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Feltville Historic District in Watchung Reservation

by: Sue Adler
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There are many hidden places of interest in and around our Midtown Direct and surrounding communities.  It’s fun to visit them and ponder what the people of that time actually did when they walked in these very same paths.

The Feltville Historic District located in the Watchung Reservation in Union County, New Jersey is one of 25 historic sites across Union County. The area includes eight homes, a carriage house, a general house and a church. The vicinity is often referred to as the “deserted village of Feltville” and was transformed into a mill town and farming community. Visitors come to Feltville during vacation time as it eventually became a summer resort. There are only three families that live in the village full time now, as the location is primarily used for guests to learn more about the history of the district. In 1980, the Feltville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The first person to settle in Feltville was Peter Wilcox, an Englishman who moved to the area from Long Island around 1736. Wilcox built a sawmill in Feltville, but it was destroyed as more people came to live in the area. Later, in 1825, David Felt, who was a businessman from Boston, moved to New York to grow his mill production business. However, the company was not expanding fast enough for him to meet the supply demands of his merchants.

So, Felt began to search for land in nearby New Jersey to build a factory. He bought what is now known as Feltville from the descendants of Peter Wilcox. In just two years, Felt built a mill on Blue Brook and a town for his workers to live in. He earned the nickname of King David in the town, because he allowed residents to attend church service, and permitted the children of the town’s inhabitants to attend classes in the small schoolhouse in Feltville.

These days, Union County staff provides activities for visitors and children’s games for vacationers to enjoy. There’s an apple cider pressing in the town as well as a display of historic items. Two weeks before Halloween, there are haunted family hayrides in Feltville. Visitors can ride through the town, while a tour guide explains a little of the town’s history. There’s a widespread belief that there are three ghosts who live in the house at the end of the path in Feltville. This myth originated in 1912, when three sisters were camping in the woods and never returned. Locals found the girls’ bonnets, and the news of the missing sisters caused a number of Feltville residents to move away. The people who remained in the town never let their children go into the woods without a guardian.

Feltville Historic District is open to the public every day and there is a visitor center for more information on what remains an important part of the heritage of this area.

 

 

 

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