HCHSInteresting Topics

Historian Recalls Boyhood Trip to Flemington in 1834

John W. LeQuear

Within the Hunterdon County Historical Society’s corporate archives resides a five-page handwritten account by John W. LeQuear of his visit to Flemington as a boy with his father and brother in 1834.

Mr. LeQuear, who is considered one of our county’s earliest historians and the likely author of the tales in the book Traditions of Hunterdon, offers an interesting and charming account of their visit to a “neighboring village.”

We present an edited version of his journey to give a sense of life in Flemington more than 189 years ago.

Our First Visit to Flemington by John W. LeQuear

In the year 1834 my father was engaged in building the largest store house in the township of Kingwood. The mason work . . . the outside coating and the plastering within have always commanded the admiration of those who have viewed the house which my father built. In the mixing of the mortar, a large quantity of hair was used. In the latter part of that summer, my father planned a trip to Flemington, the county seat, combining business at the county offices, and procuring hair at the tannery of Mr. Case near the town, and he concluded to take my brother Thomas and me, then mere lads, with him. What pleasure parents would confer upon their young sons were they to take them oftener with them in visiting the neighboring villages. I remember the delight with which I visited Lambertville, Frenchtown, and Milford, and many things I saw are still retained in my memory.

There were no spring wagons on top carriages among farmers at that day and we rode in an open light bolster wagon to meeting, and on this occasion we rode in such a wagon drawn by two horses, our route lay through Locktown, then without a name, we struck the old Trenton road at Bearder’s corner and traveled on this to what was called Buchanan’s tavern on the road . . . to Flemington, I think this was the only road leading from the southwest to the county seat. . . .

The Case tannery was on the west side of Tuccamirgan Creek opposite the copper mine and between the creek and the Davis dwelling, a dwelling [that] stood along the road on the bank of the creek occupied many years by the Case family, but now all traces of the tannery and this house have disappeared. The fine stone dwelling of Mr. Davis had then been built some years, its fine substantial masonry is still admired at this day. I knew a prominent mason, probably the master workman, Capt. William Conner who often spoke of his topping out the east chimney, and the great number of bricks used in it.

After crossing the creek and ascending the knoll on the north side of the road stood the old Capner residence, an old dilapidated building Mr. Capner had just before this. In digging a cellar for a new house discovered copper ore which led him to abandon the chosen spot and enabled him to erect the fine brick dwelling on the ridge farther north of the road, on entering Flemington, then a much smaller village than at present, we put up at the middle hotel then kept by, I think, Alexander. My father having some business at the county offices, we accompanied him there.

[Mr. LeQuear then digresses to laud a number of county employees he met that day.]

In the afternoon we went to the pottery establishment carried on I think by Samuel Hill and witnessed the process of making pots and dishes. It was an interesting sight to see the lump of wet earth assume the shape of a vessel, and growing the hands of the potter. We then left Flemington for home by a different road . . . [N]ight overtook us and coming by way of Arnwine’s bridge, which was undergoing repairs, we drove through the creek which aroused me from a nap, which I had taken on the sacks of hair for a bed, we came by way of Baptisttown home. . .

Although sixty years have passed, the remembrance of that trip is still fresh, and as we visit Flemington we are impressed with its growth and improvement, and often talk over the pleasure and scenes of that first trip to the County seat.

Note: This reminiscence also appeared in The Jerseyman magazine, Vol. 3, No. 1, April 1895. There are a few minor differences between the handwritten and magazine versions.