SPRINGFIELD, NJ - The town of Springfield has a large and largely forgotten claim in the war for independence. The last major engagment in the north from British and Hesssian forces took place in town on June 23, 1780. After the Brits were repelled, they never tried to go through New Jersey to attack George Washington and the Continetal Forces again.
As part of a tie-in with both Presidents Day weekend, the battle and Washington's presence in town beforehand, the Springfield Historical Scoiety exhibited a letter dictated and signed by Washington during his stay in Springfield. Adressed to Governor Clinton of New York, the letter dealt with troop control and movement.
Several years ago, the letter was authenticated and properly preserved. In order to secure its future, the letter is brought out once a year for display.
The among those drawn to the exhibit were the Strasser family from Springfield. Scott Strasser and wife Alyson were their with daughters Maegan and Abigail. The girls were joined by their family friend Olivia Richards. Abigail, who is in the fourth grade at nearby James Caldwell School was excitied to have seen the historic document in person.
"That was really cool cause I've always wanted to see how they used to write," Abigail said. "I thought it was really cool how they used ink, cause I've always wanted to do that at home, so I'd always cut a feather and try it, but it didn't work."
Later in the year, Abigail and the rest of her class at Caldwell will return to the Cannonball House on a class trip, an annual ritual for students at the school. Her sister Meagan, who is in sixth grade had already been on the trip, but had never see the letter in person.
"That's [also] the reason I wanted to come," added Maegan. "I didn't know it would be like an open house, but when we heard that the letter was going to be on display we were like ' we have top come, we have to come see it'. And when I came here last time, it was not here, so I'm excited to come and see this."
As their mother Alyson pointed out, this was another peice of American history for their daughters to see.
""We've been to Washington [D.C.], so we've seen the Declaration of Independence, we've done a lot of things," she said. "So it just kind of ties our history together. And it's cool that it's here and Washington declarting Springfield Headquarters fort the battle of 1780."
Along with the letter, exhibits in various rooms of the house tell the history of Springfield from colonial times up through the modern day. Tours were led around the two floors of the house, as docents from the historical society provided information on the house, the artifacts in each room and notable displays in the house.
For Linda Jurczak, secretary of the historical society, the high turnout was exciting. She said that having a large crowd comes through gives them the opportunity to educate the community.
"It is always wonderful to have a popular open house here at the Cannonball House," Jurczak said. "What is exceptionally heart-warming is that there are always people who have never been here before, and so many people say 'I've lived here my whole life and I've never been able to come here and I'm so happy to have been here before.'"
Jurczak added, "There's always something for every interest here and we're delighted that we still maintain the intrest."
The next historical society program will occur in June, dovetailing with the township's celebration of the 225th anniversary of incorporation and well as the anniversary of the battle of Springfield. For more information, visit the historical society website.