Come one, come all, to the historic Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, New Jersey on Saturday, June 16 at 1pm! We will be reenacting the unfortunate arrest of the colony’s last Royal Governor, William Franklin, whose argument with his famous rebel father Benjamin caused him to make a decision that would change not only his life, but American history: loyalty to the crown and King George III over loyalty to his father, and his passionate support of the revolutionary cause. It is the story of one of the most famous family break-ups in history, and this decision caused the Provincial Congress of New Jersey to order his arrest on June 19, 1776 by the Colonial Militia led by Col. Nathaniel Heard. While we see the British as evil today, Franklin was much-loved by the citizens of the colony, but he just could not rebuke his inner feelings of loyalty to a King he deeply respected; the man who instilled him as the governor after years of hard work and service to the Crown. This reenactment that we put on every year takes place over the course of three days in the year of our independence, with Heard’s first visit to the governor’s mansion—we stage the event in Franklin’s actual drawing room—where he got the door slammed in his face, and his return later in the week with an arrest warrant and full militia to drag haughty William out of the house. It is an untold story of the Revolution, except by us, as we have now eclipsed twenty years of arrest plays and reenactments.
This past week, I spent every day substitute teaching at the school where I taught the Civil War class, and coach hockey at (the next league starts in a little more than a month, which guarantees more funny stories being posted here). My first day ever at this new job actually occurred in the week prior, when I was called in on a Wednesday morning. Because of this, I have not really had much time to write here on my blog, because of the change in my schedule that leaves me drained of energy when I get home, until my body can completely adjust to the new routine. Substituting did have its positives, though, as I now got my first taste of what being a full-time teacher is really like. Before this, all I had done was teach one class here and there, or, when I went into the local high school to do some field work for college, it was mainly just sitting and observing, save for the occasional lesson I was allowed to teach. But here it was, five days of classes and dealing with many different students (most of which I had coached already), and I must say, it did get better as the days went along, though there were a few bumps in the road, as every substitute must face.
Tomorrow, Sunday, June 13 at 1pm, the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy will be reenacting the 1776 arrest of Royal Governor William Franklin by Colonel Nathaniel Heard under orders from the Provincial Congress of New Jersey.
On the outset of revolution, Franklin was the last remaining governor of any colony who remained loyal to King George III.The congress felt it was time that he be replaced. Since January of that year, he had been placed under house arrest with strict orders to not conduct any private business. But after it was found out that he was secretly trying to sign a peace treaty between East Jersey and England, to get Jersey out of the war, the congress ordered his full arrest.
The congress first ordered Heard to arrest him earlier in the week, but to do so respectfully. Franklin in turn, slammed the door in his face and said he would not be taken by someone he did not respect and was not equal in rank. Heard then reported back to the congress what happened, and they ordered him to use any means necessary.
Heard returned to the house on June 19 with sixty soldiers, and dragged the governor out of the house and arrested him. Many townspeople of Perth Amboy were still loyal to him, and he was much respected, even with people in the army who arrested him.
I will be taking part in the re-enactment as a soldier in Heard’s brigade. This is a picture of me after I tried the uniform on. The beard I have has since been turned into mutton chops, as I am trying to be in character as much as possible. I am only hoping the heat won’t be too bad, because I don’t care what anyone says about wool, it is still hot!
My equipment includes the following, and an 1850 Pennsylvania Long Rifle, that is not pictured. The age of the rifle is inaccurate, but it will serve just as well as a flintlock tomorrow.
Jeff Huber, who has given his opinion several times in articles on this site is also taking part as a townsperson.
Kurt Epps, who has played Franklin for several years will be continuing his role. Here is a video of Kurt from last September as he portrays the governor.
The re-enactment begins at 1pm and is fun for people of all ages. If you have never been to the house, the address is as follows:
The Proprietary House
149 Kearney Avenue
Perth Amboy, NJ 08861
The event is free, however, any donations will be accepted for the upkeep and restoration of the house. Parking is also limited, so please arrive a few minutes early as generally a lot of people show up. Some years we have even had to do two shows to accommodate the large crowds.Please check out this site’s page for the house for more information.
We hope to see you there!
“Pro reg ex patria!” (“For King and Country!”)
It has been months since I got a chance to go on a private paranormal investigation of the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, but since I have another chance to go tonight, I figured I would post this here on the site, hopefully being able to do another one tomorrow, should we see anything spooky there again.
In November of 2009, my history professor at the time, and good friend now, Jeff Huber, invited myself along with two others to do some investigating in the house that famed psychic Jane Doherty called the second most haunted place in New Jersey, behind only the Spy House in Port Monmouth. There is so much colonial history in this state, which triggered Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman to create the magazine Weird New Jersey, which has developed a cult-like following.
