Home > Visitor > History Of East Orange

History of East Orange  

THE "TOWN AT THE RIVER" included land extending from the Passaic River to the Orange Mountain. For one hundred and forty years, what is now East Orange continued to be a part of Newark, and until 1780 was designated as "Newark Mountain." Orange, including all the Oranges, was separated from Newark November 27, 1806.

Since one of the early developments in a community where only church members could vote was the erection of a meeting house, a frame building 26x36 was erected in Newark in 1668. This building also served as a courthouse, a jail not being deemed necessary until thirty-two years later. The present building of the First Presbyterian Church in Newark, on Broad Street, dates back to 1791. The "Second Presbyterian Church of Newark" was organized at Newark Mountain in 1718. Two wooden buildings preceded the stone church which stood for many years at Main and Day streets, Orange. That building was erected in 1813 and was burned April 5, 1927.

Visions of untold wealth flitted through the minds of the early residents when a vein of rich copper ore was discovered in 1720. The mine, on the south side of Dodd Street just east of Brighton Avenue, was worked for a number of years and the ore was shipped to England. The First Bethel Presbyterian Church was built on this site. Although it was common practice for the youth of those early generations to test their prowess by exploring the mine, nothing at all remains to be seen now, since the shaft was completely filled up several years ago when a portion of Dodd Street caved in.

Although stirring events are recorded all about this section during the Revolution, there seems to be little of interest which actually took place here. Eight British soldiers were killed and nineteen wounded, with no Continentals killed at Watsessing on September 13, 1777, but even that exact spot is not known. Nevertheless, hardship was experienced in the region, for throughout the Revolution food was scarce. Sir Henry Clinton, in command of the British troops in New York, sent out several foraging expeditions, one in the winter of 1776-77 with 2,000 men divided into four groups. A party of Hessians encamped one night on the farm of Caleb Baldwin, on a lane extending north from Main Street, opposite a barn supposed to be empty. With demoralizing results, the soldiers discovered that under a covering of hay were barrels of whiskey which a Newark merchant had hidden there for safe keeping! For many years after that the lane, which afterwards became North Grove Street, was known as "Whiskey Lane".

Orange was incorporated as a town January 26, 1860, and almost immediately began to separate into smaller units, probably because the idea of police, fire, and street departments was not receiving popular support. South Orange was set off January 26, 1861, Fairmount March 11, 1862, East Orange March 4, 1863, and West Orange, with which Fairmount was combined, March 14, 1863. Before the separation in 1863, the total indebtedness of Orange was $3,500, exclusive of Civil War soldiers' bounties amounting to $32,000. One of the big problems of the Town Fathers was what to do with the Orange poor farm, a tract of thirty-three acres in East Orange, on South Orange Avenue. Later this property was developed as a residential neighborhood.

East Orange became a separate township on March 4, 1863, the first election being held in Timothy W. Mulford's wheelwright shop on the south side of Main Street, between Walnut and Burnet Streets, April 16 1863. In that year $8,488 was raise by taxation, not including a special tax on the Ashland School districts South. On May 21, 1861, the first contingent of forty men left Orange for camp on Staten Island, just five weeks after President Lincoln had issued his first call for troops.