I had been sent the notice that the County of Morris, New Jersey was having a two-day Open House of many of their historical sites for touring and for special events for a program entitled “The Pathways of History: Museum and Site Tours of Morris County, NJ”.
The “Pathways to History” event takes place every May
The weekend event spread to small museums, historical homes and cemeteries all over the County with walking tours and lectures at various sites. Having never been or even heard of many of these sites, I was interested in visiting as many as I could for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” which is here on WordPress.com as well.
I plotted my two days of the event and tried to organize the trip so that we could see as many sites as we could. The event asked the sites to open one of the two days as…
I have to say that I was very impressed by the Whippany Railway Museum. It was not one of those usual train museums with bric-a-brac and posters and a uniform here and there. The museum building itself is a highly organized history of the rail system not just in New Jersey but all over the country. It showcases how New Jersey played a big role in the growth of the rail system and how transportation has changed over the last 100 years.
The museum displays were highly organized and well documented with all sorts of equipment of how a train functions, lighting equipment for the outdoors, and indoor dining, menus and manners for a time when rail was a form of luxury travel. It shows the progression from just transportation for the movement of product to a sleek way to travel from destination to destination.
The Whippany Railway Museum at 1 Railroad Plaza
There are all sorts of everyday items that show how maintenance of the trains have changed over the years and the modernization of the railcars. They have a display on lighting that has changed over the years and the way that communication was done between the trains and the staff. Even the uniforms have not really changed too much over the years.
Race is touched on with the advancement of Blacks in the Pullman coaches as porters and later supervisors. There was even a discussion on the strikes for better pay and working conditions. I thought it was interesting about the discussion of being called a “George”, which was a term for George Pullman, the owner and developer of the luxury cars. It might have been meant as a compliment but came off as a slur. It showed a progression in the field that in some ways has not changed.
The museum also showed that rail life could be lonely and not the best in working conditions for anyone which is why the unions became so powerful in later years. It also showed the ingenuity of how the rails conquered the West and opened the country up for development. With each stop, towns developed, and populations have changed. You see how this has been affected even today as rail is not as popular as it once was, and these small towns are dying off.
Where the museum really shines and where I saw the most pride is in the rail cars that have come to the yard over the years and have been carefully restored. The Southern Railway No. 385 built in 1907 for faster freight service, the Texaco Fireless Cooker No. 7240 built in 1937 for industrial switching duty and one of the newest steam locomotives still surviving, the U.S. Army No. 4039 built in 1942 for WWII service are just some of the cars on display (Whippany Railway Museum pamphlet).
The railcar that most impressed me was the Lackawanna Railroad Subscription Club Car No. 2454 that was once known as the “Millionaires Express” (Whippany Railway Museum). The mahogany paneled car carried businessmen from New York City through towns in the middle of New Jersey. What I thought was interesting was the people who rode it (Christie Todd Whitman’s father was a member) and the fact that you had to ‘buy’ the seat, which meant that no one could ever sit in ‘your chair’ if you were not there. This car ran for 72 years finally retiring out in 1984 (probably due to the recession and changing times).
I ended up spending about three hours at the museum due to a very detailed tour by one of the volunteers named Mike. He gave the most interesting hour-long tour of each car and how they were renovating it and carefully restoring each one to its historical integrity. He was so detailed and when the other volunteers chimed in with their stories as well, made it a fascinating tour of the whole yard.
When you are visiting the museum, allow time to take this every intensive and detailed tour of the museum grounds and just don’t concentrate on what’s inside the building. The museum spreads out all over the yards and take the time to explore each car and learn its history. It is an educating and fascinating way to spend the afternoon.
The museum modernizes:
The Whippany Museum under new directions
The History of the Whippany Museum:
(From the museum website)
The story of the Whippany Railway Museum began many years ago when the Morris County Central Railroad (MCC) first opened to the public on May 9th, 1965, at Whippany, NJ. On that exciting day a half-century ago, former Southern Railway steam locomotive No. 385 departed Whippany for Morristown, NJ with the MCC’s first trainload of over 400 passengers. At the end of the day over 1,500 people had traveled on a nostalgic trip into railroading’s colorful past. For the next 15 years until it ceased operations in 1980, the MCC would carry on this excellent tradition, leaving memories for untold hundreds of thousands of visitors that would last a lifetime.
The Morris County Central was founded by a New Jersey aerospace technician, the late Earle H. Gil, Sr. of Parsippany. His idea of running steam excursion trains was formed in the late 1950’s when conventional steam railroad operations were fading fast. Gil hoped that a financially successful heritage railroad would justify the great expense involved in keeping one of these magnificent machines alive.
