Flemington, New Jersey

My last article studying the history of the Union Hotel began with the beginning of the Village of Flemington in the 18th century and left off in 1809 with Neal Hart as owner of what was then known as “the House of Neal Hart in Flemington.”

A sketch of the hotel in its later years.

Because NJ law required that taverns must be located in the house where the tavernkeeper dwelled, taverns were typically referred to as “the house of” whoever the tavernkeeper was, whether he or she owned the real estate or not. When the owner of the property lived far away, like John James of Nottingham, Burlington County, he had to hire someone to live in the house and run the tavern for him.

On April 2, 1810, that absentee owner, John James of Nottingham, conveyed the tavern lot to Neal Hart of Flemington for $2,350.1 James had paid $2,000 for it in 1807; the previous owner, William Bennett, Jr., also paid $2,000; and prior to that, in 1793, Samuel Taylor paid £21 for it.2 (It took a long time for the United States to convert from British currency to American currency.) That $2,350 in 1810 was the equivalent of $52,266.87 today, but it is highly unlikely the hotel could now be purchased for that amount, even in its run-down condition. It shows how much more valuable real estate has become.

The deed of 1810 described the property as

“all that certain messuage, tenement, tavern house and lot or parcel of land in Flemington (in a plan of the said town called No. 10), beginning in the east side of the street or road leading through Flemington, corner of lot No. 9, now the property of Tunis Quick.”

That reference to lot No. 10 was to the map made in 1767 of the original tract, which was owned by David Eveland, as shown in Union Hotel, Part One. The property also bordered George C. Maxwell and Joseph P. Chamberlin.3 The description concluded with this recital: “Being the same tavern house and lot of land which William Bennet and wife Rebecca and Henry Reading by Indenture of 16 March 1807 conveyed to the said John James.”

Who Was Neal Hart?

Back in the 1980s I had reason to look into the family of Neal Hart and was puzzled by the lack of information available. I asked then County Archivist Phyllis D’Autrechy if she had any ideas where I should look for Neal Hart’s family. Her answer? Neal Hart was “an enigma. He seems to come out of nowhere.”

This is very surprising, given his prominence in Flemington and the importance of the Hart family in Hopewell Township. And yet, so far, researchers (including me) have not been able to link Neal Hart with the Hopewell Harts. Because he came of age around 1800, there are very few records to help us identify him. He could have been related to Col. John Hart of Hopewell, signer of the Declaration of Independence, but no one has been able to prove it.

Neal Hart was born in 1778, but where and to whom is unknown. About 1800 he married Sarah Moore (1780-1863), daughter of Josiah Moore & Mary Lake of Kingwood Township. His first recorded deed was dated May 19, 1801 when he bought a 1.5-acre lot in Kingwood from John & Elizabeth Hoagland for $160.4 But the next deed, dated January 1, 1802, stated that Neal Hart was “of Amwell.”

There is a clue to a possible relative, if not a parent, in a deed of Sept. 5, 1804, in which John Hart, weaver of Amwell, and wife Mary conveyed to Neil [sic] Hart, ‘taylor,’ also of Amwell, for $450, a lot in Amwell of 10 acres, starting four rods from the River Delaware, and bordering Samuel Holcombe, Edward Nixon, “Leonard’s land,” and Philip Finn.5

Neal Hart, Tavernkeeper

Based on the record of tavern licenses, it is clear to me that Neal Hart began keeping tavern in Flemington in 1808, when he paid $18 for his license to run the tavern “lately occupied by Isaac Servis,” who also bought a license that year for $18. During the early years of the 19th century, tavern licenses usually cost $10. A few cost $12, and a very few cost $18. Those were licenses for taverns on Flemington’s Main Street. In 1809 and 1810 Hart also paid $18 for his license. His license for 1811 was only $16, but the license petition noted that Hart “still occupies the house in Flemington where he has kept a tavern.”

