Hills Area: Peapack Gladstone
Resident and Historian
(Bio courtesy of the Save
Ellis Island Foundation, Gladstone, NJ)
Ruth is an octogenarian who lives in historic Gladstone, New Jersey,
just down the street from the Save Ellis Island office. In late
2003 Save Ellis Island's Charter Membership drive was in full swing.
Having had a tremendous positive response from donors, Save Ellis
Island needed help mailing acknowledgements and thank you gifts
in this case tote bags to our new members as timely as possible.
We posted flyers in area businesses and community spaces like the
local public library. Ruth, a volunteer at the library, saw our
ad, contacted us and began to volunteer for Save Ellis Island immediately.
About Ruth's Family History
Ruth comes from a prominent family in Gladstone where she has lived
for most of her life except during World War 11 when she was married
to a Navy pilot and lived elsewhere. Ruth's father's family was
Dutch and her mother's was Irish. Ruth thinks her mother in law
came to the United States through Castle Garden Immigration Station
before Ellis Island opened. The Dutch were known to settle near
the river, and that is true of Gladstone's early settlers. Ruth's
father ran the livery stable in town providing a much needed service
to travelers requiring a ride from the Gladstone train station,
the end of the railroad line from New York, to one of the many estates
in the Somerset Hills. Besides the livery, Ruth's father ran the
family farm and several other businesses in town. He had a hardware
store, ran a feed mill and a farm machine business among others
and was a founding partner of the Peapack Gladstone bank which is
still in operation in Gladstone and elsewhere today.
Ruth's remarkable experiences span eight decades of 20th century
history. Ruth is the only surviving sibling of three children. Her
brother T. Leonard Hill recently passed in 2006, and her older sister
Evelyn "Dottie" Hill Bailey, passed away in mid - 2005.
Ruth experienced life on a farm during the Depression, living with
a loved one away in the war, rationing, and life on the home front
during WWII Ruth is a college graduate, which was not that common
at the time. When Ruth was a newlywed and her husband was serving
overseas, Ruth worked as a chemist at the Thomas Edison Museum in
West Orange, NJ. Her husband, the Navy pilot, was recalled in the
Korean War. Ruth and her husband raised their family of three sons
in Gladstone where she resides today and is happy to be the doting
grandmother of two wonderful grandchildren.
Ruth's Tidbits about Peapack Gladstone
- The Borough of Peapack and Gladstone, two villages incorporated
in 1912 into a single municipality, is nestled in the beautiful
hills of Northern Somerset County.
- Peapack and Gladstone are 5.9 square miles - has a population
- There are two post offices, 2 railroad stations, 4 churches,
a very active Fire Company, a fine library, and one Police Department.
- The Sisters of St.
John the Baptist from the Mt. St. John property (former Mosley
Estate), who ran the orphanage and school on the former Mosley
Estate, they used to walk the children all the way down the mountain
on St. Johns Drive, to the local drug store for ice cream. (That's
about a 4 1/2 mile roundtrip (See
the Trip), including a steep uphill climb back home.)
- The churches are aligned in town according to the areas development
and it is reflected in their position on Main Street with the
oldest closest to the center of town;
- Gladstone United Methodist Church (First Minister 1837)
- Peapack Reformed Church, (First Minister 1849) 13 Mendham
- St Luke's Episcopal Church, (First Minister 1900)
- St. Brigid Roman Catholic Church , (First Minister 1936)
129 Main Street Peapack
- St Elizabeth's Roman Catholic, (First Minister, 1936) 34
See Goggle Map of Churches in the area - Click
- In 2002, two men bought Blairsden from the Sisters of Mercy.
- When I was growing up, the local fire department didn't have
a telephone. Since we did, the calls came in to my house, where
I had to run next door, open the fire house, write on the blackboard
where the fire was, and then unlock the doors for the firemen
to get ready.
- My father created one of the first livery taxi services in town
to bring people from the train, up to the estates that they worked
- When I was a child, since we didn't have a pool, we used to
swim just about anywhere. In fact there used to be islands in
the Liberty Park lake, where we used to swim, dive off the diving
board, or just relax on the beach.
- "Why would anyone want to build a house on top of a limestone
cave?" referencing someone who built a house on top of the
old Todd's Quarry Limestone kiln on Main Street. Limestone is
prone to erosion by underground water. (Ruth is preparing a discussion
on the historic Peapack Caverns).
picture Ruth describes is the original Hardware store where
her father, along with a business partner, decided that it was
too far to travel to Oldwick to spend a day "banking",
so he decided to take the left portion of their hardware store
and open a bank (the first Peapack Gladstone Bank). She mentioned
that it took approximately $3,000 in liquid assets to get the
bank started (1921).
