The mill once owned by Mahlon Cooper and Robert Curry in Saxtonville became a hot potato during the War of 1812 and thereafter. It changed hands several times before Nicholas Baird acquired it in 1823.

Note: It has been awhile since I last wrote about life in Raven Rock. Here are the previous posts: Saxton in Raven Rock, Reading Howell’s Map, The Bull’s Island Bridge, and Saxton’s Saxtonville.

A Curious Set of Transactions

By 1814, while the War of 1812 was still going strong and the British blockade was being tightened, the coastal states, including New Jersey, were beginning to suffer from want of trade. Up until this time, the population was rapidly increasing, banks were being established and manufactures were thriving. It was during this period of  prosperity that Nathaniel Saxton, unaware of the impending war, invested his money in Saxtonville. Then the war came, and by 1814 the economy had slowed down enough to hurt.

Perhaps it was this state of affairs that motivated Nathaniel Saxton and George Holcombe to find a way to make some money out of the old Cooper & Curry mill. Of the two partners, Holcombe was the one feeling the pinch the most. He had over-extended himself in the previous years, and his debts were catching up with him.

On July 1, 1814, Nathaniel Saxton sold his moiety or half share in the 10-acre mill lot to George Holcombe, now a New Brunswick merchant, for $7000.1 At first sight this seems more than foolhardy on Holcombe’s part. $7,000 was quite a lot of money in 1814. But the method in his madness was that he was consolidating title to the mill lot, eliminating the two moieties, so that he could sell the lot in fee simple. And that is what he did, the next day, on July 2, 1814. He sold 9.55 acres to Myndert Wilson Jr. of Amwell for $13,000.2 This left Holcombe with a profit of $6000, a thousand less than Saxton, but then Saxton had been the one to supervise operation of the mill. Since Saxton had only paid $7 for his moiety, and Holcombe only $50, the two were making a handsome profit.

Actually, Holcombe’s profit was only on paper because he gave a mortgage to Wilson in the amount of $6000 on the day after the deed was signed.3 This suggests that Nathaniel Saxton got his $7000 from the sale, but Holcombe was left with a mortgage on his hands that might not be paid off. As far as I can tell, Wilson did not get a second mortgage to cover the balance of the $13,000. Where he found the extra $7000 I cannot say. Wilson was also something of a speculator, so he must have had some resources.

The next transaction makes it pretty clear that Holcombe was in a bigger hurry to get out of Saxtonville than Saxton was. On July 2, 1814, the same day that George Holcombe Jr. sold the 9.55-acre mill lot to Myndert Wilson, he conveyed his half interest in the 30-acre lot (the lower half of Bull’s Island) to Nathaniel Saxton for $1,000, along with his half interest in 0.55 acres, a right-of-way that had been part of the 10-acre mill lot.4 This eliminated Holcombe’s holdings in Raven Rock.

The 30+ acre lot was bordered by Jabez White and Bulls Creek and ran across Bulls Island. The 0.55 acre lot was bordered by Myndert Wilson’s mill lot, the road, Joseph Rodman and Saxton’s other land. The $1000 paid by Saxton to Holcombe might have been considered a balancing out between the two, since Holcombe had paid $7000 to Saxton for his share in the mill.

Bull’s Island

Two years before this sale, Saxton had purchased the northern half of the island from Joseph and Jonathan Townsend of Solebury, PA.5 According to Phyllis D’Autrechy, once Saxton had ownership of the two halves, “he promptly named [the whole island] Saxton’s Island and described it as being opposite Saxtonville. But excepted from Saxton’s ownership of the upper portion of the island was the use of the Prime Hope Fishery.”6 Once again, we have a case of consolidation for the purpose of a future sale. On December 5, 1815, Nathaniel Saxton sold the island, still in two parts, to William and Joseph Dilworth of Bucks County for $4800.7

Nathaniel Saxton’s Stone House

The deed of sale for the lower half of “Saxton’s Island” and Mindert Wilson’s mortgage both contain a most intriguing item in the list of metes and bounds: a course that runs north 61 degrees 45 minutes west 11 chains to

“a black oak in the road standing south 24 degrees 30 minutes east 66 links from the southwesterly corner of said Saxton’s stone house, thence still by said Saxton’s Land south 63 degrees west 4 chains to a Buttonwood near the head of the Grist Mill race on the bank of Bulls Creek.”

This puts Saxton’s stone house adjacent to the mill lot, which was some distance from the building known today as the Saxtonville Tavern. Saxton still owned the tavern lot. In fact, that lot would be the last piece of property in Saxtonville that he would sell, and not until 1836. Unfortunately, judging by the metes and bounds, it appears that that stone house that bordered the mill lot is now lying under Route 29.

Did Saxton live in either of these houses? It’s hard to say. He still had his legal business in Flemington. I am inclined to think the house near the mill lot was used by him around 1809-1810 when he first became involved in the milling business, but that he returned to Flemington after that and rented out his houses in Raven Rock. By 1815, he was living in Lebanon Township where he had other land investments. Some previous histories of Raven Rock have suggested that by 1815, Nathaniel Saxton had acquired all of Raven Rock and Bull’s Island and was resident there. But clearly that is not the case. Although he held onto his Saxtonville Tavern property, he let the rest go, and moved on to other endeavors. By the 1820s, he was again living in Flemington.

Who Was Myndert Wilson?

