now and then helen kull

now and then

The Township Historic Society started the year off for this column in January with a request for folks to consider recording their memories of life in Ewing in 2020, in their “Voices of Ewing” project.

2021 03 EO Pat Whitehead Stoner 1985

Pat Whitehead Stoner

As one who has to find material from which to prepare this column each month, I strongly encourage people to consider contributing to this project, for many reasons.

But one particularly dear to my heart is that someone writing a similar column to this 50 or more years from now may greatly appreciate first-hand records of life here in Ewing at the start of the 21st Century, and in particular, how they fared during that horrible Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020/2021.

I love coming across material written by others describing people, places or aspects of life from long ago. I have shared some of them over the years in this column. Many of you have told me that you also enjoy them, including portions of an account of dairy farming in Ewing from a memoir from the Vernam family, shared memories of Wilburtha by a township resident who grew up there, and thoughts on D-Day by a resident visiting Normandy years later.

I was thus very pleased recently to come across a Ewing memoir given to me years ago, and to realize its value in encouraging others to share their Ewing memories.

So, for a few months, I will share the memoirs of the late Patricia Whitehead Stoner, who passed in 2015 at the grand age of 95, having been a resident of Ewing most of her life. Many of you may remember Pat and her husband of many years, Bill Stoner.

In 1940, as a student at Trenton State College, the then Miss Whitehead wrote, “Ewing Township In the Early Days,” which relates her conversations with members of her extended family at that time.

Those included a number of prominent citizens born in the mid-1800s, with surnames of Lanning, Coleman and Cadwallader. In 15 or so typewritten pages, it describes places and traditions and people of a time long-gone, yet in a place we still know and love, Ewing Township.

Her professor at the time at TSC, Dr. Helen Shaw (who herself was much respected, and is the namesake of an annual campus award to this day recognizing “a high degree of personal professional achievement”) gave Miss Whitehead an A, adding, “you ought to get this published! Try the Atlantic Monthly.”

In fact, the paper WAS published in 1957, according to an addendum, but not to my knowledge in the Atlantic Monthly.

The Trenton Times-Advertiser ran the piece for three consecutive weeks in their Sunday history column, “Trenton in the Bygone Days.”

So it has been published in the past, and in 1957, the then Mrs. Stoner was very pleased to have her recollections shared in this way.

And I too am pleased to share some of her recollections to a new audience over the next several months. Miss Whitehead writes in 1940:

And so Ewing was settled two hundred years ago, a farming community, by the Howells and the Reeds, the Lannings and the Reeders, the Deanes and the Burroughs, the Davis’s, the Scudders and the Hutchinsons—all names that are still alive in Ewing today.

“Why, at one time it ranked second [for its agricultural value] in the whole United States,” declared my Uncle Alf, aged 82. [Uncle Alf is Alfred Mershon Lanning, Miss Whitehead’s Great Uncle, and brother of her Grandmother, Cornelia Jane Lanning, born in 1860. Alfred Lanning served, among other things, as the Ewing Township Clerk for nearly three decades.] “Those were the days of Princessville, on the old Princeton Pike, halfway between Lawrenceville and Princeton.”

I will tell you of the Ewingville my [great] uncle and grandmother and their friends knew, and I’ll discuss the industries and events of an earlier Ewing. I’ll tell you of the Ewingville whose center was the Henry Howell Hotel, and the racing park across the road. We know [the hotel] today as “Willie’s Store.”

We will continue with much more of this delightful memoir next month.

Helen Kull is an adviser to the Ewing Township Historic Preservation Society.