Rutgers Rarities X-Factors
by Ray Brennan

There have been many significant historical factors that have influenced the way that the ideals of New Brunswick, Piscatway, and Rutgers University have been shaped into their modern form. Natural occurrences in the surrounding territory, momentous events, influential and inspirational people, and historic locations have all had a hand in molding this landscape into what it is today. Rutgers Rarities expresses their opinion on the nature of these so-called X-Factors and explains their significance. The top ten factors that have made an impact on Rutgers and the surrounding areas can be found mentioned throughout the Rutgers Rarities website, as they are integrated into the very fabric of what makes this place unique. In essence, The Truth is what links the past to the present and what will link the present to the future, so without further ado, we bring you...

Rutgers Rarities Top Ten X-Factors

[1] Lenni Lenape Indians - the original residents of Piscataway and New Brunswick, they were a peaceful Indian tribe who laid out the original paths through the undeveloped land. I use the term "undeveloped", which sounds like a negative term, but in this case, the Lenni Lenape were at one with the land. They used the natural resources available to them and had respect for their surroundings, unlike the way they are are taken advantage of today.

[2] Raritan River - the Raritan River is the life source of the area. It was at the epi-center of the Lenni Lenape way of life, the trade route that made New Brunswick a hub during its early days, and the first line of Rutgers' alma mater. The river has always been vital to the area - a living, breathing tribute to the very spirit of Rutgers.

[3] Pioneers of Rutgers - The ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church had first come up with the concept of creating an educational center in the colonies where they could teach the ways of the church. Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen tried to find support for the cause in 1755, traveling to the colonies to scope out the Northeast, and going back to the Netherlands to seek financial aid. After failing to obtain substantial monetary support, he sailed back toward New York, but mysteriously vanished at sea. Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh took over for Frelinghuysen, and chose New Jersey as the ideal site to establish a college. Rejected by the government back home just as Frelinghuysen was, Hardenbergh was relentless, coming up with the money on his own in Europe and establishing Queen's College. Hardenbergh became the first president of Rutgers. These were the influential figures who made Rutgers possible. Of lesser influence, but signficant none-the-less was Colonel Henry Rutgers, who provided the necessary financial support to re-open Rutgers after its second closing. Rutgers would never close its doors again.

[4] War - New Jersey is often described as the "Crossroads of the American Revolution" because of its strategic location between the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and the British command center in New York City. For this reason, many battles took place in the area. At one point in the war, the Continental Army fled to New Brunswick while British General Charles Cornwallis gave close pursuit. By the time the Continental Army had crossed into Pennsylvania, New Jersey had fallen to the British army. General George Washington began to successfully regain New Jersey territory in December 1776, pushing British troops back into New Brunswick.

The War of 1812, which lasted until 1815, was fought on American soil between the Americans and the British. The war caused Rutgers to close for a second time.

The American Civil War was fought between 1861 and 1865, and New Jersey once again played a major role because of its position between New York City and Philadelphia. New Jersey was the third state to be admitted to the Union, but it was also a state divided, as it was also economically tied to the South and the last Northern state to abolish slavery. Its electoral votes for the election of 1860 barely gave the 4-3 edge to Abraham Lincoln. The impact on Rutgers was also great, as the college enrollment had dropped to 64. Of the 25 students and 58 alumni who fought in the war, 16 were killed.

[5] Manhattan Project - During World War II, when it became clear that Nazi Germany was investigating the development of nuclear weapons, the United States joined in the race create similar weapons of its own. The "Manhattan Project", as it was called, set off a devestating chain of events that eventually ended the war, but started a new deadly game. The result of the project was the dropping of three nuclear bombs in 1945 - "Trinity", a test bomb, in New Mexico, "Little Man", a uranium bomb, over Hiroshima in Japan, and "Fat Boy", a plutonium bomb, over Nagasaki in Japan. The Rutgers area was instrumental in the Manhattan Project, with three sites that were involved with building the bomb - the Middlesex Sampling Plant, the Middlesex Municipal Landfill, and the New Brunswick Laboratory.

The Middlesex Sampling Plant was involved with the processing of African pitchblende ores to produce high-radium-content residues. Over 154 tons of the radioactive material passed were processed and stored at the facility. The Middlesex Municipal Landfill was used to store the 31,200 cubic yards of radioactive material gathered from the Sampling Plant and the surrounding areas in Piscataway in two large piles. The disturbing part is that the initial cleanup was performed in 1948, and the piles of radioactive material were not attended to again until 1984 - 36 years! The $90 million cleanup project was not scheduled to be completed until 2002, but may have taken as long as 2004-05. The New Brunswick Laboratory was established by the Atomic Energy Commission as a standards lab for assaying nuclear materials in the reactor and weapons program. In 1960, 500 cubic meters of soil contaminated with Belgian Congo pitchblende was transported to the site, mixed with clean soil, and used to fill in a cut for an unused railroad spur at the back of the site. During the site's 29 years of operation, contaminated liquid wastes were discharged directly into the sewer system as permitted by the guidelines in effect during that period. Rutgers Rarities cannot help but wonder if many of the unexplained phenomena in the area are somehow tied to the storage of radioactive materials in open piles and dumping of hazardous waste into the sewer systems for dozens of years. Maybe the Manhattan Project has more to do with the strange animals, strange people, and strange phenomena than people realize.