Having acquired No. 385 in 1963 from the 16-mile-long Virginia Blue Ridge Railway (VBR) in rural Piney River, VA, the MCC ran an outstanding operation through the woodlands of suburban New Jersey. In 1966, Gil acquired another VBR steam locomotive, No. 4039 a former US Army 0-6-0 switcher that was soon added to the MCC’s roster of vintage steam-era equipment.
Threatened by development of the property alongside the Whippany Station, the Morris County Central RR saved the Whippany Freight House from demolition in June 1967 by having it moved across four sets of tracks to a site opposite the station building. Originally used by our predecessor organization, Morris County Central Railroad Museum, this classic railroad freight house is now the headquarters of the Whippany Railway Museum.
The Morris County Central was a fine example of what a conscientious group was able to accomplish, with moderate resources and good taste in the preservation of operating steam. It proved that trains, steam locomotives and haunting whistles continue to linger in the minds of the American public.
Fifty years on, the Whippany Railway Museum continues the tradition and proves that it is indeed possible to have a quality operation through much hard work by its dedicated group of volunteers and the tremendous support of the visiting public.
(From the Museum Pamphlet):
Here you can visit the restored, 1904 freight house with its outstanding collection of rail and transportation artifacts and memorabilia. There are dozens of historic railcars and exhibits on view. We are proud to feature the largest collection of American-built standard gauge steam locomotives displayed in New Jersey.
Marvel at one of the oldest steam locomotives in America, the Southern Railway No. 385 built in 1907 for fast freight service, Texaco Fireless Cooker No. 7240, built in 1937 for industrial switching duty and one of the newest stream locomotives still surviving, the U.S. Army No. 4039, built in 1942 for World War II service.
On the second day of the Morris County, NJ “Pathways to History’ tour, I was on my way back to Morris County for a second day of adventure. My first stop on the tour was the Ayres/Knuth Farm (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation Inc.), a former working farm just off Route 10.
The main farmhouse on the Ayres/Knuth Farm
Not only was the site open for touring but they also had a mini car show with antique cars and fire trucks owned by some of the members. Seeing some of these Model T Ford’s and Steam Engine Fire Trucks in perfect condition shows American quality motorship at its finest.
What I liked about the farm is that it had been a working farm up until the last fifty years and showed the progression that the farm took in its almost 100 years in the county. The farm itself dates back to pre-Revolutionary War days with the farm being purchase in either 1735 or maybe 1759 by Obadiah Lum. The property itself was settled and developed by Daniel Ayres, who was born in New Jersey in 1778 (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation).
The Ayres-Knuth Farm and the outer buildings
105 acres of land was given to him by his father-in-law, David Garrigus upon the marriage of his daughter, Hanna in 1803. His son, William took over the farm in 1856 upon the death of his father in 1856, changing the farm to add husbandry and fruit cultivation. When William retired in 1896, none of his children wanted the farm and it was sold. Changing hands many times, it was bought by Martin and Anna Knuth in 1906. The farm was taken over by two of their children and it remained in the family until the 1990’s upon both of their passings. In 1996, the Township of Denville purchased 52 acres of the original farm and it is now managed by the Ayres/Knuth Foundation Inc. (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation).
On this clear and sunny Sunday morning, it was fun to walk around the former working farm to see how it developed. Both families learned to modernize and add to the operation. I was able to tour the smaller tenet farmhouse (built in 1895), the barn (built in 1895 (and the various outer buildings like the chicken coops (built in 1895), outhouse (built in 1930) and the Smokehouse (built in 1825). The small well was built in 1797 and was the oldest structure left on the property.
What I found interesting is that there still are tenant farmers on another tract on the property still working the land and the property is protected by grants from Morris County. So, it still is technically a working farm. A lot of care was taken to preserve the farm as is and the volunteers told me that there were plans to fix up the other buildings. The Tenant House needed a lot of work and was run down but the main Farmhouse had been renovated and was closed that day.
Most of the farm has either been sold off or is being utilized but the core of the farm buildings can be toured, and it is interesting to see a working farm in New Jersey that dates back to the 1700’s and was still active until the mid-1990’s. That is longevity. Still is a step back into the past to see how a working farm once thrived along with the changes that came with the development of Morris County in the late 20th century. The area still has the rural feel, and the well-maintained property is a glimpse into our rural past.
