Last weekend we had the opportunity to see our good friends Amy and Karen Jones playing with their amazing band, The Beautiful Distortion on our home turf, as it were. The band hails from Bethlehem PA but on this occasion, they were playing at a two-day festival at the Red Mill in Clinton NJ, which is right next door to High Bridge.
Sadly, Amy fell ill, literally as the band was about to go on and had to sit the gig out with Jersey girl and I but the rest of the guys closed ranks and braved the ninety-degree heat to give a fantastic performance (despite being one vocalist down).
TBD have a great sound which centers on the three lead vocalists. Both Amy and Karen have tremendous voices which (as is often the case with siblings) harmonise beautifully. The other fronter, Dave Doll, has a very different but totally complimentary vocal style and the three voices together are really something to hear. Dave can also shred the frets like the pro he is.
The rest of the lineup is equally impressive with Chris Reagle on lead guitar, Jeremy Aguiar on bass, and Tim Harrell on drums. All are terrific, rock-solid musicians who have been playing around the Lehigh Valley area for years.
Sonically, they’re like a cross between Fleetwood Mac (they do a fantastic cover of the chain if you yell loud and long enough) and Dream Theater, if you can imagine such a beast. That really shouldn’t work but it just does.
The exciting thing for me was that, at this particular show, I was able to bring my camera along and get some shots of the guys in action (sadly sans Amy). The setting was a cool natural amphitheatre behind the famed Red Mill and I had a great time capturing their performance.
So, I’ve started an Etsy shop selling prints of some of my better photographs. I have no idea if anyone will actually want them but it’s an attempt to do something creative for money for a change.
If anyone is interested in checking it out, I guess you can consider this a shameless plug. If you know anyone looking to fill some wall space who you think may be interested in what I do, feel free to point them in my direction.
Every small town, no matter how prim and proper has a darkness coiled within. It is expressed in actions taken behind closed doors and in the discarded detritus that gathers on the fringes.
Abandonment and decay. Secret violence and buried frustrations. The colour leaches out like toxic waste into a once pristine stream. It crawls slowly along disused rails til there is nothing but sun-bleached bone and rust to speak its name in gravely whispers.
Let your boots crunch loudly on the stones. And do not look into the shadows beneath the trees.
I mentioned in part one of this series that High Bridge and, specifically, Taylor Iron and Steel had produced a Brigadier General for the Federalist Army during the Great War Between the States.
General Taylor was to die from wounds received at the Battle of Manassas Station and be buried in nearby Clinton, NJ (one town over from High Bridge). At the time of writing that piece, I had not yet had the opportunity to visit Taylor’s tomb but I have since done so and I thought I’d share some images for those who might be interested.
Taylor’s nephew (who was killed in action a year after his illustrious uncle) is buried alongside the General.
I wasn’t expecting to be in Clinton on this particular day and so didn’t have my camera with me. These shots are off my phone and so a little basic.
In the fourth and final instalment, I’ll be exploring how the modern town of High Bridge got its name.
New Jersey has a problematic relationship with her past. Most of the historically significant sites I write about on this blog are in a very poor state of repair and in danger of disappearing altogether. Some, such as the American Hotel, are already gone: lost forever.
Money and corruption seem to be the culprits here. History just doesn’t even seem to come a close third to development and profits.
Here in High Bridge, stands an extremely significant building that is very much in need of some kind of intervention. It can be found on the grounds of the old Taylor Iron and Steel Company. This was the first purpose-built office building in New Jersey and was the administrative centre for the 13th oldest continuously operating business (of any kind) in history.
According to the website of the nearby Annandale Historical Society, “The TISCO Office building dates to around 1725, and pre-dates the incorporation of the Union Iron Works. The structure had always housed the general office of the steel companies and contained the offices of the presidents William and Allen in 1742 through George R. Hanks in 1972.”
As you can see from my pictures, the building is in a shameful state and, if left so for much longer, will probably need to be demolished.
I’m told by local historians that this is a common situation in New Jersey which is madness as this state (one of the original colonies) played an enormously important part in the history of the Nation.
The American Industrial Revolution was born in New Jersey and Taylor Steel played a very large role in that industrialization. It is to be hoped that, at some point, town and city officials will begin to take seriously the legacy left by their forebears and begin to make moves towards preserving what is left of the country’s rich past.
Words and images (except where otherwise stated) are my own.
High Bridge, New Jersey has a long and colourful history. The area was established around 1742 when two men, William Allen and Joseph Turner, leased 3000 acres from the West Jersey Society and built an iron forge on the banks of the Raritan River.
