Sergeantsville Historic District
The Sergeantsville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright 2013, The Gombach Group.
The Sergeantsville Historic District is significant in the areas of settlement pattern and architecture from 1773 to c.1939. The village, originally known as Skunktown for reasons that remain obscure, exemplifies the small agglomerate crossroads settlements that developed in the region during the 18th and 19th centuries to serve the dispersed agricultural community and, where favored by location, private travelers and commercial traffic moving over the early New Jersey highways and then became increasingly isolated as they were bypassed by transportation innovations elsewhere that thwarted further growth. The Sergeantsville Historic District's architectural significance derives from its assemblage of modest early stone and frame buildings whose construction, form, detailing and spatial organization are representative of the rural region's domestic architecture during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The period of significance begins when the land in the immediate vicinity of the central crossroads was first subdivided and conveyed to Joseph Sergeant, blacksmith, whose family became instrumental in development of the village, and ends when the Sergeantsville Creamery, established in 1886 as the first creamery in Hunterdon County, closed. The creamery was the last of several 19th century community-based social and economic associations to cease operation.
While European settlement in the area around what would become Sergeantsville began during the first half of the 18th century, settlement around the crossroads did not begin to coalesce until the last quarter of the century, by which time a blacksmithy, a general store, and a tavern had come into operation at an intersection along the road to a Delaware River crossing at Howell's Ferry at what is present day Stockton. A bridge, which became known as Center Bridge, replaced Howell's Ferry in 1814, thus assuring a long-term role for Sergeantsville to continue to serve traffic to and from the river. In 1827 a post office was established, which formalized Sergeantsville as the name of the village. Around 1830 the village witnessed a minor building boom, when three substantial stone buildings were constructed, the tavern, the general store and the blacksmithy, which give the crossroads a distinctive appearance that it largely retains today. Two years later, the first church was constructed. Over the next few decades, the village grew gradually to include several dozen dwellings, a second store, a second church, a number of artisan shops, a schoolhouse, and several distinctive community-based organizations: A military hall in 1860; a grange in 1876, and the first creamery association in the county in 1881. During the final decades of the 19th century and first two decades of the 20th century, Sergeantsville flourished as its closely-knit citizenry adopted the ways and institutions of a modern agricultural-based community. A number of modest houses built during the last two decades of the 19th and first decades of the 20th centuries are indicative of a village of relatively prosperous workers, small entrepreneurs, and farmers.
With the exception of several artisan shops, the village did not experience industrial development, and when Prohibition closed the crossroads tavern/hotel in 1920, the village lost its single most significant business outside the creamery association. The close of the creamery in the late 1930s marked the end of a period noteworthy for such cooperative community endeavors and signaled a shift toward centralized dairies. As economic development stagnated, the village became increasingly isolated, which helped to preserve much of its 19th and early 20th century character. Importantly, most of the early commercial and institutional buildings survived and have been adapted to new compatible uses, assuring the long-term preservation of the district's distinctive historic identity.
The Sergeantsville Historic District's resources, which are mostly dwellings, but also include two churches, two cemeteries, a former school, a post office, a former tavern/hotel, former grange and military halls, a former creamery, and several stores, are, in general well preserved with relatively few modern alterations. Collectively they possess architectural significance. Their form, construction, detailing and siting provide a representative illustration of the rural region's essentially vernacular architecture in the late 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. In addition, the Sergeantsville Historic District's buildings illustrate the transition from traditional forms to popular styles in dwellings as well as commercial and institutional buildings. The majority of the earliest buildings are of stone construction, including five dwellings, three commercial buildings, and one church (Sergeantsville United Methodist Church, 624 Route 604). Some dwellings exemplify the traditional house types and construction practices found in the region. These dwellings were the two-story, gable-roofed house types with either a single-pile, which is known as an I-type, or a double pile plan, regular facade of three-to-five bays, and interior gable-end chimneys that were ubiquitous in northwestern New Jersey during the 18th and 19th centuries. Similarly, other houses are representative of the popular house types adopted by local builders in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There included gable-fronted types that gained popularity during the middle of the 19th century and the Bungalow, which began to appear in the early 20th century. Most of the houses in the Sergeantsville Historic District are modestly scaled variations of traditional or popular forms, indicative of a village of relatively prosperous workers, small entrepreneurs, and a few farmers at the village outskirts. For the most part, surviving commercial and institutional buildings are also generally small-scaled unadorned buildings. Characteristic of the region, a number of the village buildings have been expanded over time, typically linearly, lean-to appendages, or rear wings.
