EAST BRUNSWICK – On Oct. 22, the East Brunswick Historical Society hosted an honorary ceremony for Obadiah Norman, a Revolutionary War hero.
Manny Alvarez, president of the East Brunswick Historical Society, hosted and emceed the event.
Members of East Brunswick High School’s choral group sang the Star-Spangled Banner and “Taps” was performed via trumpet by an East Brunswick middle schooler.
The historical marker was presented and unveiled by Mayor Brad Cohen and Ann Alvarez, member of the East Brunswick Historical Society.
Carmella Texter, one of the society’s earliest members, paid homage to the life and legacy of Obadiah Norman, by placing flowers in front of the marker.
According to Ann Alvarez, the ceremonial tribute honored his monumental role in the early history of East Brunswick.
“Obadiah Norman is being honored today for his dedicated service during the Revolutionary War. He is also being honored for the early part that he played in helping East Brunswick grow into the fine place that it is today,” Ann Alvarez said.
On Jan. 17, 1781, Norman, an early settler of East Brunswick, volunteered to fight in the Revolutionary War at 17. Despite internal conflicts related to the lack of food and unpaid wages for American soldiers, Norman still decided to serve. He believed it was necessary due to the brewing mutiny and subsequent withdrawal of American soldiers in New Jersey.
After the news of widespread dissension reached the ears of the British in New York City, they sent a legion of troops to Staten Island to monitor the situation in New Jersey. For the British, the plan of action was to capitalize on the vulnerable state of New Jersey by attacking at the right time.
Shortly after, New Jersey lost additional men after Gen. George Washington ordered the withdrawal and transfer of soldiers from New Jersey to Virginia.
However, Norman remained in New Jersey, protecting Spotswood and the Raritan River from invasion from 1781 to 1782.
While stationed on the Raritan River, he stood watch on Bennet’s Island, which is now the Edgeboro landfill. The island served as a vantage point in observing enemy ships entering New Brunswick.
On Jan. 4, 1782, the British finally attacked, sending 300 soldiers to raid New Brunswick. Ultimately, the plan failed after the British were forced to retreat. However, two homes were looted and the whaleboat of Captain Adam Huyler, New Brunswick’s resident privateer, was burned.
Although records aren’t available to confirm or deny Norman’s role, it’s reasonable to assume he participated due to his proximity.
After the war, Obadiah applied for a war pension and was asked what his duty was while serving.
He stated it was to protect “the defenseless families and property of his fellow citizens … against the daily expectation of the arrival of the enemy.”
For Ann Alvarez, his words revealed the character and courage he possessed.
“His words say a lot about Obadiah Norman. They reveal his courage in trying times, and his strong sense of duty to his neighbors, his state and his country. They also provide us with a perspective of how the people of this area must have felt back in 1781-82, with the enemy practically at their doorstep,” Ann Alvarez said.
In 1790, Norman married his wife Margaret and settled in the area, having 10 children together. Unfortunately, due to harsh conditions back then, five of them passed away early. Like other early settlers, Norman owned a large plot of land and used it to provide for his family and himself.
“We are standing on only a piece of what used to be his land. He owned a much larger plot of land back then, that basically went from Clair Road to Harts Lane.
“In Obadiah Norman’s will of June 27, 1834, this dedicated father and grandfather expressed a desire to keep his family together forever, by directing that a plot of ground in the southeast corner of his property not be sold, but be reserved for a family burial ground,” Ann Alvarez said.
On Aug. 26, 1834, Obadiah Norman passed away.