The original version of this post, published on March 14, 2015, has been significantly revised because of new information I have received. Most of these revisions concern Jonas Thatcher, Jr. Consider this Chapter One of the History of the Sergeantsville Inn.

As most of you know, this landmark building was destroyed by fire on the morning of March 9, 2015. It is a tragedy for everyone who visits or lives in or near Sergeantsville—even more so for its owners, Joe and Lisa Clyde, and the people who worked there. Its loss will be deeply felt for a long time. Whether or not the building can be restored is hard to say. It is what we all hope for, but of course, it will never be the same.

Addendum: The Inn has been beautifully reconstructed, much to the relief of all of us who love the place.

In recognition of this sad event, I offer a short history of the store that has anchored the village of Sergeantsville for so many years.

But first, some clarification is needed. I heartily disagree with the claim (prominently displayed in headlines) that the building is 300 years old. That would mean it was built about 1714, and it most definitely was not. The property was acquired in 1714, but that means nothing as far as buildings go. This is a problem many people have, confusing the date of first land purchase with the date of a building’s construction. The Stockton Inn suffers from the same misconception.

Sketch of the Sergeantsville Inn, published in Colonial Homes Magazine, August 1987
Sketch of the Sergeantsville Inn, published in Colonial Homes Magazine, August 1987

In August 1987, Colonial Homes Magazine had a feature on the Sergeantsville Inn, which included the drawing above. Now that it’s gone (the magazine), I am very glad I saved it. The reporter repeated the story that the smallest of the dining rooms was built as a home in 1740, and additions were made in 1830. But there are no documents to prove when the building was constructed. After the fire, Marilyn Cummings was able to examine the structural members that survived and concluded that there is no architectural evidence to support the claim that this was an 18th century building.

The first known owner of the property was Daniel Robins, a West Jersey proprietor, who acquired a tract of 700+ acres about 1712-1714.1 Daniel Robins died in 1737. By that time, his Sergeantsville property had come into possession of his sons Isaac, Job and Elisha. There was some exchange of lands between these brothers and their sons, but not enough deeds were recorded to give an exact description of who owned what in the 1730s. Isaac Robins is the most likely of the three brothers to have owned land in the Sergeantsville area. He was born about 1698 in Monmouth County, and came to Amwell Township with his parents. He married Azubah Thatcher about 1720 and died in 1741 while living on Robins Hill, at the intersection of County Routes 523 & 579.

The Thatcher Family

On March 26, 1737, Elisha Robins (son of Daniel Robins) sold his 100 acres in the southern half of Sergeantsville to Amos Thatcher. On April 19, 1760, Amos Thatcher bought from Isaac Larew an additional 114.5 acres, adjacent to the first 100 acres.2 This information comes from a deed of 1800 which included the bordering owners in 1737 and 1800: James Kitchen (later Abraham Lawshe), Samuel Green (later John Severns), Thomas Godown, Cornelius Lake, and Joseph Sergeant.

This deed of 1800 is most important, as it shows the property of Amos Thatcher in total, including the 100 acres he bought in 1737.

Map of the two tracts of land purchased by Amos Thatcher
Map of the two tracts of land purchased by Amos Thatcher

I suspect that Amos Thatcher was related to the Robins family through a woman who might have been his sister. As mentioned before, Azubah Thatcher was married to Isaac Robins, son of Daniel Robins. She was the right age to be Amos’ sister. If she was, then she and Amos were two of the twelve children of Bartholomew and Elizabeth Thatcher of Kingwood.

Amos Thatcher and his wife Lydia Prall also had twelve children. They lived somewhere on their 200 acres but exactly where is not possible to say. We won’t know until a building with bona fide 18th-century construction is found.

The Thatchers were present during the Revolutionary War, but they did not entertain George Washington. The Opdycke family claimed that Washington stopped for a visit at Headquarters, but there is no proof of that—it is only a family tradition. The army did march through the lower part of Delaware Township, near Mt. Airy, but an examination of the letters of George Washington shows he spent whatever free time he had at Coryell’s Ferry.

