Hamilton Square, New Jersey

This is where I went to grammar school. I lost the 6th grade spelling bee to Tom Stackhouse here. I couldn't spell "colonel" and he could.

Hamilton Square School

There is a big difference between city life and country life.  I’ve lived in the country and I’ve lived in a crowded suburb and I’ve hardly moved more than a mile.  You can keep the traffic and the traffic lights.  Give me an open field or some woods any day.

I grew up on Fleetwood Drive in Hamilton Square, New Jersey, when it was still a rural area with lots of working farms.  There was a small farm behind my family’s house where my brother and sisters and I played all summer.  The farmer would plow his field several times a year.  In the early summer he went through his field on his combine and left behind straw cuttings that we would use to build little clubhouses.  We walked through the field pushing the straw with our legs.  When we had a bundle, we would pick it up in our arms and take it to the building site.  We organized secret clubs, played army and generally had a great time in our little forts.  I can still smell the fresh straw.

Somewhere in Guy Foy’s house there is an old movie that his father took of us playing army in the forts.  I saw it once, many years ago.  In part of the field there were five apple trees standing in a row.  We used to climb the trees for hours, picking the apples and having apple fights.  They weren’t any good to eat because they were sour, although we tried a bite every now and then.

When we grew older and were too big to play baseball in Billy McManimon’s backyard, we made a baseball diamond in the farmer’s field.  If you hit a ground ball you were out because nobody could field a grounder with all the tire ruts, straw stems and rocks on the uneven ground.  Billy, who was a few years older than the rest of us, liked to bat left-handed here.  He was a natural right-hand batter but because the right field “fence” was close, he liked to try and hit the ball onto Mercer Street.  The “fence” was a row of pine trees about twenty feet tall.  There was no center field or left field fence.

My mother used to send me on my bicycle to Hooper-McCabe, a small grocery store in the heart of Hamilton Square. Once, when my mother sent me to get a head of lettuce, I came back with a stalk of celery. (Hooper-McCabe became Heinz’s Market in the mid 1960s and then it became the Cookie Cottage). It was located about one mile from my house on Fleetwood Drive, where Mercer Street meets Nottingham Way.  I went past the Nottingham firehouse and Mercer Rubber Company mill to get there. (The red brick building that was the rubber mill is no longer there.)

Rose Ann, my first love, at age six, lived on Mercer Street. To get to her house, I walked through the field about 100 yards and crossed the street.  She had sheep, rams and probably other animals in her backyard and I was fascinated by them.  We often went out to watch them.  Rose Ann was in my first grade class at Hamilton Square School and it broke my heart when she moved away.

Just near the end of Mercer Street on Line Road was the Schilling Farm.  When we went there for fresh eggs, Mrs. Schilling  sometimes went right to the chicken coop to get them.  There is no comparison between a Schilling egg and one that is store bought.  Line Road is a dead end now, just past Mercer Street. You can still fish from the old bridge though and people do.

I used to ride my bike to Nottingham Little League games all the time.  There wasn’t much traffic then and my mother didn’t have a car.  When I got to the field, I just propped my bike against the fence and nobody ever bothered it. They used to play the 1959 Johnny Horton song “Battle of New Orleans” all the time before the games.

Sometimes, my next door neighbor, Bob Holcombe, would let my brother and me go along when he took Lady, his black Labrador retriever for a walk.  We would usually go to the woods at the end of Mercer Street and Miry Brook Road.  Bob used to tell us stories while we walked.  There was a small concrete boundary marker in the woods.  Bob told us that Chief Rain-in-the-Face was buried there.  We believed him.  Bob grew the best tomatoes that I have ever tasted. When I was a little older, I went camping in those same woods with kids from the neighborhood.  We didn’t have tents.  We just threw our sleeping bags on the ground. All of the woods are gone and houses are there now.

