As the end of the 18th century approached, ownership of Raven Rock and Bull’s Island was changed from a single large landowner to multiple owners with different ways of exploiting the resources of the neighborhood.
1799, The Ten-Acre Mill Lot
It appears that Mahlon Cooper and Robert Curry were the first millers of record to operate a mill at Raven Rock. On October 14, 1799, Isaiah Quinby sold a ten-acre lot to Mahlon Cooper for £500.1 Cooper is supposed to have sold a half interest in the mill to Robert Curry on December 3, 1799 for £275, according to B. A. Sorby.2 However, the lease of 1794 makes it clear that Cooper and Curry were partners at that time, five years before purchasing the mill lot.
It should be noted that the ten acres sold to Cooper was not the same as the ten acres that Isaiah Quinby bought from Marmaduke Leet in 1745, although it seems to have included a little of that property. The shape of the mill lot has been drawn based on later deeds, with help from a map drawn by Carter Litchfield, whose book on New Jersey Oil Mills should be published before the end of the year.
Since the fishing lease established that Cooper and Curry were already operating a mill in 1794, and later deeds make it clear that this ten-acre lot was the location of their mill, we must assume that Isaiah Quinby had leased the lot to the millers for a period of several years before finally selling it to Cooper. I have no insight into what prompted Quinby to sell in 1799, unless it was failing health that inspired him to begin settling his estate.
From Quinby to Wall to Quinby: Bull’s Island and Raven Rock
Probably as a continuation of his plans to dispose of his property, Isaiah Quinby carved out a tract of 75 acres adjoining Bull’s Island and sold it and most of the island to the most important man on the Pennsylvania side of the river, George Wall Esq., generally credited with being the founder of the town of Lumberville. The original name for the town was Wall’s Landing.
Addendum, April 22, 2013: After all my articles were published here concerning the village of Raven Rock, I found a missing piece of evidence, or I should say that Dennis Bertland gave me a piece of evidence. It is an advertisement in the newspaper, The True American, dated March 10, 1801, and reads:
“FOR SALE. Two Plantations, one on which the subscriber now lives, situated in Hunterdon county, on the river Delaware, containing one hundred and forty acres, part of which is Bulls Island, containing 70 acres, the remainder, adjoining lands of Joseph Reading, Esq., Martin Johnson and others, about 60 acres of which are excellent timber land. There are on the premises a large two-story dwelling-house with a good spring of water near the door, a barn, and an orchard of grafted fruit.
The other FARM contains 95 acres, bounded by lands of Martin Johnson and Thomas Hankinson, dec. about 20 acres of which are good woodland, the remainder arable land and meadow. There are on the premises a stone house, barn and store-house. Any person inclining to purchase may view the premises by applying to the subscriber. An indisputable title, and immediate possession will be given. [signed] Moses Quinby, March 5, 1801.”
I suspect that Moses Quinby was acting on behalf of his father Isaiah Quinby who was by this time a very old man, 85 years old in fact. It does not appear that Isaiah Quinby actually deeded this property to his son Moses; at least, later deeds make no mention of that. The “other farm” referred to above was not sold at this time. A later advertisement dated Dec. 4, 1801 showed that it was still unsold. In that ad it was described as “opposite Painter’s Ferry,” making it south and east of the Raven Rock tract sold to George Wall.
This transaction took place on March 24, 1801. Wall paid $4000 for the whole, excepting out the fisheries that had been leased, and the rights of Cooper and Curry to build a dam for their mill.3 The deed identified the stream of water separating the island from the mainland of New Jersey as “Bull’s Creek.” Bordering owners of the 75-acre tract were Martin Johnson and Mahlon Cooper.
Only six days after this deed was signed, George Wall conveyed the 75-acre tract to Isaiah Quinby’s son Moses Quinby of Amwell for £700.4 Why didn’t Isaiah Quinby sell the property directly to his son Moses rather than use a middle man? The deeds do not enlighten us. Mr. Wall made a handsome profit, however. According to Revolutionary America, 1763-1800 by Thomas L. Purvis, in 1800, one pound (£) was the equivalent of about $4.77. That would make £700 worth $3,340.89. So, although Wall paid $4,000 for the whole tract, he got nearly that much from Moses Quinby for the 75 acres. It does make one wonder what the relationship was between Isaiah and Moses Quinby. It also makes me wonder how Moses Quinby came up with so much money.
Moses Quinby and his first wife, Jane Fell, had 11 children, from 1783 to 1799, the year that Jane died. On January 13, 1801, Quinby married his second wife, Hannah Good, daughter of Edward Good and Eleanor Harris of Plumstead, PA. Moses and Hannah eventually had 7 children, for a total of 18 children of Moses Quinby, almost all of whom survived to adulthood. Moses must have been very prosperous indeed to support such a large family and still have the funds to purchase land from the cagey George Wall. Given the dates of the two deeds, it seems likely that the division (Wall to get the island, Quinby to get the rest) was agreed on beforehand.
