In 1739/40 New Jersey, governed by the governor of NY since 1702, received a separate charter as an autonomous colony. Its new Governor, Lewis Morris, then appointed Elizabeth’s first mayor.
Joseph Bonnell (1739 –1748) “first mayor of the Borough” Hatfield p372 (identified as a Justice (Hatfield p 385) (not buried in lst Pres Cem!) Died in office.- March 14, 1748
John Ross (1748- 1751) – Thayer p86 (welcomes Belcher to Elizabeth; shoemaker by trade)/ Burial Data – lst Pres Cem. #411 [c 1698] – died Aug 21, 1754 aged 56 (hence b 1698)
Samuel Woodruff [JRTurner says 1748-62](1756 – (Thayer p80, 89) Mayor in 1758 Hatfield p 385 (1749 hosted Rev David Brainerd in his home on East Jersey – Hatfield, p396) (TREASURER OF First Presbyterian in 1758 p 400 Hatfield) (1779 a subscriber to the new parsonage – opposite Race St on Rahway across from Cherry St). (not buried in lst Pres Cem)
John DeHart (1762-1772) [acc to JRTurner, Along the Upper Road]
Buried in St John’s Episcopal Churchyard (p308) and described as “counselor at law and mayor of this Borough; who departed this life June 1 1795, aged LXVI years [ hence born 1729].” “His worth in private life was truly great nor will his public virtues be forgotten, his name being recorded on that list of Chosen Patriots who composed the memorable congress of 1775.”
Stephen Crane (1772-74) (1709-1781)
Thayer p 100/ Hatfield p 553 a Justice and Speaker of the Assembly and dead by the end of the War 
WWW p195 Continental congressman. B Elizabethtown NJ July 1709. Sheriff, Essex County; chosen by Elizabethtown Assoc to present petition before King in England, 1743; member town com 1750, chairman 1776; Judge Ct of Common Pleas during Stamp Act controversy Member NJ General Assembly 1766-73; speaker 1771; mayor Elizabethtown 1772-74; chairman county com of New Brunswick 1774; member Continental Congress from NJ 1774-86; member NJ Council 1776, 77 79, Died age 71 – Elizabeth July 1 1780. Buried 1st Presb Cem. (1st Pres graveyard list, p 72)
William Peartree Smith (1774-76) (1723-1801)
[acc to JR Turner, Along the Upper Road] W. P. Smith was born in NY in 1723, baptized at the Reformed church of NY Feb 2 1724, and later went to Yale. He was among the first trustees of the school that became Princeton University. He married Mary Bryant (1720-1811) and had three children: Belcher Peartree Smith (Princeton grad, class of 1773), William Pitt who joined Columbia College faculty, and Katherine (1750-1797) who married Elisha Boudinot in October 1778 at a festive wedding in the Belcher mansion. Guests that day included George Washington, A Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette. Wm Peartree Smith’s portrait is owned by Princeton Art Museum and was painted by John Wolloston.
The British later raided the Belcher Mansion hoping to catch GW etc but failed, taking out their ire on the residence’s furnishings and portraits. The event so alarmed WP Smith’s wife that he removed her to Newark where they built a large mansion. Smith was a law partner of Wm Livingston, a long-time friend and NJ’s first governor. Smith was a member of the local committee of correspondence and also pursued a literary career. He died 1801.Samuel Crane (1788-89) [acc to JRTurner, Along the Upper Road]
(not buried in 1st Pres or St John’s graveyards)
John DeHart (1790) Thayer p173 [1789-1795]
WWW p 211 Continental Congressman. Mayor Elizabethtown; b Elizabethtown 1728; studied law and admitted to bar, began practice of law; became sergeant-at-law 1770; a signer of Articles of Assembly 1774; mem Continental Congress from 1774-75; Feb- June 1776; member of committee which prepared draft NJ constitution 1776; first chief justice NJ Supreme Ct 1776-77l mayor Elizabethtown 1789-95. Died Elizabethtown NJ June 1 1795; buried St John’s Churchyard. He married Sarah Dagworthy and had eleven children. Ancestors from Holland. His granddaughter, Maria DeHart Mayo, married Gen Winfield Scott, and the couple moved into the De Hart home (built c 1745) at Madison and East Jersey, where on different occasions John DeHart had received General George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, General Cadwallader and Gen. Winfield Scott. The home was razed in 1928 to make way for a Sunoco gas station!
Elias Dayton (1795-1805) Thayer p 153, 197/ Hatfield p 651
(1737- 1807) WWW p 209
Army Officer, Continental Congressman. Born Elizabethtown, NJ May 1 1737; son of Jonathan Dayton and married Miss Hannah Rolfe (1739-1817), 8 children including Jonathan Dayton (1760-1824); his daughter Hannah (1758-1802) married Genl Mathias Ogden (1755-1791)in 1776.As a lieutenant, Elias commanded NJ Militia 1756, Capt 1760; appointed to enforce measures recommended by Continental Congress, 1774; muster master Essex Co NJ 1775; commanded col. 3rd Battalion, NJ Militia 1776; commanded as brigadier general Continental Army on recommendation of George Washington 1783; major general, NJ Militia; member continental Congress from NJ 1787-88; recorder Elizabeth NJ 1789; member NJ Assembly 1791-92, 94-96; pres NJ Soc of Cincinnati. Died Elizabeth Oct 22, 1807 and buried in 1st Presbyterian’s churchyard in the Dayton Family Vault. He was said in person and bearing to resemble Genl George Washington.
Caleb Halsted, Jr (1811) Thayer p 209 [served 1805 -1822]
(April 24 1770-July 25 1830)
officer of 1st Pres Church/ Burial Data 1st Pres #1992 (p283)–Served again 1825-30. On tombstone: “A devoted wife thus testifies her affectionate remembrance – “Lean not on the earth, twill pierce thee to the heart.”
Jeremiah Ballard (1822-23) (1748-1823)
died in office age 75, September 4, 1823 [in Churchyard inventory 1825, p150]. On his tombstone he was mayor of the Borough, a pillar of the [1st Pres] Church, Captain in the Revolutionary Army and for 30 years magistrate of the court. He was married to Mary [nee Arnett], daughter of James and Jemima Arnett, relatives of Caleb Crane [not in 1st Pres tho there are 3 Caleb Cranes there]. Mary was Ballard’s wife. She died Dec 3 1822, aged 79 years, hence born 1743, five years his senior. Jeremiah and Mary Ballard had at least one daughter Phoebe, whose descendant, Elizabeth Hendrickson of Yorktown Va. brought this to my attention (Nov 11 2010).
Caleb Halsted (1825-30) See “1805”
Issac Halsted Williamson (1830-33) Thayer, p. 245 Hatfield bio p 664.
(1768-1844) WWW (H) p 657.
Issac was born Sept 27, 1768 to Gen Mathias Williamson and Susannah Halsted, the last of their five sons (William, Mathias, Jacob, Benjamin and Isaac H) . Issac studied law with elder brother Matthias, admitted to bar as attorney in 1791 and counselor 1796; he opened an office in Elizabeth and kept it there till his death. In 1816 a member of the NJ Assembly and in Feb 1817 Governor and Chancellor of the State where he served till 1829; for four-years 1830-33 he was Mayor of the City. Issac was chosen the presiding officer at the constitutional convention in Trenton in 1844. He was a member of St John’s church and buried in the family vault. He married Anna Crosdale Jouet, Aug 6 1808, daughter of Cavalier Jouet (noted Tory) and had two sons, the Hon Benjamin (Ex-Chancellor) and Issac Halsted, Esq. He died July 10, 1844 but his wife does not seem to be buried with him, probably because after Issac’s death, she remarried. General (and Senator) Jonathan Dayton (1760-1824) was Issac’s brother-in-law.
