YouTube – Is it really all that useful of a research tool?

YouTube is a very well known and popular website boasting a whopping over 1 billion unique visitors a month.  It provides an excellent form of entertainment providing everything from viral videos of the Harlem Shake to full documentaries.  When it comes to YouTube you can find how-to videos on all sorts of different topics.  Over the past few years it has increasingly became a resource that will allow someone to byoutubeecome a do it yourself champion.  You can access YouTube and get lessons on a diverse amount of subjects.  Learn to cook an amazing meat loaf ( Something I have personally done) or fix that leaky faucet if you need to know how to do something YouTube is a wonderful place to turn.  With all of that being said the real question is,  does YouTube equate to  a useful academic research tool?  At first thought you may think this is a simple yes, but there are some things that one must be weary of when using YouTube to conduct research.

The first issue that comes to mind is the fact that YouTube is HUGE!  The vast amount of videos stored on their servers for one to access can make it difficult to find what your looking for.  For instance lets imagine that you are looking for a famous historic interview for a project of a famous politician.  There is a chance that when you first search you may run across a slew of parodies, fake videos, or clips from Family Guy.  I attribute this to the same as attempting to find information through a Google search.  There are going to be those times when you punch in your search term and amazingly the first return is familyguyexactly what you are searching for, and then there will be other times when you have to refine your search exhaustively to reach your goal.

Now here you sit, having completed your YouTube search on your topic, and in front of you sits a page full of what you think is useful information.  Off you go clicking away video after video to see if what you have found actually is something you can use.  When you plan to  use YouTube videos for your academic research you alone must sift through and watch each video to make sure that it will be a legitimate source.  The fact that there is so much user created content on YouTube one must be very careful when citing material.  Where is the information from this YouTube video actually coming from?  Was the precious video you found with a ton of useful information created from a fellow academic, or was it created by someone who watched a documentary on the History Channel and formed a strong opinion?  It is up to you as an academic to make sure you check the sources of the video as well as watch the whole video to make sure it is what it seems.

Now that I have expressed some of the concerns that go along with using a resource such as YouTube I would like to say that I think it is an amazingly powerful tool.  The ability to access the shear amount of content that exists at the quick click of a mouse is superb.  If you learn how to use proper search terms you can easily weed out much of the garbage that you may run into.  For those you are interested in local history you may find videos of locations pertaining to your research without even stepping out of you home.  While the vast majority of people think of YouTube as a source of entertainment those who take the time and invest in learning to use it as a research tool will not be disappointed.

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New Jersey’s Most Famous Forgotten Politician

The state of New Jersey has a known connection to both Presidents Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.  After these two well-known figures of national importance to American history, not much is known about another man who should rank high on New Jersey’s list of prominent politicians.  Garret Augustus Hobart was elected Vice President of the United States for the administration of William McKinley beginning on March 4, 1897 and lasting until Hobart’s death while in office on November 21, 1899.  As is the case with most Vice Presidents who never became elected the nation’s chief executive, Garret Hobart has predominantly been forgotten amongst the lexicon of American politicians.  While few Americans are familiar with the fact he fulfilled the second highest role in the executive branch of the federal government, even fewer people are aware he is a native of New Jersey.[1]

Garret A. Hobart

Garret A. Hobart (c. 1896)

The future Vice President was born in June 1844 in Long Branch to a family who made its living through farming.  The young man attended Rutgers and a short while after graduation began practicing law in Paterson where among his peers he constructed a distinguished reputation for himself.  On July 21, 1869 Garret married Jennie Tuttle, the daughter of a politically well-connected lawyer and politician.  Additionally, Hobart’s years in Paterson were productive.  He showed a remarkable talent in railroad management while initiating a successful and rising local and state political career.  He served in several elected New Jersey state and national Republican positions between the early 1870s until his election as Vice President.[2]

