SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – On March 10, 1926, South Plainfield was officially incorporated and successfully separated from Piscataway and this year marks the borough's 90th birthday. On March 12 over 100 residents gathered at Borough Hall to commemorate the events of 1926 and pay tribute to those whose unfathomable efforts nine decades ago helped shape South Plainfield.
“Today is a day to look back on the events that shaped our community,” said Dorothy Miele, president of the South Plainfield Historical Society.
The 90th birthday celebration included a detailed history of the events that the led up to the borough’s formation and an oral history of life in South Plainfield from the 1700s through to the 1950s. “Succession from Piscataway, last attempted in 1907, was a priority for the people that powered and influenced and advocated for South Plainfield’s separation, Miele said, noting that, back then, the borough was the polar opposite of Piscataway Township of which it was a part of for 260 years.
“Originally composed of two rural villages named Samptown and New Brooklyn, [South Plainfield] was destined to become a blue collar community as it began developing in the early 1700…” said Miele. “The town, never a farming community in the traditional sense, became a 20th Century residential and industrial center while the rest of rural Piscataway remained mired in the 18th Century… There was a need here for a better infrastructure: schools, roads, drainage, transportation and a greater police presence that Piscataway couldn't afford.”
On May 10, 1926, two months after Governor A. Harry Moore signed Senate Bill No. 216 establishing the Borough of South Plainfield, the first council meeting was held in the Lehigh Avenue School Auditorium, and at Saturday’s celebration, a reenactment of that meeting took place.
Back then, William Hamilton was sworn in as mayor followed by the six-member council that included Albert Dellavalle, Michael Pomponio, Milton Mendel, Henry Brentnall, Robert Ritter, and Charles Thornton, Jr. For the reenactment, Glenn Cullen, current borough administrator and CFO, portrayed the role of Middlesex County Clerk William Hilker and administered the oath to Hamilton, portrayed by current Mayor Matt Anesh, and the council, which on Saturday included current Councilmembers Alex Barletta (Dellavalle), Bobby Richkus (Pomponio), Derryck White (Ritter), and Joseph Wolak (Mendel) along with former Councilmen Joe Scrudato (Thornton) and C.J. Diana (Brentnall).
At that same meeting 90 years ago, the following people were also appointed to positions within the borough: Cornelius McCarthy, constable; John Geary, Sr., tax collector; P.F. Kaine, assessor; Thomas Brantingham, road supervisor; Lewis T. Churchill, borough engineer; Andrew McDonough, borough attorney; Frank P. Kelley, borough clerk; and Ethel Holstein, over-seer of the poor. Additionally, back at that time, Thornton was also nominated and sworn in council president; councilmembers were named to various committees; and the Courier News of Plainfield was designated as the official newspaper.
Saturday’s celebration also featured South Plainfield High School student CC McCormick, who performed the National Anthem, and prayers and blessings were offered from the borough’s former chaplain Rev. Charles Mingle, who filled the 1926 role of Rev. E.B. Williams from First Baptist Church, and Rev. John Alvarado, pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart, who served as the Catholic church’s Rev. John Baldwin.
Among those present for the 90th birthday celebration included past councilmembers Tim McConville, Henry Seesselberg, Darlene Pinto (now Cullen) and Anthony Mondoro, and former mayors William Prendergast (1973), Richard Kennedy (1979-1982), Michael English (1983-1986), Michael Woskey (1991-1994), Daniel Gallagher (1987-1990 and 1995-2006) and Charles Butrico (2006-2010).
“I am very happy to have been invited. I still consider South Plainfield home,” Prendergast, who resided in the borough for 18 years and still has family here, said. “It’s where my roots and my family are and I will always have a soft spot [for the borough]. I have wonderful memories of living here.”
English, who served on the council from 1978 to 1982 before being elected mayor, thanked the historical society, mayor and council for holding the event. “Celebrations like this are very nice for the people and a great way for us to celebrate the history of town,” said English, who has resided in South Plainfield for 66 years.
Kennedy, who is now 94 years old, said being able to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the borough he served for four years was ‘wonderful’ while his son-in-law Michael Woskey expressed how happy he was to not only serve his town but to also follow in his father-in-laws footsteps. “It was an honor and privilege for me to be elected and serve this town. I only hope to have left a positive mark,” said Woseky as reminisced about his years as mayor. “Thank you for asking me to be a part of this special celebration.”
Gallagher, who served on the council for seven years and was elected mayor four times, recalled how it was Kennedy who encouraged him to get involved. ‘I saw a lot of things happen in South Plainfield and I am so proud to have played a small part in this community’s history,’ Gallagher told TAPinto, “It is an honor to have been invited and see South Plainfield celebrate its 90th.”
Butrico, the fifth of seven generations born and raised in the borough – his great, great grandmother was born here – and whose ancestors where the first couple to be married in South Plainfield, added, “I look back on my time as mayor and what an adventure it was. At times it was tough, no doubt about it, but it was a good experience and one that I will always remember … “ Of the 90th celebration, Butrico said, “This was a great idea and nice dedication to the town. I am so glad to have been part of South Plainfield’s history.”
As part of South Plainfield’s 90th Birthday Celebration, attendees from the borough age 90 and older were recognized and among those present were Grace Farinella, Rev. Mingle, former Mayor Kennedy, former Councilman Mondoro, and Dominick Abbruzzese. Additionally, residents were invited to share their thoughts and memories about the town and several stepped up to speak, including Dennis Savard, a lifelong resident of South Plainfield whose family has roots in the community dating back to the mid-1840s.
“My family could probably give Mr. Butrico a run for his money in terms of the number of generations here. We have been here for 175 years, before South Plainfield was South Plainfield. Once you come to South Plainfield you never leave,” said Savard, whose father was responsible for the [municipal] building back in the 1960 and whose uncle, as fire chief in town for 25 years, played a role in the construction of the new firehouse. Additionally, Savard’s family, back in the day, donated property to Sacred Heart Church.
The day’s events cumulated with a ceremonial cutting of a borough’s 90th birthday cake and a buffet lunch from Hometown Heroes was provided. Attendees also had the opportunity to be ‘mayor’ and have their photos taken in the mayor’s seat in council chambers, view historical photographs and a handmade quilt comprised of squares made by a community group or organization, and test their knowledge of the borough’s history with a spin of the Trivia Wheel for a chance to win Dr. Richard Veit’s book on South Plainfield history.
“It was great to see so many people who care and support this community turn out to celebrate this great borough,” said Mayor Anesh. “I am especially grateful and honored to have welcomed some of our past mayors here today and I thank them for being a part of our history and sharing their memories with us.”
Anesh also extended thanks to Anne Daley for all her work planning and running the celebration and to Miele for putting together and presenting a thorough and detailed account of the borough’s history. “This day would not have been possible without their support and assistance,” he said.
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