CITY, VILLAGE AND TOWNSHIP HISTORIES, BOONTON.
BY HON. JOHN L. KANOUSE.
THIS township was formed from territory set off from Pequannock in 1867, and in area is the smallest in the county. Except in the vicinity of the town of Boonton, and in that part of Rockaway Valley coming within its bounds, this township has but little arable land. The northern and northeastern sections of it consist mostly of rough and hilly wood and pasture land.
In the eastern part there is a ridge of rough land called Mine Ridge. The existence of iron ore at this place was known more than a hundred years ago, and some openings were made, which doubtless gave origin to its name. Within the past ten years several mines have been opened along this ridge, and considerable ore taken out, the quality of which is said to be superior. But for some reason the mining of it thus far has not been very profitable, and recently little has been done toward further development.
On the southern edge of this township, near the mouth of a small brook running into the Rockaway River, is a ledge of soft gray sandstone containing in its crevices or seams fossil fish. Several explorations for these fossils were made many years ago, and some very handsome specimens were obtained. But the greatest effort was made about three years ago by a professor from Columbia College, who spent some time and considerable money digging and blasting. His labor was rewarded by obtaining a large number of perfect and very valuable specimens. That part representing the fish is a black, hard substance resembling coal, showing the whole form of the fish, with the fins, tail, and scales, very perfectly. When placed on a hot coal fire this black substance burns with a blaze and smoke, emitting an odor like bituminous coal.
Northeast from and near to the town of Boonton is a large elevation of ground, the highest point of which is said to be nine hundred and forty feet above tide water. Many years ago there stood upon the summit a large chestnut tree, dead, into which it is said some persons climbed about twenty-five-feet and with the aid of a glass plainly saw the ocean at Sandy Hook. It is quite probable that, were it not for the intervening of the first mountain range at Montclair, the elevation at this point would be sufficient, by simply standing on the summit, to see, in a clear day, Staten Island and the waters of Newark and New York bays. Standing on this elevated spot on a bright summer day and with a clear atmosphere, the view spread before us is truly grand and charming, one that needs only to be seen to be appreciated and remembered. It is, as it were, a panorama diversified by mountains, hills and valleys, rivers and rivulets, green pastures with roving cattle, patches of forest and orchard, amid broad cultivated acres, green with growing crops and waving with the golden harvest. Presently we hear the shrill whistle of the tireless locomotive, as it rapidly approaches from the east with its train of living freight and speeds away toward the far west and the lakes at the north. Then again we hear a heavy rumbling sound, and behold a ponderous locomotive moving more slowly toward the east, with its train of a hundred cars loaded with coal, destined to feed the almost ceaseless fires of the busy factories and furnaces. Near by we observe the channel of the Morris Canal, its water glittering in the rays of the sun, as we trace it miles away, in the distance appearing like a track of silver through the green fields and amid the hills and valleys in its course to tide water. The scene is not only thus varied, but extended. Looking south the eye reaches across the valley of the Passaic, to the mountains in the rear of Orange and Montclair. Looking east we have before us this valley for sixteen miles, to the break in the mountain range at Paterson; and through this break, looking on over the valley of the Hackensack, the Palisade mountain range on the west bank of the Hudson is distinctly visible to the naked eye, although distant nearly thirty miles. Turning westward, the villages of Whippany, Madison, Chatham, and the Summit are visible in the distance; and still more to the west the eye meets the hilltops in Somerset and Hunterdon.
About fifty years ago the land in this locality was uninclosed, and used by the neighboring farmers as a pasture in common, mostly for sheep, of which large flocks would congregate on that elevated range as their favorite resort. One night a number of dogs made great havoc among them, killing a large number; so that the dead and mortally wounded were carted home by the wagon-load, for the purpose of saving the pelts. This led to calling the place Sheep Hill, a name which has ever since been retained.
By the census of 1870 Boonton township contained a population of 3,432 white and 26 colored; total 3,458. In 1875 the population was 3,535 white and 41 colored; total 3,576. In 1880 the total population was 2,682, showing a decrease of 776 as compared with the year 1870. This falling off was mainly in the town of Boonton, and is attributable to the stoppage of the extensive iron industry there since 1876. There is a population of only about 400 in the township, outside the corporate limits of the town of Boonton.
The resources, taxes, etc., of the township in 1881 were thus indicated by the assessors: Acres, 3,490; valuation of real estate, $867,925; personal property, $130,550; debt, $16,650; polls, 515; State school tax, $2,500; county tax, $2,333; bounty tax, $2,418.61; road tax, $1,500; poor tax, $150.
THE TOWN OF BOONTON.
This town includes within its corporate bounds considerable space on the west side of the river, which is in Hanover township; and the total present population of the town itself, including East and West Boonton, may be estimated at fully 2,500.
