Glen Ridge, which broke away from Bloomfield with the goal of becoming an outstanding residential community, was fortunate in attracting outstanding men who were able to help make that goal possible for themselves and their own families, as well as for future citizens who would follow them into the borough.
ALFRED HURRELL – 1874-1938
One such man was Alfred Hurrell, who moved to Glen Ridge in 1915, twenty years after the town achieved independence, and lived at 170 Ridgewood Avenue. His first service to Glen Ridge was memorable. He headed a Liberty Bond drive, which won for his newly adopted town the honor of having a 200 ton freighter named for it. As chairman of the successful committee, he attended the launching of the “Glen Ridge.”
In 1920 he was elected to the Council, where he served until 1928. He was then elected Mayor and served until 1932. During this time, he put in a system of garbage collection, which resulted in regular trash pick up in front of every home. Previously each homeowner made his own arrangements and paid the collector. The man had to remember who had paid him and who owed him before he could pick up the trash.
Water supply was becoming another problem. Under his leadership, the town entered into an agreement to buy part of the water of the Wanaque System, and arranged with the town of Montclair to take care of pumping the water.
As Vice President of the League of Municipalities of New Jersey, he helped found a training school for municipal police, including those in Glen Ridge. Future city and urban planners would remember him because he drew up the first legal zoning ordinance. During the time he served as Mayor, the Council members decided to build the much needed municipal building on land owned by the town. The town was rapidly outgrowing the old building on Herman Street which had been used as a town hall.
Alfred Hurrell had an astute legal mind and legal training; he was a forceful persuasive speaker, and had another talent; he had training and experience as a bookkeeper and accountant; all of these talents were readily available to the town government and for the benefit of the citizens.
He was born in Fort Erie, Ontario in 1874 and received his early education in the village school and the general store, owned by his father. Since there was no high school nearby, it was decided that he would go to Buffalo, the nearest large city to learn bookkeeping. While working as a bookkeeper, he became interested in a debating society. Most of the members were young lawyers. He went back to school so that he would be eligible for the old University of Buffalo Law School. He was admitted to the Bar in 1901.
His law practice was successful, and in 1909 he took on the job of Assistant District Attorney of Erie County. His abilities drew the attention of members of the New York State Legislature, and he was asked to serve as Counsel to the New York State Insurance Department in Albany. His reports became the basis for legislation on accident prevention and rate marking. Hurrell moved to Glen Ridge in 1915. He joined Prudential Life Insurance as General Solicitor, later becoming Vice President and General Counsel. Hurrell had two daughters.
Hurrell Field, the High School athletic field, was named for this man whose interest in people and willingness to help were so evident to all who knew him in business, government and in community life.
ABIJAH BREWER – 1847-1919
The man who followed Robert Rudd into office and served as Glen Ridge’s second mayor was dramatically opposite from his predecessor. Abijah Brewer was a small slight man, soft voiced, with a quiet dry sense of humor. A hard worker, he was active and interested in many areas of community life, in addition to the political.
Born in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, Brewer as a young man worked in a newspaper office in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and while there, taught himself Morse code and stenography. With those skills at hand, he went to the New York office of Western Union to become secretary to the President. In time, he became the Vice President of Western Union.
He and his family built a large house at 35 Highland Avenue. In April of 1895 he was elected to the newly formed Glen Ridge Council, serving as President of the Council. During his tenure as Councilman, he served as a member of a special committee on the Health Board. He submitted an ordinance on the Health Board, which was accepted as Ordinance #1. His ability as a skillful negotiator was put to the test when he was appointed to a committee to represent Glen Ridge in apportioning the assets and liabilities between Bloomfield and Glen Ridge in 1897. In October of 1898 the Township Committee of Bloomfield submitted a letter offering suitable terms of agreement, with the new Glen Ridge Council accepted.
In 1902 Brewer was appointed to the office of Mayor, after Rudd resigned. He served in that position for four years, until 1906.
