Reflections on a Special Community

Margetts Field Bond Burning (20 October 2013) – Louis J. Lanzerotti


This field – Margetts Field – represents and gives testimony to Harding of the past, Harding of the present, and – hopefully – Harding of the future.

Harding had been a rural farming community since its settlement in the 18th century. Harding was bypassed by large roads and by any railroads, and thus retained its rural character.   Harding history shows that in the early 1920s, a number of wealthy business people incorporated the New Vernon Land Company and purchased large parcels of land in what is now Harding in order to enjoy the bucolic rural environment.
In 1928, some six years after Harding separated from Passaic Township, several large estate owners developed the New Vernon Neighborhood Restrictive Agreement and convinced neighbors to voluntarily limit, by deed restrictions, the subdivision of their lands. This voluntary agreement that limited most property sizes to not less than three acres formed the basis of Harding zoning until 2004, when some areas were increased to five areas because of environmental and public health concerns, especially related to wells and septic.
This field on which we stand today, the woods to the west, the large green barns on Village Road, and the house across the street were once the farm of Henry Colgate. This farm was representative of the rural environment of Harding from its settlement. Anecdotal history from several sources relate that in 1934 the lyricist Cole Porter composed the song “Don’t Fence Me In” in a third story bedroom of Colgate’s home, across the road.
Close to my interests, Henry Colgate’s elder son, Stirling, is a World War II veteran and quite famous American physicist living in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He has had a stellar career in physics, from working with Edward Teller of hydrogen bomb fame to serving as the President of New Mexico Tech University. Stirling Colgate was cited by Fortune magazine in about 1960 as one of the leading young American scientists of the time.
The Margetts stewardship of their Harding land after Colgate was exemplary, as was their service to New Jersey. Walter Margetts served five years as Treasurer of New Jersey and Josephine Margetts served three terms in the State Assembly. Josephine Margetts is especially recognized for her legislation related to wetlands protection. Tom Margetts served as mayor of Harding.
Margetts field was the first major open space acquisition by Harding in its objective to preserve the historic, open, rural, and bucolic environment of its past. Today, with the Harding Land Trust and with Harding’s active citizen’s group concerned for open space and the environment, Harding is a wonderful place to live and to raise a family. Our children certainly benefited greatly from the open fields, the woods, and the streams in which they could play and explore.
At a dinner that I had with Stirling Colgate and some physics colleagues in Princeton quite a number of years ago, Stirling recalled from his childhood the “vast fields” across the road from his home. The majority of those vast fields where stand this afternoon are what the Margetts family and Harding Township residents collaborated to preserve some twenty years ago and for which we celebrate the bond burning today. On this bright and sunny afternoon in these vast fields we give a sincere than you to all Harding residents, to the Margetts Family Foundation, and to the Margetts family. Thank you!! Thank you!!
Louis J. Lanzerotti Chairman, Harding Township Committee
Addendum, July 2020  
Among other remembrances, Stirling Auchincloss Colgate also related to me that he recalled taking dynamite from one of his father’s green barns (such as the one still standing on Village Road), and blowing up ice on Silver Lake. Stirling was an elected physics member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, and died December 1, 2013, a few months after the bond burning for Margetts field. Tom Margetts related to me that he occupied Stirling’s bedroom on the second floor of their home, overlooking the fields.

Appreciating Harding – Sadie Hoberman (July 22, 2020)

