In 1929, Egbert T. Bush wrote an article about the neighborhood of Brookville, a hamlet just south of Stockton, on the Delaware River. It seems appropriate to publish the article now because it discusses a neighborhood near the homes of John and Gershom Lambert, who’s farms were described in my previous posts (The Two Lambert Farms, Sen. Lambert’s Farm and The Gershom Lambert Farm). It also happens that Mr. Bush himself lived not far from Brookville; his farm was on Sandy Ridge Road close to Route 523, just north of Stockton.
Perhaps a more important reason for publishing this now is that the Penn East Pipeline is scheduled to drill its way through this beautiful, environmentally sensitive and historic area.
The article is loaded with information, and I found myself a little overwhelmed trying to comment on all of it. Finally I decided the best way to share the article was to print it in full, mostly uninterrupted, and save my longer comments for the end. Note that, as usual, the photos and maps are added by me. None of Mr. Bush’s articles in the Democrat had illustrations.
BROOKVILLE AND UP THE HOLLOW
Valley of Horne’s Creek Alive With Old-time Human Interest
by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N.J.
published in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat, December 26, 1929
Brookville is now the lower extremity of Stockton, lying just where “Horne’s Creek spreads wide the mouth in astonishment that it cannot tumble directly into the Delaware as it did of old. The canal, the railroad and other of men’s contrivances block its way, so it does the next best thing. It quietly glides into the canal and goes down to the next creek where, as a beautiful waterfall, it laughingly slips over the edge of the viaduct into the Alexauken and with that to the river.
Tho scarcely two miles long and counting its meanderings, this is an interesting little stream. Beginning at the famous spring on the Van Dolah farm near the school-house1 it gathers water from numerous other springs as it winds thru the lowlands on the old-time farms of Henry Trout, Colonel John Sharp, Thomas Sharp and others, and makes its way down “Brookville Hollow” to the canal.
If you click on the map, you will see Brook Ville, with H. Deats S. Mill near the creek on the eastern side, and nearby the home of G [Garret] Wilson. If you follow the creek north, you will see it runs all the way to Sandy Ridge-Mt. Airy Road, which it no longer does. Not far from there are the homes of R. Sharp, J. Sharp. and J. Vandoler, with G. Vandoler across the road. Further up on Sandy Ridge Road is the home of R. Butterfoss.
The name Horne’s Creek is found in deeds of four score years ago, but why it was so named has not been made clear. If there were settlers by that name having important holdings on or near the stream, their location has not been found. It does appear that about 1840 Henry Horne farmed for Colonel Sharp and lived in a house then standing in the far upper corner of his lowland field. Thru inadvertence on the part of some surveyor or conveyancer, the creek may have taken its name from that circumstance. We do hear of a family by that name lower down the creek, but have not been able to find the location.2
Origin of Name Unknown
However the name may have originated, it is now almost forgotten; but the creek is none the less worthy of attention. For three-quarters of a mile up the Hollow the combination of pleasant road and shady dells and singing birds and sparkling creek makes a delightful walk for the student of men and nature on a summer day. The creek looks very mild as it plays along the roadside, doing no work for man but rippling sweetly over its stony bed in places, and then seeming to be merely idling the time away.
Here I must interject–If you try walking Brookville Hollow Road today, you must stay alert. The road is very narrow and unpaved, and winding, so that oncoming cars are not visible until they are nearly upon you. But it is a beautiful walk.
But it was not always mild or always idle. In days long past it was dammed here and there for industrial purposes. Like most little streams in the early days, it had to work as well as play. Its first mill, so far as known, was an oil mill on the right-hand side of the road as you go up the Hollow, standing at the upper corner of the Phillips lot, then owned by Daniel Butterfoss. The main dam was much farther up and a smaller one opposite to the mill. The water was led across the road near the top of the little hill above, from which elevation to the mill there was ample fall for a big overshot wheel.3
The builder of the mill and the date of building are unknown. Old people say “It was the old mill,” but have no record of its origin. Daniel Butterfoss was there quite early in the past century making linseed oil and doing other things with the mill.
