Hunterdon Historical Series. No. 5.
BY E. VOSSELLER.
FLEMINGTON, N. J
George W. Burroughs, Printer,
Cranbury, N. J.
fROM the high ground near the middle of Mor-
ris Co., two little streams start on their
* winding way to the ocean. One takes a zig-
zag southerly course into Somerset Co., the other
with a great sweep to the southwest into Hunter-
don Co., makes a turn which causes it to run north
for some miles from its mouth, though its first few
miles are almost exactly south. About four miles
north of Somerville in Somerset Co., these two
streams, the North Branch and the South Branch
unite and form the Karitan. The neighborhood
where these streams join, the Indians called
Tucca-Ramma-Hacking, meaning the flowing to-
gether of waters.
Of this region Cornelius Van Tienhoven, Secre-
tary of tlie New Netherlands writing in 1G50 says,
"This is the liandsoniest and pleasantest country
that man can behold. It furnished the Indians
with aljundance of maize, beans, pumpkins, and
other fruits. It was abandoned by them for two
reasons. First finding themselves unable to resist
the southern Indians, they migrated further in-
land. Second this country was flooded every
spring, frequently destroying their supply of
maize, stored in holes under ground."
Along these beautiful meadoAvs the red man
fished and hunted finding an ample supply. Here
he wooed his dusky mate. Here liis l)oys learned
the use of bow and arrow, and stone ax. Hei e his
girls learned the gentler arts of housekeeping and
of providing grain and fruits for winter. Here he
ate and drank and slept ; what then V He ate and
drank and slept again, with litth' incentive l)e-
yond, except some time to reach the haj)))y limit-
But there came a day when the Dutch imasion
from Long Island pushing up the Ivaritan reached
tliis region and tract after tract of their lands went
out of their possession. But let it be remembered
that these lands were always bought, and never
stolen from the Indians.
"It is a proud fact in the history of New Jersey
that every foot of her soil has heen obtained from
the Indians by fair and voluntary purchase and
transfer, a fact that no other state of the Union,
not even the land that bears the name of Penn
can boast of." So said Samuel L. Southard, New
Jersey's most brilliant Senator who reached the
unique distinction of being an United States Sena-
tor while his father was a Congressman. On the
same occasion, Sha-wus kukh-kung an educated
Delaware said "Not a drop of our blood have you
spilled in battle, not an acre of our land have you
taken but by our consent."
The prosaic name for Tucca-Kanima-Hacking
was Two Bridges. These spanned the North
Branch near its mouth, the first, as you go toward
Somerville, reaching to a little island about two-
thirds the way across and the shorter one landing
you on the east side of the river. These seemed
a sufficient warrant for the name, l)ut tradition
says the name referred to the fact that there was a
bridge also over the South Branch near its mouth
to accommodate a road running up the south side
of the Earitan. It is unlikely. In that case they
would have called the place Tliree Bridges.
In the early days the great market for this sec-
tion and the country west of it was New Bruns-
wick. Tiiere was a great deal of travel over these
bridges, the farmers hauling their grain to New
Brunswick and bringing back provisions of various
sorts. The first house over the bridge towards
Somerville was kept as a tavern. Of course that
house has disappeared, but in a new house a little
further back from the river, our old time Fleni-
Ington neighbor, Elisha Kuhl, successfully culti-
vates one of those splendid Tucca-Ramma-Hacking
farms where "the valleys stand so thick with
corn, they laugh and sing."
Before these bridges were built the stream was
forded a little below where the bridges afterward
stood. A woman on horseback from the neighlior-
hood of Readington crossed over one mcn-ning to
do somfr errand below, and on her return the stream
had risen so much as to be dangerous and she was
advised at the tavern not to try to cross. She
said she must get home for she had left her little
baby there in the morning and she must get back
to it. So she made the attempt, but the cruel
waters swept horse and rider out into the Earitan
and both were drowned.
The following extract from the deed, taken
from the Elizabethtovvn Bill in Chancery, relates
to the part of these lands lying at the mouth of
the South Branch.
"That Paywassen, Indian, by his deed dated
Aug. 14, 1688 for the consideiatiou therein named
did sell to the Proprietors of East Jersey, a tract
of land beginning at Holland's Brook and from
thence as the river runs to the meeting of the
l)ranches of the Pari tan and to run as far back as
the said l*ay\vasseu and other Indians their lands
run as by the said deed, recorded in Liber B. page
In 171G Andreas Ten Eyek bought the north
half of this tract, about 275 acres. His son Col.
Al)raham and wife Sarah were buried on a
bluff on this farm about one hundred yards back
from tlie mouth of the South Branch, as if they
were loath to be carried away from these beautiful
surroundings. It is stated on their tomb-stones
that Col. Abraham Ten Eick died Nov. 1812 aged
81 years and 331 days, and that Sarah wife of Col.
Abraham Ten Eyvl- died Jan. 2, 1811, aged 101
years and nine months, showing that she was her
husband's senior by nineteen years.
Col. Abraham's grandson Andrew Ten Eyck
who lived here, was very fond of sliow. He kept
many tine liorses, Avagons and carriages with har-
ness and whips to match. If he had occasion to
do a little trading at the stores in Somerville he
would likely go with four horses and a big farm
wagon. He drove by word, without lines, and
never tied his horses to a tie-post. They weie
large and fat and lazy, and when he said whoa,
they stood fast until he gave them anotlier com-
On one occasion he came to the othce of our late
Vice Chancellor, A. V. Van Fleet, when he was a
leading lawyer here in Flemington and introduc-
ing himself threw down $20.00 as a retaining fee,
saying he thought of instituting a law suit and in
tliat case would want his services. But that was
the last of it, the law suit never came off.
In such Nvays he cut a pretty broad swath for
many years. He inherited three farms, two of
which were uu-incumbered. He died in a hut on
an Illinois prairie, so poor he had not money
enough to bury him.
Lot No. 37 of these original purchases, contain-
ing 500 acres bought by Hendrick Corson in the
same year 1688, represents that part of Tucca-
Ramma-Hacking lying at the mouth of the North
In 1753 Corson sold tlie south part of his lot to
Peter Dumont. This was inherited by his son
John Baptist Dumont, and by his will devised for
their life time to his sisters, Brachia and Phebe.
These were two very amiable gentlewomen, Avho
were Aunt "Bracky" and Aunt Phebe to the
whole neighborhood. At their decease it came
into the market, and my brother John Yosseller
bought it. He sold off all but 100 acres, cleared
up and enriched the land, built a new barn and
remodelled the house. These improvements, add-
ed to its unusually handsome location, made of it
a model homestead. Here he resided until that
beautiful Easter morning of 1900, when he enter-
ed into rest.
Just back of this farm in Dec. 1753, Jacob Van
Nest was brutally murdered by one of his slaves.
The occasion is said to have been the taking of a
leaf of tobacco out of the negro's box. He was
arrested, taken to the county seat, then at Mill-
stone, tried and condemned to be burned publicly
at the stake. This execution was a great occasion.
Sheriff A^an Doren enforced the penalty. It is
said that many of the negroes of the surrounding
country were present forming the inner circle,
while the whites formed the outer circle, around
the fire. During the burning, the sheriff* on his
horse with a drawn sword in hand, rode between
the spectators and the fire to keep the former at a
In those good old days, when they punished,
they punished ; and they were quick about it.
As an illustration, — In that same neighborhood
on June 20, 1780, Tobie a negro slave ^vas indict-
ed for a felony. He pleaded not guilty and "put
liimself on his God and the Country." On the
21st he was tried and found guilty and sentenced
to be hung on the 24th, and the penalty was duly
"The Dutch Reformed Church of North Branch,"
organized about 1717 built its lirst edifice here on
the brow of the hill about two hundred yards
west of Two Bridges on the north side of the "big"
road, that is, the "old York Koad," and on the
west side of the road running up the North Branch.
It was built of logs with a framed addition which
seems to suggest growth in the congregation soon
after the organization. It stood on ground now
belongiug to the widow of Mr. John Vosseller and
tradition says it was burned down. This is the
organization now known as the Reformed Church
of Readiugton located about three miles west of
this first building, in the village of Readington
where a frame church was erected and the first
service held Oct. 7, 1739.
