A State Business Directory For 1850
Volume Lists Many Trades Which Are Now Obsolete
State Routes Are Listed
by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N.J.
published in the Hunterdon Democrat, October 12, 1933
To learn more about Egbert T. Bush
see Index of Articles, Hunterdon Historians
One never knows when an article by Egbert T. Bush might come in handy. In this case, it turns out to be very handy for the research I am doing on Flemington in the 19th century. Mr. Bush was delighted to get his hands on what was a common item in 1850, but the Directory was 83 years old when he was writing the following article, which happens to be two years younger than Mr. Bush was at the time!
Mr. Bush begins by thanking the person who shared the Directory with him.
By courtesy of Harlem C. Buchanan, I am privileged to peruse a copy of “Kirkbride’s New Jersey Business Directory,” for the year 1850. The date of issue has been torn out, but it is definitely fixed by the contents. This interesting record and reminder of the past comes down to Mr. Buchanan from Joseph B. Rockafellow, whose name it bears, together with the date, 1850, written in a bold hand. Harlem C. Chamberlin [sic, Harlem Buchanan] married Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph B. Rockafellow, who was a son of Jacob Rockafellow, the old-time proprietor of Rockafellow’s Mill.
Joseph B. Rockafellow (see Rockafellar Tree), father of Elizabeth Rockafellow Buchanan (1878-1958), was the third cousin of Samuel Buchanan, grandfather of Harlem C. Buchanan (1877-1964, see Buchanan Tree). It just shows what large families the Rockafellows and Buchanans were.1
Included in the work are a few advertisements, among which we find one extolling the merits of a “Patent Wagon, Based on a combination of Friction Rollers and Sleeve, with Parted Axle.” This is dated “Millville, 1850, and says that the patent was granted in December 1849.
That wonderful roller-bearing axle does not appear to have amounted to much in itself; but it is interesting because it shows the early conception of an idea from which grew great things in the way of “ball-bearing” machinery.
Almost a whole page is filled with a “Prospectus of the American Banner, a weekly newspaper published simultaneously in Philadelphia and Camden, Intended to be the Advocate and Expositor of the Native American Principles, as laid down by the National Convention of July, 1845.”
The “Know Nothings”
From this we see that the famous old “Know-Nothing” party was strong enough in 1845 to hold a National Convention, though historically its life span generally begins much later and ends with 1856. It is true that the Party had no candidate for president until 1856, when Ex-President Millard Fillmore was the standard-bearer of the aggressive new party and bore it to defeat. After that the party dwindled away rapidly by the process of absorption. The final remnant united in 1860 with dissatisfied Democrats and old Whigs, under the name “Constitutional Union Party,” and nominated John Bell and Edward Everitt. Everybody knows the result.
Well, almost everyone. 1860 was the year that Abraham Lincoln was first elected president. As one might expect, a third-party candidate for something called the Constitutional Union Party is not going to do very well. In Hunterdon County, John Bell’s party, such as it was, was usually referred to as the Opposition Party.
The “Know-Nothings” were much in evidence and apparently much feared in the early 1850’s. I remember well how sneeringly the few in our neighborhood were pointed out, and how solemnly their organization—at first a secret one—was denounced as a menace to the country. It was said that when asked anything about themselves and their purpose, the answer was always the same: “I don’t know.” Hence the name. “Know-Nothing.”
Mr. Bush was born in 1848, so he was quite young during the years that the American Party was most active, the early to mid 1850s. I suspect that members were not pointed out to him until the party was long gone. The Know Nothings will be showing up in my next article, so I was delighted to come across them here.
The Publisher’s Notice
Stacy B. Kirkbride, Jr., in his “Publisher’s Notice,” says: “Deeming the following work essential to increasing the business interests of New Jersey, the publisher has ventured to issue it. The attending difficulty in making the orthography of proper names and other matter composing the Directory, induced the publisher to employ such agents as were capable of the task, and have them visit the towns and villages thruout the State, * * * yet the publisher would not say that the work is altogether free from mistakes.”
A wise precaution, that concession appears to have been; for no one with much knowledge of old names in Hunterdon County’s business list, as given, can say that it is free from errors. Tho in general the work is well done, the agents were not always, perhaps, quite so careful as Mr. Kirkbride wished them to be; but that was to be expected among the many to whom the work must have been entrusted.
Our interest is, of course, largely in that part of the Directory which relates to Hunterdon County. There are found the names of many individuals and of several firms that were prominent in the business of life of those days. Some of these were still in business long after that date and are well remembered by old people of the present time.
