On Main Street between Stiger and Bergen in Hackettstown now stands a CVS; the result of a long debate of what would become of the old Bergen Machine & Tool Co. which stood before it.
The story of the factory on Main begins with a company called American Sawmill Machinery which was founded in 1903. In their heyday they were the largest makers of circular sawmills in the country. The company is often confused with being an actual saw mill when in fact they manufactured sawmills for lumber businesses.
“During the 1950s the company used another name, American Woodworking Machinery Co., for marketing, presumably to de-emphasize their sawmill roots. This name should not be confused with the earlier, and larger, American Wood Working Machinery Co. The former name is associated with Hackettstown, NJ, and was used in the 1950s and possibly the early 1960s. The latter name is associated with Rochester, NY and Williamsport, PA (among others), and was active between 1897 and 1925.”
An example of a machine made by them can be found here.
In 1955, a new player was in town, the Bergen Machine & Tool factory. They moved the manufacturing part of their company to Hackettstown on the old Sawmill site and kept the sales office and warehouse on Franklin Avenue in Nutley.
The company left New Jersey for Mountain Top, Pa., in 2003 and the building sat vacant.
In 2011, a broken water line that soaked and weakened support beams led to a portion of Bergen Tool building collapsing. After that the building began to suffer from vandalism and neglect.
In June of 2011 a new owner bought the building for $1.1 million who proposed demolition as the dilapidated building was beyond rehabilitation.
Residents fought against demolition of the front building stating historical significance, but eventually the brick building came down.
At the far western side of New Jersey is the small community of Brainards, which was once known as Martin's Creek. Martin's Creek takes its name from the stream that empties out just across the Delaware on the Pennsylvania side, that area is also known as Martin's Creek. In New Jersey the railway station was also called Martin's Creek. Martin's Creek was the junction point of the Pennsylvania railroad.
The name Brainards is taken from David and John Brainerd, who had their cabin across the river. The Brainerds were a missionary to the Lene lenape that occupied the area in the 1790s. The area has since changed to Brainards instead of Brainerds. Named after missionaries, one would expect to at least find one church in town, this is not the case in Brainards.
“David Brainerd was born at Haddam, Connecticut, in 1718. He was educated at Yale, licensed to preach in 1742, and was appointed missionary to the Indians within the Forks of the Delaware by the "Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge." He began his mis- sionary labors among the Indians in the Forks of the Delaware early in the summer of 1744. On the 13th of May, 1744, he came to Sakhauwotung (Martin's Creek) within the forks, and was respectfully re- ceived by the Indian king, who permitted him to preach most of the summer at his house.”
Warren County, at one time, had large cement mills in active operation which helped in growing the towns up around them. The mills of the Alpha Cement Company helped to make the small town of Brainards grow by building company housing to attract the many Slavic immigrants arriving to become workers. The workers would then walk to work on the railroad bridge which crossed the Delaware River to Martin's Creek. Before this time the area had been mostly vacant and nothing which resembled a town or village.
Broad Street is Brainard's main thoroughfare. It is lined with former company housing. Alpha would rent the homes to the workers for 9 dollars a month. For single men there were the boarding houses which were run by widows of factory workers who had died. By the time the 1960s rolled around, the cement companies decided operating elsewhere would be more cost effective. They sold the company housing to those who wished to stay for $900 a home or $1200 for a home with plumbing. Company housing is usually recognized when viewing the landscape as a whole in the little variation from house to house and simple architectural styling. I noticed this when i first visited Brainards, before i knew it had been a company town. Some of the Alpha company’s houses are on property formerly a part of the lot of George Depue who lived in a stone house one-eighth of a mile south of the station from 1850 until his death in 1897.
The Bangor & Portland Railway delivered slate from quarries in northern Northampton County, Pennsylvania, to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad junction at Portland. In 1885, a branch line was built to connect with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Brainards, New Jersey which at that time was called Martin's creek as well. The name was eventually changed to distinguish it from the Martin's Creek located across the water.
The town also would have its dark times....
On April 29, 1911, disaster struck the the area of Martins Creek when a Utica teacher's excursion train carrying 169 Up-State school teachers and friends were on the way to Washington, New Jersey. The train was hurled down a forty-foot embankment at Martin's Creek, where it crashed and caught fire killing 12 people and injuring 101 others
On March 26, 1942 an explosion at the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in Easton took 31 lives, many had been residents of Brainards. The cement company gave deceased workers' widows only $11 per month for about six years as compensation for the loss of their husbands.