Amos and Lydia Thatcher’s three youngest sons, Daniel, Amos Jr. and Job, were at the right age to serve in the militia during the war. Amos Thatcher Jr. died intestate in 1779, which may have been due to military service. But I have not researched this subject.

When Amos Thatcher, Sr. wrote his will in 1787, he left his plantation of over 200 acres to only one of his sons—Daniel. The two eldest sons had already died by that year; Daniel was the next in line. When Thatcher wrote his will, he was “very weak and infirm in Body but of perfect mind and memory,” which suggests there was some mortality in the family that year. Sons Bartholomew and Joseph died before the will was written, and daughter Sarah died on February 24, 1787. But Amos Thatcher lived on until 1798, dying at the very ripe old age of 93.

By that time, son Daniel was 50 years old. Apparently he preferred to live elsewhere, because on May 29, 1800, Daniel Thatcher and wife Catharine of Amwell sold the 214 acres to first cousin Jonas Thatcher, also of Amwell, for $3,480. Actually, the farm was enlarged to 231 acres after it was resurveyed by Daniel Thatcher to combine the two parcels into one .3

Jonas Thatcher (c.1752-1808) was the son of William Thatcher and Margaret Taylor of Kingwood Township. William Thatcher and Amos Thatcher were brothers, both sons of Bartholomew and Elizabeth Thatcher. Jonas Thatcher was married to Margaret Trimmer, daughter of John G. Trimmer. She had two children, Charles and Lucretia, and died sometime before 1780.4

In 1807, Jonas Thatcher was taxed jointly on his 214 acres with one Margaret Larew. This has always puzzled me—who was this Margaret Larew? She was clearly not Jonas Thatcher’s wife Margaret Trimmer.

In 1806, Jonas Thatcher witnessed the will of Mary Larew, widow of Abraham Larew. The Larews lived a couple miles west of Sergeantsville (on the Donald & Beverley Jones farm). This suggests that by this time Jonas Thatcher had taken up residence on the Amos Thatcher property. Mary Larew, wife of Abraham Larew, was the daughter of Amos Thatcher, Sr. and sister of Daniel Thatcher, which gives us a connection with the Larew family, but still does not identify Margaret Larew. As far as I know, Abraham and Mary Larew did not have a daughter named Margaret, and there are no further tax records available after 1807.5

Jonas Thatcher and his second wife Sarah Lake had eight children born from about 1780 to 1802, the second youngest being Jonas Thatcher, Jr. Sarah Lake may or may not have been the daughter of Daniel Lake of Kingwood.

In 1808, when he was 56 years old, Jonas Thatcher wrote his will, dated October 11. He left his plantation to his wife Sarah for 3 years, plus personal property for her needs. The western end of the home plantation amounting to 100 acres and bordered by John Severns, Peter Prall, Evan Godown, and Cornelius Lake was left to wife Sarah & son Jonas jointly, as Jonas Jr. was still a minor. The eastern end was to be sold for the benefit of his daughters. The dividing line between the two halves of the plantation was Rittenhouse Road.

Jonas Thatcher must have died shortly afterwards because his will was recorded on November 3, 1808. Sarah Lake Thatcher kept the property for much more than three years. She quit claimed her rights in the property to her son Jonas on April 15, 1818.6 Usually a widow’s quit claim is not worth much, but in this case, Sarah Thatcher received $1,428.60 from her son. This must have been meant to provide for her care during the rest of her life. I do not have a death date for her.

Jonas Thatcher, Jr.

