Early History Print E-mail

by Hon. John Kanouse (1881)

Montville Township was formed in 1867, from territory set off from Pequannock. It is bounded north by Pequannock township, east by Pequannock township and the Passaic River, south by the Rockaway River and west by the Rockaway River and Boonton Township.

It is about four miles in width and nine miles long; in area it is twice as large as Boonton Township and not quite half as large as Pequannock; in proportion to its area it has more tillable land than either Boonton or Pequannock. The extreme southern part peninsular in form, being nearly surrounded by the Rockaway and Passaic Rivers, consists of what is called the Pine Brook flats, and is a level tract with soil of sandy loam free from stone, which, when properly cultivated, is productive. This part of the township is about thirteen miles from Newark, with which it is connected by a good road, which for three-quarters of the distance consists of a Telford pavement. The soil in the rest of this township consists mainly of loam on clay bottom, and is generally productive in grass, grain, vegetables and fruit. The farmers in the southern part engaged largely in the production of milk to supply the Newark market, and in the more central parts considerable quantities of butter, eggs, poultry, pork, beef, hay and straw were produced for market. For some years past, considerable attention was given to planting choice fruit trees, and some reaped the benefits in apples and pears, which generally yielded a good return.

The land in this township is chiefly rolling; the northern part is principally rough, mountainous woodland; the highest points in the northeastern part are the Waughaw Mountains and Turkey Mountain. In the southeastern part is the Hook Mountain range; between this and the Passaic River is a fertile strip of farming. The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and the Morris Canal pass centrally from west to east through the township. A small stream called Stony Brook passes through the north-western part, and empties into the Rockaway River above Powerville; another brook, rising near Turkey Mountain, flows through the village of Montville and down the Valley emptying into the Rockaway River about half a mile below the Dutch Reformed church. This latter stream at Montville village affords some water power, which is about the only power afforded by any stream in the township, excepting that furnished by the Rockaway River for a short distance on the western boundary.

In Passaic Valley... is a quarry of red sandstone...

The population of this township in 1870 was 1,353 white and 50 black, total 1,403; in 1875 it was 1,412 white and 31 black, total 1,443; in 1880 the total population was 1,269 showing a decrease in five years of 174; this decrease no doubt accounted for in part by the stoppage of the Boonton iron works in 1876, as some of the employees at those works lived at Montville. The assessors' figures for 1881 were as follows: Acres, 11,302; valuation of real estate, $459,226; personal property, $118,989; debt, $36,665; polls, 304; State school tax, $1,378.57; county tax, $1,288.69; bounty tax, $1,403.78; road tax, $1,200.

The brook that runs through what is now known as Upper Montville and down the valley, emptying into the Rockaway River below the Dutch Reformed church, was known among the early settlers by the name of "Owl Kill". It is a tortuous stream and often overflows much of the adjoining land, rendering it rich natural 'meadow. Along the banks of this stream stood many large trees, which in olden times were a favorite resort for owls; these birds feed principally upon mice and doubtless were attracted to this place by the large number of mice that burrowed in the soft grounds of the adjoining meadows. Hence this stream, about two miles in length, came to be called "Owl Kill"; from the peculiar pronunciation of the Dutch this was changed to " Uylekill" and the valley as well as the brook was known by that name. This account of the matter is corroborated by Levi Stiles, now 85 years old, who was born and has always lived in this vicinity. We find this view further confirmed by documentary evidence, which is more reliable than mere memory. Humphrey Davenport, one of the first settlers in this vicinity, came here in 1714, a granddaughter of his was on January 1, 1754 married to Jacob Bovie, and she is recorded as born in "Uylekill." This is taken from a certified copy of the church record at Aquackanock.

Early Residents And Enterprises

The settlement at what is known as Upper Montville was made at a very early date, and there is some reason to believe that the first grist-mill in this vicinity was erected there. The records of Pequannock show that on October 2, 1745 a road was laid out "from the corner at Cornelius Doremus's to the corner at Nicholas Hyler's, and then along the line between Hyler and Peter Fredericks to a white oak tree and thence across the brook and thence as the path goeth to Michael Cook's mill". This shows that a grist-mill was at Montville prior to 1745, and that it belonged to Michael Cook; and it appears that Michael Cook was then an old resident, and was elected to a town office as early as 1749. There is reason, therefore, to believe that he had built a mill there some time before that date, or that his immediate predecessor built it, perhaps as early as 1720. About 1787, we find that this mill and a saw-mill were owned by John Pierson and Elijah Dod. the latter a son of Caleb Dod who lived at Horse Neck, in Caldwell township, Essex county, at a point now called Clinton. Elijah Dod came there when a young man, and soon afterward erected a dwelling, the same that is now the residence of the widow of Frederick W. Cook. The last named was a son of Silas Cook, who bought the property after the death of Elijah Dod, which occurred February 3, 1807. Elijah Dod left four daughters; the eldest married William Scott, the next married Joseph Scott Jr. (brother of William), the third became the wife of John G. Kanouse, and the youngest married Lewis King; the two latter are still living, one aged 8O and the other 77.

