MONTVILLE, NJ – You may think of Pennsylvania when you hear the name William Penn, but he purchased land in Pine Brook, too, according to Kathy Fisher of the Montville Township Historical Society. Penn was a land speculator who had no ties to this area, she said, but purchased deeds here.
Fisher presented the history of Montville Township at a meeting of the historical society on March 14 at the Senior House.
“The Dance Hall of the Dinosaurs,” an area of many fossils, is on the border of Lincoln Park, and Native American artifacts exist throughout town Fisher said, tying the township to various historical eras.
In the 1600s the township was part of Pequannock and New Netherlands; Peqannock was the largest township in New Jersey at that time, Fisher said. Land purchased from the Lenape formed about a dozen Morris County towns. Dutch families such as the Van Ripers, Mandevilles and Vreelands started to move into town in the early 1700s.
At first, Montville was called Uyle Kill, which is Dutch for mountains and valleys. Later it was referred to as Montville because of Mandeville’s Inn, where residents would have their mail addressed to – Mandeville is pronounced with an “o” sound. “Towaco” had many names before its current moniker; it also went by “Whitehall,” and “Glenview,” and it has had many different spellings for its name. “Pine Brook” was named after the pine trees in the area. Early township industries included farming, grist mills, saw mills and a tannery. The first roads were Main Road/Route 202 and Valhalla Road, although it was probably just called “the road to the tannery,” Fisher says.
During the Revolutionary War, residents were asked to call out those who sided with the British King. Area residents even signed the “Articles of Association,” to pledge to sustain the actions of the provincial and Continental Congresses in 1776, a treasonous act that Fisher called “pretty gutsy.” During his retreat from the Battle of Springfield, George Washington stayed at Towaco’s Doremus house as described HERE .
The Morris Canal was completed in the mid 1800s and traversed Montville, including three incline planes. Its goal was to bring farm goods to market, and ore and wood to cities, Fisher said. In the 1870s, the trains came through and goods could be transported year-round. Montville had four tracks at one point but has one now.
In 1883 the Capstick family built its fabric dying factories in the Taylortown area of Montville.
“John Capstick, the patriarch, was smart, and built his factory next to the train tracks for ease of transport. He also came up with a way to evenly dye fabric black that was used for McKinley’s funeral,” Fisher said. “His son John became a congressman.”
Other notable Montville residents have included David Young, who was born in Pine Brook in 1781 and was an astronomer and mathematician who founded The Farmers’ Almanac. The first woman physician in Morris County, Marietta Crane Woodruff, was also born in Pine Brook. Sculptor Ulrich Ellerhusen lived and had an art school in Towaco; Ellerhusen created statues that adorn the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago and several state capitol buildings.