Ford Family Papers are now open to researchers

The Ford Family’s history in North America dates back to Andrew Ford’s emigration from England to Weymouth, Massachusetts in the 1640s, a community that he helped found before acquiring property in Plymouth colony with his wife, Ellinor Lovell. The first Fords to live in Morris County, New Jersey were Andrew’s grandson, John Ford, and his wife Elizabeth Freeman, who owned a large parcel of land two miles east of Morristown. John Ford built one of Morris County’s first iron forges with John Budd.

Ford Mansion as it appeared in February, 1929.

Jacob Ford, Jr. is perhaps best known to local residents for serving in the Revolutionary War and having built Ford Mansion in 1774, which his widow Theodosia Johnes Ford later offered to General George Washington for use as his headquarters during the winters of 1779 and 1780. Prior to his early death in 1777, Jacob was an iron forger, like his father, and he served as Eastern Battalion Commander of the Morris County Militia where in 1777 he successfully fought the British at the Battle of Princeton.

Members of the Ford Family sit for a portrait, ca.1910.

Various members of the Ford family owned large tracts of land in Morris County where they operated farms, iron forges, served as members of the clergy, fought in colonial and Revolutionary wars, and worked as land surveyors, school administrators and teachers, medical missionaries, nurses, and bankers. The Fords maintained connections to the Garden State for three centuries.

Dr. George Odell’s family at his New Jersey estate, ca.1890.

The Ford Family Papers may be viewed in the History Center Reading Room. Interested researchers should consult the online finding aid prior to contacting staff to schedule an appointment.

Conover’s Cash Store News collection now open to readers

This iconic 1878 Second Empire-style structure located at 87 E. Main St in Chester, NJ, was originally built as a pharmacy for Dr. Smith English Hedges. Following his death in 1892, it passed to Alonzo Green who took over operation of the drugstore and leased the empty space to longtime business associate George E. Conover (1826-1875). Mr. Conover established the Conover Press here in 1898, and he would later operate a painting and wallpaper business from the same building, and ultimately a general store. For many years, George lived in the apartment above the business with his wife, Harriet “Hattie” Chapman Conover, and their son Herbert T. Conover.

Conover’s Cash Store, located on 87 E Main St in Chester, NJ, as it appeared around 1919. Green’s Pharmacy and the Chester Post Office operated out of the same building.

In addition to operating the printing press, George partnered with Alonzo P. Green to organize the Chester Local Telephone Company, which connected two lines from the drug store to the train station at Muskrat. From 1901 to 1905 Green and Conover built this system out to the neighboring towns of Parker, German Valley, Middle Valley, Crestmoor, Vernoy, and Califon, before selling the business to Lebanon Telephone Company in 1910.

Members of the Chester Cornet Band, ca.1916.

In Mr. Conover’s spare time, he played in the Chester Cornet Band, which appeared in parades at Chester, Newark, and Newton from 1915-1918. He also served on several civic boards, including Washington Camp No.8 and on the Chester Carnival Committee. George E. Conover died on October 8, 1942 at age 78, and was buried at Chester Congregational Cemetery; his wife Hattie Chapman Conover died in 1946. Both the general store and drug store closed after George Conover and Lon Green’s deaths in the 1940s; however, Hattie and George’s son Herbert took over operation of the Conover Press, which he ran until 1970.

The premier issue of Conover’s Cash Store News, including a letter from the front lines of World War I France, December 1918.

Mr. Conover began publishing Conover’s Cash Store News in 1918 to promote his new general store, Conover’s Cash Store. During an era when many residents bought groceries on credit, the monthly news sheet heavily promoted “cash and carry” as a means of spending more of one’s money on products and less on interest payments. The News also featured  columns dedicated to local news, household hints, trivia and jokes, and a healthy amount of advertising for his grocery and printing businesses. One long-running series was Herbert T. Conover’s, “The Story of Chester” that recounted the town’s history from European settlement through the early 20th century, and it ran from the January 1920 through the July-August 1921 editions.

February 1920 edition of Conover’s Cash Store News, that asked if shoppers were satisfied paying higher prices at businesses that profited selling on credit.

While it only ran for a few years, the news sheet offers insight into one successful early 20th c. Morris County business. The finding aid to Conover’s Cash Store News is available here, and researchers interested in viewing the collection may contact the History Center to request an appointment.



Ralston & Nesbitt Family Papers available online


From the late 18th century, members of the Ralston and Nesbitt families lived in Morris County, NJ where they operated a number of businesses important to the local economy. John Ralston emigrated from Ireland to Mendham in 1785, and the following year he partnered with Hugh Nesbitt to open the Ralston General Store, which was in operation from 1786 to 1819.

