A follow-up to Egbert T. Bush’s article, “Boarshead Tavern One of the Earliest to be Established” 

In 1896, Egbert T. Bush presented a paper to the Hunterdon County Historical Society titled “Croton and Vicinity.”1 As part of his survey, Mr. Bush gave a brief history of the Boarshead Tavern.

 “The Boar’s head tavern, less than a mile south of Croton, was the original in this vicinity, so far as any one now living knows. The old house is still standing, a relic of by-gone days. Old citizens used to tell the writer that if its walls were gifted with speech, they could a tale unfold. But that is not history. Who built the house, or when it was built, we are unable to ascertain. Its early keepers have all fallen asleep and many of them have fallen out of memory. The earliest of whom we have any knowledge was Joseph Smith.”

Sadly, the house, with its well-informed walls, is no longer standing. And like the landmark (and now vanished) tavern, Joseph Smith has also disappeared. I can find nothing about him, and presume his name only survived in the memories of the oldest residents of the area who spoke with Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush wrote an article in 1930 about the tavern, based on his earlier essay, but, to my surprise, he could not name any 18th century tavern keepers. I have found several names associated with the tavern at this early period, and they are all men—unlike Buchanan’s Tavern, which was run by Delilah Buchanan. It must be said, I think, that none of these men could have managed without supportive wives. Customers expected to have dinners along with their beer and whiskeys, as well as a relatively clean place to sleep. The wives made this possible, while raising large families at the same time. But those wives never applied for tavern licenses.

In the following, I will be somewhat inconsistent about the spelling of the tavern’s name. Sometimes it was the Boars Head, and other times it was the Boarshead. I can’t see much of a pattern, except that Boars Head tended to be an earlier use, and the road of that name was almost always Boarshead.

I must also note that the following history is rather murky. The records from this period are just not very helpful, making it hard to come to clear-cut conclusions.

Abraham Bonnell

The most likely first tavern keeper was Abraham Bonnell. He is thought to have been at the Boars Head as early as 1751, although I have not yet found evidence of that. According to Charles Boyer,2

 “Boar’s Head tavern, which was located on the road from Ringo’s to Quakertown, was one of the important inns of the early days. The earliest mention so far found, of this tavern is on April 6, 1756, when a tract of land in the Great Swamp was advertised to be sold “at the Boar’s Head Tavern near the Premises.” {emphasis added} At that time it was being kept by Abraham Bonnel.”

I found that advertisement in NJA News Extracts, 1756-1761 (p. 187). It was a sale of property made by Andrew Reed, dated Trenton April 3, 1758, not 1756, and published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 1528, April 6, 1758. It said nothing about Abraham Bonnell.

“On Wednesday, the 19th of this instant April, will be set up at public Vendue a certain Tract of Land in the Great Swamp in Amwell in the County of Hunterdon containing about 200 acres, whereon is a large quantity of Timber mostly white Oak and Poplar, with a convenient Stream for a Saw Mill. Great Part of it may be made into good Meadow, being naturally a good Soil, and watered by several constant Springs. The Vendue to be held at the Boar’s Head Tavern, near the Premises. Any Person inclining to view the above Tract, may apply to George Reading, Esq.”

This was the only entry for Boars Head in NJA News 1756-61. There was no entry for Abraham Bonnell. Andrew Reed seemed to be the sort of person who sold property for others, so I’m not certain that he was the owner of this tract of land near the Boars Head. The stream referred to could have been Plum Brook or even the Wickecheoke. Nothing further about this property was advertised.

A later tavern application by Daniel Pegg in 1762 states that Abraham Bunnell kept the tavern while it was owned by Sheriff John Allen.

I doubt that Abraham Bonnell stayed long at the Boarshead. He bought a tract of 250 acres near the Capoolon Creek in 1752, and in the 1760s bought land near Clinton, where the landmark Bonnell tavern was established. He died in 1768, having identified himself in his will as an innholder of what was then Kingwood Township.

Daniel Pegg, Sr.  & Jr., and Philip Bevin, Sr. & Jr.

