In the late Spring of the year 1895, a group of citizens from what was then the Town of Kearny's First Ward, dissatisfied with what they perceived as neglect of the interest of the taxpayers of that ward, set out to establish a separate borough government under the provisions of the Borough Laws of 1887. Led by Edward Kenny, a lawyer, these citizens petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Hudson County on June 4, 1895, to authorize a special election to establish the formation of a new borough government to be known as The Borough of East Newark. By order of the Honorable Robert S. Hudspeth, President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, in and for the County of Hudson and State of New Jersey, dated June 20, 1895, approval was granted to hold an election within the limits and boundaries of the proposed borough on July 2, 1895, for the purpose of voting for or against incorporation of the new borough. On July 2, 1895, residents took to the poles erected at John Keenan's store to forge the birth of The Borough of East Newark. By vote of 276 in favor of incorporation to 57 against, The Borough of East Newark was born. Newspaper accounts of the event revealed that as news of the succession from Kearny spread rapidly throughout East Newark, people took to the streets and cheered, hats were tossed high in the air, men hugged one another and a brass band paraded through The Borough's streets.
Much of the success for engineering the coup to secede from Kearny is given to Edward Kenny, East Newark's first Mayor, known to all as "The Father of East Newark". Fact mixes with legend in recalling the accounts of Mayor Kenny's drive to create East Newark. As legend has it, Mayor Kenny's coup is said to have involved a midnight run to Trenton by horse drawn coach, whereby, Mayor Kenny spearheaded legislation to secure secession and the formation of The Borough of East Newark. According to the folklore, residents went to bed in one town only to awaken and find that they were new residents of another. Whether or not the decision to secede involved a midnight run, the vote on July 2, 1895, witnessed the creation of New Jersey's smallest borough. Situated between Kearny to the north of Harrison to the southwest, the tiny Borough, along the eastern bank of the Passaic River, encompasses a mere 64 acres or 1/10 of a square mile.
With the decision to secede and form a new government completed, the difficult task of actually operating The Borough was at hand. On July 23, 1895, a special election was held, ushering in East Newark's first public officials. Edward Kenny was elected Mayor. Henry V. Ammerman, George A. Bond, Thomas Hood, Hugh Kenworthy, James O'Donnell and Walter Walsh were elected to The Borough Council. Mr. Bond was later chosen by his fellow Council members to serve as the Council President. Thomas E. Gleeson was elected Tax Assessor and James Joule was elected Tax Collector. William Hanna was elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders for the County of Hudson. Others elected in this special election were Danniel F. Byrne, James Gibbs and John Pringle as Justices of the Peace; Andrew Davin, Joseph Post and William Steward, constables; Samuel Grady, Robert Patterson and John Stevenson, Commissioners of Appeal; John Keenan, Poundmaster; and James Furphy and James Hewitt, Surveyors of the Highway.
Two days after the special election, the first meeting of the Mayor and Council of the Borough of East Newark was held at 8:30 on the evening of July 25, 1895. Mayor Kenny called the meeting to order and the first order of business was the nomination of Henry J. Hortsmann as the first Borough Clerk. Mayor Kenny then took the floor for the first time as The Borough's Chief Executive and delivered an inspiring speech wherein he set forth the new government's responsibilities and duties to the people it was elected to serve The Mayor reminded all in attendance that:
"We have been selected by the people as their agents solely to provide for the public necessities of the people and our efforts and our work should be confined entirely to that object."
Acting on this credo, Mayor Kenny called for the immediate establishment of a Borough school and fire and street departments and urged that the new government not be rife with partisan politics, but rather, that it be one "having only the local public interest in view."
Executing Mayor Kenny's agenda calling for swift plans to educate The Borough's youth and maintain and guard community property from destruction by fire, the Council's School Committee and Fire Committee submitted plans of action to the Mayor and Council at a Council meeting on August 14, 1895. The School Committee recommended the erection of a three story building on Third Street, the site of the current Borough School. While construction of the new Borough School was pending, the Council secured space from the Bethel Chapel on Second Street for $20.00 a month. The first official classes for the Borough School were held at the Bethel Chapel on September 16, 1895, with 115 pupils in grades 1 through 5 in attendance. Mr. W. DeLauren Robins served as the school's first principal for and annual salary of $1,000. The Borough School officially opened its doors at the site on Third Street in 1896 and continues to educate the children of East Newark in grades K through 8.
At the same meeting, the Fire Committee unveiled its plans for the organization of the first Fire Department. The recommendation submitted to the Mayor and Council called for the creation of three companies, two hose companies and one truck company. Each hose company was to consist of 20 men and the truck company was to have 30 men. The Fire Committee plans called for housing a truck and the hose carriage in the neighborhood of Sherman Avenue and Second Street, together with a building housing a courtroom and police station.
