After this article was published, some careful readers alerted me to a few errors which merit attention.
Cold Run. This small creek which feeds into the Wickecheoke and once powered Sergeant’s Mill does not originate at the intersection of Reading Road and Locktown-Sergeantsville Road as I had written. It begins further east, on a property on the east side of Ferry Road that was once the home of Hunterdon naturalist Vince Abraitys. It is a modest house, which is fine since Vince spent most of his time outdoors, and certainly understood the value of the property he lived on, at the base of the hill that rises north of Sergeantsville. Tragically, the current owners have no understanding whatsoever of the natural system that had been at work at this place for centuries, and bull-dozed the whole yard with the intent of paving it for a parking area. The work has been halted before paving was laid down, but the damage has been done. Impact on the creek will no doubt be appearing soon.
The Miller’s House. I made two bad mistakes here. First of all, the oldest section of the house probably dates to the later 18th century, not mid-century as I had thought. Which means we do not know exactly where Edward and Hannah Milner lived. That is very disappointing to me.
My second mistake was writing that the second floor only had two rooms. I had neglected to check out the HABS drawings, which show there were four good-sized rooms on the second floor. That means that with a household as large as recorded in the 1850 census, there still had to be some doubling up, but it was not so terrible as I had envisioned, and probably quite normal.
Error #3, The Map. I mistakenly drew the Elizabeth Reading house on the east side of the Wickecheoke, when in fact it is just to the west of the creek. So now I need to redraw that map.
So here is Sergeant’s Mills part two, as corrected:
Mr. Bush’s article on Sergeant’s Mills is so packed with information that I have divided it into two parts. This is part two.
In the previous post, Mr. Bush discussed the ownership of the mill by John Opdycke, his son Samuel Opdycke, and then Charles Sergeant and his son Green Sergeant.1
I added information on John Opdycke’s predecessors at Sergeant’s Mills, Edward and Hannah Milner. However, I neglected to comment on Mr. Bush’s paragraph describing the route of the creek that powered the mill wheel.
The water for the big wheel was diverted from a brook that rises above Sergeantsville and comes down through the old Butterfoss farm, now Irving Cline’s, where in the olden time it turned a wheel for a sawmill, and then makes its way past the site of the Sergeant gristmill to the Wickecheoke. The water was first impounded in a big dam near the Sergeant school-house.
This route begins well east of Reading Road, originating on land just east of Ferry Road. It then runs west to “the old Butterfoss farm” which is at the corner of Locktown-Sergeantsville road and Reading Road. The big dam that Bush refers to would have been near the intersection of Reading Road and Route 604, where the Green Sergeant School was located (and still stands but now as a private home).2
Irwin Cline, 1876-1964, also known as Ezra Irwin Cline, was the son of Lewis Cline and Micah Williamson Carrell, and was married to Annie Belle Butterfoss Coates, daughter of William N. Coates and Cornelia Butterfoss. His grandson, Charles Cline, well-known to many Delaware Township residents today, still lives on a part of the old Cline farm.
There was another mill operating on this “run of water.” It was located about half-way between each end of Reading Road and became the location of an educational experiment known as “The Mantua Manual Labour Institute.” I will be publishing an article about the history of that school and its founder soon.
The Miller’s House
This interesting house is located across the road from the old Opdycke house that was built in 1754. It was recorded in the Historic American Buildings Survey. The oldest section of the house was probably built in the late 18th century, and the newer section in the early 19th century, probably about the time that Charles Sergeant acquired the property. In his article on Sergeant’s Mills, Mr. Bush wrote:
We find that over 70 years ago, David Jackson was the miller at the big mill and lived in one part of the double tenant house which is still standing but not occupied; and that John Cavanagh Opdyke was the farmer living in the other part of the house. John C. was the father of John C. now living in Frenchtown, and of our Delaware Committeeman Charles Opdyke, father of supervisor Orville Opdyke. John Cavanagh’s father was Benjamin Opdyke, son of “Esq. Richard Opdyke,” both of whom lived in Kingwood.
