Sussex County History Today: Young historian

| 18 Aug 2023 | 01:22

I’d like to introduce you to one of our new Young Historians: Wyatt Fieldhouse.

Wyatt is a rising fifth-grader in the Hardyston Township schools.

He is a “plank owner” (a Navy term for being part of the original crew on a newly commissioned vessel) for the Ben Franklin Award. This award is focused on recognizing young people who are beginning to learn about history and the importance of the study of history.

These youngsters answer the question, “What do I think is the study of history?”

The award is named after an important person in American history. Ben Franklin (1706-90) was a founding father who was a leading intellectual of his time. He was a critical thinker who proposed solutions for the problems of society. He was a writer, scientist, inventor and statesman.

Wyatt has the makings of another Ben Franklin.

“I am so very happy and excited for Wyatt!” was the response of his teacher, Holly Romahn. She knew him as an enthusiastic and action-oriented lover of history.

“Wyatt’s love of history was apparent from the beginning of the school year. It went way beyond being attentive and a good student in class. He was engaged, questioning and curious as we explored New Jersey history and geography this year,” she said.

“He contributed so much to our class discussions and shared so much of his background knowledge with the class. Wyatt’s classmates appreciated and enjoyed his enthusiasm, and he drew them in as well.

“A perfect example was Wyatt’s diorama of the Civil War that blew us all away! It was created with such exquisite detail, everything in the background made from recycled materials from around the house. It was colorful, realistic and had all kinds of landforms built in. It was actually modeled after a battle. The soldiers had all fallen down on its trip down the hallway, and while Wyatt reset them in position, the kids asked why he didn’t glue them down. His reply was that he loved to continue to play with them and reset them.

“Talk about hands-on history! I think that many of his classmates went home planning on making their own versions of hands-on history. Teachable moments don’t get any better than that!”

Wyatt’s grandmother is Jean Barrett. They live in a wooded area atop the Hamburg Mountains in Hardyston.

I can see a similar relationship between Wyatt and Jean to that which I experienced when I was young. My grandfather Sydney Hall had a profound influence on me and drew me to, among other interests, a pursuit of history. Some 60 years later, here I am.

Perhaps it may be this young man to whom the baton may be passed someday.

Here are some valuable words from Wyatt’s grandmother Jean:

“It is unusual, but very refreshing, to see the interest that Wyatt has had in learning history from a very young age. Starting with an interest in the Civil War, he chose to study, give an oral report about and dress like Ulysses S. Grant for the Hardyston Elementary School Wax Museum when he was in third grade.

“This year, after learning more about the Civil War in Mrs. Romahn’s fourth-grade class, he was excited to show her a diorama he created depicting one of the battles.

“Wyatt continues his love of history by reading about and watching documentaries on the Revolutionary War, World War I and World War II.

“One very exciting avenue his interest in history has taken happened quite by accident. While exploring the woods behind our house with some of his cousins, they began bringing out artifacts from the 1800s!

“We contacted the Sussex County historian, Mr. Truran, to see if he had any information about homesteads in this area. With a map that he provided for us from the 1800s, we found out that where our house was located, there was a family that owned property here over 100 years ago! Wyatt plans on continuing these archeological digs!”

Before the end of this school year, Wyatt’s teacher, Romahn, submitted an application for him to enter the Young Historians Program.

Wyatt was one of two students that won the first Ben Franklin Awards for fourth-graders. It has been a great experience and an honor for Wyatt and will encourage his interest and excitement to learn about the past.

It’s refreshing to see the passion of youth carrying on tradition and maintaining and preserving our heritage and where we came from.

Contact Bill Truran, Sussex County historian, at