While going through my files I came upon an article about the Inn by Hunterdon historian Egbert T. Bush. It tells us much about how popular and important the Inn was, not just to Stockton but also to the surrounding towns.

This old photo of the Inn is remarkable for the trees and general atmosphere.
It was probably taken at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.

The hotel register dates from 1874 to 1883. Mr. Bush wrote an article about it for the Hunterdon County Democrat that featured the people who signed the register. Before proceeding with that, I’d like to look at the history of the Hotel’s owners at the time.

Mr. Bush wrote an earlier article about the hotel, which is published here as “When Stockton Was Not So Dry.” I have also written “A Stockton Inn History,” which I have had to update and revise, because in researching this article, I discovered information about the Inn’s owners in the 1850s that I did not know before.

John & Sarah Hockenbury

In 1874, the Inn, which was then called the Stockton Hotel, was owned by Sarah Hockenbury and managed by her husband John S. Hockenbury.

John Sutton Hockenbury (1821-1914) was the son of John Hockenbury, Sr. and Sarah Sutton, residents of the Croton area. John, Sr. was postmaster there and owner of the Croton store, so John, Jr. was well-acquainted with storekeeping from an early age. In 1843, he married Sarah Rittenhouse (1824-1898), who may have been the daughter of Benjamin & Mary Rittenhouse of Kingwood, although I have not found proof of that. It is also possible she was a sister of Shf. John P. Rittenhouse; again, no proof.

The Hockenburys had come to Stockton from Flemington where they had run the County Hotel on Main Street since 1856. That lasted until 1866. During the late 1860s, Hockenbury found other work. Like his father, he ran a store, and the census of 1870 identified Hockenbury as a “commercial traveler.” Living in the household with John age 48 and Sarah age 45 were their children John 22, Oakley 20 and William 18, all clerking in the Hockenbury store, Anna 16, Laura 13, George 9, and Benjamin 2. Also in the household was George A. Poulson, 26, “commission merchant,” and his wife Amy 23. George was obviously an assistant to John S. Hockenbury, but he was also, as so often happened, John’s son-in-law. He had married Amy Hockenbury (1846-1926) on Christmas Day, 1867.

I would not be surprised to learn that Poulson was a Civil War veteran. He died Feb. 21, 1882 in Jersey City at the age of 39. Six years later, Amy Poulson was living in Trenton, NJ when she married widower Joseph D. Kinney. He died on March 20, 1900. When the census was taken on June 1, 1900, Amy R. [sic] Kinney was still living in Trenton, on her own, with the occupation of “capitalist.” She had two children who were both living at the time. They may have been the children of Joseph Kinney and first wife Emma, who died in the 1880s.

Nothing noteworthy about the Hockenburys appeared in the Hunterdon Republican after this until Sept. 3, 1874 when a tavern license was granted to John S. Hockenbury of Stockton.

On August 11, 1874, Robert Sharp & wife Elizabeth of Stockton sold to Sarah Hockenbury, wife of John S. Hockenbury, also of Stockton, for $10,000, “a lot known as the Tavern property in Stockton,” of 1.82 acres bordering the northeast side of the river road or Main Street, corner to Amanda T. Bodder and land remaining to Sharp.1 (A history of the Hockenburys’ occupation of the Hotel is related in “A Stockton Inn History.”)

In my previous article, I had speculated that Sarah was the one to purchase the hotel, because John had some financial difficulties. In 1870, the partnership of Hockenbury & Co. was sued by Hill, Abel & Co. for the cost of a quantity of butter that was delivered but not paid for. That may be why John was unable to purchase the Inn himself. However, this did not prevent him from being granted a tavern license in September 1874, or from purchasing another lot on Broad Street in Stockton three years later, also from the Sharps.

