A response to the article written by Egbert T. Bush on August 7, 1930 entitled “Buchanan’s, A Tavern With A Long History”
Daniel and Frances Robins
Continuing on the quest to find Buchanan’s Tavern, let us return to Daniel Robins, who died in 1763. My previous post mentioned that his wife Frances was named administrator of his estate. Surety (“fellowbondsman”) for administration of the estate was Thomas Atkinson, merchant. The Inventory was made by John Mullinner and John Emley. These were all important men in early Kingwood Township, which is some reflection on Daniel Robins. Thomas Atkinson ran an important store in Kingwood.1 John Emley was a wealthy Quaker and large landowner in Kingwood Township. (He was close enough to the Robins family to be named to make the inventory of Daniel Robins, along with Hugh Hicks.) John Mullinner was also a Quaker of Kingwood Township. With these three Kingwood men involved in the estate, one might conclude that Daniel Robins lived there also, but there is no evidence that he did. Perhaps the real connection was their Quaker religion. Sure enough, the minutes of the Kingwood Monthly Meeting show that on the 10th day of the 7th month (Sept. 10), 1758, Daniel Robins declared himself a Quaker.
The family of Frances Robins has long been unidentified. However, in 1752, a wedding held at the Kingwood Friends’ meeting house, at which Daniel’s father, Job Robins, was present, there was also in attendance Thomas Atkinson, Ann Atkinson and “Franciss” Atkinson.2 Today Francis means a man, and Frances means a woman. But in the mid-18th century, people were not that careful about their spelling; “Franciss” could have been a woman. Thomas Atkinson was surety for Frances Robins in the administration of her husband’s estate. Strong circumstantial evidence, I would say. If only the Minutes included a record of the marriage of Daniel Robins and Frances Atkinson; oddly enough they do not. Also, I have not yet found any indication that Daniel and Frances Robins had children.
Daniel Robins owned two properties during his life. One was the 220.5 acres he had gotten from his father Job, part of which came into possession of Philip Calvin, and later Simon Myers. The other was a tract of 60 acres which Robins purchased in 1760. This was the lot where Daniel Robins had a tavern.
This was not the Micek farm where Buchanan’s tavern was located after 1811. Instead, it was land across Route 579. When Robins purchased the property in 1760, it was conveyed in two lots, one of 10.5 acres and 14 rods (bordering land late Isaac Robins and William Morris), and the other of 50 acres. When I plotted out this deed, I found a very suggestive shape. By aligning the ten-acre lot just to the south of the 50-acre lot, I got the same shape as a tract of 60 acres sold by the widow of John Buchanan in 1820. Here is how the two lots appear, with apologies for the crude handwritten map:
The two lots were sold to Daniel Robins by Samuel Kitchen and wife Mary for £300, or about £5 per acre. Samuel Kitchen, miller of Sand Brook, was the nephew of Thomas Kitchen. According to a recital in the deed, Kitchen had purchased the two lots from John and Mary Porter in 1751, and Porter had bought them from Charles Hoff Jr. and wife Mary in 1748. But I have found no evidence that either the Porters or Hoffs lived in this area. The deed description suggests that William Morris owned the 50-acre lot at one time, but I have no information on him.
The next question is, what happened between 1748 when Charles Hoff bought the property and the death of the first Daniel Robins sometime before 1737? You may recall from my two previous posts that this land was part of the 333 acres that Daniel Robins acquired in 1714. But he did not live on this land; his home was up the hill on land he purchased from John Haddon’s daughter Elizabeth. A part of this 333 acres was conveyed to Daniel’s son John Robins. That is a story in itself, which I will have to save for another post.3
The year that Daniel Robins died, 1763, his wife Frances applied for a tavern license. Daniel Robins probably applied for one in 1761 and 1762; in both years, he appears on a list of names in the Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas that seems to be a list of tavern owners.4 1761 was not a good year for Mr. Robins; in October he appeared in State v. Daniel Robins for assault and battery. This case was only listed once, so it is likely the person who claimed to have been assaulted decided not to pursue the case. Perhaps it was another Daniel Robins, like the son of John Robins, who was first cousin of Daniel the innkeeper. Daniel the innkeeper had other problems; he appears in the Court Minutes in the 1750s as a defendant in suits by John Garrison Esq. and other creditors, and even more often in the early 1760s.