Stephen P. Brittan 1833-38
[not buried in either 1st Pres or St John’s churchyards] He built his house on the northeastern corner of Catharine and East Jersey and the enduing buildings and residences took the name “Brittanville” acc to the 1837 map.
Smith Scudder 1838-39
(Nov 6, 1775-Sept 26, 1846)
He was buried in St John’s churchyard, whose list says he was born Nov 6 1775 and died Sept 26, 1846, aged 70 years, 10 months and two days.
[William Chetwood (?) Thayer p 252 [Bollwege list WC but not bio material] (1839-42)
WWW p 172 Congressman, lawyer; b Elizabeth NJ June 17 1771; graduate of Princeton 1792; studied law. Admitted to NJ bar 1796 and began law practice, Elizabeth; served as prosecutor of pleas Essex Co; member St Council NJ; major militia, served as aide-de-camp to Major Gen Henry Lee in Whiskey Rebellion of 1794; member US House of Reps (Jacksonian democrat, filled vacancy) from NJ 24th congress, Dec 5 1836-37. Died Elizabeth NJ Dec 17 1857; buried Evergreen Cemetery. [Hatfield p664]
Chetwood served as Elizabeth mayor 1839-42.] In the 1850 Federal Census Chetwood is 78, a Jersey native, a lawyer, worth $10,000. His wife, Mary (nee Barber) is 69 (1781-1873) also a Jersey native, like his daughters Henrietta 28, and Catherine 25. His older sister Elizabeth Chetwood had married Col (and Governor) Aaron Ogden (1756-1839) on Oct 27, 1787 in Elizabeth.
In his law office in the 1820s, William Chetwood mentored his nephew J. J. Chetwood, who welcomed Abraham Lincoln to Elizabeth during Lincoln’s inaugural tour to Washington. J. J. Chetwood was a Republican delegate to the Chicago convention that nominated Lincoln for president. At the time J. J. Chetwood was a wealthy lawyer (1860 federal census put his realty worth at $50K and his personal worth at $30K) and had been county prosecutor since 1857, the year Union County evolved out of Essex County (where he had served as Surrogate for 14 years).
David Naar – 1842 – 1845. (1801-1880)
He was a Sephardic Jew, born November 10, 1801 in St Thomas, Virgin Islands. He listed himself in 1850 Federal Census in Elizabeth as a Merchant. In 1850 he had a large family: Sarah his wife 47; daughter Ester 26; Moses 25; Benjamin 21 and Joseph 19 – all born in West Indies. Afterward, Zipporah 11, Abraham 7 and Joseph 6 were born in New Jersey. His daughter Grace 3 was born in West Indies as was 42 year old Grace Uzevedo. In his household also is a 26 year old Irish born clerk, William Dunn and an 22 year old Irish female Mary (unclear).
In the 1860 census there are other Naars, mostly from the West Indies but not David Naar. The reason being that he moved to Trenton in 1853 when he bought the Trenton True American newspaper, a Democratic leaning voice that supported a few progressive reforms like public education but which was also unapologetically racist. He criticized Lincoln at every turn, denounced the Emancipation Proclamation and excoriated the use of black soldiers in the Civil. War. He retired from the paper in 1874, died February 24, 1880 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Cf. Joseph G. Bilby, “David Naar,” in New Jersey Goes to War (np: New Jersey Civil War Heritage Association, 2010), p.89.
Elias Winans 1845-46 (1789-October 1, 1853)
In the 1850 Federal Census Winans appears as a potter, born in NJ and worth $16,000. He is 61, hence born about 1789. His wife, Abby is 63 and a native of NJ. In this household there are two additional females, both Jersey natives: Janet Crane 23 and Elvia Hedden 14. Winans is buried in the 1st Pres Churchyard, whose list (p249) reports he died Oct 1, 1853, aged 64 and for 23 years was elder of the church. His wife Abby is also buried there, having died Nov 5 1853, aged 66.
Francis Barber Chetwood 1846-47
Francis was the son of former mayor ,William Chetwood, and MaryBarber
In the 1850 Federal Census Francis Barber Chetwood is 44, a lawyer worth $10,000 and a Jersey native. His wife, Elizabeth P (nee Phelps), a Connecticut native is 46, their son William is a law student, 17, born in New Jersey like his brother Robert, 13, sister Mary 10, and brother Francis 6. Two Irish servants are also in the household: Jane Horn 30 and Bridget Burns 44.
In the 1860 Federal census Francis B. Chetwood is 54 and his estate has mushroomed to $94,600 in realty and $35,360 in personalty. His wife Elizabeth P. reports her age as 56. Their son Robert is a law student age 22, Mary B is 20; Francis B is 18. In this household there is a separate family headed by William Chetwood, 27 whose realty is worth $2550 and his wife Jane 24 and 4 Irish servants: Ann Quinlan 50, Jane Horn 31 (magically), Bridget Burns 50, and Phillip Lynch 32. Also in this household is Ella B. Edes, a 30 year old Massachusetts native, worth $18,000 personalty. Francis died in 1875.
In the 1870 Federal Census Chetwood resides in the 4th Ward. In his household resides John Woodruff , 76. Francis is a lawyer like his son Robert 31. Francis’s wife, Elizabeth, 68 keeps house along with her children Kate 30 and daughter Mary 26. Also in the house are several Irish-born servants: Bridget Brady 26 and Bridget and Rose Sulavin (sic) 24 and 17 respectively. Francis reports his birthplace, like his children, to be NJ while his wife is from Connecticut. He is not buried in 1st Pres or with other Chetwoods in St John’s Episcopal churchyard but rather in Evergreen Cemetery, now in Union NJ.
Edward L Anderson 1847-1851
(not buried in 1st Pres or St John’s churchyards)
Francis Barber Chetwood 1851-53 [see 1846 for profile]
Elias Darby 1853-55
In the 1850 Federal Census Darby is 52 year old Silversmith, worth $2500 Realty and a Jersey native. His 50 year old wife Phebe was born in NJ and their son Ezechiel is 22 (no listed occupation). In the 1860 census Elias and Pheby (sic) both 61 show no children in their household. He is still a silversmith.
(not buried in either 1st Pres or St John’s churchyards)
Since Incorporation 1855 -2010
Elias Darby May 1, 1855-May 1 1860
In the 1850 Federal Census Darby is 52 year old Silversmith, worth $2500 Realty and a Jersey native. His 50 year old wife Phebe was born in NJ and their son Ezechiel is 22. (no listed occupation). In the 1860 census Elias and Pheby (sic) both 61 show no children in their household. He is still a silversmith. He served as mayor before the 1855 incorporation, since 1853.
In the 1860 census Darby is 61, residing in Ward 2 and puts his worth at $1900 realty and $3000 personalty.
James Jenkins May 1, 1860- May 1, 1861 (1819-)
In the 1860 Federal Census he is 41 (hence b 1819) born in NJ and residing in Ward 3. He is Supt of Zinc Works. His wife Annie is 32 and was born in Scotland. He has two sons Henry 14 and George 11 and a daughter Mary 3. His realty is worth $3000 and his personalty is $500. The household has also Louisa Jenkins age 22 and a female servant Catherine Cramer, a 21 year old native of Germany.
Likely a Democrat, since he was not the official greeter when A Lincoln came through Elizabeth on his first inaugural tour. A Republican, named J. J. Chetwood, had that honor.
Not in either the 1st pres or St John’s churchyards.
