February 21, 2005
By KARA L. RICHARDSON, Staff Writer
BRIDGEWATER -- Instead of traveling by horseback or marching, more than 100 people toured the Middlebrook encampment sites by bus Sunday to see where Gen. George Washington brought his army to spend the winter from December 1778 to June 1779.
The Somerset County sites are spread out from the Van Horne House in Bridgewater to the Vanderveer House in the Pluckemin section of Bedminster. Heritage Trail volunteer Jo-Ann Liptak, who read the tour's script like a Revolutionary War story book, said that's because Washington wanted to lessen the 9,000 troops' burden on Somerset County's 10,000 residents at the time.
While the river views and the hundreds of acres that surrounded the estates are now home to subdivisions, stores and warehouses, the tour allowed a glimpse of where history was housed.
"You have to keep reminding yourselves that none of these dwellings were here, none of these roads were here. It was very primitive, very open," Liptak said as the 18-seat bus turned toward Interstate 287. She noted that the tour was the Heritage Trail Association's second such tour, held the weekend before Presidents Day.
The tour began at the Van Horne House and included the Wallace House in Somerville, where Washington stayed. Participants were able to visit harder-to-find homes such as the Abraham Staats House, which is tucked behind a South Bound Brook neighborhood, and the Van Veghten House, which is surrounded by an industrial park in Bridgewater, near the Manville border. The Vanderveer House is along heavily traveled Route 202-206 in Bedminster.
"I drive by these places all of the time, and I wanted to know what their stories were," Karen Brown of Bridgewater said. She and her husband, Sandy, said they signed up for the free tour so they could learn about the five structures at one time.
During a stop at the Wallace House, Bernard Graebener and his grandson, Eric, stood outside the parlor where Washington worked.
"It's really something to ponder, that you're walking on the same floor boards as these historic figures," Bernard Graebener said while the tour group descended a white pine staircase back to the bus.
Maureen and Howard Greenbaum of Watchung took their 13-year-old son, Noah, on the tour so they all could get a better appreciation of Revolutionary War history in Somerset County.
"We have such a Boston and Philadelphia view of the Revolutionary War," Maureen Greenbaum said.
One of the Heritage Trail volunteers chimed in that Somerset County was "the crossroads of the American Revolution."
Kara L. Richardson can be reached at (908)707-3186 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Brian Faulks, dressed as a period farmer and militiaman, greets visitors on a stop of the tour Sunday at the Abraham Staats House in South Bound Brook.
STAFF PHOTOS BY ED PAGLIARINI
The bus for a tour of historical Somerset County homes prepares to depart the Jacobus Vanderveer House on Sunday in Bedminster.
AT A GLANCE