Kingwood Township of Yesteryear
Kingwood History - Excerpt from
"Kingwood Township of Yesteryear" by Barbara Alexander Farnham
A drive along the roads of Kingwood Township tells us this is an old, old community, steeped in history. There are still in existence houses, churches, schools, various shops, barns, etc. dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the descendants of the early settlers still live in the township. Until the flood of 1955 there was a bridge spanning the Delaware River at the southern-most tip of Kingwood. To read the list of commissioners named in 1853 to incorporate the "Point Pleasant Delaware Bridge Company" to build this bridge gives us a comprehensive view of some of the old families. They all lived in Kingwood Township except one, Hugh Capner. These commissioners from Kingwood were John Kugler, Hiram Bennett, Thomas Lequear, Nathan R. Holt, George Wanamaker, Thomas V. Roberson, Joseph Hann, William D. Shaw, Samuel Stewart, Samuel D. Barcroft, William Hann, Jr., Samuel Hartpense, John V. Thatcher, Samuel H. Britton, Reuben Kugler, Jonathan Rose, Thomas Skillman, John Emmons, Rev. Amos Marcelius, Samuel Niece, Charles Tomlinson, Isaac R. Srope, Mahlon Emmons. Cyrenius A. Slack, George Arnwine, and John Sine. Most of these were sons and grandsons of earlier settlers. There were other families of interest to the early history of Kingwood Township: Hon. John Runk, General Daniel Bray, George Opdyke, John Bellis, Edward and John Heath, the Rittenhouses, the Dalrymples, the Mathews, George Warne, Jonathan and Aaron Pettit, Wolverton, Dilts, Holcomb, William Penn, Fisher, Fox, Thomas Lowrey and many more.
Kingwood and surrounding townships were originally within Burlington County until 1713 when they became Hunterdon County, so named after the then Governor Robert Hunter. Kingwood Township was established in 1746. Previously it was part of Bethlehem Township. In 1845 there was another split when Franklin Township, formerly northeastern section of Kingwood Township, became a separate township with much opposition from local residents.
The township of Kingwood is still mostly rural with many active farms. It is situated on the Delaware River from just south of Byram to Frenchtown, extends to Alexandria and Franklin Townships to the North and East, going south via Locktown and across the north of Delaware Township to the river. It comprises thirty-five square miles.
Kingwood Township contains a number of little villages which in earlier days and still are today areas of heavier settlements. The village of Kingwood itself is where Route 519 (Kingwood Road or the King's Highway) joins Spur 519 (Kingwood-Byram Road). It is located about the center of the township. Near here most of the earliest settlers resided.
Byram is the village to the southern-most point and on the Delaware River. It is today primarily a summer colony. Here is where the Byram-Point Pleasant Bridge crossed the Delaware. Formerly Byram was called Point Pleasant as was the town on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge.
About three miles north of Byram, also on the river, is Tumble or Tumble Station at the foot of Tumble Falls. A quarter mile north of Tumble Falls is Warford Rock, better known as the "Devil's Tea Table" an unusual rocky prominence which looks like a table. The story about the "Devil's Tea Table" is that
Chief Big, Big Mountain, a strong, cunning, and feared Indian, was resting in his favorite place where he could view the river and islands below. His enemies, resentful of his strength and power over them, pushed a large boulder down the hillside crushing his head. The chief vowed as he died that his spirit would guard this beautiful spot. To view the 'tea table' from the side, it appears to be an Indian's head with a flattened skull.
A number of islands, part of the township, lay in the Delaware between Tumble Falls and Frenchtown. They were originally called Ridges, Rush, Hawk, and Rittenhouse. George Opdyke is said to have owned Hawk Island. Slightly to the north of these was Laquears, later known as Capners. Soledy's lay between Rush and Bool (Bull) Island to the south.
Milltown was the area where Kingwood-Byram Road (Spur 519) crossed the Lockatong Creek via an old iron bridge, one of the few left of its type. Today this area is generally referred to as Idell. Milltown and its mills, post office, stores, and other shops was a very self-sufficient area prior to the automobile.