Daniel Robins’ Estate
The first appearance of the widow Frances Robins being sued as administrator of her husband’s estate was in May 1763, about a month after Daniel’s death. Thereafter, she was named frequently by several of Robins’ creditors, including one Robert G. Livingston, suing for a debt of £126.96.36.199 Frances did her best to recover moneys owed to her husband, suing several of his debtors in October 1763. They were Ralph Standly, James Kitchen, John Van Horn and Adam Aller. It does not appear that she got any judgments against them.6
Frances could not recover enough to satisfy her husband’s creditors, so the property was seized by the Sheriff. Fortunately for us, it was advertised on February 14, 1764 to be sold at a public sale.
“To be sold at publick Vendue, to the highest Bidder, on Saturday, the 14th of April next, on the Premises, between the Hours of 12 and 5 o’Clock, The noted Tavern house, and 60 acres of Land besides Allowance, situated at the Foot of Robin’s Hill, in Amwell; there is a bearing Orchard, Barn, and other necessary Buildings, the Mansion-house large, and almost new, and well situated either for Tavern or Store, late the Property of Daniel Robins, deceased; seized and taken in Execution at the Suit of James Benezet, Townsend White, Jeremiah Warder, Henry Remsen, jun, Robert Gilbert Livingston, and Buckridge Sims, and to be sold by me, Samuel Tucker, Sheriff.”7
The property was also described in the Sheriff’s report to the Court of Common Pleas in February 1764, describing a lot of 60.5 acres at the foot of Robins hill with houses and outhouses thereon, subject to a mortgage of £300, which Daniel Robins bought from Samuel Kitchen and wife Mary on July 1, 1760, and which had gone unsold for want of a buyer. The note also mentioned that there were no goods or chattels to levy on, that had come to the knowledge of the Sheriff.8 Curious.
The court minutes do not show who owned that mortgage, and it also was not recorded in Hunterdon Co. Mortgages. £300 was the price for the 60.5 acres in 1760. (A mortgage for the full purchase price seems extravagant for 1760, but perhaps not for 2007.) However, Samuel Kitchen was not among Robins’ creditors who sued for payment. There must be a story there.
The “Mansion House,” which presumably served the purpose of a tavern, being “large and almost new,” was probably built around 1760.
Frances Robins did not remain a widow for long. She married second one John Pierce (Pearce), who owned land in the vicinity. Frances and her new husband gave an account of the estate of Daniel Robins deceased on September 14, 1764, seven months after the tavern and 60 acres had been offered for sale.9
As reported by the Sheriff, the sale of 1764 did not attract a buyer, so it was advertised again on August 31, 1768:
To be Sold at public vendue, to the highest bidder, on Friday the 30th day of September next, on the premises, between the hours of 12 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The noted Tavern-house, and sixty acres of land, beside allowance, situate at the foot of Robin’s hill, in Amwell; there is a good bearing orchard, barn, store-house and other necessary buildings; the mansion-house large, almost new, and well situated either for tavern or store; late the property of Daniel Robins, deceased, seized and taken in execution at the suit of James Benezet, Townsend White, Jeremiah Warder, and others, and to be sold again, as the first purchaser has not complied with the conditions of the first vendue, by Samuel Tucker, late Sheriff.10
I have not been able to find a deed for sale of this 60-acre tavern lot in 1768. But circumstantial evidence points to John Buchanan as the new owner, while the property on the west side of the Haddon-Robbins dividing line, “land late Isaac Robins,” went to Philip Calvin.
On April 24, 1775, Obadiah Robins, son of Vincent Robins dec’d and great-grandson of Daniel Robins Jr., sold to John Buchanan a lot of 100 acres. In the deed, John Buchanan was identified as “innkeeper of Amwell.” This suggests that in 1775 Buchanan had another property on which he ran a tavern. It is most likely that other property was the 60.5 acres previously owned by Daniel Robins.