James R. Burnet May 1, 1861 – May 1, 1862
(not in either 1st Pres or St John’s churchyards)
Phillip H Grier May 1 1862 – Jan 1 1871
(not in either 1st Pres or St John’s churchyards)
Francis B Chetwood Jan 1 1871 – January 1 1873
[See 1846 entry. Chetwood was mayor three times]
William A Coursen Jan 1 1873 – Jan 1 1875
(not in either 1st Pres or St John’s churchyards)
Robert W Townley Jan 1 1875 – Jan 1 1878
In the 1860 Federal census Robert W Townley is 46, a merchant and
residing in Union NJ. His wife Eliza is 40 and their daughter Abby is 20, all
born in NJ. He is not buried in either the 1st Pres or St John’s churchyards.
In the 1880 Federal Census Robert W. Townley 66 is vice-president of a bank and resides in the 6th Ward (? 478 North Broad St) He was born in NJ like his parents and his wife, Eliz N., is 60 also a NJ native like her parents. One servant Ellen Moran 26 was born in Ireland like her parents.
James S. Green Jan 1 1878- Jan 1 1879
Physician. In the New York Daily Graphic newspaper (March 26, 1878) Green is identified as a graduate of Princeton and at one time President of Elizabeth’s City Council. He won on the Democratic ticket and by a wide margin in 1877. His brother is Judge Robert Green of the well-known metropolitan firm Green, Vanderpoel and Cuming.
In the 1870 census Green is 40 (b 1829), born in NJ and residing in the 5th Ward. His wife, Fanny is 40 (born in Maryland) and daughter Fanny 14 is in school. His son James S is 7 and at home. Their domestics are Mary 18 and Sarah 16 MacDonald. His realty is worth $100-500 and personalty $10,000. He is not buried in either 1at Pres or St John’s churchyards.
All his children and domestics were born in NJ In the 1880 census Green claims to be 49 (b 1831) and claims his father was a Jerseyman but his mother hailed from Philadelphia. He now resides in the 6th Ward at 289 No Broad. His wife Fanny is 49, daughter Fanny 23 and son James 16. He has two Irish servants Mary A Kernan 22 and Lizzie McNally 20 along with Ofear Torrence, a black female from Virginia.
Robert W Townley Jan 1 1879 – Jan 1 1880
(1814) [See 1875 for profile]
Peter Bonnett Jan 1 1880- Jan 1 1882
In the 1880 census Peter Bonnett is 39 (hence born about 1841 in NY). His occupation in this year is “Mayor.” He is single and resides in the 8th Ward. He resides at 413 South Broad Street with Margaret Bonnett, age 77, likely his mother, who is the head of household. Peter is the 39 year old son, born in NJ like his siblings Jane 43 and Daniel B 36 along with his wife (unclear) Ennue, age 34. He died in 1905, some thinking a suicide and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
Seth B Ryder Jan 1 1882- Jan 1 1883 (cf JRTurner, Elizabeth p34)
In the 1880 census Ryder is 49 (b 1831 in Vermont of New York parents). His occupation is Sheriff and he resides in the 6th Ward (655 Salem Avenue). His wife, Maria is 50 born in NY of NY parents. Son Chauncey A is 24; Diana, his mother, is 72. Cornelia Hurd is a 47 year old servant born in NY of NY parents and Charles Reich, a 55 year old German
Joseph H Grier Jan 1 1883- 1890 (Turner/Koles, p 100)
In the 1880 Federal census Grier is 43 (b 1837) in Pennsylvania of Pennsylvania parents. He is a Physician residing in the 4th Ward (29 Rahway Avenue). His wife Lizzie is 31 born in Connecticut like her parents. Their two daughters, both NJ born are Maud 10 and Violet 4. Their three servants are all Jersey born: Mary Ryan 21, Fanny Rubig 15, and John McCauley 21.
John C. Rankin, Jr Jan 1, 1890- July 1,1898 (Turner/ Koles, p 19, 103)
Born July 1847 in Haidostand, India of a father from South Carolina and a NJ mother, John Rankin appeared in the 1880 federal census in the “Stationary” business. He was 32 and married to Anna A (nee Dickerson), 30 old New Jersey native. In the household was a trio of daughters, all New Jersey born: Edna 6, Nellie 4 and Mabelle 2. The family resided then at 147 Catherine St. Also in the household was Ann Dickerson (age 69), John’s mother in law and a servant Bessie Stearns, 35.
In the 1900 census John C Rankin Jr is 52, in the printing business, and resided at 667 Newark Avenue. His wife Annie A (born Dec 1848) was 51; his daughter Edna D is 21 (b. Sept 1878) and has no occupation; his daughter Anna A 18 (b. Oct 1881) is at school, as is his third daughter Ethel R 16 (b. Nov 1883). Rankin did not appear in the 1870 or 1910 federal census.
Dr. William A. M. Mack July 1, 1898-Jan. 14, 1901 (died in office)
Mack was a Physician trained at Bellevue Hospital Medical College (Cl of 1878). He was born in Glen Gardner, NJ in 1856 and died in his second term as Elizabeth Mayor, January 13, 1901 of a heart attack. Before medical school he was a telegraph operator. After medical college, he set up his Elizabeth practice in 1886. His son, a Princeton student at home (36 Third Street) in 1901, discovered the body. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, and his statue, dedicated in 1902, can be found in Liberty Square, the Frog Hollow section of the city.
He was born October 5, 1857 and was married in 1880 to Ida W.Hough, daughter of the late Dr. T. L. Hough. He is survived by his wife and two sons, Edward LeRoy and Donald, 3 ½ years of age. His parents and two sisters also survive him.
Mack was a Republican and his first political office was city councilman (from December 2, 1890 the First Ward and service until July 1 1893. He was a member of the board of health for 10 years (since 1879) He was elected mayor April 12 1898 by large majorities. He was especially supportive of public education. He was a founder and director of Eliz Banking Company, a staff member of Elizabeth General Hospital, ex president of Union County Medical Society, and many fraternal orgs. His duties will be assumed – acc to charter – by President Ryan, until a special election can be held (within three months) Mack’s term not expiring until July 1 1902. His body will lie in state at St John’s Episcopal Church.
In the 1880 federal census Wm Mack is a doctor, born in NJ of Irish parents, age 22. He resides with his father in law, Thomas Hough, also a doctor, age 53 a native of Pennsylvania like his parents. Hough’s wife is Amelia, 40, also a Penn native. Their daughter, Oda, is Mack’s wife and is 20, a native of NJ. Her sister Ella Hough, 16 was born in New York. A servant is also in the household Johanna Powers,18 born in NJ of Irish parents.
In the 1900 census Mack has his own household – 36 Third Street – the old Hough homestead [later purchased by St Adalbert’s for a convent] – here he is 42 (b Oct 1959) and is “Doctor and Mayor.” His wife Ida is 40 (b Oct 1858). They have two sons, Roy 19 (born May,1881), a college student and Donald 2 (born Nov., 1897). In this household as a boarder is the family of Rufus B. Whitehead, a doctor, 28 (born Sept., 1871), his wife Anna 29 a NY native and Amelia Hough, 58 widow, born in Pennsylvania.
As Mayor Mack presided over the dedication of the Civil War parrot guns in the Civil War section of Evergreen Cemetery. The Memorial Day event – May 30, 1900 – followed a parade up Broad Street in Elizabeth NJ, not far from Mayor Mack’s own final resting place.
