This is a continuation of the history of the farm once owned by Richard Reading, then later by John Woolverton and wife Rachel Quinby. After John Wolverton’s death, it came to his son Samuel.
In his will of 1830, John Woolverton bequeathed his homestead farm to his eldest son Samuel. By the time he wrote his will, two of John’s seven children had already died—daughter Mary, wife of Joshua Opdycke, and daughter Martha who died before she had a chance to marry.
Samuel Wolverton was born on April 22, 1779. He was not counted in the 1830 census because he was living with his parents, even though he had married in 1810. (The 1830 census only provided the name of the head of household.) His wife was Mary Johnson, born June 11, 1788 to Wolverton’s neighbours, Martin Johnson and Anna Trout. They owned a large tract of land bordering the Delaware River just south of Raven Rock. Samuel and Mary Wolverton only had two children before Mary’s untimely death on March 5, 1812, at the age of 23—John, born about 1811, and Asher Wolverton, born January 30, 1812.
Samuel did not remarry for nine years. His second wife was Elizabeth Wilson, whom he married on January 6, 1821. She was the daughter of Capt. John Wilson and Jane Deremer. Later that year, on March 10, 1821 when he was 65 years old, Elizabeth’s father wrote his will bequeathing to her and her four sisters $400 each after the death of their mother. He specifically named Elizabeth as the wife of Samuel Wolverton. John Wilson died the following January. His wife Jane survived until 1834, when she was 78 years old.
Samuel and Elizabeth had no known children for six years following their marriage. It was not until February 19, 1827 that their only child, Maurice Wolverton, was born. Like her predecessor, Elizabeth Wilson Wolverton also died young, on September 28, 1836, at the age of 48, leaving behind a nine-year old son.1
In the 1840 census, Samuel Wolverton was a head of household. Like the 1830 census, it only named the head of household, and simply counted the other residents. Included in the Wolverton’s household was a woman in her 80s. This was almost certainly Samuel’s mother Rachel Quinby Wolverton, who died on March 17, 1842, at the age of 88.
She survived her son Samuel who died a widower on September 19, 1841, age 62. His obituary read: “Died on Sunday the 19th inst., Mr. Samuel Wolverton, aged about 60 years.”2
Samuel Wolverton died without a will. His administrators were his sons Asher and John Wolverton.3 Son Maurice was only 15 years old at the time. John Wolverton either died not long afterward or moved away. By 1850, Asher and Maurice Wolverton were administering their father’s estate.
Asher Wolverton and Ann Gearhart Fisher
On April 19, 1851, Asher and Maurice Wolverton divided their holdings. Asher (unmarried at the time) conveyed to his brother Maurice for $4,086, his share of a tract of 136 acres and 39 perches (excepting out 80 perches for a graveyard). And Maurice and wife Caroline conveyed to Asher their share of a tract of 166 acres and 24 perches for $5,403.27.4
The property that was conveyed to Asher Wolverton contained the original homestead of John Reading and Mary Howell, being also the home of John and Rachel Wolverton, and then their son Samuel, father of Asher and Maurice Wolverton. It bordered the D&R Canal, land of William Johnson and James Wolverton, the road from Rosemont to Stockton, land of William L. Hoppock, and a Mrs. Brittain.5 It was the farm on the west side of Route 519 just north of Prallsville.
It is likely that the Cornell Map of 1851 was made before this transaction took place, as it showed “J. Woolverton” at the homestead of Asher and his father Samuel Wolverton, the “J” probably indicating the estate of John Wolverton, dec’d.
The 1860 Philadelphia Map shows that “A. Wolverton” had possession of the farm. But the census suggests that Wolverton was living elsewhere that year. The 1860 census showed that Asher and Maurice were no longer sharing a household. Instead, Asher Wolverton, still a bachelor, had moved in with Pierson Williamson.
