By Frank Dale

As the numbers on the calendar flip like the speedometer on an old trusty car, historians still have to be careful when they refer to the "last century." Thankfully there are those that pay close attention to where we've been; and where we might be headed. Noted author and historian Frank Dale reviews some out-of-the-way places and groups you may get acquainted with this year.


Neldon Roberts House. Photo Karen Stevenson

Gold mines are hard to find in our area but at least one still exists... in Montague, in Sussex County. Tucked away in the very northwestern corner of our state, hugging the beautiful rural Delaware River, is a very dedicated historical group with the impressive name of The Montague Association for the Restoration of Community History. And these people do an impressive job.

Accompanied by Alicia Batko, the group's official historian, I attended a weekly work session recently at the group's headquarters in a nicely restored home, now museum, identified as the Foster-Armstrong House at 320 River Road, Montague. Mr. Foster built the rather large house in 1790. James Armstrong married a Foster girl and both families lived here together. The Armstrongs were living here until the Federal Government took it over in 1970 as part of the proposed but never-carried-out Tocks Island Dam project.

Foster-Armstrong House. MARCH file photo

Today, this historical society operates the Foster-Armstrong Homestead and also the Neldon-Roberts Stonehouse at 501 Route 206 in Montague. The township's population, incidentally, is now 2500 good people. In the summer, tours are given through both houses and they are open Sundays to the public. Both of these homes are on 5-year leases by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The historical society has no rent to pay but must maintain the buildings, heat them, furnish them with historical items, and keep them open to the public for historical exhibits and programs. This group does it, gladly. Every room is furnished or used to display historical items. Some pieces go back to the early period in the area's history. There's a Native American room for Indian items, and one room is filled with military uniforms, some from our recent military activities. The old attic is being converted into a special display area. The historical furniture, pictures, papers, cooking utensils, clothing items, and so forth, are primarily from the local area and given by local people who feel this museum is the safest place for them. They are probably right.

The Association publishes a newsletter for its members four times a year and members are invited to submit articles to appear in it. The Association holds its historical programs the last Thursday of each month at 7:30 pm at the Foster-Armstrong House but refreshments start earlier, at 7:00 pm; everybody is invited.

Take Route 206 almost to the Delaware River Bridge but make the last right turn, Route 521, before you cross the bridge. Go about 3/4 of a mile. The Foster-Armstrong House is on the left. The office phone is (973) 293-3106. Or visit the association's website.

Sussex County Historical Society

One of our most rural, old, and beautiful counties is served by what is rapidly becoming a first-rate historical association.

Hill Memorial Building at 82 Main Street

The Sussex County Historical Society is located just one block from the center square in Newton in the unique Hill Memorial Building at 82 Main Street (Route 206). This organization was founded in 1904 and the stone structure that is its home, library, and museum, was constructed with funds given by county citizen, Joshua Hill, in 1916. The two-story and basement structure, loaded with extensive collections of historical texts, maps, photos, 3000 glass photo plates made from 1880 to the 1920s, farming and manufacturing items, and much more; and with a large second-floor meeting room, was placed on the State and National Register of Historic Places. The building is the oldest historical museum in New Jersey and is owned and maintained by the County of Sussex.

This structure, and its organization, is just concluding a massive renovation and modernization. The group's new leadership, headed by President Robert Longcore, and an ambitious and vigorous Board of Directors and staff, is organizing a series of programs to be held in this fine building. It is also planning to offer extensive support and programs for local community historical organizations. Under preparation now is a program about the building itself and its rich past with emphasis on new collections that are available here. In addition, President Longcore is inviting each municipal historical society in the county to place a display of some of its items on a rotating basis for three to four weeks and to offer an evening program relating to these featured items. Each Saturday the local group will be expected to offer a Saturday morning program entitled; "Just for Kids and Their Parents". When the restorage is finished, probably by January, meetings will be held here again on a regular schedule.