Vincent Robins was married to Ann Kitchen and got the 100 acres from his father-in-law Thomas Kitchen in 1753.11 This was probably the property owned by Thomas Kitchen that bordered the 200 acres owned at one time by Isaac Robins and acquired by Job Robins in 1755. Thomas Kitchen must have bought his property from Daniel Robins Jr. (1666-1737) or one of his heirs. Kitchen was about the same age as Isaac Robins, and died in 1764. Vincent Robins died in 1760, without a will.
John Buchanan was probably an immigrant from Scotland, born about 1740.12 Apparently, he came to America with his mother Jane. In November 1781, the Court of Common Pleas ruled that “Jane Buckanan” was aged, infirm and no longer able to support herself.13 It was determined that her son John “Buchanon” had sufficient means to support her, and he was ordered to provide her with “10/- per week” for her maintenance. (I assume that meant pounds; inflation was a big problem in 1781.) Supporting the idea that this really was the mother of John Buchanan the innkeeper is the fact that two of his granddaughters were named Jane: the daughter of John Buchanan Jr. and Elizabeth Rockafellar, born c.1796, and the daughter of Samuel Buchanan and Margaret Arnwine, born 16 May 1809, who married Asher Fulper. It should also be noted that on January 9, 1789, a Jane Buchannan witnessed the will of Thomas Gordon of Amwell, along with Hezekiah Shaw and David Heath. The Gordons were definitely Scottish immigrants to New Jersey, which makes me wonder if Jane might have been related to that family.
Buchanan family researchers say that John Buchanan’s parents were Samuel and Jane or Janet Buchanan. Hiram Deats noted that about 1776, a Samuel Buchanan of Scotland eloped with his wife and emigrated to America, and that he bought land on “Bohonnan’s Hill.” The timing suggests this Samuel might have been a brother of John Buchanan. The frequent spelling of John Buchanan’s name as “Bohannon” tells us how the name was pronounced, and sounds very Scottish.
John Buchanan must have made a good impression when he came to Amwell, because he married the daughter of one of the most important men in the township, John Opdycke. John Opdycke and his wife Margaret Green had a daughter Sarah, born in 1741. She and John Buchanan probably married about 1760, because their first child, Margaret, named for Sarah’s mother, was born on April 15, 1761. She married Johann Matthias Case in 1780, and died on Oct. 28, 1808. Their next child was Samuel Buchanan (married Margaret Arnwine c.1785, died c.1855), then Sarah Buchanan (married Peter Case, and died 1796), then John Buchanan Jr. (married Elizabeth Rockafellar c.1800, died Oct. 10, 1818), and finally George Buchanan, born 1767 (married neighbor Elizabeth Fulper, died 1826).
Another indication of the respect that John Buchanan was held in is the fact that in 1777, he was named executor of his father-in-law’s estate, along with his brother-in-law Samuel Opdycke.
Other than his children’s birthdates, the earliest record of John Buchanan in Hunterdon County that I have found is a mortgage of April 30, 1767, from James Kitchen to John Mullinor, witnessed by Buchanan, Joseph Sergeant and Agesilaus Gordon.14 In 1779, Buchanan served on the Coroner’s Jury looking into the death of John Reading, who drowned in Philip Calvin’s well.
In January 1780, John Buchanan was taxed in Amwell on 100 acres and on 63 acres, plus 4 horses, 8 cows, and 4 pigs (the name was spelled ‘Bukhannan’). In June he was taxed again, same acreage, with 4 horses, 6 cows and 1 pig. This war-time tax was very onerous, since inflation was running wild, so it was pretty common for people to have less livestock in June than they did in January.