Barbertown, named after Isaac Barber, is about a mile north of Kingwood Hotel or Tavern on Kingwood Road. Baptistown is where Routes 12 (Frenchtown Road) and 519 (Kingwood Road) cross and where the Baptists settled around 1720.
There were interesting names given to areas of Kingwood Township. Near Slacktown was 'Peaceable Island' and 'Black Bear Swamp,' so named because a black bear was killed there. 'Peaceable Island' was not an island but firmer land in the middle of boggy surrounding area. Near here the Shurts lived. One must drive through a small creek or runoff in order to get to the old stone house of the Shurts far back off Barbertown-Point Breeze Road. Abraham Shurts and Auche (later his wife) arrived from Germany in 1740 along with the Besson Family. 'Skunk Eddy' was near Warford Rock. We also find the quaint names of Tumble Falls Road, Whiskey Lane, Federal Twist Road, Featherbed Lane, Stompf Tavern Road, Horseshoe Bend Road, and Muddy Run. Much use of the old Indian names can still be seen such as Laokatong, now Lockatong, Little Nishisakawick Creek, and Wichecheoke Creek.
To go back further in history, Charles II of England made an Indenture of Nova Caesarea or New Jersey to James, Duke of York and George Carteret in 1664 making it a proprietary government. It was soon divided between Lords Carteret (East Jersey) and Berkeley (West Jersey). West Jersey was afterwards conveyed to William Penn, Garven Lawrie, and Nicholas Lucas as proprietors by Lord Berkeley.
In tracing the earliest Kingwood Township settlers we find ourselves going north on the old King's Highway (now Kingwood Road) from the Delaware Township border near the Methodist Episcopal Church. The King's Highway runs north and south and splits Kingwood Township in half, east and west.
Earliest ownership of Kingwood Township land occurred when Joseph Helmsley and Thomas Hutchinson bought ten proprietaries of land in Hunterdon, then Burlington. In 1676 William Biddle bought portions of these proprietaries of Helmsley and in 1686 of Hutchinson containing 1665 acres. Biddle sold 1150 acres to Peter Emley and Emley sold 400 acres to Daniel Howel, part of which was sold to Francis Tomlinson. This part was conveyed to Dennis Wolverton (Woolverton), 100 acres of which was conveyed in 1774 to General Daniel Bray. Emley also sold 300 acres northwest of the Kingwood Methodist Church to Charles Wolverton, who sold 150 acres to Dennis Wolverton, willed to Jonathan Wolverton and conveyed to Henry Slaught.
Edward Billings and trustees Penn, Lawrie, and Lucas conveyed large tracts to Thomas Olive, Daniel Wills, and William Biddle in 1693. Portions of the Olive tract, east of Kingwood Hotel, were sold to George Fox, and later George Fox sold part to Joshua Waterhouse. The Inghams moved into the area near the hotel in 1746, also buying a tract of land from George Fox.
In 1677 William Penn and associates conveyed to Francis Collins, Richard Mew, and John Ball one whole proprietary in Kingwood and Alexandria Townships. The Mews sold their tract, half of which went to John Munford and this to Dr. John Rodman. Both the Collins and Rodman tracts bounded the land of the Pettits near Kingwood-Byram Road and to the area previously owned by Biddle on the east. The Wheeler tract ran north of this, part of that bought by Samuel Runk in 1796.
Another early settler was Joshua Opdyke who purchased several hundred acres of the heirs of William Biles northeast of Barbertown. It is said that the building of the King's Highway was organized through the zeal and efforts of Joshua Opdyke. Joshua's grandson was George Opdyke, father of Hon. George Opdyke, Mayor of New York City. The Brays, John and James, bought considerable land from the area of approximately Warford Creek on the south and north to about Copper Creek near Frenchtown, along the Delaware, and to near Kingwood Road on the east.
