A History of the Old Stone House on Robins Hill (Raritan Twp. Block 60 lot 40)
Anyone who has attempted to sort out land titles in the 18th century, particularly in New Jersey, knows what frustration is. It’s true, there are some records, but they are so incomplete, so full of hints that can’t be verified, that I feel just a little uneasy about the claims I am about to make. But make them I will.
The Robins Heirs
When Isaac Robins, son of Daniel Robins Jr., wrote his will in 1741, he left his homestead plantation of 200 acres in Amwell Township to his sons Vincent and Joseph, and named his wife Azubia and “friends” Job Robins and Amos Thatcher his executors. Job Robins was actually his brother, and Amos Thatcher probably his brother-in-law. They both lived at Sergeantsville. One of the witnesses was Amos Thatcher’s wife Lydia. Amos Thatcher was probably the brother of Azubia Robins; their father was Bartholomew Thatcher, one of the most notable early settlers in Hunterdon County.
The 200 acres that Isaac Robins left to his sons Vincent and Joseph was up on Robins Hill. We know this because in 1737, Isaac Robins had gotten a mortgage on this land and it was bordered by Thomas Kitchen, Gov. Penn and John Haddon, among others.1 It was described as “being part of a large tract of land formerly surveyed for said Haddon, being that plantation that Daniel Robins dec’d, father of the said Isaac Robins, formerly lived upon.” Sons Vincent and Joseph Robins apparently had no use for this property, so they sold it to their uncle, Job Robins.2
Apologies for the crude map; just my attempt to show where Daniel Robins lived, and most importantly, to show the dividing line between Robins’ 200 acres (formerly part of the Haddon tract) and the Heath and Robins proprietary tracts. Click on the map to enlarge.
Job Robins, one of the sons of Daniel Robins Jr., already had land of his own, conveyed to him by his father, and taken out of the tract of 707 acres surveyed to Daniel Robins Jr. near Sergeantsville. It bordered Amos Thatcher and Samuel Green.3 Job Robins wrote his will on January 19, 1756, in which he named his wife Abigail and children Daniel, Rachel, Annie, Andrew, Mary, Elizabeth and Lydia, all of whom were underage. Job Robins was about 57 when he wrote his will, so he must have married late to still have underage children. I have not been able to identify his wife Abigail.
Even though he was “underage,” son Daniel was named executor along with Daniel’s mother Abigail, so he must have been near adulthood, probably close to 20 years old, and therefore, born about 1736. The abstract of the will in New Jersey Archives only makes a reference to real and personal estate; I will have to see the original will to find out if Job Robins bequeathed the 200 acres on Robins Hill to his son Daniel. I think there is compelling reason to believe he did; either that, or else Daniel bought the property from his father’s estate.
Daniel Robins (iii) probably came of age around 1760, for it was in that year that he took control of his real estate. He had his 200 acres resurveyed, and finding that it actually contained 220 acres was obliged to purchase land rights to those extra 20 acres, which he got from Elisha Emley.4 On the same day, July 1, 1760, Daniel Robins purchased two lots of land, amounting to about 60 acres, from Samuel & Mary Kitchen.5 This property was on the east side of the Haddon-Robins line, and was therefore not a part of the 200 acres owned by Isaac and then Job Robins.
Daniel Robins, like his grandfather, failed to write a will before he died. But since he was only about 28 years old, that it understandable. His widow Frances was named administrator. In 1764, Frances and her new husband John Peirce (sic) made an accounting of the estate. There is no record of how they disposed of the 220.5 acres. Whatever the case, the property was sold, and the Pierce’s seem to have left Hunterdon County, as there is no estate recorded for them. John Peirce had relations in Philadelphia, so that may be where they ended up.6
Philip Calvin is one of my mystery men. I have no idea where he came from, but it is possible that he was related to Luther Calvin, who appears to have been about the same age as Philip. Luther Calvin immigrated from England, and lived in the vicinity of Everittstown. I believe that Philip Calvin married Grace Holcombe about 1730. She was the daughter of John Holcombe and Elizabeth Woolrich, original settlers of the Lambertville area. Calvin owned land bordering Joseph Howell and George Ely, in the vicinity of Prallsville. How or when he acquired the portion of Daniel Robins’ land on the west side of the Haddon-Robbins line, I cannot say as there is no deed or mortgage recorded for this purchase. And it is doubtful that Philip Calvin ran a tavern in his house at the top of the hill, since there is no tavern license application on record for him, or any other record suggesting such a thing, as far as I know.
