The history of the Union Hotel continues, following the sale in 1850 by innkeeper Mahlon C. Hart and wife Maria to a partnership of real estate investors.
Let’s take a look at what happened to the Hart family after that sale was made. First of all, Mahlon Hart’s mother, Sarah Moore Hart, widow of Neal Hart, seems to have had innkeeping in her blood. She was renting rooms in the 1850s, as shown in this item from the Hunterdon Gazette of Oct. 4, 1854:
Doctor J. A. GRAY Respectfully offers his professional services to the inhabitants of FLEMINGTON, and vicinity. Rooms at Mrs. Sarah Hart’s.
Sidenote: Dr. John Alfred Gray
Dr. Gray just happened to be Sarah’s son-in-law, who married Jane A. Hart in 1848. In 1850, the couple was living in Montgomery, Somerset County with their young children Abby and Hellan. Dr. Gray made his first appearance in the Gazette on August 11, 1847, when he had this notice published:
1847 Aug 11, Five Dollars Reward. LOST, on Wednesday, the 29th ult., the day of the Fair, a BROWN SILK PURSE, beaded, containing eight dollars in money, and a receipt from Braley & Mount of Rocky Hill. The subscriber supposes he lost the same in Flemington between M. C. Hart’s hotel, and Farlee & Jones’ store. Any person upon returning the purse and its contents, either to M. C. Hart, or the editor of this paper, will receive the above amount. J. ALFRED GRAY.
Finding the family of Dr. Gray was a challenge. He was not related to the Flemington area Grays. The Dr. Gray married to Jane Hart was probably the son of Joseph Gray who resided in Trenton in 1793 and in Hopewell in 1798 when he bought land from Benjamin Titus. He was still there in 1818 when he bought more property from the estate of Andrew Blackwell dec’d.
John Alfred Gray (1812-1872) probably got his medical degree shortly after losing his silk purse in 1847. He did not identify himself as a doctor at that time, but his marriage announcement on May 31, 1848 did so.1 As the notice of 1854 shows, the Gray family had moved in with Jane’s mother, Sarah Moore Hart, who was then 74 years old. Sarah died on March 10, 1863, age 82, and was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Flemington next to her husband.
Back to the Hotel
Mahlon C. & Maria Hart sold the hotel to a partnership consisting of Charles Bartles, Alexander Bonnell & Judiah Higgins for $5200. These gentlemen certainly had no interest in running the place themselves. They expected to hold it for a short time and make a profit when they sold it. But in the meantime, they needed someone to run the tavern for them.
John D. Hall
That someone was John D. Hall. Unfortunately, the Cornell Map of 1851 showed the hotel as “Union House Hotel,” without naming its proprietor. Hall was identified in the 1850 census for Raritan Township as a 30-year-old tavernkeeper, which suggests he took over from Mahlon C. Hart immediately after the sale. In 1850 he was living with wife Anna, age 20, and five tenants: Bennit Vansyckle age 20, law student; Aaron V. Brown 30, merchant; Frederick Fritts 25, from Germany, laborer; Jane Bray 24, from England, no occupation; and Frederick Traphagan 36, clerk.
When I first published this piece, I was unable to identify the source of this great depiction of the hotel in its early days. I had looked in what I thought was all the obvious places without success.2 Out of desperation, I appealed to my readers for help. But it turned out to be staring me in the face–on a map hanging on my wall. The map is titled “Plan of the Township of Raritan, Hunterdon Co. NJ,” surveyed by J. C. Sidney of Philadelphia and published in 1850, the same year that the property was sold to the Bartles partnership. This image is very important because it is probably the only one that shows how the hotel looked before it was torn down in 1877.3
Hall must have taken over management of the hotel as soon as Hart sold it because only two weeks later (on April 17, 1850) this notice was published in the Gazette:
“SWIFTSURE MAIL LINE FROM PHILADELPHIA TO FLEMINGTON ! ! . . . Returning same route, will leave John D. Hall’s Hotel, Flemington, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, at 5 o’clock, A. M., arriving in Philadelphia, at 2 o’clock, P. M.”
Based on the dates associated with the next hotel-keepers, Hall managed the Union Hotel for less than two years. It’s possible he took up management of the restaurant next door, the one featuring oysters (see “Oysters Every Style”), as he was listed in the 1860 census as a restaurant keeper living in Flemington with wife Anna and two children. In 1863 he was listed among those drafted into the Union Army, described as a 43-year-old bartender.
However, this may have been a different John D. Hall, as the 1863 bartender was also described as unmarried. Unfortunately, I do not know when Hall’s wife Anna died. And it seems as if the John D. Hall of Flemington had another pursuit, as described in this endorsement from the Gazette’s editor on January 29, 1862:
GOING! GOING! GONE! It affords us a great deal of pleasure to recommend Mr. John D. Hall, of this place, to the public of Hunterdon, as an experienced and affable Auctioneer. One that can sell more goods for more money, and in less time, and give better satisfaction to both seller and purchaser than any man this side of “Dixie.” As a Clerk for sales, he is sine qua non, being a swift and excellent pensman [sic] and a good accountant.
Hope & Slocum
The next tenant innkeeper was probably Richard Hope, who acquired a tavern license in Flemington in 1851. He had previously bought a lot on Capner Street from George C. Seymour and wife, and in 1850 was described in the census of that year for Raritan Township as a “stage proprietor,” probably in partnership with Wm R. Moore who was also a stage proprietor and owner of the old Elnathan Moore hotel, which was very near Capner St.
