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The History of the Tourne

Photo of old stone wall

This meticulously researched and beautifully written article was written by Mrs. Jean Ricker, a well known and respected local history expert. She has served as Boonton Township Historian and is currently a trustee of the Historical Society of Boonton Township for which this article was expressly written in tribute to and celebration of the society's 25th anniversary. It was later published in the "The Citizen" in August and September 1999.

A headline in the November 2, 1977, now-defunct Boonton Times Bulletin informed the reader that "Now is the Time to Rediscover the Tourne: No doubt almost everyone in this area has visited the Tourne on more than one occasion, But many area residents take the Tourne for granted, passing it by on the way to the bank and accepting its shadow as an average picture window view with out turning in the newly (?) named McCaffrey Road that leads to one of the most beautiful spots in the area." The currently distressing debate over the probable banning of off-road cyclists from parkland trails is giving the old range new, front-page publicity, and this seems a good time to heed the above recommendation and explore the mountain story and landscape as revealed in 18th, 19th and 20th Century archival documents, newspaper articles, personal journals and local folk memory.

"The Tourne" has always been a more or less generic term for the area at large. Its recorded history began on May 3, 1715, when John Chapman, in company with John Reading, Jr., son of a Deputy Surveyor for West Jersey, surveyed and returned a 1,507 acre tract to James Bollen, a member of the West New Jersey proprietary party that had set out in early April from the south branch of the Raritan River to explore, survey and stake out land claims in northwestern New Jersey.

On his resulting map Chapman described the tract as "situate on the forks of Rockaway, with an Indian plantation on it, by a small brook over said River and along the edge of a great Rocky Hill." Bollen liked what he saw, and no wonder. This was no average picture window view! The tract stretched northward toward Rockaway Valley and bounded the William Penn Tract No. 48 which was surveyed and returned on the same mission. It must be noted here that no member of the 1715 expedition was impressed by the craggy prospect On "the Other side" of the great Rocky Hill, that expanse of primeval forest which would, in the future, embrace all of Boonton, and parts of Boonton Township, Taylortown and Mountain Lakes.

Sallying forth on horseback through rough, unexplored terrain, did the early surveying crew, burdened with supplies and equipment, cut bridle paths over the narrow footways made by tawny inhabitants of the nearby plantation? Did a Lenape guide point out the two remarkable mountain springs where thirsty man and nickering horse might find refreshment? Quite likely. Today's parkland trails may well follow those made more than three hundred years ago by moccasined feet crisscrossing the rocky upland, which Chapman's practiced eye and precise instruments did not find lofty enough to be identified a proper mountain. Over the next fifty years the plantation residents, having sold their Possessory rights, departed ,the Bollen tract was divided, and lots were sold to enterprising yeoman who set the first Polish to fertile old Indian fields and fine meadowlands along the river.

In 1765, David Ogden, Esq., distinguished Newark lawyer, counsel for the Board of Proprietors, Justice of the Supreme Court, land speculator, Loyalist and owner of the Boone-Town "refinery," bought, the 3,656 acres of unreturned wilderness which became known as the Great Boonton Tract. Thomas Milledge, Esq., Deputy Surveyor for Morris County, also an ardent Loyalist, surveyed the property. His description mentions Rattle Snake "meddow"

In 1767, three years before young Samuel Ogden (1746-1810) purchased the Boonton Tract from his father, David, he had, as resident manager of the Iron Works, foresightedly "moulda" the first real road over the old mountain which was by this time Dutch-named the Toume (Toren). A continuation of today's Intervale and Fanny Roads, this route was constructed as a short cut to the Hibernia mine from which ore was carded back by packhorse to the busy Ogden forge on the Rockaway River in Old Boone-Town.

In 1774, opened to jolt-wagon traffic, the new thoroughfare (Pequannock Twp. Road Return A- 43) became the mise-en-scene of a rather exciting and quite noteworthy event. Company matters at the Hibernia furnace were in contentious disorder, and in the late spring of that year Samuel Ogden's loyal iron workers stormed up the rough wagon route (today's McCaffrey Lane) on three different occasions, heading for Hibernia to settle the disputatious question of who owned a sizable pile of ore that Ogden claimed to be rightfully his. William Alexander, the Right Honorable the Earl of Stirling, sole proprietor of the Hibernia works, contested Ogden's assertion, took a resolute stand and with brandished pistol and snapping whip singlehandedly won the first scuffle at the mine. The next day, however, a more determined mob, 40 men strong" armed with shovels and clubs, drove their wagons over the rock ribbed ridge and returned, loaded with ore, to the forge fires and hammers at Boone-Town. Two days later they made another successful incursion, this time threatening Hibernia stores and houses.

June is the month for mowing, and men from the Scott Stickle, Van Winkle, Peer, Hder, Cook and Miner families would have been making bay on the valley floor where the swish of ash-sna thed scythes blended with meadowlark's whistle. What did those ozenbrigged yeomen think of the sudden appearance of bold rabble striding purposely up and over the mountain shortcut and on through the valley to defend and institute employer Ogden's position? What a tumultuous week! What a wifliwaw of activity! During the Revolution the expanded iron works provided important supplies for Washington's army, and movement over the road to Hibernia became commonplace. Ogden's resolute henchmen eventually became part of the Boone-Town militia and were permitted to bear arms in defense of the mine.. As their self-appointed commandant, Samuel, a declared patriot, became a self-appointed Colonel.

His elegant manor house in Old Boonton was the background setting for the popular book, "Scouts of '76," written in 1924 by Charles E. Willis, a member of Powerville's Scott/Willis/DeCamp families. It was required reading for Boonton and Boonton Township school children, and over the years swarms of .youngsters have buzzed over the big hill, following the echoic footsteps of its two adventure-seeking heroes, Russell Willis and Serpent, his constant Indian companion. Russell, who became one of the youngest soldiers of the Revolution, enlisting before he was 16 and seeing battle at Monmouth and Springfield, is correctly portrayed, and it was his son, Thomas C. Willis (1791-1864) who, with the Scotts, played an important role in the Powerville Iron Works. The author of this great little tale misleads the reader, however, in his assertion that Serpent grew up to become the patriarchal Lenape chieftain, Bartholomew S. Calvin, eloquent negotiator for the Delaware Nation. Inspired by actual events and embroidered with family tradition, the narrative is a fictionalized history, which still succeeds in painting a conformable picture of the 18th Century Toume scene, introducing by name real characters who played memorable roles in local pursuits. Princeton-educated Bartholomew S. Calvin, son of Stephen Calvin who was in 1759 an interpreter for Governor Bernard and schoolmaster at the Brotherton Reservation, bore the Indian name Shawuskuhkung, Place of Wilted Grass.

"Colonel" Samuel Ogden eventually leased or sold off parts of his Great Tract leaving the area in 1783. In 1805 the sons of iron master John Jacob Faesch purchased the mountain property. Ogden, however, reserved the 276 66/100 acre Rattlesnake Meadow lot for himself, and part of his "Reservation" is today included in the Richard M. Wilcox Park. By 1874 the actual Toume parkland piece had passed from the West New Jersey Proprietors to the East New Jersey Proprietors to David Ogden; to Samuel Ogden; to John Jacob Faesch and heirs; to William Scott, through whom it was inherited by the DeCamp family.

Interesting 19th Century news items produce colorful cameo-like vignettes of the mountain milieu. "A party of ladies and gentlemen enjoyed a picnic on the Toume on Tuesday. Mr. (James) Estler, our wide awake freight carter, with his mammoth team took nearly 25 persons at one load ... Once on top of our favorite picnic resort you have a view probably not excelled in the United States ... The party enjoyed themselves playing croquet, quoit pitching, foot running, etc." (July 22, 1875).

By the later part of the century Clarence Addington DeCamp's activities began to make front-page news. Many local residents still remember the small, gruff, slightly rumpled gentleman who, axe in hand, spent a great part of his life on his beloved "Torn." Born in Powerville on March 17, 1859, descendant of a prestigious Huguenot family and grandchild of Morris County ironmasters, Mr. DeCamp from the age of 15 kept a written account of the "principle facts" of his life, and from his journals we learn a great deal about the old ridge which he variously called the Torn, Tam, Toren, Tome or Toume. Toren in modern Dutch means tower or steeple. A survey map of the ancient Boonten Tract shows a western boundary intriguingly labeled "The Dutch Line". Netherlandish settlers found the upland topography impressively high, the summit towering 897 feet over the flatland below. Thus the descriptive everyday sort of designation that reflects a constant repetitiousness in Dutch place names, There are lots of "Torens" in the lofty hills of old Dutch New Jersey and New York.