Directly across Main Street from the museum is the original cemetery in Newton, the Old Newton Graveyard, where the evolution of grave stones and the technique for restoring them is studied. This cemetery dates back to 1762 and for the next 100 years after that, was the only cemetery in town. It is studied and used as a teaching tool by the Historical Society.

New membership is welcomed, indeed encouraged, in this exciting and innovative historical organization. People from within and outside the county are encouraged to join by an amazingly low annual rate: Students under 18, $5; individual, $10, husband and wife, $15. Members are entitled to free use of the facility, the receipt of regular publications, and, of course, are welcomed, indeed encouraged, to attend the regular meetings. The mailing address is: Sussex County Historical Society. 82 Main Street, PO Box 913, Newton, NJ 07860 Phone: (973) 383-6010

Phillipsburg Historical Society

If lately you've sensed a rebirth or recovery beginning in old Phillipsburg on the Delaware, you're right; and the group right up front, leading the way, is the Phillipsburg Historical Society.

This active group is led by young Wayne Sherrer who has high hopes for the Society's ability to make life richer for the old-timers and the new arrivals. The Phillipsburg Historical Society has a three-room library, museum, and office in the lower level of the Municipal Building at 675 Corliss Avenue, in Phillipsburg. The first room, as one enters the facility, is the organization's historical library with a wide selection of books relating to the town and its surrounding area. There are numerous Morris Canal books here-Phillipsburg is the location where, in 1824, the canal began-and similar sources dealing with the Delaware River, or covering such industrial local giants as Ingersoll-Rand, Andover Iron Company, and Warren Foundry. Many of the documents and maps date back to the last century. The room also contains a genealogical collection listing a large number of local families, copies of the publication Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey, and other genealogical publications. The place has an extensive photographic collection with a major contribution by local photographer and historian, Ron Wynkoop.

The second room contains some 37 vertical file drawers and 10 large horizontal file drawers. which contain a vast amount of local information. Old tax maps are here as well as large and growing collections of the many newspapers that serviced the area. A good-sized table occupies the center of the room for the convenience of working historians.

The third room is a storage room containing a sizable amount of material that needs inspection, classification, and filing, a positive indication for a working historical association.

These rooms are open for research every Monday morning from 9:00 to 12:00 and usually on Friday mornings as well. Special appointments can be arranged for a researcher who needs additional time, at the phone numbers listed below.

In addition, the Society mails five news letters to all of the 120 members of the group before each of the five meetings held each year. Each news letter contains historical information and also announces the topic and speaker of the forthcoming meeting. The group meetings are held at a different location than the museum-library; they are held at the Phillipsburg Senior Center, 310 Firth Avenue, Phillipsburg. They are held on the fourth Thursday of January, March, May, and September, and the third Thursday in November to avoid a conflict with Thanksgiving Day. The meeting time is 7:30 PM.

For phone contact for further information, the numbers are: (908) 213-1409 or (908) 454-0816. Make a point of visiting the library or attending a meeting of the Phillipsburg Historical Society. You won't regret it.

Pike County Historical Society

This special institution is located in Milford, Pennsylvania, on 608 Broad Street. From New Jersey come into the center of town to a traffic light and turn right. That's Broad Street. The street runs along the west shore of the Delaware River. The building is several blocks up Broad Street on the left. When the Pike County Historical Society was founded in 1930, its first President was Giffard Pinchot, who was also one of the state's outstanding governors.

The Society's quarters are in a large mansion, originally the twelve-bedroom summer home of a rich Jersey City politician about a century ago. It consists of three floors and a basement, all presently in use. It was purchased by the Pike County Historical Society in 1983.

The building is in immaculate condition with beautiful pictures and photos on the wall. The rooms are large and spacious, comfortable appearing. Thousands of volumes of reference books are here, biographies geographies, military books, an endless supply of old magazines. Newspapers abound recorded on tape. On my recent visits, there were always several people there to help me locate information in the building or to tell me where else such information could be found.

