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


CHAPTER XXIX.
PHILLIPSBURG.


(Written with the assistance of Dr. John H. Griffith.)

Phillipsburg was first organized as a township in 1851, and at that time included Lopatcong, which was not set off until March 8, 1861, when Phillipsburg was incorporated as a town. An addition was made from Lopatcong to Phillipsburg in 1903.

Phillipsburg is on the site of an Indian village called Chintewink, which is still the name of one of its alleys. The present name is variously ascribed to an Indian chief Philip, who lived in the village, and to a family named Phillips who settled there later. It is one of the five towns in the county that had a name in 1769, the others being Oxford, Changewater, 'Halketstown and Bloomsbury. In "Hallesche Nachrichten, published in 1787, we read (p. 111): "Phillipsburg was an Indian town as early as 1654. The name Phillipsburg is found on a map of 1749." It also appears on a map published by Evans in 1755. The burden of evidence seems to favor the derivation of the name from that of an extensive land owner here named William Phillips, who was located in the neighborhood as early as 1735. His daughter Margaret married John Roseberry, and a son, William Phillips, was the most prominent man in Phillipsburg.

In 1715 Daniel Coxe, of Burlington, received a warrant to locate 1250 acres of land opposite to "The Forks of the Delaware River," the Lehigh being considered the west branch of the Delaware. The Delaware river frontage in this Daniel Coxe tract ran from just above the square in Phillipsburg to the Andover Furnace. In 1769 the heirs of Coxe conveyed 500 acres of the southwest part of this tract to John

Feith (Feit), and it is described as adjoining the lands of Peter Kenney and John Roseberry. In 1772 the Coxe heirs sold 200 acres to John Roseberry, and 228 acres to Michael Roseberry, in 1779. This tract ran from Hudson Street to the Andover Furnace, then over one mile back to John Feit's tract and thence along the Feit, Kinney and John Roseberry. tracts, and along Hudson Street to the river. On Michael Roseberry's death this tract became the property of his brother Joseph, who sold it to John Roseberry in 1784.

The site of the town of Phillipsburg seems to have fallen to the lot of John Tabor Kempe, one of the Coxe heirs and a royalist, and it was confiscated and sold in 1789 by James Hyndshaw, high sheriff, to Jacob Arndt Jr., of Easton. The description says, "Including the town of Phillipsburg," containing 91 3/4 acres. To the east it ran along William Phillip's land 40 chains 50 links, to the north along the ferry land 14 chains and 50 links, thence down the river 35 chains and 66 links to John Roseberry's land, and along his land, about where Hudson Street is, for a distance of 40 chains. This tract. embraced the whole of the ancient town of Phillipsburg as laid out by the Coxes. On January 5, 1793, Jacob Arndt Jr. sold the town of Phillipsburg as above described for £106 15s to Philip Seager. and Jacob Reese. In neither of these deeds is there a single reservation, indicating apparently no previous purchasers of town lots. Seager and Reese made a division of the town whereby Reese got two tracts in the northern part, containing respectively 36 3/4 acres and 13 acres, and Seager took the southern portion. Reese sold the 13-acre tract to Thomas Bullman, who gave or sold the entrance to the Delaware bridge at the square in i 8oo. In 1739 David Martin was given a grant to keep a ferry across. the Delaware at some point between Lopatcong creek and the . Musconetcong creek. The grant included 105 acres of land above the Coxe tract, or Phillipsburg town line. In 1742 the Martin ferry across the river was but a canoe to take over people while their horses swam alongside. At that time the site of Easton was covered with woods and brush, and the only road to Bethlehem was an Indian path.

From a letter written by William Parsàns, ex-surveyor-general of Pennsylvania, and a resident of Easton, we learn that in 1752 there were eleven families in Easton, and that the Jersey side of the river was more settled opposite the Forks than the Pennsylvania side. The letter' thentions Mr. John Cox's project of laying out a town on his land adjoining Mr. Martin's land opposite Easton. By 1755 Easton had grown to be a town of forty dwellings, including five taverns. By 1763 the town had sixty-three dwellings, including six taverns.

