Hungarian immigrants have been part of Franklin since its inception in the early 1900’s. Many flocked to this small corner of northern New Jersey to work in the zinc mines of Franklin Furnace. In 1913 Franklin was officially recognized as a borough of NJ. While Hungarians remained interwoven within the fabric of Franklin from its founding, the population has dwindled to become little more than a scarce ancestral relation that many in the town attempt to trace back to. “Everybody in Franklin is Hungarian!” jokes John Sowden, a Franklin resident and member of the Franklin Heritage Society(FHS).
Yet, even as ancestral memories fade, the last few years have seen a sudden subtle resurgence of this lost legacy. In a moment of forethought, a rare gift was offered to the FHS – the old Hungarian church. The land the church resided on was bought and before the church was torn down, it was offered to the FHS if they were willing to have it moved.
Despite the many questions and concerns of whether the building would survive the move, it now rests on a plot on Main Street opposite the Franklin Heritage Museum. While it remains intact on a new foundation, the church still needs work and funding.
My topic, “Hungarians in Franklin” would chronicle the influx of Hungarians into Franklin and the roles they played in the mining trade and cultural life of Franklin. The culminating piece of the exhibit would be the plight of the church and its relocation, along with the efforts to reinvigorate awareness of the cultural legacy of Hungarians in Franklin.