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


Independence was named in 1782, the year in which a preliminary treaty of peace was signed giving us our independence from Great Britain and this accounts for the name. It had for several years before this been called Lower Hardwick, but was not erected into a township until Hardwick was divided in 1782. From Independence came Green, of Sussex County, in 1824; Hackettstown, in 1853, and Allamuchy, in 1872.

Captain William Helms, of Hackettstown, was captain of the Ninth Company of the Second Regiment of the New Jersey Continental Line in the Revolution, and served in the Indian campaign of 1779 with his company, largely recruited from Independence Township, in which we find such familiar family names as those of John Fleming, Jonathan Hickson, William Morgan, John Poole, Jesse Saxton, Jacob Shaver, William Sutton and Hendrick Van Wye.

An early resident of Independence was Walter Wiggins, who owned the land where Mrs. Mary Cummins now lives, later owned by the Larison family. Walter Wiggins left it to his grandchildren, William, Joseph and Thomas Wiggins. A graveyard on their farm, on the knoll by the Methodist parsonage barn, has one tombstone inscribed "G. W., Oct.. 1, 1745." which is the earliest date on any tombstone in the county. The Larison home, near Bulgin's Bridge, was in its time one of the finest and gayest of the township, and many were the suitors of Miss Charity Larison, who was finally won by the Hon. Abram Wildrick, a member of the Legislature in 1843, and State Senator in 1867. Their daughter, Isabella, is the wife of the Hon. George B. Swain, recently treasurer of New Jersey.

Vienna is a beautiful country town, whose two streets are lined with sugar maples, planted many years ago by Hampton Howell and others, with an eye to their future beauty. A macadamized road extends the length of the town, and is part of the best route from New York to the Water Gap.

The first settlers at Vienna were the brothers Philip, Christeon and John Cummins, who settled on land purchased by their father, Christeon, who lived at what is now Asbury. Philip and Christeon Cummins came here about 1770, and John shortly thereafter. Philip lived where his grandson, A. J. Cummins, now resides; John built his log house on the opposite side of the road, and Christeon built his on the site of Lewis Merrell's fine residence. Philip Cummins' son, Jacob, inherited the homestead in 1828. The stone part of the house on the homestead was built in 1794, previous to which a log house near by was the only dwelling.

During the Revolution the notorious Tory leader, James Moody, frequently visited this vicinity for. the purpose of making the unprotected patriots swear allegiance to the crown. "Moody would call on Philip Cummins at regular intervals to make him take the oath, although it was well known among his relations that his sympathies were with the colonies. These visits would generally occur in the night, and Moody was often accompanied by some of his Tory associates, one of whom, on one occasion, discharged his gun at Philip, but Moody struck up the barrel and saved his life."

It is many years since Vienna has had a hotel. John P. Merrell, and later Philip Hopler, kept the only one ever built here, and from its frame has recently been erected a residence.

The Vienna foundry was built by Fleming and Carr before 1860, and sold to Simon A. Cummins in 1866, who manufactured here the double corn plows that were widely known. He sold it to John Green in 1875, and he to Morris Parks. Daniel Wolfe at present does miscellaneous casting in the old foundry. David and John Hoffman have been blacksmiths here for many years.

Among the industries that once thrived here was a saw mill on the Pequest, a half mile above the bridge. It was rebuilt in 1839 by Stedman, Vreeland and Vanness, and destroyed by fire in 1865. Fisher Stedman was the inventor of much of the wood-turning machinery that is in use throughout the world today. Benjamin Hall had a steam saw mill whose ruins still are seen in the rear of the foundry. It furnished material for wagon wheels. After it burned in the eighties, the business was carried on at Hackettstown. The Bulgin Brothers had a chair factory that prospered before it burned down in 1870.

