Pioneers of Old Hopewell
Record of the settlers of Hopewell Valley written by Ralph Ege in 1908
One of the long forgotten pioneer families of northern Hopewell, which figured in some of the exciting events of the revolutionary period, was that of James Hunt, whose name is written "James Hunt Senior" in some of the old records; but who was widely known as "Miller James," to distinguish him from his neighbor, "Deacon James," who resided less than a mile from him on the farm now occupied by Mr. Morgan D. Blackwell, and who was the son of Wilson Hunt, who resided in the house which is still standing near Marshall's Corner and now occupied by William D. Hill, Esq.
Miller James owned the tract west of the borough, the northern part which is now owned by D. P. Voorhees, Esq., and the southern part known as the railroad quarry farm. There is nothing to indicate the spot on which the old house stood at the time of the revolution, as the location of the buildings has been a cultivated field for nearly sixty years. They are remembered, however, by many now living, and stood about two hundred yards north of the corner of the Stony Brook road, near the old baryta mines, and about the same distance west of the dwelling now standing on the quarry farm.
Miller James Hunt was the son of Edward Hunt of Maidenhead, now Lawrence township, in this county, and the grandson of Captain Ralph Hunt of Long Island, for whom Thomas Revell surveyed a large tract of land lying on both sides of the "Kings Road" between Lawrenceville and Princeton January 7, 1694, the survey being recorded in "Book of Surveys" in the office of the Secretary of State at Trenton.
Capt. Hunt settled on the tract about that time, and at once became identified with all the religious and political activities of the period, as the public records will show. His name is found on the first list of grand jurors of Hunterdon County, and also among the
county officers, and in 1698 he was one of the Presbyterian society which purchased land for a church at Maidenhead.
In 1722-1723 he was collector of the County of Hunterdon. (See History Hunterdon Co., page 263). In Riker's "Annals of Newtown" we find the name of Ralph Hunt among a party of Englishmen who emigrated to Long Island in 1652. He was also one of the party who purchased Middleburg in 1656, his share of the purchase being one pound. January 7, 1662-3, he was chosen one of seven men to conduct the affairs of the town. In 1663, he, with other leading men, was denounced for resisting Dutch authority, aiding to form a junction with the Connecticut colony.
In February, 1663-4, he was chosen, with six others, in the name of his majesty, Charles II, to town office in Hastings (the new name of Middleburg), for the ensuing year. In 1664 he was admitted as a freeman of the colony of Connecticut, and was chosen a surveyor to view the "Indian reserved lands," which the town was to purchase. April 21, 1665, he was commissioned lieutenant of the military in Newtown (the new name of Hastings), by Governor Nicholl, and from November, 1666 to April, 1668, was the town overseer.
December 4, 1666, he was a freeholder of Newtown named in the list, and the same year was also "overseer" of Edward Jessop's will. January 4, 1666-7, he was one of the eleven land holders who agreed to enclose their lands in a single field for cultivation. March 1666-7, after having been appointed by the town to get a draught of boundaries, he became one of the patentees of "Newtowne, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, upon Long Island." April 2, 1667, he was chosen constable. About 1668, his house and barns, with all his effects, were destroyed by fire, together with the corn which he had collected for rates. January, 1667-8, he was chosen permanent surveyor, and in 1670 elected town overseer.
In 1671, the first church edifice in Newtown was erected on a "gore" of land appropriated for the church by Ralph Hunt. The site is at the corner of Main street and Jamaica Road, the corner house recently owned by Peter Duryea.
On September 6, 1673, he was sworn to office as a "Shepen," or magistrate, upon the reinstating of Dutch authority. He died early in 1677, and his biographer gave a glowing tribute to his high character and usefulness as a man and citizen.
His children were: (1) Ralph, (2) Edward, who died in 1716
after a life of eminent usefulness;(*) (3) John, of Newtown, L. I.; (4) Samuel, (5) Ann, who married Theophilus Phillips??, and (6) Mary.
Reference has been made to the Hunt family in several of the articles of this series, and in a foot note to article 15 will be found the earliest records of the family in England, in the 13th and 14th centuries, going back to Ralph le Hunt of the year 1295.?? We might add that in tracing the families down to the 17th and 18th centuries, we find very many of the old names which are still favorites in the Hunt family, and the collateral branches. In a history entitled "The Family of Hunt," published in 1860, from which we have largely copied the above items, we find names identical with those of the New Jersey family, in the New England families, although they emigrated at widely different periods from various localities in the British Isles, and claimed no relationship whatever.