Silas Cook came to Montville about 1795. His first wife was a daughter of Martin Morrison, who resided near Lower Montville. By this marriage he had two daughters, one of whom married Cornelius Van Orden and the other Swain A. Condit. His second wife was a daughter of John Salter, who lived in that vicinity. His first purchase of property at Montville was one-quarter of the cider-mill and distillery belonging to Zadoc Baldwin, a resident of Caldwell, Essex county. This he bought June 8th 1798. The following year Baldwin sold another quarter to Cook, who soon became the sole owner of the distillery, and after the death of Elijah Dod became the owner of the grist-mill and also of a part of the saw-mill. When Zadoc Baldwin sold to Cook a part of the distillery he made a reserve of sufficient ground in the rear of the cider-mill to erect a tannery. His plans as to a tannery here were not carried out, but two years after that his son, Elijah Baldwin, bought a site from Thomas Fredericks, about a quarter of a mile distant, and there built a bark mill and tannery. Considerable bark was purchased and ground here and sold to tanners in Newark, besides what was used on the premises in tanning. Elijah Baldwin sold half of his bark-niill and tannery to his brother Bethuel, who sold his share to Martin Van Duyne. The latter purchased for his two sons Cornelius M. and John M. Van Duyne. Quite a large business in bark and tanning was carried on here for many years, but since the death of Elijah Baldwin comparatively little has been done. The mill and tannery are still used by Moses A. Baldwin, a younger son of Elijah Baldwin.

In the cider-mill of Silas Cook, apples in large quantities were ground in the old-fashioned way, being crushed by a heavy wooden wheel passing over them in a circular trough, and for many years a large business in cider making and distilling was done here. Whiskey was prepared in various forms; by the addition of a little scorched sugar a color was given to it, and then it was called cider brandy and sold for 25 per cent more. In those days they made what was called "cherry"; this was made by putting a quantity of black cherries and wild cherries into a barrel of whiskey, which imparted a deep red color and a cherry flavor to the liquor. After steeping for a time the liquor was drawn off and the cherries thrown out. In those days it was the general practice to allow swine to run at large upon the public streets; although it is said a hog will not drink whiskey, these cherries thrown out appeared to attract them, and after they had eaten of the highly seasoned fruit it was amusing to notice them as they would begin to jump about, stagger, squeal, and grunt, and then lie in the gutters, the result being quite illustrative of the effects of whiskey upon human beings.

About 1809, Conrad Estler bought a lot from Henry I. Vanness and opened a small store at Montville, the first store kept there; he carried on business here for a number of years, dealing considerably in hoop poles. On the first of April, 1812 Benjamin L. and Stephen Condit bought 23.60 acres of land of Daniel T. Peer at Montville, and proceeded to erect a bark mill and tannery. On the I5th of April 1813 they sold to their brother Nathaniel 0. and Timothy D. Condit, who came from Orange, Essex county, and carried on here the bark and tanning business for several years. About 1827, when the Morris Canal was being built, N. 0. Condit took out a license for a tavern. The building first occupied by him, a long one-story structure, stood on the site of the present tavern-house, which was built by N. 0. Condit; he continued to keep a public house here for about thirty years. After the setting off of Rockaway township, in 1844, this was the place for holding town meetings and elections in Pequannock to 1867; since that time it has been the place for transacting the public business of Montville township.

From 1800 to 1820, Montville village was a hamlet containing about sixteen dwellings, two bark-mills and tanneries, three sawmills, one grist-mill, a cider-mill and distillery, a blacksmith shop, a carpenter and wheelwright shop and one small store, which tended to make the place a business center for a circuit of several miles. Since that time, one tannery and bark mill and two sawmills have gone down and disappeared. In the place of one saw-mill has recently been erected a large brick building occupied as a rubber factory, at which steam and water power are used; and near the site of another saw mill, a small grist-mill has been erected. The village now contains about forty dwellings, one saw-mill, two grist-mills, one bark-mill and tannery, one rubber factory, two blacksmith shops, two taverns, and two small stores. The great distillery was discontinued in 1825, when the building of the Morris Canal was commenced. This canal passes through the village, and in half a mile descends 150 feet by two inclined planes; the lower plane passes over part of the ground where the old distillery stood. Although this hamlet is not so great a business center as formerly for the surrounding country, yet the increase in the number of dwellings, their improved condition, and the generally neat appearance of their surroundings, indicate a greater degree of thrift and comfort.

