I have written about Locktown’s tavern before—in my article on the life of Daniel Rittenhouse. At the time that I wrote it, I thought he had established the original tavern. That turns out to be not true.
I discovered this while perusing the tavern license petitions available on the Family Search website.1 Tavernkeepers were obliged by law to apply for a license every year. They submitted petitions explaining why they should be granted a license and signed by a minimum of twelve people endorsing his or her eligibility to operate a tavern. It is clear that these petitions were signed in the taverns themselves, as this particular one demonstrates:
Most of the petitions were handwritten, making these records a goldmine for researchers. Unfortunately, because people in the early 19th century knew how to find people and places, the petitioners were a little vague about the locations of their taverns. That certainly is the case with the tavern I am writing about today. It is the one in the village of Locktown (long before it became Locktown), the one I thought was first operated by Daniel Rittenhouse.
Laws for Tavern Licenses
It was the legislature that came up with the rules governing who was entitled to run a tavern. For an idea of the sort of law passed, we can look to the Hunterdon Gazette for April 10, 1833, which published the following:
Laws of New-Jersey.
Passed at the late session of the Legislature.
A SUPPLEMENT to the act entitled an act to alter and amend the act entitled “An act concerning Inns and Taverns” – June 1st, 1820.
Sec. l. Be it enacted by the Council and General Assembly of this State, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That if any person or persons shall without a license for that purpose first had and obtained according to law sell by retail, any rum, brandy, wine or spirits, of any kind, or any other liquid of which distilled spirits shall form a component part except such as are compounded or used for medicine under the quantity of one quart, he or she so offending shell forfeit and pay, for every such offence ten dollars, to be recovered by action of debt, with costs, in any court of record having cognisance [sic] thereof, any person who may prosecute for the same in the name of the overseer or overseers of the poor of the township in which such offense may take place, one half for the benefit of the persons so prosecuting and the residue for the use of the poor of such townships.
Provided, That such prosecution shall be commenced within six calendar months after said offence shall have been committed: Provided also, that nothing in this act contained shall be so construed as to prevent or impair any prosecution or proceeding by indictment under the fourth section of the act to which this is a supplement.
Passed, Feb. this team, 1833.
The Earliest Tavern Licenses
Judging by the earliest record I found, there was probably a tavern in what became Locktown as early as the Revolution. There are licenses on file with the Court of Common Pleas in Flemington dating back to at least 1763. The village did not have a name back then, so I looked at the people signing the petition for a clue to location.
And because Locktown is close to the boundary of Amwell and Kingwood Townships, I had to include Kingwood residents in my list of possible tavernkeepers of the 18th century, starting with Malakiah Bonham, about whom I have written before. He was the only one licensed in Amwell Township in 1781 who might have qualified.2 If he was keeping a tavern in Locktown in 1781, he did not remain there; his license petition for 1782 stated that his tavern was located in Quakertown.
There are very few license petitions on record for the years of the Revolution. It wasn’t until a bureaucracy for the new country got up and running that we started to get helpful records. By 1793, petitioners were getting better at adding locations. John Buchanan got a license for his tavern at Robins/Buchanan’s Corner,3, John Price got a license for Ringoes, and Isaac Rittenhouse got one for what came to be known as Rosemont. The only other license for that year that might have been for Locktown was submitted by Nathaniel Thatcher, but it turns out his tavern was the Boarshead Inn on Route 579.4
In a way it is surprising that there would be a tavern in the Locktown area at such an early date. There was so little to attract one. The subject of how villages formed has always interested me.5 There are certain ingredients that go into the making of a village in addition to a tavern: a major road intersection, a church, a school, a store, and sometimes a mill.
In 1801, the only attraction in what became Locktown was a road intersection. The Kingwood-Locktown Road was called ‘the road to Baptistown.’ One of the old petitions described it as “the road between Skunktown and Baptistown.”
