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Millburn: 1857 - 1957
The First Half Century

By the Millburn Centennial Committee

Originally appeared in 1957
This Web version, copyright 2004

Suburban Essex County Real Estate Ads – great schools, wonderful atmosphere and only 37 minutes by train to NYC!

Panoramic view of Hobart and Highland Avenues in 1878 looking toward Washington Rock.

Images
  • Stewart Hartshorn

  • 1858 Township Meeting Minutes

  • Names of Civil War Sailors and Soldiers

  • W. I. Russel's Team of Horses

  • George H. Burt's Celluloid Factory

  • Windmill on the Stewart Hartshorn Property

  • Main Street Looking North

  • Millburn Electric Company

  • Horse and Wagon

  • Village Blacksmith Shop

  • Two Village Blacksmiths

  • Millburn Electric Company Service Truck

  • Wyoming Avenue Looking Northeast

  • Linden Street and Wyoming Avenue

  • Main Street Looking Across River

  • Main Street Near Meeker Place

  • Brookside Drive Scene

  • Tichenor's Blacksmith Shop

  • Millburn Avenue Looking Toward Maplewood

  • Early Washington School

  • Fire Truck

  • Fire Department

  • Horse Drawn Fire Wagon

  • Horse Drawn Fire Wagon At Firehouse

  • Police With Motorcycle

  • Hand-Drawn Hose Reel

  • Hose Company No. 1 Banquet

  • Skating on Wellington Campbell Pond

  • The Music Hall (now Racquets Club)

  • Canoe Brook Country Club

  • Decoration Day Bicycle Race

  • Herbert Marshall Family

  • Early Bicycle

  • St. Stephen's Parish House

  • Millburn High School Football Team of 1908

  • 1904 Little League Team

  • Girl's Basketball Team

  • 1903-4 Basketball Team

  • Gentzel's Grocery Store (1897)

  • Wittkop's Vaux Hall Inn

  • The First Service Station

  • Short Hills' First Refuse Collector

  • Horse-Drawn Moving Wagon

  • Wittkop's Bar

  • The Stage Coach Stop

  • Cornell's Meat Market

  • U.S. Nurseries

  • Gentzel's Store

  • Douglas Building

  • Members of G.A.R.

  • Dr. Edward Whittingham
  • By its enactment of March 20, 1857, the Legislature of the State of New Jersey brought down the curtain on the prologue, and the first act in the saga of one small American town was ready to begin.

    The map nearest to the date of incorporation, was pubhshed in 1859, and on it is delineated a thriving community of many homes, nine hat shops or mills, five paper or paste board mills, several stores, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, and several mechanics' shops. Four schools were in existence, one located on Washington Avenue, one on Old Short Hills Road, one on White Oak Ridge Road, and Hobart Hall, a private school, approximately at what is now the northwest corner of Hobart Avenue and Old Short Hills Road.

    A train window view appears in a description in "Handbook to the Oranges and their Surroundings" by J. H. Schenck, published a few years later:

    Reaching the foot of the mountain where the locomotive rests to obtain steam for the grade of 80 feet to the mile, which lies before it, we reach Milburn. At our right is the pass between First and Second Mountain where issues a pure, limpid stream of water which here dammed up furnishes power for several mills and factories which lie on the left. In this direction is the main village, which, in its general aspect, looks more like a manufacturing town than any other on the road. There are several small lakes here, formed by the little river ... The glen at the right is called `Scotch Glen' .. . and there are many romantic spots within easy reach.
    These romantic spots furnished subjects for at least one artist well known in his day. "Millburn" by Worthington Whittredge, painted soon after mid century, is owned by the Newark Museum. The subject of this picture is a farm on Brookside Drive looking across the fields to First Mountain.

    But the people of the new municipality, who now by Section 2. of P.L. 1857, p. 379, were entitled to call themselves "the inhabitants of the Township of Millburn, in the County of Essex," had immediate, important work to do.