The town records show that in October 1749 a road was laid out, beginning at Michael Cook's mill, and running across and along lands of Nicholas Hyler, Martin Van Duyne, Conrad Fredericks and John Miller to the river, and down the, river, in the words of the record, "as the path runs to the bridge near John Davenport's." No mention being made of a grist-mill where Zabriskie's mill now stands, it is probable no mill was there at that time. The words of the description warrant the inference that this whole region was then mostly a wilderness; paths leading to and from the mill, which could only be traversed by horses carrying the grist in bags on their backs. The John Davenport mentioned was a son of Humphrey Davenport, who settled in this vicinity in 1714. John Davenport at the time lived near the brook where the road turns in to Starkey's woolen factory. Zabriskie's grist-mill stands at the beginning corner of the tract of 750 acres purchased by Humphrey Davenport in 1714; the exact date of the erection of a mill here we are unable to determine. For many years this mill was known as Duryea's mill. Daniel Duryea who came from Harrington, Bergen county, on the 7th of July 1785, purchased from Albert Alyea 120 acres of land, having on it this grist-mill and a saw-mill, for which he paid 1,200 lbs., equal to $3,000; this tract immediately adjoined on the north the large tract bought by Humphrey Davenport in 1714. Albert Alyea had purchased it from David Brower in 1781, and Brower bought it from Peter Tise. It is probable a grist-mill and a saw-mill were erected here about 1760, shortly after the laying out and opening of public roads to that point. Daniel Duryea died in 1804, and left surviving three sons, Peter, Richard and Garret. To Peter, he devised a part of his lands, including these mills and his homestead dwelling, which stood on the corner opposite the mill, where Zabriskie's residence stands; the old homestead was an old fashioned long stone house, of the Dutch cottage style. Peter Duryea lived here many years and died without children, leaving this property to Josiah Zabriskie; from Zabriskie it descended to his younger son, Albert J. Zabriskie, the present owner. The old mill was a small affair, with one run of stones, driven by an undershot wheel; the fall in the river at this point is about five feet. Some years ago a new mill with two runs of stones was erected in place of the old one, and a turbine wheel substituted. This mill has since been enlarged and greatly improved, and is one of the best in this vicinity.

About a mile down the river, there is an old woolen factory, erected about 1809 for a carding and fulling mill by Nicholas J. Hyler and Leonard Davenport, who at .he same time built here a saw-mill on land purchased from Abraham Davenport. In 1812 Hyler bought Abraham Davenport's interest; in 1815 he died, and his administrators sold the property in 1816 to Joseph Scott; the latter on the 3rd of April 1827 sold it to Benjamin Crane and Ezekiel B. Gaines, who sold to Benjamin Starkey, the present owner.

Within the present year (1881) a distillery for making apple whiskey has been started near Montville, which is the only one in this township and the only one that has existed anywhere in this vicinity for more than forty years. Prior to 1825, distilleries were numerous and the use of whiskey was quite general among the people. In 1815, Congress, in order to meet the expenses of the war of 1812, passed an act authorizing a direct tax, and we find the old distillery owned by Silas Cook noted as No. 90 in the second collection district. A circumstance serving to show the influence of public sentiment over the administration of law is worthy of notice. In a neighborhood about one and a half miles east of Montville, called "Doremus Town," there were in 1827 three dwellings within a few yards of each other (the only dwellings in the place) and each one was licensed as a tavern; about mile further east another was licensed, and a mile and a half beyond this two more were licensed. Scarcely any of them were fitted and they probably were not expected to answer the legitimate purposes of a tavern as required by law, but were merely used for the purpose selling liquor to the laborers engaged in constructing the canal.