William McKinley and Garret Hobart

William McKinley and Garret Hobart

By 1896 Hobart rose to become the Vice Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  He was also considered by McKinley’s campaign manager to be the presidential hopeful’s running mate in the upcoming election.[3] Mark Hanna, the architect of McKinley’s path to victory, viewed the wealthy Paterson politician and industrialist as an ideal partner on the Republican Party ticket.  Working in Hobart’s favor were several factors.  He was a wealthy industrialist who enjoyed a favorable relationship with many corporations.  As an eastern politician he would geographically balance the ticket since McKinley was from the Old Northwestern state of Ohio.  Finally, Hobart recently had been instrumental to wrestling New Jersey away from Democratic control.  Not since Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign for a second term as President in 1872 had the Republican Party been successful in securing the state’s electoral votes.  Hanna sought Hobart for the nomination as Vice President in order to help secure the crucial state.[4]

While the Republican presidential nominee in 1896 conducted his famous “front porch campaign,” Hobart actively campaigned on occasion throughout New Jersey and New York City.  His efforts assisted in helping the Republican Party once again place their candidate in the Executive Mansion.[5] The Hobarts moved from their upscale Paterson mansion to a Washington, D.C. home across from the presidential residence in Lafayette Square.  In their new location the family frequently entertained domestic and foreign visitors.  Jennie Hobart was often thrust into the role of hostess for White House functions held by President McKinley as a result of Ida McKinley’s constant struggles with illness.[6] As for Garret Hobart’s role as Vice President he was said to have been a diligent worker who regularly attended Senate sessions.

Vice President Garret A. Hobart

Vice President Garret A. Hobart

In the fall of 1898 the Vice President was diagnosed with a heart ailment.  He was afflicted with “weakness, breathing difficulties, and periodic fainting spells.”[7] Political circles around the capital knew of Hobart’s suffering by the spring of 1899.  Some doubted whether he would be capable of withstanding a re-election campaign.  The spring and summer were spent quietly along the Jersey Shore in Long Branch with the exception of a few leisurely travels.  By late September 1899, his condition having not improved, Hobart was brought back to his Paterson home, Carroll Hall.[8]

After almost two months of battling his illness while at home, Vice President Garret Hobart died of congestive heart failure that was suspected to have been brought on by a rare virus.[9] His public viewing, which took place in the library of his beloved Paterson home, generated a traffic jam of visitors the city previously never experienced.  An estimated 200,000 people viewed the Vice President’s procession to the church prior to his burial in Paterson along the Passaic River at Cedar Lawn Cemetery.  Initially buried near his father-in-law, he was reinterred in 1902 within the same cemetery in a newly constructed mausoleum.[10]

Though Garret Hobart has been widely forgotten, he remains a central part of Paterson history.  A thorough examination of his time in office will undoubtedly demonstrate his lasting influences within the country and upon the role of Vice President.  He will always remain a notable politician in New Jersey history.  If he had survived to see McKinley’s second term, he would have become the first President from New Jersey upon McKinley’s death at the hand of an assassin in September 1901.


[1] The Patersonian (Sykesville, MD: Great Falls Publishing Company), 3.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Michael J. Connolly, “’I Make Politics My Recreation’: Vice President Garret A. Hobart and Nineteenth-Century Republican Business Politics,” New Jersey History 125, 22.

[4] Ibid., 25-26.

[5] Ibid., 27.

[6] The Patersonian, 14.

[7] Connolly, “’I Make Politics My Recreation’: Vice President Garret A. Hobart and Nineteenth-Century Republican Business Politics,” 33.

[8] Ibid., 33-34.

[9] The Patersonian, 32.

[10] Ibid., 33.

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Memorializing the Lost’s War

“Armed neutrality is ineffectual enough at best… it is likely only to produce what it was meant to prevent; it is practically certain to draw us into the war without either the rights or the effectiveness of belligerents… the wrongs against which we now array ourselves are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.”

-Woodrow Wilson, Speech to Congress, April 2, 1917

20140227_115014   The decision to intercede in World War I remains a controversial one to this day, haunting the legacy of the Wilson administration. In addition to setting the tune of American foreign policy with an internationalist ring, Wilson committed 4,000,000 soldiers to France during the war. Of these doughboys, roughly 1,000,000 were processed through Camp Merritt, New Jersey.

The trial endured by the citizen soldiers of the Great War, while popular in historical memory, is less well championed by the general public. How wars are memorialized is an integral step to healing the wounds it has caused. Additionally, memorials themselves are important to remembering what transpired and who was affected. Today, there is no museum where the army base once stood, only a single lonely obelisk in the middle of a Cresskill traffic loop. Though an impressive sight, when juxtaposed with the monumental importance of Merritt, the obelisk seems more like a testament less to those who served and more to how lost Hemingway’s generation was.

