Historical Notes for Millburn Poor Farm -- in Essex County

Extracted and Submitted by:  David Wilson   ocaladay1@earthlink.net 

This was taken from an article of "The Guide" a historical article publication for Millburn, NJ.  It was on page 8 in the July 13th edition but I do not know the year because it was not written at the top when I received this.  It is titled "Once Upon a Time...Park was Poor Farm"

"Editors Note:  The Guide would like to thank Jesse Bole for the following description of Millburn's Poor Farm which was located on the site of the present Gero Park.  Mr. Bole served for 42 years as Township Welfare Director."  

The first paragraph is from "History of Essex & Hudson Counties", compiled by William H. Shaw, published in 1884.

Poor Farm:

 Previous to 1875, the plan was pursued of farming out the poor of the township to be cared for by the lowest bidder.  Under this plan it was hardly possible to avoid gross abuses, and the direct care of the overseer was substituted for that of contractors.  This, although an improvement on the previous plan, was attended with difficulties, and in 1879 a farm of 67 acres, on White Oak Ridge Road was purchased by the township, and a man employed to conduct it, and to care for the paupers on it.  So successful has this plan proved that the township will soon save in expenses, more than the cost of the farm, and the paupers are better cared for than ever before.  Caleb Van Wert has been in charge of the this farm from the time of the purchase to the present (1884).

According to an article printed in the January 1939 edition of the Millburn paper, mention is made of an article which appeared in the "Arrow" an early township newspaper, the purchase price of the Poor Farm in 1879 was $2,500.00 plus $102.37 for counsel fees.  This information obtained from Mrs. Phillip A. Ross, daughter and wife of two of the lessees of the early part of the 1900's.

 Potters's Field:

Potter's Field, a burial ground,  is located down over the hill where Kennedy Parkway and Parsonage Hill Road intersect.  Graves were marked by small white birch trees.  Other old residents think some graves were marked with a field stone.  As far as could be remembered, 
the last body was interred in about 1904. 


     Until 1914, the farm was run by the town, with paid superintendent, 
     Isaac De Groot in residence at that time.  

     Early in 1914, the town found the farm too expensive to maintain 
     as there were only three inmates.
[Thereafter it seems to have merely been rented
     out under a contract requiring the tenants to care for the poor.  PHL ]

The dormitory building, the converted old wooden school house , was moved from up along the front of the property at White oak Ridge Road about 1913, when the new White Oak Ridge School was built.  The old school faced the lane leading down to the farm house. 

April 1, 1914 George Trowbridge (1868-1940) rented the farm with the obligation to take in any indigent persons the town saw fit to send up.  The farm remained as such until November 1, 1924, when it was rented by Mr. & Mrs. Phillip A. Ross under the same conditions and remained as such until January 1, 1934.  Farming operations were sub-let to James Wratchford of Farley Road.

The old school house was used during the Trowbridge tenancy as a milk house, containing steam equipment for sterilization, bottling and refrigeration.  At one time during the James tenancy the dormitory was leased out to a Mrs. H. Kellington and her family.
In June 1919, the farm was used as a setting for the motion picture "The Stream of Life" produced by Paramount Pictures then located in Yonkers, New York.  The story was written by Reverend James K. Shields of Maplewood.  Several of the local children had parts in the picture.

On January 1, 1934, the township rented the premises 
                   [Apparently no longer serving as a poorhouse. PHL
to Mr. & Mrs. Earl James of Parsonage Hill Road.  The James ran a dairy operation with Joseph Ginty, tenanting the house for the James on the premises for the operation of the dairy farm.  Mr. Ginty left and a Mr. Mumma moved into the house.  It was about that time that Mrs. Crosby, a local resident acquired the privileges of using part of the premises to keep her stray dogs.

In 1925, the Fin, Fur, Feather Skeet Club was established on the property.  Officers of the club were Mr. William Conway, Eugene Connett  Jr., and Marshall Greer.

After the James and the Mummas left the property was leased to Eugene Meeker.  During this time the barns and pastures were probably sublet to a person who kept and boarded horses.

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