Joseph Sergeant and Jane Quick

by Marfy Goodspeed on April 18, 2014

in Delaware Township

This is the next article in my series on the history of the Pauch farm in Delaware Township. In the previous post,1 Charles Sergeant had sold the old Richard Green farm to John R. Opdycke in 1805, and moved to the farm owned by Opdycke’s father, Samuel Opdycke. John Opdycke had no need for the Green farm. He had married in 1803 and was living in Kingwood on land that came from his wife’s family. Why did Opdycke make this swap? I suspect he wanted to close out his father’s estate, and this was one way to do it. Or, perhaps Sergeant knew how eager Opdycke was to settle matters and proposed a swap instead of an outright purchase.

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Were the Sergeants English or German?

by Marfy Goodspeed on April 16, 2014

in Delaware Township

Turns out even the family could not agree.

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Richard J. Garlipp, Jr. New Jersey’s Covered Bridges, Images of America, Arcadia Publishing, 2014.

New Jersey's Covered Bridges by Richard J. Garlipp, Jr.

New Jersey’s Covered Bridges by Richard J. Garlipp, Jr.

If you’ve ever had first hand knowledge of a story in the newspaper, chances are you’ve said to yourself, “the reporter got it wrong.” This also happens with books, including this one. Mr. Garlipp has long been a student of the history of covered bridges, and has undertaken a large and under-reported subject. But Arcadia books are not held to a very high standard and do not engage in fact-checking, so the results are sometimes a disappointing mixture of fact and fantasy. History is challenging, and mistakes are all too easy to make, as I have often learned to my dismay. I just wish this book had been better.

Don’t get me wrong—there is a lot to like about this book. The pictures are wonderful, a considerable collection of long-gone covered bridges, far more than most people realize once existed in New Jersey. Some of those bridge pictures are surprising. I am particularly fond of the Greek Revival facades that were built for the Crosswicks Bridge on the Burlington-Mercer border (p. 16-17) and the bridge over Fenwick Creek in Salem (pp. 20-21), with its warning: “Keep to the Right as the Law Directs” underneath the spreading wings of a patriotic eagle.

George Washington at Trenton, 1789

George Washington at Trenton, 1789

When it comes to patriotic, you can’t beat the depiction of Washington’s reception in 1789 by the Citizens (or ‘Ladies,’ depending on which version) of Trenton, made by N. Currier in 1845. (The picture was not included in this book, but can be found on Google images.) The Currier painting seems to show that there was a covered bridge over the Delaware at Trenton. In fact, Washington had to cross the Delaware River by ferry. What Currier saw was the Trenton Lower Bridge (pictured on p. 33 of the Garlipp book). This stunning bridge, the first one to span the river, was not built until 1806. Its façade, which looks faintly Dutch, had four arched entrances for two traffic lanes and two walk ways. Its five-span Burr truss construction had five long timber arches supporting each span. The photograph is impressive. I imagine that travelers in 1806 must have been amazed.

And speaking of entrances, the one to the Lambertville-New Hopew bridge was also outstanding (p. 61). How different Lambertville would be if that lovely gateway were still there. The rather heart-breaking photograph on p. 62 shows what happened to it in the flood of 1903.

A bridge that was new to me was the covered bridge built in 1851 spanning the Alexauken Creek near Lambertville. There is a beautiful photograph of that bridge on page 24. (See also page 102.) It was built using a design invented by Ithiel Town, known as a Town lattice-truss bridge. If only that bridge were still standing. But it caught fire in 1913 and was completely destroyed. Judging by the Beers Atlas of 1873, the bridge would have been somewhat upstream from the creek’s outlet at the Delaware River, probably on the old River Road.

