• Back to Ream Family History Page

    Joseph Harold Ream - Millstone House - 1941-1946

    Dave Ream and siblings write:

    The house itself was quite historic. It was built in 1756 for John Van Doren and family--early Dutch settlers. Its primary claim to fame was its one night as a sleeping place for George Washington and his army in the first days of 1777. The troops set up camp in the fields surrounding the house, fields that were tilled by the Ream family some 165 years later. The army had just defeated the British and Hessians in the battles of Trenton and Princeton, and were in retreat to winter quarters in Morristown. In their forced march, they stayed a couple of days ahead of the chasing British. Legend has it that, when the Brits arrived at the Van Doren house, they tortured the family in the basement, trying to gain information about Washington's army. Another legend concerns a three-inch depression in the wooden molding outside the library door. Supposedly, this was caused by a British soldier swinging his sword at one of the Van Dorens.

    In 1911, the DAR placed a plaque at the house, to commemorate the George Washington connection. That plaque, located about 50 meters north of the house, is now weed-stricken and falling apart. A few years ago, I tried to get the Somerset County Historical Society interested in the need to replace the plaque, but I am not aware of any progress. Perhaps some of you Jerseyites could inquire.

    About the "front door" of the Millstone house. It is not clear which exterior door you mean. There were three doors into the house. 1) a large door on the north side of the house, the side looking north and closest to the village of Millstone. 2) another large door looking south toward Blackwell's Mill. These two doors were at the north end and the south end of the interior central hallway, and both could confusingly be labeled the "front door." 3) the kitchen door, on the southwest corner of the house; as you accurately state, this was the most frequently used door. Let's call the other two the "north door" and the "south door."

    Just outside the kitchen door was an old iron railroad bell, roughly two feet square and perhaps 50 pounds in weight. It was on top of a ten-foot pole. This bell was purchased by our Mom at an auction house in the first years of our occupancy. A rope hung down from the bell. Mom would walk outside and ring the bell to alert the rest of the family that a meal was about to be served!

    The entry to the library was located just to the east of the north door. The entry to the living room was located just west of the south door. Jack is correct about the placement of the TV set and the piano in the library. I can recall a couple of times that the family gathered around the piano, with the Old Man singing so loudly that we could barely hear Mom's piano playing! And yes, the "box" holding the TV set was actually a fairly handsome piece of furniture. Next to the north door was the interior door leading to the basement.

    The first floor of the farmhouse contained: the library, living room, a wide central hallway, the kitchen, a dining room with a fireplace, and another fairly large room whose purpose was a mystery--perhaps a place where children could work on crafts projects on a big table.

    Upstairs was the parents' bedroom, a second bedroom originally occupied by me but later by Nancy (I think), and a crib room--where Chris slept. The second floor also had a wing with a couple of servants' bedrooms--occupied by Monroe Carter and Emma C. Wilson ("Womp").

    There was a third floor, with two small bedrooms--Jack occupied one, and Steve and I shared the other--and a central play area.

    Somewhere on the third floor was the anchoring material and braces for holding up that TV antenna pole. The addition of that pole was an egregious violation of the house's architectural integrity. I suspect that the pole was removed shortly after the Reams left in the summer of 1946.



    Yes, CBS did install that TV set in the Millstone farmhouse. The date was March 1944. I don't recall any talk about its role as an experiment, nor do I remember anything about "other families" being part of the "experiment." I would have to guess that, in 1944, our house had the only TV in Hillsborough Township!

    A year or so later (before we moved to Princeton in summer 1946), an antenna was installed on the top of the house. It was on a steel pole--really a piece of 3-inch pipe--shooting 10-15 feet up into the clear air. I do recall talk that the antenna approach was an effort to improve reception.

    The indoor TV set itself was unique. It was a large piece of wooden furniture, resting on the floor of the library (not the living room) next to Mom's piano. This "box" stood about 4 feet tall. What made it really unique was the fact that the picture tube was inside the box, pointing straight up toward the ceiling; also, the manner of viewing was special. The box had a hinged wooden top, with a large mirror on the underside of this top. To view the TV images, one had to open the top to a 45-degree angle. The images would then be reflected by the mirror, so that they could be watched by one sitting in front of the box.

    I don't recall that family members spent much time watching TV programs. For one reason or another, the set was often on the fritz. The Old Man, and probably Jack and/or Steve, would fiddle with it, but often it simply did not work.

