Beneath 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 Life – a 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.
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.