As you can see from this map of New Jersey by Thomas Gordon published in 1828, there was no direct route from Flemington to Baptistown and Frenchtown. Old deeds and other records usually referred to the road from one town to another town as if there were a straight line from one place to another, when in fact that was far from the case, as you can see from the Gordon map. That road between Skunktown, i.e., Sergeantsville, and Baptistown is anything but direct, as is also the case for ‘the road from Baptistown to Flemington.’
A close look at the diagonal line separating Amwell from Kingwood Townships, shows a ‘B’ near an intersection. That designates the Baptist Church that was established in Locktown in 1819. The map also designated taverns, and there is one for what became Locktown, although it’s almost impossible to see.
The Spread Eagle
This was the name of the first tavern we have record of for the Locktown area. The ‘Spread Eagle’ was an important patriotic symbol during the years of the Revolution and the establishment of the Constitution, which is what makes me think the original tavern dated to the 18th century.6
The earliest tavernkeeper we know of is Isaac Servis, whose tavern license application was made in 1801. The law required that at least 12 people sign the petition, testifying to the good character of the innkeeper. There were two ways to go about this. One was to write out the petition and keep it on hand in the tavern for customers to sign, like the Wilson petition above. The other was to submit a form petition and get certain township officers to sign, affirming that the applicant was “a fit person to keep a public Houfe.” This second approach was taken by Isaac Servis in 1801.7
Because the petition was a form, the only location given was Amwell Township. The township officers who signed the petition were Commissioners of Appeals for Amwell Township, Andrew Bearder and John Reed, and the Overseers of the Poor, John Covenhoven, Philip Case, John Phillips, John Lequear, and Amos Hogeland.
Isaac Servis was probably born around 1770, so he could very well have been operating a tavern in or near Locktown for several years before 1801. He was the son of George and Rebecca Servis of Amwell, and about 1790 married Catharine Case (c.1770-1836), daughter of Jacob Case & Catharine Housel. They had four children from 1791 to c.1798.8
1801 was Servis’ last year as tavernkeeper in Locktown. Like many other tavernkeepers of this period, he moved from one tavern to another. In 1808, he was tavern-keeping in Flemington, in a house later taken over by Neal Hart. He also got licenses in 1812 and 1813.
It is important to keep in mind that the law required that tavernkeepers live in the house where they kept their tavern. But that didn’t mean they had to own it, and unfortunately for me, too many tavern keepers rented their houses, and that probably includes Isaac Servis, who does not appear in the deed records until 1806.9
When Isaac Servis left the Locktown neighborhood he handed the job of tavern-keeping over to a local man, Richard Williamson Heath, and it is Heath’s license petition that tells us that Servis was operating the Spread Eagle tavern.
1802, Richard Williamson Heath
Richard W. Heath (1770-1850) was the son of Richard Heath, Sr. and Moykee or Moicah Williamson. Richard Heath, Sr. died on Nov. 1, 1769, when he was only 45 years old, which was less than a year after his marriage and just a few months before his only child Richard was born.10
If I am right about Richard W. Heath’s mother, then her father, William Williamson, Sr. had died in 1765, leaving a widow, Patience Hull (1713-1787), in her 50s, with seven grown children. It seems likely that she took her widowed daughter Moykee Heath and young Richard under her wing.
Very little is known about the family. The first record I have for Richard W. Heath is his tavern license application for the year 1802. He was 32 years old then and still single.11 His petition was typical for those that were handwritten:
The petition of Richard W. Heath humbly Sheweth That your petitioner lives in the Township of Amwell and at the Tavern Called the Spread Eagle, on the Trenton Road, & where the Road turnt off to go to Baptiston – was occupied last year by Mr. Isaac Servis – your Petitioner has provided himself with every thing Necessary to accommodate Travelers’ he would pray the Hon’l Court would grant him a Licence for that purpose the Ensuing year.
