Boonton 1890 to 1910



1891 - Boonton Fire Department established

The year 1891 seems to be the outstanding year in regard to fire protection. John I. Kopp assumed his duties as Mayor of Boonton in May of that year, and in his address to the Common Council at his initial meeting Mayor Kopp made the following reference to fire protection:

"One need of this town to prevent a great calamity that may come to us at any time, is to arrange for a plan to extinguish fire. In looking around I find a number of decrepit, worn-out ladders, some in pieces and all out of order, and some buckets that few know where to find. If we can do no better, the Council should see that the Town is at once furnished with new ladders put in their proper places, and buckets in order and in conspicuous places, easily found in case of need. The large cistern near the Presbyterian Church is dry, because of several leaks. This should be repaired and placed in condition to receive the water from the church roof, that it may be kept full, ready for use when required."

The Council listened attentively to Mayor Kopp's recommendation but no action was taken

On July 2, 1891, a fire that destroyed the house of Mrs. Demerest had a marked effect on quite a number of our citizens.

It made them realize that it was long past the time for organizing a fire department, and, with the picture of that fire fresh in their minds., they decided to do something about it. Word was passed around that a meeting was to be held in Hopkin's Hall, Tuesday evening, July 7, 1891. This was only five days from the date of the fire.

Taken from “The Weekly Boonton Bulletin” Council meeting of July 10, 1891:
Adjourned meeting of the Council, President Dawson in the chair.
Present – Mayor Kopp, Councilmen Byard, Griffth, Hessey, Hiler, Richards and Wilson.
In the absence of the Clerk, Mr. Hessey was appointed Clerk.
The new Fire Committee presented a petition to organize a fire company in the Town of Boonton. Remarks were made by the chairman and other interested citizens, after which their petition was granted. The Fire Committee will confer with the committee of the fire company as ordered by the chairman.

Early fire apparatus

To read more about the Boonton Fire Departments history, visit:
Visit page 3 to read The Boonton Weekly Bulletin to read the Demerest fire and the Council meetings:
Boonton Weekly Bulletin 1891-07-16
Boonton Weekly Bulletin 1891-07-23

1890’s – 1910 - Jersey City Reservoir (the first municipal water supply in the United States to be chlorinated)

The old town of Boonton sat at the present day the Jersey City reservoir. It appears, according various accounts, around 1820’s seems to be the transition point of Old Boonton to the present Boonton where it is located today. The land at this spot was then purchased by William Scott. The property then subsequently was owned by his son, Elijah until 1841 when Samuel and Charles Righter purchased it. In 1875, Philip Wootton of Boonton purchased the Old Boonton Tract from the Righter family for $10,000 and later took in James Holmes and William G. Lathrop as partners.

In April of 1890, they sold the property to Messrs. Fitz Gibbon and Messer of New York City for $15,000. The new owners built a paper mill on the site which operated for more than a decade.

In the late 1890’s the Old Boonton Tract, along with other properties in the vicinity, was acquired by the Jersey City Water Supply Company for purposes of a reservoir. Owner Fitz Gibbon, who had obtained full title to the property, received $85,00 in compensation.

Preparations for the reservoir included the building of a great dam less than a mile downstream from Old Boonton and the clearing of the reservoir basin of all buildings, structures, roads and trees.

Remnants of foundations and stone boundary walls were left in the basin and new bridge was built across the inlet to connection an extension of Washington Street of Boonton to the displaced road to Morristown.

Between 1902-03, after the dam was completed, the waters began to rise, and barren site of Old Boonton faded from view.


John L. Leal was employed as its sanitary adviser at the Jersey City Water Supply Company (JCWSC). Included in Leal's responsibilities was the removal of illegally constructed privies and other obvious sources of sewage contamination from the watershed above Boonton Reservoir. As a physician who was trained in bacteriology, Leal knew that chlorine killed bacteria.

On June 19, 1908, Leal hired George W. Fuller to construct a chlorination plant at Boonton Reservoir to disinfect the water for Jersey City as a representation of "other plans or devices".

At the time, Fuller was, perhaps, the most respected sanitary engineer in the U.S.. In 99 days, Fuller designed the chlorination plant and supervised its construction. Dilute solutions of chloride of lime were accurately fed by gravity to the water being treated. Fuller based his design on the successful aluminum sulfate feed system that he had built at the Little Falls Water Treatment Plant in 1902.

The chlorination plant at Boonton Reservoir treating an average of 40 million gallons per day went on-line on September 26, 1908. Since then, water from this source has been continuously chlorinated, making it the water supply with the longest history of disinfection

To read more about John Leal::

1906 - “Boontonware”

Edwin Scribner founded the Loanda Hard Rubber Company in Boonton in 1891. His son-in-law Richard Seabury switched the company’s focus in 1906 to the production of Bakelite products, an early synthetic resin that was a forerunner of plastic.

