Overseers of Roads

At the first town meeting, the Township Committee voted that $1,000 was to be raised for making and repairing roads. Municipalities were responsible for their roads, while the county took responsibility for the bridges. Generally, it was the landowners along the roads who maintained them, so you can imagine what condition they were in: dust in the summer, mud in the spring and downright impassible in the winter, unless you had a sleigh. The township named many people to be Overseers of Roads. It’s hard to say exactly what their responsibilities were. Most likely, they managed the work that was ordered by the Surveyors of Highways.

In my previous post, I described how Amwell Township decided on how to select the Overseers in 1825. They were chosen at a meeting of all those in a road district who paid road taxes. Exactly what those road districts were in 1838 would be interesting to know. Nineteen Overseers were appointed in 1838, which presumably means nineteen road districts. I have attempted to identify (not always successfully) where each of the following Overseers lived at the time, as a way to identify which roads were getting attention.

Gabriel Aller

Gabriel W. Aller (c.1804-1873) might have been the son of Peter Aller and Mary Wolverton. I find the Aller family very confusing. Gabriel Aller had a small farm in the Croton neighborhood, which had once been known as Allertown. His first wife was named Mary Ann, but she died childless in 1841. In 1842 he married his wife Elizabeth Brittain, daughter of John Britton and Grace Holcombe Bellis, and they had a daughter Caroline in 1845. Gabriel Aller ran into trouble in 1844 when he had to assign his property to John Higgins and attorney James N. Reading, who put his personal property (livestock, harvested grain, farm equipment) up for sale in October 1844. And in December 1844, his farm in the Croton neighborhood (bordering Elisha Warford, John Cowdrick and Joseph Robbins) was sold. Gabriel Aller gave up farming and became a carpenter. He moved his family to Frenchtown where he lived for the rest of his life. He died in 1873 age 69; his wife Eliza died sometime after 1878.

Possible Roads:  Old Route 12, Route 579

[Addendum, 5/11/2013: Pamelyn Bush helped me get this family straightened out, along with reference to an article published in the Hunterdon Republican in 1896, written by Egbert T. Bush. Gabriel W. Aller was indeed the son of Peter Aller, but his wife’s name was Amy Wolverton, not Mary. And Amy was almost certainly the daughter of Gabriel Wolverton and Catharine McMurphy. When Peter Aller died in 1828, his sons John and Gabriel were named administrators of his estate. He did not die in Croton. The Allers did not move there until 1829, when the widow Amy and her son John bought a tract of land there. Gabriel W. Aller bought a farm in Croton in 1835 but sold it in 1844 after going into debt. That was the same year that his mother Amy died.]

James Barcroft

James Barcroft (1796-1875) was a farmer who lived at the corner of Route 519 and Strimples Mill Road. His house is still there but it is now a fascinating old stone ruin. He was the son of Ambrose Barcroft and Frances Opdycke, and on March 2, 1822, married Nancy Opdycke (1802-1881), daughter of Thomas Opdycke and Anna Cowell. They had four children, but only two survived to adulthood, William (1822-1876) and Aaron (c.1834-1880). In the 1860 census, James Barcroft was listed as a 63-year-old farmer with property worth $7000, which was a high figure for the time. But by 1870, when he was 73, he only had $1000 worth of property. According to the Barcroft Genealogy, his sons inherited his farm, and it stayed in the family for several generations.

Possible Roads: Route 519, Sanford Road, and Strimples Mill Road

Jacob Bodine

Like Gabriel Aller, Jacob Bodine (1806-1867) was a farmer and a carpenter; he was also a cabinet maker. His wife was Catharine Fauss (1806-1884) and they had seven children.  In the 1860 census, he was listed as a 58-year-old farmer with property worth $3100. After 1867, his widow moved in with son Henry Bodine, who became a well-known auctioneer. The Cornell Map of 1851 shows a “J. Bodine” along Ferry road, and deeds mention Jacob Bodine as a bordering owner to Samuel Carrell, who also lived on Ferry Road.