Since both Hart and Servis got licenses worth $18 at the Court’s May Term in 1808, it’s safe to assume they were keeping separate taverns. The men who signed Hart’s license application that year were: Asher Atkinson, Levi Brown, Philip Case, John Haas[?], Joseph Hankinson, Mathias Lare, John Leigh, Tunis Quick, Charles Reading, Henry Reading, Philip J. Stewart, William Large, and Edmund Yard. The names underlined are of men who also signed Isaac Servis’ petition. (After the Civil War, when the movement to ban taverns altogether gained strength, the NJ Legislature passed legislation that made it illegal for a person to sign more than one petition for tavern keepers in the same town.)

Men who signed Isaac Servis’ petition but not Neal Hart’s were David Bishop, Alexander Bonnell, John Finley, Joseph Gray, Peter Haward, George C. Maxwell, Jesse Pettit, and Nathaniel Saxton. Note that Alexander Bonnell also ran a tavern/inn on Flemington’s Main Street and was Hart’s primary competitor.

Only five months after buying the tavern lot from John James in 1810, Hart’s name appeared in a deed for a lot owned by Tunis & Alche Quick bordering “Neal Hart’s Tavern lot.” The deed conveyed the Quick lot to John Thomas Blackwell for $2,050, and covered the south corner of Main Street and Bloomfield Avenue, where the Flemington National Bank building was later erected.6 Here is the house that came to be known as Blackwell’s Row. Whether it was built by Tunis Quick or J. T. Blackwell is hard to say. (For more on Blackwell’s Row, see “Oysters Every Style.”)

Blackwell’s Row, Main Street and Bloomfield Avenue

“The House of Neal Hart in Flemington” was nothing like the grand hotel that replaced it after the Civil War. It probably resembled Blackwell’s house above, although I doubt that it was painted black. Blackwell must have done that as a sort of advertising gimmick.

When Neal Hart applied for a tavern license on April 25, 1811, he stated that he “still occupies the house in Flemington where he has kept a tavern for the last year.”7 The list of subscribers in support of his application was longer than it was in 1808—19 compared with 13 in 1808. They were Ezekiel Anderson, Thos Carhart, John Chamberlin sener, Joseph P. Chamberlin, James Clark Jun’r, George Dilts, Wm Geary, Samuel Griggs, Abraham Gulick, Jonathan Higgins Jun, Jacob Johnson, John Little, John Maxwell Jr, John Mcfarson, Samuel McNair, Charles Reading Jr., Jno. R. Reading, Jacob Runkle, and John Sarvis. When he petitioned again in 1812, subscribers were Alex Bonnell, Joseph P. Chamberlin, Jacob Johnson, J.S. Manners, Wm Maxwell, William Rake, Henry Reading, Nathaniel Saxton, Cornelius TenEyck, Dennis Wycoff.

Hart’s house became the most important meeting place in Flemington. I came to this conclusion by the frequency with which meetings were held there, and particularly by this notice published in the Trenton Federalist on June 28, 1824:

Fourth of July 1824. “At a meeting of the citizens of Flemington, and its vicinity, held pursuant to public notice, at the house of Neal Hart, innkeepeer, in Flemington prepatory [sic] to the celebration of the approaching Anniversary of American Independence. . .”

The Committee of Arrangements consisted of Col. Abraham R. Sutphen, Charles Bartles, James H. Blackwell, Peter Ewing, Zac. Prall, and Samuel Hill. At a subsequent meeting, also held at Neal Hart’s, the committee of arrangements appointed Alexander Wurts, Esq. to deliver an oration; Andrew Miller, Esq. to read the Declaration of Independence; Col. James S. Manners as Marshal; and Lieut. Richard Sutphen as Assistant Marshal of the day. The report was signed by Samuel Hill, President of Committee. It seems like everyone who was anyone was gathering at Hart’s House.

