In writing about Nathaniel Saxton in my series on Raven Rock, I learned about his investments outside of that village. One of his earliest deeds involved the sale in 1807 of 47.27 acres to Ann Anderson for $422.69.1 This property in today’s Stockton village has an interesting story, one which shows how vulnerable 18th and early 19th century people were to the miserable consequences of debt.
Another reason this property is interesting is because of a beautiful survey I found. A few years before this sale, the 47.27 acres was part of a much larger farm. When it was divided in 1801, a survey was made, quite possibly by Nathaniel Saxton himself. Adding to the interest is Egbert T. Bush’s article, “The Old Hunt Farm,” recently published here. This story really concerns two properties; the first being what E. T. Bush called the Hunt farm in Stockton, and the second being the lot of 47+ acres where widow Ann Anderson lived.
The small house next to the name J. Armstrong is the early Anderson house located on the hill that Egbert T. Bush wrote about. Also visible is the old barn, which can still be seen right next to the road. This wonderful map also shows the Howell house at Stockton’s Ferry Road, and also property of J. Barcroft.
The First Owners
The story begins with John Brearly of Maidenhead, who was one of the first purchasers of land along the Delaware River in this vicinity. He never settled here; the purchases were solely for speculation. Ownership of this land after Brearly died in 1722 is murky. There is a huge gap until 1792, when Charles Jervis of Philadelphia was in possession of a tract of 291 acres, which he sold that year to John Anderson of Hunterdon County and his son Joshua Anderson “the younger.”2 The deed explains that the 291 acres had been part of a tract of 350 acres sold by John Emley to David Chambers. But it does not say when this happened, and there are no deeds recorded from David Chambers to Charles Jervis, or from John Brearly to John Emley. It was necessary to refer to Joshua Anderson the younger, because John Anderson’s brother was also named Joshua. The multitude of Johns and Joshuas in this family makes research a challenge.
Who Was John Anderson?
We must begin with his father, known as Capt. John Anderson. He had come to Maidenhead from Elizabethtown, NJ about 1697 along with his father Joshua and some of his siblings. He relocated to Hopewell Township where he wrote his will in 1771, leaving property to his three children: 1) Joshua (1721-1810), 2) Rebecca (c.1730-1773), and 3) John (c.1740-1799).
1) Joshua’s family is well-documented from the family bible at the Hunterdon County Historical Society. According to Hannah Anderson, he lived in the Trenton area. His wife was Hannah Smith (1736-1790). They had 8 children, two of whom were John (1759-1803) and Joshua (1781-1840). Neither of them was involved in the Brookville area.
2) Rebecca Anderson married Richard Slaught (Slack) c.1760 and had 7 children. For a time Richard Slaught owned land in Maidenhead, and may have run the Hopewell ferry. By the time he wrote his will in 1773, he was living in Kingwood. He referred to his deceased wife Rebecca in the will, and left his estate “in the hands of my executors for the education and bringing up of my children,” who must have been minors. The eldest child was named John Anderson Slack. Rebecca was alive in 1771 when her father left her a slave in his will and £50 to allow her husband to purchase a plantation in Maidenhead whereon John Anderson formerly lived.
3) John Anderson Esq., who eventually settled at Stockton, seems to have been the first of the family to move to Amwell Township in Hunterdon County. He was a tavernkeeper in Amwell Village (south of Ringoes) as early as 1760. His father’s will of 1771 bequeathed to him 160 acres in Maidenhead bordering Hopewell and Benj. Brearly, the son of John Brearly. Apparently he sold that property and relocated in Amwell.
He married his first wife, name unknown, about 1772, and had children Joshua, John Jr., Nancy and Sarah. That first wife might have been a daughter of John Brearly Jr., who was supposed to have married a “Mr. Anderson,” according to Eli Cooley.3
During the Revolution, John Anderson served in the local militia, going out on monthly tours, and participating in the battles of Long Island and White Plains. Like his father, he became known as Capt. John Anderson, but he resigned his commission in 1778. Perhaps that was when his first wife died, leaving him with 4 young children. In 1783 he married Ann Van Kirk, whose parents I have not identified. That was also the year that Anderson was appointed High Sheriff of Hunterdon County. In 1784, acting as sheriff, John Anderson sold property in Tewksbury Township to Samuel Vankirk of Bedminster, a possible relative of his wife.4
In 1787, Sheriff Anderson was sued by the State of New Jersey for not properly performing his duties as sheriff. This did not pertain to the number of arrests he made, but to the fact that he did not raise all the funds that the Courts required of him. Sheriffs were personally responsible in those days to raise from defendants whatever amounts were levied against them. Because the consequences of failing to do this were so serious, it is surprising that anyone would take the job. Anderson retired temporarily as sheriff, until being reappointed in 1792, for a term of two years.
It was in 1792 that Anderson, together with his now grown son Joshua, purchased the 291-acre farm in Stockton from Charles Jervis. Meanwhile, he had gone into partnership with Joshua Corshon and advertised the sale of general merchandise “of the latest importation and suitable to the season” at their store named “Fair View,” which is appropriate for a location on today’s Highway 31, on the hill overlooking Ringoes to the north.
