Watchung was represented at signing of UN Charter by Charles Eaton, a former dairy farmer, clergyman and Congressman By Frank Coelho Thursday, May 6, 2010 Star Ledger
WATCHUNG – Since its incorporation in 1826, the Borough of Watchung has seen its share of famous and consequential residents. For some reason, a good number of them were sports heroes of one kind or another. Oddly enough, these have included three New York Giants (of the football and baseball Giants kind.) Of course, most everyone is aware that Bobby Thomson, the legendary baseball slugger who hit "the shot heard around the world" to win the National League Pennant in 1951, was one of our neighbors.
But, there's another past Watchung resident whose deeds have also had significant global repercussions. Although in his case, they were geopolitical in nature. His name was Charles Aubrey Eaton and, on June 26, 1945, he was one of the signers of the original United Nations Charter – the international organization's foundational treaty – in San Francisco.
Why was Eaton part of the delegation representing the US Government at such an historic and momentous occasion? To answer that question, let's take a quick look at the man's lifelong trajectory.
Born in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1868, Eaton moved to a part of North Plainfield which later became Watchung, in 1909, to start a dairy farm. Prior to that, he had studied divinity, after experiencing a religious conversion, and eventually led prominent congregations as a clergyman in Massachusetts, Toronto and Cleveland, Ohio.
Renowned for his fiery oratory style, Eaton quickly gained prominence with his sermons and subsequently caught the eye and ear of one John D. Rockefeller – the famous industrialist who revolutionized the petroleum industry – with whom he forged a lifelong friendship.
Interestingly, a good portion of what Eaton preached about had to do with the extreme poverty and social displacement caused by the intense industrialization process America was undergoing in the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds. As a result of his new connections and his need to champion policies focused on improving the lives of the less fortunate, Eaton eventually found himself moving in the direction of journalism and a national political career.
His views on class, social structure and the nature of being an American are revealed in some of his published essays. In 1920, he wrote…"The fundamental idea of our American civilization is this: any man who has the stuff in him can, by his own energy, thrift, industry and courage, rise to any height he may choose. His only limit is his own weakness. He, himself, is in a class by himself. There is no other class here… This is the greatest experiment ever made by man. It is a new idea fit to be developed only in a new world. It is the American idea."
In 1924, Charles "Doc" Eaton was elected as a Republican to the 69th United States Congress. He served in 13 succeeding Congresses until 1952. Although he was a staunch opponent of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, he labored tirelessly for bipartisanship in foreign affairs. His work as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee helped to guide the Marshall Plan and other key foreign aid programs through Congress, and directly led to his participation in the formation of what we know today as the United Nations. According to Time Magazine, Eaton was an unwavering internationalist.
Charles A. Eaton passed away a mere 20 days after his retirement from Congress, in 1953, and is today buried at Hillside Cemetery, in Scotch Plains.
In conjunction with the Somerset County Freeholders, the Watchung Historical Society is currently working on the possibility of officially honoring Eaton.Watchung was represented at signing of UN Charter by Charles Eaton, a former dairy farmer, clergyman and Congressman By Frank Coelho Thursday, May 6, 2010 Star Ledger