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A brief history of the Morristown Rotary Club

Club # 5540 by Clare Kitchell

With updates by Club Historian, John Kuschke and Glenn Coutts

Early in January 1922 the then District Governor of Rotary District #36, Lyn Woodward of Trenton, delegated Jack Swinn of the Newark Rotary Club to act as the advisor for the formation of a Rotary Club in Morristown. The first information meeting was held at the home of Thomas Wiss, an automobile dealer. Others at this first meeting were:


Name Profession
William Hall Telephone Company
Wilbur F. Day   Restaurant Owner
Albert S. Clark Automotive Supplies
Harry L. Romine Dental Surgeon


Rotary clubs are not established without thorough study and, after three months of consideration and review of the practicability of establishing such a club, the Morristown Rotary Club was chartered. Invitations were extended to twenty-five professional and business men of Morristown and all twenty-five were accepted. Charter night witnessed the induction of the following twenty-five Morristown Rotarians:

  • James D. Ball - Lumber
  • Donald M. Brookman - Clergy
  • James H. Bruen - Securities
  • Albert S. Clark - Auto Sales
  • Marcus A. Curry - Hospital Administrator
  • Wilbur F. Day - Caterer
  • Stephen C. Griffith, Jr. - Fire Insurance
  • William H. Hall - Telephone Service
  • William H. McMurtrie - Physician
  • George W. Melick - Retail Shoes
  • Clifort Mills - Surgeon
  • Charles H. Nuttle - Y.M.C.A.
  • Lewis C. Parker - Photographer
  • Ralph F. Perry - School Principal
  • Nesbit Phillips - Hardware
  • Stanley F. Reddwood - Fish and Oysters
  • Harry L. Romine - Dental Surgeon
  • Otto G. Schultz - Trolley Company
  • Raymond Shelley - Ice Manufacturer
  • Frederick W. Schmidt - Crushed Stone
  • Harold H. Van Natta - Lumber and Coal
  • Carl V. Vogt - Lawyer
  • J. Burton Wiley - Sup't of Schools
  • Thomas H. Wiss - Auto Garage
  • Irving W. Wortman - Amesite

The Club's charter, signed by Rotary International President, Crowford C. McCullough, Fort Williams, Ontario, Canada, and attested by International Secretary (Chester Perry) was presented to the new Club by District Governor Lyn Woodward. William Hall, as the Club's first president, accepted the charter.


Membership is still drawn from the Town of Morristown and the Township of Morris, as well as from some adjacent communities. The Borough of Morris Plains was also included until 1974, when a Rotary Club was established in that community. The Morristown Rotary Club's Charter which has the number 1170, was the first to be issued in Morris County, and is dated May 1, 1922.


Soon after receiving its charter, the Morristown Rotary Club sponsored six nearby clubs:



Club Year
Dover 1922
Summit 1922
Madison 1923
Boonton 1923
Bernardsville 1928
Chatham 1946


From these six clubs other new clubs were organized, including Butler, Belvidere, Blairstown, Chester, Denville, Hackettstown, Milburn, Newton, Philipsburg, Stanhope, Sussex and Livingston Sunrise (2003).  Morristown gave Livingston its bell used to open and close the meetings and on the bell is an engraving that Morristown was responsible for the event.


The object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the idea of service as a basis of worthy enterprise. The Morristown Club has consistently through the eight-five years since its inception achieved that objective. The Morristown Rotary Club has supported with diligence programs and proposals which it believed were for the betterment of the community, the country and the world at large.


The Morristown Rotary Club met for lunch. The first meetings were held in the Y.M.C.A, then at the Springbrook Country Club, from there to Day's Restaurant (known as the Town House on the Green). Changing times made other moves necessary - first to the Governor Morris Inn - next the Wedgewood Inn, then back to the Governor Morris Inn, where the Morristown Rotary Club met regularly from 1976 until 2002, when the club moved to the Headquarters Plaza Hotel until 2006. A change of venue was deemed advisable by the Board of Directors and the meeting site was relocated to the Springbrook Country Club.


From the original membership of twenty-five in 1922, the Morristown Rotary Club reached its highest number of members in 1968 when total membership topped out at 103 members. When the club celebrated the 75 th anniversary of Rotary International in 1980, Morristown Rotarians numbered 79. As the club moves toward the celebration of its 85 th birthday, membership is growing and is approaching the magic number that will match the club's age in 2007 (85).


One very important factor contributing to the recent increase in membership is the establishment of a breakfast meeting in addition to the traditional lunch meeting. This unique innovation was instituted in the fall of 2005 and made it possible for members unable to attend a noon meeting to attend one earlier the same day. Several past members have re-established membership as a result of the morning option.


Other Achievements of the Morristown Rotary Club

Provided by Glenn Coutts


1925 Purchased 106 acres of land including a 4½ acre lake in Long Valley, gift to Morristown YMCA for Boys and Girls Resident Camp Washington.  It is now Schooley's Mountain Park (Morris County Park System).