The hotel register that Mr. Bush saw was the first one kept by the Hockenburys, as it was begun in 1874. There were several more, as the Hockenburys continued on with the hotel until the end of their lives. Sarah Hockenbury died on Jan. 28, 1898 at the age of 73. Husband John was still a hotelkeeper when the 1900 census was taken. But in 1910, when John was 88 years old, the hotel was being kept by Spencer L. Dilts, 51. Hockenbury died in 1914, at the age of 92, on the same day, January 28, as his wife died.

Bush’s Article

For historians of Hunterdon County, the hotel register is a wonderful find, but for those interested in the particular goings-on at the Hotel itself, it is disappointing, as nothing is said about it until the last entry in October 1883 when “the Lager Man” made his delivery.

Even so, the register clearly indicates how popular the Hotel was. The County Board of Freeholders even held one of their meetings there, and many of the men who signed the register were well-known politicians, office holders, businesspeople and investors.

Just because people signed the register did not necessarily mean they were staying overnight; some may have stayed for a meal and then gone home. Some of them certainly did stay overnight, and it seems remarkable, seeing how close they were, by car. But this was the late 19th century, and they were traveling by horse or by horse & carriage. It probably made sense to stay overnight and return home the next morning.

Bush lists the names as he found them listed in the register, which is chronologically. His descriptions of these people, most of whom he remembered, are quite brief, so I’ve added some more details. (I’ve also bolded the names, except for the list of freeholders, which was not done in the original version.)

An Old Stockton Hotel Register

Mr. Bush Recalls Facts About Many of the Guests
A $100 per Year Man
by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, NJ
published in the Hunterdon Democrat, Nov. 29, 1934

An interesting old register of the Stockton Hotel was recently found, stowed away among many old documents and other things coming down from earlier days. It was kept by the late John S. Hockenbury, covering the first nine years of occupancy. The massive book is bound in leather, with a thick full-page blotter after every leaf, or so it was, but both blotters and binding have been somewhat damaged by time and careless handling. The pages, however, are in good condition, and are well worth perusing as pleasant reminder of the days and the people that are gone.

After reading this paragraph, I immediately contacted Pam Robinson, the Librarian at the Hunterdon County Historical Society, and also the HCHS Archivist Donald Cornelius to see if they had ever come across this register, which Bush so vividly describes. They had not. It was never donated to the HCHS. All the more reason to be grateful to Bush for writing about it.

A few extracts from the thousands of entries may be of interest to readers in various parts of the county and to many far beyond its limits. As the names of transient guests from distant cities are likely to be merely names, meaning nothing to readers of today, the names chosen are chiefly those of people then living in Hunterdon County. As the first entry, we find:

August 16, 1874, J. M. Swope and Wife, Milford. I do not know who they were, but somebody no doubt will know.

My guess is that this was not J., but Isaac M. Swope (1824 PA-1908 NJ), who was counted in the 1870 census for Alexandria Township as age 45, a farmer, born in Pennsylvania, living with wife Lavinda [sic] 33 keeping house, and children William 18, Emma 13 and Mettie, age 1. Also in the household was Albert White, 31, engineer, who was almost certainly brother of Lavinda/Salenda White Swope. Salenda died in 1872, which would be before the visit to the Stockton Inn. Salenda was Swope’s second wife, his first being Hannah Weaver who died in 1864 at the age of 43. After Salenda’s death, Swope married a third time. She was Margaret Bonnell, daughter of Charles Wolverton Bonnell and Abigail Van Doren of Bethlehem Township, and widow of Scott Irwin, who died in 1866. Her marriage to Isaac M. Swope did not take place until Nov. 13, 1875, a year after their visit to the Hotel, according to the marriage record, which stated they were both residents of Milford. Interesting.

Next on Mr. Bush’s list are visitors who arrived on August 27th.

John M. Hyde, Flemington; L. B. Myers, Mahlon Hulsizer, Franklin Township.

Myers and Hulsizer were then prominent in the affairs of Franklin; one was a miller and the other a farmer, and both were active in local politics. John M. Hyde is remembered as my teacher in the Drybrook School for a short time, and always highly esteemed. Later he became County Clerk and spent the remainder of his active life in Flemington.