Neal Hart had other business interests beside the tavern. His list of properties bought and sold is a very long one, and it must have kept him busy. The last time he applied for a tavern license was in 1827. After that, up until his death, the tavern was run by someone else. The man who rented Hart’s Tavern in 1828 was Thomas Alexander, who had been keeping tavern in Frenchtown, but was licensed in Flemington in 1828 and the following four years. Alexander (17751839) was the son of early tavernkeeper George Alexander and Mary Fleming, making him a grandson of original settler, Samuel Fleming. Thomas Alexander married c.1805 Mary Lowrey (1780-1858), daughter of William & Martha Lowrey.

Hart’s Competition

There were, of course, other inns in Flemington during Hart’s tenure. After Neal Hart’s tavern, the most important tavern/hotel in Flemington belonged to Charles Bonnell, who got his tavern from his father Alexander V. Bonnell, who bought it in 1797 from Samuel Fleming’s son-in-law, George Alexander, the father of Thomas Alexander. It later came to be known as the County Hotel.

Another early tavernkeeper was Elnathan Moore (1784-1856) who ran a tavern where the main street through Flemington branched off northwest to North Main Street and Thatcher’s Hill Road, and northeast to Walter E. Foran Blvd. He bought that property at a sheriff’s sale in 1818,8 and was open for business during the 1820s but by 1834 was obliged to assign his property to John Rockafellar and John Higgins for the benefit of his creditors. The tavern property was sold to William R. Bellis (1785-1855) in 1835. The next year, Bellis’ heirs sold the property to the Flemington Presbyterian Church, who tore the building down to make room for its new church building. (It should be noted that Elnathan Moore, Esq. was the younger brother of Sarah Moore Hart, wife of Neal Hart.)

According to a story in the Hunterdon Republican for April 10, 1895, it wasn’t until that year that Flemington once again had three functioning hotels. The new hotel that year was called the Lake Hotel, run by W. Howard Lake. But it was located on the west side of Main Street, so I will leave its history until later. The Republican’s editor wrote:

There was once a time when Flemington had more hotels than the population would seem to warrant. In 1808, there [was] but sixteen houses between the Presbyterian and Baptist Churches and three of these were hotels. Considering the few inhabitants of that time and the numerous hotels throughout the county (one at almost every cross-road), we cannot but come to the conclusion that the early settlers had a great hankering for “apple-jack.”

Neal Hart’s Death

Hart’s death came unexpectedly on September 4, 1837. As the Hunterdon Gazette reported on September 6th,

Died, at Stroudsburg, Pa. on Monday morning, the 4th instant, after an illness of one week, Mr. NEAL HART, of this village, in the 59th year of his age. Mr. Hart had been absent from home on business several weeks and was returning home when taken sick; he reached Stroudsburg, where, after a few days severe suffering, he breathed his last at the residence of Mr. Joseph Wilson. His remains were brought to this place for interment. Mr. Hart was among the oldest inhabitants of Flemington, and to his enterprising spirit and untiring industry we are indebted for many of our most valuable improvements. He has left numerous family to mourn the loss of their best earthly friend.

This obituary is unusual. During the first half of the 19th century, obituaries in newspapers were typically very brief, often no more than a sentence. The length of this one says a lot about the kind of person Neal Hart was. Unfortunately, it did not name Hart’s parents or siblings.

Because his death was unexpected, Hart had not prepared a will. A Letter of Administration was granted to his widow Sarah and sometime-business partner, Charles Bartles, on Sept. 22, 1837.9 It surprises me that Neal Hart’s eldest child, Mahlon C. Hart, was not included as executor; he was old enough.

On July 26, 1839, Asa and Susan Jones of Flemington conveyed a house and lot of 0.68 acres to some of Neal Hart’s daughters: Susan B., Jane A. Amelia, Eliza and Sarah Ann.10 Susan B. Hart was the only one to remain unmarried. Jane married Dr. John Alfred Gray in 1848; Amelia married Hart Denis Wilson in 1828; Eliza married Charles Bartles about 1832; and Sarah Ann married Nathaniel Wilson about 1830. The deed of 1839 stipulated that the property was to be a life estate for the widow, Sarah Hart.

