Two great historians in my life and that of Maplewood died in 2012. The Old Guard is passing. Ninety-six-year-old John T. Cunningham, New Jersey’s most prolific historian, left us on June 7. He wrote the “Grand Narrative,” to quote Rutgers History Professor Clement Price, making the history of our state interesting and accessible to the public in numerous popular books, though he always strove for an underlying accuracy. Mr. Cunningham was Durand-Hedden’s keynote speaker in 1998 as we celebrated the new Midtown Express and the restoration of the train station. He held a large audience in the Jefferson School auditorium spellbound as he told the story of the development of the Morris and Essex Railroad and its importance to our town.
Locally we also suffered a tremendous loss in 2012 when Township Historian and long-time resident John Crowell Bausmith passed away on April 6 at the age of 79. Jack, as he was more familiarly known, was proud of his deep roots in the community. His ancestors, the Crowells, settled here in 1728 and he also counted as kin the formative families of the Beaches, Browns, Courters, and Piersons. His grandmother Charlotte Crowell Salter had carefully saved precious early documents, writings, maps photographs and articles, a rich resource on Maplewood history, from which Jack produced wonderful exhibits and talks. His storied presentation Maplewood’s Past on Glass, based on a 1915 glass slide talk revived by his grandmother in the 1940s, so riveted viewers in the library basement during a 2007 nor’easter that they simply moved their chairs to higher ground to avoid floodwaters. Jack also used his sharp engineering skills to illustrate the boundary changes of Maplewood over the centuries and carefully clarified for all time that South Orange withdrew from Maplewood Township in 1904 during their separation, not vice versa. When appointed Township Historian in December 2003 he announced that it was his first priority to see that the Town Hall Murals illustrating the breadth of Maplewood’s history be restored to their original brilliance. His goal was reached in 2007, supported entirely by private funds.
In May of this year I was honored to be asked by Mayor DeLuca to join the ranks of my esteemed colleagues before me -- Mr. Bausmith, Howard Wiseman and Beatrice P. Herman – to become the next Township Historian. My parents, who were post-World War II transplants from the West, taught me to love and become involved with their adopted home, its people, its institutions, its lovely buildings and natural surroundings. For over 30 years I have followed their example by exploring Maplewood’s endlessly fascinating history and natural environment through my work at the Durand-Hedden House. My goal and promise is to dedicate myself to preserving and sharing the story of this community with you and coming generations.Susan A. Newberry, President