The Lequears later lived on the land originally owned by John Bray. John Lequear built a lime kiln on the banks of the Delaware about 1832. To the south of the Brays was the land of George Warne, (originally that of J. Green, and later Jonathan Burge, part of which was sold in 1782 to John Kugler near Tumble). Nearby was Daniel Cains, William Reeder, Stephen Gano, and Marcy Longley. South of the Kugler's land was Jonathan Pettit along Tumble Falls Road. To the east and north portion of Pettit's land (designated as part of the Lotting Purchase) was 312 acres bought by George Opdyke in 1763.
The beginning of the 18th century, about 1720, brought the Baptists who settled Baptistown. Among them was Isaac Woolverton, William Fowler, Elizabeth Warford, John Burtis, Ann Lawrence, and Mary Green. The Brays also came to this area as Baptists. These families fanned out settling the areas near the river and toward Barbertown.
In 1703 much of the area along the Delaware north of Trenton was bought by the proprietors from the Indian Copnnockow. It is sometimes referred to in deeds as the 'Lotting Purchase' or 'New Indian Purchase.' Additional land was bought from Homhammoe (also in 1703) on both sides of the Raritan and adjoining Copnnockow's land. Both areas together totaled 150,000 acres. The Society of Friends (West Jersey Society) owned in 1744 91,000 acres in the area north of Amwell and Bull's Island near the Delaware. Part of this, 10, 000 acres, was sold to James Alexander forming Alexandria. Many Quakers
selected Kingwood as much to their liking and settled in the township (then part of Bethlehem), especially in the area near Oak Grove.
The Dalrymples came to this country from Scotland in 1765. They were Presbyterians and settled in the northeastern part of Kingwood Township near the Presbyterian Church.
Thomas Roberson settled about three miles south of Baptistown along Muddy Run, east of Barbertown. He was a Justice of the Peace for many years. Samuel Bellis was the first of the Bellis family to settle in the township about 1814.
Thomas Lowrey was apparently quite an enterpriser. He speculated in land and other commodities throughout Hunterdon. He was born in Ireland in 1737 of a wealthy family and came to this country in 1755. He was an ardent patriot and a Colonel in the New Jersey Militia. He lived in Flemington and later Milford but had much to do with the beginnings of Frenchtown, Milford, and Kingwood Township. In 1794 he bought the Rodman tract of 961 acres. He was eventually buried in the Presbyterian Church cemetery in Baptistown.
Many of the early landowners apparently bought tracts of land for investment purposes rather than for living on themselves. Hugh Magee seems to have bought scattered pieces here and there in Kingwood Township. As has been indicated, William Biddle bought much land, as did Peter Emley, especially in the southern area along the King's Highway. Later this land was bought by the Wolvertons, the Slaughts, George Fox, and the Wests. Some parts again were resold to other settlers.
By the mid-1700s we have the Wolvertons owning land on both sides of the King's Highway near the Delaware Township border, George Fox, the Inghams, Joshua Waterhouse near the village of Kingwood to the east, Slaught to the west, bordering land of Rodman. Thomas West by 1800s owned the expanse of land just north of the Methodist Episcopal Church on the west side of the road and Daniel Bray on the east side. Daniel Bray's half-brother lived a short distance north of the church along the comer of where Milltown Road joins Kingwood Road, a piece between West's land to the south and Slaught's to the north. North of Slaught's was the Barcroft's. Wilson Bray, son of Daniel, married Mary, daughter of Thomas West, and bought the house and 200 acres from his father-in-law. The house lay to the northwest of the church and was built by Jonathan Wolverton in 1737.
It is interesting to note the various countries from which Kingwood Township's settlers came. We have the French Huguenot Lequears, the Opdykes and Van Syckels from Holland, the German Kuglers and Wanamakers, Magee from Ireland, Dalrymple from Scotland, Waterhouse from England, Mathew from Wales, to name a few. Soon many other nationalities were represented as citizens of the township.