R'ville in the Past Lane

Hail to the chiefs


How many of our nation's 44 presidents have visited our community?

How many of our nation’s 44 presidents have visited our community?

We know our first president under the U.S. Constitution, George Washington, led the Continental Army through this area during the Revolution. But did you know we have had more than one presidential connection? I know of at least three U.S. presidents who have been to our community.

Washington, the Revolutionary War hero, was the rock star of his day. His travels during the war took him from Trenton to Allentown to Cranberry (as it was spelled in those days) and back to Allentown before he rode off to Freehold.

Take a look at Rutgers University’s online map collection to view some of the roads available for Washington’s treks at http://mapmaker.rutgers.edu. Old York Road and possibly Route 33 would have been the major roads leading to and from Trenton and Allentown that he used. And since the best way to get from Allentown to Cranberry in Colonial times was Old York Road, GW definitely cantered his horse in our town.

The next president to come through our town was John Q. Adams, although he was aboard a train, not horseback.

In the 1830s, the Perth Amboy-Camden Railroad was the first railroad in our state and the second in our country behind the B&O Railroad. New Jersey’s first fatal passenger train accident occurred on the Perth Amboy-Camden Railroad in the fields outside of Hightstown in 1833 and aboard this ill-fated train was our nation’s sixth president, Adams, who was technically a Massachusetts congressman by this time, having left the White House in 1829.

The train derailment occurred after the steam engine’s “hot box” caught fire and caused an axle to break. Adams was riding in a passenger car ahead of the one that derailed and he was not injured. Eventually, he was able to continue on his rail journey south through what is today called Robbinsville. (Back in 1833 we were part of East Windsor Township).

The third president to touch down in our town was the 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. During his unsuccessful bid for a second term in 1992, Bush landed at the Robbinsville Airport two weeks before Election Day. The air and ground along Sharon Road was busy with Secret Service activity and the focus of the world was briefly upon Robbinsville.

It’s worth noting the funeral train carrying Abraham Lincoln almost came through our town in 1865. After the 16th president was assassinated, the plan was to have the train carrying his body travel through major eastern cities before heading west to Illinois to his final resting place. The first thought was to bring his train along the Perth Amboy-Camden Railroad, but the plan was squashed because another rail line, the current Northeast corridor of Amtrak and NJ Transit, would allow more people to view the funeral train.

It’s likely that other presidents have traveled through Robbinsville. After all, the busiest road in world, the NJ Turnpike, cuts through our township. Who knows which presidents have traveled through Robbinsville unaware? It’s something to think about.





About Cathy Zahn

Columnist Cathy Zahn is a genealogy expert and third-grade teacher at Sharon Elementary School. She can be contacted at caseywilkz@aol.com. | View all posts by Cathy Zahn

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