The village's architecture also reveals traditional and popular architectural styles. Although generally restrained in stylistic details, several district buildings are of individual architectural note and testify to the relative prosperity of the village, particularly in the later 19th century. Some buildings in the district are noteworthy examples of vernacular traditional or popular types that have been embellished with detailing associated with styles current in the 19th and early 20 centuries. The symmetrical facade of the stone dwelling at 1 Lambert Road (Orchard Hill Farm) reflects Georgian influences while its central entry with paneled door, multi-pane transom and sidelights, and flanking pilasters are Greek Revival embellishments. The small Greek Revival/Italianate dwelling at 748 Route 523 is distinctive in the village as a diminutive example of a Italianate cubical villa, with a wide frieze, corner pilasters, a small belvedere, and a scaled down flat-roofed entry porch. One of the most elaborately ornamented buildings in the Sergeantsville Historic District is the dwelling at 639 Route 604 which features a number of exuberant Gothic Revival/Italianate embellishments such as its fancifully decorated center gable, scalloped cornice, and elaborate spandrel brackets. Somewhat grander in scale is the on the dwelling at 775 Route 523, which is one of the most substantial houses in the district. Its large centered gable decorated with lacy saw cut arched trim with turned pendants at the center and corners is Gothic Revival in feeling. The general store/dwelling on Route 604 is a noteworthy example of a commercial building in the district that has been embellished with stylistic details. Its shallow hipped roof and bracketed cornice are clearly Italianate-influenced. By late 19th century it was possible to acquire elegant architectural details at an affordable price as a result of the availability of manufactured versions of what previously were handmade features, such as the windows and doors of the First Brethren Church, which were manufactured in Philadelphia. Less specialized decorations were available more locally, in places such as nearby Lambertville. The dwelling at 456 Route 604 shows an effective use of manufactured tracery spandrel brackets to create an arcaded look.
As is frequently the case in rural communities, the churches are among the most impressive buildings. The Methodist Episcopal Church originally built in 1832 on the simple meetinghouse plan. An expansion campaign in 1869 transformed it into a good example of a rural Wren-Gibbs formula, consisting of a typical symmetrical arrangement, with a square cupola with louvered belfry centered on the front, as well as modest Italianate stylistic details evident in the arched window and entry openings and the wide bracketed eaves. The relatively small frame First Brethren Church is an interesting building with both Gothic and Queen Anne elements. Its steeply pitched roof, lancet window and belfry openings are clearly Gothic in character, while the use of multiple wall cladding materials and the decorative shingle treatment in the gables and on the bell tower are more related to Queen Anne style. The floor plan of the First Brethren Church is based on the auditorium church concept, a "modern" plan that was very popular at the end of the 19th century.
Contributing to the collective significance of the Sergeantsville Historic District's buildings are the numerous outbuildings, all of which are frame construction, with the exception of a stone springhouse and an icehouse; and almost all of which are located behind their associated houses. Late 19th century wagon houses, of both gable-end and side-wall entry types and early 20th century garages predominate. Small sheds and privies also are prevalent. A few barns also survive, including two bank barns and one English barn. Although none are singularly remarkable, taken as a whole this is a sizable and important group of surviving agricultural and domestic outbuildings that increases the significance of the district as a cultural landscape.
Although buildings of individual architectural note within the district are relatively few, as a collection they are evocative of a hardworking rural community, and reflect the region's vernacular architectural traditions and stylistic preferences over a long period. Reflecting its central Hunterdon location, the architecture reveals primary influences from the Delaware Valley cultural region. The relative similarity in scale and lack of pretension of the buildings provide visual clues about the cohesive nature of the community.
Located at the northwestern edge of the rolling Amwell Valley in southern Hunterdon County, the site of what would become Sergeantsville was originally surveyed in 1712 when it was part of Amwell Township, which had been established within Burlington County in 1708. Amwell Township then became part of Hunterdon County when it was set off from Burlington County in 1713. In 1727 Benjamin Field, "Yeoman of Bucks Co. [Pennsylvania]," sold John Lewis, Brazier of Trenton, a 208-acre parcel that was the southerly part of a larger tract Field had purchased from Nathan Allen several years earlier. The parcel acquired by Lewis was astride an old Indian path, known as "the swamp road," that led to the Delaware River, on the north side of the intersection with an east-west road between settlements that became known as Ringoes and Rosemont.
John Lewis was apparently a man of various abilities. He emigrated from Portugal sometime before 1716, and was described as a "Tinker" in a Bucks County land transaction that year. By 1723, when he was naturalized by the New Jersey Assembly, he was a resident of Amwell. In court papers from 1752, Lewis is described as a brass founder. That same year, he was referred to as a physician in a will he witnessed. He was living on his Amwell property when he died in 1758, and left his home farm to his two minor sons, John and Jacob, as joint tenants. Andrew Crawford of Bethlehem was appointed as guardian for the two boys in 1764. Five years later, John Lewis Jr. filed suit against Crawford, though the reasons are unclear; however, the younger John Lewis seems to have pursued a dishonorable course in life. A warrant for his arrest was issued in 1769 in which he was accused of assaulting two men, Thomas and Richard Minton, and destruction of Richard Minton's house. By 1771, John Lewis owed over £110 to various people, including Franklin Gordon and Joseph Sergeant, both of whom were residents of Amwell at the time. Gordon, whose father Thomas owned land on both sides of the "swamp Road" north of Lewis's acreage, sued to recover his portion, £24, but Lewis failed to appear in court and was declared "an absconding debtor." At that point the court ordered his property to be sold to satisfy his debts. On June 22, 1772, court appointed auditors conveyed one half of the 208 acres owned by John Lewis and his brother to Franklin Gordon.