When my family had just moved to Hamilton Square, farmer Tindall put up a sign for free potato picking.  The field was too wet for a heavy tractor so Mr. Tindall let us dig up the potatoes by hand.  I can still remember being in that field on a rainy day and walking in all the mud.  The potatoes were a little mushy.

I live in Mercerville now, the next town over from Hamilton Square.  You really can’t tell where one town starts now and the other ends because the land has been filled in with houses.  But every day I drive past the old Flock Farm where my mother used to buy corn and peaches.  The farm was sold years ago to the developer who built University Heights.

The intersection nearest my home, Sloan and Quakerbridge, used to be a quiet corner with a stop sign.  Now it’s a major four lane intersection that’s always busy.  There’s a Burger King on one corner and on the opposite side, where there was once a small shack that sold pork roll sandwiches, there is a large modern Exxon gas station.  Hughes Drive, where I once delivered newspapers on my bicycle, is now so busy that I hope an adult does the route.  I remember when the Five Points had only stop signs.  If they didn’t have traffic lights at the intersection today, they would have to build a hospital right on the corner.

Even Hamilton Square has a traffic jam every day now.  They had to move the old War Memorial a few years ago to make room for a traffic light.  For years it had stood in the middle of the road.  They put the monument in Foley Park near the intersection.  The park was made when they knocked down the old luncheonette where Tommy Baumeister’s father once bought me a chocolate milkshake after a ball game. There used to be a barber shop near where the monument is today. My brother and I used to ride our bikes to the shop and pay a quarter for a hair cut.

About thirty yards from the park, my father used to operate the Nottingham Bookstore.   He was there about twenty years in the basement of the old Grange building.  The Grange building was sold about 20 years ago. The old farmers were dying off and those that were left were having trouble getting up the stairs.  I used to see old farmer Tindall go in there. My father’s store used to be the Post Office many years ago.  I remember going there as a little kid.  Across the street and a little to the left is where the library used to be.  I used to like a book called “Fierce John” when I was little. I read it a lot. Both the library and the Post office are now large modern buildings that serve thousands of people.

I guess what I dislike the most about Hamilton Square today is the traffic.  I liked it when there wasn’t a traffic light at every intersection.  I used to tell my wife that if they put up one more light we were leaving.  I stopped saying that years ago.  I liked it when you could ride your bike safely anywhere.  I liked the apple trees and corn fields.  I’ve been tempted to pack up and move.  I’m not sure exactly what stops me.  I guess it’s fear of the unknown.  Hamilton Square may not be the same, but it’s familiar.  It bothers me that my son will never have a field like I did to play in.  My field is now a housing development and my apple trees are long gone.  I hardly ever see kids playing baseball today except in an organized game with adults.  And forty years ago nobody ever gave you the finger from a passing car.

In my first grade reading book, the book after “Dick and Jane”, were two boys who lived in a rural community.  They played in fields and apple trees just like I did.  At the end of the book they are grown up and have children of their own.  The book ends when they take their kids to see the apple trees and a highway has been built around the trees.  I was crushed and felt so sad for them.  I had no idea at the time that my apple trees were also doomed.

Note: In 2005 I finally did move away. I now live in Washington County, New York, just outside the village of Schuylerville. There is a fifteen acre field behind my house that is planted every other year with feed corn or soybeans. There are woods across the street and beyond the trees, I can see the Hudson River.

I wrote this article for an English class at Mercer County Community College. My college professor thought one of the local weekly papers might be interested in it. It was eventually published in the Hamilton Observer. I think it was in the late 80’s or early 90’s. I could probably figure it out if I wanted to, but let’s just say it is over twenty years old. I have made some changes to clarify some things, but the basic story is the same.

Comments are always welcome and appreciated.

71 Responses to “Hamilton Square, New Jersey”

  1. Harmony says:

    What does this have to do with anything?.We are terying to keep the nonesence off of craigslist.

  2. John Tedder says:

    I would say that, after looking at everything else that is on Craigslist, Community, General in Central NJ, it is at least right up there with Texas Hold’em. Wouldn’t you?

