A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Terhune Park Namesake?

Can someone tell me for whom Terhune Park in Matawan is named? The park is located on South Street between Main and Broad Streets.

View Larger Map
I figure it is named for Edward Payson Terhune (c 1825 - 1907), New Jersey clergyman and author. He was born in New Brunswick, graduated from Rutgers and New Brunswick Seminary, and served in numerous clerical positions in New Jersey, Virginia, and in Italy.

In the late 1860s, Edward Terhune purchased the nearly 10 acres of land now known as Terhune Memorial Park - Sunnybank, which overlooks Pompton Lake in Wayne, NJ. The property served as the family's summer home for many years, revealing the occasional Revolutionary War relic to those who strolled its grounds. His son -- author, journalist, and dog breeder Albert Payson Terhune (1872-1942) -- made the property his permanent residence in 1912 and lived there until his death in 1942. His widow continued to care for the property, presumably until her death in 1964. At some point the property was transferred to Wayne Township, which administers the property today as a park.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Perth Amboy Notables

I found a couple of notable 19th century residents of nearby Perth Amboy, NJ in books I checked out from the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library this week.
  • Solomon Andrews (1806-1872) was an inventor, who at the beginning of the Civil War wanted to build airships for President Lincoln to help the Union Army with battlefield reconnaissance. He submitted his designs for the Andrews flying ship -- America's first dirigible -- in 1862, but the Secretary of War rejected his proposal, unable to imagine how it might be propelled through the sky. The Army was struggling with hot air balloons and failing miserably. Andrews requested and received his plans back from the government and eventually funded the construction himself, staking his extensive real and personal property on the venture's success. But without Federal interest, Andrews' successful if secretive test flights in 1863 did not lead to government acquisition of the aerostat before the end of the Civil War. On 5 June 1866, Andrews finally flew his airship from Perth Amboy to Oyster Bay, Long Island, amazing onlookers below. He died about six years later. (Source: New Jersey and the Civil War, by Earl Schanck Miers. Princeton: D Van Nostrand Co Inc; Volume 2, The New Jersey Historical Series; 1964, pp. 114-127) (Available at Matawan Aberdeen Public Library, general stacks, 974.9 M)
  • Thomas Mundy Peterson (1824-1904) was the first black American to vote (31 March 1870) after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. (Source: Freedom Not Far Distant: A Documentary History of Afro-Americans in New Jersey, by Clement A Price. Newark: New Jersey Historical Society, 1980, pp. 132, figure 13.) (Available at Matawan Aberdeen Public Library, general stacks, 974.9 Fr) See also Find-A-Grave, which has photographs of Peterson and his gravestone, and the Newark Public Library site, which celebrates African-American "firsts" with a page dedicated to Peterson and the first black female pilot.

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysian and Chinese Food at Airport Plaza in Hazlet

We tried the Kuala Lumpur Restaurant at Airport Plaza in Hazlet on Friday evening. A fierce storm had just come down from New York and Connecticut, so the power was out around town and the cops were directing traffic. We thought the restaurant might be closed, but the hostess quickly stepped out and encouraged us to come inside and eat.

I picked up a carry-out menu on the way out so I could describe the meals we ordered, but the dinner menu has more items and neither of our meals nor the soup are found on the carry-out menu. My wife and I decided to try the Malaysian cuisine; she had a fancy salted fish meal and I had a meal with chicken, mangoes, onions, and some sort of curry sauce. Both were excellent.

As a prelude, we picked a soup -- most had shrimp, which my wife can't have, so we got what I thnk was called the Stone Pot Soup. I don't recommend it. First of all, it was unwieldy, with long spaghetti-like noodles that couldn't easily be served into the bowls. It also had a heavy curry-like stock that had the consistency of the muddy Mississippi. Try something else.

The serving staff were efficient but the infrastructure and atmosphere weren't the best. The restaurant is in a storefront so it goes deep, with maybe eight booths down one side and half a dozen large round tables down the other side. The booth benches were in rather bad shape, with cuts into the plastic fabric of the seating. Clear Christmas lights are strung but not lit. A travel promotion of some sort adorned the tabletop under a sheet of glass, but we couldn't figure out what it was about. One of the staff proceeded up and down the aisle following his toddler who had free rein of the place for about five or ten minutes. And maybe it was the storm, but only one other group was in the place.

Caution: Most of the online maps incorrectly place this restaurant about a mile east of its actual location, at the corner of Route 36 and Stone Road. It is actually at the corner of Route 36 and Middle Road.

In summary, I highly recommend the main courses we had but I don't think I'll be doing there again for a sit-down meal. And since what we had isn't on the carry-out menu, I guess we won't be going back. For other thoughts on the place, check a December 2008 review at NJ.com and March and May 2009 reviews at Yelp.

On our way home, we stopped at Hazlet Plaza on Route 35 to visit a drug store, but it was closed. (Have you noticed they've hung a fabric sign that reads Walgreens over the old Drug Fair sign? I guess it's temporary. I hope.) Anyway, there was a man standing outside the China Buffet restaurant next door. He directed our attention to the roiling sky. We looked up and stared in amazement at the unusual clouds -- hundreds of little pouches dangling from the sky, with lightning shooting through the swirling formation. It seems that these are mammatus clouds --The Gawker indicates that these "popcorn clouds" were also seen over SoHo that same evening.

Pottery House to Host Weekly Summer Art Program

This week, The Pottery House, located in the Aberdeen Square Shopping Center on Main Street at Route 34, will begin two consecutive eight-week series of summer art classes -- your choice of either a Tuesday or Wednesday series that meets weekly from 10:30 am to noon -- for what they're calling The Pottery House Summer Camp 2009.

At a total cost of only $180 for the series (or $25 each for individual classes), you'll receive all the materials and supplies you need to create creative mosaics (30 June or 1 July), silver clay jewelry (7 or 8 July), pottery painting (14 or 15 July), fused glass art (21 or 22 July), jewelry beading (28 or 29 July), clay handbuilding (4 or 5 August), Sculpey pen holders (11 or 12 August), and decoupage (18 or 19 August). Free drinks and snacks will also be provided. After all, it is summer camp!