The next innkeeper that Charles Boyer found was Daniel Pegg.3 He wrote:

In the application for a tavern license filed with the court in 1762, by Daniel Pegg, he said “That ye house in ye Grate Swamp Commonly Called & known by ye Name of Boars head, was purchased by John Allen the Present Sheriff, while it was a Tavern & was kept by one Abraham Bunnell ye Said Allen gave Consideration more for its being a Tavern but since J. Allen purchased could not get a Proper person to keep the House til Now.”

From this we learn that the tavern was closed for a period before Pegg rented it.”

According to Snell’s History of Hunterdon (p. 260), John Aller was Sheriff in 1762, not John Allen; it was a one-year term. Either Snell or the person writing out the tavern application was incorrect. Possibly Snell was since there is no evidence of a John Aller being active that early in Hunterdon. Apparently Allen/Aller bought the tavern lot before 1762, probably in the 1750s.

Daniel Pegg may have been the tavern keeper in 1762, but he did not own the tavern lot. I suspect the owner was Philip Bevin.

Philip Bevin was born about 1730, but he did not have a long life. If he was the purchaser of the property, he only had it for a few years. He wrote his will, as yeoman of Amwell, on October 27, 1764, leaving his property to his wife Elizabeth during her lifetime, and then to his only child, “our young son Philip,” when he reached the age of 21.4 The will was not recorded until April 1766, but the Inventory was taken on January 28, 1766, suggesting that Philip Sr. died about December 1765 or early January 1766. This only son Philip must have been born about 1755-1760.

Daniel Pegg was also born about 1730, and married his wife Elizabeth in the early 1750s. Their seven children were born from 1754 to about 1763. We know Pegg was present in Hunterdon County as early as 1747. He was listed in the account of Richard Heath of Bethlehem who died that year, although the account was not recorded until 1757. In 1751 he witnessed the will of William Emley of Kingwood. Abraham Bonnell made Emley’s inventory, so it seems as if the two might have been acquainted.

In 1762 and 1763, Pegg was licensed to run a tavern at the Boars Head. There are also licenses on record for him in 1768 and 1770.5 He is likely to have gotten licenses in the intervening years that were not recorded or were otherwise lost.

One possible explanation for the gap between 1763 and 1768 is that Daniel Pegg’s wife Elizabeth died sometime between those years. The circumstances are not known. But by 1771, Daniel Pegg had married a second wife, Catharine (maiden name not known). She and Daniel Pegg may have had two sons, Nathan, c.1770 and Jacob c.1775.

The Boarshead Road

In 1766, the year that Philip Bevin Sr. died, the Boarshead Road was officially laid out, probably following an already well-worn path. It ran due west from Route 579, where the tavern was, until it came to the Wickecheoke Creek where it turned north until it hit the road running to “Baptist-Town.” Here is the description of the route the road was to take:

“Beginning at a Stump standing in the aforesaid Road Leading from Kingwood through the great Swamp to Trenton, being a corner of Philip Bevins Land thence West between the said Bevins former Lott and a Lott of Land purchased of John Hawking and Land of Houted Rissley {Hanteel Risler} and John Robins” . . . etc. 6

The “Road Leading from Kingwood through the great Swamp to Trenton” was Route 579, sometimes known as the Easton-Trenton Turnpike even though it was never officially a turnpike road. Some old records referred to the Boarshead Road as the road to Baptistown, which seems to make no sense. But the layout of these 18th century roads differed from the roads as we know them. Today, the Boarshead Road ends at Whiskey Lane, but in the 18th century, there was no Whiskey Lane—the part that meets with the Boarshead Road and runs north was considered an extension of the Boarshead Road, which explains how it could be considered a road to Baptistown. The southern part of Whiskey Lane was not surveyed until the 1850s. Here is a detail of a map drawn in 1828 by Thomas Gordon:

"A Map of the State of New Jersey with part of the adjoining States Compiled under the Patronage of the Legislature of said State By Thomas Gordon" 1828
Detail of “A Map of the State of New Jersey with part of the adjoining States Compiled under the Patronage of the Legislature of said State By Thomas Gordon” 1828

Here is a detail of an 1839 Geological Survey Map of New Jersey, again showing the location of the Boars Head Tavern:

1839 USGS Map
1839 USGS Map

 Both maps show the Boars Head being on the east side of Route 579, directly across from the intersection with the Boarshead Road. They also show how Whiskey Lane becomes what is now Locktown School Road leading south to Locktown. Between 1828 and 1839, a road was built north of Boarshead Road, connecting the Baptistown Road with a road that led to Flemington. The 1828 Map also shows the Wickecheoke running along the path of today’s Plum Brook, rather than north to Croton.

