Given that the Stockton Inn is now for sale, and a radical proposal for development of the site has been offered by the seller, I thought it would be appropriate to publish this article by Mr. Bush about a previous “improvement” to the Borough that took place not far from the Inn.
In 1930, Route 29 through the village of Stockton was widened to accommodate the automobile traffic that was passing through. Back when horses provided the primary means of transportation, wide roads were not necessary. But cars were another matter.1 As so often happens, when landmarks are standing in the way of improvements, they must either come down or be moved. Here is Egbert T. Bush’s description of what happened to a grand old Stockton landmark.
A Monarch Falls In Stockton Boro
Huge Maple Puts Up Stiff Fight Against County Workmen
Planted Eighty Years Ago
by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N.J.
published in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat, August 28, 1930
Many monarchs have fallen in recent years; some perhaps because they were too good, more because they were too bad, and most because they stood in the way of irresistible progress. But this is not meant for an essay on fallen monarchs in general. It is only the sad story of good old King Maple, whose dominion was the borough of Stockton, whose subjects were all the other maples therein, and whose throne was across Main street from the residence of the late Clarkson T. Hunt, between the old-time Stockton and Brookville.2
But to “come down to earth,” as our good old monarch had to do at last: In widening the street for the improvement now in progress, it was found that this fine old tree must be sacrificed to absolute necessity. Others had gone before, having given up almost without a struggle. Not so the grand old chieftain. He had thoroughly established himself, both on his throne and in the affections of the people. He might be overcome, but he felt his rights, and stood ready to fight for them. And he did put up a fight that was well worth seeing—if one could only control his sympathies for the doomed defendant.
A gang of determined men dug and sweat and shoveled for hours, using their axes unmerciful[ly], all in hope of so weakening his well-laid defenses that he would have to yield as others had done. At last they felt time for the grand assault; and a grand assault it was, with “tanks” in the form of four big trucks, all heavily loaded to keep the old fellow from jerking back and throwing them over his head. The assailants fastened wire cables far above ground, hoping, by tremendous power aided by great leverage, to over-throw the old hero. The tanks did their best, and snapped a cable; the monarch lost one limb, shook his head like an infuriated animal, and bravely stood his ground.
Next morning the assault was renewed with increased energy. Dynamite was exploded at various points to weaken his defenses. Then the previous tactics were repeated, the tanks did their work, and the brave old monarch fell with a roar of defiance.
This tree was planted by Clarkson T. Hunt, who died here last year, at the age of 90. It was still apparently in its prime, after standing here for almost, if not quite, 80 years. It reached upward 75 feet—not a great height, but great for a tree that had its chance for spreading and made use of its opportunities. At the stump it measured 12 feet and 9 inches; at the point where the girth of its short body was least, it measured 11 feet and 6 inches. Its tremendous roots spread far and wide, under the bed of the roadway and into the adjoining field. No wonder that it stood firm, defying the forces of destruction to the end, and at last groaning out defiance as it fell. Not an inglorious death for the glorious old Monarch of the Maples.
Clarkson T. Hunt lived at 23 Main Street in Stockton, in the fine old stone house close to the road on the north side, a short distance from the Stockton School. You can see a photo of the house itself by looking up Mr. Bush’s article “Old Hunt Farm a Place of Interest.”
It is interesting that according to Mr. Bush the tree was bordered by a field. Today, as you can see from the aerial photo, that field is occupied by relatively new houses. In a census record, Hunt was identified as a “truck farmer,” meaning he raised vegetables to sell to stores, and perhaps even from his own farm stand. No doubt that field across the road adjacent to the monarch maple was used for this purpose. It was probably a very fruitful piece of land, being as it was located in a flood plain.
Keep in mind also that his father Eden Burroughs Hunt was a “Commission Dealer in Domestic Fruits and Country Produce.” He was quite successful in this line of work. On August 1, 1860, he advertised in the Hunterdon Gazette:
“E. Hunt & Co., Commission Dealers in Domestic Fruits and Country Produce, also calves, sheep, lambs, pork, poultry, game, eggs, butter, lard &c. 275 West Washington Market, N. York. Consignments respectfully solicited and returns made in a prompt and satisfactory manner. [signed] Eden Hunt, Josiah C. Hunt.
The ad was repeated on January 30, 1861, naming Josiah C. Hunt as a partner. Josiah was the eldest child of Eden B. and Louisa Cade Hunt, born about 1835, died 1891. He had moved to Jersey City by 1860, and probably handled the Hunt business from that end. In 1860 he was identified as a “commission merchant,” and in 1880 as a fruit dealer.