The area was a remote wilderness but the men were attracted by the fast flowing river which they harnessed to drive the machinery of the mill and the heavily forested hills which promised a ceaseless supply of wood for the furnaces. The iron-works that they built and called Union Iron Works, ran continuously until 1971 making it the oldest foundry in US History and the 13th longest continually operating company in the world.
There had been settlers already farming in the area since 1700 but, with the granting of the lease, they all became squatters in law – a situation which lead to unrest and rioting. The situation was eventually resolved only by the intervention of the British Army.
When the American Revolution broke out, Turner and Allen – both loyalists – were forced to flee and Robert Taylor became superintendent of the iron-works. Taylor – a fierce patriot – was soon charged by the American Government with the incarceration of the loyalist colonial Governor of Pennsylvania, John Penn and his attorney-general, Benjamin Chew in the house attached to Union Iron Works.
The two were held for seven months in reasonable comfort (they had their own Italian violinist for entertainment and were allowed to wander six miles from the house unescorted) and Generals Washington and Lafayette, Colonel Charles Stewart, and Aaron Burr all visited them in their captivity.
The Union Iron Works (which would soon be renamed the Taylor Iron and Steel Company was at that time (1777) busy producing cannon balls and musket barrels for Washington’s army.
Around the same time that the Allen and Turner mill came into being, an inn was built on what would later become Main Street. I don’t know what name it went by at that time but it came to be called the American Hotel and it existed in the same spot from the 1740’s until it was razed in 1979.
When Washington and his wife, Martha visited Penn and Chew at Solitude House (as the two prisoners had rather pithily named it and as it remains known to this day) he stayed at the tavern the original site of which I can actually see from my living room window.
Why such a significant piece of history was destroyed (replaced by a municipal car park no less), I don’t know but it is a sad state of affairs in my opinion.
The Taylors held on to both Solitude House and the Union Iron Works after independence had been won. They were still in possession when America’s next great trial came around.
New Jersey in the 1860s was by no means a strong supporter of the Union (industrialized New Jersey had many economic ties to the South) and had considered joining the Secessionist states before finally throwing its weight fully behind the Northern cause. Once committed to the fight, however, the men of New Jersey joined up in their tens of thousands.
Three entire New Jersey Regiments marched off to Washington fully armed and uniformed (one of the few properly outfitted Federal units at the war’s commencement). Over the course of the war, 52 N.J. Regiments would be formed.
When the 1st, 2nd, and, 4th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry were combined to make up the “First New Jersey Brigade”, it was a Taylor, Major General George W. Taylor, who lead them.
Taylor had been born at Solitude House and, after a stint at a Connecticut Military College, had joined the family business as a worker at Taylor Iron Works. But the young Taylor seems to have been possessed of a somewhat restless spirit. In 1827, he joined the Navy, serving in the Mediterranean before resigning his commission. Later, at the outset of the Mexican American War, He joined the Army and went off to fight.
By the time of the Civil War, he had been out to the Californian goldfields and was back working in the family business in High Bridge but he returned to military service to help organize the newly formed New Jersey Regiments.
In June 1862, Taylor was promoted to brigadier general of the 1st New Jersey Brigade. They fought under his command in the Seven Days Battles. On August 27, during the battle of Manassas Station, his brigade was surprised by General ‘Stonewall’ Jackson’s entire corps and routed. Taylor suffered a fatal leg wound from a cannon shot and died four days later.
His body was returned home by train and buried in the Riverside Cemetery in nearby Clinton. A large crowd gathered to pay their final respects. The poem “The General’s Death” by Joseph O’Connor commemorates the Death of George Taylor.
This town where Jersey girl and I currently live is tiny, really tiny. It is more properly a village than a town. It was officially established as a turnpike village around 1806, however, tucked away in an almost forgotten corner is the original cemetery dating back to the mid 1700’s.
I’ve visited the spot once before back in the Summer but it was so overgrown with bushes and Ivy that it was hard to read the inscriptions on a lot of the stones. I remember thinking that this was a cemetery that kept its secrets well.
As I mentioned in the last post, my son has been visiting with us from Melbourne and a few days ago he and I went back to the small cemetery to take some photographs. Upon arrival, we discovered that the place had been considerably cleared since the Summer.
It was much easier to gain access to the stones and we quickly discovered something quite amazing. This tiny place holds the remains of not one but five soldiers of the Revolutionary War.
This was a great surprise to me. Even today the village population is far less than two thousand. At the time of the Revolution, this wasn’t even a settlement, just a collection of scattered farms. And yet, somehow, we have five graves of men who fought in (and survived) the great war for independence.