Myndert is a Dutch name, and although there were many Dutch families living in Hunterdon County, only Wilson bore the name of Myndert. Here is what I have gathered from some very superficial online research:

Myndert Wilson of Amwell descended from the immigrant Hendrick Wilson who is supposed to have been born at sea in 1623 and settled with his family in what became New Netherland. He died on Long Island about 1710. His son Myndert was born about 1672, married Maria Brouchard in 1694 and had a son Hendrick the next year. Hendrick married Annetje Pieters, left Long Island and moved to Hillsborough, Somerset County, where the couple had son Myndert about 1719. Myndert Wilson married Anna Goulder in 1749 and had son Mindert/Myndert on June 11, 1757. He married Jane Van Arsdalen about 1781 and remained in Hillsborough Township. In 1805, Myndert Wilson, whom I will hereafter call Mindert Sr., was a deacon in the Dutch Reformed Church at Millstone. The next year, 1806, he was taxed as a resident of Hillsborough, Somerset County.8

Myndert Sr. and Jane Wilson had son Myndert (the fourth in the line, and hereafter, Myndert Jr.) on July 16, 1783. He married Ann (surname not known) around 1805.

Myndert Jr. first appears in Hunterdon County land records as a resident of “Reading” (Readington) with wife Ann. On April 11, 1809, he and Ann sold land in Readington to Nicholas Ott.9  There was no recital to explain how Wilson got this property, and no earlier deed recorded. In this and future deeds, his name was usually spelled Mindert.

Wilson’s next appearance in the deeds was in 1813, when he bought land in Readington from Joseph Hall of Bridgewater. The deed does not say where Wilson was living this year, but it was probably Bridgewater because on May 20, 1814, Wilson and wife Ann of Bridgewater, Somerset County, sold the lot purchased from Joseph Hall to Ambrose Rice, and gave him a mortgage on the property.

Four months later, on July 2, 1814, Wilson, now a resident of Amwell, purchased the Raven Rock mill lot. He and wife Ann got a mortgage of $6000 from George Holcombe, and must have somehow come up with the remaining $7000, for the purchase price of $13,000, but I have no idea how he did it.

Later in November 1814, Mindert Wilson bought a ten-acre lot from Abraham Heed, and in December of 1814, he witnessed a deed between Nathaniel Saxton and Joseph Rodman, for sale of 34.25 acres.10

In March of 1815, after less than a year, Wilson was ready to move on. The effects of the war-time economy were probably hurting the milling business, but Wilson was just naturally peripatetic, so the economy probably made no difference to him. Wilson swapped properties with James Major of Kingwood by purchasing from Major a tract of 69.42 acres in Kingwood, not far from Saxtonville, for $3,471, and on the same day, Mindert Wilson and wife Ann sold the 10-acre mill lot to Major for the same $13,000.11 However, in addition to the mill lot, this deed included the ten acres that Wilson had purchased from Abraham Heed the previous November.

The restless Wilson next turned his eye toward Flemington. In 1815 he purchased the tavern house in that town from William Case for $3600, and also a one-acre lot there from Maurice McConnell.12 The next year he had moved again. In 1816, he and wife Ann were living in New Brunswick when they bought land in Readington and sold the Flemington tavern lot to Henry Suydam of Franklin Township, Somerset Co. In 1818 he was living on his land in Readington Township when he bought a farm of 103.6 acres in Amwell from Abraham Williamson. This property was located on the road from Skunktown to Holcombe’s Mill, today’s Route 604, between Sergeantsville and Headquarters. This was another of Wilson’s land swaps, for two days later, he and wife Ann sold to Abraham Williamson the Kingwood farm he had purchased from James Major in 1815. Wilson clearly had no interest in living on his Amwell farm. He had other irons in the fire.

Just before these transactions, Wilson had advertised the sale of his mill property in Readington Township, and soon afterwards, sold it with some adjacent lots to Wm. S. Conover of Hopewell for (once again) $13,000.13 Around the same time, May 1818, Wilson bought a farm of 85+ acres in Hopewell from Conover. Wilson was “of Readington” when he purchased from Conover, but soon afterwards, he was “of Hopewell” when he sold that property to Andrew Weart, along with a ten-acre lot in Amwell, for $9000.14

Mindert and Ann Wilson did not stay long in Hopewell Township. Less than a year later, in March 1819, they were living in Montgomery Township when they sold a 25-acre lot on the South Branch in Kingwood Township to Abraham Ditmars for $5000. Probably soon after this, Ann Wilson died. I say this because for the first time, Mindert Wilson, still living in Montgomery, sold property on his own on August 27, 1819. He sold that 103.6 acres on the road from Skunktown to Holcombe’s Mill to his father, Mindert Wilson Sr. of Hillsborough for $2886.15

That is the last time that Mindert Wilson Jr.’s name appears in the deeds of Hunterdon County.16 I cannot say for sure, but he may have been the Mindert Wilson who died on March 31, 1840 in Bedminster, Somerset County, at age 66. As for that Amwell farm of 103.6 acres, three years later, on March 1, 1822, Minder Wilson Sr. and wife Jane of Hillsborough sold it to John I. Stryker of same for $1500, for a loss of $1386.17

Next post, the travails of James Major.

  1. Deed 23-124; also see Deed 14-467.
  2. Deed 23-125
  3. H. C. Mortgage 6:005.
  4. Deed 23-417
  5. Deed 20-342
  6. Phyllis D’Autrechy, Hunterdon County Fisheries, pg. 17.
  7. Deed 25-060
  8. See also “Historical discourse on occasion of the centennial anniversary of the Reformed Dutch Church of Millstone” by Edward Tanjore Corwin, J.J. Reed, printer, 1866 (Google Books), pg 95, footnote on pg 46-47.
  9. Deed 15-634
  10. Deed 23-420
  11. Deed 23-527
  12. Deeds 24-007 and 24-240
  13. Deed 29-169
  14. Deeds 28-446, 29-202
  15. Deed 29-600
  16. A search of deeds in Somerset County will no doubt add more to the story.
  17. Deed 33-335