A monthly publication of The National Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association
May 2022 On the Web: www.w3r-us.org Vol. 2, No. 5
Leadership Hits Ground Running after Annual Meeting
With the Annual Meeting barely ended, the re-elected and new officers and directors of W3R-US
are focusing with new vigor on the ever-expanding work and reach of the Association. Among
them – major new fundraising efforts; completion and launch of the new travel app;
establishment of a broad-based Values/Social Justice/JEDI Committee; and a greater presence at
events along the Trail.
National Chair Larry Abell and three other officers won new two-year terms during the hybrid
April 23 meeting, held at the Somerset County Business Partnership in Somerville, Bridgewater
Township, NJ. Also re-elected were Recording Secretary Jeff Canning, Corresponding Secretary
Elaine Lawton and Treasurer Dave Meredith. Bruce Donald was elected Vice Chair, succeeding
Julie Diddell. Re-elected to three-year terms on the Board of Directors were Bill Conley, Carol
“Sam” Meredith, Dave Meredith and Nicole Yancey. Newcomers Lynn Briggs and Brad Fay
were elected to three-year terms.
Six outgoing members of the Board transitioned to the Trail Blazers group, the former members
of the Board who have helped build W3R-US into the organization it is today. The automatic
honor, accompanied by thanks for their years of service, was conferred upon Janet Lee Burnet,
Roseanna Gorham, Blanche Hunnewell, Sal Lilienthal, Lucie Poirier and Robert Reyes.
Please see below for additional news from the Annual Meeting, highlights of the Trail
Administrator’s virtual presentation and a roundup of associated events.
Highlights from Annual Meeting
- The meeting attracted 28 people – 15 in person and 13 virtually.
- National Chair Larry Abell noted as he welcomed everyone that our Association’s biggest challenge – and opportunity – is the anticipated cutoff of National Park Service(NPS) funding after May 31, 2023, and the need to develop new revenue streams.
- A Strategic Plan was adopted April 6, 2022.
- With only 50 percent of our volunteers reporting their hours, the value of our Association’s time spent on the Trail in 2021 was triple the funds received from the NPS. Larry encouraged all volunteers to report their hours regularly.
- New Jersey State Chair Julie Diddell thanked Brad and Jackie Fay for coordinating the meeting and related activities and said that, while New York may be noted for the Grand Reconnaissance in the summer of 1781, New Jersey is noted for the subsequent Grand Plan, in which the French and Continental forces deceived the British into expecting an attack on New York City until the allies were well on their way to Yorktown.
- In response to suggestions made last year, the format of Board and Annual meetings has been modified to shorten the sessions, with written reports from Committee and State Chairs circulated in advance.
- In an effort to reduce the volume of emails, a password-protected, Board-only Web site is being established to which minutes (including the Annual Meeting), financial statements, grant applications, bylaws, policies and other documents will be uploaded.
From the Trail Administrator
Johnny Carawan, acknowledging the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and staff shortages during the past year, shared an overview of his work going forward. Among the highlights during his virtual presentation at the Annual Meeting:
- The budget for the new Trail year, June 1, 2022-May 31, 2023, totals $338,000 and includes personnel, W3R-US and operations.
- A top priority is to establish a Trail identity with the sites along it.
- Beyond the new budget, funds currently allocated to W3R-US will be redirected to provide interpretative staff, which will enable Johnny, who is still a “one-man shop,” to focus more on operations and administration. He hopes to hire new staffers by this fall.
- Signage: Develop a strategy for wayside signage. … Standard signage is in the works. … Thanks to Director Ralph Nelson for his inventory of signs.
- Seek funding for special events, including Newport, RI, Westfield, NJ, Griggstown, NJ, and Women on the Water (a Newport sailing program for minority girls 6-12).
- Completion of a Comprehensive Management Plan for the Trail (already a decade overdue), which will provide a legal foundation to protect the Trail.
- The Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia is collecting artifacts of African Americans for a “Forgotten Founders” program that will visit schools beginning in 2024 and become a signature event for the 250th anniversary, in 2026, of the Declaration of Independence.
- $60,000 has been allocated for new Unigrids.
Journeying Through History in New Jersey
Despite the packed agenda of the Annual Meeting, in-person participants still had opportunities to socialize and learn about some of the rich Washington-Rochambeau and other history of the Somerset County area, beginning with an opening reception late Friday afternoon at the English Farm in Liberty Corner.
