It is almost impossible for the people of 1957 to realize that until at least 1830, and for many years after that, in some quarters, transportation by water, particularly by canal, seemed to be the only solution to the problems of traveling and shipping. The value of coal as a fuel was becoming evident as the forests of the eastern seaboard disappeared and charcoal for the iron smelters and furnaces became scarcer. In New Jersey 39 forges and furnaces had to be abandoned for lack of the necessary fuel. Soft coal was considered the vital answer. The first anthracite coal sent to Philadelphia in 1806 was mostly thrown away as it was deemed too difficult to ignite. How to get the coal from the mines to the mills was an agitating question.
Practical railroads at this time, of course, were not generally in use in the United States. The rivalry between Robert Fulton and John Stevens of Hoboken had produced a superior steamboat which was not only seaworthy, but an exciting novelty. Stevens' "Little Juliana" built soon after Fulton's "Claremont" employed for the first time new principles of propulsion?high pressure steam, an engine connected with the propeller shaft, and twin screws?principles still employed in steamships today. Mr. Stevens' originals may be seen now in the Smithsonian Institute. Stevens' first step was to design a boat large enough for commercial uses, and in the Spring of 1808 the "Phoenix" was launched at Hoboken. Soon every town of any size along the New Jersey coast, even towns like Rahway, Keyport, and Red Bank, were running steamships to New York and other ports.
To reach these steamboats transportation across New Jersey, became imperative. The old stage coaches and stage wagons operating on the fine new turnpikes continued to be clumsy, backbreaking and downright dangerous until after the War of 1812 when the new post coaches came into general use. These were capable of carrying 10 passengers, if one sat outside with the driver; had leather springs, and provided more commodious space for baggage. However, the frequent complaint was that the body was actually too small to carry nine passengers, and was so loosely suspended that the frequent "bobbing" caused seasickness. The invention of the new flat-topped vehicle "The Concord wagon" in 1830, was, therefore, hailed with delight and conceded to be the only perfect vehicle, and at last people could travel freely in some comfort by Concord wagon and steamboat from one state to another.
The Conestoga wagon was the freight train of the times. Shaped like a boat, it had a curved bottom which kept the load firmly in place. The rear wheels, larger than the front, were five or six feet high, with iron tires six inches broad. Drawn by six Conestoga horses, massive and powerful, and something like Percheron or "brewery" horses, a fleet of Conestoga wagons was a sight. The harness and gears were often embellished with bright colors and gay bells. The owners and drivers would spare no pains in decorating their equipment, and imaginations sometimes ran wild. Tar buckets to grease the axles, and water pails clanged and slopped their contents from their suspensions on the rear axles. A Conestoga wagon could carry as much as 28 barrels of flour, or six tons of commodities, a ton to a horse was the rule, and they often traveled in groups. most of us today know the Conestoga wagon only as the "prairie schooner" of our movie viewing, stalked by Indians, scurrying across the Plains to a western rendezvous, but Millburn children of the early 1800's knew it intimately. One wagon with six horses stretched out to a length of 60 feet, so that a fleet passing through Springfield from Sussex and Hunterdon Counties to the cities, or even leaving Millburn's papermills, must have been a sensation and pure delight to the youngsters of those days.
It might be interesting to our readers to learn that through the Conestoga wagons, New Jersey was one of the first States to adopt the "keep to the right" law of the roads. Previously the Americans had followed the English custom of keeping to the left, when passing a vehicle, but the Conestoga teamster was always on the left, astride the wheelhorse, walking at the left side, or riding the "laxy" board. In order to give the driver a clear view of the road, unobstructed by his own team or vehicle, it was necessary for his wagon to keep to the right, and soon other vehicles adopted this custom. In 1813 the New Jersey Legislature ordered carriages on public roads and turnpikes to keep to the right.
