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200 Years of History

200 Years of History

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Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
Part XIV
Part XV
Part XVI
Part XIX
Part XX
Part VIII: Jefferson Township’s Birth at Seward’s Tavern
By R. Richard Willis

A group of pioneers gathered one day in July 2003 at 778 Rt. 15 South, to view the sights that our forefathers saw at the first meeting of Jefferson Township on April 9th 1804. This modern group was comprised of members of the Bicentennial Committee, interested friends, Jefferson Township and Lake Hopatcong Historical Societies. As with our forefathers who had to supply their own light for that first meeting; which were candles and oil lamps, we carried our modern electric flashlights.

Over the last 200 years this building has not faired well. Not much of the original building remains intact; many additions were added. With so many renovations being done nothing looks the same except maybe the basement. We viewed large hand cut beams, tree trunks with bark and trees used as support columns. Many of the original tree-posts are still supporting the building with help from modern adjustable metal columns. When we looked up, wide boards and hand cut nails could be seen.

As to the two large fireplaces on each end of the building and central staircase, these have disappeared into the dim past. The building has been used as a tavern, two family home, and a place where ice harvesters lived. In Modern times businesses such as the Airport Inn, Vunderbar, and numerous tenants have occupied this building over the years.

Hotels & Inns like Seward’s Tavern, Woodport and Berkshire Valley Hotels; that were situated along the route of the Union Turnpike (Route 181 & Route 15 South) were of great importance to early life in Jefferson. Commerce and people would travel from town to town, county to county and to different states via stagecoach lines, private carriages, horseback and on foot. As people moved along the Union Turnpike, built in 1805 and other roads such as the Longwood Road (Berkshire Valley Road), news would travel with them. The taverns and inns were gathering places to learn of what was happening, discuss crops, family matters, gossip, talk politics, and to vote. But the Berkshire Valley and Woodport Hotels did not survive into the future. But, Seward Tavern building has lasted and next year it will see its 200th plus birthday.