Boonton 1860 to 1880 (with pre 1860 historical data)



The oldest house recorded in Boonton and listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.
Source: Gem_2009_V1

Located at the lower end of Vreeland Avenue, this property was originally part of a tract of 231 acres purchased in 1728 for £85. It sits on 2.5 acre wooded lot and includes an historic frame house dating from 1740, and a barn. It is the oldest house recorded in Boonton and is listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. The property sits on a beautiful wooded landscape with a stream flowing through it. 

Only three families have owned this house, each of whom added to the structure. The original one room Dutch Wing purchased by Johannes Miller in 1740; federal addition with gambrel roof by Issac Kingsland c1798, and the latest addition by Mae and Alex Fowler who purchased the house in 1938.

Much of the original fabric of the home still exists: Dutch architecture, which is very rare in the northeastern United States; a large cooking fireplace and beehive oven, with date stone (see photo ); the original crane and fire back in the living room fireplace and an original staircase railing, wood trims, and wide plank floors. In an effort to preserve this property the Town of Boonton has been successful in securing a grant of $1 million from the Morris County Preservation Trust and a further $300,000 in Green Acres funding. Mayor Wekilsky, quoted in the Neighbor News, said “this is the first time anyone here can recall the Town of Boonton getting a return on the county open space tax that we all have been paying for many years.”

A detailed history of this house, the original owners and their descendant’s is recorded by Alex Fowler in his book ‘Splinters from the Past” ,Although this fascinating book of local architecture is out of print, the Historical Society has several copies for sale.

Source: Gem_2009_V1

1747 – 1870’s

The development of the Town – early settlers from England

March 18, 1867

Boonton became a separate municipality, and was incorporated as a Town under a charter granted by the State Legislature in March, 1867. The area within the limits of the new Town was formerly part of the old Townships of Pequannock and Hanover. Under the charter, the new Town was governed by a seven-man Board of Trustees, but, by an amendment to the charter in 1872, authority was vested in the Mayor and Common Council, now known as the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Boonton's charter of 1867 was a milestone in the long history of the Town. More than a century earlier the village of Boonetown (Booneton, Boonton) was established on the Rockaway River, about a mile and a half downstream from the center of the present Town.

As early as 1747, Obadiah Baldwin operated an iron refining forge at that place, where water power was in ample supply, and raw materials, such as iron ore and wood for charcoal, were not too far away. Under David Ogden, the owner of the site and a large tract of surrounding land, and, later, under his son, Samuel, the ironworks was enlarged, and a village of workmen and their families emerged. This village was named by the Ogden’s "Boone-Towne" in honor of the Colonial Governor, Thomas Boone, in the year 1761.

William Scott was not the only one to see that the nearness of the canal to Booneton Falls (in the present Town of Boonton) would make that site ideal for a large manufactory. A group of business men in New York City shared Scott's view, and incorporated themselves in 1830 as the New Jersey Iron Company, with a capitalization of $283,000.

Machinery and families of ironworkers were imported from England, and with the erection of the mills, a new town, called Booneton Falls, began to appear on the rugged hillside overlooking the river. With but few lapses the new Iron Company flourished for nearly fifty years, during which time the works were greatly enlarged, and many more employees were hired and encouraged by easy terms to own their own homes.

The new village of Booneton Falls - like the older Booneton downstream - was essentially a one-industry town. The Iron Company supported the Town with its payrolls, and owned most of the land that was later to be within the Town limits. In a spirit of benevolent paternalism, the Company encouraged its employees to be not only industrious, but also sober, church-going, and responsible citizens, and, toward that end, made generous contributions of land for churches, schools, and cemeteries.

With the fortunes of the Town so intimately tied in with those of the Iron Company, what followed when the Company closed down its operations in 1876 can be described as nothing short of a major disaster.

The discovery of large deposits of surface iron ores in the Great Lakes region, and the national depression of the 1870's had a paralyzing effect on the iron mining and manufacturing companies in the East; the deaths of D.B. Fuller and J.C. Lord, who had acquired ownership of the New Jersey Iron Company properties in 1852, made the collapse of the industry in Booneton more precipitate and final. Although several attempts - one by the eminent Joseph Wharton - were made to re-establish iron works on a smaller scale, none endured for any great length of time. Only vestiges of foundations and structures remain in the "Hollow", between Plane Street and the river, to remind Boonton of its own Iron Age.

The disaster of 1876 taught the people of Booneton an important lesson: never again should the economic health of the community be allowed to depend upon that of a single industry, and every effort should be made to secure a diversity of industries for the Town.

