Metuchen Edison History Features

Recollections of

Boyhood Days

In Old Metuchen


David Trumbull Marshall

Published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing NY 1930

(Second Edition)- (c) 1930


The Clarkson House.

I never see the Clarkson house without thinking of the time that Jimmie Clarkson offered to treat me to root beer.

Clarkson's House

Jimmie had a big Stone jug of root beer, still in the making, out in the kitchen.

The maid was ironing and the fresh, clean clothes were spread all over the kitchen.

Jimmie got a couple of glasses, started the bung of the big jug, when pretty much all the contents of the jug shot up to the ceiling and, as Pliny tells of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the burying of Pompeii, the liquid "spread out like a palm tree" and descended all over the clean clothes.

Just what happened to Jimmie I do not know for I made tracks for the outside about that time.

For some years the fence in front of the Clarkson Place, made of the old church pew doors, was an object of interest.

Clarkson's house was in 1890 moved to 484 Middlesex Avenue, where it now stands.

The Ross Freeman house, just across the road from Clarkson's store, was contemporary with the Clarkson house and during stage coach days was one of the numerous inns established along the turnpike. The Freeman house now stands on Chestnut Street.

Freeman Edgar's store, a store similar to Clarkson's, stood, and now stands, on the corner of Amboy Avenue and Main Street.

In this store was the usual heterogeneous stock of groceries, hardware, haberdashery and crockery; almost as heterogeneous as the stock of a modern drug store.

Among my very earliest recollections is of going to Edgar's store with my older sisters or brothers.

We were just as keen for the red and white sticks of peppermint candy and the translucent sticks of lemon candy as are the children of today. Perhaps we enjoyed the candy more because we did not get it every day.

Of old houses in Metuchen today there are not so many.

The old house which stands on the corner of Middlesex Avenue and Amboy Avenue was used in stage coach times as an inn.

In my day it was occupied by a very sweet old lady by the name of Kester. Mrs. Kester's grown son was a cripple and could not walk a step. Occasionally I used to see him sitting in an armchair on the back porch, or in the paved dooryard, splitting wood with an ax. When he went anywhere, Gus Fouratt, who lived across the street, used to carry him to the carriage.

Once Manning Freeman kept a red cow in the lot next to Kester's.

One day as I passed through the field the cow ran for me and had her horns lowered to hook me just as I slid through a hole in the picket fence.

I had always been used to cows and until that time no cow had offered to hook me. I felt much insulted.

No one kept any sheep around Metuchen when I was a boy, so I didn't know much of sheep.

When I was surveying for Mr. Edison up in Morris County, N. J., about 1889, I was walking through a pasture where there was a flock of sheep.

A ram ran at me and I had just time to tumble over the rail fence before the ram got me.

I was told later that the ram would probably have killed me, just as the red cow would have done, had I been less agile, in getting away.

When I was a boy, and in fact until quite recently, there stood on two of the corners at Bonhamtown where Main Street crosses the Turnpike two houses which had been used as officers' quarters by the British during the Revolutionary War.

During the Revolution there were two regiments of British soldiers stationed at Bonhamtown.

The Grimstead house on the Turnpike, west of the mill dam at Bonhamtown, was built about 1795.

Next to that was the Manning house, in which during my childhood days there was a private school.

Mrs. Cornelia Hull Martin, the mother of Jason Martin, used to tell the story that along the old Post Road in Bonhamtown there stood a large sycamore tree with a hole in the side, and that at one time during an epidemic of smallpox a family of Indians took shelter within the tree.

In 1850, when Mr. James Grimstead was a boy and lived in the house just east of the Manning house, he and his brothers and sisters used to play in this tree. In the last few years the opening closed up so much that it would be almost impossible to get inside. The tree was destroyed by fire in 1929. Part of the shell is still standing.

A stray pig took possession of the tree at one time and raised a litter of eight young ones.

It is said that Washington tied his horse to the tree on several occasions.

Poor George, what with living at one time or another in every old house in New Jersey and what with beating the British and beating it away from them, he must have been kept on the move most of the time.

When the house on the north-west corner of the Turnpike and Main Street at Bonhamtown literally fell to pieces about 1874, my Mother expressed much regret that the old landmark was disappearing.

About the last thing that remained was the great dome-shaped Dutch oven of brick.

We had such a Dutch oven in our old house in Metuchen, but I do not remember ever seeing a fire built in it.

A Dutch oven is a chamber large enough for a boy to crawl into, made of brick. The chamber is connected with the chimney.

To bake in a Dutch oven one builds a fire of wood inside the oven and when the oven is hot the fire is raked out the door and loaves of bread are laid directly on the bricks, when the bread is baked then pies and small cakes are put in.

My Mother, with her parents and a large number of brothers and sisters, lived at Elizabeth, N. J.

One Saturday bread and pies enough were baked as usual to last the family for a week.

That night tramps came and carried off the whole baking.

Mother said that in her younger days people frequently baked enough pumpkin pies to last all winter.

I imagine the pies must have been thinner and drier than some one gets in the bakeries now.


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Lasted updated 5/20/99 by Jim Halpin.