[6] Johnson and Johnson - Sir Joseph Lister, a notable English surgeon, identified airborne germs as a source of infection in the operating room. While many in the medical field laughed at the thought of this theory, Robert Wood Johnson used these ideas to develop a sterile surgical dressing that reduced the risk of contamination. Joining forces with his brothers James Wood Johnson and Edward Mead Johnson, he set up a company that began operation in New Brunswick in 1886. The rest was history, as the development of products from baby powder to Band-Aids made Johnson and Johnson the largest and most profitable pharmaceutical company in the nation. It was the center of industry in New Brunswick and remains the international corporate headquarters. The success of the company brought a lot of trade, business, and other interest to the city of New Brunswick. It was just what the area needed to gain notariety and expand its recognition worldwide.

[7] Rutgers Notable Families - The success of the Johnson and Johnson company, which started in New Brunswick in 1886, brought wealth to the family, who were well established in the Rutgers community. Their riches spawned the growth of private economic gain for those who married into the family, most already coming from favorable backgrounds. Two of the most wealthy families of the time had ties to the Johnson brothers - the Nielsen and Carpender families. They owned much of the land which is now Douglass College. The Carpender family was tied to Frances Stevens, the wife of Reverend Edward Hall of the famous Hall-Mills Murder Case. In fact, Frances Stevens' cousin Henry Carpender was charged and acquitted of the murder. James Wood Johnson's daughter Louise married Sydney Bleecker Carpender, and their residence was the current University Inn and Conference Center. While these were only a few of the wealthy families, many of them seem to be tied to each other in some way. This network was important because many of their properties were eventually given to or acquired by Rutgers, and make up a good portion of the modern University as it stands today.

[8] Hall-Mills Unsolved Murder - The Hall-Mills unsolved murder case is discussed in both the Items of Interest page and the Investigations page. During the 1920's, it was known as the "Crime of the Century" for its many twists and turns, and the mystery that remains. Reverend Edward Wheeler Hall and Eleanor Mills were discovered brutally murdered on Lover's Lane, and there were many suspects including their two spouses, the mentally unstable brother of Hall's wife, the sharpshooter brother of Hall's wife, the cousin of Hall's wife, and the infamous pig lady who was dubbed the town liar. Due to poor handling of the case and lack of evidence, all those accused were acquitted, and the case remains unsolved to this day. Many of the significant locations, like Reverend Hall's House, still stand, and many of the artifacts still remain, like the trial judge's robe, which is on display at the Metlar-Bodine House. The Metlar-Bodine House is also believed to be haunted, in particular where the robe is displayed. Since the murders were unsolved and apparently don't sit well with some of the involved parties, there are a lot of reports of paranormal activity having to do with the case.

[9] Historic Visitors - George Washington was one of the most famous visitors to the Rutgers area, and not only in times of war. Our first president stayed at the Ross Hall house in Piscatway to celebrate Independence day at Raritan Landing on the banks of the Raritan River on July 4th, 1778. After the patriotic Americans helped him celebrate, he held a formal banquet at Ross Hall. Washington was also a frequent visitor to the Indian Queen Tavern in New Brunswick, along with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. John Adams was an associate of Henry Guest, who lived in New Brunswick and was friends with Thomas Paine, who stayed with him at his residence. New Brunswick and Piscataway were frequent stops for famous travelers because of their locations, halfway between Philadelphia and New York City and on the Raritan River. The decisions of these historic figures to make these areas a part of their lives adds to the lore of Rutgers.

[10] Historic Rutgers Students - there is a section dedicated to some of the many notable Rutgers students through the years in the Items of Interest page. They include Paul Robeson, Selman Waksman, Joyce Kilmer, Alexi Lalas, Jim Florio, Jim Valvano, David Stern, James Gandolfini, Mr. Magoo, Robert Pinsky, Calista Flockhart, and Ozzie Nelson. An educational institute is only as good as the students it holds, and that is why the top ten list is rounded out by the successful students who passed through the univeristy.

Information Obtained From:
Wikipedia, Rutgers Through the Years, War for Independence, New Jersey and the Civil War, Johnson and Johnson History, Garden State EnviroNet, Nuke Worker Site Specific Info, F.A.C.T.S., Courier News Article on Indian Queen Tavern

©Rutgers Rarities and Unexplained Phenomena, 2005