Rev. Mr. Peters bought the Martin tract and ferry rights and sold them to Richard Penn, and he sold them to Jacob Arndt Sr., who in 1794 conveyed the 105 acres to Lewis Goch, and he to Thomas Bullman, in 1798. Richard Peters also bought of Joseph Turner, in 1754, 411 acres of land to the north of the ferry land, which gave him control of the river front as far as Marble Mountain. This was not a purchase friendly to the interests of Phillipsburg, but was made by Peters at the instance of Richard Penn, to whom he conveyed both properties for the purpose of holding the town of Phillipsburg in check and favoring the growth of the new town they had laid out across the river and called Easton. The 411 acres came into the possession of the Howell family in 1809.

About 1802 the New Brunswick turnpike was built to Union Square. The Washington turnpike, called the Morris turnpike, was incorporated in 1806 and built soon thereafter. Both of these turnpikes followed roads that had been established for half a century or more.

The oldest house now standing in Phillipsburg is No. 119 South Main street. It was built by a Mr. Roseberry in 1750. The first house built on the hill, in the third ward, was erected by John H. Leida in 1858, and is now No. 233 Chambers street. Shortly after 1800, Thomas Builman built a tavern on Union Square, and later sold it to an Aibright, so that it was known for many years as Aibright's tavern. In 1810 John P. Roseberry built the present Union Square Hotel, which is now ably conducted by David W. Smith. The Lee House was built in 1811 for a store kept by John Mixsell. Its present proprietbr is M. O. J. Hile. Other hotels are the Phillipsburg Hotel, owned by Harry Smith; Hotel Columbia, by W. H. Carey; and the American House, on Jefferson street.

"On the 16th day of December, 1776, a portion of the American Army under General John Sullivan passed through Phillipsburg on their way to Trenton to join Washington, crossed the Delaware river above where the bridge now stands, and encamped over night near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

"In May, 1779, General Sullivan again came this way, by order of General Washington, and rendezvoused in Easton, Pennsylvania, preparatory to his march to Wyoming Valley to avenge the massacre of the year before at that place. General William Maxwell, of Greenwich township, with the New Jersey brigade accompanied General Sullivan."

The first bridge across the Delaware at this point was erected about 1800, and was washed away by a freshet in a few years. In 1805 the Easton Delaware Bridge Company raised by a lottery enough money to build a wooden arch bridge in the style of the one now at Columbia, which served for nearly a century, when it was torn down and the present iron one was erected in its place in 1895.

One hundred years ago, in 1811, Phillipsburg contained fifteen families, named Reese, Roseberry, Ramsey, Mixsell, Myers, Builman, Aibright, Seager, Barnes, Beers, Carpenter, Bidleman, Skiliman, Phillips and Shaup. The completion of the Morris Canal in 1832 benefitted the town somewhat, but not to the extent expected. In 1820 Phillipsburg contained thirty or. more houses, scattered for a mile along the Sussex road, now North Main Street, and the New Brunswick turnpike, or George street, now partly South Main street. The first brick building in town was erected by Garret Cook in 1845. There were no more than fifty dwellings here in 1847, and the town had no postoffice until 1854, while Easton's post-office was established March 20, 1793. The first important growth began with the building of the New Jersey Central railroad, which was completed to Phillipsburg on July 1, 1852. . On July 2d the first passenger train of eight cars arrived amid great rejoicing. John Alpaugh, now residing at Phillipsburg, and aged eighty-five, was fireman on this first train.

The Phillipsburg Land Company, formed in 1853, purchased the Roseberry farm, laid it out in lots, and induced many people to settle in the town. "In all, they bought three hundred acres, laid out eleven hundred and thirty lots, and paid for lands $55,000." Since 1853 the growth of Phillipsburg, in population, wealth and diversity of industries has been rapid and continuous; Phillipsburg was incorporated as a town on March 8, 1861.