    In June 1946, a major sports event was a heavyweight boxing match between Joe Louis and Billy Conn. It was televised. We invited a dozen or so neighbors to watch the fight on this new-fangled machine. And, of course, the TV set broke down again just before the start of the fight--leaving our neighbors disappointed and wary of this new contraption.

    I do not remember any gathering of "the entire population of Millstone" sitting cheek-to-cheek on our living room floor. But you seem to remember the details of this event, so I suppose it did happen. Jack, what are your memories of this?

    Nor do I recall just how many channels or how much "air time" we had in the mid-1940s. Again, I bow to your memories, because I simply do not recall any of the programs that you seem to.

    I do remember a show called "Teletruth," on which a panel answered sets of questions sent in by viewers. A typical "question" would be a half-dozen photos of baseball players that the panel had to identify. If a viewer's question was selected for inclusion, the viewer received $5.00. The Question-of-the-Week received a grand prize--a full set of the Book of Knowledge encyclopedia. Of course, being so few viewers, the Ream kids kind of dominated this show, and we often received checks for $5.00 as well as hearing our names on the TV. I recall vividly that Jack won one Question-of-the-Week, and soon we had a set of the Book of Knowledge in the house.


    I think Dave's description pretty well matches my memory of the TV. I recall watching the crew install the tall antenna pole on the roof, with three or maybe four guy wires to the corners of the roof. I remember the pole being a lot taller than Dave recalls - maybe thirty feet tall. The TV set was as Dave describes, with the inverted tube and the mirror lid. The cabinet was a shiny dark brown wood, probably mahogany. It sat in the library on the north wall, not next to the piano which I believe was in the SW corner of the room. I do remember the gathering of neighbors to watch a prize fight (I'll take Dave's word that it was Billy Conn and Joe Louis) but I don't remember the set going on the fritz at that point. Also, I remember that there was one or two hours of TV most nights, with just one station each night divided between CBS, NBC, and Dumont (later replaced by ABC.). I recall visiting the CBS studio with Mom and watching the shows of that evening - all taking place on the same platform which was divided into separate sets like a pie on the same platform. There were no commercials. My best memory, and most vivid memory, was winning a full set of the Book of Knowledge for submitting the best series of questions (and answers) for a quiz program on CBS for that week. I vaguely recall my questions had something to do with identifying animals. OM was a little nervous that they might discover I was related to him, but as far as I knew they never made the connection.


    In 2005, I visited the farm. The property was divided a couple of decades ago. One owner has the house and perhaps one acre around the house. The big barn is owned separately; there is an apartment in the same space as was occupied by the cow barn (remember the milk fights?); a second floor has been added to make a cozy little home. I suppose that most of the fields are also separately owned, and are now filled with "new" housing.

    I met the current owners of the house. Their name is Morris, they are about your age, and they say they have lived there for 35+ years. Jane Morris has extensive flower and vegetable gardens. Dr. Morris (an M.D.) is a Yale grad and that he has been on the faculty of the R. W. Johnson Medical School at Rutgers for many years.

    Also by the way: in 2005, the railroad bell was STILL on that pole just outside the kitchen door!

    2008 Ream family visiting the house photos:
        Ream Visit, April 2008

    The House in 2008:

    Nancy's photos:
    1) The Millstone House, early 1940s
    2) The Millstone House, early 1940s
    3) Ream family at Millstone, Summer 1943
    4) The Milltone House, ~1946
    5) The George Washington Monument in front of house, Summer 1942
    6) Nancy ringing the RR bell outside kitchen door, Summer 1942
    7) Anita holding Chris and Nancy, Millstone, Christmas 1942

    PHOTOS from Nancy Ream Rose

    Nancy wrote: Here are some more photos from my Mom's album. These are dated Summer 1944.

    Top two are behind the big 18th Century Barn. From left to right.....Jim Ream, Tom Ream, Steve, Chris's back, Jack , Dave, Nancy and Barbara Jo Ream.

    Bottom two are at the Millstone River. Dave, Chris and Nancy on the grass near river's edge. Canoe group---left to right---Cuz, Steve, Dave, unidentified man, Jack, Uncle Walt Hahn, and Nancy.

