part 14 of The Route Not Taken

This article comes in two parts. Part one describes the life and property of Gershom C. Sergeant, the brother and neighbor of John P. Sergeant who was featured in my last article. Part two describes the owners of the next property along the route of the railroad that was never built—at different times owned by Baptist ministers and a mining company.

Part I: Gershom & Charity Sergeant

Gershom Craven Sergeant appeared in my previous article because in 1865 he had come into possession of the farm of Jacob B. Rockafellar on the south side of Johanna Farms road and was the owner in 1873 when the survey map for the railroad from Prallsville to Flemington was made. (See Rockafellar Homestead Divided.) The Beers Atlas of 1873 shows the location of “G. C. Sergeant’s” properties. (The dotted line indicates the boundary of the school district.)

I should have included this detail of the Beers Atlas in my article on the Rockafellar farm, because it shows that the old Rockafellar homestead near the Flemington Railroad (Block 63.1, lot 5), then owned by Gershom Sergeant, had access to both the main road from Flemington to Ringoes (Route 31) and to Johanna Farms Road (once known as Carman’s or Hoagland’s lane). It also shows a second house on the north side of Johanna Farms Road (Block 63, lot 32), also owned by Sergeant. I was disappointed to find that neither house got a mention in the County Survey of Historic Sites.

Gershom C. Sergeant was living in the house on the north side of the road with his wife and family as early as 1852, when Mary Hoagland sold the road to her son Aaron C. Hoagland (see Hoagland’s Road, part one). The deed named the bordering owners; the ones on the north were Samuel Hill and land “late Andrew Hoagland now Gershom C. Sergeant.” This is also shown on the map of Raritan Township published in 1850.

The 1850 map shows that on the south side of the road, Cornelius Voorhees was in possession of the Rockafellar farm. Sergeant did not acquire that farm until 1865.

Who Was Gershom C. Sergeant?

Gershom Craven Sergeant (1807 – 1881) was the second child of Joseph and Jane Quick Sergeant.1 He was named after Jane’s brother-in-law Dr. Gershom Craven, who practiced medicine in Amwell Township during the Revolutionary War years. He was a notable figure.

Dr. Craven (1744 – 1819) grew up in Monmouth County, and like his father Thomas Craven, attended Princeton College where he got his medical degree and graduated in 1765. Six years later, in 1771, he left Monmouth County and settled at Amwell Township to practice medicine. There he met Jane Quick’s older sister Rebecca (1756-1836), whom he married on June 9, 1774. The couple had 13 children, from 1775 to 1796.2

When the Revolution broke out, Craven became Surgeon to the Second Regiment of Hunterdon Troops, and as such was often at the house of Henry Landis in Ringoes, as were Generals Washington and La Fayette, who would stop there as they traveled back and forth across New Jersey. La Fayette was especially welcome by Landis because he understood German. When Lafayette became ill, he was attended at Landis’ house by Dr. Craven, a fact that his descendants will never forget.

Dr. Craven’s nephew, Gershom C. Sergeant, was married to Charity Anne Howell (1813 – 1890) somewhere near Trenton on February 18, 1835 by Rev. Eli R. Cooley.3 I cannot explain how this couple met. Charity’s father was Benjamin Howell about whom I can find next to nothing, even though he had to have been a member of the prominent Howell family of Hunterdon County, which in those days still included the Trenton area. I also do not know whether Charity had any siblings.

However, her own children had plenty of siblings—there were eight of them, born from 1835 to about 1850. Unfortunately, three of them died as infants or young children. Eldest child Howell, age 6, and daughter Emma, an infant, died in 1842 of scarlet fever.

The Farm

Recall that in 1830, Gershom and his father Joseph Sergeant had purchased the farm of William Maxwell on the north side of Hoagland’s Road. It consisted of two lots, one of 68.66 acres, the other of 4.72 acres.4 Two months after marrying, on April 24, 1835, Gershom & Charity Sergeant sold their share in the Sergeant farm to Gershom’s father Joseph for $1200. But the next day, April 25th, Joseph and Jane Sergeant sold the property back to Gershom for $2400. This seems like a round-about way for Joseph to convey his interest in the farm to son Gershom.5 It was the farm where Gershom and Charity Sergeant raised their family.

