Stories from the Past : Hopewell Valley
states that Inhabitants of the Township of Hopewell met on the 14th of March 1721 at a Town Meeting at the House of Cornelius Anderson and chose by the majority of voices, men to represent them as freeholders, assessor, collector and commissioners for the hyways. Was this meeting held at the home of Cornelius Anderson Sr. or at the home of his son, Cornelius Anderson Jr.? Cornelius Sr., who died about 1726, owned land along the Delaware River near Titusville. The earliest recorded land purchase for Cornelius Jr. was in 1756, years after the first recorded town meeting. But, it is most likely that Cornelius Jr. had previously purchased his property but had never received clear title to the land until 1756 because of the land dispute involving much of the property titles in this valley. The compiler feels the meeting was held at the Glen Moore farm at Marshall's Corner, the home of Cornelius Anderson Jr. since it would have been a more central location for the Town Meeting. The four commissioners were Andrew Smith, Philip Ringo, Thomas Burhouse and Peter Laren (LaRowe). The site of the town meeting had shifted in 1724 to Ringoâ€™s Mill where the following overseers of the highways were elected: James Hide, John Carpenter, John Hixson and Eliakim Anderson. These men represented four areas of the township. James Hide lived east of the Borough of Hopewell; John Carpenter on the present Grant Hoch farm near the Hopewell Township Municipal Building; John Hixson resided west of Hopewell towards Woodsville and Eliakim Anderson, son of Cornelius Anderson Sr., resided along the Delaware River near Titusville. In other words, overseers maintained the roads in their vicinity.
By 1726, when the meeting place was moved to Pennytown, the commis-sioners of the roads were referred to as surveyors of the "King's hiways" or "surveyors of ye road". An Act of the Assembly gave them lawful authority to layout, alter or vacate roads when petitioned by the inhabitants, approved by the majority of freeholders and heard in the Court of Common Pleas. The report, submitted by the surveyors after the road was laid out, altered, or vacated, was called a Road Return. It was recorded by the County Clerk and entered in the Road Return Book.
All road returns were recorded in the Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas. The Hall of Records, which houses the records of the County Clerk of Hunterdon County, has a collection of original road petitions and returns although many of the earliest ones are missing. Some returns have draughts
of Hopewell Township, Hunterdon County, NJ
and or maps filed with them but unfortunately many of the earliest ones do not. It is quite a challenge to determine the exact location of many of the present roads of Hopewell Township.
In the Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas is a return dated 28 March 1722 for a road from Amwell into Hopewell ending at Samuel Furman’s corner by the side of “Roger Park’s, his road.” Josiah Furman gave a Hunterdon Loan Office Mortgage for 112 acres bounding on Thomas Runion and John Hunt on 30 April 1733 and his northeast corner was “downtown Marshall’s Corner.” On page 38 of this same volume is a road return from William Hickson’s in Hopewell Township to the Assunpink Creek where it joined the road through Nottingham to Crosswicks bridge in Burlington County.