What is odd is that the road description made no mention of Daniel Pegg or of a tavern.

On September 10, 1771, Daniel Pegg and wife Catharine of Amwell mortgaged four lots totaling 83 acres to Samuel Tucker Esq. of Trenton.7 The first lot of 42 acres bordered the great road, land of Abraham Bonnell (now Daniel Pegg’s), Joseph Thatcher, and Philip Bevin. I don’t think Pegg bought the lot from Samuel Tucker; Tucker was basically a financier and investor. What is crucial is that matching the lot as drawn from the metes & bounds given in the mortgage with the tax map indicates that Daniel Pegg’s property was north of the tavern lot, and Philip Bevin was in possession of it.

Shortly after this, Daniel Pegg’s wife Catharine left him, apparently for another man. That man was John Robins, of the Buchanan’s Tavern area, who also owned land on Boarshead Road. Despite this, Daniel Pegg carried on; he got licenses to run a tavern in 1774 and 1775.8 There was another license application for Daniel Pegg that has no date but states that the tavern was “in Amwell where a Tavern has been kept this twenty years past.”9 If ever there was a time to date a document this is it. Since the license had to be issued before the death of Daniel Pegg, we can safely conclude that the tavern was in operation ever since the late 1750s.

On May 15, 1778, Pegg’s former wife Catharine married John Robins.10 Then, about September 1778, Daniel Pegg died intestate. On September 19, 1778, Administration of his estate was granted to his son Daniel Pegg Jr. who was taxed in Amwell in 1780 and 1786. Previously, in 1779, he was taxed in Kingwood Township, and then later, in 1797 he was again taxed in Kingwood.

Daniel Pegg died in the middle of the Revolutionary War. At that time, all taverns were put to use as places to hear the latest news and debate the important happenings both with the progress of the war and the acts of the new state legislature. Ringoes Tavern was probably the most important of these gathering places, but the Boars Head had to be a center of activity for those who lived in the Swamp. Trouble is, no records survive to tell us what went on there.

We do know that in 1776 Philip Bevin was enlisted in the Continental Army and, as his obituary stated, served under Gen. Washington at Trenton, Germantown, Princeton, Amboy and other places, and was honorably discharged at the end of the war. He lived until 1839, when his obituary lauded his service in the Revolution, and mentioned that he had died at the home of his daughter in Sergeantsville NJ, without stating that daughter’s name.11 So who was running the tavern while Philip Bevin was off fighting the British? Peter Teeple.

Peter Teeple

The daughter of Daniel Pegg Sr. was Sarah Pegg (1754-1852) who married Peter Teeple about 1775. Where Peter Teeple came from I cannot say. Although Teeple is a German name, it was not included in the book More Palatine Families by H. Z. Jones, nor in Chambers’ Early Germans.

Peter Teeple was listed in the 1780 Amwell tax ratables for January, as a householder owning 80 acres, 2 horses, 3 cattle and one pig, and living with him was one single man with horse, identified as Daniel Pegg. This was Sarah’s brother Daniel Jr., who was still administering his father’s estate, and who probably sold some of his father’s property to Peter Teeple. (There is no deed recorded to show such a sale.) By June 1780, Daniel Pegg was no longer living with the Teeples.

According to Charles Boyer, Peter Teeple took over the tavern from Daniel Pegg in 1774, and was the landlord there for twelve years. He quotes Teeple’s tavern license application for 1783, in which Teeple claimed “he had been keeping an inn or house of entertainment for several years past at the sign called Boars Head.”12 So it seems that Teeple was keeping the tavern in 1780. In 1784 Teeple was granted another tavern license for the Boars Head tavern in Amwell Township.13 Those who signed his petition were Jasper Smith, John Trimmer, William Barnes, John Besson, Peter and John Hoppock. (There were many other names I had a hard time reading.) Teeple was taxed on a tavern that year, along with 85 acres (36 unimproved).14 He got a tavern license again in 1785 “where he has kept a house for several years past.”15 This is the last year that Peter Teeple got a tavern license.

