Thursday, February 13, 2014

3 Tricentennial Events You Need to Know About NOW!

Read this if you are interested in great, free or low cost entertainment OR quilting!

First, the great, free or low cost entertainment:

Back to back next weekend on February 22nd and 23rd the 300th is proud to announce two fine performances in celebration of Black History Month. 

"Paul Robeson Through his Words and Music” interweaves two dozen songs that were sung by Robeson, with a narrative of his life as an actor, singer, activist, and humanitarian and will be performed Saturday evening, February 22nd.

Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was born in Princeton, NJ to a former slave, the Reverend William Robeson at a time of open racism and segregation.  Robeson attended high school in Somerville, NJ where the head of the Music Department was Miss Bessie Vosseller, one of the two founders of the Flemington Choir School along with Miss Bessie Hopewell.  Miss Bessie Vosseller is credited with noticing Robeson as a very gifted student and gave him his early musical training as well as special attention.   Robeson personally credited Vosseller as the first person to take his voice seriously.  Robeson came to Flemington in 1938 to personally thank her.

Robeson attended Columbia University where he simultaneously received his law degree and played professional football.  At Columbia, he sang and acted in off-campus productions and, after graduating, he became a participant in the Harlem renaissance which resulted in his major career on both stage and screen as both a Shakespearean actor, Broadway star and great baritone.  He sold out concerts around the world singing in more than 25 different languages. 

Robeson starred in Shakespeare's Othello, the musical Showboat, and films such as Jericho and Proud Valley. He was one of the top performers and earners of the time.

As a worldwide performer and traveler, Robeson became a Civil and Human Rights activist.  Robeson took many unpopular and controversial positions for his time including for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, for independence in India and for the labor movement in Great Britain.  Most infamously, Robeson took a pro-Communist position during the Cold War.  He felt that under Stalinism people were treated equally while in the United States he was banned from using “Whites Only” restrooms, restaurants and hotels.  This led to Robeson being blacklisted during McCathyism, his passport being revoked and ultimately a legal challenge against the State Department as to “whether American citizens, regardless of their political beliefs or sympathies, may enjoy their constitutional rights." In 1958, after years of fighting, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the State Department could not deny American citizens the right to travel because of their political beliefs or affiliations.
Although triumphantly returning to Carnegie Hall in a sold out concert, the years of fighting his being blacklisted, fighting for his Constitutional rights and simultaneously not working affected his health and ultimately his career.  Robeson moved to Philadelphia where he lived in seclusion and died in 1976 in somewhat obscurity.

Paul Robeson is portrayed by Derrick McQueen who has performed this role in various states around the country.  “Paul Robeson Through his Words and Music” begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Flemington Presbyterian Church.  Tickets are free but required and may be obtained from either the Tricentennial’s website or at the Flemington Choir School in Flemington.  For further information, contact the Hunterdon Tricentennial Committee at (908) 788-2030 or visit their website at

The following day, Sunday afternoon, February 23rd, the East Amwell Historical Society will present "A DRAMATIC DIALOGUE BETWEEN DR. LARISON AND SILVIA DUBOIS" at the Little Theatre (Hunterdon Central High School off Route 523) at 4 pm.  In an extended interview in 1883 Silvia Dubois, then nearly 100 years old, told her life story to Dr. Cornelius Wilson Larison. How much of Silvia's life is history and how much is folklore we cannot be sure, but it remains a fascinating view of slave life and the life of the uneducated free black in the North during the 18th and 19th centuries. The presentation is based on Dr. Larison's biography on Silvia Dubois, who was born into slavery in the Sourland Mountains around 1788.  After repeated beatings by her mistress, Sylvia finally hit back.  Surprisingly, her master granted her freedom.  Her life's story is a fascinating study of true grit and the determination to live free.

Joy Kelly Smith, a New York stage actress, professional story-teller, director and musician will portray Silvia Dubois.   Ron O'Reilly, a resident of East Amwell and personal historian who helps people tell their life stories, will play the part of Dr. Larison.


The Dialogue is $5 at the door; no reservations or tickets are required in advance.
Now, if you are a QUILTER, pay attention to this announcement:  In conjunction with the quilt display and lecture the first week of April, a Symposium with four nationally known speakers is being presented on Saturday, April 12th at the Baptistown Baptist Church, 1040 Route 519, Baptistown, NJ.  This is a full day seminar that runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Included in the $50 fee is a continental breakfast and lunch.  Only 50 tickets are available.  If you are interested in attending this special day, please send your check payable to the Hunterdon County Tricentennial Committee for $50 to Judy Grow-Seminar, 76 Old Clinton Road, Flemington, NJ 08822.  If you have questions, you can email Judy directly at  Please include with your check your name, phone number(s) and email address. 