The first Fire Department, organized and approved shortly thereafter by the Mayor and Council in October 1895, consisted of a forty man volunteer force that was divided into two companies, (1) The Defender Hose Company and (2) The Sherman Hook and Ladder Company. Jas Duffy was elected the Department's first Fire Chief on October 31, 1895. Today, the Borough still maintains a fully functional volunteer squad consisting of 40 firefighters. Mr. Allen Yudichak serves as the Department's current Chief.
Acting on perhaps the recommendations of the Council members on the Fire Committee, The Mayor and Council purchased lots 16 and 17 on block 1558 of the north side of Sherman Avenue with the buildings thereon for $2300.00 that would soon house a Firehouse and Borough Hall. Situated on the site was a stable owned by the old Hewitt Foundry Company. Within approximately two months after purchasing the site, the Mayor and Council held it's first meeting in the new Borough Hall on November 20, 1895. Extensive alterations of the first Borough Hall, however, would not be complete until 1900. Prior to meeting in Borough Hall, the Mayor and Council conducted its official business at Union Hall located on the corner of Grant and Central Avenues. The first Borough Hall remained in operation until 1955. At that time, the current Borough Hall was constructed in its place. The current Borough Hall, located at the same site, still houses all The Borough's Offices as well as teh Police and Fire Departments.
Having successfully established the school system, Fire Department and Borough Offices, the Mayor and Council then set out to establish a police force to patrol the Borough streets. The first Borough Police Officers, referred to as "Marshals", were sworn into office on November 27, 1895. Andrew Davis was sworn in as the first Borough Police Chief with Laughlin Feeley, Peter Karin and John Tierney being sworn in as Marshals. The officers were paid a salary of $65.00 a month. Although these men were the first official group of paid law enforcement officers, credit for the first Police Officer of East Newark should be given to Thomas Butler who was appointed by the Mayor and Council as Special Marshal, a non-paying position, on September 27, 1895. Today, our Borough's police force is a modern, fully equipped department consisting of 9 officers, lead by Chief Anthony Monteiro.
One of the Key factors leading to the formation of The Borough of East Newark, was the presence of the Clark Thread Company and the Mile End Spool and Cotton Company within East Newark's boarders. These two mills, which were known as the great mills, encompassed nearly 25% of the land mass in East Newark and had a taxable land value of $1,258,200.00. The Clark and The Mile End Mills consolidated to form the Clark Cotton and Thread Company. With this expansion, the Clark Cotton and Thread Company became the largest and most important thread manufacturer in the United States. The presence of the great mills is what attracted many of the English and Scottish settlers to the region in the 1860's and 1870's who came to the mills searching for work. By far, the single most dominant industrial feature in The Borough, the mills heralded in the initial growth and continued prosperity of East Newark. In 1931, The Clark Thread Company abandoned its operations in East Newark, however several other industries soon moved into the large industrial complex situated between Grant and Passaic Avenues. Currently called the East Newark Industrial Complex, the site is now owned by First Republic Corporation. The site is still home to many manufacturing companies and is a stable element to East Newark's continued economic viability. The presence of the mills at the turn of the century allowed East Newark to bear witness to some of the best professional soccer matches held in the United States through the early 1930's in games held at the old Clark Field on the corner of Passaic and Central Avenues.
The early 1900's also saw the erection of Saint Anthony's R.C. Church on Second Street. The original structure, however, was destroyed by fire in 1935. The present Church was rebuilt shortly thereafter on the same site where it currently stands on Second Street. Saint Anthony's also built its own school that was located on the site of the former Bethel Mission on Sherman Avenue. The school is now the community center for The Church.
East Newark, although a tiny Borough, made its mark in our country's history from its inception. It housed the foremost thread processing center in the nation. Its residents have served in every war that involved the United States dating back to The Spanish-American War of 1898. In 2020, it elected it's first female Mayor.
The Borough has had 15 Mayors who graciously served their community:
-Raymond Graham, Sr.
-Joseph R. Smith
-Dina M. Grilo
Modern day East Newark continues to function as a viable community meeting the needs of its residents. In the late 1970's, East Newark officials erected a fully equipped recreation center for East Newark's Youth. The center, located on Central Avenue, houses indoor and outdoor basketball courts, ping-pong and pool tables and plays host to seasonal soccer and hockey matches. East Newark also maintains three playgrounds, once which includes a ball field.
The 1990's saw the erection of the Senior Citizen Center on President Street. The center provides a daily meeting place and lunch for our Senior Citizens. The center also hosts a variety of events throughout the year such as holiday parties, dances and social events.
East Newark continues to provide essential services to its community. Throughout the past ten years, all major roadways in the Borough have been re-paved and equipped with handicapped accessible crosswalks. Our Police Department has been fully automated. Similarly, our Volunteer Fire Department is equipped with modern turnout gear and a state of the art fire engine and truck. Plans are currently being made to upgrade the facilities at the Borough School to ensure that our school is equipped to educate our youth into the future.