It is interesting to read that in 1930, the stone house known as “the Miller’s house” was vacant. The house was saved from demolition-by-neglect in 1938 when it was purchased by William and Mildred (Millie) Cotton and beautifully restored. (The Cottons certainly deserve an article of their own.)3
Mr. Bush wrote that David Jackson inhabited the house “70 years ago,” which would be around 1860. There is just one problem—in 1860, David Jackson was postmaster of Sergeantsville. Jackson did indeed live in the Miller’s House, but that was in 1850, when the census listed him as age 36, a Delaware Township miller, living with wife Harriet, age 25, and David’s mother Elizabeth Jackson, age 64. Also in the Jackson household was Charles Everitt, 24, a mason. The Census taker listed the Jackson family as residing in the household of Philip Rockafellow age 32, a farmer, his wife Mary age 32, their children John W. age 11 and Mary C. Rockafellow, age 3. Living with them was one James Conner age 15, a farmhand.4 Listed next to the Rockafellow-Jackson household was Green Sergeant age 55, also a farmer, and his wife Margaret age 48.5
Think of it—according to the 1850 census, in one half of the house was the Jackson household numbering four people, and in the other half the Rockafellow household numbering five people. The house is not large, but it does have four bedrooms on the second floor, so there was some doubling up, which was fairly typical for the 19th century. By today’s standards, this would be very crowded.
David Jackson’s wife was Harriet Fox. They married on August 22, 1846. Oddly enough even though there were well-known Fox families in Hunterdon County at the time, I have not been able yet to connect Harriet with any of them. (One possibility might be Jacob Rand Fox and wife Ruth Thatcher of Kingwood.) Jackson himself was born about 1814 to Josiah Jackson of Kingwood Township and wife Elizabeth or Eliza. He may have been a humble miller living as a tenant at Sergeant’s Mills in 1850, but by 1858 he was the Chosen Freeholder for Delaware Township, and in 1859 bought the lot in Sergeantsville where the post office is now located, along with the house next door. During the 1860s and 1870s he was active in township politics and was regularly named overseer of the poor and commissioner of appeals. From 1870 on, he served as Justice of the Peace. He served as Postmaster at Sergeantsville “for a number of years,” according to his obituaries in the Hunterdon Democrat and Hunterdon Republican. He died of heart disease on February 17, 1878, at age 64. In 1880, his widow Harriet Jackson was working as the postmistress in Sergeantsville, living with daughter Jennie and her husband George W. Olmstead.6
Charles Everitt is interesting—he may be the Charles who was born about 1823 to Ezekiel Everitt and Rachel Kerr, and married on Feb. 22, 1851 to Martha Jane Fox. I do not know who Martha’s parents were, but cannot help but wonder if she might have been a younger sister of Harriet Fox Jackson. Charles was a member of the committee to raise funds to build “Military Hall” in Sergeantsville in 1860, and worked with brother Ely Everitt to construct the abutments to the covered bridge in 1872. Charles and Martha Everitt lived the rest of their lives in Delaware Township, Charles dying sometime after 1900, and Martha dying sometime before.
Philip Rockafellow was born June 28, 1817 to Daniel Rockafellar and Rebecca Gano. He grew up on their farm on Route 523 south of Sergeantsville, and married Mary H. Wolverton on May 26, 1838. She was the daughter of Job Wolverton and Anna Housel. Their farm was located on Covered Bridge Road, not very far away from the Rockafellow farm, so Philip and Mary must have known each other from an early age.
In 1850, when Rockafellow was living at the Miller’s House, his wife Mary and children John 11 and Mary 3 were living with him. By 1860, the family had moved to Raritan Township, but were back in Delaware township in 1870, when Philip Rockafellar, age 53, was employed as a dry goods merchant, with son Wesley age 32 working as a clerk in the store. I have not done a deed search to find out where his store was located, but most likely it was in Sergeantsville, as Philip and Mary Rockafellow were members of the Sergeantsville Methodist Church and were buried in its cemetery.