In the 1850 census for Raritan Township Gershom Sergeant, age 43, and Charity Sergeant, age 34, were listed with their children: Mary Jane 12, Lambert 9, Joseph 7 (1843), Letitia 4 (1846), Garitha 3 (1847) and Emeline 11 months (born 1849). Emeline died not long after the census was taken. Also in the household was Gershom’s mother Jane, age 79. She had been a widow since 1843 when husband Joseph Sergeant died at the age of 74. There was no obituary for him in the Hunterdon Gazette, and as far as I know, he did not have an estate. His last land transaction was the sale to son John P. Sergeant of the farm of 68.66 acres in 1838. (See Sergeants of Raritan Township.) This other farm had been sold to Joseph Sergeant by Peter Taylor & wife back in 1823. It appears that Joseph and Jane Sergeant figured out how to combine this farm with the one acquired by Gershom Sergeant into one larger farm of 137.32 acres and then divide that into farms of equal size for their two sons, both farms containing 68.66 acres.

Returning to the census of 1850, there were three people in the Sergeant household who were not relatives: Johannah Pursey, age 21 born in Ireland, no doubt helping with the housework and child-raising; and John Muirhead 51 and Joseph Jones 54, laborers on the farm. Gershom Sergeant took his farming seriously. In 1856, he won an award at the County Agricultural Society’s “Annual Exhibition” in a plowing match. Not to be outdone, in 1861, Mrs. Sergeant took “1st premium for butter ($4).”

As the father of school-age children, Sergeant got involved in supporting the local school at Copper Hill in the Neshanic School District. He was a trustee along with William M. Bellis and Judiah H. Kuhl. In 1852, they bought a third of an acre for a new school house from Joakim & Martha Hill on the road from Flemington to Ringoes.6

In the 1850s, Gershom C. Sergeant purchased several properties: a lot of 22+ acres from David Bellis, a lot of 3.4 acres from Adam & Ann Bellis, 11.65 acres from Alfred & Hannah Everitt, and from George Van Buskirk, dec’d, a farm of 84+ acres and a lot of 4.19 acres, all properties in Raritan Township near his own. In 1854, Sergeant sold a third of an acre to the Flemington Railroad Company for $76.

In 1859, tensions were increasing over the threat of secession by the southern states. A meeting was held in December of that year for those supporting the South, and those attending included most of the prominent men in the county, including Gershom C. Sergeant. Perhaps this awakened his interest in community service. He became a county freeholder for Raritan Township from 1861-1865. On August 21, 1861, this interesting item appeared in the Hunterdon Gazette:

PREPARING─ The Cells in the Court House are being repaired under the supervision of the Freeholder of this township, Mr. Gershom Sergeant. Some time since a prisoner confined in one the Cells had his arrangements made to escape, but the Sheriff fortunately discovered his preparations and thwarted his plans by placing him in irons. Mr. Sergeant is making a good job of it, we think.

Sergeant kept up his involvement in the Democratic party. At the Raritan Twp. Democratic meeting in March 1864, Sergeant was voted treasurer and to serve on the Standing Committee on Invitations & Speakers. In 1866, Sergeant retired from the Board of Freeholders and instead ran for and got elected to the Raritan Township Committee. He was re-elected in 1867, 1868 and 1869.

In 1865, Gershom C. Sergeant bought some more land, this time a tract of 85 acres and a lot of 4.19 acres from William B. and Ellen Kuhl, for which he paid $4,617.82.7 This was part of the old Rockafellar plantation across the road from Sergeant’s farm, which Kuhl had purchased at a sheriff’s sale in 1861.

In the late 1870s, Gershom C. Sergeant suffered some agricultural setbacks. On July 18, 1878, the Hunterdon Republican reported that

 “a hay barn on the farm of Gershom C. Sergeant, about two miles south of Flemington, was destroyed by fire on July 14, 1878. About 40 to 50 tons of hay were destroyed. It is supposed that a young boy from Copper Hill, George Peterson (colored), is the culprit and was arrested. The hearing will be this week.”

But as it turned out, suspicions were unfounded. The next week the paper reported that “No evidence whatever was found against George Peterson (colored), who was arrested on suspicion of firing the barn of Gershom C. Sergeant last week.”

A few months later, another tragedy struck. In March 1879, three horses and a mule belonging to Gershom Sergeant died, reportedly from sore throat.

Despite the loss of his barn in July, the following November 1878 Sergeant purchased a tract of 41.7 acres from Sarah P. Hastings and her husband George.8 This was the property shown on the surveyor’s map for the Delaware Flemington Railroad.

Since the railroad company had gone out of business, it probably seemed like a good investment to buy the Hastings property. But Sergeant did not enjoy it for long. He died on April 24, 1881 at the age of 74. He was survived by his widow Charity and their five children. Charity continued at the homestead farm with her son Joseph and daughter Letitia, both unmarried, until her death on April 7, 1890. She was buried in the Flemington Presbyterian Church Cemetery next to her husband.

The five surviving children were Lambert H. Sergeant & wife Sarah P. Scarborough; Mary Jane Sergeant & husband Cornelius W. Larison; Garetta R. Sergeant & husband George M. Vansinderen; Joseph Sergeant and Letitia Sergeant. They did not wait for their mother’s death before making several deeds to sort out their shares of their father’s estate.

By June 8, 1882, they were able to convey title to their father’s farm to siblings Joseph and Letitia Sergeant, with the exception of a 4.19-acre lot that was sold to Garetta Vansinderen. Joseph Sergeant died on May 10, 1904, at age 61, after which his three siblings, Lambert H., Mary Jane and Garetta, conveyed whatever remaining rights they had in the homestead farm to sister Letitia. Letitia continued living on the farm, alone. (The census of 1910 mistakenly identified her as a widow, but in fact, she never married.) The farm was mortgage-free in 1910, but by 1920, it had a mortgage on it, and in 1922, Letitia Sergeant sold the farm to Alfred Rutsch.9 Letitia died the next year, on February 19, 1923, age 77, and was buried next to brother Joseph and sister Garetta in the Prospect Hill Cemetery.

Part II: Shrope & Hastings

Let us take stock at this point of the route planned for the railroad. Since Beers, Comstock & Cline published their Atlas in 1873, the same year as the railroad made its survey, and since the Atlas shows so many more residences than the survey does, it works nicely for estimating the overall route.

The line was planned to run through Aaron C. Hoagland’s farm and the adjacent farm owned by John P. Sergeant. When it reached Dayton Road, it would pass between the houses owned by “G. Hastings” and “C. Watson.” Watson was Charles Watson (1833 – 1893), a Scottish immigrant who in 1867 bought a farm of 60 acres bordering John Sergeant, William B. Srope, John Hill and William Maxwell.10 But Watson’s house was not indicated on the railroad survey map, meaning the route ran much closer to the house of G. Hastings.

The property of “G. Hastings” was the farm of George and Sarah Hastings, which Gershom C. Sergeant purchased in 1878 after the railroad company went out of business. He had to buy it from Sarah Hastings, because she was the one who owned it.

Rev. William B. & Mary Shrope

Sarah Hasting had purchased the farm from another female landowner, Mary Shrope, in 1869. Mary. who was the same age as Sarah, was the wife of the William B. Srope mentioned in the deed to Charles Watson (above).

At the time, both Sarah Hastings and Mary Shrope were living in the town of Bergen in Hudson County, NJ. There was no relationship between the two women that I can tell. However, Mary Shrope or Srope had a strong connection to the Copper Hill area.

She was born Mary Schenck Higgins in 1820 to John Higgins and Rebecca Schenck. This made her a granddaughter of Judiah Higgins and Mary Hill, subjects of my article “Carman, Hoagland & Higgins” (see also Higgins Family Tree) and owners of a significant tract of land in the area surrounded by Route 523, Johanna Farms Road and Dayton Road.

At this point in my research, I thought the story would tie up neatly, but the situation turned into another example of how important it is to check everything, and how doing so can change your intended direction. I discovered that 19th century ministers were not entirely free from the temptation to supplement their income with land investments. And I also found a mining company in possession of this farm, as shown in this detail from the Raritan Township map of 1850.

The whole story of copper mining in Flemington is a fascinating one that will have to wait for another time. Today, in order to get this train into the Flemington station, I will focus on the ministers, focusing on the story of Mary Higgins and her husband Rev. William B. Shrope.

When Mary’s father John Higgins wrote his will on May 4, 1849, he left “to my daughter Mary, wife of Rev. William B. Shrope, the house & lot in Lambertville sold to me by Emley Holcombe,” and also “after paying all just debts & funeral expenses, proceeds of sale [of certain real estate] to daughter Mary Shrope of $1,000.” In his codicil dated May 28, 1849, he gave some other lots to Mary “in lieu of $1,000.” However, none of these properties were the Raritan Twp. farm.

Rev. Shrope had been ministering to the Lambertville Baptist Church from October 1844 to his resignation in December 1848. Which raises the question, was the lot bequeathed to Mary Shrope the location of the Shrope home in Lambertville? This lot technically did not become Mary’s property until the death of her father on Feb. 15, 1851. By then the Shropes were living in Flemington.

William Bilbee Shrope was born Oct. 13, 1817 to John A. Shrope and Charity Smith of Bethlehem Township. He was the grandson of Christopher Srope and Thankful Penwell, and great grandson of Johann Christoph Schropp (c.1727-1806) of Germany, who married Chatharine Henrica Scheib in 1749, and immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1751 and died in Schuylkill County, PA. (See Correction, below.)

A note on the name Shrope: Some members of the family used the spelling ‘Srope,’ but the ‘Shrope’ spelling seems to have been the one preferred by Rev. William. He was Shrope on his marriage record and his business pursuits, while his father used the spelling ‘Srope.’

On August 1, 1839, William B. Shrope was married by Rev. Charles Bartolette to Mary Schenck Higgins of Raritan Township.

Shortly afterward, on March 28, 1840, the Shropes purchased a lot in the Village of Flemington from John S. Rockafellow and his wife Harriet Bartolette, daughter of Rev. Charles Bartolette.11 This was the same John S. Rockefellow who acquired his father Jacob Rockafellow’s farm across the road from Gershom C. Sergeant’s farm, which he had to sell in 1840. (See A Rockafellow Homestead Divided.)

The property purchased by the Shropes in Flemington was where John S. Rockafellow carried on his tailoring business until he went broke. When Shrope purchased it, he established a store with Francis Baker carrying on the tailoring trade “in all its various branches, in the shop formerly occupied by John S. Rockafellow, and more recently by Wm. B. Shrope.”12 Apparently, Shrope was studying divinity at the same time, probably under the influence of Rev. Bartolette.

From 1846 through 1848, Rev. Shrope performed marriages in Lambertville. But in 1850, he and wife Mary moved to Bedminster, Somerset County, where they were living for the census that year with children John 10, George 8, Rebecca 6, Eugene 1. Shrope performed two marriages in that place that was noted in the Gazette on May 15th. Thereafter Rev. Shrope performed no more marriages, at least none that were noticed in the newspaper.

The Shropes returned to Flemington by 1851, when Shrope went seriously into business, selling a vast array of goods at his Main Street store. If you flip through editions of the Gazette for 1851, you will find some very enthusiastic advertisements for the store of “Wm. B. Shrope & Co.” Here is an example:

Sept. 10, 1851:  MORE NEWS ! I would say to my friends and the public in general that I have taken the Store formerly occupied by John R. Holcomb, on the corner of Main and Centre streets, where I am prepared to furnish all who are in want of Dry Goods, Groceries, Crockery, Cedar-ware, Earthern [sic] and Stone Ware, Flour and Feed, on the most reasonable terms. Ladies and Gentlemen, call and see for yourselves. Wm. B. Shrope.

