Part Two of my history of the Pittstown Inn ended with the death of Moore Furman in 1808. Part three will describe the Inn’s 19th century owners and its innkeepers—quite often not the same people.
Let us begin with the heirs of Moore Furman.
Anna Maria Furman & Peter Hunt
As mentioned in Part Two, Moore Furman left all of his property to his son-in-law Peter Hunt and his daughter Anna Maria Hunt. Specifically included was “all that estate called Pitts Town, in Hunterdon Co., as surveyed by David Frazer, July 6, 1795 (700 acres), with houses and buildings, etc.,”
Anna Maria Furman was born in Philadelphia on October 19, 1774. Hers must have been an exciting childhood with the family located to Pittstown during the Revolution and her father busy collecting supplies for Washington’s army. Returning to the cities of Trenton and then Philadelphia during her teenage years provided quite a dramatic change. Her social circle certainly widened. It included a merchant named Peter Hunt who lived in Lamberton, just south of Trenton, in the years after the Revolution. He was acquainted with the Furman family because he traded with Moore Furman’s Pittstown store manager, Benjamin Guild.
Peter Hunt was born Jan. 27, 1768 to James Hunt and Jemima Mershon Green of Hopewell Township. James Hunt served with Washington’s army at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778. His son Peter was not old enough to serve in the military until the late 1780s and 1790s. It was then that he became involved in the Burlington County militia, eventually obtaining the title of Brigadier General.
According to Isaiah Leigh, a 19th century Hunterdon historian, Hunt owned some boats and shipped goods to various ports, a lifestyle that was alternately prosperous and impoverishing. Leigh quoted Hunt complaining that at times he was “poor as a church mouse.”1
Leigh had access to letters of Peter Hunt, including one written on March 7, 1797 that suggests a different attitude about jails than we have today:
“I have nothing new to communicate. Markets continue very dull in Philadelphia and nothing of any amount doing. We have been maneuvering hard to have a prison built in our Town on my 8-acre Lott [sic], which is now completed all to my entire satisfaction, and I have the money in my pocket for it. The Lott is situated in the middle of 50 acres of my land, which must in the end be of much advantage (to) the Lotts around.”
It was about this time, around 1795, that Hunt married Moore Furman’s daughter Anna Maria.2 Following her marriage, Anna’s was not an easy life, despite the success of her husband. She is thought to have had as many as six children, five of whom died young.
In an article titled “Genealogical Sketch / The Furman Family of Hunterdon County” by Henry Race, M.D., her children were identified as “Sarah Ann, Maria, Susannah, Matilda, Forman, and Peter—all of whom died unmarried—and William Edgar.” And then in 1810, husband Peter Hunt died in Charleston, South Carolina at the age of 42, cause unknown. Even more mysterious, he left no estate that I know of. (Perhaps his estate was probated in South Carolina.)
Anna Maria Hunt of Trenton made her will on August 24, 1816, when she was 41 years old and had been a widow for six years. Her surviving children were still minors, and she named all six of them in the will and left them “all estate, real and personal . . . as they become 21,” which unfortunately only two managed to do, although son Peter James Hunt died in 1829 at age 22. That estate included the Pittstown property.
Anna died almost four months after writing her will, suggesting illness, and was buried in the First Presbyterian Cemetery at Trenton.3 At the time, son William Edgar Hunt was only ten years old. He and the other children were put under the care of a woman named Jane Randolph, as ordered by Anna’s will. Jane was not related, as far as I can tell, but must have been either a close friend or an essential household assistant, especially after Anna became a widow.
William Edgar Hunt
The only child of Peter and Anna Maria Hunt to live beyond the year 1829 was son William Edgar Hunt, born on July 18, 1806, in Lamberton, NJ. At the surprisingly young age of 13, he qualified as a midshipman, on Oct. 28, 1823. This meant that he would be spending much of his life at sea.
Almost ten years later, after all of his siblings had passed away, he found himself possessed of considerable real estate and no interest in maintaining it. So, he began looking for ways to dispose of it.
On April 20, 1831, he named James H. Blackwell of Flemington his attorney to dispose of all real estate in Hunterdon County.4 At the time he was residing in Nottingham Township, and swore to the deed before Thomas Gordon, Master of Chancery.
In October of 1831, attorney Blackwell began selling the Furman property, starting with a couple woodlots in Kingwood Twp., sold to Nathaniel Saxton and Charles Bartles. On the same day, October 1st, he sold a six-acre lot in Kingwood to Daniel Little. The deed stated that it was Lot 10 on a map of division.5
October 3, 1831 was a very busy day for attorney Blackwell. He conveyed lots from the Pittstown property to William VanCamp, Ely Hoppock, William R. Smith, Leonard M. Boeman and Larason Stryker.
