History of Belvidere, NJ
From History of Warren County, NJ
By George Wyckoff Cummins, Ph. D., M. D.
Lewis Historical Publishing Company 1911


CHAPTER XIV.
BELVIDERE.


Belvidere was a part of Oxford Township until 1845, when it was organized as a borough. Before 1754 it was a part of Greenwich, and, the vicinity of Belvidere as far as the Oxford Meeting House was frequently spoken of as Upper Greenwich, or Greenwich on the Delaware.

On October 8th and 9th, 1716, there were surveyed by John Reading two tracts of land on the site of Belvidere These were separated by a line beginning at the mouth of the Pequest and running along what was later Independence Street, which leads now to the farm of Mr. E. H. Carhart. The tract to the north of that line was for 1,250 acres or more, and was surveyed for William Penn. The tract to the south was of the same size, and was surveyed to Colonel John Alford, of Charleston, Massachusetts. The McMurtries came into possession of the Alford tract in 1750, and Robert Patterson, the first settler in Belvidere, bought the Penn tract in 1759. Robert Patterson was a tinsmith, and built a double log house on the site of the Warren House. He sold a great deal of his property in the seventeen sixties, and seems to have left by 1769, when Major Robert Hoops came and purchased the land on both sides of the Pequest. He retained the property on the north side of the creek until about 1800, but sold all south of the Pequest, including the water powers, to Robert Morris, the financier of the Revolution, who built the house on Greenwich Street (now owned by Dr. Lefferts) in 1780, for his daughter, Mrs. Croxall, to whom he conveyed it in 1793 by a deed containing an entail, which delayed the development of that part of the town for many years, or until a special act of the Legislature in 1818 gave the ownership to four heirs in fee simple.

Major Hoops was a very active business man. He had a saw mill and a grist mill. He dealt in grain, and shipped flour and produce to Philadelphia by Durham boats., He did much to make the present channel through Foul Rift. During the Revolution he had a slaughter house on the site of D. C. Blair's barn, from which many wagonloads of beef and pork were hauled to Morristown for Washington's hungry army. He laid out all of the northern half of the town into streets and lots as they are at present, and called the town Mercer. Before 1800 he had parted with his holdings, mainly to Thomas Paul and Mr. Hyndshaw, and retired to Virginia.

We find the name Belvidere first used in 1791 by Major Hoops in a letter now in possession of Miss Mary Clark. It was written to Richard Backhouse, Esquire, Durham, and reads as follows:

Dear Sir:
The day you left me in the afternoon with seven hands I made a beginning and compleated Passage through the little foul Rift fit for a Boat to pass with 100 or 150 Bushels without touching; and was it not for the three points where the Hatchet was raised against me I should be perfectly easy-but industry and perseverance will, I hope, overcome all difficulties. I have desired the Bearer, my Negro Boy Jack, to return to me as speedily as you can dismis Him, as no time must be lost. I shall get some hands at work tomorrow before I set out for your House and wish as little detention as possible, as I am determined to return again on the same evening, having engaged some more hands for Tuesday Morning. I am with best Wishes, Dear Sir,
your Most obdt.,
Humble Servt.,
ROBT. HOOPS.

Belvidere, Sunday,
8th August, 1791.

The Robert Morris tract, south of the Pequest, comprising 614 acres, was bought in 1825 by Garret D. Wall, who was elected, Governor of New Jersey in 1829. He sold the Croxall mansion to John M. Sherrerd, Esq., our first county clerk, in 1827, and the rest of the tract he laid out in building lots, as it is at present. The town was boomed, and vacant lots brought extravagant prices, one corner lot bringing $3,600. Mr. Wall gave the sites for the park, Court House and the Methodist and Presbyterian churches.

The first roads in Belvidere all ran from the ford, about one hundred feet below the new concrete bridge. One skirted the foot of the hill by the depot and then followed the straight line of Independence Street, past Carhart's farm, to Phillipsburg. Another we recognize as Market Street, and yet another as Water Street, at the western end of which was operated a ferry across the Delaware River. The ferryman in 1800 was Daniel McCain, who also followed his trade of making nails on the anvil for ten or twelve cents a pound.

The oldest building site in Belvidere is occupied by the Warren House. Here Robert Patterson built his double log house, which lasted until 1838, when it was torn down by Benjamin .Depue in order to make way for the more modern structure which is known today as the Warren House. This was slightly remodeled about ten years ago, after a fire. When it was a double log house it was known as the Mansion House, and was conducted as a tavern by William Craig, and later by Joseph Norton. Major Benjamin Depue kept the Warren House for many years, and was succeeded by Vincent Smith, and he by John P. Ribble. At present it is owned by George I.. Gardner, and the landlord is William Johnson.