But even perfect Concord or Conestoga wagons could not carry iron and coal, and these were becoming more important than human passengers. New Jersey's rivers were not navigable far into the interior. Furthermore, the products of the mills were no longer designed only for local markets. Cities were becoming industrial centers and were hungrily clamoring for iron, coal, lime, stone, paper, and other basic materials. The farmers, too, began to get requests to supply the cities' populations with large quantities of goods. Business men began to see the advantages of canals. The Erie Canal, opened in 1825, was a tremendous achievement, and a system of canals across New Jersey, linking the interior with the sea, not only were envisioned, but eventually became actualities.
A great controversy raged when the route of the Morris Canal was being decided. The Canal was principally the brain child of George P. McCulloch of Morristown, who dreamed of connecting the upper Delaware River country with seaports near New York. The question was, should it come through Morristown to Elizabethport, or by way of Boonton to Newark. The former way would undoubtedly have placed Springfield or Millburn on the canal, and perhaps the railroad would never have cane here. As we've noted before, the if's of history rest on such small decisions. But the canal went through Boonton and Rockaway to Newark, and Millburn's papermills were still dependent on antiquated wagons to haul their products to sloops at Newark or Elizabeth.
The canals were hardly established, however, when it became evident to discerning men that a third great shift in means of transportation in New Jersey was inevitable. The first great change had been the wide use of wagons and coaches as roads were laid out; then by steamboat and canalboat people and their goods began moving; now business men were looking with interest on what John Stevens was doing in Hoboken, New Jersey. Stevens, called "the Father of American Railroads", was the son of the James Stevens who had invented the modern principles of steamship propulsion. In 1825 John was successfully running the first American steam locomotive on a circular track at Hoboken at the incredible speed of six miles an hour, later achieving twelve miles an hour, and effectively demonstrated the practicality of the new fangled idea. Mr. Stevens was a true inventor in that he was more interested in his ideas than in personal gain. He knew the importance of his invention and was primarily desirous of having the Federal government or the State take over the building and operation of a railroad. Stevens stumped the State and sent out countless broadsides beseeching the Legislature to grant a franchise across the State, but the canal and stagecoach interests and lobbies were powerful still, and at first nothing came of his efforts. He was finally successful, however, and the Camden and Amboy Railroad was chartered. In 1831 it ran its first train and it began to look as if the railroad were here to stay.
Meanwhile, successfully established in Millburn, with thriving papermills on his hands, was Israel D. Condit. He knew that business expansion could only come if means of shipping his products cheaply and quickly out of Millburn could be arranged. The canal was not available to Millburn. As an enterprising business man Mr. Condit must have either known Mr. Stevens personally, or had read and heard his many appeals for a railroad.
It might be presumed that he had visited the Hoboken proving grounds and seen the little engine performing its miracles. It is also quite possible that he was acquainted with another man of the day who was an authority on steam engines, and on the principles of most all branches of engineering. That person was Jones Renwick, Trustee of Columbia University, and Professor there of Experimental Chemistry and Natural Philosophy. He was the biographer of Robert Fulton, and also numbered among his important publications, a "Treatise on Steam Engines" published in 1830. James Renwick's granddaughter, Elizabeth Renwick, was destined to marry Israel D. Condit's grandson, Walton Whittingham, in Millburn many years later. Unfortunately, no one now alive can positively tell the author of Millburn's history in 1957, that these men were personally acquainted in 1830, but the historian is occasionally allowed to make a simple deduction in gathering up the loose threads of the tapestry of history, and we avail ourselves of this privilege here.
