Metuchen Edison History Features
In Old Metuchen
David Trumbull Marshall
Published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing NY 1930
(Second Edition)- (c) 1930
The Old Daniels House.
As told by Miss Maggie Robins and Mrs. Haskell.
Probably the most interesting of all of the very old houses in Metuchen is the one in which Miss Maggie Robins lives at 28 Homer Place. This formerly stood on Woodbridge Avenue, a little east of the Presbyterian Parsonage, and about fifty feet back from the road.
All of the beams are hand-hewn white oak. The nails used in the house are hand-made. The windows are without sash-weights. The walls of the house are lined with brick, set in clay. The brickwork of the fireplaces extends out into the rooms about two-and-one-half feet.
The hall in the center of the house is eight feet wide and the banisters on the stairway are of solid mahogany, said to be hand-made.
About fifteen feet from the kitchen was a well of very good water in which hung an old oaken bucket.
On the east end of the house was a lean-to kitchen. Above the kitchen there was a room, which was not connected with the rest of the house, but was reached by a pair of stairs from the kitchen. At the bottom of the stairs was a door. This room contained a bed but was not used.
One night a woman came to the house and wanted to stay all night. Mrs. Eddy (Mrs. Haskell's mother) didn't like her looks and didn't want to let her stay, but Mr. Eddy said, "She's only a woman and can't do any harm. We'll put her in the room over the kitchen and lock her in. About 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning they heard a big noise. Mr. Eddy went down to see what it was, and found the woman trying to get out. She told him that she was a heaven-born child and that it was a sin to keep her locked up there. Mr. Eddy told her that it didn't make any difference she would have to stay there until morning and she might as well go back to bed. After the woman left in the morning she went to one of the neighbors and demanded her breakfast. It developed later that she was a man in disguise.
In the back of the kitchen there was an immense Dutch oven. Mrs. Haskell relates that when they wanted to bake, a big wood fire would be built in the oven, and when the oven was heated through, the coals would be pulled out and the bricks cleaned. She remembers seeing her mother mopping the bricks with a damp cloth. The bread would be placed right on the floor of the oven to bake, and when done would be taken out with a long-handled wooden shovel.
Mrs. Haskell's mother used to bake twenty to twenty-four mince pies at a time. When they were done they would be placed in a row on a shelf and covered with a cloth and another row put on top of them.
Mr. Manning Daniels said that once a week the farmers would come there and have their bread baked. He used to gather the wood to heat the oven.
In those days they lived well. They would have a big pile of clams in the cellar in one place and a pile of oysters in another and one of the boys would go down every day and sprinkle them with water.
One day one of Mrs. Haskell's aunts went down where the clams were, and some of them had their shells open. She stuck her finger in one of them. The clam immediately closed its shell on her finger and she nearly lost it. The clam had to be pried open in order to release her finger.
Mr. Ferd VanSickle told Miss Robins that Washington stopped at the house once on his way through Metuchen. Mrs. Haskell was born in the front room in the upper right-hand corner in 1842. The house was built by her grandfather, Ellis Daniels, before the Revolution.
The farm consisted of about 200 acres lying mostly between the Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley Railroads.
On the back of the place where Mr. Ed. J. Weeks lives at 250 Woodbridge Avenue and close to a large elm tree near Bounty Street, there was a spring. Below the spring a shallow pond had been dug out as a drinking place for the cattle.
One day when Mrs. Haskell's grandfather was sitting by the open fire in the back kitchen, the hired man came in and said: "I have a queer-looking stick here that I found out at the pond and I would like to lay it down here by the fire."
Mrs. Haskell was a very little girl at the time. She says: "After a while the stick began to crawl." Mr. Daniels said, "It looks like a snake." The hired man said, "Well, that's what I thought it was." It seems that Pharaoh's magicians didn't have anything on the hired man when it came to turning sticks into snakes.
At one time they were going to tear the Daniels house down. When the workmen arrived one of them said, "This house is very well built. I wouldn't tear it down. It will outlast any of the houses that they are building today." As a result the house is still standing.
It was moved to its present site by Miss Robins about 1888. Several years after the house had been moved, part of the ceiling over one of the windows fell. Several days later as Miss Robins was standing by the window she heard something drop, looked around, and there was an old-fashioned penny about the size of a quarter, dated 1843.
Boyhood Days in Old Metuchen Title page
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Lasted updated 5/20/99 by Jim Halpin.