But in these unique times of COVID-19 in 2020, it can be a challenge to do so. Many places remain closed until it becomes safer to open their doors. So here is a way to explore a little bit of Ewing’s history without leaving your couch, with the help of a computer or a smartphone—and with the option to check it out in person at a later date.
Roadside historical markers.
These markers are often overlooked gems at the side of the road. For decades, markers have been placed outdoors in the landscape to mark the location of a unique feature, a historical event, or a place connected with a historically significant person. It’s easy to pass these markers by— we all do it, more often than we realize.
But for those who take the time to stop and read the marker, there’s often a good deal to be learned about local history, or natural features, from a simple marker.
But you can explore them from your couch, too. There is an online searchable database of these markers, an illustrated collection of permanent outdoor markers, monuments and plaques, which basically has been crowd-sourced by individuals interested in sharing the interesting facts and features of local history.
The website (HMdb.org) claims to include more than 116,000 markers in the US alone, and 2500+ in Canada (and seeking more!). You can enter either a town name, a zip code, or a number of other identifying references, and then see a list of the historical markers in that particular area, and then “visit” them online.
Visiting online from the comfort of home is arguably much safer than stopping in the middle of the road to read the sign! Most often, there will be a photo of the marker, a transcription of the inscription on the marker, and its geographic location. There are often links to other related markers, or more information.
I’m not going to list all of Ewing’s markers; I’ll let you explore the online database if you’re interested. But here is one example: A marker commemorating the role of Bear Tavern Road in Washington’s march to Trenton and to victory in December of 1776 stands just outside the crossroads in West Trenton. It reads:
“All our hopes were blasted by that unhappy affair at Trenton.” -Lord George Germain, British Colonial Secretary. Bear Historic route of Continental troops to Trenton where Washington achieved his famous victory over Rahl’s Hessian brigade of the British army, December 26, 1776. Known in colonial times as the Lower, or River Road (the existing River Road was not laid out until 1834). This village of Trenton Junction was until recent times called Birmingham Road constructed 1930 by Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Next month, we will explore a few plaques not included in the online database, and one other marker that is included, in greater detail.
Unfortunately, though, there are only a handful of markers listed for Ewing. There are, by contrast, many in Trenton, and Lawrenceville, and Princeton. Perhaps we need to consider adding a few new markers in our also-historic town. But that’s a topic for another column.
Enjoy your virtual travels!
If you have a story to tell about an aspect of Ewing history, please contact Helen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Kull is an advisor to the Ewing Township Historic Preservation Society.