John Reading & the Creation of Hunterdon County (part 1)

On November 16, I gave a speech about John Reading and the Creation of Hunterdon County. There was quite a lot of information in that speech, covering the years 1664 to 1718. In fact, it was probably a bit too much.

For example, the beginning of the speech covered the conquest of New Netherland by the English in 1664, the Third Anglo-Dutch War of 1672-74, the Quintipartite Deed of 1676, and John Reading’s settlement in Gloucester County in 1684; also Edward Byllinge and the early settlement of West New Jersey. Rather than rehash material that I have already written about, you can see a list of pertinent articles at the end of this one. They cover the settlement of West New Jersey, its political history, its infamous governor Daniel Coxe, and the early career of John Reading.

For the history of Hunterdon County, it is best to start with 1694. What follows is the first part of a somewhat amended version of the speech.

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The Conklings, Father and Son

This is a continuation of the story by Egbert T. Bush of the “Biggest Log Ever Brought to Stockton,” in which he wrote about the owners of the Stockton Sawmill and the Stockton Spoke Works. These Hunterdon industrialists took risks to build their businesses, and sometimes failed badly. Here are two more examples of failure and success.

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Biggest Log Ever Brought to Stockton

Giant Oak Caused Trouble Before It Arrived at the Mill
A Big Event in the Town

by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N.J.
published in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat, September 5, 1929

The Oak Tree by Thomas Bewick

The Oak Tree by Thomas Bewick

This is another in a series of articles by Egbert T. Bush on the subject of Hunterdon County trees. Whenever Mr. Bush writes about an event, there is always an interesting back story—often more than one. This article about Stockton takes us north to Kingwood and Alexandria, and south to Lambertville. There are a few people of particular importance: John Finney, William V. Case, Edward P. Conkling and his father Rev. Cornelius S. Conkling. The biographies of Finney and Case can be found at the end of Mr. Bush’s article. The Conklings will appear in a subsequent post.

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A Mystery Village

As I have mentioned in previous posts,1 many wonderful documents can be found in the Cathers-Davison collection that has recently been donated to the Hunterdon County Historical Society. I was very fortunate to get a look at some of them beforehand, and among the earliest documents was a gem.

Unidentified Village from the Cathers-Davison Collection

Unidentified Village from the Cathers-Davison Collection

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A House Divided

Howell’s Tavern House and Ferry House

Detail of survey by Reading Howell, 1774 click to enlarge

Detail of survey by Reading Howell, 1774
click to enlarge

The dotted line in this picture is a survey line, drawn by Reading Howell in 1774, and as you can see, one of the lines goes right through the middle of the house, which is labeled “Ferry House.” Strangely enough, this house has long been known as the tavern house at Howell’s Ferry (Stockton) which I wrote about in “Jacob’s Path, an 1813 Shortcut.” So why was the tavern house called the Ferry House in 1774? And why did the surveyor run a line right through the middle? Therein lies a story.

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Milling Industry at Prallsville Back of Year 1792

Little Known of Mill That Existed
Prior to John Prall’s
When the Canal Was Dug

Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N.J.

published in the Hunterdon County Democrat, February 13, 1930

Prallsville, painted by Thomas Whitley in the mid 1800s

Prallsville, painted by Thomas Whitley in the mid 1800s

The paintings shown in this article were made in the mid 19th century
for John Parker Prall. The artist was Thomas Whitley, and the originals
can be found in the John Prall, Jr. house in Prallsville.

It is common to speak of John Prall Jr. as the builder of the first mill in this hamlet. But his titles date back to early 1792; and to some of us it seemed strange that a site so attractive with the Wickecheoke Creek rushing into the Delaware, with an established ferry close at hand, and with a solid community back of it should have been so long without a mill. While investigation has so far failed to reveal all that was hoped for, it has demonstrated that Prall was far from being first to carry on milling business here.

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With a Name Like Boozer . . .

In 1878 when the bridge on Raven Rock Road was built, the Freeholder Director of Hunterdon County was Joseph H. Boozer of Lambertville. He was one of the six freeholders who were charged with overseeing construction of the bridge spanning the Lockatong Creek. With such an unusual name, he certainly stands out, and I could not resist the urge to learn about him and his family. Continue reading