George, James, and John C. Opdycke, Blacksmith
Despite what Mr. Bush wrote, David Jackson did not share the Miller’s House with “John C. Opdycke.” There was such a person, but his identity was strangely inconsistent. In fact, once I started trying to pin this guy down, I found myself in an amazing tangle. I will try to make the story plain, but beg forgiveness if I fail.
The main point here is that as important as census records are to researchers and genealogists, one must be careful about the information recorded in them. Things do go wrong.
In the 1850 census this person called himself “George C. Ophdyke” age 29 (born 1821), blacksmith, living with Ann Marie 26, William R. 5, Amy E. 3, and Anna Mary 3 months; also in the household were Asa Snyder 37 carpenter, Christopher Snyder 5 and Amy Snyder 57. “George Ophdyke’s” wife Anna was probably the daughter of Daniel and Amy Snyder, also of Delaware Township, which would make the Asa Snyder in this household Anna’s brother. But it was John Cavanaugh Opdycke who married Ann Snyder on August 26, 1843, with Rev. Amos Merselles presiding. Judging by the list of names in the census, the George C. Ophdycke household must have been not too far away from Sergeant’s Mills.7
In the 1860 census for Delaware Township, this same person was identified as James C. Opdycke, age 39, master mason, living in the Raven Rock area with the same wife (Ann) age 37, and children (Amy E. 14 and Anna M. 11, plus Charles age 9). It seems to me there is some serious confusion here, because there was another Delaware Twp. James Opdycke in 1860, age 49, called a master blacksmith, with wife Lydia A. age 35, and son George, age, with Richard Reading, age 19, living with them as an apprentice blacksmith. The real James Opdycke, mason of Raven Rock, was married to Lydia Ann Britton, and the so-called James Opdycke, also known as John C. Opdycke, blacksmith of Sergeant’s Mills, was married to Ann Snyder. Just to add a further complication, the 1850 Delaware Twp. census includes a blacksmith named James Opdycke age 36 living with James Snyder, Esq. in 1850. James Snyder owned a farm to the west of Sergeant’s Mills (as shown in the map). It’s as if the census taker had merged the two Opdycke men, or at least seriously mixed them up. Just to add extra interest, this other James Opdycke happened to be the son of John Roberson Opdycke, grandson of Samuel Opdycke and Susannah Robeson, about whom I wrote in the previous article.
But in 1870, I can find no trace of either of the James C. Opdyckes, nor of John C. Opdycke.
In 1880, our man had finally become John C. Opdycke again. He was then 59 years old, a farmer living in Kingwood Township with wife Ann 56, and daughter Amy 34. I did not find the name James C. Opdycke in this census. In 1900, John C. Opdyke was 79 years old, a widower and stone mason living in Kingwood Township with daughter Amy E. Opdyke 54, single, a dressmaker.
George, James, and/or John Cavanaugh Opdycke was born on Oct. 7, 1820 to Benjamin Opdycke and Elizabeth Ent of Kingwood. He was named for then Sheriff John Cavanaugh, who had dealings with Charles Sergeant, and must have had a close acquaintance with Benjamin and Elizabeth Opdycke. The Op Dyke Genealogy says of John C. Opdycke:
“As his father left little property, John Cavanaugh was compelled to make his own way in the world. He worked on a farm, and then learned the trade of mason which he has followed the greater part of his life. Was nine months in the Union Army, and assisted in the care of the wounded after the battle of Fredericksburg. He spent ten winters in Maryland and Virginia, buying timber, superintending its working up into spokes, and shipping it to the Lambertville Spoke Works. Some years ago he purchased a few acres near the Kingwood M. E. Church, in Hunterdon, and built a comfortable residence for himself. He is an upright and intelligent man, highly esteemed by the community. His contributions to this Genealogy have been numerous and valuable.”8
This personal history explains why there was no record of him in Delaware Township in 1870. And the personal judgment of his character leads me to believe that Mr. Bush must have become acquainted with him. He died on February 7, 1909, age 88, and was buried in the Rosemont Cemetery. The 1900 census tells us that John’s wife Anna had died sometime before then, but I have not been able to locate a record of her death, and she was not buried in the Rosemont Cemetery with her husband.