  3. Charlie says:

    As always John, it good to see what others miss in life. I believe that may be what helps keep us grounded. As for Harmony, try posting something for sale on Craigslist.

  4. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting Charlie. I’m sure she’ll get over it. I know I will.

  5. Haley says:

    Small town life is great – I can’t even imagine living in the city!

  6. Lori says:

    I moved to Hamilton Square a little over 5 years ago, and can only dream of the life that you had here growing up. Wish I could have seen it then, not sure if things like that exist anymore. Thank you for some history of this town. Although it has changed alot, it’s nice that you are able to have such fond memories of your childhood to share with others.

  7. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for commenting Lori. There is a book that you can probably get from the library called a History of Hamilton Township. The original one was published sometime in the 1950’s and another one was published about 15 years ago.

  8. Pete Keledy says:

    Hello John, We exchanged emails a few weeks back and I wanted to let you know we’ve PDF’d your Nottingham Little League history that you wrote in the early 90’s, and it is now available at our website http://www.eteamz.com/nll/. Thanks again!

  9. Sharon says:

    Hi John, I just read your lovely story about growing up in Hamilton Square. Growing up in Yardville was no different – if children today could only experience what we did back then, I think the world would surely be a “better place” – thanks Sharon (Shady Rest)

  10. Marilee says:

    Hi John! I am so glad I found this post b/c one of my best friends growing up in Hamilton Square was your sister Judy. We went to school together – and I remember your mother Janice (wasn’t that her name?) I found this b/c I googled “rubber factory in hamilton square new jersey” b/c I am curious about the many petrochemicals I was exposed to as a child and I read about the higher incidence of cancers of people who lived near the Rubber Factory on Mercer Street. Anyway – I loved reading about Hooper-McCabes! I went there as a kid for penny candy alot – and probably cans of soup for Mom. I would love for you to say hello to Judy for me – see if she remembers me – we went up to 4th grade together (Miss DeLotta was our teacher) and then my family – The Tolen’s (Mary and Marty and my two brothers Chip and Michael) moved to Cherry Hill NJ. I am still here, Michael lives in CH also – chip lives in Washington Township, and Mom and Dad are deceased. Would love to hear back from you – thanks for the memories here – gratefully, Marilee Tolen

  11. John Tedder says:

    Marilee, It’s nice to hear from you. My sister Judy is right here in my kitchen. (I’m writing this at 1:00 PM on 6/26/11. I showed her your comment. She will be emailing you later. I remember you and Chip and your Mom and Dad. I remember their faces as if it was 1965. We used to go swimming in your pool. We always had a lot of fun at your house. Our families became friends through the Nottingham Little League. I was on Evans Pharmacy and Chip was on Patterson Chevrolet. By the way, ask Chip if he knows that Jack Cust’s son is now a major league baseball player.

  12. Sue Perrott Woughter says:

    I enjoyed reading your article. I lived on Compton Way and was looking on Google earth at the map of the area. I remember walking to the elementary school past the rubber plant you mentioned and the fire department. Every once in awhile we would go in and get a drink of water at their drinking fountain. We moved away in 1976 because my dad was transferred to Horseheads,NY. I didn’t remember about the rubber plant until i read this. I also remember going faithfully to the First Presbyterian Church every Sunday. I’m still in touch with my best friend from there. She lived down the street and still lives in the area. Does anyone know when the old Elementary School closed?

  13. Dean says:

    Wow – that brought back memories…I remember your dad Howard..as a kid we played a prank one time and changed the name of his article to “Howard Tedder’s Ransom Notes” and stuck it in his mailbox! I also remember the bookstore he ran. My paper route when I was 15 went through that neighborhood! Thanks for that article! LMAO!

  14. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Dean. A lot of people remember my father’s column and his bookstore.

  15. Dean Patterson says:

    There was a hardware store next to your Dad’s store.