TO OUR CUSTOMERS. We would say bring on your Produce, for which we will give you the full value in trade─such as Eggs, Butter, FRESH MEAT, Lard, Pork, Dried Fruits─in fact all kinds of country produce. W. B. SHROPE.

C. J. FERRELL will be most happy to see his friends at the New Store of W. B. Shrope, where it will be to his interest to sell cheap and please all.

This was followed the next week, on September 17, 1851, by this comment from the editor:

We neglected in our last issue to notice that Mr. Holcomb, at the corner of Main and Centre Streets, had retired from business, and had been succeeded by Mr. Shrope, a gentleman well known to the public in this region. We rejoice to observe, too, that that prince of clever fellows, Mr. Farrell, has an interest in having HIS friends call there to see him. The proprietor has evinced much discrimination and judgement in retaining Mr. F., — who, by his urbanity and gentlemanly bearing, has made himself hosts of friends in this vicinity. They intend to sell as cheap as the cheapest, and as good as the best. We predict they will receive a handsome share of the public patronage.

Rev. Shrope got even more enthusiastic in October:

1852 Oct 20, WELL I DECLARE—W. B. SHROPE & CO., are opening another lot of Fall and Winter Dry Goods, and such pretty patterns, they CAN’T help pleasing the fancy of the people. They have got some new styles of goods for the Ladies, and have added a good assortment of Wall Paper to their Stock, and another lot of cheap Overcoat Cloths, Muslin Delaines and Calico in abundance.  Same date:  HURRAH ! HURRAH ! ! BUTTER IS RISING.─We are now giving 22cts for Butter.  WM. B. SHROPE & CO.

A week later he was advertising a supply of Deats’ Stoves of all kinds. But unfortunately, his customers were not paying their bills. On Nov. 17, 1852, his landlord advertised:

PRIVATE SALE OF VALUABLE REAL ESTATE! The Subscriber offers at Private Sale, all that valuable Lot of Land and buildings on the corner of Main and Mine streets, in the village of Flemington, consisting of STORE and DWELLING HOUSE, Pork House, Smoke and Wood House, Barn and Shed, now occupied by WM. B. SHROPE & Co., and J. [John] R. Holcomb. The Property is admirbly [sic] situated for the mercantile business, and one of the best Stands in the County of Hunterdon. ─ For further information enquire of J. R. Holcomb. [signed] RICHARD HOLCOMB.13

After retiring from the mercantile business, the Shropes purchased from fellow Baptist minister Rev. Thomas Swaim and wife Eliza, a lot on the road from Flemington to New Brunswick, on Dec. 29, 1852.14

In 1853 and 1854 Shrope got involved with Temperance movement and the “Anti-Nebraska Convention.” In 1855 he became the official dealer for “Mitchell’s New National Map of the United States.” He was also purveying a “Non Explosive Self Generating Fluid Lamp,” although on Jan. 20, 1858, a Mr. D. P. Peters of Philadelphia warned readers of the Gazette against purchasing patent rights for the Fluid Lamp from W. B. Shrope.

Meanwhile, the Shropes continued to invest in properties. In March 1853 they bought a farm of 55.43 acres from Henry H. and Ann Fisher in Delaware Township bordering the Wickecheoke Creek, and another property in Raritan Township from the Central Mining Company.15

This second purchase is the property of primary interest. Two land parcels were conveyed, the first being a tract of 36.61 acres bordering lands of The Flemington Copper Co., the Central Mining Co., John Case, a brook, Samuel & William Hill, John Hill, and James L. Hixon, reserving to the Central Mining Co. all the ores, mines & minerals below 30 feet of the surface. The second was a tract of 41.7 acres adjacent to the 36+ acres. It was this 41.7-acre tract that was located in the path of the proposed rail line. It cost the Shropes a handsome $4,481.40 for the two parcels.

