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28 Walnut Street
Madison, NJ 07940 (map)
LOOKING BACK COLUMN
In 1798 travel was very different from today. Benjamin Freeman and John Halsey advertised stagecoaches that ran from Morristown to Paulus Hook (Jersey City). Starting at Freeman’s house in Morristown at 6 a.m., they proceeded down to Daniel Sergent’s home in Bottle Hill, then on to Israel Day’s in Chatham. Actual street addresses didn’t exist in those days. The coaches departed every Tuesday and Friday, returning every Wednesday and Saturday. The fare to Paulus Hook was 10 shillings or $1.25; people going to Elizabeth Port had to change at Springfield and paid a fare of 8 shillings.
Between 1800 and 1825 there were approximately 54 chartered turnpikes in New Jersey. Main Street, or the Turnpike Road as it was known then, didn’t exist until 1804. Large wagons covered with flax cloth and carrying produce, charcoal and pigs traveled over crooked mud roads and bridle paths. The “Sussex Wagons” as they were called, traveled through Madison on their way to New York. Area taverns, such as the Madison House on the corner of Main Street and Waverly Place, were favorite stopping places on stagecoach routes.
In 1828, Drake & Co. advertised a stage that would run “in one day and by daylight” from New York, traveling across the Hudson by the steamer “Emerald” to Elizabeth Port and continuing on to Morristown and Schooley’s Mountain Springs, then to Easton, Pennsylvania for a fare of 10 shillings.
The Morris & Essex Railroad started operation in 1837 which made travel faster and more comfortable. However, the stagecoaches kept running for a time as some older people seemed to be afraid of the locomotive. Eventually progress won out, the stagecoaches disappeared and the following appeared in the newspaper, “So the old people of 1825, with their primitive ways, have departed, to give place to ‘young America’ and the progress of 1889.”
The next generation of travel, the trolley, was referred to as “the poor man’s automobile.” Trolley tracks were laid from Summit to Madison by the Morris County Traction Company. The company was also responsible for keeping the streets along the tracks in good repair, which over the years became a major problem, in the summer the streets were sprinkled with water to keep the dust down. Service began at 10:00am on Wednesday, February 9, 1912 when a trolley car left Summit, slowly making its way over ice-covered tracks. When it reached Samuel Lum’s greenhouse at the corner of Lafayette Avenue and Main Street in Chatham, it had to wait for a group of 15 laborers who accompanied the car, to clear the snow and ice before they could proceed. Progress was extremely slow; it reached the liberty pole at Greenwood Avenue on Friday night at exactly 11:14pm and was greeted by loud cheers from a group of bowlers just leaving Waverly Alleys.
Eventually more cars were added, making it possible for a regular schedule that ran from Morristown to Newark. After 16 years of service, the last trolley car passed through Madison. Buses, owned by Public Service Company, replaced the trolley on February 6, 1928. In 1942 the Metals Reserve Company started the process of removing 26 tons of rails to be used in the war effort.
Researched and written by Staff Assistant Helene Corlett