The town is situated on elevated tableland, about five hundred feet above tide water, at a break in the hills through which the Rockaway River flows over a perpendicular fall and a succession of rapids, making in half a mile a descent of about one hundred and fifty feet. The river here forms the dividing line between the townships of Boonton and Hanover. The corporate limits of the town embrace considerable territory on the western or Hanover side, but the greater part of the town is on the eastern side of the river. Its elevated position gives a commanding view over a region of country from twelve to twenty miles in extent, looking southerly, easterly and westerly. Its pure air, good waters, fine scenery, pleasant drives, good roads, and healthful climate render it to many a desirable place of residence. It is ten miles northeast of Morristown, sixteen miles west of Paterson and nineteen miles northwest of Newark, with all of which places it is connected by rail, and with Newark by a good wagon road which for more than half the distance has a Telford pavement. The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad passes through here to Hoboken, to which place the distance is 29 miles, and the time by express trains one hour. There are six trains daily going east and six west, all stopping at this place. The express trains between New York and Binghamton and Oswego go by this route. Notwithstanding the depression following the stoppage of the iron works in 1876, and the loss in the next four years of nearly 800 in population, Boonton is a place of considerable business enterprise. It has seven stores keeping a general stock of merchandise; one hardware store, four groceries, two drug, three clothing, three fancy goods and two jewelry stores, three millinery shops, three boot and shoe stores, two bakeries, one news-room and stationery store, one harness manufactory, one carriage manufactory, one machine shop, four blacksmith shops, three butcher shops, one lumber yard and three coal yards. With a greater diversity of industry, the starting again of a portion of the great iron works, and some reason to believe that the whole will soon be in motion again, this town certainly has a brighter future.
TURNPIKE AND CANAL CONSTRUCTION.
The construction of the Morris Canal had an intimate connection with the start and growth of this place. Prior to 1829 the neighborhood was a quiet spot, with the grass growing in the middle of the roads. The hill where the town stands was then mostly a rocky wilderness with the exception of one small cleared field just below where the Presbyterian church stands, and another near the corner of Church and Main streets, on which there stood a log house occupied by a family of the name of Fredericks. This spot is marked by some pear trees (probably nearly a hundred years old) still standing near the residence of Jacob HOLMES.
There was an old road passing through to Rockaway Valley, a rough path and but little used, leading over the hill a little east of the log house of Fredericks and a few rods west of where the Presbyterian church stands; passing on near to and between small tracts which Charles NORWAY and Christopher LOWEREE had purchased and settled many years before; and thence, part of the way through a very dense forest called the Dark Woods, out to its junction with the valley road near the residence of Jacob KANOUSE sen.
In 1823 William SCOTT, who had just prior to that bought what is known as the Old Boonton tract, at considerable expense had a new road opened and graded leading through that tract on the east side of the river, and near to the falls, toward his grist-mill and forge at Powerville; being no doubt prompted by a desire to bring into notice the fine water power presented by the fall in the river at this place.
At this time the construction of the Erie Canal in the State of New York, which was approaching completion, was awaking great public interest, and thoughtful minds were considering the possibility of constructing a canal connecting Easton, on the Delaware, with tide water at Jersey City, with a view to developing the iron interests of the northern section of this state, and providing a cheap way of transporting anthracite coal, a new kind of fuel, then beginning to be brought into use. Because of the immense cost, and the great elevations to be overcome, the practicability and financial success of a work of that kind were seriously doubted. Prominent among those in Morris county who took an active interest in this project were George P. McCULLOCH, of Morristown, and Colonel John SCOTT, of Powerville, a brother of William SCOTT. A charter for a company to build the canal was obtained December 31st 1824, and the work of construction was commenced in July 1825. It was so far completed in 1830 that the canal may be said to have been opened to Newark in that year, and fully for navigation to that point in 1831, and to Jersey City in 1836. This is the first and probably the only canal where inclined planes have been adopted as a means of transferring boats over great elevations from one level into another. At first the machinery of these planes worked rather imperfectly, at times causing some delay. The ponderous iron chains attached to the cars occasionally broke. Such an accident occurred at the inclined plane at Boonton shortly after the opening of the canal for navigation. A boat called the "Electa," of Rockaway, owned by Colonel Joseph JACKSON and partly loaded with merchant iron, was on its way to Newark, having on board the captain, his wife and two children. Just as the boat passed the summit the chain broke, and the car with the boat ran down with great velocity, striking the water with such force as to throw an immense wave over the towing path, which carried the boat with it down an embankment from fifteen to twenty feet in height and landed it on the rocks below, amid some trees standing there, but fortunately without striking any. People hastened to the boat to ascertain the fate of those on board. On opening the cabin door the wife, with her two children, was found sitting there rather composedly, and uninjured. When told what had happened she seemed surprised, and said she "thought the boat went down very swift, but supposed that was the way the thing worked." This heavy chain was long since discarded and a steel wire rope substituted, which has proved far safer and in every way more satisfactory. Since the enlargement of the locks sectional boats have been in use, which can be passed over the summit of planes with less strain upon the machinery, and the tonnage has been increased from eighteen in the beginning to about eighty at present. This canal passes through Boonton, Montville and Pequannock townships, and from where it enters at Powerville to where it leaves near Mead's Basin, a distance of about nine miles, the descent is three hundred and fifty feet, by means of four locks and four inclined planes.
THE IRON WORKS.
When the canal was being constructed at this point the company, in the early part of August 1829, obtained from William SCOTT a deed for such land as was required, and for the privilege of damming the river above the falls, so that the canal might be fed from the river at this place. In return the canal company covenanted with SCOTT, and granted to him, his heirs and assigns the privilege of using the canal as a race-way for conveying water to mills from the dam above the falls. By this means SCOTT secured the use of the whole head of water at this point, immediately available through a race-way and from a dam built entirely at the cost of the canal company. He had it in his power to use not only the natural flow of the river, but also the feed passing through the canal, being bound only to return it into the level below the plane. This was a master stroke of policy on the part of SCOTT; it no doubt aided him very much in disposing of this water power, and added largely to the value of the two hundred acres of land, for which he received $5,000.