To William VanCamp of Alexandria Twp. he sold Lot 4 in the Furman/Hunt division, which included a house and a blacksmith shop in Kingwood Township.6 To Ely Hoppock, also of Alexandria, he sold two tracts of land, also in Kingwood, one of 37 acres and another of 115 acres.7 Then to William R. Smith of Lebanon Twp he sold the grist mill in Pittstown and its lot of 15.86 acres located in both Kingwood and Alexandria. The property was described as bordering the tail race of the grist mill and lots 6 & 7 of the Hunt division. Lot 6 was described as the fulling mill lot. The property also bordered lot 5, the mill dam and pond and the tavern lot.8
The last deed for October 3rd, 1831 was the property sold to Larason Stryker, being none other than the tavern lot.9 I will have much more to say about that below.
Curiously, two years later, Wm E. Hunt did without the services of attorney James H. Blackwell and sold several Hunterdon properties on his own. One is set to wondering if there was some sort of falling out between them. More likely it was because Hunt was back on land for a little while.
On April 1st, 1833, Hunt sold to William L. King of Bethlehem Township a lot of 26 acres in Kingwood Twp., described as being a small part of Lot 9 in the division of the Pitts Town estate. Bordering owners were Christy Little Jr., Lot 6 (the fulling mill lot), land sold to William R. Smith and Joseph Ely. The lot also bordered the oil mill, the old mill dam, the road, and a branch of the Capoolong.10
The next day he sold the rest of Lot 9 to Christy Little, Jr., being 89.93 acres in Kingwood Twp., bordering Lot 14, Jacob Cliffton, Joseph Ely, Wm L. King, a Branch of Capoolong creek, and Little’s other land. The deed noted that Lot 9 was also bordered by Lot 10 which had been sold to Christy Little, Sr., although it did not say when, and that deed was not recorded.
And finally on April 30th, 1833, Hunt sold to Robt K. Reading & Charles Bartles a half-acre lot on a branch of the Raritan bordering the “NJ Turnpike Bridge.”11
This ended William Edgar Hunt’s possession of the Furman-Pittstown property. The total acreage, based on these deeds came to around 600 acres. Perhaps he was hurrying to finish up with these properties because on May 29, 1833, he married his first wife Susan Elizabeth Clark (1810-1848), daughter of James Clark and Mary DeBellville of Trenton. The couple had four children
After Susan’s death, at age 37, he married her sister Anne, on Feb. 26, 1850. They had an additional two children. By the time of the 1860 census, Hunt was a Captain in the US Navy. He died at sea, age 54, in September 1860, along with the rest of the crew of his ship, The Levant. Widow Anne lived on to the age of 86, dying in 1881.
Clearly, Anna Maria Hunt and her son William Edgar were not managing the tavern themselves or petitioning for tavern licenses. So, who was?
Here we come to my new fixation—collecting the names of all the Hunterdon residents who either petitioned for a tavern license or signed such a petition. This is an especially useful source for Hunterdon researchers because the law concerning tavern licenses required that there had to be at least 12 freeholders signing the petitions, and they had to be residents of the town where the tavern was located.
These records can be found at the NJ State Archives and also in the Hunterdon County Clerk’s Office. In most cases, the petitions were approved or disallowed by the Court of Common Please. Much to my delight, Family Search photographed the microfilm of license petitions at the State Archives, making them available online.
The petitions I was looking for were the ones for Alexandria Township which is where the Pittstown Inn was located. Pittstown is pretty remarkable for the way it straddles four townships: Bethlehem, Alexandria, Kingwood and Franklin.
Early records are, of course, not great. There were three petitions in 1799 for taverns located in Alexandria Township. Those petitioners were Jonas Chatburn, Jonathan Leacock and Thomas Purcel. Leacock’s petition identified his tavern as being in Mount Pleasant and included the signatures of 17 men.
Some petitions were entirely handwritten by a clerk of some kind, as Leacock’s was, but others were written on pre-printed forms, as Chatburn’s and Pursel’s were. Those provided much less information. I suspect that Pursel was petitioning for the tavern later known as the Hickory Tavern, further up the road in Alexandria Township. Chatburn’s tavern remains a mystery.
As mentioned in Part Two, it was not until 1801 that we could identify the Pittstown tavernkeeper. He was Peter Vankirk, the one who recommended to Moore Furman that the old “tavern stand” be replaced with a new building.
