Raritan Township was in the news not long ago for its effort to acquire and preserve a 48-acre farm to the west of Flemington. It is located near an area that has long been known as “Hardscrabble.”

The story of Raritan Township’s plans appeared recently in “Tap Into Flemington.”1 The property is located on the east side of the wonderfully named Bonetown Road. This area is just north of the neighborhood described in my article “Carman, Hoagland and Higgins.”

Egbert T. Bush, Hunterdon historian of the 1930s, wrote about this area in an article called “Hardscrabble the Scene of Boy Hunt Many Years Ago.”2 But he wrote another article on this neighborhood which I have not yet published, and with this news from Raritan Township, it seems like this is a good time to do it.

Summit School Known for Years As Hardscrabble

It Was a Neighborhood of Cases, Bakers,
Barricks and Hartpences.
Old Families Have Passed

by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N. J.
Hunterdon Co. Democrat, July 10, 1930

The Summit School was well named by its founders; for it is at the summit of about the meanest hill that old-timers had to travel on their way to Flemington, two miles eastward. However well chosen, that name did not satisfy the irrepressible wag of the old days. Until about the time of building the new school-house, I cannot recall that I ever heard the name Summit. It was always “Hardscrabble,” but one is left to wonder why.

It may be that some jocular old settler found it hard “scrabble” to get up that hill under certain unfavorable conditions either in himself or in the weather or both and gave it the name which seemed at the time most appropriate. Anyhow, the name stuck tight. Hardscrabble it was, is and will continue to be with some of us who are merely leftovers.

Mr. Bush is referring to Route 12 as it climbs west from Flemington toward Croton. The road climbed the Croton Plateau, as it is known today. Back in the early 18th century it was often described as “the Great Swamp,” because the drainage over the plateau was so bad.

When the road was “improved” several years ago, the engineer reduced the grade of that hill by increasing the length. He followed an arc instead of a chord and made the road much easier; but the traveler must still reach the same altitude, though he does not have to “make” the same grade.

The chord would have taken the traveler straight up the steep hill, it being the shortest line between two points. By following the arc, or curve, the engineer designed a more graceful road, known today as Old Croton Road.

Detail, 1888 USGS Topographical Map. Note steep rise to the west of Flemington.

Some may doubt whether I am qualified to write of hardscrabble as it should be done. But it is safe to say that no other will doubt the qualifications so much or feel the deficiency so keenly as I do myself. And yet, let us consider a little. A visitor from Europe lands at New York, spends perhaps three weeks there, with a possible evening’s run to Philadelphia to make sure that he is getting a broad view of us. Then he hurries home to write and lecture on the Americans, their Government, Customs, Ideals and Institutions. And the generous way in which his people listen to his talks and buy his written “information,” tickles both his pride and his pocketbook. Then why should not one who lived only three miles away, and actually spent three days in that school—there was no time to spare—be at least as well qualified to write about Hardscrabble, as our transient visitor is to be talking and writing so much about us?

Was Mr. Bush referring to Alexis de Tocqueville? At the time that Mr. Bush was writing, he was 82 years old, so the three days he spent in the school must have been in the late 1850s. He grew up on his parents’ farm not far south of Quakertown on the road to Croton (Route 579).

School Organized Before 1850

There is some question as to when the school was first organized. But it is certain that the school antedates by at least several years the erection of a house for its accommodations. Snell’s History says the school was founded in 1852 and the house was built in 1850.3  Joseph D. Case, now in his ninetieth year, with memory unimpaired, says: “Hardscrabble was my first school. I surely went there in the old stone house before 1850, and the house looked old and worn when I first went there.” We are otherwise told that school was kept in the upper story of Tunis Case’s store house before the first schoolhouse was erected. All this puts the original organization far back of 1850.

Tunis Case’s property was located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Bonetown Road & Old Croton Road. The Case property appears on the Cornell map of 1851 which must have been soon after the school was established, but no schoolhouse is shown there. However, if one follows Bonetown Road south toward its intersection with the Sergeantsville Road, there is a schoolhouse on the east side of the road, just before it takes a sharp turn.

