Ogdensburg Borough hits the century mark

Ogdensburg Borough hits the century mark

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OGDENSBURG — Another milestone is coming up in Sussex County as Ogdensburg Borough turns 100 years old this year. Its actually settlement and growth, however, is much older and predates the birth of our nation.

Historians ascribe the impetus for the growth of the borough and the Wallkill Valley area due to its potential mineral resources. They recorded that as early as 1640 Dutch explorers visited the Sterling Mines area seeking minerals. Through the years, various persons and entities, including Lord Stirling, owned the mines and the area surrounding them.

According to Andrew Bickerton in his two volume, 842-page book entitled “Some History and Headlines of the Upper Wallkill Valley” (2007), Robert Ogden started purchasing land in what was then Hardyston Township on Nov. 11, 1752, when he purchased 100 acres of land from the Aaron Young allotment.

Eventually members of the Ogden family owned almost all of the land that later comprised Ogdensburg Borough. Due to the Revolutionary War escalating in Elizabeth Town, Robert Ogden II came to live in Ogdensburg in April 1775.

Local historians have recorded that members of the Ogden family soon built a plantation. They are credited with planting apple and peach orchards, operating a forge and a distillery and working the Ogden Mines. Members of the family were also actively involved in establishing the Presbyterian Church at Sparta.

Bickerton surmises that the area was evidently settled early as a 1760 map from the William Fadden Collection that is included in his book shows three existing mills in the area as well as Kelly’s Tavern that was located at the intersection where 517 North and Route 23 meet.

Thomas F. Gordon in the “Gazetteer of the State of New Jersey” (1834) wrote the following about Ogdensburg: “Village of Hardiston Township, Sussex Co., about 75 miles northeast of Trenton, and about nine miles from Newton, in the valley of the Wallkill river; contains 21 dwellings, a small store, and saw mill, scattered along the road within the distance of a mile. There are some good lands in the narrow valley here, but the sides of the mountain are broken and stony.” Incidentally, Gordon makes no mention of the mines or mining activity in the area.

Bickerton’s research reflects that the first written legal document containing the name of the area as Ogdensburg appears in a road return dated Feb. 23, 1860, when a new road is described as leading from Franklin to Ogden’s burgh. Bickerton identifies this road as the Corkhill Road and Plant Street.

An article that appeared in the New Jersey Herald on July 27, 1871, provides a brief history of Ogdensburg. A portion of the article notes that “we believe that the time of the first settlement of this neighborhood is not known, but that it was settled more than a century ago is a known fact. Among the earliest settlers known were the Hoaglands, Wades, and Ogdens. The oldest house now standing in the neighborhood is that now occupied by Mr. Joseph Brooks, one mile from Ogdensburg, on the Sparta road. It was built by a man named Hoagland, some time before the Revolutionary War, and is therefore at least one hundred years old.

“Of its business but little at present can be said if we except the mines. The business of the place will be done in the future. At present, however, it has two flourishing stores and one hotel. In the centre of the village is a handsome and commodious school house. The school is a large one, numbering about 175 pupils, and is under the charge of those efficient instructors, Mr. Joel Campbell and lady.”

In the “History of Sussex County” (1881), Snell ascribes the growth in Ogdensburg to 1848 when the New Jersey Zinc Company inaugurated active operations at Stirling Hill. Snell observed that “the beginning of mining operations marked also the beginning of a concentrated settlement.”

The arrival of the New Jersey Midland railroad in 1872 also increased activity in the future borough. Snell wrote that “Ogdensburg is now possessed of an alleged population of 562, of whom a considerable number are engaged in labor at the zinc mines. There is an excellent graded school, two taverns, a church, and three stores, which the latter derive a good trade from the village and surrounding agricultural district, as well as from the residents at Ogden Mine, (Edison) where there is sometimes a population of 500 or more.”

One suspects that the formation of Ogdensburg as a borough may have been prompted by Franklin becoming a borough a year earlier. The prime reason given by residents for the separation from Sparta was that they did not feel that they held any common interests with Sparta. As one local historian expressed it, “they had different interests and problems.”

The first suggestion that the borough become a separate entity appeared in a news article submitted by Carl Von Smit, who appears to have submitted a weekly column on Ogdensburg Items to the Sussex Independent newspaper. In an article dated Sept. 15, 1871, Von Smit wrote in part: “A new street is being opened here and more are to immediately follow. We are bound to thrive and expect to apply ere long to the Legislature for an Act of Incorporation.”

There was a lapse of 42 years, however, prior to an article appearing in local newspapers for on Nov. 28, 1913, an article appeared noting that “Ogdensburg to incorporate. A committee of residents of Ogdensburg is investigating the advisability of applying at the next meeting of the Legislature for a borough government. It is proposed to take in territory that will be a mile and a half square beginning at the Franklin line on the north, it is proposed to run to the boundary lines and include the tracks of S&W and thence south to the Brooks farm, thence west to and including the Marshall mine and thence to the Halsey Hoppaugh property.”

The committee to explore the separation from Sparta Township was composed of William Brooks, Dr. L.C. Burd, Raymond Case, Patrick J. Dolan, Michael McEntee, John G. Munson, William Osborne, W.A. Percey, Reuben Stidworthy, and John Sweeney. On Dec. 3, 1913, citizens of Ogdensburg held a mass meeting to determine whether the sentiment of the town was in favor of incorporating.

Presumably, their decision was in the affirmative as on Feb. 2, 1914, State Sen. Sam Munson presented the Act of Incorporation Document to the legislature. It was approved on Feb. 26, 1914, with a referendum held on March 31, 1914. Of the 143 registered voters in the area, 96 cast affirmative votes with 13 voting against leaving Sparta.

Following this, a special election was held on April 28, 1914, when P.J. Dolan was elected as the newly-formed borough’s first mayor. Dolan was elected to serve on the council with Elmer Brooks, Raymond Case, William Chambers, Richard Evans, John Madden and Marshal Snover. The first council meeting was held at the school that now serves as the Old Schoolhouse and Firehouse Museum.

One of the first projects undertaken by the newly formed council was the construction of a municipal building. On Aug. 11, 1916, it was reported in the local newspapers that “the Council of the Borough of Ogdensburg at a meeting held Monday night reached the decision to purchase a lot 150 feet square, owned by Postmaster John P. Madden and situated in a new street he is developing, as a site for the proposed borough hall. The purchase price of the lot will be $450.” On March 8, 1917, a contract was awarded to Frank Winters for $6,375 to construct the borough hall. A three-cell jail was located on the lower level of the building while the main level housed the meeting hall and borough offices with the top floor serving as storage and later as a police department.

The next item on the council’s agenda was a borough water supply that was completed in 1917. With the availability of water in August 1918 a volunteer fire department was incorporated with Edward J. Chamberlain serving as its first fire chief.

Electricity came to the borough in 1920 with electric lights and power coming in 1924.

Howard W. Fatzinger was hired as the borough’s first police chief in 1929 with a full time police department organized in 1931.

Time marches on. Much has transpired during the past century and now Ogdensburg is officially 100 years old.

•••

Jennie Sweetman is the history columnist for the New Jersey Herald. She may be contacted at jenniee@warwick.net.

Andrew Bickerton may be reached at vonbic63@yahoo.com.

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