Durino; the Revolution the affairs of Queen 's^
now Rutgers College were carried on for some
time in this log church. The faculty and students
of tliis college were more than once ohliged to de-
camp from New Brunswick on account of the
proximity of the British forces. The New Jersey
Gazette of May 5, 1778, announces that "the hnsi'
ness of Queen's College in New Jersey formerly
carried on in New Brunswick, is begun at North
Branch of Raritan, in the County of Somerset in a
pleasant and retired neighborhood ; lodging and
board to be had in decent families at 80 £ per an-
num. Apply to John Taylor A, iM., tutor at place
Another notice in the same paper of Jan. 24,
1779, gives information that "the College is still
carried on at the North Branch of Raritan. and
that the neighborhood is so far distant from head-
quarters that the army does not at least interfere
with the business of the College."
This John Taylor was "1st Colonel New Jersey
State Regiment." As late as Sept. 25, 1779 he
wrote from this place to Gov. Livingston assign-
ing his diities in College as a reason for some de=
lay in forwarding certain reports concerning the
Militia. During the war his time appears to have
been divided between his duties as Colonel of a
militia regiment and those pertaining to his pro*
A little north of the Church, but on the east
side of the road running up the North Branch,
stood a blacksmith shop. In recent years various
iron scraps have been unearthed there. Among
other things the two halves of a chain cannon ball
and the bottoms of smoothing irons, and near
where the church stood a line looking spur, which
some horse-backer had lost. A few English cop-
per coins and a few Nova Cesareas or horse heads,
also have been found there.
Tradition has it tliat to this shop Gen. Wash-
ington came and had the shoes of his horse taken
oft" and all turned around so that as he travelled
in any diiection he seemed to be going directly
opposite. A crazy conceit. The truth probably
was that he had his horse's shoes reset and trans-
ferred from riglit foot to left that they might wear
It is said a wlieelwright shop stood a little to
the southwest of the Church. It is certain that a.
few graves clustered about the Church, but whose,
none can tell. "Dust to duet and the spirit to
God who gave it. ' '
Kev. Theodorus Jacobus F'relinghuysen was the
only pastor of this Log Church in the wilderness.
At the same time he was Pastor of the Dutch Ke-
formed Church of Three Mile Run now New
Brunswick, of Six Mile Run, and of liaritan now
Somerville. He was a strong man and for about
thirty years exercised a powerful influence for
good over a territory of more than two hundred
squaie miles, embracing now more than fifty con-
The great Whitefield visited him in 1739 and
made the following record in his journal. "At
New Brunswick some thousands gathered from
various parts of the country, among whom there
had been a considerable awakening by the instru-
mentalities of Ivev. Mr. Frelinghuysen." This
refers to an extensive revival wliich had reached
all four of his churches and wliich resulted in the
conversion of about two hundred, a very large
number for such a sparsely settled region.
Mr. Frelinghuysen deserves to rank among the
eminent men of his times. His father was a
minister, his five sons were ministers and his two
daughters married ministers. Some of his de-
scendants have been greatly honored both by our
state and nation, and have adorned every station
in which they have been placed.
One of tliem Hon. Theodore was nominated by
the Whigs for Vice-President on the ticket with
Only a little distance up the North Branch is
a place called "The Broad Axe Hole. " The water
there was deep and the fishing excellent. A funny
thing happened there which came near being seri-
ous. A large tree had blown over into the water,
but was held fast by its roots. Tim McCarthy,
whose nationality perhaps you can guess, was as-
signed the task of cutting off the tree near the
bank, so it mioht be drawn out. He stepped out
on the tree and deliberately cut it off between
himself and the shore, so that presently with a
great splash down went the tree with Tim and his
axe into the deep water and it was with consider-
able trouble that he was pulled out. But he held
on to his axe.
Shad used to be very plentiful about the head
waters of the Raritan and for some distance up its
Branches. An old gentleman told nie that as he
was lishing one night in the North Branch he
heard a splashing and found that a great fish was
making its way up the stream. He gave chase in
his boat, but could not overtake it until they came
to a rift, where the fish was impeded, and then
being determined to capture it, he threw himself
upon it, but the fish shook him off and went on
up the river. He thought likely it was the King
of the Shad About a mile up the North Branch
there is a little village called Milltowu. It had a
grist mill, woolen mill, saw mill, general store,
grocery, blacksmith and wheelwright shop, school
house and five dwellings. A considerable business
centered here, along in the forties. Now there is
a rather feeble Grist Mill and one or two houses.
