Sussex County takes time to visit its past

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:12

    NEWTON-Sussex County's history was in full bloom last Saturday. A Day of Sussex County History offered history buffs every possible aspect of the county's past, from Native Americans and early war contributions to advances in machinery, agricultural and crafts. "We're celebrating Sussex County history today," said Robert Longcore, president of the Sussex County Historical Society, which sponsored the day's events along with the Sussex County Community College, where the event was held. "We thought by having everyone here who preserves and interprets Sussex County history, we'd pull public attention to it," he said. Battle re-enactments and wool spinning demonstrations, complete with costumes, greeted visitors outside on the SCCC campus lawn. Four lectures were presented in the theater throughout the day. Inside the cafeteria and surrounding hallways, some 40 organizations were represented at booths. Historical societies from more than a dozen towns, boroughs and townships, displayed literature and promoted their individual projects. Sue Gerber, president of the Heritage and Agriculture Association, used her booth to spread the word of the association's efforts to restore the old Lusscroft Farm in Wantage Township. The farm, now owned by the state, is of historical significance because it was the birthplace of artificial insemination, an advancement in dairy farming that drastically improved safety and productivity worldwide. "We're really looking for people to get involved," said Donna Traylor, Sussex County agriculture resource specialist, who came to lend her support to the Lusscroft project. "We have the potential here to do something great with those buildings." Next-door to Gerber's booth, archeologist Susan Finn displayed the Lenape Lifeways' new traveling pictorial exhibit, showing the cultural contributions of the Lenape tribe in our county. "People don't know how much is in their own backyard," Finn said. Lenape Lifeways is a two-year-old non-profit organization out of Stanhope that provides educational programs and hands-on exhibits to schools and other groups. "The Native Americans are much more diverse and interesting than is normally depicted," Finn said. The county's contributions to past wars were well represented. Frank Toth displayed information on Sussex County veterans, part of his seven-year-long research for a book he says is still at least five years away. History Day visitors included some new fodder for his book, including the sister of a D-Day casualty. Out on the campus lawn, Bill Higbie of Sandyston, displayed weapons and artifacts from the New Jersey Ranging Company, a French and Indian War unit whose members included Sussex County residents. For some of the local history organizations, the day was an opportunity to compare notes and share ideas with each other. "This is a great chance for us to network," said Alicia Batko, historian and curator for the Montague Association for the Restoration of Community History. M.A.R.C.H. was promoting its efforts on behalf of the Neldon-Roberts Stonehouse and the historic Foster-Armstrong House. Andover Historical Society members were selling ornaments and promoting their centennial celebration of Andover Borough on Sept. 25. Wantage Historical Society members said they were enjoying visitors to their booth who had tales of when they lived in Wantage years ago. " We have people here who came just to look at what their own township had," Longcore said, "and then they see the number of groups that are out here."