Monday, April 30, 2012

Finding Pike's Peak in Trenton

I'm particularly tickled when a site that's expected to present one story ends up revealing another. That's the experience we had on a blustery visit to Trenton. Parking near the capital building to check out the original Masonic lodge, we found a sign that totally tripped me up. It said, in the customary New Jersey Tercentennial Sign haiku* format:

Brig. Gen. Zebulon Pike, explorer, 
born near here, 1779. 
Captured York, Canada, 
1813, but killed in attack. 
Pike’s Peak named for him.

Yet another western explorer born in New Jersey? You got it. In fact, one of his forebears was the founder of Woodbridge. His father, also named Zebulon, served as an officer under Washington in the Revolutionary War and continued his military service in the newly formed United States Army after independence had been won. As a result, the younger Pike spent most of his youth at forts in what was then the American frontier: Ohio and Illinois. He followed his father's footsteps and joined the army at the age of 15, rising to the rank of first lieutenant by the time he was 20.

While his military responsibilities seemed to focus more on administration and logistics, Pike came of age in the army just as western exploration was coming into vogue. The 1803 acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase nearly doubled the size of the nation, but much of the territory was unknown terrain to all but the natives who lived there. Young Pike was in the perfect place to make an impact, and in 1805, General James Wilkinson, Governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory, appointed him to lead an expeditionary force to find the source of the Mississippi River and bring back influential natives for negotiations. While Pike misidentified the river's origin, the other geographical information he gained was among the first learned for the U.S. government.

Wilkinson sent Pike on a second expedition in 1806 to locate the sources of the Arkansas and Red Rivers, establish relations with the natives and gain a greater understanding of the region's natural resources. Unlike the Lewis and Clark expedition, this journey started without authorization from President Jefferson and may have even been a spy mission. Some historians conjecture that Wilkinson may have been secretly collecting information for the Spanish government, using Pike as an unknowing accomplice. There's even a school of thought that the general was working in league with Aaron Burr to overtake the western United States, though it's never been proven. (Burr seems such a ready villain to some historians that one wonders if they'd charge him with starting World War I if they could.)

In any case, it was on this second expedition that Pike found the mountain that would eventually bear his name. Arriving in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in November, lacking sufficient winter clothing and food, he and his team tried to reach the summit of the 14110 foot-high mountain but thought better of it and turned back. He was quoted as claiming that it was likely no man would ever reach the top.

The journey back was a lesson in hardship and disappointment. Pike and his men soldiered on through the winter, some suffering gangrene and frostbite along the way. Captured by Spanish soldiers near Santa Fe, they were interrogated and their records confiscated for a time, but they were generally well treated and eventually set free to return to undisputed U.S. territory.

You'd think that they'd receive warm welcome upon their return, but it wasn't the case. Jefferson himself was more enamored of Lewis and Clark's natural and scientific findings, and rumors had already begun to swirl about Pike's supposed involvement in the Burr conspiracy. Neither he nor anyone on his team received any special consideration for their efforts and hardships endured. If it weren't for Pike's Peak itself, it's doubtful that Zebulon Pike would be anything more than an answer to a particularly tough trivia question.

* Yes, I know that haiku generally take the three line, 5-7-5 syllable format. Go with me on this one.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cooperative living down on the farm: Cook College's Helyar House

If you make it to Cook College Ag Field Day tomorrow (and I hope you do!), take a few minutes to stroll down College Farm Road to Helyar House. The 1960's-era building is the modern representation of the resourcefulness of an innovative professor and the persistence of his students during the Great Depression.

Like many students in the 1930s, a host of young men at Rutgers' agriculture school struggled to meet the costs of tuition and college living expenses by doing odd jobs around campus. The farm itself had plenty of opportunities for enterprising young people to keep after the animals, make sure the furnaces stayed lit, and so on. In exchange for their labor, the students with these jobs would get a small room as sleeping quarters. It was a spartan existence, and likely a lonely one.

Agriculture professor Frank Helyar saw an opportunity to change the situation a slight bit. A good part of the ag school campus had been a working farm before Rutgers bought it, and it included an old farmhouse once occupied by a minister named Phelps. Why not open the building to students who were willing to work in exchange for room and board? Beyond the jobs they already had around campus, the residents would also manage the house, make the meals and so forth.