Jonas Thatcher Jr. (born Feb. 28, 1791) married Anna (Nancy) Lake on Jan. 12, 1811. She was the daughter of Cornelius Lake and Mary Sergeant. Cornelius Lake had a sister Sarah, but she was not the Sarah Lake who married Jonas Thatcher, Sr.; she was married to Jacob Godown in 1783, and Godown lived until 1831. It appears to be a simple coincidence that Jonas Thatcher and Sarah Lake lived next to Cornelius Lake, who was the son of John Lake and Sarah Ann Robins. But take note—Sarah Ann Robins (1736-1823) was the daughter of Isaac Robins and Azubah Thatcher. Cornelius Lake owned the property just west of the old Thatcher plantation, which he had purchased in 1795. It had originally been owned by James Larew.

On March 21, 1827, a new post office was established at Sergeantsville (formerly known as Skunktown). The first postmaster was Jonas Thatcher, indicating that he had been operating a store at this time and most likely for some time previously. Records of that old store are not available as far as I know. In his article on Delaware Township (p. 376), James P. Snell wrote:

“The principal early merchants [in Sergeantsville] were Jonas Thatcher and Sergeant Lake. Their store was in the old Fisher store-house, opposite the tavern. The stone store-house building on the southwest corner of the roads was built in 1830 by H. H. Fisher.”

This is a surprising statement. “The old Fisher store-house” was long assumed to be “the stone store-house building on the southwest corner.” I will get to that issue in the next chapter. But it is clear that Jonas Thatcher and Sergeant Lake were operating their store in what later became known as the Wilson store, now occupied by Nina’s Waffles and Salon G. The building probably dates to about 1780, judging by the interior wordwork. Sergeant Lake (c.1797-1879) was Jonas Thatcher’s brother-in-law; Lake’s sister was Jonas’ wife Mary Lake. They were children of Cornelius and Sarah Lake, who owned a farm just west of the Thatcher property.

In Snell’s chapter on Delaware Township, he states that Thatcher’s appointment was brought about by the influence of Henry H. Fisher. This is not true for Jonas Thatcher, but probably was true for the postmaster appointed in 1838, Amos Hoagland. I will have more to say about this in the next post.

After three years as postmaster and storekeeper, Jonas Thatcher, who was about 40 years old, began thinking about retiring. His first step was to sell to Henry H. Fisher a half interest in a 3.92-acre lot separated off from the Thatcher farm, and located on the southwest corner of the main intersection. This took place on May 1, 1830; Fisher paid $250.7 The lot bordered the road to Bull’s Island, Cornelius Lake, other land of Jonas Thatcher and the road to Centre Bridge (Stockton). This deed coincided with construction of the east end of the building where one can see a datestone that reads “May 1830.”

Map of the original store lot
Map of the original store lot

The following year, on April 21, 1831, Jonas Thatcher and wife Anna, still living in Amwell, were paid another $400 by Henry H. Fisher for Thatcher’s remaining half interest in the same lot of land, with the addition of an exception giving Thatcher rights to a small creek that crossed the lot.8

We know that Thatcher was ready to give up storekeeping from an advertisement published in the Hunterdon Gazette, published on January 5, 1831:

“For Private Sale, That Valuable PROPERTY, Situated in the Village of SERGEANTSVILLE, In the township of Amwell, New Jersey, on the main road leading from Center Bridge to Flemington, three miles from the former and six from the latter, containing about 60 acres of prime land, well divided into ten fields, abundantly watered, with a never failing spring. There are on the premises a good and commodious dwelling-house, two stories high, 20 by 53 feet, with a piazza in front [emphasis added], a barn, with a sufficiency of stabling, three hovels, two waggon houses, two mechanic’s shops, wood house, hog pens, &c. all which are nearly new [emphasis added], and built of the best materials, and in the best manner, with a never failing well of excellent water at the door; . . .  N. B., This property will be sold at a bargain, as I have purchased a property in Everittstown, and intend leaving this on the first of April next; If the above property is not sold by the first of February next, it will then be for RENT; Jonas Thatcher, Sergeantsville.

That 20 by 53 feet building was the old Thatcher-Lake store referred to by Snell.

