Plainfield During WW1 and the Influenza Pandemic' Exhibit at Drake House Museum By: TAPINTO PLAINFIELD STAFF May 21, 2020 at 9:19 PM
PLAINFIELD, NJ — The Historical Society of Plainfield Drake House Museum has announced an online exhibit entitled,'Plainfield During WW1 and the Influenza Pandemic'. The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of the 45 soldiers and their Gold Star Families from Plainfield and the surrounding area who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during WW1. Some were born in Plainfield and others were immigrants, but all served their country with courage, bravery, and valor. Approximately 23 of the men succumbed to the Influenza Pandemic in 1918, and its related diseases. One of the men, Martin J. Kane, died as a result of pneumonia. He was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and was stationed at Fort Hancock in Sandy Hook. Kane was called to duty to help guard Sayreville after the T. A. Gillespie Company Shell Loading Plant explosion, also called the Morgan Munitions Depot explosion, that occurred on October 4, 1918. This explosion leveled over 300 buildings, burned for three days, and forced the evacuation and reconstruction of Sayreville, South Amboy and Old Bridge. It is not known the exact number of casualties from the Morgan explosion, but estimates were over 100 and hundreds more were injured. Conditions were awful, and there was a lack of food and water. Since he succumbed to fatigue, caught the flu, and then pneumonia, Martin Kane was not counted as a casualty of the Morgan explosion. He is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Plainfield. The plaque at St. Mary's was erected June 12, 1932. Special thanks are extended to Leanne Manna, Board of Trustee and Treasurer of the Historical Society of Plainfield, and graduate student at St. John’s University for curating this exhibit. Future plans include a website dedicated to the men and women of Plainfield who made the ultimate sacrifice in all the wars, a Roll Call of Honor. Access the exhibit HERE. The Board of Trustees thanks the editor, Jennifer Popper and staff ofTAPIntoPlainfield for their continuing coverage of the Drake House. Sign-up for their daily eNews and follow them on Facebook and Twitter @PlainfieldTAP.
The weeds, invasive plants, poison ivy, and thorny bushes made the side area inaccessible. Litter would collect in the brush, and there have been instances of dumping, Piwowar noted. The scouts and their parents raked the entire hill that had not attended to in many years. Piwowar said, "We wanted to make the Drake House more appealing from the curb on the western side." Historically, she added, General George Washington came up the hill from along the brook to access the Drake House. Docents will now be able to explain to visitors in a more visual way how high the Drake House is from houses to the west, and how Washington would use high points in his military maneuvers. The clearing of the underbrush will allow for exterior tours for school children who will be able to see how close the museum is to the Green Brook, and the importance of it to the Drake family in the 18th century . Piwowar noted there is a plan to restore and replace the exterior fencing around the Drake House, and this area needed to be cleared for that to happen. CJ's Eagle Scout Project - Drake House Flower Bed $1,020 raised of $1,000 goal Congratulations to CJ and all his donors !
Plainfield's Drake House Landscape Gets A Refresh October 12,2020 By:Jennifer Popper, editor TAPIntoPlainfield
PLAINFIELD, NJ - Christian Estevez grew up in Plainfield, and moved to Scotch Plains six years ago where he is now a senior in high school. He is also a member of Troop 73 out of Holy Trinity in Westfield, and is currently working on his Eagle Scout Service Project. Fondly recalling visits to Plainfield's Drake House, where George Washington met with officers before commanding the Battle of Short Hills in 1777. Estevez chose a project to repair and improve the grounds of the museum. "I've always had positive memories of coming to the Drake House. I just love the grounds, and I love the history." Estevez said he's met Nancy Piwowar, President of the Historical Society of Plainfield, on previous occasions, and stated she has "always been very nice in helping scouts, and people interested in history in general." He said it was an "easy choice to come in and revitalize part of this wonderful museum." Piwowar stated Estevez came up with a plan to stabilize the hill, and worked from an old photograph from 1922 that she found in the Olmsted archives. CJ, as he's called, along with his fellow troop members, removed unwanted thorny bushes the site yard, and will replace them with a flower bed of historically accurate daffodils. Stones donated by Plainfield resident Janey Dillon were used to create a decorative planter wall for the upper and lower flower beds. A path of paving stones are being placed, and a bench will be installed to overlook the flowers. Piwowar said, "It is an honor and a pleasure to work with the young men from Troop 73 based at Holy Trinity, Westfield, and their parents and leaders.CJ Estevez once played an elf at the Drake House Tree Lighting many years ago, and he has returned to help the community where he grew up. The generosity of spirit and hard work is most appreciated by the Board of Trustees of the Historical Society ." RELATED: Plainfield Holds Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. for Green Brook Multi-Use Trail ARCHIVE : After 240 Years , George Washington Revisits the Drake House Museum in Plainfield