Apparently it was a hard sell to administrators who couldn't see the difference between this planned house and a fraternity, but Helyar stressed the cost-sharing arrangement and the need to provide students with a good living experience. The first group of young men who moved in proved him right: they were hard workers and made the cooperative living arrangements work. Along the way, they also put a spin on the fraternity concept and called their house Alpha Phalpha, the second part being an adaptation of the last name of the house's previous owner.

By the time I got to Rutgers, the frat-derived name was gone in favor of honoring Helyar, and the house had already been taken down in favor of the newer building, but the affable young men who lived there still basically ran the house on their own. It was a great environment to visit, and I'm sure it was a great education for the residents as it still is today. Female and male students at Cook College's successor school can apply for space at the house, which continues to offer a significant cost savings when compared to other on-campus residence options. I'll bet Professor Helyar would be proud and happy to see that his Depression-era concept lives on.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hoboken: home of Frank Sinatra, baseball... and helicopters?

While doing additional research on another Hidden New Jersey entry, I came upon this interesting statement in the Encyclopedia of New Jersey:

"New Jersey can be credited with most attempts to produce a hovering flying machine before the first successful helicopter flight in 1936 (in Germany)."

Okay... I knew that the first successful machine-powered submarine was invented by John Holland in Paterson in 1878, and that any number of aviation firsts were made in New Jersey, but helicopters? That was a new one on me. And while the concept of a flying, rotor-driven craft has been around since the days of daVinci, our local effort had its roots in the Civil War.

The story goes something like this: at the start of the war, Union Army officers were approached with the concept of developing a hovering aircraft. I've got to believe it was for reconnaissance purposes more than anything else, but the idea didn't get off the ground (sorry, couldn't resist) until the conclusion of the war. Rather than the army taking charge, private citizen Lemuel Serrell took the reins in 1865, using a design created by an inventor named Mortimer Nelson. According to the Encyclopedia's sources, the craft was essentially a rotor powered by a 500-pound, 40-horsepower engine. Testing took place in Hoboken, where the Serrell/Nelson helicopter supposedly lifted a payload weighing over half a ton. There seems to be some question whether the size of the load was quite as grand as claimed, but there doesn't seem to be any doubt that their rotor craft worked.

Helicopter technology continued to evolve from the time of the Hoboken project until 1917, when Francis B. Crocker and Peter Cooper made their contributions to the canon. By that time, experimenters were using electric engines and much broader, counter-rotating rotors, and the Crocker/Cooper project in East Orange had potential to become the first practical helicopter.

Hundreds if not thousands of innovators contributed to the development of the helicopter over the course of decades, so I'm not really sure how accurate it is to say that the bulk of the research was done here. It's clear, though that the efforts of Serrell, Nelson, Crocker and Cooper added to New Jersey's storied aviation history.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Kidnappings, tattooed chickens and the Turnpike: an afternoon at the State Police Museum

We Hidden New Jersey venturers always do our best to stay on the right side of the law and avoid unnecessary interaction with the authorities. Why, then, did I find myself in the presence of all things State Police?

Fear not: I did it deliberately, and legally. The New Jersey State Police Museum is nestled just off Route 29 in West Trenton, actually slightly south of Trenton, to be more accurate. Long ago I heard that the museum held the electric chair used to execute convicted Lindbergh Baby kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann as well as other notable law-enforcement memorabilia, so I figured it was worth a visit.

The first thing you encounter when you get there is the guard post on the driveway. You're approaching the State Police headquarters, so they want a careful inventory of visitors. I had to show identification to the guard trooper and tell him where I was going. I'd never been in the position to hand over my drivers license to a trooper, but I guess if you have to, this is the most benign reason.

It's more than a tramp stamp for your chickens:
tattooing is a way to prevent poultry poaching.
As you're walking toward the museum, you're greeted by a large golden statue of a state trooper in full uniform, accompanied by a sign asking you not to climb up and pose with it. Okay. One more checkpoint at the front door, and you're in.

NJ Turnpike
Early Turnpike memorabilia offers an interesting
view into mid-century New Jersey challenges.
Exhibits at the museum trace the history of the State Police from their origins in the early 20th century up to recent years. While most of us think of troopers mostly as a Parkway and Turnpike phenomenon, much of the early activity centered on keeping order in communities lacking their own local police forces. The same organization that works to prevent terrorism today used to guard against chicken thefts in rural New Jersey. Similarly, while troopers of the past thirty or forty years have made countless drug busts on the Turnpike, their counterparts in the 20s were focused on stopping bootleggers and moonshiners.