Mr. Bush mentioned John M. Hyde (1843-1922) in his article “Recollections of Drybrook School” (one of his many articles that I have not yet published here). He was the son of Rev. Roberson Hyde and Salomy Myers, and was living in Raritan Township for the 1870 and 1880 censuses, clerking in a store in 1870, but serving as County Clerk by 1880. His wife was Huldah Wigg Rittenhouse (1844-1915), daughter of Daniel Bray Rittenhouse & Rachel M. Pyatt.

L. B. Myers was Lemuel B. Myers (1831-1885) who lived in Delaware Township before moving to Franklin. He should connect with the Myers family of Delaware. His wife was Catharine Allen (1835-1900), daughter of Capt. John Allen & Catharine Snyder of Kingwood.

Mahlon Hulsizer (1812-1901), son of David Hulsizer & Mary Anna Chamberlin, was married to Mary Adeline Sharp (1820-1899) daughter of David and Mary Sharp of Clinton. After Mary Sharp’s death in 1859, David Sharp moved to Franklin Township to live in daughter Mary Adeline’s home. In the census of 1870, David Sharp was identified as a ‘Gentleman,’ with substantial assets.2

It appears to have been the habit of local guests not living in towns, to give the township of their residence, rather than their post office. This probably arose from the way in which Chosen Freeholders registered when on official business.

Senator Large a Guest

Among the entries for Sept. first, 1874, we find: Daniel Crum, Sand Brook; John Ramsey, George H. Large, George T. Robbins, Flemington; G. H. Slater, Frenchtown.

Daniel M. Crum, son of Henry, went West soon after and at last report was still living there. Gabriel H. Slater was a hardware merchant at Frenchtown and was well known about the county. He was a brother to Capt. William H. Slater, who lost a leg in the Civil War.

George H. Large, State Senator 1986-88 [sic, 1896] is the only survivor of those present from a bright fight at the Hunterdon County bar. Richard S. Kuhl, State Senator 1905-7 was a prominent member of the same bar. George T. Robbins, a son of Hiram, and native of the Boarshead vicinity, kept a hardware store near the Pennsylvania R.R. station.

Curious that Bush said nothing about John Ramsey (1833-1918), who was the father-in-law of George H. Large. But then Large did not marry Josephine Ramsey until 1877. Sen. Large lived to the advanced age of 88, dying in 1939. So, he was indeed a survivor, but what that “bright fight” at the County Bar was about is a mystery.

Sept. 21:  David Van Fleet, Flemington.

David Van Fleet, Surrogate 1859-64, was prominent in the affairs of Flemington and well known over the county during his long life.

David Van Fleet (1819-1890) was one of the Directors of the failed Delaware Flemington Railroad, at about the time he was visiting the Hotel. It is more than likely he was there on railroad business. (See “The Railroad That Wasn’t Built.”)

Nov 19:  John L. Jones, Miller Kline, Flemington.

John L. Jones spent most of his life in Flemington and was Sheriff in 1862-64. Miller Kline is remembered as a businessman, first at Klinesville and then at Flemington.

John Lambert Jones (1822-1904) was involved in so many projects and activities in Flemington, that it is impossible to state here more than that he partnered with Joseph H. Reading in the 1850s, served as Sheriff in the 1860s, was one of the Directors of the Delaware Flemington Railroad Co., and became president of the Flemington National Bank, among many other things.

Miller Kline: Once again, we have the repeating name problem. There were six men with the Miller Kline name, with variations. Two died before 1874; a couple moved to Illinois. My best guess is that the one visiting the hotel was Henry Miller Kline, Jr. (1807-1884), an active real estate investor as well as member in 1866 of the Board of Directors of the Hunterdon County National Bank.

Jan. 28, 1875:  Jonathan Higgins, Ringoes; Alex Higgins, Sand Brook.

These men were widely known, each being active in his own sphere.

