NEWTON, NJ - A standing room only crowd of historians packed one of the second floor rooms at the Hill Memorial on Monday, March 11, for the first meeting of an informal consortium.

Wasco Hadowanetz of the Ogdensburg Historical Society commented he was pleased “someone had the idea of getting to know each other around the county.”

Late in the meeting the group picked a name, the Sussex County Historical Alliance, although two of the historical organizations represented, the Musconetcong Foundrymen Historical Society, and the Friends of Waterloo Village, have a certain Morris County connection. The Musconetcong Foundrymen represents Stanhope and Netcong and Waterloo Village has some property in Mount Olive Township.

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Most were municipal historical societies, including those from Vernon, Montague, Hardyston, Byram, Green, Sparta, Lafayette and Walpack. Other groups represented included re-enactors, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

They also picked a date for a second meeting, Monday, April 29, on the theory that a fifth Monday would not interfere with other meetings.

The alliance formed on the theory more can be accomplished by working together. Each attendee filled out an informational form and everyone exchanged information on their societies and planned events. One suggestion was for societies to attend other organization’s events once a year.

MaryAnn Mathias of the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council noted she is on the tourism committee of the county Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber says historical groups aren’t members, but, she noted, it is interested in tourism.” 

The alliance will continue discussing joining the chamber to take advantage of advertising and other benefits to history tourism.

Other discussion centered around their common problems. Most societies are always seeking new members, although few are as lacking as Walpack which only has about 10 residents. Lee Lowell of the Franklin Mineral Museum noted “everyone in the world knows about the fluorescent minerals except the people who live there.”

Even more troubling than a lack of members, they agreed, is a lack of young members. Beth Jones of Montague said she is probably the youngest member of her society and “it’s hard to get up on the ladder and struggle to keep the archives up.”

Frank Gonzalez of Byram said his society brings all the third graders in the district through the one-room schoolhouse in the township. Other societies attempt to bring local children through, but Judy Citrano of the Hardyston Heritage Society said “the school says we are too close for a field trip.”

She said previously the society worked with fourth grade teachers, but those teachers retired.

Jeff Lewis of Branchville said a Boy Scout is helping out with moving the society to a room in the old school which is the new municipal building. Richard Vohden from Green said they have a scout doing his Eagle Project at the Huntsville Cemetery.  

Ed Fritsch of Sparta, who organized the meeting said representatives of the groups could attend board meetings of the county society. He also said any group that doesn’t have a place to meet can meet in the Hill Memorial.


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