On November 29,1878, we have the first written record of 19 year old Clarence's budding engineering prowess. "Today I hauled a stone off the Tarn from halfway up to put in the bottom of the well. It is about 5'3" long, 20" wide and 15" thick." As far as we know, that heavy stone is still lying on the bottom of the well at the DeCamp home in Powerville, the former Scott Mansion, now the Sarah Frances Nursing Home.

Nineteen years lager he was still maneuvering rocks and rolling boulders around to satisfy some personal whimsy or conclude some rather novel pursuit. On June 8, 1897, his journal reports that: "Last Sun. with Walter, Will, Harry, Tom and John Bowden walked up Tom. John Taylor was there & we tried with prop to move the big rock near top on South westside which rock rests on two points of ledge & 1 little boulder, the big rock weighs 40 or 50 tons. Maybe we failed to move it, but I hope someday to balance it so that it will easily be made to oscillate." Someday was not too far off for determined Clarence. The diary continues: "On June 28 or 29 Austin and I went on Tom and balanced big boulder on west side so that it exalts. Austin found a mouse nest in the cleft in side of boulder wherein an old mouse & young ones and we named the rock "The Mouse Cradle." He went on to say that young David Merritt, who was picking raspberries, happened along and helped them. Today visitors on the summit can follow a short marked trail to the big glacial erratic to which he gave such a delightfully appropriate name and witness Mr. DeCamp's well calculated manipulation.

Using only shovel, axe, pick and crow bar, he built single-handedly a road to the "Top of the Toume" and cleared paths which are still used today. Everyone was welcome on his beloved mountain. He published a short-lived and controversial periodical named the "Little Paper Called Boonton," and as sole editor and only reporter he announced in his July 13, 1894, edition that: "It is our intention to erect on the Toume top an observation tower from the top of which the climber will be more nearly able to see the traditional ships in New York Bay than he has ever seen before." On October 13 he stated that: "the Tower will be raised on Saturday, Oct. 20 weather permitting. The material has been assembled on the top of the hill ... All feel free to attend the affair. Water to drink and fire to keep warm. The able bodies will raise the tower in the afternoon, doing the preliminary work in the forenoon. The proper way to go up from Boonton is via McCaffrey's Lane. The road leading to the top that way will be cleared away and plainly marked. Guests are requested to leave the lighting of bonfires to those whom the management will appt. for the purpose. If this request is granted, damage to the property will be avoided." Now there was a tower on the Tower! This was later replaced by a second one, well remembered today.

Mr. DeCamp loved bonfire picnics and evening torchlight parades. Two years earlier he had advertised the: "Nicest Evening Entertainment Yet - A Bonfire Party! At Old App's Southside of Tourne, near Rigby's Brook. Entry through McCaffrey's Lane. Friday evening at Sundown. Tickets -250 - May be procured of the Directors. Stages will run between the Library Bldg. & McCaffrey's Lane." A picture book turnout of fun-loving revellers on the old mountain road with "Mr. Trewarffia on the grounds with ice cream and such like things for sale."

He also loved to clear and bum scrubland, and residents on the Kincaid, Stickle, and Bott farms two mfleg away in the northern valley could look southward, note the billowing smoke and make the smiling, but sometimes worried, observation that "Clarence DeCamp is burning brush today." In his later years he did set the woods on fire once or twice. All the residents of McCaffrey Lane and Powerville Road rushed to his aid with brooms and buckets of water. In May of 1891 Mr. DeCamp purchased from Morris Fox the Rattlesnake Meadow reservation, which by that year had been diminished to 94 acres of swamp and sprout land. He paid $2,700 for the property which had, over two centuries, been variously owned by Ogden's heirs, John Righter's heirs, Philip Brady, Peter Tucker and Mr. Fox. No twists and turns in etymology here. After almost three hundred years this once fearsome little pocket of timber rattlers still assumes its instinctively emotive nomenclature and is testimony to the fact that native sons and daughters have cherished and preserved the names under which our localities were born.

The Ogden Trail, dedicated by the Morris County Park Commission on May 4,1991, in recognition of the Ogden family's contribution to local, county and state history, skirts Rattlesnake Meadow and follows the line of a railroad spur proposed in 1899 to run between Boonton and Denville. It was more specifically described in Mr. DeCamp's diary as "running from Howell's No. 3 lake (in today's Mountain Lakes) to the Toren." His records reveal that he, at the age of 40, was in charge of the work, bossing 16 or 18 men with 3 carts, and spending $2,000 on grading. On October 16, "a day of Scotch mist, "he noted that the line was nearly done and that he was wondering, "What next?" It has taken exactly one hundred years to answer his contemplative question. The still evident roadbed of the spur which never came to pass has been named the Ogden Trail.

