Monday, October 8, 2012

Driving down Old Rudetown Road

There are some Hidden New Jersey discoveries that seem to resist an easy explanation. I’ll run into something interesting or unusual, make note of it, maybe take a photo, but my follow-up research draws a complete blank on first examination. I don’t usually share those instances with you because, well, I feel responsible for giving you at least some of the story of the things Ivan and I discover.

But then there are sometimes things that are more fun in the conjecturing than they probably are in fact. Things like Old Rudetown Road.

I was bopping around Sussex County when I veered off Route 23 and onto Route 94 into the Vernon/McAfee area. It’s pretty country with the leaves starting to turn fall colors, but I wasn’t finding a lot of unusualness to prompt me to stop. What I needed was something compelling to get me to head off the highway.

There it was: a street sign for Old Rudetown Road.

Rudetown? That needed some examination. There doesn’t appear to be any actual community called Rudetown on the map, but who knew? Maybe there was some sort of historic marker. Sussex County is good at marking stuff like that, so it was worth checking out.

If you have any experience wandering the roads of this state (or probably most any other), you’re accustomed to seeing the “-town” suffix on street signs. Taylortown, Pumptown, you name it. They’re usually vestiges of tiny communities that were swallowed up long ago by larger townships, and noted now only possibly by a gathering of buildings at an intersection that once served as a village center.

Rudetown, however, doesn’t appear to be one of them. If it ever existed, there’s no convincing sign of it left. After passing a few businesses, I traveled by the occasional house, but for the most part, Old Rudetown Road was just a back road thoroughfare, one lane each way, with very few intersecting streets. I’d have turned around before I reached its end at County Road 517. It didn't seem very rude at all, unless you counted the driver following a bit closely behind me. Because I didn't have much room to stop, I couldn't get quick photo of the street sign or pull over to do so, not unless I wanted to be rude, myself. And who knew? If my stopping caused a delay for the driver behind me, would he flip me the bird?

As I drove back to Hidden New Jersey HQ, I mused over the mystery of Rudetown. Why would a town have such an unpleasant name? And why did it (apparently) disappear off the map? Perhaps the people there were so rude that they couldn’t find spouses, so they eventually died out, their homes rotting to the ground and their property reverted to the county for non-payment of taxes.

It appears the answer is a bit less dramatic. An detailed internet search revealed genealogical data indicating that a family named Rude lived in the larger town of Hardyston in the 1700s, likely lending their name to the area. It makes sense, and I should have figured that, but, well, I let my sense of fun get away from me. You've gotta admit: it's more fun to consider that there was once a time where all of the unpleasant people in the state could find refuge in one small town named in their honor.

Ever find a great name in your travels?

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