    Section 3. of said Act provided that said inhabitants hold their first annual meeting at the home of David Jones and thereupon "allot and divide up between Springfield and Millburn all property and money on hand or due in proportion to the taxable property and ratables . . . and to ascertain and determine which of the paupers now being supported should be allotted to which township."

    To function for the Township, an election was held on April 13th, at which the following officers were elected:

    • Town Committeemen: Abner D. Reeve, Thomas A. Reeve, William Taylor, Ezra G. Gardner, and Robert McChesney

    • Town Clerk, Oren J. Nutting

    • Collector, Horace Park

    • Judge of Elections, Elijah W. Smith

    • Supt. of Schools, Horace H. Reid
    On April 21, 1857, the Town Committeemen met at the home of David Jones, and drew up an agreement to carry out the requirements of the Legislature. Under the terms of this agreement, Millburn received $668.78 in funds, was charged with $74.59 in debts, and was handed eleven paupers to support.

    At the annual town meeting on April 13, 1858, a resolution was passed to raise $1,000 for Township purposes; to allot $2.00 for the education of each "scholar" in public schools; $600 for roads, and $75.00 for miscellaneous expenses.

    A glance through minutes and early records reveals that the town fathers had many problems to solve-to arbitrate a quarrel between Isaac Lyon and Samuel M. Bailey as to what part of a common fence each should paint and maintain; who owned the deep red cow of middling size, with a crumpled horn, found wandering in the enclosure of Charles Wood in November, 1858; to raise the amount set aside for each pupil to $2.50 (in 1861) and to $3.00 (1864).

    In 1860 came the momentous national election contested by Lincoln, Douglas, and Breckenridge.

    Suddenly the threatened Civil War became an actuality, and Millburn answered President Lincoln's call. The Township authorities agreed to pay each recruit $200.00, which was received by 17 volunteers, and later raised the bounty to $300.00, given to 11 volunteers. A Union League with 100 members was formed to subscribe to the Volunteer Fund account, and to care for widows and dependents of servicemen. All the fund was eventually subscribed and by the '70's the Township was completely reimbursed.

    After the Civil War, the Township grew slowly, but steadily. The 1870 census gives the population as 1541, broken down into 1135 native born, including 14 negroes, and 406 foreign born. However, early in the 1870's, developments in two outlying sections accelerated the expansion.

    A small settlement containing a few houses to the east of the center of the town had long been known as "Wyoming." In 1872 the Wyoming Land and Improvement Company purchased 100 acres from Edward Hand and Thomas R. Reeve, and the first speculative real estate development was under way. About 25 houses were erected, a railroad station established, at the corner of Glen and Wyoming Avenues, and water from the Orange Water Works reservoir was brought in.

    At this time, too, an important figure takes his place upon the stage. Stewart Hartshorn, merchant, inventor, and artist, with his boyhood dream of an ideal town always in mind, and with money at last in his hands to fulfill that dream, purchased (ultimately, in all) 1552 acres of land in the area named by him, "Short Hills," and proceeded to make the dream a reality. With foresight and energy he began building his village in 1877. Good roads, good water, and good sewage were his constant practical aims, while the preservation of natural beauty, well chosen sites, good architecture and construction produced in a few years a village unique in the America of that day. The first house in the tract, after his own house between Hobart Avenue and the Crescent, was built at the corner of Highland and Hobart Avenues. Later he built a Music Hall (1879) designed by Stanford White, (now the Racquets Club), then a train depot, (1880) and was chiefly instrumental in organizing and building Christ Church.

    In 1879 the town poor house was built on a 69-acre tract on White Oak Ridge Road, acquired from the Denman Estate, and the paupers who had formerly been farmed out to the lowest bidder for them were removed there. Caleb VanWert was placed in charge, and one wonders if he were a descendant of the Hessian soldier who hid in the attic or barn. History gives no answer. The property cost $2500.00, plus $102.37 counsel fees. The town poor house never seems to have done a thriving business, and was often a thorn in the side of the good citizens. In 1883, "The Arrow," the town newspaper, stated that investigations were in order. "No books of account" it stated, "have been kept by the Overseer," and there was a hint of malfeasance in office by some of the Town Committee members. The Short Hills News Item, (March, 1889) complained that $460.00 was paid in 1888 to support 4 paupers at the Poor Farm, and it pondered, "How much was paid privately to support in idleness other paupers who might have been sent to the Poor Farm can not be told!"; and at a town meeting it was reported that "$8.00 had been paid to Caleb VanWert for keeping tramps."

    Newspapers were born and died, "The Arrow," "The Bulletin," "The Plank Walk," "The Millburn Review," "The Millburn Budget," and then at last, one which was sturdy and lived, "The News Item" founded by George C. Croscup, was later called "The Short-Hills News Item," "The Short Hills Item," finally, "The Millburn and Short Hills Item."

    Through these papers we see the years rush by in kaleidoscopic rapidity, but the colorful fragments thrown off in their passing, stayed forever in the printer's ink, make up the flavor of the town which is one's own.

    The last years of the century live again as we read the headlines, gay parties, musicals, and theatricals in the Music Hall; the ladies collect for the victims of the Johnstown flood; unmuzzled dogs are annoying the citizens; activities at the Short Hills Club (founded 1875 to "encourage all amateur sports and amusements"); commutation tickets inaugurated; a telegraph office installed in the Short Hills station; a Cleveland-Thurman Club organized with 50 members; a performance in aid of the yellow fever sufferers of Florida; plank walk declared hazardous; muddy roads impassable; a French author Paul Blouet, pen name, Michael O'Rell, lionized in Short Hills; the pros and cons of building a town hall; a child killed on way to school by horse and wagon; a telephone installed in Campbell's drugstore; the darkness of the streets at night deplored; dam breaks in Millburn Center and the streets are "scoured by flood waters"; a Short Hills Baseball Team organized; tax rate $1.091/n per 100. (1888) ; widows are relicts; high school and kindergarten added to the school system; summer resident of Short Hills, Moses Taylor, reported to have spent earlier summers in Short Hills while commuting to New York daily, made return trips by railroad to Newark, and then by horse and carriage to Short Hills.

    The advertisements of the day add piquant flavor: Red Letter cough cure, 25 doses for twenty-five cents; 20-button long suede gloves, $1.75; teeth extracted 25 each; gold fillings, $1.00 each; whole set of teeth, $8.00; horse and buggy for hire for afternoon, $3.00; cologne $1.00 a pint at Campbell's drug store; E. H. Sothern, in "Lord Chumley" at Miner's Theatre in Newark; U. S. Exotic Nurseries, ferns and palms; Manda and Pitcher, orchids; cream foam dentrifice; Frank Wright wants your printing work; coal, wood, and water closets; the "Prairie Rose" horse-shoeing establishment of John Lonergan; Lighthipe's crushed traprock, the Baquet School for Girls, and the Short Hills Classical School for Boys.

    The "Letters to the Editor" exposing the gripes and worries of the day: a complaint about the annoyance of chain letters; another, asking, "What did the poor of Millburn do before Short Hills existed? . . . There are numbers of men in this town who have raised responsible families on wages of $10.00 a week or even much less who never thought of assistance ... "; "Should dogs be muzzled?"; etc.

    The editorials, pointing up the needs of the day, and helping to crystallize public opinion about them; "Good roads a necessity," "Should Short Hills incorporate as a separate borough?" "Need for draining marshes and ponds at Ocean Street"; "Goldenrod favored as national flower," "Antipathy to dogs mourned"; "Keep out the charcoal wagons"; the need for "at least one policeman for Millburn to protect ladies from remarks of unmannerly young men," and so on.

    A Board of Health was organized in 1887 with Richard Hopkins, President. Around 1890 the streets emerged from darkness to gas lights supplied by the New York and New Jersey Gaslight Co., and flagstones replaced wooden sidewalks. The Short Hills Water Co. began supplying water to Millburn, Springfield, and Elizabeth in 1886, and in 1896 electric light poles were installed.

