Last June, I was reading the minutes of the Delaware Township Planning Board when I noticed an interesting item. Harry Brelsford, owner of a house at 80 Locktown-Sergeantsville Road (Block 20 lot 6) had presented his plan to tear down and rebuild the older section of the existing house. Apparently, that older section was in such bad repair it wasn’t worth saving. Normally, talk of demolition of old houses gets my attention, but I forgot about this until a friend called it to my attention.

I began to wonder how old the house actually was. With the help of Marilyn Cummings, I did some research. It appears that even though the property became the home of Isaac Servis in 1815, the house was probably not built til the 1830s at the earliest. And was significantly rebuilt in the late 1840s by the next owner, Asa Romine.

Isaac Servis

The Servis family is hard to research, as they were somewhat lax about recording marriages, deeds and wills, but I believe this Isaac was the son of George Servis of New Market or Linvale (c.1750-1816), and was born about 1785, one of six children. George Servis wrote his will on August 8, 1814 ordering that his moveable estate be divided among the children, including daughter Mary Case. She was also given use of the home farm for one year, until it was sold. Executors were sons Jacob and Isaac.

I am not certain who the husband of Mary Servis Case was, but about 1800, Isaac Servis married Catharine Case, probably the daughter of Jacob Case (c.1740-c.1774) and Catharine Housel. It is quite possible that Mary Servis married Catharine’s brother Jacob Case Jr., but I have no proof of that.

In 1806, Tunis Case, eldest son and heir of Jacob Case, sold part of the Case plantation to the other heirs of Jacob Case for $1,000 ($16/acre). They were named in that deed as William and Peter Case of Virginia; Jacob Case, Martin Case, Isaac Servis and William Hann of Amwell. The property was on Route 604, east of Rosemont. The next year, Isaac Servis bought out the other heirs for $1,284, and in 1809 he sold the 62.5 acres to Asher Reading for $1370.1

Isaac and Catharine Servis had at least four children. I got their names from the will that Isaac Servis wrote in 1845. (There was no month or day specified in the will.) They had a son Tunis (1791-1857) and three daughters: Sarah (c.1794-aft 1870), Elizabeth (c.1798-1830), and Mary (c.1810-bef.1865).

At some point, Isaac Servis’ wife Catharine died, and he married second a woman named Ann, whom he named in his will. She may have been related to Isaac Horne (born about 1765-70).2 One reason for thinking so is that Isaac Servis had dealings with Isaac Horne who lived nearby on Ferry Road, and this Isaac may well have had a sister named Ann. Unfortunately, Isaac Horne, who must have died in the late 18th or early 20th centuries, is not listed in the Index of Hunterdon estates.

In 1813, Isaac Servis was running a tavern near Ringoes. This comes from a deed for a sheriff’s sale for a bordering property.3 Isaac Servis obtained tavern licenses in 1812 and 1813, but the record does not say exactly where his tavern was.4 I suspect it was at Larison’s Corner (corner of Route 202 and Route 179) near Ringoes, for in 1811, Isaac Servis bought three small lots in that location from Edmund and Elizabeth Burk of Trenton for $2900.5

On May 1, 1815, Isaac Servis, who was about 45 years old, bought a farm of 120 acres on the Locktown-Sergeantsville Road.6 The seller was John Heath Sr. and the price was $3600. Based on a sampling of 1815 deeds, the cost of $30 per acre is a low price, suggesting there was not yet a house on the property. At the time, only the youngest daughter was still living at home. Daughter Sarah was married to Benjamin Horn of Ferry Road on Sept. 29, 1810, by Justice of the Peace Peter Risler, Esq.. Daughter Mary was married to John Woodruff on Sept. 17, 1814 by Rev. Kirkpatrick. Son Tunis was married to Elizabeth Horn, daughter of Isaac Horn, on March 2, 1811, also by Peter Risler. The youngest, daughter Elizabeth married Asa Jones on Feb. 15, 1817.7 It looks like Tunis Servis may have married the niece of his step-mother.