There were the 24 signers of the petition, which was considerably more than the law required and is an indication of Heath’s popularity. Most of the signers lived in the surrounding area. Here are their names, rearranged alphabetically: Joshua Anderson, Philip Bevin, Peter Dils, William Emmins, Peter Hand, David Heath, David Heath, John Heath, John Howsel, Joseph Howell, William Lair, William Large, Christofer Lowbacher, Alburtus Miers, Thomas Opdycke, Jesse Rittenhouse, Adam Risler, John Robbins, Thomas Shearman, Amos Sutton, Bartholomew Thatcher, John Trimmer, Henry Trimmer, Henry Warts.12
The location of the tavern “on the Trenton Road where it turns off to go to Baptiston” is interesting. “The Trenton Road” is usually taken to be Route 579, running from Quakertown south to Trenton, running through Croton, past Buchanan’s Tavern and into Ringoes. However, back in the early 19th century, another ‘Trenton Road’ ran from Pittstown south to Locktown, then down the Locktown Sergeantsville Road to Sergeantsville. From there one could continue south on Route 523 to Route 29 to Trenton or turn left onto Route 604 which would take one to Route 579 and on to Trenton.
It is this second ‘Trenton Road’ that Heath’s license refers to. The place “where it turns off to go to Baptiston” is today’s Locktown Kingwood Road, running west from the Locktown Sergeantsville Road. (The 1828 map above makes it look like it would be better to just stay on the Trenton Road if one wanted to get to Baptistown.)
Heath applied for a license the following year, 1803, “at the stand known by the name of the Spread Eagle which he occupied as a tavern the last year.” There were 20 signers this time, many of them the same as in 1802 (I have again rearranged the names alphabetically to make them easier to search): Francis Besson, Phillip Bevin, George Buchannan, Henry Dils, Tunis Eick, Wm Halliday, Peter Hand, Isaiah Hudnut, John Hughes, Esq., John A. King, Isaac Larue, Hugh Magee, John Mathes, John Opdycke, David Phillips, Samuel Rockafellow, James Scott, Amos Sutton, John Trimmer Seneer, George Wert.13
There were no other licenses for Richard W. Heath recorded after 1803. It is hard not to suspect it had something to do with Heath getting married, at the age of 34, to Susan Elizabeth Rittenhouse (1782-1837), daughter of Joseph Rittenhouse and Mary Ann Wright, and the second of 10 children. In 1804, the couple had a son, Watson R. Heath (1804-1873). The next year, Daniel Rittenhouse conveyed to Richard W. Heath and others a small lot to be used for a schoolhouse in what became the village of Locktown.
High Turnover at the Spread Eagle, 1804-1809
Richard W. Heath was followed by a series of innkeepers, none of whom stayed very long.
1804 Andrew Shepherd
Andrew Shepherd (1778-1862) submitted a petition on April 26, 1804: “Whereas Andrew Shepherd being well provided with all the necessary Articles for the purpose of keeping a public house at the Spread Eagle in Amwell between Trenton & New-hampton and directly on the main road leading to & from the places above mentioned. . .” Signers were (arranged alphabetically) Andrew Bearder, Jacob Bearder, Phillip Bevin, Mathias Case, Caleb Farley, Richard W. Heath, Geo. Holcomb, John Housel, Sr. (his mark), William Mash, Elisha Rittenhouse, Jacob Rockafellor, Jacob __?, John Rake, Adam Risler (his mark), John Robbins, Peter Smith, George Trimmer (his mark), Henry Trimmer, John Trimmer, John Trimmer, Sr., Jacob Wert, Henry West Jr., and Peter Williamson.
Andrew Shepherd was the son of Richard Shepherd & Mary Servis.14 He had married Catharine Sine (1779-1860) in 1799, the daughter of William & Mary Sine. (The Sine family intermarried with several Locktown area families.) Shepherd kept the tavern for only one year, and the next year bought part of Walter Cain’s property on the Kingwood Locktown Road. He was followed at the Spread Eagle by a possible relative of wife Catharine’s.
