Jewels of History
Somerset County contains some of the oldest settlements in New Jersey,
some dating to the middle of the 17th century. The county also has
a long tradition of preservation and restoration; an ongoing celebration
of the American past.
Revolutionary War Sites
- Rockingham was the headquarters of General Washington in 1783 while
he attended sessions of the Continental Congress, which was then
meeting a few miles south in Princeton, just prior to the signing
of the peace treaty with Great Britain to end the Revoltionary War.
His wife and his staff accompanied him, along with troops, who camped
on the lawn. While at Rockingham, Mr. and Mrs. Washington hosted
such notable guests as Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson,
Elias P. Boudinot and New Jersey Governor Lewis Morris. Washington
wrote the "Farewell Address to the Armies" here on November 2, 1783.
by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division
of Parks and Forestry, Rockingham sits
not at its original site. The building was moved, restored
and grounds were designed with funds raised by interested
citizens during the 1890s. It was first opened to the public
in 1897, but when quarry blasting threatened it again in
the 1950s, the house was moved a little farther uphill away
from the Millstone River, and extensive repairs were completed.
The restored Rockingham was reopened for the public on December
6, 1963. In 2001 the site was relocated for a third time
and reopened in 2004.
Laurel Ave.,Franklin; 609/683-7132
- Wallace House & Old Dutch
older of these two homes is the Old Dutch Parsonage. This house was
constructed in 1751 but was destined for the wrecking crew in 1913.
By that time it was owned by the Central Railroad of NJ and was moved
from "across the tracks" to sit near the second home, The Wallace
house, built in 1775. The two houses were in varying stages of use
and disuse until the mid-1940s when they were given to the State
of NJ. Today they are administered through the Division of Parks
Old Dutch Parsonage was built using the pooled funds from three Dutch
Reformed Churches in the Raritan Valley.
It was first occupied by the Reverend John Frelinghuysen
-- a name still recognized in New Jersey as one of the oldest
family names noted for public service throughout the state.
After Reverend Frelinghuysen died in 1754, the house was
occupied by his widow, Dinah, and their two children, plus
several young men being tutored in preparation for Seminary
in Holland. One of these young tutors, Jacob Hardenburgh,
played an important part in the American Revolution serving
in the Provincial Congress. He helped to ease tensions between
the American army and local inhabitants during the Middlebrook
In 1775, Philadelphia merchant John Wallace purchased land
and a small house from the, by then, minister Hardenburgh,
adding eight large rooms to make this his retirement home.
But when housing/headquarters were being sought for Commander
George Washington for the winter of 1778-79, Wallace's home
was secured. Later, Martha Washington, aides and servants
would come to live in this home during the second Middlebrook
Encampment. The Wallace Family was finally able to move into
their "new" home having been paid $1000 by Washington for
the four months of use. Eventually, Ann, John Wallace's daughter,
would marry John Hardenburgh, the son of the Dutch Reformed
Visit these homes and feel the days of the Revolution bubble
up around you only 1/2 mile from the Somerville Circle off
of Middaugh Street in Somerville.
38 Washington Pl., Somerville 908/725-1015
- Middlebrook Encampment
- The Washington Campground Association and Somerset County own
portions of the Campground, scene of two Revolutionary War encampments
Avenue., Bridgewater 732/469-2552
- Washington Rock State Park
- This observation post was used by General Washington during the
Middlebrook Encampment and during the Battle of Short Hills in June,
Washington Avenue, Green Brook 732/915-3401
- Lord Stirling Manor Site
Stirling, a Brigadier General in the Continental Army, moved to his
recently completed country manor at Basking Ridge in 1768, where
he raised flax, apples and bred horses. There was a three-story brick
dwelling, stables, a coach house and other outbuildings. Only two
small brick outbuildings, dating from the early 19th century, remain.
Archeological investigations are currently taking place on the site,
and plans are underway to restore the outbuildings. The site hosts
an annual 1770s festival in October.
Lord Stirling Road, Basking Ridge 908/766-2489
- Van Horne House
present Van Horne House probably dates back to the late 18th century
and was extensively remodeled in the middle decades of the 19th and
20th centuries. The 1930s and 1940s remodeling was in the Colonial
Revival style and is especially significant. It was the site of numerous
important events during the Revolutionary War including a portion
of the fighting during the Battle of Bound Brook, when British troops
captured three American cannons on the front lawn. It was used at
various times by Generals Lincoln, Stirling, Lee and Cornwallis.
Currently under restoration , the house is owned by the Heritage
Trail Association and is now listed in the NJ State Register of Historic
941 East Main Street, Bridgewater
- Van Veghten House
- The present structure, which stands on its original site on the
north bank of the Raritan River, evolved from the first house built
by Michael Van Veghten before 1720. The house served as headquarters
for Quartermaster Nathanael Greene during the Middlebrook Encampment
in 1778-1779. During the Second Middlebrook Encampment, Derrick Van
Veghten quartered an entire division of American troops near the
house. Placed on the National Register in 1979, the house now serves
as headquarters for the Somerset County Historical Society.