Peter VanKirk submitted tavern license petitions from 1801 through 1806. He may have done so prior to 1801, but I have not found any earlier license petitions. (Note that I refer to petitions, not to licenses themselves. Some of the actual licenses can be found in the records microfilmed by Family Search, but very few. It is the petitions that provide the most useful information.)
Vankirk’s 1801 petition for the May term of the Court of Common Pleas in Hunterdon County asked permission “to keep a tavern of entertainment at the stand in Pittstown, which he has occupied the last year.” The fee was $10. Signers were the important men in the neighborhood, the freeholders of Alexandria, but not signed by Moore Furman, who was no longer a Pittstown resident. Much to my surprise, the petition made no mention of a grand new building, even though it had to have been built around 1800.
Signers of the Vankirk petition were: Henry Apgar, Samuel Arnwine, William Boss, Henry Case, John Duckworth, David Everitt, Jno E. Forman, Ralph Guild, Nicholas Pickel, Jno Rockhill, Jacob Stoll, and Elias Tunison.12
What I had not settled was which Peter Vankirk was it? There were two contemporaries. One of them died intestate in 1809. This would fit with the recorded tavern licenses for Peter Vankirk in Pittstown, from 1801 through 1806. The other was married in 1780 to Lydia Drake of Hopewell and bought large tracts of land in the Pittstown area.
There is reason to think that Peter, the tavernkeeper for Moore Furman, was the son of Peter Vanbuskirk, yeoman of Lebanon Twp. (In researching this family, I found it necessary to search on the names Van Buskirk, Vanbuskirk and VanKirk. People were very casual about the way they named themselves before bureaucracy got well developed.)
On Feb. 6, 1775, that senior Peter wrote his will naming his twelve children & second wife Jane, his first wife Maritje having died in 1773.13 The children would have been born c.1722-1750. So, the youngest son Peter would probably have been born close to 1750. It was to “youngest son Peter,” that he left his homestead farm of 120 acres bordering Spruce Run Road.
It is notable that Charles Hoff of Pittstown was one of the witnesses of the will, along with Thomas Little, a resident of the Pittstown area in 1775, and Anna Jones. The will was recorded in 1778. Executors were Capt. Thomas Jones (husband of witness Anna) and John Vought.
The Peter Vankirk, who married Esther Drake in 1780, moved on from Hunterdon County, settling in Tomkins County, NY, and dying much later, in 1824. All the real estate records for Peter Vankirk as a grantor name his wife as Esther and date from 1804.
I was led astray by the fact that the other Peter Van Buskirk who died intestate in 1809 resided in Bethlehem Township. The abstract of his estate did not mention any direct relatives although it did name Elizabeth Van Buskirk as his administrator, along with John Lake. His inventory was compiled by Lawrence Updike & Herb Rodenbough. He died possessed of a violin and a silver snuff box. But he was not the Peter married to Esther Drake.
(Note: John Lake was an extensive dealer in real estate as well as a resident of Bethlehem Township. Laurence Updike owned property adjacent to Vankirk Sr.’s in Bethlehem Township. Harbert Rodenbough was also a neighbor of Vankirk’s in Bethlehem Township as early as 1802.)
Matters were somewhat clarified by a deed dated Jan. 3, 1826,14 in which the heirs of Peter Vanbuskirk dec’d who died intestate in 1824 and was married to Esther Drake conveyed their rights to 105 acres in Bethlehem Township to John Apgar of Lebanon Twp. The deed explicitly stated that the property being conveyed was the farm given to youngest son Peter in Peter the elder’s will of 1775.
The heirs identified in that deed were Conrad & Elizabeth Starker, John & Margaret VanBuskirk, Peter & Lyddia VanBuskirk (note—a fourth Peter Vankirk), Mary Vanhorn, all of Bethlehem Twp; Garret & Elizabeth Pittenger of Lebanon Twp., and William & Martha Kitchen of Greenwich, Warren Co., NJ.
It was this Peter, the one who was married to Esther Drake, who was briefly the tavernkeeper in Pittstown and advised Moore Furman to put up a new tavern stand. I know this thanks to another deed, one involving the Guild and Emley families.
The Guild & Emley Family
During the years that Peter VanKirk submitted tavern license petitions, he was also acquiring real estate, including a large property from Ralph Guild, also a resident of Alexandria Township, and the brother of Benjamin Guild, Moore Furman’s store manager.
