Last week’s post concerned the farms owned by David Bellis on Hampton Corner Road in Raritan Township. One of them was originally the parsonage farm for the German Reformed Church in Ringoes. Around the corner was a farm known as “Township Farm” on the maps, and the subject of today’s article.

Detail, Raritan Township 1850; click to enlarge

The Map of Raritan Township for 1850 shows the “Township Farm” on the east side of today’s Johanna Farms Road. The farm is midway along a lane running from Johanna Farms Road to a branch of Walnut Brook.

The 1851 Cornell Map of Hunterdon County also shows the “Township Farm,” but on the 1873 Beers Atlas, it is labeled as “Wm. Dailey.” Apparently, at some point between 1851 and 1873, Raritan Township decided to sell the farm to a private owner.

But why did the Township own it in the first place? And what was it used for? As you can probably guess, it was a “poor farm,” for housing the township’s indigent.

I found this out by doing a deed search, starting with William Dailey and working backwards. The success of this search depended on deeds in the chain of title having “recitals,” which are a sentence or two (occasionally a long paragraph) explaining how the seller came to have title to the property, and therefore, the right to sell it to someone else. Not all deeds have them, but, happily, the deeds for this property all had good recitals, so the search went pretty quickly.

Working Backwards, the Chain of Title

1859, William Dailey

On March 19, 1859, William Dailey1 of East Amwell bought a farm of 64.67 acres from Peter D. and Sarah Bellis Thatcher of Raritan Township for $4,462.23.2 For that price we can conclude there were several farm buildings on the property.

Dailey was born in Vermont in 1813. I have not found his parents or the reason why he came to New Jersey, but the 1850 census showed him living in Raritan Township with one Nicholas Daily, age 70, born in New Jersey.

Dailey was married on November 26, 1846 to Ann Eliza Sutphin, born 1820-1825.3 Unfortunately, after the birth of her second child, John, Ann Sutphin Dailey died at the age of 30.4 William Dailey soon remarried. The 1850 census shows that he had hired a young woman to take care of his son John, who was only two years old. That young woman was “Moriah” (later Maria) Nevius. She was the daughter of Cornelius L. Nevius and Agnes Whitehead of Hillsborough, born in 1829. Maria and William married on September 21, 1850 in the Readington Reformed Church.

Detail, Beers Atlas, 1873; click to enlarge

William Dailey had purchased a 3-acre lot in Raritan Township in 1850, and an adjacent 2+ acres in 1856. In 1858, he bought two lots in East Amwell from Maria’s sister Catharine and her husband Jacob S. Durham. The Dailey family moved to East Amwell and were living there in 1859 when William bought the farm of 64.67 acres from Peter D. and Sarah Thatcher.

This ended up being Dailey’s most important land investment. He remained on the Raritan farm for the rest of his life, dying at the age of 81 on July 12, 1894, two years after the death of wife Maria, age 62.5

1856, Peter D. & Sarah Bellis Thatcher

Peter D. Thatcher of Readington Township bought the same 64.67 acres on March 29, 1856 from James S. and Judith Moore Rockafellar of Raritan Township. He paid $4,526.90 for it.6

Peter Dilts Thatcher was born January 14, 1830 to Jacob Nitzer Thatcher and Mary L. Carkuff of Amwell Township. On February 24, 1853, he married Mary S. Bellis (1829-1854), daughter of James W. Bellis and Jane Dilts of Raritan Township. At the time Peter was a resident of Readington Township, although he had not bought any property there. Mary died only one year after marrying. The following year, on October 27, 1855, Peter married Mary’s sister, Sarah J. Bellis, born in 1824.

Peter’s purchase of the 64.67-acre farm in Raritan Township was his first and only recorded land purchase. He kept it for only three years and returned to live in Readington Township, apparently on leased land, until the 1870s when he, wife Sarah and their three children moved to Camden, NJ, where Peter worked as a life insurance agent.

1851, James S. & Judith Moore Rockafellow

James Stout Rockafellow (1816-1891) was the eldest child of Peter Rockafellow and Ann Cowens of Raritan Twp., and grandson of Jacob Bellis Rockafellar and Charity Snyder. His middle name Stout was also his father’s middle name, but why that is so I cannot say.