One of the first of the new industries secured for the Town was a silk manufactory, which, as Pelgram & Meyer, and, later the Van Raalte, Inc., contributed materially to the Town's prosperity. Others that followed were a knife factory, a paper mill (at the old village, by then called Old Boonton), a nail factory, a brass and iron foundry, and a carriage factory.

Other payrolls also brought money into the town: The Morris Canal, although going into a rapid decline, still employed a number of men; the Lackawanna Railroad, which had completed its Boonton-Paterson branch in 1875, gave employment to a number of Boonton people, and provided commuter service to a number of Boonton residents who worked in New York City and other places along the way. There were, of course, many individually-owned businesses, such as blacksmith shops, machine shops, bakeries and a miscellany of stores, all of which began to prosper as the nation - and Boonton - emerged from the depression of the 1870's.

May 29, 1867

Boonton Police Established

The Boonton Police Department was established May 20th 1867, by the Chosen Board of Trustees of the Town of Boonton, at a meeting held at the house of Charles P. Davenport. At this meeting a motion was made to appoint James Handville as Town Marshal and John H. Conine as Assistant Marshal. An ordinance outlining the duties of the Marshals was passed on May 29, 1867.

This ordinance states that the Marshal was responsible for security, peace, and good order of the town.

He was responsible for the efficient execution of the law, regulations, and ordinances; to apprehend or seize civilly if practical, if not by force, and carry them before either of the Police Justices any person or persons who may be found violating the laws of the state or the ordinances of the Town of Boonton.

Any person or persons convicted of an offense were punished either by imprisonment for up to 30 days in the county jail or other secure place; or by a fine of no more than $20 for the first offense. The marshal was able to call on any citizen or citizens for help in carrying out his duties. It was further ordained that said marshal receive compensation of $35 per year for his services.
For more about the Boonton Police, visit:


Boonton Schools
Source: Gem_2009_V1

Boonton’s school system has a long and imposing history going back to 1831 when the New Jersey Iron Company, in the same year it rolled its first iron, provided a school for the people in the settlement of Boonton Falls. Taught by Miss Dean, whose salary was paid by the Company, school was held in part of a dwelling on Plane Street, below the spot where Soldiers Monument now stands.

The following year, again with the help of the New Jersey Iron Company, a school building was erected at the corner of Cedar and Liberty Streets, and here for 20 years the children of the mill workers attended classes. This second schoolhouse stood amid fine trees near a brook, at the top of a hill – a situation which sometimes on snowy winter days tempted the children to turn over their benches and use them as sleds. Issac S. Lyon taught here in 1834 and the last teacher was Marcus W, Martin, whose annual salary in 1852 was $350.

With the building of a new, two-story brick schoolhouse in 1852, a block away, the old frame structure was sold and eventually altered to become a dwelling. This brick school, sometimes called Boonton Academy, was the original one at the School Street site. It stood in a grove of oaks facing the school green, a landmark on its lofty site. More important, it was a landmark in education in the County, for through the efforts of John L.Kanouse it was the first, and for many years the only, free school in Morris County.

Another school, on property now occupied by the house at 610 Lathrop Avenue has been serving South Boonton, which was in Pequannock District No. 6, since 1844. In 1868, the school lot was sold to William G. Lathrop for $200 plus another lot on Lathrop Avenue near Old Boonton Road, to which site the school building was moved. Until 1874 this small school functioned in its new location. In later years it was made into the second story of a house that has now grown to be a four family residence. In fact, the upper rear windows of 319 Lathrop Avenue still have the arched lintels which identify the part of the building that was old Schoolhouse No. 6. (Pictured below)
Beginning in January, 1875, the Harrison Street School served South Boonton for 54 years. 

Class of 1882 - Left to right: Ida Struble (Gonzales), Nell Shaw (Mrs.William Salomon), 
Annie Ball, Jean Carter (Prall), Clara Skellinger (Skellenberger), 
Dorothy Depoe (Mrs.Thomas Phillips), Lena Patterson (Myers) 
 School House #6, 319 Lathrop Ave 

Parochial classes in Boonton began in 1860 when the Rev. Dominic Castet and later the Rev. Louis Gambosville taught classes in the basement of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. One of the lay teachers was John Holland who later achieved fame as inventor of the submarine. In 1876 these classes were discontinued, to be resumed in the 1880’s when the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell assumed charge. A convent was built for them at Birch and Oak Streets. 

