Pittstown Historic District

Franklin Twp, Hunterdon County, NJ

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The Pittstown Historic District [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document..

The Pittstown Historic District, located in Franklin Township and Alexandria Township, meets National Register criteria in the areas of agriculture, architecture, early settlement, industry, transportation, and military history. Pittstown's appearance today as a small, compact linear village has resulted from the two main periods of its development. Founded as Hoff's Mills in the 1740s and renamed "Pitts-Town" during the Stamp Act Crisis of the 1760s, it was the earliest crossroads trading center to be established in Franklin Township, and it also figured during the Revolutionary War as the location of many of Deputy Quartermaster-General Moore Furman's activities. It continued to be a rural village that served as a revenue-producing gentleman's estate for the Furman family until about 1830. From about 1850 until 1915 it was a locally important rural center for industry, agriculture, commerce, and railroad transportation.

In the 1740s, Charles Hoff, Jr. came to the Pittstown area as a pioneer settler, and tenant of Edward Rockhill, an absentee landowner. Over the next decade, Hoff built mills, opened a store and a tavern and bought several hundred acres of land, thereby placing his stamp upon the locality. In 1747, Rockhill sold him 204 acres of land, on which Hoff was already operating a gristmill. The following year, after Rockhill's death, his executors sold Hoff an additional 50 acres, on which a fulling mill had been built. Hoff also evidently bought 500 more acres in partnership with another man. In 1755, one cartographer identified the neighborhood on his map of New Jersey as "Hoff's." "Hoff's Mills" was also used in newspaper advertisements and road returns of the period.

Hoff's tavern was built sometime before 1754, since an advertisement that year stated that lottery tickets could be bought there. Hoff was in other ways a social and economic leader of the community. He was a trustee of the nearby Bethlehem Presbyterian Church. He also owned a forge a few miles south of his mills, which was a complex that boasted two fires for refining pig metal into bar iron, a coal house, and other houses for accommodating workmen. Hoff became financially overextended, in 1762, however, and was forced to advertise his properties for sale. The advertisement enumerated his mills as an overshot mill, a breast mill, a sawmill, and a fulling mill, and added that adjacent to them were a number of stone houses. One of these had an attached frame building "convenient for keeping store...where a store hath been kept for upwards of twenty years." The tavern was described as a "well-frequented stone tavern and stone kitchen...in the crossroads leading from Trenton and New Brunswick to the forks of the Delaware River." Not inclusive of the forge property, Hoff's estate amounted to about 450 acres and the above buildings, "the whole pleasantly situated in a little country village, convenient to places of worship of three different denominations viz. [Anglican] Church, Presbyterians and Quakers, the farthest not exceeding three miles." Two years later, in 1764, the Hunterdon County sheriff put Hoff's estate up for public sale, this time apparently extending the sale to include Hoff's personal estate also. Andrew Reed, a Trenton merchant, had brought suit against Hoff, forcing the sale. Reed's partner was Moore Furman, who according to tradition, took advantage of the sale to buy much of Hoff's property. But precisely when or through what steps Furman acquired the Hoff properties remains unclear. While Furman might have bought Hoff's farmland property in 1764, two gristmills, the sawmill, the fulling mill, and the mansion house were offered for sale again the following year. Hoff's son-in-law, Isaac FitzRandolph, bought the tavern, but he died in 1768, and his will suggests that he expected his executor would have to sell the tavern to satisfy his debts. That Furman had bought the village by 1768 is suggested by a newspaper advertisement of that year, seeking the return of a runaway servant to Jacob Gooding in the village or to Moore Furman in Philadelphia. In 1772, Furman mortgaged a tract of 240 acres that included a large parcel of Hoff's former lands, but the boundary carefully excluded the tavern property.

