In March and May, 1808, Nathaniel Saxton and George Holcombe bought the two moieties or half shares in the 10-acre mill lot and the 30-acre lot that consisted of the southern half of Bull’s Island. Previous articles about the mill property can be read here and here.
In 1809, Nathaniel Saxton was in business, running the mill, making deliveries to his agent Albertus King in Philadelphia, and persuading his brother Ananais to come from Shamokin, Pennsylvania to help run the mill. He had also settled with Moses Quinby on acquisition of the 15+acre lot where Quinby was living, which today is known as the Saxtonville Tavern. I don’t believe Saxton actually moved into Quinby’s house on that lot. Quinby had probably used it as a home and store. The Quinby Genealogy states that Moses Quinby had attempted store-keeping after he sold off his farmland, so that may have been the use to which the house was put, with the family living in part of it, and the store in another part. I had hoped to find some evidence in the Saxton papers on file at the Hunterdon County Historical Society that Saxton converted the store to a tavern, but so far there is no such smoking gun. It seems clear that Saxton himself maintained his residence in Flemington, where he was pursuing his legal practice in partnership with George C. Maxwell.
Even so, Saxton’s interest in the Raven Rock neighborhood grew stronger, and he turned his eye to the remainder of Moses Quinby’s land, the 40+ acres he had sold to Robert Nailor.
Raven Rock Land Transactions
On July 20, 1810, Saxton purchased 37.25 acres from Robert Naylor, for $1500.1 This was actually a sort of land swap, since Saxton sold to Naylor at the same time a lot of 38 acres on Strimples Mill Road, which Saxton had acquired from the estate of Isaac Van Camp dec’d in June 1810.2 But Naylor only paid $700 for his lot. Perhaps it was actually worth less than the Raven Rock lot, but it might have been simply Saxton’s eagerness to acquire properties in Raven Rock that led him to take a loss. Perhaps to help finance these purchases, Saxton sold a lot of 3.1 acres out of the Naylor lot to Joseph Rodman on July 21, 1810.3
This 37.25 acres ran from today’s Quarry Road northwest to encompass the farm that later on was owned by George & Edna Lazlo.
Nathaniel Saxton was not entirely invested in Raven Rock. He had some other irons in the fire. For instance, in 1808 he bought from the executors of Stephen Yard deceased a farm located on “the road from Flemington to New Brunswick” on the northeast side of Amwell Township. From 1808 to 1811, Saxton managed to sell off four parcels out of the original 87.5 acres, to Thomas Williams, Cornelius Wyckoff, James Clark Jr. and George Rea.
He also invested in a couple lots in Flemington close to the court house, which he sold to Neal Hart, also in 1811. But back in Raven Rock, Saxton was eyeing the small lots created by Jacob Hunt, who had bought the 19+ acres sold to Benjamin Longstreath in 1806, and had sold off lots to Jonas Lake (3+ acres),4 Andrew Price (1.13 acres) and James Snyder (13.84 acres). Nathaniel Saxton bought the lot sold to Andrew Price in 1810 for $150. He also bought a lot from Joseph Rodman that year, over the township line in Kingwood.
On December 29, 1812, with the War of that year just warming up, Nathaniel Saxton finally acquired the remainder of Bull’s Island. The 60+ acre island had been divided in half, with the southern half being connected with Cooper & Curry’s mill, now owned by Saxton & Holcombe. The northern half had remained with George Wall, but after Wall’s death it had come into possession of the Townsend brothers, Joseph and Jonathan, of Solebury, Pennsylvania. They sold the upper half of the island to Saxton for $1750, or about $58 per acre.5 Once again, Saxton was paying top dollar for his real estate. This deed excepted out the right of the heirs of George Wall Esq. to have access the river side of the island so that they could continue to maintain the Prime Hope or Snap Jaw fishery, which was located at the northern end of the island.
When Did Raven Rock Become Saxtonville?