One of the earliest building sites in Belvidere is occupied by the residence of Mr. Henry Deshler. This was built by Dr. George Green in 1830, taking the place of a double log house occupied successively by the Rev. Mr. Treat, pastor of the old Oxford Church; by the Cottmans, by Major Robert Hoops, who came here in 1769; by Dr. Larrabee before 1794, and by Dr. Jabez Gwinnup, who practiced here from 1794 until 1817. Mr. Thomas Paul, his son, Dr. J. Marshall Paul, Sr., and grandson, Dr. J. Marshall Paul, Jr., owned this place for many years, together with several hundred acres of surrounding property, much of which is still owned by the Paul estate.

A historic dwelling was built at the corner of the park in 1833 by John P. B. Maxwell for his bride, who did not live to enter it. It was later owned by his sister, Mrs. William P. Robeson, the mother of the Hon. George M. Robeson, Secretary of the Navy under President Grant. It was regarded as the homestead of the Robeson family, which was so long identified with the history of the State. Martin Van Buren was entertained at this house when a candidate for the presidency, and was driven by Judge Robeson in his carriage drawn by four white. horses to Schooley's Mountain. Bishop Doane, the author of several familiar hymns, was a frequent visitor here. One of his hymns begins:
"The morning light is breaking, the darkness disappears." The property was bought by Dr. G. W. Cummins in 1901.

Among the very earliest settlers in the neighboring Northampton County were the Craigs, some of whom later came to Warren County. James Craig came with several other Scotch-Irish families to "Craig's Settlement," which was at what is now called Weaversville, Pennsylvania, and vinicity. In 1743, he purchased 250 acres of land of William Allen. His three sons were named William, Thomas and Robert. William Craig was the first Sheriff of Northampton County. Thomas Craig bought 500 acres of land in 1739. ' His sons were General Thomas Craig and Captain John Craig. Thomas served in the Revolutionary army as colonel of the Third Pennsylvania Regiment and as brigadier-general. He took part in the battles of Quebec, Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth. John Craig was captain of the Fourth Regiment Pennsylvania Light Dragoons, and was pronounced by General Washington as "the best horseman in the army." He was Sheriff of Northampton County from 1793 to 1796. and spent. his last years in Belvidere as proprietor of what is now known as the American House. A fire which partially destroyed the American House in 1906 brought to light some papers of historic interest, among them some militia muster rolls of Northampton County in 1796, and a great number of "Way-bills from Belvidere to Trenton," in which are mentioned by name and destination all those who traveled by stage coach between those points, numbering in all not more than a dozen in a week! The American House was conducted for forty years by Augustus Laubach, and is now owned by Mr. Baylor and conducted by William A. Rasener.

The business activity of Belvidere has always depended in a great measure on the presence, of the Delaware River, which offers possibilities of power and communication, and the Pequest Creek, which furnishes power to run nearly all of Belvidere's industries. With respect to the possible development of water, Belvidere is the second city in the State, and before long it hopes to utilize all of its possibilities in this direction.

For many years Belvidere was the shipping point to Philadelphia and Trenton for Oxford Furnace, which began to ship iron down the river as early as The iron was carried on the famous Durham boats. These were flat-bottomed affairs with a prow at either end. They floated with their load down stream, and were poled all the way back, lightly loaded, largely with sugar and molasses.

A disastrous effort was made by Belvidere interests in 1860 to run a line of steamers on the river, but when the first steamer, the "Alfred Thomas," on its maiden trip blew up after travelling less than one mile from Easton, where it was built, the project was dropped, never to be renewed. The explosion killed twelve persons, among them two of the three owners,- Judge William R. Sharp and Richard Holcomb.

The only real use ever made of the magnificent water power of the Delaware was to run a mill built a mile south of Belvidere in 1814 by William Sherlock, and rebuilt by Sherrerd & Company in 1836. The mill was finally destroyed by fire in 1856.

The Pequest has proved more useful, as it has furnished power without stint for 140 years, and has really made the town all that it is. The site of Ira B. Keener's mill at the south end of the lower bridge is the oldest in this vicinity, a. mill having been there ever since Major Hoops erected his first log mill in 1770. He also built a saw mill at the north end of the bridge, whose site has been occupied by a variety of industries, and finally by the Warren Wood Working Company, which conducts the most important industry in Belvidere. This company furnishes electric light to the borough, and at one time heated many dwellings by its exhaust steam.

McMurtrie's saw mill, conducted by Gardner & Company, is the third one to occupy that site, and gets its power from the lower dam, which also supplies power for the Belvidere Roller Mill Company's plant, erected by A. B. Searles in 1863 on the site of a saw mill built by Major Depue in 1839.