Mr. Condit, his cousin, Lewis Condi(c)t, (probably a cousin) who became the first President of the Morris and Essex, and the other men desiring to form a railroad, business men from Newark, Morristown, Madison, and New York, get in Newark frequently to discuss their ideas for a railroad to connect Morristown with tidewater. They would certainly have sought expert advice. The expert advice could have came from Professor Renwick, the Stevens family, or the inheritors of Fulton's ideas, and no doubt a young man with a machine shop in Newark, Seth Boyden, who was struggling to improve these new principles. At last, on January 29, 1835, seven members of the group, James Cook, William N. Wood, William Brittin, Jephtha P. Munn, John I. Bryans, Isaac Baldwin, and Israel D. Condit, were granted a charter by the New Jersey Legislature to construct a railroad from Morristown to some point in Essex County contiguous to tidewater. One of the main objects was to connect with the New Jersey Railroad (now the Pennsylvania Railroad) at either Center Street, Newark, or Elizabeth. Israel D. Condit also served on the first Board of Directors of the New Morris and Essex Railroad on its corporate organization. Jonathan Parkhurst was also a director.
In Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society (Vol. 1 (H.S.) p. 60), the story of the first days of the M. & E. Railroad, taken from its first records, are recounted. In the first report printed by the M. & E. the Directors asked and answered two questions, One, "Is it practicable to construct a railroad from Morristown to some point in Essex County"?, and Two, "Can such a road be constructed at that expense so that the transportation of passengers and products may offer a fair and reasonable remuneration to those who may embark on it?"
Two routes were proposed, one, from the Pennsylvania lines at Center Street, Newark, along Broad Street to Essex Avenue, and through the Oranges to Millburn, Chatham, Morristown; the other through Vauxhall, Irvington, and Union to Elizabeth and Avon Avenues, Newark, then along Clinton Avenue to Broad Street, and so on down to the Pennsylvania station. The estimate for the first route was $219,000.00; for the second, $217,000.00, to be raised by public subscription to the stock. However, it seems.that the people of Millburn and the Oranges were more willing to invest their money, and so eventually the railroad came here as we know it today. The heavy investments of at least five members of the Condit family, and several Dodd family members, (Mr. Condit's mother was a Dodd), who subscribed over 2,000 shares, and Millburn's Jonathan Parkhurst who bought 355 shares, besides same lesser subscriptions to names familiar in Millburn, seem to indicate Mr. Condit's good promotional work.
The contract for the actual building of the Morris and Essex was signed by the Railroad with Ephraim Beach and Abraham Brittin. Article 10 of the contract is worth noting:
"Article 10. For the preservation of peace and good order to prevent riots and brawls, and other disturbances along the line of this work, it is mutually agreed that no ardent spirits nor any kind of intoxicating drinks shall be permitted by the contractors who hereby pledge themselves to use all proper endeavor and to exert their best influence to prevent its introduction and use among the laborers employed upon the work."
Whether because of this clause or not, the work seems to have proceeded fairly rapidly for the line was finished to orange in November 1836. The first cars were horsedrawn to that station. However, the engineers struggled with the problem of getting the cars over the first hill (now the Roseville Avenue station), and the Millburn mountain to the summit of the short hills (now Summit), and Seth Boyden at last did it, and a trial run was made to Millburn on August 2, 1837. The "Morristown Jerseyman", ran an account of it in their next issue:
"NEW LOCOMOTIVE ? Our old friend, Seth Boyden, esq., of Newark has manufactured a locomotive engine for the Morris and Essex Railroad, which far exceeds his most sanguine expectations. On Tuesday of last week he made a trial on our Railroad, and came as far as Millville, one mile North of Springfield, with about 200 passengers. Between Newark and the Morris Canal crossing, the road rises 130 feet to the mile, which the engine ascended with the train of cars at a rapid rate, and at a fair trial of her speed, with the passengers, she went at the rate of sixty or seventy (six!)* miles per hour. Mr. Boyden has made several valuable improvements one of which is, the passengers are wholly protected from the fire which usually escapes from the chimney the sparks being taken to the ashpan underneath.
"It was quite amusing to witness the excitement produced among the horses and cattle in the neighboring fields, by the novel spectacle; and even some of the more intelligent natives opened their mouths and threw up their hands in mute astonishment as the train passed them."
*(Note: The speed of the train was either a gross exaggeration, or a typographical error for six or seven miles an hour).
