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


Blairstown is named in honor of John I. Blair, its most prominent citizen, and was erected from Knowlton in 1845. A small portion of Hardwick and Frelinghuysen was added later.

A tract of 1,100 acres was surveyed to John Hyndshaw in 1729, lying on both sides of the Paulins Kill, below Walnut Valley Creek, and partly in Knowlton Township. Hyndshaw still owned the tract in 1762.

Alexander Adams early took up 1,700 acres of land now partly in Knowlton and partly in Blairstown and Hope, reaching from the Union brick school house to near the Delaware River. His home is said to have been at about where the three townships come together. The history of his family is found under Knowlton Township.

A tract of 5,000 acres lying in Blairstown, Hope and Frelinghuysen was surveyed to William Penn before 1718. This was sold by his heirs to Jonathan Hampton, and after his death commissioners divided the tract into fifty farms, which were owned later by the Wildricks, Shipmans and Cressmans and others.

One of the earliest settlers in this township was Lodewick Ditman, or Ludwig Titman, who in 1737 bought 400 acres of land at the foot of the Blue Mountains, six miles from the Water Gap. Here he, his son, George, grandson, Baltus, or family, lived until 1844, when the homestead farm came into the possession of Walter Wilson, a greatgreat-grandson, whose family owned it until recently.

Ludwig Titman had three sons,-George, Philip and John, and a daughter, Christina. His will in 1772 mentions his wife, Mary, neighbors, John Van Etten, and John Van Nest and witnesses, Christopher Krop, John Fite and James Moody. Ludwig Titman's son, George, was born in 1726, and died in 1792. He lived on the homestead, and had two sons, George, born 1750, died 1796, and Baltus, born 1751; and a daughter, Mary, who married, about 1780, the Rev. Ludwig Chitara, who preached to the German Reformed congregations at Knowlton and Newton. George Titman (2nd.) moved to Oxford Township. Baltus Titman and his family lived on the old homestead at the foot of the mountain. He had: (1) John, father of Jacob, Catherine, Jeremiah, John, Marie and Charles; (2) William, father of Baltus, George and William; (3) Abraham; (4) Catherine; (5) Elizabeth; (6) Margaret; (7) Anna; (8) Lanah, and (9) George, father of Catherine, Elias, Baltis, John, George, Philip, William, Abraham, Isaac, Mary Ann and Jacob. Many of the Titman family are in the township to this day.

The ancestor of the Wildrick family in Warren County settled in Hardwick Township, not far from Blairstown, long before the Revolution. Several of the family have become prominent in the State and Nation.

Hon. Abram Wildrick was a member of the Assembly and a State Senator. His daughter, Isabella, married Hon. George B. Swain, recently State treasurer of New Jersey. Hon. Isaac Wildrick, a twin brother to Abram, was an inveterate politician. He is said to have filled every elective office in the State except that of Governor. He married Nancy Cummins. Their daughter, Huldah, is the wife of Major Carl Lentz, of Newark. A son, Abram C. Wildrick, graduated from West Point in 1857 and has a brilliant war record, receiving the brevet of brigadier-general. Another son is Colonel John A. Wildrick, who was commissioned first lieutenant of the Sussex Rifles in 1861, and later of Company B, Second Regiment New Jersey Volunteers. In General Kearney's First New Jersey Brigade he went through many campaigns, and was promoted to the command of the Twenty-eighth New Jersey Regiment before the battle of Chancellorsville. He was in Libby Prison for thirty-two days. He served as clerk of the County of Warren from 1890 to 1895. Two of his nephews are at present in the United States army.

The first grist mill built here "long before the Revolution," gave to the place the name of "Smith's Mills." Later, when Michael Butts, and after him, his grandson, Jacob Butts, owned most of the land on the site of the town, we find it called Butts' Bridge. The post-office, of which William Hankinson was first postmaster, bore this name from 1820 to 1825, when John I. Blair was made postmaster of the place, with "Gravel Hill" as its new name. This name it bore until the citizens, at a public meeting on January 23, 1839, changed it to Blairstown.

On March 8, 1821, Joseph R. Ogden and M. Robert Butts (representing Jacob Butts, deceased) conveyed to William Hankinson, Amos Ogden, Joseph R. Ogden, Peter Lanterman and Wilson Hunt, trustees of the Gravel Hill School House, a tract of land on the road from Butts' Bridge to Hope, and 242 yards from said bridge over Paulins Kill. This later became the public school.

