Ancient “Plantation” Has One of the County’s Oldest Dwellings
Workman Leveled Stones
by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, NJ
published in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat, June 4, 1931
The following is a transcript of the article written by Egbert T. Bush. My comments and annotations are in the footnotes. Unlike the articles by J. M. Hoppock in the Democrat-Advertiser, there were no pictures published along with the Bush articles in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat. So I have taken the liberty of adding my own.
On Main Street in the borough of Stockton, between the hotel and Brookville, lies an interesting old-time “plantation” made up of rolling hills and pleasant lowlands. This has long been known as the Clarkson T. Hunt farm. The farm house on the hill, now occupied by Henry Ficke, the farmer, was said by old people in much earlier days to be the oldest in the vicinity and the oldest stone dwelling in the County of Hunterdon. While there appears to be some reason for the claim, it is not substantiated. Whether the old settlers were right or not, its great age cannot be questioned. At first this house was only one and a half stories high, and was much smaller than now. In 1847 or 1848, it was raised and remodeled by Eden B. Hunt, who also built an addition to the westerly end about 1859.1
Only a mile and a half away from this house stands the oldest stone dwelling of which we have any positive records as to exact age. That one, the old Van Dolah house, is known to have been built before 1725. If this Hunt-Anderson house is still older, it must be by only a few years. But the old claimants either knew about what they were claiming or, at least, accepted it as reliable tradition.2
Mansion House Built 1850
The mansion house, now occupied by William Colligan, Jr., was built by Hunt in 1850,3 and has a datestone to prove the age which its appearance disclaims. A plain and substantial structure, it is attractive both inside and out. One of the men engaged in this piece of good work, was George Runk and another was William Naylor, both of Brookville, where each lived to a good old age. We are also informed that Ely Everitt, of the same hamlet, was the boss mason. Anyhow, the walls were built to stand, and they do stand true to the original lines.4
Quite evidently the barn along the street was the original farm barn on this plantation.5 The timbers are roughly said to be over 150 years old, and are most likely much older. This barn was remodeled by Eden B. Hunt during the Civil War. It is interesting to know that, while this work was in progress, the son, Clarkson T. Hunt, was home on furlough, to recuperate from a wound received in action. His name and the date, written in what was then soft mortar, may still be found just as the soldier boy wrote them so long ago.
Horse Stolen; Barn Burned
There was another barn standing some years earlier, in the lowland, just across the street from the upper end of what is now the Sperling garden. This was burned down and a horse was burned with it. A Negro in the employ of Hunt, poking around in the debris shortly after, made what he thought something of a discovery. With rolling eyes he came up exclaiming: “Boss! Boss! Dat wasn’t our hoss a-tall dat bu’ned up—wasn’t our hoss a-tall!”
“How do you know that, Sam?”
“Cause why I took our hoss to de shop an’ had new shoes put on ‘im only jest afore, you know. Well, de shoes on dis hoss is old ones. Come an’ look.”
And so it was. Evidently it was a case of arson and the burning of a worthless horse, to conceal the theft of a valuable one. Vile tricks to conceal vile crime are apparently not peculiar to any age.6
The Hunt ownership of this farm, beginning with the conveyance by Thomas P. Holcombe to Eden Hunt—omitting the ”B.”—May 1, 1841, continues to the present time.7 The soldier son, Clarkson T., came into possession of it at the death of his father in 1885, and owned it until the time of his own death, May 23, 1929. It now belongs to his two sons—Eden B. Hunt, of Lansdowne, Pa., Supt. of the Relief Department of the Pennsylvania Railroad; and Raymond Hunt, a prominent official of the Tide Water Power Company, Wilmington, N.C.
Anderson Burying Ground
In much earlier days the place was owned by successive members of the prominent old Anderson family. The burial place of some of them is on the farm, and was long known as the “Anderson Burying Ground.” This could readily be found in a field far up the hill until, many years ago, a man named Sweazey8 was sent to plow that field. Sweazey, having received neither caution nor instruction, concluded: “Them stones is too much in the way an’ they don’t amount to nothing, anyhow.” So he tore them out and deposited them along the stonewall. The mischief was done. The stones could not be replaced as they had stood before, and no attempt at reparation was ever made. We are reliably informed that the plot covered about 70 feet by 70, and contained between 26 and 30 unmarked stones at the time of the desecration.
