Today I am delighted to have a review of the Branchville Historical Society Museum provided by the society’s industrious president, Debbie Anderson.
She has a great greeting and description of the society’s holdings.
In my travels in Sussex County, I have found many locations possessing a “sense of place.” Branchville is one, and it exudes a small-town aura, a village that has not really changed in 100 years.
West of Newton we seem to get more rural than the general country character of the county. Branchville has been a gathering spot for the farmers scattered amongst the rolling hills and stream-fed valleys. I feel refreshed when traveling through Branchville.
Enjoy Debbie’s tour here:, the artifacts from the fair, the feel of arriving at the train station, seats at the confectionery counter display and the beautifully rebuilt wagon of yesteryear.
Welcome to a beautiful, interesting, amazing place. It smells like the 125-year-old school in which it’s located.
You know the smell ... familiar, slightly musty papers and books, old wood and lots of history. Yep, history has a great smell!! And an even better look.
There are odds and ends, bits and pieces. You’ll see posters, special furnishings, clocks, mapsand so many amazing photographs. But the absolute best thing you’ll find in these two large rooms are stories!
Stories of the people who laid the foundations for and expanded the development of Branchville. Stories of the buildings and businesses that made the town the hub of the surrounding community. Stories of the dams that ran the mills and provided electric power and of the flood that changed the landscape. Stories of the railroad that came to town, bringing more people and business opportunities to the area.
Of course, you have to dig a little for the tales of the town. What you don’t have to search too hard for are some of our impressive displays.
We have a large farm wagon that was located in the old Garris blacksmith and wagon shop and lovingly refurbished by Mike Clune. Mike is responsible for a number of rebuilt items in our museum.
He pieced together the ticket counter wall from the original train station and refinished a large window from that building. The glass for that window was replaced courtesy of the late Lou Frato.
Or you can walk up to the original counter from the Branchville Confectionery Shop, complete with stools, dishes, utensils and old signs.
There are some smaller pieces of interest to examine. Perhaps you’re more interested in artifacts from “The Fair” as we called the Farm and Horse Show when it was located in town.
The dairy industry played a huge role in town during the late 1800s well into the 20th century, and we have the milk cans and bottles to prove it!
The Roy Co. display commemorates the farm and feed business that grew to serve the farmers in the surrounding hills.
It could be the collection of tools from the Garris blacksmith shop that grabs your attention or the original desk where D.L.B. Smith commanded the Selected Risks Insurance Co. before it moved up on the hill overlooking the old fairgrounds he donated to the town.
You won’t know which is your favorite until you take a walk through the place.
This year, the Branchville Borough Historical Society is celebrating its 25th anniversary. As lovers of local history and collectors of artifacts, Joe Codella, Bill Bathgate and Dave Bathgate organized the formation of the society in 1998.
The mission of the BBHS is to “gather articles and facts of significance relative to the history of Branchville Borough and the area for the benefit of present and future citizens.”
The museum, a huge undertaking by members of BBHS, opened in the Branchville municipal building, the former elementary school, in 2013. The BBHS maintains the museum, which is open the third Sunday of each month, and hosts presentations regarding local history four times a year.
We would love to have you come for a visit!
Bill Truran, Sussex County Historian