JVHM Spotlight

To mark the 50th anniversary of the New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC) and emphasize the significant work of history organizations and programs across the state, we asked our FY2017 and FY2018 grant recipients to submit a short narrative and photos describing the impact of NJHC funding. Each week until the end of our fiscal year in June, we will post a spotlight featuring the responses of our grant recipients. Whether NJHC support contributed to general operating, a brand new exhibit, an engaging education program or the restoration of a historic object, it’s truly amazing to see what New Jersey’s history organizations, libraries, and individuals have to offer.

This week we spotlight The Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum in Bedminster, New Jersey!

The Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum have shared three anecdotes describing innovative and engaging educational opportunities helped through general operating support from NJHC.


Photo 1

Thanks to support from the NJHC, Bedminster’s historic Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum welcomes an increasing number of school-aged children (40% more than last year!) to its lively and entertaining educational programs.  Eight-year-old Charlie is one of them. Following a class trip to the museum during Colonial Christmas, Charlie asked his mom if he could have his birthday party there.  He wanted to introduce his friends to the local Revolutionary War history he found so fascinating.  The Friends of The Jacobus Vanderveer house made it possible for Charlie and his guests to enjoy a lively tour, Colonial games, cake and a history lesson they would never forget!

Huzzah Charlie!!

“Pony Tails”

Photo 2

(Ponies & Kids Make History Fun at The Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum)

This summer, children ages 6-12 attended a half-day program, called Pony Tales, offered by The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House.  The children learned about 16-year-old Sybil Ludington, who rode 40 miles on the night of April 26, 1777, on her pony named Star, to alert militia forces about the approach of British troops to Danbury, Conn.  The story was told by Bedminster resident Carol Simon Levin, a youth services librarian at the Bridgewater branch of the Somerset County Library. Ms. Levin is an author and actress who is skilled at bringing history to life through her lively presentations about women who played important roles in U.S. history.

The children acted out roles in the story and following the fascinating tale, had the opportunity to ride ponies themselves and learn about horse care.  Ponies were provided by PonyShare, an award-winning mobile equine program, based in Morris County and serving the tri-state area.

According to historians, after the battle in Danbury, George Washington traveled to the Ludington home to thank Sybil personally for her role in stopping the British advance into New York. She rode twice the distance of Paul Revere and, unlike Revere, was not apprehended. If paintings and statues of her are accurate, she also did it sidesaddle.

Now THAT’S a history lesson these children will never forget!   

“Archaeology Camp”

Photo 3

(Kids “Dig” History and Uncover Important Evidence at The Jacobus Vandeerveer House & Museum)

Children in Bedminster are “digging” history thanks to an award-winning archaeology camp held at Bedminster’s historic Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum.

Eighteen children in grades 3 through 7 got a hands-on lesson in archaeology and how it relates to local history when they uncovered evidence of an early barn foundation and other outbuildings on the property.  The field work was conducted August 24-28 at two 2 ½ by 10-foot trenches, each extending north to south, at the site of an 1850’s barn that was destroyed by fire in the 1950’s.

The archaeology camp, offered by the nonprofit Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House in partnership with the Township of Bedminster Recreation Department, involved an authentic field study, led by archaeologists from Hunter Research Inc., of Trenton.  What the campers found will assist the Friends in determining the location at which to reconstruct a recently acquired 1830 Dutch barn.

The campers, who ranged in age from eight to twelve years old, admitted that the digging had added meaning when they understood how it related to the history of the circa 1772 farmstead, which was once owned by Jacobus Vanderveer, who lent his home to General Henry Knox during the winter of 1778-79 while Knox commanded America’s first military training academy in Pluckemin (known as the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment).

“I think it’s wonderful.  It’s not only lots of fun, it’s a great opportunity to help uncover lost details of the property,” said John Tober,11, of Bernardsville.  “Solving missing puzzles about history is just awesome!”

“Because of what the students found, we can confirm that the northern wall of the barn’s foundation is still intact,” commented Joshua Butchko, Principal Investigator/Laboratory Supervisor, at Hunter Research Inc.  “We also found further evidence to support that a fire had occurred in that location.”

Butchko indicated that, in addition to fragments of coal, charcoal and brick, the campers found pieces of glass, nails, and some unique late-18th century/early 19th century ceramic stoneware that would, most likely, match other items found closer to the Vanderveer House.

The camp, which received a historic preservation and history award from the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission, was made possible by a grant from Investors Bank Foundation and the Anne L. and George H. Clapp Charitable and Educational Trust.

Throughout the week, campers also learned more about Colonial life during a field trip to East Jersey Olde Towne Village in Piscataway, where they visited the home of Elias Vanderveer, younger brother of Jacobus Vanderveer.  Students met 18th Century re-enactors and Colonial demonstrators, who led an interactive presentation on the earliest inhabitants of the area – the Lenape Indians – and supervised them in activities such as clay pottery and ice cream making, open hearth cooking; and a mock artillery drill and attack led by a re-enactor portraying black Revolutionary War hero Ned Hector.

If you thought history was boring, think again! These kids positively “dig it!”

Watch a video of the campers in action:  https://youtu.be/fmPrpxtrrIo

For questions about NJHC Grantee Spotlights, please contact Greer Luce, Communications Officer, at 609-633-0776 or greer.luce@sos.nj.gov.


About the New Jersey Historical Commission

The New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC) is a state agency dedicated to the advancement of public knowledge and preservation of New Jersey history. Established by law in 1967, its work is founded on the fundamental belief that an understanding of our shared heritage is essential to sustaining a cohesive and robust democracy.