Thomas Hunt, gentleman, of Chalneston in the Parish of Roxton, England, in his will dated September 6, 1546, after first bequeathing his soul to God, the Virgin Mary, and all the saints in heaven, and directing that his body be buried in the chancel of the church, where his father and mother are buried, then makes bequests to his wife, Alice, and children, William, Thomas, Sapborowe, Roger, Annie and Barbara. (The name of Roger was known as George in the generations following).
Thomas Hunt, yeoman, of West Horsley, England, by his will dated July 15, 1598, makes bequests to wife Joana, and to "brother John and his son John, also Nicholas, brother of Edward, William, son of brother John, the elder, Edward and Thomas son of William." If the last mentioned may be taken as a sample of the wills of that period, we need not be surprised that they frequently led to legal complications, and that several old estates still remain unsettled.
Many of the Hunt family in England have distinguished themselves,
(*)This is the Edward Hunt, who, about 1670, married Sarah, daughter of Richard and
Joana Betts, from whom a large number of the Hunt families in Hopewell are descended.
+Theophilus Phillips and Ann Hunt had children as follows, viz: Theophilus, born
May 15, 1673, settled at Maidenhead; William, born June 28, 1676, settled in New York; and
Phillip, born December 27, 1678, who also settled at Maidenhead. This Phillips family furnished
many brave officers and men for the Continental army, and deserves far more than
this passing notice, but we hope to be able to refer to them again.
??The coat of arms of the Hunt family is described as consisting of a shield of three
mastiff's heads, surmounted by the figure of a mastiff chained, and the motto, "Faithful to
selves, not only as soldiers and statesmen, but also in the field of science and literature. In this country they have been eminent in every department of human effort, and in the war for American Independence they were found on the side of the struggling colonies, and the bravery of many of the Hunt family of New England, New York and New Jersey, on the battle fields of the revolution, gave added strength and lustre to the achievements of an honored ancestry.
The house in which Miller James Hunt resided was the scene of the only capture of a detachment of British soldiers ever made in the vicinity of Hopewell. It was accomplished about the middle of December, 1776, by the old hero, Col. Joab Houghton, who had heard that they were expected in the neighborhood, and hastily summoning a small band of militia, captured the Hessians and hustled them off to Lambertville, were they were placed in charge of a detachment of Washington's army, who were guarding Coryell's ferry, while the main body of the army were at Newtown, Pa., and Cornwallis was at Pennington. A very brief sketch of this affair is given in Barber and Howe's "Historical Collections," and alluded to in article number 4 of this series.
The farm on which Miller James Hunt resided was bequeathed by Capt. Ralph Hunt, of Maidenhead, to his son, Edward, in his will dated November 5, 1732, and which is on file in the office of the Secretary of State at Trenton.
He makes a bequest first, to his wife Elizabeth. To his oldest son, Edward Hunt, he left 150 acres of land in Hopewell, described as the tract "formerly known as the vacancy."
He left to his second son, Ralph Hunt, his tract of land on the north side of the King's Road in Maidenhead, he to pay his sister, Jemima, (not of age) a legacy, when he comes to the age of 22; also to pay his brother John, (not of age) a legacy, when he comes to the age of four and twenty years; also to pay his sister, Keziah, a legacy, when he comes to the age of six and twenty years.
To his third son, Samuel, he left his land lying on the south side of the King's Road, in Maidenhead. He also left his sons Ralph and Samuel, each a tract on the great meadows on the present line of the Delaware and Raritan canal.
To his daughters, Elizabeth, Kezia and Jemima, he leaves all his "moveable" property, each to have a one-third share.
The closing clause of the will reads--"I hereby nominate and
appoint Major Lockart and Theophilus Phillips, together with my wife, Elizabeth, the executors of this my last will and Testament."
Theophilus Phillips mentioned above was the oldest son of Theophilus Phillips Senior, of Newtown, L. I., and his mother was Ann, daughter of Ralph Hunt, also of Newtown. For some unknown reason Mr. Phillips refused to serve as one of the executors, as on the back of the will we find the following entry: January 20, 1732, "These articles do certify to whom it may concern, that I, Theo. Phillips, of Maidenhead, nominated as one of the executors of the last will and testament of Captain Ralph Hunt, do relinquish the same. "Given under my hand and seal,
Witnesses: Joshua Anderson, James McKinly.
The above date, January 20, 1732, is old style, the new style not being adopted by British Parliament until 1751. If this was not taken into account it would seem that Mr. Phillips relinquished his office before his appointment.
The tract which Capt. Hunt describes above as "formerly known as the vacancy," was surveyed in part by Thomas Revell, agent for the West Jersey Society, for Roger Parke of Crosswicks Creek, in April, 1697, "for his daughter Anne Parke."