Finally, on May 1, 1832, Jonas and Anna Thatcher, now living in Alexandria Township, sold to Henry H. Fisher and his new partner, Amos Hoagland, for $3,000 three lots of land, one of 62.34 acres, a second one of 3.33 acres, and a third of 2 acres. I believe the two smaller lots were purchased from the estate of John Severns dec’d, whose plantation was just south of the Thatcher lands.9 The 62.34-acre lot ran from Rittenhouse Road to Route 523, and from Route 604 south about 37 chains (2,473 feet). There were two small lots carved out of the larger tract—one on the northwest corner owned by Charles Sergeant, and the other on the northeast corner owned by Isaac Case, now the home of Ginny Hook.

Jonas Thatcher moved to his Everittstown farm of 135 acres on the Everittstown-Mt. Pleasant Road in 1831, but the deed was not recorded until a year later, on May 2, 1832. It was purchased jointly by Jonas Thatcher and father-in-law Cornelius Lake (1762-1842) from Samuel Kase for $1,834.10

Why the delay? This might have been a case where a bill of sale was involved, a contract in which the buyer agreed to pay the purchase price in installments and was allowed to have possession of the property. It was a way of avoiding the hassle of foreclosure and evicting someone who failed to pay a mortgage.11 The bill of sale probably said that it was contingent on the sale of Thatcher’s 62-acre farm in Sergeantsville.

Last Notes on Jonas Thatcher and family

During his last days in Sergeantsville, Jonas Thatcher joined others in the establishment of a school for children living between Sergeantsville and the covered bridge. It came to be known later as Green Sergeant’s school, as it was located closer to the covered bridge than to Sergeantsville. The other founding trustees in 1830 were John Salter, James Snyder, Green Sergeant, Job Wolverton, Mahlon Smith, John Gordon, Asher Reading, David Rockafellar, Charles Sergeant, and George E. Rittenhouse.

Thatcher’s wife Ann (Nancy) Lake died in 1835, at the age of 42 years 11 months and 16 days. She was buried in the Thatcher Burying Ground on the old Thatcher farm in Delaware Township. She and Jonas Thatcher had had six children: Cornelius (1811-1812), Charles (1812-1893), Ozias P. (b. 1816), Mary (b. 1819), Sarah (1824-1826) and Lydia Haines Thatcher (1827-1895).

Thatcher’s second wife was Elizabeth Fox, whom he married on Nov. 14, 1835.12 I have not been able to identify her parents. According to the family bible, she died in 1851 after having three children: Hannah Ann (1836), Ruth Elizabeth (1839), and Jacob (1842-1864).

Jonas Thatcher was still living in 1850 when the Alexandria Twp. census was taken. He was 60 years old, retired. He died intestate on February 28, 1852. He is supposed to have been buried in the Kingwood Presbyterian Church, but that is not certain.13 He could just as well have been buried in the old Thatcher Burying Ground near his old store in Sergeantsville.

End of Part One

Part Two will commence with the ownership of the Sergeantsville Inn by Henry H. Fisher up to the year 1838. However, for the time being I am leaving here what I wrote about the later owners, from 1864 to the early twentieth century.

John Farley Shepherd

In 1864, while the Civil War was still raging, Henry H. Fisher, who was then 63 years old, sold the store to William Lawshe (1823-aft 1880).14 William Lawshe was the son of Henry Lawshe and Sarah Hoff Carter, and husband of Eliza P. Johnson (1825-1857), who may have been a sister of the Anna Johnson who married Henry H. Fisher. But oddly enough, no deed for this sale was recorded.

Correction #1: Henry and Anne Fisher sold a lot of 2.41 acres to William Lawshe on March 1, 1855 for $1600. This lot included the store lot. In 1864, William and Rebecca Lawshe sold that lot to William’s father, Henry Lawshe of Sergeantsville for $3,200, a considerable increase in value.15

Sometime before 1868, Lawshe decided to leave Hunterdon County. He relocated with his second wife Rebecca Hoff and three children (Lizzie, Asa and Spenser) to Rockford, Illinois. Eldest child Hannah (born 1853) may have also joined them but was not living with the family in 1870. Unfortunately, Lawshe did not own the store in 1860 or in 1870, so the census cannot tell us what occupation he had while he owned it.

