NOTE: As with all Mr. Local History retrospectives, we often update the post when we learn stories and are sent photos from our community. We will continue to grow this piece as information becomes available.Mr. Local History Project
We’re often asked by the public about typical history questions that you think would be fairly straightforward. Today we dig into the history of the West Millington and Lyons hamlets that are part of Bernards Township. The Mr. Local History Project researchers are taking on the challenge.
First off, Bernards Township’s history defines Bernards to include the five hamlets known as Basking Ridge, Liberty Corner, West Millington, Lyons, and Madisonville.
The township flag symbolizes the iconic oak trees of Basking Ridge and Liberty Corner sections.
Our First Pass of the 5 hamlets of Bernards Township
Lyons Section of Bernards Township
Our research begins with a thesis. Lyons is supposedly named after French decedents that landed in eastern Jersey and migrated to the Basking Ridge area where they became large landowners. Here’s what we’ve verified so far.
The history of the area starts with David Lyon, a local farmer and an Elder at the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church when it was founded in 1717. Outside church records, there is very little information on David, but we do have a statement from June Kennedy, the former Bernards Township Historian, that Lyons Road and Lyons Place were named after David Lyon and his descendants who lived on a large farm in the area. It was also noted that Lyons Road was changed from Clairvaux Road in the 1800s.
Lyon Not Lyons
While everyone know the roads have a plural ending, the actual surname was in fact Lyon and not Lyons, so you’re really on Lyon’s Road and Lyon’s place (funny how we discuss grammar :))
J.H. Lyon on the above 1873 map would have been John Heath Lyon, born August 21, 1819 and died February 27, 1881 (61) . Son of Nathaniel S Lyon and Elizabeth Lyon. John was husband of Hannah Lyon and Mary Lyon and Father of Emma Louise Collins; Anna Margaret Lyon and William James Lyon.
John H. Lyon is responsible for bringing the railroad system from Summit across the Passiac River to Bernardsville. Activities started in March 1869 after the US Supreme Court upheld Bernards Township Railroad bondholders to secure funding for the project. Lyon’s project completed with the first passengers voyage on January 29, 1872.
We’re still digging to identify Mrs. S. Lyon noted on the above 1873 map. We are still searching historic documents and maps trying to identify the Lyons section boundaries.
The United States Postal Service has often been the key player in naming (and renaming) local area sectioning. There is no doubt in our minds that at one time the Lyons section of Bernards Township included the Lyons Depot, Lyons Place and the Lyons Mall area. But the only Lyons zip code today is 07939. So for the record, the Lyons Train Station, Lyons Mall, and Lyons Place are all in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Township. They are not in Lyons.
West Millington Section of Bernards Township
Obviously West Millington is just west of the Village of Millington which happens to be in Morris County. But there was alway a cut through for travelers on Stonehouse Road that wanted to get to Millington and that was on what is now know as Haas (pronounced Haze) Road. It was John V Haas that tuned what was known as the Homeville Section of Bernards to what is now known as the West Millington section of Bernards Township.
What was originally known as the Pleasant Valley area in the township, the original Pleasant Valley Schoolhouse was once on the grounds of the “Old Stonehouse,” one of the oldest homes still standing in the township. Even before there was a school in Liberty Corner, there was a school what later became West Millington!
Many locals still feel there is a West Millington. But with the post office changes in 1986, along with a survey and a stroke of a pen, West Millington is now mostly just a reminder of the past. What do you think?
Madisonville Section of Bernards Township
Another small hamlet is a small section at the northern end of Bernards Township called Madisonville. The areas most historic property is a place called the “Coffee House,” a small home on the corner of Madisonville ave and North Maple. The area runs east to west from Route 202 over to the eastern boundary of Bernards Township.
Madisonville was undoubtedly named for President James Madison as the name first appeared on an adjacent deed as Madison Village in 1809. A manuscript map of a large tract of land, drawn in 1818 by S.W. Edwards, includes Madisonville in the southwest corner. The map shows all of the associated buildings at that time and uses the name Madisonville Coffee House. Hence the center of Madisonville was the Coffee House Tavern. James Madison Jr. was an American statesman, diplomat, expansionist, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817.
The Coffee House was an early 19th century crossroads tavern. The Coffee House was an early 19th century crossroads tavern. This well-kept white clapboard home is a fine example of careful and deliberate preservation efforts that have been ongoing for many years.
On September 6, 1804 Daniel Doty bought 17 acres including a store from David Simpson for $468. This was the first recorded deed to the Coffee House property.
The Coffee House has been in the Turner family since Clara Dayton, acquired the home in 1905 and is a functioning private residence today. The house is a familiar local landmark, and it is believed that Continental Army soldiers, perhaps including General George Washington, stopped in for coffee, thus the name “Coffee House.”
It is significant that the name Coffee House became synonymous with Madisonville, and has remained so. Numerous references used the name Coffee House instead of Madisonville and most older residents refer to the area as Coffee House. Coffee House corner is noted on some of the present Bernards Township maps.
The name “Madisonville Coffee House” appears on a map dating to 1818. At that time it was being operated as a tavern. The house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in several states beginning in about 1806. The larger Italianate section of the house dates to the second half of the 19th century.
This well-kept white clapboard home is a fine example of careful and deliberate preservation efforts that have been ongoing for many years. The Coffee House has been in the Turner family since Clara Dayton acquired the home in 1905. Coffee House is a private residence today. The house is a familiar local landmark, and it’s noted that Continental Army soldiers, perhaps including General George Washington, stopped in for coffee travelling between Jockey Hollow and Basking Ridge, thus the name “Coffee House.”
The name “Madisonville Coffee House” appears on a map dating to 1818. At that time it was being operated as a tavern. The house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in several states beginning in around 1806. The larger Italianate section of the house dates to the second half of the 19th century.
Growing Up (70s and 80s) if you had a 647 phone exchange (instead of 766) you were West Millington (221 and the rest of them had not yet been hatched).Bill Menichillo
Lyons (always pronounced like the animal – plural – and never pronounced like the city in France) was a VERY small area which seemed to include the train station and Lyons Mall along with the neighborhood behind Lyons Mall (Lyons Rd, Lyons Place etc) and the western portion of Cross Rd. I would also include the “name” streets in Lyons (Gerard, Marilyn, Jeffrey Ct etc – but NOT the Woods End neighborhood which was newer and was not connected to the Lyons area until much later via Gerard Ave.Bill Menichillo
We’ll keep digging on social media and through our contacts and materials.
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