A short time before the completion and opening of the canal to Newark some capitalists from New York had examined this location, and in view of the water power available, and the facilities for transportation by canal, concluded to purchase, and erect extensive iron works. David W. WETMORE, of the firm of Green & Wetmore, dealers in iron and hardware in New York, made the first purchases of land, two hundred acres from William SCOTT and several smaller tracts from Daniel T. PEER, among which was one of about ten and a half acres, lying between the river and the inclined plane on the canal, and bounded by the river on the west, and the canal on the east. On this tract the rolling-mills, puddling furnaces and foundry stand. The two hundred acres bought of SCOTT commenced on the river above the ten and a half acres purchased of PEER, and extended eastward, including the greater part of the ground where the northern part of the town stands. These several tracts of land purchased by David W. WETMORE in his own name were on the 30th of November 1830 conveyed by him to the New Jersey Iron Company, a stock company organized for the purpose of building and operating these works.
The erection of the iron works was commenced in September 1829, and completed so that iron was first rolled in them in May 1831. The first machinery was imported from England and arrived June 10th 1830. The first workmen, puddlers and rollers came from England in June 1830, and others in the latter part of the same year. As a preliminary step houses had to be built for the employees, and a number of buildings were erected under the hill and opposite where the Boonton Iron Company's office stands. One of these was used as a store to furnish supplies. One of the first dwellings erected was quite a large building to be used as a boarding-house, which, old and dilapidated, is still standing on the east side of Main street, just above the falls. The erection of other buildings, on what are now Main and Church streets, followed soon. This was the start of Boonton, and it is not probable that town would have existed to-day if the project of the Morris Canal had not been pushed to a successful completion. The grounds where the factories and furnaces stand, in the beginning naturally rough and uninviting, would probably never have been selected for the location of a great manufacturing industry in the absence of adequate means for heavy and cheap transportation.
There is a perpendicular fall in the river of about thirty feet. The iron works are located a short distance below, in a narrow valley between the canal and the river, and about eighty feet below the level of the water in the dam above the falls. The water to drive the works is taken from the canal at the head of the plane, and is used three times before reaching the level at the foot of the plane, and once more between that level and the river, making in all four times in a fall of about one hundred feet. About thirty years after starting these mills, and after they had been greatly enlarged, a steam engine was put up to aid in keeping up speed when there was a diminution in the water power in dry seasons. These mills in the beginning consisted of a large rolling-mill with two departments, and a few puddling and heating furnaces, and the product was merchant iron in its various forms. The first fuel used was bituminous coal, which continued in use six or seven years, until anthracite coal was substituted, which, being much cheaper and readily obtained by canal, made it possible to manufacture iron more cheaply. In 1833 the first blast furnace was erected here, which was a charcoal furnace. It stood near where the machine shop stands. This furnace consumed about one thousand bushels of charcoal per day and produced thirty-five tons of pig iron per week. In a few years the scarcity and high price of charcoal, and the discoveries and rapid improvements made as to the use of anthracite coal in the manufacture of iron, rendered the operation of charcoal furnaces unprofitable, and this one ceased to be used. It was about this time that these works were mainly devoted to making railroad iron.
This business was, however, of short duration, and the company returned to making sheet iron and different forms of merchant iron. In 1848 the first anthracite blast furnace was built, where it now stands. It was erected under the supervision of Samuel THOMAS, of Catasauqua, Pa., and was originally thirty-six feet high and of thirteen feet bosh, with a capacity to produce five thousand tons of pig iron per annum. In the fall of that year George JENKINS succeeded Mr. THOMAS in the superintendence of the furnace, and he continued in that position until his death, which occurred suddenly in the beginning of 1864. Then Henry C. JENKINS, his oldest son, who had acquired some knowledge of the business, was promoted to the place which his father had so successfully filled. In 1865 this furnace was repaired, and made forty-five feet high, with an increased capacity of about nine thousand tons per annum. In 1868 an additional furnace, No. 2, was built, with a height of sixty feet, sixteen feet bosh, and a capacity of twelve thousand tons per annum. In 1874 No. 1 furnace was rebuilt and raised to the height of seventy feet. The total capacity of the two furnaces is estimated at twenty thousand tons per annum. There are two large steam engines standing between the two furnaces, which with a large waterwheel are used in making blast.
The large rolling-mill first erected, which had been largely added to, was destroyed by fire in 1851, but was rebuilt the same year.
It was in 1848 that the New Jersey Iron Company concluded to add to its business the manufacture of cut nails. Accordingly in the next year it erected a large factory 50 by 150 feet, two stories high, near the head of the inclined plane. This was fully completed, fitted with machinery and put in operation in August 1851. The price of nails during 1851 and 1852 was down to a low figure--$3 and $2.75 per hundred--and it is said some sales in very large quantities were made at still lower rates. The New Jersey Iron Company, having been previously embarrassed, became more so then, and resolved to close out the concern. All the real estate, including the iron works, was sold by the sheriff in May 1852 to Dudley B. FULLER on his bid (which was the only one) for $160,000, he having previously taken all that was personal property about the mills and factories at an appraisal of $125,000. Mr. FULLER had for several years prior thereto been acting as the commission merchant of this company, and thereby the company had become largely indebted to him, and he was compelled for self-protection to buy the property. At the time he made the purchase FULLER publicly declared that he would discount $20,000 from the purchase price to any one who would take the property. But no one appeared to accept his offer, no doubt because of the embarrassingly low prices of all iron products at the time. Even his eminent counsel, A. O. ZABRISKIE (as he afterward told the writer), feared that FULLER in that purchase was assuming a load under which he would stagger and finally fall. Fortunately nails about the beginning of the next year advanced from $2.75 to $3 per keg, and continued at fair prices for several years. Thus what was thought to be a mistake on the part of FULLER proved to be a success. Henceforth these works appeared to move with increased activity in every department. A new nail factory was started below the canal, facilities were increased, additional buildings erected and important repairs and alterations made, all tending to make the establishment more complete and efficient in every department. Shortly after the purchase of these works Mr. FULLER associated with him as a partner James Cowper LORD, a son-in-law of James BROWN, the banker, under the firm name of Fuller & Lord. In 1873 the saw-mill, lower nail factory, cooper shop and several large drying sheds, with two million staves, were burned; and in place of them new buildings were erected in the same year. These works continued to be operated under the same firm name until the last of June 1876. Mr. FULLER died in 1868 and Mr. LORD in 1869, but by provisions under their wills the works continued to be operated until 1876. In the settlement of the joint interests in this large property the estate of Mr. LORD came into the sole possession of the real estate, including mills, furnaces, mines and other property. From the commencement these extensive iron works constituted the one great industry and nearly the sole dependence of this place, up to the time of their stoppage.