The Morristown paper strangely enough omitted to report a catastrophe during the trial run. The same foregoing Morristown Jerseyman article above contains a bitter denunciation of those persons who refused either to give away or sell land for the right of way.
However, the Newark Daily Advertiser of August 3, 1837, does not omit the factual details of the tragedy occuring during the trial run.
"LAMENTABLE CATASTROPHE?A pleasure excursion was shockingly terminated yesterday, Wednesday, August 2nd, in this city (Newark). The Morris and Essex Railroad having completed to Millville, some 10 or 12 miles from Newark by the route, and within about a mile of Springfield, a party of citizens occupying two cars traversed the track with a new locomotive just finished in this city by Mr. Seth Boyden. While the party were enjoying a short respite, on the return, at the Orange depot, the two cars then unoccupied, were by some irregular movement so brought into collision as to derange the draw bar (or connecting tackling) of one of them. The damage was sufficiently repaired (it was thought), in a few minutes, and the party resumed the trip to Newark?the locomotive on the return pushing the cars from the rear. Everything went well until after we entered the city, when, in turning the curve into Broad Street, the draw bar of the second car is supposed to have slipped from its proper square position against that of the forward car?by which alone we were propelled?to the right side of it, being an inch or so from the proper center. We proceeded in this way down Broad Street without a knowledge of the derangement, perhaps a fourth of a mile, when the forward car left the track by an easy turn to the left, the speed of the train having been considerably diminished as it was within a few yards of the termination. Notwithstanding that there was not at the moment the slightest appearance of danger, to many of us at least who were in the car, two individuals on the outside imprudently jumped off, and we deeply regret to say were both killed. Mr. Robert W. Ward .. of Newark .. was killed instantly. He was on the front of the car, and in attempting to jump, missed his aim and fell before the whells, which passed across his breast add stomach, taking life without so much as breaking his skin...
"The other unfortunate individual was Mr. Ezra Crane, a respectable farmer of Orange. He jumped from the rear of the car, just as the last wheels had left the railway, and fell directly in the rear of the car and locomotive, shockingly mangling and breaking his right arm and hand, and fatally wounding him internally. The left hip was disjoined and several flesh wounds made in different parts of the body. He was taken up and carried into Mr. A. K. Ward's store ... when Doctors Darcy of Newark and Pierson of Orange, Directors of the Company, who were both of the party afforded every practicable aid, but in vain. He died in an hour, retaining his senses to the last..."
"The car which was driven from the track, was stopped without much sensible concussion against the sidewalk at the corner of Broad and Lombardy Streets."
The engines first took water at Millville (Millburn) drawing it from a pond alongside of the brook. This was probably the pond which was just south of Jonathan Parkhurst's mill, and which is now the Papermill Playhouse. However, when the line finally reached Summit, it was found that the train could not make the grade over the Millburn "Mountain" with a full load of water, so that Stephen Vail of Morristown built an ingenious device at Summit by which the engine itself could pump water from a well. Two large wheels were sunk below the track and in line with the rails, so that the driving wheels of the locomotive would rest on those of the sunken wheels; the engine was then lashed with chains and the driving wheels revolved the large wheels which were mounted on a shaft connected with the water pumps.
For many years, after the trial run, the story is told that Roger Marshall of Millburn was called out with his teams of oxen or horses to assist the cars and engine up and over the hills during snowstorms. No positive proof of this tale has been found, but such stories trickle down from one generation to another and the germ of truth lies somewhere in them. The great difficulty of running a railroad over steep hills is not a legend, however, and Roger Marshall and his team seem to have been called on constantly to perform all kinds of services so he would have been the likely man to pull a train out of a snowdrift.