John Bohannon was taxed on the same property in 1786, on a lot of 100 acres with 29 acres unimproved, and another of 63 acres with 35 unimproved; also 3 horses, 6 cows and 1 pig, valued at £61.13.0, and a tax of £102.3.5. How the tax could be nearly twice as high as the value of the property is a mystery to me. What he was not taxed on was a tavern, another mystery.15
Also taxed in 1786 was Samuel Buchanan, as a merchant with one horse. It could not have been the father of John Buchanan, since his mother was a widow by 1781. It might have been John Buchanan’s son Samuel, who was born about 1762, or it could have been John Buchanan’s brother Samuel, about whom I know very little. In 1790 John Buchanan was taxed on only 60 acres. His son Samuel was taxed on 100 acres, which was probably the 100 acres belonging to his father in 1786. In 1799, when Route 579 was redirected around Jacob Bearder’s property, it ran along that 100-acre lot which was described as belonging to John Buchanan Senr, and in the possession of Samuel Buchanan.16
Sarah Opdycke Buchanan must have died sometime before the mid 1780s, for on June 14, 1786, John Buchanan married his second wife, Azubah Lake (1766-1847), daughter of John Lake and Ann Robins. Ann Robins was the daughter of Isaac Robins and Asubiah Thatcher, sister of Job and Isaac Robins, aunt of Vincent Robins. So this marriage gave Buchanan a strong connection with the well-established Robins family. John Buchanan and Azubah Lake had one child: Archibald Buchanan, born about 1791.
In May 1788, John Buchanan was licensed by the Hunterdon Court as an innkeeper. Innkeepers (tavern owners) had to give a bond for good behavior, and whenever a bond was given, securities were needed to guarantee that it would be paid. Buchanan’s securities were Peter Howell and George Alexander.17 Buchanan must have been licensed to run a tavern before this date, since he was identified in 1775 as an innkeeper (in the deed above). But in looking through recorded tavern licenses in the Court of Common Pleas, Hunterdon Co. Archives and NJ State Archives, I have not found an earlier license than 1788. Buchanan continued to apply for licenses up through 1812.18
Where Was Buchanan’s Tavern?
Based on deeds I have found, the tavern had to be at the intersection of Routes 523 and 579, because the tavern was a landmark for both roads. One deed in particular demonstrates this fact. It was a sale of land once belonging to John Robins, which was located on the road from Buchanan’s to Howell’s Ferry (Route 523), and also on the road from Buchanan’s to Trenton, which is Route 579.19 A deed of 1808 involving the sale of the Micek lot also identified both roads as running from Buchanan’s: the road from John Buchanan’s to Trenton, and the road from said Bohanans to Flemington.20 In 1795, when Simon Myers mortgaged his 135+ acres to the estate of Philip Calvin, deceased, the property bordered “the road leading from John Buchannons to Howells ferry,” i.e., Route 523, and it also bordered land of John “Buchannon.”21 These references are strongly indicative of a location right at the intersection of Routes 523 & 579, and that is the case for the 60.5-acre lot once owned by Daniel Robins, and later by John Buchanan. More particularly, the tavern was probably situated on the 10.5 acre segment of the total 60 acres, which puts it at Block 60 lot 34 in Raritan Township. And since Buchanan was an innkeeper in 1775, it seems likely that he was the one who purchased the property after the Sheriff’s sale of 1768.
Is the tavern still there? Perhaps. There is a very handsome house on that lot overlooking Micek’s farm, and it has several outbuildings with old stone foundations. But, according to the Historic Sites Survey of Raritan Township, Part One, conducted by Dennis Bertland in 1987, the house is 19th-century, at least from the outside, and the outbuildings were also 19th century. The original tavern house owned by Daniel Robins and later by John Buchanan, must have been torn down and replaced with a more modern one, perhaps after 1820, when John Buchanan’s widow sold the 60 acres to her daughter-in-law Delilah Buchanan. Whatever the case, I am completely convinced that the original Buchanan’s was there, and the later Buchanan’s, the one so familiar to Egbert T. Bush, was located at the Micek farm across the road.