Furman has been generally credited with changing the name of the locality from Hoff's Mills to Pittstown, which evidently took place as a response to the Stamp Act Crisis of 1765-66. The above-mentioned advertisement of 1768 referred to "Pitts-Town (formerly Hoffs Town)." It is generally held that Furman renamed the village after William Pitt the Elder, "the Great Commoner" in the British Parliament, later Earl of Chatham, who became the toast of America in 1766 for his role in the repeal of the hateful Stamp Act. While no quotation by Furman is known documenting the renaming of the village, there is strong reason to believe this tradition, which was passed down over a hundred years and then recounted in Snell's History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties (1881). The Stamp Act of 1765 was found particularly objectionable by American merchants, who under earlier navigation acts were required to import their goods from England, and they united in an agreement to cease doing business with the home country, Furman and his business partners apparently joining in this step. The decline in trade, in turn, hurt the British merchants, who also voiced their objections. In nearby Bethlehem Township, a town meeting was held on March 11, 1766, when three representatives were elected to attend a meeting in the village of Ringoes, in Amwell Township, Hunterdon County, of the "Sons of Liberty," a group composed of printers, lawyers, small shopkeepers, and laborers who were most severely affected by the Act, to discuss opposition to "all unconstitutional acts," and in particular "the worst of all acts called the Stamp Act." Dr. John Rockhill (son of Edward Rockhill), a friend of Furman and a neighbor to his Pittstown properties, was one of the delegates chosen.

With the repeal of the Stamp Act in March 1766, which was largely due to the leadership of William Pitt, there was general rejoicing in America, especially by the Sons of Liberty. Merchants in New Brunswick sent a letter to the Committee of Merchants Trading to North America, reviewing their position of the Act and concluding with praise for "Mr. Pitt, the eminent friend of Liberty." Toasts were drunk to "Pitt and freedom" in Woodbridge and "the glorious Mr. Pitt" in Burlington at all-day celebrations. That the merchant and patriot Moore Furman would rename his newly acquired town after Pitt at this time of celebration seems entirely plausible.

Moore Furman (1728-1808) was born in Hopewell Township (at Furman's Corner) in Hunterdon County (now Mercer County), several miles north of Trenton. He was a son of Jonathan Furman, an early settler, whose name appears on the Hopewell tax list of 1722. Furman took up residence in Trenton, the county seat, and became the town's postmaster and the county's High Sheriff by 1757. In 1759, he became a founding member of Trenton's Library Company and its secretary, and in 1760, a trustee of the First Presbyterian Church, and two years later its treasurer. He formed a partnership with Andrew Reed in the mercantile business, which was dissolved in 1764, succeeded by a partnership with Abraham Hunt. Their Trenton store, and another store in Princeton, were apparently managed by others. In 1762, Furman had taken up residence in Philadelphia and formed a new partnership there with the city's mayor William Coxe, which later added the mayor's son, the prominent Tench Coxe. This firm, with river warehouses, became a leading importer of goods from England. While in Philadelphia, Furman married Sarah White, a belle of the city. A wealthy man even in the 1750s, Furman began during that decade to acquire large tracts of land in Pennsylvania and New York.

Pittstown under Furman's ownership continued to thrive. In a 1771 advertisement for "Cornwall," a nearby 680-acre Stevens family's estate, one of the property's selling points was its "convenience to Pittstown," which had two grist mills, a fulling mill, a sawmill, and "a large well-assorted store." The 1778 rateables for Kingwood Township (which included Pittstown in that period) list Furman with 653 acres taxable and describe him as a merchant. Again listing him as merchant, the 1779 rateables imposed a tax on the same 653 acres but also a sawmill and fulling mill "formerly his father's," and three gristmills; also 20 horned cattle, 12 horses, and 12 hogs." One of these grists mills (Bodine's Lumber) was built at this time for the Army Commissary, according to historian Snell.

In December 1777, New Jersey appointed Moore Furman Esq. to be one of its commissioners to attend a convention of commissioners of all of the states scheduled by the Continental Congress "to form a plan of general regulation respecting the limiting of prices of sundry articles of produce, manufacture, and trade." The next year, Furman was named Deputy Quartermaster-General for New Jersey. He fulfilled his responsibilities at first from his Trenton home, but he also maintained an office in Pittstown and stored Army supplies in his mill, as indicated by his advertisement announcing the theft at different times of five barrels of rum, which were property of the United States. In 1779, he removed his headquarters to Pittstown, possibly considering the farms north of Hunterdon County a better source of supplies. It was also closer to Washington's headquarters, which at that time (December 3, 1778-June 3, 1779) were at Camp Middlebrook in the Watchung Mountains of Somerset County overlooking the Raritan River. Records of his frustrations in having insufficient funds to buy forage and grains at skyrocketing prices, and difficulty even in finding sellers, are contained in his letters to fellow officers. Cartmen were abandoning their work because they said they could not live on the pay.

