22 September 2016

West Trenton's Connection to India

West Trenton is an unincorporated neighborhood in the township of Ewing, Mercer County, New Jersey.  Called Birmingham at the time of the American Revolution (George Washington divided his troops in the heart of town on his way to the Battle of Trenton), it was later known as Trenton Junction, thanks to the arrival of the trains in the 1870s.  It held this name until the early 1930s when it was renamed West Trenton, the name it carries today.

At the turn of the century, Trenton Junction was a semi-isolated hamlet of farmland, country houses, and a few dirt roads.  You could catch a train to Philadelphia or New York or even into Trenton and, after some wrangling, a trolley service came into the village from downtown Trenton. 

In 1905, Trenton Junction had a most exotic visitor, from far away Nagaland, a province found in the jewel of the British Empire's crown, India.

Located in the northeastern corner of the country, Nagaland borders Burma (Myanmar) and it is one of modern India's smallest states.  Surrounded by Hinduism and Buddhism, it is mostly (88%) Christian (Baptist, specifically).

Around 1887, a boy named Eramo Shanjamo Jungi was born in Nagaland. He was of the Lota tribe and in 1905 he became the first Naga to come to the United States and receive a foreign education.

Mrs. S.A. Parrine was the wife of a Baptist minister and the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. M.T. Lamb of Grand Avenue, Trenton Junction. She and her husband were missionaries to Nagaland. On December 27, 1904 they brought Shanjamo to the United States. He spent 1905 living with her parents, the Lambs, in their farmhouse on Grand Avenue and he spent the school year studying at the Trenton Junction public school, just down the road. On October 27, 1905, the Rev. Judson Conklin, of the Clinton Avenue Baptist Church in Trenton, arranged to have Shanjamo lecture about his home. Mrs. Parrine interpreted for him.

The following year, Sanjamo transferred to a school in Port Norris and finally, in 1907, he transferred to the Mt. Hermon School in Warren County. He returned to Nagaland on November 27, 1908. He was very active in the Baptist Church in India, was ordained, established churches and preached at many churches in throughout Nagaland. He died in 1956.

Today in Nagaland, there is a monument to Eramo Shanjamo Jungi, highlighting the fact that he was the first of his people to receive a foreign education.  On the monument is a plaque with his photograph and a list of all of his accomplishments in life and as a Baptist minister and missionary.  Listed under his education is the little two-room school house 7,802 miles away, on Grand Avenue, in Trenton Junction.