Having learned of this now almost forgotten burial place before securing the facts since kindly furnished by Eden B. Hunt, I made determined effort to locate it, though the information was mostly negative, and people who had known the grounds for three score years or so, “never heard anything of that kind.” However, the spot was found. One stone that surely must have marked a grave was found near the wall, and another not so well set stood near. Both were so close to the wall as not to interfere with Sweazey or with later cultivation. Checking up on the things heard about it, I became satisfied that there was no mistake. The graves were here, with only these two stones left to tell the tale, and these quite likely to be overlooked by all except some foolish inquisitor anxiously looking for such things.
A Delightful View
The spot is really delightful. It affords a fine view up the river, showing the “Island Farm,” with both the main channel and the “creek” which makes the farm an island. The long one-span bridge across that creek, spans less than half its actual distance away, as one looks over it to the beautiful hills beyond. And how long one may stand there, unconscious of the flight of time, gazing over the water sparkling in the declining sun, thinking! Thinking over the struggles and the triumphs of people long gone, some of whom are resting here directly under foot, the fact of their former existence so rapidly passing from the memory of man!
And all the while one is dreamily admiring the taste manifest in the selection of this spot as a place for burial. Pioneers could not embellish graves with sculptured marble, but they did often make up for that by most judicious selection of places for the long, long rest. We say now by our actions, “Let these flowers speak.” But to one standing reverently on a spot like this, come sweeter whisperings of sincere affection in voices almost divine.
While here, gazing up the river, the thought—or was it rather the feeling?—came to me as it no doubt comes to many, “If I were an artist, how I should try to put this scene on canvas!” A few days later I was delighted to learn that the famous Edward W. Redfield had caught the inspiration years ago, and from this very spot, had painted one of his finest and most valuable pictures.
Painting by Edward Redfield, possibly of the view from the Anderson Burying Ground, looking north, but as likely a view from the Pennsylvania side of the River, looking south. Edward W. Redfield’s work is lovely to look at. I have not been able to identify Redfield’s view from the Anderson farm, so I chose an example of the pictures he painted in the vicinity of Brookville and Centre Bridge.
Albert D. Anderson, Esq., a descendant, traces his line of the old family in this interesting way: His father was John A. Anderson, long Superintendent of the Belvidere-Delaware Railroad; his grandfather was John H. Anderson, and his great-grandfather was Joshua. His great-great-grandfather was John Anderson, a captain in the Revolution, also Sr. Warden in the St. Andrews Episcopal Church, then located at Ringoes. His thrice-great-grandfather was Joshua Anderson, who built a house on Coryell Street, Lambertville, which house is still standing. This Joshua’s father was John Anderson, a son of the Joshua Anderson who runs to 1690 and settled at Maidenhead. From then the Anderson family spread out over the present counties of Mercer and Hunterdon.9
Great-grandfather John Anderson is not thought to be buried here, but to rest on a part of the old St. Andrews grounds at Ringoes, now cultivated and cleared of all stones as though there were no sleepers below. Thus do we too often desecrate the graves of those who have gone before us, even the last resting places of some who bore conspicuous parts in winning our independence. Fortunately, they sleep as well. But do we?
Anderson Was “Andrus”
We are told that this name was originally Andrus; that in 1730 one Joshua signed his will thus: “Joshua Andrus otherwise Anderson.” From about that time the name has been written as at present.
By deed dated April 9, 1802, “Joshua Anderson, Gentleman and John Anderson, Gentleman” and their wives conveyed to James Armstrong a large tract here, including the Hunt farm. The preamble says: “Whereas Charles Jervis did, in the year 1792, sell and convey unto John Anderson of the county of Hunterdon and to Joshua Anderson (the younger), his son, all that tract of land in the township of Amwell . . . Beginning at the River Delaware . . . containing 291 acres” &c. It then proceeds to convey the 291 acres for 1048 pounds and 19 shillings.
