In 2011, I began a series of articles on the history of Bull’s Island, Raven Rock, and Saxtonville. (For the original post, please visit “Raven Rock and the Saxtonville Tavern,” where you will learn something of how the name Raven Rock began to be used.) Recently three documents turned up to shed more light on this subject–a deed of 1722, and two survey maps, one of them made in 1819 showing the original proprietary tracts. It is time to return to Raven Rock for another look.
Note: Corrections have been made to this post after its original publication.
The survey maps were discovered in the archives of the Hunterdon County Historical Society by Bob Leith.1 The first map, which I will refer to as Map One, seems to be a preliminary sketch:
Unfortunately, the person who drew this map was not concerned about what direction the map was viewed in, resulting in some upside down wording.
Addendum, 2/14/15: When I first published this article, I had neglected to view the other side of the map, where more information about it could be found. Bob Leith sent me this:
…”The within is a draft of two surveys of land situate in the Township of Amwell, Hunterdon County, State of New Jersey taken from the original by Henry Ridge.” The second inscription from the verso side…”Henry Ridge’s Map (has?) passed the inspection of the Council 5th May 1818.”
This reference to “the Council” makes it clear to me that there was some dispute over boundary lines relating to the original proprietary surveys. Land was to be sold and the dispute had to be resolved in order to provide a clear chain of title to the new owner, who was most likely Martin Johnson. I am not certain whether the Council referred to was the West Jersey Board of Proprietors, or the Governor’s Council. Reference to their records may clear this up.
Bob Leith spent some time with stitching software to put the larger map together into one beautiful photograph (hereafter Map Two).
An ancient name for Bull’s Island was Ponnacussing or Paunacussing. This Indian name was supposed to mean “place where the powder was given us.” That could just be European romanticism, rather than actual fact. It suggests an interesting meeting between early European settlers and local Indians that has gone unrecorded. On Map Two you will see the name “Panacussing” on the northern half of Bull’s Island. On Map One, you will see “Pannacussing Island now Bulls Island.” A seemingly important difference there.
The name “Bool’s Island” was the earliest version of the name Bull’s Island. It was taken from the name of an early surveyor, Richard Bull of Gloucester County (c.1675-c.1722). He made many surveys in early Amwell Township on behalf of the West Jersey proprietors, dating from 1702 to 1720. “Bool” is probably the way his name was pronounced. Many people wrote words phonetically in the 18th century, creating a baffling but charming variety of spellings.
Both maps show the original proprietary tracts belonging to John Ladd, Richard Bull and Peter Fretwell. Map One also shows the 406 acres belonging to John Reading to the east of “Lackalong” Creek (an old version of the name Lockatong). Here is the map by D. Stanton Hammond for comparison purposes:
It was Richard Bull who surveyed a 625-acre property on November 11, 1712 for himself and his partner, John Ladd, also of Gloucester.2 This tract was later divided between them. Oddly enough, most of Bull’s Island and the area of Raven Rock went to Ladd rather than to Bull. As the map shows, the dividing line between Bull and Ladd was the northern boundary line of Amwell Township, which meant that all of Bull’s half of the tract was in today’s Kingwood Township, while Ladd kept the part in Amwell.
Map Two was drawn in 1819 by Edward Welsted, a well-known attorney of Flemington, NJ. It appears that Welsted was working from copies of original deeds to create this map. At the lower right corner of the map is this inscription:
“A map of two tracts of Lands on the Delaware River the one Containing 650 Acres Surveyed to Peter Fretwell 15th October AD 1712 the Other Containing 625 Surveyed the 11th Novem AD 1712 to Richard Bull and John Ladd. Surveyed January 28th-29th & 30th 1819 by Edw Welsted”
Why would he be doing this in 1819? It may have something to do with the sale by Jacob Painter of a tract of 80 acres to Martin Johnson.
As was discussed in my article, “Painter’s Ferry,” Jacob Painter ran a ferry just south of Raven Rock. In his will of 1825, Martin Johnson left to his son William 20 acres where he lives; also 80 acres bought from Jacob Painter. (Johnson’s will left his homestead farm, which was to the east of Federal Twist Road, to sons George and Asher.) The plot outlined in the Welsted survey of 1819 for Martin Johnson does not show its acreage, but it happens to be where Jacob Painter ran his ferry.
Note: This farm was originally owned by Guisbert Van Campen Sr. At his death in 1782, the property came to his eldest son, Guisbert Jr., who died in 1802. But in 1792, Guisbert Jr. conveyed the 207-acre farm to his mother and his siblings Isaac and John, for them to divide between them. This was formalized in a deed dated April 2, 1795, in which all the heirs of Guisbert Van Campen Sr. conveyed the property to John and Isaac Van Campen for £800. The heirs were identified as Ambrose Smith and wife Catharine, Frederick Smith and wife Leah, Aaron Coleman and wife Sarah, John Corson and wife Mary, and Jacob and Abraham Van Campen, all or late of Amwell.3
I do not have a record of Painter purchasing this property—not yet. However, a deed of 1805 identified this property as ‘Gilbert VanCamp now Martin Johnson.”4 This leads me to believe that sometime after 1795, part of this property came into the hands of Jacob Painter, who then conveyed it to Martin Johnson sometime before 1805. That sale is the missing link in this chain.
