How it All Began
During the Great Depression, a group of men, residents of New Providence, joined together to form a club or organization. Although current membership is unrelated to the cultural background of the members, the club was named after a Senator and later Governor of Maryland, William Paca, the only signer of the Declaration of Independence who was of Italian decent. So the club became The William Paca Club of New Providence, NJ in his honor; a social and civic club.
During the Depression, members of the William Paca Club helped many families of New Providence who were in need. Amongst these were some residents who received assistance in becoming citizens of The United States of America.
In 1943 the club received a certificate of incorporation and thereby officially became The William Paca Club of New Providence.
Originally, meetings were held in the basement in the home of Ralph Parlapiano on High Street, and soon the place of meetings moved to a house on First Street, rented from Louis Napolitano.
In 1944, when the Ladies Auxiliary was formed and the club had grown to require a larger facility, the club purchased its current facility on 1 William Paca Place. While meetings were temporarily held in the greenhouse of Pat Romano, the members raised funds to buy materials and pay for any work that had to be contracted, while most of the work was completed by the club’s members.
The club house was completed in December of 1947, and in January of 1948 the then Mayor of New Providence, Honorable Ellsworth Hansell, officiated the opening ceremonies, with the Borough Council and other town officials in attendance.
The Club Today
Since then, the club has participated in borough affairs, marched in the Memorial Day Parades, distributed box lunches to the children after the parades, and participated in any functions for which the club could provide assistance. In addition, this non-profit club raises funds through fundraising events in order to provide assistance with various community service.
Members of the club continue the historic traditions of the club, and participate in the upkeep and renovations of our club house and its facilities. In addition to regular cleaning tasks before and after functions, members volunteer to attend a monthly in-depth cleaning that could be compared to the spring cleaning of your home. Special talents of our members are greatly appreciated in upkeep and improvements of the club’s electric, plumbing, landscaping, audio/visual systems and more.
William Paca’s History
William Paca’s great-grandfather, Robert Paca, was the first of the Paca family to immigrate to America. He landed in the Colonies in 1657 and died in 1721. (A tradition in the Paca family gives its origin as Italian and of the same ancestral blood as that of Pope Leo XIII.) Robert Paca, one of the original settlers in Maryland, came to America from Italy by way of England and in 1651, was granted a track of 490 acres in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, “for transporting nine men into the Province, according to the conditions of the plantations.” Subsequently, in 1663 other large land tracts lying between Chesapeake Bay, Henry Creek and Lyons Creek in Arundel County were also granted Robert Paca.
Robert Paca married the daughter of one of the commissioners appointed by Oliver Cromwell to govern Maryland. They had a son, Aquila, who became “high sheriff”. Aquila Paca was the first Italian American to occupy any public office in the Colonies.
William Paca, second son of John Paca and Elizabeth Smith, was born in Hartford County, Maryland, on October 31, 1740 and the large landed properties in the new world inherited by the Pacas enabled him to obtain a liberal education. He traveled extensively to Italy, and was admitted to the London legal profession in 1763. While in England he married Mary Chew. They had three children, though only their son, John Philemon survived into adulthood.
William Paca plunged into the fight on the side of the Colonists by denouncing the Stamp Act in 1765 and became a leader in opposition to every British measure of oppression. He was a member of the Maryland Assembly from 1771 to 1774 and a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1779.
During the Revolution, William Paca was zealous Patriot and contributed many funds to the cause. He was elected Governor of Maryland in 1782 and reelected in 1783. He thus had the distinction of not only being a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but the first Italian-American to serve as a Governor of a state.
Governor Paca was interred in the family burial ground at Wye, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, adjoining the county seat “Wye Hall” on Paca’s Island. His town house in Annapolis, also known as Carver Hall Hotel, is now the historical William Paca House and Gardens.