With Mr. DeCamp still very much in charge, early 20th Century headlines began to introduce names still nostalgically familiar in the year 1999. "Boy Scout Notes: Troop 1, Boy Scouts hiked Sunday afternoon, January 20th, up the Toume, in company with Scoutmaster Esher (Estler?) and Mr. Warren Baldwin. Mr. Baldwin instructed the boys in the tracks of the small wild animals which they are able to find in the snow, including rabbits, squirrels and wood-mice." (1918)

From 1918 through the early 1920s poetess Sara Teasdate, who has been described as a lovely butterfly, was a.frequent guest at the gracious Puddingstone Inn in Boonton. She came there each year to welcome Spring and, notebook in hand, is known to have rambled the mountain woodland in search of wildflowers. The hemlocks in Boonton Park, and perhaps those on the Tourne, inspired her well known verse, "Boonton," and we may well wonder if a steep, brambly Toume climb on a verdant spring day occasioned her bemusing poem,"The Long Hill."

More headlines! "Siren sounds alarm for lost children found Sunday morning in Rattlesnake Meadow after an all night hunt. Three Mt. Lakes children, ages 6 to 10 years, were found in Rattlesnake Meadow early Sunday morning after an all night hunt by the Mt. Lakes police under Chief Harry Dennis and resident volunteers. The children were found at 3 o'clock Sunday morning by a searching party composed of the fathers of the children, Mr. Ford and Mr. Campbell, also Vitalis Himmer, Jr., and Wm. Haines. When the fire siren blew at 3 o'clock Sunday morning, it carried the welcome message to residents that the Campbells were coming, accompanied by a little Ford." (Sept. 8, 1932)

Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Stringer hosted an annual paper-chase and picnic on the Toume for Mountain Lakes school children. "Hare and Hounds Let Loose: Last Thurs. 4 harried hues sped through the side streets of Mt. Lakes, closely pursued by 34 baying hounds, who, when released from the school house, followed a devious trail of papers, swamped over the hills and shreds to RattlesnakeValley ... quartered back to Lookout Road and doubled back toward the Tourne. After the paper chase a fire was built and supper was served in the woods ... Then as darkness came on the three dozen boys and girls circled about the council fire where ghost stories were told and songs were sung until it was time for the merry band to turn homeward, singing in unison as they marched through the woods." (Oct. 23, 1930). Author, poet and playwright Arthur Stringer was one of the four hotly pursued, harried hares.

In 1933 the disappearance of Miss Martha Jane (Jennie) Cooper from her 32 acre hillside farm on the west slope of the neat Rocky Hill made front-page news for years. "Miss Cooper missing from Denville," "74 year old resident of Old homestead mysteriously disappears;" "At request of Lieut. Allen Troop searches wcods on Sunday;" "Clue after clue leads to no solution of mystery;" "Reward of $500. Still stands."

In September 1934 The Boonton Times Bulletin summarized the puzzling series of events in a long, story-like editorial that makes today's reader wonder what dark secret The Tourne keeps about Jennie's suspicious disappexance. According to the farmhand in her employ, she simply drove away the morning of August 15 with two unidentified women in a maroon sedan and just never returned. But foul play was suspected. The banks and waters of the Rockaway River were searched. Mediums were called in. They proclaimed her dead and envisioned the body buried nearby underjust two feetof ground. A particular woodshed became the focal point of suspicion and search. The newspaper's editorial staff, inspecting the grounds a year later, reported without further ado that its members had found at some distance from the shed "a very sharp knife which may have bloodstains on the handle."

In October 1936 more big, black, disturbing headlines: "Quest for Martha Jane Cooper renewed when caretaker was apprehended here!" It was learned that the farmhand-caretaker, a former caddy at the Rockaway River Country Club, had entered the United States illegally and was wanted in Genoa, Italy, for a serious crime. He was promptly turned over the U.S. Immigrafion Office in New York. Lt. Daniel Allen of the Morris County Prosecutor's Office continued to work on the baffling case, which, to this day, has never been solved.

