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
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.
Administered 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 Parsonage
The 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 and Forestry.
The 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 Encampment.
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 Minister!
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
Mountain 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, 1777.
Washington Avenue, Green Brook 732/915-3401
Lord Stirling Manor Site
Lord 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
The 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 Sites.
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 Forge 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)
Built 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 all kinds.
209 S. Middlebush Rd., Somerset 732/873-8718
Blackwells Mills Canal House
Built 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
Many 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 church gates.
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.