It appears to have been later a part of the Deats holdings, but not to have been operated by him. James Snowden was grinding feed there about 1870, and Samuel T. Wilson a few years later. The decrepit old mill was abandoned soon after. Only a hole in the ground embellished with a big millstone at the bottom is now left to remind us of the many things done there in the busy days of old.4
The Deats Manufactory
A still more important industry than the oil mill was established by Hiram Deats nearly eighty years ago. In 1851 he bought several tracts of land here from Daniel Butterfoss and others, and built a combined sawmill, workshop and foundry on the corner at the junction of the road from Brookville Hollow with what is now Main Street. The building stood on the right bank of Horne’s Creek and over a small brook that comes into it from the eastward, crossing the road a few rods above the junction and joining the creek near the street line.
On the opposite bank of the creek he built the big square dwelling now owned by Calvin L. Smith, and standing out so prominently as you wind around the curve on your way up from Lambertville.
The house still stands today, truly a landmark. For a time it was owned by Albion Press. It is shown here in a photograph taken from the west side of the canal, November 2016. Hiram E. Deats was born on May 20, 1870, son of Hiram Deats, Sr. and his second wife, Elmira Stevenson.
Here, many years later, was born his youngest son and only surviving child, Hiram E. Deats, of—well, say Flemington Junction, but don’t try to limit him and his work to any particular place.
In this factory were manufactured stoves and the Deats plows so closely allied to Hunterdon County agriculture in those days. He is said to have had here for a time a partner named Higgins, but nobody appears to remember him, and it is certain that Deats owned the realty; also that he was always the head of the business, whether here or elsewhere. This was no new business to him. It was merely a branch of a similar and more important enterprise then flourishing at Pittstown.
After being carried on here for a long time—in its later years I think under the management of his nephew Hiram Deats, Jr.—this branch of the business was abandoned over forty years ago, and the building was gradually dismantled. While there was enough of it left, Calvin G. Strimple, who bought the property in 1889, fitted up the remnant as a store house, where he sold tobacco, feed and various articles for some years.
Destruction of a Flood
One showery afternoon in the late 90’s, Horne’s Creek went mad and soon showed the astonished natives what a peaceful little stream can do when it takes a good running start. It broke the big upper dam and came tearing down, sweeping everything before it. Even the storehouse could not withstand its fury. Only broken walls and the arches thru which the smaller stream passed under the old building to join the larger, now mark the place of those earlier industries so important to the life of the little hamlet.
An Expert Stone Mason
Among the early settlers up the Hollow was Ezekiel Everitt, a stone mason, who lived on what is now known as the Frank E. Pierce lot. He is reputed to have been an expert at his trade, and was master mason at the building of many dwellings still standing in good condition hereabout, and still displaying that peculiar coat of rough-casting which old people say always spells Ezekiel Everitt. He had a daughter, Mary Ann, and six sons—Charles, Ely, Thomas, Ezekiel, Henry and William—all said to have been masons by trade. The name is now represented here by two of his grandson, Samuel and Theodore, and by one great-grandson, Charles.
Burroughs Parent married Mary Ann Everitt and lived in what is still known as the Parent house up the Hollow. Three of their children are now living in and about Stockton—Elizabeth, Charles and Joseph.
The pioneer Sharp in the Hollow was Robert, who settled on what was later the Thomas Sharp farm during or soon after the Revolution. That farm extended from below Brookville Hollow road northward across the road passing the Sandy Ridge Church and ending when it came to the Stockton-Sergeantsville road. The descendants say that this Robert Sharp paid $100 in Continental money for a set of china dishes, a few relics of which were recently sold at a public sale in Brookville. The value of a dollar in Continental money at the time of the purchase is not known.
