Today we celebrate Veterans Day, a Federal Holiday in the U.S. observed annually on November 11, honoring military veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Originally known as Armistice Day, it commemorates the day that major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. But did you know that the war didn’t really end until 1921? And that it ended right here in New Jersey? It’s true!
The Great War officially ended in what today is the parking lot of a PC Richard’s appliance store located at the Somerville Traffic Circle in Raritan. Each day thousands of motorists drive past the inconspicuously placed plaque that’s dedicated to the event, though few ever realize the historical significance of the location as they speed by along Route 28.
You see, the U.S. Senate voted against ratifying the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and then again in 1920, forestalling American participation in the League of Nations. President Warren G. Harding called on Congress to pass a peace resolution independent of the League. Senator Philander C. Knox of Pennsylvania introduced a resolution the following day, and it passed the Senate in April of 1921.
The US House of Representatives had its own slightly different resolution introduced by Representative Stephen G. Porter, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The House and Senate passed the Knox–Porter joint resolution on July 1. The next day, Harding and U.S. Senator Joseph Sherman Frehlinghuysen, Sr. were playing golf at the Raritan Valley Country Club, across the street from Frehlinghuysen’s Somerset County estate, when word arrived that a courier was on his way from the Raritan train station, having traveled from Washington with the signing copy of the resolution.
Harding walked off the links and back to the estate, where he signed the document, officially ending U.S. involvement in the “War to End All Wars,” then returned to the course to complete his round of golf.
The Frelinghuysen estate was destroyed by fire in the 1950s, and the site is now occupied by a shopping center. There’s a small plaque marking the place where the home once stood that’s flanked on either side by two stone pillars. This is all that remain of the Frelinghuysen mansion. An article in the next day’s New York Times concerning the signing started with the words, “War with Germany ended as it began, by Congressional declaration and Executive signature on American soil.”
At the urging of major U.S. veteran organizations, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.
Photos © Weird NJ / Mark Moran
The preceding article is an excerpt from Weird NJ magazine, “Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets,” which is available on newsstands throughout the state and on the web at www.WeirdNJ.com. All contents ©Weird NJ and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.
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