Saturday, December 26, 2009
The origin of the name 'Headquarters' for both the house and the hamlet in which it is located comes from an apocryphal story of George Washington using the house as a headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Washington, indeed was in this area during the Revolution, and used a house in nearby Lambertville as his headquarters for a brief time (he was on the run), but never this house.
Opdycke, like many Dutch families in this area, probably owned slaves, who helped run the mill and support the local economy. We don't usually think of slavery as part of the heritage of this part of the US, but it definitely was. Not on the scale later found in the South, but it certainly existed.
So what does this picturesque scene in the New Jersey winter of 2009 tell us about our landscape, and our sense of place? How does our knowledge of the existence of slavery here affect our perception of the landscape and its man-made features? Does it recall the earlier devastation of the culture and the lives of the native Americans, the Lenni Lenape, who formerly called these fields, these hills, forests, and streams their home? How does past shape our understanding of the present, alter our understanding of the the place in which we live? How does it affect our choices in the garden?
(I'm indebted to Marphy Goodspeed's article in the Delaware Township Post for some of the facts in this post.)