Armstrong conveyed 214 acres of his holdings to William Mitchell in 1808, “reserving and excepting one share in the fishery commonly called the Burnshin Fishery, on the margin of said river, being one seventh of the fishing exclusive of the land share, with free ingress, egress and regress.” The origin of the curious name “Burnshin,” is unknown. But what little is left of the once famous fishery, is still the Burnshin.10
In 1822 Mitchell conveyed 96 acres of this tract to John Cavanaugh, “Beginning at a corner to John Anderson’s land at the Delaware River, excepting the fishery, and also excepting the full privilege of the bank and shore for use of the fisheries, and reserving to himself, his heirs and assigns, a half acre of land including the cabin where it now stands, for wagons to turn and stand on in fishing time, and full privilege of wagons to pass and repass on the ground which has heretofore been occupied as a road in fishing times.”11
The deed of Thomas P. Holcombe to Eden Hunt recites: “Being part of a larger tract of land that John Cavanaugh conveyed to Scarborough Oct. 17, 1827, excepting . . . a lot set off for a school house.” This means at least a part of the grounds now occupied by the Stockton public school on which the first house was erected in 1832.
Cholera Breaks Out
Eden B. Hunt, the grandfather, was born near Woodsville in 1796.12 He removed to Lambertville early in life. When the canal was coming through, he took a contract for excavating a section here. Labor was scarce, so he secured from New York 75 Irishmen, who bunked in cabins on the lowlands of his farm. Cholera broke out. One man, taken sick in the afternoon, died before morning. The workers all quit, some going to Lambertville and some to Raven Rock. Hunt could get no help to bury the victim. At last, to prevent spread of disease, he piled straw about the building, set fire to it, and successfully cremated the body. Most of the men returned, and no further trouble developed. This appears to have had no connection with the serious outbreak that left so many victims buried above Prallsville.
Grandfather Hunt said that, during his long acquaintance with the property, no family internment had been made in the “Anderson Burying Ground.” We are told of two other unknown graves, indicated by unmarked stones, away along the Paxson line. With the kind assistance of Edwin P. Niece, of this borough, who knows all the grounds hereabout, I made desperate effort to find these. We traced that line—as nearly as long accumulation of dead and living briers would permit—but found nothing. It might take days of clearing off the obstructions, to locate the stones which are no doubt still there. Tradition has called these “Indian graves,” but that is not likely. Indians did not mark graves and the white settlers did not bother much about “a dead Injun.” More likely slaves of some old-time settler are resting there.
Ancient Goblet and Plate
Albert D. Anderson has a metal goblet that was dug up on this farm and presented to him by Clarkson T. Hunt. His sister has a plate from the same source.13 Whether Capt. Anderson, Sr. Warden of St. Andrews Church, having charge of the communion service, buried the treasure here to prevent desecration by enemy marauders, is merely conjecture. Be that as it may, the incident and the conjecture add further interest to the historic old farm.
Eden B. Hunt, the grandson, tells of having seen a surveyor’s map of a tract here, bounded by the Wickecheoke Creek on the upper side, by Horn’s Creek on the lower, and running back from the Delaware from a mile to a mile and a half. He cannot find that map among his father’s papers now. That survey must have been very old. Having a river frontage of over a mile and extending back still farther, it must have covered at least 800 acres. That area was certainly cut into many parts long before the Revolution. If that old map could be found, it might clarify matters of no little interest. Just one more reminder of two facts likely to be overlooked. That old papers are well worth preserving and that they have a peculiar way of disappearing unless carefully guarded.14
NOTE: This article will be followed by a post describing the family of John and Ann Anderson, and the survey of this farm made in 1802 by Nathaniel Saxton.
8/18/2012, I have replaced footnote 12 with corrected information regarding Eden B. Hunt and the other Eden B. Hunt who was actually Burrowes Hunt, Eden’s brother.
8/21/2012: That footnote (12) has turned into a headache. In trying to sort out the two brothers, I managed to swap their information. Fortunately, Martha Heywood caught my mistake. I hope I’ve finally gotten it right.
