|Look carefully to the left of the white boarded windows,|
and you'll see a representation of Betty Frazee,
bread in hand.
Surviving accounts suggest that Gershom and Betty Frazee supported Washington's troops by feeding the militia during the Battle of Short Hills in June 1777. It's said that on June 26, following the fight, General Cornwallis led his British troops past the Frazee farmstead. Smelling freshly baked bread, Cornwallis stopped at the house and asked for a loaf. Obviously, asking was a bit of a formality, considering the out-and-out thievery his troops had committed over the past many months, but it's safe to assume he'd have thought it was the gentlemanly thing to do. Betty Frazee likely knew she didn't have a choice, but she made her feelings known. Handing him the bread, she famously said, "Your lordship will understand that I give this bread, not in love, but in fear."
Cornwallis is said to have declined and moved on, but records suggest that his troops availed themselves of other items on the Frazee property, including livestock and household goods.
When I read up a bit about the house, I understood why I'd assumed the property was in serviceable shape. Like a lot of old colonial-era houses in New Jersey, it had been used as a residence for most of its existence, with its occupants making various improvements and updates along the way. The property stayed in the family until the 1890s, when a complex situation resulted in small plots being deeded to several descendants, and the house and a much smaller portion of land being sold to another family. For much of the second half of the 20th century, the property was the home of the Terry Lou Zoo, whose owners lived in the house. Subsequent owners held the site for only brief periods of time, and on 1998 the township of Scotch Plains took it by eminent domain with plans to make it a park.
Fortunately, the property around the house remains undeveloped; the old zoo structures have been taken down, and the immediate neighborhood still has a rustic feel to it. There doesn't appear to be any danger of encroaching McMansions or townhouses. Nonetheless, Preservation New Jersey added the house to its most endangered list in 2000.
State and county historical grants have funded some internal structural work and necessary archaeological study, but the house is far from saved. Fortunately it's also gotten support from the local Rotary Club, which is working closely with the township on the slow process of bringing the Frazee house back to beneficial use.