Martha Jane was a quaint figure who is sfill remembered by a few of the oldest residents of the Tourne neighborhood. Sunbonneted, she dressed in long outmoded clothes and sold eggs and other farm produce to augment an already comfortable income. Her honey was famous. The Tourne woodland and nearby valley farms provided wonderful bee pasture. Locust trees and wild raspberry blossoms furnish a most delicious product, and back in those days the old mountain provided an early and superior honey-harvest from both. Martha Jane's charming old farm house still stands, its dread secret never told.

The mountain also hides other mysteries. Two small burying grounds exist on its slopes, occupants of the unmarked graves long forgotten. And who knows on what military mission army jeeps traversed the Toume during World War II? Some trails were blocked, and, if the careful, old mountain steward, Mr. DeCamp, knew the reason why, he never revealed it. In 1942/43 our local hills were a matter of serious interest to the War Department. A Civil Defense map of the Boonton area, prepared under the direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, is a geographical and historical treasure, showing every summit from Kinnelon and Marcella to Mt. Tabor and Parsippany-Troy Hills. Colorful old place names, painstakingly recorded in harmony with local usage, jog our memories and evoke nostalgic recollections. The Toume appears as The Tome.

In 1958, ten years after Mr. DeCamp's death, the Morris County Park Commission acquired the 225 acres which included the 897' mountain-top, the actual "tome," and opened the always hospitable land to the public. Additional acreage has been added over the years, and each new purchase has inspired new headlines: "Public asked to support Toume Park expansion (1984);" Boonton Township officials bear plans for Toume Parkland (1989). Controversies made headlines too! "Coalition adds supporters - save our Toume Valley (1974);" "Hunting at Toume debated (1980);" Battle pits ballfield, nature (1994)."

In 1964 the Rockaway Valley Garden Club initiated the effort to establish a wildflower trail in the new park. The Garden Club of Mountain Lakes supported the delightful project, and Emilie Koehler Hammond, well known naturalists, directed it to a beaufiful conclusion. The lovely Brookside Trail dommemorated her name and dedication. Something of a poetess, Miss Koehler wrote in the Spring of 1923: "Spring, beguiling Spring, Invitingly lay just outside my door." There are pictures of a very young Emilie on the Tourne, and one wonders if she and Sara Teasdale, the poetess who found wildflowers "intoxicating" and our burgening Spring enticing, ever exchanged a smile on Tourne excursions. In 1984 Daily Record headlines advertised "A walk on the Wild Side" extolling the enchanting woodland garden which lies along Rigby Brook.

Just across the way is the Eleanor Hinrickson Memorial Bird Sanctuary within which lies Old App's now forgotten spring. Old App is something of a mystery man. We know from newspaper accounts that he was Mr. DeCamp's right-hand man and participating partner in hosting some of the "remarkable entertainments" and carefree frolics that occurred both in daylight and "bon-night." We know he occupied a farm off McCaffrey Lane on the east side of the Toume. Other facts are elusive, even his name a puzzling enigma. Was he simply an old, or elderly, gentleman (was there a young App?) - or was OLD his given name? We also know that the inviting, sand-bottomed spring on his property, now lost in the marshy, overgrown margins of Rigby Brook, was a hiker's landmark destination. Sparklingly clear and refreshingly cold, it invited all tired and thirsty visitors to belly-flop for a nice long drink. The aromatic fragrance of wild mint drifted over the pretty little pool - perhaps it helped flavor the delicious water.

The equally famous Boiling Spring on the other side of the Toume has been more carefully protected. Easily located and interesting to view, it still cheerfully bubbles and percolates in its stone-bordered bed before spilling away toward Rattlesnake Meadow. Fortunately, fanciful plans to transform it into a drinking fountain never materialized.

Recent headlines about maintenance and management us wonder what the grand trailblazer would think of the controversy over mountain biking He himself ruffled many feathers and made front page news. Seemingly shy but fearlessly outspoken, engagingly eccentric and markedly independent, he marched to hia oqn drummer and was held in fond regard by his connnunity. Just before his death in 1948 he took a walk on his mountain, became confused, and lost his way. Overtaken by darkness, he spent the night without shelter. A search party found him the next day, but exposure contributed to a final illness, and he died soon after at the age of 89. A trailblazing conservationist, Mr. DeCamp had a Thoreau-like quality. A line from "Walden" is one he himself might have written: "Sometimes a rambler in the woods was attracted by the sound of my axe, and we chatted pleasantly over the chips I had made." He has been gone for half a century, but his great rocky Hill still welcomes ramblers in the woods. Any time is a good time to rediscover The Tourne.

Take only pictures. Leave only footprints.