Associate Professor of English Stanley Blair recently spoke at the Middletown Township Public Library to commemorate author Henry Morford’s two hundredth birthday. Born and raised in Chanceville, now New Monmouth in Middletown, Morford (1823-1881) wrote about that village and Monmouth County. The presentation was sponsored by the Middletown Township Historical Society. Several Monmouth University students attended in person and remotely.
While the focus was Morford’s Chanceville years up to when he was about thirty, Blair also surveyed the author’s varied writing career, which included short and long poetry, fiction, drama, non-fiction, literary humor, journalism, and travel guides, of which his Civil War novels and travel guides were most popular. Bailey Fredericks, a junior communication major, remarked that “it’s sad a lot of his work gradually became less popular and eventually forgot, but I appreciate Prof. Blair and the Middletown historical society giving Morford’s story a chance to be told again!”
Several students appreciated the presentation’s focus on a local author. Junior nursing major Samantha Nostro thought “it was interesting to hear about his life and remember that all of this happened so close to where we are right now and how different things used to be so many years ago. I enjoyed learning more about the history of this area.” Senior business major Marisa Kilgarriff had a similar reaction: “I find it very cool that Morford was actually from Monmouth County and published literary works about this area.” Junior health studies major Kendal O’Neill agreed: “It is super exciting that he is from Monmouth County! The location of this area is perfect for writers since we are basically close to both New York City and Philadelphia where there are a lot of different writing opportunities.”
Junior English major Michael Pezzano was surprised to find that Morford was from his own hometown: “it was very interesting seeing how a writer could be so prominent then completely forgotten, especially seeing it from a local standpoint.” He continued, “I feel learning about unknown writers in American literature helps us look at aspects of society that could have been overlooked and dismissed….These writers are part of the national narrative; we just need to see how they contribute to it and where they belong.” For junior English major Sabine Saavedra, the lecture inspired additional research into the author and his works: “After the presentation, I also looked a bit into Henry Morford, especially because he is a part of local history here in Monmouth County. More people, especially those in Monmouth County, should learn more about Henry Morford.”
Middletown Township Historical Society president Thomas Valenti said, “We are very appreciative to have a scholar like Dr. Blair study the life and works of this important writer. It is nice to see our generation giving Henry Morford the respect that he deserves. Dr. Blair’s presentation to our group was not only filled with interesting facts, but it was entertaining as well.” The presentation is available through the Middletown Township Historical Society’s web site and on YouTube.