Getting back to the Proprietary House, it is older that America itself, as it was built in 1762 to serve as the mansion for the Royal Governor of New Jersey, who at the time, was William Franklin, son of the famous rebel Benjamin. It was when times got turbulent when the nation was on the brink of revolution did tempers flare between Franklin and his peers.
He got into an argument with his father, who was so annoyed at William’s reluctance to join the colonist’s side, that he stormed out of the house, never to see his son again. He was a loyalist, and would not allow himself to join the side of the rebelling Americans. It was here when the Continental, or some say, Provincial Congress, sent a Colonel named Nathaniel Heard to arrest Franklin. The first time they tried, they were told to use caution, and when they knocked on the door, Franklin slammed it in their faces. They returned to the Congress and were advised to use any means necessary to bring him in. So they approached the house with at least fifty armed soldiers and dragged him outside, where he was arrested.
Ever since that time, the house has manifested many different spirits, as after it was the Governor’s Mansion, it served as a hotel for a brief time, as well as an orphanage and Civil War hospital for officers after the battle of Gettysburg. There are at least four confirmed spirits who make regular appearances, including that of Franklin, a little boy in blue who likes to play around with visitors, an old one-armed man who used to roll his own cigarettes, and a lady in a white dress who stands by the window, presumably the apparition of Mrs. Franklin, though unconfirmed. One of the funniest stories I have heard about this house is the number of times the police have came, asking the people in charge to remove the manikins from in front of the window, because they are distracting to the drivers. You guessed it, there are no manikins in the windows. The police have also responded to several alarms sounded in the house, which they assumed to be burglars. However, when they arrived, they determined that the house was never broken in to, and everything was left undeserved.
So on November 6, 2009, myself along with Jeff Huber (who is currently working on a book about Heard), John Hemenway, and Dan Wright, went into the Proprietary House with cameras rolling. We shot a little more than an hour of footage, and although it may sound cliche, we got nothing on film. Everything that we saw and heard happened when the cameras were off or turned away. Some of the noises we heard are audible on film, though. During our two hours spent there, we encountered four distinct instances of paranormal activity. Below is my report on what happened:
1. We went into the main dining room where most of the activity had been reported. In order to try and provoke the spirit, I shouted “Continental Congress”, since it was that governing body that ordered Franklin’s arrest. It was met with two distinct knocks. We yelled it a second time and the same thing occurred. We kept trying but we would hear it no more.
2. There is a door in the room right next to the dining room that ghosts like to play around with. Dan closed it and made sure it was latched. When we returned about twenty minutes later, the door was opened halfway. Keep in mind that this door was latched, and the four of us remained together at all times, to ensure that anything we found was genuine.
3. This next one is something that only I saw. There were two rooms connected to one another by a doorway. I was standing in the hallway looking in and I turned my head and saw someone walking to the next room. I then turn to John and said, “Jeff just walked into the next room.” But then Jeff came out of the other room and said, “No, I’m right here.” There was no way he could have walked into the next room, and everyone else was behind me. We later found out that the area I saw someone walking is where the lady in white often is seen, but I did not know that prior.
4. This last one is something that literally made John jump three feet out of his shoes. I was standing looking into a mirror. The mirror has a reflection of the window in it. I swear I saw a shadow walk in front of the mirror but John had walked near me at the exact same time so I dismissed it. But then I told everyone to be perfectly still, and for him to walk in front of the mirror again. He did and there was no shadow this time, meaning I really did see something. But when John walked towards me like I told him to, he stopped, turned around, looked into the mirror and we saw the shadow of a man walk clear across the front of the mirror. That part we would have had on film, had John not jumped right in front of the lens out of fright (I could kill him for that!).
Jeff also reported to us that while he was waiting in the parking lot for us to arrive, a light on the upstairs floor turned on by itself. There was no one in the house at that point. Dan also claims to have seen the figure of someone crouching near a doorway when he was separated from the three of us. Lastly, we all saw a chandelier shaking, but we are reluctant to claim that that was paranormal, and not just a draft.
Other than that, there was the occasional cold spot and chill of the spine. One got me really good, just went we saw the shadow pass in front of the mirror which is kinda strange because it would have been reflecting the window on the wall behind me. John also happened to smell the scent of mustard when he was in the room that used to be the kitchen.
We all went in with the mentality that the house is not haunted, even though I believed in ghosts prior. We were all annoyed that nothing conclusive came up on film, as well as the hundreds of pictures we took in the two hours we were there. When we return tonight, we will not have a video camera with us, just regular cameras. We will try to take as many pictures as we can, hoping that something will show up on one that we did not see with our own eyes.
Side note: This house was featured on an episode of the Sci-Fi series “Ghost Hunters”. After a thorough examination, they could not debunk the place, and confirmed it as haunted.