For those of you who read the Hunterdon County Democrat, you will be familiar with a long-time feature of the newspaper. Titled “Old Ink,” it gives short excerpts from stories 125, 100, 75 and 50 years ago. For a little while, they were publishing items from 175 years ago, which I much appreciated, but the editors changed their minds and went back to the old formula.
One item that caught my eye was this:
1912 / LONG GONE–On a farm in Delaware Township owned by Elizabeth Carroll, known as the Gideon Moore farm, is an old neglected burying ground about 50 feet square in which sleep the early settlers. The ground is now overgrown with forest trees. The oldest date decipherable on the rough stones is 1683.
Whenever I hear of someone boasting that their house was built in the 1680s in Hunterdon, or, in this case, claiming a date like 1683 in a cemetery, I get a little irked. That is wishful thinking trumping plain facts. No one was here in southern Hunterdon County before 1700 except the Lenape, who did not bother to set up headstones on their graves with dates on them. I suppose it’s human nature to make such claims, since someone was doing it in 1887. And I’m sure this has been going on for much longer than that. But this is a good example of why it is wise not to believe everything you read.
The cemetery referred to is the Moore Cemetery, which I have already written about at The Delaware Township Post. The only people likely to qualify for a birth date in the 1680′s are Jacob Moore and his wife Anna or Amy. But their graves are no longer to be found. And their children were all born in the 18th century. Ah well.
Fortunately, some Moore descendants got to work and about 20 years ago, the cemetery was looking pretty good. I haven’t visited it recently, so perhaps nature is reclaiming it again.
One of the characteristics of these stories is the dry wit and subtle, sometimes very subtle, commentary on people’s ‘goings on.’ This week had a story of that nature which made me laugh.
1887 / DISBANDING–The news from Milford is to the effect that the Cornet Band of that town is about to disband. Whether this is good news or bad news to the people of Milford we cannot undertake to say at this distance.
But if they got closer, they might be very pleased. The next item tells us much about how people were living in 1887.
1887 / RUNAWAY HOME–Quite some excitement was caused in town last Wednesday when William B. Wean’s horse came running through town in the afternoon, driverless, hitched to a buggy at a runaway gallop. Mr. Wean had driven the horse to the woods in the morning about two miles from home, tied him to a tree, and began to cut down trees. For some time the horse was very uneasy and in Mr. Wean’s absence working in the woods, the horse untied itself, started for home at a wild gait and never stopped until the stable door was reached. It was a lucky go, running with two heavy blankets fasted on the animal. Not one thing was broken, neither harness nor wagon.
Nor, I gather, was the horse. That was one very smart animal. Perhaps it was spooked by something dead in the woods.
Horses were the automobiles of that day. If you took your horse in for a repair, you did not expect this to happen:
1887 / SICK HORSES–Mr. John Dalrymple lost his horse one day last week. He had driven it to Frenchtown to have it doctored for lameness and it died there. Mr. John Elgard has a very sick horse which the doctor thinks will not get well.
Those were the days. No one today reports on someone’s car dying at the repair shop. People worry about loss of privacy from technology, and I am certainly one of them. But it appears there wasn’t a lot of privacy back in 1887.
In an “Old Ink” article published on Feb. 8, 2007, was another of those tidbits that make you chuckle:
125 Years Ago –Scientific men assert that the only healthy way to sleep is with the head to the north. No attention has been paid to this by church architects, and yet astonishment is expressed by the falling off in church attendance.
Maybe too subtle?