Hope did not last long at the Union Hotel. The next year, 1852, F. G. Slocum got a license for a tavern in Flemington, “formerly Richard Hope.” This was Fitzgerald G. Slocum, who was born in Vermont in 1820. He found his way to Alexandria Township by 1843 when he married Sarah Prall Griggs (1824-1890), daughter of John Griggs and Catharine Prall. By 1850 he was innkeeping in Alexandria Township (probably in Frenchtown), before moving to the Union House. When the County Whigs met to name delegates to the State Convention to choose Electors for the 1852 presidential contest, they met “at the house of F. Slocum.” It was also known as “Slocum’s Hotel,” as it was called in this ad in the Gazette of June 22, 1853:
ACCOMMODATION STAGE LINE. The subscribers respectfully inform the public, that they have two Stages that leave Flemington daily (Sundays excepted) to connect with the Belvidere Del. Railroad as follows: First Line leaves Slocum’s Hotel, Flemington [my emphasis], every morning at 7 o’clock, for Centre Bridge, and arrives in time for the train which leaves that place a few minutes past 9. By this line passengers reach Trenton about 10 o’clock, and Philadelphia about half past 12 o’clock. Returning leaves Centre Bridge about 6 o’clock, upon the arrival of the 1 1/2 o’clock, line from Philadelphia. Second Line leaves Slocum’s Hotel, Flemington, at 10 1/2 o’clock, daily, (Sundays excepted) and arrives at Lambertville in time for the line which leaves that place at a quarter before 3 o’clock and arrives in Philadelphia about 6 o’clock. Returning leaves Lambertville upon the arrival of the line that leaves Philadelphia at 7 o’clock, A. M., and Trenton at 10 minutes before 9 o’clock. By this line passengers will reach Flemington about 1 o’clock, P, M. [signed] SLOCUM & JOHNSON.
Who was this ‘Johnson’ that Slocum was partnered with? I cannot say, but the partnership did not last long. Almost immediately after publishing this notice, it disbanded and someone else took over management of the hotel, as this ad in the Gazette dated November 23, 1853, shows:
TO THE PUBLIC. GEORGE F. CRATER, Formerly of the U. S. Hotel, Long Branch, has taken the Union House, Flemington, lately occupied by F. G. Slocum, and having remodelled [sic] and improved its interior arrangemente [sic] is now prepared to afford accommodations and entertainments to those who may favor him with their patronage. The ‘Union’ is admirably calculated for a public House, the rooms being large, convenient and well ventilated. The Bar is supplied with the choicest liquors and the table with the very best the market affords. In fact, it shall be the aim and object of its proprietor to render it emphatically, a home to his guests, where they may enjoy the conveniences and comforts rarely realized in country Hotels. Stages leave this Hotel daily for Lambertville and Centre Bridge, where they connect with different trains on the Belvidere Delaware Railroad, by which passengers can reach Philadelphia or New York at an early hour. There is also a daily Stage to the White House, connecting with trains direct for New York. Strangers desiring to visit any part of the County or State, can always be supplied with a conveyance on reasonable terms.
As for Slocum, he had gotten a tavern license in Raritan Twp. in 1853, but sometime later that year had departed. Like so many others from Hunterdon County, Fitzgerald G. Slocum had gone west. By the 1860 census, he, his wife Sarah and six children were living in Milwaukee, where Slocum was employed as a “traveling merchant.”
Meanwhile, Crater was capitalizing on improved economic conditions in Flemington, as shown in this notice in the Gazette dated January 3, 1855:
UNION HOTEL. MAIN STREET, FLEMINGTON, N.J.
GEORGE F. CRATER would tender his grateful acknowledgements to his friends and patrons, for the liberal manner in which they have patronized him during the year just expired. The completion of the Flemington Railroad, and the prospect of a large increase in travel, has induced him to extend his accommodations somewhat; and he is now and at all times prepared to entertain his friends and patrons, who desire the comforts of a HOME.
His experience in the business justifies him in saying, that he can render satisfactory comfort unto those who may deem it expedient to stop at the “UNION.” With a fervent “happy New-Year” to his friends and patrons, he respectfully asks a continuance of the patronage heretofore so liberally bestowed upon him. For the accommodation of Railroad passengers, who may desire to visit the country, the subscriber would announce that GOOD HORSES and CARRIAGES can be had, at short notice, on application to him at the Hotel. GEORGE F. CRATER.
None of the preceding tavernkeepers had such a gift for advertising as Crater had.
George F. Crater
By 1856, the Hotel’s owners (Bartles, Bonnell & Higgins) decided they had waited long enough. On October 8, 1856, they put an ad in the Gazette, offering for sale on November 12th . . .
“the well-known Hotel in Flemington, called the “UNION HOUSE,” and for several years past kept by Geo. F. Crater. . . We believe it does the best business of any hotel in the county.”
It would be interesting to see who expressed an interest. As things ended up, after half a year on the market, the hotel was finally sold to Crater himself, on April 1, 1857.4 In a sense, Crater’s improvements backfired on him, because the price was a whopping $7,000. He was paying twice for the improvements he had made.
The delay may have been caused by Crater’s need to get financial support to meet the asking price. Crater recorded several mortgages on the same day that the deed for the hotel was recorded, April 1, 1857. He gave a mortgage to the sellers, i.e., Bonnell, Higgins & Bartles, for $2500; one to John H. Capner for $1400; one to Daniel Marsh for $100; another to Jacob Polhemus for $1700; and one to James & Joseph Eager for $5,000, for a total of $11,000. The deed stated that this sum was deducted from the purchase price, which suggests that the asking price was something like $18,000.