In the introduction to “The Gateway Region,” being the eastern counties of Essex, Passaic, Hudson, Union and Middlesex, the author states that evidence of covered bridges in this area is quite scant. This is surprising, given the early urbanization in this area, where good transportation must have been taken very seriously. Mr. Garlipp writes that the first covered bridge in the state was built in 1772 on the Raritan River, a mile upstream from New Brunswick. There must have been other bridges across the Raritan, as well as the Millstone, Hackensack and Passaic Rivers. The only other early bridge shown in this area was the one at Little Falls in Passaic County (p.57; a lovely photo of that bridge was mistakenly included in a different chapter, on page 24). What a shame that records of the early east Jersey bridges have been lost.

I was eager to see what was written about the Green Sergeant Covered Bridge, as it is one I know something about. Very nice pictures, but alas, several errors. On page 7 the author wrote that Charles Sergeant was the builder, and the bridge was named for his son. True, the bridge took on the name of Richard Green Sergeant, but his father Charles Sergeant was not the builder. He settled there in 1805, but there was a bridge there long before 1787 when the freeholders met to decide on repairs.

The author states that Sergeantsville was established in 1700, which is completely wrong, and that a “tribe of Delaware Indians” camped near the bridge “after the Iroquois had conquered them.” (p. 104) Yes, there is evidence that Indians were present in the area; arrowheads and spear points were once abundant there. But why bring in the Iroquois, who never “defeated” the Indians of New Jersey? And, since I’ve lived in the neighborhood of Sergeantsville for 37 years, I was surprised to read this: “Also on her visit to Sergeantsville . . .”1

One other note on the covered bridge. On page 103, the author has chosen to show a photograph of a covered bridge that probably is not the Green Sergeant bridge. As he points out, the “curved portal framing,” is not seen on any other picture of the bridge, and I see no reason to assume it is the same. This being an Arcadia book, there is no way to know where the picture came from.

Mr. Garlipp made a misleading statement when he wrote that John Reading purchased his land from “local Native Americans” in 1703, suggesting this was a private land purchase, when in fact, Reading and two others bought a tract of 150,000 acres on behalf of the West Jersey Proprietors. Then Reading had to apply for a survey based on the number of shares he owned to acquire his own plantation north of Stockton.

I have listed these problems partly to set the record straight, and also to observe that if the author was wrong about things I know about, it leaves me uncertain about all the information he has provided about the other bridges, and that is unfortunate given how much work must have gone into this book.

The catalog of New Jersey covered bridges is a surprisingly long one. How nice it would have been to see a map showing their locations. This may have been a constraint imposed by Arcadia. It would also have been nice to have a list of bridges by date, or a list of all the bridges destroyed by the flood of 1903. But that may be asking too much of an Arcadia book.

The best documented covered bridges in New Jersey spanned the Delaware River, and they were all damaged by floods. It appears that the major floods took place in 1841, 1862, 1903, 1933 and finally 1955, by which time the last of the covered bridges over the Delaware were gone. Here is a list of the 16 New Jersey bridges, based on information in the book, plus a little help from Wikipedia.

1806,  Lower Trenton Bridge; replaced in 1876

1806,  The Easton-Phillipsburg Bridge; survived the floods, but weakened by trolley traffic; replaced in 1895

1814,  Lambertville-New Hope Bridge, destroyed in 1903, replaced in 1904

1814,  Centre Bridge (Stockton, NJ to Centre Bridge, PA), destroyed by flood in 1841 and by fire in 1923; replaced by 1927

1834,  Washington’s Crossing Bridge (M’Conkey’s Ferry), destroyed in 1903; replaced in 1904

1835,  Yardley-Wilburtha Bridge, destroyed in 1903, replaced in 1922

1836,  The Belvidere Bridge; damaged soon afterwards, but repaired, destroyed in 1903.

1836,  Dingman’s Ferry Covered Bridge, destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed in 1865. replaced in 1889.

1837, The Riegelsville Bridge, destroyed in 1903; replaced 1904

1842,  The Milford-Upper Black Eddy Bridge; damaged in 1903; replaced in the 1930s.

