part eight of The Route Not Taken
Proceeding along the proposed railroad route, we come to the village of Sandbrook. If the rail line had been laid out as planned it might have changed the village significantly.
As the survey map shows, after passing by the house of Mrs. Sergeant, the line was planned to cross the brook that gave the village of Sand Brook its name, not once, but three times! Such a thing would be pretty unthinkable today, but people were farm more casual about such things in the 1870s.
The Death of George Rea, Esq. and its Aftermath
In the previous post, Kitchen’s Mill, I dealt with the mill’s ownership by George Rea, Esq. from 1815 until his death in 1838. He died on June 27, 1838, age 64 and was buried in the Baptist Cemetery in Flemington.1
Surprisingly, for someone who had a long association with the legal profession, he failed to write a will. His estate was administered by Jacob P. Fisher and his son Runkle Rea (1804-1882). Runkle Rea married Rachel Ann Manners (1810-1847) in 1834 and established himself in Raritan Township, although his first land purchase was not until 1842. Until then, he and Rachel were living on her father’s farm at Greenville (now known as Reaville, after Runkle Rea).
It is not certain whether George Rea was in residence at the Sand Brook location or in Flemington when he died, but in either case he certainly kept the property well-furnished. On August 15, 1838, his administrators published this notice in the Hunterdon Gazette:
Will be Sold at Public Vendue, ON Tuesday the 4th of September next, at the late residence of George Rea, Esq. in Delaware township, Hunterdon county, All the Personal Property of said deceased, consisting of horses, milch cows, young cattle, sheep and hogs, wagons, harness, sled, sulkey, cart, ploughs, harrows, windmill, with a variety of other farming utensils, hay by the ton, corn and oats by the bushel, rye and oats in the sheaf, corn, buckwheat and potatoes in the ground, two cider presses and one copper still; also household and kitchen furniture, such as bureaus, tables, chairs, stands, sideboard, two clocks, settee, carpets, beds and bedding, andirons, one cook stove, two ten plate stoves; likewise a variety of articles not here enumerated. Sale to commence at 10 o’clock, A. M. and continue from day to day until all is sold.
After his death in 1838, George Rea’s executors put up the mill property for sale. The notice they submitted to the Hunterdon County Democrat on November 28, 1838 was wonderfully explicit:
Administrators’ Sale of REAL ESTATE. BY virtue of an order of the Orphans’ Court of the county of Hunterdon, will be sold at Public Sale, on Monday the 28th day of January next, between the hours of 12 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon, on the premises, situated in the township of Delaware, Hunterdon county, all that
FARM AND GRIST MILL,
late the property of George Rea, Esq., dec’d., adjoining lands of William Sergeant, Charles P. Holcombe, Abraham Conover, and others, also adjoining the public road from Flemington to Centre Bridge, 3 miles from the former place, containing about 70 ACRES, 17 acres of which is first rate bottom Meadow, and can all be watered from never-failing springs; 16 acres of timber; the remainder arable land, in a good state of cultivation.
The improvements are a large new two-story stone dwelling house [emphasis added], and a two-story stone kitchen, a good cellar, and lasting water within twenty feet of the kitchen door; a new barn, hovel, and wagonhouse. The mill has two run of stones, likewise a pair of hulling stones, and plaster breaker, and can run the driest of seasons, as it is situated on a lively and lasting stream of water.
Any further description is deemed unnecessary. Any person wishing to view the premises previous to the sale, will be shown the same, by Peter C. Rea, Esq. living thereon. The sale will be positive; and the conditions made known at the time of sale, by Runkle Rea, Jacob P. Fisher, Adm’rs [#. Peter Clover Rea (1806-1890) was one of the children of George and Elizabeth Rea. Two years after this ad was published, he married Mary Louise Hagaman (1818-1880) and moved to a farm of 122 acres in Raritan Township that he purchased from the estate of John J. Young, dec’d. By 1854, he had sold it all and moved west with his family.]