One interesting record, reflecting on the people in the vicinity of Robins’ Hill, was a coroner’s inquest held on December 30, 1779, regarding the death of “Jno Reading,” who drowned in Phillip “Colvin’s” well. The jurors were John Rake, Wm Sine (his mark), Wm Dilts (his mark), John Taylor, Casper Bare (his mark), Peter Sine (his mark), John Buchannen, Jacob Fulper, Isaac Lake and others.7 These jurors all lived near Robins’ Hill. The Inquest did not declare how Mr. Reading ended up in the well. There is an old well close to the Sergeantsville Road (Route 523) on the Booream’s property (which was part of Calvin’s land), and I cannot help but wonder if that was the well in question.
On July 25, 1794, Philip Calvin wrote his will, leaving property to grandsons John and Philip, sons of his son Philip then deceased. The will also named daughters Grace Calvin, Mary Anderson, and Sarah Landis, and deceased daughter Rebecca Haviland.8 He ordered that his property be sold and divided among his heirs. In 1795, Calvin’s executors, George Trout and Paul Kuhl, sold his home plantation of 134.75 acres and 4 perches to “Simeon Meyers,” and gave him a mortgage for £415.11.9, which was about £3 per acre, about the going rate for that time. The property bordered Andrew Bearder, John Rockafellow, John Sine, John Buchannon, John Robins, and the road from Buchanan’s to Howell’s Ferry (Route 523). Both ‘Simeon’ and his wife Elizabeth were unable to write their names to the mortgage, and signed their marks instead.9 The property was described as being “a part and parcel of the real estate” of Philip Calvin deceased. Witnesses to the mortgage were Samuel and John Buchanan. The remainder of the original 220.5 acres that Daniel Robins had surveyed in 1760 seems to have been sold to Samuel Buchanan and John Robins.
This “Simeon Meyers” was later known as Simon Myers. Like Calvin before him, Myers never applied for a tavern license. Simon Myers, born about 1745, was the son of Johannes and Catharine Myers, who had settled on property at the intersection of Ferry Road and Locktown-Flemington Road in Delaware Twp. He was the eldest of five sons. His father, who died around 1775, left no recorded estate, but his mother was still alive around 1786, living with her son Albertus Myers on her homestead plantation.
Simon Myers must have married around 1770, but I do not know the name of his wife, which is a shame because she was the mother of 11 children. The family started out in Amwell, when Simon Myers was taxed in 1780 as a householder with 1 horse and 1 cow. After that, they lived in Kingwood Township until Simon Myers purchased the 135 acres at Robins’ (or Buchanan’s) Hill. About that time, Myers expanded the farm slightly to 147 acres, and purchased a ten-acre woodlot from Jeremiah King.10
When Simon Myers died in 1814, when he was about 64 years old, and some of his children were still underage. His homestead property had to be divided among his heirs. Fortunately, a very nice map of this division was recorded with the County Surrogate, and shows clearly that it contained the old stone house and its barn, and that it’s eastern boundary excluded the two houses located at the intersection of Routes 523 and 579. It showed that the owner of the land just to the east of Simon Myers was John Buchanan.11
This seems to clarify that the old stone house at the top of the hill was inhabited by Philip Calvin up to 1794, and then by Simon Myers from 1795 to 1814.
While I’m at it, I should mention that the lovely old house on the southwest corner of this busy intersection, now owned by the Booreams, was not standing at the time of this division, and was probably built around 1820 by Myers’ son-in-law Nathan Warman. Warman married Margaret Myers on January 24, 1816.