Detail, Cornell Map of 1851 for Hunterdon County

The Beers Atlas of 1873 notes a school district for the Tunis Case school but does not include the number of the District. The school on the east side of Bonetown Road in the Cornell map was in District 88 on the Atlas, but by that time, it had been moved to the south side of Route 523, where it was then known as the Higgins school. The Summit School was at one time known as District 3, as Mr. Bush discovered:

We find record of a lease dated April 10, 1854, by which Tunis Case conveyed to Joseph Woodruff, Enoch Hartpence and Amos Dilts, “Trustees of the Summit School District No. Three of the Township of Raritan” and their successors in office, a certain lot twenty yards square, bounded on the north by lands of Peter H. Baker and on the west and south by lands of said Case and on the east by lands of Peter H. Baker, and is the same lot on which the School House of said District now stands, for the term of Ninety Nine years from date hereof.”

If the Summit School District was No. 3 in 1854, the district numbers were clearly changed by 1873 when Dist. 3 became known as Dist. 90 and was included in the report on Hunterdon schools compiled by School Supt. Cornelius S. Conkling in 1870. His comment on the school:

District Number Ninety is known as the Summit. This district is not of very ancient origin, having been formed May 3, 1853, but from what adjacent district we have not been clearly informed. The first house erected in the district was built of stone, in 1850, and stood near the present building; the present school lot incudes all the former ground. The size of the first house was 20 ft by 22. And although the former structure had stood but 20 years, it had become sadly dilapidated. Hence in 1872 the New House was built which is a frame building 26 ft by 30, well finished and furnished with good seating accommodations.

Note that the schoolhouse was built before the district was created. This has happened in at least one other district I know of. Also, it was a common practice in the 19th century to set aside a lot not much bigger than the schoolhouse itself. Mr. Bush confirmed the report made to Supt. Conkling:

This first house was of stone, 20 by 22 feet, and stood considerably northward of the house now here. The following are now remembered as among the teachers in the old school: William Swallow, I__ Solomon, Rebecca Lodor, Clara Bonham, Jonathan Hoppock, Theodore Horne and William C. Barrick.

Conkling’s report noted that “The trustees are Moses Lake, Jeremiah Everitt and Samuel F. Case. Clara Bonhom is the present teacher.”

Returning to Mr. Bush’s article:

Tunis Case, Jr. Man of Affairs

Tunis Case, who conveyed the ground, was a son of Tunis Case who had long been doing business in this vicinity. Tunis, Jr. was an active man and seems to have been a leading spirit in the community. He built the store house, still standing north of the road and long used as a dwelling. There he carried on business as an old-time country storekeeper during the remainder of his life, besides being interested in farming and active in real estate.

(I have avoided publishing a Case family tree for the simple reason that the family is so ubiquitous, and repeats given names so often that it is nearly impossible to get the tree right. However, in light of Mr. Bush’s emphasis on Tunis Case in this article, I have attempted one that sticks with the Tunis Case line. See Case Family Tree.)

By deed dated March 15, 1839, Charles Bartles and William H. Sloan conveyed to Tunis Case their interests in 129 acres of land, with this as the description: “Described in deed from James Maxwell, Sheriff, to John Maxwell, January 35 [?], 1820, as follows; Bounded by lands of Isaac Passand, Samuel Greggs, Samuel Barrack, Asher Atkinson, Daniel Waldron, William Rake, John Maxwell, John Case and others.” Rather unsatisfactory, we should now consider that description.

Agreed—it is unsatisfactory. I have found in the records that Col. John Maxwell, Sr. (1739-1828) owned many many properties. Maxwell died intestate, with only four surviving children, but his grandchildren brought the number of heirs up to seven. Bartles and Sloan had acquired the share belonging to John Maxwell’s son William Maxwell, who also died in 1828, in August, six months after his father who died in February. John Maxwell, Sr. had acquired this farm on June 17, 1820 at a sheriff’s sale. The property had been owned by Bartholomew VanCamp,4 who inherited it from his father Gilbird or Gilbert VanCamp (c.1756-1802).