George Fritts Crater was born April 26, 1820, in Tewksbury Twp. to Philip Crater and Catherine Fritts. On February 18, 1841, he married Catherine Stires (1822-1893), daughter of John S. Stires and Sarah Smith of Readington. Catherine’s sister was Mary Ann Stires who married the exceptional local architect, Mahlon Fisher. (See “A Store, A Bank, A Mansion.”)5 The daughter of George F. and Catherine S. Crater, Annie M. Crater (1844-1881), married John B. Hopewell (1841-1906), the son of the gentleman who established the Hunterdon County Bank and made major improvements to Flemington Village. (See “One Man Makes a Difference.”)
Perhaps it was his sister-in-law’s marriage to Fisher that got Crater interested in property in Flemington. In 1842, Crater purchased a 0.6-acre lot on Flemington’s Main Street from William B. & Mary Shrope of Bethlehem Twp. that had been the residence of William and Sarah Maxwell until William’s death in 1828, when his estate had to be sold to pay his debts.6
I cannot say what Crater’s employment was at that time, but I can say that he did not get a tavern license in Hunterdon County in the 1840s. Be that as it may, in 1850, Crater and wife Catherine had moved to Washington in Morris County, NJ, where Crater was employed as a hotel keeper. With them were their five children. Soon afterwards, Crater and his family moved to Long Branch in Monmouth Co. where he managed the U. S. Hotel until November 1853, when the Craters returned to Flemington.
Upon acquiring ownership of the hotel, Crater set about surpassing the improvements he had made as a tenant, as reported in the Gazette for June 27, 1860:
ENLARGED AND IMPROVED. Among many others who have enlarged and improved their properties in Flemington, is our friend and neighbor Geo. F. Crater, whose Hotel is next door to the building in which the most interesting sheet in Flemington (except the Hunterdon Republican) is manufactured. He pulled down and built greater. His house now is double its former size, and more convenient and pleasant throughout. In its arrangement we notice that the comfort and convenience of the ladies has not been neglected. This we pronounce sensible, and we take it that Crater is a lady’s man, and consequently “a man after our own heart.” His dining departments will accommodate comfortably one hundred at a time. In fact, his arrangements throughout, eating, sleeping, and drinking are much more commodious. Success to him.
I was a little surprised to read that improvements were being made to Flemington properties on the eve of the Civil War. But in 1860, no one anticipated that the war would last so long and take so many lives.
The hotel was ‘next door’ to the Gazette because back in 1841, Mahlon & Maria Hart had sold a small lot adjacent to the tavern for $450 to the Gazette’s publisher, John S. Brown.7 In 1845, Brown had offered the lot for sale, but as far as I can tell, failed to find a buyer. I am fairly certain it was not the building that was later turned into an oyster restaurant, as described in “Oysters Every Style.” Most likely, the lot was absorbed into the hotel property in the 1870s. Unfortunately, we do not have a photograph of the hotel after Crater made his improvements in 1860. The Gazette’s editor continued:
We have two Hotels in Flemington, and ordinarily they are sufficient. Both houses are large and commodious, and we will venture the assertion they are as well-kept as any public houses in the State. Notwithstanding the Proprietors love money, as well as anybody, and individual, black or white, is very seldom allowed to crook his elbow until his body follows suit, and consequently profanity and rowdyism does not prevail. May it always be so.
The second hotel referred to was the County Hotel across the street from the Union.
Good Work Undone
Only two years after making these substantial improvements, “the Union Hotel of George F. Crater in Flemington” caught fire. The Hunterdon Republican reported that it began in the hay loft of stables that were attached to the hotel. It must have been a fierce fire because the wood-frame buildings were “burned to the ground.” The Gazette reported on October 1, 1862, that “Mr. Crater’s loss is several thousand dollars out-side of an insurance of Sixteen hundred dollars.”
It was the largest fire we ever witnessed in Flemington, and it bid fair at one time to sweep half the town; and we still believe it would had it not been for the timely aid of the soldiers of the two Regiments, several Companies of which were set free by the officers immediately upon the breaking out of the fire, and came from Camp to the town in faster time than double quick. Among these men were many firemen, and they worked with a coolness and a judgement that the green firemen of Flemington could not have done, and we can assure the soldiers that the citizens of Flemington fully appreciate their valuable services.
Those soldiers were bivouacked nearby because of the Civil War, this being one of the few instances when war benefitted the community. It appears that those soldiers were able to prevent substantial damage to the hotel itself, as shown in this item in the Gazette of the following week:
THE FIRE. Although the late fire in Flemington proved very disastrous to the property of Mr. G. F. Crater and has deprived him of his commodious out accommodations for the public for a short time, he has a temporary fix, very comfortable, and will in the course of a month be better prepared than ever, his intention being to build large brick Stables and Sheds. The work is already commenced and will be put through as fast as possible. His loss is very heavy, but he is not one of the kind that “cries after spilt milk.”