1805, John Sine
And again, we have a one-year tavernkeeper. During the May 1805 term of the Hunterdon Court, a license was granted to John Sine of Amwell, who “has taken the tavern lately known as the Spread Eagle in the Township of Amwell, on the Road leading from Trenton to Pittstown.” Sine signed his mark and paid the usual fee of $10. The 25 signers were:
Benjamin Bartholomew, John Barton Andrew Bearder, Jacob Bearder, Francis Besson, John Besson, Phillip Bevin, Tunis Eick, Geo. Holcomb, Junr., John A. King, William? Large, John Macferson, Amos Robins, John Robbins, John Robins, Jonathan Robins, Joseph Robins, John Rockafellor, William? Smith, Amos Sutton, John Trimmer sener, John G. Trimmer, George Wert, Henry Wert Junr, and Peter Wert. (Some names hard to read as a corner of the paper was folded over.)
The reason John Sine’s tenure was so brief was that he died in 1806, when he was only 46 years old. He had only just a year previously sold his father’s ‘plantation’ in Sand Brook to George Holcombe for $3,666.67, and bought from Holcombe a lot of 16.7 acres “on the road from Quakertown to Trenton [Route 579], bordering the Baptistown road [in this case, the Locktown-Flemington Road], Robins’ land, and Joseph Thatcher.”15 I have hardly any information on John Sine. His wife’s name was Elizabeth. If he had children, I am unaware of them. He died intestate about October 1806.
1806, William Rake
William Rake (1781-1850), son of John & Elizabeth/Elsa Rake, and husband of Anna Larew (c.1786-1845, daughter of Moses Larew & Lorania Thatcher), whom he married in 1800, was an on-again, off-again tavernkeeper, but he only stayed one year in Locktown.16 The 18 signers of his petition were familiar: Phillip Bevin, Peter Gary, Adam Hummer, John A. King, Andrew Mershon, Simon Myers his mark, Adam Risler, Amos Robins, John Robbins, Jonathan Robins, John Rockafellor, John Sine, John Trimmer, Elnathan Wert, George Wert, Peter Wert, Henry West, and Joseph White. However, some names were missing from previous petitions.
In 1821 he got a license to run the tavern in Sergeantsville, and in 1828, when he was 41 years old, the ‘Farmer’s Inn’ on the Old York Road.
1807-08, John Robins
Like the previous applicants, John Robins in 1807 described his tavern as “the stand known by the name of the Spread Eagle.” Unlike the previous applicants, he renewed his license the next year, for a tavern “on the Road leading from Trenton to Quaker Town” and at the Stand called the Spread Eagle which he occupied as a Tavern last year. There were only 10 names on his 1807 petition and only 13 on his 1808 petition. Only four men signed both petitions: Philip Bevin, George Case, Jacob Pegg, & John Trimmer. Men who only signed the 1807 petition were Peter Gary, John Robbins, Sr.[?], Andrew Shepherd, John Shepherd, William Smith, and George Wert. Men who signed in 1808 but not in 1807 were Mathias Case, Lewis Dunn, William Lake, Philip Lefler, Amos Robins, Joseph Robins, Amos Sutton, and Amos Trimmer.17
John Robins (c.1781-1822) son of John Robins, Jr. & Grace Runyon, married in 1800 Elizabeth Risler (1773-1844), daughter of Hanteel & Catharine Risler, who owned a large tract of land on the southwest corner of Route 579 and Boarshead Road. Between the Robins and Risler families, John Robins was related to several of the signers of his petition. Thanks to his father and grandfather, he came into a fair amount of property in the area between Locktown and Buchanan’s Tavern and managed to purchase more.
The End of the Spread Eagle
John Robins did not renew his license after 1808. In fact, there were no license petitions at all for the Spread Eagle after 1808. Judging by the lower number of signers it appears that the tavern had lost its popularity and its business. One explanation could be fewer travelers passing through the area. Another possibility was the competition provided by the man who owned the property: Daniel Rittenhouse.