The list of grantees in this deed omitted Neal Hart’s two sons, Mahlon and James W., and daughter Mary Hart, wife of John Hoppock Anderson, who had died in 1827. James W. Hart, married Rachel Price, daughter of Gen. Nathaniel Price and Mary Spicer, and ran the tavern in Sergeantsville for some years before moving to Ohio in the early 1830s. That left the eldest child, Mahlon C. Hart.

Mahlon C. Hart

Mahlon Cooper Hart (c.1800-1879) was born before Neal Hart became a permanent resident of Flemington, so his origins are as misty as his father’s are. When Neal Hart died in 1837 at the age of 59, his son Mahlon had been running the tavern and hotel for at least four years. By that time, he had been married for 17 years to Maria G. Schenck.11

Hart was still a child when his father took over the tavern in Flemington. As he grew into adulthood, he learned how successful taverns should be run from his parents. (No wife of a tavernkeeper could stay aloof from the operations of the place. She would have overseen the daily maintenance, i.e., laundry and room-cleaning, as well as the operation of the restaurant.)

As mentioned above, Neal Hart had begun renting his tavern out by 1828. But in 1833, his son Mahlon took over. The first mention of this to be found in the Hunterdon Gazette occurred on February 20, 1833, when “a meeting of the citizens of Flemington and its vicinity” was held “at the House of Mahlon Hart, in Flemington.” (The purpose of the meeting was to oppose the plan to create the new county of Mercer out of the old county of Hunterdon.)

The first tavern license application on file for Mahlon C. Hart was in 1832, when Hart petitioned to operate “that old stand in Flemington lately kept by Thomas Alexander.”12 As mentioned above, Thomas Alexander had been running the tavern for Neal Hart from 1828 to 1832. After Mahlon took over, Alexander rented the tavern in Ringoes for one year before returning to Flemington to run the County Hotel for a time.

The Name ‘Union’

When Mahlon C. Hart applied for a tavern license in 1833, his petition read:

for a license to continue the old public stand in Flemington called the Flemington Inn and being as heretofore furnished with all the necessary articles required by law for such an establishment. May 7, 1833.

Subscribers to Hart’s petition were Peter Smick (who had been running the County Hotel across the street), Alex Wurts, Adams C. Davis, G. Maxwell, Asher Atkinson, Wm L. Skillman, Asa Jones, Jeremiah Smith, Jacob Rockafellow, his father Neal Hart, Jacob P. Fisher, Albert S. Cox, Samuel Trimmer, Samuel Larowe, Samuel H. Britton, Aaron S. Vankirk.13

Hart’s 1834 petition read: “Your Petitioner prays your Honourable body would license him to keep a tavern where he now lives Known by the name of The Flemington Inn, in the village of Flemington where a tavern has been kept for many years.”

But the next year, things changed. Hart’s application, dated May 4, 1835, read:

“Your petitioner prays your Honourable body to license him to keep a public house, known by the name of The Flemington Union House, [emphasis added] where there has been kept a public house for many years. . . We the Subscribers do recommend the said Mahlon C. Hart to be a suitable person to keep a public house where he now lives and is well provided with beds, Bedding, Stabling and provender for man and horse & praying therefore that your Honourable Body will grant a license to him accordingly.

Why 1835?

The term Union was becoming popular in many places. Lambertville had its Union Hotel as early as the 1820s. Today, we take the name Union for granted, but it was certainly not taken for granted in the 1820s and 1830s. These were the years in which political activity accelerated with the candidacy of Andrew Jackson for president, and the emergence of a new party call the Whigs, led by Henry Clay.