Perhaps the storekeeping did not go as well as planned, or there may have been other reasons, but in 1798, John Anderson again found himself in court, this time he was sued for a debt of £110.7.4 by Clayton Newbold and William Coxe. The then Sheriff levied on the goods of John Anderson, including 3 beds and bedding, 6 chairs, 3 tables, 3 horses, 3 cows, and 291 acres in Amwell. On April 1, 1799, Anderson’s 291 acres were sold at public auction to make good his debts. His son John Anderson Jr. bought the property for £457.10.5. The fact that the sheriff levied on the farm of 291 acres rather than the store near Ringoes, convinces me that John Anderson was living at the farm. Exactly where I cannot be sure, but probably at the ancient house overlooking Stockton described by Egbert T. Bush as possibly the oldest in the area.
The Farm Changes Hands
This state of affairs must have been traumatic for Anderson. Soon afterwards, on April 28, 1799, he wrote his will, leaving what was left of his property to wife Anne and children Joshua, John, Nancy and Sarah, and naming his sons executors.6 He died the day after signing his will; he was about 60 years old.
There were still claims against Sheriff Anderson that his executors struggled to meet. In 1801, they divided the Stockton farm, creating a lot of 47.27 acres on the northeast end for Anderson’s wife Ann; another lot for Anderson’s sister’s son Richard Slack, and a third small lot of 5.5 acres. The remainder, amounting to 215.74 acres, was sold to James Armstrong, farmer of Haycock, Pennsylvania, on April 19, 1802 for £2042.7
The 47.27 acres is lot No. 2 on this map, marked “Anderson’s.” Part of this tract runs along today’s Route 523 on the left, and Brookville Hollow Road on the right. It would have been helpful to have those roads indicated on the survey; we must do without.
Unfortunately, John Anderson Jr. was not able to satisfy his own creditors, even after sale of the 215 acres. In 1804, he was jailed for debt, and upon release, his goods & chattels, lands & tenements were assigned to James Gregg Esq. of Flemington. Meanwhile, John’s brother Joshua was also sued for debt. Under court order, Sheriff Aaron Vansyckle seized his property and offered for sale Joshua’s half interest in the 47.27-acre lot where his mother lived. James Gregg purchased Joshua’s moiety or half share, and then offered the lot for pubic sale in April 1806. There was no purchaser then, but in May 1807, Nathaniel Saxton bought the lot on “the great road from Flemington to Howell’s Ferry” for $212.25.8 As it turns out, this was not entirely a speculative venture for Saxton. Instead, on June 1, 1807, Saxton sold the same lot to Ann Anderson for $422.60.9 True, Saxton made a nice profit in a very short time, but at least the property was restored to John Anderson’s widow.
On September 25, 1804, Joshua Anderson sold to mother Ann the lot of 5.5 acres.10 Soon after this he was sued for debt. His wife was Elizabeth Hoppock, daughter of Capt. Cornelius Hoppock and Catherine Corle. In 1813 her father allowed her a share of his estate, as long as it was “without benefit to her husband” Joshua Anderson, whose debts were probably still a problem by then.
On September 9, 1809, Ann Anderson sold the lot of 47.27 acres to her son John for $400.11 On July 26, 1823 Ann Anderson sold the 5.5-acre lot to John Cavanagh.12 She died on November 10, 1825 at the age of 75, after suffering her whole life from asthma.13
James Armstrong did not keep his 215 acres for long. In 1809 he sold the property to William Mitchell of Centre Bridge, PA.14 When Mitchell wrote his will on March 31, 1823, he stipulated that the residue of the plantation bought from James Armstrong should be sold reserving “the fisheries and shore and one rod in width all along the top of the bank and the privilege for a road for pass and repass to the fisheries in fishing time.” The farm came into possession of John Cavanagh, who sold it to Thomas P. Holcombe, who sold it to Eden B. Hunt, returning us to Egbert T. Bush’s story of The Old Hunt Farm.
- Deed 14-072 ↩
- Recital in Deed 6-166; the deed was dated 1802, and stated that John Anderson of Hunterdon was “now deceased.” ↩
- “Genealogy of Early Settlers in Trenton & Ewing, “Old Hunterdon.” W. Sharp Printing Co., Trenton, 1883. p. 13 ↩
- In 1786, 1789 and 1794, a John Anderson served in the state legislature, but I cannot be certain that it was this John Anderson or another one. ↩
- Deed 6-172 ↩
- NJA 1864J ↩
- Deed 6-166 ↩
- Deed 14-068 ↩
- Deed 014-072 ↩
- Deed 10-268 ↩
- Deed 16-249 ↩
- Deed 38-373 ↩
- Obituary in the Hunterdon Gazette, 17 Nov 1825. It made no mention of her husband. ↩
- Deed 015-249. Mitchell, who was instrumental in getting the Centre Bridge built in 1814, is interesting enough to merit his own post, perhaps some day. ↩