Widely known to readers of the Democrat in 1930, but not so much today. I cannot say what Jonathan Higgins was doing there, but Alex Higgins, not related, was one of the Directors of the Delaware Flemington Railroad Co. which folded in June of this year. That’s three men associated with the railroad who stayed at the Hotel.

Feb. 23:  C. Arnett, Lambertville; Samuel K. Everitt, Cherryville.

Arnett was extensively engaged in building. Everitt was a well-known farmer, later Freeholder from Franklin.

A Jolly Miller

May 10:  Jacob Rockafellow, Flemington.

At sight of that name, old people at once see the rugged and friendly old owner of Rockafellow’s Mill; and a jolly old miller was he in those days.

Jacob Rockafellow’s father Jacob got quite a lot of attention in my article “A Rockafellar Homestead Divided.” Jacob Sr. (1800-1893) marred Rebecca Jane Besson in 1826, daughter of Francis Besson & Elizabeth Thatcher, and had seven children, many of whom got involved in running the mill. By 1870, when he was 70 years old, Jacob had retired from milling, and his sons had stepped in. By 1874, son John Besson Rockafellow was running the mill with partner John Ent.

June 5, 1875:  C. H. W. Van Sciver, “The Beacon,” Lambertville.

This is sufficient reminder to newspaper men and others, no doubt.

What did Bush mean by “reminder”? Obviously, there is a story behind that remark. I have no information to add as I have not studied the Beacon.

June 18:  Three Tramps. The proprietor did not wish to pass any without notice. But the usual “Paid” does not appear on the record.

Unprofitable customers—free and unconcerned, without care or ambition—these weary travelers no doubt were mere dross of the race. And yet one can never help wondering: thence, whither and why.

July 22:  Iser Rake, Isaac Keyser, John Risler. No locations.

Many will remember Rake because of his tragic death; Keyser for his activities in many ways, and Risler as a solid old farmer in the Locktown vicinity.

Izer Rake was on his way home in December 1875 after “a drinking bout,” as described by Bush in his article “Sergeant’s Mills Once A Prosperous Community.” The drinking had been done in Sergeantsville, not in Stockton.

In 1851, Isaac M. Keyser (1829 PA – 1913) married Amy Bonham (1832-1864). His second wife was Mary Ann Sutton (1841-1917) of Locktown. The Keysers and Rakes were neighbors of John Risler (1844-1931) the Locktown farmer.

July 19:  George W. Shorday, Croton.

Old people about Croton will remember George W. Shorday as keeper of the tavern there for many years.

Perhaps not that many. In 1860, he was counted in the census as hotel keeper of Croton, age 31, born in Pennsylvania (where he was counted in the 1850 census) with wife Amelia 31 and two children. Boarding with them was Newton Gary 45, “Gentleman.” By 1880, the Shorday family had returned to Pennsylvania.

August 16:  R. L. Williams, Frenchtown; Dr. Samuel Lilly, Lambertville.

Robert L. Williams was a jolly old auctioneer in his day. He manufactured the “Williams Fanning Mill” at his factory in Frenchtown. In his earlier days, as was the general rule, he peddled the mills about among the farmers. We sometimes find one of his mills still in use, but in looks very much out of date. Dr. Samuel Lilly’s name is sufficient reminder of the man.

Not if you’re living in 2021! Clearly, Mr. Bush never dreamed people would be reading his articles nearly 100 years after they were published. Dr. Lilly was indeed a memorable character; no one more active in Democratic Party politics than he.

Robert L. Williams is interesting because he also was at one time a hotelkeeper. According to Rick Epstein, the Frenchtown historian, Williams built the National Hotel in 1850. However, he switched over to auctioneering not long afterwards.

Jan. 22, 1876: Asa Rittenhouse, Milford; Isaac Smith, Delaware.

Rittenhouse was a tavern keeper at Milford and elsewhere; Smith was a prominent farmer of Delaware Township.

So interesting to see how many fellow tavern & hotel keepers came to visit in Stockton. Were they taking notes for their own operations or giving advice?