Postscript on The Old Stone House
Simon Myers’ 135 acres was divided into 18 little lots. Lot No. 5 with the house was given to Simon Myers Jr. and Lot No. 6 with the barn went to his brother Peter. The siblings sold rights to each other, and the property became somewhat consolidated, although it never regained its original size. In 1834, “Samuel Myers” (who must have been Simon Myers Jr., born Feb. 18, 1790) sold 19.5 acres to John Pegg, which included the house and the barn.12
John Pegg was the son of Daniel Pegg and Margaret Buchanan, and the grandson of Samuel Buchanan and Ann Case. This made him a great-grandson of John Buchanan, the innkeeper of yore. After his death in 1862, his property was advertised for sale in the Hunterdon Gazette (Nov. 12, 1862):
“ . . . all that FARM, Lot or parcel of Land, situate partly in Raritan and partly in Delaware Townships, adjoining lands of Mahlon Chamberlain, Asher Trout, William Shepherd and others, and contains about 39 Acres. The improvements are a comfortable S T O N E H O U S E, A commodious Frame Barn, Wagon house, Wheelwright Shop, and other necessary out buildings. Any person wishing to purchase a home where the land is already raised to the highest state of cultivation, and where one half of the purchase money may remain on the property, this is a rare opportunity.
The farm was sold on April 15, 1863 to Isaac M. Keyser for $2,497.50. Keyser, born 1829 in Pennsylvania, was a resident of Locktown in the 1850s. His two wives (Amy Bonham and Mary Ann Sutton) were from Locktown families. Around 1860, Keyser sold his farm and equipment, and tried to settle in Ohio, but he seems to have given it up and returned to New Jersey. A year after purchasing the old Robins-Calvin-Myers house, his wife Amy Bonham died, age 31. A few years later, he married Mary Ann Sutton and they remained on the old Robins farm until Isaac’s death in 1913. His wife Mary Ann died in 1917.
Next post: where was John Buchanan’s tavern ?
- Hunterdon Co. Loan Office 1737 p. 20 ↩
- I do not have a deed for this sale; ; it was part of a recital of a later deed. See West Jersey Deeds H-475 for reference to the conveyance to son Job Robins. Confirmation comes from a deed of 1775 showing Job Robins as a bordering owner at the Isaac Robins tract. That sale was made by Vincent Robins’ son Obadiah to John Buchanan, conveying 100 acres that was sold to Vincent Robins by his father-in-law Thomas Kitchen in 1753. ↩
- It is shown in their application for mortgages from the Hunterdon County Loan Office, Amos Thatcher, 1737, p. 9, and Samuel Green 1737 p.74. See West Jersey Deeds H-475 for reference to the conveyance from Daniel Robins to son Isaac. ↩
- Hunterdon Co. Historical Society, Ms. Deeds (collection 18) oversize deeds, #164; the resurvey is in box 1 #164. ↩
- HCHS Ms. Deeds, collection 18, oversize deeds, #15. ↩
- I would love to link John Pierce up with Lewis and Andrew Pierce/Pearce who owned property near Boarshead Road in the 18th-century. I also wonder if there is a connection with Elizabeth Hutcheson Pierce and her husband John Pierce, who were among the heirs of George Hutcheson of Philadelphia in the late 1690s, and property owners near Whiskey Lane. ↩
- Coroner’s Reports, #769, Hunterdon Co. Archives. . Who this Jno. Reading was I cannot say, even though I have identified most of the descendants of John Reading of Amwell. Any suggestions would be most appreciated. ↩
- Daughter Sarah married Joseph Landis, but I do not have the identify of the other sons-in-law. ↩
- Mortgage Book 2 p. 117 ↩
- As seen in Deeds 23-513, 23-514, and 6-135; Myers gave King a mortgage of the woodlot for $502 (Mortgage Bk 3 p. 8). ↩
- Divisions, Hunterdon Co. Surrogate’s Court, Bk 1 p. 9, map on p. 18. ↩
- Deed 57-392 ↩