From Our Newsletter Files:
Society members and frequent researchers are very familiar with our newsletter, the Hunterdon Historical Newsletter. Published three times a year (usually), it is an informational publication that notes upcoming events, acknowledges queries and donations, and provides other useful items about our Society. In addition, the Newsletter also carries feature articles about subjects of historical interest from
Hunterdon County and the larger area of antiquity. Historians and genealogists alike have often mentioned how useful, and informative, they have found some of the articles in the newsletter.
In an effort to make this source more available to our members and the public, the Society has been engaged in the process of digitizing back issues and posting them on the website, where they may be utilized and enjoyed by everyone. While the process is a little slower than we could wish, we do at least now have the past ten years of the Newsletter available. The latest edition scanned and posted is Vol. 41, No. 3, from Fall of 2005. Included in this edition was this interesting article by Carter Litchfield that we thought might be an enjoyable read:
How Could Cornelius Larison (1837-1910) Have Known So Much about ‘The Ancient Village Amwell” in the 1730s? by Carter Litchfield
On January 11, 1908, Cornelius W. Larison read a paper titled “The Ancient Village Amwell” at the annual meeting of the Hunterdon County Historical Society in Flemington. The text was posthumously published in 1915, has been reprinted several times since, and is well known to Hunterdon County historians (1).
Amwell village (which no longer exists) was located 0.9 miles SSE of Ringoes, just east of Route 31. Waterpower from Clearwater Rill (a tributary of Back Brook) attracted people to this location. Larison’s paper recounted the extensive milling activity at Amwell around the 1730s. Larison presented many specific details about the six early mills at Amwell — two gristmills, two distilleries, a linseed oil mill, and a sawmill. He recounted when they were built and how the tail race of one mill became the headrace for a second mill, etc. Larison explained how and where the distillery slops were used to raise pigs. And there was much more to his story.
His knowledge of the Amwell mills in the 1730s seems extraordinary for someone who wasn’t born until 1837. Following the custom of 19th century historians, he gave no sources for his statements. Because records from the 1730s are very limited, many of Larison’s details cannot be confirmed from other sources. Where did Cornelius Larison get his facts for writing “The Ancient Village Amwell”?
Examination of Larison family genealogy and their places of residence gives some insight into how Cornelius Larison might have obtained his information about Amwell in the 1730s (see map). James Larison (1695-1792), the great-great-grandfather of Cornelius, moved to Stony Brook before 1726 (2). He almost certainly visited the Amwell mills many tunes in his life, for Amwell was only 4.7 miles from his home at Stony Brook. Great-grandfather Andrew Larison Sr. (1739-1800) must have also seen the Amwell mills in operation. Cornelius was the fifth generation in the Larison family to live close to Amwell village for the majority of his lifetime. Moreover, Cornelius reached the age of 24 before his grandfather died, so there was plenty of time for conversations between them about the history of their neighbors. This suggests that Cornelius’ familiarity with Amwell in the 1730s was passed on to him by his family. Amwell was an important part of Larison family history.
- C. W. Larison, The Ancient Village Amwell, Flemington, 1957, 22 pp.
Lida Cokefair Gedney (comp.), The Town Records of Hopewell, New Jersey, New York, 1931, pp. 24, 26, 68, 81, 99. These records show James Larison resided in Hopewell as early as 1733. But his sister Elizabeth married
- David Stout (a Hopewell resident) in 1726, suggesting that the Larisons came to Hopewell before that date. Ralph Ege, Pioneers of Old Hopewell, Hopewell, 1908 (rep. Hopewell, 1963), p. 93.
- Cornelius W. Larison, The Larisun Famili (sic), Ringoes, 1888, pp. 105-123,129-153,176-179,324-325,336,357-359. Ege, pp. 226- 228. Richard W. Hunter and Richard L. Porter, Hopewell: A Historical Geography, Titusville, 1990, p. 240. Harry B. Weiss, Country Doctor. Cornelius Wilson Larison of Ringoes, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, 1837-1910, Trenton, 1953, pp. 9-21, 27,32,48, 60.