When you drop in for a latte this Monday at the Matawan Starbucks or a slice at Trattoria Rustica, be sure to also visit the Pottery House a few doors down and have a look around. Then sign up for the summer camp, which starts soon. I just know there's an artist inside of you waiting to spring forth and create wonderful works of art for the rest of us to enjoy!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

2009 Independence Day Fireworks in Matawan

Matawan's Independence Day fireworks display will be conducted this year after dusk on Sunday 5 July 2009 over Lake Lefferts. The fireworks usually begin around 9 pm and are launched from the back of the parking lot of the First Presbyterian Church on Route 34 at Franklin Street. Crowds gather at the church, on Ravine Drive at Matawan Avenue near the lake, and elsewhere. The display was wonderful last year and I can't wait to see what's in store next week.

Like the Matawan Advocate suggests, get there early and make an evening of it. I'd recommend parking near Starbucks, walking over for a fisherman's platter at Peter's Fishery or pizza and drinks at the Kat Shack, retrieving a blanket or lawn chairs from the car, and heading over to the church parking lot for the festivities. When it's over, I'd hop in the car and head south on Rte 34 to avoid any fireworks traffic. Those in a party mood could finish the evening with a visit to Court Jester or McDonough's for a night cap.
  • The Daily Record says a woman from Chester, NJ has been practicing law from an office in Matawan since 2005 and represented at least one client in county court but is not a member of the county bar association. She's been arrested for practicing law without a license and theft by deception.
  • Geology.com has an interactive map of the New York City area that allows you to see how much of the area would be affected by various changes in the sea level due to global warming. Grab the map and drag it down to Aberdeen, then zoom in. Choose a sea level rise -- it defaults at 7 meters but can be raised to 14 m. The higher levels tend to flood most of Cliffwood Beach. Drag the map over to the Bayshore and you'll see how devastating global warming will be to places like Union Beach and Keansburg. And if you look at the barrier islands just south of Sandy Hook, forget about it. Geology.com also has a wide assortment of New Jersey maps.

Free Internet at the Library - Keep It Movin'!

I generally don't use the computers at public libraries, but lots of folks do. The elderly are often there. Students. And the unemployed. It's a vital service to the community, but I think it can be a challenge to manage at times.

While working on Mission Matawan yesterday, I happened to tell one of the volunteers -- an unemployed patron of the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library -- about my blog and how I sometimes write about the library. I learned that lots of unemployed people used to gravitate to the Matawan library to use the free Internet in the morning for job searching, but fewer and fewer have been dropping in lately, stymied by some new software that the library installed on the machines. I'm told the software imposes a half-hour limit on use, while a job application can take an hour to complete. Library patrons might be in the middle of an app when they have to get off the PC. On the bright side, if no one is in line, the user can get up to two extensions on the time limit, for a total of an hour and a half continuous usage, but the unlucky ones have to cancel their applications right in the middle of the process. Plus, the software is said to be annoying as it flashes lots of alerts on the screen. The library staff told the unemployed patron that the software installation is an attempt to control use by high school students, who crowd the machines in the afternoon. This Mission Matawan volunteer asked me to mention the negative effect of the new software on morning patrons seeking work, in the hopes that the unemployed crowd could get longer time limits.

I suppose all local libraries are having to play King Solomon when it comes to allocating free use of the Internet. While a quiet affair, there can be arguments, cutting in line, pleading, and even bullying. (Just like the Raritan River bridges on the Garden State Parkway during the morning rush.) I saw firsthand the brief but sometimes emotional struggles that can develop between a library staffer and patron when I inadvertently sat in the Internet waiting area at Old Bridge Public Library a few weeks ago. And at Matawan, the reference librarian wears the hat of the Internet Tsar, warning users to sign in before sitting at a computer and telling folks their time is up. Librarians have certainly come a long way from "Shhhhhhhhhhh!"

Keep in mind that you can bring your laptop to the Matawan library and use their wi-fi system. That might help keep the 12 desktop computers free for those lacking a machine. Check out the library's resources page and look at the section labeled Wireless Hotspot for more information about wi-fi.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Researching Slavery in Northern Monmouth County, NJ

If you are interested in researching local African-American genealogy, the Office of the Monmouth County Clerk in Freehold, New Jersey maintains records on black births and manumissions for the county. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the county clerk organized many of these records and published two useful books, which are available to borrow from the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library:
While New Jersey never abolished slavery, the Quakers convinced the NJ legislature to grant special status to black children born after 4 July 1804. An 1803 law established that male blacks were to be freed at age 25 and females at age 21. The Black Birth book records qualifying births in the county for the duration of the law. Keep in mind that slaves born before the arbitrary 1804 date would never be freed under the law and that owners were forbidden to free their slaves before age 21 or after age 35. (Later the law was changed allowing slaves to be kept until age 40 and 45.)

The Black Birth book is sorted chronologically, by parents' names, by children's names, by slave owners' names, by children's surnames, by parents' surnames, and by slave owners' occupations. That makes it easier to do family research. Local points of interest include Middletown (Md), Middletown Point (Mdpt), and Mattawan Neck (Mtnk).

Roughly one in ten Monmouth County residents was a slave in 1790 compared to fewer than one in sixteen statewide. There were only 373 manumission deeds or freedom papers filed in Monmouth County from 1791 to 1844.

The three local slave owners in the book are: Peter Covenhoven (Mtnk 1805, Mdpt 1807, no location 1809, no location 1811) , Delafayette Schanck var Schenck (Md 1806, Md 1808, Md 1809, no location 1812, Mdpt 1817, no location 1821, no location 1828), and Eliza F Vanderhoef (Mdpt 1817). Schenck freed a slave in 1826.

