Although I have not yet followed through on my intention to post my previously published cemetery articles here on my website, I am initiating yet another project—a study of the taverns of Delaware Township. The Delaware Township Historical Society is anxious to map these institutions, so it is time to begin an inventory.

Before discussing the taverns themselves and the reasons for their existence, here is a list of the best known and documented taverns in (or near) the township:

Addendum, April 3, 2022: I have added links to my articles on each of the Delaware Township taverns, articles that were published after 2010, when this original list was published.


Boarshead, Upper and Lower (Lower Boarshead was on the Raritan Twp. side of Route 579, but was certainly important to Delaware Twp. residents) “Boarshead Tavern” and “The Boarshead Tavern in the 18th Century”

Buchanan’s on Rte 579 near the intersection with Rte 523; not to be confused with Trout’s tavern a short distance away in Raritan Township. “Buchanan’s, A Tavern With a Long History,” “Buchanan’s Tavern, Last Chapter,” and “Delilah Buchanan’s Tavern License Application

Centre Bridge or Johnson’s Tavern in Stockton, the successor to Howell’s tavern. “A Stockton Inn History,” “When Stockton Was Not So Dry, part one,” and part two

Howell’s Tavern: in Stockton, “Howell’s Tavern & Ferry House

The Locktown Hotel: The Swamp Meeting House Tavern”

The Rittenhouse Tavern in Rosemont, also known as Crosskeys Tavern: “The Rittenhouse Tavern” and part two

Saxtonville Tavern in Raven Rock: “Raven Rock and the Saxtonville Tavern

The Sergeantsville Hotel: The Sergeantsville Inn,” and parts two & three and “Tavernkeeper of Skunktown

Stompf Tavern, also known as Johnson’s Tavern, on Federal Twist Road: “Federal Twist Road

White Hall, in Headquarters: “White Hall Recruiting Station, 1775-1781


In 1838, Delaware Township was organized as a municipality “at the house of Henry Wagner” in Sergeantsville. Henry Wagner was an innkeeper, and his tavern is today’s municipal building. The municipal governing body has been meeting in that building ever since. This does not make our Township Hall the record-holder in New Jersey for longest continual use of a building for municipal purposes, since that honor goes to Perth Amboy. But we certainly come in second.

“At the house of  . . .” is a term that shows up often in old records. It almost always meant an inn or a tavern rather than someone’s private home. Actually, it often was a private home that was also serving as an inn or tavern. Long before New Jersey became a state, as early as 1688, there were provisions for licensing the sale of alcoholic beverages. The Assembly of the Province of West New Jersey provided for it and the colonial legislature of the combined provinces of West and East New Jersey did so too in 1739. For an entertaining discussion of government efforts to promote and/or discourage the sale of alcohol, see Egbert T. Bush, “Old Records Throw Light on the Ways of Past Ages.” I should note that the article also includes ruminations on John Reading and the creation of Amwell township, subjects that I look forward to writing about in the future, at which time I may add more annotations to Bush’s article.

The early legislation was designed more to promote taverns than to limit them. Travelers in 18th-century New Jersey suffered great hardships. It was almost impossible to make long trips without having taverns to stop at along the way. Almost every ferry location had a tavern because people often had to wait for the weather to clear before they could cross the Delaware River. However, some travelers complained that the ferrymen were dilatory in setting off, forcing travelers to spend more time (and money) in the tavern.

But taverns provided more than simply shelter and refreshment. They were the principal meeting places for their communities, and the places where public notices were usually posted. They even served as courthouses, when such structures were lacking. A well-known instance of this public use of taverns is, of course, the Hunterdon Committee of Safety that met in the Ringoes Tavern prior to the Revolution.

Bush took note of legislation in 1704 that forbade “tippling on the Lord’s Day” except, as Bush wrote, “for necessary refreshment.” One case of necessity on the Lord’s Day was attending church in winter months when the sermons were routinely three or four hours long. It has been said that congregants would sneak out to a nearby tavern to get something to warm and sustain them through the hours of divine inspiration. Such was probably the case in Locktown, where the tavern was only a few feet away from the Old School Baptist Church. Of the other early churches in the township, the Amwell Church of the Brethren was nowhere near a tavern, and its later offshoot in Sand Brook was not within easy walking distance. There was a Baptist church in Croton that was near a tavern on the Raritan Twp. side of Rte 579, but the Baptist church in Sandy Ridge did not enjoy that amenity. The Sergeantsville Methodist Church was founded in 1830 and was certainly close enough to the “house of John Gordon,” otherwise known as the Sergeantsville Hotel, to enjoy its advantages.