The first election in the newly incorporated town was held in the Union Square Hotel, then conducted by Joseph Fisher, on April 8, 1861, and Charles Sitgreaves was chosen as the first Mayor.

"The greatest railroad strike in the history of the State took place in 1877, with Phillipsburg as provisional headquarters for two or three weeks, with General W. J. Sewall in command of the State troops.

"October 21, 1892, the Columbian parade took place, and was the greatest industrial exhibition ever given in this community; 183 large and magnificent floats were in line taking three hours to pass a given point."

On May 10, 1906, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument was dedicated and unveiled on the grounds of the Lovell School building, in the presence of Governor Edward C. Stokes, the G. A. R., and the Second Regiment of the National Guard of New Jersey. The total height of the monument is about 48 feet, and it cost

"The three mortars around the monument and the one on the soldiers' plot in the cemetery are the property of Tolmie Post. They were a donation made by the War Department through a special act of Congress. All of these mortars have a record; two were in the siege at Vicksburg, Miss., during the engagements there in 1862 and 1863; one was captured and recaptured three times at Island No. 10; one was at the front in the engagement at Fredericksburg, Va.

"On July 4, 1870, General Theodore Runyon dedicated a Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in the Phillipsburg Cemetery, which was afterwards removed under very peculiar conditions which constituted the highest grade of vandalism ever permitted by the loyal citizens of an enlightened community."

Phillipsburg celebrated its fiftieth anniversary by an "Old Home Week" in the first week of July, 1911.

The population increased rapidly from 1,500 in 1860 to 5,950 in 1870, 7,176 in 1881, 9,500 in 1899 and 14,000 in 1911. There are now six wards, and the town is governed by a mayor, eighteen councilmen, and a police force of eight men.

The early church records give us some of our first authentic dates in the history of this vicinity. The "Hallesche Nachrichten" makes mention of Lutheran services at the Forks of the Delaware as early as 1733. The Presbytery of New Brunswick sent missionaries in 1737 to the Forks of the Delaware, or, as the Indians called it, Lechauwitung. A log meetinghouse was built on what is now Brainard street, near the Morris and Essex freight depot at a very early date and a cemetery is remembered as being on the hill between it and the river. This is undoubtedly the church referred to in several old surveys, one of which reads "May 27, 1762, Surveyed a Lott in Phillipsburg, Whereon is a Lutheran Church and Burying Ground." This earliest church became but a memory, and "the last vestige of a marked grave was that of General John Phillips, with a modest tablet or headstone, and that, too, has disappeared; but may be found in the garret of some distant relative." When building the Morris and Essex railroad, the workmen cut through thisold graveyard in 1867, and again, in 1906, when digging the foundation for a part of the freight house, many skeletal remains were found. Many years ago the site was owned by John Bach, who used the foundation stones of the old church in the cellar of a house, and made a present of the logs composing the church to Henry Walters. No other church was erected in Phillipsburg until or about a century later, than the first one. During this century Phillipsburg depended for houses of worship on Easton and on the "Old Straw Church," erected by the Lutherans in Greenwich before 1760, and now known as St. James' Lutheran Church. The F'irst Presbyterian Church of Greenwich, too, served the people of that denomination as early as 1739, and in their log meetinghouse the missionary David Brainerd preached twice on the Sabbath, December 9, 1744.