Consider these books:

Plus these:

Black Birth Book of Monmouth County New Jersey 1804-1848

Manumission Book of Monmouth County New Jersey 1791-1844

Known Contaminated Sites in Aberdeen, NJ as of 2001

Rutgers University's Department of Human Ecology has a 2001 list of known contaminated sites on its website containing the following listings for Aberdeen Township that year:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Matawan Aberdeen Middle School 2009 Baseball Champs

Matawan Huskies are the Shore Conference of Middle Schools champs for the third consecutive year, according to the Independent and the school's website. The team had a 17-0 season. Congratulations to Jim Schueing and his team.

I can't find a site that explains this championship, but I presume that the title is bestowed on the team with the best record within the Shore Conference. I don't get the sense that there was a recent championship match, or the details of such a game, including the opposing team and a score, would have been mentioned. If there was no recent game, then why is this article appearing in the paper now when the season ended in May? I'm happy to see the team mentioned, I just am lacking details. Inquiring minds wanna know.

For those interested in middle school education, I came across the NJ Middle School Association and a page of weblinks for middle school educators produced by the NJ Consortium for Middle Schools.

Maybe I'm the only one left in town who didn't know, but I just realized that MAMS no longer stands for Matawan Avenue Middle School. Guess I've been out of touch. For others who weren't aware of this, the change to Matawan Aberdeen Middle School took place in September 2005, when much of the repair work was completed or under way after that unfortunate teenage arson fire the year before. (See the 2005 article in the Independent.)

News Updates as of 25 June 2009

  • A Matawan man who helped air Hezbollah TV in New York was recently sentenced to 17 months for providing material support to terrorism, per the Associated Press. He worked with a man from Staten Island, who had a yard full of satellite dishes to facilitate the broadcasts, according to the Staten Island Advance. (Think the equipment in that yard was conspicuous??) An article from the Star Ledger repeated on NJ.com says he was a Brooklyn dentist who lived in NJ.
  • NJ Open Government Notes has a recent article that cites a 1986 case between the school board and the teachers union over the prompt availability of meeting minutes.
  • Aberdeen Townsquare Shopping Center has declared 11 July 2009 as Summer Safety Day. Come and visit Aberdeen emergency services units from 10 am to 2 pm. They'll have their vehicles on display. And you can learn how to be safe in hot or stormy weather, or when handling fire at campfires and cookouts, or when you're around pools or at the beach. You can even bring your bike and have it safety-checked. (Check out the flyer)
  • I'm seeing good reviews (see Chowhound and Jersey Menus) of a sushi restaurant on Route 34 named Wasabi House. Based on comments at Chowhound, Wasabi House had a restaurant in East Brunswick that was very popular and has now opened in the site of the former Bistro Amerigo here in Matawan. The location is way down Route 34 towards Old Bridge, just past the Marketplace and before the Sunoco and Big Ed's at Morristown Road.
  • Private Officer Breaking News picked up a May 2009 wire service story about a Keansburg shoplifter who was challenged by the loss prevention officer at Shoprite on Lloyd Road. Aberdeen Police captured the man, who had attempted to steal $129 in goods but fled to the woods behind the store when his activities were questioned by store security.
  • The second annual Matawan-Aberdeen Idol Singing Contest is scheduled for 4 August 2009 as part of the National Night Out Against Crime. Auditions will be 13 July. The festivites will be at the corner of Ravine Drive and Main Street in downtown Matawan. See the article in the Independent for further details.
  • A Matawan man is learning to use Korean swords at an academy in East Brunswick, according to MyCentralJersey.
  • Check out the article on horseshoe crabs at Cliffwood Beach in the Independent.
  • Matawan sends only its best to Middletown to discuss the rules of baseball.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NJ Transit Upgrading Monitors at Newark Penn Station

NJ Transit replaced some of the monitors on Tracks 3/4 at Newark Penn Station recently. Hopefully the new equipment is part of an overhaul of the computer system itself and not just a surface makeover of an inadequately powered network. The monitors are slightly wider than the previous ones, but they are displaying too many trains, making the font too small to read from any distance. They don't seem to have advertisements on them, at least not yet. One of the older monitors on Track 4 still displays ads when it should be telling passengers which stops the next train will make, as I mentioned in a previous blog.

Customer service remains poor between conductors and passengers. There are some trains where the stops are not announced to passengers on the train or platform. There have been trains where the conductors made themselves scarce and the train stops were not posted, so customers were scrambling to find a conductor on the train to ask about the stops. I carry an April schedule, the latest one available last week at Metropark, and those times are no longer accurate.

Rail Fan Window is a railroad hobbyist site focused on the New York City area, its subways, light rail systems, and regional trains. This link contains lots of photographs of Newark Penn Station and PATH.

Monday, June 22, 2009

US Supreme Court and Special Education

The US Supreme Court ruled today in favor of parents of special education students seeking reimbursement for private school even in cases when the child has never attended public school, at least under certain circumstances, according to a NY Times article.

John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion in the 6-3 ruling, saying, in part “We conclude that IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] authorizes reimbursement for the cost of private special education services when a school district fails to provide a FAPE [free and appropriate public education] and the private school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school. ... It would be strange for the act to provide a remedy, as all agree it does, where a school district offers a child inadequate special-education services but to leave parents without relief in the more egregious situation in which the school district unreasonably denies a child access to such services altogether.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Need for Oversight

The Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District's contracts with its Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, and Business Administrator/Secretary are subject to revision at the next school board meeting scheduled for 25 June 2009, according to a public notice at the MARSD website.

As might have been expected with an open salary and benefits discussion, there was much gnashing of teeth this weekend in reader comments on the Aberdeener blogsite. His post about the board's responsibilities concerning the superintendent's recent request to transfer Cliffwood Elementary School's principal to troubled Strathmore Elementary, a thoughtful discussion of divergent perceptions of the board's function, became a place for his readers to wax eloquently about these too-opaque personnel contract discussions.