Nonetheless, he rounded up and sent what he could, including hundreds of horses to be put to various uses, and huge quantities of board lumber which he shipped to Raritan Landing. He resigned in 1780, stating he was "obliged now for the support of my family to remove to my farm at Pitts-Town." During this period, while resident at Pittstown, Furman served as judge of the Court of Common Pleas (1777-85) and Justice of the Peace (1781 and 1786) and filled other important governmental appointments. Following a return stay in Philadelphia, he came back to Trenton in the 1780s to live, where he was again appointed a trustee of the Presbyterian Church and later served on their new building committee. He had the honor bestowed upon him by the State Legislature of appointment as first Mayor of Trenton following its incorporation in 1792. In 1805 he was chosen as a Presidential Elector to represent New Jersey.

During Furman's ownership of Pittstown, the tavern continued to be operated in the charge of various innkeepers, while it served as a center for venues of great tracts of land (including those owned by Lord Stirling, James Alexander), for inquisitions of Loyalists, and for a court hearing by magistrates and Army officers on petition of residents of three townships who had failed to serve their time in the local militia, or to find substitutes. In November 1776, the New Jersey legislature, in flight from other locations because of the British threat, met in Pittstown. An announcement in the New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, January 27, 1777 stated that Governor William Livingston had scheduled a meeting with the Assembly in the village. The New Jersey Council of Safety convened in Pittstown on October 16, 1777, and remained in session there until the 24th, guarded by a detachment of soldiers. In December 1778, British soldiers captured with General Burgoyne's Army were briefly kept in the village before being marched to Virginia. These events may explain a tradition recited by historian Snell (1881) that a part of the American army was once encamped at Pittstown.

Furman, as Deputy Quartermaster-General for New Jersey, operated a commissary at Pittstown from 1778-1780. Consisting of several discrete buildings and functions, the commissary was centered in the vicinity of the gristmill. However, the sites of the buildings used in commissary operations have not been pinpointed. It is reported that Furman built a nail factory and whiskey distillery in front of the gristmill and that the store was located on the site of the William R. Smith House, possibly in the same building also said to have been home to Benjamin Guild, a later shopkeeper and Furman's agent. A small stone building behind this house may date to this period. Snell's history states that the commissary storehouse was in a barn on the adjacent farm owned by Hiram Deats in 1881, which Deats took down, and that its farmhouse, no longer extant, was the scene of a visit from General Washington. The buildings that comprised this military support complex may still survive as archeological resources, but no testing of their probable sites has been undertaken.

In 1801, Furman had a new tavern built at Pittstown. In a surviving letter from that year, he outlined his thoughts about how this new tavern should be arranged: "The first story level with the road is to accommodate the common people that travel such as carters, &c — The second Story is for more respectable travellers and public meetings and for that purpose the end of the house next the kitchen may be left for one room, and will be about 16 by 28, sufficient to dine upwards of 40 people and the other must have a swinging partition so as to be thrown into one room when necessary, then there could be 70 or 80 people accommodated at once. The 3rd story must be cut up into bedrooms for traveling customers. If I build, it shall not be a Henroost."

This is the tavern building (Pittstown Inn) at the crossroads, at the same site as Hoff's Tavern. The swinging partition may have been a popular feature for inns of the time. At least one other tavern had such an arrangement, on Foot Hill Road in Bridgewater Township, Somerset County, now on the National Register. This feature of the Pittstown tavern no longer exists, assuming it was actually constructed, because the interior of the building was consumed by fire in 1913. The walls of the 1801 building have survived, but the interior was destroyed.

Moore Furman died in 1808, and he willed to his only daughter Anna Maria and her husband Peter Hunt, "all that estate commonly called Pitts Town, surveyed in 1795 and containing about 700 acres, with houses, outhouses, buildings, erections, and improvements of every nature and kind, and also nearby on the north branch of the Raritan a 1/2-acre lot of limestone land." He referred to the rents, issues, and profits of the estate and cautioned against waste of the valuable timber and firewood it contained.

