Public Info

Colonial Era “Texting” coming to the Deserted Village

quillpen_8365psSo how did the American colonists “text” each other?

Children are invited–yes, their parents can tag along– experience first hand what it was like to “text” in Colonial America

As part of the Four Centuries In A Weekend celebration at the Deserted Village of Feltville  in the Watchung Reservation, youngsters will be able to sit at old school desks and to write with a quill pen and ink on parchment paper to experience what it was like writing a letter in Colonial times.

The experience is one of the most popular for children at Four Centuries, with more than 400 youngsters last year taking their turns to write with a quill the way the Founding Fathers did as they drafted the Declaration of Independence.

While youngsters are free to write as they wish, last year some teenagers decided a treasure map was more to their liking.

Four Centuries in a Weekend, coming Oct. 15 & 16, is celebrated across Union County at different historic sites. The Union County Department of Parks & Recreation celebrates the event at the Deserted Village in Berkeley Heights.  There are games and activities for children, hayrides, and historic tours of the area. Historic sites are open 11a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“All you have to do is look at those youngsters, quill in hand, and you can see how much they enjoyed the experience,” said Union County Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski. “It’s fun. It’s also learning a little history-that the way we communicate has changed so much,” she said.

A Parks Department staffer will be on hand to guide children, and to suggest what they might write about if they had been alive in the 1700’s when the Reservation area was all fields.

In fact, John Willcocks, one of the farmers who tilled a portion of the land that is now part of the 2,142-acre Watchung Reservation, fought in the Revolutionary War.  Willcocks served in the New Jersey militia and is thought to have been mortally wounded during the retreat of General Washington’s army from Fort Lee.

Youngsters are invited to consider how the farmers in the area would be concerned about how the war was faring and how they might well have written to relatives about the progress of those battles and concerns for their own safety

For more information on the Deserted Village of Feltville, go to, and for more activities in the Union County Parks System, go to For directions, set GPS to Cataract Hollow Road, Berkeley Heights, NJ.