We are fortunate that Johnson felt it necessary to have a survey made, because Welsted did beautiful work as a surveyor, and his map is far more readable than Richard Bull’s probably was, back in 1722. The Welsted map shows the original tracts of Peter Fenimore’s 650 acres and the 625-acre tract surveyed for the partnership of Richard Bull and John Ladd. It also shows the division line between Bull and Ladd when they divided their property between them. This line runs at a similar angle to the division line between Amwell and Bethlehem/Kingwood Townships. On the survey, the line appears to be only a little southeast of where it actually is, but that may not be the case. More deed searches could verify where that line between Bull and Ladd actually was.
Welsted also shows how the Fretwell tract and the Bull/Ladd tract did not agree for one course, an east-west line in the northwest part of the Fretwell tract. The point where the Bull/Ladd tract overlaps the Fretwell tract was identified by Welsted as “formerly a black oak supposed to have been Bull and Ladd’s corner.”
Map Two shows Bull’s Island as three separate entities. The northern half is labeled Panacussing Island. The southern half is divided between an area “now called Bull’s,” and on the river side, “Jabez White’s land.” I believe that when Jabez White died intestate in 1833, he was still in possession of this land.
Especially interesting for the history of the old mill at Raven Rock is the course of the mill race, which seems to wrap around the village before crossing Bull’s Creek and running across the island into the river.
In a previous article, I wrote about a ten-acre triangular lot sold to Isaiah Quinby by Marmaduke Leet. This survey tells us much more about that lot. It shows the access road from Bulls’ Island to the triangular lot, and also a continuation of that cartway to another square lot set off in the northwest corner of the old Peter Fretwell 650 acres. We know that that square lot became part of the farm of Isaiah Quinby, rather than of Martin Johnson. And we know that Isaiah’s son Moses sold off the triangular lot to Marmaduke Leet. I suspect that the triangle came to be owned by Nathaniel Saxton, and later Joseph Rodman.
Along with this survey map, an old deed was also found in the HCHS archives, dated February 9, 1721/1722, from Richard Bull of Gloucester County to [Gov.] John Reading of Amwell. After a lengthy description of how Bull acquired the proprietary rights that allowed him to have land surveyed to him, the deed states that Reading paid £50 for 312 acres, being all of Richard Bull’s share of the division was made with John Ladd. This deed was made before Bethlehem Township was incorporated, and before Kingwood Township was created out of Bethlehem.5
Here is some of the language of the deed:
for one whole [word missing] bearing date the day next (Feb 10, 1722), possession of all that tract in Amwell fronting on the Delaware River beginning at an elm tree standing at the river, over against Ponacussing Island thence up the same the several courses thereof to the first mentioned corner being the half of Lott Number 1 4) [?] Lying in that Tract of Land called the Lotting Purchase being the proporcon & Share of land to the said Richard Bull appertaining for the third Dividend of the above mencioned 16th part of a Propriety by him purchased in manner above said Together . . . to the sd 312 acres and half acre of Land belonging and all the estate right title or parcell thereof and the Reversions and Remainders Rents . . . &c.
Addendum, 2/14/15: I had trouble reading the part of the deed that refers to a lot number, but the Hammond map above shows us it was Lot No. 54. (Thanks to Bob Leith for pointing this out to me.)
After first publishing this article, Bob Leith sent me another image of a scanned deed—this one the partner to the one quoted above. It was a deed of Lease and Release dated February 8, 1721/22; in other words, one day before the deed described above. That is how deeds of lease and release worked—first the lease, then the release, which was an attempt to escape from the feudal way of conveying property. This deed included a note that it was recorded in Book AT on page 311 at the Secretary of State’s Office in Trenton on April 26, 1799. I am pretty certain that the first deed mentioned above was recorded in Book AT page 213.
What is curious is that Bull was conveying possession for one year, not the tract in fee simple. Why that would be is hard to say. We do know that the property stayed in the possession of John Reading, for it eventually came to be owned by his grandson, Samuel Reading.
Here is an even greater curiosity: Nine days after Bull conveyed his part of the Bull-Ladd proprietary tract to John Reading, on February 18, 1721/1722, Richard Bull quit claimed his rights in 300 acres to John Ladd, retaining his rights in the balance. It would appear that Bull had no right to convey anything to John Reading until after he and Ladd had recorded their division. Perhaps that explains why this deed only gave Reading a one-year possession. There must have been another deed that confirmed this sale.
As it is, we have just the one deed, and it is quite possible that Edward Welsted made use of it when he was drawing his survey map.
For more information on this locale, click on the location “Raven Rock and Saxtonville,” and particularly note “Federal Twist Road.”
- The survey map is archived at Hunterdon Co. Historical Society, Ms. Collection, AMC 3.10, Collection 18, HCHS Part 1; OVersize folders 182-210, folder 205. ↩
- West Jersey Deeds, Book A p. 137. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 2, p. 78. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 11 p. 248. ↩
- It is possible that this deed was recorded. There are two deeds on file at the State Archives in West Jersey Deeds Book AT pp. 213 and 311 for conveyances by Richard Bull to John Reading. I have not yet seen these deeds. I have not yet seen these deeds. The manuscript deed is located at the Hunterdon Co. Historical Society Archives, AMC3.9 Collection 18; HCHS Part 1; Oversize folders 148-181, Folder 151. ↩