It may be of interest, and give a more just conception of the extent of this establishment, to speak a little more in detail. There are in the large mill twelve double puddling furnaces, seven large heating furnaces, four trains of 18-inch and two trains of 16-inch rolls, and two rotary and two crocodile squeezers. The average production of puddle bars was three hundred and twenty tons per week. The nut mill contained four furnaces and four nut machines. In the two nail factories there were 150 nail machines, with the capacity of producing when run to the full extent 200,000 kegs per year. There were in the sawmill three sets of stave machines, with a capacity of 20,000 staves per day. For this 1,000 cords of chestnut logs were required each year, and for making the heading about 400,000 feet of whitewood and pine boards. The staves were piled in sheds to season thoroughly before they were used in the cooper shop. Over 2,000,000 staves and over 900,000 keg-hoops were used in turning out annually an average of about 150,000 kegs. From seventy to eighty kegs were considered a fair product for ten hours' work, although some young experts have been known to turn out from one hundred to one hundred and twenty in ten hours. The mills, furnaces, foundry and various shops and storehouses cover fully six acres of ground. As a motive power for this vast concern 1,500 horse power was required, and was derived from four large overshot waterwheels, six turbine wheels and three steam engines. The amount of money paid out monthly in 1865 was $30,000. The monthly payments were, however, subject to considerable variation. Beside these mills the company owned and operated several valuable iron mines, from which a supply of ore was obtained, and all together gave employment to about five hundred hands. Such was the nature and extent of this vast industry, that gave a start to Boonton and fostered its growth for forty-five years. At this time (November 1881) a portion of these works has been leased to a responsible party, and the almost unbroken stillness that has reigned within the walls of these mills has actually been disturbed by busy hands preparing to light the fires and start the hum of machinery once more.
At Powerville, a mile above Boonton on the Rockaway River, a forge and a grist-mill were erected by Joseph SCOTT early in the beginning of this century. A few years afterward his second son, William, became a joint owner with his father. After the death of Joseph SCOTT, which occurred about 1827, William SCOTT became the sole proprietor. He was an active, enterprising man, and sought to make improvements in the manufacture of iron. He was to a great degree successful in accumulating property, and became the owner of large tracts of land, and among these the Hibernia tract, with valuable iron mines from which he procured his supply of ore. He introduced at Powerville a method of separating the pure part of iron ore from the dross by first pounding it and then passing it over large magnetic rollers. This was with a view to improving the quality of the iron and increasing the yield with a given quantity of fuel used in smelting. William SCOTT died at the time when anthracite coal was being successfully brought into use for puddling, or converting pig into wrought iron. This new use of anthracite, and the scarcity and high price of charcoal, have driven the old-fashioned charcoal bloomaries out of existence; save here and there one, like that at Powerville, which has been kept for converting scrap iron into blooms by the use of charcoal. Elijah D. SCOTT, the only son, at the death of his father succeeded to the ownership of the forge and grist-mill, and he with Thomas C. WILLIS built in 1846 a small rolling-mill, which was used for making the smaller kinds of merchant iron from charcoal blooms made in the forge. Elijah D. SCOTT died, leaving by his will the forge, rolling-mill, grist-mill, and all the property on the east side of the river to Mr. WILLIS, who continued to operate these mills as before, until his death; since that, the forge and rolling-mill have been rented and employed in making horseshoe and other kinds of merchant iron from scrap blooms made in the forge. Large quantities of scrap are brought by canal and by railroad from New York for that purpose.
About a quarter of a mile from Boonton, on the road to Montville, H. W. CRANE built a mill about four years ago, which is used for the manufacture of foundry-facings, an article that appears to be in brisk demand, as the mill is kept running during the day and frequently part of the night. This mill is driven by water power derived from the overflow and waste gates of the canal. In Boonton, on the south side of Canal street, about three years ago was started a manufactory of pocket cutlery, under the management of R. M. BOOTH. This mill is driven by water from the canal, employs about twenty hands, and has a capacity of thirty-six dozen finished knives per day.