Patrick Ryan (ref Aquailina p 109 but not dates) Jan 14, 1901- Jan. 1,1905
The Elizabeth Daily Journal (Dec. 26, 1917) reports Ryan death on Christmas Day. At his home, 678 Garden Street . At the time he was serving for the last four years as Elizabeth Postmaster at the appt of Pres Wilson. He was born March 6, 1845.
In January, 1901 he became acting as mayor upon the death of Wm Mack and served until elected to a full term and lasted till 1904 with the Republic sweep under Teddy Roosevelt, defeated by Mr. Samuel Berry. Then in 1906 he defeated Berry and served till 1908. He headed the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co in Elizabeth and a personal friend of its company’s president, Amzi Dodd.
He was born in Limerick, Ireland March 6, 1845. He came to America with his parents at age 7 and located first in NYC. The family moved to Elizabeth in 1860. He lived there ever since, first entering city dynamics as clerk of the market. For many years he was treasurer of Elizabeth General Hospital, treasurer of Consumers Ice and Cold Storage Company and was associated with his brother, Wm H Ryan, in real estate business on Broad St, originally known as Egan and Ryan. He was for years president of the Board of Managers of the State Hospital for the Insane in Morris Plains. He was a communicant of St Mary’s church of which he was a trustee. He belonged to many social and fraternal org incl Elks, the Liederkranz, and Knights Of Columbus.
He married Mary E O’Marr in Elizabeth in 1874 and is survived by two daughters Mary and Margaret; five sons, Joseph – now on his way home from South America – John, Edward, Frank and James, the latter with the Naval Reserves. Besides his brother, the realtor, his sister Sister Immaculata, of Sisters of Charity is in charge of St Rafael’s Hospital, New Haven, Ct.
In the 1880 Federal Census there is a Patrick J. Ryan, 33 year old Real Estate agent, residing at 126 Race Street. His wife Mary E is 30, a New York native but with an Irish mother. Patrick himself was born in Ireland like his parents. Their son Patrick 2 ½ lives with them as does their daughter Mary, not yet one, both born in NJ. His brother William 26 lives with them, a New Yorker with Irish parents. Is this the Patrick Ryan who became mayor two decades later?
Samuel J. Berry Jan. 1,1905-07
Elected in 1904, after serving on the town council, especially on finance committee. He argued the need to refund the city’s bond debt at lower levels of interest. (EDJ Nov 7, 1904) He is a Republican and beat his opponent Ryan by 239 votes. (5752 over Ryan’s 5493.)
Berry died at his home – 26 Stiles St – on Feb 23 1922. He was 82, having moved to Eliz when he was 30, a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church. He was engaged in wholesale grocery business in NYC, retired in 1900 and purchased a farm in Morristown while keeping his Stiles residence. He was a member of the 7th Regiment in the Civil War. He served on Eliz City council since 1894. As chair of finance committee he arranged the funding of School No 1. He arranged the paving of Cherry Street to city line and Morris avenue. In 1906 his old opponent Democratic Patrick Ryan ran again and defeated him. He is survived by his wife Charlotte and 5 children.
[two in the 1900 Fed census, which was mayor? The 59 year old Wholesale grocer or the 32 year old dry goods merchant]
Patrick J. Ryan Jan. 1, 1907-09 [see 1901-08 term for profile]
Victor Mravlag Jan. 1, 1909-11; Jan 1, 1913-23
Elizabeth Daily Journal reports his death May 16 1934 (1062 E Jersey Ave), where he was an invalid for 8 years, age 85. He came to Elizabeth from Graz, Austria. Born July 18, 1848, son of Phillip and Phillipiine (Von Schulenberg). He was eldest of 12 and the only one to come to US. He received his education at the Gymnasia at Marburg and Cilli and then he entered the University of Vienna, graduating from its medical school in 1872. The following year he came to America after serving as intern in General Hospital of Vienna. He arrived in U.S., Nov 2, 1873 and came to Elizabeth, residing here continuously since. He was naturalized in 1878. He began his large practice immediately and quickly became a member of Penn RR medical staff, where he served for 22 years. In 1879 he was commissioned asst surgeon of old Third Regiment of NJ National Guard with rank of captain and several years later he became regimental surgeon with rank of major. He was connected to National Guard for 22 years serving thru Sp-Am War. He was elected to city council Jan., 1882 and became council men from 4th War 1888, then to 9th Ward when city redistricted to 12 wards. (1890?) During the 1890s he was a member of the city’s Board of health. In 1908 he was elected mayor for first time, declining renomination in 1910 but became mayor again in 1912 He was for many years surgeon-in-chief at Alexian Brothers Hospital and consulting physician at three others. He performed more operations than another other contemporary surgeon in the city. He was a member of many orgs including the Liederkranz singing Society. In December, 1913 at his fortieth anniversary celebration as a physician. Dr Abraham Jacobi of NYC spoke. His second wife was active in behalf of women’s suffrage. And Mravlag appointed the first women to city office, Miss Harriett Townsend a member of the Board of Education, and before the passage of the 19th Amendment. Subsequently he appointed others. He had no time for sports but loved grand opera. He was first married at the American Embassy in Vienna to Lucy Allen Griffith, a native of Newark, who died in 1883. She was mother of two children. Victor Philip M who became a lawyer and died in 1917 and Lucille who married Lionel Post, now deceased, His second marriage to Cordelia Stimers took place in New York. She was born in Staten Island, daughter of Alban Stimers, chief engineer of who served during Civil War on the Monitor during its engagement with the Merrimac. Paul V. Mravlag of Montclair, in the brokerage business is the only child of this marriage.
In 1900 federal census Mravlag is a 51-year old physician in private practice. He was born (July 1848) in “Hungary,” part of Austria Germany like his parents. He has been married 15 years (c1885) to Cordelia. A., a 30 year old native (born Oct 1867) of New York like her parents. They reside at 1062 East Jersey Avenue with their son Victor P age 25 (Nov 1876), a law student, his daughter Lucille V 21 born March 1879, an art student () as well as his son Paul, age 1, born July 1898, In the household also is Julia Stimer, his mother in law, 65, born 1835 in New York like her parents. Thee is also a “houseworker,” Julia Moriarity, 17 born in Ireland like her parents.
In the 1910 census Mravlag is 61 born is Austria German, Cordelia is 39, Paul is 11, Marguerite L(ucille) De Orst, 30, a NJ born actress in theatre work; There are two servants, Mildred Schneider, a 21 year old Jersey native with Austrian-German parents and also Mary Nerelai, a 22 year old immigrant from Hungary-Bohemia.
In the 1920 census Victor is 71, still a practicing physician, Cordelia is 49, Paul is 21 a clerk in an office; Lucille is 40 a stenographer in an office. Their servant is Sarah Baker 27, born in Poland, immigrated in 1909
Their beautiful Italianate home at 1062 East Jersey was torn down in December, 2007.
Alfred A. Stein Jan. 1, 1911-1913
In the 1900 Federal Census Alfred Stein is a lawyer, born (May 1871) [elsewhere his DOB was thought to be April 9, 1875] – age 29 – in Germany like his parents. He boards with C. Keimig, a 61 year old German born saloon keeper who immigrated to the US in 1855 at 1139 Elizabeth Avenue. A second boarder in this household is a German born lathe operator. He died October 30, 1961.