The whole village and three farms abdnt it, were
owned by Michael Van Derveer. Freshets some-
times tore oat his dam and occasionally flooded his
Grist Mill. He was therefore very sensitive on
the subject of rain. At a time when there had
been two days of rain he became very anxious and
jumping up early on the next day he looked out
of the window and remarked, "raining again like
a damn fool."
When he had charge of the General Store, he
kept no clerk, and often locked the store and went
to the mill. If a customer hunted him up, he
always inquired what was wanted, and if the pro-
posed purchase was a small one he declared he
hadn't any, had just sold out.
At times he bought a great deal of grain. Once
he loaded his Mill so heavily with corn that it
collapsed and several hundred bushels were car-
ried down the stream. He allowed the mill to
remain in that ruined condition for years, before
re-building it. A mad dog that was chased across
the meadows ran into these ruins and was shot
Here I had my first experiences in scliool and as
I recall them now I am led to say that to be a
schoolmaster in those days w-as to be a brnte. In
1847 this school district was united to the one im-
mediately west of it. The building was moved
west a half mile and enlarged. With this change
came deliverance from tyranny. Kev. Dr. Jno. B.
Thompson, his brothers Henry P. and Abraham,
and their father Hon. Joseph Thompson were the
men who rescued the children of Tucca-Iiamma-
Hacking from shameful barbarities, and school
life became a pleasure. They introduced modern
text books and modern methods. The school
room was kept clean and was beautified with
flowers from the school flower garden. Black-
boards made their appearance. The morning ses-
sion was opened with a reading from scripture fol-
lowed by a brief prayer. Singing was indulged in
at the opening and closing of each session. A love
of history was inculcated by these teachers, who
would now and then read to the school an account
of some stirring event in our country's life. Fri-
day afternoons were devoted to the reading of
compositions and to declamations. The parents
were invited in to enjoy these "exercises.-'
Sometimes we had a considerable audience to face
and we were allowed to wear our Sunday clothes.
A colored boy dropped into poetry, and wrote
some very funny things we tliought. One verse
was like this : —
"When I do see a great big rat,
Then I do look around
To find a stone or a brick bat
To knock the rascal down."
After two or three efforts of this kind, Dr.
Thompson stronglj^ advised him to stick to prose.
One fellow who was always blundering began his
oration with "Conscript Fathers ! I have come
down to you from a former generation ! Heaven
has kindly lengthened out your lives that you
might behold this auspicious day !"
The advanced cl.iss in Grammar were appointed
the "Critics" of the school. They were on the
alert to catch up ungrammatical sentences and
there was great joj among them when now and
then the teacher would be caught making a slip of
the tongue. In this way the practical use of
grammar was shown to the whole school. In
these and other ways a great interest in the school
was aroused among the pupils and the parents, as
well. In the Cedar Grove near by, from which
the sahool took its name, we boys built a minia-
ture railroad one of the arch bridges of which was
considered so fine and strong that it was the talk
of the neigliborliood.
Going to school at Tucca- Ram ma-Hacking was
fun ! The Township Superintendent, Geo. W.
Vroom, declared this to be tlie best school in the
Dr. John B. Thompson has embalmed this name
in his "History of Education in New Jersey," a
copy of which has lately come into the possession
of our Society.
Along in the fifties a certain teacher fell vio-
lently in love with one of the handsome girls of
this neighborhood. Dr. Thompson in a spirit of
mischief wrote some verses on the subject and had
tliem printed. A single verse will give some idea
of tlieir flavor.
"It seems as if some wretched wight
At my heart strings were whacking
So much I love this lovely maid
'It is interesting to know that this severe attack
of heart ache was cured in the usual way, and
that its owner made a fine record as a teacher at
the head of a private school in the lower part of
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
SIZK 3^2x4', INCHKS, PAPER COVRRS.J
PRICE TEN CENTS EACH.
Xo. l.-THE FLEMIN&TON COPPER MTNE8,<
by E. VosselLer.
No. 2.— THE TWO COLONELS JOHN TAYLOR,
by Henry Race, M. T).
HTSTORTCAL SKETCH OF .TAMES STERLTNO.
by E. B. Sterling'.
No. 4:.-THE READINOTON SCHOOL,
by John Fleming.
by E. VoRsellfr.
OTHKR NUMBERS IN PREPARATION
H. E. DEATS,
FLEMINGTON, N. J.