1809-1823, Daniel Rittenhouse
I have written about Daniel Rittenhouse before. He was commonly known as Cooper Dan because of the barrels and kegs he built to hold the whiskey he produced from his apple orchards. He bought his first still in 1794, and by the early 1800s was selling whiskey by the pint. Perhaps it was this that put the Spread Eagle out of business. There was plenty of demand for Rittenhouse’s whiskey. In 1815, he registered a 40-gallon still.
In May 1817, his first wife, Jane Cartwright died, about age 47, just a year after the birth of her last child, Amy. Perhaps this tragedy made Daniel Rittenhouse think a little more about eternity.
On May 29, 1819, he conveyed to the Trustees of the Kingwood Baptist Church for $1, two lots of land, one for a church and one to enlarge the existing cemetery.18 The beautiful stone church still standing in Locktown today is the result of that gift. It soon became a landmark for future deeds in its vicinity, often referred to as “the Swamp Meeting House.” (For articles about the church and history of the village, click on ‘Localities’ and ‘Locktown.’ Here is a photo of the church rarely seen, with its old stucco in place.
Whether or not Rittenhouse gave up distilling and went sober, I cannot say. However, he owned the lot on the corner that was used for a tavern until his death in 1848, and his executors did not sell it until ten years later.
1823, Everitt’s Tavern
As Charles S. Boyer wrote in his book on Old Inns & Taverns in West New Jersey, churches were often the attraction that brought a tavern to a village. This was made very clear in the license petition of David Everitt, dated May 1, 1823.19 The petition itself differed dramatically from previous ones in that it was very specific as to location:
“The buildings where he now dwells have lately been erected for the purpose of an Inn or Tavern, upon a public road leading in a more direct course than any other road, from Pitts-town to Centre Bridge and is situated about 6 miles from the former, and seven from the latter place. This road is intersected by another road leading from Milltown in Kingwood to Flemington, near the premises of the subscriber, which are three miles from the tavern of Jane Forst, four from Isaac Rea’s tavern, and near four miles from Babtistown [sic] or from Skonktown. And the congregation of a babtist [sic] meeting house lately erected near the buildings above described, it is believed will find a grat [sic] accommodation in wet weather from the use of his sheds and stables.”
Like the old Trenton-Pittstown road, the Pittstown-Centre Bridge Road was not really a single road, but several shorter roads, as can be seen in the Gordon map above. This was also the case for traveling from Milltown to Flemington, as you can see in this detail from the Cornell Map of 1851.
Signers of David Everitt’s petition were Joseph Bosenberry, John Corson, Henry Dils, William Dils, John Higgins, Benjamin Hyde, William Lair Sr., Joseph Mattison, John Myers, Benjamin Retinghouse, Elisha Rittenhouse, Jonathan Rettenhouse, William Rettenhous, David Wagner, Peter Wert, and Thomas West.
Another way that David Everitt differed from the innkeepers of the Spread Eagle is his relative permanence. He renewed his license petitions from 1824 through 1827. In each case, the tavern was described as “near the New Baptist Meeting house.”
In 1826, the Hunterdon Gazette reported on May 17th that the Board of Freeholders, having received an application from Peter Snyder, one of the overseers of the highways of Kingwood, to view the necessity of building a bridge over the “Whitchety Oak Creek” [i.e., the Wickecheoke Creek], would meet at “the House of Mr. David Everitt” in June for the purpose of considering the need for a bridge.
Who Was David Everitt?
Here I run into trouble. There were too many David Everitts. My best guess as to the identity of the tavernkeeper was David Everitt, Jr. (1798-1884), son of David Everitt, Sr. (1764-1846) and Catherine Case (1768-1842) of Alexandria Township. About 1826-27, he married Abigail Sweazey of Morris County.20 But by 1828, the Everitts of Locktown were gone. Like so many other residents of Hunterdon County in the early 19th century, they had departed for Ohio, specifically the town of Milan in Erie County. Once again, the Locktown tavern needed a new keeper.