The estate eventually passed to William E. Hunt, the only surviving grandchild, after the deaths of his parents. He broke up the Pittstown property into at least 20 numbered parcels, and beginning in 1831 he sold them out of the family. At the time, the estate extended south along Pittstown Road as far as the original 18th-century homestead, mill and farm of the Little family (Christy Little Mill/Residence). The most southerly lot of the land division, of six acres, was sold to Daniel Little. It adjoined Christy Little's land. The grist mill lot with 16 acres went to W.R. Smith for $1,756. On this property stand the Smith House and stone outbuilding), besides the gristmill (Bodine's Lumber). The tavern house lot of 63-1/4 acres and a farm of 118 acres adjoining it on the west were both sold to Larason Stryker. This would include the extant tavern, Hoff Mills Inn (Pittstown Inn) and stone dwelling with milk house. A 4-acre property fronting on the main street north of the mill race then contained a blacksmith shop and was sold to Van Camp, the presumed blacksmith. A spring flowing through a milk house on the same lot was reserved for the use of all the residents of the village, with a right of way to it. Described as being some 60 paces from the tavern, it is perhaps the same milk house associated with the above-mentioned stone dwelling.

South of the gristmill lot was a numbered tract called "the fulling mill lot," which extended across Pittstown Road and up the hillside, reaching to the hilltop farms of John Little and Luther Updike, Jr. Tradition states that this fulling mill had been a gristmill in the 18th century, built by Edward Rockhill before the arrival of Charles Hoff. Hiram Deats bought this parcel in 1852 to use the abandoned mill complex for a foundry and machine shop.

With the exception of a few new houses, there was little growth in the village during the first half of the 19th century. A school was built behind the tavern and a post office was established, thought to have been in the store that Benjamin and Ralph Guild kept. Pittstown had entered a period of decline, even though some nearby villages, such as Quakertown, only a half-mile away, experienced a wave of growth in population and service shops that continued for several decades. Pittstown's declining importance might have led to a future as a mere hamlet like Littletown, somewhat to its south on Pittstown Road, which consisted solely of the gristmills, sawmills, and homes of the Little family. Pittstown's future was changed in 1852 by the decision of Hiram Deats to establish a manufactory for farm equipment and other items in the village.

Hiram Deats' life illustrates the ethic of a Horatio Alger story. Descended from German stock, his grandfather had settled in Hunterdon County in the 18th century and pursued the trade of wheelwright. His father, John Deats, also became a wheelwright. According to Snell, John "began early to experiment in plows, and made the model of the celebrated Deats plow, which, in the hands of his son Hiram, has become so widely and favorably known. He obtained the patent for it, and not being able to engage in its manufacture, went West for the purpose of disposing of rights there, and never returned." This was in 1828, and Hiram, born in 1818, was not yet of age. "The thought occurred to him that he could take his father's model and do something with it in the way of manufacturing plows for his immediate neighbors....(H)e little dreamed of the magnitude to which the business would ultimately grow."

At his farm near Quakertown, Deats made the castings for the manufacturing of the plow at a foundry he set up single-handedly and was able to tackle any aspect of the work in this field unfamiliar to him rather than hire help. Historian Snell credits this facility as "the key to his future success," since Deats was too poor to employ a work crew, and had he not been a jack of all trades, the enterprise "must have died in its infancy."By 1836, Deats had his small operation under way on his farm and added stove castings as well. His business so prospered that in 1852 he decided to go into larger production. Splitting the operation, he set up the stove casting enterprise at Stockton, NJ, while starting up a new business at nearby Pittstown. He bought the abandoned old fulling mill site with its pond and race, at which he built a machine shop, and manufactured threshing machines, corn shellers, and other agricultural implements. In 1859, he enlarged the shop and built a foundry, finally closing the home-spun operation on his farm entirely. At this location he now went into large production of the plow along with reapers and mowers. Again successful, Deats formed a company with his son Leland Madison, and William L. and Rhutson Case. Deats, Case and Company, afterward changing its name to L.M. Deats & Co., remained in business until 1904. Deats was twice married. By his second wife he had a son, Hiram E., who became the noted historian of Hunterdon County, in many ways paralleling the career of the much more noted Henry C. Mercer of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. This son presented one of his father's original plows to Rutgers University in 1929, which became the nucleus of the university's agricultural museum. A number of other farm implements from Deats, Case and Company were given to the Hunterdon County Historical Society and some now are on display at the Clinton Historical Museum and at the Jamison Farm Museum at Lambertville.

