Jersey Applejack
Routs the Hessians

From "Historic Newark: A Collection of the Facts & Traditions
about the Most Interesting Sites, Streets and Buildings of the City"
Printed for the Fidelity Trust Co., Newark, NJ 1916


A tradition of the Bruen family claims that the tea-kettle now standing in a glass case at the New Jersey Historical Society on West Park Street was the first -- and for some time the only -- tea-kettle owned in Newark. It belonged to Obadiah Bruen, former member of the Plymouth Colony and early settler in Jersey. If tradition may be relied on, this symbol of home comfort made many a visit to Obadiah Bruen's neighbors; for, even though tea was both scarce and expensive in those days, still there arose special occasions at which the ladies of the little town on the Passaic gossiped over their cups when "company" came to supper. Substantial tea-kettle that it was, there is a possibility that the neighbors who borrowed it were not so careful as the family themselves or vice versa, for its sides bear evidences of a number of severe bumps and of a long and continued usage.

Equally interesting is a Bruen tradition concerning a party of Hessians that during the Revolutionary War, on a bitter winter day, stopped their horses in front of the Bruen house and rapped with their whipstocks on the front door. The head of the house, like many a good Patriot neighbor in Newark, with real diplomacy withheld all indication of "what side he was on."

"Welcome, gentleman, welcome!" he may have said, as cold gusts swept his hall; for he certainly invited his visitors in, according to Bruen traditions. The winter wind chilled him, and he thought of a little, hungry company of half-clothed Patriots not far away. It was through his foresight, keen appreciation of the situation, and expediency of action that this forlorn band of his countrymen was saved. "A bitter day it is abroad, but 'rest you merry.'" he probably remarked still more jovially, as the Hessians stamped in with such puffing and clanging of weapons. "I have that in my cellar which will warm you and send you on your way again -- new men and better able to withstand the elements.'"

Excellent applejack was stored in the Bruen cellar, and servants were summoned to tap a good keg, which they brought to their master. Generously he dispensed the amber beverage to his guests, careful all the while not to serve himself. Again and again he urged that glasses be drained. The soldiers lingered until, warm and drowsy, they went out into the cold of the winter day. Some of them sluggishly mounted, while others cut across the meadow behind the house in which they had quaffed the excellent applejack. Almost to a man, tradition says, they went to sleep on the meadow, and nearly all perished from the cold. The few who survived were captured by American troops.

On the northwest corner of Hill and Broad Streets, where once stood the old Bruen house of Revolutionary fame, was built in its place, and in its turn torn down years ago, another Bruen mansion, surrounded by spacious gardens and luxuriant orchards. It has been described as having the appearance of a beautiful Southern manor, with its stables and corn-fields, arbors, hedges, and broad walks. Without there was an abundance of red and white rose-bushes; within, frescoed ceilings and rosewood doorways. In the center of the roof was built a massive dome.

The first double wedding reception in Newark was celebrated at the close of the Civil War in this mansion. Miss Julia Bruen and Mortimer S. Ward, and General Theodore Runyon, afterward ambassador to Germany, and Miss Clementine Bruen, were married on January 20, 1864, in the Central Methodist Church, the double reception afterward being held at the Bruen house. Some of the descendants of Julia Bruen and Mortimer S. Ward believe that somewhere on the old Bruen place is buried a chest of silver that was concealed for safety during the war of the Revolution.

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