In 1868 Henry H. Fisher sold the storehouse to John Farley Shepherd.16 There was no deed for this sale either. This is surprising, because Henry H. Fisher bought and sold a huge number of properties, and it appears that most of his deeds were recorded.

Correction #2: It was Henry & Sarah Lawshe who sold the store lot to John F. Shepherd, not Henry H. Fisher.17

After selling the store to Shepherd, Henry H. Fisher continued to live in the village of Sergeantsville. The 1870 census shows that Fisher, who was still buying properties in the 1870s, had real estate worth $13,000 and personal property worth $25,000, making him one of the richest men in the county. In that census he was identified as a farmer, age 66. His wife Anna was 55, son William J. Fisher, 30, was a “retired merchant,” and son John W., 21, was working on the farm. Also counted were the two youngest sons, James M. Fisher 17 and Elisha W. Fisher 10.

In 1880, Henry H. Fisher was a retired merchant and widower, age 78, living with his son William age 39, who was still a “retired merchant.” Also in the household was son John Wesley Fisher, 36, farmer, his wife Annie and son Gardner, and Henry H. Fisher’s youngest son Elisha Warford Fisher, age 18, also a farmer. Wealth was not reported in this census, but I suspect that Henry H. Fisher had only gotten richer in the previous ten years.

On February 22, 1881, this item appeared in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat:

“On the same day [Tuesday last], Henry H. Fisher, of Sergeantsville, was seen upon our streets, hale and hearty for a man of 80 years. On Wednesday morning, upon arising and while walking down stairs he fell a corpse when at or near the bottom of the stairs.”

Henry H. Fisher died on February 18, 1881 and was buried in the cemetery of the Sergeantsville Methodist Church, age 80 years and 15 days. He was buried next to his wife Anna, who died on March 1, 1878, age 62 years 10 months and 26 days. I have not had time to see if Henry H. Fisher wrote a will, but I’m sure he had an interesting estate.

The Shepherd Family

John Farley Shepherd, who was usually known as Farley Shepherd, was a merchant before purchasing Henry H. Fisher’s storehouse. He was in partnership with Israel Poulson, Jr. to run a store in Ringoes, but on February 7, 1868, this notice appeared in the Gazette:

Notice of Dissolution. On 1 Apr. 1868, Israel Poulson and John F. Shepherd give notice that the firm, POULSON & SHEPHERD, of Ringoes, will be dissolved by mutual consent. All persons having claims, against the firm are requested to present them for settlement. All persons indebted on Note or Book account are requested to call and settle the same. Persons intending to pay their accounts with Produce will bring it in by 1 Mar. 1868.

Here is a reminder for us that storekeepers as late as 1868 were still accepting produce in payment for goods purchased, in lieu of cash or credit.

By 1870, the Shepherd family was living in Delaware Township. John F. Shepherd was 47 years old, a dry goods and variety merchant, with real estate worth $3,000, and personal property also worth $3,000. His wife Mary was also 47. Son Edward, 21, was a dry goods clerk. The other children were Jessie 13, Lily 10 and Poulson 7.

I regret to say that, like Henry H. Fisher, the parents of John F. Shepherd remain unidentified, but I strongly suspect he was a sibling of Servis Shepherd and Isaac F. Shepherd.18 John F. Shepherd married Mary Catharine Anderson on September 2, 1842.19 I believe that she was the daughter of Cyrenius Vanmarter Anderson and Julia Hoppock. John F. and Mary C. Shepherd had eight children, including their eldest son Cyrenus, born about 1846. He was not living with the family in 1880, and may have died young.

Sergeantsville c.1900
Shepherd’s Store, Sergeantsville.