John F Kenah Jan. 1, 1923-32
Kenah served Elizabeth as mayor ten years (1922-1932) defeated in a contest with Republican Thomas Williams. In July 30 1951 edition of Eliz Daily Journal, Kenah has a frontpage photo from 1923 turning on the first traffic light in the city at Rayway and Elmora Avenues. The article recalled his ten year service as mayor and before that his five year service as tax assessor of 4th Ward, and city clerk for 17years. He has tired of political infighting which makes politics no fun anymore. He is content to enjoy his home at 140 Morristown Road and his directorship of National State Bank. He lost out to Republicans in 1932 ie Thomas Williams, before returning to Democrats under Joseph A. Brophy. During his tenure he witnessed the construction of the Goethals Bridge and he spoke at its dedication, with Gov. Alfred E Smith. He is now a widower and lives with his sister, Miss Katherine Kenah. He is a brother of Wm Kenah, the retired fire commissioner. He died June 26, 1954 at Alexian Brothers Hospital, age 85. He lost the election to Williams who had the backing of Republicans and some reform-nminded Democrats including the Board of Works Commissioner Michael J Cummings and Joseph O‘Brien played strategic roles.
Kenah was born in Philadelphia and educated in public schools there and in Wilmington Del. As a youth, he became a blacksmith and “swung a lusty hammer in shipyard work.” He came to Elizabeth about age 19 and toiled there as a blacksmith from 1888 to 1905 at NJ Dry Dock and Transportation Co. His physique and affability drew the attention of local politicians. They positioned him to run against the seemingly undefeatable Dr. Victor Mravlag, originally a Republican but independent as mayor. Kenah as mayor made it for the first time “a fulltime job.” He won on slogans like “a seat for every child” which involved educational expansion. During his tenure the city made its then largest expenditure -$5million on the city’s own water distribution system(1931), a project that began in 1923. He also arranged a contract with Newark to draw that city’s surplus from Wanaque Reserovir, thought to be a bargain. He lived in the 4th Ward where he started as a blacksmith, until his move in 1931 to Elmora. His only recreation was his two-mile hike to his office. He was a communicant of St Genevieve’s. He was son of late William and Julia Coughlin Kenah and husband of Anna McGowan. Surviving is his brother the Fire Commissioner (77 Grove) and two sisters Miss Katherine Kenah and Mary O’Brien of 1137 Seib Avenue.
In the 1910 Federal Census John F. Kenah – residing at 134 Marshall St – lives with his wife, Anna L who is 34 born in NJ of English/Irish parents [Image 27] John puts birthplace as Pennsylvania of Irish parents and says he is a clerk with the city.
In 1920 John Kenah, 49 and his wife Anna resides still at 134 Marshall. He was born in Pa and she in NJ both of Irish parents. His occupation is “City Clerk” with the city.
In the 1920 Federal Census William Kenah (probably the Mayor’s brother) is 40 [b 1879] born in Pennsylvania of Irish immigrant parents. His occupation in a Fireman for the city fire Dept. He resides in a home
which he owns at 1082 Anna Street, with his wife Rose who was born in NY of German immigrant parents (Frankfort). The couple has a daughter Ruth, 3 ½, born in NJ and a son, also Jersey born, William Jr who is 1 2/12/
In the 1930 census John Kenah and his wife Anna, now 60 and 55 respectively, still reside at 134 Marshall. He puts his occupation as “Clerk” with “Municipal government.”
In the 1930 Federal Census this Kenah family has moved to 77 Grove Street [10th Ward] which they owned and which is valued at $13,000. Kenah, 50, is now Deputy Fire Chief.
Cf JRTurner Elizabeth The First Capital of NJ , p. 119
Thomas Williams Jan. 1, 1933-34
In Elizabeth Daily Journal, Willaims death is reported Dec 20, 1943. (having died the previous day) He had also served as supervisor of Union County Identification Bureau in sheriff’s office and long an active Republican. He died at Harkness Pavilion, NYC where he had been a patient since Friay, only ill a few weeks.
Born in Trenton 65 years ago, he lived in Freehold before coming to Eliz in 1912. He conducted real estate and insurance business there and was a party official and councilman from the 11th Ward for four years, then mayor from 1933 to 1934. Elizabeth gave him a large plurality, especially suprising since the city went for FDR in the presidential campaign.
He was secretary to Senator Herbert J Pascoe when the latter was a minority leader of the 1937 Assembly. He served Republic County Committee as treasurer and vice-chairman and in 1936 was a Republican Freeholder candidate and in 1938 county clerk. He took an active role in building the Masonic Temple here and was a board of governor member of the Masonic club. He also was a member of the Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of St James Methodist church and served on its board.
Despite a hostile council he implemented a number of reforms like the police radio patrol, an emphasis on athletics which led to the creation of Williams Field, the city’s first public school playing field, and the policy of municipal cooperation with industry. He reduced street cleaning costs by $44K via mechanization and he put city on a pay-as-you-go system financially. He arbitrated a number of labor strikes gaining higher wage levels and helped create the municipal water system after 20 years of effort.
In the 1920 Federal census Thomas William is 43 and a Broker in Real Estate. He was born in N.J. of English parents and his wife Emma V is NJ native like her parents. Their children are: Leola 19 a clerk with an Insurance co; Irma 17 who is employed but the designation is unclear; George 15 with no occupation; Melvin 13; Carl 11 Edward John a cousin and an electrician is 19 and works for Western Electric.
In the 1930 Federal Census Thomas Williams resides at 813 Cross Avenue and his estate is worth $11,000. He is 53 . (b.1877) and was born in NJ of English parents and is a realtor who owns his own business. His wife. Emma V, is 48 and living with them are daughter Leola 29, a clerk in an insurance firm; Melvin 23 a sales agent in an insurance firm; Carl A, a typewriter in an insurance firm; daughter Irma B, a nurse with the Mission Board, all children are NJ born.
Joseph A. Brophy Jan. 1,1935-38 (Turner/Koles, p. 22)
The Elizabeth Daily Journal (Feb. 23, 1949) headlines JOSEPH A BROPHY DIES AT HOME, 57, LONG ILL; POLITICAL CIVIC LEADER Gov Alfred Driscoll expressed grief over a civic leader and friend with the death of Public Utility Commissioner Joseph A Brophy. He had served the Journal as director and lamented by editor Robert C Crane. Brophy was 57. He was born August 20, 1891.
He had undergone an operation last October 13, 1948 at Harkness Pavillion, NYC, then recovering at his home he suffered a setback and was rehospitalized in January. His wife, the former Mae Leahy, whom he married Feb. 12, 1920, survives him. She is the daughter of Henry A. Leahy of 530 Jefferson Avenue. Brophy leaves three daughters, Mrs. Bennett Tousley II of Summit, the former Miss Marilyn Brophy; Mrs Douglas W Payne of Asbury Park, the former Miss Helen Brophy; and Miss Jane Brohy, at home. Solemn High mass at St Catherine’s will follow. His sisters Helen and Mary and Mrs. John Mitchell, wife of the former city comptroller, all of 934 Harding Road.
The lengthy article discussed his appointments by both Democrats and Republicans and was often discussed as gubernatorial and senatorial timber. It stressed his patience, kindness and generosity. He left the mayor’s post January, 1939, with many groups and both political parties urging him to a third term.
Brophy served on many boards including the Daily Journal directorate, American Type Founders, Inc., Central Home Trust Company, the Jersey Mortgage Company, the Chamber of commerce of Eastern Union county, the Chamber of Commerce Hotel Company (which operatd the Winfield Scott Hotel), which he also served as president. He was president of the family Brophy Coal Company and a trustee of the Pingry School, from which he had graduated. During the Depression his coal company reputedly gave away more coal than it sold.