It is surprising that in light of this disaster, the Gazette’s editor did not mention that two sons of George and Catherine Crater had died the previous June, only three months before the fire. Johnnie Crater was 12 years old, and Georgie was 5. (Obituaries in the Gazette and the Hunterdon Republican did not state the cause of death.) But despite this double tragedy, Crater did indeed carry on. The Gazette’s editor reported on Nov. 18, 1863,
THOROUGH RENOVATION. We notice that our friend G. F. Crater, proprietor of the Union Hotel, in this village, has made a thorough overhauling in his bar room, and it is now opened to the public beautifully painted throughout. It looks nice; in fact it is “good looking” when you throw in that genial face of J. Ritner [sic] Potts, his active and gentlemanly attendant.8 Mr. Crater has catered for the public benefit, many years in Flemington, and we do not see that he has lost one wit of his popularity as a landlord. It may be well and truly spoken, over the wine: G. F. Crater, Esq., “the man who knows how to keep a Hotel.”9
It is an interesting question how profitable it was to keep a Hotel in the 1860s. With the end of the Civil War, Crater found another way to make money. He probably realized that many returning veterans would be looking for property on which to establish families and farms. On Sept. 27, 1865, this notice appeared in the Hunterdon Gazette:
Real Estate Agency. GEORGE F. CRATER having made arrangements with Harriott, Vail & Co., of 14 Pine street, New York and Plainfield, New Jersey, will give his personal attention to THE SALE OF REAL ESTATE. Persons having FARMS FOR SALE, or those desiring to purchase, will do well by calling on him, at the “UNION HOTEL,” in Flemington, N. J.
Between the real estate business and the hotel, Crater prospered greatly. When the 1870 census was taken, Crater’s real estate was valued at $20,000 and personal property at $6,000. Crater was then 50 years old, and his wife Catherine was 48. Living with them were son Henry Suydam Crater 38, working as bartender; daughters Addie H. Crater 23 schoolteacher; Lydia 18, Kate 16, and Helen 5; also, sons Charles 12 (1858) Edward 8, and George F. 2. Daughter Annie M. Crater (1844-1881) had married John B. Hopewell in 1866.
A short history of some of the Crater children:
Henry Suydam Crater (1842-1876) served in the Civil War as a Lieutenant. On June 10, 1873, he married Georgianna Rockafellow (1850-1937), daughter of John Besson Rockafellar and Sarah Ann Suydam. Henry was only 34 when he died of kidney disease. The couple did not have children.
As mentioned before, Anna Marie Fritts Crater (1844-1881) married on May 17, 1866, John Beckett Hopewell (1841-1906), bank teller and cashier in his father’s bank. They had a daughter Bertha in 1869, who died an infant, and another daughter Bessie in 1871 who lived to 92, unmarried.
Adaline H. Crater10 (1845-1901), known as Addie, married in 1877 Dr. George R. Sullivan (1836 PA – 1893). During the Civil War he served as surgeon to the Thirty-ninth Regiment, and afterwards carried on a private practice in Flemington. Adaline was about 48 years old when her husband died. Five years later, the Spanish American War took place, and Adaline became committed to the effort of giving comfort to returning soldiers who were ill and in need. She became known as ‘The Angel of the Transports.’ However, this work exhausted her; she returned to Flemington in early October 1901 and died a few weeks later.
Of all the Crater children, none prospered more than daughter Elizabeth Stires Crater (1847-1925). On Oct. 8, 1868, she married William Edgar Emery (1842-1912), son of Peter Emery and Mary Ann Stiger. He was the renowned merchant who had left Hunterdon for Kansas City in the early 1860s and established there a huge and very successful emporium (old-fashioned name for department store). With the Civil War in progress, it seems like an unpropitious time to be establishing such a business, but he succeeded. He returned to Flemington to marry Elizabeth Crater and then moved back to Kansas until 1872, when the couple left that city and made their home during the winter at a hotel in New York City and during the summer at their grand mansion, known as Roselawn or Rose Lodge in Flemington.
In 1912, Emery was on his way back to Flemington on the train from New York when he was stricken with a heart attack and died at the age of 70. Elizabeth Crater Emery died in New York in 1925, age 77.11
As for what happened to the rest of the 12 children of George F. Crater and Catherine Stires, I cannot say. They apparently moved west and were lost track of.
The Craters Depart
As mentioned above, by 1870 George F. Crater was prospering in his middle age. He was identified as a Flemington hotelkeeper in the census for that year, and carried on his business during the years 1871-75, hosting annual meetings for groups like the Flemington Vigilant Society, the District Medical Society and the Hunterdon County Agricultural Society.
Eventually, the time came for the Craters themselves to move on. The hotel went up for sale once again, and on Dec. 1, 1875, when George F. Crater was 55 years old, he and wife Catharine sold “The Union House” to the brothers Lambert Humphrey of Clinton and William Humphrey of Philadelphia for a handsome $26,000.12 This price was not as good as it looked, as the sale had to take into account $11,000 worth of mortgages. The Hunterdon Republican of Oct. 28, 1875 noted that
This hotel has been considered one of the best hotels in the State, as the extensive patronage it receives proves. Samuel Humphrey, who had been manager of the Hotel in Lambertville, will take possession December First.
The Craters moved to New Brunswick in 1876 and then to New York City where Crater leased the Pacific Hotel on Greenwich Street in 1877, as reported in the Hunterdon Republican of Dec 13, 1877: “Col. George F. Crater, formerly of the Union Hotel in Flemington, with George Rossiter of New York, have leased the Pacific Hotel on Greenwich Street, NYC.”