In 1912 Brewer founded the Glen Ridge Trust Company, which opened its doors in front of the Glen Ridge Hall, its present site. That location was selected by Brewer and the members of the Board because it was as close as possible to the center of town. Members of the Board of the Glen Ridge Trust Company were a civic-minded group of men. Six members of the board served at one time or another as Mayor of Glen Ridge.
Brewer was married to Margaret P. Whipple of Enfield, N.H. They had five children.
ROBERT S. RUDD – 1857-1903
Glen Ridge’s first mayor, Robert S. Rudd, was born on May 14, 1857 in New York City. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1879, and then attended New York Law School, where he graduated with a degree in law. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1882, and for the remainder of his life, was a successful practicing lawyer in the city.
In 1883, one year after their marriage, Rudd and his wife moved to that part of Bloomfield now known as Glen Ridge. It was an area of few houses, soft dirt roads, wooden boardwalks for sidewalks, large groves of dogwood and chestnut trees. A family man with four children as well as a social man with a large number of friends he moved into the Wilde house on Ridgewood Avenue – “a large sandstone house, spacious and elegant and complete in all its appointments… an ornament to the town.” The sandstone came from a stone quarry, the site of the present Central School. This same stone was used also in the building of the Glen Ridge Trust, and the Ridgewood Avenue arch, spanning the brook and railroad track.
Rudd’s interest in his new home and community led him to accept a seat on the Bloomfield Council. There he became dissatisfied that the area he was representing was not receiving its fair share of the tax money in the form of civic improvements—i.e. sewers, sidewalks, paved streets. He became an active member of a group seeing to obtain the separation of Glen Ridge from the town of Bloomfield. A long bitter fight finally resulted in a court decision that Glen Ridge could be independent of Bloomfield. Like Teddy Roosevelt, whom he resembled physically, he was a strong forceful dramatic personality and a hardworking public official. He was elected the first mayor of the new town in 1895, and at the end of his two year term, he was re-elected. However, after a difference with members of the Council in 1902, he turned in his resignation as Mayor. The following year he died after a long illness of typhoid fever, still a young man in his 47th year. His large handsome house still stands on the corner of Rudd Court, which, when it was cut through, was named in his honor.
HENRY STANTON CHAPMAN – 1837-1926
High on the list of citizens who made memorable contributions to the borough of Glen Ridge in its early days, stands the name of Henry Stanton Chapman.
Fifty years after his death, Glen Ridge residents are still benefitting from his farsighted generosity. He saw the need for a permanent library building and gave the money to build it; as a memorial to his wife who was also strongly community-minded, he contributed the funds to build the Women’s Club. He built the chancel of the Glen Ridge Congregational Church. He helped organize the Country Club in 1894 and was instrumental in erecting a clubhouse where he served as the first president.
He had not always been wealthy, however. Born on December 22, 1837 in Huntington, Mass., he had said he always had to work a little harder and faster because he had been born on the shortest day of the year. He went through the local schools until he was fifteen when his father died. Young Chapman was sent to live in Amenia, New York with an uncle who was a doctor. The young boy was intelligent and willing to work hard, and before too long he was a partner in the Chapman and Bartlett Drug Company, which was rapidly becoming one of the largest wholesale and retail drug companies in the state. He sold his interest in the drug firm in 1876 in order to invest in an iron mine near Amenia. Unfortunately, the mine filled with water, and since, at that time, there was no way known to pump out the mine, the two partners lost heavily.
His next business venture was not successful, either. He went into the manufacture of cartridges in Suffield, Connecticut. An explosion at the factory killed his father-in-law. Shortly before, his young wife had died, leaving Henry Chapman with a baby son of eight months old. (His son, who never married, committed suicide). Once again he was penniless, but again hard work and good business sense helped him.
He went to New York, and this time, he worked with a chemical company in Arlington, New Jersey, where celluloid combs, mirrors, collars, etc. were manufactured. In 1915, when he sold the business to Du Pont, it was the largest of its kind in the United States.