As was typical of him, Mr. Bush is very kind about the work done in the Directory. But in fact, many names were left out, perhaps not deliberately, but still . . . As Mr. Bush wrote (below), much more attention was paid to Warren County, and to towns in the northern section of Hunterdon. The author probably did not have the manpower to identify all the Hunterdon businesses. Also, it is likely that people who agreed to buy the Directory got their names listed, and those who didn’t—didn’t.
A side note: The Hunterdon Co. Democrat’s editor, as was the practice, would insert headings where they looked nice, and often did not do a good job of representing the text to follow (although the two above were fine). As a reader, I find that most irritating and unhelpful, so I have taken the liberty of writing my own headings, knowing that I am not abusing Mr. Bush’s text, since he had nothing to do with the headings.
In addition, I am writing names out in full whenever I know them. Initials were fine for the early 20th century, but 100 years later we need more information. I was surprised at how many names I could not identify.2
I had originally hoped to identify all the names listed below, but of course, that is quite unrealistic, as there are so many, and they are mostly identified only by their first initial. Readers are more than welcome to make contributions in the comments section at the end.
Attorneys at Law:
The following Attorneys and Counsellors head the Hunterdon County lists of business men: Alexander Wurts, Peter I. Clark, George A. Allen, Charles Bartles and James Reading of Flemington; John H. Wakefield of Lambertville; P. Van Pelt and J. Manners of Clinton; John Dumont of New Germantown [Oldwick].
Alexander Wurts , Peter I Clark, Charles Bartles all deserve articles of their own, they were so important to the life of Flemington. But Wurts certainly had the handsomest law office.
George Anderson Allen will be making an appearance in my next article. James Reading was James N. Reading, the original owner of the magnificent mansion built by Mahlon Fisher, and featured The Fisher-Reading Mansion. J. H. Wakefield was prominent Lambertville attorney John H. Wakefield who practiced for a time, then returned to New England about 1852.
“P. Van Pelt and J. Manners” of Clinton and “John Dumont” of New Germantown are mysteries to me.
The following list is interesting, not only for the names, but also for the types of occupations listed. Many of them no longer exist, or if they do, most of their practitioners no longer practice in downtown Flemington.
J. F. Smith of Flemington; C. F. Green of Clinton, J. I. Scarfour of Milford; James Bunn, Elisha Waldron, and Garret C. Emmons of New Germantown; David P. Apgar and George Pickle of Cokesbury; Jacob L. Apgar of White House; Thomas Applegate of Mechanicsville.
These are all that are listed, though there were certainly several times as many in the county. It is quite likely that only those who agreed to pay for the book, got their names into the Directory—this quasi-insurance against oblivion.
Mr. Bush was writing about a time when the only mode of transportation, other than walking, was by horse. So, blacksmiths would have been nearly as numerous as gas stations are today.
John F. S. Smith (b.1828) was a Flemington blacksmith, son of Elder Mahlon Smith & Phoebe Dilts, husband of Rachel M. Larew. There was a Charles T. Green working as a blacksmith in the 1850 census for Bethlehem Twp., husband of Sally Ann Tway, and son of Prudence Jackson and John Green, blacksmith of Delaware Twp.
James Morris Bunn (1822-1903) was more of a carriage maker than a blacksmith; he married 1) Catherine Cregar and 2) Sarah Ann Hinkley. Elisha Waldron (1809-1868), blacksmith, married Mary Ann Hoffman in 1838. In the 1850 census he was listed as a farmer, next to 55-year-old blacksmith, Garret L. (not C.) Emmons (1792-1858) of Tewksbury. I have no information on J. I. Scarfour of Milford nor on the many others in northern towns (Cokesbury, White House and Mechanicsville). I am also surprised there were not more blacksmiths listed for the Amwells, Flemington, Raritan, Kingwood, etc.
Chair Makers: R. Foster of Clinton; Robert Crossley of Lambertville (Kirkbride always spells it “Lambertsville”).
Cabinet Makers: George A. Evans of Flemington; A. Blackwell of Lambertville; J. Wolbert of Frenchtown; C. E. Hart of Milford; Peter Mellick of New Germantown.
Clock and Watch Makers: James Callis of Flemington; J. Probasco of Lambertville.
James Callis (c.1802-1863) and brother John Callis operated their clock and watch making shop in Flemington as early as 1826, when they put an ad in the newly created Hunterdon Gazette. Callis, son of Wm Callis, was married to Ann Gallaher of Pennsylvania, and had at least six children with her.