1844,  The Frenchtown-Uhlerstown Bridge, damaged in 1903; replaced in 1931

1855,  Point Pleasant-Byram Bridge, destroyed by fire 1892, then by flood 1955

1855,  Delaware Station, Warren Co., built for train traffic; replaced 1871

1856, Lumberville-Raven Rock Bridge, approved in 1835, but delayed until 1853 when construction began; damaged in 1903; condemned in 1944; replaced with a footbridge in 1947

1861, Calhoun St. Bridge, replaced in 1884

And the last covered bridge built to span the Delaware River:

1869, The Columbia, NJ-Portland, PA Bridge; survived the flood of 1903 and a tornado in 1929, converted to a foot bridge in 1953, destroyed in the flood of 1955.

The bridges speak of another time, when everyone traveled far more slowly and yet seemed to have more time in their days. As the author noted, Pennsylvania, New York and New England have kept many of their covered bridges. But New Jersey did away with them all, except for the one that local residents fought for.

As depicted in this book, the damage done to the old bridges by periodic floods and occasional fires was disastrous. If nature had not done away with these bridges, the automobile and the truck surely would have. Admittedly, preserving the covered bridges that once crossed the Delaware River would be too impractical. But the covered bridges that crossed New Jersey creeks deserved a better chance than they got.

There Are Still Bridges To Save

Even without the covered bridges, Hunterdon County has two other types of bridges that must not be ignored—the stone arch bridges and the metal truss bridges. I got a crash course on metal truss bridges back in 1998 when a one-lane bridge over Plum Brook was scheduled to be replaced with a modern two-lane bridge. My neighbors and I were so dismayed, we scrambled to get this modest little bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places, hoping that would save it from destruction. Much to our surprise, the State Historic Preservation Office approved the application, and our little bridge became the first metal truss bridge in New Jersey to be so recognized. As a result, the county was obliged to save the metal trusses and to widen the bridge far less than had been planned. It’s not the bridge it used to be, but we can consider it saved, as long as the county continues to maintain it. I am very proud to have written the application, the only application to the National Register that I have ever done. What did not get included was a biography of the bridge engineer who constructed the Plum Brook bridge and several others in the county—John Scott of Quakertown and Flemington. I hope someday to give him his due.

The Raven Rock Bridge over Lockatong Creek, in 2013

The Raven Rock Bridge over Lockatong Creek, in 2013

Since 2000, the county has had several other metal truss bridges to deal with, and generally the bridges have gotten more attention than they used to. Today another bridge is being ‘updated’—this one far more significant than the one over Plum Brook. It is the Raven Rock bridge over the Lockatong Creek. Delaware Township residents worked hard to see that the county came up with a plan that respected the architecture of the bridge, but the one non-negotiable item—a guide rail inside the metal trusses—will change the look of the bridge, and not for the better. The bridge was scheduled to reopen this month, but this past winter’s abominable weather has delayed the event.

Footnotes:

  1. I appreciate the author giving me credit for some ephemeral stories about the bridge, but as my readers know, I had a lot more to say on the subject. Here are some links: Green Sergeant’s Covered BridgeCovered Bridge TalesSparky’s Roadhouse ContinuedThe Covered Bridge in the Automobile Age; and Citizens to the Rescue. Also see Egbert T. Bush’s article Story of Green Sergeant’s Bridge and Its Builders.

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Old Things and Old Time Ways

by Marfy Goodspeed on April 11, 2014

in E. T. Bush, Historians Revisited

Taxes Were “Outrageous” When Rate Was 40¢ per $1 00.
Cutting Sausage with an Axe

by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N. J.
published in the Hunterdon County Democrat, February 23, 1933

Comment:  Unlike my usual practice, I have nothing to add to this very contemplative article. A passing knowledge of scripture and of the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson would be helpful. It is interesting that Bush combines the subjects of sausage making and paying taxes. There’s an echo here of the common association of sausage making with passing laws, from whence we get the burden of taxation. Bush’s thoughts on this subject are well worth contemplating, in particular his opinion that those who complain the most about their taxes should think about what they demand of government.