Pierson Williamson (1814-1895), the son of Adam Williamson and Eleanor Williamson, was married to Martha Opdycke, daughter of Joshua Opdycke and Mary Wolverton. That Mary Wolverton (1782-1817) was the daughter of John & Rachel Wolverton, therefore the sister of Samuel Wolverton, and aunt to Asher and Maurice.6 So Pierson Williamson’s wife was Asher Wolverton’s first cousin.7
By 1870, Asher Wolverton was again managing his own household, for he had married on November 28, 1860, Anna Gearhard Fisher (1822-1896) of Clinton, daughter of Godfrey Gearhart and Susan Conover of Lebanon Twp. Anna’s first husband was Johnson Fisher (c.1816-1859), a lumberman who partnered with his brother, the well-known architect Mahlon Fisher.8
Johnson and Anna Fisher lived in the vicinity of Brookville until Johnson died of typhoid fever in 1859, at age 43. He left behind three children, Wilson (c.1845-1867), Sarah Elizabeth (1848-1930) and Charles (1851-1893). Charles is interesting because he married Sarah Elizabeth Reading (1852-1940), daughter of John Wolverton Reading and Lucinda Gordon. She was the great granddaughter of John Wolverton and Rachel Quinby.
Sarah Elizabeth Fisher is interesting not only because she married David Lawshe who became a member of the State Legislature, but because of an incident involving her step-father Asher Wolverton.
According to James P. Snell,9 Asher Wolverton retired from farming in April 1872 and moved to Stockton. The census of 1880 bears this out, listing Asher in the Village of Stockton, age 68, retired farmer, and wife Ann 58 keeping house. Since Asher did not have a grown son to take over the farm for him, it would be hard to say who moved into the house and maintained the property for the next several years, were it not for a law suit filed after Asher’s death.
In 1893, when Asher Wolverton was 80 or 81 years old, he “fell on the ice and broke his hip,” as reported in the Hunterdon Republican of February 8, 1893. He needed help getting around, and got it from his wife’s son-in-law David Lawshe, with the promise that Asher would pay him for it. Not only did Lawshe help Asher get around, he also “looked after the farm and stone quarry.” But apparently Wolverton never bothered to pay for these services.
Asher Wolverton died on January 28, 1896, age 83. He did not merit an obituary in the Hunterdon Republican.10 However, his widow Anna died not long afterwards, on March 25, 1896, which was duly noted in the Republican, published on April 1, 1896:
Death in Delaware Tp., on 25 Mar. 1896, Mrs. Ann Wolverton, aged 73 years and 9 months. She was the widow of Asher Wolverton, who died 28 Jan. 1896, aged 85 years, in Delaware Tp. Interment in Rosemont Cemetery.
Asher Wolverton had died without a will. As a result, David Lawshe decided to sue the estate to recover the sums promised him for his help. He claimed he was owed $907, but decided to assign the claim to someone who knew his way around a courtroom, Henry P. Cullen, Esq. Henry Cullen and Asher Wolverton went way back. Both of them served as trustees of the Supreme School District, locally known as Duck’s Flat School, located on Route 519 near the Kingwood Township border. In 1862, the two of them raised funds to support army volunteers from the school district. In 1884, Cullen was made a Judge. By 1896, he was 76 years old, but still active.
Asher’s brother Maurice was administrator of the estate. Cullen sued Maurice Wolverton as administrator, and in the December term, 1898, the jury decided in Cullen’s favor, allowing him to recover $975.11 The decision was appealed to the Court of Errors and Appeals, which reversed the verdict and ordered a new trial, which was held in late 1900. That time the Court “affirmed the judgment given at the trial in Flemington,” which I suppose means the one in favor of Henry Cullen.12
As far as the estate of Asher Wolverton of Stockton goes, the only surviving heir was his brother Maurice.
Maurice Wolverton and Caroline M. Hoppock
At the time of Asher Wolverton’s death, Maurice Wolverton was 69 years old. Let’s go back to his beginnings:
Maurice Wolverton was born February 19, 1827 to Samuel and Elizabeth Wilson Wolverton. He was fifteen years younger than his stepbrother Asher.
When their father Samuel died in 1841, the sons were 29 and 14. This explains why Asher took over administration of his father’s estate. Not only that, Asher was acting as Maurice’s foster parent since Elizabeth Wolverton died in 1836 when Maurice was only nine.
By the time the census of 1850 was taken, Asher was 39 years old and Maurice was 23, and both of them were farmers. Asher had assets worth $14,000, which is a princely sum for the time. Also, both men were bachelors. Living with them was Asher and Maurice’s aunt Sarah Stockton (1784-1875), sister of Samuel Wolverton, as well as Frances Naylor 64, Charles Gray 60, no occupation, Joseph McLannin 20, farmer, and William McLannin 11.
