters Museum, Ford Mansion, Fort Nonsense, and the Wick House. Each separate area tells a story about the soldiers who lived there and how New Jersey played a critical role in America’s fight for freedom.

There is a lot to experience and you could easily spend multiple days exploring the area and learning about all that took place there. I know my husband and I will be heading back there during the summer to see first hand what these brave soldiers experienced and thank the souls who lost their lives on that ground for their persistence in the fight for freedom from an oppressive monarchy.

Independence Day – Jersey Style

Many may not realize the significance of New Jersey in the fight for Independence. Morristown National Historical Park is nationally significant as the site of the 1779-80 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General George Washington. This amazing place represents patriotism and sacrifice during this pivotal period in our nation’s history.

There are multiple locations in the area of Morristown that are worth a visit in the summer. From Fort Nonsense, to Jockey Hollow, to Ford Mansion – you can easily spend a few days experiencing all this area has to offer.

RevTimes-2016-logoThere are plenty of great events taking place during the upcoming Independence Day Weekend. Known as “Revolutionary Times Weekend,” the event will also salute the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the 200th anniversary of the Trustees of the Morristown Green.

Saturday, July 2nd
The Hanover Township Landmark Commission kicks off the weekend with a free tour of its 1718 Burying Yard located off of Route 10 East in Whippany. This one-hour tour will highlight people who first settled Morris County and are buried in the cemetery.

Sunday, July 3rd
Morristown National Historical Park will host a Revolutionary War encampment at the Ford Mansion. Costumed re-enactors will be on hand demonstrating a soldier’s life in the Continental Army. As a special event, between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. the park welcomes the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps for a concert, on the lawn between the Ford Mansion and the Washington’s Headquarters Museum.

Als0 on the 3rd, check out a fireworks display. Fireworks will begin at 9:15 p.m. at Central Park of Morris County, off West Hanover Avenue. Central Park of Morris County will be open for picnicking beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Monday, July 4th
Events will begin at the Ford Mansion where the Continental Army re-enactors will march to the Morristown Green at 11 a.m. At the Morristown Green there will be family activities beginning at noon. Members of the Morristown National Historical Park’s ranger corps will provide the annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence, a long-standing Morris County tradition, at 12:30 p.m.

Following the reading there will be a musket salute and free guided tours of the Presbyterian Church of Morristown‘s church and Colonial-era graveyard.

So make sure to party this weekend like it is 1776!

New Jersey and Independence Day

Ford Mansion

Independence Day is a day for great American pride. What you may not know is that New Jersey played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. If you want to celebrate our independence in a patriotic way, check out some of these locations and events.

Ford Mansion

Ford Mansion, image circa 1930. Credit: National Park Service

Morristown: This may be one of the most well-known locations in the Revolutionary War in New Jersey. Morristown is home to Washington’s Headquarters and Jockey Hollow. Historic Ford Mansion was home to General Washington’s military headquarters for six months during the winter of 1779-80. Despite the extreme winter, Washington was able to hold his army together and continue the fight for freedom. The national park consists of four non-contiguous units including the Washington’s Headquarters Unit, the Fort Nonsense Unit, the Jockey Hollow Unit, and the New Jersey Brigade Area. The park features two original structures, the Ford Mansion in Morristown and the Wick House in Jockey Hollow. Soldiers camped at Jockey Hollow until June, 1780. There is an encampment at the site with reenactors to educate visitors on what soldiers endured while onsite. There are approximately 27 miles of walking trails in the Jockey Hollow Unit.

Sandy Hook: Built in 1764, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest standing lighthouse in the country. At one point during the war, there was talk about destroying the lighthouse so it wouldn’t fall into the hands of the British. Major William Malcolm received orders in a letter dated March 6, 1776 to “take the glass out of the lantern, and save it if possible; but if you find this impracticable you will break the glass. You will also endeavor to pump the oil out of the cisterns into casks, or not being able to procure casks, you will pump it out onto the ground. In short, you will use your best discretion to render the lighthouse entirely useless.” Less than three months later, the British had the lighthouse repaired and back in operation and would remain under British control for most of the war.

Princeton: On January 3, 1777, Princeton Battlefield transformed into the site of what is considered to be the fiercest fight of its size during the American Revolution. During the battle, American troops under General Washington surprised and defeated a force of British soldiers. The Battle of Princeton gave Washington his first victory against the British on the field. With the victory at Princeton, morale rose in the American ranks and more men began to enlist in the army.