The son, John C. Opdycke, Jr., mentioned by Mr. Bush as “now living in Frenchtown,” was born in 1863 and married Jennie Kugler. His older brother, Charles A. Opdycke, was born in 1852, married Cornelia B. Phillips, and died in 1935, age 83. He is buried in the Rosemont Cemetery. Just as with John Sr’s wife Anna, Charles’s wife Cornelia is also not listed in the Rosemont Cemetery.
Returning to Mr. Bush’s article:
In early days, a blacksmith shop stood on the west bank of the Wickecheoke, 40 or 50 feet below the abutment of the bridge. Between the two was a driveway by which the farmers drove their teams into the creek for watering and their thirsty wagons for “soaking up,” and then drove out into the Creek road or reversed the direction, as might be most convenient. The last blacksmith there was James Snyder Reed, who lived in the house across the road (the Edward Brown house). In October 1877, the night of the serious wreck on the P.R.R. between Milford and Frenchtown, in which several lives were lost, the Wickecheoke went wild, as did so many creeks on that memorable night, and swept away the shop with all its equipments, never to be replaced.
The blacksmith who was running that shop in 1850 was undoubtedly Joseph Slack, mentioned in the previous article.
James Snyder Reed, the blacksmith, served as Assessor for Delaware Township during the years 1860-1869. Reed probably left Delaware Twp. after the great flood of 1877 that Bush described. By 1885 he had moved to Three Bridges in Readington Township where he was named a Justice of the Peace. He died in 1898 at the age of 86. His second wife Sarah Conover (1820-1898) died shortly after he did. The two are buried in the Sandy Ridge Cemetery. I am not certain about James S. Reed’s family, but circumstantial evidence points strongly to his parents being Jesse C. Reed and Rachel Moore, and his grandfather being Capt. Asa Reed (1759-1815), whose close friend was James Snyder.
Only Remaining Covered Bridge
While this little hamlet has lost much for which it was justly distinguished in former days, it has gained one distinction because of the changing age. It now has the only covered bridge remaining in Hunterdon County. Here stands a lonely eighty-foot span of that kind of bridge soon to become a thing of the past. This one was built under the supervision of Joseph Smith during his term as Chosen Freeholder for the township of Delaware, 1870 to 1875. The names of the workmen employed cannot be learned, but the bridge still holds out this notice: “CAPACITY 6 TONS.” Yet it must soon go. Modern traffic is death to old-time bridges, however good for the requirements of their time. The bridges that preceded this one were open, but how many of them there had been is unknown. The many activities here centered appear to have made bridges an early necessity.
Happily the bridge has not gone as Bush feared it would. It almost did get torn down after another flood in the 20th century. Fortunately, public protest led to the preservation of the bridge.9
Charles Opdyke tells entertainingly of his early boy-hood days at this place; of riding the great wheel and of toddling to the Sergeant school-house, a third of a mile away, there to learn the alphabet from Asa R. Smith, who will be recalled by many as a teacher of the old stripe in many of the schools hereabout long years ago. The house was of stone and was many-sided; but whether there were six sides or eight is a mooted question. Anyhow, they called it the “eight-square,” a sort of generic name, regardless of the number of sides.
The Charles Opdycke that Bush refers to was the brother of John Cavanaugh Opdycke mentioned before. He was serving as Delaware Township committeeman in 1930.