In 1945, it was the scene of a shooting after a fugitive escaped custody after being apprehended for the brutal slaying of his wife. Ernest Rittenhouse, 30, war plant worker had been a resident of the area and escaped back to his hometown to hideout after he murdered his wife with an ax and disappeared. The officers caught up to him and he somehow managed to wrestle the gun from the officers and shoot them both dead and jumped into the Martin's Creek to escape.
Now that the industry of the area is gone the town of Brainards is awaiting its next step, which is the development of its vacant parcels that line the Delaware River to spark life back into the once prosperous area.
Along the Pequest River and U.S. Route 46 in White Township within Warren County, New Jersey is Buttzville which is frequently listed on lists of odd and unusual place names.
Buttzville was not known as Buttzville until 1839, when Micheal Robert Buttz purchased the land from a miller who had used the property for a gristmill in its past. He soon opened a hotel and his descendants lived and worked in the town. Michael Robert Buttz named this little settlement Buttzville and that is still the name today.
Before Michael Buttz had come to Buttzville, he had a teaching gig near his former residence along the Delaware River before buying property in New Market and opening a saw mill, hotel and apple and rye distillery. He was also a justice of the peace and in the army. He sold it all in 1831 to George and John Troxall. He then took his chances in Politics and was elected on the Democratic ticket but finally gave up due to financial reasons. He next took his chances in Easton but again grew restless and made his final move to the Pequest River where he opened a grist mill, plaster mill and a general store.
By 1854, he sold the mill property to Elisha Kirkhuff. It, then, later passed hands to Linaberry and Anderson and then to Thomas Craig.
Buttzville United Methodist Church in Belvidere just commemorated 175 Years last year
He would die there at the age of 72 and was buried in the M.E. cemetery.
Thomas A. Edison once had a manufacturing plant and quarry in the area. Edison would often stop at Craig's Store in Buttzville. He and Tom Craig(also owned a store in addition the mill) became good friends. The original homes which were built in the last century are located off a street called Mill Street.
No members of the Buttz family live here today, although the name remains and many people still pass through and remark on the odd naming of the town.
One of northwestern New Jersey's oldest communities, is Johnsonburg once known as "Log Gaol" , which means log jail due to it being the location of jail which was erected in 1753. It was once the seat of newly formed Sussex County in the 1750s before joining Warren County. The log jail was the first county building erected for Sussex.County. The town was renamed Johnsonburg after a store owner who had been of the Johnson family.
I found myself driving out to Warren County in New Jersey once again to see the small town which still retains its original general stores, mill and hotel. At one time in the 19th century, it was a place of importance, a place where horse-drawn carriages moved up and down the streets and the tavern became was an important meeting place where court meetings and elections would be held.
Originally a stagecoach stop in which an east-west route carried mail from Dover, New Jersey to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and a north-south route which carried mail from Albany, New York to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the routes crossed through here and the town grew.
But the 19th century saw a new era, the age of canals and trains, which didn't make its way through Johnsonburg. The result was a town which grew little and remained stuck in the past. Many of the buildings were built in the 1800’s.
Upon entering the town I am greeted by the Hardin's Store, which dates to 1871 when is was built by Samuel Hardin, who had ownership of the mill at the time.
The wheelwright shop still stands on Allamuchy Road.
At the end of the road is the Johnsonburg Hotel with a store on its left. I had a nice talk with the man who currently owns the hotel and hes been in the process of renovating it for quite some time.
Next to the hotel is the Old Stone Episcopal Church.
Drake & Mackey store is pictured below, which was built in 1860.
Frelinghuysen Township Hall which is housed in the former Presbyterian Chapel.
On the western edge of town is an old barn.
Below is the Armstrong-Blair house. The home first was owned by William Armstrong and then was was acquired in the 1840s by James Blair. William Armstrong was a principal landowner at the time in the area and had control over the gristmill, tavern and a store. Blair is responsible for the Greek Revival remodeling of the home. The wagon house of the property sits on the site of the old jail.
William Armstrong was known as the village's pioneer merchant.
On Route 661 , I come to the mill which has been a focal point in the town since the 18th century. It ceased operation in 1937. The large mill pond to the north was created by damming Bear Creek and connected to the mill by a short head race while an underground tail race returns water to the creek.
At the end of the town on the western side of Route 661 are the ruins of the Van Horn Farm which sits upon the site of the Petite tavern which was operated by Jonathan Pettit as early as 1753. This was definitely a surprising find after reading a 1874 map of the area. The site was destroyed by a fire.
On Allamuchy Road is the small Johnsonburg Christian Church Cemetery which was established in the mid 19th century, and contains a variety of 19th and early 20th-century grave stones.
Johnsonburg today is a quiet residential neighborhood.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gonzalez is a photographer, blogger and historian currently residing in Newark, New Jersey.