From the description of property in old deeds, it appears that between 1800 and 1810 an attempt was made to name the cluster of three or four houses at Pine Brook, where George D. Mead keeps a store, "Union Village", but as a village failed to grow up, the name was dropped and has been forgotten. At this point, a tavern was kept over eighty years and for many years it did a legitimate and profitable business in the accommodations of "Sussex Teams", as they were called, which in large numbers used to pass this way toward Newark with loads of flour, feed, grain, butter, pork, and other produce from Sussex, Warren, and the upper parts of Morris county. The opening of railroads in various directions has produced a great change and for the benefit of the farmers, as the transportation by rail is cheaper and more expeditious. Now very few teams are employed in such transportation, and there is scarcely any legitimate business for a tavern at this point. There are only two taverns in Montville township, and four stores-one at Pine Brook, two at Montville and one at White Hall; there are post-offices at Pine Brook, Montville and Whitehall (Towaco).

About the year 1785, Nathaniel Gaines, a young man, settled near Pine Brook, on the old road, a few hundred yards below the present schoolhouse. He had served in the Revolutionary war as a cavalryman, and was with General Stark at the battle of Bennington, Vermont. He was a native of Connecticut, and was a nailer by trade. A nailer in those days was one who made nails by hand, hammering each out on an anvil, as nail-cutting machines had not then been invented. There are persons living, born and brought up in that neighborhood, who say they well remember frequently hearing the ring of Gaines's hammer on his anvil in the morning as soon as it was light, going to show that he was an industrious man. Those were days of comparatively low prices for labor, and the surrounding circumstances were such that if a person would support himself and family comfortably and accumulate property he must apply himself with unceasing industry. Gaines married a daughter of Ezekiel Baldwin, who lived in that neighborhood, and had several children. His oldest son, Ezekiel Baldwin Gaines, was born near Pine Brook, October 10th 1791. He was educated for a physician, studied medicine with Dr. John S. Darcy at Hanover, and was licensed in 1814 He first practiced with Dr. Darcy at Hanover; from there he went to Parsippany, and for a few years he was in partnership with Dr. Stephen Fairchild. From Parsippany, he removed in 1818 to Lower Montville, where he resided and practiced his profession about thirty-seven years. In 1855 he removed to Boonton, and in 1861 he was appointed postmaster there, in which capacity he served for several years; when, owing to advanced years and declining health, he retired from active life. He died at Boonton on the 31st of March 1881.

Silas Cook, being an educated man and a person of good natural ability, possessed an influence among the people of his neighborhood. In 1806, he was appointed one of the judges of the county court and for nearly forty years almost continuously held that office; at the same time he was a justice of the peace, and for a term represented the county in the upper house of the State Legislature.

Education

There is evidence that the first immigrants coming from Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and England generally possessed a rudimentary education, and there is little doubt that the instruction of their children at first received some attention in the family, until the increase of population and the improved condition of the land and the people enabled them by concerted effort to establish and support neighborhood schools. Tradition informs us that the first school buildings, like the first dwellings, were built of logs; that their internal arrangements were of the cheapest and plainest order, and that the teachers employed were not generally of a high grade either as to ability or character.

Dutch was the language mostly used among the early settlers and their descendants for more than sixty years. The services in the first churches of the Dutch Reformed denomination were conducted in that language, and the records of such churches were kept principally in that language up to the close of the Revolutionary war, and in some cases later. For many years in churches of this denomination there was manifested a strong objection to employing any one as a pastor who had not been regularly educated and licensed in the schools of Holland. Tradition informs us that the public schools were taught in the English language for some years prior to the Revolutionary war, but the Holland Dutch continued to be the language mainly used in many families of the descendants of the first Holland settlers, and was so used quite generally up to 1790 and 1800, and in some families 18 to 30 years later. There are a few persons still living who recollect that their parents were, as late as 1815 to 1820, accustomed to read from their old Dutch Bibles and that they expressed regret that their church services were no longer conducted in the Dutch language, as they could understand it so much better than the English. Some of these old Dutch Bibles still remain in the hands of descendants unable to read them, kept as cherished relics of former times. One in the possession of the writer was printed at the Hague in Holland in 1647, measures 10 by 16 1/2 inches, and contains 1200 pages and several illustrations.

We find no record in the township books pertaining to educational matters until 1830, when the school system established by an act of the Legislature in 1829 went into effect. But that the early settlers were not unmindful of their duty to establish schools and maintain them we have reliable testimony, brought down to us by tradition. Very few if any of the public schools in those early days, or for seventy-five years following, were kept open for more than one or two quarters in the year. Funds to support a school were sometimes raised by subscription. Generally a contract was made with the teacher at from eight to ten shillings per scholar for a quarter, the teacher to have his board and lodging found by boarding around among the patrons of the school. This method of employing and paying a teacher prevailed about a hundred years, and did not entirely disappear until about 1853.