The Holcombe Family
Allison Holcombe owned the property next to Ezekiel Everitt, now known as the Charles Fisher lot. His brother, Reading, lived in the house near the quarry, later owned by Charles Parent and abandoned several years ago because of dangerous blasting. The widowed mother of the Holcombes lived in the Pembroke Hunt house up the hollow. Allison’s wife was a daughter of Jonas Lake, then living in the house in Brookville now owned by Mary H. Buchanan, the oldest of the Sharp descendants hereabout.
The Romines were prosperous farmers here in the early days. Charles owned and farmed the place later owned by his son, Holcombe (“Oke”), and now owned by Holcombe’s son, Horace R. Other Romines were farther away—James on the Sergeantsville road, and Asa on “Pine Hill.”5
Daniel Butterfoss, already mentioned, raised a family of six sons and three daughters, namely, John Samuel, Andrew, Joseph, Charles, Augustus, Sarah Ann, Esther and Cordelia. Joseph, a carpenter, lived in Brookville and helped at the building of many now old houses there and elsewhere in the Boro. None bearing the family name are found here now.
Lost His Life in War
At the time of the Civil War, Edward Naylor owned what is now the John Crumm lot up the Hollow. Leaving his wife and two small daughters, Naylor went into the army and died there. One of the daughters married Timothy Giles of Trenton, the other married the late John F. Sherwood of Stockton.
Robert Sharp, 2nd, lived in the upper tenant house on the Colonel Sharp lowlands, and did the farming from 1844 to 1850. He was followed by Daniel Hunt, and after him came Daniel Warrick, remembered as one who spent his winters chiefly in working flax. Another house stood in the same field, nearer the creek. Ingham Waterhouse, a tanner, lived here for several years, beginning with 1852. He worked in the Lawshe tannery near Sergeantsville and in the tannery on the farm of John Barber, near Dilts’ Corner. Both houses, like all of their early occupants, are only memories now.
Short and narrow is the valley of this little creek, yet alive with old-time human interest. The crumbling ruins tell us much about rural life and rural activities in the days of old. The creek is forever babbling of old times, old people and old things. We loiter beside a quiet pool and are surprised by the low, soft voices of naiads crooning over stories sweet and stories tragic, of which we catch but words and broken phrases that can never be fitted together. Then we come back to reality and begin to wonder what it all means—the surprising changes from the slowness of days that are gone to the reckless rapidity of our own; what it means not to the dead past or to the living present, but to the human life of ages yet to come.
Mr. Bush’s lyrical description of the creek suggests just how much may be lost once Penn East has done its work laying its pipe across a creek with such a challenging topography as this. It hardly bears thinking on.
Here are some comments on the article.
Who Was the Horne of Horne Creek?
Henry Horne was not responsible for the name of the creek. That honor goes to Thomas Horne who bought a lot at the mouth of the creek in 1802 from Jonathan Conard.6 This lot was called “The Sawmill Lot” and ran from the mouth of Brookville Creek north to a point nearly half way from the Delaware River to the intersection with Grafton Road. That is pretty straightforward. But trying to establish the chain of title back to the original survey has proven to be problematic.
The Sawmill Lot
Jonathan Conard, “late of Pennsylvania,” purchased the lot of 17.5 acres, “known as the Saw Mill lott and property of Abner Hixon” on April 1, 1799 from John Anderson, Jr. and wife Rebecca.7 (The name is usually spelled Hixson.) When Abner Hixson could not pay his debts, his property was seized, and the mill lot was sold by Shf. John Anderson, Sr. on Jan. 1, 1797 to his son John Anderson, Jr.
Abner Hixson is not the earliest known owner of the lot—he was preceded by Noah Hixson, which we know from a mortgage that Abner Hixson got from David Chambers on April 1, 1784.8 The mortgage stated that Abner Hixson was mortgaging 40 acres for £100, “it being the one-half of 80 acres of land in Amwell that Noah Hixson bought from David Chambers.” I do not know what happened to the other 40 acres, nor how Abner Hixson’s 40 acres got reduced to 17.5 acres.
