The Milltown Democratic Organization has been supporting the Borough of Milltown New Jersey since 1896. We endeavor today to carry on the tradition of service and excellence to the residents of Milltown, to give back to our community and make all those who have come before us proud.
The Democratic Party first emerged as a political vision over two hundred years ago. Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1792, the “Party of the Common Man” is now the oldest political party in the United States. Energetic and forward-thinking, the Democrats held their first National Convention in 1832. In 1848, the Party established its National Committee now the oldest public organization in the entire world.
The Democratic Donkey made its first appearance in 1828 when Andrew Jackson ran for President and used the donkey on his campaign posters. The first time the donkey was used in a political cartoon to represent the Democratic Party; it was again in conjunction with Jackson. Although in 1837 Jackson was retired, he still thought of himself as the Party’s leader and was often shown in political cartoons of the day trying to get the “donkey” to move in a direction that he believed best for the Party. By 1880, the donkey was well established as a mascot for the Democratic Party.
Democratic rule places its faith in the wisdom and reason of the individual to promote the interests and the welfare of all. The history of our Party is a history ingenuity, activism and, above all, leadership. Democratic Party leaders have presided over our new nation; have moved to support and protect the rights and civil liberties of all citizens; have fostered peace among nations through the creation and advancement of the League of Nations and later United Nations; have fought for the passage of both child labor laws and the right of workers to collectively bargain through unionization. It was Democratic vision that guided us through the great depression and which ultimately led us to emerge from such depths as the leader of the free world and the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth.
President Kennedy may have best captured the ideals and vision of the Democratic Party while addressing a gathering in 1960. The future President advised his audience that as a Democrat:
I believe in human dignity as a source of national purpose, in human liberty as a source of national compassion, and in the human mind as a source of invention… It is, I believe, this faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as a people that lies at the heart of the… [Democratic faith]… [It]…is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves…
The history of the Democratic Party blankets the history of both the United States and the history of Milltown. From its inception, proud and dedicated men and women have served Milltown and its residents faithfully and with distinction.
The Democratic Party now looks forward toward a great future for Milltown and in continuing to lead our community toward its best days.
You can learn more about the Democratic Party and our Democratic Presidents by exploring the “links” page provided on this website.
Every community is a document from which stories are told. Milltown’s story is one which rose from a desire for independent self-government. In 1888, the residents of Milltown, then known as “Bergen’s Mill”, finally began to take the action necessary to create their own community and, in the process, to break free from governing North Brunswick Township.
The process of seeking that independence began on October 9, 1888, when residents, (of what was then the last remaining village to rest entirely within a Township), conducted meetings to discuss secession and to develop a framework for the formation of a separate Borough Commission.
John C. Evans, who would become the Commission’s first President, chaired both this initial meeting as well as a second such conference on October 22, 1888. A motion made to seek secession was carried unanimously at this second meeting with a total of twenty three votes being cast.
A community election was conducted within Vanderbilt’s Hall at North Main and School Streets on January 26, 1889. North Brunswick Township, which had earlier experienced the secession of the City of New Brunswick and later the establishment of an independent East Brunswick Township, took no affirmative action to halt the formation of Milltown Borough. With the election permitted to proceed, the new Borough of Milltown was soon established.
Far from the steady successes which led to its birth, the creation of Milltown’s first form of government proved somewhat difficult. In fact, two elections for a “Board of Commissioners” were required as a result of the first vote ending in a tie. On March 4, 1889, a Board was finally selected. Its members included John C. Evans, Henry LaBar, John Otto, George H. Bissett, Conrad Wagner, William Ochs and Christian Crabiel.
Sworn in on March 16, 1889, the Commissioners moved quickly in their election of Evans as President, Otto as Secretary and Wagner as treasurer. In these early days legislation was enacted in areas which would ensure the smooth functioning of the Borough in meeting the needs of its residents. So small was Milltown that it was believed that any of the sitting Commissioners could gain an easy understanding of the mood, concerns and hopes of residents simply by taking a walk through town.
In early 1896, however, the New Jersey State Legislature repealed the Act which permitted the establishment of community commissions as an appropriate form of local government. In abolishing Milltown’s governing Commission, the State Act served to create the governing body of Milltown as it is recognized today.
The Legislature provided little time for the change-over from a “Commission” to a “Mayor and Council” form government. In meeting the State’s time-table, Milltown’s Commissioners met on May 7th. As they concluded their last few acts of Borough business, they remained seated quietly and passed from a Commission to a Council marking the commencement of Milltown’s modern history and its recognized and celebrated birth date of May 7, 1896.
John C. Evans, the only remaining member from Milltown’s initial Commission, was sworn in as the Borough’s first Mayor with Commissioner, Dr. Ferdinand Riva, being named Council President. Additional Counsel Members of the time were Charles Sevenhair, Charles Snediker, William Voorhees, Hartman Richter and Samuel A. Thompson.
Evans would preside over his last meeting as Milltown’s Mayor on March 7, 1901. He was succeeded by Stafford L. Rappelyea, who was elected on March 12, 1901. It was during Rappelyea’s administration that the State Legislature delegated a portion of property from East Brunswick Township to Milltown. It was from this Act of annexation that Milltown attained its present 1.6 square mile size.
Over the years Milltown’s Democratic Party has served our community admirably and with dignity and honor. Our Party constantly grows and improves each time a member of our community joins our family. Just as Milltown’s founding Commission and Council worked tirelessly toward our Borough’s responsible growth and success, the Milltown Democratic Organization continues that effort and strives, through our collective hands and heads, to provide a better quality of life for our families, our neighbors and our friends.
You can learn more about Milltown History by visiting the Milltown Historical Society located on South Main Street.
If you would like to learn more about our history please contact us today.
1 Source information, National Democratic Party Website at “www.democrats.org”; “Let The Word Go Forth”, The Speeches, Statements, and Writings of John F. Kennedy, 1947 to 1963, Delacorte Press, The Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., New York. Edited Theodore Sorenson, 1988.
2 Source information, The Story of Milltown, H. Rodney Luery, A.S. Barnes & Company, Inc., Cranbury, New Jersey, 1971.