The year following the stoppage of the iron works a number of enterprising citizens, believing that a diversity of industry would be a better dependence for the town than one great branch, as heretofore, put their purses together and erected a building about thirty by seventy feet and two stories high, intended for a branch of the silk business, for doing which they had some encouragement from parties engaged in that line. The building was let to a person who proposed to start silk-weaving. But it soon turned out that he was not the man for the place, and the project failed, much to the disappointment and injury of those who started it. Thus the matter rested until about two years ago; when a firm in Paterson, of substance and successful business enterprise, was induced to take hold of it. These men put in steam power and machinery and started silk-winding. In the course of a few months they found it to their interest to extend their facilities by an addition of one hundred feet to the building, which, having been filled with machinery, is now occupied by about one hundred and thirty hands. This whole building is occupied with a primary process in the business, where the inexperienced are employed, and taught to be "skillful hard silk winders." During the past summer the firm has erected a substantial building nearly opposite the depot, on the east side of the river, 40 by 200 feet, four stories high with a high attic. There are also several other large buildings adjoining, all designed to make one mill, which is to be operated by steam, warmed by steam, and lighted by gas made in an adjoining building put up for the purpose. It is understood to be the purpose of the proprietors to make this factory in all its appointments one of the finest in the State. It will doubtless when completed require the services of several hundred operatives.
Boonton has a convenient post-office building, centrally located on Main street and fitted up with modern improvements. As to business grade this office ranks in that class in which the President nominates and the Senate confirms the appointment of postmasters. The early history of this town as regards postal accommodations was rather remarkable, and deserves to be noted. For sixteen years the New Jersey Iron Company and citizens of this place were obliged to go with and for mail matter to the post-office at Parsippany, three and a half miles distant, three times per week. Yet Boonton in 1834 had a population of four hundred and in 1840 fully double that number, and its amount of postal matter was five times as great as that of Parsippany and its vicinity. In 1846, on the 9th of July, the post-office at Montville was closed and removed to Boonton. Edmund K. SARGEANT was postmaster till the 27th of November 1849; then John HILL till the 24th of May 1853, when Mr. SARGEANT was reappointed. He continued to act till his successor, Dr. E. B. GAINES, was appointed in 1861. Dr. GAINES served about ten years, when E. B. DAWSON, the present incumbent, was appointed.
First Presbyterian.--The first settlers at Boonton were not negligent as to providing means for religious instruction. Very soon after the mills were begun religious meetings were appointed for Sunday, at which the Rev. John FORD, pastor of the church at Parsippany, attended and officiated. These meetings at first in warm and pleasant weather were held in the shade of a grove and at private dwellings. In 1832 they were held at the district school-house, then just erected. The first church organization was formed July 1st 1832, with the title "Church at Boonton." It consisted of nineteen members, nine of whom were natives of England and ten of this country; of the latter was John F. WINSLOW, the first general superintendent of the iron works. They continued to hold meetings in the district school-house, but before the close of that year concluded to take measures for the erection of a church building. The county records show that pursuant to notice a meeting was held at the school-house on the 10th of December 1832 to elect trustees, preparatory to the incorporation of a church in accordance with a law of the State. At that meeting James H. WOODHULL, Thomas C. WILLIS, Samuel OAKES, and William H. WOODHULL were chosen trustees. After subscribing an oath, as required by law, they signed and filed a certificate that the name adopted was "The First Presbyterian Church of Boonton," which thereafter was the corporate title of the organization. Decisive steps were at once taken to build a church, and in 1833 it was erected, on a plot of ground donated by the New Jersey Iron Company, on the corner of Church and Birch streets, where the present church stands. The Rev. John FORD and several other ministers supplied the pulpit until July 1834. On the 19th of July the same year Rev. Joseph VANCE received and accepted a call to become the pastor. He continued his labors to the 4th of October 1838. From then to March 1840 the pulpit was occupied by occasional supplies. Then Rev. Cornelius S. CONKLING was the pastor to November 30th 1843. Then again the pulpit was vacant except as supplied by presbytery till May 1844, when Rev. Daniel E. MEGIE accepted a call. He was installed on the 29th of the same month, and continued his pastorate here until September 1872, when, owing to his failing health, he resigned. On the 3d of January 1873 Rev. Thomas CARTER, the present pastor, was installed. After his resignation Mr. MEGIE continued to reside at Boonton until his death, which occurred in May 1880, about thirty-six years after the date of his installment.
The church erected in 1833 was 35 by 55 feet, and served the congregation twenty-six years, when it was sold and removed to make room for a larger structure. This old building was placed by the purchasers on the opposite side of Church street, and under the name of Washington Hall has been since used as a place for holding public meetings. The first parsonage of this congregation was built on a lot on the south side of Church street in the year 1840, and was first occupied by the Rev. Cornelius S. CONKLING, and subsequently by the Rev. Daniel E. MEGIE for many years. While living here Mr. MEGIE's first wife died. He married Mrs. Hester BRIGGS, a widow, and a sister of his first wife. Mrs. BRIGGS had built and for several years occupied a residence on the corner of Church and Birch streets, opposite the church. After his second marriage Mr. MEGIE removed to his wife's residence, and the parsonage was sold soon after. The next parsonage was built about the year 1874, on a part of the church lot, and is a neat and commodious edifice of moderate dimensions, costing about $6,000.
The new church edifice was built in 1859, and as first put up was 36 by 72 feet. It was a few years afterward greatly enlarged by adding to the width on each side. It has a tall steeple, and on account of its location and size is the most conspicuous church in the place.