On February 12, 1846 James S. Rockafellow married Judith Ann Moore (1820-1881). Both James and Judith were residents of Raritan Township at the time, but I have not been able to identify her family with any confidence. The couple had eight children (see The Rockafellar Tree.)

Other than his marriage, there is no record of James S. Rockafellow until the Raritan Township census of September 9, 1850, by which time he was 30 years old. Even though he had not purchased any property before then, Rockafellow was counted as head of the household, a farmer with property worth $3,000, living with wife Judith Ann 29, and children Ellen Ann 4 and Peter S. 2.

Most interesting are the many people who were also members of the Rockafellow household—nine unrelated people, two of them children. None of these residents were married. One of them was black: Jubitor Hart, age 70. This strongly suggests that Rockafellow was already acting as caretaker of the poorhouse before he actually purchased the farm, which he did on April 1, 1851 for $3,127.44.7

When the Rockafellows sold the farm in 1856 to Peter D. Thatcher, these indigent residents should have remained with the property. Thatcher sold the farm in 1859. The 1860 census for the new owner, William Dailey showed that the only members of the household were Dailey, his wife Maria and their three children. A search for the people named in 1850 proved fruitless.

Why did Raritan Township sell the farm?

It seems that the township had decided to give up housing its indigent on a township-owned property. And in fact, that is what happened. On October 2, 1850, the Township Committee of Raritan advertised in the Hunterdon Gazette that the “Poor-House Farm” was for sale.

A Farm for Sale ! Will be sold at Public Vendue, on Saturday, the 9th of November next, on the premises, all that valuable Tract of Land, known as the Raritan township POOR-HOUSE FARM, situated in Raritan township, Hunterdon Co., N. J., adjoining lands of Aaron C. Hoagland, David Bellis, Gershom Sergeant, and others, containing 64 Acres of land. The land is in an excellent state of cultivation, having been recently limed; is well fenced with chesnut [sic] rails and white oak posts. There is on the property a good Apple Orchard, in the prime of bearing; also, a never-failing stream of water running through the same. The buildings consist of two good frame Dwelling Houses, a new frame Barn, Hovel, Wagon House, Hog Pen, Corn Crib, &c. Also, a good new Cistern near the door, and a lasting spring of water within a few feet of the same.  . . . Any person wishing to view the above described property, previous to the day of sale, will be shown the same by calling on James S. Rockafellow, residing thereon. Sale to commence at 1 o’clock, P. M.; conditions made known and attendance given by Charles Bartles, Geo. W. Risler, Runkle Rea, Henry Suydam, & D. B. Kirkpatrick, Town Committee.

Regrettably, abstracts of the Hunterdon Republican somehow missed the 1850 annual town meeting for Raritan Township, always held in April, at which this decision was made.8

The Rockafellows move on

The Township Committee held a public sale on November 20, 1850 at which time James S. Rockafellow was the highest bidder, at $48.36 per acre, for a total of $3,127.44. As noted, James and Judith Rockafellow sold the farm to Peter D. Thatcher in 1856. On the same day, the Rockafellows purchased a farm of 116+ acres from Isaac B. and Margaret Conover where they remained for the rest of their lives. When Isaac B. Conover died in 1883, his obituary stated that “previous to the year 1856 he [Conover] owned and occupied the farm near Larison’s Corner now belonging to Mr. James S. Rockafellow, where he lived many years.” Judith Rockafellow died on July 25, 1881, and James died on April 21, 1891. Both were buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery in Flemington. On April 1, 1892, executors of James S. Rockafellow’s estate (James and Judith’s sons, John M. and Peter S. Rockafellow) conveyed eight lots to Charles Holcombe of East Amwell for $7,516.42, including the East Amwell farm of 116 acres. (This Charles Holcombe was the original Holcombe undertaker, whose family continues the business in Flemington today.)

The deed from Raritan Township to James S. Rockafellow explained that the decision to sell was made by the Inhabitants of the Township of Raritan in the County of Hunterdon at their annual meeting.