Possible Roads: Ferry Road.

Robert Bonham

Robert Bonham (1779-after 1850) was a wheelwright who might have been the son of Elijah and Margaret Bonham. His wife was Sarah Ann Wolverton (1779-1865), daughter of Gabriel and Catharine Wolverton. I do not know if they had any children. Robert Bonham bought a house and lot of land from Evan Godown in 1813. That is where he lived and ran his wheelright shop until it was sold in 1851. This was the old Maresca farm on Route 523. The Cornell Map of 1851 mistakenly showed “R. Bowman” at that location. Robert Bonham must have died about the time his house and shop were sold, in 1851, to John D. Bowne, wheelwright. [see deed 100-638]

Possible Roads:  Route 523 south of Sergeantsville

Nicholas B. Higgins

Nicholas Britton Higgins (1787-1851) was the son of Nathaniel Higgins and Martha Perrine. He married Hannah Hill (c.1789-1846), daughter of Samuel Hill and Sarah Trout, in 1809. He lived on a farm south of Headquarters on the Lambertville-Headquarters Road, but he also owned property on the west end of Sergeantsville. He was overseer of roads in 1840, and in 1849 served as a Trustee of the Sandy Ridge Baptist Church. One would expect him to be buried there, but his grave is located in the cemetery of the Flemington Baptist Church. His wife Hannah is also there, and several of their children. Fred Higgins, well-known chicken farmer of Sergeantsville, was their great grandson.

Possible Roads: The Lambertville-Headquarters Road.

John C. Holcombe

John Closson Holcombe (1793-1882) was the son of Richard Holcombe and Elizabeth Closson. He married his wife Rebecca Fisher in 1817. They only had two children, Louisa and Edwin. Holcombe was a miller and a farmer. He moved about some; in 1850 he had left Delaware Township to live in East or West Amwell, but from 1860 through 1880 was back in Delaware Township. By 1870 he was very well-to-do, with a farm worth $10,000 and personal property of $10,000. As for where he was living in 1838, I would guess near Lambertville.

Rebecca Holcombe died in 1873, age 79, and was buried in the Barber Cemetery. John C. died in 1882, age 89, and was buried in the Holcombe-Riverview Cemetery near Lambertville.

Possible Roads: Seabrook Rd, Lambertville-Headquarters Rd and Alexauken Creek Rd.

Nelson Holcombe

This was probably George Nelson Holcombe (1808-1900), one of the twelve children of Robert Holcombe and Elizabeth Pidcock, and brother of John C. Holcombe. Admiral Horatio Nelson was killed in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He was a great hero to many, and, just like George Washington, many children were given the name Nelson in his memory, even American children. I can’t seem to find any other Holcombe with the name Nelson who might have been around in 1838.

Nelson Holcombe married Matilda Case in 1832, and they had six children. In the 1860 census, he was living in or near Sand Brook. He was a farmer all his life, but 1867 served as Delaware Township’s Chosen Freeholder. By 1870 his farm was worth $8000. In 1880, at a rather advanced age, he was working as Delaware Township’s Town Clerk.1 His wife died in 1879, but George N. Holcombe lived to the ripe old age of 92, dying in 1900. Both are buried at Sandy Ridge Cemetery.

Possible Roads:  The Sandbrook-Headquarters Road, Britton Road, parts of Route 523.

Samuel Holcomb

Once again, it is very hard to determine which Samuel Holcombe had this job. It might have been Samuel R. Holcombe (1811-1875), son of Thomas A. Holcombe and Mary Quick, who would have been 27 years old in 1838. He married Lavinia Larison about 1830; of their five children, 2 died young. Samuel R. Holcombe was counted in the 1840 census for Delaware Township, but by 1850, this family was living in Hopewell. One hint on identifying him may be the way he spelled his name, without the final e.

Possible Roads:  Probably in the neighborhood of Mount Airy.