1886 - Harmony Senior Drum Corp is formed (photo is from 1917) 

PEOPLE of the 1860, 1870,1880’s

William Lathrop (1812-1882) - William Lathrop came to Boonton in 1845 at the age of 33 to work in the Boonton Iron Works.
He was a delegate in Chicago at the Republican National convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln. He was the first mayor of Boonton in 1872. 
His home is now known as the New Jersey Firemen’s Home and the street named after him. 
To read more : Boonton People 1860-1880 
Dr. John Grimes - An Abolitionist and publisher of Boonton’s first newspaper - The Monthly Advertiser and later the New Jersey Freeman, lived in the building on the corner of Main and Liberty now occupied by Domino’s Pizza. 

According to a chapter of the Civil War in the book ‘ The Boonton Years’, in around 1850 “Opposition to slavery to an active form when Dr. Grimes home… and the Powerville Hotel located (located on North Main Street in Boonton Township near the dam) operated by Nathan Hopkins were set up as stations on the underground railroad to harbor runaway slaves, Dr. Grimes assisted by his brother James, Iron Works superintendent William C. Lathrop, John Hill, Philip Wootton and others, successfully operated an escape route through Rockaway Valley, through Split Rock, an onto Charlottesburg and Newfoundland.” (Dr. Grimes was vegetarian) 
Dr. Marietta H Crane Woodruff (1837-1912)  - Boonton’s First Women Physician graduated at the head of her class in 1874 and began a general practice in Boonton.  Her practice included homeopathy and obstetrics, and she was the family doctor for many Boonton residents.
At the time, there were less than two hundred and fifty women in this country with medical degrees.

To read more : Boonton People 1860-1880 
Charles Fern Hopkins (1842-1934) was a descendant of the signers of the Mayflower Compact of 1620 and the Declaration of Independence. He was born in Hope, New Jersey, in 1842. At the age of 14 he moved with his family to Powerville, now Boonton Township. 

As a young boy, Charles would help move slaves from Dr. Grime’s house to his father’s hotel, and then north to Pequannock, then Kinnelon and into New York. 

At age 19 he was the first man from Morris County to enlist in the Union Army. He survived both Andersonville and Florence prisons and in 1892 he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor 

for heroism during the Civil War. When the war ended in 1865, he returned back to Boonton and established a harness making business, became involved in public and political affairs. 

For the next 30 years he was very involved in public and political affairs. He served as Town Committeeman, member of the Board of Freeholders, Mayor, NJ State Senator, postmaster of Boonton, member of the NJ Assembly and chief of the Boonton Fire Department 

To read more : Boonton People 1860-1880 
 Francis Ogden: Born in Boonton 1783, was a US consul in Liverpool from 1829-1840. He helped finance John Ericsson's researches and personally patenting Ericsson's inventions in the US. These inventions culminated in that of screw-propelled steamboats. Ericsson named his first screw-propelled steamboat the ‘Francis B. Ogden‘ 
John Hill (1821-1884) - a native of Catskill, NY, he came to Boonton (then Pequannock Township) in 1845. He served as an elder of the Presbyterian Church. He also was active in the local underground railroad which aided fugitive slaves in the flight to freedom. 

In 1861, he was appointed to the committee that greeted President-elect Abraham Lincoln when he stopped in Trenton en route to his inauguration 

In 1865, he was elected to State od Assembly, the following year he was chosen as Speaker of the House. He served four terms in the House of Representatives.

While in Congress, he fought for postal reform and introduced a bill authorizing the use of the penny postcard for the Post Office Department (now the US Postal Service). 

The elementary school is named after him. 
 Mrs. Helen Thomas: The widow, Mrs. Helen Thomas resided on Cedar Street. Her husband Richard, was a lawyer who rode the circuit with Abraham Lincoln in the mid-1800's, while Helen was a personal friend of Mary Todd Lincoln. 
John Kanouse (1811-1905) John Kanouse served two terms in the State Legislature. He was also Director of the Board of Freeholders, and an associate judge for Morris County. 
And the last office he held was tax collector for the Town of Boonton. One of the things he was instrumental in was improving the educational facilities in Pequannock and Boonton. Boonton was the first in the area to establish a free school – paid for by those taxes he collected. His house still stands at the corner of Lathrop and Wilson. 

To read more : Boonton People 1860-1880 
Phillip Wootton (1805-1891) came to Boonton from Staffordshire, England in 1830 with my wife, Hannah, and our daughter Ellen. 

He became a leader in his adopted town and prior to the Civil War I was also an active Abolitionist and helped with the Underground Railroad that Dr. John Grimes started here. 