The census of 1850 showed that residing with the family was a young man named John C. Coon, age 20, who would become one of the most entertaining jewelry merchants to advertise in the Gazette. But he had not yet set up shop, so the Directory made no mention of him.
Coach and Carriage Makers: P. Case and A. Cronce of Clinton; S. Stout of Frenchtown; J. Cronce and Swather & Higgins of Milford; J. Rosenburg and James Bunn of New Germantown; Benyon Dunham of Pottersville; John Cotauch of Mechanicsville.
I have no information on these people.
Druggists: J. H. Higgins of Flemington; A. H. Titus and J. Seabrook of Lambertville.
Joseph H. Higgins (1820-1884) , son of Israel Higgins & Polly Holcombe, was married to Margaret Bellis (1824-1911), daughter of Wm Rockafellar Bellis, the hotel “proprietor” mentioned below, and Mary Ellen Cramer. His drugstore on Flemington’s Main Street was very well advertised in the Hunterdon Gazette; hardly an issue came out without a Higgins ad in it somewhere.
James Seabrook (1775-1852), son of Daniel Seabrook & Mercy Little, married in 1809, Merriam Lambert (1782-1868) daughter of Sen. John Lambert and Hannah Little. Seabrook’s pharmacy was well-advertised in the Hunterdon Gazette; his store was located on Bridge Street next to the canal.
Dentists: Mr. Carroll of Flemington; P. Van Pelt of Clinton.
Note: There was a P. Van Pelt listed as a Clinton attorney. Could they have been the same?
Flour and Feed Store Proprietors: Wm. R. Morse of Flemington; Suydam & McPherson of White House; Large & Ramsey of White House Depot. It appears that Whitehouse Station was called White House Depot before a post office was established there.
Only a few Grist Mills Proprietors are given: J. Parry of Clinton; G. B. Omer and L. Parsons of Lambertville; Samuel Vansyckle of Little York; S. Vam of Mount Pleasant; M. Thomas of Milford; J. C. Rafferty of New Germantown; Aaron R. Sutton of Fairmount; Sering Potter of Pottersville.
Samuel Vansyckel of Little York (1813-1894) was the son of John Vansyckle & Mary Calvin, and married Margaret Opdycke; the family moved to Pennsylvania where Margaret died. Samuel ended up in Buffalo, NY.
As Mr. Bush points out, there were many more grist mill operators than this. There was one on just about every stream.
Hardware Dealers: Abraham V. Bonnell of Flemington; John V. Higgins of Clinton; Amasa Ely & Son of Lambertville.
Abraham Victor Bonnell (1809-1872) was a very prominent resident of Flemington, who opened a hardware store in Flemington in 1846, and was elected Freeholder the next year.
“J. Higgins” was John V. Higgins. I do not have much information on him, but on May 24, 1848, the Gazette featured an ad for John V. Higgins’ hardware store in Clinton. “A. Ely” was Amasa Ely (1797-1854), son of Col. George Ely, Jr. and Susannah Farley, married to Alida Brittain. They had two sons, John and Samuel, who may have been the “Co.” in Amasa Ely & Co.
Physicians: J. F. Schenck of Flemington; Henry Field and J. Manners of Clinton; Cicero Hunt of Ringoes; J. Pursell of Frenchtown; H. Okem (Holcombe?) of Everittstown; H. Hughes of Bloomsbury; W. Johnson of White House; Charles Bartolette of Milford; John Honey of New Germantown; Dr. Field of Mount Pleasant.
Dr. John F. Schenck was a large property owner as well as a purveyor of Schenck’s Pulmonic Syrup, which was advertised widely & frequently in Flemington newspapers. Henry Field (1805-1878) came to Hunterdon from Lamington, Somerset Co. and married Ann Kline (1814-1899) in 1831.
Dr. Cicero Hunt (1800-1876) was born in Mercer County and set up his practice in Ringoes in 1828. He quit in 1863, handing his practice over to Cornelius W. Larison.
Charles Rush Bartolette (1825-1866), son of Rev. Charles Bartolette & Martha Rush, married Ann Maria Carpenter (1830-1902), d/o George Carpenter & Elizabeth Wilson.
Sheet Iron Workers: H. Park of Flemington; W. Lippincott of Milford.
Newspaper Publishers: George Seymour (Hunterdon County Democrat) and Henry Clay Buffington (Hunterdon Gazette) of Flemington; C. Clark of Lambertville.
