History of Wharton Borough

Morris County, New Jersey


Geology/Topography:

At Wharton the Rockaway River takes a sharp bend to the east. The Morris Canal meets the River here.

The Irondale Mines were located along a southwest ridge that overlaps the Mine Hill-Ferromonte region. The Mine-Hill Ferromonte mines included the Orchard, Hurd, Hoff, Bullfrog, Stirling, Harvey, Hubbard, North River, Corwin, Sullivan, and Spring Mines. Other mines included the Dickerson, Mount Hope and Hibernia mines.


History:

Wharton started as a mining and forging community, and was originally called Irondale Docks and later Port Oram.

1750 – Col. Jacob Ford of Morristown erected two forges at the waterfalls of the Rockawy River at Mount Pleasant.

1753 – the oldest house in Wharton was owned by Joshua and Augustus Ball.

1795 – Charles Hoff built the Washington Forge. The resultant iron bars were transported to the rolling mills in Dover.

Many small pits were dug around the forge area. Eventually, the pits formed into one big pit which today is Washington Forge Pond (now known just as Washington Pond).

1804 – the state legislature chartered a toll road at Union Turnpike.

1831 – the Morris Canal completed. Today, the Rockaway River heads through town to Force Park, just off South Central Avenue. Canal Street (now Fern Avenue) ran parallel to the canal. (Wharton has preserved one of the longest canal stretches in the state.)

1835 – construction began on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad that would connect Morristown and Dover to the Newark and Elizabeth lines.

1845 – Robert F. Oram came to the United States from the tin mines of Cornwall, England.

1845-1846 – St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church established at the end of South Main Street in the Marysville section.

1848 – Robert F. Oram took charge of the Swedes Mine in Dover and the Mount Pleasant Mine.

1848 – completion of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad line from Dover to Newark and Elizabeth.

1849 – Oram supervised the Orchard Mine. He later purchased the Mellon Mine and Beach Glen properties.

1850 – big increase in demand for iron ore leads to expansion.

1850 – Boonton Iron Company bought the Port Oram’s premier mine, the Orchard Mine. The mine supervisors were the brothers Thomas and Robert F. Oram.

1850 – the Matthews family built the Heslin House.

1858 – Oram became a property developer in the area.

1859 – with John Hance, Oram built the Port Oram Store House.

1860 – with John Hill and William G. Lathrop of Boonton, Oram and Hance began the storekeeping business.

1860 – establishment of the Farr clothing and millinery store at Main Street and Canal Street (now Fern Avennue).

1860 – Port Oram built a freight depot and added a railway extension west to Hackettstown.

1860 – John Hill, owner of the John Hill and Company store located on the site of a previous storehouse.

1861 – John Hill retires and the store taken over by Robert F. Oram, John Hance, and William Lathrop.

1861-1865 – Civil War.

1864-1868 – Port Oram grew from 4 families to 64 families with a total population of 400.

1865 – Charles Hance purchased the Heslin House, which became the Hance House Saloon.

1867 – first schoolhouse built.

1867 – the first post office started insider the Oram, Hance and Company store.

1867-1885 – President Lincoln personally appointed John Hance postmaster.

1867 – the New Jersey Iron Mining Company incorporated by John Hance, Conrad and Adolph Poppenhusen, John C. Jardine, George Viator, Elias M. White, James H. Neighbour, and Alexander Elliot.

1868 – the Port Oram Mining Company incorporated by Robert F. Oram, John Cooper Lord, William G. Lathrop, C.D. Schubarth, W. H. Talcott, Henry Day, Theodore F. Randolph and James H. Neighbour.

1868 – the Port Oram Iron Company built the Port Oram Blast Furnace (later known as the Wharton Furnace).

1868 – St. John’s United Methodist Episcopal Church built on the corner of Mount Pleasant Avenue and Church Street.

1870s – Johns Downs and his wife established the Downs Store on 336 South Main Street.

1871 – Erastus E. Potter became the teacher. He later became school principal.

1872 – the Hurd Mine owned by the Thomas Iron Company.

1872 – mining commenced at the Hoff Mine owned by Harriet "Hannah" Hoff

1873 – St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church rebuilt.

1873 – the Panic of ‘73 meant a decline in mine production.

1876 – the mine and furnaces closed down temporarily.

1876 – Main and Washington Streets railroad station built, and later moved to 12 East Dewey Avenue. (It is being renovated by the Wharton Historical Society.)

1877-1878 – John Hance and Robert F. Orman decided to built a huge, modernized furnace.

1878 – death of Harriet Hoff. The mine was leased to the Chester Mining Company.

1881 – Oram retired as director of mining.