He was a communicant of Immaculate Conception RC Church, a member of its Holy Name Society and a member of Elizabeth Council KOC. He had also served on the Board of Water Commissioners, the commission on Interstate Cooperation, and the State Racing commission. He was involved in many charitable organizations and at his death was president of the Elizabethtown Chapter of the American Red Cross. For 26 years he had been involved with the Elks Crippled Children’s Committee. He worked also with organizations attempting to reduce infantile paralysis and was active in Union county Cancer Society. He was in great demand as a public speaker.
The editorial in The Elizabeth Daily Journal (Jan. 5, 1953) celebrating the victory of Nicholas LaCorte as city mayor, says Brophy made municipal recreation primary and had a vision of how it affected the whole city. The editor continues by urging LaCorte to carry on this work. He notes that Brophy won by a voting count that stands as a local record. Brophy Field on Trumbull St is named after him.
Brophy was succeeded by James T Kirk in 1938. According to a career officer on the police force, “Brophy was one of the most ethical mayors we ever had.” [Interview with Pat Maloney, June 22, 2004]. In the days when cops walked their beats and knew their communities, patrolmen would stop by J. C. Brophy’s Coal Company on Jefferson Avenue and mention Mrs X, a widow with three children, is out of coal and facing a cold winter night. It was all Brophy needed to have a truck deliver a ton of coal in her coal bin, no questions asked, no bill submitted. The police and the merchants developed many supportive strategies in the Depression years and shortly after World War II.
Brophy lived and died at 568 Irvington Avenue, Elizabeth NJ. In the 1920 Federal census Brophy’s father Joseph is 73, born in Ireland and immigrated in 1863 (naturalized 1867). In the Eliz city directory for 1869 Joseph and his brother George worked as clerks at 222 Elizabeth Avenue and in the next year held similar positions at 15 Washington Avenue. Later his family lived at 111 Mary Street. His wife Mary 66 was born in New York of Irish parents; his daughter Helen 41 born in NJ of Irish father and NY mother and was a bookkeeper; his daughter Mary 37 managed his coal business; His son Joseph, 27 [b1893] born in NJ was a merchant, supplying mills.
Brophy himself was born August 20, 1891 in the family homestead at 17 Spring Street. He was educated at the old Sacred Heart Academy, then at Magnolia Avenue and Spring Street, the old Morrell Street School, Battin High School and the Pingry School. In his youth he was a distinguished athlete, a star pitcher for Pingry and for two years played semi-pro baseball for Eaglesmere, Pa, a top semi-pro team.
During WWI he enlisted in the army and served with the American Expeditionary Force in France at both the Argonne and St Mihiel campaigns. During the Argonne offensive he was called to the officer training school at Langres, France and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He then returned to his original unit company C 311th Infantry, 78th Division and ended his service as first lieutenant.
He entered politics when he became a Democratic national committeeman supporting Alfred E Smith in 1928. He was again a delegate in 1932 at nomination of FDR.
His mayoralty (1934-38) was filled with accomplishments. In 1934 he won by 5500 votes, a record at the time. In 1936 an all-time high a 19, 137 majority with 31,400 votes cast. His lobbying work in Washington resulted in a $1M grant from PWA for a new City Hall on Winfield Scott place. 2) he eliminated the grade crossing of the Central RR of NJ ($5M) eliminating 13 dangerous crossings ; 3) he created the Elizabeth Housing Authority, which was responsible for two projects of affordable housing: Mravlag Manor and Pioneer Homes (828 units); 4) a whole new recreational initiative – 5 new community centers and a large athletic grounds which became Brophy Field plus a summer camp for underprivileged; 5) he arranged the construction of Thomas Edison vocational School and the Grover Cleaveland Jr HS; 6) he envisioned improvements to the Elizabeth River including the Elizabeth River Parkway 7) The Municipal Industrial Commission was formed to attract new business to the city as well as the Labor Relations committee to settle disputes without disruption. 8) he insured (finally) that teachers salaries were increased (having been suspended for 8 years) and restored pay cuts to municipal workers. 9) He introduced the pay-as-you-go policy of paying city bills in the year they were incurred, giving tighter fiscal control on city budget. At his departure Elizabeth was the only city in NJ’s top ten which stayed within its budget during the late Depression years. At his departure, he explained that he saw public office as a public trust, making him one of the “outstanding mayors of Elizabeth.”
Brophy returned to municipal service in Jan 12, 1940 when he accepted a membership on the Board of Water Commissioners. Gov Harry Moore appointed him to the State Racing Commission from which he resigned in 1941 when he was selected by Democratic Gov Charles Edison to be NJ Secretary of State. In 1946 when his Sec of State ended, he resigned from the Water Board to accept appointment by Republican Gov Walter E Edge to fill an unfinished term on the State Board of Public Utility Commissioners. The following year he received a full-term appointment from Republican Gov Alfred Driscoll. He had remained a Democrat in spite of break with his party at state, county and city level in 1944, joining former Gov Edison against anti-revisionist Frank Hague of Jersey City over constitutional reform. During the war he was involved with the American Legion in many aspects of war relief.
In an earlier census 1880 Joseph P. Brophy, the mayor’s father, was 34 and a laborer, while his wife Mary (nee Sullivan) , 26, kept house; his daughter Nellie 4 and Mary 1/12. The family resided at 919 Magnolia Avenue in the Third Ward.
James T Kirk Jan. 1,1939-51
The Elizabeth Daily Journal (Jan. 31, 1974) reports James Kirk’s death at age 78 from heart attack.. He served as mayor 14 years and lived at 392 Verona Avenue, Eliz. He had also been municipal judge and deputy attorney general of the staete. The only other mayor to serve six terms was Dr Victor Mravlag. Kirk served during the Depression and World War and lost to Nicholas La Corte during the Korean conflict.
He took office on Jan 1 1939 with full knowledge of his predecessor’s difficulties. Since 1933 the railroad taxes had not been paid, gross receipt and franchise taxes had been held up for many years and unemployment was very high. During 1938 Brophy had received no contributions from the state of NJ to help with mounting costs of relief. Tax ratables had dropped $26 million. Eliz had difficulty providing even for police and fire departments. His historic battle was over the building of the NJ Turnpike which he feared for diving the city in halves.
Kirk was a native of Elizabeth and graduated from St Patrick’s High school where he was known for his forensic ability. He excelled at swimming, basketball and dramatics. He was in the Navy aboard destroyers in North Sea and North Atlantic and was discharged in 1920 with rank of chief petty office. He won admittance to N.J. Bar in 1921 following graduation from old N.J. Law School. From 1924 he specialized in criminal law. In 1935 he began 4 years as Elizabeth police court judge and sat until his election as mayor. In 1954 he was named deputy attorney general assigned to motor vehicle division. He was post commander of American Legion. As mayor he greeted many distinguished visitors including Harry S Truman and Wm F Halsey, a native of Elizabeth. He was a hunter all his adult life. And counselor to Lithuanian Savings & Loan Assn for 25 years. He was a communicant of St Genevieve and a member of their Holy Name Society.
His wife, Mrs. Alice McReady Kirk, died Oct 16, 1973. He was brother of Eugene J Kirk of Eliz, an attorney and former Union County surrogate. Surviving are a son, Andrew Robert of Sea Bright; two daughters Mrs. Richard Clew of Tequesta, Florida and Mrs. Miriam Micali of Elizabeth, a remedial teacher for Elizabeth Board of Education; a grandchild and another brother John A of Elizabeth.
Kirk lost the mayoralty to a Republican in 1952. In part, his former supporters had a sense that his 14-year term had gone too long; in part also, his successful defense of two women – Mrs. Dorothy Binger and Alice Cruz for murdering Mr. Binger – did not sit well with women voters.