Law enforcement enthusiasts will get a lot out of the museum, given its exhaustive review of details including police vehicles, badges, uniforms, weapons and the like. For someone like me who's not as much into the accouterments, well, I was a bit more interested in the old Turnpike brochures, the mocked-up forensics lab and a really cool bulletproof vest designed especially for police dogs.

Oh, and the electric chair? A two-dimensional, full-sized photo was there in its place, since the real thing had been loaned out to another museum. However, the Baby Lindbergh kidnap story has a rightfully-sizable spot near the front of the museum. It was this investigation that put the State Police on the map and made them world-famous in the early 1930s. Authentic evidence including some of the ransom notes and a portion of the ladder the kidnapper used are on display, along with newspaper articles and other memorabilia.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting hep with Clyde the Jazz Bird

If you're a regular reader, you're familiar with my tendency to associate birds with characters. First, there was the Paulie Walnuts bird, and then the Dracula bird, but the granddaddy of them all, for me at least, is the jazz bird, the black crowned night heron.

Black crowned night heron New Jersey
Look carefully and you'll see Clyde,
the Rahway River black-crowned
night heron.
I first noticed this hep bird along the Rahway River, doing a bit of dusk-time fishing near a spillway (he was fishing, I was just walking by). Having never seen a heron of his type before, I took note of his distinguishing marks so I could look him up when I got home. It wasn't difficult to remember what he looked like: dark head, back and bill, lighter gray wings and a white underbelly, and yellow legs. Oh, and he was crouched over like a grizzled jazz saxophonist with bad posture. Given the fact he didn't seem to have much of a neck, he kinda reminded me of Bleeding Gums Murphy from The Simpsons. I figured he was probably a heron, given his patient, nearly motionless and deliberate approach to fishing, but he looked very little like the lean and graceful great blue herons that sometimes show up in the same area.

This particular bird became a regular fixture on my nightly summertime walks near the Rahway, usually fishing at the same spot unless a human was already there with a rod and reel. There's something very meditative about watching a heron, and this fella has a sort of happy expression on his face, if birds can show emotion.

Not long after Ivan and I met, I mentioned the jazz bird and where he hung out, and somehow we decided to dub the night heron "Clyde." It seemed as good a name as any, even though we had no idea whether the bird in question was male or female. Apparently the only ones who can tell the difference are other black-crowned night herons.

If memory serves, Clyde usually shows up in May and hangs out until September, so I'm hoping he'll be back in the next couple of weeks. We didn't see him after Hurricane Irene swelled the Rahway several hundred feet beyond its banks late last summer, but I've got to believe he made it through the storm okay. I'll keep you posted.

And maybe when I see him again, I'll bring my sax over to the river and give him a little serenade. Riverside blues by moonlight... what a way to do one's birding.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A potentially Titanic life cut short

A lot is being said today about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic and the unfortunate deaths of over 1500 people in the icy waters of the Atlantic. I'll be thinking about one of a handful of New Jersey notables to perish on the ship, Trenton native Washington A. Roebling, II. The 31 year old son of Charles, the president of John A. Roebling's Sons Company, Washington was returning to the United States after touring Europe with business associates. He hadn't been discussing bridges or wire rope, though; he was all about automobiles.

Washington Roebling II memorial at the family plot
in Riverview Cemetery in Trenton. 
Young Washington had worked at the family business for a few years before taking an interest in the nascent car manufacturing industry. In the days before the Ford, Chrysler and General Motors became the Big Three, there were dozens of small automobile companies around the country, including a high end brand owned by William Walter, a family friend. Seeing an opportunity when Walter ran into financial trouble, Washington was among several partners who purchased the company, moved it from New York to an old brewery plant in Trenton and renamed it the Mercer Automobile Company.

Like his father and uncles, Washington was a talented engineer, a skill that came to great use in designing and building high-performance cars. He didn't just make them, though; he drove them, too, to some success. Competing behind the wheel of his custom-designed Roebling Planche racer, he took second place honors at the Vanderbilt Cup Race in 1910.

