BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Not to be overlooked during this weekend's self-guided "Weekend Journey Through the Past" of historical sites in Somerset County is the Derrick Van Veghten House (ca. 1725) where it is said George Washington danced non-stop for three hours with the wife of one of his generals during the Middlebrook Encampment of 1778-79.
Located on the banks of the Raritan River at the end of an industrial park roadway, the two-story brick building is home to the Somerset County Historical Society, one of dozens of sites throughout the county included on the tour.
At the Wallace House in Somerville, Washington's headquarters during the encampment, historians will provide tours and focus on "George Washington, Sportsman & Scholar," exploring the athletics and education in the life of Washington during the encampment. There will be interactive activities, and outdoor period toys and games.
Tours and activities are free and reservations are not required. The Wallace House is located at 71 Somerset St., Somerville. Call (908) 725-1015 for further information.
Volunteers at the Van Veghten House, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. are anxious to share the story of a famous 18th-century visitor who came to the home during the winter of 1778-79.
The Van Veghten House served as the headquarters of Quartermat General Nathaniel Greene during the second Middlebrook Encampment, 1778-79. Washington and his wife, Martha, were living nearby at the Wallace House in Somerville.
Van Veghten, described by historians as a patriot of the American Revolution, gave Greene and his wife, Catharine Littlefield Greene, the use of the house for his headquarters and the farm for an encampment of his troops.
On March 19, 1779, Greene described an event attended by Washington that was held at the Van Veghten House in a letter to Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth.
"A little dance at my quarters a few Evenings past. His Excellency and Mrs [Catharine] Greene danced upwards of three hours without once sitting down. Upon the whole we had a pretty little frisk."
A copy of that three-page letter, along with prints of Washington and his dance partner, hangs in the front room of the Van Weghten house where it is said the "frisk" was held.
In recognition of that three-hour dance 240 years ago, the Historical Society is planning "The Dance of the Decades," a history-themed dance-a-thon and fundraiser on June 6th, 2020 from 4:30-9:30 p.m. Rain date is June 13th.
Volunteers are looking to sign up couples eager to show off their best dance steps. Individuals are asked to pledge dollar amounts for each hour they dance, beginning at $15 for one hour; $20 for two hours and $25 for three hours. Couples are asked to pledge $40.
There is also a family rate for parents and children under 15 of $30, and $65 for groups/businesses up to 5 people, and $125 for groups/businesses of 10 or more.
Period costumes from any decade of the 20th century are encouraged.
The Historical Society is seeking sponsors for the event.
“It’s an entirely different, interactive approach to bringing history into a relevant, fun context for everyone,” said local historian and author Rikki Lyn Hauss, a member of the Historical Society. “Everyone here is like family, and the community deserves to know what a promising treasure this particular site is. Using the Journey weekend as a starting line is the perfect way to invite our guests to come back for more, she added”
Flyers will be available at the Van Veghten House, 9 Van Veghten Drive, Bridgewater, all day Saturday.
Further information is available at (908) 210-1622 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Weekend Journey Through the Past is sponsored by the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission and the Somerset County Freeholders.