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Meet the Historian


THSSH had hoped to interview two people who have been at the forefront of historic preservation in Bedminster, New Jersey. However we are sad to inform everyone of the losses of Pritch Matthews and Dutzie Robbie who are no longer with us.

Both Ms. Matthews and Ms. Robbie were heavily involved in preserving and promoting local history. Dutzie was dedicated to local residents and served as both Bedminster Township Historian  and Historic Preservation Committee Lead.

Pritch Matthews

Prich Matthews, 80, died on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009 at the Morristown Memorial Hospital in Morristown. She was born in Bluefield, WV on October 3, 1929. She and her husband, Robert moved to Bedminster in 1958, first living in a cottage at the quadrangle on John Cowperthwaite, Sr.'s estate, later Trump National Golf Club.

In 1965, the couple traveled to Kwajalein, Marshall Islands in Micronesia. From the Pacific islands they completed their trip around the world. They returned to Bedminster in 1967 when they bought Elm Hill Farm and the 1734 farm-house where Prich Matthews lived until her death.

Mrs. Matthews life was marked with creativity and volunteerism. She retired from community affairs in 2000 after a fall that prevented active participation. When her community began expansive growth, Matthews saw the need of sharing with newcomers knowledge of Bedminster Township's rich cultural heritage. To that end she prepared a descriptive exhibition of 34 historic township photographs. The exhibit first appeared when a new Clarence Dillon Public Library facility was dedicated in 1979. Before and after the library moved to a grander site in 1994, Prich directed a Friends' gallery for local artists in each venue. This led to her establishing and directing an art gallery for leading New Jersey artists in the new Somerset County Administration Building in Somerville in 1992 while she was a member of the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission.

Mrs. Matthews was requested in the 1970s by then Bedminster Township Police Chief Gary Cummings to design a logo for the police uniforms. In addition to uniforms, that logo appears on police cars, township literature. and as a large bronze motif in the Township meeting room. Matthews became Bedminster Township Historian in 1988. She then served as a member of the Township's Historical Preservation Commission.

Her involvement with local history led to her writing in 1999 "Bedminster Township - 250 Years", a volume that celebrated the 250th anniversary of the township's gaining its charter from England. The main gallery of the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton was where in 1982 Matthews had a one-man show of her 65 paintings and collages. It was among many of the artist's activities and shows during the 1980s. Matthews was one of Somerset Art Association's founders in 1970. She was a past president and the first honorary life member of the organization that began in Bernardsville, later moved to Far Hills and is now in Bedminster.

Mrs. Matthews's early connection with newspapers enriched her writing horizons. As assistant society editor of the El Paso (Texas) Herald Post in 1952, she initiated an illustrated advice column for teenagers, the idea having begun in 1948 when she wrote for the Mountain Mirror in Bluefield, WV. Her travels launched the 1965 Delaware Valley Historical Guidebook. and the New Jersey Junket, a New Jersey travel column that appeared in 12 New Jersey newspapers in the 1970s.

Prich's love of home was instrumental in her designing small home fittings that were featured in the 1960s in New York City at Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendel. Garden club activities were among Matthews's special interests. In the early 1960s, she became a flower show judge accredited by the New Jersey Council of State Garden Clubs. The same accreditation was hers as a landscape design critic. She studied landscape design with the late Raymond Korbobo at Cook College in New Brunswick.

Mrs. Matthews was a 1952 graduate of Longwood College, now Longwood University, in Farmville, VA. In 1962, she was president of the Somerset Hills chapter of the American Association of University Women. Prior to serving as president, she was chairman of the annual AAUW book sale when the donated books were sorted in Dr. Raymond Maronpot's barn on Anderson Road, Bernardsville.

She and her husband, Robert, traveled in 1954 with their three dogs to Germany where Mr. Matthews was attached to the Air Force. Prich participated in American women's activities where the couples' service stations took them, from Bavaria in the south to Bremerhaven in the north. In Bremerhaven, she was president of the Air Force Officers' Wives Club and vice-president of the American women's Club that included wives from the Army, Navy, Air Force and other service branches stationed in Bremerhaven. While in Bremerhaven, she hosted a radio program over Armed Forces Network that was devoted to women's interests.

