HARDYSTON, NJ –It was 250 years ago when Hardyston was chartered as a huge tract of land, which includes present day Vernon, Hamburg, Franklin, Ogdensburg, Sparta, and Byram. Present-day Hardyston is what remains after those towns broke off.
The town was named for then Governor Josiah Hardy, who was recalled only one year later, and replaced by Governor William Franklin, Ben Franklin’s son, who was a staunch Loyalist.
“In 1762, we were the frontier,” said Jim Wright, Hardyston’s Town Historian. "We were afraid of Indian attacks, and even had a fort in Stockholm during the French and Indian War.”
During the Revolutionary War, Colonel John Seward, of Stockholm, a patriot, was an officer in the Second Sussex Militia. He was famous for shooting a Tory spy, and living through an ambush at Tory Rock, now Route 515, Vernon. Seward’s grandson was renowned for being Secretary of State under President Lincoln, and purchasing Alaska from Russia in 1867.
Shortly after the Revolutionary War (1792), Vernon was established, and Hardyston suffered its first loss of land.
While most of the Township engaged in farming, industry developed around the harvesting of natural resources, including iron and zinc mining, and limestone quarrying. Creameries, grist and sawmills, and forges were prosperous right from the beginning. Other colonial occupations included blacksmithing, stone cutting, leather tanning, wheelwright, and shoemaker. Charcoal, needed for the iron and lime, was obtained from cutting trees by sawyers, and was skillfully burned by colliers, nearly depleting Sussex County of forests by 1860.
Another important resident, Dr. Samuel Fowler, lived in the Franklin part of Hardyston, on North Church Road. He owned the mines in the early 1800's, and discovered many uses for zinc, as well as the fluorescent mineral, Franklinite. He was elected Senator in 1827. An historic marker commemorates his achievements.
The mining brought immigrant workers to the area.
The Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike, a dirt and plank toll road, was chartered in 1806 and completed by 1809, connecting all the way from Paterson to Sussex. This amazing feat was accomplished by men wielding hammers and shovels. For the first 65 years, oxen pulled carts with goods, farmers drove herds of animals and from 1857, stagecoaches brought tourists and mail. In the winter, oxen pulled sleighs. Tolls were charged at gates every 5 or 10 miles. Travelers could be detained until they paid the toll.
The stagecoach was something to see, red and gold with silver maned horses and gun toting drivers to protect the mail and passengers from ambush. The 40-mile trip could not be done in one day, having to stop every five miles or so to water the horses. Stagecoach riders refreshed themselves at the taverns.
“The old road was much longer than Rt. 23. They had to wind around much more, to accommodate the hills. Can you imagine a horse and carriage coming down Hamburg Mountain?” asked Wright.
In 1845, Sparta (including Ogdensburg) split off.
In 1872, the railroads came up to Franklin Furnace and Ogdensburg, to the mines, and also brought many people to the area for summer vacations. Around this time, tourism began to thrive. Several hotels were built in the area of what is now Stockholm, which became the center of society. Passengers stayed in one of the several grand hotels in Stockholm: the Kinkaid, Snufftown Hotel, and the Lewis House.
Year-rounders found work at the Booth Brothers’ Knife Factory, also in Stockholm.
“In the late 1800’s, the lakes were built, for the purposes of harvesting ice,” said Wright.
Before the days of electric refrigeration, milk and meats were kept cold by use of ice. Beaver Lake, Summit Lake, Lake Stockholm, and Lake Gerard each produced enough ice to send 30 railroad cars a day out of Stockholm Train Station to Paterson and the surrounding area. Over 100 men were on the payroll of Beaver Lake. Horse and cart would take the ice door to door in those towns.
Lake water was also needed for the forges, and the trains.
“A lot of things changed around the turn of the century,” said Wright. "Newark began buying up property, competing for any land that held water. They bought up many farms in Stockholm.”
This began the decline of the area, as the stores the farmers shopped in closed, and the hotels and factory soon followed, selling to Newark as well.
According to Larry Leve, co-founder of Living History Alliance, Vernon, "the reservoir at Cannistear was created when the town of Newark bought it and flooded it. The town of Cannistear is actually under the reservoir.”
In 1910, most of the population was centered in Franklin Furnace due to the industry, and in Hamburg, where some of the wealthier lawyers and doctors resided. When these split off, in 1913, and 1920 respectively, “they took most of the population and resources with them,” said Wright.
John Beatty was born in Stockholm in 1926. He attended the Stockholm School, a two room school house, on Old Rt. 23, about 1 block in on Rt. 515. Before high school, his family moved to Sparta, since there was still no electricity in Stockholm, and due to the declining population, none was planned.
Beatty attended Newton High School, and then attended trade school in York, Pa., for air conditioning.
“I saw it at the World’s Fair in New York, in 1939,” Beatty said. “I was very impressed with it. At that time, no one around this area knew what it was.”
Those plans were cut short by WWII. Beatty was part of the invasion of Normandy, and stayed in Europe during the occupation, spending time in France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Czechoslovakia, Turkey and Berlin. He earned two medals for major campaigns.
His granddaughter, Tricia Furman-Leve, co-founder of the Living History Alliance, explained that, “Route 94 was named for the 94th Infantry in WWII, consisting of many Sussex County men.”
In 1972, Beatty got his Building Inspector’s License, and reported to work at the Municipal Building, which was actually the elementary school he had attended as a child.
Despite the loss of land over the past two and a half centuries, Wright feels that Hardyston’s outlook into the 20th century is very good.
“We’ve got many businesses and good schools,” said Wright. “The prospects for the future are good.”