A Flowery Orator

Jan. 26:  J. N. Voorhees, Flemington. “Newt” Voorhees is remembered by the old and not so old, as the flowery orator of the Hunterdon County Bar.

John Newton Voorhees (1835-1897) became a law partner with his brother-in-law, George H. Large, so he will certainly be turning up in future articles here.

August 29:  C. R. Nightingale, Sergeantsville.

Charles R. Nightingale was a teacher for several years in the schools of Hunterdon. Later he became a Justice of the Peace and prominent businessman of Doylestown, Pa., where he died a few years ago.

Some years after his visit to the hotel, in 1881, this item appeared in the Hunterdon Republican for June 16th:

On Wednesday evening last, we attended a dime concert and festival in the Clover Hill Reformed Church under the direction of Prof. J. B. Bartow. In addition to some very fine entertainment, Charles R. Nightingale of Ringoes gave a few of his popular ballads. One of them, “My Beautiful Hat,” almost brought down the house.

Mr. Nightingale was certainly living up to his name. Back to Mr. Bush’s article:

Oct. 31:  G. L. Peer, Cherryville.

Garret L. Peer was well known about the county. I think he was a blacksmith by trade, and know he had a lively interest in fraternal orders.

By the 1870 census, Peer was a blacksmith in Frenchtown, where he remained for the rest of his life. With his wife Melissa Robinson, he had two daughters, Amanda & Sarah. William S. Rockafellar 19 was apprenticing as blacksmith.

Feb. 2, 1877:  Wilson M. Rittenhouse, “Swamp.”

A lively man indeed was Wilson M. Rittenhouse; a farmer, politician and schoolteacher. His last charge was at Quakertown where he died more than 40 years ago.

Wilson M. Rittenhouse (1833-1881), son of Andrew Bray Rittenhouse & Elizabeth Mettler, married in 1856 Martha J. Post of New York. Wilson was only 48 when he died, leaving six children.

Sept. 24:  O. P. Chamberlin, Flemington; H. P. Cullen, Kingwood.

The whole county remembers O. P. Chamberlin as a lawyer of long service at the Hunterdon County bar; Henry P. Cullen is remembered as a farmer near Kingwood, owning what is now the Julius E. Ward farm, and also as Lay Judge of the Court.

Octavius Pearl Chamberlin, Esq. was born 1832 to Ampleus Blake Chamberlin and Elizabeth Myers. In 1855 he married Elizabeth Rittenhouse, daughter of Daniel Rittenhouse and Elizabeth Myers. When he was 66 years old, in 1898, Chamberlin visited the gold fields of Alaska, which says a lot about his stamina.

H. P. Cullen was Henry Pool Cullen, born 1824 to Joseph Cullen & Agnes Lee of Franklin Twp. He married, in 1851, Theodosia Grant Reading, daughter of Samuel R. Reading and Susannah Rittenhouse. H. P. Cullen became a Judge in 1876, but his wife Elizabeth had died the previous December, age 57. The Cullen family suffered many misfortunes, outlined in the Hunterdon Republican. Also, three of their five children died young. (The two surviving children lived to their 90s.)

June 12, 1878:  Johnson Warford, Milford.

Johnson Warford was a bartender during most of his life, his last services being at the Stockton Hotel. He died in New Hope, Pa., a few years ago.

Johnson Warford (1858-1931) was the son of Charles Warford & Harriet Fine, and married Eva Lida Huff. They had a son Orville who moved to New Hope. Warford was only 20 years old when he visited the Stockton Hotel, but perhaps he was looking for work. He was listed in the NJ State Census of 1915 as a bartender at “Colligan’s Inn.” The 1920 census identified him as a Stockton resident, but not a bartender; he was employed as a lineman for Standard Oil Co.

Jan. 18, 1879:  Cornelius S. Conkling, Frenchtown.