1881 – Joseph Wharton of the future Bethlehem Steel company bought the Port Oram Furnace intending to make the place the center of his new iron industry.

c. 1882 – the Farr store sold to Ben Flartey, who became a confectioner.

1883 – the Hurd Mine closed for a few years.

1884 – formation of a silk mill weaving industry.

1886 – the Bullfrog Mine (located at the end of East Dewey Avenue) closed..

1887 – the Heslin House/Hance House Saloon became the Port Oram Hotel.

1888 – Robert Oram Jr. Married Lidie Neighbour.

1889 – the Gotham Mill expanded moved from the Pine Grove section to the Washington Forge site. (The building still stands, last known as the Ross Street Mill.)

Late 1880s – the Wharton House (a.k.a. Widow Loughlin’s Saloon and the Union Hotel) built.

1891 – Ross & Baker Silk Mfg. Co. and its employees organized the Luxemburg Library Association which in turn was the start of the Wharton library.

1892 – the company of Oram, Hance, and Company dissolved. It was changed to the R. F. Oram and Company with Robert Oram Jr. as chief manager.

1892 – Robert F. Oram Jr. Had a Queen Anne home built at 117 South Main Street overlooking Oram Hill Park (now Military Park).

1895 (June 28) – voters from the settlements of Port Oram, Irondale, Luxemburg, Maryville and Mount Pleasant gathered at the Hance Hotel and voted to incorporate as a town under the name of Port Oram, the largest member of the group.

1895 – Police Marshall William Hance appointed the first police officer.

1895 – the Castner and Company general store built, the first full-service department store serving the Luxemburg area. It is said to have been the last general store in the county.

1897 – Robert Oram Jr. Appointed postmaster of Port Oram.

1899 – Wharton Borough incorporated the library, thereby making it public.

c. 1900 photo – shows the Downs Home on Baker Avenue.

1900s – John P. Heslin purchased the Port Oram Hotel. Later his daughter Kathleen ran the business.

Early 1900s – Wright’s Corner Store established on the corner of North Main Street and East Dewey Avenue in the Luxemburg section.

1902 – named changed to Wharton to honor Joseph Wharton. Main Street in Wharton is a mile long. Starting at St. Mary’s Church at Route 46 it heads to the old Morris Canal basin near Dewey Avenue.

c. 1903 – a 10-room brick school built.

1904 – Wharton Fire Department established.

1904 – the Hurd Mine reopened.

1904 – the Hungarian Presbyterian Church established.

1905 – the library moved to the second-floor room of Borough Hall on West Central Avenue.

1905 – popular writer William J. Fielding (30 Little Blue Books) moved from Wharton to Newark. (His autobiolographi is All the Lives I Have Lived.)

1906 – death of principal Erastus Potter; the name of the recently built10-room brick schoolhouse changed to the Potter School.

1908 – Irish immigrant and entrepreneur John A. Birmingham bought the first car in Wharton.

1908 – as a Christmas gift, Joseph Wharton donated the land atop Robert Street, between Clarence and Sterling Streets, for Wharton Park.

1909 – death of Joseph Wharton (1826-1909).

1909-1912 – Robert Oram Jr., town mayor.

1910 – closing of the Orchard Mine.

c. 1910 – West Central Avenue and the Irondale section was the hub of the Hungarian district. They took over an office building for the Wharton Furnace and turned it into a social club for Hungarians. Today it is the Canal House eatery.

1910 – a future teenager hang-out, Prandatos, at 12 South Main Street, established.

1911 – after being purchased by Joseph Wharton, the Port Oram Furnace Company was enlarged and operated until this date.

1911 – Robert F. Oram Jr. donated a cobblestone shelter structure and fountain in memory of his father, Robert F. Oram Sr., and located in Wharton Park.

1911 – the Hurd Mine closed for good. The Hoff Mine also closed.

1911 – the Kalem Moving Picture Company shots scenes in Wharton for The Engineer’s Daughter and Peril of the Plains.

1912 photo – shows a trolley car on Main Street.

1914 – the Pathe Moving Picture Company filmed a recreation of a train wreck in Wharton.

1914-1917 – World War I. William J. Hockling was the first from Wharton to die in the war.

1916 – J. Leonard Repolagle bought the Port Oram Furnace Company. Later the Warren Foundry and Pipe Company took over.

1917 – the Gotham Mill/Ross Street Mill taken over by M. M. Searing and named the Wharton Textile Company. Silk became the principal industry after the closing of the mines.

1922 – Wharton High School built.

1923 – the Dover Bus Company, the second bus subsidiary of the Morris County Traction Company, began service between Wharton and Dover.

1924 – Andrew Rodkewitz started his Rocky’s Grocery Store at 9 South Main Street next to the Wharton High School. Today it is Wharton’s oldest establishment still standing and in operation.