Apparently, Teeple was having trouble paying his brother-in-law for the tavern lot. In the October term 1785 of the Hunterdon Court of Common Pleas, the court ruled in Daniel Pegg’s favor regarding a debt owed by Teeple for £

In 1786, Peter Teeple was taxed as a householder with 80 acres, 31 unimproved, 2 horses, 3 cattle and 1 pig. But he was not taxed on a tavern. Daniel Pegg was also taxed in Amwell this year, as a single man living with John Trimmer, but by 1790 he had moved to Kingwood Township. That was the year that the Sheriff was ordered to levy against Teeple’s real estate to satisfy Daniel Pegg’s loan of £97 and another from Moore Furman for £24. He had already sold off half of his property, for in 1790 he was taxed on only 40 acres, 30 unimproved, with 1 horse, and 2 cattle, but no tavern. Under writ of fieri facias, Teeple’s farm of 39 acres was sold to Joseph Thatcher of Philadelphia for £128 on November 5, 1790.17

Here’s a good example of the perils of assuming things. I thought this deed was for the tavern lot, but when I plotted it out, I discovered it is for land just north of the lot, straddling Route 579, and to make matters worse, it does not indicate the owner of the tavern lot. There is some reason to think it was still in Philip Bevin’s possession, as he was shown owning the land just south of the Teeple lot on the Delaware Township side of Route 579. Other bordering owners were Joseph Thatcher, John Trimmer and John Robins. Later records suggest that Bevin retained ownership of the tavern lot. Apparently, Peter Teeple, like Daniel Pegg, was running a tavern that he did not own.

By 1797, Peter Teeple and wife Sarah were living in Kingwood Township where they were taxed. He lived a long life, dying on November 29, 1834, age 85. Wife Sarah outdid him; she died on April 14, 1852, age 98. They were both buried in the Nixon-Craven Cemetery in Franklin Township.

William Jones

Peter Teeple’s indebtedness seems to have brought an end to his tavernkeeping. In 1786, William Jones applied for a tavern license. The application read:

 “Whereas he [William Jones] hath hired the late Tavern & dwelling House of Peter Teeple in the Township of Amwell, called and known by the name of the Boars head, which has been kept as a Tavern for a great number of years past.”18.

Note the expression “hired the late Tavern.” That seems to settle the matter, that tavern keepers were not tavern owners in this case. It’s quite possible that William Jones was the son of the famous Revolutionary War tavern keeper Thomas Jones (c.1730-1801) of Lebanon Twp. (Clinton). But I have no good information about him. William Jones was not listed in the Amwell tax ratables for either 1786 or 1790.

Back to Philip Bevin

Philip Bevin probably started a family after he returned from the war, but so far, I do not know the name of his wife, and as mentioned before, his daughter’s name is not known.19

Bevin was still at this location in 1786 when Amwell Township made plans for maintenance of “the Road beginning at the end of Bevin’s land and Running towards George Wert to the Kingwood line.”20 This was the basic route of the Boarshead Road, with Philip Bevin living at its eastern end, which is where the tavern lot was located, and George Wert living on what is now Whiskey Lane. “Phillip Bivin” was listed in the 1786 tax ratables for Amwell Township as a householder with 64 acres and 30 acres unimproved, 2 horses, 2 cattle, valued at £23.9.0. He was not taxed on a tavern. Daniel Pegg Jr. was listed as a single man living with John Trimmer.

Judging from his appearances in other people’s estate records, Philip Bevin remained in Amwell for the most part, although there is reason to think he moved to Philadelphia for awhile. In 1794 he advertised his property for rent for a period of 4 years.