The camp itself served as a way point and training station for US servicemen on their way to France. Of considerable size, Merritt stretched across 770 acres of land that now makes up the Boroughs of Dumont, Cresskill, Haworth and Demarest. The camp boasted a whole self contained society that included amenities such as tailor shops, fire departments and athletic clubs. This infrastructure was needed to mitigate the impact of the 1919 influenza outbreak that hit the base in March. As many as 1000 cases of hospitalization from Spanish Influenza were reported by October that year. Merritt was closed in January 1920 and its staff was reassigned to Fort Dix.

In 1924, during a procession overseen by General John J. Pershing, the 65 foot obelisk that currently stands in Cresskill was dedicated opened to the public. Now the monument stands alone in a park with no chairs or recreational attractions, only a few trees as company. It lumbers mute and somber over passing cars and local East Asian eateries; it is almost an unwelcome anachronism reminding the locals of what transpired in their town. The 578 lives lost in the camp adorn the sides of the monument while the front brandishes a relief of an idealized soldier in the Neo-Classical style that characterizes much of American art.

20140227_115112                                               20140227_115056

The monument lets you know that people died there and that the location related in some way to the war. However, the monument clearly does little to tell the story of Camp Merritt; nothing is truly said about what happened in Cresskill in 1917 or how important the work done by the Americans there was to the defeat of the Central Powers. Does the memorial truly help America remember the sacrifices endured by the million soldiers who were processed through Merritt or is it merely paying lip service to the war that fundamentally altered a generation of Americans?

20140227_115206

For Further Reading:

Kevin Wright, “Camp Merritt,” Bergen County Historical Society, http://www.bergencountyhistory.org/Pages/campmerritt.html.

Bartholf, Howard E. “Camp Merritt, New Jersey,” On Point: The Journal of Army History, 2008 vol. 14, no. 2.

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Historic Property Databases Can Be Helpful To Research Too

Using the National Register of Historic Places for Research

hobart manor

Hobart Manor c. 1905

The National Register of Historic Places is a primary vehicle for identifying and protecting historic resources in the United States.  Established by the Historic Sites Act of 1935 and expanded by the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966, the National Register (NR) serves as the official list of historic resources at the national level.  It includes districts, sites, buildings, structures and other objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture.  Properties listed on the NR may have national significance, however most properties listed on the register are of state or local significance.

The National Park Service maintains a database that is searchable.  This database can be searched by name, architect, significant person, location and theme.  There are more than 88,000 properties have been listed in the NR. Together these records hold information on more than 1.4 million individual resources.  The documentation it consists of are the NR registration form which provides a physical description of the place, information about its history and significance, and a bibliography of sources.

The register database can be found at the following link: http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreghome.do?searchtype=natreghome.

Ailsa Farms

Ailsa Farms c. 1877

Using the NR as a resource tool is a worthy starting point to research on historic places. However, with any research, you can encounter a few problems if you do not know what you are looking for. For example I am actively researching the Garret A. Hobart family.  Mrs. Hobart purchased what is now Hobart Manor in 1902 and it went through renovations in the following years. However, unless you have prepared prior research, “Hobart Manor” will not appear in the National Register search engine. Hobart Manor was previously known as Ailsa Farms and in 1975 was placed on the NR.  Researching Ailsa Farms in the database, I was able to retrieve some photographs and a scanned PDF of the National Register Form that was filed in 1975.

Similar forms have even been done t the State and Local levels of landmark designations. My first task in Paterson was to write a local landmark staff report on Memorial Day Nursery.  Memorial Day Nursery was constructed through funds by Mrs. Jennie Tuttle Hobart. During my research this is how I discovered Hobart Manor’s previous name Ailsa Farms.  Statements of significance and historical context justification are the most important elements of any landmarking register.

With edits by G. Archimede, we were able to create this document about Memorial Day Nursery and Jennie Tutle Hobart (see below). It summarizes a various range of resources, which is very helpful to anyone who is doing research. (This example also acts as a sample of what a NR form would contain about a property.)