What Mr. Bush did not mention was that Tunis Case also purchased six of the seven shares of the 129+ acres from Charles & Eliza Bartles in 1837.5 In the deed of 1839, Bartles was acting on behalf of the estate of William Maxwell, dec’d, owner of a 1/7th share. In the deed of 1837, Bartles was selling the other six which he acquired shortly before conveying them to Tunis Case.

In 1844 Tunis Case conveyed this farm to his sons Samuel F. and Daniel M. In 1849 Daniel M. conveyed his interest to Samuel F., who lived and farmed there for many years, meanwhile doing business as a drover and dealer in livestock.

This conveyance by Tunis Case of the 129.66-acre farm to his sons took place on April 1, 1844, two years after their mother, Rhoda Moore Case, had died, and six months before Tunis married his second wife Catharine. Tunis charged his sons $3,500 for the property. And as Mr. Bush described, five years later, Daniel conveyed his rights in the farm to brother Samuel, charging him $1,000. Daniel M. Case died in January 1853, and his youngest child Daniel died an infant in July 1853. The two were buried in the Lower Amwell Old Yard.

At least part of the Maxwell farm was probably located on the north side of Old Croton Road, as an “S. Case” is shown there on the 1851 Cornell map.

Mr. Bush mentioned another sale:

In 1845 Joseph Case conveyed to Tunis Case 8 acres of land lying south of “the road leading from Allerton (now Croton) to Flemington.”

This was one of the many woodlots to be found in the Great Swamp and does not add anything to the story.

Here’s a problem with Mr. Bush’s narrative. We are given to understand that Case was living at the intersection of Bonetown Road & Route 12 in 1851 when the Cornell Map was made, and that shortly afterwards he donated a lot for the school on the north side of the Croton Road. But the property that Bush described does not fit the bill.

Tunis Case had purchased several other properties that Bush did not mention, properties that he still owned when he died in 1859. In particular was a farm of 69.5 acres that his son Samuel, as sole executor, sold to John Hill, along with two small lots, for $53.50 per acre (about $550).6 The farm was bordered by land of Samuel F. Case, William Swallow, William Seals, John Bearder and Peter H. Baker. This was probably the property that Mr. Bush was looking for.

On the 1851 map it was surrounded by Bonetown Road on the east and the Croton-Flemington Road on the north. On the south was a road connecting Bonetown Road with today’s Route 579. Only part of that road exists today, the western half now known as Plum Brook Road. The eastern half that ran through Tunis Case’s farm would go right through the Hunterdon County Complex today, on the south side of today’s Route 12 if it still existed. It does not.

Mr. Bush continues:

Tunis Case was twice married. By his first wife he had five children—Elizabeth, Agnes, Samuel P., Daniel M. and Nathan; by his second wife, three children—Ephraim, John and Sarah. By his will dated November 11, 1857, and probated January 4, 1860, he left Samuel P. [sic] Case executor, explained how the other children had been provided for, and directed that all the residue of his estate should be equally divided among his wife Elizabeth and the last three children, designating the children as minors, the oldest being only 12 when the will was written.

Case’s wife’s name at the time he wrote his will was not Elizabeth, but Catharine. Son Samuel was Samuel Fauss Case, not Samuel P. Case. Tunis was first married to Rhoda Moore (1786-1842), daughter of Daniel Moore and Elizabeth Rouser. His second wife was Catharine Woodhume, mother of the three youngest children, Ephraim, John and Sarah. In his will, Tunis Case ordered that his real estate be sold to benefit the children of this second wife, as the children from his first wife were already provided for. Presumably this refers to his conveyance of the 129-acre farm to sons Samuel and Daniel. Son Nathan had died in 1852, without a family. Also deceased was daughter Elizabeth, who married Samuel Cronce and died in 1847.