This did not last long. The next year, on April 4, 1878, the Republican reported that “Col. George F. Crater, formerly of the Union Hotel, Flemington, a hotel in New Brunswick, and lately of the Pacific Hotel, NY, has moved to Budd Lake in Morris County, where he will have charge of the Sharp House, a summer resort.”
That was Crater’s last stop. On Sept. 17, 1879, George F. Crater died when he was only 59 years old. His body was returned to Flemington for his burial in the Presbyterian Cemetery. Like the widow of Neal Hart, Crater’s widow Catharine also returned and set up a boarding house in Flemington. In 1880, she was 57 years old and all of her ‘boarders’ were members of her family, including daughter Kate age 25 and her husband George Mallory 28, working as a bartender. Catherine died in 1893, age 71 and was buried next to her husband.
The Humphrey Family
We finally come to the year 1877, when the hotel’s new owners undertook a major reconstruction and enlargement of the old hotel. So, who were the Humphrey brothers?
William, Lambert and Samuel Humphrey were born to Lewis Humphrey and Elizabeth Apgar of Union Township, William in 1832, Lambert in 1835 and Samuel in 1844. They were three of the six sons of Lewis and Elizabeth, the others being Edward O. (1837-1916), Randolph (1840-1869) and John Dent Humphrey (1846-1883).13 There were no girls in the family.
In the 1850 census, the family was counted in Bethlehem Township: Lewis Humphrey 31 farmer, with property worth $5,000; wife Elisabeth 33; sons William 19, Lambert 15, Edward 13, Randolph 10, Samuel 8 and John D. 4. Included was Elizabeth Apgar 77, mother of Elizabeth Humphrey.
William L. Humphrey
The oldest son in the family married Mary V. Carhart (1833-1909), daughter of Charles Carhart and Christianna Bird, on Feb. 3, 1859. They were living in Union Township for the 1860 census, near his parents’ property. The couple had no children. In 1869, Nancy & Jacob Emery of Bethlehem Township sold a half-acre lot to William and Lambert Humphrey of Philadelphia for $4,900, which the brothers then sold to Mary A. Smith in 1872.14 It was located on the turnpike road from Easton to Somerville and was probably a tavern lot. But the point is that by 1869, the Humphreys had moved to Philadelphia where William was employed as a “liquor dealer.”
On Dec. 3, 1857, Lambert Humphrey married Anna Vansyckle (1836-1869), daughter of John Vansyckle and Catherine Alpaugh of Alexandria Township. They had two children, Elwood (1860-1933) and Louis (c.1863-1886). Lambert was marrying into a tavern-keeping family. Anna’s grandfather was Peter Vansyckle who ran the Hickory Tavern in Alexandria Township for many years.
In 1860, Lambert and Ann were living in Union Township. The census taker spelled the surname ‘Umphrey,’ so we can assume that was the way it was pronounced. Lambert was a 25-year-old farmer, Ann was 24, and living with them was George Gano 18, a farm laborer. In 1862 Humphrey was taxed in Union Township as an apple distiller, and from 1863 to 1866 he was a horse dealer. Meanwhile, his father, Lewis Humphrey had taken on ownership of the Hope Tavern located in Clinton and in 1865, son Lambert got a tavern license. (The fee was $12, suggesting it was in a prominent location, possibly in Clinton.) Two years later, in 1867, Lewis Humphrey conveyed the tavern lot to son Lambert for $6,000, along with four other lots of land.15
By 1869, things seem to have fallen apart. Ann Humphrey had moved away from her husband and taken up residence with her brother John Hamilton Vansyckle, where she was counted in the 1870 census for Alexandria Township. Her son Elwood had been taken in by his grandparents, Lewis & Elizabeth Humphrey, while son Louis was living with his father Lambert in Philadelphia. By 1880, the Hamilton Vansyckle family, including Anna Humphrey, had moved to Clarkstown in Rockland County, New York. There she remained until 1884, when she was admitted to Canton Alms House in St Lawrence, NY. She died there in 1903, age 67.
It must have been soon after 1870 that Lambert and Anna divorced. I make this assumption because Lambert married his second wife, Laura Gulick of Clinton, on November 28, 1872.16 Laura was the daughter of George and Mary Gulick of Clinton.
On Dec. 31, 1870, Samuel Humphrey married Emily (Emma) G. Martin (1852-1882). She was the daughter of William Martin and Anna Maxwell of Pattenburg. Just a few months previous to the wedding, Samuel Humphrey had been living in Philadelphia with his brother John, where they operated “an eating and drinking saloon,” according to the census of that year. Samuel and Emma probably remained in Hunterdon after the marriage; they had no children.
Lambert appears to have moved back to Clinton from Philadelphia after his marriage to Laura Gulick in 1872. William and Mary Humphrey remained in Philadelphia.
As mentioned above, Lambert and William Humphrey purchased the Union Hotel from George and Catherine Crater on Dec. 1, 1875.17
George Crater’s last tavern license was granted in December 1874 for a fee of $35.18 The next time a license was granted for the Union Hotel was in December 1875, to Samuel Humphrey for the exact same $35.19 At about that time, the Hunterdon Republican of Dec. 9, 1875, stated that a license had been granted to Samuel Humphrey, who had “lately purchased the Union Hotel in Flemington.” This is curious. The deed clearly identifies William and Lambert as the purchasers and makes no mention of Samuel.
