Sunday, October 16, 2011

South Orange Borders III


This time we'll look at borders in the South Orange area before there was a local government called South Orange.

The map shows boundaries of 1834 in a heavy line:

The Orange-Clinton boundary

The strangest feature to modern eyes is the boundary of Orange and Clinton, cutting modern South Orange Village in two. This lasted for 27 years, from the formation of Clinton in 1834 to the formation of South Orange (Township) in 1861.

I cannot identify anything today that corresponds to the Orange-Clinton boundary. The best reference I could find was this 1850 map:

The 1850 map shows a straight line from a point in what is now the South Mountain Reservation to a point on South Orange Avenue that looks to me like the corner of Grove Street. The boundary then follows the middle of South Orange Avenue to a point off this map near what is now another Grove Street in Newark. Most of the settlement called South Orange was just south of the Orange-Clinton line, including the Morris and Essex Railroad station and the houses and businesses downtown. But the line is still awkwardly located. As South Orange grew, spreading north of the line, people must have objected to it. This may have influenced creation of the Township of South Orange and the reunion of the whole settlement of South Orange into one jurisdiction.

The west end of the straight line catches the eye as the end point of six boundary lines, four of them current in 1834 and two more later on. The 1850 map shows a building at that point called Keene's Mill, an establishment for which I could find no further information. As shown in 1850, it is between a road and the West Branch of the Rahway, while modern— presumably more accurate— maps show the point as being on the road. But the road may have been relocated.

One of the other lines from Keene's Mill is the old Orange-Springfield boundary, shown on the 1850 map crossing Ridgewood Road just north of the Crooked Brook and the Timothy Ball house with the label "N Ball" for the current owner in 1850.

Above: the site of Keene's Mill, October 16, 2011. I wondered whether there was any evidence of the mill, so Helen and I walked around there in the reservation. We found a series of small rapids in the stream at this point that was probably enough of a drop to power a mill. We could not find any stone foundation walls, but there was a double line of stones that looked man-made, shown in this photograph. Maybe it had to do with the raceway that carried water to a water wheel.

The Breakup of Orange

The map illustrates the breakup of the large Township of Orange in the 1860s. The first move was the formation of Clinton in 1834 out of the rural parts of four townships, including Orange. But a quarter century later things began to happen fast.

The reorganization of Orange in 1860 from a Township to a Town— yes those are different forms of local government in New Jersey— seems to have set the stage for breakups.

1861: South Orange was formed from parts of Orange and Clinton.

1862: The short-lived Fairmount was formed from parts of Orange and Livingston up on the mountain. The remainder of Orange after this was a more compact and homogeneous area that included all of the center of business and population that ran along Main Street and the Morris and Essex Railroad from Newark to the foot of the mountain.

1863: East Orange was formed, separating the east end of the built-up area.

1863: West Orange was formed, separating the west end of the built-up area, and also including all of Fairmount, which had existed for just 13 months.

The series of changes in just two years left Orange a small fraction of itself, the smallest of the four municipalities with Orange in their name.

I don't know the rest of this story. I imagine it might have to do with early suburban development, and possibly local political gamesmanship. The timing of it, during the Civil War, might be significant.


Millburn is slightly off topic, but since part of modern Maplewood was originally within Millburn, it's worth a mention.

Union County, the last county created in New Jersey, was formed in 1857 from the southern half of Essex. There had been a longstanding rivalry between the colonial towns of Newark and Elizabeth, the latter being the older and for a time more important of the two. But to my knowledge the main factor in its creation was some political advantage in the state legislature.

Springfield, one of the earliest townships in Essex, was split by the county division, and since the old settlement of Springfield was within the new county, that part retained the name Springfield. The part remaining in Essex was formed into a new township called Millburn.

Town historian Marian Meisner wrote in 1957 in A History of Millburn Township that the new county line mostly followed the colonial-era boundary between Newark and Elizabeth ...
[...] but in 1857, when the line reached Millburn, it was abruptly changed to include Millburn in Essex County. The story goes that several of the Millburn people responsible for the formation of the new Township, either held political office in Essex County, or had aspirations to do so, and it is evident that a shift of the township into the new County of Union would cause a sudden change in the political fates of some ambitious citizens.
You can see the relatively straight county line on the first map above. The colonial-era boundary continued that line to the end of the First Mountain— about where the South Mountain Reservation entrance now is, opposite the Millburn railroad station— and then on to Chatham Bridge. The county line as established in 1857 still ends at Chatham Bridge, but detours to the south around Millburn.

It's an interesting speculation, even if, as Meisner wrote, it is only as "the story goes". A boundary between Millburn and Maplewood along that line would even today follow more closely the apparent boundary of suburban development, crossing Ridgewood Road near its southern end and Wyoming Avenue at Glen Avenue.

Millburn was a new name in 1857. The settlement and railroad station had been called Millville, but the Post Office would not use that name because there was already another Millville post office in New Jersey, in Cumberland County. Millburn was an alternate name sometimes used by an early Scottish settler, Samuel Campbell, and was the name agreed on in 1857 when the township was created. Even though mills were the basis of the town's economy, Millburn sounds more picturesque and was likely more attractive to the suburban development that was just starting at that date.

Next: The colonial boundaries.


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