In 1854, the Shropes sold the first lot of 36+ acres to William Hill of Flemington for only $684.90.16 But it was not enough to prevent Shrope from going into debt again, a debt he appears to have incurred from his mercantile activities. He was taken to court, but I will skip the details of the suits against him, partly because they are just too complicated, and not all that relevant. Part of Shrope’s problems involved his father’s estate.

In 1855, the Shropes mortgaged the 41.7 acres, but could not get enough to satisfy their creditors, so the property was seized by order of the Circuit Court, who assigned auditors to deal with Shrope’s financial mess. These auditors (William P. Emery, John F. Dumont and Samuel M. Higgins) offered the farm for sale at George Crater’s hotel in Flemington on March 23, 1857, and again on July 9th. Then on March 24, 1858, the auditors sold the farm to Mary Shrope’s brother, John Schenck Higgins for $1600,17 along with other lots that Shrope had purchased from Rev. Swaim.

At this point, the Shropes must have found it advantageous to remove themselves to another part of the state. Fortunately, Rev. Shrope managed to get the pastorship of the Baptist Church in Jersey City, so he had a more respectable excuse for leaving, than just escaping the ignominy of being a debtor. The family was counted in the 1860 census for Jersey City. Shrope carried on his ministry in Jersey City until his health failed.18

Time passed, thinkgs settled down. Then on October 26, 1863, John S. & Elizabeth Higgins sold the 41.7 acres to John’s sister Mary Shrope, not to her husband William, for a surprising $3500, considerably more than Higgins had paid for it.19 Mary held onto this property until she made the acquaintance of Sarah Hastings, who apparently was getting tired of life in Jersey City and wanted to try living in the countryside. On April 29 1869, Mary Shrope and husband William B. Shrope of the town of Bergen in Hudson County sold to Sarah Hastings, wife of George Hastings, also of Bergen, for a handsome $7,000, the tract of 41.7 acres in Raritan Township, bordering the road from Mahlon Case’s corner to the Trenton Rd., corner to Mrs. Joseph Brown and Abigail Case, John Case, the Flemington Copper Co., and Alfred Everitt.20

George & Sarah Hastings

I have little information on George Hastings. He was apparently born in 1811 in New York as was his wife Sarah A. Harvey, who was born about 1820. In 1850 the couple was living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where Hastings, age 38, was working as a clerk, Sarah was 30 years old and the couple had a 4-year-old daughter named Sarah. It could be that daughter Sarah’s other name was Grace because in 1860 when the couple was living in the town of Bergen, NJ, Grace was 14, her father George, still working as a clerk, was 48, and mother Sarah was 40.

I presume that Sarah persuaded her husband George to exchange clerking for farming when she purchased the 41+acres from Mary Shrope. The 1870 census for Raritan Township tells us the couple had moved to the farm, with George Hastings being 59 years old, employed as a farmer on property worth $4500, while wife Sarah was 49 and keeping house.

Given that Hastings probably had no farming experience, it is fortunate he was able to bring along from New York a young man named George M. Van Sinderin [sic], age 25 (born c.1845 in New York), who worked as a farm laborer. Also listed in the household was Clara Van Sinderin age 21, also born in New York, and probably George’s sister. As things turned out, just a few years later (1878), George M. Van Sinderen married Garetha Sergeant, daughter of neighbor Gershom C. Sergeant & Charity Howell.

The census of 1870 also tells us that Sarah had all the money in the family. The way census takers fill out their forms is sometimes odd. Even though Sarah was the one who bought the farm, the real estate value is written in her husband George’s column. But the column for value of personal property shows George having $1000 while wife Sarah had $8000, which was a considerable amount in 1870. Yet despite her wealth, she employed no live-in help.21

Apparently, George Hastings really did not like farming. It was only four years later, on September 25, 1873 that he advertised the farm for sale in the Hunterdon Republican.

Farm for Sale. George Hastings will exchange for a House and Lot in Flemington, the Farm formerly known as the BARTOLETT Farm, west of the village of Flemington, containing 41 acres.