From 1790 to 1830, many persons employed as teachers in the public schools were occasionally addicted to intemperance. During that period many thus employed were of foreign birth, either Englishman or Irishmen. The short and uncertain periods of keeping schools open tended to make the teacher's calling one of an itinerant character and led to frequent changes, and as a consequence there were many applicants for teachers' positions not of the best character either for learning or morality. Owing to the demoralized state of public sentiment persons of questionable qualifications, simply because they offered to work for a low price, would often succeed in obtaining the position of teachers, to the exclusion of others of better character and higher ability. A few facts and circumstances fresh in the recollection of some of our older people will serve to illustrate.

About the year 1820, an Englishman was engaged as a teacher for the Montville school. He appeared to be a gentleman and well educated, and was considered in the district as quite an acquisition because of his ability to write a very pretty hand, as shown by the copies he made for the children in their writing books. It was at first his custom to open his school in the morning with prayer. One morning, when the children as usual assembled at the school-house a little before 9 o'clock, the teacher was sitting in his chair behind his desk, with his arms crossed and resting on it, and his head resting on his arms. The children thought he was asleep, but 9 o'clock came and still he slept, and continued to sleep as soundly as ever. In about half an hour a gentleman living near by, seeing the children about the door came up to inquire what was the matter. Looking in he saw the condition of the teacher, and calling on some of the larger boys to assist him he laid him on the floor and placed some books under his head; then told the children their teacher had been taking too much apple whiskey, and they must go home and return the next morning, when all would probably be right. This was not the only instance of interruption in the school caused by such indulgence on the part of their teacher, yet he was retained for several quarters. Some few years after that, a teacher was employed in this school who appeared to have been well educated, and withal was something of a dandy in his manner and dress. The school had been under his charge but a few weeks when it began to be whispered that he was too fond of strong drink; soon there was unmistakable evidence of the fact, for at times would be absent several days in consequence of his indulgence. Yet this man was retained as a teacher for two quarters without being fined for tippling, or even very seriously reprimanded for his vicious habit, thus showing that public sentiment had changed in some respects, and certainly not for the better as regarded sobriety. It is true many of the teachers employed from time to time in this as well as other schools in the township were persons of upright character and fair literary attainments; yet it was too true that some were employed who turned out to be not only immoral, but deficient in literary attainments, and not a few who were more or less addicted to tippling.

A convention of the friends of education was held at the State-house in Trenton in the summer of 1828 to take into consideration the state of education in the several counties of this State, and to ascertain what should be done for the encouragement and proper support of schools. The result of this public investigation was action taken by the legislature at the session of February 1829, by which was established the first system of public instruction in the State of New Jersey.

Westerly of Montville village there was no school in Pequannock short of Rockaway Valley; where the present town of Boonton stands was then a wilderness. At this time the school-house at Montville was probably the third erected there. It was built about 1806, a frame building 18 by 24 feet, a few rods south of the present site, at the corner of two roads, and directly on the edge of the street. There was not a foot of playground attached; the only place available to the children for such purpose being the public road. No paint had ever been applied to this building externally or internally. The arrangements for heating consisted of a large open fireplace at one end of the room; the wood was furnished by the patrons of the school in proportion to the number of scholars sent by each. The desks consisted of boards attached in an inclined position to the sides of the room; in front of these were placed long and rudely constructed benches made from slabs having holes bored through rear the ends and sharpened sticks thrust in as legs to support them. In the center of the room were benches similarly constructed and without back supports, for the use of the smaller children;. besides these there was a roughly made desk without stain or paint, and a splint bottomed chair, for the use of the teacher. These constituted the total of school furniture; such things as black-boards, maps, or charts were not found in country district schools at that time, and in fact were then scarcely thought of as articles necessary for the school-room. The pens used for writing were made from quills, the writing books were common foolscap paper folded, and it was the duty of the teacher to make and sharpen all the pens, and to write the copies. The text books then in use were Webster's spelling book, the Scholar's Companion, the Child's Instructor, the Monitor, the Testament, the English Reader (more recently introduced) and Dillworth's and Daboll's Arithmetics. No attention was paid to the study of geography, and very little if any to the study of English grammar.