The Methodist Episcopal Church at Boonton was duly organized on the 5th of June 1853, and the following names were signed to the certificate as trustees: George T. COBB, John DEEKER, John H. FRAMPTON, John MEYER jr., Samuel B. SHAUBB, Horace E. TAYLOR and William T. VANDUYNE. On the 24th of January 1854 Dudley B. FULLER and James BROWN of New York donated to this church a lot one hundred feet square on the east side of Cedar street, nearly opposite the old district schoolhouse. The same year they erected on it a church forty feet square, a plain building costing about $1,600. Subsequently a parsonage was built on a part of the same lot, costing about $1,800. The church edifice served the congregation about sixteen years, when, owing to an increase in the number of members, it was thought advisable to provide a larger building and to obtain a more central location. Accordingly, about the year 1868, the residence and grounds of Dr. Ezekiel B. GAINES, on the west side of Main just above William street, were bought. The intention was to use the residence as a parsonage, and to place the church on the adjoining lot. The erection of the church was commenced in 1868, and services were held in the basement the following year. The whole building was not fully completed till 1874. The total cost of the church edifice, including furniture, is said to have been $18,000. The first cost of the property bought from GAINES was $9,000. The size of this church on the ground is 52 by 80 feet, and it is substantially a two-story building, the main room being on the second floor, with a high basement. The audience room, including the gallery at one end, is 51 feet by 79, and the basement lecture room is 50 feet square.
The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.--On the 7th of August 1848 the New Jersey Iron Company deeded to the trustees of the Catholic church at Boonton a plot of ground on the corner of Birch and Green streets, in the northern part of the town. On this was erected the first Catholic church in Boonton. It was of small dimensions and a cheap structure, and had a burial ground attached on a part of the same lot. This served for about seventeen years, when the increasing congregation, desiring more room, procured a lot on the opposite side of Birch street and proceeded to erect a new church, which was completed in a few years. This building is 40 by 80 feet, with a tower 65 feet high. The walls are of stone, the roof slate, and the windows of stained glass. It has a large basement room, which for a time was used for a week-day school separate from the public school in the town. This is the most substantial church edifice in Boonton and one of the largest. Its cost was not far from $13,000.
About this time this congregation procured a suitable piece of ground, on the eastern outskirt of the town and near the foot of Sheep Hill, for a cemetery. This has been inclosed with a substantial stone wall, and the bodies near the old church were brought here.
The first lot has been cleared up, and on it has been erected a neat and commodious parsonage, at a cost of about $5,000.
On the 20th of September 1864 this society became incorporated under the name of "The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel."
St. John's Church.--The first Protestant Episcopal church in Boonton was fully organized according to law on the 4th of May 1860, under the name of "St. John's Church in Boonton," and the required certificate was filed, signed by Francis D. CANFIELD, minister, and George ANTHONY, secretary. Previous to this, however, there had been an informal organization of this denomination, and religious services had been held as early as 1856, in a small building, erected by Miss Eliza A. SCOTT as a session house for the Presbyterian church, standing on Church street. This building was lengthened and fitted up, and was used by St. John's church several years. About the year 1867 Fuller & Lord donated to this congregation a large and handsome lot on the corner of Cedar and Cornelia streets. On this was erected a church edifice of moderate dimensions, in gothic style and rather plain in its exterior. A neat and comfortable parsonage was built on a portion of the same lot. Rev. Francis D. CANFIELD was the first rector, Rev. Mr. STERNS the next, and the third the Rev. John P. APPLETON, the present rector.
The Reformed Church at Boonton.--The church last organized in Boonton is of the Reformed denomination. Meetings were first held in Washington Hall in 1867, under the lead of Rev. Nathaniel CONKLIN, of the church at Montville. On the 2nd of February 1868, at a meeting held at Washington Hall in accordance with previous notice, Timothy W. CRANE and Albert CRANE were elected elders, and Daniel D. TOMPKINS and Francis ROOM deacons. On the 6th of March 1868 this society became duly organized, by the elders and deacons signing and filing a certificate in accordance with law, under the adopted name of "The Reformed Church at Boonton." Soon afterward measures were taken to procure a church edifice. Some years prior to this a division in the Presbyterian church at Parsippany, in the adjoining township of Hanover, led to the erection of the second church edifice there. This was occupied but a few years, when, the differences that led to its erection having been adjusted, this second church ceased to be used; and, the creditors being anxious for their money, this building was sold to the Reformed church at Boonton and removed there.
This society and the congregation are comparatively small, but financially it is the strongest church in Boonton, being the legatee of $10,000 by the will of Mrs. Eliza A. CRANE (formerly Eliza A. SCOTT).
The proprietors of the iron works were not unmindful of the necessity of providing for the education of the children of their employees. The first school at Boonton was opened in 1831, in a part of a dwelling-house just built nearly opposite where the Boonton iron works office stands. This school was taught by Miss DEAN, and she was paid for her services by the New Jersey Iron Company. A school-house was erected in 1831 on what is now the southwesterly corner of Liberty and Cedar streets, and was brought into use in 1832. This building served the district twenty years. The last teacher who occupied it was Marcus W. MARTIN, teacher in the year ending in June 1852. His salary was $350 per year, and that year the school was free, made so by subscription. In 1851 a larger building, of brick, was erected as the public school-house, which, greatly enlarged by several additions, is now in use. The first school-house here, erected fifty years ago, is still standing, and with some alterations and additions is occupied as a dwelling.