The earliest tavern in the township is probably the least documented, due to the fact that it probably came into existence when record-keeping was minimal. Daniel Howell established a ferry in Stockton around 1710. (That was when Stockton was known as Howell’s Ferry, up until 1814 when the name was changed to Centre Bridge.) There is some slight evidence that a tavern was operated there too, on the site that later was used by the Baptist Church, at the intersection of Main St. (Rte 29) and Rte 523, also known as the road from Howell’s Ferry to Flemington.

The 1780 Tax Ratables for Amwell Township (of which Delaware was a part) listed eight owners of taverns. Their names were: Thomas Holmes, Nathaniel Lowrey, Joseph Laboyteaux, Joseph Mattison, William Parmor, Joseph Robison, Derrick Voorhees and Daniel Wyckoff. Of these eight, I can only identify Joseph Robison (Robeson) who was running the tavern at Howell’s Ferry from 1772 to 1784. After that he moved to Ringoes to run the tavern there. Identifying tavern owners can be a challenge. Just as mill owners often hired millers to run their mills or leased their mills to others, owners of tavern buildings often did the same. Some tavernkeeprs are known to have been itinerant, renting a tavern in one location for a couple years, then moving on to another one, and then another.

By the mid-19th century, opinion on the usefulness of taverns was less favorable than it was in the 18th century. In 1847, the voters of Delaware Township were asked to decide whether or not to grant licenses for the sale of “intoxicating liquors.” Up until that time, liquor or tavern licenses had been granted by the State of New Jersey.

The impetus for putting this question to a vote came from the temperance movement which was already in full swing by this time, and had enough influence to convince tavern owners to change the names of their establishments from “inns” to “hotels.” The Hunterdon Gazette for January 6, 1847 published a statement from the Hunterdon County Temperance Society:

“Satisfied that the vice of Intemperance derives its principal encouragement from Inns and taverns, that we cordially approve of the effort about to be renewed before the Legislature of this State for a law giving to the people of the several Townships, the right to decide the question of license.”

At least in Delaware Township, that strategy succeeded, since the question passed by more than a three-to-one margin, 228 yes, 62 no.1 When this vote was taken, there were about seven state-licensed taverns in the Township, five more licenses than are granted today. Whether this resulted in a reduction in the number of taverns in the township is a question I have not researched, but an interesting one. Regrettably, there are no records in the township archives for licenses granted following the 1847 referendum.

Although many taverns were located at identifiable hamlets or villages (Croton, Rosemont, Raven Rock, Locktown and Sergeantsville), many others were not. These others could be found along well-traveled roads, sometimes at important intersections, but no hamlet grew up around them. Examples of these isolated taverns were Buchanan’s, Johnson’s (near Federal Twist Road), and Stompf Tavern.

Of all the taverns that once existed in this township, not one of them currently serves the purpose it was originally built for. “The Sergeantsville Inn” did not start out as a tavern; it was located in a storehouse, later a general store. The original Sergeantsville tavern is now the Municipal Building. All the other taverns are now either residences or have been destroyed. (The Croton tavern was not located where the former Rustic Inn once stood; the original Croton tavern stood across the road in Raritan Township.) Those that survived the temperance movement in the middle 19th century were done in by Prohibition in the 20th, and by the time it was again legal to sell liquor, the taverns had been converted to other uses. The Sergeantsville Inn is the only establishment with a liquor license in Delaware Township today. It conveys the feeling of welcome that the old taverns once provided.

Correction, 12/10/10:  There are two liquor licenses in Delaware Township. The second is attached to the restaurant in Croton.

  1. “License Election Returns — whether licenses shall be granted in the Township for the sale of intoxicating liquors,” on file in the township archives.