I moved to Harding a little over 7 years ago. It was quite a shock to come from Westfield, a growing city with over 100 stores in its downtown, to Harding, whose busiest area consists of a post office, recycling center, and one restaurant. As an incoming fifth grader, I was a little unnerved. I missed being able to look out my window and see the house of one of my best friends. Instead, I felt isolated, as when I looked out of any window in my house, all I could see were trees.
But, like many other elements of Harding, I slowly came to appreciate the woods that envelope the town. As our world is quickly becoming more and more developed, places like Harding, towns that are still connected to nature, are becoming more and more scarce. Only 45 minutes away from the largest city in America, it is not uncommon to be driving through Harding at night and see a bear lumbering across the road. The Raptor Trust houses some of the magnificent birds that frequent Harding, such as the Red-Tailed Hawk and Screech Owl. Turtles, snakes, and frogs are found on almost any hiking trail, and foxes are a common sight. The natural refugees of Harding, combined with the tamed Bayne Park and Blue Mills Field, ensure that residents are not lacking in outdoor spaces.
Just like I came to appreciate the wildness of Harding, I was able to find community here as well. Although the houses may be spread out, and the town center is not bustling with activity, proof of the active Harding community can be seen anywhere someone looks. My mom joined the First Aid Squad, which consists entirely of volunteers who dedicate their time to helping the community. The members of the fire department are also volunteers who risk their safety in times of distress. Many people know the town police on a first-name basis. There are several organizations, such as the Environmental commission and the Land Trust, who are dedicated to the mission of preserving Harding’s natural scenery.
The library hosts free events for the community, as does the Great Swamp. The Civic Association plans events and keeps the town up to date on any news. The people that dedicate their time and energy to serve the community are truly the ones that make Harding special.
The combination of the generosity of the community and the preservation of the natural land are two elements that cause Harding to stand out from the rest of New Jersey. I have lived in several towns across this state, and nowhere else have I seen a community with a similar attitude towards preserving the environment and volunteering.

‘The House Came With A Community’, John & Joyce Murray (July 7, 2020)

It’s July, 1976 and John has just been offered a really nice job with The Prudential Insurance Company… in Newark, NJ?!?! OK, we were living in a suburb of Detroit MI, so was that really a big deal? The “deal” was that we were trying to trade a nice house on the water on an island in the Detroit River where it emptied into Lake Erie for something comparable in NJ where everything even close to equivalent was 50% higher with much higher taxes. Further, Joyce loved where she was teaching in a suburban school district and it was less than guaranteed that she could find a position quickly in NJ.
But then the kind of dumb luck you dream about led us to a year-vacant house on a little lake in North-central NJ.  We bought the house because it had a lot of potential (Read: It was run down enough that we could afford it), knowing next to nothing about exactly where it was other than that John could commute to work in a reasonable amount of time, at least by rail, as I-78 did not go through the Watchung Reservation then.
It’s now late Fall 1976 and we were buried in making the house livable, still knowing next to nothing about the Mt Kemble Lake community we were in much less the larger Harding Township community. And then the leaves came off the trees and one-by-one other houses began to appear around the lake and neighbors started dropping by to invite us to house gatherings and even a big party at … a Clubhouse? Who knew? Our new home came with a community!
In the Detroit area, we had work friends and a few neighborhood “acquaintances” but had yet to discover a sense of community. We were soon to discover that Mt. Kemble Lake was different and a little later, so was Harding Township. The other parts of those discoveries included the significance of opportunity and encouragement to be actively involved in the lives of those two communities socially as well as in support activities. Three months after moving into the Mt Kemble Lake, John was asked to run for one of the several board positions that oversee the operation of Lake facilities. Less than a year later found us active in Presbyterian Church fund raising activities (new organ) and a few years after that heavily involved in raising money for the Firehouse addition ultimately built in 1982.
By then we had also become familiar with the many opportunities in Harding Township to not only give back in appreciation of the hard work and dedication that has made Harding the very special place it is to live, but to also play a role in helping preserve the best of  Harding as well  as influencing the Township’s future. John’s political involvement took off when he was first appointed to the Township’s Board of Adjustment followed by an appointment to the Planning Board. In the late 1990’s John ran for and was elected to the Township Committee serving through a nine-year tenure with significant opportunity to help guide the Township in areas such as open space preservation, Affordable Housing, New Vernon village redevelopment and a land swap to the Great Swamp en lieu of a large Super Fund remediation payment. Along the way there have been very rewarding opportunities for both of us to support the Fire Department as an ambulance driver, auction staff and Auxiliary member. All of these “adventures,” large and small have left us richer as people and with a sense that we have honored the hard work of others in helping make and keep Harding the very special place we have found it to be.
Joiners? Maybe. Can’t say “No”? Probably. Left with a sense of accomplishment in supporting one of the most important aspect of our lives, our home and home town? Definitely!