This guest, whose signature always seemed to defy forgery, was widely known for his personality and varied activities. He was a Presbyterian minister, long stationed at Mt. Pleasant. In 1870 he was appointed County Superintendent of Public Instruction and soon after removed to Frenchtown. After the William V. Case failure at Stockton, Mr. Conkling bought the business and most of the real estate. His home here was the Case mansion on the hill, adjoining the Baptist Church, the property now owned by Emmert R. Wilson.

I will not add to Mr. Bush’s comments, as I am working on a longer history for him. However, you can learn about Cornelius and son Edward here: “The Conklings, Father and Son.”

Bush’s reference to Emmert R. Wilson presumably was not meant to suggest that Wilson was Conkling’s contemporary. In fact, he was not even born until 1896, and served in the Assembly in 1945. His father Joseph D. Wilson had moved to Stockton soon after marrying but ran a chick hatchery on his father’s farm in Rosemont. There he made the breakthrough discovery that it was possible to ship day-old chicks to distant customers.

A Former Senator

Oct. 11, 1879:  John Carpenter, Clinton.

This calls to mind a man very active in his time, politically and otherwise. He was long one of the Democratic leaders and served as State Senator in the term 1883-5.

Here’s an interesting item published in the Hunterdon Republican on Sept. 20, 1877:

“News from Glen Gardner: John Carpenter, Jr., editor of the Clinton Democrat, was kicked out of the service of the New Jersey House of Assembly for disreputable conduct.”

What could that have been? The Republican had nothing more to say about this. Research in the old court cases might shed some light.3

Jan. 23, 1880:  It appears that on this day S. Manness registered the names of a large number of his friends from Tobyhanna, Pa. and after their names hastily registered his own: “S. Manness, Blairstown.”

I knew Samuel E. Manness, who talked much of his friends and relatives in or about Tobyhanna. He was a native of Delaware Township, his home being the Jay Atten farm near Sergeantsville. He was for several years a distinguished teacher in the schools of Hunterdon. For two or three years he taught at Quakertown. From there I think he went to Blairstown for a year, and then became principal of the Frenchtown Schools. Later he went to Camden County, and thence to Newark as principal of one of its schools. He died recently in that city, after long and distinguished service.

Samuel Ervin C. Manness (1853-c.1930) was the son of Henry Reading Manness (1814-1893, also spelled Manners, McManners & McManness) and Sarah Ann Axford (1820-1900). His grandparents were William McManness, who may have been an Irish immigrant, and Sarah Dilts of Kingwood. William and Henry soon dropped the ‘Mc’ from their names. Samuel Manness married Maria M. Reeve in Camden in 1893 and was living in Newark when he died.

Feb. 26, 1880:  D. V. L. Schenck, Mt. Airy; Richard H. Wilson, Stockton.

Dennis V.L. Schenck was for many years an active farmer near Dilts’ Corner, widely known for his lively ways and general interest in politics. Richard H. Wilson, a member of the Assembly 1867-8, was prominent as a surveyor and conveyancer, living at Brookville during the later years of his life.

Dennis Van Liew Schenck

Dennis Van Liew Schenck (1820-1907, sometimes spelled Schanck) was the son of Gilbert Schenck & Rachel VanLiew of East Amwell Township. He married Mary Elizabeth Corle (1830-1903) about 1860. She was the daughter of Samuel Corle and Deborah Jones Lambert, making her the great-grandniece of Sen. John Lambert.

I scrolled through the Hunterdon Republican looking for instances of Schenck’s political activities and found a suit brought by Gideon Brewer against Schenck for “long-continued slander.” The case was finally heard in Dec. 1873, and the jury awarded damages to Brewer of $1500, “the largest damages ever recovered in this county for a slander suit.” Unfortunately, the paper was too polite to say what the slander was.4

Bush wrote that Schenck was “widely known for his lively ways and general interest in politics.” This is certainly true for the years starting with 1876, when Schenck joined the Hayes & Wheeler Republican Club of Ringoes. In 1880, the year he visited the Stockton Inn, he joined the Executive Committee of a newly formed campaign club of Stockton and was named a delegate to the Republican Convention in Trenton. He remained active in the County Republican Party through 1894 and was president of the Stockton Republican Club 1895-1897. He was also active in Delaware Township politics, being named an Inspector of elections for South Delaware Twp. from 1879 through 1890.

