Elizabeth Day-1989

 pastby Diane Norek Harrison

 ELIZABETH-This was sent to me by Mr. William Frolich: 

“It was on the 16th of April in the year 1789, that George Washington was informed in Mt. Vernon that he had been unanimously elected as the President of the United States and he made plans travel to New York City, where the Congress was seated, to take the oath of office. This journey took him along the old Dutch road now known as St. George’s Avenue, through Rahway, the Wheatsheaf area, now Linden and Roselle) and into Elizabethtown, where he boarded a barge rowed by thirteen sailors, who took him by water, to the foot of Manhattan. He took the Oath of Office on April 30, 1789.

“Late in the year of 1988, plans were being formed to properly celebrate this momentous occasion. It had been done before, with a modest re-enactment of the event, with President Benjamin Harrison acting as George Washington, but he arrived in Elizabeth by way of the railroad. In 1939, in celebrating the 150th anniversary, a much more elaborate re-enactment was made, with “Washington” in a horse-drawn carriage, arriving in time to officially open the 1939 New York World’s Fair, in the Flushing Fairgrounds on Long Island.

“Even great plans were made for the 200th anniversary. George Washington, played by William Summerfield, was to set out from Mr. Vernon in an open, horse-drawn carriage, and follow as much as possible, the original route of the 1789 journey. In New Jersey, every city, town and village along the route made plans to meet, greet and celebrate the entourage as it passed through their hometown.

“In Elizabeth a two-day event was planned, and known as Elizabeth Day. Everyone in the county was invited to take some part in the celebration, to be held on April 22 and 23, 1989. Schools, choral, groups, bands, fife and drum corps, civic organizations, and individuals signed on for this event.

“In Virginia, the journey started off badly, with spirited horses dragging the carriage into an obstruction and shattering a wheel before it got out of Mt. Vernon. A replacement was soon found, and the trip continued. In New Jersey, however, things went well, with a triumphant entry into Trenton with no opposition from any Hessians.

“Saturday, April 22, was a big day in Elizabeth. There was something for everyone, with programs held all over the city. Old Colonial houses, still standing, were open for visitors. Piano music was featured in old First Presbyterian Church, where James Caldwell, the Fighting Parson of the Revolution, had preached for the cause of independence. Next door, in the Courthouse, a barbershop group from Rahway thrilled the listeners in the Rotunda, and outside, on the steps, the Westfield Fife and Drum Corps. entertained with colonial period music. At. St. John’s Church, a brass group of musicians played their songs, while competing with the booming sounds of the bronze bell in the church tower.

“At the Elizabeth waterfront the replica of HMS Rose was tied up to the Recreation Pier, and opened for the many visitors who came aboard. This square-rigged frigate, operated as a school for seamanship, had come down from Connecticut to take part in the celebration. Crewmen were on hand to explain the intricacies of the cannon, sails, and miles of rope that would have made the ship a fighting vessel of the late 18th century.

“On Sunday morning, April 23, George Washington and his escorts came into Union County at Rahway, and were served breakfast in the old Merchants and Drovers Tavern, on the corner of Westfield and St. George’s Avenue after greeting the crowds by the adjacent Terrill Tavern, their journey continued into Linden, and then into Roselle.

“In Roselle they paused for several minutes near a surviving portion of the old Wheatsheaf Tavern of the 1740s. George himself had paused briefly here in 1776, during the retreat from Fort Lee to the Delaware River, and to the “Ten Crucial Days of the American Revolution.”

“A huge crowd of spectators greeted the travelers at the small triangle of land in the intersection at that point. Among them was “Abraham Clark”, in the person of Roselle Mayor Sam Colucci. After several words of greeting, George had time to sign a few autographs for the well-wishers, and then, departed on the way to Elizabeth, and dinner at Boxwood Hall, as he had done many times in the past with Elias Boudinot, a President of the Continental Congress.

“The final leg of his journey through New Jersey was the ride to the waterfront, escorted by a large parade. Here he boarded a large rowing barge, borrowed for the occasion from Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. Many small craft were in the waterway, and the Coast Guard was on hand to prevent any accidents. HMS Rose also was a part of the escort, and her cannon boomed out with salutes, as the ship parade disappeared toward the Bayonne Bridge and the foot of Manhattan.”

Thanks Mr. Frolich!

If you have your own memories or past material for Clark, Elizabeth, Linden or Rahway you can email me c/o dianenorekharrison@juno.com or send copies of your material to me c/o CMD Media 1139, East Jersey St,. Suite 503, Elizabeth NJ, 07201.

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