Food & Drink

East Brunswick: The History of Patrick's Corner

Cider-maker Charles Szabo at the mill in 1949 Credits:
Manning Patrick's buddy followed him to local bars. Credits:
Saturday night dances were held at the picnic grove Credits:
The cider House on Riva Avenue Credits:

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - One would never think for a second that East Brunswick could ever be a resort town, but before all the housing developments filled up the town, that was the case. One example was Patrick’s Corner, located along Riva Avenue and fronting Farrington Lake. This was an area of East Brunswick that attracted out-of-towners who wanted a nice getaway in the countryside. The most prominent residents within the community was the Patrick Family, who owned and operated their cider mill and dining grove. This article will not only be focusing on the family and area of the township, but also how its residents had to deal with the association of its namesake.

            The naming of Patrick’s Corner comes from the Manning Patrick family. Patrick was born on January 28, 1888, to Henry and Fredricka P. Mueller Patrick. Both had emigrated from Germany and settled in this area around 1868. Patrick Sr. had originally operated a saw mill in that part of town. He also ran the ticket office for the trolley service that went through the area. His son, M. Patrick was what some described as “quite a character.” He started getting into cider-pressing around 1914. At that time, he sold 50 gallon barrels for 50 cents. Despite prohibition, Patrick was still able to make money with his cider business. Once it was repealed, however, he was able to promote his apple brandy in local newspapers, where it really began to take off. He held a liquor license from the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control of the State of New Jersey from March 21, 1934, until June 30, 1941. He had his own brand of bottled apple brandy which he called “Patrick’s Apple Brandy.” He had apples delivered to him from all over New Jersey, as well as New York and even Virginia. At the time, a pint of his 95 proof apple brandy (a year old) cost $1.00, $1.90 for a quart, $7.00 a gallon, and $22.50 for an entire case. It took 700 pounds of apples to make one barrel of cider. Aside from his famous cider, he also sold wine, whiskey, beer, rum, etc.

            Around his farm, he tendered various animals from pigs, wild ducks, chickens, cows, and even deer that he brought all the way from Michigan. Those deer were also big fans of his apple brandy, and could be found drinking from the bottle. However, some of those deer managed to escape his farm and went off into the wild (now you know why there is so much deer in this town). His wife, Theresa Patrick, ran Patrick’s Grove and was best known for her clam chowder that people came all over for, and she took that recipe right to her grave. Patrick’s Corner was also a big draw for out-of-towners who wanted leisurely relaxation in the countryside near the lake. People came to this area from all over the state, some even as far as New York and Pennsylvania.

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            The Patrick’s of Patrick Corner proved to be very influential in the community, but did very little to improve the quality of life for the other residents. At the time, there were about 350 people living in this small part of town. Riva Avenue was a dirt country road with no electricity. Kerosene lamps and wood stove heat were their only means of power. When the two-room Lawrence Brook schoolhouse was aging and becoming too clustered, the residents fought tooth and nail for a new school building. The Patrick’s, however, used their wealth and power to block the move for a new school. However, the residents persisted and succeeded with the construction of what would become Weber School (now the St. Mary’s Christian Academy). The experience left a bad taste with the community, many of whom did not want hear the Patrick name again. By the mid-1920s, through the action of the Lawrence Brook Welfare Association, the community became Brookview, while Patrick’s Corner would be limited to just the Patrick property. With this new move, the community was finally able to receive electricity for all.

By the early 1940s, thing were not going well for the Patrick family. In 1940, a fire destroyed a third of their property, including their bottling plant, bungalow, and garage. About five months later, another fire destroyed their six-room bungalow, which also wound up destroying the distillery machinery that made the cider. By this time, Patrick had run into problems with the law. In 1943, he and his wife were arrested on charges of operating an illicit still and illegal possession of untaxed liquors. They were sentenced two years probation. The cider mill was turned over to the Milltown Distilling Corporation. Not long after that, it became the property Sidney Braunstein of the Pearl Distilling Company. By 1947, production was halted. Manning Patrick passed away on January 25, 1949, leaving his entire estate to his wife. Not long after his passing did his wife then marry Charles Szabo, who temporarily revived the former cider mill, before it became inactive permanently in 1951.

The structures stood abandoned for many years. It was not until the 1980s when the last of the cider mill structures was gone for good, leaving little left of the original Patrick’s Corner mill structures. Manning’s wife passed away in 1996 at 98 years old. Today, the Patrick’s Corner area is still a lively community. The Estate at Farrington Lake now sits in the place of Patrick’s Grove. The lake is as picture perfect now as it was nearly a century ago.

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