- Mr. Bush is describing a house that cannot be seen from the road. The driveway to it is next to the handsome stone house on Rte 29 on the south end of Stockton, before one comes to Brookville. ↩
- The Van Dolah house is located in Sandy Ridge. It also is not visible from the road. ↩
- This is confusing. Here Mr. Bush was referring to the stone house along the road. ↩
- William Colligan was the son of Wm. P. Colligan, proprietor of the Stockton Hotel from about 1915 until his death sometime before 1954. George W. Runk was living with his widowed mother Margaret (age 71) and his wife Ellen in the 1850 census. He was active in the Sabbath School Association during the 1860s. William Naylor (c. 1814-1896) had moved to Lambertville by 1870 with his wife Permelia Barrick (c.1812-1887). In Naylor’s death certificate, he was identified as a “Gentleman,” which may have meant no more than that he was living on his own income when he died. He and wife Permelia (Amelia, Emelia, Pamelia) are buried in the Barber Cemetery. Ely Everitt came from a family of masons, who can take credit for many of the stone houses in this area. He was the son of Ezekiel Everitt (c.1797-1880) and Rachel Kerr (c.1803-aft 1880). He and his six brothers were all stone masons, just like their father. An interesting family. ↩
- The original house up the hill and the barn next to the road appear on a survey of the property dated 1802, which discuss in The Anderson Farm. ↩
- Needless to say, Bush’s condescending rendition of Hunt’s employee describing the stolen horse is offensive to us now. But, remember, he was writing in a different era, when such things were acceptible to most white people. If Mr. Bush were living today, I think he would have found another way to tell this story. ↩
- Thomas P. Holcombe (1801-c.1850) bought the farm in 1827 from Isaac Scarborough or John Cavanagh. The deed, Book 77 pg 108, to Eden B. Hunt was for two lots, one of 122.82 acres, the other of 15.34 acres, excepting out 29.4 acres from the first lot, and a driftway across the second, as well as land conveyed to the D&R Canal Co. ↩
- Most likely this was William H. Sweasey, 1821-1875, who was counted in the Delaware Township census of 1850 as a laborer. Living with his family was father-in-law Daniel Larowe, age 60, a mason. ↩
- I am puzzled by this genealogy. After researching census records, it appears to me that Albert D. Anderson was the son of John A. Anderson and Cornelia Coryell, grandson of John Hoppock Anderson and Mary Hart, great-grandson of Capt. Joshua Anderson and Elizabeth Hoppock. Capt. Joshua was the son of Shf. John Anderson (wife’s name not known), who was the son of Capt. John Anderson, grandson of Joshua Anderson of Maidenhead, who died there about 1731. Researching Andersons in Hunterdon County is as confusing as researching Smiths. For more on this family, see The Anderson Farm. ↩
- It isn’t hard to picture men standing in the river pulling in nets that rubbed (and burned) their shins. ↩
- This cabin and road were probably obliterated during construction of the canal. ↩
- Eden B. Hunt can easily be confused with his brother Burrows Hunt. Initially, that was my problem, but with help from Martha Heywood and Susan Avery, I think I am clear that the Eden B. Hunt who bought the old Anderson farm in Stockton had a brother named Burrows Hunt who lived in Lambertville. They were sons of Nathaniel Hunt and Susan Burroughs of Hopewell. Burrows Hunt (sometimes Burroughs or Burrowes) was born 30 Dec 1794 and Eden B. Hunt was born 10 Jul 1896. Fortunately, Burrows Hunt’s wife’s name was Louisa, and Eden B. Hunt’s wife’s name was Maria, so it is possible to keep the two separate in the census records. I have learned from Martha Heywood that the wife of Burrows Hunt was Maria Reeves, and the wife of Eden B. Hunt was Louisa A. Cade. Both men also appear in census records for 1850-1870, where it can be seen that Eden B. Hunt lived in Delaware Township, and Burrows Hunt lived in Lambertville. Burrows Hunt died on 27 Apr 1871 and was buried in the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Lambertville. His brother Eden B. Hunt died on 14 Oct 1885 and was buried in the Holcombe-Riverview Cemetery in Lambertville. ↩
- Albert D. Anderson Esq. was a Lambertville lawyer, born October 1855. He married Adelaide Finney on June 17, 1886, the daughter of lumberman John Finney. They had sons John (1888) and Albert D. Jr. (1890). Albert Anderson had two sisters, Hannah C. b. c. 1858, and Mary D. born c.1861. ↩
- The tract shown by this map, running from the Wickecheoke to Horn Creek and back a mile or more cannot possibly have existed—the Hammond Map shows that there never was a proprietary tract that resembled this. Almost immediately the land was divided into much smaller tracts. How I would love to see Eden Hunt’s map. ↩