The survey commenced at a stake in Roger Parke's corner, near the old mines, and followed the old Wissamenson Indian path, (which in some old deeds is written "Wisomoncey," "Wosamonsa" and "Witchamenting") northeast thirty-seven chains, to a stake which stood near the present residence of Mr. James Shelby; thence northwesterly on the south side of the hill twenty chains; thence again northeasterly twenty-two chains to Thomas Tindall's line (now Mr. A. L. Holcombe's) which was surveyed by Mr. Revell for Mr. Tindall February 27, 1696, and thence along said Tindall's line northwesterly eight chains to a stake, and thence west sixteen chains and two poles to Roger Parke's, now Amos Sked's line, and thence south along said Parke's line to the place of beginning.
It will be observed that this survey did not include the hill, now Mr. Montag's, and the railroad quarry, nor did it include the north side of the Hunt tract as afterward surveyed for Capt. Ralph Hunt.
It is not known that Annie Parke ever married, or that she ever occupied this tract, but it is known, however, that a small
band of the Lenni Lenape, did occupy it at intervals and whenever it suited their convenience to do so, for several years after the Parke family occupied the tracts on the west and north. Their wigwams occupied the vacant land not included in the Annie Parke purchase, and they lived on the most friendly terms with the Parke family.
Roger Parke, who was popularly known among the pioneers as "Old Doctor Parks," studied the Indian practice of medicine with the old squaws and medicine men, and the early settlers came to him for many miles around, his treatment being much the same as that practiced by Dr. Jacob Tidd in later years, who, it is said had many of the recipes of Doctor Parke.
David Hunt, son of "Miller James," who spent his whole life of three score and ten years on this tract, is authority for the statement that the young Indians, in shooting at random for the purpose of testing their nerve, and the strength and elasticity of their bows and strings, could, by elevating their arrows slightly, drive them across the valley from their wigwams, just north of the present residence of Mr. D. P. Voorhees, to the present line of the railroad, a distance of over two hundred and fifty yards. The timber at that time had been cut off in the valley, but the hillsides were still covered with a heavy growth.
About 1725-30, the red man bid adieu to the Hopewell valley forever, and started on his long and weary pilgrimage toward the setting sun, and when Edward Hunt made a settlement with the heirs of Col. Coxe in 1746, the whole tract, as now embraced in the two farms, was included.
March 25, 1903.
This tract of land bequeathed to Edward Hunt by his father, Capt. Ralph, November 5, 1732, was a part of the thirty thousand acres lying above the falls of the Delaware which was conveyed by eleven Indian Chiefs to Adlord Bowde, agent for Doctor Daniel Coxe of London, by deed bearing date March 30, 1688.
The record of the above is to be found in the Book of Surveys, page 103 in the office of the Secretary of State. Doctor Daniel Coxe never resided in this country, but his son, Col. Daniel Coxe, resided in Trenton many years, and the large proprietary tracts here and in the northern part of Hunterdon County made the family immensely wealthy.
Col. Coxe died in 1737, before Edward Hunt obtained his deed, but on July 16, 1746, John Coxe, one of the heirs, and surviving executor of the will of Col. Coxe, gave him a deed for the farm, the consideration being one hundred and eighty-three pounds, twelve shillings, proclamation money, for the tract of one hundred and fifty-three acres, besides the usual allowance for "ways."
The survey commenced at a corner in the Stony Brook road near the old mines, and from thence north seventy-eight chains, along the line of David Stout,(*) who at that time owned the farms now owned by C. E. Voorhees, Esq., Amos Sked and the part of the E. S. Wells tract known as the Samuel Ege farm.
(*)David Stout, who owned the farms on Stony Brook, was the fifth son of Jonathan, the
pioneer settler of Northeastern Hopewell, and was born at Hopewell in 1706.
About 1726 he married Elizabeth, sister of James Larison, and had four sons and five
All who are familiar with the Stout history have noticed the fact that the author,
Capt. Nathan Stout, was very sparing in his compliments, but that he made an exception
in favor of David, and on page 11 gives a glowing tribute to his memory.
We cannot at this time, for want of space, give a history of the family of David Stout
and Elizabeth Larison, but will only say that the oldest son, Jonathan, married Rachel Burroughs,
and that probably one of his daughters, Mary, married David Hunt, the son of
Job Stout, one of the sons of Jonathan, married Rhoda, daughter of Abner Howell,
and had a large family, the complete record of which is in the writer's possession, and will
No other abutting property owners are mentioned in the deed, but the north line was the same as at present; while in the survey of Thomas Revell for Anne Parke in 1697, described in our last article, the northern part of the tract on which the Indian wigwams were located was not included, which was doubtless in accordance with the wishes of Doctor Parke.