Historic Social Context & Significance of Memorial Day Nursery (Paterson, New Jersey) by G. Archimede & K. Ruffel

hobart

Jennie Tuttle Hobart c. 1897

The Children’s Day Nursery of Paterson was established in 1887, born of the compassion of Jennie Hobart Tuttle and twenty other women associated with the City Mission Auxiliary of the Society for Church Work of the Presbyterian Church of Redeemer (A3). By this time Paterson was approaching its industrial peak from which it became known as the Silk City. European immigration provided the workforce for such growth, and had steadily increased for over forty years leading up to the late 1880s, and traditionally, women and children averaged at just under half of the workforce in textile mills, while in some cases represented more than half of the laborers.  Large, industrial cities such as Paterson were faced with the dilemma of providing day care and education for their children from the beginning of industrialization, while most mothers feared leaving their children home alone, locked in a room, or even leaving them with unfit neighbors or on the streets.  The Children’s Day Nursery made this feat manageable and securing.  At the first location of the nursery, 399 Straight Street, families paid a daily charge of about five-cents for each child, for which the nursery became locally known as “the Nickel House.”  These proceeds assisted in the support of the institution.  Forty-five families trusted the staff and operations of the facility to care for their children in its first year, providing a total earnings of about $900.00, some which came also from contributions of the city and other charities.  By the second year the proceeds doubled, which indicated to many the importance of the nursery to the community and the success of the organization.  Many contributors and organized societies donated time and money to promote positivism, education, and cheer to the attending children and to all who participated.  After five years of providing child care, in 1892 the nursery was incorporated.  This success enabled the nursery to become tax exempt, and for the first time the nursery was able to receive yearly dues in full from the working families.  This timing aided the nursery’s ability to survive the recession of 1897, as many families were without work.  While by the turn of the century the success of the Paterson Day Nursery allowed for the purchase of the property at 399 Straight Street, it had outgrown its capacities there for some time.

A Paterson native, Jennie Tuttle Hobart was a philanthropist, a leader, advocate, and profound supporter of children’s and women’s rights, and was especially connected to the early women’s suffrage movement of the 1910-20s.  Born on April 30th, 1849 to Socrates and Jane (Winters) Tuttle, Mrs. Hobart’s life would be filled with grace, poise, and political sentiment.  Her father was a successful, eminent lawyer, and misfortune took her mother just soon after Jennie Tuttle was born.  Like her father, Mrs. Hobart grew to love politics and people, and as a girl was fascinated by discussions she heard in the home.  When she married Garret Augustus Hobart in July of 1869, it was a political match made in heaven.  They met as he was beginning his career as a lawyer and Republican politician working for her father’s law firm.  Once married, Mrs. Hobart maintained the “ideal” notion of a woman for the nineteenth century.  She was devoted to her home, and husband.  Garret Augustus Hobart was a graduate of Rutgers University and a practicing attorney for the city of Paterson.  He built a highly successful career for himself in Paterson which led to his involvement in Republican Party politics from 1871 to 1882.  Unfortunately, only one of the Hobart’s four children survived past childhood. With such personal grief and a drive to help those of the under privileged, Mrs. Hobart began to support the Paterson Orphan Asylum and the Old Ladies Home in 1883.  She served as the president of these organizations until 1922.  Mrs. Hobart expanded her public involvement through the Presbyterian Church and the Church of Redeemer in 1886 with the establishment the Children’s Day Nursery.

Mrs. Hobart’s local efforts in Paterson were interrupted when her husband Garret Hobart was elected as William McKinley’s Vice President of the US.  In 1896, Mrs. Hobart suspended her advocacy in Paterson for a brief time to move her family to Washington.  Mrs. Hobart’s experience and gift for entertaining and being a solid public figure made her duties as Second Lady natural and graceful.  Mrs. Hobart often served as hostess for President McKinley, as his wife was in poor health, and later Mrs. Hobart would recall that her life in the White house had “…no hardship to me but [it was] a pleasure…”  Her life as a Washington hostess ended with her husband’s death in office in 1899.