Daughter Agnes married Asher Hill Dilts about 1846 and had two children. In 1857, Tunis and Catherine Case sold a farm of 61.15 acres to Asher H. Dilts for $3,000, which was the home of Dilts and wife Agnes until Asher’s death in 1893. Tunis Case had bought this farm in 1852 from Samuel Buchanan.7

Tunis Case’s obituary was published in the Hunterdon Democrat on January 11, 1859. It read: “Died At his residence near Flemington, December 13th after a long and painful illness, Tunis Case, in the 63rd year of his age.” It does not mention that Case left his wife Catherine and three young children behind. Bush goes on to describe what Tunis Case’s son Ephraim did when he reached the age of sixteen.

Off to War

In the summer of 1861 Ephraim, his brother John and his nephew Emanuel Dilts, walked to Frenchtown ostensibly to attend a camp meeting. But Ephraim had another object in view. Slipping away from his companions, he took the long towpath route for Trenton, where he enlisted, at the age of 16, in the First N. J. Cavalry for three years. When that term expired, he re-enlisted, serving to the end of the war. Five other boys of the vicinity were soldiers in the Civil War, namely, Jonathan Hartpence, David Seals and Elias Rake’s three sons—Aaron H., Izer and John. Seals was lost, but the others all returned.

Ephraim Case’s companion, Emanual Dilts, was the son of Agnes Case & Asher H. Dilts, making Agnes the stepsister of Ephraim Case. Imagine, Ephraim Dilts walking the towpath from Frenchtown to Trenton, a distance of 46 miles!

We are told that the chamber of Case’s wagon house had been used by the boys as a shop in which they worked, putting splint bottoms into chairs, and manufacturing a certain kind of cement for mending china ware. The war awoke another spirit. They organized a fife-and-drum corps and drilled around a big oak tree that stood near the road on the present school grounds.

We find that the school grounds as now known were conveyed, March 7, 1873, by Peter R. Baker, to the “Trustees of the School District No. 90”, that being its legal destination at the time.

It was Peter H. Baker. The initials R, B and H often got confused, just as the initials P and F do, in the name of Samuel F. Case. I am uncertain about the parentage of Peter H. Baker, but it seems likely he was related to Henry Baker (c.1763-c.1806) who owned land on the road to Tunis Case’s, which was sold after his death to William H. Case.

Amos Dilts, one of the original trustees, lived on the Asher Gary farm situated on the road leading to the Hemlock Church.

Amos Dilts (1804-1866) was married to Elizabeth West (1809-1873), daughter of Joseph West & Anna Rockafellar. Amos was the son of Pvt. William C. Dilts (1754-1848), who sold to son Amos three small lots in the same general area we have been looking at. Amos and Elizabeth had three children, one of them—daughter Matilda—is most likely the Matilda Dilts who married Peter H. Baker.8

Joseph Woodruff, another trustee, lived east of the “road to Cherryville” sold out to Peter H. Baker in 1869, and died a few years later at the home of his son William H. H., near Quakertown.

The road to Cherryville appears on the Cornell Map as the road leading northwest out of Flemington. But Woodruff does not appear on the map. Nor does he appear on the Beers Atlas. Joseph Woodruff (1802-1873) was the son of Joseph Sr. and Elizabeth Crane. In 1825, he married Mary Rodenbaugh. The couple was buried in the Lower Amwell Old Yard in Delaware Township.

In 1857 the commissioners to divide the real estate of William H. Case, deceased, conveyed to Enoch Hartpence, the other of the trustees named, about 57 acres of land lying on the great hill, south of the road, “Beginning at a stone in the great road corner to lands of Joseph West”, the recital saying that this farm was conveyed to William H. Case in 1821, by Mary Baker and John Barton, executors of Henry Baker.

Henry Baker died in 1806 after writing his will. Consequently, the properties he purchased many years before were not recorded in the Hunterdon Co. Clerk’s Office.

Peter H. Baker appears on the Cornell Map, on the east side of what is now known as Hinkly Road, running north from Route 12 to Hardscrabble Hill Road, southwest of Klinesville. The Beers Atlas shows the school’s location on the west side of Hinkly Road, just north of Old Croton Road, with the properties of E. M. Bake on the north and E. Baker on the south.