He was also well acquainted with Egbert T. Bush. On Dec. 14, 1892, the Hunterdon Republican reported that

the ‘Oak Dale Literary Society,’ will discuss the following question at the Van Dolah School house on 15 Dec. 1892: “Resolved, That the President of the United States should be elected by the popular vote.” Those chosen to argue the Affirmative are: Henry G. Bowne, John E. Barber and Jacob C. Warman. The Negative, by Egbert T. Bush, Edmund W. Thaw and Dennis V. L. Schenck. All others who attend will be allowed to speak on the side of their choice.

One does wonder what their own opinions were on the subject—were they really against the popular vote or was this just an exercise?

There was one other published incident when Schenck and Bush were mentioned together. On July 8, 1896, the Stockton Republican Club, elected Dennis V. L. Schenck, President, and at the same meeting chose delegates to the Asbury Park Convention, one of whom was Egbert T. Bush.

Richard H. Wilson

There were two Richard H. Wilsons, contemporaries who both lived in Delaware Township. Fortunately, their wives had different names and they were a generation apart.

The elder R. H. Wilson was Richard Heath Wilson (c.1803-1887), son of George Wilson & Mary Heath, and husband of Mary Gaddis (c.1803-1875). She was the sister of hotelkeeper George W. Gaddis of Sergeantsville. Wilson bought the farm of James Quinby, dec’d near Rosemont on Federal Twist Road in 1846, and later on acquired property near Prallsville. Mary Wilson died on Oct. 17, 1875, age 72, and Richard died March 1, 1887, age 84. They were both buried in the Rosemont Cemetery. At least six of their twelve children survived them.

The Richard H. Wilson who showed up on the Stockton Hotel Register was born January 12, 1828 to John Hoagland Wilson and Esther Holcombe of East Amwell Township. (I cannot say if his middle name was Hoagland or Holcombe.) In 1849, he married Jane Holcombe (1829-1914), daughter of Charles & Harriet Holcombe, and they had five children, the first two of whom died young.

It was this Richard H. Wilson who often appeared in the Hunterdon Republican together with David V.L. Schenck. As an example, on March 20, 1879, the Republican reported that the two men were elected to be Inspectors of Elections for South Delaware Township. And they were again in 1880.

Richard began his adult life as a farmer. He and his new wife were living with his father in 1850, who was working as a carpenter. Ten years later, Richard and his family were living on their own farm in West Amwell Twp.

In addition to farming, Wilson was active in local politics. As Mr. Bush stated, in November 1866, Wilson was a newly elected member of the Assembly with William J. Iliff and Baltis Pickel. He served his two-year term and then retired from the Legislature. And yet, while still an Assemblyman, he also served as Town Clerk of West Amwell and Commissioner of Appeals.

Although he was identified as a farmer in the 1870 census, the next year, he advertised his services in the Hunterdon Republican of April 6, 1871 as a “Practical Surveyor, Commissioner of Deeds,” etc. By the time of the 1880 census, he was identified as a civil engineer.

Wilson retired to Brookville in 1875 when he bought a property there from Joseph H. and Ruth H. Butterfoss on today’s Route 29 (at the time known as the road from Stockton to Lambertville).5 In 1877, he joined with others, including William V. Case, in creating the Stockton Paper Ware Manufacturing Co.

The Board of Freeholders

Aug. 6, 1880:  It appears that the whole Board of Chosen Freeholders held a meeting here. The following names are found, together with the locality represented: Charles Stull, Alexandria; George Brewer, Bethlehem; J. S. Madison, Clinton Borough; A. J. Probasco, Clinton Township; William Aller, Delaware; Silas Nonamaker, East Amwell; John L. Sack, Frenchtown; John T. Dorland, High Bridge; Jesse Sinclair, Holland; Peter Polhemus, Kingwood; John Foran, Jonas Warman, C. Frank Hart, Lambertville (Lambertville being entited to one Freeholder for each ward); Joseph G. Farley, Tewksbury; William P. Sinclair, Union; J. C. Fackenthall, West Amwell.