In the 1930 Federal Census James T Kirk resides in the 12th Ward, age 34 and he owns his own house (738 Madison Avenue) worth $4K. His wife Alice E is 33 and his daughter Miriam is ?/12. A later daughter married future Elizabeth councilman, Robert Jaspen. One house away a person who seems to be his father: Eugene Kirk, 66; wife Mary 62; daughter Ursula M 31; Elizabeth 29; Eugene 22
Nicholas S. LaCorte Jan. 1, 1952-56 (1911-)
Nicholas S LaCorte won the mayoralty election in 1952 and served two terms (1952-56) as a Republican. By 3458 (1952) in a total of over 48,000 cast, surprising the 14-year Democratic incumbent, James T. Kirk. LaCorte was the first Republican mayor in 18 years, not since Thomas Williams (who succeeded John F.Kenah [1922-32]) ended his two year term December 31, 1934. LaCorte began his term listing issues of juvenile delinquency, street lighting and sanitation, parking and police protection but shortly expanded these to a broader problem of long-term planning and design.
After the April 15, 1952 primary LaCorte received substantial support from Polish Democrats in the 4th Ward where they said air pollution from the airport reflected lack of planning. The Elizabeth Journal also pressed the issue with commentaries on the lack of planning – soon a LaCorte theme – in the face of Turnpike design, Airport construction in the wake of the 1951-52 airplane crashes, and economic decline of the railroads. He also talked about the importance of an Elizabeth River Parkway.
LaCorte gathered support from disgruntled Democract5s. Union organizers like Andrew Mulrain of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers AFL, at Thomas and Betts (a manufacturer of electrical components and parts ) shifted to LaCorte charging Kirk only became interested in labor issues during election campaigns. In retrospect, Fire Chief William Neafsey [Interview with WN, Elizabeth, N.J., June 15, 2004] recalled appreciatively that LaCorte substantively reduced the weekly hours of firemen’s service from 77 to 56, making the job much more attractive and less grinding than it had been.
LaCorte was born at 632 Third Avenue in Elizabeth in 1911, son of Deputy Sheriff James and his wife, Anna LaCorte. After Continental School (#3) and Cleveland Junior High, he attended Battin High School where he became an all-state basketball player, graduating in the last coed class, 1929. After Villanova (Class of 1934) he worked for a Wall St firm, E. A. Pierce, going to night school at Mercer Beasley Law School, now Rutgers. For a time he played pro and semi-pro basketball with Elizabeth’s Lincoln Club. He graduated from law school in 1941. during World War II he served 23 months and received five battle stars in Germany and the Low Countries with the First, Third and Ninth Armies. The late Salvatore F. LaCorte, once a District court judge, was an uncle. (Elizabeth Daily Journal, Nov 5, 1952, p. 17)
In July 1941 he married Bertha Longauer, living while mayor with his mother and mother-in-law in his two-family (611) Jefferson Avenue residence. His son, James Stephen, 5 in 1952, missed his father’s swearing in due to chicken pox. LaCorte’s law office was 215 Broad Avenue. His wife, Bert LaCorte, was employed during World War II, while her husband served overseas. She worked for American Type Foundry in their Personnel Department. The company was prominently known for its printing types, the produce of an 1892 merger of 25 companies. ATF was in the 1950s the exclusive owners of the Benton Engraving Machine and the Barth Automatic Casting machine, considered among the finest of their kind in the world.
After his loss to Stephen Bercik in 1956, LaCorte ran for mayor as an Independent in 1958. He concentrated on the proposed Pearl Street high school that, he felt, would contribute to dense urban concentration. He also cited the intra-party bickering among Democrats that slowed city progress. Bercik publicly resisted patronage appointments, party stalwarts complaining that Bercik was thereby ruining the party. (Newark Sunday News Oct 5, 1958) LaCorte served after his mayoralty on the Union county Board of Chosen Freeholders (1958-and in 1967 his party nominated him for one of the NJ Senate seats.
Stephen J. Bercik Jan. 1,1957-64
Stephen J Bercik, the former Mayor of Elizabeth NJ and NJ Superior Court Judge, died June 14, 2003 at the age of 84. From his even-tempered demeanor and his strong commitment to his family – nine children and twenty-three grandchildren – one might easily overlook the dramatic political contribution Mayor Bercik made to the 20th century history of Elizabeth, N.J.
Bercik’s family represented the singular demographic shift in Elizabeth during and after World War one. The breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire resulted in a large influx of Slavic and Hungarian immigrants to many cities on America’s eastern seaboard. Bercik’s father was among them, seventeen years old at the time. His son Stephen was born not long afterward in Elizabeth NJ and received a strong preparation at St. Patrick’s High School, where he made a host of friends, like Superior court Justice John Ord, who remained close for the rest of their lives. Bercik went to John Marshall Law College which later became Seton Hall University’s School of Law. He was athletic, playing baseball and basketball which helped him win college fellowships. He always credited education and sports as foundational experiences for his later career decisions.
Thirty days after Pearl Harbor, Bercik joined the Army Air Corps and quickly became an instructor. He served in Europe until October 1944. He then returned home and finished law school. Since 1948 he has had his law office in Elizabeth, on North Broad Street across from the Post Office. He gravitated into a series of active, volunteer positions: the Young Democrats, where he eventually became president; Knights of Columbus where he became a Grand Knight; the city’s Chamber of Commerce, where he served as president; an a member of the Holy Name Society of both St. Joseph’s and St. Catherine’s. This volunteer apprenticeship attracted supporters who elected him onto the city Council in 1955.
At the time the city government had reached a critical juncture under Mayor Nicholas LaCorte. The city structure still operated under an older ward system, very democratic in a city of much smaller size but by the 1950s clumsy and inefficient in trying to achieve quick and clear decisions on policy issues. In addition, there were a number of unseemly episodes of corruption in the police department and in city contracting. The moment called for a person of consummate integrity and indeed idealism to overcome entrenched patterns of political expediency and nepotism, the bane of the twentieth century American city.
The Democratic party discovered that several, very ambitious Democratic councilmen had no interest running in an election where Eisenhower Republicans were very likely to win. They approached Bercik, who later recalled at the meeting “they did but I didn’t think I was the underdog.” Bercik handily defeated the opposition and became the youngest elected mayor (age 35) and the first Slavic mayor of Elizabeth, serving two terms, from 1956 to 1964.
Immediately Berick set to work to create a new Charter for Elizabeth NJ, one which reflected a modern decision making process. He was joined by a number of other “young guys and former veterans,” who were determined to realize a democratic structure worthy of the sacrifices so many of them had recently made in wartime. The New charter would redress the organization which placed too much power in the hands of 13 ward representatives. These “ward heelers” wielded considerable clout as sales distributors and influence peddlers for the annual political affairs and office appointments. Bercik remembered the adverse effect of such favoritism growing up in the First Ward and resolved to be a mayor for the whole city rather than a single ethnic group or geographical sector.
Ably supported by Councilpersons Mary Gillen (the first woman of the City council) and Sidney Stone, Bercik’s charter passed in the election of 1960 and has served ever since as the democratic blueprint for Elizabeth NJ. The Charter centralized power into the office of the Mayor, making the primary elected leader the clearly responsible agent for the quality of city life. The Charter simplified many of the city’s departments and committees. Immediately he appointed a chief Tax Assessor of impeccable integrity, indeed a former seminarian, who introduced a new standard of tax equity. He worked hard to attract other able men to fill key positions especially the Chief of Police, the Superintendent of Schools and the City Administrator, men brought in from outside the city’s culture to insure both expertise and even-handedness.