Garret Hobart’s funeral was held in Paterson and a bronze statue was erected in his honor directly in front of City Hall. Upon her return to Paterson, Mrs. Hobart continued her legacy and long career of philanthropy. Jennie Tuttle Hobart’s first contribution to Paterson after her husband’s death was the establishment of a new building for the Children’s Day Nursery. As a founder and avid supporter of the Nursery, Mrs. Hobart wanted to not only assist the organization, which had outgrown its capacities on Straight Street some time before, but also to make a memorial to her daughter, Fanny B. Hobart, who with her mother also helped the Nursery on Straight Street.  Fanny Hobart was part of the Junior Aid Society, a young women’s group who rendered themselves to charities; the Nursery being the most aided cause.  She loved working with little children and the overall mission of the nursery.  While on a family trip to Italy in 1895, just a few years before her father’s death, Miss Hobart died of diphtheria at the age of sixteen.  Under the tragic circumstances of the loss of her only daughter and then of her husband shortly afterwards, Mrs. Hobart rose to the occasion to remember the life of her daughter, and in 1903, offered a new and larger home for the Children’s Day Nursery as a gift.  Mrs. Hobart and the surviving Hobart family believed that Fanny would have followed in her mother’s footsteps of philanthropy and served the children of Paterson through this particular charity.

Memorial Day Nursery

Memorial Day Nursery

For this reason, the name of the Children’s Day Nursery was changed to the Memorial Day Nursery and the building was officially dedicated on October 14th, 1904. Mrs. Hobart’s role in public service expanded in the twentieth century for having so well served both Paterson and the nation. Probably the greatest of her contributions to helping those in need was her assistance in the recovery efforts given to France and Belgium after World War One. Mrs. Hobart used her residence, Carroll Hall, in Paterson as a textile factory; She had garments cut and sewn there for shipment overseas.  Her actions to rehabilitate war-torn Europe earned her the highest decoration of the Belgians.  She was given the “Chevalier de l’Ordre Leopold II” and a royal document sealed by His Majesty King of the Belgians in September of 1932.  The last notable contribution from Mrs. Hobart at age 79 was the chartering of the Passaic County Historical Society in 1928. She and her son Garret Hobart Jr. advocated a home base for the Society at Lambert Castle following its turn over to Passaic County in 1928 from the City of Paterson.

For 125 years since its establishment, the Memorial Day Nursery continues to provide day care and educational services to Paterson working families. The structure of the Memorial Day Nursery remains intact and in excellent condition, not only as an architectural masterpiece designed by a nationally- prominent architect, Henry Bacon; it also is a reminder of a mother’s gift of her “continuing service of love” to her children and to Paterson’s children. The Memorial Day Nursery was founded in 1887 at a time when many women were in the workforce, and by the turn of the century, women’s roles continued to change rapidly and institutions were designed and organized to implement quality care for the children of working families.  The first day nursery in the nation was founded in New York City in the late 1850s, but it was only by the end of the nineteenth century that a day nursery opened in Philadelphia.  In comparison, when the Paterson Day Nursery was opened in December of 1887, only about eleven thousand children throughout the country were cared for daily in nurseries, supporting the position that the Nursery was one of a handful of pioneer day care institutions in the nation (A2). Furthermore, Paterson’s Memorial Day Nursery’s social and historical significance is greatly supported by its association with Jennie Tuttle Hobart, who is one of New Jersey and the nation’s preeminent historic women. Not only is the building eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is also noted as a stop along New Jersey’s Women’s Heritage Trail, along with Lambert Castle, both with regard to Mrs. Hobart’s establishment of the Passaic County Historical Society and the Memorial Day Nursery.  These structures represent Mrs. Hobart’s story and her wealth of dedication.  The Memorial Day Nursery stands today as a dedicated provider to the city’s children, a part of the community that Mrs. Hobart loved.  The Memorial Day Nursery merits the status of a Municipal Landmark to ensure its preservation in memory of the legacy of the institution and its founders, and as an integral part of Paterson’s historic fabric for the enjoyment of future generations.