The First Presbyterian Church of Phillipsburg was organized on December 13, 1853, at the Academy, on the site now occupied by the Sitgreaves school building, A sermon was preached by Rev. George C. Bush, and thirty-two became members of the new church. The corner stone of a church building was laid in 1854, and the building completed at a cost of $20,000, and dedicated September 12, 1858. The present pastor is Rev. J. Coiclough. For many years this church possessed the only pipe organ in the city, having installed one in 1874. The Westminster Presbyterian Church was organized on April 27, 1886. It was formed largely by members of the First Presbyterian Church, and was the immediate result of the growth of the second Presbyterian Sabbath school, which had been held in Dull's Hall for two years. The chapel was completed for use on August 31, 1890, and the main building was first used on December 10, 1893. Rev. E. C. Cline was pastor until April 1, 1903, when the present pastor, Rev. James Moore, was installed. A handsome memorial pipe organ was given to the church on February 24, 1904, in memory of Mrs. Phoebe Harris Dinsmore. The Sunday school connected with the church numbers 247 scholars and teachers.

The First Methodist Church of Phillipsburg was organized May 20, and the corner stone of the church was laid August 13, of the same year. The first resident of Phillipsburg to be converted to Methodism was Philip Reese, who was converted in 1824, while on a visit to his sister, who lived on the Susquehanna. The first Methodist sermon was preached in his stone house in 1828, by Rev. H. Bartine. The first class leader was named Downs, a school teacher of Easton. The church was dedicated on October 3, 1858. The value of church and parsonage is $35,000. Rev. R. B. Lockwood was' the first pastor. The present pastor, Rev. F. T. Hubach, follows many other eminent predecessors.. The membership is 534, and 670 are connected with the Sunday school. A fine pipe organ was installed in 1909. The Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church originated from a class meeting held in the Fitch school house in 1871. The church was organized in 1872, and in October of that year Wesley Chapel was dedicated. The building was remodelled in 1886. The church has a membership of 500 and property valued at $22,500. The present pastor is Rev. O. M. West. A fire caused by lightning destroyed the steeple on June 13, 1911.

St. Luke's Protestant Episcopal Church was organized December 22, 1856. A handsome stone church was consecrated by Bishop Odenheimer on June 9, 1861. The present edifice was erected in 1858. Rev. Mr. Higgins is the present pastor. A Sunday school connected with it has 122 on its rolls.

The Church of SS. Philip and James is the second one on the same site. The corner stone of the first was laid in 1860 by Bishop Bayley. Father O'Reilly served the parish for twenty-four years. In 1889 the present edifice was completed. There are now 3,505 souls in the parish. Other church property in Phillipsburg includes the Parochial Hall, built at a cost of $22,000; the Young Men's Catholic Club rooms, and a cemetery on Fillmore Street The present pastor is Rev. Patrick F. Connolly. A tower costing $15,000 was erected on the church in 1911. A i,ooo-pound bell is a feature of the tower, and also a clock that automatically rings the Angelus on the big bell.

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1869 by Rev. M. H. Richards, and the church edifice was dedicated January 9, 1870. Rev. Joseph Stump is the present pastor. Two hundred and forty-seven are connected with its Sunday school. St. John's German Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized February 5, by Rev. R. F. Weidner. Its fifty original members came mainly from Zion Church, of Easton, Pennsylvania. Rev. Joseph Orr is pastor; 119 are connected with its Sunday school.

The First Baptist Church of Phillipsburg was organized by Rev. A. E. Francis in 1880, and a house of worship was later erected on Main street. Rev. E. R. Tilton is pastor of this church and of the Lincoln Street Baptist chapel.