The teacher Asa R. Smith that Charles Opdycke recalled was Asa Robbins Smith (1831-1901), son of Asa R. Smith Sr. and Letitia Conner. He was 18 years old in 1850, and living in the household of Joseph R. Opdycke in Delaware Township. By 1860, he was working as a schoolteacher in Kingwood township, living with his widowed mother. In 1870 and 1880, he was living with the family of his wife Sarah Barcroft, also in Kingwood township, and still employed as a schoolteacher. He died in 1901, age 69, and was buried with his wife in the Rosemont Cemetery. But back to the schoolhouse:
That [school] house was not the first here and probably not the second. We find that by deed dated June 16, 1830, Garrett Wilson conveyed to John Salter, James Snyder, Green Sergeant, Job Wolverton, Mahlon Smith, John Gordon, Asher Reading, David Rockafellar, Charles Sergeant, George E. Rittenhouse and Jonas Thatcher, a plot of ground “for the purpose of erecting a school house near where now stands an old one on the road leading from Sergeantsville to Charles Sergeant’s Mills.” [emphasis added] This indicates that a school had been established here long before, probably soon after the building of the mill. And this supposition is strengthened by the fact that Sergeantsville had no nearer school until 1889.
The conveyance by Garret Wilson was dated June 18, 1830, but the deed was not recorded until May 8, 1832, probably after construction of the schoolhouse was completed.10 According to Cornelius S. Conkling, Superintendent of Hunterdon County Schools, who wrote a history of the County’s schools, it was “Impossible to furnish any intelligent account of this district,” known as District 95. Conkling was apparently not aware of any school earlier than the one built in 1830, and enlarged in 1874, “at the cost of $300. Its condition is not very good.”
We know the names of two teachers in the house spoken of in the conveyance as “an old one.” Cyrus Van Dolah, father of the present Cyrus, taught there in 1825 or 1826. One of his pupils was John P. Rittenhouse, whose father Samuel Rittenhouse lived in the first house west of the bridge, where John P. was born in 1820 and continued to live there for years thereafter. John P. Rittenhouse, who later became Sheriff of Hunterdon County, and whose son Albert H. is cashier of the Hunterdon County National Bank. [There is apparently a word or two missing from the last sentence in this paragraph.]
Having written about the life of John P. Rittenhouse,11 it is now a good time to focus on his parents, Samuel and Hannah. Samuel Rittenhouse was born on February 5, 1765 to Isaac Rittenhouse and Susannah Baker. Isaac was the tavernkeeper at Rosemont, so Samuel must have had an interesting childhood. His first wife was Martha Smith, whom he married on May 4, 1794. I do not know who her parents were. They had seven children between 1795 and 1802. Martha died on Nov. 5, 1804.12
A road record of 1795 for Upper Creek Road shows Samuel Rittenhouse living on that road. He would have been about 30 years old, and newly married. Well before the road was surveyed in 1783, that property was owned by Jonas Chatburn, who offered it for sale in 1794 with this interesting advertisement:
“Jonas Chatburn offers for sale a plantation in Amwell Twp, HC, near the great road leading from Kingwood and Alexandria to Trenton, within 3 miles of Howell’s ferry on the road to Philadelphia, adjoining lands of Samuel Opdyck, containing 101 acres; there is a stone house, a large barn, an orchard of various fruit trees and a garden walled with stone; Likewise, a lot adjoining the above with a new stone house, a frame barn, stable and a young orchard; For terms apply to Abraham Lerow near the premises, or to the subscriber in Pittstown who will give a good title for same.”13
I don’t think the deed from Chatburn to Samuel Rittenhouse got recorded, but after Samuel’s death, when his lot on Sanford Road was sold to Asa Larowe, the deed mentioned that half of the lot being sold, about 8 acres, was conveyed to Rittenhouse by Jonas Chatburn on Nov. 10, 1795. The other half was sold to Rittenhouse by his brother William in 1808.14
Samuel Rittenhouse became a trustee of the Sandy Ridge Baptist Church when it was founded in 1818, but Martha died too early to be buried in its cemetery. Five years later, on Dec. 21, 1809, Samuel married a second wife, Hannah Emmons, daughter of James Emmons and Mary Bonham, of Kingwood Twp. Hannah was baptized at the Kingwood Baptist Church by “Mr. Hunt, moderator,” on August 18, 1804 when she was 27. She was about ten years younger than Samuel Rittenhouse, who was 44 when they married. They had five children, John Prall Rittenhouse being the youngest, born in 1820. Samuel’s father Isaac died on February 23, 1809, age 82, and still in possession of the tavernhouse in Rosemont. In 1811, Samuel and his brother John sold their interest in the Crosskeys Tavern of Rosemont to their brother William Rittenhouse.15
Although it appears that Samuel Rittenhouse kept his lot on Sanford Road throughout his life, he did not necessarily live there all the time. In a deed dated October 6, 1804, he was identified as a saddler of Hopewell Township. At that time, he and first wife Martha conveyed part of the Amwell property to his brother William Rittenhouse, being 6.25 acres more or less, bordering John Opdycke’s land. He also sold a 5 acre and 52 perches lot bordering the Wickecheoke and Elisha Rittenhouse’s land in the same deed. But this lot was well north of the property on Sanford Road, and the deed did not say where Samuel got it from.16 On September 23, 1808, William Rittenhouse and wife Elizabeth sold this property back to Samuel Rittenhouse, at that time living in Amwell Township.
