Bray's Hill Preserve

  • A full 95 Acres, with an entrance located at East End of Sand Hill Rd
  • Directions to parking lot using Google Maps Coordinates: 40.630800,-74.861422
  • Wooded Trails and Meadow Trails 
  • Restored Structure – Spring House Restoration Area
  • Click here for Trails Map
  • Click here for Pictures (Coming Soon!)

HISTORY:

In light of New Jersey's early colonization, continual settlement, and ever-rising human population, the existence of a static, pristine, natural landscape seems unlikely in modern-day Clinton Township. Rather, the open and natural landscapes that remain can be expected to be in a dynamic state, a balance between success — the natural progression and replacement of plant communities — and the imprint of past and present human activity. Part of the beauty and significance of the Bray's Hill Preserve lies in its revelation of the long-term interaction between people and nature.

Located in Clinton Township, Bray's Hill Preserve presents a natural and agrarian landscape fully evocative of prior eras in New Jersey. Evidence of a Native American presence has been found near the site, and Native American use of the site over the many centuries preceding European colonization is probable. Here, upon a wilderness, apparently only slightly altered by the human activities of prehistory, eighteen-century settlement initiated a mosaic of cultivated and forested lands, interconnected with hedgerows. Nineteenth and early twentieth century farmers carried forward and extended this mosaic. Demarcating boundary lines, constructing houses and barns, clearing fields, farming crops, raising livestock, harvesting timber and mining limestone at Bray's Hill — all have left their aging but still legible signatures on the landscape. Property boundaries, marked by stone walls and hedgerows, typical of farms in the northeastern U.S. evidence a European concept of land tenure that land can be parceled up and owned by individuals — a concept heretofore alien to this continent (Cronon, 1983).

The Bray's Hill Preserve commemorates early residents of the area — Andrew, John, and Thomas Bray, descendants of Daniel Bray, the patriot who assisted General Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware in 1776 by gathering boats for the expedition. The Brays of Sand Hill Road (originally surveyed as Bray's Hill Road in 1833) operated a distillery and a tannery, in addition to the farm that was named Distillery Farm. The Bray homestead built in 1810, north of the present Preserve, stilt stands and is on the National Register of Historic Places. John Watson Bray, the 13 ih child of Andrew and operator of the tannery, was one of the founders of Clinton, formerly known as Hunt's Mills.

The main portion of the 93 acre Bray's Hill Preserve at one time consisted of 4 tracts. Nineteenth century owners of the tracts included: Morris Sharp, R. S. Kuhl, J. C. Apgar, Austin W, Shurts and Rev, Van Amburg, Farming was always the principal use of the land, but mining of limestone was a supplementary use until the late nineteenth century and perhaps beyond. In 1921, the Reverend Joseph Simko, a native of Hungary, purchased the Preserve. A disastrous fire in the 1930s destroyed Reverend Simko's house and barns, but farming activities persisted and continue to this day, adjacent to the woodlands, which appear ever-ready to expand and reclaim their territory from the fields. A springhouse is all that remains of the original Simko homestead, located in a valley west of Bray's Hill Road.

Shortly after Reverend Simko's death, the EXXON CäDital Corporation purchased the land in 1984 as a buffer for its research facility to the north and as an investment. Increasing development pressures in Clinton Township underscored both the beauty and vulnerability of this landscape and motivated the Township to further investigate the protection of its remaining large open spaces.

Open Space Chair
Mike Aversa
Meetings are held on the 4th Thursday of the Month at 6:00 pm
Monthly Meeting WebEx Link
Address:
Public Safety Building
1st Floor Conference Room
1370 Route 31 North
Annandale, NJ