The east line was the old Tindall tract (afterwards the Golden's) and the Moses Hart lot (now Mr. Montag's) and from thence following the old "Wisomoncey or Wissamenson Indian Path," to the place of beginning, and is described as "the tract whereon the widow Merrill lately dwelt."
This dilapidated old deed, written on very heavy parchment, is in the writer's possession, and has a very venerable appearance.
In the will of Edward Hunt, dated October 28, 1757, and on file in the office of the Secretary of State, his first bequest is to his son James, to whom he gave this farm of 150 acres of land in Hopewell, describing it as "the farm on which he now liveth, he to pay his sister thirty pounds." His next bequest is to his three grandsons, viz: Benjamin, Daniel and Nathaniel, the sons of his oldest son Edward, "lately deceased," to whom he gives his farm, describing it as "the plantation on which I now dwell," and also provides for granddaughter Elizabeth, daughter of Edward.
He provides for the education of the above grandchildren and also that "they shall be brought up out of the yearly income of the estate."
"Item, I give and bequeath to the old, or first Presbyterian congregation of Hopewell and Maidenhead ten pounds for the support
probably appear later. Job Stout removed to Mays Lick (now Maysville) Kentucky, in
1788-90, and was either accompanied or followed soon after by his father, who was then well
advanced in years.
The writer has in his possession an account of a trial held at Mays Lick in 1794, in
which Jonathan Stout figured prominently as one of the judges, and in which one of the parties
to the case wilfully perjured himself, and died in less than forty-eight hours after its
occurrence, from remorse of conscience, which produced a nervous condition closely resembling
the terrible disease of hydrophobia.
Mr. Stout had refused to administer the oath and had advised him to settle the small
matter in dispute, warning him of the consequences of swearing falsely, as he feared he
The warning however, was not heeded, and he was sworn by Mr. Young, another of
the justices present, and seemed stricken with death immediately after giving his testimony.
The report of this trial was circulated all over the country at the time, and being well
authenticated made a most profound impression.
David Stout was an invalid for several years before his death, and the high-backed
chair in which he spent his declining years, is one of the most prized treasures of the
writer's "better half," who is a great, great granddaughter of its former owner.
of the gospel ministry." "Item, I give and bequeath to my daughters Sarah Anna, Angelica and Elinor each twenty pounds when they come of age."
He appoints his son-in-law, Isaac Laning, and Edward Hunt, son of his brother Ralph, his executors. The witnesses were Joseph Reed, Joseph Scudder and Rev. John Guild.
Only ten days after the date of the above will Edward Hunt assigned the Coxe deed to his son James, the assignment, written on the back of the old parchment deed is as follows, viz: "Know all men by these presents that I, Edward Hunt, of Maidenhead, within named, for the better assuring, conveying and confirming unto my son, James Hunt, of Hopewell, a certain tract or plantation lying in Hopewell, mentioned in the within written instrument, as conveying to me by Mr. Coxe Do by these Presents assign unto my son James, the within written deed. Together with all my right, title and interest therewith in any wise appertaining or belonging as fully to all intents and purposes, conveying and confirming the sd plantation to my sd son James, to him, his heirs and assigns forever, as fully, clearly and absolutely as I might or could in any other form whatsoever, and freely and clearly discharging from me and my heirs of all debts, dues and incumbrances, excepting only the paying of thirty pounds to his sister." "In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this seventh day of November in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and fifty-seven," signed Edward Hunt, in presence of Henry Cook and Rev. John Guild.
Immediately under the assignment is found the following receipt, "May ye 3, 1758. Then received of the above mentioned James Hunt the sum of Fifteen pounds on account of the above assignment. I say received by me, Isaac Laning."
The above James Hunt known as Miller James was born in 1724, and died March 22, 1802. His wife Rachel, who was probably a sister of his nearest neighbor Jonas Wood,(*) was born in 1726, and died June 18, 1774. They are buried on the south side of the Hunt burial plot on the farm of J. Guild Hunt, near Marshall's Corner. They were married about 1746, and had children as follows:
(*)Jonas Wood was a private in Capt. David Stout's company of provincial forces from
Hunterdon County, Col. John Johnson's regiment, enrolled May 9, 1757, discharged June 1,
(1) David, born 1747, died April 11, 1817, married and resided on the homestead.
(2) Hannah, born 1750, married a Mr. Hawk, who was probably the William Hawk who in 1787 resided on the "societies tract," near High Bridge Iron Works, and later removed to the "Lake country," of New York state.