Washington chose to take the maiden voyage of the Titanic after touring Italy and France with his friend Stephen Weart Blackwell and chauffeur Frank Stanley. Rather than bringing a Mercer to Europe, Washington took a Fiat, which seems kind of like bringing pork roll to Trenton. A Night to Remember, the seminal chronicle of the experiences of upper class Titanic passengers, says little about Washington, other than relating his calm and helpful demeanor in helping women into lifeboats. Those whom he helped said he assured them they'd be all right and possibly even back on the ship by daybreak. If he'd heard about the severity of the damage to the ship, he was well aware that staying on board would lead to certain death, but he followed the gentlemen's code of the day and remained.

One can only wonder what Washington might have achieved with the Mercer Automobile Company had he lived to old age. The few Mercers still around are treasured as specimens of some of the finest auto engineering of the day. Perhaps Trenton would have become a mecca for high-performance racing, or the Mercer would be prized along with the Porsche and Lamborghini.

Incidentally, the Fiat didn't go down with the ship. Stanley had fallen ill in Europe and left a week later, taking the car with him.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Discovering the colony near the foot of the GWB

Not far from the site of the actual Fort Lee in Fort Lee, there's a tiny enclave that's been both a haven for the well-to-do and a camp for Depression-era day laborers. Edgewater Colony's history that reflects several parts of American history and experiences, and you'd barely know the community is there, but for the small sign at the entrance near River Road.

I found it as I was driving to visit the famous parakeets of Edgewater. The entrance looked pleasant and welcoming enough, but I sensed that maybe it wasn't a driving around kind of place. Thus, I waited till I got home to do my exploring online. When I did, I found I'd discovered what's essentially an accidental planned community. Residents own shares of the cooperative community rather than the ground below the houses they buy there, so there are no property lines, and it's run by its own board and bylaws though still part of the town of Edgewater.

That in itself isn't all that remarkable; it's the history of the place that makes it interesting. Originally known as Burdette's Landing, the area seems to have been part of Fort Lee (again, the fort that the town is named for) during the Revolutionary War, acting as a vital ferry link to Fort Washington on Manhattan. Nearly a hundred years later, the area became the site of the Fort Lee Park Hotel, a massive riverside resort hosting wealthy New Yorkers seeking fun and entertainment outside the city boundaries. The hotel burned to the ground in 1914, leaving the property open to less well-off working-class families who set up homesteads there.

The foundation for what became Edgewater Colony was set in the 1920s when Hartnett's Camps opened as yet another vacation haven on the shores of the Hudson. Unlike the old Fort Lee Park, however, the accommodations were more rustic, with bungalows that rented for $30 per season. When the construction of the George Washington Bridge started nearby in 1929, the men doing the nuts-and-bolts work adopted Hartnett's property as their temporary home, just a few miles from their worksite.

Mr. Hartnett (I haven't been able to find his first name) died in the 1940s, leaving a will that gave the the bungalow renters first rights to buy shares of the property for $1300 each. Those who decided to stay eventually incorporated into a formal cooperative that to this day maintains the roads and other common elements.

Reading the Edgewater Colony website, it sounds as if it's a tight-knit, friendly community whose residents appreciate and take pride in the location's heritage. It's kind of nice to see how down to earth the place is, especially given how pricy and exclusive some of the neighboring areas have become. In fact, if you see an opportunity to buy in, it might be worth a shot: the share price hasn't gone up since the original offering, making the Colony one of the most reasonably-priced places in Bergen County.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Amphibian warfare in Hopewell?

While I was researching after my recent Hopewell trip, I discovered that the mascot of the town's elementary school is Freddy the Frog. Okay, that's fine; maybe at some point the kids got really charged up about amphibians and petitioned the principal to officially designate the frog as their patron animal.

Nice thought, but untrue. Believe it or not, the name originates from a battle: the Frog War.

The historic Hopewell train station, no frogs in sight.
Small green animals with guns and grenades? Nope. It's about trains. Back in the mid 1800s, railroads were expanding in New Jersey, which isn't surprising given the state's historic importance as a critical transportation corridor. The Pennsylvania Railroad had a choke-hold on the state, but that didn't stop a group of entrepreneurs from forming New Jersey's first separately owned railroad, the Delaware and Bound Brook. State legislation had opened the industry to competition in 1873, and the D&BB was itching to get into the business.