Shortly afterward, Gordon sold a one-acre parcel on the northwest corner of the crossroads to Joseph Sergeant, a blacksmith, which Sergeant mortgaged for £23 to John Opdycke in 1773. The property description in the mortgage provides some clues about the crossroads neighborhood at that time: "Beginning at a heap of stones near a Spring the South side of the Great Road leading from John Opdycke's to Tyson's Mill in Amos Thatcher's line, thence .. .[northeast] to a heap of stone in a road leading to Bohannan's Tavern, thence...[west] to a Heap of Stones Corner to Gordon in a Field thence...[south] by said Gordon's land...to a Heap of Stones in Thatcher's line, thence...[east] to the place of Beginning, containing one acre and thirteen perches strict measure."
Perhaps most notable about the description — considering its specific references to local landmarks — is the conspicuous absence of any reference to a tavern on the corner opposite the blacksmith's lot. Also around this time, Franklin Gordon sold 51.5 acres to Garret Lake, leaving Gordon 51.5 acres from the 104-acre parcel he acquired from John Lewis. And in September 1780, Gordon conveyed the remaining 51.5 acres to Agesilaus Gordon, his brother. Thus, by 1780 initial subdivision of the land on the north side of the crossroads had taken place, although commercial development was probably limited to Sergeant's blacksmithy.
The land south of the crossroads, consisting of a 707-acre tract, was surveyed to Daniel Robins in 1722. Robins, who by 1733 was the father of thirteen children and grandfather of sixty-two, was born in 1666 in Connecticut and died intestate in Amwell Township in 1763, at which time his estate was valued at the substantial figure of £1,099. The location of Robins' dwelling is not known, but presumably it was somewhere on his 707-acre Amwell tract, and was probably in the vicinity of the crossroads. In 1737 Amos Thatcher acquired one hundred acres from Elisha Robins, (who was a relative of Daniel Robins), and in 1760 he acquired an adjacent parcel of 114.5 acres from Isaac Larew. According to a later deed, Thatcher's land bordered the southern boundary of Joseph Sergeant's property at the crossroads. Amos Thatcher was probably the son (1704-1798) but possibly the grandson (1748-1779) of Bartholomew Thatcher (c.1670-c.1764), who had been in Hunterdon County since at least 1742 and reportedly had seventeen children. Indirect evidence establishes that Bartholomew's son Amos had a close relationship with the Robins family: In 1741, Amos served as executor for Isaac Robins, who was presumably a brother or son of Daniel. In 1798, at Amos Thatcher's death, his son Daniel served as his father's executor. Thatcher's will was witnessed by Franklin Gordon and Charles Sergeant, and his estate was inventoried by Charles Sergeant and Cornelius Lake, all of whom had interests in the vicinity of the crossroads, suggesting the close knit character of the early community. Daniel Thatcher inherited his father's home plantation, located on the south side of the intersection, which contained 214.5 acres comprised of the two parcels acquired decades earlier from Elisha Robins and Isaac Larew. In 1812, when the property was conveyed to Jonas Thatcher, it was resurveyed as 231.25 acres.
Surviving Amwell tax rateables provide further information on Franklin Gordon and his brother Agesilaus (c.1743-1815), who was a son-in-law of John Opdycke and Mary Green Opdycke, prominent and wealthy Amwell residents who lived just east of the subject crossroads in the mill hamlet known as Headquarters. The tax rateables for January 1780 assessed Franklin Gordon for 160 acres, which presumably included 103 acres he had acquired from John Lewis. At this time Agesilaus Gordon was assessed for four horses, three head of cattle, and 178 acres, of which 125 were improved. He also had £14 lent at interest. Residents were taxed again in June, when Agesilaus Gordon's land was listed as two properties totaling 134 acres, of which 70 acres improved. Franklin's land totaled 240 acres in June. In September of the same year, Franklin conveyed 51.5 acres of his remaining 103 acres that he had acquired from John Lewis to his brother Agesilaus. The tract comprised the land on the northeast corner of the crossroads. Around the same time, Franklin conveyed the other 51.5 acres to Garret Lake.