Whereas by a vote of the [grantors] at their annual township meeting held at Flemington in the said Township of Raritan on the 8th day of April  1850, it was resolved by a majority of the legal voters Inhabitants of the said township entitled to vote at the said township meeting and said township committee were ordered and directed to make sale and conveyance of the lands and premises belonging to the said Inhabitants of the Township of Raritan in the County of Hunterdon usually called the poor house farm & wood Lot . . . 9

But the deed was not signed until April 1, 1851 and recorded on April 2, 1851.10 Considering that almost seven months passed between the annual meeting and the public sale, and then over four months from the date of the public sale to the date of the deed, I suspect the delay was caused by the problem of finding a new home for the township’s paupers. They did not have much success, based on this advertisement in the Hunterdon Gazette on Oct 22, 1851:

POOR─POOR.─ The Town Committee of Raritan township, will receive proposals for keeping the Poor of said township for one year from the 1st of April next, at the house of Richard Hope, in Flemington, on the first Monday in November next. John G. Reading, Cl’k.

Keeping the Poor

In the early years of Hunterdon County’s settlement, as in all the other counties in New Jersey,  social welfare for the poor provided by colonial governments was non-existent.

People brought attitudes about poverty with them when they emigrated to America. For the English there was the precedent of the Poor Law of 1601, which recognized that families could not always take care of their poor relations, and in those cases, the parish must do so. In colonial New Jersey, poverty in the rural areas was harsh. But this assessment is also harsh:

New Jersey’s rural poor eked out a subsistence living on marginal lands, and a large number were squatters. Many lived in one-room shacks and slept on beds of leaves. They were grossly ignorant and without the benefit of church or clergy. Pitched on lands they did not own, they were blessed with children, “of which,” noted one contemporary, “they have commonly more than they know what to do with.”11

Keeping the poor had been a matter of concern probably from the very beginning of Hunterdon’s history. As early as 1725, Amwell Township had named Overseers of the Poor.12 But whether the poor were housed on a special property set aside for the purpose is doubtful. An entry in the Amwell Minute book for 1745 noted that Overseers had agreed to keep John Huddy in meat, drink, washing and lodging and had found a good citizen to take care of the problem, one Walter Cane, who lived on Boarshead Road. He was paid £8-0-7 for his services.

In 1758, the New Jersey Assembly  gave permission to New Jersey towns to purchase property for housing the poor, if approved by a majority of the inhabitants.13 This practice was continued after New Jersey became a state.

Some towns bought properties to keep their poor and others paid residents to do so. This practice was still going on in 1880, when this item appeared in the Hunterdon Republican on March 25th:  “The poor of Bethlehem Tp. were sold to Clement Bonnell of Alexandria Tp. for $1,700, a saving of about $1,000.” Seriously, they used the term “sold.”

The next question is how did Raritan township acquire a poorhouse farm in the first place? In order to answer that question, we must go back to the time in 1838 when old Amwell Township, as it was first created in 1708, was summarily divided into three new townships.

Division of Amwell into Delaware & Raritan

I have always been fond of the tongue-in-cheek way the Gazette announced the news in its editorial of  February 28, 1838:

“MORE DIVIDING. – The legislature, in their wisdom, have deemed it proper to divide the township of Amwell into three. . . . So we are informed. And all done, not only without giving the people the trouble to petition for the measure, but without even letting them know that such a measure was necessary to their convenience. We like such promptness – it shows a going ahead spirit.

The vote to create the new townships passed the Council (NJ’s State Senate) on Feb. 22, 1838.14

As part of the transition, the newly created townships of Raritan, Delaware and Amwell (today divided into East and West Amwell) had to discuss the issue of keeping the poor. Their decision was published in the Hunterdon Gazette on May 9, 1838:

Amwell, Raritan and Delaware. . . . It is agreed, that the out paupers may be continued out, or taken to the Poorhouse, at the discretion of the overseers of the poor, at the expense of the three townships. It is agreed that any paupers who may hereafter, become chargeable, and be sent to the Poorhouse from either of said townships; said township from which said pauper is sent shall pay to the Poorhouse establishment at the rate of thirty-five dollars per annum for each one so sent.

Previous to the division, Amwell Township owned a Poorhouse farm amounting to over 187 acres, located on “the road from Ringoes to Flemington.” It was offered for sale to a private owner by the Township of Amwell in November 1838. Apparently, it hadn’t been sold by the following March when this notice appeared:

Gazette, March 12, 1839  NOTICE! NOTICE!  ALL persons having demands against the former Township of Amwell and the present townships of Amwell, Delaware, and Raritan, are hereby notified that the committees of said townships will attend at the present Poorhouse [emphasis added], on Friday the 29th of the present Month, to settle all those accounts; at which time all claimants are requested to attend. BY THE COMMITTEE.

