The recorded history of Wayne Township began in 1947 during the centennial celebration of its organization, which occurred at the Casey House on Hamburg Turnpike, April 12, 1847. The centennial organizing committee uncovered so much local factual historical data that the governing body, The Township Committee, appointed the Historical Committee. The first members were Dorothy Stults, Helen Zachariasen, S. Hobart Lockett, Rev. Edgar B. Rohrbach and Ronald Gall.
The Committee functioned until the early 1960s when Wayne Township adopted the Mayor-Council form of government. The Historical Committee was changed to a Commission, responsible to the Department of Parks and Recreation.
The Historical Commission’s major functions are to uncover and preserve any material pertaining to the history of the community; cooperate with township officials in the preservation of records and archives of the township; and the preservation of historic buildings, monuments, and markers.
In 1966 the Historical Commission became aware of the pending realignment of Route 23 in the Fairfield Road area of Wayne. The project would eliminate several homes, including the historic Mead-Van Duyne House, which is reputed to have been used as a waypoint for Colonial couriers during the American Revolution. For the next nine years, the Commission worked to save the historic building by first having it placed on the National and State Register of Historic Places for its significance as New Jersey Dutch colonial architecture. Then the Commission asked the local governing body to make arrangements to move the house to its present site. An archaeological dig at the original site uncovered many artifacts that are on display in the Archaeological Laboratory on the museum grounds.
In 1993 Wayne Township purchased the Schuyler-Colfax House on Hamburg Turnpike. The first section of this house was built by Arent Schuyler circa 1696, and his descendants continuously occupied the house for the next 297 years. It is currently undergoing major rehabilitation and will be re-opened as a museum with displays of artifacts and furnishings dating back to colonial times.
Over the years, several commissioners have written books, which are available at the museums.
William Berce wrote Under The Sign Of The Eagle;
Edward Lenik composed the Archaeology Of Wayne Township and Weekends In The Soil;
Charles Jackson authored the Van Riper-Hopper House and Mead’s Basin Brickyards In Wayne Township.
The Bicentennial Booklet was co-authored by Dr. Robert Brubaker, his daughter Anne Burns and Gratia Mahony.
The first Artists’ Coloring Book was composed by Ruth Jasinski, Gratia Mahony, Gretchen Tiedemann, and Carolyn Jackson.
A Self-Guided Tour of Wayne Township was written by Edward Lenik, Thomas Fitzpatrick, and Barbara Olsen.
The former Director of Historic House Museums, Cathy Tobin, wrote Images of Wayne Township.
The Historical Commission is active in several historical research projects relating to local history and genealogy. We also encourage the commissioners to undertake specific research projects and public presentations, which include a history of tombstone symbols, a computer PowerPoint slide show examining the last one hundred years of Wayne’s history, a research project to honor those Wayne residents who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom, and field trips highlighting the iron and brick industries that once flourished here. We are constantly searching for sources of historical information, photographs, documents, and artifacts that the public would like to share with the commission to aid us in carrying out our mission.
The Wayne Historical Historical Commission meets at Town Hall, 475 Valley Road, Wayne, NJ 07470 on the 3rd Tuesday of every month at 7:30 pm, except July, August, and December.
The Historical Commission and the Department of Parks and Recreation invite the public to attend our meetings, events, and programs listed under the history of Wayne Township.
Please e-mail or call 973-694-7192 for more information.