Capt. Ralph and Benjamin Guild were two of the nine children of Rev. John Guild and Charity Hunt of Hopewell Township. Capt. Ralph (c.1748-1813) married on Sept 12, 1799, Sarah Emley (c.1748-1803), daughter of William Emley and Rebecca Wright, and granddaughter of John Emley, Esq. and Sarah Lawrence, who settled in Kingwood Township in the late 1720s after acquiring a huge acreage in the vicinity of Pittstown.
William Emley was the brother of Nancy Emley, mother of John E. Forman who was one of those who signed Peter Vankirk’s 1801 tavern license petition. William Emley wrote his will on March 28th, 1751, naming his daughter Sarah who was underage. (His wife Rebecca had previously died.) He named his father John Sr. and brothers Elisha & John his executors and died not long afterward.
John Emley, brother of William Emley, and thus an uncle of Sarah Guild, died unmarried in 1795 owning a very large estate, some land inherited from Sarah’s grandfather John, but even more purchased on his own. Emley’s property was adjacent on the southwest to the Hoff tract, and known as Whitehall Farm. (Also, nearly 600 acres well to the south of Pittstown as well as other locations.) Emley died intestate. Benjamin Guild was among those who inventoried his property. In 1796, Gershom Mott petitioned for a division of the Emley land to benefit Emley’s ‘heirs-at-law.’ This included his niece Sarah Guild.
On June 1st 1804, while he was still possessed of a tavern license for the Moore Furman tavern, Peter Vankirk purchased a tract of 101.34 acres, which Sarah Emley Guild had inherited from John Emley, and which Sarah and Ralph sold to Ralph’s brother Benjamin in Dec. 1799, who sold it back to them in Feb. 1800. Sarah died on Sept. 4, 1803, and her widowed husband Ralph then sold the property to Peter Vankirk.15
Then in 1807, while still living in Bethlehem twp., Peter & Esther Vankirk sold part of their Bethlehem Township property to John E. Forman and the rest of it back to Ralph Guild.16 It was between 1806 and 1807 that Peter Vankirk gave up tavern-keeping, and removed to Tompkins County, New York, where he died on March 10, 1824. His wife Esther Drake then moved to Northampton County, Pennsylvania to live with daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Garret Pittenger, where she died in 1847, age 82.
Next Tavernkeeper: Isaac Bennet
By April of 1807, a new Pittstown tavernkeeper was licensed. That was Isaac Bennet (1777-1840), whose parents I have not identified. One source gives his middle name as ‘Ryck,’ which suggests a German ancestry, despite his surname which is decidedly English.
Ten years before taking up the Pittstown Inn, on March 5th, 1797, Isaac Bennet married Catrin Tinsman in Sussex County. Catrin’s family was much more fun to study. She was the granddaughter of the founder of the Tinsmans in New Jersey, Johannes Petrus Tinsman (1717-1806) who settled in Knowlton, Sussex County. Why Isaac and Catrin moved to Hunterdon County, or when they did that, I cannot say. I do know that they had nine children, from c.1798 through 1820, which means they had young children while Isaac was working the Pittstown Inn, during the years 1807 through 1809.
He differed from Vankirk for his short time at the tavern, and also because it was many years before he acquired property of his own, and that was simply a lot of 24+ acres in Alexandria Township, which he bought in 1837 from James & Hannah Smith.17
Having been abstracting decades of tavern license petitions, I’ve been noticing that some tavern patrons are regulars, and some are not. Since Mr. Bennet only had three petitions, it was fairly easy to identify the repeats. They were John B. Allen, Jesse, Joseph & Thomas Dalrymple, John Eckel, & Nicholas Pickel. Peter Vankirk signed Bennet’s first petition in 1807 but did not return.
Isaac Bennet died in 1840, only 3 years after purchasing his Alexandria property. He was 62 years old, having survived his wife Catrin Tinsman by many years. She had died in 1826 age 49.18
On March 29, 1842, Bennet’s heirs sold his 24.75 acres to Christopher Tinsman of Alexandria Township. One would expect Christopher Tinsman to be a relation of Catrin Tinsman Bennet’s, but I have not been able to prove that. Beside the similar name, a reason for my suspicion is that the heirs lost $1040 on the sale, suggesting it was between relatives. I suspect he was the Christopher Tinsman (1800-1845) who was running the tavern in Milford known as the Spring Garden Hotel from 1842 through 1844. Much to my surprise I could not find his sale of the property purchased from Bennet.
From 1810 to 1823
The Pittstown tavernkeepers who followed Isaac Bennet were Philip Case, from 1810 through 1812; Peter Stryker, 1813 through 1816 (Stryker’s 1815 petition noted that he had been tavernkeeper the past two years); Isaac Pittenger, 1817 through 1820 (1821 is missing), and then Amos Thatcher Maxwell (1822 and 1823).