Battle of Second River

Battle of Second River market. Credit: Anthony Buccino/Bellevillesons.com

Belleville: Of course I must include my beloved home town of Belleville, known as Second River during the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Second River in Belleville was fought from Sept. 12 through Sept. 14, 1777. It was the only battle fought in Essex County during the American Revolution. The cemetery alongside the Belleville Dutch Reformed Church holds the bodies of 66 Revolutionary War Patriots.

Hopewell Township/Titusville: These two town names may not sound familiar, but trust me they are incredibly important to our nation’s fight for freedom. This area is the location of Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware. On December 25, 1776, the Continental Army had little to celebrate that Christmas and seemed beat by hunger and cold. After crossing the rough winter river at night, General George Washington and the Continental Army landed at Johnson’s Ferry, at the site now known as Washington Crossing State Park. At 4 am, they began their march to Trenton where they defeated the Hessian troops in an unexpected attack. This battle was quickly followed by the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777, and the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777.

These are just a few of the important historical locations in New Jersey. I hope you take time to check them out.

Independence Day Weekend Events in New Jersey

While most people in the tri-state area think the Macy’s fireworks are the hot ticket for the Independence Day weekend, we in Jersey know better! Here are some great ideas to enjoy the long holiday weekend.

Jersey City will host the “Freedom and Fireworks Festival” on Friday. Events will take place at Liberty State Park and will include a visit by the Budweiser Clydesdales and Bud Beer Gardens. Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro, is also creating a special Fourth of July cake for the Jersey City Freedom & Fireworks Festival. Country music star Craig Morgan and Kristen Redmond will perform. The live music begins at 5:30 p.m. Of course the day will conclude with an awesome fireworks display!

The battle at the Princeton Battlefield State Park on Jan. 3, 1777 is considered to be the fiercest fight during the American Revolution. General George Washington led his troops to this otherwise peaceful winter field and defeated a force of British Regulars, giving Washington his first victory against the British Regulars on the battlefield. The park is open Friday, July 4 — 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and admission is free. There will be period games will be available for children of all ages. A talk on the Battle of Princeton will be given at noon and a reading of the Declaration of Independence will happen at 1 p.m.

Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown, is the site of the 1779-80 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General Washington. It will be open to the public Friday, July 4 — 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and events will be held on the Morristown Green. Music and entertainment will be provided by The Four Old Parts and Wire Harp. At noon, the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Tom Ross, superintendent of Morristown National Historical Park, followed by a NJ 350th Proclamation read by Morris County Freeholder Director Thomas Mastrangelo. A musket firing by the 2nd New Jersey Regiment and singing of “Happy Birthday New Jersey” will happen at 12:45 p.m. At 1:30 p.m., free tours of the Presbyterian Church and graveyard. The day will end with a Fort Nonsense ribbon cutting with Eileen Cameron, president of the Washington Association of New Jersey, and Mayor Timothy Dougherty, at 2 p.m.

In 1776, the third reading of the Declaration of Independence took place in New Brunswick.  Come celebrate the 4th of July with a re-enactment.  Learn about the history of the reading, tour the Historic Christ Church Cemetery at 5 Paterson Street.  Sing along with patriotic songs of the era and hear American music performed on a traditional pipe organ.  Free admission and complimentary refreshments.

Garden State Fireworks will launch an electrifying palette of pyrotechnics at Bayonne’s annual fireworks show on Tuesday (rain date Wednesday, July 2) at 9:15 p.m. In conjunction with the inauguration of Bayonne mayor-elect Jimmy Davis that day, there will be live entertainment from multiple bands beginning at 4 p.m. at G. Thomas DiDomenico 16th Street Park, giving way to fireworks. For information call 201-471-7590 or visit www.bayonnerec.com.

The State Fair Meadowlands, in East Rutherford, will stage its firework display on July 3 and July 4 at 11 p.m. The State Fair is the largest fair in the area, with more than 50 vendors, rides, racing pigs, a juggling show, an acrobatic motocross show, live performances and more. The fair will be open on July 3 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. and July 4 from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Entrance to the fair is $8 and $10. All active military personnel, with proper military ID are being offered free admission to the fair and an unlimited ride hand stamp from June 20 to July 6. The unlimited ride hand stamp is not available on June 20. The fair includes performances by Larry Chance and the Earls, The Rip Chords, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Heffron Drive.