Carol English, whose family has been producing diversified agricultural products for more than 275 years – since before the Revolutionary War – welcomed everyone to the ninth-generation family farm, which is “committed to maintaining good stewardship of the land, following sustainable farming practices and operating a viable agricultural business,” according to its Website, http://www.englishfarm.org/index.php/about-our-farm. “By delivering locally grown fresh products to our neighbors, by promoting respect for the land, by providing a resource on local history and by offering education in agricultural practices, we invite our community to participate in our common heritage.” The farm, currently 82 acres compared with its original 45, is certified organic for vegetables, flowers and hay and its attractions include a farm store, flower production fields and animals that welcome visitors, along with seasonal events. Carol also gave us a guided tour of the buildings and fields, which were the site of a French encampment in late August 1781.
Saturday afternoon, after the meeting and lunch, a tour van, compliments of Somerset County and the Millstone Valley Preservation Coalition, was waiting for us. With newly elected Director Brad Fay as our primary guide, assisted by Natalie Zaman, program coordinator of the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission, and with Theresa Motley, an excellent and patient driver (think tight off-road squeezes and a few moments of uncertainty about where to go) at the wheel, 10 of us settled in (a few others opted to take their own cars) for a four- hour, 50-mile trip through local history.
Our first stop, familiar to me and a few others from the Bike and Kayak Tour in August 2021, was the Derrick Van Veghten House in Bridgewater Township, which was built around 1720 as a one-story brick farmhouse by Michael Van Veghten (sometimes spelled Vechten). His son Derrick enlarged it to two stories. The farm originally encompassed more than 850 acres. During the Revolutionary War, it sheltered Quartermaster General Nathanael Greene and his wife, Kitty, during the Second Middlebrook Encampment (1778-79); witnessed an evening (March 17, 1779) in which George Washington danced three hours with Kitty, supposedly without sitting down; was raided in October 1779 by British Lt. Col. John Simcoe and his troops (which included the burning of the Dutch Reformed Church that the Van Veghtens had just built across what witnessed Rochambeau’s troops passing by on their way to Yorktown in 1781. The current one- is now Finderne Avenue; and acre site is owned by the Somerset County Historical Society, whose president, Frank McGonigle, showed us around the building, which houses a research library, a genealogical library, a collection of Somerset County artifacts, a gift shop featuring works of local authors and two museum rooms of Native American artifacts and early tools.
Our next stop was a one-room schoolhouse, built around 1860, that is now Borough Hall for the Borough of Millstone. We were welcomed by Portia Orton, chair of the Historic District Commission, and Pat and Ron Morris, owners of the nearby John Van Doren House, who gave us an information- packed overview of the area. What is now Main Street was a major artery during the Revolutionary War; Rochambeau’s forces passed through and camped at the end of August 1781 and again in September 1782.
An informative four-page handout (including a map), distilled primarily from research by Dr. Robert Selig, W3R-US historian, included basic information about the composition of the French Expédition Particulière but also such lesser-known details as that a French army column stretched at least three miles along the roads and that the polyglot members of the colorful Lauzun’s Legion “by tradition and heritage … cursed in Hungarian.” As it often did, the Legion operated to shield the main French force in the hills to the west.
Then it was on to the Van Doren House, where Pat and Ron Morris, who live in the historic structure, welcomed us to the historic grounds, which were farmed until the end of World War II. The Georgian house, built about 1755, was used briefly by Washington on his way to Morristown after the Battle of Princeton Jan. 3, 1777, and French forces camped nearby Aug. 30- 31, 1781. After setting the scene, the Morrises gave us a detailed tour of the large, handsome barn, which was built about 1770. Among other anecdotes, they told us that the British allegedly interrogated Mrs. Van Doren after hanging her by her heels. Part of the barn is still used as private living quarters.
We then headed south along the scenic Millstone River and the Delaware and Raritan Canal (a onetime industrial workhorse that is now a linear park popular with walkers and cyclists) and followed Mount Lucas Road over the Princeton Ridge to Princeton. Our route took us through the historically black Witherspoon-Jackson District, where singer Paul Robeson was born and where his father was pastor of the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church. A street festival added to the ambience.
The area looked increasingly familiar (from the Bike and Kayak Tour) as we neared the Princeton Battle Monument, where we were welcomed by Michelle Pirone Lambros, an energetic Princeton councilwoman who enthusiastically told us about the vision of a new Special Improvement Neighborhood designed to highlight the rich cultural history of the Witherspoon district and cultivate historical, cultural and agricultural tourism. The multimillion-dollar plan includes more outdoor dining, a semi-pedestrian mall along three blocks of Witherspoon Street and development of a distinctive streetscape.