Later in 1850 (November 5th to be exact), Maurice Wolverton married Caroline M. Hoppock (1823-1909), daughter of the successful miller of Prallsville, William L. Hoppock, and his wife Jane Heed. Caroline was one of seven children, and had five of her own, from 1852 to about 1865.
The following year, Asher and Maurice Wolverton divided the property of their father between them, as described above. This land swap gave Maurice the property once owned by John Prall, including the handsome house now known as the Woolverton Inn.
In 1860, “Morris” Wolverton was a 33-year old farmer with real estate worth $13,000, living with wife Caroline, age 36, and their children William 5 and Eva 2. Domestic help was provided by Jane Everitt, age 17. That was the year when Asher was living with the Williamson family.
By 1870, Maurice Wolverton had increased the value of his real estate to $16,000, while his personal assets were valued at $4,000. By comparison, in 1870, Asher Wolverton’s real estate was valued at $20,000 and his personal property at $30,000.13 Maurice was 43 years old in 1870, his wife Caroline was 45, and their children were 15, 11 and 6. Helping Caroline out with the housekeeping was Emma A. Philips, age 18.
In 1874, Caroline’s father William L. Hoppock died at the age of 81. He had written a very lengthy will on April 25, 1873, naming Maurice Wolverton an executor along with his sons Samuel C. Hoppock and Wm. Hoppock, Jr. Administering Hoppock’s estate must have been a demanding job for the three of them.
By 1880, Maurice Wolverton had retired from farming, even though he was only 53. The census of that year located him in the Village of Stockton with wife Carolina 55, son William H. 25 single, daughter Eva 21 and son Samuel 16.14 By that time, his brother Asher had also retired.
Maurice Wolverton was a prosperous man, and lived a most comfortable life in the beautiful house known today as the Woolverton Inn. He was still a farmer, though. In 1882, the Hunterdon Republican reported that he had “recently killed a hog that dressed at 594 pounds.” But Wolverton was also land rich. During his later years, he sold many lots from his holdings; from 1878 to 1897 he made twelve separate conveyances.
As mentioned above, Asher Wolverton died on January 28, 1896 without writing a will. Administering his estate was probably enough of a headache to encourage Maurice Wolverton to write his own will on May 18, 1897. He left his real estate to his two sons, William H. and Samuel Woolverton.15
Maurice Wolverton died on February 6, 1904, age 76. His wife Caroline survived him five years, dying on October 15, 1909, age 86. The couple was buried not in the Rosemont Cemetery, but in the Barber Cemetery over on Lambertville-Headquarters Road. One explanation for this is that at the annual meeting of the Barber Burying Ground Association held on February 10, 1897, Maurice Wolverton was elected President of the Association. This suggests he had been involved with it for several years. Why that would be I cannot explain.
Maurice and Caroline’s son Samuel H. Woolverton (1864-1952) had left Hunterdon County by 1892 when he married Mary Dwight Chichester in Rochester, New York. They lived in Mount Vernon, NY and later in Scarsdale. Samuel became a bank president in New York, but after his father’s death, he inherited the old Reading-Wolverton Farm. According to a short history of the Wolverton family by Primrose Wolverton, Samuel Wolverton donated the farm to the Big Brother movement in New York, of which he was a director. It was intended as a refuge for city boys under the care of Big Brothers and was used as such from 1908 to 1912. After that it must have reverted back to the Wolverton family. In 1913 Samuel Wolverton quit-claimed his rights in his father’s estate to his brother William.16
Rev. William H. Wolverton and Primrose Dickinson
Rev. William H. Wolverton was born January 25, 1855 to Maurice Wolverton and Caroline M. Hoppock. (The ‘H’ in his name no doubt stood for Hoppock.) This made him the grandson of Samuel & Elizabeth Wolverton, and great grandson of John & Rachel Wolverton.17
On May 6, 1884, Rev. Wolverton married Primrose (Minnie) Dickinson of Pocomoke City, Maryland. At the time, William Wolverton was pastoring at the Presbyterian church in Pocomoke; Minnie was probably one of his congregants. Their first child, Primrose, was born in 1886, and the second, Dorothy, was born in 1895. During those years, and on until 1901, the family lived in various places, until finally settling permanently on the old Prall farm in Stockton. (See “Milling Industry at Prallsville Goes Back of Year 1792.”)