Eden B. Hunt was a pretty competitive farmer. The Gazette of October 17, 1860 reported on one of his successes:
“CABBAGE HEAD. Mr. Eden Hunt, of Stockton, in this county, presented us last week with a cabbage head weighing nineteen pounds. Who can beat it? Mr. H. makes it a part of his business yearly to raise a large quantity of cabbage for the market, and this nineteen pounder is out of the lot. Of course it was a solid head and a big one to weigh so heavy. Will somebody beat it?
According to census records Clarkson T. Hunt lived with his parents as long as they lived. I presume they were all inhabiting the stone house close to the road because it was built in 1850, and according to Mr. Bush’s calculations, that was the year that the big maple was planted.
Eden B. Hunt bought the property in 1841, 122.82 acres from Thomas P. Holcombe for $5000.3 The house was built and the tree planted nine years later, when Clarkson was only three years old. So we must give credit for the tree planting to Clarkson’s father Eden B. Hunt.
I should also note that the farmstead at the top of the hill (in the upper right corner of the aerial photo) predated the 1850 house by at least a century and was the original home of the Anderson family. It was still a part of the property when Eden B. Hunt purchased it.
Clarkston T. Hunt (1838-1929) was a Civil War veteran. He was a First Lieutenant with Co. G 30th NJ Volunteers. I have already mentioned his father, Eden B. Hunt. His mother was Louisa A. Cade.4 As to where Clarkson’s parents were living when he was born, I cannot say. But in 1841 they moved to the property located between Stockton village and Brookville, where Clarkson T. Hunt was living when he died, and where the monarch had been growing.
Clarkson T. Hunt married Louisa J. Lowrie (1850-1915) on January 8, 1868. She was the daughter of Scotland immigrant, Robert Lowrie, who was living with his family in Warrenville, Somerset County in 1860. How Louisa and Clarkson came to meet is an interesting question. They had three children, Eden B. Hunt, Jr. (1868-1949), John F. Hunt (1872-1917) and Raymond L. Hunt (1879-1961).
Note that Clarkson’s wife and mother both had the name Louisa. It must have made for some confusion. No doubt they worked out some alternate name for Clarkson’s wife, but I know not what it could be. In both the 1870 and 1880 census records, when Clarkson’s parents were alive and living in the same household, both mother and wife were identified as Louisa.
In 1870, Eden and Louisa were the heads of household, but ten years later, when Eden Hunt was 83 and his wife Louisa was 75, Clarkson and wife Louisa were heads of the household. By 1900, both Eden and Louisa had died. Clarkson T. Hunt, age 61, farmer, and wife Louisa, age 50, were living with son John F. Hunt, age 28, single, laborer. The other two sons had their own households.
By 1910, the household had changed only in the addition of a wife for John F. Hunt named Cordelia, the daughter of John B. Hunt and Lydia Bergen. Oddly enough, John B. Hunt and Clarkson T. Hunt were not at all related. John F. Hunt died early at the age of 45 in 1917. His wife Cordelia, born 1878, died in 1960, age 81, in Hopewell Township. They had no children.
Louisa J. Lowrie Hunt died on February 9, 1815, age 64. Her husband Clarkson T. Hunt died age 90 on May 23, 1929, less than a year before the old Monarch was taken down. One imagines he would have put up as much of a fight for that old tree as the tree itself did. The couple was buried in the Holcombe-Riverview Cemetery.
At the beginning of this article I wrote “As so often happens, when landmarks are standing in the way of improvements, they must either come down or be moved.” There are exceptions to this rule, and I sincerely hope that the residents of Stockton will make sure that the Stockton Inn becomes one of those exceptions.
Note: Mr. Bush wrote about another big tree in Stockton that had to come down. See “When Stockton Was Not So Dry.” This was an old oak that died of natural causes in 1935.
- When I first read Mr. Bush’s article, I thought perhaps the improvements in Stockton were related to the extension of Highway 29 through the village of Raven Rock. But that did not happen until 1959. ↩
- Mr. Bush and I have written about the home of Clarkston T. Hunt previously. See “Old Hunt Farm a Place of Interest,” published here in 2012. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 77 page 108. For information on that Anderson family, see The Anderson Farm. ↩
- I have no information on her parents or birthplace. However, a Raymond A. Cade joined the Morristown Methodist Episcopal Church, date not known by me, and could have been her father since her son Clarkson named one of his sons Raymond. Just a guess. ↩