Fishing rights in the Delaware River were legally transferable, and that gives us a hint of what was happening at Raven Rock and Bull’s Island in the 18th century. In 1782, Isaiah Quinby leased fishing rights in the Delaware River to various people. He may have done this before 1782, but this is the earliest record available.
The first lease was given out on February 30, 1782 to Ann Quinby, Moses Quinby, John Woolverton “and others.”1 The second lease was given on March 17, 1786 to Aaron Quinby, Moses Quinby, Isaac Rittenhouse “and others.” Quinby also leased a fishery to George Wall of Pennsylvania on the same date, “beginning at the head of Bull’s Falls and drawing out near the lower part of the island.” Its formal name was the Prime Hope fishery, but it was more generally known by the very descriptive name of “Snapjaw.”2 When the property was sold in 1814, exception was made to allow continued access to the river for work on the Snapjaw fishery.3 The Snapjaw came into possession of Jabez White in 1811, when he bought it from the heirs of George Wall.4.
By 1786, Isaiah Quinby had increased his holdings to 460 acres plus 100 acres unimproved. Sons Aaron and Moses Quinby were taxed with him as single men. In 1790, Isaiah Quinby was taxed on 255 acres and a fishery, while son Aaron was taxed on 150 acres, son Moses on 180 acres and son Job on 50 acres. This comes to 635 acres, which sounds like the original 625 belonging to Bull & Ladd plus 10 acres from Marmaduke Leet.
When Isaiah Quinby wrote his will in 1804, he left his fishery known as “Bullcap” to his son James and daughter Martha Blackfan. Surprisingly, this fishery was not mentioned in D’Autrechy’s book. The will did not describe the location of this fishery, but it must have been in the vicinity of Bull’s Island.
I have wondered if the Bulllcap might have been the same fishery that Isaiah Quinby leased on February 20, 1794 to his sons “Moses Quinby, Aaron Quinby, James Quinby and others.” This particular fishery is of special interest because of the exceptions in the lease. According to B. A. Sorby, this third lease allowed Mahlon Cooper and Robert Curry the privilege of building a mill dam across Bull’s Creek on the south side of “Dead Creek” with the idea of directing the waters of Bull’s Creek down to Dead Creek, and thus improve the working of their mill. Bull’s Creek was the waterway that separated Bull’s Island from the rest of Amwell Township. This is the earliest record of the presence of Mahlon Cooper and Robert Curry at Bull’s Island.
Sorby wrote that that mill dam is now lying beneath the canal lock and the road over the railroad tracks.5 However, the railroad tracks he referred to are gone, replaced with the beautiful walking trail along the Delaware & Raritan Canal. The fisheries are gone too, phased out with the coming of the canal and the railroad.
- According to a later Hunterdon deed of 1801 (Book 4 pg 6). Ann Quinby was not the Ann who was one of Quinby’s daughters, for she married Jeremiah Croasdale in 1772. Isaiah also did not have a sister named Ann, nor was his brother Ephraim’s wife named Ann. Ann Quinby remains a mystery to me for now. ↩
- Phyllis D’Autrechy, Hunterdon County New Jersey Fisheries 1819-1820, Flemington NJ, 1993, page 17. ↩
- Hunterdon Co. Deed Book 25 pg 60. ↩
- D’Autrechy 17; Dd 25-452 ↩
- B. A. Sorby wrote a series of articles in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat in 1959 about the effect on Raven Rock of the new road that the State of New Jersey was preparing to pave along the Delaware River. One of them was titled “Old Grist Mill Pond Hinders Missing Link Construction.” ↩