“The Bartolette Farm”

You may notice from the 1850 Raritan map above the “Nachanic Copper Mines Shaft” just north of the Hoagland and Gershom C. Sergeant farms, along the old route of Highway 31.

This may have been what James P. Snell was referring to in his history of Hunterdon County and the chapter on Raritan Township, where he discussed a variety of copper ore known as gay cupric sulphide (p. 179). It was found “in the mine at Flemington; also in those on Gershom C. Sergeant’s farm and at Copper Hill.” However, there isn’t any indication that Sergeant took up mining. That activity took place before Sergeant bought the Hastings farm.

Rev. Charles Bartolette

Recall that it was the Central Mining Company that sold the farm to William B. Shrope in 1853. It had been conveyed to the Company by Charles Bartles, Esq. of Flemington, and to Bartles by Rev. Charles Bartolette and wife Martha on June 21, 1847 for $5000.22 Such a high price indicates that Rev. Bartolette was aware of copper deposits on the property. Bartles immediately turned around and sold it to the Mining Company on June 25th, for $1 and assumption of a mortgage given by Bartles to Rev. Bartolette for $3,333.23 The sale was made not to the company but to the trustees of the company, Jonathan Ogden, Edward Remington, Wm H. Sloan and John G. Reading. The deed included the articles of incorporation for the mining company, suggesting it was this sale that brought about creation of the Central Mining Company. Their purchase turned out to be disappointing. By 1853 the trustees realized that the copper deposits were not large enough to make the farm worth keeping.

Note that the Beers Atlas of 1873 (above) shows nothing for the mining companies—they were completely gone by then.

Rev. Bartolette had owned the property for several years before the copper craze came along. He acquired the 41.7 acres in two pieces. First, he purchased 31.7 acres from Samuel & Sarah Trout Hill in 1821 for $1,000. Then in 1837, he bought an adjacent ten-acre lot from Joseph and Elizabeth Brown for $450.24 The 10 acres belonged to John Phillip Case who bequeathed them and other lands in 1824 to daughters Abbey and Elizabeth. The 31.7 acres belonged to Samuel & Sarah Hill, part of property sold to Hill by Dr. William Geary in 1802.

Returning to George Hastings’ Sale

Remember that not long after Sarah Hastings purchased the farm, the Delaware Flemington Railroad Co. was formed and laid out its route from Prallsville to Flemington, passing right through the farm of George & Sarah Hastings. Perhaps it was the idea of a railroad being built on their property that encouraged Hastings to sell the farm and move to town, where George could go back to being a clerk.

Unfortunately, and perhaps not surprisingly, there were no takers when he offered it for sale in 1873. But after the railroad company went out of business in 1875, Hastings advertised again in November 1875 in the Hunterdon Republican: “George Hastings offers for sale his Farm within a mile of Flemington, containing 41 acres, with a dwelling house and out-buildings in good order. Asking $160 per acres.” Still no takers. By 1878 the Hastings were getting desperate, as one can tell by reading between the lines of this notice in the Hunterdon Republican dated Oct. 24, 1878:

Sale of Real Estate and Personal Property on 12 Nov. 1878. George Hastings will sell on the premises his Farm, near Flemington, known as the “Central” Mine Farm, containing about 41 Acres of Land, located about half a mile west of Flemington. At the same time, his Personal Property consisting of Stock, Farm Utensils and Household Goods will also be sold.

Two weeks later, on November 7th, this appeared in the Republican: “The farm of George Hastings, near Flemington, if not sold on 12 Nov. 1878, will be divided into 10 or 20 lots.”

It was not until then that Gershom C. Sergeant came to their rescue. On November 21, 1878, Sarah P. Hastings of Raritan Twp. & husband George Hastings conveyed to Gershom C. Sergeant of same, for $3,000 the farm of 41.7 acres. The deed described it as located in Raritan twp. on the road from Mahlon Case’s corner to the Trenton road (being today’s Dayton Road), bordering Mrs. Joseph Brown and Abigail Case, John Case, the Flemington Copper Company, and Alfred Everitt. Mining privileges were reserved to the Central Mining Co., mentioned above, even though the company had by then gone out of business.25 According to the Republican, Sergeant paid only $89/acre, considerably less than the $160/acre that Hastings was asking.

