By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — Marking 175 years as a community as of Thursday is an hourlong “History of Trenton” presentation at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Trenton Village Theatre.
Speaker Craig Olson will be accompanied by a projector featuring photos going all the way back to Monguagon Indian times, showing the various stages of the city’s development, including its shipbuilding heyday and brief flirtation with a technology that in some ways was ahead of its time: an electric car built by then-resident Austin Church in the early 1900s.
The Church-Field electric car, as it was known, was an attempt to upgrade technology from cars that had to be cranked to get them started, according to Carol Hendricks, president of the Trenton Historical Society, a private group, and member of the city’s Civic and Historical commissions. The three groups joined forces to present Tuesday’s event.
“Sometimes the cranks would flip backwards, breaking peoples’ wrists,”she said.
Church was a member of the family that founded Church & Dwight Co., makers of Arm & Hammer baking soda.
Olson’s presentation will cover the time back to 1834, the year that Abram Truax platted some land for a village and registered it with the appropriate authorities of the day. It later was incorporated as Truaxton and then Truago before the current name was chosen.
Trenton grew rapidly from a population of about 6,000 to 22,000 after World War II, though it’s dropped off to about 20,000 since, Hendricks said.
The 175th birthday celebration began in January with some special recognition at the city’s annual awards banquet. It will continue throughout the year at events like the Mid-Summer Festival, where movies will show new businesses in spaces formerly occupied by old businesses.
Hendricks said descendants of Trenton’s early families already are responding to an invitation to this year’s Somewhere in Time, an annual event featuring old-fashioned attractions and activities held at Elizabeth Park in conjunction with Wayne County Parks.
“We’re very proud of our heritage,” Hendricks said of the reason for the yearlong celebration. “Some of the base communities along the river have been around much longer than some of the suburbs out in the old farm communities, and we need to stop and recognize that on an occasion like this.”