Van Veghten Ave., Bridgewater 908/218-1281
- Franklin Inn
- The Franklin Inn, a former tavern constructed in 1734 on the stagecoach
route from New York to Philadelphia, served as headquarters for British
General Cornwallis for five days in 1777. A fine example of eighteenth
century Dutch architecture, the building now houses the 20,000 volume
Blackwells Mills Canal House Association library and serves as a
used book store.
2371 Amwell Rd, East Millstone 732/873-2958
- Abraham Staats House
- In March of 1779, Baron Von Steuben came to train nearly 10,000
soldiers at the second Middlebrook encampment. Until the break of
camp in June, he was quartered at the Staats house where he entertained
various dignitaries. In May, with sixteen guns present, Von Steuben
reviewed eight regiments of his troops in honor of General Washington
and the visiting French minister.
South Bound Brook (732) 469-5836
Other Historical Sites
- Old Millstone Forge
- Known as the longest operating blacksmith shop in America, the Old Millstone
was constructed prior to 1700. It served the area as an active blacksmith's
shop until the death, in1959, of its last blacksmith, Edward H. Wyckoff,
who worked his trade for 72 years. The building was restored by area residents
in the 1960s and is operated by the Millstone Forge Association. The shop
is open to the public as a museum featuring smithing demonstrations and
the history of blacksmithing.
North River Street, Millstone.
- Van Wickle House (The Meadows)
in 1722, the building has been farmhouse, colonial showplace, and home
for generations of owners. Restoration has included the addition of an
outdoor stage, formal gardens, a canal bridge, wetland boardwalk, program
center, nature trail and youth camping site. There is direct link by footbridge
to the D&R Canal walking and bicycle paths, making this an excellent
beginning or ending for a day's outing. The house and land are available
for meetings, special events, weddings and reunions. The Van Wickle property
is also the site for public events including the Holiday Sinterklass Festival
and Decorated Historic Houses Tour.
The Meadows Foundation is
an association of volunteers who have secured and maintain several vital
historic sites in Franklin Township including Van Wickle House, the Franklin
Inn, Hageman Farm, Blackwells Mills Canal House, Wyckoff-Garretson, and
Van Liew-Suydam. Restoration of the properties is supported by revenue from
site rentals, a program of events and a book store at the Franklin Inn site.
1289 Easton Avenue, 732/828-7418
- Hageman Farm
- Two magnificent, century-old barns and a beautifully restored Victorian
farmhouse with roomy, high-ceilinged parlors perfect for events of
209 S. Middlebush Rd., Somerset 732/873-8718
- Blackwells Mills Canal House
in the 1830s, Blackwells Mills was home for a century of bridge-tenders
who opened the old swing bridge for boats traveling the Delaware and Raritan
Canal. Restored by volunteers, the property is home for programs such as
craft and antique shows, art exhibits, canoe instruction, children's events,
market days, and plant sales. It is also available for small group rental.
58 Canal Rd., Somerset 732/873-2133
- Ghosts and Graveyards
Somerset County graveyards make fascinating do-it-yourself tours. Knowledgeable
visitors can spot graves of soldiers, patriots, even spies, and most churches
and cemetery associations don't mind respectful visitors.
The Hendrick Fisher house, the oldest house still standing in Somerset County,
stands a few hundred feet away from Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Easton
Avenue in South Bound Brook. Fisher, one of the first to preach independence
and the first President of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey in 1775,
died before the conclusion of the Revolution and was laid to rest in the
family burial grounds now enclosed by a fence behind the church. A small
museum in the rear of the church contains Fisher family artifacts.
The Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, built before 1720, stands alongside
one of the oldest white oaks in the Western Hemisphere, estimated to be
more than 600 years old. Both General Washington and Lafayette picnicked
under the oak, and Colonial troops often stopped here to rest. About 35
Revolutionary War soldiers are buried in the well-preserved graveyard under
the tree adjoining the church.
At the Bedminster Reformed Church Cemetery you'll find the grave of tiny
Julie Knox, daughter of General Henry Knox, confidant of George Washington
and trainer for an Artillery Corps of about 1,600 men encamped in the little
village of Pluckemin. So young in death that she was not yet baptized, the
child's grieving family was forced to bury her in rough land outside the
At the Pluckemin Presbyterian Church half-mile south on Route 202-206 in the
village, a grave well marked with the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack belongs
to Captain John Leslie, a British officer wounded in the January 1777 Battle
of Princeton, and who died on the porch of an inn in Pluckemin after being brought
there by American soldiers. Captain Leslie, who years before in Scotland had
taught Benjamin Rush, Washington's personal physician, was buried with full military
honors. Dr. Rush erected the notable headstone over the grave.