Home & Garden

Evidence of Stillwater's Past Is Everywhere

395cc6e73545caf2a8e3_classroom.jpg
Stillwater Historical Society President Bob Grabowsky in the classroom on the second floor of the museum. Credits: By Jane Primerano
9d8a2f96c7851a2fe660_museum.jpg
The Stillwater Historical Society Museum has a history of its own, as a school, library and headquarters of a fraternal organization. Credits: By Jane Primerano
c54af8ee74657845b43b_pres_church.jpg
The Stillwater Presbyterian Church is the focal point of the village Credits: By Jane Primerano
cb0c1a19c828846e0893_schaffer_house2.jpg
Credits: By Jane Primerano
10c84f92bdea187ed297_schaffer_house.jpg
Credits: By Jane Primerano
b21cab113e8820df53e1_whitehall.jpg
The house that was the final home of Joyce Kilmer's widow Credits: By Jane Primerano
cc5c9df9875f231e7c26_mill2.jpg
Credits: By Jane Primerano
395cc6e73545caf2a8e3_classroom.jpg

STILLWATER TOWNSHIP, NJ – Parts of this sprawling township go by different names: Stillwater proper, Middleville, Swartswood; but the Historical Society keeps archives of each of them in the museum in the Neighborhood House on Main Street.

The museum has been preserving history in the township since 1954, in the former one-room schoolhouse and Mary W. Dixon Library.

The township was established in 1825, but settlement occurred in the early 18th Century by Palatine Germans, many from Electoral Palatine and others from Switzerland, the Alsace and other areas in Germany. They were part of the first wave of German immigration to the Colonies.

Sign Up for E-News

Stone houses and the stone mill in Stillwater evidence the early German influence.

The earliest burials in the Stillwater Cemetery are dated in the 1740's, with the oldest dated 1748, marking the resting place of one Peter Bernhardt, a German immigrant to Philadelphia who retired to Stillwater. The cemetery served Lutherans, and German Reformed settlers. The religious community that is now the Presbyterian Church dates back to 1769.

Casper Shafer, and his brother-in-law John George Wintermute, were two of the most prominent settlers. Shafer was one of three delegates from Sussex County to serve in the new state’s first legislative assemblies from 1776 to 1779.

Among the 18th Century houses that remain is the Casper Shafer House, now known as the A. Roof House, near the Kill on Route 521. It was built in 1741. The slave house which dates to about 1780, has an interesting two-story porch. Apparently, Casper Shafer used the house for his slaves.

The John George Wintermute House dates from 1755. Closer to the road is the Peter Wintermute House from 1791, which was once the Bonnie Brook Stock Farms.

Also dating to the 1700's is the presence of a grist mill in Stillwater. The original mill was built by Casper Shafter in 1741. It was located about a half mile from the current mill site. The second mill, built in 1764, was on the current site on the Paulinskill, but burned and was replaced by the present structure in 1843. The miller’s cottage next door dates to 1800. The mill operated until 1955, making the Casper and Abraham Shafer Grist Mill Complex one of the oldest continuously-operating water-powered gristmills in the state.

After it fell into disuse, a group restored the building and used it again starting in 1970. It was operated for more than 10 years by Gus Roof and Willard Klemm, according to Bob Grabowsky, president of the Stillwater Historical Society. The mill but fell victim to the increasing cost of liability insurance, according to a township history published by the historical society.

“Roof and Klemm sold the property in the 80's,” Grabowsky said. “The dam locked up and the mill dried up." "

The turbine froze in the 90's,” he added. “In the 2000's, the mill was sold to the state.”

The historical society would like to run the mill, but “we don’t have anyone to navigate the bureaucracy,” he said.

Whitehall

Whitehall, marked with a sign as well as with beautiful trees, was built in 1775 by Nathan Armstrong Shafer, a son of Casper. The house was sold in the 1920's to Aline Murray Kilmer, the widow of poet Joyce Kilmer. She lived there for until she died on Oct. 1, 1941. Whitehall is now owned by the Nothstine family.

Other 18th Century structures are along Fairview Lake Road on the way to the YMCA Camp, notably two lime kilns in very good condition. The old Foundry was used during the Revolutionary War and up to the 1790's. During this time, copper was mined along the Old Mine Road along the Delaware. The Foundry is now a tenant residence of the Shultheiss homestead.

The historical society believes the Cornelius VanHorn house opposite the YMCA Campground was built during the Revolution, but property records only show a transfer in 1808. It is now also known as the Joseph Connor residence.

The section of the township known as Middleville also has its share of 18th Century buildings, notably the Middleville Inn, built in 1784 and continuously in use since as an inn/restaurant/tavern, now known as Carijon's Middleville Inn.

Next to the Inn is the Andress Homestead built around 1790 and across the road is the General Store/Post Office from 1835. At West Shore Drive on the lake is a small schoolhouse, now a private residence that was built in 1888, replacing an older building. It remained a school until about 1940.

Another mill was built during the Revolutionary War at the lower end of Swartzwood Lake. Keen’s Mill, which is still standing, replaced that earlier mill in the 1830s. It originally used an overshot waterwheel for power, but later used a turbine. This mill operated until 1920.

Other historic buildings in the area are the Old Swartzwood Methodist Church, 1856, the Snover Tavern and Inn, c. 1832, and the Sanford House, 1834, both now private residences.

Stillwater separated from Hardwick Township in 1824. When Warren County was separated from Sussex County, Stillwater incorporated as a township. Stillwater and Hardwick still appear to be connected to anyone driving north on Route 521. After passing White Lake and the Vass Homestead, then an intact lime kiln, the driver passes into Stillwater.

The center of Stillwater is dominated by the Presbyterian Church, built in 1837. The religious community dates from 1769. The first church was where the cemetery is today and the cemetery’s wall is constructed of stones from the first church.