Montclair will host its 64th annual Independence Day Celebration promising attendees a host of live musical performances, parade and fireworks display. The parade, which begins at 11 a.m., will comprise of various organizations and marching bands. The parade will travel west on Bloomfield Avenue to Midland Avenue, heading to Valley Road and ending at Edgemont Park for a July 4th Family Picnic. The family picnic, from noon to 3 p.m., will include the Joe Fischer magic show, pony rides, face painting, spin art, sand art, tattoos and balloon art. In addition local bands, Black Lace Blues and Jason Didner & the Jungle Gym Jam, will provide live music. The Montclair fireworks display will take place at Yogi Berra Stadium on Montclair State University campus. The stadium admission is $3 per person or $10 per family with no charge for children ages 5 and under. Gates open at 7 p.m. and free parking will be available at parking decks surrounding the stadium.

The city of Camden has plenty of events scheduled for their second annual Camden Waterfront Freedom Festival. The Camden Waterfront Freedom Festival features the region’s largest fireworks display, live music, military displays and demonstrations,  amusements, contests, food concessions. The Freedom Festival Beer Garden will be open during regular festival hours from July 3-5, featuring local New Jersey beer. The festival will kick off on Thursday, July 3 with the pre-celebration for 102.9 FM WMGK’s 13th Annual Let Freedom Rock Fest. The festival will feature family-focused attractions, games and amusements, and a performance by WMGK’s former house band, the Sofa Kings. All events will lead up to the 6 p.m. concert at Live Nation’s Susquehanna Bank Center featuring Foreigner, Styx and former Eagles guitarist Don Felder. The festivities continue Friday, July 4, with live bands, military vehicles and armed forces displays visiting the Camden Waterfront with patriotic music and activities from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Adventure Aquarium Waterfront Fireworks Celebration features the region’s largest fireworks display and takes place Saturday night, July 5, after the Camden County Freedom Concert beginning at 3 p.m. The festival will come to a close Sunday, July 6, with special discounts for active military and veterans and their families at both Adventure Aquarium and the Battleship New Jersey Memorial & Museum.

Monroe Township will be holding it’s annual 4th of July fireworks show at Williamstown High School Friday on July 4, complete with food vendors, a balloon artisan and skydivers. The festivities begin at 7 p.m. and fireworks start at 9 p.m.

Washington Township will hold its annual 4th of July celebration Thursday, July 3 at the Washington Lake Park Amphitheater.  Beginning at 7 p.m., the event will start with a flag raising and recognition of veterans. Immediately following will be a performance of patriotic songs by resident Michael Jones and a concert by Touché.  A fireworks show will held at 9:15 p.m. and will shoot off from the amphitheater. Attendees can view from the lawn or elsewhere in the park. The fireworks will be shot to medley of patriotic music. Officials suggest brining bug spray and folding chairs. Food will be available.

A Fourth of July celebration featuring a Spirit of Americana Bake-Off competition and a “Most Patriotic Canine” costume contest will take place 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Footbridge Park, 79 West Crisman Road (Route 94) in Blairstown.

The 11th annual traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence will take place from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Ringwood Manor, Sloatsburg Road in Ringwood Manor State Park. $5 parking.

A concert of patriotic favorites will be performed by the West Morris Community Concert Band 7 p.m. Sunday at Gardner Field on Route 46 and Savage Road in Denville. Fireworks will follow at dusk. Call (973) 625-8300.

Did a miss an event in your area? Make sure to post it in the comments below!

Eunice Wade Beardslee and the American Revolution

DAR-logoI have always loved American history, but more importantly, I love New Jersey history! If you want to experience a truly unique event that combines New Jersey history and Revolutionary War history, you should go to the “real daughter” dedication happening tomorrow in Sussex County. What is a “real daughter” you ask? Let me explain.

Eunice Wade Beardslee is a Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Real Daughter. This means she is a daughter of a Revolutionary War Veteran AND she was a member of a DAR Chapter. This is considered a “once in a lifetime” event according to many DAR members.

The dedication ceremony is taking place tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 32 Main Street in Sparta. There will NEVER be another Real Daughter Ceremony in Sussex County.

If you are looking for something unique to do on what should be a lovely spring day, try to attend this event, which will honor Eunice and support local NSDAR Chinkchewunska Chapter.

The Sandy Hook Lighthouse and the Revolutionary War

A special thank you to life-long Sussex County, NJ resident and photographer Lisaann VanBlarcom Permunian for providing this great fact about how the role of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in the Revolutionary War…

A committee of the New York Provincial Congress instructs Major William Malcolm to dismantle the Sandy Hook lighthouse in the then-disputed territory of Sandy Hook, now in New Jersey, on this day in 1776, telling him to “use your best discretion to render the light-house entirely useless.”

The Sandy Hook lighthouse first shone its beam on June 11, 1764, after the Provincial Congress of New York orchestrated two lotteries to raise money for its construction. Discussion about the construction of a lighthouse for Sandy Hook had begun nearly a century before, initiated by Colonial Governor Edmund Andreas. Forty-three New York merchants proposed the lotteries to the Provincial Council, after losing 20,000 pounds sterling from shipwrecks in early 1761.