  • Back to Ream Family History Page

    More Images/History:

    Van Doren House, River Road, Millstone, NJ 08510.
       Ron & Pat Morris, 1488 Main Street
       Carol & Joe Vizzini, 1490 Main Street
       Mailing address may be Hillsborough, NJ 08844

    Index of Below:
    1. Map as of 2008.
    2. Millstone Borough, Historic buildings web page.
    3. Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Photos and Card
    4. Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Four Page Text, Written Historical

    1. Map as of 2008

    The location of the John Van Doren house is 100 feet or so south of the “d” in Yorktown Road. You’ll notice that, on southbound River Road, the road curves a bit to the left; the house is on a slight hill just at that curve. The barns, corn crib, milk house, etc. are within a few hundred feet further off River Road.

    The Ream holdings totaled about 125 acres. We owned land on both sides of River Road (also known as Main Street), right down to the banks of the Millstone River, and thus most of what is now the northern half of D & R Canal State Park. On the west side of River Road, we owned virtually every bit of land now encompassed on the map by “old” Amwell Road (Route 650), Colonial Road, Yorktown Road, and River Road—and then some. (Colonial, Yorktown, and Van Doren Drive are all “new” streets—i.e., built since 1946).

    The bridge across the Millstone River and the D & R Canal (linking East Millstone with Millstone) is Route 514, and is also shown on the Yahoo map as Amwell Road. Back in the 1940s, that road ended at the corner of River Road (Route 533). To continue west, one had to turn left at the corner of 514 & 533, and proceed 1/4 mile south on River Road (also known as Main Street) to the south corner of the church, turn right onto what was always known as Amwell Road (Route 650), and proceed west.

    At some time in the past 50 years, a new road was built, beginning at the corner of 514 and 533, and proceeding due west for a mile or so until it intersects with Route 650, also heading west. This new road is designated Route 514 and Amwell Road; that designation creates confusion. Because now—at least according to Yahoo—there seems to be two separate roads named Amwell—the one that is an extension of the bridge-crossing road, and the one that proceeds west from the church.

    A few other developments that have occurred since the Reams left Millstone in 1946. First, the land between River Road and the Millstone River was part of the John Van Doren—and Ream—holdings. It now appears to be the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park. I wonder what sort of activities occur in this “new” park. Second, a total of three new roads are in the west side of River Road in the old Van Doren—and Ream—holdings. On the Yahoo map, they are named Colonial Drive, Yorktown Road, and Van Doren Drive. I suppose this development is a reflection of the fact that the fields where we planted corn, wheat, oats, et al, as well as cattle, horses, and chickens, are now covered with residences.

    Source: http://www.raritanmillstone.org/guidebook/millstone.htm     See #115     Estimated Photo Date ~2002

    Source: http://patmedia.net/millstonebh/history.html     http://www.millstoneboro.org/     Photo is post 1946

    Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C.     WebSite

    Photo Date ~1890, source Tom Van Doran's website, and his email confirmation (Jan 2008):
    I have one picture on my site that says the John Van Doren house. This is your family's house that you apparently occupied in the 1940's.     John Van Doren, who built the Millstone house was my gr.gr.gr.grandfather's older brother. Christian Van Doren of Middlebush, b.1699 had 17 children all of whom reached adulthood, and had families. His second son was John, who settled in Millstone and built your house, as well as donating labor and lumber for the Dutch Reform Church a few hundred yards to the north.     The picture that I put on my website of the John Van Doren house came from an edition of the Somerset County Historical Society Quarterly in 1917. The picture was take about 1890 and shows John Van Doren, the grandson of the builder sitting on the porch.

    PHOTOS from Todd Murphy July 2015

    Hi, My name is Todd Murphy. I live in North Brunswick, N.J. and over the past two years I've become interested in the history of the surrounding towns. I started by searching the Internet for old houses in N.J. and I went out and visited some of them. One day I just felt like site seeing so I started off by visiting the Suydam farm. I then drove into Millstone and walked around taking pictures of the old houses. I stopped by the Hillsborough Dutch Reformed Church and noticed that there were some Revolutionary War soldiers buried there. I went back to the Internet to look up the history of the church and found a list of the people that were buried there. I noticed the amount of Van Doran's on the list and became curious as to what this family was about. When I looked up the Van Doran's I found out about the Revolutionary War history and the pictures of the Reams family. I love the picture of the boys with the baseball gloves! I also read that there was a bayonet marking on one of the door frames! I then had to see the house in person. I've been there three times and today the owners invited me inside! I was so surprised that I didn't even catch their names. They were so nice and they gave me a tour of the house. Here are some photos.

    Show another unrelated Van Doren house, not the same Joe Ream house. Tom Van Doren.