The earliest recorded road return for Hopewell Township was in the Hunterdon County Road Book, Volume I on page 11. It is a 1741 alteration of a road near Wilson Hunt’s which was probably the present farm of Donald and Caroline Woodward (1981) on Marshalls Corner-Woodsville road near Mine Road. The road return on page 39, Volume II of the Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas seems to be Route 518 from Stoutsburg through the town of Hopewell to Stony Brook and on to the King’s Road, probably Rogers Road at Marshall’s Corner. It reads:
A new mapp of East and West New Jarsey [sic] : being an exact survey
by Mr. John Worlidge. published London 1706. Library of Congress
18 March 1723 Then met the Commissioners of Hunterdon County to layout a road of four rods (rod = 16½ feet) within the Township of Hopewell Beginning at the division line of East/West Jersey at or near division line of John and Abraham Vanhorn; from thence along a line of marked trees to Joseph and Benjamin Merrill’s; then along the said line betwixt them and James Hyde; thence along the same line betwixt James Hyde and William Merrill and thence by James Hyde and John Park’s and then by Jabis Jarvis and Robert Tindall; from thence along by Henry Oxley and William Merrill and then along by a line of marked trees to Stony Brook; from thence along betwixt John Houghton and Johannes Hendrickson into the King’s Road. Entered by Alexander Lockhart, recorded
“ 2 Rod road near Ed: Bainbridge’s to ye gr. Road near ye Baptist meeting house, Hopewell Hunterdon County . . . Whereas Application hath been made unto us the Subscribers Surveyors of the Highways for the Townships of Maidenhead, Hopewell and Trenton by Petition Agreable to an Act of Assembly of the Province of New Jersey in that Case made and provided to Layout a Public Road from the Post Road Near Edmand Bainbridge Jun’r to the great Road near the Baptist Meeting House, in Hopewell, We the Surveyors having Viewed the said Road according to the Prayer of the Petitioners, do agree to Layout a Public Road of Two Rods wide in the following Manner BEGINING at a Red oak Tree Standing on the North Side of the Post Road on the land of Josiah Furman, and Runing thence through the said Furman’s Land, then the Same Course along the Line between said Furman and Graham 7 chains 68 links to another of said Gram’s Corners in Cockran’s Line, then through said Cockran’s Line NE 11° 25 chains to a black oak Sapling, then NE 26° 13 chains to the Province Line, then along the Same on the West Side thereof through the Lands of Andrew Johnson NW 18° 28 chains, then NW 86° 29 chains to the West Corner of William Binge’s meadow, then NE 6° 5 chains 30 links, then NW 45° 8 chains, then NW 71 ° 7 chains to Abel Hoff’s Line, then along the same NE 18° 34 chains, then NE 8° 9 chains, then NW 7° 5 chains to Jonathan Hunt’s Line, then through said Hunt’s Land the same course 23 chains to Andrew Vannoy’s Line on the North side of Stony Brook, then along the said Hunt’s and Vannoy’s Line NW 47° 45 chains to the Cornor of Zedekiah Pettit’s Land, then the same Course through So Pettit’s Land on the West side of his Orchard Leaving the Well Two Rods on the East side of the sd. Road to John Houghton’s Corner, then the same Course between sd. Houghton’s and Jeremiah Manning’s Land to Valentine Bryant’s Land in all 56 chains, then NE 21° 13 chains, then NW 16° 2 chains 50 links, then NW 37° 12 chains, then NW 61 ° 20 chains to John Houghton’s Line, then along the Line between said Houghton and Valentine Bryant on said Houghton’s Land NW 89° 7 chains to William Bryant’s line/Hill on sd. Houghton’s Land, NW 15° 30 minutes 8 chains 67 links to Thomas Blackwell’s Corner, then along the Line Between said Houghton and Blackwell NW 68° to the Great Road (Mt. Rose), then between Blackwell and Benjamin Anderson to sd. Anderson’s Corner Still keeping the Same Course, then between sd. Blackwell and William Bryant the Same Course to sd. Blackwell’s Cornor in all 49 chains 20 links, then between sd. Bryant’s and Jonathan Hunt’s Land NW 60° 30 minutes 12 chains 50 links to David Stout’s Corner, then along the Line between said Stout and Bryant on said Stout’s land NE 9° 21 chains 16 links, then NW 15° Still on sd. Stout’s Land 24 chains 40 links to the Brook then the Same Course along the Line between said Stout and Henry Vankirk 20 chains to Isaac Eaton’s Corner, then the same Course between Eaton and Vankirk 15 chains, then NE 17° 4 chains and 9 links, then NE 5° 45 minutes 3 chains 28 links to Samuel Stout’s Corner, then along the Line between sd. Stout and sd. Eaton N 23 chains to the Great Road. In Witness whereof we have hereunto Sett our Hands and Seals this fifth Day of December 1766.
