Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mead Stapler: A Personal Remembrance

November 30, 1919 – November 13, 2009

Edward J. Lenik
I first met Mead Stapler in 1960 at a historical society meeting in Newfoundland, New Jersey. At that time the historical society was conducting archaeological excavations at the site of an 18th century forge on the Pequannock River in West Milford Township. I joined the project team and soon began to work closely with Mead in documenting this important ironworks site. Mead did all the measuring and surveying work for the project. This was the start of our long association. He was to become my close friend and respected colleague.
Mead and I, along with other individuals, became Colonial iron industry specialists, oftentimes referred to as "iron freaks." We went on to excavate a blast furnace in Butler, New Jersey and to recover and document evidence of an iron bloomery site in Vernon Township. Mead's training and experience as an engineer and surveyor was invaluable to the success of these projects. Over time, we traveled widely in search of other ironworking sites in the northeast region including the Saugus Ironworks in Massachusetts.
In 1964 Mead and I visited "Mystery Hill Caves" in New Hampshire, now known as "America's Stonehenge." We were fascinated by this intriguing site and we both joined the newly formed New England Antiquities Research Association. This visit was a major turning point in Mead's research efforts and interests. He once wrote that his "real" interest was in the "Pre-Columbian period" in North America. Soon thereafter, Mead and I began searching for and exploring stone construction sites throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic states as well as military, industrial and domestic sites. We spent many weekends, holidays and vacations pursuing these activities. Our families frequently accompanied us on such journeys.
Mead particularly loved the State of Maine, where he took every opportunity to vacation, travel and explore. One visit of his comes to mind. In 1965 Mead and his family were vacationing near Pemaquid, Maine. He decided to visit and observe the archaeological excavation being conducted by Helen Camp and her team at the colonial settlement site at Pemaquid. He witnessed the discovery of an Indian burial that contained copper artifacts. This brought to his mind the story of the "skeleton in armor." He was so excited in seeing this discovery that he called me in New Jersey and urged me to come up and see this find. I dropped everything and drove immediately to Pemaquid to see for myself. Soon we both joined the Maine Archaeological Society.
From 1972 to 1975 NEARA members conducted archaeological excavations at the Spirit Pond runestone-find site under my direction. We also conducted a number of extensive reconnaissance surveys in search of evidence of Norse occupation in the Phippsburg, Maine area and on Seguin Island at the mouth of the Kennebec River. Mead believed strongly in the authenticity of the Spirit Pond runestones and actively participated in all of these activities.
Mead Stapler saw himself as an irascible Jersey Dutchman and his ancestry backed his posture. His forebears, the Mead family, settled in northern New Jersey in the late 171h century. He was especially interested in military history and the American Revolutionary War. He studied, searched, visited battle field sites, lectured and wrote about many events and sites of this period. He often observed privately that given his choice, he would have supported the King.
Mead Stapler joined the North Jersey Highlands Historical Society in 1959. He served 5 terms as President of the Society. In his long years of membership he also held every other office of this group For 17 years Mead was the Editor of the North Jersey Highlander, an historical quarterly publication 0 the Society. His reputation as an historian and his skill as a writer were paramount. Mead's curiosity about how things came to be the way they are now and his passion for understanding what went before was an inspiration to me as well as to others who met and got to know him. We all enjoyed his good humor and the results of his research.
Mead was an active member of many historical and archaeological societies including the Walpack Historical Society, the Minnisink Valley Historical Society, the Inc. Orange County Chapter, New York State Archaeological Association and the Ringwood Manor Advisory Committee. For many years he served as NEARA's New Jersey Coordinator. Before he died, he asked me to begin to distribute his archives and library among the groups he had served. Reading through his files and correspondence, I marveled at both the breadth of his interests and the tenacity of his devotion to the causes for which he fought.
Mead had an unswerving dedication to historical preservation. He championed many such causes as the preservation of Long Pond Ironworks. a National Register site, Ringwood Manor and many sites along the upper Delaware River Valley in New Jersey. He was unafraid to take on politicians and bureaucrats whether on the nationaL state or local level in furthering the cause of historic preservation. Recently, he wrote the following:
"I view history as a great panorama of events which effect all of our lives and activities. As a nation, we continually ignore the lessons of history and face the perils of the future unguided by the past "
Mead leaves behind a legacy not only in his historical research and writing but also in his enthusiastic efforts which inspire and instruct those of us who carry on the good work he began. Mead Stapler-colleague and friend -you are missed.

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