John Hoppock

Another far-too-popular 18th-19th century name. The most likely possibility was John Hoppock (1764-1866) who served as Freeholder from Amwell township in 1832 and 1835. He was the son of Capt. Cornelius Hoppock and Jemima Barber, and husband of Rebecca Wilson (c.1765-c.1861). Cornelius Hoppock left his farm of 156 acres to his son John in his will of 1813, but in 1814, John Hoppock as executor sold the farm to Dr. John Bowne. Which leaves me to wonder where John Hoppock was living.  He was probably the “J. Hoppock” near Barber’s Station, in what was Delaware Twp., in 1851 (Cornell Map), but is now West Amwell.

Possible Roads:  Bowne Station Road.

John Lair

John Lair (1778-1854) was the son of William Lair and Sarah Boss. His wife was Sarah Dilts, daughter of Henry and Juliana Dilts. They had two daughters and one son, Joseph, born 1809. John and Joseph Lair (next, below) lived on the Locktown-Flemington Road.

Possible Roads: Locktown-Flemington Road

Joseph Lair

Joseph Lair (1798-1882) was the brother of John Lair, above. In 1823 he married Elizabeth Werts (1805-1873), daughter of Peter and Elizabeth Werts. Joseph Lair also served as Overseer of Roads in 1840. Joseph Lair was one of the original members of the Locktown Christian Church, which was organized in 1828. In 1832, Lair donated a lot of land out of the southwest portion of his large plantation for the use of the church. That corner, where Locktown-Flemington Rd. meets the Locktown-Sergeantsville Road, is where the church was built. (The present structure replaced the original one in 1868.) Joseph Lair was a farmer, who’s farm ran along Locktown-Flemington Road, and came to him from his father, William Lair. By 1866, when he was 68 years old, he was ready to retire, and sold the farm to William Pegg. He and wife Elizabeth retired to Frenchtown. Both are buried in the Frenchtown cemetery.

Possible Roads: Locktown-Flemington Road, Locktown-Sergeantsville Road.

John H. Ott

John Hart Ott (c.1792-1845) was the son of Joseph Ott and Deborah Hart. He was a grandson of John Hart, signer of the Declaration of Independence. John H. Ott married Ann Servis in 1815; she was the daughter of Capt. Jacob Servis and Elizabeth Boss. Because he died before the 1850 census, I do not have any information on whether they had children. Prior to the formation of Delaware Township, John H. Ott served as Freeholder from the old Amwell Township in 1833 and 1834.

John H. Ott died intestate in 1845. His administrator was James J. Fisher. His estate was insufficient to satisfy his creditors, so his farm of 38.41 acres was sold at auction, adjoining Peter Boss and Jacob H. Holcombe. Because of his association with the Servis and Boss families, I guess that Ott lived near East Amwell. John H. Ott and wife Anna are both buried in the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Lambertville.

Possible Roads:  Bowne Station Road, Route 579.

John D. Pearce

This is one of the most elusive residents of Delaware Twp. He was not present in the Amwell twp. census of 1830, nor in the Delaware twp. census of 1840. And yet, a James D. Pierce or Pearce of Amwell bought land in East Amwell in 1846 and was counted in the Amwell (East & West) census for 1850. If he was overseeing a road in Delaware Township in 1838, it was likely one that passed into East Amwell.

James D. Pearce (1812-1902) was the son of Edward Pearce and Mary Thompson of Warren County. His wife was named Rachel (1815-1901) but I have not identified her family. They had six children and spent their later years at Branchburg in Somerset County.

Possible Roads: Boss Roads, Route 604, Dunkard Church Road.

Joseph Sergeant

Joseph Sergeant (c.1799-c.1854) was the son of Loman Sergeant and Lydia Wolverton. In 1838, Joseph Sergeant’s son Bartholomew Sergeant, bought a lot in Raven Rock for his parents to live in (now owned by John Kellogg). He stayed there for the rest of his life.