Hiram Deats is significant to New Jersey agricultural history for his production of the plow designed and patented by his father, which clearly in its molded feature represented an improvement on the old, unmolded designs. Unchanged, it remained in use into the 1920s. His innovation was thereafter incorporated into future improvements in plows. Locally, and county-wide, Deats made an important contribution to the agricultural economy through his primary role in the development of Pittstown as an early manufacturing and commercial center for farm products and trade. The growth of Pittstown to its present size was largely due to the expansion of his operations, which transformed the village into an informal company town.

Deats' enterprise led to the rise of others, making Pittstown the prime service center for farmers. In the 1860s, E.H. Deats, a relation, took over the Christy Little fulling and oil mill at the southern end of the village, to which a sawmill had been attached. There he continued in the lumber business, but recognizing a need for peach baskets when area farmers began shipping this crop in quantity, he added their production as a side line. At a later date, he installed a steam engine and produced roller buckwheat, fancy rye, and wheat flour, "and all kinds of mill feeds," according to his invoice form.

At the time of Deats' arrival, the village core was concentrated between the Pittstown Tavern and Race Street. Deats' activities enlarged the village to the south. His purchase of the fulling mill lot included the hillside on the west side of the road, which was being farmed at the time. Deats used this frontage for a series of houses, two for employees in a simple vernacular style and a third in Greek Revival temple style. It is believed locally that the last was constructed for himself, but the 1873 Atlas Map identifies it as the home of his son, Leland M., and indicates another house near the grist mill and tavern as belonging to "H. Deats." Since Deats bought this latter property in 1851, it was more likely his home. Traditions that attach to Deat's house site as the location of Moore Furman's house make more sense, also, at this location. Over the years, additional houses were built and owned by Deats, his partner Case, and their firm on both sides of the road down to the Quakertown Road-Pittstown Road intersection, making them the major landlord of the village. In 1873, 11 of the 29 buildings in Pittstown belonged either to members of the Deats or Case families or to their company.

During the 1850s, a new one-room school house was built on Race Street toward the top of the hillside, the only building on what was then Everittstown Road except for the blacksmith's shop at the corner and one house near it. An old photograph shows the schoolhouse to have originally been a typical one-room school, but it assumed its present size post-1902, when it became a residence after a new school house was erected. In 1856, Sylvester Probasco took over the south corner lot at Race Street and Pittstown Road for a new store where the Guild store had been, according to one tradition. This gable-fronted building is ornamentally detailed with sunk-panel corner pilasters and frieze, which partly survive today despite an altered facade. Adjoining it on the same lot in 1873 stood the shopkeeper's home. This may or may not be the extant house, as its elaborate Italianate trappings and Queen Anne porch suggest a later date. Either the first house was remodeled and reoriented to the road or totally replaced, possibly in the 1890s when the Reed family bought the store. In 1867, Probasco gave up the first store and built another directly across from it, combined with a residence, duplicating with greater elaboration the Greek Revival detailing employed on his first shop.

The company-owned tenant houses, which include the stone two-family dwelling, and its neighbors, the house opposite them, and another at the southeast corner of the Quakertown Road intersection, are all simple, straightforward, vernacular structures, without stylistic detail, but each differs from the other, as they were not built on order, according to one plan, nor at one time. In contrast to these are the domiciles of the more prosperous community residents, including principals in the Deats firm. The temple-style Deats house, earlier mentioned, although awkward in its proportions and application of elements of style, as seen in an early photograph before additions, illustrates a conscious effort to make a social distinction. The c.1860 house of a J. Probasco was built on what was probably the choicest site in town, on the distant side of Capoolon Brook, facing the lane from Deat's complex, thus avoiding the restrictions of hillside construction and grandly setting it off from the streetscape. The main block has a defined attic story with "eyebrow" windows, under a flattened roof partly concealed by a center cross gable containing an oculus; it is flanked by two recessed flat-roofed two-story wings. Its owner after 1880, Artemis Hoffman, a cattle dealer, gave the house new prominence by adding a splendid Queen Anne veranda of complex design that sweeps around the central unit in a curve across one wing. The home of Deat's partner W.J. Case takes advantage of a corner lot at Quakertown Road and is distinguished by its very visible coursed stone foundation and pointed-arch fenestration. Of block-and-wing plan, it appears to have been reoriented to Pittstown Road from Quakertown Road toward century end, the block and wing then being unified by means of an elaborate porch in Eastlake style. The addition of decorative porches on these two residences, as also on the Deats House, reflect the continuing use of architectural features for purposes of prestige, a human desire acted upon even in such a small industry-oriented country village as Pittstown.