Bercik monitored the early implementation of the Charter to insure the blueprint was well-rooted and took justifiable pride in his achievement. After his mayoral tenure was over in 1964, he returned to his private law practice until 1972 when he became a New Jersey Superior court judge, serving until 1988. In an interview with the Historical Society; Elizabeth NJ Inc (December 9, 2000) he recounted his satisfaction in giving back to the Elizabeth, the city of his birth and of his entire career. Elizabeth, he said, was a city with a heart. It is a sentiment, backed by distinguished achievement that the Historical Society has recorded again and again in the immigrant voices of Elizabeth’s residents. In Stephen J. Bercik and his life, Elizabeth has received an extraordinary benefit, a high political standard and a significant historical legacy
Thomas Dunn Jan. 1, 1965-93
The longest serving mayor (1965-1994) of a US city over 100K, Dunn once quipped it was the only steady job he ever had. He was born of Irish parents in Elizabeth in 1922 and joined the US Navy after graduation from high school. He served an aerial gunner during World War II and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. Upon discharge in 1945 he returned to his home town and took a job at the Western Electric plant in nearby Kearney, NJ where he became active in founding Local 1470 of the International brotherhood of electrical Workers.
In 1952 he won a seat on the Elizabeth City council. I 1959 he won election to the Union county Board of Freeholders and two years later sought the city mayoralty unsuccessfully, opposing the incumbent mayor, Stephen Bercik, and his plan for a new city charter. In 1964 he tried again and won the first of seven terms in city hall, beginning in January 1965. during his mayoralty he also represented his area in the State Senate, vigorously fighting the adoption of the Equal rights Amendment.
From 1974 to 1992 he operated a weekly radio show, “Tom Dunn’s Irish Show” features Irish music and commentaries on his many trips to Ireland. In 1983 he formed the Thornsticks, a local charitable group to help needy families. He took the name from the popular Irish walking stick.
Dunn was popular among his Irish constituents and considered unpredictable by others. He remained very independent and broke ranks regularly, causing consternation in the party echelons at the county and state levels. In 1972 he served as national co-chairman of the Democrats for Nixon. After supporting Jimmy Carter in 1980, he became a forceful voice for the Reagan Revolution and in 1984 served as head of Democrats for Reagan in New Jersey. In 1993 he was state chairman of a Democratic group supporting Republican Christine Todd Whitman in her successful challenge to Democratic incumbent Thomas Florio. He also supported several Republican Congressional candidates over the years.
His bluntness was both admired and criticized, when during the 1967 riots in Newark, Dunn issued a “shoot to kill” order to Elizabeth policemen. The threat was considered by many to have checked a repeat of Newark’s experience in Elizabeth but activated African-American civil rights activists, like Stephen Sampson, to great efforts in political organization behind alternative views. (Interview with Stephen Sampson, Elizabeth NJ, August 11, 2000). Dunn also alienated many of his growing Hispanic constituency – one-third of the city citizenry – when in the 1980s he ordered no city employee to speak Spanish during office hours.
During the 1974 gasoline shortage Dunn proposed a plan for gas purchases that would alleviate the long lines at gas stations. Auto tags ending in even numbers alternated with tags ending in uneven numbers every other day, a program that quickly spread throughout the state and region.
At his death – Feb 11 1998 – Dunn was survived by his son, Thomas Jr, the Superintendent of Elizabeth Public Schools; his second wife Sally, his former secretary whom he married in 1995; a daughter Kathleen Priestly of Westfield; a brother, Gerard Dunn of Brielle and two sisters, Genevieve Dunn of Spring Lake Heights and Margaret Koste of Mountainside and four grandchildren. Dunn’s first wife, Ruth died in 1989.
Chris Bollwage Jan. 1, 1994-Present
Christian Bollwege was born in (north) Elizabeth and graduated from nearby Kean College, later Kean University. He also took a graduate degree in Public Administration and taught that subject as an adjunct professor at Kean for many years. He married his wife Nancy and they have a daughter Jacqueline.
Bollwege entered politics in 1982 as city councilman and served ten years there (pres. 1989) before running for mayor. He was elected in 1992 and has won election every four years since. He made economic development his priority and in 1999 opened Jersey Gardens, constructed on a brownfield site. This megamall also included the IKEA chain and a multiplex movie theatre, both thriving economic features of the complex, also known as The Elizabeth Center on Exit 13A of the New Jersey Turnpike.
He also has worked with the US Conference of Mayors on brownfield issues and has won awards for his leadership and advocacy of this special brand of economic development. In Elizabeth he has developed the Urban Enterprise Zone, to accelerate the city economy and attract businesses which appreciate the advantage of a 3% sales tax in these areas.
Mayor Bollwege in 2019 planned to run once again for mayor in 2020.
1Belcher Foundation, Governor Jonathan Belcher (Belcher Ky: np. 2006); Michael Batinski, Jonathan Belcher, Colonial Governor Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996.
2 W. Jay Mills, Historic Houses of New Jersey (Philadelphia and London: J P. Lippincott, 1902), pp123-24.
3 Alan Valentine, Lord Stirling (NY: Oxford University Press, 1969; see Carl E. Prince (ed.) The Papers of William Livingston, v2,
4 Warren Dix, “Old Houses of Elizabethtown,” Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society (July 1923).
5 Theodore Thayer, As We Were: The Story of Old Elizabethtown (Elizabeth NJ: The N. J. Historical Society, 1964).
6 Ibid, p. 263.
7 The Papers of George Washington, v. 4, p 416.
8 Thayer, Old Elizabethtown, pp. 126-27.
9 The Papers of George Washington, Letter of Lord Stirling to GW, November 24, 1778, p287
10 Carl E. Prince, Middlebrook: The American Eagle’s Nest (Somerville, NJ: Somerville Press, 1958). Washington was in Elizabeth the first week in December 1778 (except for one night in Paramus NJ) until December 9. By Dec 11th he is in Middlebrook.
11 Spying was pandemic from the beginning of the American Revolution, if not before. See John A. Nagy, Spies in the Continental Capital; Espionage Across Pennsylvania During the American Revolution (Yardley, Pa: Westholme Publishing Co, 2011); Also John A. Nagy, Rebellion in the Ranks: Mutinies of the American Revolution (Yardley, Pa: Westholme Publishing Co., 2008). Nagy finds a pattern of spies exploiting American problems with soldiers’ pay, food and clothing, the context for many mutinies and desertions. Nagy documented the energetic work of Elizabethan Cornelius Hetfield and his family, constantly operating from Staten island to the Jersey mainland. George Adam Boyd, Elias Boudinot: Patriot and Statesman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952).
12 Letter from Lafayette to Elias Boudinot July 15, 1778 & July 25 1778, in Stanley Iztgerda (ed) Lafayette in the Age of Revolution (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977).
13 Thayer, Old Elizabethtown, pp. 149-50.
14 Rev. Edwin F. Hatfield, History of Elizabeth NJ ( New York:L Carlton and Lanahan,1868), p471 cites the Riv. Gaz. #228 and J Sparks Vi, 125, 9, 131,155);
15 Ibid., p. 515. Lord Stirling apparently hosted a reception for Washington nearer the time of the wedding at Smyth’s in Elizabeth on November 5, 1778. Many of Washington’s officers including James Monroe, were present.
16 Letter of Lord Stirling to George Washington, Nov 24, 1778 in The Papers of George Washington, v. 5, p 287.
17 Letter of William Livingston to Elisha Boudinot Dec 17, 1778 in Carl E. Prince, The Papers of William Livingston, v2, p, 515.
18 Letter of George Washington to Elias Boudinot, Feb 27, 1779 in The Papers of George Washington