Eventually, parts of the old poorhouse farm were sold to Abraham Gulick.

Sharing the Burden of Providing for the Poor

In one of my previous articles on the Division (“Joseph Moore, the Maverick Democrat”), I cited a letter to the Hunterdon Gazette signed by an “Inhabitant of Old Amwell”. Among his several complaints was concern that all the paupers of old Amwell would become the responsibility of the new Amwell Township, i.e., East and West Amwell and Lambertville. He griped in a letter dated March 14, 1838 that

“he who proposed the bill, and those who drew it, well knew that they were putting Amwell, as it is now, to every sort of inconvenience – were leaving her all the paupers, and a township composed of a very long and very narrow strip of old Amwell.”

As things turned out, neither Delaware Township nor the new Amwell Township established a poor farm for their residents. Following the town meetings for May 1838, the Gazette reported that the new townships of old Amwell had

agreed, that the out paupers may be continued out, or taken to the Poorhouse, at the discretion of the overseers of the poor, at the expense of the three townships.

It is agreed that any paupers who may hereafter, become chargeable, and be sent to the Poorhouse from either of said townships; said township from which said pauper is sent shall pay to the Poorhouse establishment at the rate of thirty-five dollars per annum for each one so sent.

The three townships had agreed that there would continue to be one poorhouse for all three. And yet, by the end of the year, Raritan Township was still undecided about how it would proceed, as seen in this notice of Christmas Day, 1838:

TOWN MEETING. TAKE notice that the inhabitants of the township of Raritan, will meet at the house of M. [Mahlon] C. Hart, in Flemington, on Saturday the 5th day of January next, at 10 o’clock, A. M. to take the sense of the inhabitants of said Township, respecting the mode of keeping the Paupers that may fall to said township, in the division authorized by a supplement to the Act, entitled, “An Act to establish two new townships in the county of Hunterdon, to be called,” etc. also the propriety of purchasing a poor house farm, and for other purposes. By order of the Township Committee. Joseph Besson, Clerk.

The following January 1st, the township published its rules for contracts for keeping the poor. But the decision had also been made to establish a poorhouse for the town, and perhaps for Delaware and new Amwell also, as seen in this notice for January 29, 1839:

NOTICE.  THE township Committee of the township of Raritan will meet at the house of Nathaniel G. Mattison, on Wednesday the 6th day of February next, at 1 o’clock P. M. to receive proposals for a Tenant on the Poor House Farm, to keep the Poor of said township. Those wishing to apply are requested to attend on that day. JOSEPH BESSON, Clerk.

Raritan Township’s Poorhouse Farm

And it just so happens that Derrick A. Sutphin had a farm he could spare. He was one of those men who built his wealth on real estate. His list of properties bought and sold is quite a long one. But his first property happened to be the old Aller farm, more specifically, the northern half of it amounting to 64.67 acres located on the east side of today’s Johanna Farms Road, across the road from the farm of Samuel M. Higgins (see Route Not Taken, part 6), and north of the farm sold to Samuel Britton in 1849.15

On April 1, 1839, Derrick A. Sutphin and wife Mary sold to The Inhabitants of the Township of Raritan for $2,800, “a certain messuage and farm in Raritan bordered by Leonard Kuhl, David Bellis, the Brook, Elijah Carman, and Samuel M. Higgins.”16

Just a couple days previously, the Township Committee purchased from John Besson of Raritan Township for $100 something all householders had great need of, a woodlot of four acres, which, judging from bordering owners (Samuel M. Higgins, John Higgins, John Lee/Leigh) was located near the farm sold by Sutphin.17

And finally, at Raritan Township’s first annual meeting, held on April 8, 1839, Peter Ewing was elected Overseer of the Poor and it was agreed to raise $600 for support of the poor, and “Interest of surplus Revenue, to be applied to paying for the Poor House Farm.”