1828, The Public Inn at the Swamp Meeting House
This was Benjamin Hyde (1786-1852), son of John Hyde (1748-1806), a Revolutionary War veteran, and Hannah Rittenhouse (c.1754-bef. 1799), the sister of Daniel Rittenhouse, owner of the tavern lot. It seems likely that Hyde was quite familiar with the tavern well before 1828. In fact, he had signed David Everitt’s petition in 1823.
He was 41 years old when he took over the tavern. He had been married to Ann Voorhees (1786-1878), daughter of John Voorhees and Mary Brittain since about 1806, and by this time ten of the couple’s eleven children had been born, including Rev. Roberson R. Hyde (1818-1901). The family was living on Kingwood property near the tavern. In 1812, Hyde had purchased a lot that bordered Richard Heath, the brook, the bridge and land of Daniel Rittenhouse.21
On April 30, 1828, Benjamin Hyde petitioned for a tavern license, “having rented the house formerly kept by David Everitt as a Tavern in the Township of Amwell where he now lives.”22 Signers were Tho. Alexander, Jos. Bosenberry, John Cowdrick, Philip Gordon, Gabriel Hoff, William Lair Sen, William Lair Ju’r, Joseph Mattison, John Myers, “Corenelos Myrs sin” [Cornelius Myers, Sr.] Richard Opdycke, James Pyatt, Benjamin Rettinghouse, Daniel Rettinghouse, Elisha Rittenhouse, John T. Risler, David Wagner, and Joseph West. This is the first time that Daniel Rittenhouse signed the petition for one of his tenant innkeepers, probably because of the family connection.
Benjamin Hyde wasted no time in making his tavern a destination. This notice appeared in the Hunterdon Gazette for June 18, 1828:
“The anniversary of American Independence will be celebrated at the public inn kept by Benjamin Hyde, at the Swamp Meeting House, near the Kingwood line; Four Volunteer Companies, with appropriate music, will attend, and an oration will be delivered; a dinner will be provided for the occasion, Benj Hyde, June 18.”
It was at Hyde’s tavern that the nascent congregation of the new Christian Church first met in what then became known as Locktown, in June 1829. Regrettably, the licenses for 1829 are missing from the records. We can assume that Hyde got one, because he petitioned again on May 4, 1830, for a license “for an Inn or Tavern where he now lives it being on the road from Johnson Old Tavern to Flemington where the New Baptist Meeting house is, formerly occupied by David Everitt and now by Benjamin Hyde.”
Subscribers were Thomas Alexander, John Bird, Philip Gordon, Peter Hann,George Heath, Richard Heath, Joseph Lair, Evins G. Mattison, Joseph Mattison, George Opdycke, Elisha Rittenhouse, Elisha Warford and Peter Wert.23
Hyde gave up tavernkeeping after this, and some years later moved with his family to Doylestown, Pa.
From 1831 to the Civil War
These are some of the tavernkeepers on record following Benjamin Hyde.
Mahlon Strimple (1805-1871) petitioned for a license in 1831 for the tavern lately kept by Benjamin Hyde. He was the son of John Strimple and Elizabeth Pettit, and in 1828, married Deborah Lake (1811-1902), daughter of Jonas Lake and Sarah Hunt. Apparently, tavern keeping didn’t suit him; he only kept it one year.
Ampleus B. Chamberlain
Ampleus B. Chamberlain (1807-1879) was another matter. His first petition was in 1832, for the tavern near Baptist Stone Church, formerly Mahlon Strimple. He renewed his license in 1834 and 1835, and presumably in 1833, although I didn’t find the petition for that year.
Chamberlain is an interesting person. He came to Hunterdon from New York State, married Elizabeth Myers in 1830 and had 12 children with her. In 1838 he was elected Town Clerk of Delaware Twp., in 1843 Chosen Freeholder. He was an active member of the Democratic party and served as county sheriff from 1844 through 1847. Then he bought the old Wert farm in Kingwood and served as Town Clerk there.
