South Orange and its' seventy-five years

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By Marjorie Weil c.1944

South Orange and its' beginnings.

South Orange was created January 26, 1861 after having been a part of Clinton since the year 1836 and the town of Fairmount which had its beginning March 11, 1862. The southern part of Clinton which was called South Orange, was sparsely settled, having only about thirty houses, the Presbyterian Church, Columbian School, a tavern at the corner of South Orange Ave and Valley street, and the general stores of Ira Taylor and John Freeman. The post office was opened in Freeman's store October 8, 1941 but was discontinued for a year and then reestablished in 1843.

The boundaries of South Orange were as follows:

Beginning at the line between Orange and Newark, half a mile north of South Orange Ave. then south to the bridge over the east branch of the Elizabeth river taking in the estates of William Steckman, Daniel Heddeu, Charles Q. Lum, J. E. Courter, Samuel Headley, Peter Failade and there to James E. Smith's land on the top of the first mountain, adjoining Walker Rd. and then to D.W. Smith's house on Scotland Street, then to Center Street and back to the place of beginning. These boundaries take in Maplewood as well.

The people of South Orange were prosperous and their farms were the choicest in New Jersey. The center of town was what is now called the village. Jefferson village was the name given tot he southern part of the township in honor of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson village soon lost its fine name after John W. Sedden about 1861 purchased 30 acres of property and along with a few residents they built a railroad station on Morris and Essex Railroad and called it Maplewood - the name inspired by Mrs. Elijah Gardner because of the large Maple tree which stood near the station.

On March 25, 1869, 76 years ago, and "act to incorporate the Village of South Orange in the county of Essex" was pssed. The boundaries were as follows:

From Center Street to 100 ft south of Seton Hall College farm house to a point on Irvington Avenue to the center line of Prospect Street ane then to the foot of the Mountain back to Center Street. These boundaries are the same ones we know today.

The village of South Orange had as its first president L.L. Coudert and for its trustees there were William J. Beebe, Abijah F. Tillou, Theodore Blume, Thomas Fenner, James W.C. Gardner and William Redmond. Beebe and Redmond soon resigned and George B. Turrell and Eugene Plumbett resumed their positions. Mr. Turgell became president in 1871. He made vast researches of road making and he described it as "construction by repairs" This method was adopted in repairing the village streets.

John Vose, a New York layer was influential in attracting New Yorkers to settle in the Montrose Section of South Orange, for he purchased 70 acres of land and laid out streets and plots of land.

The first school to be recognized was the Columbia school in 1814, long before South Orange wsa incorporated. Seventy-three citizens were enrolled, and the official name given was the "Columbian School of South Orange". A resolution of December 31, 1814 read, "first, that the trustees of the said school do proceed in arrangement for building; second, that the said building be built on what is commonly call the school house common; third, that the said building be build of wood, two stories high, forty-five feet in breadth'. This school is a part of what is now called South Orange Jr. High. The building was completed in October 1815 and at a meeting they it was resolved "that the price of tuition be fixed at $1.75 per quarter, for spelling, reading, and writing." On additional charge of 25 cents was added for arithmetic.

The cost of upkeep for the school was dived among the pupils. The wood building was replaced by a brick one in 1880, though the second story was not completed for three more years. The cost of the new school was $16,000. In 1867 the school district was changed for No. 6 Clinton to No. 28 South Orange Township, which also included Valisburg. During Dr. Elmer E. Schermans' term as principal from 1887-1893 free text books and supplied were introduced and the High School was established. Miss Etla Killburn was the first graduate and the only in her class. It was in 1891 that manual training was added to the course and that the Hgih School course was made for four years. In 1898 a brick addition was built on the Columbian School, for which $25,000 was spent. In 1894 the township fo South Orange consisted of three school districts - Hilton, Maplewood, and the village.

In 1913 the Fielding School was erected in honor of Charles Gale Fielding, president of the Board of Education for several years.

In 1920 Marshal School was built in honor of James Marshal, president of the Board from 1916-1919.

The general plan for the development of the School system was to have elementary schools throughout the district, so that there would be one near every young child, there the schools at which the young adolescents would be concentrated and one for the older youth. The Columbian School although it only arranged for the accommodation of 750 pupils had in 1920 1,089 pupils.

A tradition of South Orange and Maplewood had its beginning a few years before 1920. It was set up by the Board of Education, suggest by a few members of the Grand Army of the Republic living in South Orange, in which on every Memorial Day Two procession forms, one from each town,k which march to the center of the district, at the Columbia High School, not far from the cemetery and"there in a most beautiful setting have joined in inspirational exercises such as cannot fail to train all who attend in true patriotism."

For the purpose of encouraging outdoor sports, all organization was formed known as the South Orange Field Club, one of the most widely known in Northern New Jersey. In the autumn of 1889 a five-year lease was signed with the Meadow Land Society for use of the field north of So. Orange Avenue, between the railroad and the East Branch of the Rahway. Tennis courts, baseball diamonds, bowling alleys were installed . In winter part of the field was flooded for skating. A golf course was soon opened in the vicinity of the park.

Rev. Louis Cameron, rector of the Church of the Holy Communion, was stricken with a serious illness in 1909, and sympathies poured in the rectory. The minister, loved by all, was the faithful guardian of the parish since 1895, had also severed local organizations namely Century Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, as its Master. A memorial was erected in memory of this great man. It was a five-acre tract of land situated on the east branch of the Rahway river, for a playground for children. This field was called the Cameron Field.

The Seton Hall College was built in 1860 as a Catholic institution. It was named for Mother Seton, who introduced the Sistes of Charity into the United States.

Seventy-five years have passed since the village form of government was adopted for this section of South Orange. There are twenty five miles of streets, nearly all paved and the area of the village is 1,575 acres. The idea of culture and refinement has been well sustained in South Orange.

Recently there have been various attempts to bring about a consolidation of all the oranges or a greater Newark which would include most of Essex County, but the citizen of South Orange are opposed to any such union, feeling that the village ideals and characters would be lost. But the village is and always be willing to cooperate with its neighbors in any project.

The village government has been general progressive through the years. A recent Princeton Survey, ordered by the Board of Trustees has gone over thoroughly the work of each department recommending changes.

Download a copy of the original document here

(Essay was donated to the library by Nancy Janow).