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.
The old Sergeant mill as here shown was built by John Opdyke about the year 1745. The mansion adjoining (since remodeled) was erected nine years later, as shown by the date (1754) upon it. After the death of its builder and owner it became the property of his son, Samuel, who was the father of the John Opdyke, high Sheriff of Hunterdon County from 1810 to 1821.1
The property continued in the possession of the Opdykes until the year 1795 when it was purchased by Charles Sergeant, and since that date has been owned by his immediate descendants, it present owner being Richard G. Johnson, a great grandson.2
For nearly one hundred and sixty years this stout old structure was used and had a reputation for grinding flour and feed second to none. Its power was derived from a small tributary of the Wickecheoke, less than one mile in length and locally known as “Cold Run.” Besides running the old mill here shown, this little stream in years past was also utilized to operate two saw mills and a clover and fulling mill.3
Since newer methods and more modern machinery have been introduced, the old mill is no longer in use, but it still stands as a mute reminder of the proud industries of the long ago. The water wheel shown in the engraving by which the mill was operated, is twenty-two feet in diameter, and is the second one that was used to set the mill in operation during the more than one and half centuries in which it was almost daily in operation. The original wheel was twenty-four feet in diameter.
It is a fact worthy of note that many of the grand old patriots who took a leading part in the Revolutionary struggle, contributed their means, shared the hardships incident to the campaigns of that glorious old war, in after years materially aided in building up the industries and developing the resources of the county. Samuel Opdyke, the second owner of the mill, as before stated, as a member of the New Jersey Militia, was in the battle of Princeton,4 and Charles Sergeant, its next owner, was at the outbreak of the war but a mere youth of 15 years, but inspired by patriotic impulses responded to his country’s call. He was with the army of Washington during its entire struggle, suffering the hardships of the bare-footed march through his native State in the winter of ‘76; shared in the misery incident to the encampment at Valley Forge; was half starved with the rest of the command during that perilous winter; participating in the numerous engagements, and living to see the close of the war at Yorktown in ‘81, and returning to his home to become one of the most useful and upright citizens of his time.5
His son, the late Green Sergeant, who became the owner of the mill after the death of his father, told the writer that his father (Charles Sergeant) was the friend and companion of General Daniel Morgan, a Jerseyman by birth, and commander of the celebrated Virginia Riflemen, whose deeds of valor at Saratoga, Cowpens, and other bloody fields, are well known historical facts.
The wheel of the old mill no longer revolves in the waters that still pass; the “sound of the grinding” is no longer heard; owners and patrons have passed into the unknown beyond, while we who write and those who read of the actors upon the scenes of other centuries are spared yet for a time. In looking upon the old structure in a recent visit, memory reverted to the days when those noble old pioneers did well their allotted tasks and assisted in bringing into existence a Republic the greatest and the grandest that has ever been known since governments have been known to men.
- In a previous article (see link above), Hoppock claimed that the “Mansion and Mill” were built in 1745, but gave no documentation for that date. Records show that Edward Milner from Bucks County owned the property by 1743. The house and mill may have been enlarged by John Opdycke after purchasing it about 1754 (date based on datestone on house; no deed was recorded). It is interesting that Hoppock spelled the name Opdyke rather than Opdycke. ↩
- As noted in a previous article, Charles Sergeant bought the property from John Opdycke Esq., son of Samuel Opdycke, and grandson of John Opdycke Sr., in 1805. I do not know how Hoppock came up with the date of 1795. Perhaps it was told to him and he failed to check the deeds. The present owner, Richard G. Johnson, was the son of Sarah Sergeant and her husband George S. Johnson. Sarah was the daughter of Green Sergeant, granddaughter of Charles Sergeant. ↩
- Green Sergeant also advertised in the Hunterdon Gazette that he had a carding machine, for treating wool. As for the clover and fulling mill and the sawmills, those structures were located along the Wickecheoke, south of the covered bridge. They were torn down many years ago. ↩
- If that is really true, Samuel Opdycke managed to keep it a secret. There is no surviving record (at least not on Ancestry.com, Fold3 or Stryker’s Officers and Men of New Jersey in The Revolution). Also, Samuel Opdycke was the third owner of the property, following Edward Milner and John Opdycke. ↩
- Like Samuel Opdycke, there is no record of Charles Sergeant’s service during the Revolution, at least none that I have been able to find. This does not mean he did not fight; it only means there’s no record to prove that he did. ↩