‘Reflections on Kemmerer Library’, Jean Pfeffer (June 23, 2020)  

One of the first things I did after moving to Harding in 2003 was to visit the library. “This is it?” I asked the volunteer. I thought I had entered a book storage room. I had never before seen such a tiny library. There wasn’t a single place to sit. It reminded me of the cramped bookmobile I rode my bike to during childhood summers. Lotte Newlin, the volunteer, and Anne Thomas, then-library director, told me of community efforts that were underway to build a freestanding library.
What a colossal community effort it was, and by so many dedicated people! In 2010, two years after he broke ground with a Harding Township School student, Jay Kemmerer cut the ceremonial ribbon with Building Committee Co-chairs Susan Stahly and Diane Berger, and Kemmerer Library officially opened its welcoming doors.
In the weeks before it opened, I watched as volunteers continually ferried books on rolling carts from the old library to the waiting Kemmerer Library. When they had finished, the new shelves were barely filled. These same shelves now brim with best sellers, old favorites, audiobooks and DVDs. What a difference ten years makes!
Libraries are remarkable institutions, and I’ve always appreciated their importance. Over the course of my life, I’ve been an active member of ten different libraries. Their common goal was to serve the interests of its specific community. Every time I enter Kemmerer Library, I see how valuable an institution it is for our own community. Patrons are in front of computers, in study areas, in a book club circle, at game tables, and on yoga mats. They have their blood pressure checked, learn about e-books, and enjoy social events. They are busy with crafts, Legos and the train set, and they sit rapt at story time.
Over the course of my years here, I have watched Kemmerer Library become an integral part of Harding, especially in times of crisis. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene when patrons were without power, many of us took refuge at the Library where we found much-needed electricity, tap water, and camaraderie. Then-Governor Christie recognized Kemmerer Library’s service to the community with a special commendation.
Most recently, while the community was homebound during the pandemic, after Library Director Alison Maxwell took Kemmerer Library virtual to offer its programming, I was able to download e-books through the Library’s website, and maintain my connection to the Book Group through Zoom.
Throughout its ten-year existence, Kemmerer Library has adapted to changing times as it continues its mission to enrich our community. In the hustle bustle of life, or during times when life is quieter, slower, and more reflective, the Library is, for me and for so many others I have met here along the way, a second home—a safe place where all are welcome.

‘What I Love about Harding’, Samantha Innella (June 9, 2020)  

My name is Samantha Innella and I have lived in Harding for around a year. I am ten years old and I love Harding.
Harding is a beautiful town and it is hard not to like it. Around every corner there is a surprise and an adventure. This town is full of history and I find out more and more about it every day. Harding is full of events and activities to help others and to entertain us. There are the trails, and the contests, and clubs.
Everywhere you look in Harding you can find all kinds of nature and wild animals. I have already seen trees, and plants I have never seen before, and more birds in a day then I can count. There are places for everyone in Harding, whether you like to be with a ton of people, or alone in an enchanted forest trail.
One of the best places in Harding in my opinion is the Kemmerer Library. They have fun things to do every week, whether you are an adult or a child.  There are cool arts and crafts based on the season and a book club for children and adults. There is the annual photo contest with a chance that your photo will be displayed and the movie afternoons. Everyone I met in Harding is always so nice and ready to help. In Harding they have a lacrosse team and amazing schooling. There is so much to love about Harding and new adventures everywhere so get outside and look around at the beautiful Harding that we call home!
Thank you for letting me share what I love about Harding.

‘Art in Bloom Comes to Harding’, Tine K. Graham (June 2, 2020)

My mother was the first female president of the Library Board in Elizabeth, quite an honor back in the 1940’s. So, the word “library” was planted into my mind at a young age. I appreciated having a library in town.
Jerry and I moved to Harding in the 1960’s, and I remember taking my children to the small library room, on the second floor of the fire house.  Anne Thomas and I knew each other from childhood: I was a good friend and classmate of her sister at the Vail-Deane School.
I ran into Anne one day, who was then the Director of the Harding Library, and I asked her if she wanted to dress up the Library, now in the Municipal Building, with some art work? Of course she said yes….she had no choice! So, I painted loads of colored leaves for the Library…they hung from the ceiling, the walls, the books, and probably even on the floor. We agreed that Harding needed an art show….there were a lot of good local artists…so, voila……ART IN BLOOM was born!
The first show was in 1997…in the court room where we had to Windex the chandeliers, vacuum the carpet, and remove all the chairs!  We rented a huge white tent for the parking lot…people donated food….lots of good wine….Irish bagpipes….and a successful event blossomed every year.   That town event, plus other terrific town events, was the staple of the community; everyone came and supported ART IN BLOOM, drawing people from other towns for the party. Anita Cole, president of the Library Board was ecstatic!
This event also brought the townspeople together. They looked forward to it every year. Lasting friendships were formed with all the committee members. Then more hard work for fundraisers for the Kemmerer Library.
The new library has evolved as apeaceful respite for the town….it has added many new features and has kept up with all that is going on around us.
Every town needs a library, but the beauty of this one is that we were all part of its growth……long may it flourish!