Writing in 1930, local historian Egbert T. Bush reported that there was a stone dwelling on the northwest corner of the intersection at an early date that was eventually torn down. This was probably the residence of Joseph Sergeant (c.1736-1797), who was described as a blacksmith in his 1773 mortgage for the lot on the northwest corner of the intersection of the "Great Road leading from John Opdyckes to Tyson's Mill" and the "Road leading to Bohannan's Tavern." Sergeant appears in the 1780 Amwell tax rateables, where he was listed as a householder with a house lot, a horse, and two cattle. It is likely that Joseph Sergeant would have quickly opened a shop after he acquired his property. The surviving blacksmithy building just west of the crossroads was reportedly erected around 1830 by Peter Green. If so, then Green must have replaced Sergeant's earlier smithy.
While local tradition claims the existence of a tavern at the crossroads during the Revolutionary War, no evidence confirming its existence during that period has been discovered. Maps from the Revolutionary War period do not show any indication of a settlement or tavern at the crossroads. The earliest documentary evidence of a tavern occurs in 1794, when Agesilaus Gordon's son-in-law, Godfrey Rockafellar (1769-1814), who was a captain in the Amwell Militia at the time, submitted a petition for a tavern license signed by forty-three freeholders, stating that: "Your petitioner has lately removed into the House where he now lives in Skunktown upon an Expectation that the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the peace would Grant him a License to keep a Tavern or publick Inn."
The wording of the petition (which makes no mention of an ongoing tavern or inn) and the impressive number of signatures (when the minimum required was only six freeholders), suggest that the petition was for a new tavern location. Although the 1794 petition is the earliest known use of Skunktown as the location name, it implies that the name was already in general use. The origins of the Skunktown appellation remain obscure. The 1881 county history states the story that the name arose because many skunks congregated at the location during certain seasons. The story was repeated by local historian Edgar T. Bush, his own guess being that early on someone established a market for skunk pelts at the crossroads. Godfrey Rockafellar applied for a license again in 1795, followed in 1796 and 1797 by Agesilaus Gordon, who applied to conduct a tavern "in the house lately kept by Godfrey Rockafellar." Among the twenty-one subscribers to the 1797 application were Joseph and Charles Sergeant, Cornelius Lake, and [General] William Maxwell. No records exist for 1798 through 1800, but in 1801 Agesilaus again applied for a tavern license. In 1802, John Barcroft submitted an application to run the Skunktown tavern, in the house "where he now dwells," followed by Cornelius Lake in 1803. In 1804, Agesilaus Gordon again applied for a license, but in September he sold his 51.5-acre property to his son-in-law, Godfrey Rockafellar, for $3,400. Rockafellar promptly mortgaged the tavern property and two other lots back to his father-in-law, John Opdycke, for $4,000 payable in four annual installments, and in 1805 he applied for a tavern license. The license application contains a description of the tavern location: "[Rockafellar] has purchased the tavern known by the name of Skoonkton in Amwell on the road from Flemington to Howell's Ferry and also from Price's Tavern to Painters ferry."
In 1814, the same year Howell's Ferry was replaced by a bridge to Pennsylvania, Rockafellar again mortgaged the tavern lot for $1,200, this time to George Holcombe, a New Brunswick merchant and former Amwell resident who had conducted a store in nearby Headquarters for many years. It is likely that Rockafellar's apparent financial problems were at least partly a result of the economic downturn that followed the War of 1812. Perhaps the new bridge and resulting increase in commercial traffic were a little too late to help Rockafellar. Rockafellar died intestate later in 1814, leaving an estate of $1,082.76; his property devolved to his widow, Anne Gordon Rockafellar. At this time, the tavern was being operated by James Larew. Othniel Lake replaced Larew from 1817 to 1818, followed by William Rake. Rockafellar's personal estate was finally settled in 1824, presumably after the death of his widow, at which time his seven children who were his heirs were ordered to satisfy the demands of his creditors. John Gordon sued to recover the unpaid mortgage Rockafellar had given Agesilaus Gordon when he purchased the tavern property in 1804; and William Mitchell sued to recover the unpaid mortgage Rockafellar had given to George Holcombe in 1814. To satisfy judgments totaling $3,592, the property was sold by public venue on February 4, 1824, when John Gordon paid just $1,200 to acquire it.
In 1802, Joseph and John Sergeant acquired a small lot from Jonas Thatcher on the southeast corner of the crossroads where, according to the 1881 county history, they opened a "small grocery," thereby expanding the family's commercial interests at the intersection. Jonas Thatcher, who would later marry the Sergeant's niece, Nancy Lake, was a descendant of Amos Thatcher, who had been Joseph Sergeant Sr.'s southern neighbor when he acquired his blacksmith lot in 1773. Amos Thatcher's large farmstead property had devolved to his son Daniel, who sold it to Jonas in 1800 for $3,480. The two families evidently developed a close relationship, as evidenced in 1798, when Charles Sergeant witnessed Amos Thatcher's will and later after his death, appraised his estate. So it is not surprising that the Sergeants acquired a commercial interest in a corner of Thatcher's land at the crossroads. In 1827, a post office was established at the crossroads, with Jonas Thatcher appointed postmaster. It was at this time Sergeantsville formally replaced the old name of Skunktown, in recognition of the entrepreneurial prominence attained by the Sergeants, who at various times operated businesses on two corners at the crossroads: a general store on the southeast corner and a blacksmithy on the northwest corner. Evidently, commerce at the crossroads was good, because in 1830, Henry H. Fisher (1801-1881) constructed a stone store building on the southwest corner. Fisher had a half-interest in 3.94 acres that had been subdivided from Jonas Thatcher's large tract. The following year, Thatcher sold his one-half interest to Fisher, who continued to operate the business until 1864. Also around 1830, Peter Green, whose extended family included numerous blacksmiths in the region, reportedly constructed the stone one-story blacksmith shop that still stands just west of the intersection (604 Route 604). Although no property deed has been found, Charles Sergeant married Sarah Green in 1788, suggesting the possibility of an intra-family transaction that led to Peter Green's acquisition of the lot. Peter Green's descendants operated the blacksmithy for several generations.