Melamine, a thermoset plastic material, was developed prior to World War II and was used in many factory applications. It was available for low prices during and after the war, which led to its use in a variety of consumer products, including dinnerware. American Cyanamid, a major producer of melamine, branded its powdered product “Melmac” for sale to plastics molders.

By this time, Seabury’s business had become Boonton Molding and began producing its own version of Melmac dinnerware in the 1940s, calling it “Boontonware.” In the 1950s and ’60s, Boontonware was being sold worldwide, with the colorful kitchenware guaranteed for one year against breakage.

Today, Boontonware is one of a number of Melmac products prized by collectors.

From that simple and early beginning, one of the world’s great industries had developed and made the name of Boonton famous.


1918 - first Boonton Police Officer is killed in the line of duty.

On September 9, 1918, Special Office Patrick Guiton, the Acting Chief of Police, received a telephone call from Andrew Kabines, a railroad foreman regarding four men looting a freight car at the Boonton Rubber Works. Officer Guiton swore in several citizens as deputies and commandeered a truck and responded to the area of the Reservoir.

Officer Guiton approached the four individuals, in their late teens, and compelled these thieves to surrender. The defendants, members of the “Dusty Dennis” band of Kearny NJ, complied. Officer Guiton and the deputies left the Boonton Rubber Works en-route to police headquarters with the defendants. Officer Guiton dropped off these citizen deputies on Main Street and began to proceed to headquarters.

While on Main Street, defendant Thomas A. Reilly, a.k.a. William Reilly, drew a .38 caliber revolver and fired striking Office Guiton three times. At 48 years of age, Office Guiton died instantly. Mr. Reilly also fired a fourth round which struck co-defendant William Dennis, a.k.a. William Dennison, in the head. Mr. Dennison died at Morristown Memorial Hospital in the afternoon of Monday September 9, 1918, after being transported there by Officer Arthur Meeker.

An alarm was immediately sounded and a manhunt began for the perpetrator. Defendants Howard Jackson and Frank Kennedy were immediately apprehended.

Reilly was apprehended later in the day when he was seen jumping from a coal car in Lincoln Park. A pursuit ensued through a cornfield where Reilly ran right into the arms of some lawmen.

Sheriff Edwin W. Orr and County Detective Edward L. Brennan then transported Reilly to the Morris County Jail. The Grand Jury indicted Thomas A. Reilly for murder. On February 10, 1919, Reilly pled non-vult (no contest) to manslaughter.

Source: The Boonton Police Department 1867-1999 (available at the Holmes library )
Visit page 3 to read The Boonton Weekly Bulletin: OfficerGuiton

PEOPLE of the 1890’s, 1900’s, 1910’s

Dr. Elizabeth Geiger - (1900-2003) Elizabeth Heitmann Geiger was a well-respected doctor of Naturopathy. She was one of the first women to graduate from Dr. Lust’s School of Naturopathy and had a practice on 55th Street in New York from the early 1920’s – 1960 when she retired to live full time in her home on Fanny Road.

Naturopathy, a “drugless medicine,” favors an holistic approach to illness with minimal use of surgery and drugs. It is a system of alternative medicine based on the theory that diseases can be successfully treated or prevented by techniques such as control of diet, exercise, and massage. She only treated women and many well-known patients came to her clinic including Gwendolyn Bolger (wife of Ray Bolger, the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz), Mary Rockefeller (first wife of Nelson) and writer-actress Gertrude Berg of the Goldbergs radio comedy show. She lived in her house on Fanny Road for over 80 years.
To read more about Dr. Elizabeth Geiger: BoontonPeople1890-1910

Henry Blauvelt Wilson (1870-1923) After a career in journalism, precipitated by the need to support his family, in 1901, at the age of
31, he was able to afford to go to Seminary.

He continued to write and support his family and stayed in Seminary going on to post-graduate work.

While working at a Brooklyn mission, he discovered the power of prayer when ministering to the sick. The success of ministering to the soul paired with ministering to the body led him, in 1910, to start the Society of the Nazarene which grew to have chapters in all 50 states as well as Canada, Puerto Rico and even China!

He started St. John's School in the rectory with only 4 students. The school was later renamed the Wilson School and is today in Mountain Lakes.

To read more about Rev Henry B. Wilson: BoontonPeople1890-1910

James Holmes (1815-1893 )Holmes was born March 7, 1815, in Massachusetts and moved to Boonton in 1850 to take charge of the
Taylor & Lord Nail Factory.

He laid down roots in Boonton and he developed a strong loyalty to the town and committed himself to its development. He became very involved in local politics and used his fortune to help develop municipal organizations and community projects.