The speakers for the symposium include Sue Reich (Washington Depot, CT) who will speak on "Quiltings, Frolicks and Bees:  100 Years of Signature Quilts", Karen Dever (Moorestown, NJ) speaking on "My Garden of Quilts - Botanical Textiles", Newbie Richardson (Alexandria, VA) who will speak on "Quilts in Context" and Dana Balsamo (Princeton, NJ) speaking on "Evaluating Your Quilts... Is It a Treasure?"  Attendees are invited to bring their own antique quilts for evaluation. 

For more information including a download of the brochure for the 300th's quilt display "Common Threads: Quilting Traditions in Hunterdon County, NJ" please see the Tricentennial's website.





Monday, February 3, 2014

March Events -- Happy Birthday, Hunterdon County! We Love a Parade!!

March events are now ticketing!  We have some very amazing talks and events scheduled. 

If you have children, the March 1st History Hunting for Hunterdon's Young Historians is really going to be exciting.  County historians will have real, authentic County artifacts for children to touch, use, work and learn from!  This event is limited to only 25 children ages 6 to 10 -- and yes, in anticipation of "selling out" of this free event we are already planning an Encore!

On March 18, a very special free lecture will be given just for the 300th.  County Historian Stephanie Stevens researched and wrote "Your Life on March 22, 1714" -- new research as to how we would have worked, lived, played, dined if we lived in Hunterdon 300 years ago.  It is going to be a fascinating exploration back in time.  Later in the year, Stephanie is going to present 2 companion lectures:  "Your Life on March 22, 1814" and "Your Life on March 22, 1914."  Attending this series will give real insight as to what a difference a century can make.... sometimes.

Our first in a series of five lectures on Immigrant Settlement Patterns happens in March; we have two great talks on Revolutionary War history and Hunterdon, our second historic craft project for children and the first of a three parter by Surrogate Susan Hoffman -- she has really interesting stories about old, historic wills she's found and read.  Tickets required but all free!

We also have a lecture on lime kilns on a Saturday and then the next day, our first bus tour -- to see, what else?  lime kilns!  Those details are being worked out, but we are taking limited reservations, no obligation, on a first come first served basis.

We have to point out a special day in Flemington:  a free workshop and lecture, which, if you live in an old house, may be of real interest to you or someone you know.  County Clerk Mary Melfi and her staff will teach 30 people how to search the Search Room for old deeds and documents on your property.  You can end your day there or take a nice lunch break at a Main Street cafĂ© and then attend Historian Marfy Goodspeed's discussion on how to read these old documents and glean information from them.  If you just want to attend Marfy's lecture, that's fine, too.  Space is limited.

One event to check your calendar for is March 26's historical music performance by Ridley and Anne Enslow.   The Enslow's will play for 85 lucky people who score these free tickets:  historical music from the period of the Civil War, on period instruments, and they will be dressed in appropriate historical attire.  Our good friends from Teaberry's Tea Room are going to make authentic treats from mid 19th century recipes for our guests to enjoy!  And yes, it's another great, FREE event!

And, because it is our birthday month, on our actual date of incorporation, March 22, we celebrate with perhaps the biggest parade in Hunterdon's history, down the main drag in the County Seat.  Floats roll out at 4 pm.  If you have an organization or group that would like to participate please go to our website to register.

Following the parade (and perhaps a downtown Flemington dinner), at the Intermediate School on Bonnell Street the first 2,000 people will receive free cake and hot chocolate courtesy of our super friends at Shop Rite.  And if that isn't enough, we're topping the day off with a fantastic free fireworks show!

If you want to keep the celebration going, on March 29th, the 300th presents the Tricentennial Gala at the Grand Colonial.  A night of great food, fun, a silent and live auction, live band and dancing awaits.  250 tickets available -- sorry, not free -- it's another great fundraiser to help provide hundreds of free events. Please check our website's link to the gala for details.

Spend some time looking over all the possibilities in the month of March -- it's a month rich in history, fun and celebration.  Surely a calendar that has something for everyone!