House Tour of the Week- The Caldwell Parsonage

 caldwell parsonage treeThe Caldwell Parsonage, still decorated for an 18th century-style Christmas, will host open houses on January 10 and January 17 from 2:00pm to 5:00pm.

The decorations include Osage oranges (a round, green fruit) from an old female Osage orange tree on the Parsonage grounds.

Osage oranges have a citrus fragrance, are a natural insect repellent, and last for about six months. Osage orange trees are not native to New Jersey.  Immature Osage trees, planted close to together to form a thicket, were used as windbreaks on the prairies; their wood was used by Native Americans to make bows because it’s strong but flexible.  Settlers used the Osage orange wood to make wagon wheels for the same reason. The Osage oranges will be available to visitors while supplies last.

The house is located at 909 Caldwell Avenue, Union.
For more information, please visit the Union Township Historical Society’s website or call 908-687-0048.

The original parsonage, a single-story saltbox-style home, was built in 1730, along with the Connecticut Farms Presbyterian Church. Rev. James Caldwell; his wife, Hannah; and their nine children moved there after the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethtown and its Parsonage were burned by the British in January 1780. Known as the “Fighting Parson,” Caldwell served as Commissary Officer (Quartermaster)—obtaining supplies and horses—for George Washington’s army. He was also Chaplain of the New Jersey militia.

As British and Hessian forces retreated from the Battle of Connecticut Farms on June 7, 1780, Mrs. Caldwell and two of her children, along with a nurse and a housekeeper sought safety in the back bedroom of the Caldwell Parsonage. But Hannah was shot and killed through the single window of that room by one of the troops. Did the soldier think Mrs. Caldwell was a sniper? Was it an accident? Was she targeted as the wife of the minister who preached revolution from his pulpit? Nevertheless, her death is commemorated on the Seal of the County of Union.

Both Connecticut Farms Presbyterian Church and the Caldwell Parsonage were burned by the British. Both were rebuilt by the congregation soon after.

Because the house and its contents were looted and destroyed, the museum today holds none of the family’s belongings. The Union Township Historical Society displays artifacts relating to the American Revolution and others pertaining to Union families, locations, and events.