I believe that the well-remembered Lambertville Beacon did not start publishing until after 1850. Who was C. Clark and what was the name of his paper?
The list of Tailors and Drapers, like several others, is too long to give in full. Let these be representatives: John Robert Hill & Alexander Hill [brothers] of Flemington; M. Taylor of Lambertville; A. Stone of Frenchtown; J. L. Chamberlin and Joseph Durant of Mechanicsville.
Hotel Proprietors: John Hall, Asa Jones, W. R. Bliss of Flemington.
That has to hurt: if Bush is right that people whose names were listed had paid for the privilege, then William Rockafellar Bellis (1785-1855) must have been annoyed to see his name as W. R. Bliss. Bellis owned the tavern house & lot at the forks in Main Street at the Presbyterian Church, previously owned by Elnathan Moore.
Here’s a little oddity: back in 1811, a John Hall, together with partner Joakim Hill, bought the Union Hotel from Neal & Sarah Hart and then bought out Hill the next year. Then just a year after that, on August 2, 1813, Hall sold the tavern/hotel back to Neal Hart. I could find no other instance of a John Hall owning a hotel in Flemington. If he was operating it in 1850, it must have been as a tenant. In fact, the map of Raritan Township, published in 1850, shows the “Union House, kept by Mr. Hall.” The Raritan Township census for 1850 identified a John D. Hall as a tavern keeper, and in 1860 as a restaurant keeper. In 1863 when John D. Hall was signed up for the draft, he was a “bartender of Raritan Township.”
The owner of the hotel in 1850 was Mahlon C. Hart, son of Neal & Sarah Hart. But in May of 1850, they sold it to the partnership of Charles Bartles, Alexander V. Bonnell and Judiah Higgins, who later on rented it to hotel keeper George Fritts Crater.
Asa Jones (1792-1871) was owner of the County Hotel, on the west side of Main Street, where the Post Office is now. Hotels, continued:
S. Morse and Wm. P. Brewer of Lambertville; Samuel Trimmer of Quakertown; W. Morris of Ringoes; Daniel Bernard Rogan of Saxtonville (Raven Rock);3 William C. Mettler of Frenchtown; and N. N. Bowman of White House Depot.
There is a bit more to say about Frenchtown hotels, which comes at the end of the article.
Iron Foundries: Potter & Dunham of Pottersville: Quakertown Foundry of Quakertown. (The Hiram Deats foundry between Quakertown and Cherryville).
Lumber Merchants: H. & P. H. Matthews of Lambertville; Tinsman & Rittenhouse of Milford; and Hedges & Reading of Frenchtown.
Notice that all the lumber merchants worked from river towns. That is because much of the lumber being used in Hunterdon County in 1850 came from Pennsylvania. The last-named Company was John G. Reading of Flemington and his brother-in-law William H. Hedges, as described in “A Store, A Bank, A Mansion.”
Merchants and Dealers in Dry Goods and Groceries:. Holcombe & Brown, William P. Emery, Anderson & Nevius, Farley & Jones of Flemington; J. & A. C. Barber and Carver & Williamson (Williams?) of Lambertville; S. Oakem of Quakertown; Hoffman, Fort & Finley of Clinton; J. M. Johnson of Hamden; J. W. Williamson of Ringoes; M. Prevost, Thatcher & Slater of Frenchtown; Peter Davis of White House Depot.
Because I have lately been researching general stores in Flemington, this list is very interesting to me. Holcombe & Brown were John Runkle Holcombe (1811-1855). Brown may have been Aaron V. Brown (1821-1891), married to Elizabeth Vanderveer. They left for Chicago.
William P. Emery is described in “A Store, A Bank, A Mansion” and will no doubt be reappearing. Anderson & Nevius were William Evans Anderson (1826-1884) and Peter I. Nevius (1824-1894) who took over the old Reading store next to the Union Hotel. And lastly, Farley and Jones were John Reading Farlee (1823-1878) and John L. Jones (1822-1904), son of hotel keeper Asa Jones.
Lambertville proprietors, J. & A. C. Barber were Johnson Barber (1793-1860) & Augustus Craven Barber (1819-1901). Carver & Williamson would be Joel Carver, Esq. The Williamson storekeeper of Lambertville is a mystery.
The J. W. Williamson of Ringoes is also a little questionable. There was a Dr. Jacob W. Williamson (1821-1852), s/o Abraham T. Williamson & Penelope Sutphen practicing medicine in the Ringoes area, but the storekeeper was probably Jacob Suydam Williamson (1816-1860), son of Jacob Williamson, Esq. & Martha Baldwin.