“Philip Beaven [sic] will rent a plantation containing 50 acres, with a dwelling house and kitchen adjoining, and two orchards, situate in Amwell Township, Hunterdon County, in the forks of the main road that leads to Quaker-Town and Baptist-Town, about 5 miles from each and the same from Flemington. For terms, apply to the subscriber, living thereon. Amwell, February 10, 1794.”21

This location, “at the forks of the main road to Quakertown and Baptistown,” is intriguing, as there is no such place today. The main road could have been Route 579. And Boarshead Road, as it was originally configured, was known as the road to Baptistown, which means the intersection of Route 579 and Boarshead Road could have been this “forks.” Too bad the notice made no mention of a tavern.

Eventually, Bevin’s property was sold to George Holcombe, who went bankrupt, and whose assignees sold it to Jeremiah King. In King’s will of August 27, 1821, he left to his daughter Sarah King Pyatt, the Bevin lot purchased from the assignees of George Holcomb. He also left Sarah and husband Dr. James Pyatt “a lot whereon they now live commonly called the Boar’s Head Tavern.” Before we jump to conclusions, however, it should be remembered that Dr. Pyatt lived further north from the old Boars Head Tavern, and that his tavern was known as “The Upper Boarshead,” to distinguish it from the original.

So, it looks as if Philip Bevin owned the Boars Head Tavern in the later years of the 18th century, and acted as landlord to Daniel Pegg, Peter Teeple and William Jones. And I am fairly certain that the property eventually came into possession of Joseph Thatcher, who already owned a large amount of land just east of the tavern lot. Too bad I don’t have a deed to prove it.

On August 1, 1795, Philip Bevin gave a mortgage to George Holcombe. I really had my hopes up about this, but it turned out to be a lot of 24 acres on the west side of Route 579, so it could not be for the tavern lot.22

Even more disappointing were a set of deeds relating to a lot of 35.5 acres which had originally been sold by agents of Thomas and Richard Penn to Philip Bevin in 1756. Philip Bevin Jr. sold woodlots out of it from 1807 to 1812, but as it turned out, even though it was on the Raritan Twp. side of Route 579, this lot was well north of Croton, and once again, could not be the tavern lot.23

There are more tavern keepers to discuss: Nathaniel Thatcher, Andrew Heath, Francis Besson, John Sine, James Larew, and others. I hope to give them their due, in due time, but there are other stories to write that are demanding my attention. (Stories tend to do that.)

Postscript:  A Wild Goose Chase

Philip Bevins and Philip Bowers

For a time I thought I had gotten into trouble. It appeared that there might have been two Philip Bevins in Amwell at the same time. One of them came of age in time to fight in the Revolution and died in 1839. But there might have been another Philip Bevin who died in 1800. Regrettably he did not write a will, but his property was divided among his heirs in 1805. It took me a long time to find this because his name was Bowers, not Bevin. Could it really have been Bevin? There is no one else named Bowers with an estate in Hunterdon County in the NJA Index of Estates for Hunterdon County, and it is very easy to misread Bevins as Bowers in the old handwriting. On October 29, 1800, Administration of his estate was given to Catharine Bower and John Bower. Securites or fellowbondsmen were James Grigg, Jonathan Higgins Sr. and Wood Barcroft, all of Hunterdon County.

This Philip Bowers/Bevins division was abstracted by Phyllis D’Autrechy in her book More Records of Hunterdon County.24 It was only by scanning through her chapter on divisions that I stumbled on this estate. I never would have found it by visiting the Surrogate’s office and looking through the book of Divisions because it wasn’t recorded there. Phyllis found it in the Dockets. Today it is very hard to view the old estate dockets for Hunterdon. They are on microfilm but the tapes and reader are not the usual sort, and the reader is no longer working. So it is necessary to match the tape number with a number in the Hunterdon Archives. For this, you will definitely need help from Surrogate Susan Hoffman. If something happens to her, I fear the ability to connect the two numbers will be lost.

In any case, the docket states that the Bevin property began on the southwest side of the road leading from John Buchanan’s tavern towards Trenton (Route 579) and bounded by John Jewell, William Risler, Joseph Lequear, Henry Moore and William Merrill. I did some searching in my notes for these names, and have come to the conclusion that this property was not near the Boars Head tavern, but was probably somewhere south of Buchanan’s Tavern.