Several industries receive their power from water diverted from the Pequest a half mile east of Belvidere, and conducted to "McMurtrie's Mill Pond" by a race built in 1836 by the Belvidere Water Company, and later owned by the Belvidere Manufacturing Company. The excellent head of water thus obtained operates the flouring mill built in 1877 by Abram McMurtrie, and conducted at present under the firm name of G. K. & O. H. McMurtrie. For many years Belvidere has been the chief market for grain for many miles around, due to its prosperous mills and excellent shipping facilities.

The Crane Felt Company's works, situated on both sides of the Pequest, also receive their power from this source, as does the silk mill of Bamford Brothers, which was established before 1900 in the brick building erected in 1870 and known as the Agricultural Works. In this building a paper pail factory was successfully conducted for several years in the nineties.

A flourishing industry established in recent years is J. Frank Haye's welting factory. A garage is owned by Roseberry Brothers, and another by Frank Bair, who also conducts a moving picture establishment.

Belvidere has connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Lehigh & Hudson railroad, and by auto-stage with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railroad, giving unequalled traveling facilities, and it is planning to build a trolley line connecting with the county system at Washington.

Two wagon bridges cross the Pequest at Belvidere. The lower bridge, built of concrete and iron in 1910, replaced an iron bridge that had done service for fifty-two years. A stone arch bridge which stood here -from 1838 till 1858 followed a succession of wooden bridges, whose erection rendered useless the ford a hundred feet down stream, which was used in early times. The upper or iron bridge was erected in 1870, replacing a wooden frame bridge that had served for many years. The present Delaware River bridge was built in 1904 by the Delaware Bridge Company, after the great flood of October, 1903, had washed away all but the foundations of the old wooden arch bridge which was built in 1834-36, after the pattern of the present bridge at Columbia. Before 1836 a ferry was operated just below the bridge.

The Town Hall on Water Street was built in 1855 The Good Will Volunteer Fire Company keeps its hose carriage and hook and ladder wagon in the building, and has a fine billiard room for the entertainment of its members. The Mayor and Common Council meet once a month in a special room, and all elections are held in the building. -

The Opera House was built by Widenor Brothers, in 1895, on the property long the residence of Theodore Paul, at the corner of Water and Market Streets. A brick store was on the corner for many years after 1826.

The Belvidere House was built in 1831 for use as a store. As a hotel it has been kept by William Butler, William Craig, John P. Ribble, William Brocaw and several of the Fisher family. At present it is owned by George Givens, and kept by Otto Kaiser. The Pequest House, early known as the Washington House, was built before i 800, and burned and rebuilt in 1833. It was kept before 1840 by Sheriff Daniel Winters. ' It was again burned in 1877 and rebuilt in 1881 It is at present owned by Charles Cole.

Belvidere is supplied with two excellent water systems; the oldest being the Belvidere Water Company, which was incorporated in 1877, and furnishes water either from the Delaware or from artesian wells. The second, established in 1908, is the Buckhorn Springs Water Company, which furnishes water from the Buckhorn, which has its rise in springs on Scott's Mountain, two miles south of Belvidere.

Butler's Grove, now owned by Mrs. A. Massénat, has been a favorite picnic ground for time beyond the memory of man. Seventy years ago the woods began with the last houses in town, and in the grove 'every year for many years before 1840 camp meetings were held, lasting for several weeks. Here the great Methodist preachers, such as Banghart, Fort and others, preached to great numbers of people. When the woods grew smaller the meetings were held in Axford's grove at Pequest.

The old stone foundation near the saw mill on the river bank is all that is left of the "Eagle Foundry," which Browne & Titus conducted seventy years ago, according to an advertisement in the Family Register, Vol. 1, No. 34. The foundry was owned by General Wall, and occupied by Peter Ketchum when it burned down on March 22, 1849.

An early resident of Belvidere was Lawrence Lomerson, a millwright, who, during the spring freshets, ran Durham boats and acted as steersman of rafts on the Delaware. He was born in 1770, and died in 1864.

Belvidere has possessed one of the solidest financial institutions in the State of New Jersey ever since John I. Blair established, in 1829, the house now known as the Belvidere National Bank, which at one 'time had a capital of $500,000 in active use. From it developed the great financial house of John I. Blair & Co., of New York, than which few in the world can claim to be more important. Mr. Blair was president or vice-president of the Belvidere National Bank till his death in 1899, at the age of ninety-seven years, since which time his son, DeWitt Clinton Blair, who inherited the greater part of his immense fortune, has been its president. C. Ledyard Blair was elected president in 1911. Mr. D. C. Blair still holds his legal residence in Belvidere, having his mansion on The Park.

