A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

History: Brookdale Farm

Brookdale Community College, which opened in Lincroft in 1967, was built on the Brookdale Farm of Colonel and Mrs. Lewis Steenrod Thompson. The Colonel purchased the property from the Withers Estate in 1893, according to the Colonel's obituary in 1936.

So, who is Withers?

Hanover - 1887 Horse of the Year (TVG)

David Dunham Withers (1822 -1892) and partners founded Monmouth Park Racetrack in 1878. A local real estate agent's web page and Wikipedia say that he bought 800 acres of land from Christ Church and several area farms in 1888, establishing a fine horse farm on the property. Withers died in 1892 and the farm was sold. Brooklyn Backstretch has a biography of Withers, but some of the details don't agree with other sources.
The 17 Mar 1888 edition of The Matawan Journal mentions a D D Withers, who owned the Bray property near Holmdel. Mr. D. D. Withers contemplates spending thousands of dollars this summer in putting up extensive buildings on the "Bray" property, near Holmdel. Mr R. Bedle, of Matawan, will superintend the work.

Who is Bray?

There was a Daniel Bray, 46 years old, living in Holmdel in the 1870 Federal Census. He was a farmer with $20,000 in property. He had a wife, 2 sons and 2 daughters. Daniel seems to be the only Bray in Holmdel with significant property. And I didn't see Daniel in the 1880 census.

What do we know about the Brookdale Farm from the Matawan Journal?

Governor A Harry Moore of New Jersey spoke at an event at Brookdale Farm on 26 Sep 1927, according to the 30 Sep 1927 edition of The Journal.

"I congratulate you," said Gov Moore to the audience of between 500 and 600 citizens on the lawn of Mrs. Lewis H, Thompson's residence "on accepting your responsibility. The soul of a county is revealed in the provision that it makes for its unfortunates."

The governor went on to speak of the privilege of the individual and his duly of community to take care of the two classes which are particularly its wards, the children and the old people. "I do not urge you", he said, "what is simply your plain duty!" The difference between cold blooded business and the purpose of the government which must remember the human element and not forget the unfortunates was well brought out by Gov. Moore . . .

Eleanor Roosevelt, then wife of the Governor of New York, accepted Mrs Thompson's invitation to be guest speaker at the annual meeting of MCOSS, according to the 21 Aug 1931 edition of The Journal.

Mrs Thompson was to host the annual meeting of the Monmouth County Organization of Social Services (MCOSS), of which she was president, at Brookdale Farm on 13 Sep 1934, according to the 24 Aug 1934 edition of The Journal.

A pet show was to be held on the Brookdale Farm 1-2 Jun 1935, according to the 31 May 1935 edition of The Journal.

Colonel Thompson died in 1936. See obituary in the 27 Mar 1936 edition of The Matawan Journal.

The first post-war Monmouth County dog show was to be held on the Brookdale Farm on 29 Jun 1946, according to the 2 May 1946 edition of The Matawan Journal.

I still wonder where the name Brookdale came from. Perhaps it is linked to the Brookdale Handicap, a thoroughbred horse race established in 1887 at Gravesend Racetrack in Brooklyn? The racetrack had opened only a year earlier, in 1886, in the same general era when Withers was so well known in thoroughbred racing circles. The race was run at Gravesend until 1910, then from 1914 to 1933 at Aquaduct in Queens.


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