New Jersey (State of)
The Garden State really has two different states of mind. The motto is Liberty and Prosperity.
Speaking geologically, the Raritan River is a little trickle running along the path of what was once the northern entrance to Delaware Bay. In prehistoric days, southern New Jersey was a sandy barrier island. The gap gradually filled in along the route from Perth Amboy to Trenton, leaving sheltered harbors at both ends of a strip of unusually fine farmland attractive to early settlers. By the time of the Revolution, the strip was comfortably settled by rich farmers who tended to favor the Loyalist cause, while the pine barrens to the South and the hilly woods to the North were inhabited by newer immigrants who tended to be poor and hence favored the rebel cause. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin relates how, as boy, he came from Boston to Philadelphia by coming down from Perth Amboy (the capital of East Jersey) to Trenton and nearby Burlington (the capital of West Jersey), and then down Delaware to Philadelphia. Later on, Washington was to retreat down the same path from his defeats in New York, hotly pursued by the British. After the battle of Trenton, Washington promptly chased the British back up the Raritan to New Brunswick and Perth Amboy, and bottled them up there, while establishing winter quarters in Morristown. Much later, when the British General Henry Clinton was later abandoning Philadelphia (which General Howe had captured by coming in the back door from the Chesapeake) the British marched back up the same Raritan waist of New Jersey by first crossing the Delaware to Haddonfield, going up the king's Highway to Trenton/Burlington, and then East to New Brunswick and the British fleet. This was the main highway of the middle colonies, and the persisting term "King's Highway" was once completely appropriate.
When considering the relationships between New Jersey's Raritan Strip and Philadelphia in later decades, the names of Aaron Burr, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Doris Duke, and Charles Lindbergh come up, along with a number of others whose tales need retelling. College football was invented in a game between Rutgers and Princeton, eighteen miles apart, and Woodrow Wilson started the movement to put an end to college fraternities, called eating clubs at Princeton. But the strip itself seems to have been glorified only by Thornton Wilder. His short play called A Happy Journey To Trenton and Camden has been a favorite production by the drama societies of Rutgers, Princeton and Lawrencevile for almost a century. As written by Wilder during the time when he was a school teacher at Lawrenceville, the occupants of a Model T rattle and bump along the strip, commenting on the passing scene. Both the play and the strip deserve more attention than they usually get.
|THE NEW JERSEY SAMPLER: Historic Tales of Old New Jersey: John T. Cunningham ASIN: B0014NDDMO||Amazon|
|The Pine Barrens: John McPhee: ISBN-13: 978-0374514426||Amazon|
|The Happy Journey to Camden and Trenton Play in One Act: Thornton Wilder: ASIN: B000IQXI0K||Amazon|
Originally published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012; most-recently modified: Tuesday, May 21, 2019