In 1833 when Charles Sergeant died, he and wife Hannah were almost certainly living on Sanford Road, where they would have been well-known to the Sergeant family. Samuel Rittenhouse was chosen to appraise Sergeant’s inventory along with another neighbor, John Gordon.
Hannah Emmons Rittenhouse died on December 22, 1843, age 66. Samuel lived another seven years, dying at age 86 on April 24, 1850. He was buried next to Hannah in the Sandy Ridge Cemetery. [However, Find-a-Grave claims that the couple was buried in the Methodist Cemetery at Allerton, which I find hard to believe.]
This is not the end of Mr. Bush’s article on the neighborhood of Sergeant’s Mills, but it is enough for now. One last episode will describe residents of the beautiful Rosemont valley aas well as other nearby residents plus “some tragic incidents.”
- Here are some Goodspeed History articles that are relevant to these people: The Old Opdycke House by J. M. Hoppock, The Old Sergeant Mill by J. M. Hoppock, and Story of Green Sergeant’s Bridge and its Founders by Egbert T. Bush. ↩
- I checked Google Maps, hoping to get some hint of the old dam at that intersection, but unfortunately, Google photographed the are when trees were in full leaf, so there is no way to know if any remnant of the dam survives. On the ground investigation is the only way to know for sure. ↩
- I should also note that despite Mr. Bush’s consistent spelling of Cavanagh, the name was usually spelled Cavanaugh. ↩
- U. S. Federal Census, 1850, Delaware Township, Hunterdon Co., NJ, #286-314. ↩
- U. S. Federal Census, 1850, Delaware Township, Hunterdon Co., NJ, #281-316. ↩
- Oddly enough, just as I failed to find Harriet’s Hunterdon origins, I have not found her death date, or whatever happened to her daughter and son-in-law. The easy sources are no help at all. ↩
- There was another George Opdycke living in Delaware Township in 1850, age 29 living with his mother Amy Reading Opdycke 62 (1788), and sister Theodosia 28 (1822). ↩
- The Op Dyke Genealogy, John Cavanaugh Opdyke, No. 92, p. 367; see also pp. 92, 220, 365. Identified as born 1820, married to Anna M. Snyder, mason (p. 365). ↩
- See Egbert T. Bush, “Story of Green Sergeant’s Covered Bridge and Its Builders,” 6/20/1935. So far, I have written four articles about the bridge: Green Sergeant’s Covered Bridge, Covered Bridge Tales, Sparky’s Roadhouse continued and The Covered Bridge in the Automobile Age. ↩
- H C. Deed Bk 52 p. 369. ↩
- John P. Rittenhouse and John P. Rittenhouse, part two. ↩
- I have no information on when Martha died or where she was buried. ↩
- From the NJ State Gazette as quoted in Notices from New Jersey Newspapers by Thomas Wilson and Dorothy Stratford, p. 363. ↩
- H. C. Deed 99-595. ↩
- From E. T. Bush’s article “Crosskeys Tavern Built in 1754.” ↩
- H.C. Deed Bk 10 p. 392. ↩