  16. Mary Adams Hogan says:

    Hi John!! I really enjoyed reading your article here on Hamilton. I grew up in Mercerville (Saybrook Avenue at the edge of Hamilton Ave where Hamilton and Nottingham Way split. I was googling Flock Farm because my parents helped out there ALL the time. Florence and Clayton Adams Sr. We would go with them and they would put us to work. We (as youngsters under age 10) would have to get the fresh eggs from the Chicken Coop, pick strawberries, etc. Mr. Flock whom we called Grandpa Flock would take us on his tractor or let us sit on the big wagon and ride us out to the fields to pick apples and peaches. I don’t think my parents got paid in cash for helping but our kitchen which was huge because we had such a large family always had one wall lined with baskets of peaches, tomatoes, corn, apples, you name it and we always had fresh everything!!! I miss the farm so much. I remember Grandpa Flocks wife too. A white haired lady and I want to say her name was Alice. She would make me and their granddaughter Chrissy??? lunch and I would get to sit in the kitchen of the big white house. I know the farm is long gone and houses were built there. When they were letting the farm go, my parents would make all us kids go each evening until all the strawberries, tomatoes and whatever else was left were picked. We kept Grandpa Flock selling for as long as there was fresh fruits and vegetables in the fields. Of course us kids didn’t always want to be there but we went because we were told we had to help. My dad worked in Hamilton Square when I was young. I think it was “The Square Deli” He and Earl Stout (great friends) worked there together and then moved to where the old Tracy’s 5 & 10 was for a few years. I don’t remember a lot of the places you mentioned but I have a lot of friends on facebook that have talked about them. Thanks for the memories. I especially liked the part about you playing in the farm fields even if it wasn’t Flock Farm!!!

  17. Julia Enerson says:

    A childhood HS friend posted this link and I just love, love, love this article. I grew up on Paxson Avenue and when my family first moved there in 1964, it was very rural. I know those woods you write of – my brother and I along with our neighborhood friends would ice skate back there and there were two trails leading back further that we would never take when young. Route 33 was a two lane highway, Flock Farm was the best place to get corn (the old farmhouse stands still), there were creepy houses on Nottingham way that we were convinced were haunted. Reading this brought back so many good memories and I thank you for taking the time to write down and share your memories. BTW, the Guy Foy you mention. Does he have a brother, Bob?

  18. John Tedder says:

    Julia, Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. The Guy Foy mentioned in the article does not have a brother. There was a house on Mercer Street near the intersection with Maple Shade Avenue that looked like the house in “It’s A Wonderful Life” before Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewartd moved in and fixed it up. We always walked extra fast going past that house!

  19. John Halter says:

    John, If Hamilton Square ever becomes a novel, I’d like to reserve a first edition copy. I grew up on Miry Brook and your story really brought me home. So many of the faces and places you’ve written about are common to my younger years. The Square was a very special place in my life, now separated by both time and distance. The small town experience did make a lasting impression. My wife and I have spent the past 30+ years in rural New Hampshire. This was a blessing for our children.

  20. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for commenting John. I really appreciate it. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I was back in Hamilton Square for Memorial Day weekend. I went to Sayen Gardens on Hughes Drive with my son, grandson, sister and nephew. We had a great time walking around looking at turtles, frogs, fish and even some snakes. My brother and I used to deliver papers to Mr. Sayen back in the 1960s. A lot of things have changed about Hamilton Square. It’s nice that they saved the Sayen house and the Cubberly farm on the corner across from the fire house.

  21. Don says:

    Is Evans Pharmacy still in business? Was it located on Nottingham Way near Mercer St.?

  22. John Tedder says:

    Evans Pharmacy went out of business a long time ago. Maybe 20 years. The building is still there though.
    It was on Nottingham Way near Mercer St.

  23. Laura says:

    Hi John, I lived on Mercer Str. right across from the rubber mill, in the mid 60’s as a teenager. I too have some great memories of the area! My bf Robin lived across the street, who unfortunely passed away a few yrs ago. I miss her & our memories we made there.
    I somehow stumbled onto your site while I was searching for info on the old trampoline place that was on rt 33..I cant find a thing about it either!Would anyone else here happen to have any pics from that era??