Shepherd appears to have been the one who substantially enlarged the store. As you can see from the old photograph above, the store-house had a very unusual stucco covering. The checkerboard pattern was quite rare. Dennis Bertland wrote in an email that

“the stucco was scoured to replicate rectangular blocks which were tinted to create a checkerboard pattern. While the checkerboard treatment was not unprecedented, it was highly unusual for Hunterdon County (I can’t think of any other examples). Scoring stucco to replicate ashlar blocks of stones, however, was somewhat more common and typical of the second quarter of the 19th century, give or take a few years.”

He also wrote that

“The decorative stucco post-dated the enlargement of the main block (it masked the seam between the two sections) and most likely dated to the mid 19th century, perhaps somewhat later. The frame upper story of the south wing probably dates to the late 19th or even early 20th century, its shingle siding is typical of that era.”

In 1880, Farley Shepherd (John F. Shepherd of Sergeantsville) was 57 years old, a dry goods merchant and grocer. His wife Mary C. was 57. Son Edward, the next oldest, was 31 (1849) and working as a clerk in the store. He was married in 1880 but his wife was not listed with the family. The other children of Farley and Mary Shepherd were daughter Jesse F. 23 (1857) single, Lily 20 (1860), Israel P. 16 (1864) also working as a clerk in the store.

Edward Shepherd married Emma W. Hoppock on Nov. 26, 1879, the daughter of George H. Hoppock and Jane Elizabeth Wolverton. She was born on Aug. 6, 1855. In the 1880 census, Emma Hoppock Shepherd was 24 and living at her parents’ home. It’s possible she went to stay with them while she was pregnant, but if so, the child died young. The first child I have a record of was George Shepherd, born about 1883.

The Ice House

It is likely the ice house was built around the same time as the rest of the store-house. It was an important asset for Sergeantsville merchants, especially William Dobbins who ran an ice cream shop across the road in the basement of the old Fisher harness shop (now Lily’s garden store). The local butcher shops also had a great need for ice.

According to the article in Colonial Homes Magazine, prior to establishment of the Delaware Twp. Creamery in 1881, cream and milk were stored in the ice house of the Fisher/Shepherd store by local farmers until they were picked up by the milk processors. But since milk processors went into business about the same time that the creamery was established, I can only guess that the milk and cream stored in the ice house were for sale from that location.20

By 1886, after twenty years of storekeeping, Farley Shepherd felt the need for a change and advertised the sale of his Sergeantsville store:

For Sale. John F. Shepherd, of Sergeantsville, desirous of changing his place of residence, offers for sale his store property with dwelling attached and two houses and lots, all in the village of Sergeantsville. One house and lot is nicely situated, being in a quiet, peaceful part of the village, free from noise and rowdyism. Also, he has a one half interest in about 5,000 Peach Trees.21

Note that the building had a “dwelling attached,” and included two houses, one of which was in a quiet, peaceful part of the village, presumably away from the rowdyism around the store. By 1889, Farley and Mary Shepherd had retired to Rosemont, and turned the business over to their son Edward.

News from Rosemont. Edward Shepherd and family of Sergeantsville spent Sunday with his parents, John F. and Mary C. Shepherd of Rosemont.22

On September 28, 1896, John F. Shepherd (by himself, not with a wife) conveyed to Edward Shepherd, both living in Delaware Township, his half-share in two lots that John and Edward Shepherd had bought jointly from Stedman Hartpence in 1890. Edward paid his father $550. The lots were in an area southeast of the center of the village.23

On June 30, 1898, John F. Shepherd conveyed to Edward Shepherd all his undivided interest in several tracts of land on Sanford Road, once the farm of H. B. Nightingale.24 The farm had been sold to Joshua Primmer and Isaac S. Cramer, who conveyed some of it to Edward Shepherd.25

But the lot we are concerned with is the one conveyed by John F. Shepherd on January 27, 1899 to Edward Shepherd for $3,000.26 It was the store lot on the southwest corner of Sergeantsville, which was 3.93 acres when Jonas Thatcher sold it to Henry H. Fisher, but in this deed was only 2.41 acres. So at a prior time, a lot of 1.52 acres was sold off.