Apparently, there were no bidders at the public sale. No one seemed eager to take over the milling operation, so on August 24th of that year that the property was sold to the widow of George Rea, Elisabeth Runkle Rea. She was the highest bidder, at $1,630—a far cry from the $6,000 her husband paid for the property in 1815. The property was described as being 61.36 acres, bordering John Shepherd, Amos Thatcher, land of widow Elizabeth Holcombe, William Sergeant, and Charles Holcombe.2
The Stone House
The advertisement of 1838 mentioned “a large new stone house.” Most likely it was the house previously owned by Henry Kitchen and John Rockafellar, but with major improvements. This photograph shows it was a house meant to impress viewers, a house suitable for a prosperous gentleman like George Rea.
Unfortunately, a close examination of the house by someone with expertise in early architecture has not yet been done.
In 1841, Elizabeth Rea, now 59 years old, put the mill property up for sale again, and advertised it in the Gazette on January 20, 1841:
MILL PROPERTY and FARM FOR SALE. THE subscriber offers for sale or exchange for a farm, the mill property, and farm whereon she now resides, late the property of George Rea, Esq. dec’d. The farm contains between 60 and 70 acres, situated near the main road, about equidistant from Flemington to Centre Bridge. ELIZABETH REA. Delaware.
This time, she got a buyer. On May 30, 1841, Isaac Voorhees, Jr. paid $5,325 for the tract of 61.36 acres, bordering John Shepherd, Amos Thatcher, Wm Sergeant, Charles Holcombe.3
On the same day, Isaac Voorhees, Jr. and wife Elizabeth sold another tract of land to Elizabeth Rea, it being 151.22 acres on Yard Road, bordering Henry Lawshe, Gideon Moore, Isaac Rounsavel, William Hice, land late John Elgordon, John Hice dec’d, John Boss, Abraham Skillman, and Jacob Hice.4 But Elizabeth did not keep it long; in 1843 she sold it to Peter B. Lowe of Readington for $7,000.
Meanwhile, on January 11, 1844, Isaac & Elizabeth Voorhees, Jr. of Delaware Twp. sold to Derrick A. Sutphin of same, for $6,000, the mill lot of 61.36 acres. The deed included the mortgages left unpaid by George & Elizabeth Rea.5 Again, there was rapid turnover in ownership of the property. One year later, on February 15, 1845, Derrick A. Sutphin and wife Mary sold to Hiram Moore for the same $6,000 three lots of land, Lot 1 being the same 61.36 acres sold to Sutphin by Isaac & Elizabeth Voorhees. It was described as bordering George N. Holcombe, the Widow Holcombe, William Sergeant, Jacob D. Moore and John Shepherd.6
Hiram Moore & Amanda Holcombe
And so we come to Hiram Moore, the man who owned and ran the mill in 1873 when the rail line was planned. He was born 1812 to Daniel Moore and Elizabeth Hudnut of Delaware Township, and was a great grandson of the immigrant Moores. He was 33 years old in 1845 when he got title to the property, but there is evidence he was there much earlier. Moore’s initials and a date, “H M 1834,” can be found on the western end of the stone house on the mill property suggesting that Hiram Moore was running the mill for George Rea before he himself got ownership of it, in fact, well before Rea died in 1838.
Hiram Moore & The Holcombes
A year after carving his initials, Hiram Moore married Amanda Holcombe (1817-1888) on November 12, 1835. She was the daughter of Robert Holcombe, who ran the mill on Old Mill Road for its owner, Elisha Rittenhouse (See Holcombe’s Mill). Moore may have apprenticed to him, thereby gaining both milling skills and a wife.
In the property description, one of the bordering owners was identified as the Widow Holcombe. This lady was Hiram Moore’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Pidcock Holcombe, whose husband, Robert Holcombe, died in 1825, when he was only 42 years old, leaving a widow with eleven children to raise. The widow Holcombe must have been a very strong and resourceful woman to do that and still hold on to the Holcombe property.