  24. Diane Gaston Phillips says:

    Wow, this really brings back memories. I lived on Hughes Drive across from Mr. Eldridge’s farm (now part of Sayen Gardens). You used to deliver our newspaper. In fact, I remember that you and your mother came to my grandparents house next door (the Kemlers) to take a picture of our cat and the chicken – they were raising kittens and eggs in the same nest. It made it into the newspaper! Same cat did that with two different chickens over the years. Also, I spend quite a bit of time in your father’s bookstore. I hate to go back to Hamilton Square now, it’s so changed. Living on the edge between suburbia and rural farms was just great and made for a wonderful childhood. The smell of leaves being burned in the fall, the dirt being turned over in the spring – it’s just not the same now. We live by the Jersey shore these days, so I have the Pine Barrens nearby and at least some access to undeveloped land. I don’t think I could move back to the Square now. But my memories are always golden.

  25. MaryBeth Bryan Schelinski says:

    Hi John,
    I grew up on Miry Brook at the now extinct dead end off Mercer Street. I went to school with your sister…at Hamilton Sq School, etc….thanks for the memories….I think I walked all over Hamilton Square starting when I was 7…it was a great place to grow up!

  26. Sue says:

    I have lived in Hamilton Sq. my whole life and still live on Tekening. Do you remember when Mercer Rubber had the fish pond? We use to walk home from Hamilton Sq. School and go past Mercer Rubber just to see the fish and stop in Nottingham Fire House for a drink of water. Things have sure changed since then.

  27. Mark Bennett says:

    Well, I have to say you about captured my childhood. I lived on mercer St. And my first job was working for your dad at the book store. I have always appreciated the fact that he gave me the opportunity. I graduated Steinert in 79 and now live in Oregon a measly 3000 miles away. You have captured my past and added to it since you added things that happened since my moving. I too am in a country type setting and love it and will never be in the CITY again. Thanks for adding so much to my day !!!!

  28. Lisa Richardson (now Adams) says:

    Thanks for sharing your memories of what it was like here in Hamilton. I grew up on Miry Brook Rd, 2nd house on the left off of Mercer St.. My dad built the house himself & family moved in Aug. of ’63.. I was born Aug. ’65 & lived there til April of ’83 when my parents moved to Florida. I lived in Florida 9/84 to 9/90 when I came back.. Been in Mercerville since. I just love the childhood memories this brought back.. It was wonderful growing up in Hamilton, I miss the way it was back then! 🙂

  29. Bill Adams says:

    I lived at 55 Mercer Street, corner of Maple Shade from 5th grade through 7th, 1955-58. Went to Ham Sq School. Then moved to Nottingham Way just across from Baptist Church, in a duplex two-story with apartments on either end. One was the Sq Branch Hamilton Library. Stayed there through high school, Class of ’62, Steinert. Loved the square in those years. Like you said, a mix of rural and of housing growth. Hated the smell from Young’s Rubber and occasional noise. Loved Hooper and McCabe’s and Evans Pharmacy. I was active in youth stuff at Presbyterian Church. My square years are precious to me.

  30. Jay Scherbik says:


    My best friend lived next door to you on the side away from McMannimon. I was Danny’s age, not Billy’s. Bob Phillips was my best man, and we eventually lost touch. We, too played in the field behind your house.

    I remember the big earth movers and other excavating equipment there when they put in the development. Bob and I once got caught by a new homeowner for digging up his front lawn at night. We had a metal detector and it indicated something on his property. Even though we were under cover of darkness, we got caught. Once we explained what we were doing, he helped us dig up an old oil can. I guess he was curious, too!

    I used to stop in on your father at the bookstore quite a bit. Even though I live in Savannah Georgia now, I still think of Hamilton Square regularly. It was a great place to grow up!