There were no recitations in classes in arithmetic, except as to the different tables; each scholar was expected to do "as many sums" as he could, and if the answer obtained was the same as that given in the book the operation was supposed to be right; the why and the wherefore were seldom if ever inquired into. The older pupils in arithmetic were encouraged to write out in detail in a book prepared for the purpose the working of each example, with a view to having it as a book of reference to aid them when they should go into business; these were called " cyphering books." The idea of imparting to his pupils a thorough understanding of the principles of the science, as the best means of preparation to solve all practical problems as they were presented in the business of life, did not enter the head of the average common school teacher of that day. Then the amount that could be retained in the memory and repeated in the words of the book, whether the meaning was thoroughly understood or not, was considered the measure of learning in most of our public schools.

After opening school the teacher generally proceeded to take his whip in hand as the ox-driver does when he proceeds to his work, and he would continue to carry it about nearly the whole of school hours, frequently using it in touching up one and another for whispering, not sitting up straight, neglecting to study, or looking out of the window and sometimes it was most severely and cruelly used. Yet but little complaint on that account was heard among the people; the prevailing idea of a teacher appeared to be that if he could whip he was smart and would make the children behave and learn. The popular idea of school government at that time appeared to be that brute force was the only proper controlling power. Seldom was a teacher found who would as a rule resort to gentle means, kind and encouraging words and moral suasion to maintain order and subjection.

It was about the year 1826 that a building was erected and a store opened immediately opposite the old schoolhouse at Montville; the business of this store for years consisted mainly in buying in wood to be shipped by canal to Newark. In the stock kept at this store, as was generally the case in most stores at that time, was whiskey in its various forms. Many of the customers, being considerably under its influence, would loiter about there for hours; as a consequence very much, both in manners and language, that was improper and demoralizing was brought directly to the notice of the pupils at that school. From 1820 to 1840 it was the practice of a neighboring clergyman to visit the different schools within the circuit of several miles about once a quarter, and sometimes oftener, to catechize the children in the old Calvinistic catechism, and he would generally take the opportunity to try to impress upon the youthful minds " that in Adam all sinned, and that without repentance for the sin of Adam all would be condemned to eternal woe and suffering in the lake of fire and brimstone," as he graphically expressed it.

Since 1820 circumstances have greatly changed. The old school-house at Montville that stood at the corner of the roads, and the whiskey store opposite, have long since passed away. Many years ago a new school-house, larger and with seats and desks somewhat improved, was erected on the site of the present one, which did service some twenty-five years for larger and better conducted schools, and was torn down about fifteen years ago to give place to the present brick structure, which is a neat looking and commodious building, with the most improved modern furniture. The condition of the public school at Montville fifty years ago may have been as regards its immediate surroundings rather exceptional, but in other respects it may be taken as a truthful representation of the average country district school of that day; and as such we present it, to give an idea of the general condition of the schools in that period.

In Pequannock township (speaking without reference to such part of it as was set off to the new township of Rockaway in 1844) the first places where district schools were established were Pompton Plains, Pine Brook, Montville, Beavertown and Lower Montville; subsequently they were opened at Waughaw, Jacksonville, Stony Brook, Pompton and Upper Bloomingdale; in 1831 at Boonton; in 1844 a district was formed near Boonton known as No. 6, and another at Taylortown in 1849.

At Pine Brook, the first house known to have been built for school purposes was a log building about half a mile north of the present one, on the road leading toward Boonton; this was probably erected about 1760. The next, a frame building, was erected about 1785, and stood perhaps a quarter of a mile south of the present one. This second building was used a number of years, until an effort was made by the people of this district (a portion of whom reside on the Hanover township side), which resulted in a new school-house in Hanover township, near the present residence of Caleb W. Edwards. This location was not central, and after a trial of a few years the school proved a failure for want of support. A majority of the people desiring a building more centrally located, and of a size suited to accommodate the neighborhood for holding religious meetings on Sundays, the building in Hanover was abandoned, and a larger one was built on the northwest corner of the roads, nearly opposite the present school building. This was erected about the year 1816 and served the district until 1852, when the present one was erected, which has sufficient room and comfortable internal arrangements. David Young, who for so many years made the calculations for the "Farmer's Almanac," and who signed his name "David Young, Philom.," taught school in this district about 1820 or a little prior to that time. He was naturally gifted with great mathematical ability, and a love for the study of astronomy, but was rather eccentric and not very popular as a teacher. For many years he lived in this vicinity, at Hanover Neck, and was relied on by the people in this district to examine teachers applying for their school. Ezra Fairchild, who in 1827 had established a select school at Mendham, was induced by the great fame of Mr. Young as a natural mathematician to engage him as a special teacher in that branch of study; Mr. Young, although a perfect master of the subject in all its branches, was not successful as a teacher, because of his want of ability to impart his knowledge to his pupils. In the Lower Montville neighborhood, we are able to trace the location of six school buildings within the past hundred years. The first, a log building, was probably erected prior to 1769, and stood on the west slope of Horse Neck Mountain, nearly opposite the present residence of Azariah Crane. Levi Stiles, an octogenarian, says he has a distinct recollection of hearing his father tell that he went to school in this building to a teacher by the name of Marinus, who was a man of learning and ability and who occasionally preached, but that at times he would tipple, and that he used to say to the people, "You must do as I say, and not as I do." Mr. Stiles says his father was old enough to enlist, and did enlist in the war of the Revolution before its close; and hence we infer that it was about 1767 or 1768 when he attended this school taught by Marinus, and that the teacher was the first minister who officiated at the Pompton Plains church, and whose ministerial relation to that church was dissolved on account of his intemperate habits.

