Goodspeed Histories: December 2021
** December 19, 2021
Time off for the end of the year
I’d love to publish one more article this year on the fascinating buildings along Flemington’s Main Street, but it will have to wait until 2022. I need to spend time working on a functional index for my Goodspeed History articles, having discovered that I’ve published over 550 so far. That’s far more than I can keep track of, and besides, I need to develop a system for keeping printed versions of the articles in a way where they can be found. It’s a problem I have struggled with for some time, since many articles fit into several different categories.
Going through the old articles on the Province of West New Jersey, I see that the Dr. Coxe articles could use a complete rewriting, but that will have to wait. Another project is the subject of Hunterdon’s tavern. So much to do, all of which waits while Christmas celebrations with the family take place — or not, depending on Covid.
Speaking of my series on the Union Hotel . . .
A Source Discovered
In my recent post, Union Hotel part three (https://goodspeedhistories.co
Lately I have found copies of my newsletters showing up in my spam folder. I fear that might also be the case for some of you. If that is happening to you, then you won’t see this alert, but just in case, please check your spam folder before deleting its contents. A “GH” newsletter might be lurking there.
Family Tree Updates
I have been working on some already-published family trees that readers have shared new information about:
Housel Tree (https://goodspeedhistories.co
Lare Tree (https://goodspeedhistories.co
Williamson Tree (https://goodspeedhistories.co
Robins/Robbins Tree (https://goodspeedhistories.co
This tree needs a lot of work. The various Robins can be very confusing, especially the several Jonathan Robins.
Name Spellings & Misspellings
A person familiar with Delaware Twp. history insists that the family name of Kitchin must be spelled with two i’s. And yet, one often finds it spelled like the room, Kitchen. Last month while talking with architect Chris Pickell, I apologized for spelling his name with one L, when he spells it with two. He was not bothered by my error, especially since many of his Hunterdon ancestors also spelled it with one L. They also varied where they placed it–sometimes Pickel and sometimes Pickle. The Vansyckels are also notorious for their various spellings. As Chris said, in the old days people were pretty casual about how they spelled their names.
Wishing you all the best for the holidays and for the coming new year. Here’s hoping 2022 turns out to be a better year than 2021.
December 3, 2021
I just published part three of my Union Hotel history, and all I can say is Whew! This was a demanding one.
It’s been quite awhile since my last article got published. Life has a tendency to interfere with ‘best-laid plans.’ In addition, I’ve gotten absorbed in a project to identify all the taverns in 18th & 19th century Hunterdon. That may be a bit unrealistic, but I’ve made a start. What triggered that effort was trying to identify when the Union Hotel got its name. It was not in 1850 when Bartles, Bonnell & Higgins bought the place, as some have written, but as early as 1835 when Mahlon C. Hart took over from his father. In order to answer that question, I had to make my way through all the license applications on file working back from the 1850s when the name was fairly common.
Today’s article, part three of the Union Hotel’s history, covers the period of time from 1850, when Mahlon C. Hart sold the hotel, to 1877 when the current building was constructed.
The Union Hotel, part three
As long-time readers of my articles know, I depend heavily on information in the 19th-century newspapers that were abstracted by William Hartman and his team of volunteers, i.e., the Hunterdon Gazette and the Hunterdon Republican. The item that most grabbed my attention was the one from the October 4th, 1877 issue of the Republican, which stated that “the old Union Hotel” was being torn down. “It now disappears altogether to make room for a larger and more handsome structure.
“So, the building that served customers all through the 19th century up until October 1877 never became part of the new building. All we know of its early appearance is the picture of John D. Hall’s Hotel, which is featured in today’s article.
In telling the story of the hotel’s years from 1850 to 1878, I once again managed to write a longer article than intended. To continue on with the rest of the 19th century and the even more dramatic 20th century would require a book. So I have decided not to proceed further. The hotel articles are part of a series I have begun to describe all the buildings on Main Street that feature the interesting architectural feature of an arch in the middle of the front roofline.
Thoughts on last-minute researching
On Thursday, I felt certain that all I needed to do was a final read through and polishing and then I could go ahead and publish this article. But that was not to be. It only took a few paragraphs before I realized there were unanswered questions I had failed to address. It reminded me of the advice that was given to Robert Caro, advice that he took to heart and enabled him to produce such remarkable histories as his biography of Lyndon Johnson (still waiting for volume 3). And that advice was: “Turn Every Page.” For me, I would adapt it to “Check Every Deed.” I know I should also say “check every mortgage,” but that would mean publishing as infrequently as Caro does. The advice is excellent, but there must be limits.
Another result of last-minute learning is understanding better the meaning of items in previous articles. I am thinking of the advertisement published April 25, 1878 in the Hunterdon Republican that was included in my previous article Oysters Every Style. The restaurant featured in that article had new “proprietors,” i.e., John P. Rittenhouse & Farley S. Taylor, and they were prepared to offer “Oysters in every style, wholesale and retail, ice cream and water ices, etc.” What got my attention was the name and location they gave to their restaurant: “The Union Restaurant and Billiard Hall,” located “next door to the Hotel of Lambert Humphrey in Flemington.” The Union name had to have been intended to link the restaurant to the very successful hotel next door.
In Other News:
Some time ago I wrote about the magnificent mansion built by Mahlon Fisher (see A Store, A Bank, A Mansion), which was later owned by attorney James N. Reading. Recently I discovered that living in a grand house does not protect one from robbery. Item from the Hunterdon Gazette of Jan. 20, 1847:
“LOCK YOUR DOORS. Thieves are prowling in our vicinity. On Saturday night last, the hotel of Asa Jones in this village was entered and robbed of some seven or eight dollars in cash, which had been left in the money drawer of the bar room, and a bottle of brandy. They effected an entrance through the cellar.
“From thence the scoundrels proceeded to the residence of James N. Reading, Esq., and effected an entrance into his cellar, where they made free with his bread, butter, Turkey, &c, &c. After regaling themselves upon the eatables (leaving a tin sub and bottle) they left for the store of William P. Emery where after trying to enter at his cellar door, windows, &c. they decamped to parts unknown. We hope they will visit us again as we will be better prepared for them. We have a large house here, made expressly for “taking in” the stranger.”Crimes and crime prevention have certainly evolved since 1847.
Best wishes of the season,