Elizabeth herself died on Oct. 2, 1843, at the age of 60. Her heirs (excluding Hiram Moore himself) sold her 41.5 acres in Delaware Township, which consisted of the lower part of the old Sine farm, with the Holcombe house on the north side of Yard Road where it takes a sharp bend to Hiram Moore on April 27, 1846 for $1,032.85.7 The property description listed these bordering owners: Robert Holcombe, Harrison Rounsavel, John Moore, George N. Holcombe, Robert Holcombe’s woodlot, and William Sergeant. Clearly this description was taken from a much older deed.8
Hiram Moore was listed in the Cramer Survey because the line was to go through his land and also because Moore was a strong supporter of the proposed railroad. We do not have a report on the output of his mill, but his farming activities make it clear that he would have benefitted from the proposed line. According to Cramer, from 116 acres of land Moore sold 1300 bearing peach trees, 1800 baskets of peaches, 500 tons grain and hay, 630 cans of milk, 9 calves, 40 sheep and lambs, 1600 lb. of poultry, 4000 lb. of pork, 50 bu. of potatoes, and 200 bu. of apples (no eggs). And to create that output, Moore used 9 tons of coal, 300 tons of lime, and 4 tons of fertilizer. Interestingly, the rail line he was using was the Lehigh Valley Railroad, not the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was the usual choice of his neighbors.
Given Moore’s support of the rail line, I wonder what he thought of the proposed route and its proximity to his house and mill—was it a convenience or an irritation? If he could persuade the Directors to have a stop at Sand Brook, it would have made a huge difference for Moore and his neighbors and changed the nature of this sleepy village dramatically.
In addition to his milling and farming work, Moore kept horses, as can be seen in this advertisement in the Hunterdon Gazette of April 10, 1850:
THE ELEGANT CANADIAN HORSE, YOUNG INDIAN CHIEF, Will stand the present season at the Stable of the subscriber at Sand-Brook Mill, at the low rate of $6 the season. For pedigree, &c., see bills. Sand-Brook Mill, April 10. Hiram Moore.
Hiram Moore was really more of a farmer than a miller. He had help from his son Robert Holcombe Moore (c.1836-1896) who was described as a miller in his draft registration form of 1863. In fact, Robert Moore continued to run the Sand Brook mill all his life, while his father focused on farming. His wife, Martha A. Wilson, born 1844 to Charles Wilson and Rachel Ann Sutphin of West Amwell. She and Robert had a daughter Kate about 1871. Martha Wilson Moore was only 33 when she died in 1878 and was buried in the Sand Brook Cemetery.
Hiram Moore died in January 1893, 80 years old, and was buried in the Sand Brook Cemetery next to his wife Amanda, who had died in 1888 at the age of 71. His son Robert died three years later and was buried with the rest of the Moore family. After Robert died, the milling operation came to an end. Today there is nothing left of it but its foundation.
George N. Holcombe & Matilda Case
George Nelson Holcombe (1808-1900), son of Robert Holcombe & Elizabeth Pidcock, was the brother of Amanda Holcombe Moore, and brother-in-law of Hiram Moore, owner of Kitchen’s Mill. He was also a half-nephew of George Holcombe, Jr. (1770-1845) who bought the mill lot in Headquarters in 1793. (See Five Generations of the Hunterdon Holcombe Family.)
In 1805, the Battle of Trafalgar took place in which the Admiral of the British fleet, Horatio Nelson, was mortally wounded. This event was of great interest to Americans who were also at war with the French. Nelson was lionized for his bravery and his success. Following his death, many new-born Americans were named for him, even three years after the event.
In 1832, George Nelson Holcombe married Matilda Case (1809-1879), daughter of John Case & Mary Rounsavel. The couple had six children.9
Interestingly, the earliest deed I have for George N. Holcombe happens to be for the property that lay in the path of the proposed rail line. It was sold to him in 1844 for $3,432 by the heirs of Amos Thatcher, dec’d, being 106.7 acres.10 At the time the property bordered the mill lot owned by Derrick Sutphin, who soon afterwards sold it to Hiram Moore.
I was also confused by this because this farm had long been owned by the Sine family. (See The Sine Farm.) Amos Thatcher was the son of Jonas Thatcher and Margaret Trimmer of Sergeantsville and appears to have lived with his parents for most of his early adulthood. How, I wondered, did get possession of the Sine farm?
William Sine, who was the long-time neighbor of the mill lot when it was owned by John Rockafellar and George Rea, died in 1837. His executors sold his farm of 107.96 acres to George Dalrymple on May 8, 1838 for $2,485.23.11 His executors were his son Wm Sine Jr., and his sons-in-law Amos Thatcher and Andrew Shepherd. (See the Sine Family Tree.)