As evidence of the progress of the community, in 1830 a new schoolhouse (possibly a replacement) was constructed a mile west of the intersection. In 1832, just two years after an outdoor revival conducted near Sergeantsville stimulated local religious interest, the first church in the village, a stone Methodist Episcopal building, was constructed just west of the intersection. Henry Fisher, who was evidently enjoying success as an entrepreneur, donated the lot and $100 toward the project. The 1834 state gazetteer provides a snapshot of Sergeantsville during that period, describing it as consisting of about six to eight houses, a store and a tavern. The new stone church was apparently overlooked by the gazetteer compilers. The death of Charles Sergeant in 1833 at the age of seventy-three resulted in several changes at the intersection, most significantly bringing an end to the Sergeant family's presence at the crossroads. In his will, Charles declared that all his village lots should be sold at auction, and Henry H. Fisher took advantage of the opportunity to add to his holdings by acquiring a small lot on the north side of the road, just west of the intersection and the small lot on the southeast corner of the intersection, which included a two-story stone house (likely the building in which the Sergeant brothers conducted their store), thereby achieving ownership on three of the four corners.
Sometime during the 1830s, Henry Wagner took over as tavern keeper, and he was running the tavern in 1838 when newly organized Delaware Township's first municipal meeting was held there. Centrally located within the newly organized township, Sergeantsville quickly became the regular site of town meetings as well as the business center of the township. In 1838, the tavern lot was sold for $2,001 to John Parker of Raritan at a public auction following the death of Neal Hart, who apparently had acquired the tavern from John Gordon, when the lot was reduced from 51.5 acres to 27.26 acres. Less than two years later, Parker sold the 27.26-acre tavern lot for $2,300 to Isaiah H. Moore, also of Delaware, realizing a profit of $300. Moore kept the property only briefly, and in 1842 he sold it to David Rake, who resold it later the same year for $2,400 to George W. Gaddis.
The crossroads hamlet continued to gradually expand, and by 1844 it contained "a store, tavern, and a few mechanics; a neat Methodist church, lately erected of stone and stuccoed; and about a dozen dwellings. Gaddis would own the tavern for only eight years, but he would play a significant role in development at the crossroads. Starting in 1845, Gaddis acted as innkeeper as well as owner, and the establishment became known as the Gaddis Hotel, the name that appears on an 1851 map, though by that date Gaddis had already sold the tavern. When he sold the tavern in 1850 to John Smith of Sergeantsville for $2,000, Gaddis offered it with only one acre of land, evidence of the substantial value of the tavern, and proceeded to sell off lots from the remaining 26.26 acres. In 1852, Henry T. Quick purchased a lot north of the tavern where he built a house (739 Route 523) and established a wheelwright and carriage making business. Sometime later, innkeeper Henry Everitt and Dr. Isaac S. Cramer acquired small house lots north and east of the tavern.
After 1850, the tavern lot passed through a series of owners, most of whom held the property for only a few years. One of them, Jeremiah Trout, built an addition at the east end of the building, sometime between 1867 and 1872, which the 1873 atlas suggests was used as a social hall. Two of the longer owners were Robert E. Holcombe, who had the property from 1856 to 1865, and George T. Arnwine, who acquired it in 1879 and held it until his death in 1892. After Arnwine's death, the tavern was sold to Jacob K. Wilson (b.1848), a Civil War veteran who previously owned the property from 1872 to 1879 and operated it almost continuously from 1872 to 1920. Wilson renamed the tavern the Sergeantsville Hotel [The Sergeantsville Inn], and was probably responsible for updating the building to add a gaily-painted wrap-around porch that is visible in an early photograph. The hotel-keeper reserved a room there for board of education and Delaware Township meetings. Wilson also served for many years as township clerk beginning in the 1890s.