On October 28, 1875, three months before the date of the deed, the Republican’s editor wrote:
Col. George F. Crater has sold his Union Hotel property in Flemington to Messrs. Humphrey & Brother, for the sum of $26,000. This hotel has been considered one of the best hotels in the State, as the extensive patronage it receives proves. Samuel Humphrey, who had been manager of the Hotel in Lambertville, will take possession December First.20
It’s hard to say who was meant by “Messrs. Humphrey & Brother.” There is a difference between taking possession of a property and actually owning it. This item appeared in the Local Department of the Hunterdon County Democrat on Dec. 7, 1875:
THE UNION HOTEL. Samuel Humphrey took possession of the well-known Union Hotel in this place, last Wednesday, the old landlord, Col. G. F. Crater, retiring in good order. Mr. H. has thoroughly refurnished the House, and the public will continue to find it a desirable stopping place. Col. Crater will continue to conduct the livery attached to the hotel.
Apparently, William and Lambert were not involved in management of the hotel and left it to their brother Samuel.
The Old Hotel Comes Down
Then comes an item in the Republican that took me by surprise, published on Oct. 4, 1877:
Samuel Humphrey has vacated the old Union Hotel and it is now being torn down and removed. Runkle Rea purchased the building and will use the material in the erection of a dwelling on the corner of Court and New Streets [Park Ave.]. The original portion of this Hotel was one of the oldest buildings in town. It now disappears altogether to make room for a larger and more handsome structure.
What was being torn down and removed was the building that George Crater had put so much effort into, the building that dated back to Joseph Mattison during the Revolution. Thus, the building we see today was not an expansion of an older building, but in 1877 and 1878 was an entirely new building, apparently constructed under the management of Samuel Humphrey.
Another item from the Hunterdon Republican of October 25, 1877 really had me scratching my head:
Semi-annual meeting of the District Medical Society on 16 Oct. 1877. The meeting was held at the Hotel of Samuel Humphrey in Flemington with Dr. Nathaniel B. Boileau in the chair. Dr. John Blane was appointed essayist for the next meeting. Dr. Obadiah H. Sproul was the secretary.
This seems to suggest that that very large building, the one that is being deconstructed today, was erected and functioning in less than two weeks. Can that be? And how was business being conducted between October 4th and October 16th? One theory is that the hotel was put up in stages.
The New Hotel
According to Flemington architect, Chris Pickell, “The new hotel was built for $13,200 by contractors Titus and Conrad, following plans drawn up by architects C. Graham and Son.” “C. Graham” was most likely Charles Graham, an architect who designed buildings in New York and New Jersey. Among the buildings attributed to him in New Jersey are the First Presbyterian Church in Newton, Sussex Co., the William Demarest House in New Brunswick, and the First Reformed Dutch Church of Bayonne. It is believed that Graham started out as a “stair trimmer and house builder” who later set up the firm of C. Graham & Son operating out of Elizabeth, NJ.21
Design of the New Hotel
Chris Pickell wrote a description of the hotel for the Friends of Historic Flemington.
The exterior was designed in the very fashionable Second Empire style of the time; exemplified by its high mansard roof, which rises high above a bracketed cornice. . .
This remarkable photograph taken by Chris Racioppi in early November 2021 shows the construction of the arched roof, the one architectural detail that makes the hotel eligible to be part of my series on the arched-roof buildings of Flemington’s Main Street. Looking at it from the street, I had always thought it was no more than trimming along the front of the roof, but Chris’ photograph shows us that it was much more.
The style of architecture common to the 19th century buildings along Main Street is often called Italianate, a style that was derived from Italian buildings of the Renaissance. But those buildings might have borrowed from a much earlier style, from the glory days of Pompeii, where a mansion with a barrel-vaulted ceiling was recently discovered.22 Presumably that arched ceiling was covered by an arched roof. But these are the speculations of a woman who is not an architect.
Several buildings along Main Street acquired that feature in the early 1870s. The lateness of the hotel’s construction was due to the change in ownership. George Crater was not interested in making a radical change to his hotel, but the new owners were very much so. Chris Pickell described the construction:
The hotel was built in two phases, the southern half (to the right) was built in 1877, the northern half (to the left) was built in 1878. One can still see the joint between the two sections, running right down the middle of the brick wall. The window pattern also reflects this, there are five windows per floor on the south side, but only four on the north side. The staircase is located in the center of the southern half, as is the second-floor doorway to the upper porch. The northern section has two store fronts onto the porch, these are original, and quite advanced for their time. The large sheets of thick storefront glass are original, but due to limits on the size of a piece of glass at that time, each section is made of two pieces of glass, and the upper piece simply rests atop the lower piece. . .
As for the interior,
It had heated rooms, and limited indoor plumbing, a restaurant and two dozen guest rooms; it was furnished with the most up-to-date amenities, including pressed tin ceilings and encaustic tile floors on the main floor and gas lighting throughout. Amazingly, with very few alterations, almost all of the original fabric of the building remains intact today.23
Up until the spring of 1878, Samuel Humphrey was managing the hotel, as shown in this item from the Republican:
1878 Jan 17, Annual meeting of the Flemington Vigilant Society for the detection of Robbers and Thieves, held on 12 Jan. 1878. The meeting was held at the Hotel of Samuel Humphrey in Flemington, . . .
The unanswered question is who did the planning for the new hotel? Who hired the architect? Who oversaw the work? Was it Samuel or his brother Lambert? Perhaps it was both. However, by spring of 1878, Samuel was finished with the Union Hotel, as announced in the Republican of April 4, 1878:
Samuel Humphrey has retired from the management of the Union Hotel, Flemington. Lambert Humphrey, late of Clinton, will conduct the House in the future.