Following the town meeting which provided funds for purchase of a farm, the next step was to provide a house for the poor residents to live in. It seems there was no building on this property because on April 16, 1839, Joseph Besson the town clerk of Raritan Township put this notice in the Hunterdon Gazette:

NOTICE To Mechanics and Builders. THE Town Committee of the Township of Raritan will meet at the house of John Bodine, in Flemington, on the 27th inst, at 3 o’clock, P. M. to receive proposals for building a frame house on the Poor House farm, 18 feet by 28, one story and a half high. A particular description of said building may be seen, by calling on the Town Clerk, in Flemington. By order of the committee.  JOS. BESSON, Town Clerk.

So now we know that the farmhouse located on Johanna Farms Road later owned by James S. Rockafellar and William Dailey was built in 1839 or 1840.

The Poorhouse Farm’s History

As mentioned above, Derrick A. & Mary Sutphin sold the farm to the Inhabitants of Raritan Township in 1839. The Sutphins had purchased it not very long before, on May 10, 1834, from Commissioners appointed by the Hunterdon Orphans Court (James J. Fisher, George Trimmer and Samuel M. Higgins) to divide and sell the real estate of John Aller, dec’d. They offered a farm of 64.67 acres at a public sale where Sutphin was highest bidder at $28.57 an acre, for a total of $1,847.62.18 The property was described as bordering Asher Kuhl, David Bellis, the brook, Elijah Carman, Samuel M. Higgins, and Leonard Kuhl, the same neighbors in the deed from the Sutphins to Raritan Township.

To learn how the Aller farm came up for sale in 1834, let us look at the Aller family history.

The Aller Family

Johan Petrus Aller (1716-1778) was born in Anhausen, Rhineland-Pfalz, Germany. His wife Anna Elizabeth Case/Kaes (1718-1774) was also born there and came to America with her parents Johann Philip Kaes and Ann Elizabeth Jung, owners of what became the Dvoor Farm in Flemington.19

Both families settled in Amwell Township, where Johan Aller and Anna Case married in 1737. According to Johan Peter’s will written on May 17, 1773, the couple had eleven children. He left to his oldest son Peter 5 shillings and the “plantation where he lives” which Aller had purchased from Philip Kase. To his wife Elizabeth he left “the plantation where I live while my widow,” and after her death or remarriage, it was to go to son John, whom he named as his sole executor.20

(Even though son John was originally named John Peter Aller, since he had a brother named Peter, it was important for John to drop his middle name. As it is, there are too many Peter Allers to keep them straight. See The Aller Family.)

In any case, John’s mother Anna Elizabeth predeceased her husband, dying in 1774, so after his father Peter died in 1778, John Aller had sole possession of the homestead farm. Sometime before his parents’ deaths, John Aller married a woman named Keziah, often spelled ‘Coziah.’ So far, her family has not been identified. The couple had at least four children from about 1773 to 1776.21

Evidence of the location of John Aller’s farm began to turn up in 19th-century records, the first one in 1803 when Aller was fellowbondsman (security) for neighbor Elijah Carman, administrator of his mother Mary Carman’s estate. Aller made an inventory of Mary Carman’s estate with another neighbor, William Merrill.

When John and Keziah reached their 60s, they began conveying title to property to their son Peter Aller (1776-1828), one of those properties being a farm of 66 acres +/-, conveyed to Peter on September 26, 1809 for only $300.22 The deed identified the farm as the one bequeathed to John Aller in his father’s will of 1773.

In 1809 the farm was described as bordering land of John Leigh, “Laquear’s line”, a lot reserved by John Aller, and the German ‘Parsonal’ Lot, which would soon be sold to David Bellis. This was the southern half of the original Aller farm. After Peter Aller’s death in 1828, the farm was sold to Samuel Britton, who appears there on the 1850 map of Raritan Township.

John Aller still had a fair amount of property at the time of his death, which was on July 2, 1817. He had written a will in 1813, leaving movable property to his wife “Coziah,” and mentioned that if his plantation was sold, she should have a share of the proceeds. He named his son Peter and son-in-law Peter Rockafellar (husband of Elizabeth Aller) his executors. In 1822, those executors sold several lots remaining to John Aller, dec’d to some of his neighbors. A lot of 3 acres was sold to David Bellis, a lot of 16 acres to John Leigh, and another lot of 15 acres to Elijah Carman.