I am skipping over these gentlemen to get to the last tavernkeeper in this series: Larason Stryker. But in order to write about him, I do have to consider the identity of the Peter Stryker who got licensed for Pittstown from 1813 through 1816. That turned out to be very frustrating.
Larason Stryker was one of the ten children of a Peter A. Stryker (1762-1827) and Keziah Davis (1768-1828), both born in Raritan Township, Somerset County. Peter and Keziah moved to Hunterdon County, settling first in Alexandria Township. In 1795, Peter Stryker purchased a tract of 280 acres in Bethlehem Township from Jacob Race, Sr.19 In 1806, that Peter Stryker was named executor of the estate of Samuel Davis, father of Keziah Davis Stryker and grandfather of Larason Stryker.
It seems very unlikely that he was keeping the tavern in 1813, not someone owning such a large tract of land. There was another Peter Stryker (1765-1837) who married Sarah Lowe in Readington Township about 1787, and later on moved to Ohio. Deeds show a third Peter Stryker who lived in Lebanon Twp from 1804-1809, and was married to Hannah and/or Christiannea, but I know nothing else about him.
In the interests of finishing this article, I will abstain from further research into all these Peter Strykers and move on to Larason Stryker.
Larason Stryker was first employed as a tavernkeeper in 1823, when he kept the tavern in Baptistown. But that was only for one year. The next year he was hired by agents of the Pittstown tavern’s owner, the heirs of Moore Furman.
As mentioned above, Larason Stryker was born June 27, 1797 in Bethlehem Township, one of the 10 children of Peter A. Stryker & Keziah Davis. On Feb. 12, 1820, at the age of 23, he married his wife Theodosia Reading (1800-1875), daughter of Joseph Reading, Jr. and Lucy Emley of Amwell Township. She was also one of ten children. And to top it off, Larason and Theodosia had ten children of their own, from 1821 through 1842, all of whom reached adulthood.
Among Larason Stryker’s brothers-in-law were Moses Abbott Taylor and George Opdycke, Jr., mayor of New York City and member of the NY Assembly.
Stryker’s first license petition for the tavern in Pittstown was dated April 19, 1824, being “the tavern lately occupied by George Maxwell Esq.” Signers were Peter Sigler, John Wall, William Taylor, Christopher Snyder, Robeson Rockhill, Joseph Opdycke, Jno C. Rockhill, Hugh H. Potts, Henry Stiers, John Marlow, George Case, Chas Thompson, and Joseph Ely. (I’ve listed them in the order they appeared on the petition, as it might suggest companionship if not relationships.) Of those men, only five of them had signed the petition of the previous tavernkeeper, Amos T. Maxwell.
I was puzzled by the reference to Geo. Maxwell, Esq. who happened to be the County Surrogate in 1823, the year that his son Amos got the tavern license for Pittstown. Much to my frustration, I could not find a birth date for Amos Thatcher Maxwell, but judging from the births of his siblings and his marriage date (1833), it was probably between 1804 & 1810. Also frustrating was the fact that his wife Margaret C. Stryker’s parents are unknown. She could have been related to Larason Stryker, but then there were many Stryker families in early 19th-century Somerset & Hunterdon County.
As mentioned above, taverns had their regular customers, several of whom signed the license applications year after year. I was curious to see who might have signed the petitions of both Amos T. Maxwell and Larason Stryker. There were five such men: Joseph Opdycke and Peter Sigler of Kingwood, Robeson Rockhill and Henry Stiers of Bethlehem Twp., and John Wall of Alexandria Twp.
For the years 1824 through 1834, the most regular customers at Stryker’s hotel were L. [Leonard] N. Boeman, Robeson Rockhill, Peter Sigler, John H. Trimmer Jr., William VanCamp, and Edward Welsted. Those who returned for three years in a row were: Abraham Bennet, Charles B. Ferguson, Joseph Opdycke, Hugh H. Potts, Jno C. Rockhill, and Christopher Snyder.
Stryker’s license petition of 1825 identified the tavern as “the old stand called The Pittstown Hotel.” It was Stryker’s second year running the tavern, and he seems to have gotten off to a rough start. An item in the Hunterdon Gazette of June 9th noted that there were nine tavern licenses granted by the Court whose fees had not yet been paid and Stryker’s was among them. However, at the end of the paragraph it was noted that Stryker and Peter C. Cherry had since paid for theirs.
In 1831, Stryker’s petition stated that the tavern “has been kept as such for the last 20 years,” which only takes us back to 1811; he probably should have written ‘the last 50 years.’