Pittstown has never had a house of worship, as churches representing three denominations were within three miles distance of it as early as the 1760s, and a fourth church was built in Quakertown in the 19th century. In the 1870s, however, the Sunday School Union of the county apparently was prevailed upon to construct a building within the village on land obtained along Race Street, the residents desiring some form of religious service within walking distance, especially for children. Of impressive scale, the building stands apart from the general appearance of Pittstown for its use of brick and large Italianate windows arranged on the facade in a central grouping with an oculus above. The tall, upper story contains an auditorium and stage (preserved but now used as an office). The building was used on Sunday afternoons for worship services, with ministers being invited to preach while Sunday School classes were being taught. At other times, the building was used for social activities.

In the following decades, a few houses of a vernacular nature were added to Race Street, completing its build-up except for a Ranch house added about 1950. On the north side of the street, builders overcame the steep down slope to the head race of the gristmill by embanking their houses. This race continued to flow until about 30 years ago, when it was filled in, serving up to that time as play place for the village's youngsters.

A final spurt of growth occurred in Pittstown after 1891, with the laying, that year, of a spur line of the Lehigh Valley Railroad south from Landsdown. It was a logical step for the railroad to take given Pittstown's central role in the joint economy. The freight yard became a farmers' market and shipping center, and P.C. Little (later Suydam & Little) located a seed business in the coal dump, adding a haypress about 1914. Storage barns, sheds, and offices stand along with the haypress as well as a creamery, one of a number opened in town after the opportunity came to ship milk and butter by rail. Ray Wilson formed a new firm with Daniel Little and L.F. Deats in 1920, which continued in existence until 1935, the hay press being used as a mill as part of a more extensive business operation. Artemis Hoffman built near his house and the railroad tracks a very large barn for his cattle business, which he later used for a livery stable. It afterward became a creamery. The semi-ruin at another site was used for milk bottling.

The construction by the Lehigh Valley of a passenger station at a remove from the freight terminal, appears to have stimulated the rise of a minor commercial corner at Pittstown Road. The station was reached from the Deats' complex lane, where a blacksmith and a barber opened shops (no longer extant) and Roberson installed a store in the gable end of his house, which has since been converted back to residential use. Another change in town at about this time (1897), was the installation of a lumber business in Furman's grist mill by A.B.C. Bodine. After Deats, Case & Company closed in 1904, its foundry buildings burned down and successor buildings were subsequently built on the site. One, the Pittstown Agricultural Implements store, was built with a rear apartment. It was bought in 1910 by John Snyder, a sometime Hunterdon County chosen freeholder, who had built a house across the road and owned a farm adjoining it. He also purchased the site of Deats' machine shop, first putting up an agricultural building and then with his brother Charles putting up a new machine shop with a sawmill. In 1921, Russell Hoff came to Pittstown from Quakertown moving his car garage and gas station operation to a site south of the Snyder brothers' businesses. By enlarging the building over time, he was able to add the sale of Ford automobiles and tractors. Hoff, now [1990] in his 80s, still owns the building and pumps gas. With his initial purchase of land, he acquired a large late 19th century house and a great swath of land beyond the embankment, reaching to the brook. In the 1930s, Hoff built a bungalow for himself next door, the last house to be added to the village by a resident actively participating in the growth.

Hoff's garage was preceded by the Pittstown Garage, a business begun in 1917 by Russell Britton and Floyd Rupell. Britton bought the Roberson store/residence, and the attached garage downslope on Deats' Lane to the rear of the dwelling. Russell's son Harry soon became part of the business, after which it became a sales center for the Star, Durant, and Studebaker cars. A portion of the building now houses an upholstery business.

The final houses to be added to the village, except for Hoff's, went up about 1915 as homes for two of the village's prosperous businessmen, each choosing to have the then fashionable "four-square." One was built for Mercer Bodine, then owner of the lumber mill housed since 1897 in Furman's grist mill, the other for Daniel Little, partner in Little, Wilson, and Deats. Little was prominent for his service on the Franklin Township School Board for 15 years and was the first appointee to the County Welfare Board, 1932. During these years Daniel Little and Leland E. Deats became owners of the earlier tenant houses on the west side of Pittstown Road and held them as rental properties.