  31. Georgia Hendricksen says:

    I dated a girl on 26 Fleetwood Dr. Lived on 11 Miry Brook rd.

  32. Dan Gaskill says:

    Hi John. I really enjoyed your article. I moved to Hamilton Square in 1963 at age 9 and still live here…different house. Article brought back many great memories from tines when we could really be kids. Great place to grow up and like many I remember your dad fondly. The Square is still a good place to live but very different.

  33. John Tedder says:

    Thank you for sharing your memories Diane. I am so glad that they saved the Eldridge farm and Sayen Gardens. I learned how to swim in the pool at the corner of Hughes and Mercer.

  34. John Tedder says:

    Thank you for commenting MaryBeth. Which of my sisters did you go to school with? Barbara, Judy or Marianne? I used to deliver the Trenton Times on Miry Brook.

  35. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for commenting Sue. I don’t remember the fish pond at Mercer Rubber. I do remember walking past it a million times though.

  36. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for commenting Mark. Thanks for remembering my father. He was a kind soul who liked to help people.

  37. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for commenting Lisa. I remember when your house on Miry Brook road was being built. It was a school bus stop for kids going to fourth grade at Klockner School. There was a big pile of dirt in front of the house. We used to play king of the hill on it while waiting for the bus. We got pretty dirty sometimes. I wonder what our teacher thought? lol

  38. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for commenting Bill. Are you related to Lisa? Your comment came in right after hers. I remember when the library was on Nottingham Way. I used to like a book called, “Fierce John”. I took it out a lot! I am Steinert class of 1971. Seems like yesterday.

  39. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for commenting Jay. The Phillips’ had a German Shepherd named Heidi that I used to take for walks in the woods along Mercer St. past Miry Brook. It’s really nice how many people remember my father and the bookstore. Why don’t you get back in touch with Bob? I bet he would be glad to hear from you.

  40. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for commenting Georgia. I delivered the Trenton Times to both streets in the early sixties.

  41. Lillian swift says:

    Thank you for that story. I lived on paxson ave from 64 to 79..loved the parades and ending up at the firehouse for hotdogs and orange aid!! Tiltons were the sponsors of our 4-h group. They were a wonderful family ..thanks for the memories

  42. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for commenting Dan. I still travel back to Hamilton Square a couple of times a year. Two of my sisters still live in the Square and my son lives in the Yardville area. I enjoy going to Sayen Gardens and looking at the fish and turtles with my grandchildren. Thanks for remembering my dad.
    How did you happen to read the article? I have gotten 8 comments about it today. That’s a lot for me for one day. Thanks again.

  43. John Tedder says:

    Thanks for commenting Lillian. I remember the parades too. I remember getting a sandwich at the firehouse before walking back to the Nottingham Little League field. Cubberley Road had trees down the middle of it back then.

  44. Carol Cottrell Lng says:

    Loved reading this article. It brought back sooo many wonderful memories.I grew up on the corner of Rt. 33 and Aberfoyle Dr. I oved around the corner and now live on Jarvie.

  45. Cherie Riggs says:

    I enjoyed reading your memories! They are very close to mine as well. I lived on Hughes Dr. & Park Ave. it was a fabulous time. We had such wonderful childhoods 🙂

  46. Donna Zoltanski says:

    Hi John – beautifully written memories of Hamilton Square. We lived across from you – 10 Fleetwood (Young). Wonderful childhood memories are the best – thanks for sharing! Sounds like you have a nice environment now too.

  47. Cherie Riggs says:

    I am a friend of your sister, Judy.

  48. Paul hardifer says:

    Hi john my brother Bill and I lived at 5 Fleetwood.we played many touch football games out front on the street.our little town is now a city.what a shame.every thing you said brought back such great memories.hope your family is well

  49. John Tedder says:

    Thanks Donna. Nice to hear from you. Whenever I hear “Monday, Monday” by the Mamas and Papas I think of your mom driving us to school in the Cadillac. That song always takes me back there instantly! Say hi to Ricky for me.

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