Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Old Trail Map for Herrontown Woods

Update, 2017: An up to date trail map can be found at this link.

Though the nonprofit Friends of Herrontown Woods is developing a new, more accurate map for Herrontown Woods, here's an older version that is at least color-coded. The parking lot off of Snowden Lane is in the lower right hand corner. Some interesting historic features are shown on this map. Beginning in the lower right, the pine grove is mostly gone now, a victim of wind and ice storms in recent years. There's a cabin shown in that grove on the map. That was torn down around 2005, but the footprint is still visible next to the trail. Interesting to see that there once were privies along the green trail. The outline of the stream, with its beginnings near the blue trail, suggests that all the land that feeds it has been preserved--an impressive accomplishment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Maureen Ogden and Mary Marshall Ogden

A notice arrived recently from NJ Conservation Foundation of the Oct. 22 dedication of the Maureen Ogden Preserve in Long Valley, NJ. "Governor Thomas H. Kean will join us to honor Maureen and her outstanding contributions to land preservation and the protection of freshwater wetlands in New Jersey," it declared. Her accomplishments as a Republican representative in the NJ General Assembly, promoting land preservation, the arts, sustainability and human rights, can be found here.

I wasn't able to go to the dedication, but the last name rang a bell, so I sent a letter to Maureen telling her of the Mary Marshall Ogden who with JP Whiton-Stuart first owned what we call the Veblen House, and asked if she might be related. Turns out that Maureen's late husband is descended from David Ogden, who was the doctor on the ship bringing William Penn to America from England.

Meanwhile I had done additional research to clarify Mary Marshall Ogden's connection to the pilgrims, and found her listed as a descendant in the book, "The Ogden Family in America: John Ogden, the Pilgrim and his Descendants". John was born in England in 1609, then immigrated to America in 1641. Mary shows up on p. 337, as part of the 8th generation of descendants, #3110, born Sept. 2, 1874. According to this source, John Ogden "was one of our country's first patriots" and "In 1665 Ogden became one of the original patentees on the Elizabethtown Purchase, the first English settlement in the Colony of New Jersey."

Since William Penn sailed to America in 1682, the link between his ship's doctor David Ogden and our John Ogden is not yet clear. For those like me who know nothing of William Penn, there's an eye-opening timeline describing his life, from years of religious persecution as a Quaker in England to his development of a model government for Pennsylvania.

The book on John Ogden's genealogy begins with a quote of John Q. Adams that fits with Maureen Ogden's career, and just fits in general: "Think of your forefathers! Think of your posterity!"

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Woods That Is in Fact a Woods

It was a gorgeous fall day at Herrontown Woods yesterday. I stopped by to hike in for an inspirational view from the cliff, and to see if the one patch of Hearts a' Bustin' that I know of in Princeton was showing its ornamental seeds (see photo). On the way I met a couple returning to the parking lot who were seeing the preserve for the first time. They had moved to Princeton not long ago, bought a house on the other side of town, and in their first look at a map of Princeton's open space had thought that Herrontown Woods must be a development, judging from the name. Developments are often named for what is no longer there, so they assumed the "Woods" would be houses all in a row, and few trees. Then they saw it was owned by the county, and decided to have a look. Surprise! Herrontown Woods is ......... a woods!

There is, by the way, some question about whether it is a woods or a wood. The Veblen's original gift of 81 acres in 1957 was augmented by 14 additional acres in 1974, which brings it pretty close to the fabled 100 Acre Wood of Winnie-the-Pooh fame. There's also early reference to it as Herrontown Arboretum, and on the county website it's called Herrontown Woods Arboretum. Somewhere, I'm sure, there's a development called "The Arboretum", where all the trees were cleared to put in houses. 

Photo by Sally Curtis.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Seeking to Preserve the Farm Next Door

For as long as anyone can remember, this was farmland in northeastern Princeton. Now, it's the last six acres of farmland field in a neighborhood that a century ago hosted many small, self-sufficient farms in what is now known as the Herrontown neighborhood, at the foot of the Princeton Ridge. Time, however, is running out, and we are scrambling to find a way to save this special feature of the neighborhood and give it an productive and educational purpose.
Here is the lovely viewscape people currently see as they emerge out of the woods, heading south on Herrontown Road.
The land is shaped like a horseshoe--lots 8,9, and 11 on the map--with the publicly owned Veblen House and Herrontown Woods to the north, and Smoyer Park just across Snowden Lane, down and to the left. This is a strategic location, since it provides a linkage between two parklands. Farming and associated educational activities would provide synergy with the Veblen House restoration and the community gardens at Smoyer Park.
Now the home of two head of cattle each year, the farm was originally owned by the Pyne family of Drumthwacket fame. The prominent Princeton family (described here as one of Princeton University's greatest benefactors), would travel across town to ride their horses, which were kept in a beautiful barn that still stands just across Herrontown Road from this remaining farm.
 Viewed from the east, one can see the quonset huts that house the tractors. The owner of this farm had been the farm manager for the farm that is now Smoyer Park.

The land slopes gently down to a small pond on the left.

There is not much time left to save this land. We're reaching out to any and all with interest, ideas, and/or means.

(Thanks to Barbara Cuneo and Alan Kesselhaut for supplying the first three photos.)