BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Just a year after Bridgewater Township officially designated the unincorporated section of town, a new sign announcing Hobbstown was unveiled Aug. 25.
“We are so happy that we have come to this day and this place will officially be called Hobbstown,” said resident Kenneth Hobbs at the start of the ceremony to unveil the sign at the ballpark on Monmouth Avenue.
A large crowd of residents, family members and friends gathered together to celebrate the new sign recognizing the section of town that was founded almost 100 years ago in 1920 by Rev. Amos Hobbs and his brothers, Robert and GW Hobbs.
The brothers were the first to purchase land and build homes in the Somerville Manor development west of what is now North Bridge Street. They named it Hobbstown, and now Bridgewater has officially recognized it by that name.
“I am delighted at the response we have had,” said speaker Nan Hobbs Bennett. “Thank you to everyone for your interest and respect for this community.”
Bennett gave a brief history of the section of town, which started with a family that was based out of Georgia and whose children were born into slavery.
Slaves in Georgia, Perry Hobbs and Charlotte Stewart waited in line in 1866 to place their names on the cohabitation register after the Civil War. Three of their sons – Amos, Robert and GW – fled the area to the north to find their own selves and forge their own paths, Bennett said.
In September 1921, they completed the first building on the property, and they named the area Hobbstown. The church in the section of town, the Macedonia Baptist Church, was founded by Amos Hobbs in 1922, and is currently ministered by his grandson, Pastor David D. Hobbs.
“Hobbstown has remained, and we must be stewards of this long history,” Bennett said. “We must care for it because it is ours.”
Bennett said the Friends of Bridgewater History were very receptive to the request to officially designate the area as Hobbstown, and many people in the neighborhood signed petitions before it was brought before the township council, where it was later approved.
Resident, family member and former Bridgewater Township Police Sgt. Scott Hobbs reflected on growing up in Hobbstown and the memories of community pools, a local store and the entertainment complex that was the park.
And most importantly for the community, Hobbs said, he remembered that the church served as their town hall.
“At the town hall were the activities that built the community,” he said, citing Sunday school, choir and important meetings for the area.
Hobbs said he remembered that the state wanted to build Route 287 through the Hobbstown neighborhood.
“It has a curve in it because they wanted to put it through this neighborhood, and we had rallies at the church to stop it,” he said.
Hobbs said everyone looked out for each other in the community.
Wanda Bryant Hope, whose family was also one of the original families in town, said she felt safe there because everyone in the community was a family. She said she remembered spending days at the park, putting on shows with the other kids and holding their own carnival.
“A lot of people had a lot of success coming out of this community,” she said.
Lawrence Power, chair of the Friends of Bridgewater History, said the organization was fully behind the re-naming of the area.
“It is important to be recognized,” he said. “And the first way to do that is to be called by your name.”
Mayor Dan Hayes thanked the township’s parks department for preparing the new Hobbstown sign, and said he was excited and proud to be part of the event that builds on the formal recognition designated by the township last year.
“Today we are recognizing the community building actions of individuals choosing to lean in,” he said. “To see a family that has been so successful deserves recognition.”
“I hope the direct members of the family can see the gratitude we have for what you have done,” he added. “I hope you feel not only pride in being part of this family, but I hope your children feel inspired by being part of this family.”