Isaac Servis remained on the farm until his death in 1846. He wrote his will in 1845, leaving specific bequests. To his beloved wife Ann he left:

1 highpost bedstead, bed, bedding & curtains, 1 common bedstead bed & bedding, 1 truckle bed & bedding, 1 Beaureau [sic], 1 Chest, 1 Walnut table, set Queens Ware, 2 teapots, sugar bowl & Cream cup, 6 tea cups, saucers, 5 Soup plates, 6 table plates, 1 Glass Pitcher, half dozen knives & forks, 1 Iron kettle, 1 water pail, 2 flower pots, 1 Looking Glass, 6 tablespoons, 6 dinner plates, 2 sauce dishes, Rocking Chair, 4 bed quilts, 2 coverlits, 3 blankets, 3 sheets, 4 pair pillow cases. And also $100 which together with the above named articles I give her in lieu of dower.

Isaac Servis’ inventory totaled only $701.13. The value of many of the items left to his wife was not very high, and the flower pots and rocking chair were not mentioned.

The children named in his will were son Tunis, who got $350, daughter Mary, wife of John Woodruff, who got $300, daughter Sarah, wife of Benjamin Bailey, also $300, and deceased daughter Elizabeth, whose husband was Sheriff Asa Jones; her children got her share of $300. Egbert T. Bush wrote that about 1825, Asa Jones acquired a store lot in Croton that had once been owned by Isaac Servis, but Servis did not sell it directly to Jones.8

Grandchildren named in the will of Isaac Servis were John Johnes (son of Sheriff Asa Jones and Elizabeth Servis), Catharine Besson (wife of Joseph Besson, daughter of Asa & Elizabeth Jones), Austin Servis (son of Tunis Servis & Elizabeth Horn), Caroline Maxwell (widow of Charles Maxwell, daughter of Tunis & Elizabeth Servis), and Richard Servis (son of Tunis & Elizabeth Servis). The list is surprising because Isaac Servis had at least twenty grandchildren. Why he selected only five to mention in his will must say something about their importance to him.

Isaac Servis named his friend and neighbor, Daniel J. Moore, as the sole executor. Moore lived a short distance east of Isaac Servis, on a farm set well back from Ferry Road. On August 1, 1847, following instructions in the will, Moore sold the Servis farm of 125 acres to Asa Romine.9

The House

Harry Breslford very kindly let Marilyn Cummings and me visit the house last month, when Marilyn found something of a puzzle—it was, as she observed, “an amalgam of paradoxes.”

Fireplace in the Asa Romine house

Fireplace in the Asa Romine house

The cellar is one large area, which appears to have always been so. It is accessed internally by way of a central, straight-run stairs between the two upstairs rooms. It has a 4-foot deep x 7-foot wide fireplace cribbing on the east wall that supports the small fireplace and hearth on the first floor above. In the southeast corner of the cellar, an early door-frame, still sports its original blue-green paint, and provides exterior access via a set of later steps . . . Most of the cellar window openings still have the remaining framework of their original horizontal window grates, a nice early feature. . . . The beams are large and hewn; however, many of them appear to be repurposed, with mortise holes no longer holding the tenons that were meant for them. The current main cross-beam is a sawn timber, painted blue-green, that appears to match the cellar doorframe. It is not supported at either side of the exterior wall, where an original beam would have joined the corbel on the west and the fireplace cribbing on the east; instead it is propped up by lallys. Clearly a replacement at some point long past.

Marilyn discovered that many of the floor boards on the first floor had once been pulled up and relaid. She found the old blue-green paint on the boards in the rear (north) side of the house. She also found that the sill plates were “more dressed, and probably younger, than the spanning beams” which suggests again some serious rebuilding was done a long time ago.

On the first floor there are two rooms “separated by a straight-run staircase, a typical mid-1800s configuration.” The east room has the fireplace, while the west room has none. Marilyn thinks the fireplace was originally plastered. It is only 6 feet wide by 2 ½ feet deep, smaller than the fireplace support in the basement, and may have been rebuilt. There is a chimney cupboard to the right “whose paneled doors are a also mid-century style.”