Elizabeth Ralston’s home, the Buckman House, photographed in 1908.

John Ralston and his wife Margaret Logan owned acres of Mendham farmland that they passed down through their family over the next 200 years until 1995 when the last few acres were sold. In addition to farming, John built a cotton and woolen factory and helped Mendham grow into a prosperous industrial area. Despite his properties, however, he died in 1819 with his fortunes depleted as a result of the War of 1812.

Survey for property owned by David and Josiah Ogden in 1740.
An 1889 letter from a husband to his wife recounting a journey to Oregon by wagon.











Business partner Hugh Nesbitt married John’s daughter, Mary Ann, and they raised their children in the county. The property records, contracts, personal letters, and receipts that make up this collection provide a glimpse into what life was like in this part of New Jersey during the early 19th century. The records can be viewed either online or by appointment in the History Center’s Reading Room.


Limited Reading Room service on Monday 7/24

Due to scheduled maintenance, the History Center will offer limited services on Monday July 24th. Reading Room computers are unavailable all day, including access to our online catalogs, genealogical databases, digitized newspapers and photographs, and other online sources. Additionally, the book scanner and ScanPro microfilm readers will be inaccessible.

Researchers are strongly advised to call ahead prior to visiting the History Center. We cannot guarantee access to any unconfirmed materials.

The Tomlinson Family Newspaper Collection is now available

Ernest H. Tomlinson published the first issue of the Daily Record in 1900 with his wife, Mary Balderston Tomlinson. During those initial years, they operated from a small one-story wood frame building. At the time, Morristown only had weekly local newspapers so when the Tomlinsons provided daily news, entertainment, and sports coverage to the town’s merchants, retailers, and residents, their publication flourished.

“Last residential building on Morris Street. Newspaper boys huddle for warmth at The Daily Record building on a frigid winter day”, December 18, 1920. (NJHGC photo).


A few years later, the Daily Record moved to a larger stone building on 55 Park Place opposite the Morristown Green where the news staff operated from for over 70 years. As the newspaper grew, Ernest hired additional employees and Mary assumed greater managerial control; both possessed years of journalism experience reporting on significant events in turn-of-the-century Trenton where they honed their skills covering the bustling industrial city and state capital.

The Daily Record building as it appeared in 1942. The private residence next door — visible in the 1920 photo above — has long departed. (NJHGC photo).

Over the following decades, the Daily Record stayed in the Tomlinson Family with Mary and Ernest’s son, Norman, learning all aspects of the newspaper business when he was not in school until eventually taking over in 1919; his son, Norman, Jr. began working there in 1954 and assumed the role of Editor-Publisher in 1970, continuing in that role for twenty years. Amidst strong ad revenue and regional coverage that comprised much of Morris County, the Tomlinson family left the newspaper business in 1989 when they sold the Daily Record to Gannett.

Norman Tomlinson, Jr. graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law school before passing the New Jersey Bar in 1954, but decided against entering law in favor of joining the Daily Record as general manager. (NJHGC collections).

The collection consists of several special editions of the newspaper, as well as three copies of unrelated publications, one artifact, and a commemorative booklet published for the Daily Record’s 75th anniversary in 1975. Other materials include anniversary editions as well as a special United States Bicentennial issue that details numerous historic Morris County sites and events pertaining to the American war for independence. A finding aid to the collection is available here, and individuals interested in accessing it should contact the History Center.


The Ezekiel Smith Family Papers are now open for research

After moving from Sterling, New York to Waterloo, New Jersey in 1790, thirty-nine year old Ezekiel Smith and his wife Amey Johannah Mowry Smith purchased a large parcel of land and established what became a successful multi-generational family farm. Ezekiel and Amey’s great-grandson, Amzi George Smith (1877-1966) continued the family tradition by farming land that he owned in Mount Olive with his wife Emma Linabury Ort Smith as they raised eight children.

John Ort and his brother-in-law, Amzi G. Smith, ca.1900.
Amzi and Emma Smith’s farmhouse in Mount Olive, NJ, ca.1940.















The collection includes a small but varied series of records created by several generations of Smiths that consist of property deeds, account books, correspondence, and ephemera. Photographs comprise the bulk of the materials, and they include both individual prints and photo albums. In addition to formal portraits, many images depict the Smith Family farm, as well as special events, such as Amzi and Emma Smith’s 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries.

Amzi and Emma Smith, ca1946.

Individuals interested in accessing the Smith Family Papers should consult the finding aid and contact the History Center to make an appointment for the Reading Room.

