colonial newark

by Martin L. Cox

O ye, who love lore and tradition,
        The legends and tales of the ancients,
The records of danger and struggle,
        Of toil and of effort unceasing,
To you, will we bring the true story
        Of founding and building our city,
Great Newark, the Queen of Passaic.

Across the salt meadows of Jersey,
        Where wave the salt tresses of marsh grass
In billows like those of the ocean,
        Made bright by the flowers of the mallow,
Lay spread in the glorious sunset,
        The slopes of the mountains of Orange,
Like sentinels guarding the valley.

By wagons with cattle and household
        Came settlers from colonies eastward,
To build by the lordly Passaic,
        A town for defence and protection,
Where God might be worshipped with freedom,
        And industry bring to them comfort
And homes blessed with peace and security.

Together they dwelt in the village
        With farms so fertile about them
That comfort and plenty abounded,
        And colonists flocked o’er the Hudson
To share it with neighbors and kinsmen
        Until they had worn a wide highway
Connecting the town with the Hudson.

The church in the midst of the village
        Gave blessing and hope to the settlers
Whose toil-burdened lives took fresh courage,
        As pastor and people considered
The lives of the leaders of Israel,
        Who built up a nation of power
In Jordan’s unpromising valley.

With cherries and peaches and apples
        The orchards were laden in season.
And many a gathering of young folks
        Was needed to care for the harvest,
For maidens and youths all looked forward
        With eager and glad expectation
To curing and storing the apples.

When trees had been plucked of their fruitage,
        The apples were sorted and taken
To cellar for use of the household,
        Or sent to be made into cider.
In clean, sanded kitchens the young folks,
        With knives and with basins for paring,
Assembled with laughter and pleasure.

Great buckets of apples before them
        Soon fell bereft of their wrappers,
While matrons divided and cored them,
        Preparing the fruit for the curing.
Both busy and happy, their lives were,
        And pleasure with toil intermingled
Made labor delightful and easy.

The slopes of the mountains were covered
        With plumes of the maize in the summer,
The gift of the red—to the white-man,
        Which helped the first settlers to prosper.
With frost, it was ripe for the cutting
        And hum of the grind-stone and chatter
Of men filled the plains and the uplands.

From pastures in woodland and meadow
        Came oxen with wagons or sledges
To bear this rich treasure homeward.
        In crib or in stack it is garnered,
And people give thanks in the churches
        For safety and bountiful harvests,
That come from the good Lord, Jehovah.

In winter, the maid or her mother
        Keeps weaving the wool into homespun
Or flax into linen for clothing
        On looms in the kitchen or best-room,
While men dress raw skins for the leather
        That is needed for boots for the people
When snow covers village and valley.

So lived the first settlers of Newark
        Along the Passaic which carried
The floods of the mountains in springtime
        And boats of the settlers in summer.
Thus, lived they, in peace and contentment,
        In quiet enjoyment of freedom,
Of peace and of church and of friendship.

Image: Frank J. Urquhart, A short history of Newark
Image: Frank J. Urquhart, A short history of Newark

Martin Luther Cox was principal of Thirteenth Avenue Grammar School and presented this poem at the June 1910 commencement.

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