Possible Roads:  Quarry Road, Federal Twist Road

Richard Shepherd

Richard Shepherd (c.1796-1873) was the son of Richard Shepherd Sr. and Mary Servis. In 1817 he married Deborah Rounsavel, daughter of Nathaniel Rounsavel Esq. and Elizabeth Dalrymple. They had five children. He and his family lived on the Sandbrook-Headquarters Road near the Dunkard Church.

Possible Roads:  Sandbrook-Headquarters Road; parts of Route 523; Britten Road

Henry Trimmer

Henry Trimmer (1767-1850) was the son of John G. Trimmer (mother not known). About 1790 he married Margaret Lake (1770-bef 1850), daughter of John Lake and Sarah Ann Robins. From 1799 through 1820 he was involved in the administration of many estates, making inventories, or acting as executor. In 1818 he was twice named Commissioner to divide the real estate of a deceased. In 1835, he did the same for the property of Archibald Buchanan of Buchanan’s Tavern. Henry Trimmer inherited property on the west side of Route 579 south of Buchanan’s Tavern from his father in 1819. He was still there in 1850, when he was counted in the census as an 82-year-old farmer, with wife Dinah, also 82, son Asa 50 and daughter Sarah, widow of Joseph Opdycke, and her children, Henry 17 and Parthana 12. After his death, Henry Trimmer’s property was sold to Henry Crum.

Possible Roads: Route 579 south of Buchanan’s Tavern; Biser Road

Abraham Williamson

Once again, too many Abraham Williamsons. I have 18 in my database, from 1720 to 1849. However, only 8 or 9 were the right age to serve as overseers of roads, and only three of them living in Delaware Township.

1)  Abraham (1773-1854) son of Peter and Catherine, married Margaret Wood in1800; lived at or near Saxtonville in 1830.

2)  Abraham (1775 – 1851) son of William and Elizabeth Russell Williamson, married Elizabeth Sutphen in December 1808. His parents moved away to Kentucky, but Abraham and wife Elizabeth moved to New York State.

3)  Abraham (1783-1851), son of Abraham Williamson and Frances Housel, married first Frances (Fanny) Larew in 1822, but soon afterwards divorced her. He married second Elizabeth Rittenhouse about 1823, daughter of Moses Rittenhouse and Sarah Wood. He may have been living near Sanford Road in 1838. He was counted in the 1840 census for Delaware Township, but by then he was in his 60s.

Possible Roads: I have no idea.

Job Woolverton

Job Woolverton/Wolverton (1788-1864) was the son of Gabriel Wolverton and Catharine McMurphy. in 1808 he married first Anna Housel (1791-1826), daughter of John and Catharine Housel, and had two children born 1809 and 1811. In 1828 he married second Catharine Servis (c.1799-aft 1870), parents not known, by whom he had four children. His farm was located on Covered Bridge Road. He was one of the trustees of the Green Sergeant school when it opened in 1830. He also served as Overseer of Roads in 1840.

Possible Roads:  Covered Bridge Road; Lower Creek Road, Route 523

Samuel Woolverton

Samuel Woolverton (1779-1841), son of John Wolverton and Rachel Quinby, married in 1810 Mary Johnson (1788-1812), daughter of Martin Johnson and Anna Trout, and in 1821 Elizabeth Wilson (1788-1836) daughter of Capt. John Wilson and Jane Deremer. In 1830, he was named an executor of his father’s estate, which was a considerable one, and inherited a 250-acre farm that was once part of John Reading’s Mount Amwell, on the west side of Route 519 south of Rosemont. After his death in 1841, his heirs sold his farm to John Stockton.

Possible Roads:  Route 519 south of Rosemont; the Raven Rock-Rosemont Road

As you can see, there are many unanswered questions here. I would be delighted if any family researchers can add information about these men and their families.

Correction, 5/10/13:  Jack Newman passed on information about the burial place of Nicholas B. Higgins and his family. When I published, I did not know where their graves were.

  1. Snell, p. 374; I have to wonder if this might be someone else; in the 1880 census he was 71, a retired farmer.