A map depicting Sergeantsville in 1860 shows a nucleated crossroads village with hotel, church, blacksmithy, wheelwright, doctor, a shoemaker's shop, and about sixteen dwellings. The 1860s saw the village flourish and introduced several new community institutions. David Jackson purchased a dwelling just east of the intersection where he opened a store that sold candy, tobacco and cigars and where he ran the post office (559 Route 604). John H. Green had a feed store on his property just west of the blacksmith shop. Continuing his community philanthropy, in 1860, Henry H. Fisher conveyed a lot to John T. Sergeants, Dr. Isaac B. Cramer and Charles Everitt, prominent village residents who were acting as the trustees of the Sergeantsville Military Hall (744 Route 523). The new hall was for use by a local militia, the "Delaware Guards," and represented a noteworthy new institutional addition to community life. Local sentiment regarding the Civil War was expressed at a public meeting of the Democratic Committee held at the hall in 1863, reportedly one of the largest meetings ever held in Hunterdon County. A three-man committee comprised of Dr. Isaac Cramer, John Sergeant and Dr. H.B. Nightingale prepared a resolution that condemned what they considered to be a federal usurpation of individual rights in the division of the North and the South. The resolution, which was unanimously adopted, also condemned abolition and secession and encouraged the prevention of the influx of Negroes into the state.
Around 1864 Jonathan M. Dilts established a tannery at a sensitive distance south of village dwellings. Nearby, John D. Bowne had a shop where he manufactured plows. By the mid 1860s, the membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church had grown to the point where it became necessary to expand the church building. In 1867, at a cost of $4,300, the walls were raised and an addition was built onto the front of the stone church. The belfry was presumably added at that time. The 1870s witnessed some redevelopment at the intersection when George H. Fisher demolished the old Sergeant store on the southeast corner and replaced it with a new commercial building, part of which he used for a harness shop, while renting other parts for a store, barber shop and restaurant (571 Route 604). With its central entry flanked by large paned shop windows that were made possible by technical advances in glassmaking, Fisher's store would have likely stood out in the village as the earliest example in Sergeantsville of what remains a popular "modern" storefront type.
Development continued into the next decade. Reflecting a widespread interest in garden design during the Victorian period, perhaps as well as a certain level of prosperity in the village, in 1870 the village doctor, Isaac B. Cramer, established "Hunterdon Nurseries," where according to an annual catalog he published, he sold fruit, shade and ornamental trees, and flowering shrubs, at least some of which were likely sold to village residents. The large nursery is shown just east of the tavern on an 1873 atlas, which also depicts a new street, the first one in the village, extending south from the main road a short distance east of the intersection. West of the intersection can be seen another wagon shop, owned by J.H. Gordon, and just south of the intersection is the W. Williamson hat shop. As a result of continued population growth, the Sergeantsville schoolhouse west of the village was enlarged in 1874. In 1876, nine years after the American grange movement began as a farmers' social and education organization, the Sergeantsville Grange was established with twenty-three charter members who met at Fisher's Hall, which apparently was a meeting space in Fisher's commercial building. The next year saw further redevelopment at the intersection, when Asher B. Williamson demolished the old stone dwelling on the northwest corner and replaced it with a dwelling and attached three-story commercial building, both stylishly flat-roofed and bracketed, which he used for a shoemaker shop and shoe store. It was probably also around this time that George H. Fisher built a large, elegantly detailed cross-gable house behind his new store on the southeast corner of the intersection. Williamson's and Fisher's dwellings are transitional examples that represent the beginnings of a significant shift in the village away from traditional house forms toward the adoption of modern popular styles.
The village continued to flourish during the last two decades of the century. By 1881, the village had a population of 139, the membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church reached eighty-five, and the grange had expanded to forty members. That year historian James P. Snell described the village: "Sergeantsville has been the business centre of the township ever since the organization of Delaware [Township]. There are at present one store by J.F. Shepherd, a tavern by Jacob Wilson, a blacksmith-shop by Jacob L. Green, carriage-and-sleigh manufactory by Henry Quick, a shoe-store and manufactory by A.B. Williamson, a harness-shop by G.H. Fisher, a tin-shop by Washington Timbrook, a nursery by I.S. Cramer (also the physician), a grange and Methodist Episcopal church."
That was also the year the Sergeantsville Creamery Association, the first in the county, was chartered. A creamery was built a short distance west of the intersection; an early photograph depicts a group of dairy farmers proudly standing in front of their handsome building. To raise the capital needed, eighty local farmers subscribed to shares of stock at $25 each. The creamery opened in April and by June it was making 240 pounds of butter each day, 200 quarts of cream, and eighteen large cheeses. Dozens of creameries were organized in New Jersey during the late 19th century, revolutionizing dairying by taking the marketing of butter and milk out of the home. Soon after, members of the grange purchased a lot north of the creamery for their new building, which was completed June 9, 1883 for a cost of $568.27. By the end of the decade, the village could also boast its own new schoolhouse, built on the hill just north of the intersection. A number of new dwellings appeared around this time as well, and were typically gable-front houses, a popular style that was suited to the small, newly subdivided village lots. A number of the houses were ornamented with stylish decorative details, evidence of prosperity as well as pride of ownership. The end of the century brought more changes to the village, including a new church. The eclectic Victorian Brethren Church building was constructed in 1899 at the east end of the village by a progressive splinter group of forty-nine members who left the German Baptist Brethren (Dunkard) church in Sandbrook. A brief item in the Hunterdon County Democrat reported in March 1899: "Work will begin on the new progressive church this week. We hear than an architect from the city has been engaged and that the church will contain a baptismal pool, and many modern improvements."
