Veterans’ Memorial Park

The History of
Veterans’ Memorial Park in Westwood, NJ
Based on the  research of Joseph Oettinger, Jr.

Veterans' Memorial Park - Westwood, NJ.

Veterans' Memorial Park - 1924 Westwood, NJ.

Westwood acquired the lands comprising Veterans’ Memorial Park by seven separate deeds: one in 1894 [1], four in 1914, and two in 1915 [2]. The park was officially dedicated on Memorial Day, 1915. 

Citizens of Westwood have served in our country’s armed forces since at least the 1860s. In fact, two of the parcels which now comprise Veterans’ Memorial Park were deeded to Westwood by public-spirited Civil War veterans. The parcel of land where the Bandstand is situated, on the west side of Madison Avenue, was deeded to Westwood in 1894 by Isaac D. Bogert, Westwood’s first Mayor. A parcel of land where the Train Station is situated, on the east side of Madison Avenue, was deeded to Westwood in 1914 By Genest M. Ottignon, Westwood’s first Fire Chief.

Messrs. Bogert and Ottignon both served during the Civil War in the Union Army, Company D, Twenty-second Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers [3]. This regiment recruited in Bergen County in the summer of 1862. Four members of Company D died in service [4]. At least three local Civil War soldiers serving in other units also died in service [5]. 

In 1885, Westwood’s Civil War veterans organized the Gabriel R. Paul Post No. 101, GAR. This was one of the few GAR posts in Bergen County, and the only GAR post in the Pascack Valley. The post held its meetings at the Odd Fellows’ Hall [6]. Sometime after 1926, the Gabriel R. Paul [7] Post faded into oblivion. 

However, Westwood’s role in our country’s military history did not end there. 

During World War I, Westwood’s citizens served in both the Canadian and the American armed forces. Their sacrifice is noted on the World War I Memorial [8], dedicated in the park on November 11, 1922. 

On Memorial Day, 1949, the park, by then known as “Station Plaza Park,” was renamed “Veterans’ Memorial Park,” [9] as a lasting tribute to the sacrifice made by many Westwood residents who served their country in the armed forces during World War II. 

The Multi-War Memorial [10], dedicated in the park on July 4, 1967,  honors those Westwood residents who died in service during World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. 

It is a sad historical footnote that our local Civil War veterans go unrecognized, some 140 years after their military service. Regrettably, the passage of time has caused us to forget the park’s historical connection with veterans of our armed forces. Because this history has been forgotten, some of our local citizens are advocating the improper placement of a certain permanent, non-inspirational structure  (the “9/11 Memorial”) in Veterans’ Memorial Park. The situation could be partially remedied by renaming that portion of Madison Avenue that runs through the park: “Grand Army of the Republic Avenue.”

This would be a dignified, cost-effective way of enhancing the inspirational symbolism of Veterans’ Memorial Park, while paying long overdue tribute to those individuals who served in the armed forces during the Civil War. And, it would be consistent with the park’s legitimate purpose [11] of honoring citizens of Westwood, who, for a period of months or years, made the service of their country the duty of their lives, to the exclusion of all other pursuits and occupations.


Footnotes

1 The Deed for the triangular tract on the West side of Madison was from Isaac D. Bogert and Anna I. Bogert, husband and wife of Westwood, NJ dated July 18, 1894. The consideration was $1.00. The Deed contains a recital that the tract is “to be kept and maintained . . . at their (the Borough’s) expense as a public park forever for the uses and benefit of the citizens of Westwood . . . upon condition however that if said property shall be diverted to any other use or shall be abandoned as a public park then the same shall revert to said Isaac D. Bogert . . . his heirs and assigns.”

2
– The irregular pentagonal tract on the East side of Madison was created by Westwood between May 1, 1914 and February 19, 1915, by acquiring and merging six separate parcels of land. The six Deeds were made to the Borough of Westwood in lieu of condemnation. The approximate boundaries of these six parcels can be seen in Bromley, Atlas of Bergen County, N.J. Vol. 2, 1913, Pl. 28, Block 131:

Map of Bromley, Atlas of Bergen County, N.J. Vol. 2, 1913, Pl. 28, Block 131.