Blairstown is the trading center for a large portion of northern Warren County. It soon will have three railway stations, as the Lehigh and New England, the New York, Susquehanna and Western, and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, all pass through the place.

The most important event in the history of this place was the arrival of John I. Blair, in 1819. The Hon. John I. Blair is noted as being the wealthiest native Jerseyman. He was born at Foul Rift, in 1802, and early developed marked ability as a merchant at Hope and at Gravel Hill, which was christened Blairstown in his honor in 1839. 4is great fortune was made mainly in building railroads, and his great business opportunities were offered freely to his friends, many of whom were also made wealthy thereby.

He founded the Belvidere National Bank in 1830, which institution became the parent of the great banking house of John I. Blair & Co., of Wall Street, New York. His home was maintained at Blairstown all his long life. He died December 5, 1899. His great-grandfather, Samuel Blair, came to America from Scotland about 1730, and married into the family of Dr. Shippen, of Philadelphia, who owned large tracts of land in Oxford Township, on Scott's Mountain. Here on Scott's Mountain Samuel Blair passed the remainder of his days, and here were born his son, John, and grandson, James, who was the father of John I. Blair. Mr. Blair left his great fortune mainly to his son, the Hon. D. C. Blair, of Belvidere and New York, and to his grandson, C. Ledyard Blair.

Blair Presbyterial Academy, or, as it is more familiarly known, Blair Hall, is the most important institution in Blairstown.

"In 1848 Mr. John I. Blair donated the grounds and provided the means for the erection of a stone edifice in Blairstown, to be used as a private school or academy that should uniformly uphold the New Testament ideal of character. This is the nucleus, both as to the inward and the outward character of the academy as it is today. The only deviation from the original design was the change from a day to a boarding school."

In 1883, by a timely and generous gift, a new era was brought to the school. "The campus consists of one hundred acres, and is picturesque in its diversity. Including beautiful Blair Walk and the lake, it makes a delightful place of recreation." The lake is five acres in extent, with an average depth of seven feet, and provides a noisy cascade at the dam seventeen feet in height and forty-five in width." The buildings excel in beauty of design and attractiveness of location those of other American preparatory schools.

Especially beautiful are Locke Hall and Insley Hall, named in honor of Mr. Blair's wife and mother. The institution is generously endowed.

Blairstown owes to the generosity of Mr. Blair an electric light plant and a water system, designed particularly for the convenience of Blair Hall, but whose advantages were extended to the whole town.

A noted figure in Blairstown was Dr. John C. Johnson, who located there in 1850, and for more than half a century served the population faithfully for many miles around. He was president and, for many years, secretary of the County Medical Society, and was president of the Medical Society of New Jersey in 1867. Dr. H. 0. Carhart has practiced his profession in Blairstown since 1887, and has been for several years collector of the County of Warren. Dr. William Allen and Dr. F. S. Gorden have been more recently established here.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was the first one to be erected in Blairstown. It was not built until 1838, although the Methodists had stated preaching appointments in this place as early as 1811. In 1873 the original stone structure was torn down, and the present frame church was erected on nearly the same site. This church was connected with the Harmony circuit from 1838 until 1862, when it became a separate charge. Soon thereafter a commodious parsonage was erected. An excellent Jardine pipe organ was installed in 1902. The present pastor is Rev. D. H. Gridley.

The Blairstown Presbyterian Church was erected in 1839-40. "It was furnished with a 218-pound bell, for many years the only churchgoing bell to be heard by the citizens of the beautiful valley in whose midst the church was planted." The first structure was built of stone, and, although in good repair, was demolished in 1870 to make way for the present building. The Presbyterians in this vicinity early went to the Knowlton church or to the Yellow Frame Church, a few miles away. In 1848 a parsonage was erected. Dr. John C. Johnson was organist for many years on the well built Jardine pipe organ. The present pastor is the Rev. J. N. Armstrong.

De Witt C. Carter is the editor and publisher of the Blairstown Press, the only newspaper published in the northern part of Warren County.

The First National Bank of Blairstown was established in 1900. Theodore B. Dawes has been its cashier for ten years, and William C. Howell its president. The People's National Bank was opened for business in August, 1910. John A. Messler is president, and E. J. Divers cashier.

The farming in the neighborhood of Blairstown takes mainly the form of dairying. The Empire State Dairy Company has creameries at Hainesburg, Vails, Marksboro and Blairstown, which serve as a market for most of the milk produced in the Paulins Kill Valley.

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