Keziah Aller survived her husband by many years, dying on October 30, 1833 at the age of 80. Not many months later, her grandson John Aller, Jr. (1803-1878), despite the fact that he was not an administrator of his grandmother’s estate, went to the Orphan’s Court asking that his grandparents’ homestead farm of 98 acres (minus 34 acres sold to satisfy creditors) be sold and proceeds divided among the heirs. And so the court ordered.

At the public sale held on May 10, 1834, Derrick A. Sutphin was the highest bidder for the northern half of the Aller homestead farm. He then sold it to the Inhabitants of Township of Raritan.

Addendum: “The Cost of Our Poor”

July 3, 2020. The challenge of keeping the poor was certainly not resolved after the Poor-House Farm on Johanna Farms Road was sold. It appears from this item in the Hunterdon Gazette for April 6, 1859 that the township had acquired another farm, and the cost was being felt in the shape of high taxes, a perennial complaint.

To the Tax Payers of Raritan Township.

Mr. EDITOR. ─ Having heard considerable talk about high tax, I beg leave to present a few facts for the consideration of the voters of the township of Raritan. In the first place let us look at the cost of our poor for a moment. It is doubtless known that we payed [sic] for a Farm seven thousand and two hundred dollars, first cost, on which was built a new house at a cost of over two thousand dollars; then a hovel, cistern, &c. that added six hundred more, and now we are called on at our Annual Meeting to raise three hundred dollars to support the poor, pay the Steward four hundred and keep his family, which, I think is worth four hundred more.

Now then tax payer take out your pencil and foot up these figures, interest on capital first invested, then interest on buildings, add to the same the sum we raise at the Annual Town Meeting, Stewards pay all around, &c, and you can easily see where the money goes, and why tax is so high. I think that you will find out that we are paying about seventeen hundred dollars for keeping the poor. When the township owned no farm it cost nine hundred dollars. The question may be asked how many poor have we? I think the average each year, is about seven, with a few transient customers.

Taking these things into consideration it looks to me as though there was a screw loose, somewhere, and if there is a way to tighten it, I think it is about time. What think you?

April 4th, 1859. TAX PAYER.


  1. Searching on Dailey’s name is a challenge because of all the alternate spellings that turn up: Daly, Dally, Dilly, etc.
  2. H.C. Deed Book 120 p. 32.
  3. I have not found her parents either. You’d think with a common name like Sutphin she would show up in the records, but the 1840 census is no help at all.
  4. Hunterdon County Mortality Schedule of 1850.
  5. I have not found a record for the cemetery in which this couple was buried.
  6. H.C. Deed Book 113 p. 265.
  7. H.C. Deed Book 99 p. 425.
  8. When this article was published, the county library and historical society were closed, so researching the Raritan Town Meeting in the Hunterdon County Democrat was not possible.
  9. The deed made reference to the township minutes for the annual meeting. I hope they still exist.
  10. H.C. Deed Book 99 p.425.
  11. John E. Pomfret, Colonial New Jersey, A History (1973), p. 204-05.
  12. James P. Snell, History of Hunterdon County (1881), p.346.
  13. John A. Grigg, ““Ye relief of ye poor of sd towne”: Poverty and Localism in Eighteenth Century New Jersey,” New Jersey History vol. 125 #2, pp. 23-35.
  14. To learn about how the huge township of Amwell, created in 1708, was divided into three, eventually four, townships, plus Boroughs and Villages, please see my articles “The Division of Amwell Township, 1838” and “The Division of Amwell, part two.”
  15. H.C. Deed Book 94 p.38, previously owned by Asher Kuhl who purchased 86 acres from executors of Peter Aller dec’d in 1829.
  16. H.C. Deed Book 99 p. 425.
  17. H.C. Deed Book 71 p.87.
  18. H.C. Deed Book 57 p.557.
  19. See Hubert G. Schmidt, Rural Hunterdon, p.33 for a nice summary of the German migration to Hunterdon County.
  20. According the Abstracts of Wills, the will was witnessed by Andrew Heath, and Samuel and Joseph Furman. An inventory of the estate was taken on April 16, 1778 by Samuel Furman and Peter Rockafellow, and the will was proved in April “at Pitts Town.”
  21. As far as I know, John Aller did not fight in the Amwell militia during the Revolution, but he was the right age to do so.
  22. H.C. Deed 016-145.