Set up students loan fund - making low +/or no interest loans to worthy high school students for college.  Approximate 1960's changed to outright grants for college and Morristown All Souls Hospital Nursing Program.
1933 Constructed log cabin at Jockey Hollow (Girl Scout Camp).  Now known as "Old Cabin."  Has been re-roofed and renovated many times by Rotary over the years.
1939 Constructed dock and swimming area for Boys Camp, "Camp Hibernia."
1956 International Living Experience - Brought to Morristown a 16-year old boy from Havana, Cuba - an experimental program.  The boy lived with Rotarians.
1960's Speedwell Iron Works (site where machinery for Savannah, first steam assisted ship to cross the Atlantic) - Alfred Vail and Samuel Morse - building and telegraph.  [Rotary arranged for Frank Taylor Co. to purchase and deed part of property to Morristown (historic Speedwell Village)]
1964 Patriots Path - Russell Myers idea for footpath - "A Green Strip" along the Whippany River - historic sites from Frelinghuysen Arboretum - Morris Township, Morristown, Mendham Township, Mendham, Hanover, Hanover Township.
1968 Rotary Foundation - "Paul Harris Fellows" first award to Sam Lee
1973 Morristown Beautiful - This is an ongoing community project since initiated by the Morristown Rotary during the Presidency of Glenn Coutts (1973-1974).  Its purpose is to provide and stimulate individuals, or organizations as well as local government into positive action that will make Morristown a town that attracts rather than detracts.  Approximately 12 parks and areas of town have been refurbished - all by volunteers.  One hundred and fifteen wine barrel planters were placed throughout the business district, receiving spring, summer and fall flowers.
A committee on the "Preservation and Conservation" of Morristown buildings; a comprehensive analysis and recommendation report was conducted by 33 students of Rutgers University School of Landscape Architecture; a professional landscape architect was retained by Morristown Beautiful.  A Dutch tulip grower named a new tulip bulb "Morristown Beautiful" in honor of this community program and approximately 20,000 bulbs were distributed in the Morristown area.
A recycling and litter reduction committee was formed, today known as "Morristown Clean Community Committee."  Thirty-five trash receptacles were purchased and a sidewalk cleaning program was started.  Rotary's "Morristown Beautiful" projects are important to its objective of creating the most beautiful town possible for the people who live, work and visit here.

The Morristown Rotary Club chose the restoration of the Morristown Green as its 75th anniversary project.  The work was carried out by the restoration committee of Morristown Beautiful.  The massive project was initiated under the presidency of Woody Jabbour in 1979 and carried through the Rotary terms of Richard Martin (1980-1981) and Erroll Michener (1981-1982).  What started out as efforts to re-beautify a local park gave not only the Morristown Rotarians, but the entire community, an opportunity to relive the exciting history of the Morristown Green.  The dedication ceremony took place on May 27, 1982.

Morristown Rotary’s participation with the Polio Plus program commenced. The goal was to eliminate Polio from the face of the globe. In coordination with the World Health Organization and UNICEF our international foundation has raised 100’s of millions and used Rotarians around the globe to administer the Sabine Vaccine, one mouth at a time to children in need.
Rotary International sponsored The Gift of Life Inc. to support children worldwide who are facing serious heart health problems. Morristown Rotary assisted more than 20 children from around the world to provide lifesaving heart surgery and return them safely to their homes.
Morristown Rotary raised funds and acquired a passenger van which was donated to the Morris Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Working with Christmas in April Inc. Morristown Rotary helped renovate run-down homes. Within a twelve-hour period, workers renovated, painted and cleaned selected homes.
Morristown Rotary Club has lent its support to myriads of civic endeavors which contribute to making Morristown a better place in which to live, work and play. Some include: a gift of full laundry equipment to the Mt. Kemble Home, a sauna bath to the YMCA, continued annual support for the Gift of Life and Polio Plus programs, a scoreboard for Neighborhood House, lights for Caldwell playground, defibrillators for fire and police departments, support for New Orleans (Hurricane Katrina), a $100,000 major donor gift to restoration of Morristown Green (2006), support for hundreds of local civic endeavors - Little Leagues, Non-profit organizations, community events, school activities, and so much more.
Camp Merry Heart has been a perennial favorite of the Morristown Rotary Club, drawing members to a Spring-time cleanup effort and calling back members to a mid-summer “thank you” party attended by campers and Rotarians. This camp for disabled children is host to many well cared for children and a weeklong refuge for their parents as well.
Other civic projects included:
              Salvation Army bell ringing
              Veterans support program with XYZ
              Interact Club
              Morristown Scholarship Program
              The Table of Hope
              Morristown Festival of Books
              Morristown Musical Fest (Started in 2019)
              Relay for life
The First Taste of Morristown, our major fund raising event, took place in 2002. Since then, this annual event has supported civic programs such as those listed above and financial support through grants to organizations such as Homeless Solutions, CASA of Morris & Sussex Counties, Good Grief, Inc., Children on the Green, and Jersey Battered Women’s Services.
Morristown Rotary met the Covid-19 pandemic crisis with an unprecedented community support effort. Through club’s innovative program Operation: Hunger, Morristown Rotary partnered with local restaurants to feed Homeless Solutions’ resident-guests as they sheltered in place. Through Operation Hunger: 2, the club partnered with local restaurants, the Morristown Housing Authority, the Morris County Housing Authority, and the Interfaith Food Pantry to help feed local seniors.
A groundswell of community support helped both Operation: Hunger and Operation Hunger: 2 become great successes and serve as a capstone for the first one-hundred years of the Rotary Club of Morristown and its commitment to service above self.









































Morristown Rotary Club has lent its support to literally myriads of civic endeavors which contribute to making 

Morristown a better place in which to live, work and play.  Some include: a gift of full laundry equipment to the Mr. Kemble Home, a sauna bath to the YMCA, Gift of Life (heart), Polio Plus (polio), St. Kitts, purchased van for Red Cross, scoreboard for Neighborhood House, lights for Caldwell playground, defibulators for fire and police departments, New Orleans (Katrina Hurricane), Foots Pond $50,000 restoration, $100,000 major donor gift to restoration of Morristown Green (2006), support for hundreds of local civic endeavors - Little Leagues, Babe Ruth, community events, school activities, Christmas in April, etc.


The Morristown Rotary can be proud of its accomplishments, but we also look forward to its future.