The Morris and Essex Railroad was eventually completed to Morristown on January 1, 1838, and the entire cost for building it from Newark to Morristown was said to be $300,000. The construction of the track was simple enough. Mudsills of native oak or chestnut were laid longitudinally along the road bed and held in position by crossties about 3 feet apart. Upon these, the wooden rails, usually of Norway pine, six inches wide and six inches thick, were laid, and over the wooden rails iron straps 3-1/4 inches by 5/8ths inches thick were fastened to form the tracks. The estimate of the yearly costs was a simple matter of bookkeeping. It was figured that a year's income would be $49,000.00, the expenses, $20,000.00, leaving a neat profit of $29,000.00 to be divided among the stockholders. Four cars cost $750.00 each, and the engines cost $5,000.00 each. For years Seth Boyden made the repairs himself. One bill was for $2.50 for repairs after running over a horse; and another bill was for $3.00 when a cow was struck. John T. Cunningham in his "Railroading in New Jersey" says that the first freight was a load of soap and flour carried in 1838 from Newark to Morristown with "Orange" pulling and "Essex" pushing.
But despite the frugality in costs of operation, the M. & E. became insolvent, and was sold under foreclosure in 1842. It was soon reorganized, however, and successful years followed.
The line was extended to Dover in 1848; reached the Delaware River in 1851 where it entered into strong competition with the Morris Canal, and in 1857, the year Millburn was incorporated as a Township, the M. & E. was given permission by the Legislature to extend its lines to Hoboken which it finally reached in 1862 after an arduous construction job in bridging the rivers. Tunneling through Bergen Hill was completed in 1877.
The first travelers were of hardy stock. They had little shelter from the rain and wet cushions were common. Sometimes they had to get out and push in icy weather, and sometimes the train came to a halt to permit cows, pigs, or geese to move off the tracks. They helped put out fires along the right of way caused by their sparks and always there was the constant menace of the flat iron strap rails breaking away from the wooden tracks and piercing the bottoms of the cars and their own anatomies. These upshooting rails were known as "snakeheads" and were feared enough to cause some passengers to stand all the way. Luggage was stored in a box underneath the car. At first the cars stopped almost anywhere one wished, but later regular stops were made at Roseville, East Orange, Orange Junction, Brick Church, Orange, Valley Street, Montrose, South Orange, and Millburn. However, the scenery was described as "grand and beautiful", and riding the train was a daily adventure in courage, patience, and hardiness.
Seth Boyden's first locomotives met different ends. The "Orange" was burned in 1867 in a machine shop in orange Street, Newark, and the "Essex" completed its life on the Iron Railroad of Ohio.
Another Millburn resident, well known in his day, had a powerful influence in the incorporation of many small railroads into the mighty Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western system. That man was Moses Taylor. Mr. Taylor was President of the National City Bank of New York and for many years spent his summers in Short Hills commuting here from New York even before 14.
the days the railroad came here, by train to Newark, and then by his own horse and carriage to his home on Morris Turnpike, now known as the "Brant" house. Mr. Taylor had long roots in Millburn. His mother was Martha Mary Brant, daughter of Samuel Brant. She married Jacob B. Taylor. Both the Brants and the Taylors were old Millburn residents, one of them, James Brant, probably Moses' great-uncle, being credited with having fired the first warning salvo from Old Sow heralding the battle of Springfield in 1780. Martha's brother, Samuel, married Mehitable Wood, thus uniting the Taylor, Brant, and Woods families. The Brant and Wood houses are still standing on Morris Turnpike today.
As President of a big city bank, Mr. Taylor presumably had many connections among industrialists all over the country, and one of his pet projects was to sell them on the advantages of anthracite coal. He is said to have given away carloads to advertise its value as a fuel. That he succeeded is well known now, and the D.L. & W. eventually became as familiar for its nickname, "The Road of Anthracite", ridden by the spotlessly gowned Phoebe Snow, as it was by its proper name. Mr. Taylor and his friend, Sam Sloan, purchased quantities of stock in various small railroads, and eventually one line after another was leased or purchased by the Lackawanna. The Morris and Essex was leased to it in 1868, and became part of the great route from New York to the Great Lakes.