Detail, Beers Atlas, 1873

As for Enoch Hartpence, in addition to land purchased from the estate of William H. Case, in 1861 he bought from the estate of Tunis Case two lots in Raritan for $578.50, which Tunis Case had purchased from Samuel Holcombe.9 Hartpence appears on the Cornell Map on the east side of Bonetown Road.

In 1878 this farm [the 57 acres sold to Enoch Hartpence] was sold by Wesley Bellis, Sheriff, to George P. Case, who conveyed it a year later to Peter S. Smith, locally “Spader” Smith, who sold it to Frederick Wideman in 1910.

J. Hartpence, Soldier Boy

Jonathan Hartpence, the soldier boy, was a son of Enoch, and something of a character after his return from the war. Slim, nimble, witty and very active, he could do many things to amuse and astonish the younger people. I have seen him dance long and well with a tumbler more than half filled with water standing on the top of his head. No glass was broken and no water spilled. He and Aaron H. Rake were great cronies, often associated in harmless escapades.

A little background on Jonathan Eyck Hartpence (1843-1898). He was the youngest of Enoch & Susan Eich Hartpence’s five children. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy in June 1864 and must have seen service because eventually his widow was awarded a pension. She was Sarah Case (1859-1934), daughter of John E. & Mary Case, about whom I have hardly any information.  Could she have been related to the Tunis Case family? It would not be surprising.

Despite his charming personality, Jonathan seems to have been at loose ends after the War ended. After his father Enoch died in 1878, Jonathan was living with his mother Sophie Hartpence on the family farm, probably carrying on the farming duties, but listed in the census of 1880 as “servant.” In 1886, he and Sarah Case were married in Flemington where Jonathan took up the trade of wheelwright.

In middle age, Jonathan contracted stomach cancer and on March 16, 1898, when he was 55 years old, he died following an operation for it. The census of June 27, 1900 listed the widow Sarah, age 38, born April 1862, renting her home in Flemington with her 12-year-old daughter Belle (short for Arabella). Living with them was one Samuel C. Case, age 53, born April 1847, married but his wife not listed.10

Several months before the census was taken, Sarah and Arabella had a frightening experience. This story appeared in the Hunterdon Republican for January 10, 1900:

Another Fire in Flemington. The building on the southeast corner of Bloomfield Ave. and Spring St., used by Charles F. Felmly as a carriage repository and the adjacent building on said avenue, occupied by the wheelwright shop of Arthur Hughes and the blacksmith shop of Andrew J. Bellis, were destroyed by fire Saturday evening. It is believed by everyone that the fire was the work of an incendiary.

The fire was discovered about 7:30 o’clock making its way up the boards which lined the outside of the building first mentioned. All agree that the fire started in the southwest corner of the structure, within a few feet of Spring St. Although there are many stories afloat, it is probable that little Miss Arabelle Hartpence, who lives with her mother on the north side of Bloomfield Ave., was the first to give an alarm [my emphasis].

Arabella died when she was only 21 years old, on June 14, 1909. Her mother lived to the age of 75, dying in May 1934. The family, including Jonathan Hartpence, was buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery. Returning to Mr. Bush’s article:

Aaron H. Rake was a man of good mind and something of a student in his way. At one time he was very much interested in physiognomy, which was then a local fad among students. He reached what he thought sufficient skill for a venture into the lecture field. So, he posted notices of “A Lecture on Physiognomy, by Prof. A. H. Rake”, to be held in Hardscrabble School-House. Several of us went out to hear what the “professor” had to say, the two Barrick boys among us, each of the two probably knowing more about the subject than the prospective speaker did. Aaron looked the crowd over, seemed to consider for a short time, then rose and said in his stammering way: “The lecture will not be given to-night. I want an appreciative audience.”