Phillipsburg's first school was held in a log house near Bidleman's. Here in 1801 "Old Cohen" taught school. A stone building replaced the earlier structure in 1803, and was destroyed by fire in 1812. A new stone schoolhouse was then erected near the site of the Andover Furnace. This building was replaced in 1854 by a new schoolhouse for the use of Ihrie District No. 10, which comprised the second and fourth wards. The second school to be opened was held in 1833 in a room in the stone building near the Pennsylvania depot, which was occupied for many years by the Warren Democrat, and now used as a real estate office. In 1843 a small brick building was erected at a cost of $500 for the use of Phillipsburg District No. 11, comprising the first and third wards. The Hudson Street School was built in 1852 at a cost of $3,500, and took the place of the smaller building. The town was made into one school district in 1869, with three sections, and a third building was completed in 1871, on land purchased of Henry Seagraves, at a total cost of $46,131.84. This served for many years as a high school and grammar school. This is now called the Freeman Building. In 1871 the Howell building was erected in the first ward, at a c.ost of $4,082, and in 1873 the engine-house of the Andover Fire Company was converted into a schoolhouse. The High School building wascompletedin 1909 atanexpenseof $22,000. It has a finelocationon Main Street, near the older Lovell building, which was erected fifteen years ago. The Soldiers' Monument is placed in the immediate vicinity and presents a fine appearance. The John Firth building was erected in 1909 at a cost of $35,000, and the Pursell school building in 1911 at a cost of $30,000. There are now ten buildings devoted to the use of the public schools, which employ sixty-twoteachers, including the superintendent, Lewis Osmun Beers. There are 2,159 pupils enrolled.

Dr. John Cooper, who practiced here from 1791 until 1794 and then followed his profession for fifty years in Easton, was the first resident practitioner. He had no successor for fifty years when Dr. Southard came and practiced here for two years. Dr. John H. Griffith has practiced here for forty-one years, or since 1870; Dr. Isaac Barber since 1880; Dr. J. M. Reese since 1883; Dr. R. A. Stewart and Dr. H. R. West since 1884; Dr. Wm. Kline since 1891; and Dr. F. A. Shimer since 1905.

The Phillipsburg National Bank was a State bank from 1856 until 1865, when it was chartered as a national bank. It has a capital stock of $200,000 and a surplus of $300,000. John A. Bachman is its president, and James L. Lomerson its cashier. The Second National Bank of Phillipsburg was incorporated in October, 1900, with $100,000 capital. It now has $70,000 surplus. S. C. Smith is president, William O'Neil vice-president, Aaron McCammon cashier, and John Firth assistant cashier.

In 1861 the Lehigh Water Company of Easton was authorized by a special act of the legislature to supply Phillipsburg with water. In 1886 the People's Water Company of Phillipsburg was organized and within a year had completed its plant, including a reservoir and a pumping station along the Delaware river north of the town. Extensive improvements were made to the plant in 1911. None of the water is pumped from the river, but it all comes from extensive wells which, from their situation in a sandy soil, give an excellent filtered supply of soft water. The present officers are G. G. Stryker, president; John A. Bachman, treasurer; and J. O. Carpenter, secretary.

The predecessor of the present trolley system was the Phillipsburg Horse Railway Company. This was chartered in 1867, organized in 1871, and built its line along South Main Street. The trolley line now extends from the Circle in Easton to Alpha and by way of North Main Street to Ingersoll Heights. The Easton and Washington Traction Company's trolley line extends from Main Street, at the Soldiers' Monument, to Port Murray, and will shortly be extended. It was chartered on May 31, 1902.

Phillipsburg is at one of our two great gateways to the west, the other being at the Water Gap. This accounts for the presence of four of the five great railways that centre here and give shipping facilities enjoyed by no other city of its size in the east. Naturally therefore, Phillipsburg is essentially a manufacturing city and possesses many important industries. Of the three iron railroad bridges crossing the Delaware at this point, the one furthest north is owned by the Lehigh and Hudson River railroad; the middle one is owned by the New Jersey Central railroad, and is also used by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western; the southernmost one belongs to the Lehigh Valley railroad.

The near vicinity of Easton, Pennsylvania, gives to Phillipsburg many advantages not usually enjoyed by a city of its size. The large department stores, the excellent hotels, the hospital, college, schools and places of amusement serve Phillipsburg as well as Easton. In fact, the two are one city, and in not a few instances the office is on one side of the river and the workshop on the other.