  1. The Deed for Lot 4 in Block 131 was from Eli Dupper and Lillie, h/w, of Westwood, NJ dated May 1, 1914. The consideration was $3,500.00.
  2. The Deed for Lot 1 in Block 131 was from Helena H. Brickell, single, of Westwood, NJ dated September 1, 1914. The consideration was $1.00, and the grantee assumed two mortgages. The Deed contains a recital that the parcel is conveyed “for uses and purposes of a public park only.”
  3. The Deed for Lot 5 in Block 131 was from Edward Sarson and Catharine, h/w, of Westwood, NJ dated September 1, 1914. The consideration was $4,750.00.
  4. The Deed for Lot 7 in Block 131 was from Daniel G. Jeffers and Margaret B., h/w, of Hackensack, NJ dated January 30, 1915. The consideration was $3,150.00. The Deed contains a recital that “said property is to be forever used for park purposes.”
  5. Deed for Lot 6 in Block 131 was from John H. Lachmund and Barbara, h/w, of Old Tappan, NJ dated February 19, 1915. The consideration was $2,100.00.

3– N.J. Civil War Record, New Jersey Volunteers – Company D, Twenty-Second Regiment.

4– Company D, Twenty-Second Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers who died in service:
  • Benjamin Everson – Died February 23, 1863 at Belle Plain, VA.
  • John P. Harring – Died March 26, 1863 at Washington, D.C.
  • Cornelius J. Kent – Died April 30, 1863 at Aquia Creek, VA.
  • Abraham Wood – Died March 10, 1863 at Belle Plain, VA.

5– Company B, Twenty-Second Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers who died in service:

  • William A. Osborn – Died April 27, 1863 at Aquia Creek, VA.

Unknown Units. Not listed in Stryker, Record of Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865. No military records found with the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. However, local vital records reflect deaths of the following men, whose occupations were listed as “soldier”:

  • John H. Demarest – Died December 18, 1861 at Fortress Monroe, VA.
  • William Ranlett – Died May 19, 1864 in Spotsylvania, VA.

6– reserved for photo coming soon!

7
– General Gabriel R. Paul was the commander of the Third Brigade, First Division, First Army Corps, Army of the Potomac. This was the last Brigade that the Twenty-second Regiment was attached to before being discharged. Company D had mustered in on September 22, 1862 for a nine month service tour. Their tour ended on June 25, 1863. The following week, General Paul had both his eyes shot out at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863).

8- The World War I Memorial dedication was a large enough event to make front page news in the November 13, 1922 Bergen Evening Record, which reported that the monument was unveiled in the presence of about two thousand persons. The $800 cost of this monument was paid for by public subscription, raised by the local Woman’s Club.

9- Regular Meeting of the Mayor & Council, Borough of Westwood held April 25, 1949:

Councilman Bott offered and moved for its adoption the following resolution, seconded by Councilman Gelnaw:

WHEREAS, the Mayor and Council of the Borough Westwood are mindful of the sacrifices made by the many residents of the Borough of Westwood who served their country in the armed forces during the recent world conflict, some of whom gave their lives in such service; and
WHEREAS, it is deemed fitting and proper to dedicate to these Veterans a memorial which will be a lasting tribute to them,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Public park in the Borough of Westwood known as “Station Plaza Park” be and the same shall hereinafter be known as “Veteran’s Memorial Park.”

Roll call.
All present voting yes, motion carried unanimously.

Councilman Bott offered and moved for its adoption the following resolution, seconded by Councilman Gelnaw:

 BE IT RESOLVED by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Westwood that Memorial Day, May 30, 1949, be designated as the date for the official dedication ceremonies of “Veteran’s Memorial Park.”

Roll call.
All present voting yes, motion carried unanimously.

10-In addition to serving during the Civil War, Westwood residents have served during World War I, World War II, The Korean War and The Vietnam War. Of all of these wars, the American Civil War produced the most carnage. 618,000 plus Americans died in the Civil War, compared to 120,000 plus who perished in World War I, 407,000 plus who perished in World War II, 54,000 plus who perished in the Korean War, and 57,000 plus who perished in the Vietnam War. 

 These warriors all had one thing in common: They left the comfort and security of their homes and families, for a period of months or years, to serve their country. They endured hardship, faced danger, and sometimes gave up their own lives. In doing so, they secured the peace and comfort of those who stayed at home.

11- Perhaps the following excerpts from Mrs. W. F. MacKenzie’s November 11, 1922 dedication speech of the World War I Memorial best capture the spirit and essence of Veterans Memorial Park:                

The gallantry and self-sacrificing devotion with which they gave themselves to the cause of democracy demonstrated to a doubting world that the age of idealism is not dead …
And so today we dedicate this memorial in honor of those who served and as an inspiration to those who in the future must assume the responsibilities and carry forward the principles and ideals of the American nation.”

 

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