He lived in many houses in the area and two of them are still standing. One is at 606 Birch and the other, more stately home is at 410 Cornelia. 

To read more : Boonton People 1860-1880 
William Meadowcroft was born in Manchester, England and arrived in America at age 22. 
He married a girl from Boonton named Phoebe Canfield and came to live in Boonton in 1878. 
He was Thomas Alva Edison’s patent attorney, personal secretary, and biographer 

In the 1880’s he went to work for the Edison Lamp Works in Harrison, New Jersey 

William Green: Born in New York City in August 1796. He was for many years engaged in the iron importing and also in the hardware trade with A.R & D. Wetmore, and was the superintendent of the iron smelting and rolling works in Boonton. 

Mr. Green was one of the band of men notable in their day for the brave stand they made in philanthropic and religious movements. 

He was one of the founders, in October 1833, and vice president of the New York City Anti-Slavery society of which Arthur Tappan was president. Mr. Green was an intimate co-worker in philanthropic and religious matters, with among others, William Lloyd Garrison, Horace Greely, Wendel Phillips, the Tappans, William Goodell, John Rankin, Dr. Abraham Cox, and the Rev Charles G. Finney. 

He was at one time an orthodox believer, but many years before his death, he accepted the Harmonial Philosophy taught by Andrew Jackson Davis, as a rule of his life. Cornelia Street is named after his second wife, Harriet Cornelia. 
 John Phillip Holland (1840-1914) was a lay teach at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church later achieved fame as inventor of the submarine. 

Source: The Weekly Boonton Bulletin

Dec 1872:
“Occasionally think of the poor and needy in your midst and do whatever may be in your power to ameliorate their condition.”

March 1874:
“The two young ladies who borrowed the newly made molasses candy from their neighbor’s door (places outside to cool), are advised to return the same or equivalent within ten days or receive their just punishment, according to the law.”

March 1877:
The wages for a skilled mechanic amounted to no more than $7.00 a week whereas laborers .70 cents a day

July 1882:
“Boonton lawns are being looked after better this spring than they have been for several years past. Now, if we can only get to our sidewalks!”

Sept 1885:
“The Board of Education of Boonton has fixed the new principal’s salary at $900 for the school year”

Jan 26, 1888:
“The Boonton Ice house are all about filled with good quality of ice of about ten inches of thickness”
“Many thoughtS should have but little sleighing, comparatively this winter; but we’ve had already weeks of excellent sleighing”

July 1876 – Boonton Celebrates America’s 100th Birthday

To read more please see the .PDF at the bottom of this page or click here.

March 1888
This article although not sure if it is true, or ‘tongue and cheek’ might be entertaining.

(This article talk about the Blizzard 1888 which occurred Sunday March 11 to Wed March 14)

Dear Bulletin – I would have communicated before, but the wind blew me out of the bed on Monday night last week; since which time, I have been somewhat deficient in penmanship – the Dr. says my wrist is only sprained and will come out all right.

I have read a good deal first and last about what high old times the wind and snow have “Out West”, but have never had any blizzard experiences until last week. The wise men who manufacture the weather announced a storm, so everybody naturally looked for fair weather and thought it unnecessary to lay in more than the usual stock of eatable and things.

Unfortunately, Yours truly was one of the short-sighted multitude

As I have just hinted when the gale struck, I was not exactly prepared; that is to say, had not very much on hand and what I had was in the cellar. The passage to my cellar is outside, which being interrupted last week, meant there was no passage to my cellar. There is a time for all things, and among them is a time to eat.

I ran over to the “bill of fare” on Monday night, and found it consisted of snow, fried wind and eggshells. I thankfully partook and went to bed, but as I said at the top, did not stay there all the time. Tuesday morning the “bill of fare” was similar to what mentioned above, with the addition of skip, which I thoughtfully left for a noon lunch.

After filling up, I put on what clothes I had and crawled up the chimney to see if I could find out where I lived. I braced myself against the few bricks that were left, (most of them had gone away), and gazed around. What a change! Every landmark had disappeared and nothing was left to remind me of the dear old home of my childhood. I was just preparing for a genuine “let her go Gallagher?” weep, and the wind changed. So did I. I wanted to swear, but my condition was too critical.

How long might I remained “doubled up’ in the 18 feet snow-drift would have been recorded in the obituary notice, had not a friendly tree near by extended a helping hand. When I landed it was not upon my feet, or my head, but somehow I struck and average. The hand aforesaid reached out as far as the parent trunk would permit, whispering “come up higher”, but I couldn’t. Finally, after many vain attempts, I made one desperate lunge, and thank Heaven, I was saved – about halfway.