Major Malcolm’s task was to prevent the lighthouse from helping the British to reach New York City. The Congress wanted Malcolm to remove the lens and lamps so that the lighthouse could no longer warn ships of possible wreck on the rocky shore; he succeeded. Colonel George Taylor reported six days later that Malcolm had given him eight copper lamps, two tackle falls and blocks, and three casks, and a part of a cast of oil from the dismantling of the beacon.

Malcom’s efforts, however, failed to keep the British from invading New York; they were soon able to put the lighthouse back into service by installing lamps and reflectors. The Patriots attempted to knock the light out again on June 1, by placing cannon on boats and attempting to blow away the British paraphernalia. They managed some damage before being chased away.

The new states of New Jersey and New York bickered over ownership of the lighthouse, until the federal government assumed control of all U.S. lighthouses in 1787. As of 1996, the Sandy Hook lighthouse, the oldest original lighthouse in the United States, passed into the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. It remains in operation as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

The Second Battle of Trenton

During my time in school growing up, we were all taught about the American Revolution. And if you grew up in New Jersey, extra time was spent on the colony’s important role in the fight for independence. However, I have no idea if that is the case outside the state. I remember in fourth grade, the history section was focused on the state of New Jersey. One of the first questions asked to us as students was “what do you think New Jersey looks like?” One of most common answers included a seahorse. The point was to make you start to think about your state in different ways. When diarama time came around, I did a example of a battle during the Revolutionary War.

The Second Battle of TrentonSince today is the first day of the New Year, I thought I would write about an important battle that took place during the Revolution – the Second Battle of Trenton. While the battle officially started on January second, the Skirmishes at Five Mile Run and Shabakunk Creek in Lawrenceville, which lead to the battle took place on January 1, 1777. This was a much-needed American victory in order to help keep the Revolution moving forward.

On December 31 Washington learned that an army of 8,000 men under the command of General Charles Cornwallis was moving to attack him at Trenton. On January first, both money and new military power arrived from Congress. The men were able to be paid and Washington decided that he would fight at Trenton and ordered General John Cadwalader, who was at Crosswicks with 1,800 militia, to join him in Trenton

Washington’s men were along the south bank of the Assunpink Creek with lines that extended about three miles. There were concerns by Washington’s men that it would be easy to access them on his right flank. He assured his men that the position was temporary.

Despite multiple assaults by the British led by Cornwallis both throughout the town of Trenton and at Assunpink Creek, Washington’s men held and fought. Overnight, Washington headed on to Princeton and left a small group of men and artillery to give the appearance the entire army was still in place, complete with campfires. When the sun came up, Cornwallis was surprised to find the majority of the army gone, engaged in the Battle of Princeton. Cornwallis was directed to withdraw back to New Brunswick and New York City.

While I am far from an expert in American history, I love learning about the Revolutionary War and the role of New Jersey. I am incredibly proud that my state played such an important role in the fight our this new nation. It is a story of a rag tag group of people fighting for freedom – from the well-to-do to farmers in the field.

There is a great line in the movie Stripes…

We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog.

While meant to be funny, I think there is a lot of truth said in that line. We are all about the underdog. We fight for what’s right. We took on the greatest country in the world at the time and won. That battle put 1,800 men with little to no formal training against 8,000 professional soldiers – and won. We’re Americans.

Explore New Jersey – Scavenger Hunt Style

geocache-logoWhen I was in fourth grade, I learned about New Jersey history. We learned everything from the history of the state flag, to the different industries New Jersey is famous for, to the state’s importance in the Revolutionary War. Keep in mind, however, that this was all taught from books and being a child, I’m sure I didn’t absorb as much as I should have. Plus, I was terrified of my teacher that year.

Nowadays, there’s a great way to get outside with your kids and explore New Jersey first hand. Enter Geocaching.

I was introduced to this scavenger hunt-style game by a colleague and I must admit I am quite hooked! When you are geocaching, you are chasing down items that are hidden all over the world. Bringing it to a local level, by starting down the path of geocaching, you can learn about areas you may have never given a second glance.

There are several different geocaching enthusiast sites where you learn how to join in on the fun. The rules are simple Geocache-Traditional.svgand few and can vary depending on the group you join.

Some of the caches I have found so far have brought me to a historic cemetery, and a nature trail nearby I never knew existed. You truly open your eyes to what is around you.

I encourage you to check out one of the many groups on line and use it as a jumping off point to learn more about the great spaces in New Jersey!