Jackson represented a new approach to politics, one that broke away from the polite, aristocratic Virginians (who happened to be the founding fathers, Jefferson, Madison & Monroe), in favor of what many felt was a more representative government, one more direct and accessible to the ‘yeoman farmer.’ The Whigs were descendants of the old Federalist party, more concerned with the soundness of the national government and the national economy. This boiled down to a continuation of the original problem of how to create a democratic government—to emphasize the importance of the national government or minimize it in favor of government by the individual states?

Whigs were fairly strong in 1830s Hunterdon, but Democrats dominated the elections. Jackson easily won re-election in 1832. In 1834, there were party conventions on the county and state levels to nominate candidates for Congress, Governor, the State Legislature, the County Sheriff and Coroners. Judging by stories in the Hunterdon Gazette, voters were fully engaged. Numbers of delegates to the conventions were in the hundreds for both parties and rhetoric heated up during the last months of 1834. The “Democratic Republicans,” as Jacksonian Democrats liked to call themselves, won most of the seats.

It was not just the mode of governing that divided people. A much larger issue loomed over the county: slavery, and how to end it. Of course, slaveholders who had prospered from the system preferred not only to keep it but to spread it to new states like Missouri and Texas. But most people did not like the practice, even people in the South. The dilemma was how best to go about abolishing it.

There were many who expected it would die out naturally, as it seemed to be doing in the northern states. Others wanted to prevent its spread to new territories and states. The abolitionists wanted to end it immediately, throughout the country. If southern states would not accept the end of slavery, then dissolving the Union was preferable to allowing it to continue.

Opposition to slavery was generally a moral issue; it was not based on acceptance of Black Americans as equals. Racism was alive and well in the country, and too often during these years was expressed by riots, especially in cities. Some rioters were Irish canal workers unhappy with their working conditions, but at least half of the riots were racially motivated, some to protest slavery, but the majority attacking either Black people themselves or abolitionists.14

The word Union meant different things to different people. Was it a Union including all states, or a Union of only slave-free states?

Tavernkeepers walked a fine line if they wished to be patronized by people of differing outlooks. Hart probably thought the name change would appeal to a wide group of people. But that is not what happened. Nineteen people signed Hart’s 1834 petition, all of them important figures in Flemington. But in 1835, none of them signed except Nathaniel G. Mattison, who was also a tavern keeper.15

It appears that they refrained from signing because of the name change. But it was not a protest based on party affiliation. Prominent members of both parties had signed in 1834. Could it be that they simply didn’t like the kind of service Mahlon C. Hart provided? Unlikely, as Hart had been keeping the tavern for the two previous years. Without a letter or diary to explain this change, we are left without an answer.

In any case, Hart managed to stay in business, and the name Union was attached to the inn from that time to today. But it took a few years for it to become accepted. Even though Hart’s subsequent applications for a tavern license always referred to the Union House, it was not until 1838 that the name Union appeared in the Hunterdon Gazette, with this notice in the issue of March 7, 1838:

Mr. C. ELMENDORF, ATTORNEY AT LAW, RESPECTFULLY informs the public, that he has settled in Flemington, and may be found at his office at the Union Hotel, opposite the Court House. [emphasis added]

This was also the first time the word ‘hotel’ was added to Union, as opposed to the usual ‘Union House.’16

M. C. Hart’s Ownership

Mahlon C. Hart did not inherit the hotel property after his father died in 1837. There were legal matters to clear up first, primarily an unpaid debt to the merchants William P. Emery and John G. and Joseph H. Reading of Flemington. (I wrote about their store, next door to the hotel, in “A Store, A Bank, A Mansion.”) When they did not get paid after Neal Hart’s death, they sued Mahlon C. Hart in the Court of Common Pleas in Flemington, which ruled in their favor.