The History of the Ayres/Knuth Farm:
(From the Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation Inc. site):
The Ayres/Knuth Farm has a long history not just in the County or State level but in the country. It is believed that the farm was formed around 1759 but could be as early as 1735. It was located in the Franklin section of Denville. Obadiah Lum purchased 180 acres and built the first forge and sawmill on the Den Brook. Lum purchased the property from Thomas and Richard Penn, the sons of proprietor, William Penn with financing from Colonel Jacob Ford, who owned extensive land including mines in Morris County. Franklin developed into one of the primary agricultural hubs of Denville due to the high quality of soil of the area and proximity to numerous towns with markets where the crops could be sold.
The Ayres Farm was first settled by Daniel Ayres who was born in Middlesex County in 1778. His mother was Anna Jackson, who was the daughter of General Joseph Jackson, who was known as the founder of Rockaway. Daniel married Hanna Garrigus, the daughter of David Garrigus, who was a prominent landowner in Franklin and owner of the Franklin iron forge. In 1803, David Garrigus conveyed 105 acres to his son in law.
Daniel died in 1856 and his son, William Ayres took over the farm. In 1860, he expanded the farm to 300 acres and practiced a mixture of husbandry and a cultivation of different grains. They also raised sheep for wool and cows for butter. He built the existing farmhouse in 1855 and in the 1860’s built the Tenant House for hired hands in the expanding farm. Over time the farm grew to 500 acres.
During the economic depression between 1873-1879, William Ayres adopted to the changes in the market and shifted the focus of the farm to dairying, poultry and vegetable farming. He also sold lumber to the railroads and expanded into fruit cultivation particularly apples, peaches and pears.
William Ayres retired from the farm in 1896 and since none of his children wanted to take over the operation, the property changed hands several times until 1906, when Martin and Anna Knuth purchased the farm and moved in with their five children. They kept the tradition of husbandry and fruit cultivation and a mix of vegetables as a truck farming operation.
The farm faced a lot of tragedies in the 20th Century with the death of Martin Knuth in 1935. Between a destructive fire in 1936 and a lapse of insurance, the barn was not rebuilt. With an economic Depression going on in the 1930’s, the farm was largely reduced to a subsistence-level truck farm operation. Anna Knuth died in 1950 and her two children, Frank and Sue took over the operation. Both remained on the farm until their deaths in the 1990’s. They grew a variety of crops and produced eggs that were sold locally.
The farmhouse was not electrified until the 1960’s and indoor plumbing was never installed. In 1996, a few years after the deaths of Frank and Sue Knuth, the Township of Denville purchased the nearly 52 acres of the original Ayres/Knuth Farm and the property is now managed by the non-profit Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation Inc. The site now houses a series of historical buildings that is maintained by the foundation that are part of the original farm.
A Video on the Washington Township Historical Society
I came to the Washington Township Historical Site as part of Morris County’s “Pathways of History” tour and visited the Union Schoolhouse Museum and then the Union Church and Burial Ground that is located right next door on the same property. This sleepy little town was once a bustling manufacturing site with the sawmill and Ghrist around the corner and the Welsh Farms Ice Cream factory up the street from the site.
The Union Schoolhouse Museum at 6 Fairview Avenue
The museum, which was once the town’s schoolhouse, is an engaging site that showcases how the town developed over the last two hundred years. On the bottom floor, the society has Native American artifacts, period furniture and clothing and in the back of the museum is a full display of the original Welsh Farms Ice Cream factory. The Welsh’s were a very prominent family from the area.
The Welsh Farms Ice Cream Factory display
Some of the old bottles and equipment from the factory
The second floor of the museum has a display of town memorabilia from different businesses, farming equipment from the area’s agricultural past and pictures of businesspeople and prominent citizens of the town. It shows how the commercial past of the community kept evolving.
Display of the town memorabilia
To the side of the second floor is a display of a period schoolroom from the time that the building served as a school of the local population. You can see that not much has changed over the years.
School rooms of the past are not too different from today
The one thing that creeped me out was a picture of a local businessman from the 1800’s who looked exactly like the actor, Blake Ritson, who plays “Oscar Van Rijin” in the TV show “The Gilded Age”. These men are almost 100 years apart and he looks like the actor from that exact time period.
The picture is of local businessman Ernest Paul Hunger
I had to take this picture because everyone says you have a twin from the past and I can tell that these two men look exactly alike in the same clothing. What is really interesting is that they are the same age at the same time period. Like that picture of the gentleman from the 1880’s that looks exactly like actor Nicolas Cage, I think there is some weird time travel here. It is almost like the film “Time after Time”.
After touring the whole museum, I went next door to visit the church and the cemetery for a tour. When I exited the museum, I had not really noticed the beauty of the gardens that surrounded the museum. The local garden club had done a great job in landscaping and planting the walled garden around the museum. In the early Spring, it was a colorful display of flowers.
