Posted Monday, November 25th, 2019

Morris Historical Society Trustee Donates Natural Tract to Historic Park in Denville

Following a family tradition of preserving Morris County history and culture, longtime Morris County Historical Society trustee Robert H. Donaldson has donated 4 acres of land on Hillcrest Drive, adjacent to Jonathan’s Woods to the township of Denville.

Morris Historical Society Trustee Donates Four Acres to Adjoin Jonathan's Woods

Jonathan’s Woods photo courtesy of Dave Blinder

The donated property is known as the Donaldson Wildlife Preserve and is the highest point in the park. It encompasses a grotto and natural slab of stone called “The Last Supper.” The donation is in honor of his grandparents, George and Etta Donaldson, early developers of Cedar Lake Park in Denville, Donaldson said.

The Donaldson family was also active in fundraising efforts to recover the historic woodlot behind Acorn Hall, decimated by Superstorm Sandy.

Jonathan’s Woods covers about 635 acres across Denville, Boonton and Rockaway Township and is administered by the Morris County Park Commission. The nonprofit POWWW, Protect Our Wetlands, Water, and Woods, maintains the land. It connects to Rockaway Township’s Wildcat Ridge, 3,000 acres of vast open space for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, wildlife viewing and bird watching.

Jonathan’s Woods is named for a man called “Indian Jonathan,” who is first mentioned in Munsell’s 1882 History of Morris County. According to the account, he sometimes wintered at the creamery of the James Miller house, which stands at the intersection of Valley and Rockaway Valley Roads, according to Jean Ricker, the late local historian.

Morris Historical Society Trustee Donates Four Acres to Adjoin Jonathan's Woods

Jonathan’s Woods photo courtesy of Dave Blinder

The section of Jonathan’s Woods familiar to most area residents is of historic significance and  known as the Hogpen. This is a natural U-shaped enclosure of rocks that was used as a seasonal animal shelter long before the American Revolution.

According to the Morris County Parks Website, during the Revolutionary War, from mid-November through January 1780, food was scarce for George Washington’s Continental Army residing in the area. While most settlers in nearby farms generously contributed New Jersey’s required quota for troop food and supplies, they needed to feed their own families as well.  To avoid the marauding troops, local farmers resorted to removing their livestock from farmyard view, and hid them out of sight in the Hogpen, keeping the animals safe from the pilfering and plundering soldiers.

MCHS is located at Acorn Hall, 68 Morris Ave., Morristown, and is open Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sundays, 1 -4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for students, and is free for children under 12 and MCHS members. For more information, call MCHS at 973-267-3465 or visit MorrisCountyHistory.org.

Founded in 1945, MCHS is a member-supported 501 (c)3 organization whose mission is to preserve and promote the history of Morris County.