The next school building was also a log house, and stood about half a mile south of the present schoolhouse, on the road leading to Pine Brook.

The third school-house, which was also of logs, with its broad open fireplace and clay and stick chimney, stood about 175 feet south of the present residence of Levi Stiles, and it was at this place, under a teacher named Simon Basco, that Mr. Stiles learned his letters; this school-house must have been in use from about 1790 to 1808.

The next one was a frame building which had been used as a store-house, and was purchased by the people of the district and moved on to a lot of ground leased for fourteen years from Dr. George Wurts. This house stood on the road leading to Pine Brook, about a quarter of a mile south of the present school-house. It served the district until the expiration of the ground lease, about 1824, when it was sold. For a few years after this the district was without a school-house and without a school. The first teacher employed in the first frame school-house in this district was Patrick Caffrey, who continued to teach till 1812. Mr. Stiles says he went to school to him and has now in his possession a " cyphering book," which is well preserved and contains some fine specimens of chirography executed by this teacher. Mr. Stiles relates an incident which goes to show the natural hatred of the Irish race for the English government. One day Caffrey came from his school to Mrs. Stiles's, where he was then boarding and taking the newspaper, which had just been brought in, began to read; in a few minutes he broke out very excitedly with the exclamation, "Glorious news! Glorious news!" and continued thus exclaiming until Mrs. Stiles asked him if he was crazy. "No, no," said he, "I am not crazy, but America has declared war against England, and that is really glorious news, and I am going to help the Americans fight the British;" and he did at once leave his school and enlist in the service of the United States.

About 1828, a lot of ground was obtained on the road leading across the Horse Neck Mountain, and on it a schoolhouse was erected which served the district until 1872, when it was removed to make room for the present building, which is of sufficient size, neatly finished and provided with the improved school furniture.

The first building used for school purposes at Waughaw was of stone and stood at the corner of the roads a few hundred yards north from the Whitehall Methodist church. The second building was erected about the year 1830 at a point about a mile northwesterly from the first and continued to serve the district until 1873, when the present building, neat and convenient in its arrangements, was erected on a spot more central in the district.

At Jacksonville, there have been two school buildings on the same site; the first erected about 1825, and the second about the year 1854.

At Stony Brook, as far as we have been able to ascertain, there have been within the past ninety-six years three school-houses. The first was built of logs about 1785, a mile and a half south of the present one; the second, which was also a log building, stood near the site of the present house, and was erected about 1815; and the third, a frame building, was put up about the year 1834. In 1875, this house was thoroughly repaired and rendered almost as good as new.

There are now five school districts in the township-at Pine Brook, Lower Montville, Upper Montville, White Hall (Towaco) and Taylortown. The school-houses are all nearly new buildings, and with the exception of that at Taylortown are furnished with improved desks and seats. The school property in this township is estimated at $9,500. Since the formation of the township these schools have been entirely free and have been kept open generally during the school year.

Methodist Episcopal Churches

In Montville township there are four churches-two Methodist and two Reformed. The Methodist church at Pine Brook was erected about 1843, and the congregation is the largest of that denomination in the township. The society has a neat and commodious parsonage near the church, and maintains a settled pastor.

The other Methodist church, at Whitehall (Towaco), is a neat edifice erected about 1851; this congregation has no parsonage but maintains a pastor and includes in its limits those of that denomination in the northern and central parts of this township.