While Aberdeener's article focused on whether or not the board should play an aggressive oversight role in BOE personnel strategic moves, some of his readership took things in rather dark directions and eventually turned on Aberdeener himself. I marvel at how these anonymous commentators can so effortlessly provide narratives for innumerable conspiracies by persistently-ill-intentioned bureaucratic boogeymen. They should take up the mystery writer's trade. In forty posts they managed to complain of retribution against union members, the tenure of an imbecilic administrator, public corruption that pads the pockets of officials at the cost of the proper education of our youth, a possible return to croneyism, more politics as usual - including broken campaign promises by board members (read Joey) -- and even the superfluousness of the board itself.

Ignoring the jadedness and bad faith demonstrated in many of the comments, few came to the point. Maybe the board's processes aren't open enough to avoid appearances of conflict of interest. Maybe policy changes could help avoid this sort of public and professional angst? It certainly cannot be healthy. It all gets back to Aberdeener's original point -- the need for improved oversight by the board.

Something to Think About in Aberdeen This Independence Day

As the 4th of July approaches here in Aberdeen, let's remember those brave souls who are dying in Iran in the hope of free elections. The NY Times has the latest on the violence there. Check out their slide show on the protests.

Matawan Needs City Center Development

Commercial development of downtown Matawan has been heading the wrong direction for many years. No one seems to picure downtown beyond the storefronts on Main Street. Think how vibrant downtown Matawan could be if the block between Little Street and Park Avenue became part of a restored city center. Wouldn't it be better to have postal distribution facilities elsewhere in the area, such as on the vacant property where a pallet warehouse once stood on Amboy Avenue in Cliffwood? The post office complex, with its mail processing center and large fenced-in parking lot, proscribes development between Main and Broad Streets of, say, a quaint shopping district with a couple of banks, a breakfast shop, newsstand, 24-hour pharmacy, an Irish-Mexican fusion restaurant, and an expanded library. Entrepreneurs keep testing ventures on Main Street -- and some are currently quite popular -- but a more comprehensive plan for downtown would help anchor those gains and begin to draw visitors with money to spend. One need only look at Keyport to see a host of gaps in how Matawan is proceeding in urban renewal.

View Larger Map

Taking NJ Transit to a Concert at the PNC Bank Arts Center

UPDATE 21 Aug 2012: LiveNation and the local police had things well in hand this afternoon at Aberdeen-Matawan. Hundreds of young people filed off the trains down a cordon towards a large group of waiting buses, all without apparent incident. Even the conductors on the train were paying closer attention to the crowding in the coaches. There may be some hope for this shuttle service yet.

UPDATE Aug 2012: There have been a couple of crowd control issues at the train station this year. The police blame a shortage of buses. See this Patch article and notice the many comments from locals complaining about the shuttle. 

UPDATE Sep 2011: I wrote the article below two years ago. While the shuttle still runs as described, LiveNation no longer posts information about the shuttle on its website. There is a small note saying to check their site for updates, but there are none that I could find. The instructions I used to provide on how to find the information on LiveNation are no longer valid, so I've edited them out. They've changed their website design and removed the links and pages I had described.  I'm not sure why. If someone knows why, let me know.

Also, you should know that while the shuttle has had few incidents, one or two concerts have brought in a particularly rowdy crowd that got out of hand and the police were called in to break up a near riot. The incidents made the local papers. Both the bus company and the police now try to anticipate which of these events might draw a large and rowdy crowd so additional buses and police can be on hand to keep things calm. 

The lack of official public information about this shuttle service makes my article quite popular. Glad to help out and I hope you enjoy your show. I've modified the text below for clarity. Feel free to post comments or send me an email to update me on the service. - Pat

For those of you looking for information about getting to a concert at the PNC Bank Arts Center by train and shuttle bus, you can try checking out LiveNation, which operates the web page for the former Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel. They claim to provide updates on shuttle service, but I didn't see any information there today. The following information about the shuttle service used to be provided by LiveNation but I don't see it on their site anymore:

Ride NJ Transit's North Jersey Coast Line train to the Aberdeen/Matawan station. PNC Bank Arts Center provides free shuttle bus service directly to our front gates. The shuttle bus will start running continuously two hours before show time until after the performance. The last shuttle bus leaves the PNC Bank Arts Center at 11:30 p.m. even if the performance is still in progress.

Here are some directions on where the bus picks you up at the Aberdeen-Matawan rail station. You will arrive at one of the raised Aberdeen train station platforms. After you exit the train, move to the steps at the end of the platform towards the back of the train. If you arrived on Track 1, you will have to carefully cross the railroad tracks and street. Do not cross against the signal as trains can surprise you by entering the station from the opposite direction of your train. A few local trains stop on Track 2, so you won't have to cross the tracks.

Cross the street that intersects the tracks. Be careful as the streets around the station are typically congested with commuters rushing to get home, both on foot and in cars. Make your way towards the white stucco (former Matawan train station) building  Your shuttle bus to the concert typically awaits passengers by a long, narrow strip of concrete island just across the street from the entrance to the white building. I've never seen any signage in the station or on the bus, so take note of these instructions as the parking lot is vast and many commuters are unaware of the shuttle.

News Updates as of 21 June 2009

  • Cliffwood Fire House's new fire truck was scheduled for its ritual wetdown by neighboring fire houses on Saturday 20 June 2009 from 1 pm to 4 pm.
  • The Aberdeen Zoning Board is scheduled to meet at One Aberdeen Square on Wednesday 24 June 2009 at 7:30 pm. (see agenda) Two variances are sought by local residents in new business before the board. One involves a Northland Lane couple, who built an enclosed porch without prior approval and are now looking to keep same. The construction was a tad off and requires a variance. The other involves an Independence Drive man, who wants to squeeze a shed onto his property at significant odds with the local code.
  • The Matawan Aberdeen School Board is scheduled to meet at One Crest Way on 25 June 2009 at 8 pm. A note on the MARSD calendar says the meeting is in lieu of the regularly scheduled meeting on 29 June.
  • Those interested in the arts can plan to see Michaelangelo's first painting, which is on special exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until 7 September. The Torment of Saint Anthony went on display on the second floor of the European Paintings Gallery on 16 June and will be shipped back to its owners after Labor Day.
  • Chowhound reports on Kawa Sushi on Main Street in Matawan.
  • Two Cliffwood Beach men have been indicted on attempted murder charges, according to the Bayshore Courier, which cites the Asbury Park Press.
  • After a torrent of complaints, Monmouth County officials have backed off their plans to run the MOM line through Red Bank, according to MyCentralJersey, and are instead looking once again at a route that heads west to the Northeast Corridor Line. There is also a proposal afoot to get the Hudson Trail out of the hands of the railroad once and for all. I approve on both counts. On the flip side, the development plans for the area around Aberdeen-Matawan's train station are stuck in idle, as are such plans almost everywhere along NJ train lines. See a recent NY Times article about Transit Villages, which gives you some color on the general topic but no specifics on the local development plans.
  • Matawan native Steve Conte of the band New York Dolls is mentioned in this article. See him performing in this You Tube video.
  • A Matawan resident is moving to Delaware to escape high property taxes. Yes, Nancy, you told me so. Taxes are outrageous and something has to give. Why don't we start with regionalizing school districts?
  • The local director of a major Indian technology firm has entered his business software design in the company's annual Innovista business innovations competition, according to BusinessWeek.
  • The Independent followed up on the new volleyball court, but their story provides few details beyond the press notice already on the township website. The article discusses a downgrade and delays to scheduled repairs on the roller hockey rink in the same park by the shore. Reading between the lines, it seems that the township, faced with a budget crunch, has reduced the value of the rink repair project to such an extent that too few contractors are willing to bid on the job and the repairs are therefore delayed.
  • A Matawan couple biking through nearby Middletown were cited at the end of an Asbury Park Press article about tree climbing.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mandeville and Pomfret on Local History

The Matawan Aberdeen Public Library has some interesting local histories with mentions of places of interest to us here in Aberdeen and Matawan. If you grab a book and take a seat in the library, you can leisurely peruse these and not even have to take them home. Frankly, I don't recommend a full reading of either unless your summer agenda is embarassingly open.

1) The Story of Middletown: The Oldest Settlement in New Jersey, by Ernest W Mandeville, Rector of Christ Church, Middletown (Middletown: Christ Church, 1927, republished 1972 by Thelma K Jelliffe) can be found in the general shelves under code 974.946 MA.

Mandeville provides a key to the historical rendering of local town names (p. 14):
  • Baptist Town (Holmdel)
  • Chanceville (New Monmouth)
  • Leedsville (Lincroft)
  • Middletown Point (Matawan)
  • Morrisville (Everett)
  • Riceville (Navesink)
  • Waackack (Keansburg)
Mandeville has a whole chapter on pirates (Chapter VI, Pirate Days in Middletown, pp. 54-59). Given the local lore that Captain Kidd buried some of his loot in Treasure Lake in Cliffwood Beach, it might be interesting to read about how Captain Kidd used Ideal Beach in Port Monmouth as his home port and many of his crew settled in Middletown and environs when their wild days came to an end.

View Larger Map

Mandeville's section on Captain Jacob Conover of Middletown is borrowed nearly word for word from p. 289 of The Bergen Family; or the Descendants of Hans Hansen Bergen, One of the Early Settlers of New York and Brooklyn, L.I., written about fifty years earlier by Teunis G Bergen. Capt Conover reputedly disabled the lighthouse at Sandy Hook prior to the arrival of the British fleet to occupy New York City during the American Revolution. Conover was captured at Middletown Point, taken aboard a British ship and threatened with hanging but ended up being held prisoner instead in the Rhinelander Sugar House in New York. (Mandeville, pp. 65-66)

Mandeville's book contains the image of an advertisement from the 1 December 1852 edition of The New Jersey Standard - An Independent Family Journal. J. Lewis & Company, a shoemaker with 9 years experience, was selling fine boots and shoes next door to E. H. Dayton's store at Middletown Point. I was able to locate a John Lewis, age 29, shoemaker, $700 in property, living in Raritan (Keyport) in the 1850 census, along with his wife Margaret (29), son William A (5), daughters Sarah Jane (6) and Lydia Ann (2), blacksmith Daniel Carhart (22), coachmaker Samuel Baker (21), and Margaret Carhart (18). Enumerated next in the census was (John's brother?) Daniel Lewis, age 31, also a shoemaker, along with wife Catharine (26), son James H (4), blacksmiths James Coovert (19) and Bentiman Knowland (19), and shoemaker John Hughes (16). John Lewis left his Middletown Point shoemaking business in the next decade. By the time of the 1860 census, John Lewis was a farmer in Marlboro with $4,500 in real property and $400 in personal property. By the way, Lewis had three more daughters by then.

The New Jersey Proprietors and Their Lands, by John E Pomfret (Princeton: D Van Nostrand Co, Inc, Volume 9 of the New Jersey Historical Series, 1964) appears on the general shelves under code 974.9 PO.

As if any of us needed to be told, Jersey is a corruption. More specifically, Jersey actually means Caesar's Island (Caesaria) and is derived from Jer- (a corrupted form of Caesar) and -sey, which signifies island. (p. 8)

Pomfret discusses the 1665 land grant that eventually formed Monmouth County. The original Navesink land grant reached from Sandy Hook to the mouth of the Raritan River, then went up the river about 25 miles and thence down to Barnegat Bay. In 1675 the grant lands were renamed Middletown, and they became Monmouth County in 1682. (p. 11 ff)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Goings On in Aberdeen 17-18 June 2009

The Matawan Rotary Club issued six scholarships and grants on Thursday 18 June 2009 at their monthly meeting at the Buttonwood. Jonathan Bartlett, Emily Montelione, and Kara Rajmahan, all of Matawan Regional High School, received college scholarships, and grants went to the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library, the Ronald McDonald House, and Mission Matawan.

Tom Gambino of the Matawan Aberdeen School Board hosted a mission statement brainstorming session at the high school on Wednesday evening. About three dozen people, including Superintendent O'Malley, shuffled themselves between a score of thought provoking questions, giving their input in small groups led by facilitators with newsprint and markers. My wife and I attended, shared our opinions with our neighbors and gobbled up the free cookies.

The New Jersey League of Municipalities is attempting to push legislation through the State Senate that would halve the amount that libraries derive from local tax revenues, according to Librarian and Information Science News. Rather than rely on changing tax receipts to regulate revenues, the League intends to cut the factor itself, which has been the same for over 70 years. It would be a huge mistake to tinker with New Jersey Library Laws. The New Jersey Library Association's blog shows that while some towns argue that library funding should be reduced to relieve strained budgets, others recognize the increased need for library services in these difficult times. More people need to use the library to look for work, to polish resumes, to use the free computers and borrow books. The library is a great, inexpensive place to take your children to read or watch a movie. The mayor of Perth Amboy is moving to restore that town's historic library, built by Andrew Carnegie over a hundred years ago. How the township and borough are forcing our library to tap its capital improvement fund for general fund expenses was fodder for discussion (146 comments) at Aberdeener the past few days.

Joe Schroek plans to open a new cafe called Higher Grounds at 114 Main Street, right across the street from Maloney's, on the 5th of July. There will be open mic nights, poetry slams, and featured artists to go along with their coffee and smoothies. The works of local photographers and artists will appear in the cafe's gallery. Check out his Higher Grounds fan site on Facebook. Facebook members can click here to find his site and become a fan.

I had my debut on Wednesday nite at karaoke night at Maloney's. A couple of Bass ales helped me muster the nerve. If you've not done karaoke before, they have plenty of books with lists of songs by artist. You simply write down the song on a card they have on the counter, then hand it to the DJ and wait for your name to be called. The letters in the song change from white to yellow as you move through the song, so you know when to sing. Finding the note is kinda up to you, as you will note when you hear others singing. My daughter kept daring me to get up there and sing, so now she owes me a Glenfiddich.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

David Lyell: Early Matawan Goldsmith, Politician

David Lyell, who was born in England in 1670 and worked as a goldsmith in London, bought into the East Jersey province as a proprietor in 1697. He arranged for a lot at the corner of Water and Gordon Streets in Perth Amboy, the capital of the province at the time, and in early 1699 set off for America with his wife Katherine Lorraine, daughter of Sir Thomas Lorraine of Kirkharle. They arrived through New York that spring and Lyell was declared a freeman of Perth Amboy in August 1699.

Lyell would have landed in troubled times soon enough. For when Queen Anne took power in England in 1702, she joined East and West Jersey under a unified council. Chapter XI The Union of the Jerseys in New Jersey as a Colony and as a State, by Francis Bazley Lee, suggests in 1902 high prose that Queen Anne made a huge mistake in choosing the colonial governor.

The governmental change, so auspiciously instituted, was threatened with dire disaster through the stupid personality of the appointing power and the weakness and cupidity of the appointee, Queen Anne was but ill advised, and this, combined with her willfulness, led to the selection of Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, whose manifold faults, in charity, may be charged to degeneracy.

Lord Cornbury was removed in 1708.

The Lyells lived periodically in their home in Perth Amboy but maintained permanent residence in New York City. He owned extensive properties in New Brunswick, Barnegat, Crosswicks, Wickatunk, et al.

Being a Scotch Quaker, Lyell attended services at the Topanemus Meeting House in Marlboro whenever he was at his New Jersey home. His association with this group troubled the Crown, though, causing his nomination to the New Jersey Council to be blocked when proposed by Governor Robert Hunter in 1711 and 1715. He was finally seated on the Council in 1716, at which point the Lyells relocated to his 300 acre plantation in Middletown Point. He continued to reside at Middletown Point and serve as Councillor until his death in 1725.

Lyell would have been one of the first two goldsmiths to settle and labor in New Jersey. Regretably, none of his work has survived. For further information, see Silversmiths of New Jersey (1700-1825) by Carl M Williams (Philadelphia: George S MacManus Co, 1949), pp 63-67, available at Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library (974.9 Wi).

Lyell was buried under a fine armorial tombstone at Topanemus Burial Ground in nearby Marlboro. Despite a crack across it, the ironstone tomb cover, created by a man known to researchers only as Old Elizabethtown Carver I, is held up by experts as one of the finest examples of American stone carving from the early 18th century. It was recovered from under jungle-like overgrowth and nearly a foot of dirt at the Topanemus Farm and relocated to St Peter's Episcopal Church in Freehold for preservation.

Lyell's widow is mentioned on pg 29 of New Aberdeen, or the Scotch Settlement of Monmouth County, New Jersey, by James Steen.

Lyell's son, Captain David Lyell, Jr, commanded his father's sloop The Monmouth out of Perth Amboy. His father's business took him to New England ports as well as Antigua and other foreign destinations.

World War I Service Memorial - Matawan (Column 2)

Duncan, William James {Duncan, Wm James}
Emmons, Charles
Emmons, Theodore
Evin, Hugh D
Farrara, Cariso
Fitzsinger, Robert
Fountain, Ross B
Furey, James P
Furey, John J *
Fury, Thomas
Gormley, John J *
Gormley, Michael J
Gulden, Rutledge P

Hagan, James A
Hawkins, William R
Haley, Arthur J
Haley, Joseph E
Haushan, James F
Heyer, Garrett
Hinds, Edward
Hinds, John V
Hinds, Halsey
Hourihan, James F
Hourihan, John *
Hulsart, Andrew
Ilivici, Dominick
Jesperson, George

Johnson, Soren
Kattner, Elmore
Kazum, Leme
Kearns, John D
King, Richard
Kirby, John
Knox, John
Knox, William
Kraus, Edward
Lambertson, Andrew
Lambertson, Herman
Linzmayer, Joseph

