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Beattystown Historic District

Mansfield Twp, Warren County, NJ

The village of Beattystown [†] is situated in southeastern Warren County, and lies within New Jersey's Highlands geographical province. The village is due northwest of Schooley's Mountain and is located on a gentle northern slope parallel to the Musconetcong River. The Musconetcong River is a tributary of the Delaware River, and it provided a water power site for the development of the village. The village is located above the flood plain of the river excepting the Beatty/Fisher grist mill locale. The village's urban form is of a lineal type that runs on both sides of the current State Route 57. The village center is in the general location of the intersection of Route 57 and the Kings Highway. The village is surrounded by a mixture of woods, pasture and cropland. Its western boundary is adjacent to a recent suburban tract development mixed with open field.

The Beattystown District includes the entire village, including a few neighboring farmsteads, but it excludes the groups of modern houses scattered west of the district. The district also contains pasture land in the northeast end of the district that is integral to the cultural landscape of the community. The district contains 25 primary structures with attendant outbuildings. The current buildings are primarily of a residential use, with the Presbyterian Church being institutional. Originally the structures in the village were of a higher mix, including residential, industrial, agrarian commercial and institutional uses in the 18th and 19th centuries. The district's buildings are generally gable roofed vernacular structures of frame construction dating from late 18th to early and mid 19th centuries. The buildings generally exhibit simple formal stylistic detailing of those periods. The majority of the structures have been enlarged or refurbished over the years. These improvements, while resulting in the occasional loss or obscuring of early fabric in some cases, have been neither numerous nor disfiguring enough to impugn the historic architectural character of the district. In general terms the buildings are maintained and in good condition, with only a few in fair to poor condition.

Most of the district's buildings are closely spaced on small lots and face the road with short setbacks. This creates a rather tight streetscape. Wider spacing and / or varying setbacks occur at the northern and southern ends of the village. The yard areas are of varying character with little landscaping, and their character of maintenance runs from abandoned to well maintained. The center of the district is set with the large lot of the Presbyterian Church at the intersection of Route 57 and Kings Highway.

Beattystown possesses historical significance in the area of settlement pattern, industry, architecture, and commerce. The village is an example of the settlements that developed in the West Jersey Proprietorship in the 18th Century. Beattystown is the oldest urban settlement within Mansfield township, having been established by around 1762. Industry and commerce were the focus of the community throughout the 18th and into the early quarter of the 19th century. The grist mill (1762) and distillery (1780) established here, provided an industrial focus for the settlement. This focus led to a subsequent development within Beattystown of early rural produce trade and rural shop manufacturers. Thus the village provides a significant physical document of the development and evolution of the small scale water powered industry, rural shop manufacturers, and commerce that first developed in this area. The village has lost its local economic and social importance in this century; but, Beattystown does retain its essentially 19th century character and remnants of its 18th century composition and form. A majority of the buildings within the district were built between 1800-1850, while there are exceptions of 18th century and later 19th century structures standing as well.

The social economic significance of Beattystown during the period of 1762-1830 as an early settlement can be placed in perspective with other later mill seat developments along the Musconetcong River Valley and southeastern Warren County. Beattystown is the site of earliest grist mill, (George Beatty Mill circa 1762) within southeastern quarter section of Warren County. Other mill seat settlements and small manufacturing sites in this same vicinity developed later and were not of prime importance for trade and artisan manufacturing during the period from 1762- to about the late 1820's . Hacketstown, although settled in 1720 did not develop a mill till 1770 with an attached sawmill, built by General William Helms. Nearby Anderson's grist mill was established in 1798 by William Little. Anderson did not develop a distillery until 1810. And in nearby Washington Township a grist mill was established not until 1787 at Changewater. Even in further areas of this part of Warren County did not develop grist mills and several associated water powered industries until after Beattystown. In Franklin Township Colonel William McCullough established two grist mills, saw mill and oil mill were built in 1784, in Asbury. But at this site no significant village commerce and artisan shops developed. And grist mills were not established at Allamunchy in 1800 and Independence until 1815. During this period Beattystown was not only a significant place because of water powered industries. It was this areas primary place of trade and artisan shop commercial operations.