Resources:

  • “Day Nursery Dedication: Mrs. Garret A. Hobart’s Beautiful Memorial of Her Daughter Fanny”, Paterson Daily Press, October 15, 1904.
  • Decker, George. “The Memorial Day Nursery ‘The Nickle House’.” The Passaic County Historical Society. http://www.lambertcastle.org/daynursery.html (accessed January 17, 2013).
  • Dodyk, Delight Wing.  “Jennie Tuttle Hobart,” Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women, Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1990, 151-53.
  • “Henry Bacon.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Bacon (accessed January 17, 2013).
  • City of Paterson Historic Preservation Commission. City of Paterson Historic Preservation Commission Criteria and Procedures for Designation of Historic Sites. Paterson: City of Paterson Historic Preservation Commission, 27 Jan. 1987, and amendments thereafter.
  • City of Paterson. “Historic Preservation.” Excerpted from the City of Paterson Master Plan. Paterson: City of Paterson, 2003.
  • Louis Berger & Associates. “Recommendations.” Excerpted from the Historic Resources Survey of the City of Paterson. Paterson: Louis Berger & Associates, 1996.
  • National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places Bulletin Series. Washington GPO, US Dept. of the Interior.
  • Nelson, William and Charles Shriner.  History of Paterson and Its Environs.  New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1920.
  • Roth, Leland M. A Concise History of American Architecture. Westview Press: Boulder, CO, 1980.
  • State of New Jersey. New Jersey Land Use Law: NJ Annotated Historic Preservation Related Sections. Trenton: NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection and Energy, Historic Preservation Office.
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Mastodon Hunt

Remember when you were a child and the thought of dinosaurs roaming the Earth just made your mind explode.  The thought of how big a Brachiosaurus was in comparison to a bus and the thought of the most fearsome of all these creatures the T-Rex had arms that were in essence useless.  Then we learned that all of these creatures died and an ice age began.  The animals of the Ice age were large and hairy with teeth or tusks to eat their pray or to protect themselves.  This is where my hunt will start.

The Ice Age, or the Calabria age, is when the Mammoth lived.  It was roughly 1.8 million years ago and ending about 8,000 B.C. During this time the Mastodon roamed the Earth.  In Northern New Jersey there has been Mammoth bones discovered.  The first Mammoth to be found in the United States was in Pennsylvania by Charles Peale.  This fossil was displayed at his museum in Philadelphia.

In Sussex county Mastodon bones were discovered in Highland Lakes in 1954.  It was determined that this Mastodon was a female and was named Matilda.

Through out the semester I will be filling you in on the other Mastodons and Mammoths found around Sussex county.  There are several other Mastodons and Mammoths in the state and fairly close to the border that I might mention.

Talk to you soon,

Jenn

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It’s Easy to Fail

Anybody could guess that historical research is hard.  I expected this project to be challenging but I didn’t realize that there is no correlation between time spent researching and success in finding useful information.  I am sure that my peers in this class, historians and any other person doing research shares my frustration.

As a teacher I have little time between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:00 pm to go to remote offices or make personal phone calls.  Last week the school I work at had their February break– I thought I lucked out and would be able to get a majority of the research for this project done.  Boy, was I wrong.

The first day was lost to President’s Day, the second day to snow and the third to a prior commitment.  On the Thursday of break I headed off to Ho-Ho-Kus’s Town Hall to introduce myself to the borough clerk and ask about going through any public records the town had.  As I entered the office that I needed to be in, someone immediately asked how they could help me.  I explained that I was researching the history of the town for a grad school project and I was hoping to go through any records or documents that the town might have from the 1850’s through the 1940’s.  The town clerk asked if I hadn’t received the message she left on my voicemail; I responded that I had not.  She gave me the news that the town does not keep any records on site and that I should try the County Clerk, they might have what I was looking for there.

I tried not to be discouraged by this, but I wasn’t entirely sure where the County Clerk’s office was.  What does someone do when they don’t know something?  I pulled up Google on my phone and searched for an address which I then typed into my GPS.

Upon arriving to the building where the County Clerk’s office is located, I fumbled through an explanation of the project.  I explained that I am doing a research project on the history of Ho-Ho-Kus and I wasn’t entirely sure what kinds of records were even available to me.  The guy at the desk kind of laughed and said that I needed to be more specific if I wanted him to be helpful.  I said the first subtopic that came to my mind: the racetrack.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about the Ho-Ho-Kus Speedway at the time, I pretty much just knew the year that it was shut down.  The guy introduced me to someone else, Danny.

A tax map of the Ho-Ho-Kus/Ridgewood border from December 1902.

A tax map of the Ho-Ho-Kus/Ridgewood border from December 1902.

