The Old Smith Homestead

The Old Smith Farm • Click all Photos to Enlarge

According to genealogical records from the Somerset County Historical Archive, Peter P. Smith was born on 01-19-1741 and owned a large farm right in the current area of Walmart and extending into Lost Valley. I had heard rumors of such a farm for many years, so it was a blessing to find  my new buddy Hank over at the SCHS had already mapped out the genealogy… and had these sweet photos to go with it. I can’t really date any of the photos, but let’s try and frame the time period with some context clues. First of all, lets take a look at a pertinent page out of the genealogy book…

Upon his death, Peter Sr. passed his land down to his 4 sons (listed in the document above). One of which was Adam, a son who had a badly burned arm from falling into a fireplace as a child, he was put in charge of caring for his mother after his father passed. He was also in charge of the portion of land with the homestead on it. Here are a couple of photos of their home.

In 1823 Adam moved out to Middlesex County. At some point the land & house must’ve been sold to the Colonial Creosote Company, who used The “Old Smith Homestead” as a rooming house for their employees. According to The Unionist Gazette, the house was destroyed by a fire on December 19th, 1913, which also claimed the lives of two young boys. As of the 1860 Hillsborough Farm Map, the Smith family still owned a good deal of land in that area of town. But, according to the genealogy records all the lands passed from Peter P. Smith Sr. ended up in the hands of the Johns Manville Company. Anyway, here is one last look at the great Peter P. Smith Sr. Farm. I got to say, I’d take looking at this over Walmart any old day.


11 thoughts on “The Old Smith Homestead

  1. I have the very same picture of that home on my website – in the Other Pictures folder (bottom left), then in the 3rd row, 2nd thumbnail.

    I copied it from “Somerset County Memories – The Early Years”,
    published by the Courier News.

    According to that book, it was known as the Groendyke Farm in the early 1900’s.

    It’s nice to know that these photos of our town’s history still exist out there somewhere, and that someone is taking the time to bring them back to life. Great work! Can’t wait to see what you dig up next…

  2. This website is great, interesting and informative! My applause goes to Mike and whatever else contributes towards it. I will try to do what I can to help save some of Manville’s past. I’m not sure if this is the proper place to post this but here goes.

    I was born in 1953 and grew up on Manville’s north side. There were two older homes on the north side that I remember well. From what I remember of them and what I know now about styles of architecture I would say they were both built pre 1900. Maybe they were farmhouses in the past, but not when I was growing up.

    One was on the block between North 4th and 3rd Avenues between Dukes Parkway and Knopf Street. There was nothing else on this property. If I remember correctly house was located closer to the 4th Avenue and Dukes Parkway corner of the property . It was empty and abandoned. As kids we referred to it as the haunted house. The property belonged to Christ the King Church, and I think it was traded to the Boro when the church made some deal with them to obtain the property where Christ the King School was built. I can’t remember if the house was taken down before this or afterward.

    The other house and its properties occupied most if not all of the block between Dailey Place, St. Marks Place, Knopf Street and St. John Street. A house sat more to the St. John Street end of the property. The property was surrounded by a chain link fence and was quite overgrown but I believe there were people living there when I was young. I think the house was taking down sometime in the mid 1970’s

    It would be interesting to see if anyone has pictures of these or knows anything about these properties.

    • Peter, I do know of the house on North 4th Ave. I’ve been looking for a photo of it for a while. I don’t remember the house, but I had always heard rumors that it was haunted. Now there is a little development where it used to be. Right across from the park. I’m excited that you brought it up again.

      • You can go to and zoom into some overhead pictures from 1931-2007.

        Not all are very clear, but you get a pretty good timeline perspective of the changes over the years.

        As a matter of fact, I did that to take a look at the changes around South 20th and Camplain Rd (in regards to your 1937 Camplain Rd post). The house on the right (in the 1937 post) was built first, then the long house on the left came later.

        In the 1931 view, there looks to be a baseball field on 21st. Also, the Asbestos Inn at Sunnymeade Rd was not built yet.

  3. Thank you for reminding me of that aerial views web site.
    It shows the Dailey Place, St. Marks Place house did occupy the whole of that block, and was still there in 1979 but in the 1986 view it was gone.
    With the 4th Avenue house in the 1969 view the house is gone. In the 1963 view from 182ft. the house is there; the closer views at least to me are to blurry.

  4. Hey Peter. I hope you’re feeling well. That old house that took up the entire block was the Rogalski mansion. I remember the 3 German Shepards that used to protect the property line when I was growing up. I think it was Kaschack that ultimately purchased the land and built about a dozen or so homes on it.

    • Peter Lazas, you old son of a gun, don’t you remember me? We were neighbors on North 6th ave. My father was originially from West Virginia and my mother was from England. My brother Neal (now deceased) was one year younger than you. I’m six years old er than you and have been living in Frankfurt, Germany for the last 40years. I remember when your family moved iin next door. your mother, father, sister, two aunts, your uncle and your cousin. I remember when you were born.

      I also remember the “haunted” house on North 4th and Knop Street. My parents moved to Manville in 1947. Later my mother told me that the abandoned house was occupied when they first moved there. They had chickens and ducks and so on in the yard. She said that it had belonged to the Sobel family. The Sobel family I knew then lived in Somerville where, when coming from Manville, you go under the railroad underpass. The house was on the right, and they sold coal and later heating oil. Mr. Sobel used to deliver it to our house. He also attended the same church as me (Emanuel Baptist) on the South Side. Sunday mornings he used to come around with an old school bus and pick up kids for Sunday school. Of course he also picked up kids in the project..

      By the way, the Lis family were our other neighbors. They lived there until sometime in 1958. Joey Lis later became a professional baseball player and at first played for the Phillies. I have a couple of pictures of us together in our back yard.

      • Well, I live on Dailey Place and the Rogalski’s did own the property until 1980. My husband’s aunt was Florence Roglalski. The older Mr. rogalski supposedly bought the house from the Duke estate. Remember the columns on the house? The house was used as a summer house. There is a carriage stone on Knopf street thAt Aunt Florence took to her house on 1000 Knopf in 1981.

  5. Pingback: First Manville Band in Action | Manville, NJ ... Revolution on the Millstone

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