Did you ever “chop sausage” with an ax? Some of us old ones did. The memory of that chopping, though not at all pleasant, is still very distinct. The best and probably the worst that can be said about it now, is that the memory is preferable to the reality.

How well I remember that “meat block!” Really, it was not a block at all, though made of what might be so called. It was more like a table, with four sturdy legs securely driven into a great block three feet long and two feet wide. At the back and on the ends half-inch oak boards were so fastened as to leave about three inches above the flat face of the block, whose under side was rounded, giving the impression that it had been cut from an immense slab, one of the kind not uncommon in those days of wasting timber. These sides were meant to keep the meat from flying about the house when struck with an ax. In front was a strip only about one inch high, so as not to interfere with the operation of the ax.

When I first knew the ponderous table, the flat top had been so cut and hacked away, little by little, as to form a great, shallow, bowl-like depression. There was some advantage in this. It helped to keep the meat where it was wanted. But in spite of this help, the constant chopping tended to force the batch too much toward the edges. I do not know what ever became of that bulky article of household furniture, nor have I ever been able to find anything of the kind among the displays of “antiques,” now so common and so attractive. After about 1856, we were able to hire a “sausage cutter” from an acquaintance living at a considerable distance from us. There did not seem to be any such machine nearer; so very rare were “helps for the household” in those early days.

The First Sausage Cutter

This precious machine was an immense boxlike concern, which had evidently been painted red. It had stationary knives at the sides, and a revolving cylinder at the center, carrying other knives or at least projections that forced the meat against the sharp stationary cutters, and gradually worked it along to the place of discharge. That machine was a wonder! We could do in an hour what could not be done in three long days of wearisome chopping with an ax. And I know that the days were long indeed. According to the thrifty custom of the times, the chopping days ran far into the evening. And the ax must be kept going by shifting from one to another. Big children, little children, men, women—all who were able to raise an ax a few inches and drop it with sufficient precision to do execution—were drafted into the service. It is doubtful whether the strongest man could have kept the ax going for many hours at the steady, monotonous and most irksome stroke required. And here was a machine to do away with all that! No wonder that joy was overflowing in that household.

I recall that the condition of hiring was, “Weigh your meat and pay a cent a pound.” It may seem strange that a small child should remember even the cost so clearly. But at that rate, I could see that we had not been earning more than a cent an hour by our tiresome task. Besides, the cost of little things and the necessity for saving wherever possible, were strongly impressed upon the minds of children in those crude old days. One can hardly help wondering whether, after all, the aggregate saving that may be made by doing without this and that needless little thing, might not have been profitably impressed upon the minds of the young, even in the glorious days of extravagance and contempt for “trifles.”

The meat block brings to mind many old things and old ways, all so different from those of today: the scythe for the grass and the hand rake for the hay, to be followed by the first “horse-rake,” a long head with teeth on one side, known as a “whoa-back” because we had to make the horse back while we pulled the rake from under the windrow and lifted it over for a fresh start; the cradle for the grain and beards and briers for the fingers of the binder; the crude and ponderous “oats-fork,” with its heavy head and long tines; the ten-plate Stove, the chimney corner and the blazing hearth; the naked floor and the “trundle-bed.” All so different from the wonderful things of the present age.

“Outrageous” Taxes

And in this connection—though one should apologize for bringing up that irritating subject, “taxes”—it is hard to refrain from recalling an incident of the middle 1850’s. I can still see my father frowning over his tax-bill for the year, then just received. “Outrageous!” he muttered in disapproval of such extravagance. The rate was 40 cents on the $100, whereas for the previous year it had been but 38. The increase was ominous, portending greater impositions yet to come.