Samuel Humphrey’s final tavern license was granted in December 1877, for the usual $35. 24 The same month that the Republican announced Samuel Humphrey’s retirement, Lambert Humphrey obtained a tavern license, for the usual $35.25 This was the first of many licenses granted to Lambert Humphrey.
Why did Samuel Humphrey give up management of the hotel? Was his brother Lambert demanding to take it over? Was Samuel just tired of the stress of managing a hotel under construction? It may be that the brothers decided to trade places. The Republican reported on Dec. 11, 1879, that “Samuel Humphrey, late of Flemington, has bought the interest of his brother, Lambert Humphrey, in the wholesale liquor business in Philadelphia. The Firm is now known as W. Humphrey & Bro.” The “W.” would stand for their older brother William, who would die three years later.
Samuel and Emma Humphrey had gone to live with Emma’s brother, John Wesley Martin, in Philadelphia. They were counted in the Martin household in the 1880 census. Then on June 8, 1882, the Republican published the obituary for Emma Humphrey:
Mrs. Emma Martin Humphrey, wife of Samuel Humphrey, formerly proprietor of the Union Hotel in Flemington, died on Saturday in Philadelphia, She was formerly from Pattenburg and about 29 years old, cause, probably Consumption. Funeral was held at the “New Stone Church,” near Clinton.
A little over a year later, Samuel Humphrey married his second wife, Anna Cavada Riley, born 1862 in Wilmington, DE. The marriage took place on Oct. 17, 1883 in Kings County, NY, and I have no idea why the couple would go there to get married. They returned to Philadelphia and remained there for many more years. Samuel died, age 85, at Atlantic City on Jan. 12, 1930, two years after the death of his wife Anna, also at Atlantic City, age 65. They were both buried in the cemetery at Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County, PA.
The Lambert Humphrey Hotel
As mentioned above, Lambert Humphrey took over management, as well as ownership, of the Union Hotel in April 1878. From this time on until the end of the century, the hotel was known as Humphrey’s Hotel as shown in the photograph above.26
Humphrey was counted as a hotel keeper in the 1880 census of Raritan Twp., when he was 45 years old. His wife Laura was 26; sons Elwood and Louis were respectively 19 and 16. Residents in Humphrey’s hotel were Paul Queen 26 lawyer; Frank Gulick 29 barkeeper; B. W. Ellicott 28 lawyer; Chas Hill 25 saloon keeper; Peter Smith 39; Levi Stryker 32; servants Ellis Hoffman 26; Geo. Higgins 17; Lizzie Hazen 19; W? Bahan? 28; Kate McCue 40; Ann O’Brian 41.
Following the death of his brother William on March 3, 1881, some effort had to be made to transfer ownership of their shared properties to Lambert Humphrey. Finally, on March 30, 1882, the Republican reported that
The Union Hotel property, in Flemington, was sold to Lambert Humphrey for $32,025.00. The sale was made in order to close out the affairs of the firm of Lambert Humphrey & Bro., rendered necessary by the decease of the brother of Mr. Humphrey. The Pattenburg Hotel, belonging to the same firm, was also sold for $2,000, the purchaser being Mr. Humphrey’s father.
This transaction was made on April 10, 1882,27 when Paul A. Queen, Master of Chancery of NJ, of the Village of Flemington, conveyed the hotel property to Lambert Humphrey. It was a long and complicated deed, but it got the job done.
The sale resulted from a suit brought by Lambert Humphrey against a long list of defendants: Edward, Samuel, John D. and Lewis Humphrey, John W. Martin, The Clinton Natl Bank, Mary V. Humphrey and George S. Duryee, guardian of Carrie Humphrey. The deed stated that the purpose of the sale was “winding up the affairs of sd late firm of L. Humphrey & Bro and satisfying the several debts due amounting to $40,145.74.” The several mortgagees were the estate of Wm Risler dec’d, $2592.07; John H. Capner, $1450.57; William Marsh, $1036.83; to Miller Kline $1762.62; Bennet Vansyckel, $5184.16; and another loan from Miller Kline of $6013.63, together with interest as of Nov 12, 1881. There were also debts due to some of the defendants: to Lewis Humphrey $5932.24, to John W. Martin $4147.33, to the Clinton Natl Bank $2684.13, to Samuel Humphrey $608, and to the complainant, Lambert Humphrey, of $6659.50.
Lambert Humphrey was left with sufficient funds to install “pipes through the building” in May 1883 that would provide steam heat in the coming winter.28 But a few years later, Humphrey must have tired of the hotel-keeping business for he sold the property, “together with the furniture, fixtures, etc.,” to George H. Locker of Philadelphia.29 The deed was never recorded, and on April 11, 1888, the Republican explained why:
Union Hotel in Flemington. George H. Locker, who has kept the Union Hotel for the past year, vacated the premises last week and Lambert Humphrey again has possession of the property. Mr. Locker formerly kept a drinking place in Philadelphia, PA and on 1 Apr. 1887, purchased the hotel property here, agreeing to pay for the building and contents for $40,000. The first of April of this year, he was to pay $5,000 of the price, when the title was to pass from Mr. Humphrey to him. Not being able to meet his obligation, he left for Philadelphia with the intent of borrowing the money. When he did not return, Mr. Humphrey consequently resumed proprietorship of the hotel. He will conduct it in the future and the Union Hotel will resume the high standing which it had before the advent of Mr. Locker.