The record of tavern license applications shows that Stryker petitioned for a license in Pittstown every year from 1824 through 1852, for a total of 28 years, with the exceptions of 1829 and 1835, and that was probably just a loss of records. That was much longer than most tavernkeepers and was also unusual for his remaining in the same location during all that time.
Acquiring the Tavern
It was not until 1831 that Stryker purchased the tavern property from William E. Hunt, the surviving heir of Moore Furman. The purchase was made on October 3rd of that year, and the sale made by James H. Blackwell, acting as attorney for Hunt who was undoubtedly at sea.20
What was conveyed was a lot of 63.52 acres, identified as the tavern lot or Lot 2 on a map of division,21 bordering the Worthington farm, the road from Pittstown to the Hickory Tavern, land late John C. Rockhill dec’d, the road from Pitts Town to Clinton, the mill lot, the mill pond, and the store house lot. In addition, a lot of 182.48 acres was conveyed, being the Worthington farm mentioned above, bordering the road from Pittstown to the Hickory Tavern, Samuel Leigh, Jacob Stires, John C. Rockhill, Esq., the tavern lot, and land of Luther Opdycke. The price was $3500.
This was a property that Stryker clearly valued, as he retained it for the rest of his life. Here he is shown on the Cornell Map of 1851, and below on a detail from the Beers Atlas of 1873 for the village of Pittstown.
One of the ways tavernkeepers attracted customers was to hold horse races. Stryker wasted no time doing this. In partnership with Peter Lowe, he put this notice in the Hunterdon Gazette on March 2, 1826:
The subscribers give NOTICE, That the celebrated HORSE AUGUSTINE, will stand for mares the ensuing season at the stable of Larison Stryker, in Pittstown, from the first of April to the first of August. — the rates and pedigree will be given in the hand-bills.
This attention to horses backfired many years later, according to this item in the Hunterdon Gazette on May 14th 1874:
Accident on 7 May 1874. Larason Stryker, Sr. of Pittstown found one of his young horses lying in the stable, in a position from which it could not turn itself to get upon its feet. In trying to render assistance, he got too near, and the horse struck him in the face, causing a nasty wound about 2 inches long. He was also thrown against the stable wall with such violence as to cut two wounds through the scalp and causing a concussion. He is now doing well and is likely to recover.
Stryker often was named a commissioner to sell the real estate of deceased property owners. In 1851 he was named with Robeson Rockhill and Wesley Johnson to sell land of Thomas Kitchen dec’d; in 1864 along with Enoch Able and Lindley M. Vail to sell property of William Snyder dec’d; and in 1870 along with Miller Kline and Charles W. Altemus to sell the many properties of William L. King of Kingwood and Union Townships.
During his lengthy ownership, it is likely that Larason Stryker made improvements to the tavern building. He may have been the owner responsible for its handsome appearance in this 20th-century photograph.
As mentioned above, Larason and Theodosia Stryker had ten children, between the years 1820 and 1843. Remarkably they all remained in the general area of Pittstown as adults. Son Larason Jr. was the last to die, in 1915.
Theodocia Reading Stryker died in 1875 at the age of 74. Four years later, on Sept. 18, 1879, this item appeared in the Hunterdon Republican:
Old Chair. Larason Stryker, Sr., of Pittstown, has a chair that belonged to John Reading, Governor, who was an ancestor of Mr. Stryker’s deceased wife. It is made of black walnut, very nicely framed and handsomely finished. The workmanship seems too good for those rude colonial times – Reading was born in 1687 – and it was probably one of a set made in England, or in the village of New York, for his parlor. He resided at Walnut Grove, a little way East of the Flemington Fair Grounds.
Theodocia was a great granddaughter of Gov. John Reading, daughter of Joseph Reading Jr. and granddaughter of Joseph Reading Sr.
Tavernkeepers After Stryker
During the 1850s and 1860s, the village of Pittstown began to expand, thanks to the manufacturing operations of Hiram Deats. One would expect the local tavern owner to take advantage of what must have been a significant increase in business. And yet, that is just when Stryker retired from operating the tavern, turning it over to men he hired.
Stryker obtained tavern licenses up through 1852 when he was 55 years old. But he must have considered farming to be more important, because that is how he identified himself, as a farmer, in the census of 1850. What surprised me was the high value of his real property: $15,500, which for the time was quite a lot, and the acreage he owned was not that great. His wife Theodocia was 58 years old and six of their children were living with them.
