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News From The Communiqué
The Communiqué is the quarterly
newsletter of The Historical Society of Plainfield.
Various articles from recent issues will be featured here.

FEBRUARY 2001


Presidents' Day Party


ONCE AGAIN Swain Galleries was the elegant backdrop for the Society's Presidents' Day Celebration. The raw and rainy weather could not deter approximately 70 guests, who enjoyed homemade hors d'oeuvres, the chance to catch up with Society friends and shopping at Swain's.

One of the highlights of the afternoon included the introduction of Mrs. Phillda Ragland Njau, Interim Executive Director by President Jean Mattson. Mrs. Njau joined us in January on a part-time basis, while we continue the fundraising campaign in support of hiring a full time executive director to carry on the education mission of the Society. Another highlight was the virtuoso performance of Harry Ailster in conducting the raffle drawings. Congratulations to the lucky winners: Door Prize-Cory Storch, Raffle items-Tracey Thayer, Sophie Dickson and Greg Palermo. The unofficial prize for best hors d'oeuvre goes to Wendy Doré for the marvelous stuffed quail eggs!!

Thanks to the following who helped to make the event a success.

Chairperson, Mary Burgwinkle. Door and Raffle, Mary Burgwinkle, Harry Ailster, Pat Trobliger. Hosts/Pourers/Bar, John Hotopp, Courtney Dicely, Wendy Doré, Rashid Burney, Greg Haworth, Bill Kamski. Set-Up/Cleanup, Mary Burgwinkle, Pat Trobliger, Tracey Thayer, Marlene West, Greg Haworth, Brian Townsend. Food, Wendy Doré, Janice Dicely, Jo Ann Ball, Jean Mattson, Bernice Swain, Molly Banta, Charles Wendell, Tracey Thayer, Mary Burgwinkle, Nancy Piwowar, Marlene West.

Special thanks to Mary Della Sala for her annual and much appreciated donation of a handmade wall hanging.

Finally, kudos to Ann Swain for opening her gallery for us for the umpteenth time, and to Brian Townsend for pitching in and helping us set up and clean up.

Save Cesar Efforts Underway


THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PLAINFIELD , the Scotch Plains Baptist Church and the 7th grade C.A.S.H. students from Maxson Middle School are joining forces and are undertaking a project to save the gravestone of Cesar which is now located at the Scotch Plains Baptist Church.

Cesar was a slave on the Drake Plantation and was freed ten years after Isaac Drake's will of 1756. Cesar was born in Guinea, Africa, in 1702 and he is the first black of which there is sure knowledge in the history of Plainfield. He and Nathaniel Drake were received into membership in the Scotch Plains Baptist Church in 1747. He was freed in 1766 and continued to live at the Drake Plantation with Nathaniel Drake and his family. When the Revolutionary War broke, Cesar served as a wagoneer in the Continental Army and was an invaluable help in provisioning the Blue Hills Fort and Encampment. After the Revolutionary War, Cesar continued to be quite an eloquent and pious man and became famous for his exhortations.

Cesar was highly thought of by the members of the Scotch Plains Baptist Church and surrounding community and was given an elaborate gravestone when he died in 1806. One of the inscriptions reads:

Here rest the remains of Caesar, an African, who died February 7, 1806 - Aged 104 years - He was for more than half a century a worthy member of the church in this Place and closed his life in confidence of a Christian. His numerous friends have erected this stone as a tribute of respect to his numerous virtues and piety.

After almost 200 years of weather conditions, Cesar's gravestone is cracked and needs restoration, preservation or replication so that Cesar can be memorialized for future generations of Plainfield citizens and the Scotch Plains Baptist Church. Recently, Trustees of the Historical Society, Minister of the Church and the C.A.S.H teacher have developed a task oriented project for the fifty students to undertake to assist in the decision making process to Save Cesar. The students will work in groups and three groups will make a final presentation in front of the Historical Society, Church and the community at large.

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