The west room, which would have been the parlor, is without heat. The striking difference between these two rooms, however, is that the moldings in the east room have a flat profile, suggesting an earlier age than the more elaborate moldings in the west room. . . . The contrast in style is rather extreme.

Was the parlor remodeled in, say, the 1840s? Molding on the back (north) exterior doorframe seems to suggest this too. So, on the cellar and first floor we have some clear contradictions that should be resolved on the second floor. However, that is definitely not the case.

The second floor also has a “curious combination of doors and moldings.” There are two 18th-century doors with 20th-century doorknobs, and two other doors that are much later, plus a door to the attic that dates to the 1840s. There are four small rooms rather than the two that might be expected. The high post bed mentioned in the Isaac Servis inventory could not have fit in these small rooms, which suggests the rooms were divided after his death. But the trim in the hallway seems to contradict this.

In the attic Marilyn found that “the few floorboards remaining are nicely tongue-and-grooved with square nails. The rafters are sawn and mortised at the peak, but not pegged. There is no evidence they were ever numbered in sequence for construction purposes, an earlier distinguishing feature.” Marilyn concluded:

The most compelling question is what happened with the reconstruction of the cellar? Most likely something destructive (fire, weather, or such) caused the rebuild. . . . The central stair location which is a later 1800s feature and the unpegged rafters which are also later 1800s {lead to the conclusion that} this house probably dates to roughly the second quarter of the 1800s.10

Asa Romine and Sarah Fulper

The Romine house as it appears today

The Romine house as it appears today

Asa Romine bought the Isaac Servis farm of 120 acres on August 1, 1847 for $2,230.11 This was only $18.58 per acre, quite a bit less than Servis paid for it, which is hard to explain, unless the old Servis house was considered valueless. This would fit with Marilyn’s estimate of its age.

Asa Romine was born July 6, 1820, the son of Furman Romine (1772-1847) and Ann Holcombe (1775-1852). They lived on a hill overlooking Brookville, on a farm that Furman Romine inherited from his father James Romine in 1816.

Furman Romine died on Sept. 26, 1847, almost two months after Asa purchased the farm of Isaac Servis. Asa was the youngest of six children, so I imagine he was not expecting anything from his father’s estate.12 In fact, the Brookville property of Furman Romine dec’d was sold to Garret Wilson in 1848.13 Furman Romine wrote his will on July 31, 1847 and died only two months later. After making bequests to his wife Ann, his two daughters Lucile Ann Holcombe and Sarah Vandolah, and grandsons Furman Remine and Oscar Holcombe, he left only $5 to each of his sons—James, Asa and John, “over and above what I have heretofore given them.” This suggests to me that when Asa Romine bought the farm of Isaac Servis, he had some help from his father. The rest of Furman Romine’s estate went to Asa’s younger brother Charles Romine (spelled Remine in the will).

Furman Romine was buried in the Mt. Airy Presbyterian Cemetery. His wife Ann died on March 2, 1852 and is buried next to him.

Asa Romine married Sarah Fulper, daughter of Peter Fulper and Jerusha Larew, on September 14, 1841, one year after Peter Fulper died.14 As far as I know they only had one child, daughter Sarah E. Romine, who married Rusling S. Hoppock.

Sarah Fulper’s family had been living on the old Williamson farm on Pavlica Road, at least up until October 1839, when an advertisement for the property stated that it was in the tenure of Peter Fulper. How a boy from Brookville found a girl living north of Sergeantsville I cannot say; I’m not aware of any family connection among the parents. But this property of Isaac Servis, which was not far from the home of the Fulper family, was the first purchase by Asa Romine. The only other recorded land purchase for Asa Romine was in 1868, when he bought a lot from his mother-in-law.

