Old is New

Old is New: Part II

Part II: Village Services
(CLICK here to read Part I: In the beginning)

My father was not only pleased with the farm, but also appreciated the number and proximity of services the village of Sergeantsville had to offer.

The one room schoolhouse that stood on the hill about a thousand yards from the farmhouse was in the process of becoming a two-room school. It would be the first in the township to separate grades 1-4 from 5-8. The converted school building was ready for the 1914 school year, Ebba’s first year of schooling. During the next several years Ebba, Boletta, Edla and I would complete our elementary education in this school with Miss Dora Hoppock and Mr. Vorhees Myers, its two teachers.

A blacksmith shop stood at the intersection of two main roads that marked the development of Sergeantsville as a town. Dory Green, the blacksmith, was a journeyman blacksmith. He could forge metal to make tools and repairs for farm machinery including wrought iron tires for wagon wheels. With horses being the main source of power, the blacksmith shop was a very essential service. James Harned was the farrier. Each of the satellite villages to Sergeantsville — Rosemont, Sand Brook, Stockton and Headquarters — also supported a blacksmith.

Sergeantsville had two general stores which were located at the crossroad. To a degree, they co-operated on the merchandise they carried. They both carried penny candy and canned and packaged foods. Only at Poll Sheppard’s store, however, could you buy salt or mackerel from a wooden pail of brine. At Jacob Stryker/Wilson you could have coffee beans ground and buy bolts of cloth for making a dress. Stryker/Wilson had a wide line of hardware that was more complete. It included nails, wire, chain, chicken wire and bales of barbed wire which were stored on the porch. Oddities such as buckshot traps and bamboo fishing poles could also be found at Stryker/Wilson. Around the pot belly stove in the store were chairs and benches where farmers, with their lanterns, spent the evenings discussing the events of the day and solving the country’s problems.

Fresh and processed meats could be purchased at a butcher shop. The store’s slaughter house stood at the southeast corner of our farm, with the lane to the slaughter house forming the eastern border of the farm. Sergeantsville was large enough to rate a post office which was located in the front corner of the Stryker/Wilson store. There was a space set aside for mail boxes and other postal functions.

The population of Sergeantsville was large enough to support three churches, the Bretheren, Methodist and Dunkard. Each of these churches maintained a clergyman and a parsonage. There were also churches in Rosemont, Stockton and Sandy Ridge. All of the churches had adjacent covered wagon sheds for the horses. The Methodist church had a cemetery. The cemeteries most frequently used, however, were in Sandy Ridge and Rosemont. They are in use to this day.

The Sergeantsville Hotel was still in operation when our family moved to town in 1913. It functioned as a rest stop for travelers, offering lodging and meals. Its horse sheds and livery stable provided for the needs of the travelers’ horses. The hotel was the meeting place for the township and all the business of the township took place within its walls.

Undoubtedly the presence of a creamery was an important factor in Christian and Maria’s decision to settle in Sergeantsville. The invention of the cream separator by Gustav DeLaval had given birth to the dairy industry and in 1881 the first creamery in Hunterdon County was opened in Sergeantsville. The second followed two years later in Locktown.

The grange provided a meeting hall over a store from which farmers bought seeds and fertilizer. The availability of two grist mills in Headquarters and Prallsville Mills was essential in providing animal feed. Because of the number and proximity of services in Sergeantsville, family trips to Flemington and Lambertville were infrequent.

There were also a few services that no longer required a full time journeyman. The shoemaker, the harness maker and the wheelwright were among them. Of note was the one-horse, eight-can milk wagon that was made in Sergeantsville’s wheelwright shop. There were the usual tradesmen such as carpenters and masons. Most could do any type of work the job required. Hiram Hippock began with a Sears Roebuck prefabricated house for himself and his brother-in-law Henry Hyde. Their houses stood directly across the road from our farmhouse. They were the first to be heated with a new innovation, the pipeless heater.

One critical service that would not be available for many years was a fire department. A barn that was struck by lightning would almost certainly burn to the ground. When an approaching thunderstorm threatened at night, all members of our family would get dressed and be ready with buckets of water should lightning start a fire. The effort was directed toward saving the animals and other valuables, acknowledging that the barn could not be saved.

The grange, the school and the churches became the social centers of the community. It was in them that Christian and Maria ceased to be “foreigners”. My father spoke fluent English and, although my mother understood English, she preferred to speak Swedish. And so an interesting pattern evolved whereby the children spoke to their mother in English and she responded in Swedish.

Next installment, part III, Land for Sale by Owner