THE MERCER & SOMERSET RAILROAD STORY
Including the facts and events leading up to Hopewell's Frog War
Society Program Draws Huge Crowd
With the holidays just passed and winter weather finally making an appearance in Hopewell Valley history buffs from far and wide made their way to the Hopewell Presbyterian Church on January 6, 2016. One hundred and forty years ago on January 6, 1876 - a similarly frigid night - hundreds of men faced off against each other in a nearby field in an event that became known as the “Frog War”. For his program railroad historian John Kilbride recounted the story to a packed house of actually what happened that night and the events leading up to this volatile stand-off.
Since 1975 an important function of the Hopewell Valley Historical Society has been to sponsor programs and lectures on history in the community that are free and open to the public. Over the years the residents of Hopewell have been very passionate about their history and attended Society programs in great numbers. This night was no different. Despite the low temperatures and being mid-week the public arrived early in hopes of getting a good seat. As the hour neared the number of guests swelled and the last of the seats were taken. And they continued to arrive right up until the last moment …. late comers took up positions in the balcony above.
Society president Hilary Burke welcomed the audience and introduced the speaker. Many in the crowd had heard the story and many had not. Mr. Kilbride started with a timeline of events and helped set the stage with a understanding of early New Jersey railroad history and exactly what a railroad frog actually is.
The speaker’s passion with his subject was immediately apparent as he recounted how he first learned of this "lost railroad" and his efforts over the years searching out and uncovering the remnants of this long-ago rail line that are still scattered across the landscape.
The hour-long program ended with a question and answer period. Clearly many in the audience were enthralled with the story and interesting questions added to the enjoyment of everyone.
Afterwards a delightful offering of goodies was laid out that included a special celebratory cake commemorating the 125th Anniversary of Hopewell Borough’s incorporation. Many thanks go out to everyone who helped make the evening a success and especially John Kilbride for his fascinating and enlightening program.