How different, and yet how pertinent! How natural seems that old-time protest! We had practically nothing, and were paying practically nothing for it. Even then the bill may have been extravagant. Anyhow, the rate had increased, and therein lay the danger—at least, as seen by the prudent (perhaps too prudent) taxpayers of old. Now we have everything, and must pay accordingly, including the astounding that “outrageous” part (sic, my copy is missing some text}, almost as great as the growth of Jona’s miraculous gourd. The farmer who does not now find his tax rate twelve times as great, must be living in some secluded low and lonely dell while the masses are plaintively chanting:

“Tell me, ye winged winds
That ‘round my pathway roar,
Do ye not know some spot
Where gangsters rule no more?”

And yet it might be well to stop and, consider how much of the trouble has been caused by our own insistence. How many of the things that we demanded might have been comfortably postponed, at least until we had learned what to do with them, adjusting our finances to the cost, conserving our resources and paying our way as we went along? How many of us ever stopped to realize that our exchequer—national, state, municipal or personal—would never be miraculously filled as was the widow’s cruse of oil?

Any thought or suggestion of consequences, was heretical. But he who hath no heresies hath little else. “Progress!” was the soothing, stupefying cry. But that has proved itself almost as irrational as the wild schemes for recovery that we now hear madly from the “seats of the mighty,” as well as from seats on nail kegs and cracker barrels. Amid such confusion, one may be pardoned for feeling in sympathy with Emerson’s caustic advice. After pointing out the folly of constant harping upon one’s creeds or opinions, declaring all to be mere theories about deep things of which we know nothing, he closes in this laconic way: “Drop thy theory, as Joseph his coat in the hands of the harlot, and flee.”

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House Histories, part two

by Marfy Goodspeed on April 4, 2014

in Basic Sources & Resources

This is the second part of my article on how to do a house history, published March 29th. If you followed through with that article, you will now have a more or less complete chain of title. So, what next?

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NJ History Online

by Marfy Goodspeed on April 1, 2014

in Basic Sources & Resources

I recently discovered some interesting articles online about New Jersey history. For instance:

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The Secrets To A Great House History

by Marfy Goodspeed on March 29, 2014

in Basic Sources & Resources

Most people who decide to research their properties head straight to the Search Room in the County Clerk’s Office to find the earliest deed they can. I understand the impulse—that’s exactly what I did over 30 years ago. But experience has taught me there is a better way to get started. I recently gave a talk on this subject for the Hunterdon County 300th Anniversary speakers’ series. It gave me a chance to boil down my approach to a few simple rules. Here they are:

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Charles Sergeant and Sarah Green

by Marfy Goodspeed on March 21, 2014

in Delaware Township

This article is a continuation of the history of the Pauch Farm in Delaware Township, first owned by Richard Bull in 1702, then by Samuel Green, then by Green’s son Richard, and now Richard’s granddaughter Sarah and her husband Charles Sergeant in 1794.  Ninety-two years in the same family, and counting.

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by Jonathan M. Hoppock
published in the Democrat-Advertiser, July 20, 1905

This article is a follow up to the one published in 1901 titled “Sergeant Mansion and Mill, 1745.” Some of the information in this article was taken directly from the earlier one. Perhaps Mr. Hoppock figured no one would remember what he had written before. I am publishing these articles on the website because there are errors and this is a good way to make note of them.

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by Jonathan M. Hoppock
published in the Democrat Advertiser, December 5, 1901

This interesting old property deserves a much longer treatment than Mr. Hoppock was able to give. He did return to this subject when he published “The Old Sergeant Mill” on July 20, 1905. However, that article was focused on the mill, rather than the house—the mill was located just north of  the house, but has since been torn down. The most remarkable thing about the house is that it has been in the same family since Charles Sergeant and wife Sarah Green took possession in 1805, over 200 years.1

The Sergeant Mill

The Sergeant Mill

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  1. For more about the Sergeant family, see Pine Hill Cemetery, What’s In A Name? Skunktown, Generations of Greens, Richard Green and Elizabeth Wolverton, and Charles Sergeant and Sarah Green. For more information on John Opdycke and Margaret Green (great aunt of Sarah Green Sergeant) see Opdycke’s Mill at Headquarters.

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