Holmes held several political posts in his life such as serving as Mayor of Boonton, on the State Board of Education, and on the Boonton Board of Education. Holmes also used his wealth to improve the town, one example was when he donated the land and purchased the equipment to begin the firehouse in South Boonton. He served as a volunteer fire fighter in Boonton from the time he arrived until his death.

Holmes also started the first Boonton National Bank and served as its president. Mr. Holmes died on February 26, 1893.

Upon his death, James Holmes’s residence on the corner of Main and Church was willed to the people of Boonton for use as a public library. The doors opened in 1894 and has have been proudly serving the town of Boonton ever since.

On Nov 30, 1972, The Boonton Holmes Public Library was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charles Grubb (1863-1944) - Charles Grubb was the owner and editor of the Boonton Times. A native son of Boonton, after reaching manhood he became an iron worker and eventually engaged in the manufacture of nails as a member of the firm of Patterson, Anthony, & Grubb. He served as one of the first councilman of Boonton. After attending school in Boonton, he became an apprentice at the trade of printer, working for a time in Boonton and later going to Bangor, Pennsylvania, where he finished his training under the instruction of his brother, William.

In 1895, and rented rooms in the basement of Boonton Holmes Library where he installed printing presses. The first edition of the Boonton Times was published on October 4, of that year. The paper was well known throughout Morris county, and read extensively by the citizens of Boonton.

To read more about Charles Grubb: BoontonPeople1890-1910

Helen Gahagan Douglas (1900-1980) – Born in Boonton, she was the third woman and first Democratic woman elected to Congress from California; her election made California one of the first two states (along with Illinois) to elect female members to the House from both parties. She also ran against Richard Nixon in the 1950 California Gubernatorial race. She was married to actor Melvyn Douglas.

John Phillip Holland (1840-1914) was a lay teach at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church later achieved fame as inventor of the submarine.

I took some pieces out from the Local News section from the Bulletin that sounded interesting. Perhaps to be posted throughout the months on social media?

Local News of Boonton past…..

Source: The Weekly Boonton Bulletin

June 8, 1891
“Boys bathing in the canal will do well to remember that the law requires them to wear tights while enjoying that sport in the daytime”.

Dec 30,1897
“If all our subscribers were women, we would have very few bills to send out. As a rule , the women who subscribe for the local newspapers pay in advance and we have often thought that the men who paid promptly were influence by their wives”

Apr 14, 1893
“Clear up your house and dooryards at once. Look after your cellars and out buildings. Neglect now may mean peril in the near future. Cholera is sure to come”
(dooryards – the yard in front of the door of a house)

Mar 8, 1900
“The new iron railroad bridge over the canal in this town, is strong enough for the heaviest of trains, the need of which the railroad company wisely forsees”.

Sept 6, 1906 (Labor Day)
“The picinic on the Witch’s Grounds in the afternoon was largely attended and games, etc. were the attractions”

Jan 14, 1909
“The first step for mail delivery in town was taken by the introduction of an ordiance in the Council, on Tuesday night, providing for the numbering of the house.”

Other Events

1890 – Sarah Green purchased the building at 715 Main, known then as Independence Hall and named it “The Boonton Opera House”

1895 - Telephone company established in Boonton

The New York Telephone Company installed the first Boonton switchboard. One of the first to subscribe was John H. Brown, who had the easy number to remember “Boonton 1”. The cost per year was $42.00.

By 1900, 36 telephones were in use and by 1915, 758 phones over crowded the old switchboard.

In 1915, a three-minute long distance call could be made from Boonton to San Francisco at a cost of $20. By 1919, the same call would cost $16; by 1927, $9.


Between Lincoln Street and the Rockaway River, and crossed by the extensions of Dixon and Dawson Avenues, is an area of several acres that for two centuries has been known as “the Witch Grounds.”

When first discovered, it was surrounded by dense forest, but the area itself was absolutely barren and the earth was hard-packed as a “barn floor.” This strange place was regarded with dread and superstition by the early settlers who explained (at least to their children) that this was the place where witches danced.

In the 1890’s E. B. Dawson built a ¼ mile track and grandstand near this spot, the oval track being contained in the square formed by Dixon and Dawson Avenues and Lincoln and Forbush Streets.

Mr. Dawson’s son, Ray, was Captain of the bicycle teams of Columbia University and the New York Athletic Club, and was at one time a national champion bicycle racer.

Fireworks displays, medicine shows, carnivals, circuses were afterwards held in the disused racetrack.

1904 - New Boonton Railroad Station built. It was described back then as follows:

The street level held a smoking room, women's room, newsstand and express and baggage room and an elevator. The station on the westbound tract harmonizes in architectural construction with the main building and has a large waiting room. Both buildings are furnished throughout in oak and patent plaster walls.

1917 - E.F. Drew came to Boonton