Goodspeed Histories: August 2021
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** August 17, 2021
This is the second in a series of articles on the unusual buildings on Flemington’s Main Street that sport an arch in the middle of their front roofline.
Today’s article focuses on the building put up by George A. Rea in 1874, known as either the Rea building or the Clock Tower Building, and I must say, this is one of the most lovely buildings in Flemington, and one of the best preserved. It also has a remarkable history. I learned a lot about Flemington’s history in the process of researching this building’s owners, and have filed much of it away for future articles, one of which I hope will focus on the first residents of Main Street, Flemington. But for today, the attention is on:
The Clock Tower Building (https://goodspeedhistories.co
Fortunately, one of the tenants, David Norton, is a terrific photographer, and he has shared a couple wonderful photos with me to feature in this article.
The builder of the building standing today, George A. Rea. had a very interesting family, as did the previous owner of the property, William Runkle Moore. These two families, Rea & Runkle, are also related. It had been my hope to have family trees for both of them ready to publish at the same time as the Rea Building history. It could not be done, but will be soon.
This newsletter is lacking in additional history items, probably because pollen has reduced my energy level, and partly because of so much discouraging news lately: disastrous weather events, the worsening pandemic, and the fall of Afghanistan. It reminds me how fortunate we are to live where we do, and yet, these larger events will have an effect on us as well as the rest of the world. History is happening right now. It will be a difficult chapter to write and to read.
Regards to all,
** August 5, 2021
I was supposed to return to my series “Downtown Flemington” around July 10th with an article about an interesting series of buildings on Main Street. My progress got interrupted by an overnight visit to the HMC (just a high blood-pressure problem than has gotten resolved). This was followed by a family visit in July that was a real treat, and you can be sure I will drop any number of pending articles to spend time with them!
In fact, another one of my distractions was a birthday gift for grandson Blake (who turned 15 this year)–a history of the route our ancestors took from eastern states through northern NY State to Michigan. Blake and his parents, along with his cousins and their parents, will be traveling this month to visit their great grandmother Goodspeed in Grand Rapids, Michigan along that route across northern New York. This will give them some reading material along the long drive. Imagine traveling that by horseback!
(Some time ago, I attempted to do something like this on the website; see “Michigan Fever (https://goodspeedhistories.co
With the travelogue finished, I’ve returned to my research on Main Street Flemington and found I had far too much information to compress into a single article. So, today’s article will serve as an introduction to the subject of Arches in Rooflines (https://goodspeedhistories.co
This will be followed by a close look at each of the buildings on Main Street Flemington that have this architectural feature, starting with the lovely building on the corner of Main St. and Bloomfield Avenue generally known as the Rea Building or the Clock Tower Building. (Photograph by Dave Norton)
One of my frustrations while researching Main Street residents is the fact that many properties that appear on the old maps are identified by their tenants, not their owners. Owners have to record their deeds, giving us historians a wonderful resource. But there is no such thing for tenants, which can be very frustrating.
But that is nothing compared to the frustration researchers must have when looking at the history of Black residents of Hale County, Alabama. I recently came upon an article in the Washington Post that described how these property owners traditionally passed their lands to each other without recording deeds, for the simple reason that during the Jim Crow era, government simply did not work for them, and conveying the lands as gifts without recording deeds was much safer.
If I was an historian working in Hale County today and wanted to get a chain of title the way I do in Hunterdon, I’d have to visit families and get their history rather than go to a Hall of Records. That must really be fascinating, and I hope a Hale County resident will think of trying that out and writing up the interviews.
The problem that has arisen is that FEMA will not provide disaster relief to property owners who do not hold deeds. A solution will have to be found, and perhaps that solution involves writing a history of Black property owners in Hale County.
Recently, I saw an item on Twitter of all places–quoting from the famous letter written in 1791 by Benjamin Banneker, a Black American, to Thomas Jefferson, sending Jefferson the Almanac that Banneker had recently published, and in his letter reminding Jefferson that he had written that all men were created equal, and at the same time owned a large number of slaves. Banneker was very polite, but still managed to hold Jefferson’s feet to the fire.
Here’s an interesting connection with Hunterdon residents. Banneker was encouraged to publish his Almanac by the Ellicott brothers, George and Jonathan, well-known Quakers in Maryland. Jonathan’s son was Benjamin Harvey Ellicott who had married Mary Ann Warford in Baltimore in 1838. Mary Ann was the daughter of Elisha Warford & Mary Arnwine of Hunterdon County. After the deaths of her husband and parents, she came into possession of her father’s considerable Hunterdon property.
That’s it for now. I hope to have another article ready to publish in a week or so.
Regards to all,