The site of the village of Beattystown was purchased by Richard Peter and Peter Lynford from Thomas and Richard Perm in 1746. In 1759, Peter Lynford sold the area tract to William Roseborough, that being, "all that land on the Musconetcong River being part of lot No. 59" containing 128 acres. In 1759, William Roseborough sold 50 acres, part of lot No. 59, to Alexander Rogers, then, on March 10, 1762, Alexander Rogers sold these 50 acres to George Beatty. George Beatty was the first individual to physically develop the site. Around this time, the western Jersey environs were beginning to be settled heavily by farmers as a result of expanding iron furnace manufacturing, grist mill and road developments.

During the mid 18th century, the Kings Highway was laid across the Musconetcong River into the expanding farming areas of the West Jersey Proprietorship. The establishment of this road provided an easy transportation route for farm goods from these recently settled areas to the larger urban markets of New York and Philadelphia. At this juncture, George Beatty built the first grist mill in the area around 1762. This mill provided the focus of the economic and affiliated social activity for the southeastern part of Warren County (then Hunterdon County.) This original mill burned down; the present stone mill at this site was built around 1810-20. Public records and research indicate that early on, this mill seat attracted other businesses and rural manufacturing that reflects an early pre-industrial and trade center of the period. By 1770, the first tavern in the area was established_here by Stuart Martin. In 1780 Zilva Osman built the first distillery in the area here.

These industries and the place of trade at the mill began to attract the formation of a village along a north to south road paralleling the river. By 1800, Elisha and Edward Bird built a distillery and established the first store within Mansfield Township. The time of 1800 to 1825 was the period of greatest growth and social/economic importance of Beattystown. During this time, it was the largest urban settlement of southeastern Warren County. It served as the major milling center and place of sale of produce for the area. The village was a rural craft center for the production of hand made items. The trades were represented by a shoe shop, hatting shop, wagon maker, saddler, and two blacksmiths (by 1825.) By 1810, the village school was established and represented the initiation of the institutional growth of the village (this private academy would be succeeded by a public district school.) In 1832, the Presbyterian Church of Beattystown was established. In 1835, the post office was opened (closed 1929,) so that by the 1830's, Beattystown was the active urban center of southeastern Warren County. Its growth was related to and dependent on water power and road transportation based economics, and it represented a mature rural pre-industrial commercial residential center for the western Jerseys.

Around 1825, the village of Beattystown began to be eclipsed as an important business center by nearby Hackettstown. This slow decline came as a result of road development leading to Hackettstown and later canal and railroad corridor development through that town. But, even in view of this shift of development, Beattystown remained constant in its composition of the rural industry and trade it had established by 1830. The grist mill continued to function successfully and the mixture of several taverns, store, and post office remained in operation towards 1900. This stability was provided in part by the establishment of the Shields Hematite Mine, located due west of the village, which was opened in 1868 and in operation until 1877. This operation and another mine on the John Fisher Farm, just south of the village, provided economic diversity of the village and aided in its stability. Additionally, the continued presence of lime kiln operations aided as well. The 1874 village map of Beattystown indicates two lime kilns near the river on the property of J. B. Fisher. Other commercial kilns and lime stone quarries lay just outside the present district boundaries.

By 1900, a slow decline of the village began. Cut off from railroad access, as the old business owners retired, new owners were not to be found. By 1929, even the post office had closed, and the population of the village had dropped by nearly half. The closing of the post office marks the end of Beattystown's urban village presence that began with it's initial settlement in 1762 by George Beatty. Beattystown today, is primarily a residential community. It retains most of its 19th century character in terms of setting and composition of buildings. The Presbyterian church is still a functioning center for the community. The Beattystown Fisher grist mill still stands and has undergone recent renovations that, in general, have respected its historic character and surviving building fabric. The district's buildings are primarily houses with some outbuildings. The district includes a grist mill, church, school, tavern, store, and shop buildings that vary in terms of period integrity from well-preserved to modifications by relatively few modern alterations. As a group, these buildings possess architectural significance. By their siting, form, construction, and decorative embellishment, they provide a document of this rural region's vernacular architecture from the later 18th through the 19th centuries.

The village, as it stands, is a well preserved example of a pre-industrial lineal village center established during the West Jersey Proprietorship. It retains the major elements of the center of the village and its contextual relationship to the adjacent landscape. The village of Beattystown is important in that it is a surviving example of the pre-industrial urban settlement pattern of New Jersey, and, as such, reflects the broad pattern of growth and history of rural western New Jersey, as it existed in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Adapted from: Thomas E. Jones, Groenendaal and Jones, Beattystown Historic District, nomination document, 1989, National Park Service National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Kings Highway • Route 57