During their stay in Europe, the couple showed two of their American Cocker Spaniels that won Certificates of Aptitude for Champion of International Beauty (CACIB). In Berlin, Prich and her winning dogs were featured in the German Movietone News. The couple's interest in owning and showing dogs continued into the 21st century. (Source: Courier News)

Dutzie Robbie

Dutzie Robbie - Bedminster HistorianOfelia “Dutzie” Onderdonk Laidlaw Robbie, 93, died on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, peacefully at home in Atlanta, Ga. Her family was by her side.

She was born in Mexico City to Latrobe and Ofelia Onderdonk on Jan. 19, 1922, the granddaughter of Texas painter Robert Jenkins Onderdonk and the niece of Julian Onderdonk and Eleanor Onderdonk, Texas impressionist painters. She made numerous donations to the Witte Museum in San Antonio on behalf of the Onderdonk family. She married J. Robert Laidlaw in 1943, and was graduated from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, Texas, in 1945 with a bachelor of arts degree in English and biology.

They moved in 1946 to Plainfield, where she became an active volunteer in the Junior League of Plainfield, serving as president from 1957 to 1959, and at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School and Muhlenberg Hospital. Mrs. Robbie was an enthusiastic tennis player at the Plainfield Country Club and an avid bridge player.

After a fire destroyed their Plainfield home in 1966, the family moved to Bedminster Township, where for the next 45 years she was a dedicated volunteer. She served for 40 years with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Somerset Hills, chairing the Board of Trustees numerous times. The VNA created an award in her name to be given each year to an outstanding VNA board member.

For 30 years, Mrs. Robbie was the historian for Bedminster Township, which led to her involvement with the Bedminster Historic Preservation Commission, for which she served as chairman. She received the Millicent Fenwick Memorial Civic Award in 1998 from the Somerset Hills YMCA.

Mrs. Robbie was also active with the Clarence Dillon Public Library and served as board president. She wanted not only to give back to her community but to make a difference in the world. Mrs. Robbie will also be remembered as a wonderful hostess who presided over many memorable gatherings at her home.

She lost her only brother, Latrobe, in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. She was predeceased by her parents; by her first husband in a car accident in 1969; by her second husband, Norman H. Robbie, from pneumonia while visiting Russia in 1988; and by her eldest son, James, from cancer in 2012.

Surviving are her children and their spouses, Mary (Frank) Hart, Latrobe (Joselyn) Laidlaw and John (Mary Beth) Laidlaw, and her stepson, KC (Folly) Robbie and daughter-in-law, Judy (James) Laidlaw. She is also survived by her 16 grandchildren: Heather Laidlaw Kraft, Christy Hart Waller, Francey Hart Slater, Robert Hart, Victoria, L. Jared, Colton, Benjamin, Joseph and Schuyler Laidlaw; Jason, Lissa, Christian and David Robbie; and Colette and Thurston Taber. Mrs. Robbie is also survived by nine great-grandchildren: Elizabeth and Isabella Taber, Elle, Hunter, Lila and Collin Robbie, Lucas and Audrey Waller, and Julian Slater. She is also survived by cousins Gloria O’Brien of St. Louis, Mo., Liz Morgan of New Jersey, Eleanor Limpert of North Carolina and Bob Onderdonk of California.

A private family burial will be held on Friday, Oct. 16. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, at St. Brigid Church, 129 Main St. in Peapack. (Source: Bernardsville News)

Additional information on their work and additional archives:

  • THSSH Research Library - Basking Ridge
  • Clarence Dillion Anne O'Brien History Room - Bedminster
  • Jacobus Vanderveer House History Room - Bedminster


  • Top Historical Tidbits about Bedminster
  • Recommended Readings
  • Oldest standing historical structure in town
  • Favorite Historical Project
  • Photography Collections
  • Other documents of Interest


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