After the sale was concluded, George and Sarah Hastings were heard from no more. Records suggest they moved to Philadelphia where they spent the rest of their lives. George Hastings died there in 1897.

That troublesome farm became part of the holdings of Gershom C. Sergeant which his heirs had to deal with after his death in 1881. On June 8, 1882, the heirs of Gershom C. Sergeant conveyed to their sister Garetta R. Vansinderen for $3,000, the tract of 41.7 acres in Raritan twp.26 Thus, for the third time, the property was conveyed to the wife of a couple, rather than the husband.

I had considered following this article with a look at the 18th century owners of this area, being Hills, Andersons, Maxwells and the Case family, after Daniel Coxe conveyed the original tract to the sons of William Penn. But we are so close to the end of the line for this never-built railroad that I must forge ahead and leave the 18th century for another time.

Correction: I had originally written that Rev. Wm. B. Shrope was the great grandson of early Bethlehem Township settlers, Ferdinand & Dorothea Srope, immigrants from France. This was a mistake. Peter Shrope kindly sent me his family genealogy which shows that Rev. Shrope’s ancestors were residents of Neuenberg and Baden Germany.


  1. I considered publishing a Quick Family Tree, but have not researched that family enough to feel confident about my information.
  2. Information about his family and career can be found in several sources, including Snell’s History of Hunterdon County, Lequear’s Traditions of Hunterdon and The History of East Amwell. Also, among the HCHS Archives, in Box 8 file 285, there is a “Sketch of Gershom Craven of Amwell (1771-1819) by George H. Larison, 1891, rewritten by M. J. Holcombe.
  3. Marriage announcement in the Hunterdon Gazette, Feb. 25, 1835.
  4. H.C. Deed Book 48 p.119.
  5. H.C. Deeds Book 60 pp.411, 413.
  6. H.C. Deed Book 103 p.290.
  7. H.C. Deed Book 131 p.588.
  8. H.C. Deed Book 182 p.183.
  9. H.C. Deeds Book 274 p.417, Book 346 p.119. I have not been able to look up the deed to Alfred Rutsch, so I cannot say exactly how much land Letitia was able to sell.
  10. H.C. Deed Book 138 p.093; the land was conveyed to Watson by Alfred and Hannah Everitt.
  11. H.C. Deeds Book 74 pp.157, 229.
  12. Hunterdon Gazette, April 12, 1843.
  13. The lot on which the store was located was not the Flemington lot that the Shropes acquired from Harriet Bartolette & John S. Rockafellar. The store lot offered for sale in 1852 was owned by James N. Reading, who sold it to John R. Holcombe in 1850, at the corner of Main & Mine Streets. John R. Holcombe went into debt and was sued in the Court of Common Pleas by his father Richard Holcombe. The property was seized and sold by Shf Snyder to Richard Holcombe as the highest bidder at $750 on July 28, 1852. At first I thought the Richard Holcombe who sued John R. Holcombe was the son of Thomas P. Holcombe & Mary Curry, born 1821 and married c.1850 to William B. Shrope’s sister Thankful. But I could not find evidence to confirm that.
  14. H.C. Deed Book 104 p.127.
  15. H.C. Deeds Book 104 pp. 504, 617.
  16. H.C. Deed Book 110 p.507.
  17. H.C. Deed Book 118 p.70.
  18. See James P. Snell, History of Hunterdon County, p.508.
  19. H.C. Deed Book 128 p.777.
  20. H.C. Deed Book 143 p.328.
  21. I was unable to identify Sarah’s parents. I was hoping to find a will from one of her parents leaving Sarah that princely sum. That question will go unanswered here.
  22. H.C. Deed 89 p.390.
  23. H. C. Deed Book 89 pp.392-401.
  24. H.C. Deeds Book 31 p.624 and Book 66 p.376.
  25. H.C. Deed Book 182 p.183.
  26. H.C. Deed Book 198 p.190.