In 1891, Mr. Chapman with his young son and second wife, moved to Glen Ridge. He was a bicyclist and a golfer; his company was the first to make soft cord golf balls in 1902 in Arlington. He bought the large Darwin house on Ridgewood Avenue, enlarging it, till it was considered one of the most beautiful homes in the state. He enjoyed the conservatory which he had built onto the house, which housed a wide variety of plants and flowers year round. He was an ardent nature lover, who took great pride in his carefully landscaped gardens, and he was also a kind man. A young relative remembers that the gardener used to gather acorns for the squirrels’ winter feeding, at the request of Chapman.
Always interested in community affairs, and always ready to help, he invested in town real estate, helping to form a company that bought land for the use of the town. The present Glen Ridge Arcade, was built on that site. A Red Cross benefit at SunnyCrest, his large home on Ridgewood Avenue, was the first money raised at the beginning of the W.W. I in any town, and brought in $1400 for the Red Cross.
Henry Chapman gave of his business abilities, his scientific knowledge, his time and his money to his adopted town.
ASABEL G. DARWIN – 1827-1892
A. G. Darwin, whose name is still known in the center of Glen Ridge on Darwin Place, was the first developer the area knew. In 1877 he came from Rutherford with his wife and rented a house at 125 Clark Street. About ten years later, he bought a large part of the Gallagher farm—approximately 40 acres, and during the next six years, he chopped down trees, cut streets through orchards and woods, and built twenty-six houses. He cut through and developed Woodland Avenue, Hillside Avenue, Snowden Place and built along Ridgewood Avenue and Clark Street.
Some of the buildings he erected, are still standing. The Lackawanna Station, and the stone building now occupied by the Glen Ridge Midlantic Bank are Darwin structures, built of brown stone quarried in the site of the present Central School. Mr. Darwin built the station on the condition that the Lackawanna trains stop in Glen Ridge. In the rear of the building, were offices of the Glen Ridge Post Office. The Glen Ridge Hall housed the growing library, while the upstairs provided him with a real estate office from which he could direct his growing business. He was an active civic leader, interested in public improvements. He worked with E. P. Mitchell and Abijah Brewer to found the Glen Ridge Men’s Club and became the first president of the organization.
Darwin was a large man, with a reputation for courage and ability. He was a farsighted business leader whose own imposing house was witness to his taste and business ability. He build the large handsome stone house on Ridgewood Avenue, which was later sold to Henry Chapman, and which later became the Sherwood School, before being demolished to make way for the present High School.
Three years before Glen Ridge separated from Bloomfield, in 1892, Darwin died. His building projects were carried on by his son, H. G. Darwin. At that time, the price of a modern house ranged from $1200 to 3500. A choice lot sold for $20.00 per front foot.
Darwin is buried in Rosedale Cemetery, Orange.
CLAYTON E. FREEMAN – 1872-1959
Threaded throughout Glen Ridge life today are reminders of Clayton Freeman’s generosity and civic concern of decades ago. Tennis enthusiasts of all ages still flock to Freeman Courts on Woodland Avenue; the Freeman Field House at Hurrell Field is in constant use by the high school athletes; Freeman Gardens, donated by the family is enjoyed by many age groups… from Brownies to senior citizens, and including young people who want an outdoor wedding in a beautiful site.
Clayton Freeman was a doer, an accomplisher in many areas. He was born on October 26, 1872 in the farming community of Essex, Vermont. He helped his father on the farm, attending school locally. Family finances forced him to give up his ideas of college, and he went to work in Boston. In 1906 he joined W. T. Grant, and with him, founded the W. T. Grant retail chain, which eventually numbered more than 500 stores throughout the country.
During his years with the company he served as buyer, merchandise manager, Treasurer, and for ten years as President. In 1932 he retired as President, but remained on the Board as a Director.
The Freeman family moved to Glen Ridge in 1911. They lived first on Snowden Place and then moved to 83 Ridgewood Avenue. Freeman became a member of the Board of Education in 1923 and soon after became President, serving in that office till 1934. He was elected President of the Civic Conference Committee the following year, and served for three years.