Chamberlin was followed by Franklin Gordon (1805-1879), son of Othniel Gordon and Mary Heath, grandson of Capt. John Heath and Jane Lake. In 1833, Gordon married Mary Dalrymple (c.1815-after 1880), daughter of James Dalrymple and Elizabeth McPherson.
Gordon was 31 when he petitioned for a license, for the tavern formerly kept by Amplius B. Chamberlin, near the Baptist Stone Church. His petition was very wine stained. His “Subscribers” were Ambrose Bonham, A. B. Chamberlin, Isaac Godown, Philip Gordon, Garret Heath, George Heath, Richard Heath, John Higgins, Nathaniel B. Horner, David Howell, David Lair, Joseph Lair, Evans G. Mattison, Daniel Rettinghouse, John Warrick, and Peter Wert.
Which George Dalrymple kept the tavern? There was the George c.1773-1854, who married Anna Maxwell, and was associated with the Baptist Church. However, he would have been about 64 years old & a widower in 1837, Anna having died in 1827. He seemed unlikely to me.
Far more likely was his son, George 1806-1853, who took on the name George M. Dalrymple, probably to distinguish himself from his father. He married Sarah Thatcher (1806-1872) in 1831, daughter of Amos Thatcher and Mary Sine. He would have been 31 years old in 1838.
I had to find out if this George was related to the wife of Franklin Gordon, Mary Dalrymple. The Dalrymple family is a large one, so I attempted a family tree. It helped me discover that Mary’s father, James D. Dalrymple and George’s father George were first cousins, making George Jr. and Mary 1st cousins once removed. Close enough.
George “Darumple” petitioned for a license in May 1837 to keep a tavern near the Baptist stone Church in Amwell.24 Subscribers were residents of Amwell and Kingwood Townships: A. B. Chamberlin, Philip Gordon, Isaac Godown, John Burd? illegible, William Lair, Joseph Lair, Elisha Rittenhouse, James Pyatt, Elisha Warford, Uriah Sutton, Ezekiel Everitt, George D. Heath and Daniel Rettinghouse.
They stated that George Darumple ‘having taken the tavern formerly kept by Franklin Gordon in Amwell near the Baptist stone church has supplied himself with furniture Provisions and provender suitable for the accommodation of travellers and that we believe him to be a suitable person to keep a public house.’
Dalrymple renewed his license in 1838.25 He stated that “Petitioner has for the last year past kept an inn and tavern in the township of Amwell in said County; now the Township of Delaware near the new stone Baptist Meetinghouse on the road leading from Baptistown to Centre Bridge . . .” 1838 was the year that old Amwell Township was divided into Raritan, Delaware and Amwell Townships.
It was the next year, 1839, that the Baptists of the Swamp Meeting House had a falling out—in fact, a locking out, as the traditional Baptists excluded the reformist Baptists, who were obliged to build themselves a new church down the road. It was this dispute that gave Locktown its name. (See “How Locktown Got Its Name.”)
Subsequent Tavernkeepers for the Locktown Hotel:
1839-1840, John N. Roberson
1841-1843, Anderson Horner
1844, Charles Holt
1845-1846, Anderson Horner
1847, Dansdill Rittenhouse
1848, George D. Rittenhouse
1849-1850, Elijah Mettler
1851, Francis Rittenhouse
Note that Dansdill and George D. Rittenhouse were one and the same person, c.1823-1889, a son of Daniel Rittenhouse and second wife Elizabeth Myers. He married Amy Wert in 1846 and Deborah Lair about 1855. (See the Rittenhouse Family Tree.) Francis Rittenhouse (1826-1897) was Dansdill’s brother, who married Miranda Heath (1826-after 1897), granddaughter of the Revolutionary War veteran. This couple was buried in the Christian Church cemetery.
I stopped searching for tavern licenses for the Locktown Hotel with 1851 and cannot state at this time exactly when the tavern went out of business. I do know that it was well after the Civil War.
