by Jonathan M. Hoppock
published July 27, 1905 in the Democrat-Advertiser

The John Opdycke House in 1905

On the farm at present belonging to the heirs of Samuel Higgins, deceased, near Head Quarters (Grover), stands this solidly built old stone mansion which was erected about the year 1744 by John Opdyke. Well-authenticated tradition bearing upon its history strengthens the belief that it was built prior to that year. It is one of the many old stone dwellings common to this section a hundred and fifty or more years ago.  It shows but little effect of the ravages of time, for scarcely is there a mark of Time’s decaying finger upon it. Barring accidents it will doubtless be in a good habitable condition another hundred years. 1

In referring to the “History of the Opdyke Family,” written by Charles Wilson Opdyke, son of George Opdyke, who was Mayor of New York during the great riot in that city in 1863, it is shown that John Opdyke, the builder, came from the staunch old Holland stock, his great grandfather being born in that country in 1620, came to America in 1653 and settled at Albany, N.Y.  His grandfather, Johannes Opdyke, was a planter at Dutch Kills, Long Island, and at Maiden Head and Hopewell, New Jersey. He died at the latter place in 1729. His father, Albert Opdyke, was also a planter at Hopewell at the time of his death in 1752. John was born at the last named place in 1710; married Margaret Green, and shortly afterward settled in old Amwell, now Delaware township; was a farmer, miller, merchant and justice of the peace. The county records mention him as a voter in 1738, freeholder in 1750, justice in 1755, and 1757 to 1768. It is said that two stately parchments, under royal seals, “To our trusty and beloved John Opdyke,” and his oaths of allegiance to George the Third, in 1755, and of his non-belief in Papacy in taking office, are still to be found among the archives in the County Clerk’s office at Flemington. 2

Besides building the house shown in the above cut, he erected the original mills at Head Quarters (now Grover); built the large and handsome stone mansion now owned (and recently remodeled) by Joseph Carrell; historic old “White Hall,” and many other buildings still standing at the same place. He is also reputed to have been immensely wealthy, and tradition is that he measured his dollars by the half-bushel, but taking that statement with a grain of allowance, he certainly was a man of much means—as wealth at that day was estimated. 3

For his three sons he erected the stone houses and mills known as “Runk’s” at Idell, (formerly Milltown); “Sergeant’s,” near Sergeantsville, and “Rittenhouse’s,” near Locktown, all of which are still standing. 4

During the encampment of the Continental Army at Head Quarters in 1777, [John Opdycke] was engaged in store-keeping at that place. Being a staunch patriot, he rendered much aid to the cause for which George Washington fought. It is related that a grand-daughter of his, who was at that time living with him, and aged about 8 years, dying in 1864 at the age of 94, distinctly remembered many incidents connected with the encampment, and in after years was fond of relating them. She remembered seeing General Washington seated with her grandfather under a shed before a stone pork house in her grandfather’s yard;  remembered Washington giving her a penny for carrying him a drink of water from the spring, after her grandfather had treated to spirits. 5

The grand-daughter referred to, in after years, married Daniel Carrell, and at his death she became the wife of Elisha Warford. Both of these husbands were at one time well-known citizens of this county. 6

John Opdyke’s three sons were in the Jersey militia, and two of them were in the battle of Princeton. The family at home heard the roar of the cannon during the engagement, twenty miles away. The American cause looked so gloomy, and the Jerseymen were so despondent that Mr. Opdyke had gone down to the army to learn the true state of affairs. The old man came galloping back on his old gray horse, swinging his hat and shouting:  “The enemies are running!  Victory is ours, we shall gain our freedom;  cheer up!” 7

His remains are interred in the old Opdyke burying ground on the farm upon which the old mansion stands. At the head of the grave a plain marble slab is marked, “John Opdyke, Sen., died August 10, 1777, aged 68 years.”
J. M. Hoppock

Correction: I had mistakenly claimed that Hoppock’s articles were published in the Hunterdon County Democrat. In fact, they were published in the Democrat-Advertiser, which was bought out by the Democrat in 1929.

  1. Hoppock is not writing about the stone house first built by John Opdycke next to the mill. The house in this article is across the road. He is writing about the farm where John and Margaret Opdycke were living after leaving the Headquarters mill lot. This house came into the possession of Caleb Farley after Opdycke’s death, and eventually to Mattie Eppele (see the Egbert T. Bush article, “Glen Eppele Once Owned by Soldier of the Revolution.”). Hoppock says very little about this house other than ‘Opdyke’ built it around 1744. Nice to know that in 1905 it was still in good condition. The house owned by Samuel Higgins is the house on the farm just south of the 1744 house. Thomas Opdycke sold the farm to Benjamin Tyson in 1790, and after Tyson’s death it was sold to Nathaniel Higgins, grandfather of Samuel M. Higgins.
    It is interesting that Hoppock wrote Headquarters as “Head Quarters.” I doubt that was the common usage. In 1905, the village was known as “Grover,” a name given it by the Postal Administration when a post office was established in the store in Headquarters. The name did not stick. Once the post office was closed, the name reverted to Headquarters.
  2. This information was ‘borrowed’ from the Opdyke Genealogy by Charles W. Opdyke. Hoppock consistently uses the spelling “Opdyke,” as it was used in the genealogy. However, the common spelling in documents relating to the Headquarters branch of the family was “Opdycke.”
  3. The pictures attached to Mr. Hoppock’s articles are as valuable as the articles themselves. Unfortunately, it is very hard to reproduce them from the old newspapers. It is regrettable that John Opdycke died before the tax return of 1780, which listed the amounts of cash lent out by individual taxpayers. That would have told us just how rich John Opdycke was. His will does not shed any light on this either.
  4. Actually, the Sergeant’s mill was probably built by Edward Milner in the 1740’s, although the house, now owned by Alan Johnson, was built by John Opdycke. The Rittenhouse mill was built by Peter Rittenhouse, probably also in the 1740’s. If there was a stone house attached to it, it is no longer standing. The mill, located on Old Mill Road, has been converted to a residence. As for the Runk mill in Kingwood Township, there is some dispute about whether John Opdycke was the original builder. However, his son George Opdycke was in possession of it before the Revolution.
  5. In other articles, Hoppock wrote about the “Encampment” of the Continental Army near Headquarters and Sand Brook. I will be publishing those articles at some future time. As yet I have not been able to find any documentary evidence that part of the army camped in Delaware Township. All I can say for now is that it is not impossible.
  6. Please see my post, “Who Saw George Washington”
  7. This is another one of those family recollections cited in the Opdyke Genealogy.