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Sussex County students are helping to build the Library's E-collection by participating in the Local History Story Challenge! The stories below are a growing example of kids working with their families and neighbors to learn about and preserve the many and collective histories that make up Sussex County.

For more than 60 years, the Library's Local History Collection has included books, research, writings and other works created by local residents. The following ongoing E-collection - written exclusively by Sussex County's students - represents new and unique additions of local history materials to the Library. By researching, writing and sharing their Local History stories here on the Library website, students learn - and help to teach - about Sussex County’s past, while connecting with people close to their own lives and with history enthusiasts around the world.

A special thank you to all students who participate in My Family, My Community, My County -- and to all the of the families and neighbors who share their memories of Sussex County so that these stories can be written and enjoyed.


Justin Voss, of Sandyston Walpack School, wrote what he learned about local history by interviewing a friend and life long resident of Sussex County…

My family has not lived in Sussex County for very long.  We moved to Sandyston Township about seven years ago.  I wanted to learn more about Sussex County’s history, so I interviewed life long resident Carol Jager Ayers. 

Carol Ayers was born to Clinton and Grace Jager and grew up on a dairy farm in Hainseville.  This August will be her 70th year living in Sussex County.  All of her family has lived here all of their lives.  On their farm they had Holstein cows and a team of horses.  When she got bored from riding horses she would go to the rock wall and play.  One time she found a fossil.  When she was five the horses were sold and they bought tractors. 

Her Grandmother Jager was a school teacher at the Fisher School, which was a one-room school located on the Old Mine Road. It was a school that her mother and her mother’s brothers and sisters attended. It later became a residence and has since been torn down.  Her mother’s parents, Leo and Mabel Ellett, had a dairy farm in Layton. Her aunt and uncle, Ruth and Allen Jager, also lived there.  She spent a lot of time with her Aunt Ruth, who worked on the farm.  When she was old enough her Aunt Ruth taught her how to drive the tractors, and she used to help by raking the hay for baling and then taking it to the barn to store it.  She also used to help with milking the cows. 

Her Grandmother Ellett lived to be 97.  In her later years she wrote her memories in notebooks for her family.  One of Carol’s favorite stories was about her first day of school.  Carol’s Grandmother lived on Route 206 opposite of the Flat Brook Tap House. She walked with her sister to the Hainesville School, which was a one room school, and was later the St. Thomas Catholic Church. That building was torn down last year. She started kindergarten in 1944. She eventually graduated from Newton High School in 1957. 

< Carol joined the 4-H Club with her cousins.  She had a Holstein Heifer named Sally that she showed at the Branchville Farm & Horse Show in the center of Branchville.  Today it is called The Sussex County Farm and Horse Show / New Jersey State Fair at the fairgrounds on Plains Road in Augusta.

 One of the biggest differences in Sussex County today, particularly in Sandyston, is that most of the dairy farms are gone and houses have been built on that land.


Sophie Daubner, in grade 7 at Ogdensburg Public School, wrote this story about her grandfather's family who immigrated to Ogdensburg from Hungary by way of Ohio - farmers who became mine workers.

My Grandfather, Joseph Bertalan, loves to tell us all the story of his childhood. He was born on a farm in Youngstown, Ohio. He was the youngest of four children, born to Claire and Charles Bertalan, who both immigrated from Hungary when they were very young.

My great-grandparents were good farmers. They raised chickens and cows and spent long days working in the fields.

One hot summer day, while the whole family was working in the fields, their farmhouse caught on fire. The children weren’t even wearing any shoes and everyone just had the clothes on their backs. Even though they tried to get neighbors to help, there was nothing they could do to put the fire out and the house burned to the ground. They lost everything.

Some relatives who were originally from the same place in Hungary heard about what happened and told my great-grandfather about a working zinc mine in a little town in northern New Jersey, called Ogdensburg. He said if my great-grandfather brought his family to Ogdensburg, then he could get a good job working in the mines.

So, the entire family packed up whatever belongings they had left and moved across the country to New Jersey. They built a small house at the bottom of Kennedy Hill, and my great-grandfather got a job in the mines. My great-grandmother continued raising chickens and eventually got a job as a seamstress at Morley’s Shirt Factory in Franklin.

The two houses they lived in are still there today. Our house is only a quarter mile from where they lived, even though things looked very different back then.


Erik Checkur, a fourth grader at Wantage Elementary School, interviewed his grandmother and wrote a story about his great great grandfather – a farmer and poet who lived in Sussex County 1865-1940. 

My great great grandfather was Peter Lott and I live on Lott Road. He farmed the field that I now ride my quad on. He wrote poems near the stream my dog runs through. He lived in the house that my grandma still lives in. My Sussex County roots are deep.

Peter Lott was born in 1865. he went to school until he was fourteen. He was asked to leave school because he put gunpowder in the schoolhouse’s potbelly stove. BOOM! He left and never went back. He was needed to work with his dad on the farm. When he grew up, he became a farmer.

Peter Lott’s hobby was writing poems. He wrote his poems by a fallen tree near the stream in the backfield. He went to write with his dog and his mule and his lunch. He wrote 800 poems by the stream and 300 of them went into a book. My favorite poem is “My Escape from the Pochuck Witches.”

Every fall the other farmers came to him to have him tell the weather for the winter. He would tell this by looking at the black and brown markings of the wooly-bear caterpillars. The New York Times even asked Peter Lott to predict the weather. When they asked where he learned to look at the caterpillars to predict the weather, he said he learned it from his Grandpappy, who learned it from the Indians.

Peter Lott wrote his last poem on his birthday. He had a stroke after he wrote the poem, “Uncle Peter’s Birthday,” in his field by the stream with his dog, Blue Boy and his mule, Jennie. He died at home 18 days later.

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