The "architect" selected was John A. Green of Elizabeth, a carpenter/builder who also worked as construction foreman of the project. A small news item in August complimented Green's work: "The work upon the new church is progressing nicely...The ceiling will be of hardwood finish and the artistic arrangement of some of the parts gives special credit to workman, John A. Green, of Elizabeth."
The building's fish-scale shingles and other asymmetrical arrangements reflect the high Victorian style, which was in striking contrast to the traditional Methodist Church building at the other end of the village. In contrast to that earlier church, a number of architectural elements of the Brethren Church were manufactured off-site, such as the window and door frames, which were made in Philadelphia. Another notable change to the village streetscape occurred after 1889, when Dr. Isaac J. Cramer won election as Surrogate. Dr. Cramer sold his business interests and the nursery property was subdivided into lots, bringing more residential development.
Sergeantsville's prosperity continued into the new century. The grange members purchased a ten-foot strip of land and enlarged their hall in 1908 with a shed-roofed addition in the rear measuring twelve by thirty-two feet. In 1912 the organization had over 230 members. The village schoolhouse was enlarged and remodeled in 1913, at which time it was named the Kendall School evidently in honor of Calvin N. Kendall who was the state commissioner of education at the time. The village population reached 250 in 1914. A farm and business directory from that year lists a wide variety of businesses including: The Sergeantsville Hotel; the creamery, which was under the direction of Ellwood B. Clark; three general stores, run by E. Shepherd, Jacob G. Stryker, and Charles E. Reading; J.J. Rittenhouse; meat purveyor; Joseph L. Heater, blacksmith; George H. Fisher, harness maker; Lewis L. Higgins, barber; and two restaurants operated by W.L. Dobbins and George W. Green. Around this time, a new post office was built, the first building devoted to that purpose (557 Route 604). Residential development continued into the first decades of the 20th century.
However, the community's long-lasting good fortune suffered a major setback in 1920, when Prohibition resulted in the closure of the Sergeantsville Hotel. Remarkably, the community worked quickly to save the building, which was purchased from innkeeper (and Township Clerk) Jacob K. Wilson in March of the same year by the Sergeantsville Methodist Church for $4,000, largely at the urging of one of its members, Mattie Poulson Eppele, who was a granddaughter of George W. Gaddis. Thereafter it was known as the Sergeantsville Community Center. Delaware Township and Board of Education meetings continued to be held there. In addition, the second floor was converted into a large auditorium, the largest meeting hall in the area, thereby assuring a continuing important role in the community: "It was rented for political rallies, for large affairs of the local Grange, for county lodge meetings, for school graduation, for shows of local talent, for church summer school and for any occasion where a large hall was needed."
Over the next ten years, several other familiar landmarks and institutions evolved, too. Henry Quick's wheelwright shop was converted into a garage to service automobiles and the second floor was used as a meeting hall by the Patriotic Order Sons of America, a society founded in 1847 to promote patriotism and education. Across the street, the Sergeantsville Military Hall was used by Junior Order United American Mechanics, a fraternal organization founded in 1885 as a nativist group, but whose mission evolved into one of developing life insurance benefits for its members. Some old institutions remained, though: As late as 1930 the blacksmithy was still owned by a grandson of Peter Green, Theodore Green, who though elderly still "helped out" the blacksmith, James A. Harnet. The Kendall School continued to serve the village until 1954.
Writing in a 1930 article subtitled "Busy Village In Years Past, Still Maintains Its Reputation," Egbert T. Bush remarked that Sergeantsville "has long been noted as an unusually active business place for one of its size, and it is not losing that reputation." However, by the end of the decade the creamery closed as a result of pressures within a changing dairy industry that was more interested in whole milk. With its two most important businesses closed, Sergeantsville began a period of economic transition. In 1948, Delaware Township purchased the Community Center from the Methodist Church to use as its municipal building, thus assuring its long-term survival and continuing role as the center of community activity. As a result of its relatively isolated location, Sergeantsville experienced little development during the second half of the 20th century, which effectively served to preserve much of its historic character into the 21st century. Most of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century dwellings remain. The tavern/hotel still serves as the Delaware Township municipal building, although it has been remodeled to remove the Victorian wrap-around porch, and the original stucco was removed in 1974. Both churches still serve their original congregations. Nearly all of the early commercial buildings still serve in that use, while the grange, military hall, and schoolhouse have all been successfully converted to residential use. The creamery survives little changed in appearance and currently functions as an agricultural outbuilding. While village core remained essentially intact, residential development of farms at east end of village began in the late 20th century, including the construction of the consolidated township school in 1970.