The rest of the merchants are not known to me.
“Miscellaneous”: G. Rohl, brewer; J. Mills, barber; and I. & H. Sproat, twine manufacturers of Lambertville; P. Hilton, cotton factory in Bloomsbury; Samuel Vansyckle, oil mill, distiller of Little York; Samuel Hill & Son, pottery in Flemington; Wm. Egbert & Son, tanners and courier of Pattenburg; and R. L. Williamson, wind mill proprietor of Frenchtown.
The last name should be Williams, not Williamson. Many of us still have pleasant recollections of R. L. Williams, the jolly old auctioneer and “windmill man.” His strongest expletive was “gash darn it!” and his name for any peculiar or unknown instrument was “bulldozer.” His son, “Young Bobby,” was the outstanding orator in the Frenchtown Debating Society of my early days. An able and flowery speaker he certainly was. Sad to say, he died young, never. reaching the full measure of his promising capabilities. R. L. Williams died in 1892.
According to Rick Epstein,4 Robert L. Williams, generally known as “Uncle Bobby,” was the one who built Frenchtown’s famous National Hotel this same year, 1850. He was also “an auctioneer and manufacturer of grain cradles and fanning mills. These were wooden cabinets with a fan inside that would blow the chaff from the wheat, and, according to his obituary, Williams was known as “the Windmill Man.”
Bush had identified Wm C. Mettler as proprietor of the Frenchtown Hotel, and said nothing about Williams owning a hotel. Apparently, Uncle Bobby’s new hotel had not been constructed when the Directory was published. The hotel Mettler was proprietor of was the old Rail Road House, which came to be known as the Frenchtown Inn. According to Rick Epstein, William C. Mettler was also, in later years, proprietor of the National Hotel, built by Robert L. Williams.
Warren Better Represented
For some reason, there is great disparity in the length of certain lists for Hunterdon and of corresponding lists for Warren. The list for Hunterdon has 10 blacksmiths, the list for Warren has 58; Hunterdon 29 hotel keepers and Warren 58; Hunterdon has 9 proprietors of grist mills, while Warren has 50. Of all our numerous sawmills, only the one of Sering & Potter, at Pottersville is noted; Warren shows 33. We have no bricklayers and plasterers listed; Warren has 26. Our list of physicians contains 11 names, Warren’s has 23; no weavers for Hunterdon, for Warren 8; not one cooper in Hunterdon, though cooper shops were common here; Warren lists nine, and probably might have listed many more.
In area and population, these two counties are approximately equal. The discrepancies, therefore, indicate either that the canvassing was more thoroughly done in Warren, or that our busy men were too modest or too economical to seek enrollment in this Directory, no doubt useful when issued, and certainly interesting after more than four score years.
It was something of a disappointment not to find enrolled in the Directory at least one of the good old blacksmiths whom I knew so well a few years later, and watched with so much interest. They certainly were making the sparks fly while the canvassing was in progress. It is noticed that Stockton (Centre Bridge), Brookville and Prallsville, are not mentioned, though all were lively, the last being a busy hamlet. Of course, several villages and boroughs in the northern part of the county, having received their present names and achieved most of their distinction since that time, have no mention; but it appears that most of their localities were overlooked. Even historical Pittstown is not represented by a single name. On the other hand, some places that figure prominently in the Directory as the scenes of varied activities, have lost most of their old-time importance.
But Hunterdon does boldly display one industry that Warren fails to show: “Stage Routes” with distances from Flemington to Lambertville, Trenton and Philadelphia; also, from Flemington to Quakertown, Clinton and Belvidere. If we cannot show equality in many ways, we can prove that we were “on the go.” If anybody doubts that we have kept up with that delectable part of life’s activities, let him watch us on any excusable occasion. But if he should wish to go from Flemington to Stockton, he would find that he is in for either a private conveyance or a walk, very much as it was eighty-three years ago.
Mr. Bush is pointing out that the route from Flemington to Stockton, i.e., Route 523 south, was not the major road that Route 31 was, running north to Clinton and south to Trenton.
I am a little stumped by the route “from Flemington to Quakertown, Clinton & Belvidere,” as there is no direct road from Flemington to Quakertown. What sort of “stage route” was he thinking of? The best route to Belvidere today is Route 31 from Clinton. But then, many roads in Hunterdon have changed quite a bit since 1850 as more and more houses were built and travel routes changed.