The first of the Fleming family to come to what is now Warren County was Andrew Fleming, who bought 220 acres of land in the Pequest Valley in 1768, and settledon it before 1771. We believe that none of his descendants in the county have borne the name Fleming since 1824. All of the Fleming family at present in Warren County are descended from Thomas Fleming, a brother to Andrew. Thomas Fleming was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, about 1720, and came to Bethlehem, Hunterdon County, with his brothers in 1751 and moved to Cumminstown, now Vienna, in 1783, with his three children, Thomas, James and Margaret, and settled on a tract of 1,400 acres of land, which was a part of the tract formerly belonging to Samuel Hackett, from whom a neighboring town was named.

Thomas Fleming (2nd.) was born in 1753 and died in 1829. On his tombstone in the Presbyterian churchyard at Great Meadows is inscribed: "Here lies the remains of a soldier of the Revolution, one of the heroic ,band who with Washington crossed the Delaware on the 25th of December, 1776, and conquered the British and Hessians at Trenton." His sons were David, Alexander, Thomas (3rd.), Josiah, John, Aaron, Moses and James.

James Fleming, the son of Thomas (1st.), died at Vienna in 1840, aged eighty-five. He married the granddaughter of the original owner of Coryell's Ferry, at Lambertville, and was the father of John C., Harvey and William. Mrs. Amelia Fleming Albertson, a daughter of Harvey Fleming, owns the old homestead farm, on which is still standing the stone house built by her grandfather.

The Pequest Methodist Episcopal Church had its origin in services held by itinerant preachers in the stone house of Philip Cummins. Here Bishop Francis Asbury, Rev. George Banghart and others occasionally preached. In 1810 a church was built on land purchased of John Cummins. It was not completed until 1824. The original name of the church was New Jerusalem. In 1854 the old church was torn down and the present structure was erected on its site and dedicated by Rev. John L. Lenhart, who was later chaplain of the United States Senate, and of the. United States ship "Cumberland" when she was sunk by the "Merrimac" on March 8, 1862. He refused to leave the ship and sank with her.

In 1867 the present parsonage was erected. The present pastor is Rev. R. Lake. The centennial of the church was ceiebrated on August 7, 1910, when the Rev. Dr. Buttz took part, here, where years ago he preached his first sermon.

Half way between Vienna and Hackettstown is a meadow which has of late years been used for raising onions, of which as many as 15,000 bushels are produced. At the end of the meadow is a cider mill operated by Philip Bell. This was for many years known as the Martin tannery. A mile down the little stream is another tannery, operated until thirty years ago by Charles Titus, at the place called White Hall, where for a hundred years a grist mill was operated, mostly by members of the Ayers family. A woolen mill was also run here many years ago.

There is only one pond in the township, and this is called Mastondon Pond, from the discovery of a splendidly preserved skeleton of a mastodon by a Mr. Ayers, while engaged in. hauling muck from the pond for use as a fertilizer. The skeleton is now in Boston.

Great Meadows, which bore the name of Danville for seventyfive years, is situated at the southeastern extremity of the fertile tract of land of the same name. For many years most of its prosperity was due to activities connected with the Kishpaugh mine. Here was the company store, and here many teamsters lived who hauled the ore to Oxford. Now all interests center in the meadows, from which are shipped as much as $200,000 worth of celery and onions in a single season, one-half of which is shipped from Great Meadows Station. The largest individual shipper is J. S. Mundy, who has 1,500 acres of the meadow land under cultivation.

The first postmaster of Danville was Sheriff Daniel VanBuskirk, who, built the hotel later owned by Lewis Martenis and Aaron B. Leigh, and now kept by John Reed.

The Crane Iron Company's store building was built about 1875. It was later kept by Martenis & Hance, and now by E. W. Almer, who, as an undertaker, was succeeded by Lyman Hiles. Another store is owned by Albert Snyder. The Woodbridge Manufacturing Company operates a plant on the meadows for drying muck used as a filler in fertilizer. They employ about fifty men. George Williams and William Bird have saw mills near the station. A coal and lumber yard is owned by George Williams, son of Lewis Williams, who kept them for many years.

The Presbyterian Church at this place was built in 1824 and remodeled in 1863 to its present condition. Until 1831, when it was regularly organized, it was connected with the Hackettstown church. The Rev. Ephraim Simanton between 1851 and 1867 built the church up to a membership of 124 A parsonage was added to the church property in 1868. The present pastor is Rev. O. R. W. Klose.