Longstreet, Henry M
Longstreet, Van

Lott, Arthur
Macholl, Harry L
Mack, George
Macolino, Carlo
Macolino, John
Magee, Charles
Magee, Thomas
Maguire, Furman
Maguire, George
Marvel, Stephen
Moran, Clarence

Saturday, June 13, 2009

World War I Service Memorial - Matawan (Column 1)

Alt, George
Alt, Joseph
Baier, Fred
Beckstein, Gustav
Beers, Cecil R
Belafsky, Samuel
Bendy, Edward
Boice, Elmer C
Boice, John L
Bolte, Walter
Bonaventure, Robert
Brisco, Castro
Bublin, George *

Burlew, Fountain
Burlew, Fred M
Burns, Robert
Carney, James *
Carney, Richard B
Carney, William
Charaska, Walter
Churchman, Raymon
Ciaglia, Lupo
Clark, Elizabeth S *
Close, Harold
Clowes, Frank

Cogan, John C
Cogan, William
Coleman, Harry
Collins, Joseph P
Collins, Michael
Conk, Joseph T
Conk, Obadiah
Conover, Elias G
Conover, J Harold
Conover, John R
Conover, Simon
Cooper, Kenneth
Corkey, John
Costek, Antone
Cox, Frank

Davis, Alfred F
Devlin, Gerald A
Devlin, Raphael C
Dexter, Charles S
Dietrich, Charles
Dietrich, Otto
Diggin, William O
Di Santo, Pasquale P
Dolan, Michael Jr
Duncan, Frank H
Duncan, William Jackson {Duncan, Wm Jackson}
Collins, William A

World War I Memorial - Matawan

Matawan, New Jersey's World War I memorial consists of the statue of a Doughboy atop a monument with engraved brass plaques on the sides.

It is located in a park at the corner of Broad Street and Main Street. It contains a list of names of locals who served. I will post that list in separate entries to this blog.

Models of School Mission Statements - Londonderry, NH

If you're looking for a school mission statement to compare to our district's, Londonderry, New Hampshire's Londonderry High School is a great place to start. It's geared to students in their dual roles of academics and learning community members, but that could be adapted to our needs quite easily.

Londonderry High School, in partnership with parents and the community, provides a safe and nurturing environment with varied opportunities promoting good character, academic excellence, and responsible citizenship necessary for future success in the local and global community.


Academic Expectations
Students of Londonderry High School
  • Demonstrate literacy through reading, writing, thinking and speaking effectively.
  • Apply critical thinking, research and problem solving skills to a changing world.
  • Function as self-directed learners in a variety of learning and working environments.
Civic Expectations
Members of the Londonderry High School community
  • Demonstrate an awareness of their individual rights and responsibilities as contributing members of the larger community.
  • Exhibit school pride through support of school activities and involvement in community life.
  • Model ethical and lawful behavior as responsible and accountable citizens.
Social Expectations
Members of the Londonderry High School community
  • Develop positive relationships, demonstrate tolerance, and respect diversity.
  • Interact cooperatively while working toward common objectives.
  • Promote personal wellness and the ability to make healthy choices.

News Updates as of 13 June 2009

  • The Asbury Park press provided a nice article about the Rock n Music Idol 2009 event, which was held on 7 June 2009 at the VFW in Cliffwood Beach.
  • Matawan Council passed a resolution on 4 June 2009 opposing plans for the MOM rail line to join the North Jersey Coast Line at Matawan-Aberdeen or Red Bank, per Independent. Congress has alloted over $1.5 million towards the plan over the past two years, which seems to be driving all this.
  • Monmouth County has drafted a coastal evacuation plan, according to the Independent. Certain roads need to be widened and other upgrades made to allow heavy traffic to move away from the shoreline in case of a major storm. It looks like Aberdeen and Matawan, part of the northern portion of the county plan, would be at the receiving end of any rush from the seashore.
  • Matawan residents complaining about their property tax assessments, per Independent.
  • NJ State Assembly is developing a stimulus bill. Samuel D Thompson, R-Matawan, tried to delay the bill but he was overruled by the Democratic majority, per NJ Biz.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Personnel Changes in the Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District for 2009/2010

Matawan Regional High School will have a half dozen new faces among its teachers this fall, according to the superintendent's 2009/2010 school year personnel recommendations that were to be presented at the 8 June 2009 MARSD Workshop Meeting.
  • Craig Burfeindt - TV Production (replacing Kaiserman/Kress)
  • Michael Craparo - Social Studies (replacing McCabe)
  • Marc Komito - Math (replacing Leggett)
  • James Smith - Chemistry (replacing Chapman)
  • Timothy McGovern - Chemistry (replacing Samitt)
  • Michele Lambly - Social Studies (replacing Rosiello-Leach)
Brian Farrell and Kelly Bera are to become the principals at Cliffwood Elementary and Strathmore Elementary, respectively. Laurie Costello will be a new math teacher at Matawan Avenue Middle School. And there will be four new custodians in the school district.

There are many other details in this lengthy document; you may wish to peruse the agenda for items of particular interest. A sampling of what you will find: A new social studies textbook was approved. Over $3.3 million in payroll expenditures in May. Summer school. Summer theatre. Home schooling. Work study. An agreement that allows school buses to be used for Aberdeen Township summer recreation program, but the Twp must pay all expenses for use of the buses and drivers. Contract for an alarm system at the district. Dining services contract. Board vehicles maintenance contract.

I noticed the current Mission and Vision Statements in the attached agenda. Since they will be discussed at an upcoming workshop, I thought I would include the texts here:

Mission Statement
  • To provide every child with the highest quality of instruction, curricula, and services;
  • To treat every child with respect and dignity;
  • To give every child the opportunity to learn and mature, to acquire a thirst for knowledge, to experience the satisfaction of accomplishment, and to anticipate becoming a productive member of a democratic society.
Vision Statement

Upon leaving the Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District, all children will credit us with having given them what they need educationally to help them succeed in life in the pursuit of their own goals.

