UNION, NJ — The township looked a little different in 1860 than it does now.
When it was incorporated in 1808, Union comprised 16 square miles and included parts of what are now Linden, Roselle, Kenilworth and Hillside. The daily 5 p.m. gridlock on U.S. Route 22, a coffee shop on every corner and almost a dozen pizza places did not exist.
Now, thanks to the Union Township Historical Society, residents can have their own piece of Union history: an unframed copy of an original Thomas Hughes 1860 Farm Map.
“It’s a very valuable historical document to show who was there and show how many of the first families, almost 200 years after the town was settled, were still there and where they lived,” UTHS trustee Tom Beisler said in a phone interview on Nov. 21
The 48-by-36 inch map denotes roads, landmarks and sketches of some of Union’s most beautiful houses and buildings.
Beisler believes that the original large sheet map is the only existing one of its type that shows Union in 1860, before the areas that became Linden, Roselle, Kenilworth and Hillside broke away.
“Put your mind back to 1860; people didn’t have an idea of where Morris Avenue was in relation to someplace else because they just didn’t have any visual images of where they lived,” he added.
Some familiar roads and landmarks that appear on the map include Stuyvesant Avenue, Vauxhall Road, Connecticut Farms Presbyterian Church and the Caldwell Parsonage.
“Most of the commercial development in town occurred on the roads where people lived and therefore many houses have been removed a long time ago,” Beisler added.
He said there are several original copies of the map, and one hangs in the Parsonage as well as in the office of the county administrator.
The maps are being sold as a fundraiser for the UTHS, an idea conceived by the organization’s secretary, Marie Canarelli.
When she recently saw the farm map in the Parsonage, Canarelli wanted one to hang inside her house.
Another member of the historical society found her a blueprint copy of the map, which she framed to hang in her newly renovated kitchen.
“I keep a little magnifying glass by my map so my guests can look through it,” she said in a phone interview on Nov. 21. “Everyone just loves it.”
Canarelli even identified the location of her home on the map.
“It’s amazing just to see the history of the town where you live and what it was before us,” she said.
After posting a picture of her map on Facebook, Canarelli received so much feedback that she decided selling the map would make a perfect fundraiser.
So far, the UTHS has mailed copies of the map around the country to states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and even California.
“I think we’ve sold them everywhere because, if someone grew up in Union but moved away, it brings a piece of home to them,” Canarelli said.
The money raised will go toward activities the UTHS hosts and participates in, and to preserve items of clothing.
“There’s a lot of clothing that ended up in the parsonage that has been untouched or inventoried for years,” Beisler said. “So, we’re trying to preserve all of that.”
The UTHS maps are available for $15 at www.unionnjhistory.com/.