(3) Rachel, born 1754, died June 7, 1832, married Stephen Blackwell, born 1756, died December 3, 1831. They resided on the the farm now owned by Chas. Durling, Esq., near the borough, the farm at that time also including the farm of D. W. Housel, Esq., now residing in the borough.
(4) Deborah, born 1756, never married.
James Hunt was a popular business man, kind hearted and benevolent in disposition, and during the time of the revolution, and at intervals for many years after, operated the grist mills on Stony Brook now known as Moore's mills. He probably rented them of the owner, Francis Blackwell, who had purchased them in 1771, and 1779 sold them to his brother Rev. John, who also owned them for a short time.
These mills had at least nine different owners during the first
He was also a private minute man Hunterdon Co. Militia, and also sergeant in Capt.
Henry Phillips' Co., 1st Regiment, Hunterdon Co., 1777.
For many years he resided on a lot at the corner of the Stony Brook road near the
old baryta mines, and from entries found in old account books was a wheelwright and cabinet
maker of considerable prominence.
His large shop stood on the corner of the road and appears to have been quite a business
centre many years before the revolution.
The blacksmith shop of Thomas Merrill also stood somewhere in the vicinity, as the
old accounts show, but its exact location cannot be definitely determined, although it may
have stood on the same corner. As long ago as any now living can remember the old shop
of Mr. Wood was used as a barn. It blew down about fifty years ago, and was rebuilt by
Mr. Stephen Blackwell, about one-half its former size for the use of his tenants.
The old house, which was quite large and accommodated two families, was burned
down in 1890 and never rebuilt, the barn was taken down, and now there is not a vestige left
of the home of this worthy old family, who flourished during the revolutionary period, and
for many years before and afterward.
The old veteran, Jonas Wood, in his old age resided with Stephen Blackwell, Senior,
and Miss Martha Phillips, now living in the borough, who is a granddaughter of Mr. Blackwell,
has in her possession a stand which Mr. Wood, while living there, whittled out with
his penknife, and it is a valued keepsake.
From the account books of Dr. Benjamin Van Kirk we find that he attended Mr.
Wood at Stephen Blackwell's in 1790, and as no later entries are found the supposition is
that he died about that time.
Mrs. Rachel Wood, wife of Jonas Wood, was a member of the Presbyterian church at
Pennington in 1735, as shown by the records, and Mr. Wood was a subscriber toward the
salary of Rev. John Cross in 1731, when Mr. Cross officiated as stated supply of the Pennington
church. This Jonas Wood was probably the father of the revolutionary soldier, as there
were at least three of that name living at the time of the emigration from Long Island to
century of their existence, and it is our purpose to give something of their history in a future article. These mills were frequently raided by the British soldiers when they were quartered at Trenton, and during the short time that Cornwallis was at Pennington in December, 1776, they were visited by foraging parties nearly every day, who carried off everything that was portable, but they did not burn and destroy as they did in the years following.
Cornwallis had driven Washington and his little band of patriots across the Delaware on December 8, and not finding any boats in which to follow him, returned as far as Pennington, where he remained until the 13th, to give his men an opportunity to recuperate before resuming his march to New Brunswick. He considered New Jersey a conquered province, and while there confined his operations principally to compelling, (by threats if other means failed) all the inhabitants he could find to swear allegiance to King George III., promising them the protection of the crown.
In a foot note to article number seven is given a copy of one of these so-called "Protection Papers" which failed to protect when most needed, as explained at that time.
During this period, while the British were making a house to house canvass, Mr. Hunt's family heard that they were expected to pass along the Hopewell road on a certain evening, and did not light up the house, hoping that, as it was located quite a distance from the public road, it might be passed by undiscovered. The British were shrewd enough, however, to always employ a Tory guide who was familiar with every highway and byway of the territory they intended to traverse, and all families who were suspected of being in sympathy with Washington's band of patriots were visited, no matter how secluded their places of residence.
Before the evening was far advanced, Mr. Hunt's family heard the soldiers outside, and they were ordered to open the door or it would be broken down. Knowing full well that this threat would be put in execution, Mr. Hunt opened the door and admitted his unbidden and very unwelcome visitors, who ordered him to light a candle at once. One of Mr. Hunt's daughters made the attempt, but the fright and excitement made her extremely nervous, and observing this the officer snatched the candle out of her hand with an oath and proceeded to light it himself. Mr. Hunt was then informed that he was their prisoner, and that he must accompany
them to Pennington, where Cornwallis would administer the oath of allegiance to the King of Great Britain. Mr. Hunt's daughters, although fully grown, failed to comprehend the full force of the obligation about to be imposed upon their father. Their mother had been taken from them by death only two years before, and the terrible dread of their father being held a prisoner in the British camp and the possibility of his never returning to his home, made their grief uncontrollable.
