FAIRFIELD, NJ — Under the direction of Brianne Colombo, director of the Fairfield Public Library, the one-year-old Fairfield Historical Society has been hard at work to carry out its mission of promoting and raising public awareness of Fairfield's history through compiling, preserving, interpreting, sharing and making accessible historical material connected to the Township of Fairfield.
According to Columbo the group has already compiled two in-depth finding aids: an inventory to the schools of Fairfield (formerly Caldwell Township until 1963) and surrounding areas from the 1800s to the present; and an inventory to business and commerce in Fairfield and surrounding areas from the 1800s to the present.
The materials in the school collection include Caldwell Township school photos; eighth grade commencement photos; Caldwell Township Public School report cards for Aaron Combee, 1913-1921, (Gift of Aaron and Marie Combee Family); the Churchill Chimes Literary Magazine (1960s); the “Churchill Chatter” newspapers (1980s); and West Essex Regional School District yearbooks and materials as well as Caldwell High School football programs from the 1940s.
The material in the business collection includes significant material on the Curtiss-Wright/Essex County Airport, e.g. newspaper clippings, records, etc., and also the industrial directories of Fairfield compiled by the Fairfield Industrial Commission from the 1970s and 1990s. There is also information, photos and artifacts from the Fairfield Dairy (1894-1924), which was considered one of the biggest and finest of dairies in the world at that time.
The historical society’s next project will be to work through the contents of the collection relating to places of worship and cemeteries.
“This year, the group will be working through the Township of Fairfield material and records, with hopes to work alongside the various departments of the township to complete and fill in gaps in the histories of each department,” said Columbo. “Once all of the material in the collection is compiled and organized, the goal is to digitize the material so it's available for the public…
“I'm very excited and pleased that there is a dedicated group of 30-plus community members who are interested and invested in preserving the history of the Township of Fairfield. The most impressive and significant histories often come from the members themselves, the oral histories of the members of the society and their friends, relatives, neighbors and acquaintances are often the stories that are the most compelling.”
As an example, Columbo referenced that one group member's grandmother was Fairfield legacy Adelia (Van Ness) Collerd, author of the popular “Chronicle” column, "This WAS Fairfield," while another is the nephew of Aaron and Marie Combee, and another is the daughter of the historic 33-acre Romano farm that was once on Horseneck Road. Yet another member is Mary Lebeda, owner of Lebeda Farm, where her son still owns and operates Lebeda's Boots on Old Sand Road.
“The members of the society are passionate about history and are eager to work through the historical material to fact check, organize, and ultimately, to preserve the history of the township,” said Columbo. “I am proud and honored to be part of the process.”
Anyone who has material on the history of Fairfield that would like to donate it is encouraged to drop it off to Brianne Colombo at the Fairfield Public Library. All are welcome to attend the next Fairfield Historical Society meeting on Thursday, March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Fairfield Public Library.
The full texts of finding aids are available as PDFs by clicking HERE.