R'ville in the Past Lane

Fourth of July observances through the years

july4th-270x300On this Independence Day it might fun to look back at what the residents of this town were doing on this nation’s past birthdays.

In July 1865, people from this community, which was then called Washington Township, were headed to Trenton to see the Union Army march in a big parade to celebrate the end of the Civil War. Men from all over Mercer County participated and George Robbins, of Washington Township, was listed as an assistant marshal. Parade-goers were asked to contributed “cooked goods” for the parade.

In the early 1900s the Trenton newspapers didn’t devote a lot of ink to the events in our little community. But the 1902 Independence Day parade in Windsor did get a brief mention in the then Trenton Evening Times A year later, in July 1903 excitement was building in Bordentown for the Fourth of July fireworks and we can assume a lot of Washington Township residents traveled to see that celebration.

A hundred years ago, our community was so small that depending on which section of Washington Township you lived in you would more than likely say you hailed from Allentown, East Windsor/Hightstown or Hamilton. Although sleepy Washington Township was often overlooked, snippets of information can be gleaned about people’s lives here a century ago from old newspaper archives.

As was customary at the time, newspapers reported not only marriage announcements and obituaries, but also the comings and goings of local residents and their houseguests. The Trenton Evening Times tells us that in July of 1902, Carrie Dilatush became the bride of Hervey Scudder. We also know that in July 1903 Lavina West visited her brother, George Dilatush, in Robbinsville, and Mrs. H.C. Scudder of Trenton Junction visited her parents near Robbinsville.

Big news from the Mercer County Farm Bureau came on July 5, 1913 announcing that winter crops could be grown in Mercer County with alfalfa for soil improving. The newspaper noted Robert Dilatush of Robbinsville had much success with grains and legumes after the potato and corn crops were done. Why is this important you ask? In four short years Robbinsville would find itself supplying food for our soldiers overseas during WWI.

On July 4, 1919 the Trenton area Boy Scouts took a 55-mile hike through the Pinelands. Due to the heat, they took trains and trolleys through Robbinsville and Windsor to get there. In July 1921, residents were getting ready their dancing shoes on for the Hope Fire Co.’s Ball in Allentown (our township did not get its own volunteer fire department until 1963).

The PTA of the Robbinsville School made headlines in July 1926 when it raised $1,400 in school and community activities. The three-year-old organization collected enough money to purchase a piano, other pieces of furniture and a first-aid kit, news accounts said. Plans were made for the organization of a library too at the brick school on Route 130, which later became the township’s municipal building before it was demolished in 2012 because of flood and mold damage.

July 1929 found township residents wondering about the completion of the of Edinburg-Robbinsville Road. In June 1930, people in the area excited about the new concrete highway, Nottingham Way, which would connect Trenton to Asbury Park. It was hoped that the one lane through Robbinsville would be completed in time for the Fourth of July traffic. In July of 1930, the Robbinsville baseball team of the American Legion League tied with Hamilton team in the Mercer League. Two games were left to the season with one set for the Fourth of July at Peddie School.

Robbinsville resident Harry VanSciver, along with his four friends, returned home on the Fourth of July after a visit to Pan America in 1934. In July 1935, township residents Gordon Higgins and Harold Yard were preparing their vegetables for the upcoming 4-H Fair in August. (Higgins won first place, Yard third in the 6-15 different vegetables category.)

People were drinking Crown Cola at 5 cents a bottle the Fourth of July of 1940. In July 1944, many Robbinsville residents attended the wedding of Mary Pellett to Richard Dye at the Windsor Methodist Church. Notable Robbinsville families at that time included the Robbins, Hutchinsons, Wests, and Scheidelers.

A July 1954 newspaper advertised smoked ham for 49 cents a pounds at a store in nearby Yardville, which stocked everything else needed for a Fourth of July picnic.

So whether they were guests of the Wests in New Sharon in 1905 or buying ice cream on Saturdays at the Methodist Church in Windsor, this was life in the “past lane” for Robbinsville residents during the Fourth of July holiday years ago.


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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