The Hunterdon County Farm Directory of 1914 shows Pittstown as the hub of trade and industry for Franklin Township, with 2 firms (Snyder's and Hiram Deats, Jr.'s) suppliers of agricultural implements, Bodine's, source of lumber, roofing, building materials, sash, doors, mouldings, and feed; P.C. Little & Son, hay and grain; a creamery and dairy; real estate and insurance; 3 blacksmiths, 3 general stores, Reed's offering fresh meats and country produce as well as ordinary household merchandise, the one opposite it in the ownership of the Dalrymple family selling horse blankets and dress goods, with eggs a specialty; the hotel, under S.M. Burnham, and feed mills at the freight yard. The buildings in which these activities were conducted are still extant, in the main unchanged in appearance and some still in use although perhaps serving other functions. Residents listed their occupations as carpenter, plumber, painter, machinist, railroad personnel, miller, wheelwright, harnessmaker, poultry raiser, poultry dealer, teacher, and farmer. There was telephone and telegraph service because of the railroad. One advertiser claimed that "all roads lead to Pittstown." This lively period of activity continued through the early automobile age. Although local industry thereafter declined, the farms continued in operation for another decade or two and the old grist mill, run by electric power, continued to grind grain into the 1950s side by side with the sale of lumber.

The architecture of Pittstown speaks in two voices regarding its history. Its origins as mill complex, soon taken over by Moore Furman as his country estate and business enterprise, through 1808, are visible in the concentration of stone structures at the northern intersection including tavern, dwelling and milk house, grist mill, and outbuilding, and the barns and blacksmith shop constructed somewhat later. The feeder stream on which the millpond was located, and the course of the head race remain as physical identification as do the adjoining farm fields. The second phase of its history as 19th-century industrial center is represented by the successor commercial and service buildings which took over on the site of Deats' foundry and machine shop following two fires and the buildings relating to railroad transportation. This period of growth, continuing into this century, is also represented by the remaining dwellings and shops which form the village character.

The surviving stone structures are both representative of the style prevailing in this part of Hunterdon County. They share with others a taste for masonry (and late 18th-century examples exhibit splayed, keystone lintels).

The second stage of growth is marked by frame buildings displaying in various degrees the stylistic influences of the Victorian era, early to late, which went up after the first handful of buildings had followed the Greek Revival style. Apart from the modern materials and form of the hardware store, all the buildings and structures relate to each other in size, form, fabric, and siting, even if some have a plethora of additions and new siding. In their very changes, they reflect the ongoing life of different generations of a small native population who continued to use the limited housing stock, merely adjusting it to their needs. In this they followed older American traditions of making do rather than replacing. The stone mansion (Furman-Stryker House) is the earliest example, with its interesting use of a half-gable roofline, of the so-called flounder-house style found on the waterfront of Alexandria, Virginia as a cost-saving measure; others are the two houses composed of separate buildings (Deats, Case and Co. Tenant House and W.R. Smith House), and the blacksmith shop with dwelling mounted over a portion of it. Barns, chicken houses, milk houses, meat house contribute because of their record of the agricultural basis of the village, and spring houses, wagon or carriage houses, and privies relate to the personal lives of the residents. Tavern, mills, stores, creamery, haypress, agricultural implement and automobile sales buildings account for the particular character of the village as early mill community and later industrial, transportation, and commercial center.

The preservation of the 18th- and 19th-century landscape that defines Pittstown has been the incidental effect of the choice by local businessmen to adapt old buildings to house new businesses rather than to demolish and replace them. Examples are the ECI offices in the haypress (the wagon drive-in has been left intact); the Chem Clean Company in the barn next to the grist mill, which by its survival retains the relationship of outbuilding to its house; the relatively new bank joined to the preserved Deats House; and the lawn equipment company and the horse farm making use of the 19th-century barns adjoining the tavern. At the present time, the c.1900 real estate and insurance office is being refurbished for a new occupant. In 1964, the reopening of Reed's general store as the village's new post office, a function it had also performed in the past, was cause of general celebration. The c.1800 stone dwelling house after its restoration and use as an antiques shop earlier in this century was featured three times in the publication Colonial Homes. A considerable number of the present residents have spent their lifetimes in the village and are proud of its history. Rural Awareness, a preservation-minded organization formed in 1980, has been calling attention to the township's heritage and laying a groundwork for its protection through popular house tours, held every year.