Lambert Humphrey carried on for the rest of the century. It was not until January 23, 1902, that the hotel property was conveyed by Lambert Humphrey to Joseph L. Chamberlin for a mere $4500.30 The deed stated that it was “part of the property that George F. Crater and wife sold to Lambert Humphrey,” which may explain the lower price. By this time, Humphrey’s second wife Laura Gulick had died in 1901, only 47 years old. She was buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery.
Actually, it was much earlier, in July 1899, that Joseph L. Chamberlin had taken over management of the hotel, which delighted the editor of the Republican. On July 26, 1899, he wrote:
Joseph L. Chamberlin purchased from Lambert Humphrey the Union Hotel property in Flemington. Few men excel Mr. Chamberlin in courteousness, and none are better fitted than he for the position of landlord.
Needless to say, the Union Hotel was the scene of much more history during the 20th century. However, I will have to end my version of its early history here, as the hotel is simply one of many 19th century structures along Flemington’s Main Street that feature an arched roofline.
Moving south along the east side of Main Street, the next one with that distinctive feature is right next door to the hotel, a building I wrote about in “A Store, A Bank, A Mansion.” Fortunately, thanks to the diligence of Mayor Driver and the many people who joined together to defend the historic buildings of Flemington, that charming building will remain standing as it becomes part of the redevelopment project underway. But the next building that once had an arched roofline is the Oddfellows Hall, which lost its arch long ago, and is now scheduled for demolition.
- If we judge her age by the 1850 census, Abby Douglas Gray, first child of Jane Hart Gray, was born in 1846 in Rocky Hill, Somerset County, two years before her mother’s marriage. ↩
- It was not in Snell’s History of Hunterdon County, 1881, nor in the history of Hunterdon National Bank published in 1954, nor in the interesting history of Raritan Township published in 1976, nor in the Guide to Flemington, New Jersey by Barbara Clayton & Cathleen Whitley, published in 1987. ↩
- Another sketch of the hotel that identifies it as belonging to Neal Hart (and featured in Union Hotel, part two) is not contemporary with Hart’s tenure. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 115, p.370. ↩
- Birth and death dates for George and Catherine can be found on their gravestones in the Flemington Presbyterian Cemetery. Their wedding date was published in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat. As far as I can tell, Geo. F. Crater was not related to William Crater, Blacksmith of Glen Gardner. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 78 p.468. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 75 p.368. ↩
- Joseph Ritter Potts (1840-1896), son of Joseph King Potts and Margaret White of Franklin Township, married in 1869 Victoria Robinson (1851- ), daughter of Ogden Robinson and Sarah Reading of Delaware Twp. They did not have children. ↩
- Christina Cassidy wrote in her history of the hotel that during the Civil War, George’s wife Catharine Crater ran the hotel nearly single-handedly while her husband served in the Union Army. I have not seen evidence of Crater’s military service. Based on newspaper stories, he remained in Flemington during the war. However, there must be a reason why the Hunterdon Republican identified him as Col. George F. Crater in the 1870s. ↩
- A contributor on Find-a-Grave believes her full name was Susan Adah Crater. ↩
- Note that the Emery Genealogy gives his middle name as Edgar, while Find-a-Grave has it as Ewing. It is thought that William E. Emery was buried at the Prospect Hills Cemetery, although that has not been proven. And the burial place of wife Elizabeth Crater Emery is unknown. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 162 p.277. ↩
- Dates found on Find-a-Grave. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 144 p.289, Book 150 p.327. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 136 p.203. In previous years, the tavern had been operated as a “temperance house” by James W. Hope. ↩
- Note that many sources state that the marriage took place in 1873, but the Hunterdon Republican published the marriage announcement in 1872. As for evidence of a divorce between Lambert and Anna, it will take some digging in the County Archives to turn up evidence. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 162 p.227. ↩
- Court of Common Pleas Minutes, Book 33 p.350. Also mentioned in the Hunterdon Republican on Dec. 3, 1874. ↩
- Court of Common Pleas Minutes, Book 33. p.501. ↩
- Exactly which hotel in Lambertville was under Samuel Humphrey’s management, I cannot say at this time. Further research would be needed. In 1873, Samuel Humphrey bought a small lot in Lambertville from John & Emma Savage on Douglas Street. That neighborhood was very undeveloped in the 1870s, so it is not likely that a hotel was located there. ↩
- “Graham, Charles,” Philadelphia Architects and Buildings, Athenaeum of Philadelphia. See also, Hunterdon County Cultural & Heritage Commission, #70-74, p. 241, Flm 22/04, Union Hotel. Thanks to Chris Pickell for sharing this information. ↩
- The New Yorker Magazine, Nov. 29, 2021, “Pompeii’s Hidden Layer” by Rebecca Mead. ↩
- See https://friendsofhistoricflemington.org/ for a list of articles about the struggle over the proposed redevelopment of the hotel property. ↩
- Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas (CPM) Book 34 p.245. There are more mentions of Samuel Humphrey in the Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas, in volumes 35 through, 37 but these all took place after Humphrey was finished with the hotel. ↩
- CPM Book 34 p.317. ↩
- This marvelous photograph was shared on Facebook, possibly by Richard Higgins. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 196, pp. 608-622. ↩
- Hunterdon Republican, May 30, 1883. ↩
- Hunterdon Republican, April 6, 1887. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 263-414. ↩