Sunday, April 19, 2009

How Freneau Got Its Name



Philip Morin Freneau, 1752-1832
Poet of the Revolution


Eloquently fired the spirit of the people with poems and ballads promoting the cause of liberty. Friend of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, published the Jersey Chronicle, first newspaper in Monmouth County.

When the US Post Office sought to eliminate duplicate town names, Matavan Township's Mount Pleasant section was renamed Freneau in honor of Philip Freneau (1752-1832), a local poet who inspired the cause of liberty during the time of the American Revolution. Freneau owned a home in Mt Pleasant and was known to have conspired against the British from a nearby tavern on Mill Road operated by Major Thomas Hunn and his wife Phoebe. The tavern -- now known as Hawkins House and restored in the 1980s by John Lockwood -- is thought to be the oldest house in the township. (See Matawan Colonial Home Endures Through Changes, The Register, 7 November 1988, p. 10A.) A nice photo array of the Freneau gravesite can be found at Flickr. The Smithsonian maintains a record of the sculpture atop Freneau's grave. A cover story in the Matawan Journal issue of 23 November 1972 titled Hawkins House, Four Other Historic Sites to Be Noted discussed the erection of commemorative signs at Hawkins House, Burrowes Mansion, the Freneau grave, and the old hospital on Ravine Drive.

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