Monmouth and Ocean County Summer Events 2009

The Jersey Shore Fine Arts Festival, sponsored by the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, features over 90 exhibitors in a juried art show being held this weekend, 13-14 June 2009, at Barnegat Avenue and 5th Street in Beach Haven.

Wave Gathering Music Festival 2009 is next weekend, 19-21 June, in Asbury Park. A free street festival is scheduled for 20 June from noon to 6pm on Cookman Avenue. The promoters strongly recommend taking NJ Transit trains or buses to the festival, which is located within easy walking distance of the station. Check here for further information and directions.

The George Sheehan Classic is a shore tradition. The race is being held in Red Bank on Saturday 13 June 2009. Check the website for further information and directions.

Aberdeen Township and Matawan Borough are co-sponsoring an Idol Singing Contest on 4 August 2009. Applications are available for residents grades 6 to 12. Contestants compete for cash prizes. Auditions are 13 July 2009. The event is part of the National Night Out Against Crime.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Offer Your Thoughts on Schools' Mission and Vision on 17 June at MRHS

Just passing this along. If you live in Aberdeen or Matawan, I hope you can attend.

Be sure to check out the flyer online as it varies a bit from this letter. For example, the flyer asks for pre-registration and the letter makes no mention of it. And the flyer suggests dropping in anytime while the letter suggests a process that could easily take a couple of hours. Maybe someone in authority can offer a clarification of these and any other issues in the comments section below?


The MARSD's School Board has created a sub-committee to revise the district's Mission and Vision Statements. These statements are a vital part of any organization and are most effective when created in collaboration with all the stakeholders.

In an effort to include all members of our community in the revision of these statements, we are planning to replicate a world cafe structure on June 17th from 7:00 to 9:00 in the high school cafeteria. The structure is one where twenty tables will be set up, each table will have a different question and a table facilitator. Participants from our community will spend ten minutes at each table discussing the question and then independently move to another table. Our goal is to have over 200 participants join us throughout the evening for this dynamic event.

This an exciting opportunity for our community members to come together and share their personal mission, vision, values and beliefs for our school district. I have attached a flyer highlighting the event.

We welcome everyone's participation and hope to see you on June 17th. I hope you will join us and if possible, please pass the word.

The Subcommittee Advisory Board

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

News Updates as of 10 June 2009

  • The governments of Aberdeen and Matawan have at long last absconded with the widow's mite. The trustees of our jointly-sponsored regional free library have reluctantly agreed to comply with requests to help cover our municipal budget shortfalls with monies meant for the library's capital improvement plan. The Independent quotes Susan Pike, director of the library, as saying that the loss of $275,000 "has stopped us from moving forward." Oh, and did I mention that Aberdeen wants more? They want more. Or, should I say, we want more. After all, it is our taxes that are being kept low by tapping the library's capital fund. Just how desperate are we to keep our taxes low? I'm frankly appalled.
  • Wally Tunison, of Monmouth Heritage Trails, Inc, recommends in an Asbury Park Press editorial that the Henry Hudson Trail be taken away from the railroad once and for all to become part of the county's preserved lands. I agree with him. He is more definitive about the Hudson Trail's current reprieve than is warranted, in my opinion, as the Red Bank deal may yet come unhinged, so the conservation of those lands is more important than ever.
  • The Staten Island Advance says a grand jury found the evidence insufficient to indict a 30-year old Matawan man in connection with the death last year of Joseph Cesario at a bus stop in New Springfield, NY.

Summer Fun in Woodbridge, NJ in 2009

Nearby Woodbridge has fun things to do this summer. For example, you will want to check out its summer concert series on Wednesdays on Main Street. If you're a runner, the town has the Woodbridge Run for Pizza on 1 July 2009. And there will be music, food, and Independence Day fireworks at Alvin P Williams Memorial Park on the Sewaren Waterfront on the 3rd of July; park gates open at 4 pm. If you're not into public gatherings, maybe you'll simply want to try the summer fare at a Woodbridge area restaurant.

Pop Warner Tryouts - Football and Cheerleaders

Check the Matawan Aberdeen Pop Warner website for details about tryouts and a host of other upcoming events in June and July.

Red Bank Gets a Dose of MOM's TLC

The classic if neverending political fracas lovingly referred to as MOM -- the Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex rail line project -- has added yet another grizzly episode to the pantheon of Jersey polemics. The News Transcript says a panel consisting of officials from NJ Transit, NJ Transportation Planning Authority, and each of the three counties involved, drafted a plan that names Red Bank as the lucky junction (at the moment anyway) to connect Lakehurst with New York.

The line to Lakehurst would include intermediate stops along an existing freight line through Shrewsbury, Eatontown, Tinton Falls, Colts Neck, Wall, Howell, Lakewood, Jackson, and Toms River. There would also be a spur from Freehold to Farmingdale. No new stations would have to be built, according to this plan.

Officials in Red Bank and neighboring towns are putting candles in the church tower and drying their powder, watching anxiously for the rascals to dare approach. Freeholder John D'Amico, who says the plan is the best the panel could muster, is reportedly not in good stead with his colleagues in Freehold because they had to first hear about the decision in the media. Marlboro's mayor is throwing Red Bank under the bus, apparently just happy that the panel didn't choose a plan that would ruin his town.

While D'Amico says an announcement is imminent, others say nothing is settled. It's hard to believe the plan could become a reality without broader support at the county level, but they do call it "railroading" after all. The possibility of a Matawan junction is mentioned in the article, but it continues to be one of the lesser options.

I'm sure it is hard to draw a line through such populous counties and find a solution acceptable for all. But no plan is better than a bad plan. I personally like Red Bank and would hate to see its unique cultural atmosphere destroyed through traffic congestion. And I'm sure those in Red Bank don't wish harm to befall Matawan and its neighbors. There must be a better alternative.