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Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Walk with History

One of the nice things about being retired is that you can change your plans and it doesn't really affect anyone.  After 39 years of living by schedules and bells in the classroom, I found myself really uptight about breaking routine, but the other day I found the courage to just go with the whim of the moment.  It was a great decision and lead to a fun-filled and fascinating day.

Bob and I had gotten into the habit of biking along the dozens of miles of bike paths along the Delaware.  Don't get me wrong, that activity is amazing, but the
other morning, I just felt like I wanted to do something different.  Have you ever felt like that? Of course you have.

And, even though we had planned to go biking again, I made the very daring proposition to do something altogether different.  My Bob is a creature of habit and it is quite wrenching for him to change mid-steam, but using my feminine wiles (he's also a real softie) I convinced him it would be fun to take a history walk.

I had just finished reading a book set in the Civil War era and the setting evolved around the safe houses of the Underground Railroad.  I thought it might be cool to see if there were any such houses in New Jersey.  With a brief bit of research I discovered there were a few, but it would be a drive to see most of them.  The day was going to be gorgeous and I really wanted to be out of doors, so I switched plans again.  Revolutionary war sites were plentiful and close and I love that time period, so I thought, why not start there.  I decided to restrict our tour to our own county - Hunterdon. One should know about the place where they live, don't you agree? To my surprise there were so many sites we couldn't fit them all in on one day.

We started our tour in our town of Flemington, five minutes from home at the site of a skirmish where colonial minutemen overpowered a troop of British dragoons led by Cornet Geary who confiscated food and arms from a local warehouse.  His real mission was to see if there would be any resistance from the locals.  He got his answer and during the battle, Geary was killed.  A stone monument marks the spot of the skirmish.

A brief drive down the road led us to the spot where Geary's ancestors commemorated his death.  It is a lovely half-mile walkway called Cornet Geary Trail that ends at his memorial, approximately the spot where he was buried after the battle.  The odd thing about the spot is that the lovely path is in the middle of a modern McMansion development and winds in between two or three private properties.

It felt very strange to see a British memorial but, of course all soldiers who die for their country deserve to be honored. I think of all those WWI and WWII American soldiers who were buried in places like Normandy across the pond. It's comforting to know their grave sites are marked and kept by locals. I'm sure Geary's family was proud of his service.  So here we were, two hundred plus years later remembering Cornet Geary, saying a brief silent prayer, and thinking on the events of his demise.

As we made our way back from the memorial site, I couldn't help but gather up some of the beautiful acorns and oak leaves scattered along the path.  I pressed the leaves in waxed paper, just like when I was a child (so silly) but now I can use them for decoration on my Thanksgiving table, and I will have a story to tell my kids as we eat!

After that lovely walk, Bob and I drove another five minutes to the next town on our list, Ringos.  Both historical sites in Ringos were private homes, so we couldn't get up close and personal.  Below is the Landis House, built in 1750. Marquis de Lafayette stayed here while he was a patient of Dr. Gershom Craven.

A few blocks down the road, we found Ringo's Tavern.  The tavern was owned by the Ringos family from 1738 -1779.  The Sons of Liberty met here in 1776.  It became a local political center during the revolution.  I'd love to get a peak inside that home! A bit of irony...can you see the political poster on the front lawn?

Next, on to Lambertville which was called Coryell's Ferry back in revolutionary times, as it was a colonial river crossing village.  During the revolution the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and camped here under the command of George Washington enroute to the Battle of Monmouth NJ, the longest continuous battle of the war.

Above is Holcombe House, where Washington made his headquarters while waiting for word of the movement of the British fleet.  Below is a small cemetery attached to The First Presbyterian Church.

First Presbyterian Church Cemetery contains the gravesite of George Coryell, a lieutenant in the Revolutionary War and pallbearer of George Washington.  Also buried in the cemetery Elijah Holcombe and Sam Holcombe, one of George Washington's spies.  So cool!!!

Last stop of the day was Rosemont and the Rosemont Cemetery.

Here we found the grave site of Captain Daniel Bray.  Capt. Bray led a party of men along the river to gather enough boats for General Washington, in order to make the famous crossing of the Delaware on December 25th 1776.  I could almost feel the men slinking along the river's edge and feel their sense of urgency and exhiliration...not to mention hear the chattering of their teeth in the freezing cold!

Rosemont Cemetery was our last stop of the day. I couldn't help but reflect on the awesome debt of gratitude we owe our forefathers who imagined and acted on a glorious idea that became our nation.

There are still 22 more historical revolutionary sites just in Hunterdon county that we didn't check out.  I think we will have lots to keep us occupied whenever the whim hits me again!

What's the history of your area?  Have you checked out any of the local sites?  I'd love to hear about them, leave me a comment.