Several rooms are lined with historical and genealogical exhibits. For example, exhibits relating to the county's Civil War activities are on display. On show now, too, is an exhibit entitled "Rural Economy". There is on display here the authentic stagecoach "Hiawatha", which operated between Port Jervis and Dingmans from 1860 to 1920. And coming up soon, an exhibit on the 1864 wreck of the Civil War prisoner train in nearby Shohola in which many Confederate prisoners were killed.

Make a point of visiting this very special place in eastern Pennsylvania on our Delaware River. You won't be sorry. Library hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 1 to 4 pm, and this offers exhibits, genealogy and the local county history library. The charge for one use of the institution is 50¢ for a child, $3 for adults, and if the librarian can provide you with genealogy information, the charge is $15. Or you can become a full member of this organization at a cost of $15 for the year and use the library freely and receive the first-rate historical booklets in the mail regularly. I joined.

Freelance writer Frank Dale is noted for his portraits of places of historical note in northwest New Jersey. In addition to years of writing for newspapers and periodicals he has published Delaware Diary, a book filled with fascinating episodes in the river's life. He also publishes an ongoing series of engaging booklets called the Warren County Chronicles.


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Montague Historian
11 Jul 2014, 09:21
Responding to Lyell Webb post:
The newspaper with the obituary for Samuel W.Leeper is the Sept. 24, 1914 Middletown Daily Times Press and the page is posted at sam-w-leeper-obit.pdf
He died at Butler, NJ.. but was buried at Fairview Cem. in Sussex.
Lyell R. Webb
04 Jun 2013, 08:38
Samuel W. Leeper Looking for any information on the above Ancestor who died on Sept. 17,1914. I understand he is buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Sussex but I was never able to confirm this.
Montague Historian
09 May 2013, 11:03
My email is listed on the township website at \r\n and I can respond to the Larney/ Martin inquiries.
Jeanne Lynn Roucken
09 May 2013, 10:57
I am responding to Comment March 17, 2013 of William Stafford. I am related directly to Jane Larney Martin. I visit her grave at Christmas when I am able. So, if he has seen a wreath 2 Christmass ago on Joseph's grave and Jane's it was me. We live in Port Jevis, NY\r\n\r\nJane was married to Henry Martin who was in the Civil War and is bured in Arlington, VA He died in the war. I have a copy of his last letter to his wife, Jane. I would need to search for that copy. As I get older, I am getting less organized. Annie Martin DeGroat was still alive in her early 100s. She took a cousin to the cemetery. Annie lived in upstate NY near or around Sidney. I would love to know more about the families. My grandmother was Lillian Martin VanGorden Owens. Born in PA lived in Middletown, NY Her husband Henry VanGorden died in 1945. She remarried Elisha Owens.
Montague Historian
19 Mar 2013, 11:32
Contact info is also on township's website under directory.
Montague Historian
17 Mar 2013, 14:27
Please contact me directly regarding Jane (Larney) Martin. She and a son, Joseph, and a daughter, Irene (Martin) Junker, are buried at the cemetery behind the Monisink Reformed Church in town. There were other children also.
William Stafford
17 Mar 2013, 10:04
Any info on Jane Martin, born 1830, married to Henry Martin around 1850 in Shahola Falls, PA. Henry killed in Civil War 1864, VA. Who were Jane's parents and were they from Ireland or NJ. Jane's maiden name was Jane Larney. Jane lived all her married life in Montague NJ, log cabin, raised Joe, John, Irene, Eleanor Martin. Appreciate any info. Thank you.
Montague Historian
29 Aug 2012, 16:00
Jennifer - the house itself was built in the early part of the 1800's and sections were added later. \r\nThe stone portion is definitely older than the house.. it's date is not known.\r\nSadly, owned by the Federal Gov't due to the Tocks Island acquisitions, nothing has been done to help preserve it. \r\nYou can contact me directly via the email listed for the township historian on the Montague,NJ website.
Jennifer Sutton
15 May 2012, 13:09