Recorded December the 4th 1767
ublic records such as deeds, mortgages, wills, tavern licenses, and road returns, are excellent sources of information about the early residents and Hopewell Valleys history. The Town Book of Records wherein is to be Entred All Such matters And things as are Agreed upon the Inhabi- tants of the Township of Hopewell In the County of Hunterdon and Province of Noa Cesaria
Detail from "A Sketch of the Northern Parts of New Jersey" 1781 John Hills, courtesy NJ State Library
In reference to some of the landowners mentioned in this return, Benjamin and William Merrill owned and occupied the land on the north side of Route 518 that ran from Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell east-ward to the Amwell Road from 1730-1738 according to deeds of record. James Hyde, Sr. bought land on the south side of the same road in 1710 from Daniel Coxe and then conveyed 200 acres to his son, James Hyde, Jr., in 1732/33. On 18 May 1733, Samuel Stout purchased 120 of these acres which butted the Princeton Road and David Stout on the west and ran eastward more than one-half mile. John Hendrixson lived on a plantation at Marshall’s Corner, east of Route 518 Spur, in 1748 when John Hunt “became possessed” of this 188 acre tract which he sold in 1748 to Jonathan Hunt. This land was the farm of Joseph Moore and family after 1806. As you can see, it is difficult to locate a road without some knowledge of early land trans-actions.
Because many pieces of property were passed from generation to generation, and road conditions, weather, and family cir-cumstances hampered many from traveling the arduous and time consuming miles to the county seat in either Burlington, Trenton or Flemington (depending upon the political structure of the period) many deeds before 1800 were not recorded. Therefore, the researcher must look to other sources for the location of early property owners.
Detail showing Hopewell Valley area from "A new mapp of East and West New Jarsey", 1706. Library of Congress
In the Hunterdon County Road Book I, on pages 45 and 46 is a road return that gives many land owners who do not appear in deeds or mortgages. The complete text of the return is included for your perusal and enjoyment. It begins in Maidenhead, now Lawrence Township, near Route 206 and progresses northward, crossing the line into Hopewell Township ending at Route 518 at a point described in the previously quoted road return. It reads:In the Hunterdon County Road Book I, on pages 45 and 46 is a road return that gives many land owners who do not appear in deeds or mortgages. The complete text of the return is included for your perusal and enjoyment. It begins in Maidenhead, now Lawrence Township, near Route 206 and progresses northward, crossing the line into Hopewell Township ending at Route 518 at a point described in the previously quoted road return. It reads:
This road return shows that Henry Van Kirk owned more land along this 1766 road than has ever been found by deed. Van Kirk had settled in Hopewell Township by 1737 when he was elected constable. He owned more than 300 acres which descended to his sons and later sold to other descendants. William Bryant owned 173¼ acres on the east side of said road and David Stout and Rev. Isaac Eaton, his son-in-law, owned the west side. Jonathan Hunt bought 193 acres from Daniel Coxe in 1756. When you come to the Mount Rose crossroad, you find that Thomas Blackwell possessed the western corners. His father, Robert Blackwell, devised by will to his son, Thomas, 166 acres “where I now live” in 1751. In 1777, Thomas devised the land to his four sons, one of whom, Andrew, owned 166 acres at the crossroads in 1815 when he died. By that date Andrew owned the northwest corner of 35 acres, which had been the property of Benjamin Anderson in 1766. Also note that “the Great Road” was the present Pennington-Rocky Hill Road which was laid out before 1761, according to another return listed in Road Return Book I on page 5. John Houghton, a brother of Colonel Joab Houghton of Revolutionary War fame, had most of the land on the east side of this 1766 road and the Bryant’s owned the west side. The township line is not marked between Hopewell and Maidenhead. However, the Jonathan Hunt and Andrew Vannoy plantations were in both townships. One must not overlook any record source in your search for history and/or genealogy.
Betsy A. Errickson, 1981
Published in HVHS Newsletter - Volume 4 No. 3
Abstracts of Wills, New Jersey Archives
Colonial Conveyances of East and West Jersey, New Jersey State Library
Hunterdon County Deeds, Mortgages, and Road Returns, Office of the County Clerk, Hall of Records, Flemington, NJ
Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas, Hall of Records, Flemington, NJ
The Town Records of Hopewell compiled by Lida Cokefair Gedney, 1931
Unrecorded deeds, Hopewell Museum, Hopewell, NJ