Bull’s Island, the “Lower Part”
The lease of a fishery has shown us that Mahlon Cooper and Robert Curry were hard at work at the Raven Rock mill by 1794, and by 1799 had acquired title to the ten-acre mill lot. Although their mill was located on the mainland, they were much affected by Bull’s Island, which was divided from their lot by the relatively narrow Bull’s Creek. They must have felt that they needed more control over the waters supplying their wheel or wheels, so when Isaiah Quinby sold Bull’s Island to George Wall in 1801, they probably negotiated with Wall to acquire part of the island.
There is no deed recorded to describe a sale, but a mortgage dated May 1, 1801 shows that Cooper and Curry purchased the southern half of Bulls Island from George Wall, and in order to do so, they mortgaged the property to him, promising to pay $533.33 in two installments.5 George Wall was primarily interested in the northern half of Bull’s Island, which was the location of his “Prime Hope” or “Snapjaw” fishery. The fishery began at the northern tip of the island and ran down the river side nearly the whole length.6
The mortgage to Wall also shows that after Wall’s death, his executors on May 18, 1805 assigned the Cooper-Curry mortgage to Nathaniel Shewell and Samuel Curry (at least I think those are the names; they are very hard to read).7
The Quinby Wills
On May 22, 1804, Isaiah Quinby of Amwell, “being of advanced age,” wrote his will. He was about 84 years old, which was very advanced indeed. He left to his third wife Miriam (maiden name Betts), £100 and whatever goods she brought with her when she married Quinby, along with a riding horse, a cow, feather bed and bedding, and use of the house during her widowhood, plus the yearly interest of £200. The house “where I now live,” which sits at the top of Federal Twist hill in Delaware Township (Block 46 lot 1), was to be shared with son James, who also got the 300-acre plantation, even though he was not the oldest surviving son.
Son Moses Quinby did not get any bequest. He was only mentioned as a bordering owner to the 300 acres left to James Quinby. The will was witnessed by Isaac Van Camp (a neighbor), Mahlon Cooper and James Major, who lived nearby in Kingwood. Quinby wrote a codicil seven months later which was witnessed by Isaac Van Camp, James Major, and Cooper’s partner, Robert Curry.
The fact that Isaiah Quinby made no provision for his son Moses suggests that the arrangement with Wall to provide Moses with 75 acres was considered part of his inheritance.
Isaiah Quinby died on June 6, 1807. His wife Miriam survived him until her death on September 20, 1811. She also wrote a will in which she provided for her daughters and for her granddaughters. One of her provisions left to the five daughters of Moses Quinby, her son, the money due her on a bond from son Moses, deducting out moneys due from Miriam Quinby to Moses Quinby and assigned to David Swezy. It appears that after the death of Isaiah, Moses had need of money and turned to his stepmother for it. I wonder if Moses ever paid that money over to his daughters, as the will instructed.
Just to show how important names were to the people of that time, here is another provision of Miriam Quinby’s will. She left a clock to her son James if, and only if, he had a son named Isaiah. If that did not happen, then the clock was to go to Aaron Quinby’s son Isaiah. It is also an indicator of the Quinby wealth that they actually had a clock. Most Hunterdon families of this time did not.
Miriam named her son James as executor, along with son-in-law John Wolverton, and another important person in the history of this neighborhood, Nathaniel Saxton Esq. In fact, it was probably Saxton who drew up Miriam Quinby’s will. He was, by this time, an important person in Raven Rock—so important, that the village name was changed to Saxtonville (or Saxtonsville).
7/20/2012: I have recently learned from George Cox of Brielle, NJ that the Samuel Curry who gave a mortgage to Mahlon Cooper and Robert Curry in 1805 was in fact, Robert’s brother. And the other mortgagee, Nathaniel Shewell, was Samuel Curry’s brother-in-law. I had originally written the name as ‘Carrey’ since it was so hard to read the old hand-writing. Mr. Cox spells the name ‘Currie,’ which is how it appears from his research. I’m pretty sure now that it was ‘Curry’ in the old mortgage. It was apparently spelled both ways.
Here is more information from Mr. Cox:
Samuel Currie (b. abt.1769) married Elizabeth Shewell 23 Apr. 1796. Elizabeth was one of the 8 children of Robert Shewell and Sarah Sallows. All were born at “Painswick Hall” in New Britain,Bucks Co. now Doylestown. There is an excellent work on this family in “Autumn leaves from family trees” 1892 by Theophilus Rodenbough. This volume has been digitized and is easily found by many different search engines.
- Secretary of State Deed AV-168. Note that deeds from the 18th century that concerned properties not sold by the Board of West Jersey Proprietors are designated as Secretary of State Deeds and are to be found in the State Archives at Trenton. ↩
- There must be a deed that provides this information, but I have not found it. ↩
- Deed 4-006 ↩
- H.C. Deed 4-012 ↩
- Hunterdon Co. Mortgage 2:549 ↩
- D’Autrechy, pg 17 ↩
- The assignment was recorded in Deed Book 11 pg 499. See addendum for more information. ↩