The Warren County National Bank was established by the efforts of its energetic cashier and vice-president, Mr. George P. Young, in 1894, and has a capital of $50,000 and an equal amount as surplus.

Belvidere lacks something that many towns possess in abundance. It has no debt!

The Methodist Episcopal Church of Belvidere was organized in 1826, and a brick house of worship was erected on Market Street, where an old grave yard marks the spot. The present structure was built in on a desirable site east of the Park, presented by G. D. Wall, who was once elected Governor of New Jersey. A commodious brick parsonage was erected in 1859. The present pastor is the Rev. Dr. William Hampton. A two-manual Jardine pipe organ was installed in the church in 1904.

The First Presbyterian Church of Belvidere is a daughter of the Old Oxford Church, founded before 1744. A church was built in Belvidere in 1834 on a splendid site west of the Park, presented by G. D. Wall. The parsonage, on a lot adjacent, was bought in 1848. The present substantial stone structure was erected after a fire had destroyed the original building in 1859. Eight pastors have ministered to the congregation, including the present pastor, the Rev. J. de Hart Bruen, who has served for more than a quarter of a century. A two-manual Jardine pipe organ replaced one of simpler design a dozen years ago.

The Second Presbyterian Church was organized in 1849, to represent the "New School," and the present church was built at once. In 1870 Dr. J. Marshall Paul presented the parsonage, which he had built in 1855 for a public reading room and library, under the name of Stadleman Institute. A fine new Haskell electric organ was installed in 1910, the gift, in part, of Mr. Andrew Carnegie. Rev. J. B. Edmondson has been the pastor for many years.

Zion Episcopal Church was founded in 1833, and a building was erected on the south side of the Park before 1836, which was rebuilt after a fire occuring on May 5, 1900. The first missionary services were held here in 1816, by the Rev. Dr. Bayard. The Rt. Rev. G. W. Doane held his first visitation here in 1832. Rev. George H. Young ministers to The congregations at Belvidere, Hope and Delaware.

The cornerstone of Saint Patrick's Catholic Church was laid in August, 1891, by Rt. Rev. M. T. O'Farrell. The first mass celebrated in Belvidere was in the house of Michael O'Neil, in 1851, by Father Reardon, of Easton, and after this services were held in the old academy, and for twenty-two years in a frame church on Hardwick Street. During the pastorate of Father McConnell this church established statkns at Harker's Hollow and Delaware Water Gap. Father Peter Kelley ministers to the wants of this place and of Oxford.

A Baptist church led a precarious existence here from 1859 to 1903, when the building was demolished and on its site was erected the handsome residence of George P. Young.

Besides the physicians already mentioned, the following have served many years in Belvidere: Philip F. Brakeley, S. S. Clark, William H. Magee, F. P. Lefferts, William J. Burd, William C. Albertson and G. W. Cummins. The last four are still practicing.

The first school house of which we have any record was a building fourteen by twenty feet, on the Croxall property. Hyman McMiller taught in it from 1815 to 1820. In 1822 a stone school house, twentyfour by twenty-six feet, was erected on Water Street. In 1860 this structure was torn down, and a larger frame building erecte'd on the plot. This served all purposes of the growing population until, in 1892, a handsome brick school was erected at the intersection of Mansfield and Fourth Streets. An extensive addition was made to this in 1904. The old wooden school building burned down in March, 191 I. Professor C. H. Reagle is the present efficient principal.

Belvidere takes considerable pride in the Park, which was presented by Garret D. Wall, to be "always kept and continued open as a Public Square, walk or promenade, for the free common and uninterruiited use of the citizens of the County of Warren forever." It contains three and six-tenths acres, and is bounded by Second Street, Hardwick Street, Third Street and Mansfield Street. Around it are the Court House, the Presbyterian, Episcopal and Methodist churches, and many fine residences. It is pleasantly shaded by native forest trees, set out about 1840.

In 1909 the Captain Henry Post, G. A. R., unveiled, on Decoration Day, a cannon presented to them by the Government. The cannon previously formed a part of the defenses at Sandy Hook.

In 1910 a drinking fountain was set up opposite the Court House by the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

In the early days several public hangings were held in the Park, the most famous of which was that of Carter and Parks. The last hanging in Warren County was that of George Andrews, colored, for the murder of his wife. This hanging took place in the jail yard, with none but the necessary witnesses present.

The present Belvidere Cemetery had its origin in the donation of a plot of ground by John P. B. Maxwell and William P. Robeson, in 1834. The first interment was that of Mrs. Maxwell, the five-weeks' bride of one of the donors. The cemetery has been enlarged at various times, and at present it is all owned by the Belvidere Cemetery Association, which has made provisions for its perpetual care.

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