I have searched available records looking for the first mention of Saxtonville, and the best I can do (so far) is a deed dated July 1, 1814, when Nathaniel Saxton sold his moiety or half share in the mill lot of 10 acres to George Holcombe, owner of the other half.6 This made Holcombe sole owner of the mill lot. Despite that, it was “Saxtonville” from then on, not Holcombeville. The name Saxtonville was used in deeds that Saxton was concerned in until Saxton had sold his last lot in the village in the 1830s.
Addendum, 3/31/12: A mortgage given by Mindert Wilson Jr. to George Holcombe for purchase of the mill lot described the “lot or parcel of Land whereon the said Mindert Wilson now dwells situate at Saxton Ville in the Township of Amwell.” It was dated July 3, 1814.
Addendum, April 2014: It appears that Dennis Bertland has located the earliest use of the name Saxtonville. Dennis examined the daybook of William Dilworth, a merchant who rented a store in the village from Nathaniel Saxton, and found a notation dated August 14, 1810 in which Dilworth recorded that he moved his business from New Hope to “Saxtons Ville.” The Dilworth Daybook can be found at the Bucks County Historical Society. Information on William Dilworth can be found in the application for the National Register prepared by Dennis Bertland in April 2014. Aside from Cooper & Curry’s Mill, the Dilworth store must have been the only commercial venture in this place in the first decade of the 19th century.
Here is another interesting early reference to Saxtonville: an 1818 road petition for Strimples Mill Road with reference to “the stone bridge over the race above John B. Hamilton’s Grist Mill at Saxton Vill.”7
I don’t think the village was named after Saxton by its appreciative residents (there were hardly any), but rather by Saxton himself, to help call attention to the place. After all, until George Wall bought the 75 acres and the island from Isaiah Quinby in 1801, there was very little happening here other than the fishery and the mill. But with the growth of the economy in the early 19th century, the area became attractive, and Nathaniel Saxton was one of the first to appreciate that fact.
Addendum to Saxton’s Saxtonville, 5/19/2012:
The following information was provided by Betty Davis, daughter of Anton and Bertha Schuck, formerly of Raven Rock. She found it in Bucks Co. Historical Society Papers, vol. 6, pg 145, on “Lumberton Ferry.”
The ferry that ran from the end of Federal Twist Road across to Lumberton on the Pennsylvania side was originally owned by Stophel Rose or his son John Rose in the 18th century. Later it was known as Thorne’s Ferry and Painter’s Ferry on the New Jersey side. The article states that “a map published in 1811” shows “the settlement on the New Jersey side” as “Saxtonville,” and the ferry is designated as “Saxton’s Ferry.” But the article does not say who made that map of 1811 or where it was found. Paul Schopp tells me that the 1811 map of the Delaware River by Reading Howell (an update of his 1785 and 1792 maps) includes “Saxton F.” for Saxton’s Ferry, but does not show Saxtonville. Paul also wrote that “the 1812 Watson map of New Jersey carries the label, ‘Saxton’s’ and also ‘Painter’s Ferry,’ but, again, no ‘Saxtonville.'”
From this I must conclude that the village of Raven Rock was beginning to take on the identify of Saxton’s or Saxtonville by about 1811-1812. I hope to find better evidence for this idea, but who knows where it is hiding.
- Deed Bk 17 p. 155 ↩
- Deed Bk 17 p.135 ↩
- Deed Bk 23 p. 420 ½ ↩
- Jonas Lake might have been Jacob Hunt’s son-in-law, husband of his daughter Sarah, but I’m not sure. Jacob Hunt and his wife Elizabeth Phillips both died in the early 1840s and are buried in the Sandy Ridge Cemetery. Unfortunately, they didn’t live long enough to be counted in the 1850 census. ↩
- Deed Bk 20 p. 342 ↩
- Deed Bk 23 p. 124 ↩
- Road Petition of 1818 for Strimples Mill, Hunterdon Co. Road Book 2 pg 197. ↩