Monday, June 27, 2011

Somers Point, NJ meets Somers, NY

Bust of Master Commandant Richard Somers at the pre-Revolutionary War cemetery in Somers, New York

Delegation from Somers Point, New Jersey receives key to city from Somers, New York

Master Commandant Richard Somers, hero of Barbary Wars, links two towns in different states.

A delegation of city residents from the town of Somers Point, NJ traveled to the hamlet of Somers, New York on Saturday, June 25, to receive a key to the town from Somers’ Supervisor/Mayor, Mary Beth Murphy. The ceremony took place during an annual July 4th celebration held at the town’s Reiss Park.

The members of the group from Somers Point, N.J. included Sally Hastings (President of the Somers Point Historical Society), her husband Kirk Hastings, Dean and Vickie Somers, Anita Smith, Somers Point Mayor Jack Glasser and his son, Jack.

On hand in Somers, N.Y. were local Historical Society President Emil Antonaccio, Vice-President Grace Zimmermann, and Joseph Wittman, Jr., President of Ivandell Cemetery.

Somers, N. Y. is located in northeastern Westchester Country, and is named after Richard Somers, a naval hero who was killed in Tripoli, Libya in 1804 during the Barbary Wars. A bust of Somers is located in Ivandell Cemetery, a local burying ground that predates the Revolutionary War.

Originally called Stephentown, the N.Y. hamlet was renamed in Somers’ honor in 1808. Somers was born in and grew up in Somers Point, N.J., and it is this fact that has caused the tow towns to recently develop an unofficial ‘sister city” relationship with each other.

Dean and Vicki Somers, who were part of Saturday’s celebration, claim Richard Somers as one of their ancestors. There is currently an effort underway in the nation’s capitol, backed by the national American Legion organization, to have Richard Somers’ body returned to the U.S. It is currently interred in Tripoli, Libya.

After the Saturday ceremony, the group from Somers Point was given a bus tour of Somers and its environs, which encompassed an area of 33 square miles and includes the aforementioned Reis Park, as well as the Wright Reis Homestead, the Amawalk Reservoir, Muscoot Farm (an early 20th century interpretative farm museum), and the Elephant Hotel. The Elephant Hotel, a National Historic Landmark, is named after “Old Bet,” one of the first elephants ever exhibited in the United States. Somers’ municipal government and Historical Museum are both currently located inside the hotel.

Somers is known for being the “cradle of the American circus,” after Hachaliah Bailey bought Old Bet there from Africa in the 1820s. The elephant died in 1827.

A group including Mary Beth Murphy, from Somers, N.Y., is planning to travel to Somers Point, N.J. in September during the city’s annual Richard Somers Day celebration, to accept the key to Somers Point as well.

(Thanks to Kirk Hastings for preparing this press release)

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