In February 1839, the court issued a “writ of fieri facias” to the sheriff, ordering him to seize Hart’s property and offer it at public sale with proceeds used to satisfy the outstanding debt.17 I bring this up because the writ described the property in great detail. (I quote the description here but take the liberty of adding punctuation to make it clearer.)

Levied on the following property of the Deft to wit — on all the undivided right and interest of the within Defendant in the Real Estate of his father Neal Hart dec’d consisting of the tavern house and lot in Flemington now in the possession of the within Defendant; also the homestead house and lot now occupied by the widow of said dec’d containing about 9 acres of land; also one other lot in Flemington said to contain 5 acres be the same more or less adjoining George Forker & others; also the Sergeantsville Tavern & Lot of land said to contain 30 acres more or less adjoining Jeremiah Smith & others; also 1 farm situated in the Township of Kingwood & Delaware adjoining Wilson Bray & others said to contain 100 acres more or less; also 1 house & lot in Quakertown in the occupancy of Edward Welsted; 2 horses, 1 waggon & harness, 12 beds bedsteads & bedding, 4 carpets, 40 chairs, 6 looking Glasses, 8 tables, 1 sofa, 3 stoves bar furniture, 1 side board 2 bureaus, kitchen furniture &c in short all the real & personal property of the Deft valued at fifty cents subject &c. October 26, 1838, John Runk Sheriff.

The buyer was none other than Mahlon C. Hart himself. When the sale was held on May 24, 1839, he was the highest bidder, offering $2900. 18 How he could pay such a high price when he couldn’t settle the Emery-Reading debt is an interesting question. It’s almost as if Hart wished to force a sale of the property. Two lots were sold, the first being “All that certain Tavernhouse and lot of 1.22 acres in Flemington,” and the other being another property in Flemington of 5.37 acres “cleared land,” sold to Neal Hart by James Capner in 1836. Other deeds followed this, “to clean up the mortgage,” as one of the deeds explained.

M.C. Hart’s Improvements

With the title finally in his name, Mahlon C. Hart began fixing the place up, as reported by the Hunterdon Gazette on April 30, 1839:

IMPROVEMENTS. While we see editors in many of our neighboring towns and villages boasting of their improvements—the erection of new buildings and the repairing of old ones—we feel disposed to call the attention of those who are in the habit of visiting Flemington, upon business or for pleasure, to the very visible improvements in two of our public houses; the one kept by Mr. John Bodine (formerly by Nathaniel G. Mattison) and the other by Mr. Hart. They are not yet completed; but we understand they will be by the commencement of court, in a manner and appearance, which, added to the care and attention of their landlords, cannot fail to entice customers, and render their stay agreeable. We have no doubt that many citizens of our county, and others attending Court, will make it a part of their business to test by experience, the merits of these landlords, and their new accommodations.

The hotel run by John Bodine was located across the street and was widely known as the County Hotel, previously operated by Thomas Alexander, Peter Smick and Nathaniel G. Mattison.

This drawing of the hotel gives us an idea of how it looked after Mahlon C. Hart fixed it up in 1839.19 The stage was probably owned by the Swift Sure stagecoach line. In August 1838, this notice appeared in the Hunterdon Gazette:

“New-Brunswick, Millstone, and FLEMINGTON STAGE Will leave Mahlon C. Hart’s in Flemington, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, at 6½ o’clock, A. M.  A conveyance will be ready at the arrival of the stage at Mr. Hart’s, at Flemington, to take passengers to any part of the neighborhood they wish.”

The Hart Family in 1840

In 1840, the household of Mahlon C. Hart consisted of himself, in his 40s, one female in her 30s, one male in his 20s, one male & one female in the 15-19 age range, one female age 10-14, and one female age 5-9. Of the 8 members of the household, 7 were white and 1 was ‘colored,’ the expression used in 1840. There were three people working in ‘manufacture & trade.’20

The male in his 20s was probably Mahlon’s son William D. Hart, born 1825, who probably left home shortly afterwards, moving to South Carolina where he met and married his wife. He had three sisters born 1822-1834. The second daughter, Virginia, married John J. Clark who served as Raritan Twp. Clerk, despite being a member of the Opposition Party. She was his second wife and was childless.