Immediately, and I mean the very same day, Dalrymple and wife Sarah sold the property to Amos Thatcher for the same amount.12 This little trick, which was quite common in the first half of the 19th century, was undertaken because as one of William Sine’s executors, Amos Thatcher could not sell the property to himself. So, he found someone to help him out, and as was also fairly common, he relied on a relative—George Dalrymple was his own son-in-law.
William and Mary Sine had ten children, and apparently none of them wanted the farm. Amos Thatcher was married to their daughter Mary Sine (1784-1854) in 1802. Amos & Mary Thatcher’s daughter Sarah (1806-1872) married George M. Dalrymple (1806-1852) in 1831.
I am fairly certain that Amos Thatcher fully intended to remain at his wife’s family’s farm in Sand Brook for the long term, but his plans were brutally interrupted when he died on Nov. 25, 1843, age 64, without having written a will. His sons Jacob, Robert and Amos were granted administration of the estate on Dec. 9, 1843.
The heirs of Amos Thatcher, dec’d, included his widow Mary, and his children and their spouses: George M. & Sarah Dalrymple, Asher & Jerusha Lambert, Jacob & Sarah Thatcher, Reading & Ann Moore, John & Lariene Rowland, Robert & Margaret Thatcher, and Amos Thatcher, Jr. On March 12, 1844, they conveyed the farm of 106.7 acres to George N. Holcombe for $3,432.44.13 It was described as bordering heirs of Elizabeth Holcombe, John Moore, the Sand Brook, Derrick A. Sutphin, Esq., John Shepherd, George Cronce, Samuel Buchanan, land late George Trout, Jonas Sutton, Jacob Moore and John Moore.
George N. Holcombe was always a farmer, and judging by the Cramer survey, a successful one. From his 106 acres he produced 900 bearing peach trees, 150 baskets peaches, 750 young peach trees, 400 tons of grain & hay, 490 cans of milk, 7 calves, 40 sheep & lambs, 1800 lb. of poultry, 1500 lb. of pork, 40 bushels of potatoes, and 100 bushels of apples (but no eggs). This output did not match what Hiram Moore produced (for instance, 1300 peach trees v. Holcombe’s 900). But unlike Moore, Holcombe used the P&R Railroad. He consumed 4 tons of coal, 300 lb. of lime, and 3 tons of fertilizer.
Holcombe was also civic-minded. In 1867-69, he served as Chosen Freeholder for Delaware Township. With all those peach trees, it is not surprising that in 1873 he joined Hiram Moore as a Director of the Delaware Flemington Railroad Co. In 1880 he served as Town Clerk of Delaware Township.
Perhaps the reason he retired from that position was a nasty accident the next year. According to the Hunterdon Republican (Oct. 13, 1881):
Last Saturday week, George N. Holcombe and his son Hiram, were returning to their home near Sand Brook, when on top of the hill leading past the premises of Hiram Moore, the horse took fright from a pistol report and giving a jump to the side of the road, the wagon was upset and broken, the horse became free and ran across the meadow to the blacksmith shop. Mr. Holcombe sustained a fracture of the left arm, but his son escaped injury.
Matilda Case Holcombe died in 1879, age 70, and was buried in the Sandy Ridge Cemetery. George N. Holcombe, on the other hand, outlived her by 21 years, dying on Dec. 23, 1900, at the remarkable age of 93. He was given a fulsome obituary in the Hunterdon Republican of Jan. 2, 1901:
He was one of the best-known men in this section. He leaves three sons who lament his departure—Horace, of Plainfield, Hiram and George of Sand Brook. The Rev. S. H. Potter of Ringoes, a friend of the family, conducted the funeral service at the residence of the deceased on Wednesday last, assisted by Rev. Mr. Moore, of Sand Brook, and Rev. Mr. Smith, of Sergeantsville. Mr. Potter preached on “Life a Journey,” from Job, 16:22. He spoke of the perils and privileges of this journey. He urged all to guard themselves against the perils, and to improve the privileges of life. The remains were then deposited in the Sandy Ridge cemetery, to await “the resurrection of the just.”
