by Martin L. Cox
Image: Newark Story

Come, citizens of Newark, proud,
        Of low or high degrees,
Unite in story, song and ode,
        Float banners on the breeze,
Awake the harp and raise the voice
        To laud our city’s praise,
For Newark Day is here to stay
        Among our festal days.

Our fathers’ spirits shall behold
        Their work was not in vain;
What sires once planned the sons have done
        Upon Passaic’s plain.
By earnest toil, upon our soil,
        As passing years have flown,
The walls of temple, mart and home
        Have risen stone on stone.

Europa sent her stalwart sons
        From English moor and town,
From German vineyard, Flemish farm,
        Or Scottish heather brown,
From Polish plain and Irish bog
        And sunny Roman land,
To build anew their hearths and homes
        Along Passaic’s strand.

And these with those New England men
        Who first sought here a home,
Have labored side by side in peace;
        For under heaven’s dome
No dearer place for them, they felt,
        Could anywhere be found,
And love of country, love of home,
        They learned in tilling ground.

Soon Industry and Thrift came here
        To crown our fathers’ toil;
Their wants were few, but well supplied
        From Jersey’s fertile soil.
Their gratitude to God they gave
        In formal psalm and prayer,
Believing He alone could bless
        Their labor and their care.

What mean these massive walls of brick
        That look like castles old?
No place of idol state are they,
        No keep for hoarding gold;
But busy factories of trade,
        Where lathe and loom and wheel
Are busy servants, helping man
        Promote the common weal.

What wonder if our fathers erred
        In many things they did?
How could they know our present needs
        Which Time from them had hid?
For them Passaic’s lordly flow
        Brought blessings from the hills,
And on his heaving bosom came
        No stain from town or mills.

O citizens, awake and claim
        That river for your own,
Its stream and banks a legacy
        Of fabled worth has grown.
Your buildings for the public use,
        And every park and square,
These are the jewels you must prize
        And make your daily care.

Then, long live Newark, proud and great,
        The home of industry,
Create new beauties for her own
        In stone and spreading tree.
Let all her people join the song
        In one triumphant strain,
And praise the town with heart and voice
        In loving, glad acclaim.

In 1910 the Board of Education proclaimed the first “Newark Day” and in 1911, with money contributed by Newark pupils, the Schoolmen’s Club began to place a series of bronze tablets honoring figures and features of the city’s distant or recent past. Plaques were dedicated on Newark Day, the first Monday of November, over the course of the next eighteen years.

Martin L. Cox, principal of Thirteenth Avenue School, composed these verses for his students’ Newark Day observance in 1916, the city’s two hundred fiftieth anniversary year. The Newark Star printed the poem on October 26, “so as to bring it before the other school children of Newark, in order to instill civic pride in their hearts.”

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.