The Division listed the heirs of Philip Bowers:  widow Catharine Sr., children Mary Swallow, wife of Nicholas; John Bowers; Anna Pegg; Henry Bowers; Catharine Bowers Jr.; Elizabeth Bowers; Nicholas Bowers; Sarah Bowers; Amy Bowers; and William Bowers, some of whom are minors. Mrs. D’Autrechy wrote that the surveyor was probably John Lequear, but she did not indicate that there was a map. The fact that Bowers/Bevin’s daughter Anna had married into the Pegg family was certainly suggestive, but I have no record of a Pegg married to an Anna Bowers or Bevin. The records for this period leave a lot to be desired.

As it turned out, my answer was hiding in the Amwell tax ratables. Only one Philip Bevin was taxed in Amwell Township in January and June 1780 as a householder living on 45 acres. But there was also a Philip Bower who was taxed in January 1780, as a householder with 23 acres. In June 1780 he was taxed on the 23 acres, 1 horse, 1 cow, and two stills. A Nicholas Bower was also taxed that year.

In 1786, Nicholas Bower was taxed in Amwell as a householder, no acreage, with 5 houses and lots, plus 1 horse and 2 cows, while Philip Bower was taxed as a householder with 23 acres and 40 unimproved acres, 1 horse and 2 cows, and two stills. In 1790, Nicholas Bower was taxed on 6 house lots and one cow. Philip Bower was taxed on 24 acres and 44 acres, plus 2 horses and 3 cattle.

What the relationship between Philip and Nicholas Bower was, I cannot say, but I am convinced now that there really was a Philip Bower and that he definitely was not Philip Bevin.


  1. It was later published in the Hunterdon Republican on June 20, 1896.
  2. Old Inns and Taverns, Camden Co. Historical Society, 1962, pp. 230-231.
  3. Old Inns, p. 231.
  4. NJA 643J.
  5. NJ State Archives, Tavern Licenses, Vol. 2 p. 259-62
  6. Hunterdon Co. Road Book 1 p. 40.
  7. H.C. Mortgage 1-157. Neither Daniel Pegg nor Phillip Bevin were listed in “Colonial Conveyances,” the index to New Jersey’s earliest deeds.
  8. N. J. State Archives, Tavern Licenses, Vol. 3, pp. 262-264.
  9. N. J. State Archives, Tavern Licenses.
  10. I discussed Catharine Pegg Robins in Two Taverns at Robins Hill.
  11. There are two women named Bevin whose marriages were listed in the Hunterdon marriage records, Elizabeth who married John Douglass in 1804 and Catharine, who married John Carhart in 1808. Neither of these names appears in the 1840 census for Delaware Township, so I presume there was another daughter living there. There was no wedding notice in the Hunterdon Gazette, but that is not surprising since it did not begin publishing until 1825. There was nothing helpful in the marriage records published in NJArchives.
  12. Charles Boyer, Old Inns & Taverns, p. 231; State Archives, Tavern Licenses, Vol. 3 p. 343.
  13. State Archives. (I neglected to note which box and folder this license was filed in.)
  14. Amwell ratables, 1784
  15. State Archives, Tavern Licenses, Vol. 3, p. 344
  16. This suit was mentioned in deed book 15 page 412, for the lot just north of the Boars Head.
  17. Hunterdon Co. Deeds 15-412, 415
  18. NJ State Archives vol. 2, p. 212; Boyer, p. 231
  19. There is no Bevin file at the HCHS, and Ancestry.com was no help either.
  20. Amwell Minutes, May 17, 1786
  21. The New Jersey Gazette, cited in Notices from New Jersey Newspapers 1791-1795, by Thomas B. Wilson and Dorothy A. Stratford, p. 343.
  22. H. C. Mortgages, Book 2 p. 156.
  23. Deeds 14-229, 15-100, -101, -102. Deed 20-300, dated 1812, showed that Philip Bevin was living in Philadelphia. Wife Elizabeth was not named in the deed, so Bevin may have been a widower at this time.
  24. From D’Autrechy, More Records, vol. 1, p. 11, found in Docket #0766 1/2.