We recently posted histories of Hopewell and Pennington boroughs, written by the late David Blackwell for their 125th anniversary celebrations in 2015 / 2016.
But did you know that almost a century and a half ago, our predecessors also wrote a history of Hopewell to present as part of the local celebration of the Centennial in 1876?
== Read the Historical Sketch of Hopewell (1876) (PDF) ==
As reported in Hopewell’s Past by Betty Gantz (1987):
The original handwritten document, entitled “The Historical Sketch of the Village of Hopewell,” was found in the cornerstone of the Presbyterian Chapel when it was opened in 1923.
The speech was prepared by a committee consisting of: Ralph Ege, James Ewing, William A. Weart, R.M. Rankin, G.M. Fetter, J.N. Golden, R. Slack, Mrs. Sarah Weart and Miss E. H. Boggs, for presentation on July 4, 1876. The speech was delivered by Ross Slack, the editor of the Hopewell Herald.
The speech starts by discussing the early settlement of the area two hundred years earlier (1676), then enumerates the first farms and houses of 1776 and lists the soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War. It then goes on to discuss the growth of the town and its businesses over the next century, with expanded roads and the arrival of the railroads:
At the time of the Revolution there were some five or six houses, with a population of about thirty. Barbour says that in 1842 the village contained a Baptist Church, and about a dozen dwellings. Today (1876) we have a population of 400 and eighty three families, and fifty-one houses, a good portion of them double. The spirit of Enterprise has become awakened and the village has fair prospect of becoming a thriving town.
This speech provides an interesting view of how the people of the time understood their history, and what they saw as the important elements in the development of the town.
The main difficulty for current-day readers is that the properties are described in terms of the then-resident homeowners (no street addresses!). Gantz provides the background in her book, with the early chapters detailing the early settlers and landowners. This Centennial extract also includes her editorial notes and introduction:
From the diary of Ralph Ege: “July 4, 1876 — The day was clear and warm, with a slight wind. Sunrise: salute 13 guns fired, ringing of bells, etc., etc. Soon after 9 o’clock, a procession formed and marched through the streets” … parade with horses, carriages, cars, and wagons; music and orations, … “Crowd dispersed about 6 o’clock… highly pleased with the day’s entertainment.”
Ralph Ege, one of the authors of the speech, went on to author the original book on Hopewell history, Pioneers of Old Hopewell, With Sketches of Her Revolutionary Heroes, originally printed in 1908 and reprinted by the Hopewell Museum in 1963. The book is 290 pages, including 48 genealogical articles, 33 published in the Hopewell Herald from 1901 to 1905. Ege also left us his amazing diary, with notes and clippings of Hopewell during his life.
- Full Ege book – Pioneers of Old Hopewell, With Sketches of Her Revolutionary Heroes (1908) by Ralph Ege (PDF)
- Centennial speech – Historical Sketch of the Village of Hopewell from its Settlement to Present Days (PDF), presented in Hopewell Borough, July 4, 1876
- Full Gantz book – Hopewell’s Past (1987) by Betty Gantz (PDF)
And for more on these and other Hopewell Valley history books also see the Books reference guide:
- Hopewell Valley history books – Historical Books Gallery (PDF)