Asa Romine came to the attention of Egbert T. Bush when he was writing about an old school that once stood on the Locktown-Sergeantsville Road, named the “Oregon School.” Here is what Mr. Bush had to say:

“By deed dated April 1, 1847, Daniel Moore, executor of Isaac Servis, conveyed to Asa Romine the farm mentioned as bounding the school lot on the east. This farm then contained 120 acres and was sold for $2,250. There Asa lived and labored for many years, seemingly all the time in love with his farm—a happy condition for any farmer. In their old age I think he and his wife removed to Mt. Pleasant, where lived their daughter and her husband, Rusling S. Hoppock, a well-known teacher who was for many years principal of the public school at Milford. In his retirement Asa used to tell of the grand views which he had enjoyed while living on the farm. One great comfort seemed to be that he could see seven church steeples without going away from home.”

View from Fisher's Hill, near Pavlica Road

View from Fisher’s Hill, near Pavlica Road

How Asa Romine was able to see seven steeples from his farm on the hill above Sergeantsville is a mystery to me. That is certainly not the case now, as the house is surrounded by fields and woods, with no long view at all. The view shown above is near the Locktown-Sergeantsville Road, but not from the Servis-Romine farm; it is closer to Pavlica Road.

In the mid-19th century, things were very different. The woods were almost entirely gone, even the hedgerows. Farmers farmed from lot line to lot line, so the long view, especially from this farm, perched on the edge of the Croton Plateau, was assured. But what steeples could Asa Romine see? Certainly the Methodist Church in Sergeantsville would be one, and the Sandy Ridge Baptist Church another. But five more steeples? Seems impossible. Did Mr. Romine count the bell tower on the old Locktown Christian Church? There were two churches in Rosemont, but could he really have seen them from Sergeantsville? Perhaps. Could he have seen the steeple on the Stockton Baptist Church? Or the Stockton Presbyterian Church (built in 1867)? This is an interesting puzzle.

The Oregon School

Eight years after Peter Fulper died and one year after Asa Romine bought his farm, in 1848, a lot was sold for the purpose of erecting a school house on Locktown-Sergeantsville Road. In 1848, Asa Romine’s daughter Sarah was just 5 years old, and would soon be ready for school.

Mr. Bush described the school lot in his article, “The Oregon School”:15

“Beginning in the middle of the great road leading from Locktown to Sergeantsville, being in line of Jerusha Fulper’s Lot; thence with her line (1) nearly East to a stone in Asa Romine’s Line and corner to Jerusha Fulper’s Lot, thence (2) with said Romine’s Line nearly North to a stone for a comer, thence across the field (3) nearly West and parallel with Mrs. Fulper’s Line just mentioned and ranging with the School House Foundation, to the middle of said great road, thence with said road nearly South to the place of Beginning, containing between one fourth and one half of an acre of land.”

On November 8, 1848 Andrew B. Rittenhouse set off a small lot for the Oregon School, which bordered the lot sold to Jerusha Fulper by Asa Romine in April 1848. The school lot also bordered land of Asa Romine, as described by Mr. Bush, above.

In the census of 1850, Asa Romine, 29, and wife Sarah, 36, were listed with their daughter Sarah E. Romine, age 7, and living with them was Godfrey D. Smith, age 19. As mentioned before, Jerusha Fulper was in a separate household. Across the road was Andrew B. Rittenhouse 42, farmer, wife Elizabeth 34, and their five children, plus Nicholas Keizer 18, a laborer born in Holland.

Detail of the Cornell Map of 1851

Detail of the Cornell Map of 1851

On March 31, 1860, Asa and Sarah Romine sold the northern half of their farm, the part that lies north of Meszaros Road, to Henry D. Trout for $943.63, or $43.89 per acre, suggesting there might have been a house on the property. The description makes no mention of Jerusha Fulper or the old school, probably because the property did not extend all the way to the Locktown-Sergeantsville Road.16

Previously, on March 1, 1860, the Romines sold a lot of 10.14 acres to Jerusha Fulper, which did front on the Locktown-Sergeantsville Road, and was just west of the lot later sold to Henry D. Trout. Jerusha paid $207 for this lot, which was probably meant to give Jerusha a place to pasture a cow or horse, and perhaps raise a little hay. Romine reserved out of this lot a right-of-way, which I think probably became a part of Meszaros Road later on.