I could not find a listing for Sarah Hart, widow of Neal Hart, in the 1840 census. But there is reason to believe she was living at the Union Hotel with son Mahlon’s family, as is suggested by this item in the Hunterdon Gazette in its issue of June 14, 1843:

“Green Peas—Flemington Ahead!—Notwithstanding the lateness of the Spring and the severe frost we had the other evening, and the late snow—notwithstanding all these, Mrs. Hart, the obliging and popular landlady of the Union Hotel, [emphasis added] gathered from her garden on Saturday last, a large basket full of elegant green peas. Her garden can’t be beat, no how!— That strawberry we rather guess, didn’t grow far from them peas.”

Sarah Moore Hart does appear in the 1850 census, age 70 with property worth $1800. Living with her were her unmarried daughter Susan and the children of her deceased daughter, Amelia Wilson—Eliza 14, Edward 12, and William D. 7. Their father, Hart Denis Wilson was not found in the census records for 1840 through 1860. As for Mahlon C. Hart, he had given up tavern keeping and taken up farming. But selling the hotel was no easy matter.

The Hotel Goes Unsold

Mahlon Hart put “Hart’s Union House” up for sale on October 18, 1848. The sale was advertised in the Hunterdon Gazette for that date, and gives us an explicit description of the property:

VALUABLE TAVERN PROPERTY FOR SALE! The subscriber being about to remove to a Farm, will sell at Private sale, his valuable Tavern Property, long known as “HART’S UNION HOUSE,” situated in Flemington, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, opposite the Court House and County Offices, and is believed to be one of the best country Tavern Stands in the State. The lot is 75 feet front and contains one Acre and a half of land. The main building is 51 ft. front by 36 ft. deep and is three stories high. It contains 26 well-arranged and convenient bedrooms, a large dining-room, 2 handsome parlors, and a Bar-room. The Kitchen is 16 by 18 feet, two stories high, with all necessary conveniencies [sic] attached and near the same, such as ovenshed, cistern, well of never-failing water, &c.

The stables and sheds for horses, are ample and commodious, capable of accommodating 75 horses. This property has recently been thoroughly repaired and neatly fitted up and presents now a very handsome appearance. The Stage lines from New York, Philadelphia, Trenton, Belvidere and New Brunswick, all stop at this Hotel—and for many years past the travelling community have favored it with their patronage. It is believed [sic] that the business done by this Hotel at any one single term of our county Courts, would more than pay the whole interest of the purchase money. Persons wishing to purchase, will please call on the subscriber, who will show them the property and explain the terms, which will be made easy. Flemington, MAHLON C. HART.

It appears that no good offers came forward. The hotel was still for sale in 1850, as shown in another notice in the Hunterdon Gazette for Jan. 16, 1850, titled “Hart’s Hotel at Public Sale!!” The description of the property was the same as in 1848, but one item was added:

A charter having been granted for a Railroad from this place to the Delaware river to unite with the Trenton and Belvidere road, which, it is believed, will be completed in a short time, will connect Flemington with Trenton and Easton. The Railroad from New York to Easton is in operation to White House, a distance of 9 miles from this property. The Village is already increasing in size more rapidly than any inland Village in the State, and the completion of the railroad must greatly facilitate its improvement.

By this time, Mahlon C. Hart had moved out and left the job of selling the property to James N. Reading, Esq., acting as his agent. Reading was successful, as announced by the Gazette on Feb. 20, 1850:

A CHEAP PROPERTY. The “Union House” hotel, in this village, which for years past has been kept by M. C. Hart, was sold on Thursday last, at public sale, and was purchased by A. V. Bonnell for $5,200.