Reformed Churches

The oldest church in this township is the Reformed church at Lower Montville. This church organization was started at Old Boonton, about 1756, and shortly afterward a church edifice was erected there, which stood about five hundred yards directly north from where stands the Morris county poor-house. Prior to the erection of the church, meetings were held in a log schoolhouse that stood near that place. Feeble in the beginning, this organization had no settled minister, but was supplied occasionally by preachers from other churches. Indeed, the history of these early congregations shows that financially they were weak, and under the necessity of making a joint effort to support a settled minister. But this was not the only reason. The church history informs us that about this time there were nearly twice as many church organizations of this denomination as there were regularly licensed and approved ministers; consequently it was a matter of compulsion that several should unite in calling a minister conjointly. Rev. David Marinus, who was called to serve at Acquackanonk and Pompton conjointly in 1752, occasionally preached at Old Boonton. From 1762 to 1767, Rev. Cornelius Blaw, of the "Conferentic" party, served this church. conjointly with those at Fairfield, Totowa and Pompton. From 1772 to 1791 the pulpit was supplied occasionally by Rev. Hermanus Meyer, who was the settled pastor at Totowa and Pompton Plains. In 1794 this church united with that at the Plains in calling Rev. Stephen Ostrander, who preached at Old Boonton one quarter of the time for about seven years.

In 1801 this congregation appointed a committee, consisting of Silas Cook, Edmund Kingsland, Richard Duryea and Henry Van Ness, and authorized them to purchase a place for a parsonage; and on the 13th of April that year they bought of Samuel Stiles a house and about twenty-two acres of land at Lower Montville, near the residence of Richard Duryea. It is said this parsonage was occupied briefly by a Rev. W. P. Kuypers, who preached from 1801 to 1805 at Old Boonton. Little use was made of this place as a parsonage, and the records show that Silas Cook, Henry Van Ness, and Edmund Kingsland, a committee appointed by the congregation for the purpose, sold it by deed dated February 8, 1805 to Dr. George Wurts, who resided there about thirty-five years, until his death.

When Rev. Mr. Ostrander became the pastor, this church took the necessary course to become incorporated, and as a matter of interest we copy from the records the following: "We the ministers, elders, and deacons of the Reformed Dutch Congregation at Boonton do certify that the said congregation is named the First Reformed Dutch Congregation at Boonton; and we hereby wish the same to be recorded in the clerk's office of the county of Morris, agreeable to an act of the Legislature of the State of New Jersey passed November 25th 1789; as witness Our hands and seals this - day of November 1795." Signed by Stephen Ostrander, V. D. M., and by Lucas Von Beverhoudt, Jacob Kanous Sen., Jacob Romine, and Michael Cook as elders, and by Jacob Kanous Jr., Frederick Miller and Henry Mourison as deacons.

After 1805, this church seems to have been served with preachers occasionally from other churches. Alden's Register reports the pulpit of the church at Boonton as vacant in 1810 and 1811. Rev. John Duryea, who was settled at Fairfield, occasionally preached at Boonton from about 1812 to 1816. Levi Stiles, now over 85 years old, relates his recollection of an incident connected with Mr. Duryea's preaching at Boonton. In the beginning of the war of 1812, in the course of his sermon one Sunday, suddenly digressing, in an animated appeal to the people he broke forth with the exclamation, " Young men, one and all, gird on your swords and rush to the war!" This, Mr. Stiles says, surprised many and gave offense to some of those present.

About this time, the people began to agitate the question of building a new church, and in order to have it more central to the congregation it was determined to remove to the present location at Montville. Preparatory to this end the church edifice at Boonton was taken down, in order that such parts of the material as were found sound and available might be used in the new structure; and about the year 1818 a new church was built on a site on the north side of the road and directly opposite the present church, and it was opened for services the next year. The land for the site and for a burial ground was obtained from Garret Duryea and the quantity first bought was forty-hundredths of an acre; the church edifice was erected before the deed for the land was made out, which bears date October 8, 1819. This edifice was in dimensions about 30 by 50 feet, and was two stories in height, with a steeple in front, and finished inside with a double row of pews on each side of a central aisle, with a side and end gallery; built after the old style with a heavy frame of white oak timber, it was a very substantial building. It served this congregation thirty-eight years, and when it was removed in 1856 most of the timber in the frame was found to be sound, although some of it had been in use at Boonton and Montville nearly a hundred years.

After the removal to Montville the first minister settled as the pastor was James G. Brinckerhoof; he began about 1821 and continued until 1824, when disturbances arose in the congregation touching doctrinal points, from which a division resulted, a portion, with whom Mr. Brinckerhoof sided, going off and forming an organization which they called the "True Reformed Dutch Church." By this party a house for worship was erected soon after about two miles South on the road to Pine Brook.

Last Updated ( Friday, 02 November 2007 )
 
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