Thank you, Montague Historian! Any idea when the house was built? It is very dilapidated as I admit to having a look and taking some photos when I was passing through. I am curious about the original stone structure in the rear of the house which looks the oldest... Thank you, Jennifer
14 May 2012, 05:14
That house is eligible and pending a National Register designation, but is currently on the NJ State Historic Register - known as the Nelden-Hornbeck site. Locals recall it as Hickory {Hyckory} Hill or the Roberts Farm - the last family who resided there, before the Tocks Island acquisitions of the 1970's. That was deauthorized, but expanded the Del. Water Gap Nat'l Recr. Area. The many barns which once existed there were removed - from it's period as a well-known dairy farm.\r\nGeorge Nelden was involved with the bridge commission which erected the first bridge linking NJ to Milford PA in the late 1820's. It is on the perimeter of what once was our village, known as Brick House, so named for the tavern which once sat near the bridge approach. The stonehouse across the way had been used as a schoolhouse - before it became a residence.\r\nWe are advocating to see the house preserved, not demolished, as it represents a rich heritage and much of that was lost to the Tocks Is. project.\r\n History.html
jennifer sutton
13 May 2012, 22:20
Does anybody know anything about the history of the spooky old house located off route 206 down a long driveway across from the Neldon Roberts Stonehouse, in Montague, NJ?? My boyfriend & I pass this house each time we drive from Hoboken to the Pononos and it's history has always intrigued us! Any info would be appreciated~ date built? who owned the house? last date occupied? etc etc. Thank you!
Montague Historian
23 May 2011, 16:52
NJ's GAR Post #50 was the Post named for John G. Tolmie and was located in Phillipsburg, NJ. It met in the PRR Depot Bldg. there in Warren County.\r\nA listing of their GAR members is at \r\n\r\n\r\nThat town has a historical society - the marker rightly should go to either of them.\r\nSociety's info can be located at:\r\
Frank Grzyb
23 May 2011, 12:59
I recently aquired a grave marker I believe to be from a Phillipsburg, NJ cemetery. It is marked GAR Post 50. It needs to be returned to where it originated. It is in fair condition and should go to a museum. The Sons of Union Veterans from the Phillipsburg area may also be interested in it. Though I paid for the marker, I desire no money, only wanting to return it so others can view it and understand the veterans' plight during the Civil War. The marker measures approximately 7" x 7". If you are the right people to accept it, please let me know.
Richard G. Foster Jr.
25 Jun 2010, 20:20
My great grandfather was editor of the Sussex Register.His name was Robert E.Foster.My grandfather worked there also.He was Robert Jr.My father and my middle name is Goodman.The name was in honer of the owner of the newspaper.Was Foster St. named after my family? I'm working on our family tree.Can you point me at any more information? Thanks. R.G.Foster Jr.
Bert Webb
22 Apr 2010, 12:21
I am researching a cemetary record for my g grandfather Samuel W Leeper, b 1837, d 9/1914 at the home of his son Fred Leeper, buried in Fairview Cemetary Sussex, Hamburg NJ. I have a copy of his death record saying he was buried there. I need to know who I can contact to find an actual record of his gravestone, & who is buried with him
Montague Historian
10 Jan 2010, 11:58
Fairview Cemetery is considered near Wantage/ Sussex boro. will see if I can locate caretaker.\r\n\r\n\r\nMonument.. I presume you mean tombstone.. for Arthur D. Crane.. is this the man who was involved with creating Lake Mohawk? Any date of death known, or place of residence / burial?\r\n
jay hayes
17 Dec 2009, 00:06
I am searching for info on a monument in northern NJ for Arthur Dod Crane\r\nThank you
kathleen watters
28 Nov 2009, 06:19
Your website link does not come up. I am researching a cemetary record for my g grandfather Samuel W Leeper, b 1837, d 9/1914 at the home of his son Fred Leeper, buried in Fairview Cemetary Sussex, Hamburg NJ. I have a copy of his death record saying he was buried there. I need to know who I can contact to find an actual record of his gravestone, & who is buried with him. I need an actual phone#. My # is 352 728-4329 Leesburg Fl. 34748 Thank you so much!
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