Books, Manuscripts, Pamphlets, & Reports
Barber, John W. and Henry Howe. Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey. New York: Dover Publications, 1844.
Bertland, Dennis. "Delaware Township Historic Sites Survey," Delaware Township Environmental Commission, 1983.
Bush, Egbert T. The Articles of Egbert T. Bush (1848-1937) Published in the Hunterdon Democrat April 22, 1926 to September 23, 1937. Compiled for the Hunterdon County Library by Barbara Charles, 1999-2000.
Chambers, Theodore F. The Early Germans of New Jersey: Their History, Churches and Genealogies. Dover, NJ: Dover Printing Company, 1895.
Constitution and By-Laws of Sergeantsville Creamery Association at Sergeantsville, NJ. Lambertville, NJ: Hazen, The Printer, 1881.
Cramer, Isaac S. Hunterdon Nurseries, Sergeantsville, NJ, Dr. Isaac S. Cramer, Proprietor: Catalogue & Price List for Spring of 1883. Lambertville, NJ: Hazen, The Printer, 1883.
D'Autrechy, C. Phyllis. "Who Was Othniel Lake?" Hunterdon County Historical Society Newsletter, Vol.16, No.2. September 1980.
Farm and Business Directory of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey With a Complete Road Map of Both Counties. Philadelphia: Wilmer Atkinson Company, 1914.
First Brethren Church, Sergeantsville, NJ: A Hundred Years of Faith, 1898-1998. [Sergeantsville, NJ: First Brethren Church, 1998].
Goodspeed, Marfy. "Notes From the Township Historian." Autumn, 1995. Hunterdon County Historical Society Vertical File.
Goodspeed, Marfy. "The Sergeantsville Hotel." 1995. Manuscript in the Hunterdon County Historical Society.
Gordon, Thomas F. A Gazetteer of the State of New Jersey: comprehending a general view of its physical and moral condition, together with a topographical and statistical account of its counties, towns, villages, canals, railroads, &c., accompanied by a map. Trenton: Daniel Fenton, 1834.
Honeyman, A. Van Doren. Archives of the State of New Jersey: Calendar of New Jersey Wills, Vol. IV, 1761-1770. Somerville, NJ: The Unionist Gazette Assoc.,1928.
Horoschak, Richard M. "The Delaware Township Burying Point Possibly the Lost Thatcher Burying Ground of Sergeantsville." 1988-1989. Manuscript in the Vertical File at the Hunterdon County Library.
"Hunterdon County Historic Sites Inventory." Hunterdon County Cultural & Heritage Commission, 1978.
Hutchinson, Elmer T. Documents Relating to the Colonial, Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey. First Series, Vol. XLII, Calendar of New Jersey Wills, Administrations, Etc. Vol. XIII-1814-1817. Trenton, NJ: MacCrellish & Quigley Co, 1949.
Kay, John L. and Chester M. Smith, Jr. New Jersey Postal History. Lawrence, MA: Quarterman Publications, Inc., 1977.
Lane, Wheaton J. From Indian Trail to Iron Horse, Travel and Transportation in New Jersey, 1620-1860. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1939.
Ricord, F. W. and W. Nelson. Archives of the State of New Jersey: Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey. First series. Vol.2, 1687-1703. Newark, N.J., Daily Advertiser Printing House, 1888.
Schmidt, Hubert G. Agriculture in New Jersey: A Three-Hundred-Year History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1973.
Sergeantsville Creamery Association, Constitution and By-Laws of Sergeantsville Creamery Association. Lambertville, NJ: Hazen, The Printer, 1881.
Snell, James P. (ed.). History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey. Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1881.
Wacker, Peter O. Land and People: A Cultural Geography of Preindustrial New Jersey: Origins and Settlement Patterns. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1975.
Maps and Atlases
Beers, F.W. Atlas of Hunterdon County, New Jersey. 1873.
Beers, S.N. Map of Philadelphia and Trenton Vicinity. Philadelphia: C.K. Stone & A. Pomeroy, 1860.
Cornell, Samuel C. Map of Hunterdon County. 1851.
Hammond, D. Stanton. "Hunterdon County, New Jersey, Sheet C, Map Series #4." Genealogical Society of New Jersey, 1965.
Hills, J. "A Sketch of the Northern Parts of New Jersey Copied from the Original by Lieut I. Hills, S3rd Regiment," 1781.
Pugh & Downing, Civil Engineers. Map of Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Philadelphia: Hicks, 1902.
Genealogy Magazine of New Jersey
† Ann Parsekian, Janice Armstrong and Dennis Bertland, Dennis Bertland Associates, Sergeantsville Historic District, Hunterdon County, NJ, nomination document, 2008, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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