    In 1894 it was found necessary to limit the speed of wagons and bicycles to eight miles an hour, but this regulation was hardly in operation when rumors of a newer and swifter mode of transportation were heard. Soon after the turn of the century the Morris County Traction Company was given permission to lay its trolley tracks from the railroad station, which was then on Main Street, to the Springfield line, and in 1907 another ordinance was passed to extend the line from the railroad station to the Maplewood line.

    On April 21, 1876, a bucket brigade was organized by W. E. Whittingham, J. M. Ayres, Robert S. Oliver, Julius Wittkop, W. H. Barnard, William Holme, Theodore Marshall, G. L. Barnard, John Pard, and F. M. Marshall, for the purpose of "protecting life and property." It became known as "Volunteer Fire Company No. 1," and functioned until 1889 when it was reorganized as "Millburn Fire Department" with twenty volunteer members. These members purchased a hose reel carrying 250 feet of two and one-half inch hose. Small as it was, this organization represented a big step forward in municipal progress. Not too many years before that, only those houses receiving aid in case of fire, except for the help of good neighbors, were those carrying fire insurance and displaying the metal tags of their insurers.

    In 1894 the Short Hills and Wyoming sections formed companies also and purchased some equipment. A news item of October 4, 1894, states that Short Hills had just contracted with a New York firm for a unique fire department outfit, consisting of ladders, hose reel, portable fire engine, and tools, all mounted together, and "making a handsome and serviceable apparatus for fire protection." It was not until 1912, however, that all companies were organized as one unit under the control of the Township Committee. Thomas A. Douglas was Chief at that time.

    Probably the first organized attempt to provide police protection was the founding of the "Millburn Mutual Protective Society" in 1868. Its objects as set forth in its Constitution were "the suppression and punishment of vagrancy, theft, burglary, and other crimes in the township of Millburn in the State of New Jersey." Each member was pledged, on the call of the Captain of the Society, to help enforce laws for the security of life and property and to secure the punishment of offenders.

    However, no Police Department as such was in existence until 1907, but from about 1892 until 1907, local men were appointed from time to time to serve as peace officers when needed. Many of the Township's best citizens served in this capacity through those years. Finally, on the passage of an ordinance in 1907, the Millburn Police Department was established with Robert S. Oliver the first Chief, and W. G. Palmer and Thomas Rankins, the first patrolmen.

    People began to move outside their homes and busy lives to enjoy sports just for fun. In the '70's and '80's buggy racing on Springfield Avenue from the Hilton Hotel (Maplewood) to the Millburn Hotel drew crowds of enthusiastic spectators. Then, with the invention of the modern bicycle, interest shifted to bicycle racing and for over 20 years, starting in the late 1880's, the big sporting event of the year took place-the Annual Decoration Day Bicycle Race on a 25-mile course back and forth between Irvington and Millburn.

    The race was America's leading bicycle race, and contestants came from all over the country to compete for the prizes. The race started at the double woods at Prospect Street and Springfield Avenue (Maplewood), going first to Irvington, then up to Millburn, back to Irvington, and again to Millburn, once more to Irvington, and again up the hill to Prospect Street, and the finish. Thousands lined the streets, coming into town by horse and carriage, and every other means of transportation available; a carnival atmosphere pervaded the whole line of the course; refreshment and souvenir hawkers shouted their wares, mingled with the cries of the onlookers cheering or booing the contestants. Springfield Avenue was a roughly paved street, with steep up and down grades, but the roughness of the course was matched by the enthusiasm of the crowd for the prowess displayed by the riders. After the races the Hilton Hotel and the two hotels in Millburn were thronged with diners and revellers conducting the usual post mortems on the outcome.

    With the coming of the 20th century, in Millburn, as elsewhere, female participation in sports became acceptable. Previously, young ladies were spectators rather than participants in most sports, although they rode bicycles and took part in genteel games of tennis, fencing, croquet, and archery. However, in 1899 Alice and Louise Eager and Martha Condit formed a girl's basketball team, calling themselves the S-X Club. They met at St. Stephen's Parish House, played intramural games, and also played similar teams in outside com-munities. In 1901 the girls invited the boys to join them. They sponsored baseball games, tennis matches, monthly dances, and in 1907, football games. In 1904 the girls withdrew and were made honorary members, but the Club, calling them- selves the S-X continued for many years as a center of recreation and entertainment for the young people of Millburn.