Morristown High School yearbooks available online

Our early Morristown High School yearbooks can now be viewed online! The History and Genealogy Center staff are continually adding items to our digital collections page, which includes thousands of scanned historic photographs, postcards, maps, and artwork; and we are glad to have begun including the yearbook collection in this online resource.
The portrait of senior, Zella A. Sturges, in the 1910 Morristown High School yearbook, which noted her nickname and knowledge of the Bible.
Use the search bar to find individuals and learn what classes and clubs were available 100 years ago. The first group of yearbooks, 1910-1923, are online now. Additional years will be digitized and made available on an annual basis.
Senior, Daniel C. Jensen’s page in the 1910 yearbook. This edition of “The Cobbonian” listed the nicknames, favorite quotes, pastimes, or hobbies of its graduating students.
Physical copies of the yearbooks can always be viewed in the History Center Reading Room during normal Library hours. As with requesting to use our other archival and research material, we ask that you contact us in advance so that staff have ample time to retrieve the collection items from storage.
Morristown High School juniors, photographed in 1910.

Blue Gate Farm papers now open to researchers

The Blue Gate Farm papers trace the history of several prominent Morris County, New Jersey families who lived near the fourteen-acre Blue Gate Farm. Included in the collection are correspondence, business records, photographs, and ephemera belonging to the Vail, Ford, Miller, Lawson, and McEwan families. Materials date from 1839 to 1971.


The records contain correspondence and other material from Stephen Vail’s family who made important advances during America’s early industrial age. The McEwan papers include information on Whippany’s papermaking industry, as well as personal and business correspondence and information on the family’s genealogy. A third series contains the majority of the photographic material related to Blue Gate Farm, in addition to various ephemera that includes two souvenir booklets from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Individuals interested in accessing the Blue Gate Farm papers should consult the finding aid and contact the History Center to make an appointment for the Reading Room.

New exhibition highlights life in 1920s Morris County.

Our first onsite exhibit in three years explores life in New Jersey during the exuberant 1920s. The Twenties: Big Business, Pleasure-seeking, and Daily Life in Morris County, 1920-1930, is on view in the F.M. Kirby Gallery of the Morristown & Morris Township Library through December 2022.

The exhibit explores the role of local governments as they attempted to enforce unpopular Prohibition laws while battling corrupt officials, and traces the growing influence of corporatism on local businesses and economic activity. An explosion of automobile ownership affected not only the daily lives of residents but also profoundly changed the character of neighborhoods and downtowns, just as an emergent middle class resulted in a residential building boom and greater discretionary income.

The twenties also witnessed a rising Black middle class and entrepreneurial working class in Morris County that exercised its newfound economic strength by starting successful businesses and constructing new homes. More women enjoyed new careers and less domestic drudgery thanks to labor-saving devices and smaller families, and residents enjoyed a rash of new entertainment choices, thanks to the many fads, films, and radio programs of the era.

In conducting research for the project, staff utilized original documents, newspapers, and photographs from the collections of the North Jersey History & Genealogy Center. The exhibition is on view in the second floor gallery through the end of the year. Two related talks are planned for this summer and fall, as well as on online version of the exhibit that will live on the History Center’s site.

Local History in the News: Articles Written by the North Jersey History & Genealogy Center Staff

Bastille Day protest with Julia Hurlbut leading the first group of marchers. Iris Calderhead of Kansas at right waiting for mobs to attack pickets so she can order out new banners, July 14,1917. Library of Congress photograph.
Local history is abundant within the Morristown community. The Morristown Green, the historic park that served as an encampment for George Washington in 1777, also serves as the name for Morristown’s local news site.

North Jersey History & Genealogy staff regularly publish articles highlighting aspects of the region’s history, particularly that of Morristown, Morris Township, and Morris County. Content is drawn from our collections and covers the individuals, families, businesses, and organizations that lived and worked in our state from the 17th through the 20th centuries. 

Created in partnership with local news site,, past articles explored how local residents responded in times of war and national crisis, detailed individual participation in historic events, or just attempted to earn a living and better themselves and their community.
Most recently, the History Center staff highlighted Morristown’s Early African American History through the lenses of longtime residents John and Clara Watson Pinkman. This year, they also highlighted Morris Township’s architectural changes – such as present-day Columbia Park’s beginnings as Cedar Court.
The archive of these posts can be found here. Check back regularly to learn more about the history of the region, as well as articles that coincide with the exhibits organized by History Center staff and more.
The History Center actively collects material that documents the history of the people, places, and organizations that have made their home in New Jersey. In addition to assisting researchers and genealogists in our reading room, we regularly offer public programs, create exhibits, and make our collections available online