Presumably the editor was referring to the price not to the property itself. On March 20, 1850, Mahlon C. Hart advertised in the Gazette, the sale of all the personal property contained in the hotel:

Will be sold at Public Vendue, on THURSDAY, the 28th day of MARCH inst., at the Inn of Mahlon C. Hart in Flemington, his entire stock of Tavern Furniture, (he being about to quit the business,) consisting of 20 feather Beds, 12 Wash-stands, Bowls and Pitchers, 2 Extension Tables, 150 yards of Carpeting, a great variety of Bedding, Chairs, Tables, Looking glasses, Stoves, Crockery-ware, Knives, Forks and Spoons, Bar Furniture, a one-horse Rockaway Carriage, 1 two-horse pleasure Wagon, with every variety of Furniture needed in an extensive Public House.

Ten days later, a final sale was made by Mahlon C. and Maria Hart of Flemington to a partnership consisting of Charles Bartles, Alexander V. Bonnell and Judiah Higgins, who did in fact pay only $5200 for the hotel property.21

I must end here for now. There is much more to the story of the Union Hotel, but it will have to wait for part three.


  1. H.C. Deed Book 16 p.434.
  2. £21 in 1793 is worth £1,739.93 today. Today one pound is worth $1.36. I do not know what the comparison of pounds to dollars was in 1793.
  3. For more on Chamberlin and his store located next to the Hotel, see “A Store, A Bank, A Mansion.”
  4. H.C. Deed Book 6 p86.
  5. H.C. Deed Book 10 p.148.
  6. H.C. Deed Book 18 p.2.
  7. Tavern License Petitions, 1806-1812, Family Search, frame 633. I was not able to find his application for 1810.
  8. H.C. Deed Book 29 p.114.
  9. Letters of Administration Vol. 4 p.3.
  10. H.C. Deed Book 72 p.301.
  11. I have not succeeded in finding Maria’s parents. She may have been related to John H. Schenck and the other Schencks of Flemington mentioned in my previous article, “Flemington’s Pulmonic Tonic.”
  12. Family Search microfilm, Hunterdon County Business Records, Taverns 1830-34, frame 475.
  13. Family Search, Taverns 1830-1834, frame 493. Also a signature that was something like J. J? & H. Landis, but is too illegible to read.
  14. Information on the temper of these times can be found in American Mobbing; 1828-1861 by David Grimstead, 1998.
  15. Signers in 1834 were Asher Atkinson, C. Bartles, John S. Chamberlin, James Clark, Adams C. Davis, Isaac G. Farlee, Samuel Griggs, Neal Hart, Geo. Henry, Joakim Hill, Asa Jones, Nath’l G. Mattison, G. Maxwell, Andrew Miller, John P. Quick, James N. Reading, J. C. Reed, W. H. Sloan, and Alexander Wurts. Signers in 1835 were Abraham Banghart, D. S. Fowler, Jno. Lake, Jacob Martenis, Nath’l G. Mattison, Jonas Moore, Wm Nixon, Philip Read, Jacob Rowe, Jacob Snyder, Robert R. Steele, Abraham R. Sutphin, and Samuel Woolverton.
  16. I had hoped to get more information from the Hunterdon Democrat, but that paper did not begin publication until September 5, 1838.
  17. CPM, Vol 27, p. 417, Feb 1839, Wm P. Emery & John G. & Joseph H. Reading v. Mahlon C. Hart, damages $183.70, costs $25.96.
  18. H.C. Deed Book 72 p.53.
  19. There are several pictures of Flemington’s early buildings made by the same artist included in a history of the Hunterdon County National Bank, Serving Hunterdon One Hundred Years, 1854-1854, (pages not numbered).
  20. This list is surprising because Hart’s wife Maria Schenck was also in her 40s that year. But the census record does not have a date of enumeration, so it is possible it was taken before May 28th, when Maria turned 40.
  21. H.C. Deed Book 96 p.455.