The first important manufacturing industry was the iron and brass foundry of J. R. Templin & Co., which was operated here from 1848 until July 4, 1855, when the plant was destroyed by fire.

In 1848 Messrs. Cooper and Hewett, of New York, built a blast furnace south of the town and called it the Cooper Iron Works. Two other furnaces were soon added, the whole being owned by the Trenton Iron Company. In 1868 they sold their whole plant to the Andover Iron Company, who operated it successfully for many years. It is temporarily out of blast.

Between 1849 and 1876 A. R. Reese & Co. did an extensive business in the manufacture of agricultural implements. The Warren Foundry and Machine Company was chartered March 6, 1856, with a capital of $200,000, and it has operated continuously and profitably ever since. The extensive buildings are of stone, the machine shop being 400 feet long. Its specialty is the manufacture of cast-iron pipes and columns. William Runkle is president of the company, and J. Walter Ingham its very efficient superintendent. The Phillipsburg Rolling Mills were established on the Howell tract along the river in 1860 and were operated for a few years. The plant after many years idleness was rebuilt but was finally destroyed by fire. The boiler works of Tippett & Woods began operations in 1868, and have done a prosperous business ever since. They now employ about two hundred men. Rowland Firth and Son established a prosperous business here in 1894 and enlarged it in 191 i. They use $40,000 capital in the manufacture of all kinds of steel castings. The American Horse Shoe Company was established about 1895, and now employs one hundred and fifty hands. It is on the site of the old rolling mill. The Vulcanite Cement Company near Phillipsbiirg gives employment to many of its citizens, as does the Alpha Cement. Company, established a few years later at Alpha. The Ingersoll-Rand Drill Company is a merger of the Ingersoll-Sergeant Drill Company and the Rand Drill Company, the two largest manufacturers of drills operated by compressed air. The company has a capital of $10,000,000, and built its new plant in Phillipsburg in 1904, on a site annexed from Lopatcong in 1903 and called Ingersoll Heights. The company employs two thousand hands, and their product is used wherever man searches for nature's treasures beneath the ground. Recent successful industries are conducted by the Baker Chemical Company, established in 1904, the Canister Works, the Standard Silk Mill, the Continental Silk Mill, established in 1908, and Ryan's Silk Mill.

The first secret society in the county was Olive Branch Lodge, No. 16, Free and Accepted Masons, which was instituted at Phillipsburg on January 9, 1799. It surrendered its charter in 1842. Phillipsburg has no less than forty secret orders and societies, many of which are considered in the chapter on organizations.

The present town officials are: Joseph H. Firth, who has been mayor and president of council for several terms; J. A. S. Stone, vicepresident; Frank Kneedler, town clerk; J. L. Lomerson, treasurer; J. I. B. Reilly, solicitor; Robert P. Howell, surveyor; John Dundas, collector; G. L. Yeisley, auditor; George Pcister, chief of the fire department; and Edward Gorgas, chief of police.

Phillipsburg has a volunteer fire department composed of six hose companies, a fire chief and assistants, who respond promptly to every alarm. The first fire department was the Warren Fire Company, which was organized August 8, 1864, with thirty-seven members. It had at first a hand engine and later a steamer and hose carriage, but disbanded in the seventies. The Andover Engine Company was organized a few years later, and had a large heavy fire engine. It also disbanded before the Centennial Fire Company No. 1 was organized on January 26, 1876. The Reliance Hose Company dates from February 8, 1887, the Jersey Hose Company No. 2, from April 15, 1887; and the Alert Hook and Ladder Company, from May 3 i of the same year. The Warren Chemical Fire Company was organized January 29, 1908, and the Lincoln Engine Company No. 2 on February 12, 1909.

While Phillipsburg is already the largest town in northwestern New Jersey, it is rapidly growing in population, and its active Board of Trade, with Dr. J. M. Reese as its president, is continually seeking new industries.

Return to [ New Jersey History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]