The Buchanan Estate
John Buchanan died in 1818 at the advanced age of about 78, having neglected to write a will. I cannot say where he was buried. On December 29, 1818, letters of administration were granted to sons Samuel and Archibald Buchanan.22 Other children were Philip, George and Asher R. Buchanan. Missing was John Buchanan Jr., who died at age 46, on October 10, 1818. For some reason John Jr. was buried in the Opdycke family burying ground, with his wife Elizabeth Rockafellar, who died on August 7, 1853. Not found in the Opdycke cemetery is the grave of John Buchanan Sr. or his first wife Sarah Opdycke Buchanan.23
Also missing from the list of children was daughter Margaret, wife of John Matthias Case, who died on October 28, 1808, and daughter Sarah, wife of Peter Case, who died sometime before 1796. Margaret Buchanan Case was buried in the Opdycke cemetery, but her sister Sarah was not. It should be understood, however, that old cemeteries like this one probably have gravestones lying under a foot of soil, waiting to be discovered.
An Inventory, taken on January 1, 1819, made by John G. Trimmer and Isaac Huffman (who bordered the tavern lot on the north), included notes against Cornelius Lake, Amos Sutton, Peter Dilts, William Sine, Jeremiah Geary, Peter Geary, George Trout, Bartholomew Vancamp, Josiah Rounsaville, and doubtful notes against William Dilts, Andrew Dilts, John Jewell, and Harvey Rounsaville.24 The list of people owing money to John Buchanan suggests he was a neighborhood banker as well as tavernkeeper.
Buchanan’s personal property consisted of 4 cows $87; 4 young cattle $43; 2 horses and 1 colt $115; 5 sheep $11; 4 swine $11.00; 2 Hives of Bees $4.50; Hay in the barracks $45; Hay in the meadow $19; Straw in Barn $6; Corn Stalks $7; Potatoes $15; Corn in the Crib $30; “Amount brought over $1882.89”; Wheat Rye Buckweat & oats $33.65; Cedar Shingles & Grass seed $3.30; Green Grain in the ground $30; Weaving Loom and Tackling $16; 2 Laddles [ladders?] $2; Waggon Plough and other implements of Husbandry $70.30; Salt Meat $46; Houseold goods $321.07; Amount [total] $2,406.27; Old stove $2; 2 negroes not appraised, harrow, hoes Lye tub and barrel $1.50; 25 Gallons of whisky (no price given). This inventory shows that Buchanan was a serious farmer, and also a weaver. The 25 gallons of whiskey is the only hint that he was also a tavern keeper. It was disturbing to see the “2 negroes” lumped together with farm equipment. Perhaps they were “not appraised” because they were not meant to be counted as property. I certainly hope so. (The most likely people to own slaves in Amwell Township were millers and tavernkeepers.) Buchanan’s ‘negroes’ were not listed among manumissions in Hunterdon County in the early 19th century.
Buchanan’s estate was settled on January 11, 1819. Because the tavern was so well-known, it is important to find out what happened to the property after Buchanan’s death. But by 1819, things had changed greatly in the Buchanan family.
Next post: The Second Buchanan’s Tavern.
A Tangent: 18th-Century Innkeepers in Hunterdon County
While looking for for licenses of innkeepers in the Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas, looking I began to notice an interesting pattern. Most of the sureties for innkeepers were themselves innkeepers. This suggested an image of all the county’s innkeepers collecting outside the courthouse in Flemington to make their applications, and hobnobbing with each other to round up the necessary securites—I’ll be yours if you be mine or my friend here down the road. Here is what made me think this:
From 1788 to 1793, John Buchanan had these securities:
1788, Peter Howell and George Alexander
1789, Ambrose Barricroft (Barcroft) and Sylvester Doyle
1790, John Mattison and Jonas Chatburn
1792, John Crawford and John Mires [not sure about that last surname]
1793, John Tinty? and Isaac Rittenhouse.
Almost all of these men were also innkeepers, and Buchanan returned the favor—he was often security for them. Other people that Buchanan helped out in this way were:
1789, John Crawford, with Richard Stillwell security; Garret Van Cleve, with Daniel Wikoff as security; Daniel Wikoff, with Garret Van Cleve as security; Isaac Riteenhouse, with Gabriel Hoff as security; Andrew Mershon of Hopewell, with John Snyder and Ambrose Barcroft as securities; Henry Teeple of Tewksbury, with Garret Van Cleve as security; John Larison of Hopewell, with David Schamp as security
1790, Joseph Mattison, with John Meldrum as security
1791, Isaac Rittenhouse, with Nathaniel Thatcher as security; Ely Moore of Hopewell, with Benjamin Mershon as security; John Price, with John Reeder as security; George Alexander of Amwell with Wm. Lowry and Wm? Flagg as securities; Jacob Flagg Jr., with Wm Lowry as security
1792, George Alexander, with John Sharp as security
1793, Isaac Rittenhouse, with John Crawford as security; Jacob Flagg of Amwell, with Edward “Nox” as security; John Crawford of Bethlehem, with David McPherson as security; David McPherson of Kingwood with David Schamp as security.