    In 1901 the first country club here, the Canoe Brook, was founded and a few uninhibited matrons joined their husbands on the links. The Canoe Brook Country Club was one of the pioneer golf clubs in the country.

    In Millburn the ambition to turn a country village into a manufacturing center seems to have been gathering mo- mentum. The "Industrial Directory of New Jersey," 1901 issue, advertised the advantages of establishing industries in Millburn. "There is an abundance of land for factory sites which may be had at especially favorable terms," reads the article on Millburn. Other virtues were extolled – spring water from the hills, the best of railroad service, trolley lines connecting with all big cities, tax rate $1.38, population 2,837, gas and electric power available, several old estabhshed businesses sucessfully engaged in the manufacture of hats, paper products, and celluloid. The article concludes, "Taking everything into consideration there are few places in the State that offer greater advantage for the estabhshing of industries than Millburn."

    The center of Millburn at the turn of the century was a busy place. McCollum's General Store, "purveyors of choice groceries, provisions, drygoods, crockery, hardware and woodenware," the first store to deliver goods, was located on the southwest corner; Smith's Hotel, headquarters for the American Wheelmen, on the northwest corner; and Mundy's General Store on the northeast corner. Behind Mundy's was the big Lighthipe factory at the present intersection of Main and Essex Streets, run with power furnished by the millpond just north of the railroad. Its great millwheel, besides its utilitarian function, was the dlight of small boys of the town who, at every opportunity, used its roomy paddles for diving and acrobatics. The old swimming hole, however, was the "ten-foot" pond of the old Condit mill, below the present Taylor Park lake.

    On Sundays, people came from all over by trolley car and carriage to enjoy the chicken dinners and milk punches for which Smith's Hotel was famous. Down the street, where Woolworth's Store now stands, was the Vauxhall Inn of Julius and Charles Wittkop, located in the former home of Israel D. Condit. The Essex County Freeholders often met there, and many political fates were settled in its dining room. There, it was told, "you can get the best fifty-cent meal in the State."

    The employees of the many mills were, judged by the standards of the times, well paid, and although many commuted to their work from out of town, nevertheless on Saturday nights after paytime the streets were bustling with a gay, money-spending crowd.

    On the southeast corner of Millburn Avenue and Main Street the lot by the river was vacant and neglected. Later it was cleared and a bandstand erected there. it was cleared and a bandstand erected there.

    The river ran closer to South Main Street than it does now, and much of Taylor Park was pond and marsh. Along Main Street adjacent to the mill ponds were hat and cardboard mills. The big pond surrounding the present Ocean Street and vicinity furnished power for at least one other large mill. Next to the river on Millburn Avenue going east were the Longergan blacksmith shop, and two houses, but from there to Maplewood the only buildings were the Tichenor blacksmith shop and the residence of Dr. Whittingham at 290 Millburn Avenue (still standing behind the Acme store). All around them were farm lands and fields of grazing cows. Most of the stores and shops were in the streets running west of Main Street.

    Commercial enterprises in the Short Hills section were, of course, strictly curtailed by Mr. Hartshorn's efforts to maintain a community of beautiful homes. A few dairy and cattle raising farms had been in existence, but gradually disappeared as the land became available for building sites. A brick yard was established by Mr. Hartshorn as as experiment with local clay, but was later flooded by him as part of his water system. It now lies under North Pond where its kilns still provide exploratory trips for young frogmen. However, flower nurseries were permitted as the fields of growing flowers were attractive, and as a result several world famous nurseries thrived during the last years of the 19th century. The U. S. Exotic Nurseries, dealers in palms and tropical plants, were assigned more than one-third of the entire space in the Floricultural Department of the Chicago World Fair of 1893; and during the same period hundreds of varieties of orchids were shipped all over the world by Pitcher and Manda. Arthur Caparn and several other smaller growers had greenhouses within the Short Hills area.

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