Freeman’s business knowledge and experience were available to many organizations where he sat as a member of the board. He was President of the Montclair Art Museum, a trustee of Mountainside Hospital, a director of L. Bamberger, Glen Ridge Trust Company, several nationally known life insurance companies. He was also on the Board of the Bloomfield League for Friendly Service, Glen Ridge Battalion Forum, Union League Club of New York, Glen Ridge Country Club, and a member of the International Congregational Christian Church.
In addition to the above jobs, Freeman had a great interest in government. In December of 1942 he was appointed to the Essex County Board of Freeholders. Again his knowledge of business and organizational ability were needed. He later became Chairman of the Finance Committee. In 1947 he was chosen Director of the Board; and held this position till he retired in 1951.
He was active in the Clean Government faction of the Republican Party in New Jersey, and was state chairman of the GOP from 1938-1942. He did not want to be a politician, but wished to be known as a person interested in good government. Good government was in fact, one of Clayton Freeman’s hobbies. The other was people. A gregarious man, he enjoyed his family, his many friends, and kept up his ties, as well, with Vermont friends and family of his farming days. He was well liked as well as respected and honored for his many accomplishments.
In 1953 the Board of Freeholders honored him by naming a $1,500,000 addition to the Essex County Hospital in Cedar Grove for him. In 1956 the Battalion Forum of Glen Ridge hailed Freeman as the First Citizen of Essex County. Over 600 townspeople attended a program in his honor at the Women’s Club. One week later, the Parkway between Bloomfield Avenue and Woodland Avenue was renamed Freeman Parkway in his honor.
He died at the age of 89 on the 2nd of September in 1959. It can truly be said that Clayton Freeman left the world—his part of it—a better place than he found it.
Freeman had two sons and had a daughter who still lives in the area.
EDWARD PAGE MITCHELL – 1852-1927
Among the many distinguished men who served Glen Ridge in its early days was the editor of New York’s leading newspaper, the New York Sun. Edward Page Mitchell, friend of Washington statesmen, nationally recognized writers, corporation chairmen and university presidents, moved to Glen Ridge in 1883 and was active in breaking the ties that held Glen Ridge to Bloomfield.
Mitchell was born in Bath, Maine on March 24, 1852. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1871 when he was 19 years old. He had planned a career in medicine, and to finance his future medical studies, he took a job on a Boston paper. The thrill of the printed word never left him and he remained in newspaper work all his life. He was a reported on the Lewiston, Maine Journal when he received a letter from Charles Dana of the New York Sun, asking him to come to New York for an interview. That was the beginning of a life-long association of the editor and the newspaper.
A country boy by birth and inclination, he moved his young family from a house on Madison Avenue in New York to the farms and orchards of the Glen Ridge section of Bloomfield. The family rented a house at 125 Clark Street, owned by A. G. Darwin, until their own house on Ridgewood Avenue would be completed. This was one of the first homes in the area to have a telephone, an important link between Mr. Mitchell’s home and the New York Sun office. Mitchell used his persuasive writing powers to promote independence for Glen Ridge in The Glen Ridge Original, a newspaper he edited and published himself for a year.
When Glen Ridge finally achieved its independence, he was appointed by the school superintendent in Trenton to organize the school board in the new town. He selected the members of the first Board of Education, and the first public school site. The school, first comprehensive public school in the borough, opened in 1900, on the corner of Ridgewood and Bloomfield Avenues.
He was a founder of the Glen Ridge Club, and sat on the first Board of Directors of the Glen Ridge Trust Company. Mrs. Mitchell was an active member of the Clio Club, which became the Glen Ridge Library, which she served as a trustee.
Mitchell died at the age of 75, honored by the leaders in many differing fields and professions. Recently, scholars have credited him as one of the first and most important science fiction writers. He has been called the lost giant of American science fiction whose work strongly influenced others, such as H. G. Wells, in the years that followed.
One of Mitchell’s sons, Dana, is still living in this area.