In the year 1850, owing to the growth of the population of Boonton, the school room became overcrowded, and some were asking for a division. The township superintendent, aware of what had been done at Plainfield, Bloomfield, Salem and Bridgeton under special power given by the Legislature to establish free schools, and thinking the time had arrived when it would be most to the advantage of the people of Boonton to remain in one district and have a free school, prepared the draft of a bill suited, as he thought, to meet the wants of the case; and in November of that year he presented it for consideration at a public meeting called for the purpose, and accompanied it with a statement of the advantages of a free school. The proposition and the bill as presented were favorably received, and after further consideration at subsequent meetings, and some amendments suggested and adopted, the bill, accompanied with a petition, was presented to the next Legislature. It was passed in March 1851, and went into effect immediately. Under it in April 1851 William G. LATHROP, James HOLMES and George W. ESTEN were elected the first board of trustees, and Henry W. CRANE was elected clerk. During that year a brick building of suitable size and two stories in height was erected, on a suitable plot of ground donated by the New Jersey Iron Company for the purpose. It was completed early in the following year, and school was opened in it on the 19th day of July 1852, under Alonzo B. CORLISS, principal, and Miss CORLISS, assistant. This was the first and for many years the only free school in Morris county. It has been kept free and constantly open during the whole of each school year from that time to the present, and, save in its proportionate share of the State appropriation of public funds, has been entirely sustained by money derived from taxes voluntarily imposed by the people of the district. The persons first chosen as school officers under the act of 1851 are still living, and all others who took a prominent and active part in the initiatory steps for establishing this free school, after a lapse of thirty years, are, with three exceptions, still living to testify to its benefits, and are as true and ardent friends as ever of free popular education.
In 1853 an association of the teachers of Pequannock was formed, Boonton, Montville and Pequannock then being in one township. The object of this association was self-improvement in all matters pertaining to the business of teaching. The points to which attention was more especially directed during that school year were a thorough examination of the principles of arithmetic, and a critical examination of the principles of grammar as applied to the English language. The township superintendent participated, and at the request of the teachers led in the exercises. The subjects for consideration were announced before the meetings, which were held monthly. The exercises were so conducted as to engage and bring into use the individual capacities of the members, in giving in precise language the clearest and best explanation of each point under consideration. In this way all became interested in giving close attention, and were incited to careful study and reflection, which tended to produce in the mind of each clearer conceptions of principle, and to furnish each with a greater wealth of illustration. The working of this association before the close of the year had a very happy and noticeable effect, not merely upon the teachers, but through them upon their schools, in a less mechanical but more thorough instruction and greater interest among the pupils; thus furnishing proof that the best way to elevate the character of schools is to elevate the character of the teachers. Among those who took an active part in that association were Samuel A. FARRAND, then principal of the Boonton school, since a graduate of the State normal school, and now principal of the Newark Academy; and S. A. FELTER, then a teacher in the school at Pine Brook, and since a graduate of the State normal school and the author of Felter's series of arithmetics.
Owing to the rapid growth of Boonton during eight or nine years after the close of the civil war, much of its population had spread beyond the limits of the school district as established under the act of 1851. In addition to this, the increased number of departments and the large number of pupils, as well as other reasons, made it not only necessary to extend the boundaries of the district, but advisable to vest the control and management in a board of education, consisting of seven commissioners in place of three trustees; and also to have provisions under which evening schools might be established for the accommodation of those whose avocations were such as to prevent their attendance at the day schools. The gentleman who framed the act of 1851, under which the free school was established and had been successfully operated twenty-four years, was still living, and then a member of the board of trustees. To him was assigned the labor of drafting a new bill, providing for necessary changes and the prospective wants of this growing district. Accordingly in December 1874 a bill with suitable provisions was prepared, which, being accompanied by petitions and without remonstrance, was presented to the Legislature at its next session. It became a law and went into effect on the 5th of April 1875. Under this special act the school at Boonton is now operated. This school is graded, and occupies two building--one, the main building, in the north part of the town, and the other, a primary department, in the south part. There are in all nine departments, under the charge of a principal and nine assistants. Both buildings are of brick, with slate roofs and two stories in height, and supplied with improved modern furniture.
All the school buildings in Boonton township are located at Boonton. A small portion of the school population of Boonton township in the western and northern parts of it is attached to adjoining districts at Powerville, in Hanover, and Rockaway Valley, in Rockaway township. The school property in Boonton is estimated to be worth $25,000. For several years prior to 1876 the Catholics maintained a separate school in this place, kept in the basement of their new church. Since the stoppage of the iron works this has been abandoned, and their children are sent to the public school.
The experience of thirty years under the operation of a free school at Boonton has convinced the people there that no town becomes the poorer by taxing itself to educate its children; that a proper and thorough system of education will raise its moral, social and intellectual position, and add to the security and value of property; and that by consolidation and keeping strength together better schools and increased means of instruction can be secured, not only at comparatively less cost, but with far greater advantages.
For a quarter of a century Boonton has been more or less noted for its musical attainments. In that time it has had several fine bands of music, that became widely known, through services rendered at various public meetings and celebrations, especially during that most exciting period of our history, the war of the Rebellion and the subsequent political agitations. The first band was organized about the year 1850, under the name "Excelsior." About five years later another was organized, called the "Temperance band." Not long after this, because of some disagreement, the Excelsior band was dissolved. This resulted in the formation of another, called the "Washington cornet band," which is said to have been one of the finest bands Boonton ever had. Whatever may have been the peculiar merits of these bands, it is but just to say that the people have reason to remember them with pleasure and gratitude, for the cheering and inspiriting influence of their music on the many occasions of gloom and despondency, rejoicing and excitement, experenced in the past twenty years.
CAUSES OF PROSPERITY.
The history of Boonton, as to growth in population, and results in a moral and social aspect, contains some features deserving special notice. Many persons seem impressed with the belief that a manufacturing town must necessarily have a mixed population, a majority of whom will rank low as to intelligence and social and moral qualities. One of the marked features of Boonton is that a majority of its citizens own the dwellings they live in, and have acquired them by the savings from years of honest, hard labor here; and the general appearance of tidiness, convenience and orderly surroundings indicate the existence of some refinement and taste. As to the intelligence and general good character of its citizens, Boonton undoubtedly stands ahead of most manufacturing towns. The question naturally arises, why is this so? It appears to be mainly traceable to two causes.
