Giving Back

Scotch Plains Resident Has Chronicled Local History for Entire Life

742d16f9c2e358529fa2_Deed_for_7_acres_from_Joseph_Tingley_to_Gershom_Frazee.jpg
Pete Terry holds a deed to Gershom Frazee from Joseph Tingley dating back to 1739. Credits: Michael Bruchert
54307369341adc6f4312_Deed_from_Aaron_Hetfield_to_James_Lambert.jpg
Mr. Terry examines a deed from Aaron Hetfield to James Lambert from the 18th century. Credits: Michael Bruchert
1973f54366b1d067c77f_pics.jpg
Family photos from the 1890s and early 1900s on display in the Terry's kitchen. Credits: Michael Bruchert
742d16f9c2e358529fa2_Deed_for_7_acres_from_Joseph_Tingley_to_Gershom_Frazee.jpg

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – You’ve heard of the Osborn Cannonball House, the Frazee House, and may have enjoyed the outdoor bar at the historic Stage House Tavern, but did you know Raritan Road was originally a stage line running from Newark to New Brunswick? According to a local historian, the history of Scotch Plains and Fanwood isn’t necessarily common knowledge.

Having just celebrated his 80th birthday, Pete Terry knows a thing or two about the area. In fact, he’s been neighbors with his brother, James, on Rahway Road long enough that he’s lost count of how many times his address has changed based on municipal boundaries alone.

“My family bought this property here in 1759 and we’ve been here ever since,” Terry said. “Rahway Road has been called Short Hills Lane, of course it was Elizabethtown originally, then we were in Westfield Township, then at one time for a while it was Plainfield Township. When the 911 system came through that’s when they came back and called us Scotch Plains again. All this time it was called Dog Corner, and we've been in all those towns but the place never moved.”

Sign Up for E-News

A graduate of Scotch Plains High School Class of 1954, Pete Terry met his wife Judy in school and the two have been together ever since. Together they have preserved the local history through personal heirlooms and as officers of the Historical Society of Scotch Plains and Fanwood.

Among the catalogs of documents and photos in the Terry’s possession is a framed piece of parchment dated from 1739 granting a piece of land to Gershom Frazee, which Pete believes is the original deed for the nationally designated Frazee House site on Raritan Road.  

“It’s for seven acres in the Ash Swamp with the Old Pine Brook running through it. It’s designated like, ‘from a big rock to an oak tree,’” said Pete Terry, describing the era’s terminology. “It came to me because William Hetfield Terry that lived on top of the hill, he was the executor of the Lee’s Estate. It went from the Frazees to the Lee brothers and then to the Rynos, and then to the Frank Terry who had the zoo there.”

Having lived on the South side of Scotch Plains for seven decades, Terry is able to retrace history, aligning tidbits of information with his very own experience. With genealogy that extends back to the Revolutionary War and equipped with copies upon copies of government reports, the Terrys know quite a bit of hidden facts as well.

“I would bet that 85 percent of the people of Scotch Plains don’t know there was a country club on Cushing Road over to Cooper Road,” said Pete Terry, describing the Prescott Hills Country Club. “I don’t know when it was built, but they built the first 9 holes then the Depression hit and they went bankrupt.”

Mr. Terry also had close ties with Maxwell Stewart Simpson, a local artist whose works now hang in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Upon moving to Scotch Plains in 1950, Simpson purchased Pete Terry’s grand-uncle’s house on Raritan Road, where he eventually died in 1984.

“For a local artist he was pretty well known. He lived in the house and ended up getting divorced so he sold the main house and converted the barn and carriage house into an apartment and studio. We have quite a few of his works because he didn’t have a lot of money and he paid my father off on time so Max invited my father and mother over and let them pick out a painting of their choice because he was grateful. I took some of his artwork in payment and I think it was worth it,” Terry said.

Pete and Judy Terry continue to unravel the antiquity of the community page by page. With hundreds of artifacts, photos, paintings, and family treasures, the two have no plans to move anywhere else. They will be honored as "Couple of the Year" at the Scotch Plains Mayors' Gala on Friday, May 6.

“My dad died in 1977 and somewhere in the 60s he told my mother, my brother and I that while he was living he would live on this property,” Terry said. “My brother’s saying the same thing as him now, but he’s a year older than me and he’s the big brother and we’re partners in this. So that’s why we’re here.”

As key members of the Historical Society of Scotch Plains and Fanwood, the Terrys are looking to boost membership to get more locals interested in the deep-rooted history. With more support, the Historical Society will be able to complete renovations to the Frazee house and provide signage for local sites with detailed descriptions.

The Historical Society meets at 8 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Scotch Hills Country Club except in July, August and December.

TAPintoSPF.net is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily paper. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and twitter @SPF_TAP.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Scotch Plains/Fanwood

Small Fire Extinguished at Addams Tavern in Westfield

June 13, 2018

WESTFIELD, NJ — It likely started with a smoldering cigarette, according to Deputy Fire Chief Anthony Tiller.

The fire that started in a flower planter on an outside deck on the second floor of Addams Tavern Wednesday caused a lot of smoke as it spread to the flooring, but only about a three-foot by three-foot area was damaged, Tiller said.

The restaurant at 115 Elm St. is ...

Is Summer Camp the Right Choice for My Child?

Is your child attending camp this summer? Is it their first experience away?  If yes, it can be an experience causing anxiety for you, for the parent and the child. 

This experience can be frightening to your child if it is their first time and it is so important that they do not see your worry or anxiety about leaving home for the first time… especially if it is sleep ...

What Are The Warning Signs of Suicide

The recent passings of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain remind us to take mental illness seriously. 

Many of us feel uncomfortable to ask when someone in distress is suicidal for fear we are putting this thought in their minds. This is not true. It is a myth that asking about suicide increases the risk of suicide. The most common mental illness is depression. Some people are ...

Greatness

In honor of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's (of righteous memory) 24th  Yahrtzeit (anniversary of his passing) this coming Saturday the 16th.

Excerpts from an address given by Nobel-laureate Elie Wiesel on April 7, 1992, at a congressional dinner held in Washington on the occasion of the Rebbe's 90th birthday.

Some of you are aware of my admiration, not only ...

Watson Coleman Statement on Shooting at Trenton Art All Night

June 17, 2018

Dear Editor:

I am saddened and angered at the violence that took place at Art All Night (in Trenton) early this morning, and I am praying for all of the families involved, but, as I’ve said before, that’s not enough. After every shooting, we talk about motive, mental illness and every other distraction from the real problem — guns.

New Jersey has some of the strongest gun ...

Scotch Plains Library to Host Teen Afternoons in Summer

June 18, 2018

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- In lieu of the Scotch Plains Library’s after school club, the teen department will host weekly summer programs for patrons in grades 5-12. Starting on July 2, teens are invited to hang out, play games, and make crafts every Monday at 3 pm. 

Starting on July 11, the library will offer special programming every other Wednesday at 3 pm. Rock candy, slime, and ...

Upcoming Events

Fri, June 22, 7:30 PM

Crossroads, Garwood

Benefit Concert

Giving Back

Mon, June 25, 9:00 AM

Terrill Road Baptist Chruch, Scotch Plains

LifeWay’s 2018 Vacation Bible School at Terrill ...

Religions And Spirituality

Carousel_image_2e8d9f350d4d75f38fc3_beads

Mon, July 9, 10:00 AM

Scotch Plains Public Library, Scotch Plains

Join the Summer Jewelry Making Club at the Scotch ...

Arts & Entertainment Health & Wellness Home & Garden