• Luke Miller House and Forge Preservation Project

    With a $10,000 grant from the History Channel, one of only 27 awarded nationwide, Madison High School sophomores in Dr. DeBiasse's USI classes, working in conjunction with the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts and the Madison Historical Society, researched the historic Luke Miller house and forge, located on Ridgedale Avenue across from the high school. The 18th century home was at one time owned by Continental Army Major Luke Miller.

    As a hands-on addition to their study of colonial America and Revolutionary War, students conducted research at variety of area locations and produce a documentary DVD. They have also conducted a three phase archaeological survey of the site under the direction of Hunter Research. Madison Historical Society volunteers have worked with students to uncover the past using their vast collection of original primary sources. METC curator Peter Rothenberg and museum educator Meg Wastie also led students on an investigation of the blacksmith trade. Ultimately, we hope to have students select from an array of METC artifacts and design a standing exhibit at the forge as part of a community-wide preservation effort.

    Built in 1730, the Luke Miller house served as a frequent meeting point for Continental Army soldiers. General George Washington may have had his horse shod there. "This is a national, state, and local treasure sitting a couple of hundred yards up the road from the high school," Madison High School Social Studies Department Chairman Mark DeBiasse said. He is glad that his students will be able to experience it for themselves and grateful for the financial support this project has received from the History Channel.
    Click here for a growing list of resources related to the Luke Miller Project.
    Other Projects done with the Museum include:


    In partnership with the Madison Historical Society and the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, Madison High School sophomores have been engaged in a three year study of the Luke Miller property. In 2007, students in Dr. DeBiasse's USI classes took a walking tour of Ridgedale Avenue with town councilperson and historian Maryanna Holden. The students were shown a number of colonial era artifacts that are still visible in our modern suburban community. As part of the tour the students walked the grounds of the Luke Miller property, visited the forge and got a look inside the house itself. The Madison Historical Society provided property surveys and other documents to help with this initial orientation activity. The students then walked to the METC and got an introduction to some of the tools of the blacksmith trade. At the end of the day the students developed research topics and questions to guide the entire project.

    Students next grappled with the difficult question of where information can be found to answer the research questions they had developed. A series of class trips were planned as each group identified where they needed to go to complete their selected research task.  In early February, the students visited the Madison Library, Madison Historical Society, Museum of Early Trades and Crafts and the Morristown Library Local History Center to work with primary source documents and artifacts.  In February the students conducted interviews of leading experts in the field, such as New Jersey historian John T. Cunningham, Morris County Parks Historian Mark Texel, and Madison Councilperson and Historic Preservationist Maryanna Holden. These interviews were edited and incorporated into a 20 minute documentary video shown during "Luke Miller Day" fesitivities at the METC on May 6 and at the May 17 meeting of the Madison Historical Society.
    In November 2007 the Madison Historical Society announced receipt of a $10,000 grant from the NJ Historical Commission to begin an archaeological survey of the Luke Miller property.  In the spring of 2008, Ian Burrow of Hunter Research, led the site survey and provide numerous opportunities for community participation.  For example, a team of students joined the dig on May 16, 2008 during the first annual MHS "Day of Service".  Also, the students who conducted research and created the video last year returned to the property and, together with students then enrolled in US I, carried out additional excavation of the site. This "hands on" learning experience provided an exciting opportunity to learn about archaeology and historic preservation.  The students were able to confirm the location of the blacksmith forge by uncovering charcoal, slag, nails, horseshoes and other implements of the trade.
    More extensive archaeological surveys were conducted in the spring of 2009, with particular focus on the mysterious tunnel that connects the house and the forge building. Again working with archaeologists from Hunter Research, students were able to identify the area housing the highest concentration of artifacts which would become the target of future study.  Based upon these discoveries, the Madison Historical Society obtained a second grant from the NJ Historical Commission to fund further study of the site. A more extensive dig involving nearly the entire sophomore class was conducted on and around the 2010 Day of Service in June.  Under the direction of Hunter Research and members of the History Department, the students discovered what appears to be the foundation of the original 18th Century forge building.  This exciting discovery has prompted the pursuit of additional grant monies. In December, 2010, the Madison Historical Society received an additional grant of over $8,000 to continue the archaeological study of the forge site and consider the restoraction of the forge for use as an exhibition space for student designed and created local history exhibits. A series of additional digs are scheduled for May 2011 during the 4th Annual Day of Service. 
    The continuing study of the Luke Miller property represents an important link between our school and the and the study of local history. 
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