They were accompanied by William D. Bloom, Little York, and A. E. Sanderson, Flemington. How well older people remember “Bully” Bloom for his quiet political activity and his thoro work in whatever he undertook. Augustus E. Sanderson, Assemblyman 1871-2, was later Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.

Of all the active men registered at that meeting, how many remain? I knew most of them then or later but cannot be sure that any one of them is now living.

A $100 a Year Man

James W. Hummer of Franklin is remembered as a quiet farmer living near Young’s Mills. His campaign made a deep impression, chiefly because it involved a question, perhaps broader than most voters realized. Whether justly or not, much fault had been found with the per diem system of paying Freeholders, on the ground that their work was made to cover too many days. Hummer offered to do all the necessary work for a fixed sum, $100 as memory records it. The man was of unquestioned integrity, but one could hardly help questioning the propriety of the “bid.” The writer voted for the man but disapproved the method of campaigning. Hummer was elected and proved very acceptable; but fortunately, such “bidding” never came into favor.

James W. Hummer (1816-1884), son of Adam Hummer and Sarah Wyckoff, won election to the Board of Freeholders in 1879 and again in 1880. He married Anna Anderson (1829-1915), daughter of John J. Anderson & Mary Sipley, in 1846 and had with her four children. During all the years Hummer was counted in the census (1850-1880), he was a farmer and resident of Franklin Township.

March 18, 1882: Robert R. Smith, Reaville.

As memory has it, away back in 1869-70, Robert R. Smith was doing a flourishing business as harness maker in Reaville and was looked upon as a leading citizen of that flourishing hamlet and vicinity.

Robert Reading Smith (1821-1893), son of Asa Smith & Jane Rittenhouse, married in 1848 Rebecca Young (1829-1890), whose parents I have not been able to identify. They had ten* children. In 1859, Smith was a member of the “Opposition” Party from East Amwell, the group opposed to the Democrats but not ready to join the Republican Party. His harness-making business, as well as saddles & bridles, seems to have thrived, judging by the advertisements he published in the Hunterdon Gazette. He sold most anything related to the use of horses in transportation (and the comfort of their owners). In 1859 he was offering “wolf skins, buffaloes and [horse] blankets.”

Feb. 3, 1883: Now we find the name of O. H. Hoffman, Lebanon.

Mr. Hoffman was then beginning his six-year term as County Superintendent. All who were teachers or pupils in the county during that period remember O. H. Hoffman, whose appearance at school was always welcomed.

Oliver H. Hoffman, Esq. (c.1834-1894) was the eldest son of Jacob H. Hoffman and Mary Porter. Jacob Hoffman was a member of the Assembly in 1861 and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Oliver Hoffman never married.

October 12, 1883: Lager Beer Man, Easton, Pa.

This is the last entry. This article is already too long but may be worth reading for old people and old things brought to mind. Let us stop with lager beer—so called because in its mother country it was put to “bed” for a long, long time before being offered to the public.

Many thanks to Egbert T. Bush for giving us an insight into the kind of clientele who patronized the Stockton Hotel nearly 150 years ago.

* Robert Smith descendant Claire Hanson informed me that Robert Smith and wife Rebecca Young had ten children, not eight, as originally written.


  1. H.C. Deed Book 158 p.257.
  2. David Sharp was not directly related to the Robert Sharp who sold the Inn to Sara Hockenbury.
  3. I have written some about Hunterdon County newspaper editors in the years before the Civil War. From the small amount I’ve learned so far about John Carpenter, I can see there will be lots to write about in the years after the war.
  4. This and the following incidents were all found in the Hartman abstracts of the Hunterdon Republican newspaper.
  5. H.C. Deed Book 161 p.277.