Observers of Hunterdon history on Facebook have called our attention to the anniversary of the fire that destroyed the Hunterdon County Courthouse on February 13, 1828. This inspired me to look at the Hunterdon Gazette for 1828 to see how people reacted to this disaster.
FLEMINGTON has been the county seat of Hunterdon County since 1780. With the county court house there, it has been home to some fascinating characters like Samuel G. Opdycke and Nathaniel Saxton, and other attorneys like Samuel Southard. The town has a rich history which I hope to mine.
The brutal murder of Mrs. Catharine Beakes in September 1827 became a sensation in Hunterdon County, not only because murders were rare at the time, but because this murder was quite brutal and her alleged killer was a 12-year-old black boy. Following a coroner’s inquest, he was arrested and brought to the Flemington jail (‘gaol’ in those days).
For three years John P. Rittenhouse owned my small farm in Delaware Township, although he never lived there. As I started to research his life I discovered that, among other things, he was a Hunterdon Co. Sheriff, managed a restaurant at the Union Hotel, and then ran the hotel in Ringoes. He had an interesting life.
In 1859 he sold my farm to Edmund Perry, a successful politician, but a failure as an investor. I published the beginning of Rittenhouse’s story in the previous post, ending with a situation in which Rittenhouse, acting as deputy sheriff, had to take possession of the very farm he had previously sold to his political ally, Edmund Perry, and sell it to the highest bidder. Awkward.
Recently I gave a talk at the Hunterdon Co. Historical Society on how to research the history of one’s house. While preparing for the talk, I decided to look over the history I did for my own house back in 1981. It was the first one I had ever done, and I hadn’t a clue about how to go about it. I found most of the owners of my home, but some of them were absentee owners, so I didn’t pay much attention to them. On reviewing my chain of title, I got curious about one of those absentee owners, and began to do some more serious research. It paid off with a pretty interesting story.
Following the election of 1836, things got really interesting—so much so that I have devoted this post to only one year—1837.
Thanks to the controversial election of 2016 and recent developments in Washington, people are paying a lot more attention to the news, and coming to appreciate the importance of a free press. This got me thinking about newspapers in Hunterdon County.