1925 – closure of the old Port Oram Furnace Company furnaces.

1926 photo – shows Susie’s Kitchen Band, led by Nell Hayford and made up of parishioners from St. John’s Methodist Church. They performed for some 20 years.

1928 – establishment of the William J. Hockling American Legion post in the town hall building on Poppenhusen and Roberts Streets.

1928 – a new St. John’s United Methodist Episcopal Church built.

1930s photo – shows the Fern Restaurant (later the popular Singleton’s Cafι) at the corner of Fern Avenue and North Main Street.

1931 – erection of a monument in Wharton Veteran’s Memorial Park (or Military Park) to those from the area who died and those who served in World War I.

1932 – the furnaces of the once Port Oram Furnace Company dismantled.

1932 – passenger rail service to Wharton and surrounding areas (except Dover) discontinued.

1936 advertisement – for the Sugar Bowl, a local teen and bobbysoxer hang out. Located in the center of town on Main Street.

1936-1938 – James Tregenza owned and edited the Wharton Chronicle.

1937 – Anna and Andrew Mordak pumped gas at their filling station on Main Street for some 48 years.

1938 – artist Louis Valdemar Fischer of the Works Progress Administration Art Project painted an historic mural of activity at the Morris Canal at Port Oram.

1940s – obstetrician, Dr. Raymond J. Grant, bought the old Robert F. Oram Jr. Home.

1941 – closing of the Wharton Textile Company.

1941 – Route 15 became a double-lane highway.

1941-1945 – World War II.

1943 – L. E. Carpenters and Company established to produce strong fabrics for the military.

1946 – monument to those who served in WWII erected in Military Park.

1946 – the Interpace Corporation built the Lock Joint Pipe Company.

1948-1950 – Wharton son, Hungarian-American actor Kirk Allyn (a.k.a. Jon Fego Jr.) was the first man to play the Superman role.

1949 – the Farr/Flartey store purchased by William Danielson who held it for 25 years.

Late 1940s through the 1950s – the new Sugar Bowl moved to Mill Street.

1950s and 1960s – Helen’s Diner (originally Wright’s Corner Store) was a popular spot for both mill workers and teens. It later became Dora’s Diner.

1950 – son Lewis Prandato took over operation of Prandatos after the father’s retirement.

1952 – Martin Trengrovewas Wharton’s fire chief. (He also was the founder and president of the Wharton Historical Society.)

1953 – Wharton high school students now had to go to the Morris Hills Regional High School in Rockaway.

1954 – the Wharton High School rechristened the Curtis School, a middle school.

1954 – son Lewis Prandato too over Prandatos. The teenagers loved the Mello Roll (i.e., an ice-crone topped with orange sherbert).

1956 – the Castner and Company store closed.

1958 – new National Union Bank built at 20 North Main Street.

1960s – close of the Potter School.

1962 – the Lock Joint Pipe Company merged with Gladden, McBean and Company and became the International Pipe and Ceramics Corporation (later known as Interpace).

1966 – the Thatcher Glass Manufacturing Company built on the grounds of the original Wharton Furnace. (It is now the Wharton Interstate Commerce Center.)

Early 1970s – the old Potter School demolished. (Now the location of the Wharton Public Library.)

1970s – Dora’s Diner became Shep’s Corner Deli.

1974 – students transferred to the old Curtis middle school to the MacKinnon Middle School.

1976 – the president of the Wharton School Board presented the mayor with the deed to the Potter School property, which became the site of the Wharton Public Library. The Wharton Historical Society is located at the library.

1976 – Conrail took over all remaining passenger service.

1977 – the old Wharton High School building sold and now house several businesses.

1980 – Interpace closed down.

Early 1980s – Joan Batson purchased the Port Oram building. Now it is the La Fonda Mexican restaurant.

1981 – a monument to the Korean and Vietnam War veterans dedicated in Military Park.

1984 – lost were the Heslin House and Hartley’s Store in a gas leak explosion.

1984 – popular singer Cyndi Lauper filmed her music video "Time After Time" in front of Mordak’s filling station and inside the Sweedy house. The gold record for music now hangs in the Wharton Public Library.

1985 – the pumps and tanks of old Mordak’s filling station removed.

1988 – the old Interpace property sold to RTC Pro.

1990s – Shep’s Corner Deli torn down.

2001 (September 11) – candlelight vigil held in Military Park for those who were lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

2002 – population was 6,298.

2002 – New Millennium Pictures released its horror picture I’ll Bury You Tomorrow, which was filmed in Wharton.

Wharton has many residential and business structures from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The borough is successfully transforming its old glass factories and industrial sites into warehouses and light industry.


Sources:

Charlotte Kelly and Alan Rowe Kelly. 2004. Images of America: Wharton. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press.