As we turned north up New Jersey Route 27 to return to Somerville, we passed Nassau Hall, the oldest building on the campus of Princeton University, where Congress met for four months in 1783. According to information posted on the university’s Web site, “Here Congress congratulated George Washington on his successful termination of the war, received the news of the signing of the definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain, and welcomed the first foreign minister- from the Netherlands- accredited to the United States.”
Our final formal stop was the Rockingham Historic Site in Kingston (Franklin Township), the home of the Berrien family, where Washington headquartered from August to November 1783 while awaiting, along with the Congress in Princeton, the news of the signing of the peace treaty. Unfortunately, there was not time to explore the house, which was moved to its present location, near the Delaware and Raritan Canal, in 2001 and is now owned and interpreted by the State of New Jersey. It stands near Rocky Hill, where the various French and Continental forces, which had traveled by various routes from New York, finally came together before continuing toward Yorktown.
Witness sites to the Yorktown Campaign abound along the Millstone Valley National Scenic Byway. One of particular interest was the historic Red Horse Tavern in Griggstown, once another house of the Van Doren family and now the home of our hosts, Brad and Jackie Fay, where the following day they welcomed members of the W3R entourage to brunch.
We returned to Somerville a little after 5 p.m., where we reclaimed our cars and proceeded to the Verve French Bistro at 18 E. Main Street, in the center of town. By now our group was down to eight as earlier participants in the day’s activities had headed either home or to other obligations.
Somerville Mayor Dennis Sullivan and his wife, Margaret, stopped by to welcome us and he shared the news that Somerville is seeking a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service to rejuvenate the Wallace House, a Georgian-style structure that served as Washington’s headquarters during the Second Middlebrook Encampment, 1778-79. The gathering broke up around 9 p.m.
– Jeff Canning, National Recording Secretary
From the Editor
Yes, despite the email date, this is the May 2022 edition. My apologies for the delay; too many personal and professional obligations and demands seemed to show up at once, with the result that very little got the timely attention it deserved. That, and the desire to provide a full report on the Annual Meeting and its associated activities, led to a decision to defer some news reports to the June edition, which will allow for better preparation and more prominent presentation. Thanks for understanding.
I hope you continue to enjoy The Bulletin and find it helpful in keeping abreast of the activities of The National Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association on numerous fronts. Thank you for your input, assistance, suggestions, comments and other kind words. To keep up with all news of our Association, please check our Web site regularly: www.w3r-us.org
Your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome. Please email me at email@example.com
– Jeff Canning, National Recording Secretary
Welcome to all of our new members! Thank you to all of our renewing members!
This month our current and prospective members came out to meet us at various events that resumed after the pandemic canceled or postponed activities. Membership in W3R provides the benefits of camaraderie, learning and merrymaking when we meet at historical gatherings such as History Day at East Jersey Old Towne, Piscataway, NJ, and a talk by Bolton, CT, historian John Toomey, along with a tour of French Encampment 5 in Bolton with the Hudson River Patriots Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
– Julie Diddell, National Membership Committee Chair
DAR Recognizes National Chair
An Invitation: Visit Our Online Store
Director Sam Meredith, Chair of the Earned Income Committee, invites shoppers to visit the W3R-US online store. The newest merchandise includes logo shirts and pens. Suggestions for merchandise should be sent to Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org
To visit the online store: https://w3rus.qbstores.com/a/login
In another online shopping matter, you can support W3R-US when you shop at Amazon. Here’s how. Instead of going to amazon.com:
- Enter smile.amazon.com in your browser address bar.
- Shop and place your order.
- Amazon will donate a percentage of your order to W3R-US.
Tracking Volunteer Service
Director Sam Meredith, who compiles the volunteer hours worked by W3R-US members, encourages state and committee chairs, as well as individuals, to report at least an estimate of their hours monthly, if possible, even if they have not been reporting regularly. Hours include meetings, phone calls, advocacy, research, planning, events, travel and reading emails and documents from the national office, among other items, both national and state/local, and the totals affect efforts to obtain grants and other external support for W3R-US. Sam’s template includes space for donations in kind (such as office space and computer use). Please email your monthly reports to Sam at email@example.com by the fifth of the following month. █