‘Fond Memories on Kemmerer Library’s Tenth’, Judie Ward (May 26, 2020)

Early one morning, walking in my woods on Tempe Wick Road, contemplating my life, I had an epiphany. My frantic routine had recently eased, leaving me with more spare time, and if I didn’t find a passion quickly some nice friend was going to try to lure me into hers and I would have a problem escaping. I needed to find my own.
This was spring of 1996. I was barely acquainted with Harding’s library, the little room on the right as you came in the front door of Kirby Hall, opposite the stairs leading up to the administration offices. Perfect location, you looked straight into the library as you descended from paying your taxes, all 340 sq. ft. not counting 2 small closets! Books, that was for me. So in I marched.
The room was empty except for Kathie Josephson behind the desk. Kathie was bright, enthusiastic, gregarious, funny and an addict, a book addict! She hit me with a big smile and welcome. Soon I was sitting behind that desk, and I felt good being there. Interesting folks visit libraries.
Next, I remember Anita Cole.Her personality was too large for her petite frame and simply overflowed in love and enthusiasm for everyone and every thing related to the LIBRARY.She seemed to live there. Every time we met she made me feel I was the very person, above all others she wanted to see just then, and in spite of my knowing better this never changed. Anita was a force.
“No, Anita, I do not want to be on a committee. No, I don’t want assignments. Just desk duty.” She never scowled. Nor did she ever relent.
Time passed. One day I was sorting through our very small “collection” of books-on-tape.“If this tape fails to work, smack it smartly on a hard flat surface.” Remember? Tapes were 60 minutes. Books were mostly abridged and terrible. But I loved the idea.
Just then Anita appeared. Without skipping a beat she chirped, “Our volunteer in charge of those tapes has just moved. Will you take on that job? Bam! Hooked! Oh, and being in charge of “tapes” put me on the Board………..
Not long after, I was on duty, no patrons just then, when in walked Anita of course, big smile and all, and out of the blue she said, “Judie, we need a REAL library!”
“But Anita, we already……………”
“No Judie, a building of our own!” Speechless, I could blurt only a single word, “Why?!”And you know, I can not remember to this day what she replied, but look what happened! A lot of work, a lot of good people, a lot of fun, and finally a REAL LIBRARY.

‘What Makes Us A Community’, Sunita Jaffrey (May 19, 2020)

Community is something on everyone’s minds these days and never has it felt more important to our lives and our well-being than during a crisis like Covid19. Despite social distancing, there is a place where community thrives and my family and I were fortunate to find it twelve years ago.
When we first moved to New Vernon in 2007, we received an invitation to dinner hosted by my (now dear) neighbor to introduce us to other families living nearby. The hospitality and warm welcome we received from those who gathered that evening, for the purpose of getting to know us and to share a meal together, genuinely surprised me, but exemplifies the kind of community that resides here. They greeted us with open arms, volunteering help if needed and offering kind advice with warm smiles. This warmth was on display at our then small library (thank you Lotte!), the tax collection office, our local bank, the buildings department and the post office. Who were these people, I wondered? Did folks like this really exist?
Having lived in NY for most of our lives and several years in Madison prior to our move here, New Vernon feels like a world apart. Its rural, scenic landscape is matched by a small “town” where the people who inhabit it genuinely care for each other. Here, I found race, religion, ethnicity and political affiliation do not matter. My family was embraced into a community that sought only to look out for us. When the electricity went out in our early days due to a winter storm and our carbon monoxide alarms went off at 1am, the retired fire chief and police were at our door almost immediately with patient smiles and words of reassurance, without a trace of annoyance. Packages left too long at my doorstep are immediately noticed by neighbors who offer to hold them for me if needed. When a family in our neighborhood suffers a loss or hardship, we share their sorrow, and in times of celebration, we feel their joy. Whether there is a real emergency or not, our police respond immediately and are always understanding in carrying out their duties. On walks, we are greeted by neighbors and exchange stories in our daily lives. This community, from police officers to librarians and neighbors, have watched over my children as they have grown, and I appreciate them all for it. It reaffirms my hope that we can truly be our best selves by simply being good to one another.
At a time when we are all counting our blessings, I count myself as fortunate to live here, among these people, who value humanity and kindness above all else. For me, this makes New Vernon truly my home.

