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Goodspeed Histories: How one person changed a town…

March 12, 2021

After finishing my article, “Coming Into the Station,” I began researching the “J. C. Hopewell” who appeared on the Beers Atlas owning a largish lot across from the Dvoor Farm on Mine Street in Flemington. I was astonished at what I learned about the history of the Village. Here is the second of what will probably be several articles on “Downtown Flemington.”

One Man Makes a Difference
These articles are preparatory to writing about the beautiful old bank building that is awaiting changes as part of the Flemington redevelopment of the Union Hotel site. The first article in the series was: “A Store, A Bank, A Mansion .” It was intended as a lead-up to my discussion of the Hunterdon County Bank and John C. Hopewell because the Fisher-Reading Mansion, later on owned by Sen. George K. Large, has a history intertwined with the bank’s.

Incidentally, in the process of doing research for this story, I discovered an error in my previous article on the “Fisher-Reading Mansion,” which I have since corrected. Since no one seems to have noticed it, I will say no more, but did admit my mistake in the article.

Speaking of Corrections
This week I was contacted by Mayor Betsy Driver who pointed out that the illustration I used for “A Store, A Bank, A Mansion” was outdated, and did not show the approved plan. She kindly sent me a photo of the updated plan, so I have replaced the older photo. Also, many thanks to the Mayor for arranging a tour of the upper floors of the old Chamberlin-Reading-Nevius-Fulper store next to the hotel as well as the old bank building. Both buildings are impressive, but it is saddening to see how much damage modernizing can do. However, I am delighted to see that the front half of the old store will be saved. Dave Norton of The Potting Shed came along with us and made good use of his camera. His photos appear on Facebook on the page “Old Flemington.”

Family Trees
The latest tree to be published (later this afternoon) belongs to the Bonnell family since they show up so often when I write about anything in or near Flemington. It is not as extensive as many of the families with published trees, but the few Bonnells that were here made an impact.

Personal Gripe
In today’s article, I mention that although Mr. Hopewell got his picture taken, Mrs. Hopewell did not, or if she did (Hopewell could certainly afford it), it did not get saved where I could find it. Which got me thinking about how good it is when one can see both partners in a marriage, how much it conveys, in a non-verbal way. (I also gripe about her anonymity in my article, but I realize it is a case of a 21st century woman judging 19th century people.)

Boring Ancestors
For those of you who are researching your Hunterdon ancestors, I recommend the newsletter called “Genealogical Tip of the Day” by Michael John Neill. Lots of good advice is provided, and there is something to be said for getting it in small doses, i.e., daily. The tip entitled “Boring Ancestors” makes a good point, which is “There are no ‘boring’ ancestors.” Just because someone leaves few records behind does not mean their life was not interesting. Take a look at the times they lived in, their occupation, their relatives. There is always something to find.

End in Sight?
The numbers of people vaccinated are growing every day, thank goodness. Family reunions are on the horizon, once again. Hats off to the brilliant researchers who came up so quickly with effective vaccines, to the hospital workers who carried on under enormously stressful circumstances, and the very kind and pleasant people who have been administering the vaccines at Shop Rite.

One Last Thing
(This certainly has turned out to be my longest newsletter!)
A remarkable book has just been published by an author who really knows how to write! The book is Life’s Edge, The Search For What It Means to Be Alive, and the author is a close relative of mine, Carl Zimmer. Highly recommended! And for those preoccupied with heredity, check out She Has Her Mother’s Laugh.

That’s it for now. Happy Spring!

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