As major corporations will, the Pennsy Railroad responded by creating a separate subsidiary to compete with the upstart. The Mercer and Somerset Railroad was designed primarily to block the D&BB by intersecting its path with a common crossing at a point northwest of Hopewell. In railroad parlance, the intersection they used is called a frog. See how the amphibians get involved?

The D&BB, to its credit, didn't simply concede its right of way to the larger Pennsy system. With the country's centennial approaching, the route to Philadelphia was far too lucrative and the upstarts wanted their share of the potential profits. They kept laying rails on their planned path, no doubt expecting a confrontation. Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania railroad stationed a locomotive at the disputed stretch of track, yielding the section only for its own oncoming traffic.

This simmering dispute was bound to heat up, and it did in January 1876. As the blocking locomotive moved to let an approaching Pennsylvania train through, a mass of D&BB laborers jumped out of the brush to block the engine with heavy ties. A D&BB locomotive then chugged up to further assert the young railroad's right of way. Hostilities grew when the Pennsy railroad sent their own host of men to defend its perceived right. The situation got so heated that the governor sent a militia at the request of the Mercer County sheriff.

It wasn't unusual for corporations of the day to use muscle to quash competition, but the great Frog War was ultimately settled in a more modern venue: the courts. With the law and popular opinion on their side, the little guys won, and D&BB finished its route while the Pennsy disbanded the M&S.

Today the track is still in use as part of Conrail's Trenton freight line, and local explorers routinely go on a search for the frog in contention. Any of you Hidden New Jersey readers ever find it?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Another Roebling on the Delaware. Whoda thunk?

I feel as if I keep running into Roebling bridges on the Delaware.

Last summer, it was the aqueduct that brought the Delaware and Hudson Canal across the river from Pennsylvania to New York.

The other day it was a cable suspension bridge connecting Riegelsville with Riegelsville. That's two separate towns, one in New Jersey and the other directly across in Pennsylvania, kinda like Kansas City, but not really. I found the bridge as I was wandering along the very narrow and curving River Road in Pohatcong, south from the hamlet of Carpentersville.

As I mentioned in my post about the Carpentersville excursion, I wasn't even sure the river to my right was the Delaware. It's not especially wide in Warren County, there were no signs to tell me, and I didn't have a GPS. The only indication I had was a line painted about 10 feet up on a house to indicate the high-water mark following Hurricane Diane in 1955. I knew the Delaware had severely overstepped its bounds in the 50s, but I wasn't sure that others in the area hadn't, as well.

The Riegelsville Roebling bridge owes its creation to an earlier flood: the 1903 "Pumpkin flood" that not only washed orange gourds down the river but also swept away a wooden span built in 1853. Like other bridges the company built, the 1904 structure has aged well, withstanding a host of floods with minimal damage. It's standing even prouder now, after a 2010 rehab, funded by the bridge's owner, the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. Travelers pay no tolls there, though there are toll houses on both sides (take that, Dingmans Ferry bridge!).

When there's a bridge, I have to cross it, even if it lands me in another state for a few minutes. I was a little surprised by the challenge the roadway presented. The open grate deck kinda grabs your tires and shunts your car over a little bit, requiring you to steer straight more diligently than you might ordinarily. The Acura approaching from the opposite direction certainly appreciated when I tugged my car to the right a little more to assure I stayed well within my lane.  Overall, though, it's a pleasant though quick ride across the Delaware, just over 500 feet long. Once again, Roebling's work has stood the test of time.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Checking out both sides of the tracks in Carpentersville

Yesterday I returned to the site of one of our more disappointing winter adventures in Pohatcong Township, hoping for better luck.

See, we'd gone there the day after one of this winter's rare snows, only to find we were barred from the area's chief birding spot because the road wasn't plowed properly. When we tried to find an alternate route, we ended up in the small village of Carpentersville, which appeared to be just a few houses and a couple of public buildings. I didn't think much of it until I looked up at the door to the one-room schoolhouse and saw a large doll just inside, hanging by its neck. That, plus the inordinately large number of POSTED and NO TRESPASSING signs got me thinking that perhaps it wasn't the friendliest place in the world. I took no pictures, though I was really tempted to.

Fast forward to yesterday. The weather was much nicer and I'd spent a total of 10 minutes at Motor Vehicle getting the biannual car inspection, so a road trip was in order. Maybe I could figure out the whole Carpentersville thing.

