The Trustees established a committee in 1986 charged with searching out archival material and artifacts relating to Hopewell Valley. Since
that time hundreds of items have
been collected, and preserved.
From time to time we'll feature something from the Archives of Hopewell Valley History on this page. This we give us an opportunity to share some of the material we've collected the history they contain.
Several important individual collections exist within the Society's holdings. The first was a group of historical items gathered by a legend of local history, Alice Blackwell Lewis. These items are priceless reminders of our rich past. The old letters, photographs, brochures, tickets, etc., that make up the collection got our archives off to a great start.Thank you Betty Davis !
As the materials started coming in a storage location was set up for the collection in a former medical office (thanks to Jerry and Al Farina). As it grew, its next home was in an ancient church in Harbourton. But, when a new library building was built just outside of Pennington by Mercer County, officials there invited the Society to store their growing collection in a room they would provide. The Society was thrilled with the offer and our collection has grown there ever since. The Trustees and members of the Society are grateful to Mercer County for providing us with a secure home for these precious artifacts.
One of the most important aspects of the Hopewell Valley Historical Society's mission is collecting and preserving material related to Hopewell Valley's rich heritage.
They had been stored for many years in Pennington Market shopping bags beneath a bed in Pennington -- waiting to find the right home.
An extremely interesting part of the donation is a personal scrapbook that belonged to Raymond Woolsey. Numerous newspaper articles include his name along with many of the other community leaders of the period. These men worked tirelessly to improve the conditions of life in the Pennington area. As part of the Pennington Improvement Association these men pushed for the introduction of electricity, telephone service, trolley service, clean water and macadamized roads. Raymond was a cashier in the first bank in town, and went on to become one of its directors. He was a member of the Pennington Fire Company, Pennington Methodist Church and Pennington Borough Council. He passed away in 1950 while serving as mayor.
Another rare item is a Anniversary Edition of an old Pennington Post newspaper from 1904. Also, there's a four page insert, entitled “Pennington Outlook”. These papers give a direct window into the lives of residents and events of the period.
The Woolsey family materials have now found a permanent home in the Archives of Hopewell Valley History. The Society is grateful to Patti Woolsey and her family for their valuable donation.
The Woolsey Family Collection includes a multitude of different items. There are photos from their life on the farm and group portraits with community leaders. Also included are various deeds for land transactions. One interesting old deed relates to Hopewell Valley’s “lost railroad”, the Mercer & Somerset.
During the American Revolution, Ephraim Woolsey served as one of Washington’s guides along with several other local farmers turned soldiers on his route to the decisive Battle of Trenton. Later, young Henry Woolsey made the ultimate sacrifice losing his life during the Civil War.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Pennington was expanding and modernizing. The Woolsey farm was located on North Main Street. Agriculture had been the primary source of income during the early years here, but as transportation improved other business ventures began to appear locally to support the increasing population. In the first decade of the 20th century the community saw the opening of its first bank and first savings and loan. Some of the Woolsey family members left farm life behind and got involved in finance. For much of the first half of the 20th century their names were associated with the First National Bank of Pennington and the Pennington Savings & Loan Association.
Society Receives Important Donation
The Society received a interesting collection recently of archival material from a descendent of one of Hopewell Valley’s oldest families. The Woolsey family first settled here in the mid-1700s. Family members served with distinction in the Revolutionary War, Civil War and both World Wars. The items in this important collection include old photographs, land deeds, newspapers and a former Pennington mayor’s personal scrapbook.
Patti Woolsey, a resident of Washington, DC received several boxes of family items while cleaning out her parent’s home in Pennington. Many of the items were sentimental family material, but some, it seemed to her, might be important to the community that her family had called home over two centuries.
Next, a collection of old glass plate negatives, similarly stored, surfaced. It contained nearly seven hundred images of the Pennington area from the 1890-1910 period. The Society is extremely grateful to Alice Frisbie and her daughter, Mary Thornton, for their donation of the George Frisbie Collection.
Our archive continues to grow, thanks to a modest budget funded by membership. If you enjoy learning about these featured items, please stop back from time to time. If you'd like to help support our efforts then please consider becoming an HVHS member today.
Members of the Woolsey family pose proudly on the
front lawn of their North Main Street home in 1908
The gallery below gives a small sampling of the material in the Woolsey Family Collection. Click
on the top photo to open the gallery.