While Maurice Wolverton was still alive, in September, 1900, a disaster occurred when his barns and other outbuildings, together with his machinery and harvested crops, were all destroyed by a fire of unknown origin. Maurice Wolverton was 73 years old at the time, which must have made the loss especially hard to bear.
His son William was pastoring in Boonton, Morris County, and living there with his wife and two daughters. But perhaps the fire was enough to bring him back to Stockton. Either that or the death of his father in 1904. Whatever the case, Rev. Wm. H. Wolverton was residing in the old homestead on Wolverton Road when the 1910 census was taken. He was 55 years old, a Presbyterian clergyman, living with wife Minnie D. Woolverton age 50 and daughters Primrose 24 and Dorothy 14. Also in the household was servant Clara Ent, 37 (1873).
Dorothy Wolverton and James D. Allen
On June 9, 1920, Dorothy Wolverton, age 25, daughter of Rev. William and Minnie Wolverton, married Lt. James D. Allen of Somerset County. I have not researched this matter, but it is more than likely that at this time, Rev. Wolverton conveyed to his daughter the old Reading farm previously the home of Asher Wolverton.
James D. Allen was born on April 9, 1895 at Basking Ridge. He was in college during World War I and enlisted in the army aviation corps. He was ready to be transported to Europe for active duty when the armistice was signed. But he never gave up his love of flying. With the war over, he and Dorothy Wolverton married, and settled on the Reading-Wolverton farm.
Dorothy and James Allen turned the old farm into the largest fruit farm in the county. It was also a large and successful poultry farm. Allen joined the executive committee of the Hunterdon Co. Board of Agriculture and was a member of the Egg & Poultry Auction Association. He joined the Stockton Presbyterian Church and was superintendent of its Sunday School.
With all that open space above his farm, Allen must have enjoyed flying over his fields. That ended when his plane dropped 3,000 feet before Allen was able to pull it back up. This was not due to lack of skill, as Allen was highly regarded as a flyer. But after that incident, he gave up flying for many years. Eventually, however, he returned to the air, and re-entered the Air Reserve. He would spend one day a month on test flights for the army. Apparently it was on one of these flights over Long Island that his plane crashed when its motor stalled. Lt. Allen died at the age of 37 on May 9, 1932, leaving his widow with three small children.
It was just four years after this tragedy that Dorothy W. Allen went to visit Egbert T. Bush, probably at his office in the old Colligan’s Inn in Stockton, to show him the ancient deeds to her beautiful and historic farm.
- Snell’s History of Hunterdon County, p. 372. ↩
- Hunterdon County Democrat, September 29, 1841. ↩
- Hunterdon County Surrogate’s Court, Letters of Administration Book 4 p.71. ↩
- H. C. Deeds Book 100 pp. 328, 358. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 100 p. 328. ↩
- There was a young girl in the Williamson household of 1850 named Lavina Stockton, age 9. But ten years later she was listed as Lavina Wolverton, age 19. Although she was the daughter of John Wolverton Stockton and wife Lavinia Van Ness, she was adopted by the Williamsons (per Find-a-Grave). ↩
- This family was also discussed in Egbert T. Bush’s article “Milling Industry in Prallsville.” ↩
- See The Fisher-Reading Mansion for the home that Mahlon Fisher built for himself on Main Street in Flemington. ↩
- History of Hunterdon County, p. 372. ↩
- There may be an obit in the Hunterdon Democrat, but the abstracts by Dennis Sutton do not get that far, and I have not looked it up. ↩
- Hunterdon Co. Republican, Dec. 21 and 28, 1898. ↩
- Hunterdon Republican, December 5, 1900. ↩
- I do not believe he had so much valuable personal property at the time of his death, and wonder if perhaps some of it came to him from his wife Anna Gearhart Fisher. ↩
- Note that the Borough of Stockton was not created until 1898. Until that time, the Village of Stockton was considered part of Delaware Township. ↩
- I have not had time this week to get a copy of Wolverton’s will, so cannot enlarge on his bequests. However, it appears that William and Samuel were the only surviving heirs. ↩
- More information on the settlement of Maurice’s estate may be found in Deed Book 305 p. 648 and Book 487 p. 482. ↩
- I had hoped that a man of his stature would merit a portrait in Snell’s History of Hunterdon County, but no such luck. ↩