Some useful information was included in this deed, showing us how the remaining lot became lots 1, 2, 3 & 4 in Block 34. Excepted out of the sale was a house and quarter-acre lot sold to Henry H. Fisher, and another house and quarter-acre lot sold to John H. Green, plus two more small lots sold to George W. Bowne and George R. Hann. I have not had time to research these deeds, but am happy to think that this tells us where Henry H. Fisher was living in his later years—one of those small houses just down Route 523 from the Sergeantsville Inn. The deed also included an exception permitting Henry H. Fisher to collect water from the creek that ran across the property. If we subtract these small lots, we are left with about 0.41 acres for the store.

By 1900, John F. Shepherd was a widower. He was 77 years old, and renting a room from George and Ida Johnson. Edward Shepherd was 51, and listed as a farmer, living with wife Emma, age 43. They had two children, but only son George, age 17, was living with them.

Even though he was described as a farmer in 1900, Edward Shepherd was still keeping his own store. A notice in the Democrat-Advertiser of March 29, 1901 stated that “Storekeeper Edward Shepherd has for a few days past been assisting ex-Collector Joseph Moore take account of stock, at Pt. Pleasant, Pa.”

Clint Wilson, who wrote many history articles in the Lambertville Beacon, recalled the time when Edward Shepherd retired from business. He wrote:

Edward Shepherd had a brother, Israel Polt Shepherd, who clerked for him for many years. When Ed. Shepherd sold out, Polt Shepherd started his own general store across the street where Venable’s Store is now located. . . I can vaguely remember when a small boy going with my father to Ed. Shepherd’s Store to buy wall paper, which was kept upstairs. When Shepherd sold out, a public auction was held out in front with the auctioneer standing on a huge stone platform. The platform had steps up to the top, used in olden days for patrons to easily step into their horse drawn carriage or wagon.27

Israel P. Shepherd, photo found on Ancestry .com
Israel P. Shepherd, photo found on Ancestry .com

As a side-note, I should mention that Israel Polt Shepherd (1863-1953) was named Israel Poulson Shepherd by his parents, so “Polt” must have been a kind of nickname. I have included a photograph of Israel P. Shepherd because it is the only one of this family I have found.

On Sept. 13, 1901, John F. Shepherd sold to son Israel P. Shepherd, for $1, a lot in Sergeantsville, beginning at a corner of Chas. Sergeant, then running by Jacob L. Green, John H. Green, John W. Reading, the road from Flemington to Centre Bridge, of 0.20 acres,28 which Shepherd bought from Margaret Trout on July 12, 1882.29 This was not the site of the store that Polt Shepherd ran, later known as Venable’s. He did not get title to that store lot until 1816. What John F. Shepherd sold to his son was a residential lot, somewhere very hear the center of Sergeantsville.

John F. Shepherd died on December 18, 1903, age 80. He was buried in the cemetery at the Old Rocks Methodist Church in West Amwell, next to his wife Mary Catharine who died on January 28, 1898.

Edward Shepherd continued to run his store for many years. He was still doing it in 1910 when he was counted in that year’s census as a merchant with a general store. His wife Emma was with him, but their two children were not. Edward Shepherd “sold out,” as Clint Wilson has written, but I have not yet researched that sale. Apparently Gus Larison was the next owner.

Edward Shepherd died in Delaware Township on October 2, 1916, when he was 67 years old. He was buried in the Rosemont Cemetery, but his wife Emma was not. She lived on for many years. In 1930, she was living in her own house in Lambertville on 73 Union St. I do not know when she died or where she was buried.