When the party started off for Pennington with their father, the daughters followed, crying and screaming at the top of their voices. The officer in charge cursed and threatened but all to no purpose; the grief and excitement had made them hysterical, and his threats only aggravated their overwrought nerves until they were on the verge of collapsing. Finding that his threats were of no avail, and thinking doubtless that their screams ringing out on the night air would be heard for a long distance and arouse the whole neighborhood, and that they might be waylaid before they reached Pennington, he released Mr. Hunt, telling him that he was "too old to be good for anything and he could go home and take care of his babies."
The writer is reminded of another incident which took place about the same time, of an ardent patriot who escaped without taking the prescribed oath, after being taken prisoner.
Mr. Jonathan Bunn was captured at his house (which is still standing about one mile northwest of Pennington) and taken before Cornwallis to have the oath administered. Seeing that he had on a new pair of shoes Cornwallis informed him that they must be given to one of his aides, whose shoes were in a very shabby condition. It being about the middle of December and the weather very cold, Mr. Bunn bravely remonstrated, telling Cornwallis that a man in his position ought to have too much humanity to send a man out to freeze his feet in such extreme weather, and suggested that he send a man home with him to bring back the shoes. Cornwallis admiring his courage consented to this proposal, sent an escort back with Mr. Bunn, and in the parley over the shoes the oath was forgotten. After procuring the shoes the escort galloped back to Pennington, and Mr. Bunn skipped for the Woosamonsa mountain, where he remained during the temporary stay of Cornwallis at Pennington.
Mr. Bunn was enrolled as a minute man in Capt. Henry Phillips'
Company, State Militia, and also enlisted in Capt. William Tucker's Company, First Regiment, State Troops, and did good service in his country's cause after this event. His great grandson, Mr. George Bunn, still occupies the old mansion, which is one of the very few old colonial landmarks remaining in this region. This has remained practically unchanged for a period of nearly one hundred and seventy years, and has the distinction of being the house in which Rev. Gilbert Tennent frequently preached at the time of the organization of the "New Side Presbyterian church" in 1741.
A history of this "New Side" movement is to be found in Rev. Dr. Hale's historical discourse, page 109.
April 23, 1903.
Reference was made in our last article to the capture of Miller James Hunt by a detachment of Cornwallis' army while at Pennington, in December, 1776; and soon after this occurrence, the British made them another visit which proved far more disastrous.
The day previous to their second visit, a man who claimed to be a great friend to them, as well as to the cause of liberty, came to Mr. Hunt's, notifying them that the enemy would be in the neighborhood the following day and advised them to conceal all their silverware and other valuables in a safe place. While discussing the matter some member of the family suggested that the heap of wheat in one of the up stairs rooms might be a safe place for small articles of value. Their visitor said it was a happy thought, as the soldiers would never think of searching for jewelry and silver spoons in such a place. Accordingly all their precious keepsakes and valuables were entrusted to the pile of wheat by the unsuspecting family. The next day they were visited by the soldiers, who to the great consternation and dismay of the family, proceeded at once to the second story and appropriated all the hidden treasure, proving conclusively that they had been basely betrayed by their pretended friend, who doubtless received a share of the booty for his cleverly conducted scheme.
As stated in a previous article James Hunt had charge of the Stony Brook mills (now J. H. Moore's) during, and for several years subsequent, to the revolution, and when the mill was kept running during the night, and frequently during the day he left it in charge of his trusted slave known as "Black Sam." One of Mr. Hunt's friends suggested to him that he was placing entirely too much confidence in Sam's integrity, as he was in a position to show his colored friends a great many favors without his master's knowledge. Although Mr. Hunt's confidence could not be easily shaken, he gave his informant permission to test Sam's honesty, telling him to black his face and try the plan of working on his sympathies.
One night soon after this, Sam heard a knock at the door of the
mill, which was always fastened at night by pulling in the latch string. Sam opened the top door just far enough to peep out in the darkness, and heard a very pitiful story of a destitute family, without bread or the means of procuring it. "Hab you see Massa Jimmy?" was Sam's inquiry. The man replied that he had not, and that he had already walked several miles and could not possibly go a mile further to Mr. Hunt's residence, adding that he knew it would be all right with Mr. Hunt, for he never would turn a poor man away without giving something to relieve his necessities. "Dat am so," replied Sam, "and I feels berry sorry, but de meal am Massa Jimmy's, and ef he say so you kin hab him, but you no git him off ob Sam." After coaxing and pleading for some time in vain, the would be customer went away fully convinced that Mr. Hunt's confidence was not misplaced, and that in an extremity he would stand a much better chance in appealing to "Massa Jimmy's" sympathies than to "Sam's."