Note that the mortgage that Abner Hixson got from David Chambers in 1784 was witnessed by John Horn and Elizabeth Cavanagh, family names that are also connected with this lot.
Abner Hixson was a Revolutionary War veteran, the son of Judiah Hixson, Sr. (c.1725-c.1808), who also served in the Revolution. When Judiah Hixson wrote his will in 1808, he left 67 cents to each of his children, Abner, Matthew and Sarah. It appears he left the balance of his estate to a common-law wife named Anne Snook, to be divided between her children, Sarah, Elizabeth and John Snook, after her decease.9
I have tried to find some connection between Noah and Abner Hixson, but have not succeeded. I suspect that Noah Hixson moved west. It appears that Abner Hixson was the first to set up a mill in Brookville. But he could not make the payments on his mortgage and was sued by Chambers in 1797.
Going back further, David Chambers acquired 350 acres along the Delaware River in the 18th century from John Emley, but his deed was not recorded, nor is a deed of sale from Chambers to Noah Hixson. In 1792, part of that tract, 291 acres, came into the possession of the Anderson family (the John Sr. mentioned above) and contained much of present day Brookville and Stockton. Like Hixson, David Chambers was a Revolutionary War veteran, having served as a colonel in both the 2d and 3d NJ Regiments. He resigned his commission in 1779, under something of a cloud, but was granted a pension in 1834. He died at his home in Cranbury in 1842 at the age of 93.
The deed of January 1, 1797 in which Abner Hixson’s mill lot was sold to John Anderson, Jr. stated that Sheriff Anderson seized a certain lot of land in Amwell commonly known as the saw mill lott, sale to be held on Dec. 27, 1794, sold to John Anderson by the bid of Nathan Hixon and John Read who transferred their bid to Joshua Anderson, who transferred it to William Wilson, who transferred it to John Anderson, Jr., who bid the amount of £60, “and no one bidding higher,” the lot was sold to John Anderson. Why the bid was transferred so many times is a mystery to me.
As mentioned above, Anderson sold the lot to Jonathan Conard,10 who, with wife Hannah, sold it to Thomas Horn on May 2, 1807.11 But in another example of a mortgage that could not be paid, Thomas Horn/Horne was sued by John Anderson and forced to sell the sawmill property. (His fellow defendants were Ezra Shamp and Garret Wilson.) The 17.5-acre sawmill lot was purchased on May 4, 1811 by Peter Rockafellar of Amwell for $2,666.67.12 On August 6, 1811, Thomas Horn conveyed to Rockafellar for $10:
two lots or parcels of land in Amwell being a small part of the land whereon the aforesd Horn now lives, the first lot is for the convenience of the sd Rockafeller bringing a small stream of water in [?] saw mill pond or fore bay it being the north east corner of the aforesaid Thomas Horns lands adjoining lands of Garret Willson and the said Peter Rockafeller and contains within the bounds 2.5 rods square of land.
The second lot of lands is for the convenience of making the sd Peter Rockafeller saw mill yard larger and the road better and begins at black walnut stump in a line between sd Rockafeller and Horn and runs from thence 11 rods or near it on a south course to a cedar bush and from thence one rod on a west course to a stone and from thence round the [?] on the Bank on a South course to the old road supposed to contain one quarter of an acre more or less.13
Peter Rockafellar, himself a miller who lived near Locktown, kept the lot for only three years. On April 1, 1815, he and wife Elizabeth sold the mill lot of 17.5 acres to the partnership of William L. Prall, Jacob Lambert and John Cavanagh for $2,750, a slight profit.14 That deed described the beginning point of the survey as “the north side of the mouth of a Creek called Hornes Creek.” It also mentions that it was the same property that Thomas Horne conveyed to Peter Rockafellar in three separate deeds, but I have only found two of them.