These are just some of the applications in which John Buchannon was named. There were many others, but the support that innkeepers gave each other was consistent throughout. It was almost as if they had their own guild. Inns were the places were people came to ‘network’ in the 18th and 19th centuries; it looks as if the innkeepers themselves were masters at the art of networking.
- You can read an interesting article about him and his store in the Hunterdon Newsletter, Winter 1997, p. 761, “1760 Kingwood Store Book.” ↩
- p. 13 of James Moore’s transcription the Minutes of the Kingwood Monthly Meeting. ↩
- It involves the messy estate situation when the grandson and great-grandson, both named John Robins, both died in 1802. Oddly enough, I also ran across this problem with John Buchanan innkeeper, who died in December 1818, and his son John who died in October 1818. And then again, I found a Charles Wolverton, father and son, who both died in 1844. Makes it very hard to sort out their records. ↩
- Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas (CPM), vol. 8 p. 446, and vol. 9 p. 46. ↩
- CPM vol. 9 p. 298. There is a biography of Robert Gilbert Livingston online. ↩
- CPM vol. 9 p. 335 ↩
- Newspaper Extracts, New Jersey Archives, vol. 5 p. 226. It was fun to discover this advertisement and its reference to “Robin’s Hill,” since the development that now exists between Route 579 and Route 523, south of the Micek farm, is named Robin’s Hill, and lies on part of the property once owned by Daniel Robins Jr. The developer told me that he had no knowledge of this when he chose the name for his development. It was entirely a case of serendipity. ↩
- CPM, vol. 9 p. 359 ↩
- I have not seen the account yet, but am a little surprised by the date. The first time John Pearce appeared in the Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas as husband of Frances Robins was in February 1771, in suits against John Martin and Abraham Sutphen (vol. 11 p. 411). In all previous suits, Frances Robins appeared alone, as Frances Robins. ↩
- New Jersey Archives, Newspaper Extracts, vol. VII, 1768-1769, p. 276. ↩
- Manuscript deed, Hunterdon Co. Historical Society, 0018/I-096. ↩
- Some information on this family can be found in the Deats Genealogical Files, Hunterdon Co. Historical Society. ↩
- Common Pleas Minutes (CPM) vol. 12 p. 455 ↩
- Mortgage Bk 1 p. 93 ↩
- I need to check the tax ratables for 1784 and 1789 to see if a tavern was included in his ratables. ↩
- CPM vol. 15 p. 868 ↩
- CPM vol. 13 p. 779 ↩
- Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas show licenses granted from 1788 through 1812, with exceptions for certain years when the licenses weren’t recorded in the Minutes; see CPM vol. 14 pp. 26, 126a, 329, 439; vol. 15 pp. 12, 151, 319, 791; vol. 16, p. 64; vol. 17 pp. 64, 200, 317, 448; vol. 18, pp. 239, 400; vol. 19, pp. 28, 92, 166. There are applications on file at the State Archives for 1793, 1794 and 1796. ↩
- Deed 9-401 ↩
- Deed 20-113 ↩
- Mortgage 2-117. One other early reference was found in the minutes of Amwell Township for 1786, in which the road from Buchanan’s to Kitchen’s Mill was mentioned. Kitchen’s Mill was in Sand Brook, which is not far from the 523-579 intersection, but it is hard to know what road would go directly from there to Sand Brook, unless it was Route 523. ↩
- Letters of Administration, 2-019 ↩
- Many thanks to James Buchanan for information regarding graves in the Opdycke cemetery. ↩
- Inventory 4-374 ↩