A Plainfield WWI Story Reaches Across the Pond By NANCY PIWOWAR November 11, 2020 at 1:19 AM PLAINFIELD, NJ — In May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, TAPinto Plainfield published an article announcing the Drake House Museum's online exhibit entitled “Plainfield During WWI and the Influenza Pandemic.” That article, it turned out, would connect the past to the present. Leanne Manna, a Trustee at the Drake House, curated the exhibit and posted it online. Rutgers University Intern Stephanie Quartsin and I helped to research and document the veterans. Manna also designed the original exhibit panels that were funded by the Gannett Foundation. The exhibit was dedicated to the memory of the 45 soldiers and their Gold Star Families from Plainfield and the surrounding area who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during World War I. Twenty-three of the soldiers succumbed to the ravages of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. May they all rest in peace. The article included the name of one casualty, Martin J. Kane, and a relative of his, who lives Ireland, found the article about the online exhibit. Kane’s family had heard stories about their uncle who was a WWI casualty, but the details were sketchy and incomplete. One Irish niece (now in her 80s), who was born after his death, felt bad that no one in the family had ever visited his grave in New Jersey. She recently lost her husband, and has been homebound in Ireland due to the current pandemic, so it couldn't be her. Her son and daughter-in-law from the Philadelphia area thought, as a way to lift her spirits from afar, they would embark on the journey of locating Kane’s burial site, and keep her updated on the progress. Information was exchanged across the “Pond” (Atlantic) by the family members. The TAPinto article listed the burial site at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Plainfield. The great-nephew and his wife were recently able to make a trip to the Queen City in search of Kane’s grave site. They could not find it, so they reached out through the Drake House Museum website with the hopes of finding out more. The family’s inquiry was answered, and the pieces of a puzzle over 100 years in the making were fitted together. The Historical Society made calls to St. Mary’s Church, and both its Pastor, Reverend Manoel Oliveira, and church staff were very helpful. A tour of the cemetery was taken with Antonio, the caretaker, and the burial site was located, but there is no grave marker for Martin J. Kane, U.S. Coast Guard, WWI Veteran. Kane’s story is one of an Irish immigrants. He was born in Kilkelly, Ireland, in 1895, and his mother died when he was ten years old. Later in life, he decided to immigrate to America, and he arrived at Ellis Island on the St. Louis passenger ship in 1915. His last name was changed from Keane to Kane when he arrived in the U.S., a common occurrence for immigrants. Kane settled in this area because he had an uncle, Martin Regan, who lived on Spooner Avenue, and he was employed by the Spicer Manufacturing Company in South Plainfield. Three years after his arrival, at the age of 23, he was among the men drafted for WWI. He entered the U.S. Coast Guard in May 1918, and served in Company D, Fifteenth Battalion. Kane was dispatched along with other members of the Coast Guard to protect Sayreville after the T.A. Gillespie Company Shell Loading Plant explosion — also called the Morgan Munitions Depot explosion — on October 4, 1918. The exact number of casualties is still unknown, and some casualties were never identified. Fires burned for days. Food and water were scarce; even the Guardsmen did not have enough. Kane was weakened from exposure and became ill. He died at Fort Hancock in Sandy Hook on October 22, 1918, of pneumonia related to the 1918 Flu Pandemic. After his death, his next of kin, Uncle Martin Regan, held a private service for Kane at his home. There was a Mass at St. Mary’s Church, and Kane was buried in a Regan family plot at St. Mary’s Cemetery. Sadly, within ten days of Martin Kane’s death, the elder Regan had to bury his seventeen-year-old son, Martin Regan, Jr., who died from the flu. Due to the ravages of the 1918 pandemic, Martin Kane’s grave was left unmarked. There have been no American flags on this Veteran’s grave on Memorial Day or Veterans Day. Kane’s name was only discovered during the 2000 research for the City Hall Veterans Monument. His name was found on the St. Mary’s flagpole monument that the Church erected in 1932. Many of the Irish immigrants were poor, and the local parish church was the only place where some of the men’s names were ever recorded. Now 102 years later, one pandemic story uncovers another pandemic story, and hopefully it will end with a happy ending. As President of the Historical Society, I answered the family’s inquiry, toured St. Mary’s Cemetery, communicated with the family, and contacted Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman’s office for information about obtaining a Veteran’s grave marker. The proper government VA forms were sent, and the Philadelphia-area Rush family, Kane’s relatives, filled them out. Permission was received from Reverend Oliveira to place a grave marker in the cemetery, and permission of acceptance of the marker was received from Plainfield Granite Works. Relatives of the Regan family, in both Ireland and the U.S., were found in order to notify them and receive their permission to place a marker for Kane next to the Regan family headstone. The forms have been returned to the Congresswoman and are awaiting approval from the VA National Cemetery Administration. An immigrant veteran of WWI will hopefully obtain a proper marker with the help of many, including: family members, St. Mary’s Church, the Historical Society of Plainfield, Plainfield Granite Works, the City of Plainfield's Planning Director, and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. Martin J. Kane, your sacrifice has not been forgotten and your grave site now has both an American and an Irish flag. Rest In Peace.