It's certainly tough to recognize what Ruth enjoys more, reading
or writing. While she certainly is an accomplished writer, she has
a tremendous knowledge of the Gladstone area. Not just because she
grew up here, but that she's an accomplished researcher and loves
Here are a few of Ruth's favorite books/magazines on the area that
Journey through Peapack and Gladstone
by Jacqueline Tutton and the Friends of Peapack Gladstone Library
NEW JERSEY COUNTRY HOUSES
the Somerset Hills by John K. Turpin and W. Barry Thomson
"I keep these books on my coffee table since
I seem to reference them all the time when I'm writing."
While they are great resources for learning not only about the
bucolic mansions of the past, but there's tremendous reference
to the people and their families.
Ruth's son W. Barry Thomson was an integral part
of the series, who partnered with local real estate owner John
Turpin. "Barry's a great researcher", stated Ruth. "I
think his growing up in the shadow of Blairsden influenced his
interest in the estates of the Somerset Hills. According to Ruth,
the two met at the Bernardsville library when Barry was researching
something, and Mr. Turpin's wife had always been asking John,"What
are you going to do with all of these photos of the places you've
sold?" Ruth commented that Mr. Turpin said "I'm going
to make a book someday." When the two crossed paths at the
library, they say the rest is history. New
Jersey Country Houses: the Somerset Hills chronicles
the country estates that were built in the rolling countryside
of Somerset and Morris counties from the 1870s through the Great
Depression. Volume I covers more than sixty houses that were constructed
prior to World War I, and Volume II covers the estate-building
activity that took place between the two world wars.
Four Prominent Historical Estates in Peapack/Gladstone
- Blairsden Estate (Blair)
- Hillandale Estate (Mosley)
- Natirar Estate (Walter-Kate Macy Ladd)
- Hamilton Farm Estate (Brady)
River Journal- Created and managed by the Wolf Family (Chris
and Lee Wolfe) who started the magazine back in 2000.
Ruth has written a number of articles for the feature
packed local magazine over the years and she highly recommends
Other Thomson Writings
(all available at the Clarence Dillon Library in Bedminster)
She also mentioned the Boro Gazette, which posts information on
the Peapack Gladstone Historical Commission - Click
Favorite Historical Projects
If you are a Save Ellis Island Member, chances are that you received
one of the tote bags packaged by Ruth. Using scissors to trim stray
threads and folding thousands of tote bags, Ruth placed them in
boxes, moving them one step closer on their way to our new members.
Perhaps you noticed how carefully the tote bag was folded when it
arrived from Save Ellis Island.
Ruth also spent many hours folding,
stuffing, sealing and affixing postage to thousands of Membership
Renewal requests that were mailed to donors last August during the
annual fund drive. She brought along a friend, Charlene, on a number
of occasions when reinforcements were needed to complete a project
on time. For a few hours, one day a week, Ruth volunteers for Save
Ellis Island performing other tasks such as assembling packages
of printed materials used for grant applications to cutting out
articles for use in Save Ellis Island press kits. Like many other
organizations, Save Ellis Island could not accomplish the tasks
necessary to further their mission without the efforts of volunteers
like Ruth. Ruth's patience and dedication are truly inspiring.
While Ruth doesn't have a favorite collection, Ruth notes that
there are a large number of postcards and photographs of Peapack
and Gladstone down at the Municipal Building in Gladstone. Her favorite
cartoon is the one that's on display in the Mayor's office. She
calls it the "Outhouse", depicting an image of an outhouse,
referencing her fight to change the township from a septic based
system to incorporating a more scaleable sewage system.
We hope to digitize some of Ruth's publishings soon and will post
them here for downloading.
- My Brother Leonard Hill, Summer 2006 - Black River Journal
- Winter in Peapack Gladstone, December 2000 - Black River Journal
- The Last Picnic of Summer, September 2001 - Black River Journal
- Pottersville Post
- Veterans Day Remembered- November 2000 - Black River Journal
Ruth has also written numerous articles for Inside
the Brick Academy, the official publication of The Historical
Society of the Somerset Hills.
The best tidbits...
The Best stories...
See their recollections and recommendations.
Researched and submitted by Brooks