‘Kemmerer Library — 10 Years and Counting’, Ginny Moriarty (May 12, 2020)

I am honored to be asked to share some thoughts on the occasion of Kemmerer Library’s 10-year anniversary.
I moved to Harding from Bernardsville shortly after my husband Ed passed away in 1997. By that point, our seven children were all adults. Since I have always been a joiner, I was eager to get involved in my new community. Getting involved at Christ the King Church was the first step and that helped introduce me to other groups within Harding. One of those groups was the Harding Planning Board which I found a very interesting way to participate in a growing community.
At that time, the Harding Library was located in a small (400 sq. ft.) area in the current municipal building. I was invited to attend a meeting to discuss a possible campaign to raise funds to form a new local library. One meeting and I was hooked! I’m reluctant to mention individual names because there were so many people who contributed in so many ways, but suffice it to say we had an outstanding team of folks devoted to our common cause!
I recall that in soliciting support, I would recount that when I was about 12 or 13, it was the traditional time for me to become a member of our church. In typical teen fashion, I resisted, telling my mother it didn’t make any real difference whether I became an official member or not, I could still go to church. Her explanation to me was that it made a LOT of difference. Her words were – if you believe in having a church, you need to support it. You can’t expect others to maintain one for you to drop in when you feel like it.
That concept has stayed a guiding principle for me over the years and it is why I felt so strongly at the time that Harding should have its own library. If our residents — seniors, families with young children, young students etc. – had to use neighboring library systems, what message were we sending to them about the value of a local library?
Fortunately, right from the start, we had lots of people eager to show their support by hosting coffees and small gatherings and our first phase resulted in an outpouring of many modest gifts. For the next phase, we realized that we needed to seek out larger gifts and the Leadership Plaque inside the entrance to the library recognizes those important donors.
Finally our collective efforts culminated in the opening of Kemmerer Library on May 6, 2010!
Over the past ten years, it has been my pleasure to observe the remarkable way in which the dedicated staff, initially under the incredible leadership of Lottie Newlin, has run a library that has served the Harding community in such superb fashion. During this time, the explosion of the accessibility of technology has resulted in real challenges for traditional local libraries. I am proud to say that the Kemmerer team of both staff and board has more than risen to the challenge and has embraced all the opportunities that new technology offers.
Bravo on a job well done and best wishes for continued success over the next ten years!
Our Mission
The mission of Kemmerer Library Harding Township is to improve and enrich the lives of our users through informational, educational and recreational programs and services. The Library welcomes all members of the community and offers an inviting space, well-organized and up-to-date collections, friendly professional service and well-trained staff and volunteers who are committed to the Library vision. Come visit us! Click our address for directions:
After operating for many years as a one-room Library in the Town Hall, Kemmerer Library Harding Township opened in . The building was funded entirely by private donations and stands on land leased by Harding Township. We operate on a modest budget with the help of numerous volunteers who contribute their time and expertise to make our Library a friendly and welcoming space. The Library is a member of Morris Automated Information Network (MAIN) which offers access to all 37 libraries in Morris County as well as Basking Ridge Library. Online databases, e-books and magazines are also available to Harding cardholders through MAIN.
Board of Trustees
Director: Alison Maxwell
President: Judy Otterman
Rhonda Allen
Diane Berger
Sarah Conine
Stephen Cullis
Regina Egea
Ellen Laird
Jean Pfeffer
Brian Riley
Norman Slonaker