The partners, William L. Prall, Jacob Lambert and John Cavanagh are so interesting (at least to me) that I feel I should postpone writing about them until I can give them an article of their own.
In my previous article (“A Wagon Cut In Half”), I described how Daniel Butterfoss had a falling out with his brother Ent. According to Mr. Bush, he was an important person in the Brookville neighborhood. The sale by Butterfoss to Deats took place on March 25, 1851, in which Butterfoss and wife Elizabeth of Delaware Township conveyed two tracts of land to Hiram Deats of Franklin Township for $7,000.15 Clearly the property was very valuable before Deats ever began building his improvements. What was conveyed was first of all the mill lot, which had been described as 17.5 acres for many decades, but now was reduced to 15 acres, which Daniel Butterfoss had purchased at a Sheriff’s sale on January 1, 1830. The second tract bordered the sawmill lot on the north and consisted of 75.92 acres which Butterfoss purchased from Isaac and Eliza Ann Scarborough and Joseph J. and Ann Scarborough on March 31, 1835.
The sawmill lot was lost by the Prall, Lambert & Cavanagh partnership for the same reason so many previous owners lost it—they had gone into debt. In 1828, Moses & Simeon Pownall sued Prall, Lambert and Cavanagh for payment of a mortgage on the 17.5-acre mill lot, “late the residence of John Cavanagh.” (Cavanagh had died about that time.)As a consequence of the suit, on May 16, 1828, John Lambert, William L. Prall and John Cavanagh sold two lots, one of 17.5 acres (the sawmill lot) and another of 96 acres, to William L. Prall, the highest bidder, for $8.16 In this deed we finally get a reference to an oil mill:
Peter Forman, Shf, upon a judgment lately obtained by Moses Pownall and Simeon Pownall against John Cavanagh, William L. Prall and Jacob Lambert in the Court of Common Pleas in the Feb term 1828, and a writ of fieri facias was issued on the goods & chattels of the sd defendants to the sum of $3000 plus $45.18 damages; and the lands & tenements of sd defendants were seized on Feb. 8, 1828; and sd Shf seized a lot of 96 acres more or less adjoining lands of Amos Hunt and others, and another slot of 17 acres more or less adjoining lands of Thomas Horn and others on which is erected an oil mill, sawmill &c, as the property of John Cavanagh, one of the above-named defendants. . . . [my paraphrasing]
The sawmill lot was “the same lot of land late the residence of the sd John Cavanagh and now in the tenure of Ezra Shamp.” Wm L. Prall Esq. of Trenton then sold his and Lambert’s 2/3 interest to Daniel Butterfoss on January 1, 1830 for $1,755.17 I can’t explain why there is no record of Cavanagh’s third share in the deeds.
Garret Wilson, son-in-law of Daniel Butterfoss, Sr., was the miller at Brookville beginning in 1843. It appears that Wilson continued to operate the mill right up to his death in 1876, as his name “G. Wilson” appears at the mill site in maps of 1851, 1860 and 1873. The detail from the Beers Atlas of 1873 above shows “H. Deats” and “G. Wilson” at Brookville. Garret Wilson, husband of Mary Butterfoss, the sister of the Daniel Butterfoss, Jr., previously mentioned, died on January 28, 1876 at the great age of 94. Wife Mary died on September 16, 1863, age 80. Both are buried in the Sandy Ridge Cemetery.
The Strimples of Brookville
Hiram Deats died on November 22, 1887, age 77. That was just two years before Calvin G. Strimple bought the Brookville property.
Residents of Strimples Mill Road will be interested in Calvin G. Strimple, for he owned and operated the mill on that road next to the beautiful iron truss bridge. He was active there as early as 1858. In 1889, he sold his 121-acre property on Strimples Mill Road to Abel Kerr for $3,00018, and purchased the Deats foundry property of 41.59 acres, which included the old sawmill lot.19 Interestingly, Strimple paid the same amount for the Deats property as he received for his farm on Strimples Mill Road, even though the acreage was less than half.