Then we knew exactly what the “professor” had to say under the circumstances. We came away with increased respect for his half-suppressed ability and his keen thrust in what he thought was self-defense. But, so far as we know, nobody was there to heckle or embarrass him in anyway.

Some more background on Aaron Rake: He was born May 26, 1844, youngest child of Elias M. Rake and Catharine Wolverton.[#11. Catharine was mentioned in Carl Zimmer’s book She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, depicted as feeble-minded when in fact she was not.] Despite his ambition to give lectures, Aaron was never more than a day laborer.

In 1871, Samuel F. Case sold a 3.25-acre lot on the Croton Road to Aaron H. Rake, but Rake had a difficult time making a go of it. The Hunterdon Republican published the list of delinquent taxpayers in Raritan Township in the years 1879-1881, and Aaron Rake appeared in each one, owing from 39 cents to $1.14.

In 1883, the Republican reported a nasty accident:

On 22 Jan. 1883, Aaron Rake, who lives about 2 miles West of Flemington in Raritan Tp., was going home on foot, when he was run into by a large sled on which there were several boys coasting down the hill by Prospect Hill Cemetery. Aaron was knocked down and quite severely injured. He had his cuts sewed up by a physician in Flemington and started on his way home. He had been with some other companions on his initial trip home and they were nimble enough to get out of the way.

It was that impressive hill coming down from Hardscrabble that Mr. Bush wrote about. Another item in the Republican was gratifying—it showed that Aaron Rake had not lost his love of addressing an audience.

April 16, 1884, A meeting was held in the Croton Baptist Church under the auspices of the Flemington Reform Club. Many people were in attendance to hear addresses by William S. Riley, Aaron H. Rake, Peter Seals and Harvey Dean, all of Flemington.

Aaron H. Rake married on Nov. 4, 1868 Sarah Elizabeth Carkhuff, born 1848 to Catharine Biggs. (I have not figured out who her father was.) The couple had six children by 1880, although it’s hard to say how many of them reached adulthood. Sarah died when she was only 44 years old, on May 17, 1893. On Dec. 24, 1894, Aaron married his second wife, Nellie Connor (1866-1943). They had three children: Helen, Grace and Howard. There was also a child named Walter, possibly born to Sarah Carkhuff. The Republican of August 29, 1900 reported that

Walter Rake, the 11-year-old son of Aaron Rake and Mrs. Nellie Rake of Flemington, was badly injured by a vicious shepherd dog belonging to Mrs. Susan Case, also of Flemington. The dog attacked the boy and forced him to the ground, biting him in no less than 17 places.

This has been a little more than half of Mr. Bush’s original article on the neighborhood of the old Summit School. The second half will come along eventually.

Footnotes:

  1. See Liz Johnson, “Raritan Intends to Purchase 48-Acre Tract,” April 14, 2021. The property was had been owned by the estate of Delaine Lipka.
  2. It has been a goal of mine to eventually include all of Mr. Bush’s articles published in the Hunterdon Democrat on this website. There are so many that it will take quite a long time to republish them.
  3. James P. Snell, History of Hunterdon County describes the Kingwood schools on pp. 396-97, but makes no mention of the Summit School. I do not know where Mr. Bush found this reference. Barber & Howe’s Gazetteer of NJ, published in 1845, claims that at the time there were six schools in Kingwood Township, but did not name them.
  4. H.C. Deed Book 31 p.148.
  5. H.C. Deed Book 66 p.273.
  6. H.C. Deed Book 124 p.292.
  7. H.C. Deeds Book 102 p.401, Book 116 p.785.
  8. H.C. Deed Book 81 p.94. As far as I can tell, Amos Case was not directly related to the Asher Dilts who married Agnes Case, daughter of Tunis & Rhoda Case.
  9. H.C. Deeds Book 124 p.262, Book 34 p.522.
  10. I thought perhaps that Samuel was Samuel Cronce Case, born Nov. 26, 1850 to Samuel Fauss Case & Mary Philhower, and grandson of the Tunis Case that Mr. Bush has been writing about. But that Samuel was counted separately in the 1900 census.