If the traditional gift for a 50-year anniversary is gold, what’s the right gift for a 200-year anniversary?
This is question for Warren County, which will celebrate its 200th year of existence in 2025. To honor the occasion, historical groups across the county are planning two years of special events. A final bicentennial celebration will mark the grand finale. Not too shabby, as anniversary gifts go.
As part of its planning efforts, the Warren County Bicentennial Cultural and Heritage Advisory Board hosted the first of several outreach meetings in Blairstown last week. Several local historical groups attended, including the Blairstown Historic Preservation Committee, the Hope Historical Society, and the Frelinghuysen Township Historical Society.
Two members of the Bicentennial Board, Land Preservation Director Corey Tierney and Cultural & Heritage Affairs’ Assistant Administrator Gina Rosseland, presented plans for the bicentennial so far.
Some efforts are already finished. The Board has built a website for the bicentennial at www.warren200.com. On the website, visitors can find a calendar of bicentennial events, articles about Warren County history and important sites, and information about planning efforts, including a volunteer application to get involved.
The website also features an online shop, which offers about a hundred products with the Bicentennial logo. The logo itself is a fitting choice. It depicts the clock tower of Warren County Courthouse, which was one of the new county’s first buildings in 1826.
Some pieces of the bicentennial planning need local groups to participate. Tierney and Rosseland explained the various grants available to historical organizations. Different grants can fund different projects. For example, some might fund markers to identify sites of historical significance, while others can pay for major restoration to aging structures. The Warren200 website includes explanations for each type of grant available, along with relevant deadlines.
Though it’s two years away, plans for the big year of 2025 are already in motion. The Bicentennial Board hopes to offer commemorative items, including stickers, pins, and a guidebook that would describe each municipality and possibly offer maps for tours. These projects are still in the early planning stages and the board continues to seek the input and help of volunteers.
There’s plenty of history in Warren County for visitors to explore. The piece of land that’s today called Warren County had been classified as part of several other counties previously. According to the Bicentennial Board’s website, it was classified as part of Hunterdon County until 1738, part of Morris County until 1753, and part of Sussex County until 1824. Then, the NJ State Legislature declared that a new county would be formed in 1825. The new county took its name from Dr. Joseph Warren, a physician from Boston who died in the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.
Currently, the National Register of Historic Places recognizes 47 sites in Warren County, including five places designated “of national significance.”
Rosseland, who teaches history at the college-level and also helps manage Shippen Manor Museum in Oxford, knows Warren County’s history well– though she also knows that it’s often forgotten. “I want the state to know that we are significant, even though we’re in a small little northwestern county,” she says. “We’re still significant as a secondary source. Hope had the grist mill that provided grain to the soldiers… There’s a lot of history in our county.”
Rosseland points out that some of the first men to fight in the American Revolution hailed from White Township. Yet, this fact isn’t well-known. “The schools aren’t really teaching local history anymore,” she says. “So it’s up to all of us.”
The Bicentennial Board will continue to host outreach meetings in different parts of Warren County. The last two will occur on Thursday, April 27th in Phillipsburg and Saturday, April 29th in Belvidere.
“As we start building the groundswell of this celebration, we want to make sure that everyone’s ideas are heard,” says Mark Young, another member of the Bicentennial Board. “We’re all going to be building this together, working together, hopefully volunteering together, lending your time and talents to really make this a big success.”
For more information about Warren County’s bicentennial, visit www.warren200.com.
Chip O'Chang, Contributing Writer
Chip O'Chang is an educator, fiction writer, and lifelong resident of New Jersey. He has also written for My Life Publications and NJ Indy. He lives in the NJ Skylands with his partner, two cats, and and a bearded dragon.