The Tavern Lot Is Sold
As for ownership of the lot, as mentioned above, Daniel Rittenhouse kept it to the end of his life. He wrote his will on May 13, 1843, from his home in Kingwood Township, making provisions for children and grandchildren, but saying nothing specifically about selling the tavern lot. That happened on April 1, 1858, when his executors, Francis Myers & George D. Rittenhouse, sold a lot of about three acres to Ely Britton of Kingwood for $1,815.26
The property was described as bordering the public road at the angle or intersection of the road leading from thence to Baptistown and the road leading from thence to Mill Town. It also bordered the Grave Yard, the Wickecheoke Creek and the Baptist Church lot. Curiously, the deed did not identify the property as a tavern lot.
During the Civil War, the lot came into the possession of Elisha Warford, a Croton resident who had acquired a huge amount of property, property that came into the possession of his daughter Mary Ann Warford Ellicott, who followed in her father’s footsteps as a land speculator and frequently suing those who could not meet their payments on properties she had sold them.
I imagine the tavern was more valuable than ever during the Civil War, when people needed a place to gather to discuss the battles and the politics. But to identify tavernkeepers of that period will require another chapter to this story.
- The records can be found at the State Archives. Additional tavern license records are in the Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas at the Hall of Records in Flemington. ↩
- See Mary Fox and Malakiah Bonham and What Happened to Malakiah Bonham. ↩
- See “Buchanan’s, A Tavern With a Long History,” “Buchanan’s Tavern, The Last Chapter,” and “Delilah Buchanan’s Tavern License.” ↩
- See “The Rosemont Store & Tavern,” “Boarshead Tavern, One of the Earliest,” and “The Boarshead Tavern in the 18th Century.” ↩
- See “Delaware’s Villages & Mills.” ↩
- This image of the spread eagle is taken from the Hartman abstracts of the Hunterdon Gazette. If the Spread Eagle Tavern had a sign with an eagle, it has not survived, but probably resembled this eagle. ↩
- Family Search, Roll pre 1799-1806, Folder 58 H.C. 1801, frame 143. The cover reads: “Isaac Servis, 1801, Allowed, rated at $10, exclusive of Court fees” which came to $2.83. Family Search microfilm taken from Microreproduction of original at the New Jersey State Library. ↩
- See the Servis Tree. ↩
- See “Asa Romine’s Beloved Farm,” published in 2014, for a description of Isaac and Catharine’s Servis’ farm located along the Locktown Sergeantsville Road. ↩
- It is easy to confuse Richard Heath the tavernkeeper with Richard Heath the war veteran. They were first cousins. ↩
- Family Search Tavern licenses, pre-1799-1806, Hunterdon Co. 1802, petition frames 236-38. ↩
- Note that there were two David Heaths. They wrote the D of their names in different styles, convincing me that they were in fact two separate people. ↩
- Family Search, Hunterdon Taverns, pre-1799-1806, frames 403-04. ↩
- No relationship between Mary Servis and the Isaac Servis who ran the tavern in 1801 that I am aware of. ↩
- H.C. Deeds Book 11 p.43 and p.45. ↩
- I have written about William Rake in “The Rake Cemetery” and “Summit School, part two.” ↩
- Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas, vol. 17 p.448; Family Search, microfilm roll 1806-1812, frames 65-67, and 219-220. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 30 p. 158. ↩
- Family Search, microfilm roll 1822-1826, frames 184-86. ↩
- The marriage probably took place in Morris because it is not listed in the Hunterdon County marriages. ↩
- See H.C. Deeds Book 17 p. 483 and Book 19 p.281. ↩
- Family Search, microfilm roll 1827-1830, frame 268-69. ↩
- Family Search, microfilm roll 1827-30, frames 505-06. ↩
- Family Search, microfilm roll 1834-1838, frames 628-29. ↩
- Family Search, microfilm roll 1838-43, frames 014-15. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 117 p.703; see HCHS Rittenhouse papers Box 0008 folder 6 for conditions of sale. ↩