On April 3, 1868, the estate of Peter Fulper was apparently resolved, when his heirs (widow Jerusha, son Asher and wife Jane, daughter Sarah and husband Asa Romine, daughter Elizabeth and husband Wm. M. Dilts), sold to Asa Romine for $1,880, three small lots on the west side of the Locktown-Sergeantsville Road, amounting to a total of 12.73 acres.17 Why it took so long for this matter to be resolved is a mystery to me. Perhaps the heirs just didn’t want to deal with the lots until Romine was ready to purchase them. The lots were 8.09, 4.14 and 0.5 acres, about the size that would constitute woodlots, plus a half-acre right-of-way. The deed said nothing about how Peter Fulper acquired the lots. Jerusha Fulper signed her mark. Like many women of her age, she never learned how to write, although it is possible she could read.

Sometime between 1880 and 1900, Asa and Sarah Romine moved to the Holland Township side of Mount Pleasant, to live with their daughter Sarah E. Fulper and her husband Rusling S. Hoppock. Sarah Romine died the same year as her sister Elizabeth Dilts, on December 30, 1904, age 89. Two years later, on January 7, 1906, Asa Romine also died, at the age of 85. The two were buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery.

The property on Locktown-Sergeantsville Road had been kept by the Romines all this time, perhaps for sentimental reasons. Undoubtedly they found a tenant after they had moved to Mount Pleasant. The property was sold by Asa’s executor, son-in-law Rusling Hoppock, on November 8, 1906, to Isaac Smith of Delaware Township. Smith already owned considerable acreage in this vicinity. He paid only $444.29 for a farm of 56.96 acres, or $7.80 an acre. There must have been a reason for that, but it remains a mystery to me. Perhaps this was the beginning of the decline of the old Servis-Romine farm, which has led to the decision to demolish the building that was once a well-loved home to an old Hunterdon farmer.

The next article will be Egbert T. Bush’s “The Oregon and Other Schools,” which is a perfect companion to this story of the Fulpers and Romines.

Postscript:  For a personal look at Asa Romine and Sarah Fulper, see the notice in the Democrat-Advertiser of their 61st wedding anniversary here.

Postscript: In December 2015, the owner of Asa and Sarah Romine’s old house tore it down. The pictures are all that is left.

Footnotes:

  1. H.C. Deeds, Book 13, p. 189 and Book 15 pp. 564, 566.
  2. Neither of these marriages was listed in Deats’ Hunterdon County Marriages.
  3. H. C. Deed Book 21 p. 442.
  4. Court of Common Pleas, Minute Book 19 pp. 166, 262.
  5. H. C. Deeds, Book 18 p. 343.
  6. H. C Deed Book 24 p. 137.
  7. Mary W. Servis, daughter of Tunis Servis and Elizabeth Horn, married Rev. Joshua Primmer in 1837. I wrote about them in “From Primmer to Pauch.”
  8. In 1814 Isaac Servis sold property to Joseph Kugler, and in 1822 to Henry Runyon, but I have not looked up those deeds.
  9. Deed Book 88 p. 41.
  10. If any reader would like to know more about the odd architecture of this house, please contact Marilyn Cummings at marilyncummings@msn.com.
  11. H. C. Deeds, Book 88 p. 41.
  12. Asa’s oldest brother, Deacon James Romine, married Sarah Quinby, daughter of Moses and Hannah Quinby, in 1824, when Asa was only 4 years old.
  13. H. C. Deeds, Book 92 p. 395 and Book 98 p. 455.
  14. This date is in my notes, and seems very specific, but the marriage was not listed in Deats’ Hunterdon Marriages. I wish I had the source of the date so I could find out where this couple married; it might explain how they met.
  15. I will publish that article, with annotations, soon. It will include a short history of the Fulper family.
  16. H. C. Deed, Book 123 p. 381.
  17. H. C. Deed Book 140 p. 72.