⚫ Union County seal controversy is heating up
⚫ Some residents are angry over plans to change it
⚫ Local officials fear it could be insensitive and too violent

A fight is brewing over plans to change the official seal for Union County.

The current seal, pictured above, depicts the murder of Hannah Caldwell by a British soldier.

Caldwell, who is believed to have been the first woman killed in New Jersey during the Revolutionary War in 1780, became a symbol defiance in the fight for independence.

Her murder galvanized local militias

Her murder inspired local militias, which materially contributed to defeating the British two weeks later in the Battle of Springfield.

But now the Union County Board of County Commissioners wants to create a new seal.

Is the current seal too graphic?

According to Commissioner Chairman Sergio Granados the idea is “not to take away the significance of our past but to recognize it in a different way.”

He stressed in a press release the goal of creating a new county seal is “to educate our residents on who Hannah Caldwell was, the role she played in shaping history and how we can honor her in a more positive way than a dramatization of her death.”

The wording “dramatization of her death” apparently refers to the fact that Caldwell, a mother of 9, was actually shot and killed inside her home, not outside.

He says it could be viewed as insensitive

Granados also says "the fact that our seal contains the brutal murder of Hannah Caldwell could be viewed as insensitive to today's climate, involving the awareness of gun violence or violence against women.”

However, some Union County residents are upset about the plan to change the seal.

The president of the Union Township Historical Society, Barbara LaMort, is strongly opposed to the proposed seal redesign.

The former teacher described Caldwell as "a great symbol for modern women, defending their homes, defending their children, defending their values. Don't take this away."

LaMort is leading a letter-writing campaign to oppose any change to the official seal.

An online petition is launched

Additionally, an online petition has been launched and hundreds of signatures have been collected over the past few days.

Union County officials are inviting local residents to submit their choice for one of the two options on the county website.

Option 1 (Courtesy Union County)
Option 1 (Courtesy Union County)

One option includes the figure of a smiling Hannah Caldwell along with an airplane and a ship representing the county's ports, the towering Union County Courthouse complex in Elizabeth and trees in a park. The images are divided by a compass rose, which the county says is meant to represent Union's "diverse, yet united population."

The second option is a representation of the distinctive 17-story county courthouse complex.

"Not merely just a symbol of justice for the residents of the county, the courthouse also serves as an important symbol of unity and history — as it is adjacent to the First Presbyterian Churchyard, where Reverend James Caldwell and his wife Hannah are buried," the county said.

The seals are emblazoned with 21 stars representing each municipality in the county.

Option 2 (Courtesy Union County)
Option 2 (Courtesy Union County)

The Union County Board of County Commissioners will unveil the winning option at the April 27, 2023 meeting, unless the plans for a new seal are changed.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

How much your school district gets under Murphy's proposed 2024 budget

Gov. Phil Murphy's porposed 2024 budget includes $1 billion in new spending for school funding including pre-K funding, pension and benefits, and an additional $832 million in K-12 aid, which is listed below by county and district.

Weird things NJ taxes - and some they don't

In general, New Jersey assesses a 6.625% Sales Tax on sales of most tangible personal property, specified digital products, and certain services unless specifically exempt under New Jersey law.
However, the way the sales tax is applied in New Jersey sometimes just doesn't make sense.
New Jersey puts out an itemized list for retailers that spells out what is, and what is not, taxed. 
Perhaps because this is New Jersey, there are some bizarre and seemingly contradictory listings. 

Play ball NJ: These MLB pros are from New Jersey

A fair amount of New Jersey born baseball players have made it to the majors. These pros, active to start the 2023 season, all have NJ roots.

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM