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An Important Historic Trail Passes Thru Monty

By Rikki Massand l September 1, 2021

Montgomery Township became the first local municipality of potentially hundreds on the East Coast to approve a resolution in support of a 680-mile-long Washington Rochambeau National Historic Trail.

Montgomery Township Committee member Shelly L. Bell is a board member of Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association (W3R). She presented a resolution in support of the trail, which township committee unanimously supported at its August 5 meeting.

The Montgomery Township Committee's resolution highlights the many contributions of black, indigenous, and mixed-race soldiers who helped secure victories of the American Revolution. Center: Franklin Township Police Officer Lauren Gregory at the Griggstown Causeway with two Revolutionary War enactors on Saturday. Photo by Anna Savoia.

The trail is named in honor of the commanding generals of the American and French troops during the Revolutionary War—General George Washington, and General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau.

It stretches from New England to Virginia. Montgomery’s stretch of the Washington Rochambeau Trail along River Road (Route 533) is a single-lane residential roadway in each direction. It traverses along the Millstone River Valley Scenic Byway and crosses the Griggstown Causeway.

“Montgomery Township is one of the communities along this historic route, where on August 30, 1781, our residents witnessed the passing of American and French troops along River Road while on route to Yorktown for victory in the American Revolution,” according to the resolution.

Cyclist Sal Lilienthal (right) visits with Somerset County Planner & Historic Sites Coordinator Thomas D’ Amico and Barbara Ten Broeke, trustee of the Millstone Valley Preservation National Scenic Byway.

Montgomery Township Committee is calling on "President (Biden) and U.S. Congress to increase funding within the National Park Service to develop the trail through research, planning, and interpretative signage, public art, and visitor centers.”

The 2020 book America’s National Historic Trails describes the 18th century architecture of this area as “evoking the multiple times the Continental Army (under General Washington’s command) passed through the valley” beginning with the traversing of the land after their victory at the Battle of Princeton in January 1777 and four years later, in 1781, as River Road and the Millstone Valley had lines of French and American troops passing through on their way to the Revolutionary War’s decisive battle at Yorktown.

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Former Montgomery Township Committeeman Brad Fay, a resident of Canal Road in the Griggstown section of Franklin Township, serves as a pro bono consultant to W3R.

“It’s an incredibly important historic resource that nobody knows about, and we are trying to change that in particular as America approaches its (250th anniversary). The portion of the trail along the Millstone River is considered to be among the most historically untouched area of the entire span,” Fay says.

Locally, the objective would be its preservation and keeping it protected. “The trail is important. Federal and state resources should be directed to it, and we must educate the public about its historical prominence,” Fay added.

Sal Lilienthal of Connecticut cycled a stretch of the Washington Rochambeau Trail in August. He started in Rhode Island and passed through Montgomery on his way south—to raise awareness of the little-known 1781 historic trail.

In addition, the percentage of non-white American Revolutionary soldiers likely reached its peak traversing the trail, marching to, and fighting in the Battle of Yorktown, Fay said. The trail resolution is part of a regional effort to highlight the many contributions of black, indigenous, and mixed soldiers who helped secure victories of the Revolution.■


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