At the time of Mr. Hunt's settlement here in 1748, and for some years after, the channel of Stony Brook was completely obstructed by fallen timber and bushes, and the smaller streams emptying into it had no well-defined outlet, but spread themselves over the lowlands now owned by Messrs. C. E. Voorhees and E. S. Wells. The now beautiful meadows were at that time covered with small lakes and impenetrable swamps and marshes, which the early settlers never attempted to explore, except in winter when frozen. Trunks of trees are still found in places buried three or four feet below the surface and some of them as sound as when they fell, probably hundreds of years ago, and were covered with the sediment which came down from the hillsides. This swamp furnished a shelter for abundance of large game such as wolves, bears and panthers, and was a favorite hunting ground for the Indians who had their wigwams on the hill to the north.
The earliest settlers made a great effort to exterminate the wolves and panthers, and, as early as 1739, the Justices and Freeholders of Hunterdon County voted 40 pounds for killing wolves and panthers, but it was totally inadequate, as the following account will show. "72 full grown wolves at one pound each. 19 young wolves at 5 shillings each. 16 grown panthers at 15 shillings each." Some persons objected very strongly to voting any money for such purposes, fearing that the board of Freeholders would bankrupt the county with their extravagant appropriations.
Black bears continued to be quite numerous for several years, but as they were very timid and cowardly, they were not at all feared or dreaded, for unless they were cornered where there was no possibility of escape, they would always retreat at the approach of man as rapidly as their awkward and shambling gait would allow. They seldom visited the clearings except at the blackberry season, when they were frequently seen helping themselves to the fruit of which they were especially fond.
On one occasion two of the daughters of Mr. Hunt, who were perhaps not over twelve or fourteen years of age at that time, had quite an adventure, which goes to illustrate the dangers to which the early settlers were exposed. They were out walking near the old mines not over three hundred yards from home, and when about to climb a fence near the corner of the woods, they were nearly frightened out of their wits by seeing a bear jump up directly in their path. He had evidently been sound asleep, and as he saw no avenue of escape, he raised himself erect on his hind feet and with mouth wide open and arms extended prepared to hug the nearest girl without waiting for the formality of an introduction. There was no time for ceremony, and one of the girls, seizing a piece of an old rail, thrust it in the wide-open mouth endwise. The rail proved to be badly decayed, and very dry and dusty, crumbling in his mouth, choking and strangling his bearship almost to suffocation. The would-be "hugger" had troubles of his own to contend with, and while he was coughing and clawing to clear his throat of the dust and rotten wood, the girls lost no time in jumping the fence and making good their escape.
This bear story is well authenticated, the writer's informant being the granddaughter of one of the girls who played such a heroic part in the drama, and who was also one of the noisy trio who secured their father's release from the British soldiers as deseribed in our last article.
David Hunt, son of Miller James, born 1747, married 1770, (I think a daughter of Jonathan Stout of Hopewell; afterward of Maysville, Ky.) She was born in 1749, and died February 21, 1834, and his death occurred April 11, 1817. They had children as follows, viz: Mary, born February 2, 1771, died December 10, 1852. Deborah, born March 22, 1774, died October 22, 1839. Rachel, born August 23, 1778, no record of death. Amos, born August 13, 1781,
married Hannah Waters. Moses, born February 4, 1784, died October 14, 1852.
David Hunt was an only son, and the dependence of his father, and although thoroughly loyal to the patriot cause, did not enlist at the beginning of the war. He was enrolled as a minute man in the militia, which included all the able bodied men between the ages of 15 and 50 years, and whenever additional men were needed for active service a draft was made on the militia for one month, six months, or one year, and the man on whom the lot fell stood ready to leave his plow or workshop at a moment's notice, shoulder his musket, and march to camp or battlefield.
When the first draft was made David Hunt was one of the number on whom the lot fell, and his father's heart was almost broken at the thought of giving up his only son so soon after the death of his wife. Mr. Hunt's first impulse was to secure a substitute for David, but on reflection the kind-hearted old man changed his mind, and said to one of his neighbors, that while he did not see how he could spare David, at the same time if he procured a substitute it would have to be somebody's son and that would be as hard for them as for him. The substitute was not hired, and David went to war serving his time as Corporal in Captain William Tucker's Company, First Regiment, from Hunterdon County and returned safe and sound. From the stories he loved to relate in his old age, one would judge that war was his greatest delight, and that he always plunged into the thickest of the fight.