The name Great Meadows isused as early as 1764 in records of the Quaker church. From the earliest times the possibilities of the meadows were recognized, but the difficulties connected with subjugating the luxurious wild growth seemed almost insuperable. The first active movement in this direction was made by Dr. J. Marshall Paul, of Belvidere, who in 1850 reclaimed 200 acres of bog land in the vicinity of Schmuck's saw mill. He burned the bogs and used the ashes as fertilizer, and dug ditches to drain the land. He bought of Fisher Stedman the water power at Vienna for the purpose of destroying the dam that caused the waters to flood the meadows. But the task seemed too great for individual owners to accomplish. In 1872, in consequence of a petition of many land owners, the Supreme Court appointed commissioners for the purpose of draining the Great Meadows. They were Amos Hoagland, James Boyd and William L. Johnson, with Abram R. Day as their engineer. After spending much money in fruitless efforts to enlarge and deepen the Pequest Creek by hand, the task was finally accomplished by using a steam dredge, which, operated by contractors Stephens and Fagan, opened a channel from Long Bridge to a mile below Vienna.. To meet the unnecessarily large cost it was necessary to assess the 6,ooo acres affected as high as twenty-eight dollars per acre. Most of the land owners did not care to meet this payment, and the commissioners sold the land for terms of ninety-nine or 999 years to new owners. From that time those connected with the meadows have met with alternate failure and success. A J. Swayze and E. G. Bulgin, Pegg and Davis and others, spent large sums of money in developing the new enterprise of raising celery and onions, which now are established on a finely paying basis. Many Hollanders came in from the celery lands of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and find here that they can compete successfully with growers in their old home and have the advantage of near markets.

The Vliet family of Warren County is descended from John Van Vliet, who had four sons, named John, Benjamin, Daniel and William. The homestead was at Post's Island. The son John lived in the stone house at the entrance to Post's Island, and was the father of Benjamin Vliet, who was very active for many years at Townsbury. A daughter of John Vliet married John Bird, the father of Norman Bird, Vliet Bird, Stewart Bird and E. Fowler Bird, who now lives at Post's Island.

Daniel Vliet was a soldier in the Revolution, and both he and his brother, William, were called captain from their connection with the militia, in which Daniel was major. Daniel owned Post's Island, which is still in possession of Mrs. Docia Hoagland, one of his descendants. Captain Daniel Vliet was the father of Daniel, William, John and another son, who went to California. As a soldier he was entitled to a land, bounty, and he also purchased the last 6oo acres of land remaining to Samuel Hackett at his death, making him a large property holder. He built five substantial stone houses along the Meadows : one near Post's Island; two at Long Bridge, one owned by "Doc" Runyon, and another by Mrs. Ford Hibler; one near Allamuchy, lately owned by Arch Ayers; and one owned by the late Polhernus Cummins. A daughter, Sarah, married David Vreeland, the father of Daniel and Elizabeth. The latter married E. J. Post, whose estate till 1910 owned the original Vliet homestead. William Vliet settled on the farm one mile east of Vienna, now owned by Mrs. Carrie Bounds.

Trimmer's Island, or Roe's Island, and Young's Island, are farms of upland in the center of the Great Meadows.

The only mill in the township was built about i8i5, and was long known as Barker's or Gibb's Mill.

Petersburg, once familiarly known as Catswamp or Caddington, is a hamlet two miles from Hackettstown. Its public school building was once a Christian church. From it grew the Christian Church at Vienna, which was built on land given by Jacob Cummins, who also gave the parsonage. This church was organized April 14, 1839, at the hous~e of Matthias Cummins, and the house of worship was erected at Petersburg at once. In i 858 the new church building was erected at Vienna, after which time only occasional services were held at Petersburg. Among the pastors who have served the church may be mentioned the Revs. Nicholas Summerbell, C. A. Beck, John McGlauflin, William D. Lane, and the present pastor, Rev. Mr. Brands.

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