Danny sympathized with my total lack of knowledge and said that we might be able to find more information if we looked at an old tax map to figure out what block and lot the racetrack was located on.  Once we knew the block and lot, I would be able to go through the tax lists to find out a name.  We walked over to the tax maps and he pulled open a big, flat drawer labeled Ho-Ho-Kus.  Inside were large maps, the kind of maps and drawings you might expect to see in the hands of an architect.

The oldest map available was from 1960.  Next, Danny sat me down at a computer and said that I could search through older maps that had been scanned into their network.  After two hours of searching through maps I still hadn’t found any maps with even the slightest indication of a racetrack ever existing in Ho-Ho-Kus.

I decided that I would try a different approach.  I went up to the third floor and found the tax office that Danny had mentioned.  I asked the clerk for any Ho-Ho-Kus tax records from 1934-1938.  I was handed a roll of microfilm and set to work.  I spent an additional three hours going through each page of tax lists from the years 1935 to 1941.  I found one name associated with Race Track Road.  O’Mealia Adv. Co.  I believed that this was what I was looking for, I found something!  I happily printed a copy of the page, handed the microfilm back to the clerk and walked out of the building with a huge smile.

The first page of tax records I found that mentioned Race Track Road.  This is from the year 1939.

The first page of tax records I found that mentioned Race Track Road. This is from the year 1939.

Once I arrived home, I took out my computer and Google searched what I thought was the “O’Mealia Adventure Co.”  What I found out was Adv. stands for Advertising.  O’Mealia might have used the race track as an advertising spot, but they probably did not own the track.  I had spent the whole day for nothing.

I did learn a few things though:

1. Know as much as possible before you go to look through old public records.

2. Bring a computer or something that will allow you to Google-search information while at the County Clerk’s office.

3. Say a prayer that the records you have dreamed of actually exist.

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Sussex County Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery Making History

Cemeteries in the United States are generally funded by state and/or federal governments.  There is one exception to that general rule in the works right now in Sussex County New Jersey.  The Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery being built in Sparta, NJ is the first privately funded memorial cemetery in New Jersey.  In an article in Veteran magazine, Mary Bruzzese goes into detail about how the cemetery came to be.  She states, “Although many of New Jersey’s veterans live in the northern half of the state, there is no veteran’s cemetery servicing the northern counties.[i]”  Wallkill Valley Chapter 1002 in Vernon, New Jersey is leading the way for the cemetery to come into existence.  Sussex County has a long military based history with many veterans living in it.  The project started just a few years ago, but the group was given the go ahead to start building the cemetery once they get all of the funds that the need.  The land was sold to them by the county for $1 and made officially theirs.

Veteran Cemetery Plans

Every war in this country’s existence has had someone from the area fight in it.  It is important to recognize those who have fought bravely from our area locally.  It makes sense for there to be a cemetery dedicated to the men and women who fought for our country.  The article mentions that the cemetery is going to be offering plots to veterans, their wives, and children under eighteen to anyone in north New Jersey.  It is exciting to have such a historic monument being set up in our own back yard.  The local community has been helping raise money for the event.  Sussex County Technical School rose over $14,000 for the cause by dedicating their annual duct tape fashion show to it last year.  This year the show’s organizer, Dennis Paladini says that they will be holding the show again for the cemetery.  The show is in May this year and tickets will be going on sale soon.

Somerset Hills Memorial Park is the closest veteran’s cemetery to Sussex County currently, which is about an hour to an hour and a half drive.  It is difficult for many of our aging veterans to visit their comrades or for their elderly loved ones to make such a long trip.  One of the benefits of having a veteran’s cemetery so close to home would be for the loved ones of the veterans being able to visit anytime they want.  The location of the cemetery is going to be in Sparta, right next to Sussex County Technical School.  The location is very central for all residents of Sussex County being at most thirty minutes commute.  It is also located not far from route 15 and is off of route 94, which are two of the most used roads in Sussex County so it is in a very convenient location.

It is about time that Sussex County is able to dedicate land to their veterans.  Praise goes to Wallkill Valley Chapter 1002 in Vernon, New Jersey and their president John Harrigan for their hard work and dedication to getting this project to become a reality.


[i] Bruzzese, Mary. The Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Veteran: Vietnam Veterans of America, Vol. 33, No. 6, November/December 2013.   See more information at www.vvaveteran.org.

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