The museum is opposite the church in a building that was originally a school. It was condemned as a school in 1909, according to Grabowsky. A school was built on Maple Lane to replace it. A fraternal organization, The Patriotic Order of the Sons of America, founded in 1847 purchased the building.

“It became an entertainment hall,” Grabowksy said, noting the group put up a proscenium in the second-floor schoolroom that remains today.

The current township school consolidated the one-room schoolhouses in 1940, but originally didn’t have room for a library, so Mary W. Dixon bought it for use as a library.

The library was featured in a story by James Roty in the April 1, 1951, edition of the old New York Herald-Tribune.

Many of the books from the old library are still in the building, but others were sold to fund the current museum, Grabowsky said. 

More historic houses are along the road toward Hardwick and Frelinghuysen townships. Stillwater is the village center for the nearby sections of those townships.

Today’s Stillwater is smaller than the original municipality, split off from Hardwick. In 1904, Fredon Township was carved out and the Susquehanna Railroad track became the boundary.

The historical society’s brochure concludes with the statement: “Until World War II the township remained largely agricultural with dairy farming its most important business. The lake communities, especially those of Swartswood and Paulinskill, brought many visitors and new residents. Today the community, while keeping its rural image, has much more of a residential nature.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Newton

Sparta Police: License Plate Trouble Uncovers Suspended License and Warrant

April 11, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – A man driving a truck without a license plate was arrested for having an outstanding $2500 warrant.  On February 42 around 8 a.m. Cpl. Craig Grauerholz stopped Elioesal Gomez driving gray Ford pulling a trailer driven, police report.

The 25-year-old Salem resident was taken into custody when the warrant from Plesgrove was discovered.  Gomez’s license had been ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, April 29, 3:30 PM

Codey Arena, West Orange

Girls Try Hockey Free Clinic

Sports

Fri, May 4, 7:00 PM

Sparta Evangelical Free Church, Sparta

Veritas Christian Academy presents The Music Man

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_1d32c56f1d9651d97a4d_4571683b0fc541ec405e_360_x_300_image_for_website_posts_copy

Sun, May 6, 7:00 AM

Liberty State Park, Jersey City

11th Annual Susan G. Komen North Jersey Race for ...

Health & Wellness

Sun, May 13, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River

Education

Sun, May 27, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River

Education

Sun, June 10, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River

Education

Sun, June 24, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River

Education

The Issue of Alternatives to Elected School Boards

April 14, 2018

The time of electing local school boards should come to an end. According to the National School Boards Association, “the local school board is a critical public link to public schools. Whether elected or appointed, school board members serve their communities in several important ways. First and foremost, school boards look out for students. Education is not a line item on the school ...

Home Buying Myths Slayed

Team Nest Builder wants YOU to know the truths about buying a New Jersey home!

Some Highlights:


The average down payment for first-time homebuyers is only 6%!


Despite mortgage interest rates being over 4%, rates are still below historic numbers.


88% of property managers raised their rents in the last 12 months!


The credit score requirements for mortgage ...

Buy A Home To Build Your Family's Wealth

Over the next five years, home prices are expected to appreciate, on average, by 3.6% per year and to grow by 18.2% cumulatively, according to Pulsenomics’ most recent Home Price Expectation Survey. Team Nest Builder wants you to understand what that means for homeowners and their equity positions.

As an example, let’s assume a young couple purchased and closed on a $250,000 home ...

Now’s the Time to Buy Your NJ Luxury Home

House no longer fits your needs? Planning on buying a New Jersey luxury home? Now is the time to do so!

Recently, the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing released its Luxury Market Report which showed that in today’s premium home market, buyers are in control.  The inventory of homes for sale in the luxury market far exceeds the number of people searching to purchase these ...

Buy a Home NOW Before Mortgage Rates Climb Higher

Whether you’re a buyer searching for your first home, or a homeowner looking to move up to your next home, Team Nest Builder knows you should pay attention to where mortgage interest rates are heading.

Over the course of 2018, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, rates increased from 3.95% in the first week of January to 4.40% in the first week of April.

At ...

6 Simple Decorating Tricks for Your NJ Home

Ever watched “Trading Spaces” and wondered, “How do they pull together a beautiful room so quickly?”  Team Nest Builder knows! Read on for these 6 simple decorating tricks from the newly relaunched “Trading Spaces” stars.  You’ll be amazed at what a difference they make in your New Jersey home!

Let Your Heart Choose Your Art

Laurie Smith ...

Clean Your Closet and Help Sussex County Children By Donating Shoes

You know those shoes in the back of your closet that scream.”I grew up watching “Friends”’? Team Nest Builder wants to help YOU get rid of them while doing good for Sussex County children, through the Sojihuggles Children’s Foundation.

Now through May 15th, donate your gently worn, used or new shoes to help underprivileged children in Sussex County while ...

Want to avoid gaining weight? Don’t diet!

Researchers aiming to identify lifestyle factors related to weight management followed more than 4,500 young adults (average age 24) for ten years. At the end of the study period, 77% of the men and 72% of the women had gained weight. The lifestyle factors associated with no weight gain among the remaining 23% of the men and 28% of women were regular eating patterns (not skipping meals) and no ...

Marijuana’s Real Deal: The Impact on our Environment, Roadways, Workplace and Youth

April 22, 2018

The Center for Prevention and Counseling announces its Spring Conference to be held at Red Tail Lodge, Vernon, NJ on Thursday, May 31, 2018 from 8:30am until 3:00pm. Featured keynote speaker is Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D., President and CEO, Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Dubbed by NBC News as “ the prodigy of drug politics,” author, consultant, advisor to three U.S. presidential ...