An hour and a few side trips later, I discovered the doll essentially hasn't moved since January, though there's now an unfriendly sign on the door, banning trespassing and gunning. (Gunning? You mean, using a gun, or revving an engine?). Check it out:

spooky hanging doll

Well, I was there, so may as well do a little driving around. I hit a big "Do Not Enter" area farther down the road the hanging doll was on, so I made a right turn onto River Road. I found myself driving alongside a railroad track mounted on a berm. Several hundred yards down, the road split, the right side going to a gravel company and the left crossing the tracks and skirting toward the river. I went left.

For some crazy reason, it didn't occur to me that it was the Delaware I was seeing. I guess I'd lost my bearings once I left Route 78 and didn't realize how far west I'd gone. At that point, the river isn't anywhere near as wide as it is at the Water Gap, and the houses along the banks were pretty modest.

The train tracks still had me wondering, so I turned the car around and retraced my path in the hopes of discovering something, perhaps an old station. On a previous trip to Phillipsburg, we found a depot for the Belvidere and Delaware Railroad, which now offers occasional leisure rides along the river. Perhaps this was part of it?

River Road dutifully hugged the tracks, much as a tow path accompanies an old canal. Once I got past the little enclave where the hanging doll road intersects River Road, the pavement narrowed and fewer homes lined the way. Soon, the left side of the road was defined by craggy rock about 10 or 20 feet high, and the tracks to my right were looking less and less used. I passed a crew of two workers who appeared to be using picks to clear growth from around the tracks, but then... nothing. At points, the tracks were laid dangerously close to the river; I couldn't help but think that if they were used with any regularity, their owner would have shored them up more firmly. In fact, I have to believe that there's been significant erosion since they were first laid. Who'd take the chance a well-laden freight would tumble into the river?

Not to worry: the road and tracks eventually intersected again, giving the rail route a comfortable distance from the banks. A little farther down and to my left, I saw a few old stone structures built into the hillside, looking very much like furnaces. Research later told me that locally quarried lime was processed here and then shipped out for use as fertilizer and an essential ingredient of cement. To me, however, they looked a lot more medieval, especially the less well-preserved ones. Perhaps someone was inside with a vat of boiling oil? Who knows. It seems to fit well with the slightly unfriendly vibe I felt back in town.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cheap gas... mall shopping... and a duel?

New Yorkers flock to current day New Jersey for cheap gasoline and tax-free clothing shopping, but in the early days of the United States, they had another reason for crossing the river: settling disputes. At the time, dueling was a socially accepted means of resolving a grudge, but laws against the practice in New York were severe and strictly enforced. New Jersey, however, was a bit less meticulous about stopping duels and punishing the participants. Even New York Governor DeWitt Clinton is said to have taken advantage of the site to settle a disagreement.

Hamilton Burr duel siteThe cliffs of Weehawken were a favored spot for duelers -- they were close to the river for quick arrival and exit, and the surrounding brush and trees offered some cover. Today the bluff above the then-popular site is marked to denote the tragic 1804 duel that took the life of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton while plunging Vice President Aaron Burr into infamy. A bust of Hamilton commemorates the event not far from where it occurred, accompanied by a stone on which his head was allegedly laid after he was mortally wounded.

What few people know is that Hamilton's son Phillip died by similar circumstances, not far away, three years earlier. Viewed by his father to be the family's "brightest hope," the 20-year-old was being groomed as a successor to continue on the family work in government and politics. Thus, it wasn't surprising that Phillip took umbrage at insults he perceived in an 1801 Independence Day speech by a young Republican lawyer named George Eaker. Words were exchanged, Eaker called the young Hamilton a rascal -- fighting words in that day. A duel was arranged shortly after.

According to the recent biography written by Ron Chernow, the elder Hamilton was torn when he heard of the impending clash. While having moral objections to dueling, he still felt it important to defend one's honor and integrity when insulted. He counseled Phillip to either hold fire or shoot in a direction away from Eaker. That way, if he were shot by his opponent, it would be considered murder. It was a very similar strategy to the one Hamilton would use in his own duel with Burr three years later.

Sadly for all involved, the strategy worked about as well for Phillip as it would for his father. Meeting his opponent at Paulus Hook in Jersey City, he held fire and calmly took the shot Eaker discharged. He died the following morning, attended by his grieving parents. You'd think the experience would have served as a lesson for Hamilton in his dealings with Burr, but his inability to see the futility of dueling would cost him his life, as well.