By Wayne T. McCabe


President, Sussex County Historical Society


At the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, buildings on both Spring Street and Main Street were packed with a wide diversity of retailers, restaurants, and service providers. Rarely was the commercial area of a building vacant for more than a month between occupants. As the county seat, business life thrived. Essentially, every business in town was within walking distance for the residents.


Unlike today, people would walk from their homes and go down to Spring Street, Main Street and High Street to conduct their business. The majority of residents in town did not own a horse and carriage, so they walked to work, to do shopping, to attend church services, to the library to borrow books, and to visit with their family, friends, and neighbors.


Very often, retail stores, restaurants, and food purveyors would be occupying space right next door to each other. They sometimes were also stacked on top of each other, as a shop might be in the basement, while another establishment was located on the first floor directly above them. While most multi-story buildings in the commercial core had apartments on the upper floors, there were instances where a small business might be situated on the front of the second floor.


A prime example of a building with multiple commercial uses and flats on the second and third floors was located at 25-31 Main Street. This building was right next door to the building presently owned and occupied by Joseph M. Hoffmann, Esq.


A LOCAL BUTCHER IN NEWTON


Joseph W. Price was born in January 1850 during a particularly cold winter. His family lived on a farm in Wantage at that time. Shortly thereafter, the family relocated to a farm in Frankford. Like many families living in Frankford at that time, the Prices would have been raising food crops, silage crops, and an assortment of farm animals. These farming families would have gone to Branchville or Frankford Plains for church services and Branchville for specific supplies or services needed on the farm. It would have been on his family farm that Joseph learned to butcher livestock. This particular talent would serve him well in his future.


Farm families developed close relationships with other families, both for needed support as well as social ties. One family that apparently was close friends of the Prices was Harrison and Caroline Kymer, and their three children. Over time, a relationship developed between Joseph Price and Susan E. Kymer, the oldest of the three Kymer children. At the age of 20, Joseph married Susan, who was then 19 years old, on October 19, 1871 in Deckertown (now Sussex Borough).


Shortly after their marriage, they were able to secure a farm in Frankford and started raising a family. According to the 1880 U.S. Census, Joseph and Susan already had three children, Brien E., Margaret B., and Joseph H. Price. Within a couple of years, the family had moved to another farm in Wantage, according to the 1885 census taken by the State of New Jersey.


Their stay on the Wantage farm must have been brief, as the family relocated to Newton and Joseph W. Price opened his own butcher shop at 25-31 Main Street, located at the intersection of Main Street and Park Place. His shop was in the right side of the basement of the building, with an entrance opening onto Main Street. A Chinese laundry was on the other side of the basement, a cigar store on the first floor above the butcher shop, and the remainder of this very large three-story, wood-framed building was filled with apartments.


Along with opening his shop in town, Joseph and Susan acquired a home located at 8 Cedar Street. This would serve as their family home for the next 50 years.


The apartments on the first floor of the Main Street building were converted into a restaurant and around 1895 the cigar store was replaced with the Sussex Register, which was one of three weekly newspapers in the county at the time. By 1902, Price had relocated his butcher shop in town. Also, like most other food and commercial retailers in downtown Newton, Price had a horse-drawn delivery wagon which he would use to make deliveries to customers who had been in his shop and made a purchase earlier in the day.


To bring in extra money, the Price family took in a boarder in 1905. Helene Nails was 35 years old and an employee at the nearby Bentley Silk Mill on Sparta Avenue. After Nails left their house, they opened up their home to William DeKay, who in 1920 was 55 years old and a clerk at the Newton Post Office. DeKay stayed with them for a few years.


The 1910 U.S. Census indicates that Price no longer worked as a butcher, but rather as a packer for a towel company, probably the Standard Towel Company operated by William H. Mellor in the Broda Industrial Building, the three-story brick building at the corner of Water Street and Clinton Street and former home of the County Seat Restaurant.


In his mid-60s, Joseph W. Price finally retired, and continued to live with his wife at their home at 8 Cedar Street. Joseph W. Price passed away on February 5, 1935, and was buried in the Woodside Avenue Cemetery. In March of 1941, Susan Price died and was buried with her husband. Their house on Cedar Street remained in the family until 1987.


Sussex County Historical Society President Wayne T. McCabe may be contacted at sussexhistorian@juno.com.