Calvin G. Strimple was born on December 1, 1833, to Mahlon Strimple and Deborah Lake. He married Sarah Kuhl, daughter of Christopher R. Kuhl and Rachel Strimple on November 21, 1857.
His mother-in-law, Rachel Strimple Kuhl, was obviously related, but how? Her parents are supposed to be Andrew and Lucy Strimple, about whom I know nothing. Calvin’s father Mahlon Strimple (1805-1871) was the son of John Strimple (1770-1814) and Elizabeth Pettit (1773-1856), who were old enough to be grandparents of Rachel Strimple, but none of their children were known to be named Andrew.20
Despite the flood damage described by Mr. Bush, Calvin Strimple held on to the Deats property, and did not sell it until 1910, the purchasers being Aaron P. and Lydia W. Cliver of Yardley, PA. Strimple moved to Kingwood Township and died there intestate on September 23, 1921, age 87. His widow Sarah Kuhl Strimple died on June 13, 1927, age 93, and was buried in the Rosemont Cemetery. (Calvin G. Strimple’s burying place is not identified on Find-a-Grave, which seems odd.) We know the date of his death from his obituary, which stated that he was “one of the oldest residents of Kingwood,” and had been “in feeble health” for a long time. And, according to the obituary, he was buried in the Rosemont Cemetery; perhaps his stone has been lost.
So much more could be said about the people mentioned in Mr. Bush’s article, but at this point I believe both writer and reader have had enough. But thank goodness Mr. Bush took the trouble to tell us what he knew of this interesting place. Otherwise this knowledge would have been lost.
- Mr. Bush was referring to the old Van Dolah schoolhouseon Sandy Ridge-Mt. Airy Road. ↩
- You may have noticed that Mr. Bush calls this creek Horne’s Creek, but today it is known as Brookville Creek. To add to the confusion, the creek runs along “Brookville Hollow Road.” Sometimes people mistakenly use the term Brookville Hollow Creek. To save some trouble, I will stick with Mr. Bush’s name for the creek, Horne’s Creek. ↩
- The earliest reference to an oil mill at Brookville is in a deed dated 1828. But after that, the lot is always called The Sawmill Lot, until the sale by Hiram Deats in 1851. ↩
- Exactly where that “hole in the ground” is I cannot say. At this point, I have deleted two paragraphs that pertain to a separate story concerning an old Vandolah wagon. See “A Wagon Cut In Half.” ↩
- For Asa Romine’s farm, see “Asa Romine & Sarah Fulper.” The Romines were also mentioned in “They Cut A Wagon In Half” and in “The Gershom Lambert Farm.” ↩
- Hunterdon County Deed Book 14, p. 610. ↩
- Hunterdon Co. Deed Book 2 p.86. ↩
- H. C. Mortgage Book 1 p. 283. ↩
- A quick look at Wikipedia informed me that according to today’s exchange rate, 67 cents is equivalent to 54 pence. Obviously, the rate was quite different in 1808. At that time, the Guinea was the standard coin, not the pound. The Guinea (the name based on that African country where most of Britain’s gold was mined) was worth 21 shillings (or one pound and one shilling) up until 1816. There were 12 pence in a shilling, and 20 shillings (240 pence) in a pound. ↩
- H. C. Deed 2-286. ↩
- H. C. Deed 14-610. ↩
- H. C. Deeds 18-082. ↩
- H. C. Deed 19-090. ↩
- H. C. Deed 24-038. ↩
- H. C. Deed 99-372. ↩
- H C. Deed 44-436. ↩
- H. C. Deed 62-004. ↩
- H. C. Deed 223-347. ↩
- H.C. Deed 223-045. ↩
- Rachel Strimple Kuhl died on September 2, 1892 at her home in Franklin Township, and was buried in the Cherryville Cemetery, next to her husband Christopher R. Kuhl, who died on April 4, 1865. ↩