George N. Holcombe had kept ownership of his Sand Brook property nearly his whole life. It wasn’t until January 2, 1895 that he conveyed his 106.76 acres to his son Hiram Moore Holcombe, for $4200.14 Interestingly, the census of 1900 listed George N. as a resident of Delaware township, age 90, occupation landlord, living with his son Hiram, age 58, Hiram’s wife Mary Catharine Servis and George’s granddaughter Ella. Also in the household was boarder & farm laborer Mahlon Curtis. (For more on Hiram M. Holcombe, see “A 1777 Campground.”)
John Fauss & Jane Lake
Another landowner listed as being in the path of the proposed route by Slaymaker was John Fauss. However, he was not shown on the survey map. This is surprising because, judging by the Beers Atlas, he was certainly in the path of the train. The Beers Atlas puts the house of “J. Faust” directly across the road from George N. Holcombe’s house.
John Rounsavell Fauss (1811-1881) was the son of John Fauss & Sarah Rounsavel, nephew of Samuel Fauss and Mary Moore, and father of Othniel Fauss, both of them discussed in Part Five of this series.
In 1833, John R. Fauss married Jane Lake (1812-1891) daughter of John Lake and Ann Dilts of Sand Brook. They had four children:
Mary Ann (1835-1916), m. Elder Charles W. Moore
Othniel R. (1839-1945), m. Charles Moore’s sister Elizabeth
Samuel F. (1844-1921), m. Mary H. Shepherd, no known children
Joseph S. Fauss (1853-1921), m. Jane H. Hockenbury, no known children
Margaret (c.1855 -?) probably died young.
The only land purchase I could find that might describe that lot across from Holcombe, was for 1.32 acres bought in 1863 from Alexander & Christiana Higgins of Delaware Twp. for $300, bordering land of George N. Holcombe.15 There must have been a house on it, even though the deed described it as “part of a tract of woodland on the north end sold to Robt E. Holcombe by heirs of Elizabeth Holcombe dec’d.”
After Fauss died in 1881, his widow Jane continued to live there until her death in 1891. Then their heirs sold the lot to John & Mary’s son Samuel F. Fauss for $205.16
Alexander Higgins & Christiana Hope
Alexander Higgins was another name listed by Slaymaker as a landowner along the path of the train, but this makes even less sense, since I cannot find a property of his that was actually along the line shown on the survey map. This suggests that when Slaymaker made up his list of property owners, he was not at that time aware of exactly what route the train would take. (For more on Alexander Higgins, see “Sandbrook Hostilities.”)
From Sand Brook, the rail line was intended to run northeast across the farm of Jonas Sutton. If you click on Families in the right column, you will find 14 stories published that concern the Sutton family. That being the case, the next article will start where the Sutton farm abuts Route 579.
- Much to my surprise, there was no obituary for him in the Hunterdon Gazette. The Hunterdon Democrat did not start publishing until September 1838, so there was nothing for him there either. Even more baffling, I found nothing for him in the Trenton papers. It’s almost as if his family decided not to submit an obit for publication. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 72 p.292. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 81 p. 272. The deed mentioned that the property was subject to a mortgage by Elizabeth Rea to Jacob P. Fisher and Runkle Rea, administrators of George Rea’s estate in the amount of $815, plus another mortgage given by George & Elizabeth Rea to the executors of Edmund Burroughs dec’d in 1833. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 75 p.365; being the same land sold by Jacob P. Fisher & wife to Isaac Voorhees on 2 Jan. 2, 1840 in Deed 72-485. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 81 p. 272. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 84 p.15. Also conveyed was a lot of 1.26 acres bordering Geo. N. Holcombe. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 86 p.303. ↩
- In 1856, Robert Holcombe, Jr. and wife Hannah E. Higgins, sold a tract of 78+ acres to Hannah’s brother Alexander Higgins (Deed 114-366), bordering the property bought by Hiram Moore. ↩
- Mary Rounsavel Case died in December 1836. On Jan. 14, 1839, the will of Mary’s father Isaac Rounsavel left $1200 to her 12 children, including Matilda Holcombe. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 82 p. 112. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 69 p. 488. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 69 p. 489. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 82 p. 112. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 241 p.7. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 128 p.199. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 232 p.282. ↩