This article is a continuation of the article by Egbert T. Bush titled “When Stockton Was Not So Dry.” (Part One and Part Two.) Today I will enlarge on Mr. Bush’s short history of the Stockton Inn, which is now for sale. It is my hope that by fleshing out this history, a purchaser might be found who will value it as well as the lovely architecture of the place.
Except for articles relating to early West New Jersey, nearly all my posts concern the people who lived in Hunterdon County, which was created in March 1714.
This part of Mr. Bush’s article deals primarily with the history of the tavern in Stockton, which began its life across the road from the Sharp-Lambert store (part one), but ended it as the Stockton Inn, at Bridge and Main Streets. (As usual, Mr. Bush’s article is in italics and my comments are not.)
Egbert T. Bush was very fond of grand old trees, and when they had to come down, he lamented the loss in his articles, including one that I published awhile ago, titled “Old Sentinel Oak Has Passed.” That huge tree, or as Bush would call it, a “Monarch,” once stood along Route 523 as you enter Stockton. Today’s article should have preceded “Old Sentinel Oak,” as it concerns the neighborhood of that great tree before it was taken down.
In recognition of Labor Day this weekend I thought it would be interesting to see what labor was like when Egbert T. Bush was young. He would have been fifteen years old in 1863, during the Civil War. Since he was too young to be drafted, he was available to the neighborhood farmers who were short-handed, thanks to the war. His employer in those days left a big impression on the young man.
Given that the Stockton Inn is now for sale, and a radical proposal for development of the site has been offered by the seller, I thought it would be appropriate to publish this article by Mr. Bush about a previous “improvement” to the Borough that took place not far from the Inn.
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).
Note: Records from the Coroner’s Inquest were discovered after the first version of the story was published. I have since updated the article to reflect the new information found there. It is now a much longer, but even more interesting article.
With all the controversy over the possible demolition of the Union Hotel in Flemington, there has been a revival of interest in “The Trial of the Century,” when Bruno Hauptman was tried for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby in 1932. But there was another “Trial of the Century” in Hunterdon County more than 100 years earlier, held in May 1828, when a 12-year-old boy was convicted of the murder of a 60-year-old woman.
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.