Primary Sources

Will, made 1806, probated 1808, for Moore Furman, Esq., State Archives, #12363 C.

Wills, Edward Rockhill, died 1748, and Isaac FitzRandolph, died 1768, in New Jersey Archives, Abstracts of Wills, Vols. II and IV.

Newspaper items, announcements, and advertisements, reprinted in New Jersey Archives, Newspaper Extracts, covering years 1740-1782, in volumes comprising First and Second Series, Second Series beginning with Vol. 1, 1776-1777.

Maps: 1758 revised copy by Thomas Jerrerys of Lewis Evans' 1755 map, "A General Map of the Middle British Colonies in America" (Original in New Jersey Historical Society)

Robert Erskine Map, No. 77 A, 77 B, 1779 Lt. J. Hills Map, A Map of Part of the Province of Jersey, 1781.

D. Stanton Hammond, Map of Landowners, 18th century, in Hunterdon County, Copyright 1983 by Genealogical Society of New Jersey.

Samuel C. Cornell's Map of Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Camden, NJ: Floyd Van Derveer and Samuel C. Cornell, publishers, 1851.

Beers' Atlas Map of Hunterdon County. New York: Beers, Comstock & Kline, 1873.

Manuscripts and Archival Records

Deeds. NJ State Archives, Trenton, NJ; Hunterdon County Clerk's Office. Flemington, NJ.

Road Returns of Hunterdon County, 18th century. Hunterdon County Clerk's Office. Flemington, NJ.

Tax Rateables for Kingwood Township. 1778-1822. New Jersey State Archives. Trenton, NJ.

Published works

Boyer, Charles S., Old Inns and Taverns in West Jersey. Camden, NJ: Camden County Historical Society, 1962.

Crane, Donald, "Pittstown Was Headquarters of Quarter-Master General During American Revolution," Hunterdon County Democrat, October 23, 31, 1957.

A History of East Amwell. 1700-1800. Ringoes, NJ: East Amwell Bicentennial Committee, 1976. The Letters of Moore Furman, Deputy

Quarter-Master of New Jersey in the Revolution, compiled and edited by the Historical Research Committee of the New Jersey Society of the Colonial Dames of America. New York: 1912.

Lequear, John W. (Jacob Magill). Traditions of Hunterdon. Flemington, NJ: 1957 (based on articles in the Hunterdon Republican 1869-70).

Race, Henry, "Pittstown in 1764," Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society (1890).

Schmidt, Hubert G. Rural Hunterdon, An Agricultural History. New Brunswick: Rutgers University, 1946.

Snell, James P. History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties. Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1881.

Township of Franklin, Quakertown, N.J. by Franklin Township Tercentenary Committee for its Tercentenary Celebration, October 17, 1964. In reality, the booklet was prepared by Joseph E. Stout, local historian. Mr. Stout and the booklet were a major source of information. Booklet is invaluable for its collection of old photographs.

Farm and Business Directory of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey, 1914. Published by Wilmer Atkinson Company, Washington Square, Philadelphia.

Interviews, in person and by telephone, during summer and fall 1987 and January 1988:

Apgar, Kenneth of Philadelphia (former owner of Furman-Stryker House);

Britton, Harry, Pittstown (owned Roberson's store/residence; owned garage);

Cronce, John, postmaster of Pittstown;

Dalrymple, Donald, former owner, Pittstown Market, Pittstown;

Douglas, Manning, resident (father farmed the Little farm);

Facklenman, Robert, MCI Industries, president, located in haypress;

Hoff, Russell, resident, built gas station/showroom; bungalow;

Little, (Mrs.) Russell, longtime native;

Mayer, Frederick, owner of Tool Crib, hardware store (on site of Snyder's machine shop);

Mayer-Backes, Pamela, Tool Crib;

McPherson, Edna, resident, first school house, over 50 years;

Myers, Kenneth, Hunterdon County historian and former nearby resident, now of Milford;

Schick, Chester, Jr., owner of W.R. Smith property, resident of Alexandria Township;

Samantchy, (Mrs.) Irma, owner of large farm on Quakertown Road;

Stout, Joseph E., resident and prime local historian.

Adapted from: Ursula Brecknell, Historic House Surveys, Pittstown Historic District, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Pittstown Road • Quakertown Road • Race Street

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