This short history of the Sergeantsville Inn was written in a hurry. I began work on it almost as soon as I learned of the fire on March 9th and have only gotten to the beginning of the twentieth century. There is much more to say about this store/ice cream parlor/tavern/restaurant during the next 100 years. Many residents of Sergeantsville know much more about this later history than I do. I hope they will contribute what they know in the comments section. And in the not too far distant future, I will try to finish the story.

Correction, 3/18/15: I had originally written that John F. Shepherd sold the store lot on the northwest corner of the Sergeantsville intersection to son Israel P. Shepherd in 1901. But that sale was for a home lot, not the store.


  1. I have written extensively about Daniel Robins—you can see those stories by clicking on the topic (in the right-hand column) “Buchanan’s Tavern.
  2. H. C. Deed 19-455, recital.
  3. H. C. Deed Book 19 p.455.
  4. In 1812, Margaret’s brother George Trimmer left his estate to his nephew Charles Thatcher. In 1826, executors of Jonas Thatcher dec’d sued Charles Thatcher, Jonas Thatcher, Jacob Kemple, and Lucretia his wife, late Lucretia Thatcher, as non-resident debtors (from the Hunterdon Gazette, Feb. 23, 1826).
  5. I should note that Abraham & Mary Larew had a son James (c.1770-1813) whose wife was named Margaret. She was probably the 82-year-old Margaret Larew listed in the 1850 Delaware Twp. census living with Mary Gordon, age 73, in the household of John German & and wife Eliza.
  6. H.C. Deed 28-650.
  7. H. C. Deed 48-619.
  8. H. C. Deed 50-190.
  9. H.C. Deed Book 52 p. 436.
  10. H. C. Deed 50-088. In 1833, Cornelius Lake and Jonas Thatcher divided the property between them in Deeds 55-030 and 55-033.
  11. I learned this from an attorney friend who prefers to remain anonymous. He wrote: “Would-be purchasers signed a contract to purchase, payable in installments over a term of years. The contract was recorded which gave them the right of possession. When payment was made in full the purchaser would get title by deed or bill of sale. If they fell behind in payments they could be evicted without all the difficulties and complications of a mortgage foreclosure. Once evicted the same owner could start again with a new contract since title would not have changed. Occasionally there would be a deed from the owner to a straw man then back to the owner to extinguish any contractual rights that might have lingered with the original purchaser under contract.
  12.  From the Thatcher Family Bible.
  13. He is not listed there on Find-a-Grave, nor in the list of burials published in the Hunterdon Historical Newsletter. However, there other Thatchers to be found in that graveyard, so perhaps Jonas is there with them.
  14. Egbert T. Bush, “Sergeantsville, A Town That Outlived Its Original Name,” Hunterdon Co. Democrat, April 10, 1930.
  15. Deed Book 111 p.35 and Book 130 p.474.
  16. Bush, April 10, 1930.
  17. Hunterdon Co. Deed Book 148 p.713.
  18. In the Delaware Twp. census of 1840, a John Shepherd was counted as head of household, in his 30s, which would make him just a little too old to be J.F. Shepherd, who was born in 1821.
  19. Ceremony performed by Rev. John W. McDongall.
  20. The cream separator was invented in Sweden in 1878 by Gustav de Laval. A company called AB Separator, which was later to be named DeLaval, was founded in 1883.
  21. Hunterdon Gazette, July 28, 1886.
  22. Hunterdon Co. Republican, Oct. 2, 1889.
  23. H.C. Deed Book 245 p. 85.
  24. H. C. Deed Book 251 p. 498.
  25. Deed dated April 1, 1897, Book 251 p.500, Isaac S. Cramer to Edw Shepherd.
  26. H. C. Deed Book 254 p. 86.
  27. Clint Wilson, “Restoration of the Sergeantsville Inn,” Lambertville Beacon, n.d. The clipping of the article came to me from Frank Burd, who neglected to add a date.
  28. H. C. Deed Book 262 p.561.
  29. H. C. Deed Book 198 p. 98.