I looked to see who was living in Alexandria Twp. that year working as a tavernkeeper and found six men, none of whom was identified with Pittstown. I wasn’t able to identify a Pittstown tavernkeeper until I came to the applications of James Emery for the years 1858 and 1859, naming the village of Pittstown as the location for the tavern. In fact, the petition of 1858 read “at Pittstown where Larason Stryker formerly dwelt,” which tells us that Stryker and family had moved out of the tavern to one of his other properties.
James W. Emery (1830-1906), son of John & Sarah Ruth Emery, was living with his parents in Nockamixon, Bucks County when the 1850 census was taken. He married Ruth Hunt (1833-1898) on Feb. 3, 1855. She was the daughter of Amos P. Hunt and Mary Vandolah of Delaware Township.
Soon after the marriage, in April 1855, Emery purchased a lot in Frenchtown on Harrison Street from Leonard & Susan Higgins.22 The next month, he bought a half-acre lot in Frenchtown jointly with Joseph R. Burgstresser from Samuel & Mary Hudnit.23 A year later, the Emery’s sold the Higgins lot to Jacob B. Emery, and their share in the half-acre Frenchtown lot to Joseph Burgstresser.24
What Emery was doing between 1856 and 1858 when he began keeping the Pittstown tavern I cannot say. Larason Stryker was among those who signed his 1858 petition. He must have been fairly popular as he got an additional 18 men to sign. (Only 13 men signed Stryker’s 1852 petition.) The men who signed both petitions were Jacob E. Haver, John Pittenger, George W. Rockhill, and Moses A. Taylor.
Stryker also signed Emery’s 1859 petition, but very few of the men who signed in 1858 signed in 1859. After that, James W. Emery retired from tavernkeeping, moved back to Bucks County and took up cabinet making. He died in 1906 at the age of 75, surviving wife Ruth, who died in 1898 at the age of 64.
Robert T. Anderson
Emery was followed in 1860 by Robert T. Anderson (1829-1895), son of Daniel H. Anderson and Delia Cox of Bethlehem Township. In the 1850 census for Franklin Township, he was identified as a 20-year old miller living with the family of Harmon Hunt. In the census of 1860, he was a head of household, age 30, occupied as an innkeeper in Alexandria Township. Living with him was wife Margaret, age 23 and daughter Emma age 1.
She was probably Margaret W. Little, born 1836. The Little family is one I’d like to know more about, given their important connection with Pittstown and Franklin and Kingwood Townships, but I was not successful in getting a good identification of Margaret Little Anderson’s parents.
Living with the Anderson family in 1860 was Thomas Anderson 24, employed as a “bar keeper”; Emma Little 27; Thomas Moore 24 hostler; Sam’l Kinsey 57 mechanic, born Maryland; and Thomas Butler 45, a “ditcher,” born Ireland. Thomas and Emma must have been siblings to Robert and Margaret.
Robert Anderson submitted his 1860 tavern license petition on February 25th. It read:
“The Subscribers, freeholders of the township of Alexandria in the county of Hunterdon do hereby recommend Robert T. Anderson to be licensed to keep an inn and tavern in the house now or recently occupied by James Emery in said township and county, and we do hereby certify that the said Robert T. Anderson is of good repute for honesty and temperance, and is known to each of us to have at least two spare beds more than are necessary for family use and is well provided with house, stabling and provender, and we do further certify that such an inn or tavern is necessary and will conduce to the public good.”
The men who signed the petition were Larason Stryker, Jacob E. Haver, John Wagoner, Geo. W. Bonnell, Moses S. Taylor, John Taylor, Isaac Young, Elias Rupell, Isaac Hines, Arthur T. Wagoner, Jacob W. Peer? and John R. Welsh.
Anderson submitted petitions every year afterward up to 1865, and Larason Stryker signed every single one. I did not find a petition for the year 1865, but given the state of affairs that year, it is not surprising. However, Anderson was listed with other licensed tavernkeepers that year in the Hunterdon Gazette.
That was the last year that Anderson ran the Pittstown tavern. In 1870 he could be found in New York City, age 41, employed as a commission merchant, living with wife Margaret 32 and children Emma J. 11, Carrie H. 7, and Ashel 3 months. By 1880 the family had moved to Jersey City, NJ, where Robert was employed as a commission merchant dealing in fruit. He was 52, Margaret was 46 and their children were Carrie 17, Aashell 12 and Howard 6.
Margaret Anderson died in Jersey City in 1893, age 56, and was buried in the Grandin Cemetery in Union Township, NJ. Robert followed her in 1895.