As I sat in that old tree, a lone inhabitant of air (and cold at that) with no eye to pity and no ladder to climb, I naturally thought of the last half – feared I might freeze to death, and probably I did, for all was soon lost in oblivion.

Things begin to look more natural again. There were snow-banks in this neighborhood 39 feet high, more or less but they are rapidly disappearing. Everything is coming out again. As I look out of the window I notice about two inches of something black and round sticking out of a snow-drift.

The old cat has not been home since the storm, still that has nothing to do with this account.

I read in the Bulletin, and other papers sad stories of loos of life during the great storm but some of them may be lies. I think however it is wrong to exaggerate at such times.

There was another blizzard “set down” for Tuesday of this week, but for some reason it was indefinitely postponed. When it comes off, for friendship sake, dear Bulletin, write a nice little poem, not too sad, but just sad enough, to them memory of your departed. - author unknown

Taken from the North Jersey Historian Winter 2011, Vol.6, No.1:

By noon the Blizzard of 1888 that paralyzed the eastern sea-board had descended upon Morris County with a violent rage, that would continue unabated for 36 hours.

The temperature dropped to zero, and the harsh gale left snow drifts of more than 15 feet that blocked roads, knocked out telegraph service, and caused extensive damage to residences, businesses, and churches.

Windows were smashed, chimneys overturned, and roofs torn off—all due to the hurricane-like conditions that prevailed. For four days, no milk or news-papers were delivered, local butchers ran out of meat, and food provisions grew scarce.

Coal dealers could not adequately supply households, and families were left without heat in the bitter cold.

Travel ceased; the only train to leave Morristown on Monday morning got stuck near South Orange and could go no further.

Other Events

March 1871: The first Weekly Bulletin newspaper is printed in Boonton

January 1873:
Statistics for Boonton:
Population: 3,500
Homes: 700
Families; 775
Churches: 5
Stores/shops: 31
Drug Stores: 2
Hardware: 1
Milkmen: 3
Hotels: 1
Licensed beer saloons: 10
Doctors: 5
Dentists: 1
Lawyers: none
There was a telegraph office, printing offices, numerous passenger trains on railroads; twelve mail deliveries in the post office daily, six arrivals and six departures;


The George W. Esten House on Rockaway Street in Boonton. This large three story home was built around 1875 for Mr. Esten, Superintendent of the Boonton Iron Works. It is believed Esten used the six-story vantage point on the widow’s walk to view the ironworks across the Rockaway River.
Source: Gem_2004

1833 The last Indians seen in Boonton paddled his own canoe through here on the Morris Canal in the Summer of 1833. Mr. Lyon recalled that the Indian with his bow and arrow, knocked the pennies out of a split stick, in which they were placed edgewise, at a distance of twenty yards, about as fast as half-a-dozen boys could pick them up. (Taken from the writings of Isaac S. Lyon of 1873)

July 1860 – From the Harper’s Magazine - "The village of Boonton is beautifully situated - so far as charming prospect is concerned - upon the almost precipitous - face of a bluff, which forms one of the sides of a deep ravine through which the Rockaway River empties its waters into the plain below"


Known as the John Carson House; this house, located on Church Street, was built about 1867. John Carson was a Scottish mason and built the house on land purchased from Fuller and Lord, the owners of the local iron works.

He constructed a number of other structures in Boonton, including the landmark stone Arch Bridge over the Rockaway River, still in use today by hikers in Boonton’s Grace Lord Park.

Carson died tragically of injuries incurred while working on the bridge only a year after he built this handsome house.

Surrounded by a granite and pudding stone wall, the house is a good example of the Italianate “cube” style.

The decorative double front porch is Queen Anne in style and probably not original to the house. The dwelling exhibits a plain cornice, arched lintels and a large overhanging hipped roof.
Source: Gem_2005_V1

1872-1882 – one of the first bakeries was on Church Street owned and operated by Mrs. James Casey. It was a brick building used as a home along with the bakery. Mrs. Casey sold hot rolls, corn cakes, confectionaries, jelly and canned fruits. By 1878 Andrew D.Speer had taken over. In February 1882, Mr. Speer’s sleigh broke down in Rockaway Valley in a bad storm and as a result fingers on both hands had to be amputated. Davenport and Knott took over the bakery.
Taken from the Gem 2009_V2







Anthony Pisano,
Jan 17, 2017, 4:52 PM
Anthony Pisano,
Jan 7, 2017, 9:51 AM