The New Jersey Iron Company never adopted that exclusive system, characteristic of many manufacturing villages, of owning all the dwellings, holding all the land, and paying employees in store goods. It paid monthly, and in cash, and induced its employees to obtain homes of their own, by offering lots at nominal prices--from $10 to $25--and some assistance in money, if needed, to erect a house after the lot had been cleared and improved; the company taking pay by installments, as could be spared from their wages, and holding the deed, to be delivered when paid for. This policy tended to inculcate habits of industry and frugality, and to induce families to practice economy, virtues that contribute to form manly character, and tend to thrift and prosperity. This was one cause.
The other is the free public school established thirty years ago. Fortunate was it for Boonton when it was decided in 1850 not to divide the district, but to have only one school, and make that of a better class--free, graded and with more branches taught--thus bringing within the reach of all the opportunity of obtaining a more thorough education. That a generation has grown up under its influence to a higher degree of intelligence is manifest in the results. Of the ten teachers now employed, seven have been trained and educated in that school, and many of its graduates have gone forth and engaged in teaching elsewhere, with credit to themselves and satisfaction to their employers. Several of those who attended this school have entered the learned professions, some have engaged in mercantile pursuits, and many in various trades and occupations the doors of which would have been closed to them but for their educational advantages in that public school. Such are some of the historical lessons presented as the results of thirty years of experience at Boonton.
The subject of this sketch was born of humble parentage, near Bridgeton, Cumberland county, N. J., on the 8th of February 1845. When he was very young his parents removed to Bridgeton, and after becoming of suitable age Samuel was sent to the public schools of that city. He was an apt scholar, and the progress he made during the few years he was able to attend school laid the foundation for a successful career in the profession afterward chosen by him. When he was only fourteen years of age he obtained a position as clerk in a store, and he continued as such for two years. At the age of sixteen he was urged by James B. FERGUSON, editor and proprietor of the West Jersey Pioneer, published in the city of Bridgeton, to accept a position in his office. After some reluctance the lad accepted the position, and in about three years was capable of performing the duties of foreman, which he did for about one year, when he accepted a similar position in the office of the Millville Republican, published in the city of Millville, in the same county. After serving as foreman for three or four years he became associate editor, and upon him devolved most of the labor of the office, the editor having many outside matters to engage his attention. Mr. GARRISON performed the duties of associate editor a number of years. He made many friends by his obliging manners, and was warmly attached to the people of Millville, almost all of whom treated him with uniform kindness.
In the year 1872 he was offered the editorship of the Boonton Weekly Bulletin, a newspaper resuscitated from the remains of one of the same name, which had suspended publication after being published less than two years in Boonton by Andrew A. NEAL. The Bulletin was revived in the interests of the Republican party, by a number of prominent Republicans of the town, and for a year was published by Dawson & Garrison. At the close of the year, on the 1st of September 1873, this partnership was dissolved and Mr. GARRISON assumed control of the publication as editor and publisher. In the year 1878 he bought up all the stock in the concern and became proprietor also. He is still engaged in publishing the Bulletin.
Mr. GARRISON's efforts and final success in pushing forward improvements in the town during the dark days it was obliged to pass through after the stoppage of the great iron works--the only industry in the town at the time of their stoppage--and his untiring exertions to introduce new industries in the place, make this sketch of him especially appropriate as a part of the history of Morris county. The following sentence in a notice published in the Millville Republican, after Mr. GARRISON assumed control of the Bulletin, shows the editor's opinion of him as an advocate of local interests: "We commend Mr. G. to the people of Morris county as an earnest and indefatigable worker. for local interests, and hope they will give him substantial aid and encouragement."
The closing of the Boonton iron works in June 1876 threw out of employment about seven hundred men and boys, and soon many people moved away from the town. Now, if ever, was the time for determination and activity on the part of all interested in the future of Boonton. No one saw this sooner or felt it more forcibly than Mr. GARRISON. True he did not own as much Boonton property as many others, but he labored harder to push improvements and encourage industries than many of the property holders, who were fearful of increased taxation. These citizens ought to have known that improvements would enhance the value of their property, especially so the establishment of new industries. The active interest taken by Mr. GARRISON in assisting to introduce the silk business in the town commends him to the citizens of the county, to which this industry will be one of the most valuable. The first silk-mill in Morris county was erected in Boonton, and most of the funds to erect it were solicited by Mr. GARRISON. Strange as it may appear, the improvements made in the town from 1876 to 1881, during which time the iron works were idle, were greater than had been made for many years while the works were in operation. When Mr. GARRISON first came to Boonton steps were being taken to improve the town, but the stoppage of the works would probably have caused an entire cessation of improvements if Mr. GARRISON had not advocated pushing them forward. Then Main street was a burlesque on the name; now it is a pleasant thoroughfare. The introduction of street lamps was due in a great measure to Mr. GARRISON's advocacy, both in his paper and before the town council.
Mr. GARRISON is a leading member of the Methodist Episcopal church, in which he takes a deep interest, having filled a number of important and responsible positions in connection with the denomination. He also takes great interest in educational matters, being a member of the Boonton board of education.
This page was last modified on: 01 January, 2014
Copyright ©1999-2014 by Brianne Kelly-Bly, all rights reserved.