There is one more Pittstown tavernkeeper to mention. It was John Stryker, a Civil War veteran who served with Co. E 31st Reg New Jersey Volunteers. He was also the 9th of the ten children of Larason Stryker and Theodocia Reading, born Jan. 16, 1838. After he returned from the war, he went to live in Jersey City, which is where he met and married on April 30 1868, Ellen Hibbler, daughter of Nelson and Elizabeth Hibbler.
By 1879, John and Ellen, along with their children Nelson and Joseph, were living in Alexandria Township, where John applied for a tavern license. The 1880 census for Alexandria listed him as a hotel keeper, age 40, with wife Ellen 32 and sons Nelson and Joseph. Listed next to them was John’s brother, Joseph R. Stryker, age 51, with wife Elizabeth (Gardner) 50, along with their brother Moses Stryker age 35, their sister Lucy Stryker age 38, and their father Larrison [sic] Stryker, age 83.
Death of Larason Stryker
It was while living with son Joseph R. Stryker and wife Elizabeth that Larason Stryker died, on March 18, 1881 while he was still 83. He was predeceased by his wife Theodocia, his son James R. Stryker in 1851 at age 28, son Peter T. Stryker in 1875 at age 50, and daughter Eliza the same year at age 46. Larason was buried in the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church alongside his wife.
Stryker had written a will several years previously on Jan. 15, 1877, leaving his “homestead farm whereon I now reside” (at the time) to sons Joseph and Moses Stryker.
He also gave an undivided half share of the farm of Moses Taylor to son William M. Stryker and the other half to his son-in-law John A. Young, husband of his daughter Keziah. To his two sons George and Larison Jr., “the farm whereon son Joseph Stryker now resides, provided or taking into account debt of son Larison of $1700+ for room and board.” He left the handsome sum of $5,2295 to son Joseph, but not to son Moses.
And finally, he gave specific sums of money to all of his surviving children and to his many grandchildren.
The Hunterdon Republican published this obituary on March 24, 1881: “Death from Apoplexy at Pittstown on 18 Mar. 1881, Larrison Stryker, aged about 84 years.” The obituary said nothing about his many years as landlord and owner of the Pittstown Inn.
Before I close, two incidents must be mentioned: First of all, the fire of 1913 that gutted the building. The photograph shows the hotel after the fire was put out.
Thankfully, its owner decided to reconstruct the interior and did so in a manner faithful to its origins. The hotel is today very much worth a visit.
Secondly, the very recent disaster when someone drove their car into the stone wall of the landmark barn across the road from the hotel, the one with the sign “So This Is Pittstown.” It is hoped that the barn’s owner will follow the pattern of the previous hotel’s owner and find a mason to reconstruct the barn’s stone wall.
And here I will stop. Once again, I have found that there is truly no end to the possible questions to research when writing about a particular property. But this article is now far longer than my usual ones, and it is time to end.
- Isaiah Leigh, Paper read to the Hunterdon Co. Historical Society and published in the Hunterdon Republican on Jan. 26, 1887. ↩
- Once again, it is surprising that a family like the Furmans did not keep better records. I have not found a date or license for the marriage of Anna Maria Furman with Peter Hunt. ↩
- Find-a-Grave #101229468. ↩
- Hunterdon Co. Special Deed, Book 2 p. 88. ↩
- A copy of the map would be a valuable addition to this article, but it does not seem to have been recorded in Hunterdon County. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 51 p.161. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 52 p.39. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 52 p.99. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 51 p.329. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 54 p.150. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 55 p.242. ↩
- I thought perhaps that Jno E. Forman was the son of Moore Furman, but that is not the case. He was John Emley Forman (1772-1867) son of Aaron Forman M.D. and Ann Nancy Emley. There is no relationship between John E. Forman and Moore Furman. ↩
- Wife Maritje VanHorn is listed as dying in 1773 in Hackensack, Bergen Co., which is where the original VanBuskirks were settled. But that seems odd if our Peter bought land in Lebanon Twp as early as 1748 (from Mahlon Kirkbride) and bordered the Grandins in 1771. ↩
- H.C. Deeds Book 39 p.485. ↩
- All this was described at length in Deed Book 10 p.77. ↩
- Deeds Book 14 pp. 181, 184. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 67 p. 503. ↩
- Find-a-Grave has Isaac buried next to wife Phebe in the Durham Cemetery in Bucks Co., PA. Phebe’s identity remains a mystery. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 32 p.203. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 51 p.329. ↩
- I checked with both the Hall of Records and the Surrogate’s Court for a record of that map of division, and even better, a copy of that map, but it was not found in either place. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 111 p.767. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 111-765. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 113-403, 114-086. ↩