The walled garden was so colorful in the early spring
The cemetery walk was intriguing in that you got to walk through the ruins of the old church and get to see how it was once constructed. It gave me insight of how big these churches were at one time and building construction was in early colonial New Jersey.
The ruins of the old Union Church
The Union Church surrounded by the cemetery
When we visited each family’s plot, there was a discussion about what contributions that everyone made to the town and their place in society. What was interesting was that the volunteers were cleaning the tombstones with tombstone cleaner, and I had wondered when we were taking the tour why they looked so new. There is a lot of care of the people of this cemetery.
The whole site is an interesting look into the community’s past by a group of volunteers who give it their all to make the site interesting, historical, visually engaging to the visitor and offer a surprise or two into history that you may not know of New Jersey. One the warm, sunny day that we visited the site, it made it even nicer to walk around and have the time to soak it all in.
When you visit the Union Schoolhouse and Union Church and Burial Ground take the time out to take the formal tour of the site. It is very informative to a past that is not so different from today. It offers a lot of insight of people’s lives of this community.
The history of the Union Church and Cemetery Site:
(From the Washington Township Historical Society pamphlet)
Mission: To bring together people interested in the history of Washington Township, Morris County, NJ and promote a better appreciation of our American heritage.
The history of the site:
European settlement had begun in Long Valley by 1730. The early settlers, primarily from Germany and Holland, came fleeing religious persecution, an oppressive tax burden and hoping for a better life in America.
In 1749, a joint log meeting house had been built near the site of the Stone Church by the Zion Lutherans and Dutch Reformed Congregations. During these early times the congregations were served either by preachers from these churches or by laymen. One of the ministers of the time was Henry M. Muhlenberg, who has been called the Father of the Lutheran Church in America. His son, John Peter also ministered to the Raritan Valley before 1772. In 1776, John left his church in Virginia to raise and lead a regiment in the American Revolution, serving with distinction and retiring as a brevet major general.
On February 4th, 1774, the Dutch Reformed and German Lutheran congregations drew up articles and agreements that provided for the building of a joint meetinghouse. “Whereas we the members of the Evangelical Reformed Congregation and we, the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation are willing to build a meeting house jointly, “Acted the 4th day of February 1774, which is testified to by: Henry Muhlenberg Jr., deputy director of Zion’s Welsch; Diedric Strubel; Conrad Rorick; Casper Eick; Anthon Waldorf; Adam Lorenz; Philip Weis; Christopher Karn; Leonard Neighbour; Roulof Roulofsen; John Schwackhammer; Andrew Flock.”
Let the Building Begin:
According to local tradition, the stone used to construct the building of the meetinghouse, the people of the two congregations turned out in a body to cart the stone. It had been a previous agreement, that whoever on the day appointed, should bring the first load, should receive the honor of having his horse decorated with flags and ribbons. The story goes that Judge David Welsch, then 17, secretly loaded his wagon and hid it that night. The next day, wagons came like thunder from all parts of the valley. Although David Welsch was confident of winning, he was almost beaten. Before he could unload his wagon, all of German Valley was on the ground.”
A Stately and well built structure:
A description of the Stone Church was given during a sermon by Reverend Alfred Hiller in July 1876. He said, “it was a heavy gallery on the one side and across each end; the entrance on one side (south), under the gallery and on the opposite side (north) was the pulpit, one of the Jack in the Pulpit style, with sounding board suspended above. There is no chimney on the church, in the center of the church, a space about eight feet square was made with a dirt floor and on the square a great mass of charcoal was burned, the congregation getting for their share at least the smell of the fire.”
The Old Stone Church today
Historic photographs indicate the building had a clipped-gable or jerkin-head roof with roof ridge parallel to the longer north and south walls. The two-story church, three bays wide and two bays deep, featured a wide and two bays deep, featured a wide central entry surmounted by a segmental arch, as were the windows. The walls were of coursed rubble stone construction, pointed with a white lime-rich mortar, except on the south or front elevation which was stuccoed and “penciled” with white pointing to replicate regular ashlar stone. However, this may have been a later 19th century embellishment.
In 1832, both congregations decided to separate houses of worship. Since that time the Old Stone Church has stood abandoned and surrounded by the graves of the early congregants. Despite efforts at stabilization between the 1960’s and the 1980’s, the deterioration continued until recent efforts spearheaded by the members of the Washington Township Historical Society with permission of The Zion Lutheran and Long Valley Presbyterian Churches have improved this.
The Old Stone Church with the cemetery surrounding it