Mr. Taylor left no diary detailing his daily trips, but another commuter, Edwin A. Ely of Livingston, who journeyed daily to New York via the Orange Station during the latter part of the 19th century, in his "Personal Memoirs", paints the picture for us. The Cortlandt Street ferry brought Mr. Ely to the New Jersey Railroad Station in Jersey City where he took the train for Newark. One or two cars of the Morris and Essex were usually connected to the back of the train. At Newark, the cars were disconnected, hitched to horses, and drawn through Broad Street to the M. & E. tracks. There another steam engine took over, and they would start on their westward journey. The engineer, says Mr. Ely, after leaving Newark, would turn on a mighty head of steam, and rush toward the Roseville Avenue hill at furious speed, hoping that the momentum would carry them to the summit, but the momentum was always spent and the power was almost certain to fail before the top was reached, so that the engineer was compelled to back down to level ground again to gather strength for another attempt. Mr. Ely says that seldom did the train make the crest of the hill on the first try. Since 1905 the roadbed has run through Roseville in a cut at depressed grade, so the commuter is spared this daily test of his locomotive's power.
Israel D. Condit and Moses Taylor must have been well acquainted. By the time Mr. Taylor was speculating in railroad stock and acquiring anthracite coal and small railroads, Mr. Condit was amassing a fortune also, and must have been very interested in coal and iron transportation. He became President of the Dundee Water Power Co. of Passaic; purchased the Colonel Jackson Rolling Mill at Rockaway; and in 1864 owned an iron company at Musconetcong, and must have become a very important customer of the railroad.
Millburn almost had two other railroads running through it. One, the New Brunswick, Millburn, and Orange Road was stillborn in 1861, having been chartered by the New Jersey Legislature in that year (P.L. 1861 p. 302), but was never given life by its promoters. Among the persons who received the right to incorporate were Amzi Condit and Charles A. Lighthipe, both Millburn names. The charter gave them the right to lay out a railroad from some point in New Brunswick, passing not more than one mile west of Rahway, across the Jersey Central tracks at Westfield, to Millburn, the road not to exceed 100 feet in width except where slope protection required wider. One million dollars in capital stock was authorized, and the Act provided that if construction was not commenced by January 1, 1865, the Act would be void. A railroad running from New Brunswick to Millburn does not seem to make much sense as a practical matter at this time, but the railroad frenzy was mounting and every one wanted to get into the act it seemed.
Another railroad made greater headway on its journey through Millburn. The New Jersey West Line Railroad acquired property, sold stock, and built trestles and embankments, some traces of which may still be found today. This railroad entered town south of Millburn Avenue, came through what is now South Mountain Estates; then turned north across the Lackawanna tracks and entered the reservation where it again turned in a long southwesterly curve. It crossed Woodcrest Avenue, Old Short Hills Road near Glen Avenue, skirted Nottingham Road, Barberry Lane, and Knollwood Road; then ran westerly to Hobart Avenue and across the County line at Morris Turnpike to Summit. A picture of the old trestle may be found in the Centennial History of Millburn. The railroad was sold to the Passaic and Delaware Railroad in 1878, and eventually was absorbed by the D.L. & W., and the line between Summit and Newark was abandoned. Part of the Gladstone branch of the Lackawanna is now the only remnant of the New Jersey West Line still in use. The right of way through Millburn was sold to the public in 1901.
Seth Boyden's locomotives and others like them, look like toys to us today ? puny, diminutive, almost comical in appearance, but they ushered in the great age of steam which would soon open up a continent and make America secure and powerful.
Millville was now a station on the railroad and its people were linked to the length and breadth of America. No wonder that its citizens began to feel that it was not enough to be only a part of another community. The movement to become a separate corporate entity gained momentum and before the Silver Anniversary of the incorporation of its railroad came around, the Millville section of Springfield passed out of existence, and the new Township of Millburn on March 30, 1857, became a municipality of the State of New Jersey.
"Morris and Essex
Railroad, and the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania" Taintor Bros. (1867)