Untold stories of the Hopewell Valley region’s historical roots will be brought to light this weekend during the first Hopewell Valley Heritage Weekend.
The Hopewell Museum, Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, Hopewell Valley Historical Society, Stoutsburg Cemetery Association, Pennington African Cemetery Association, Hopewell Valley Veterans Association and Hopewell Public Library have partnered to organize the event, which is set to take place over Memorial Day weekend.
Hopewell and Pennington residents will have opportunities to become immersed in the history that surrounds them through various and sometimes interactive events.
“We thought it would be a great way to partner with like-minded organizations in the community,” said Catherine Hogan, chair of the Hopewell Valley Heritage Committee. “Instead of just having it be a museum operation, we said, ‘You know, let’s get everybody together.’ There are so many events that occur across Hopewell Valley that celebrate its rich history.”
While the idea for the weekend came about in late February, Hogan said the planning and organizing took place in March.
“I think the reason why we were able to do it with such a short timeline is because many of these events have occurred across the valley for decades now,” Hogan said. “This was just a way to say [that] we’ll capitalize on each other’s hard work and make it seem that much better by giving it a name.”
The festivities will kick off May 25 at the Hopewell Train Station, where community members can learn about the weekend’s events.
One of the main attractions will be a Civil War encampment re-enactment on May 26, featuring soldiers of the 6th Infantry Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. Those in attendance can learn how to load a musket and fire three rounds during a drill led by the soldiers.
Some of the other featured presentations and performers are directly related to the Hopewell-Pennington area and its natives, according to the committee.
Civil War historian and former director of the National Archives Kellee Green Blake will deliver a lecture entitled “No Slave Beneath That Starry Flag: Civil War Heroes of the Pennington African Cemetery,” which will detail the lives of Hopewell Valley citizens who were a part of the United States Colored Troops.
Saturday’s events will also feature Grammy nominated folk singer and songwriter Alastair Moock, who has ties to the area through his father, who was a Hopewell Valley resident.
Aaron Truehart, a Civil War veteran who served in the United States Colored Troops, is buried at the Stoutsburg Cemetery in Hopewell. On May 27, actor Arthur Gregory Pugh will perform a dramatic portrayal of Truehart’s life and battles.
“[Truehart] was a Hopewell Valley resident [and] came from the Truehart family, who were descendants of slaves. Their original ancestor was bought here from Charleston, South Carolina,” Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum board member Beverly Mills said, adding that she is also is a descendant of that line.
Committee members agreed that while some residents may already be aware of the valley’s long history, there is still much more to be discovered.
“You can never be aware enough,” Executive Director of the New Jersey State Archives and Hopewell Borough resident Joseph Klett said. “You may be aware of one aspect of the history, but learn things you never knew before by what we’re offering.”
The weekend’s events, Hogan said, aim to not only educate long-time residents of the Hopewell-Pennington area, but also the younger generation.
“If they are sitting through something that’s not terribly appealing, or reading some long book, I don’t know that it comes alive for [younger people],” she said. “With this approach, it’s exciting for them.”
Through the Hopewell Valley Heritage Weekend, the committee hopes residents walk away with a sense of pride in their community and the known, and unknown, history it holds.
“That’s the thing about history,” Klett said. “People think there aren’t things to discover, but there are always new angles, always new facts, always new people to learn about.”
For a full list of events, visit https://thehopewellmuseum.org/hvhw/