Beneath These Waters, a history of Round Valley Reservoir by Hunterdon County Historian Stephanie Stevens

Beneath These Waters - Round Valley ReservoirBeneath These Waters, a history of Round Valley Reservoir by Hunterdon County Historian Stephanie Stevens, has sold more than 2,000 copies and is in its seventh edition. The book , in its 7th printing is available at the Readington Library, the Hunterdon Co. Planning Board on Rt. 12, the Califon book store, or by mail. Checks made out to Hunterdon County for $10 will have the book mailed to the addressee.

Round Valley wasn’t always a reservoir. In 70 pages of indexed text with 84 photographs, maps and illustrations, Ms. Stevens tells the Valley’s whole story – from its geological formation and Lenape habitat to summer refuge for early Revolutionary Patriots, rich fields farmed by some of Hunterdon’s oldest families, and the reservoir that took the land for drinking water and recreation.

A circa 6300 B.C. Lecroy spear point found in the Valley in 1982 by local residents is proof that the Lenape Indians lived there for thousands of years. Ms. Stevens relates that in 1708 some 100,000 acres, including the Valley, were purchased from the Lenape by British land speculators of the West New Jersey Society. Wealthy aristocrats who purchased land in the Valley for estates included James Alexander (namesake of Alexandria Township) and his son William, Lord Stirling; Robert R. Livingston (an author of the Declaration of Independence); Peter Van Burgh Livingston; John Stevens (the Father of Railroading in the U.S. and founder of Stevens Institute of Technology); and Walter Rutherfurd.

The book is dedicated to the “many families [who] loved this Valley, farmed with plans for a bright future, and then had their world crash down on them when their land was taken away.” Ms. Stevens quotes Goska, Haver, Kolodinski, Muckelmann, Sauerland and Scheer family members’ stories of life in the Valley. The actual “taking” of 4,150 acres of land began in 1956 and was almost complete by the end of 1957. Sixteen houses were moved out of the Valley and the rest, along with barns and supporting buildings were demolished leaving the Valley floor, as Ms. Stevens puts it, “a desolate wasteland”. Photographs of many of those houses, taken at the time by State assessors are included in the book.

Ms. Stevens credits Linda Young Kennedy for suggesting the need for the book because “there are at least two generations of Hunterdon homeowners who never knew that Round Valley was anything but a beautiful lake.”

As for the actual construction of the reservoir, Ms. Stevens relates quite a story of an underworld grab-for-control, yet the water pipeline to serve Newark (and other eastern New Jersey cities – the stated reason for the project) – was never built. That led the author to wonder: “…if not for the reservoir, would the Valley be one huge housing development? Or because of its Indian and Revolutionary history, would it be a preserved area…? We’ll never know,” she says and adds, “The heartbreaking sacrifice of a few has provided recreation, and life-giving water, for many.”

Stephanie Stevens has served as Hunterdon’s Historian since 1987. Beneath These Waters is the most popular of her five books. Her other titles are Forgotten Mills of Readington, Readington’s Reflections, For A Better Lifea History of the Polish Settlement in Readington Township, and Outcast – The Story of Slavery in Readington Township. She also has written numerous pamphlets on historic subjects like stone arch bridges and Hunterdon’s historic districts and takes no remuneration for her work.

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I would like to thank the Hunterdon County Cultural & Heritage Commission for providing me with this information and also for providing me with a copy of the Beneath These Waters.

CONTEST: One lucky Round Valley Fishing reader will win this book!

ELIGIBILITY: Only NJ / PA / NY residents are eligible… sorry Tennessee

RULES: In the comments section below please share with your fellow readers a short story about Round Valley as it relates to its history.  You can write about how your anchor pulled up a fishing reel from the 1970’s or you found a spear point hiking the camping area or that you saw the reservoir being built, whatever! You can comment as many times as you want, though it will only be counted once towards the contest.

DATES: 10/18/2010 TO 11/18/2010 11:59pm

WINNER: One winner will be randomly selected from all the comments. The winner will be contacted via their email address and the book will be mailed to them.  You will be give 3 days to respond to the original email and then I will chose another winner at random.  The winner’s username will be published here.

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10 thoughts on “Beneath These Waters, a history of Round Valley Reservoir by Hunterdon County Historian Stephanie Stevens”

  1. early 80’s canoeing over to campsite but first having to buy life jackets for the 2 boats and 8 people. Set up tent then proceeded to rain for 30 hours after 2 hours it just didn’t matter. What a blast . We snuck a ton of beer on a separate raft we hid along shoreline. And then we had to sneak empties out and the clanging noise it was making we were all in tears laughing . fun fun fun

  2. Been camping here for years with friends. Great place to escape; some strange folk can be found along the hiking trails, but all with a heart-warming appreciation for the wilderness.

    Shape shifting deer are scares.. but are not afraid to come and say hello!

    Have fun!

  3. I recently began fishing and Round Valley has become my first choice. I first visited this place before it was filled. I hunted ground hogs while the National Guard drove around in Tanks. I deer hunted the hills around this area, also. When it became full of water, I used a canoe to reach the campgrounds. I did not fish in the early days but, now I go two or three times a week. I now use a 16′ boat to take my family out on this wonderful lake. The water is very clear and there are plenty of big fish. My two little Grandsons will be learning how to fish here. I will explain how this
    valley was the home to early native people and later how it was used by our patriots. Thanks for documenting the history of Round Valley.

  4. When I was a young girl, my dad used to take our old green station wagon with our german short haired pointer, his rifle and me in tow, to open land of the Round Valley Resevoir before it was filled with water. I would sit patiently on the tailgate of the station wagon with my coloring books, while my dad and our dog, Specky, would go practice flushing out pheasant from the brush around the open land of the resevoir. I remember my dad telling me that this whole are will be filled with water soon and become the Round Valley Reservoir. I tried to picture the whole area filled with water and was concerned about the birds and wildlife who lived there.

  5. My husband and I used to take my kids swimming here in the early 80’s. It was such a beautiful place. It still is, but it gets really crowded now. Maybe i’m just getting older.

    I never found any historical artifacts but i would love to read this book. Sounds very interesting.

  6. Caught my first lake trout here in 1969. Haven’t fished here as much as I’d like to have in recent years, concentrating mostly on fly-fishing close by at Lockwood Gorge. By the way, did anyone else see the post of that huge eel that guy pulled out of Round Valley – possibly a record – but he cooked and ate it before he could get it measured or weighed.
    Also took photos there recently and water was real low, but anglers coming in said they did well.

  7. I couple of years back I got snagged in something fishing in really deep water near the South Tower. Reeled and reeled and finally brought up one of the biggest nastiest balls of fishing line i’ve ever seen. There was a fishing lure that looked like a big mepps attached to one of the lines. That’s all i remember. I wish i took a picture.

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