In the garret of the writer is a part of an old British musket, which it was claimed David Hunt captured from a British soldier. It was purchased by the father of the writer after Mr. Hunt's death, a percussion substituted for the old flint-lock, and was an excellent fowling piece for the times. After being used by five generations of the Hunt and the writer's families, the stock was accidently broken, and as it had become a chronic kicker it was never repaired.
Amos Hunt, son of David, born August 13, 1781, married Hannah Waters, and built a house on the northern part of the tract, where he resided; and after his death it was purchased by John A. Moore, who many of our readers will remember as one of the most successful farmers of Hopewell township.
Moses Hunt and his sisters, none of whom ever married, occupied the old homestead on the southern part of the tract which, about 1833, was purchased by Amos Hoagland, and descended from
him to his son, John Stout Hoagland, and also to his grandson, Simpson, who occupied it for some years after the death of his father, and then sold it and became a resident of Hopewell.(*)
Amos Hunt and Hannah Waters had but one child, Mary, born July 30, 1818, who married Stephen C. Blackwell, born June 10, 1815, who resided on the adjoining farm afterward owned by Stephen H. Titus, and at present the proprty of his son, Edwin S. Titus, of the firm of Holcombe & Titus, of our borough.
Stephen C. Blackwell and Mary Hunt had two daughters. Sarah Frances, born March 20, 1841, and Helen Matilda, born July 31, 1844. Mary Hunt Blackwell died December 15, 1845, and after her death Mr. Blackwell removed to Delaware, and very seldom revisited the scenes of his boyhood.
Mr. and Mrs. Blackwell were among the most intimate friends of the writer's parents, and the social visits of the families are
(*)The large and influential family of Hoagland in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties
are descended from Christoffel Hooglandt, of Haarlaem, Holland, whose will is dated March
13, 1676, and recorded in Liber (3), page 83, in the surrogate's office in New York City.
He married June 23, 1661, Katrina Kreiger, also of Holland. They were married in
New York City and had several children, whose births are also recorded. Some of his children
settled on the branches of the Raritan in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties about the
year 1700, where they purchased large tracts of land, some of which is still in possession of
their descendants. Christopher's son Dirck (or Derrick), born 1662, was doubtless the
grandfather of Amos Hoagland, who was born August 21, 1741, married Mary, daughter of
John Titus of Hopewell, who was born November 6th, 1752. They settled on the Neshanic,
near Reaville, and had children as follows: Sarah, born October 3, 1775, who married Jacob
Williamson and removed to Ohio; Hannah, born December 10, 1777, married Wm. Williamson;
Jonathan, born June 6, 1779, never married, resided in New York City; Andrew, born
July 6, 1780, married Mary, daughter of Elijah Carman, near Copper Hill, and had Aaron C.,
Elijah C. and others, who resided near Flemington; Rebecca, born November 6, 1785; Amos,
born November 17, 1787, married Sarah, daughter of John Stout of Hopewell, and finally settled
on the Hunt tract as stated above; Mary, born April 4, 1790, who never married.
Amos Hoagland and Sarah Stout had children: John Stout, married Rebecca A.,
daughter of Joab Mershon; Mary, unmarried; Elizabeth, wife of Schenck Moore, and Simpson,
who died a young man.
John Stout Hoagland and Rebecca Mershon had children as follows: Sarah M., wife of
Richard Lowe of Neshanic; Simpson, who married Anna M., daughter of John Hart, and resides
at Hopewell; Hannah, second wife of Richard Lowe; Mary E., wife of Henry C. La-Rowe,
of Brooklyn, and Malvina, who died in childhood.
John Stout Hoagland will be remembered by many as a very public spirited, enterprising
citizen, and is especially remembered by the writer as a kind obliging neighbor, and
a warm and valued friend.
If there was sickness or death in the neighborhood, he was always among the first to
offer his services, and the last to leave the afflicted family, after he had done all in his power
to assist and comfort, regardless of his own personal loss or inconvenience.
The loss of such a man to a community is irreparable, and there are many, who, with
the writer, will always cherish the memory of his many deeds of love and kindness among
among the most pleasant recollections of his early childhood. Mrs. Blackwell was a victim of that dread disease consumption, and her sad death at the early age of 27, leaving behind her two little infants, cast a heavy gloom over the community in which she was so greatly loved and esteemed. Her eldest daughter married William H. Moore, Esq., of Pennington, and she too died in early life leaving two children, Charles H., and Sarah Francis, wife of George H. Curlis, son of the late Col. William B. Curlis of Pennington.
Helen Matilda, second daughter of Mary Hunt and Stephen C. Blackwell, married John Blackwell of Hamilton Square, N. J., and died soon after, leaving one daughter, who became the wife of a Mr. Burroughs.
June 3, 1903.
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids