OLD MILL HILL
IN LOCAL HISTORY AND TRADITION
OLD MILL HILL
The following twenty article series on Mill Hill, written by John J. Cleary, was originally published by the Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser on consecutive Sundays commencing June 17, 1917. They were transcribed by Judy Winkler. The 56 photographs that appeared with the text have not been reproduced since very few of the original photographs are available. A list of the photographs, with their captions, appears after the articles.
© The Times of Trenton, 1917. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
INDEX OF ARTICLES
No. 1 - The Eagle Hotel and the Eagle Fire Company
No. 2 - John Whittaker, Merchant Prince, Who Donated Site For the Court House
No. 3 - Robert Chambers, James Taylor, the Potter; Blacksmith Henry M. Lee
No. 4 - Two Third Ward Contractors Who Did Much Towards Upbuilding of Trenton
No. 5 - James Hammell, the Johnstons and Other Well-Known Building Contractors
No. 6 - A Bunch of Englishmen Who Helped to Put Mill Hill on the Map
No. 7 - Irish-Catholics Who Contributed to the Life and Activities of the Third Ward Years Ago
No. 8 - What the Germans Have Done For Growth of Third Ward
No. 9 - Some Leaders in the Grocery trade of the Third Ward Long Ago
No. 10 - Prize Beeves Butchered to Make a Mill Hill Holiday -More About Old
No. 11 - Juvenile Sports and Pastimes Graphically Portrayed by One of the
Boys" of Third Ward
No. 12 - Varied Recollections in Which Several Correspondents Lend a Helping
No. 13 - Bright Galaxy of Wits and Writers Who Have Lived in Third Ward
No. 14 - Best Known of the Older Taverns and Their Landlords
No. 15 - City's First Sunday School and Free Day School Were Held in the
No. 16 - Ann Douglass, Andrew Quintin and "Soapy Joe" Yard Were
Figures in Life of the Section
No. 17 - Various Recollections, Including Lively Stories of Lewis R. Williams'
Boyhood in Southern End of Third Ward
No. 18 - A Bunch of Good Stories About Old Third Warders, Lay and Clerical
No. 19 - Well Remembered People and Industries of a Former Generation
No. 20 - Wherein the Curtain Falls Upon These Pictures from an Interesting
OLD MILL HILL
IN LOCAL HISTORY AND TRADITION
A Neighborhood That Teems With Interesting Memories and Legends For The Veteran
Trentonian - Its Landmarks Disappearing and the Character of Its Population
By John J. Cleary
No. 1 - The Eagle Hotel and the Eagle Fire Company
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, June 17, 1917.
About a year ago a paper was prepared by the writer and published in the Sunday Times-Advertiser, dealing with the Fourth Ward at a period when the old rolling mill was in full blast and the arrival and departure of the Edwin Forrest made a stir daily at the river end of Ferry Street; when the now abandoned water power pursued its sluggish course along the backyards of modest Lamberton Street residences and when as yet the population of the local Gibraltar of Democracy was almost exclusively English, Irish and German either by birth or descent. The cordial reception given to that train of reminiscences has encouraged the preparation of another series of local sketches, the scene this time being laid chiefly in the upper or Mill Hill section of the Third Ward. Like the Fourth Ward, the Third has undergone a remarkable transformation within the past score of years. In both cases the older residents for the most part have either died or moved to other districts of the town. Their places have been taken by Russian Jews, who have largely gone into business, by Italians, Poles, and others of our latter-day immigrants. The scene on many Third and Fourth Ward Streets today is strange and unfamiliar to the former resident who strolls into South Trenton to revive old memories. It seems well, before all the landmarks are wiped out and all the old families disappear, that some printed record of the elder day should be made for the information of the younger generation and for the entertainment of those whose memories go back three or four decades.
One of the earliest recollections of the writer who resided for full fifty years in the Mill Hill section, is or having been taken by the hand by a Ferry Street neighbor one afternoon in the autumn of 1864 to the stable yard of the old Eagle Tavern at Broad and Ferry Street, there to enjoy the juvenile treat of seeing a beautifully decorated float designed for a Democratic campaign parade the same evening. The date was November 7, 1864, and the Presidential elections in which Lincoln and McClellan were the opposing candidates, was close at hand. The float which was a Third Ward idea, represented the Ship of State. It was thirty feet long and the four horses that drew it were gaily caparisoned. Seated within were three dozen young women in white who waved flags, sang patriotic songs and cheered for "Little Mack" to the delight of the onlookers.
But as the parade moved through South Warren Street, the Washington express came thundering along. The float in question with its precious burden was on the tracks, which were then at street grade, and a cry of horror went up from the multitude. The train struck the rear of the huge ship which crashed in ruins, carrying down not only the white-robed choir but several men as well. The mob was aroused to a furious temper in the belief that several persons had been killed, and when the train pulled up, the engineer and the fireman had to flee in the peril of their lives. Stephen Tice, flagman at the crossing, also became the object of vengeance, and tried to escape by running to his home, but he was followed and beaten to death in the presence of his wife. Afterwards it developed that nobody had been killed but eighteen persons were more or less seriously injured. The blame for Tice's murder was never legally fixed.
The Eagle tavern at the period alluded to was one of the Third Ward's notable establishments, It still stands, but has lost importance, except as a landmark. Formerly the stable yard ran back to Centre Street and the stalls and wagon sheds were usually filled. Before the Civil War it was the resort of horsemen who came from distant points in the racing season to attend race events held on a Sandtown Road (Hamilton Avenue) track. Indeed, its history goes back to the Revolutionary War when and for years afterwards it was a stopping place for travelers enroute between New York and Philadelphia. They came by coach and, if traveling north, crossed the Delaware by boat at the foot of Ferry Street and were then conveyed awheel up Ferry Street to the Eagle, and thence up Broad Street on the next stage of their route. Warren Street had not been cut through at the time. Coming from New York the order for travelers reversed. In the old racing days, one of the proprietors of the tavern was William Doble of the famous horse-owning family. After the Civil War, the house began to decline somewhat, but still was a comfortable hostelry. In those latter days the Trenton Iron Works consumed a good deal of charcoal and the charcoal burners from the Pines, who came here in considerable numbers, put up their teams at the Eagle and took their meals there. It was also a favorite stopping place for farmers doing business in South Trenton.
There was a fine well of water in the yard which afforded a supply for many neighbors before hydrants became common. A familiar sight was the coming and going of a couple of Trenton Iron Company employees several times daily on hot summer days, who drew and pushed a water barrel on wheels. Thus hundreds of workmen slaked their thirst from the barrel repeatedly filled in the Eagle yard. The fact that the stables were nearby did not rob the water of its naturally fine relish in that less scientific age.
When there was only one voting precinct in the Third Ward, the Eagle Hotel was a red-hot political centre: the primaries of both parties were held there as well as the balloting on election day. Strong-arm methods were often resorted to and ballots were manipulated in a way that today would be visited with severe legal penalties. The Eagle engine house was nearby and some of the hangers-on there were not too nice in carrying the primaries or an election for a popular candidate. Most of the familiar "ward workers" of thirty to forty years ago have passed away and it would be ungracious to give them invidious distinction at this time, but certainly if the walls of the Eagle hotel had a mind to speak, they could draw on both for many a lively election yarn of years gone by. Among the well remembered landlords since Doble's time were Jeremiah Bruton, Andrew Weir and Thomas Leonard. The house has not been licensed for some years and after an existence of nearly a century and a half looks much the worse for wear.
Coupled with the Eagle Hotel or tavern in most old Third Warders' minds is the Eagle Engine House, which stood a few feet to the north on Broad Street. The Eagle company was organized in June, 1821, but it was not till July 5, 1858, that it took possession of the quarters now in question. This was the first firehouse built by the city I am told, and as such it possesses some special interest among municipal properties. The Eagle also has the distinction of having brought the first steam engine to Trenton and thereupon it abandoned the old method of pulling the heavier apparatus by hand. This occurred about the close of the Civil War period. Up to twenty-five years ago, when the paid department came into existence, the Eagle was one of the local live wires in fire fighting, in shaping ward politics and in creating the social atmosphere of the town.
Its annual balls and picnics were leading events of the day. In the frequent street parades of volunteer days, Eagle boys cut a handsome figure. With an eye to picturesque effect, they sometimes marched with a large live eagle perched on their hose carriage. The eagle, a gift from western friends, was carefully kept in a cage in a yard adjoining the house previous to the day of parade and troops of boys made long journeys after school each afternoon to view the prodigy and feed it frogs and toads. Everybody who was anybody in the Third Ward in those days, had his name enrolled on the company's books as an active or contributing member. The late Judge Robert S. Woodruff was long president. The late Philip Freudenmacher and Peter Edmond, father of County Probation Officer Edmond, were tireless workers in various capacities. Ex-Chief William Ossenberg, recently dead, was one of the most enthusiastic members. Capt. Robert S. Johnston, Aaron Carlisle, John O. Raum, the Spracklens, Jesse Thornley, the Taylors, Felix McGuire, the Lees, and George James are others gone the long journey who were active spirits. Captain Harry Pennington and Peter J. McKenna, of the present paid department, can look back to many years of their younger life spent round the old engine house. Even as a boy, no hour was too late; no night too cold or too stormy for "Pete" to follow the "masheen" or to help pull it to a conflagration. Many a night in the long ago I have been roused by the clanging of the near-by fire bell to be followed less than a minute later by the banging of the gate at the McKenna home - which meant that "Pete's" nimble feet were flying for the engine house.
Other interesting figures still with us who were conspicuous in the old Eagle Company were ''Nate" Cowell and "Jim" McCabe. As driver of the engine for 26 years, the latter made a record for fearlessness and skill in handling the ribbons over mettlesome steeds. "Jim" carries a silver plate in his skull and many are of the opinion that it is the result of a fight with the fire horns in which he and Leo Nugent, of the old Delaware, once engaged. "Jim" told the writer a short time ago, however, that the cause of that mark is traced to a wound received at the battle of Antietam in the Civil War.
Another familiar figure at the Eagle engine house up to a few years ago when the company was transferred to a new building, was James D. Field, father of Charles P. Field, engineer at the State Capital. Mr. Field, Sr., who is still about at an advanced age, resided in the Third Ward for many years and his recollections go back seventy years. He was in the early days a member of the Good Will, but as he advanced in age made many neighborly calls at the Eagle house, which was nearer his home.
The Eagle took a hand in every form of entertaining activity, so it is not surprising to come across the Eagle baseball club in the newspaper files of many years ago. Besides the membership proper, there was always a large train of youthful enthusiasts who made the shadows of the fire house their headquarters and rejoiced to be known as Eagle boys. Ed Fitzgeorge, the job printer, was one of these and as he grew into his teens, he organized an Eagle baseball team. He played short stop, and associated with him were "Jack" Bradley, a rather famous Third Ward figure who played catcher and every time he made a home run, would throw a somersault at the home plate; S. Hibbs, pitcher; Ed Taylor, first base; G. Vanhorn, left field; F. Lazalear, right field; Charlie Hines, second base; G. Wood, centre field, and J. Hargreaves, third base. The Eagle team cleaned up many other nines in Trenton and neighboring towns.
The Eagle house was a centre of patriotism during the Civil War, and fully forty-three names appear on its honor list of members who went to the front, some of them like the late Capt. Robert S. Johnston, William Ossenberg and John L. Emerson doing distinguished service.
That the Eagle members were gallant fire fighters goes without saying. Some of the memorable fires in the Third Ward in those days occurred at the Wilson Mill, the Pullen bakery on Market Street, the Johnson carpenter shop on Centre Street, and in the Eagle's own stable in the rear of the company's house in which four fine horses were lost. In a race between the Good Will and Eagle answering an alarm on May 20, 1864, Robert S. Anthony was run over in front of the State House by the Good will and died from his injuries. This sad event put a damper for a time on the hard racing between rival companies. Of the old Eagle company, which once numbered over 150 members, but a mere handful remain today, namely, Charles P. Field (president), Nathan Cowell, James McCabe, James Mendham, Harry Pennington, J. W. Mendham, John C. Sweet, Peter McKenna, Timothy Field, W. Scott Taylor and J. H. Carlisle, all of Trenton; J. Larison Agnew, of Bound Brook; John Siddell, of Atlantic City, and William B. Widman, of Yardville. They maintain the organization and will do so while a member survives.
The original charter of the company is still in the possession of the officers and the writer had the pleasure of inspecting it a few days ago, naming as it does, Robert Chambers, Richard J. Bond, Wallaston Redman, Fairfax Abel, John Whittaker and others as the original incorporators. These names are all vitally identified with the early history of Mill Hill. Till the company's parlors were dismantled a few years ago, there was in its possession a large collection of interesting fire relics, but now they are well scattered. One souvenir of interest, however, is a beautiful silver horn presented to the company by their admirer, Chief John A. Weart, on February 7, 1871. It is held by Capt. Harry Pennington. The original minutes are still in existence and abound in interesting entries.
With the organization of the paid department, the glory of the old Eagle was dimmed and gradually it ceased to be the large factor in the ward which it once had been. Little remains outside of strictly fire records and uncertain tradition to indicate how important an institution it used to be, how powerfully it influenced political action and how generously and substantially it contributed to the gaiety of social life south of the Assunpink.
Next Sunday, attention will be given to the Whittaker family, which cut a wide swath in the Mill Hill section years ago.
No. 2 - John Whittaker, Merchant Prince, Who Donated Site For the Court House
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, June 24, 1917.
No story of Mill Hill would be complete without reference to John Whittaker
and Robert Chambers. Both were men of importance in their time, and distinguished
themselves in a variety of ways, as their descendants have done also. Mr.
Whittaker, however, looms up the larger figure in Third Ward history. He did
a great deal to develop its business interests and was one of the largest
land-owners in the neighborhood. His enterprise and public spirit were manifested
on more than one occasion.
"For some forty years," remarked the State Gazette in commenting upon his untimely death in 1869, "Mr. Whittaker was an active business man of this city. He has doubtless done more for the building up and improvement of that part of the city (Mill Hill) than any other man."
That is pretty high praise, but it appears to have been fully deserved. One of Mr. Whittaker's most conspicuous public acts was performed when the County of Mercer came into existence. There was naturally much rivalry to possess the county seat and opinion divided as to the best choice; undoubtedly the offer without cost of the fine site at Broad and Market Streets had much to do with settling the question.
"At a meeting with the County Freeholders," says a local newspaper report of August 24, 1838, "John Whittaker's lot now occupied by him as a board-yard was agreed upon as the site of the new Court House. The lot was given by the owner to the public."
The ground had a frontage on Broad Street of 147 1/2 feet front and a depth on Market Street to Cooper of 206 1/2 feet. Whether or not Mr. Whittaker, keen-sighted business man that he was, foresaw the value to adjoining real estate of the location of the county buildings in his immediate vicinity, it is not necessary to discuss. Even if he did, it would not detract from the large spirit of enterprise which he displayed. But this was not the only marked evidence of his wide-awake nature. In 1845 he was active in the movement to provide South Trenton with a public market and is named in the city ordinance, March 13, 1854, as one of the incorporators empowered to build one on Market Street just east of Broad. He contributed land for the widening of the street between Broad and Jackson to that end. Allusion will be made in a later article to the progress and final abandonment of this market house.
Again John Whittaker was one of the charter members of the old Eagle Fire Company organized in 1821 and carried a bucket with the other self-sacrificing spirits of the period whenever flames visited South Trenton. In 1854 the Eagle Company bought a lot on Market Street from Mr. Whittaker on which to erect a small house to tore their hose apparatus and it may be interesting to quote the price paid, which was $12 a front foot. Indeed there was little of importance going on about Mill Hill during his life-time that Mr. Whittaker was not concerned with in one way or another.
It was as a general storekeeper, however, that he was best known. He was the merchant prince of Mill Hill.
"Whittaker's before the Civil War was South Trenton's one great big store," said a girl of the period now grown to a venerable age but still retaining much of the charm of younger years: "It corresponded to Sterling's north of the creek. At Whittaker's they sold pretty much everything - not only a full line of groceries, but also meats, provisions, vegetables, dry goods, charcoal, faggots, coal, lumber, hardware and a line of jewelry. They used to tell of a man who wagered that you could buy anything at Whittaker's and thought he had lost when a ship's anchor was called for. It happened, however, that such an article was found in the basement. We girls had pretty frocks in those days, but they were often all of one pattern. The explanation being that the goods were bought at Whittaker's and sometimes the stock was so limited that they all had to be cut from the one piece."
The old two-story brick buildings still standing, opposite to the Court House on South Broad Street are linked with John Whittaker's name. The writer has been at some pains to trace their history but the result is not entirely satisfactory. If Edward E. Evans, counselor-at-law, now in his 80th year, is correct they would vie with the Eagle Hotel further down on Broad Street, for age and possibly with the Barracks erected in 1758. Mr. Evans says that his grandfather, Lewis Evans, was born in the building nearly 150 years ago. James F. Field, on the other hand, whose memory goes back seventy years, says he remembers seeing the Whittaker stores building. After a close study of the structure, the writer finds a possible explanation of the conflicting statements in the fact that there are two separate dates of construction. The northerly portion as shown in the accompanying cut (number 214) is much older than the rest of the building. This portion was originally built of undressed gray stone similar to that used in the old Barracks and other local buildings, which date back to the Colonial period. It was quarried in the western part of the city, among other places in the vicinity of Calhoun and West Hanover Streets. The store front was sheathed with brick, but the exposed side wall to the north still shows the stone. Even the brick is quite old being laid in "Stretcher" style, while pressed brick is used in the exterior of the rest of the front. The separate peaked roofs show where the buildings divide. The interior of No. 214 bears evidences of Colonial origin in the large hinges on the doors, the ancient stairways, etc. This part of the building with door and porch in the centre, giving a room either side, was doubtless the Evans home, and afterwards became the original Whittaker home. The rest of the building was put up by John Whittaker to replace, possibly an old frame structure inadequate for the growing business of the merchant prince of Mill Hill in the 40's.
Counselor Evans tells an interesting narrative of Mill Hill as learned from his father, Samuel Evans, born in the house in question, February 22, 1792.
"In those days and for a long time after," said he recently, "the men who worked in my grandfather's store lived with their employer. It was the custom of the times. When they all came to the table with the family, which was a large one, it looked like a boarding house. I have heard that a whole cheese would stand on a side-table for use and a six-pound roll of butter would be within convenient reach. Buckwheat cakes were popular breakfast food in the winter time and you can imagine what big stacks of them were needed to fill so many hungry mouths. Pigs were kept in the backyard, too, and they were killed as demanded, which was pretty often. My grandfather, Lewis Evans, first kept the general store opposite what is now the Court House and afterwards his son, Evan Evans, kept it."
John Whittaker, who bought out the Evans business, appears to have taken hold about 1820. According to the printed reports at the time of his death, he was born in 1797. John Whittaker brought new life to the business and carried not only a general line of groceries, provisions and dry goods, but also had a coal and lumber yard. He owned a great deal of ground not only on Broad, but also on the adjoining streets. He built the row of fine three-story bricks on the south side of Market Street, immediately west of Jackson, and subsequently occupied one of them as his own residence.
Up to the time of the Civil War, Long Branch was the favorite seaside resort for Trentonians and they had to reach it by horse-drawn carriage or wagon for most of the distance. Mr. Whittaker went there in the summer of 1860 and while attempting to rescue some drowning bathers, on August 11, lost his life. The tragedy caste a gloom over Trenton, where the deceased stood in such high esteem.
The children of John Whittaker, all born in the old Broad Street home, were George R., Albert, James, Charles George, John Henry and Wesley, and one daughter, who married a Methodist minister, M. E. Ellison. George R. died a few years ago, after an active life, largely devoted to public affairs in the city and in Chambersburg. Mrs. John Rellstab is a daughter of George R. John Henry, a civil engineer, drew the plans for the laying out of the Borough of Chambersburg. His widow is still living. James was a graduate of Annapolis and became a chief engineer in the navy. Albert was long connected with the Trenton Banking Company as first director and later as cashier. He built the fine brick building next to the Court House and occupied it as his home up to the time of his death, in 1884. It is said that "Billy" Johnston, the contracting carpenter of Centre Street, had the contract to do the work by day and that so great was the confidence between the two that Mr. Whittaker never knew until the job was finished how much it was going to cost. Wesley Whittaker's health was delicate, but he conducted a real estate business for many years in one of the old Whittaker stores on South Broad Street, and when he died, some years ago, Mercer Hospital came in for a bequest of considerably upwards of $100,000. It will thus be seen that the Whittaker family have written their name large in the history, not only of the Third Ward, but of the city generally.
A few years ago, Dr. D. B. Dennish, the veterinarian, who had stables in the rear of the old Whittaker stores, heard a dog whining and with some difficulty traced the noise to a vault of whose existence he had not been aware. It was covered over with old boards. He summoned Frank E. Pierce, the furniture dealer, now occupying Nos. 218 and 220 South Broad, (part of the Whittaker property), and together they procured a ladder. Dennish climbed down into the vault with a lantern, but no dog was in sight. Soon the whines were again heard and further enquiry disclosed the existence of a sub-vault, whose floor was some 30 feet below the surface of the yard. The dog was found in the sub-cellar into which he had probably fallen.
Immediately there was speculation as to what purpose the unusual two story vault had served. Possibly, say some of the quidnuncs of the neighborhood, it was used during the Revolutionary war to conceal private valuables or munitions of war. Others think perhaps it was a storage basin for water, which could be drawn upon in case of fire. This latter guess, however, hardly accounts for a sub-vault. The most curious theory is that the vault concealed smuggled goods. In olden days, smuggling was not looked down upon as so great a crime as it is today. The man who could beat the government was something of an artist. Those who incline to the last theory point to a former arched driveway through which the teams used to be driven from Broad Street to be unloaded inside the premises free from public inspection. The arch may still be seen by a close observer over the window of the Chinese laundry at No. 220. The Whittaker stores, by the way, cover the row of bricks from No. 214 to 222 inclusive, but the original Evans house includes only No. 214.
It seems appropriate that the story of the old Whittaker property should carry with it some little mystery. There is usually a ghost or mystery about all old buildings. Next Sunday, something will be said of Robert Chambers and others who figured in the early building of Mill Hill.
No. 3 - Robert Chambers, James Taylor, the Potter; Blacksmith Henry M. Lee and Others
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, July 1, 1917.
We have not done with Broad Street north of Market but temporarily move to the square below today in order to say a few words concerning the other most conspicuous figure in Mill Hill life about the time that John Whittaker was making local history. That other was Robert Chambers. In fact there were father and son of the same name. The elder Chambers was with Washington in the famous crossing of the Delaware, being then eighteen years of age. He subsequently married a Miss Reeder, whose father also had been a Continental soldier and a Trenton merchant. About 1802, Mr. and Mrs. Chambers moved to Trenton, having purchased from a Frenchman a residence on the west side of Broad street south of Market. The grounds, we are told, had a frontage of 175 feet and the depth was about the same. The house was set in the centre of the plot with a beautiful garden surrounding it which was laid out in walks and flower beds. This property was probably located just north of the present Sacred Heart Church, where up to a few years ago several lots still remained in the name of Chambers heirs. It is within the recollection of many of us when the present Sacred Heart Academy just above embraced considerable more ground than at present, and when the place was exceedingly attractive with its wealth of plant life, including a long artistic arbor shaded with grape vines and also a variety of flourishing peach, plum, pear and cherry trees. This property was purchased by the late Father Anthony Smith about the opening of the Civil War, being utilized as a residence for the newly arrived sisterhood of teachers and as a home for soldiers' orphans. Next door above (west side of Broad Street, south of Market above Robert Chambers’ ), 'Squire Abram Harris had a cozy brick dwelling which still stands but which like most of the other comfortable old dwellings in the vicinity has been turned into a store. 'Squire Harris had a beautifully furnished garden and I have some recollection that when his blackberry bushes ripened in the early summer, they were so perilously positioned near the railing fence that they proved irresistible to certain guilty juvenile fingers. It seems likely that these several properties were embraced in the lovely premises laid out by some tasteful Frenchman in the first place and subsequently occupied by Robert Chambers, Sr. Little remains today to remind one of the beauty that once crowned the spot and which was countless responsible for the name of Green Hill that the neighborhood long ago bore.
Robert Chambers, the second, became a prominent local merchant, but had his store on State Street. He added considerably to the South Broad Street possessions of the family and invested in some properties on the east side of the street north of what is now Greenwood Avenue. He lived in one of these latter properties. His activities were given less to Mill Hill, however, than to the development of the section beyond the canal. In fact, it was he who laid out Chambersburg about 1854, the locality taking its name from its founder. He built a number of houses on Broad Street (then the White Horse Road) near Cass and also put up a woolen mill and a cracker factory. He was a local bank director, a busy justice of the peace and one of the most enterprising men of his day with clear vision as to Trenton's prosperous future. The late Abner Chambers was his son and the surviving family is still a large owner of local real estate.
In the course of this series of articles on old Mill Hill, there will be testimony sufficient to surprise those who have never given a thought to the large part played by that section and its inhabitants in the upbuilding of Trenton. Already we have glanced at the careers of John Whittaker and Robert Chambers, and now we will give a moment or two to
James Taylor, one of our pioneer Trenton potters. Mr. Taylor is still remembered by older citizens. He was tall and straight, of muscular build, and in later years wore a growth of grayish whiskers under his chin. He was one of the numerous Staffordshire lads who sought to improve their fortunes in America and it was Trenton's good luck to attract his presence, after he had tried out several other localities. In 1852 he and Henry Speeler established the plant on Greenwood Avenue, now occupied by Warren, Balderston & Company. It has been enlarged several times but the original building is still included. Mr. Taylor was among the first to manufacture white ware in Trenton and he has been given credit for a large share in developing the city's reputation as a pottery centre. He was a conspicuous figure in the Third Ward for many years, a typical beef-eating Britisher, bluff and hearty in his manners, and a good boss to work under. He resided on Mercer Street for some time and erected several substantial three-story brick homes on that street for members of his family. He is well entitled to a place on the roll of distinguished Third Warders.
There was another James Taylor who filled a large niche in the Third Ward for many years by reason of his own commendable activities and those of his family. This was Undertaker James Taylor, who conducted a large business, made a lot of money by his invention of a convenient body-cooler and erected a handsome three-story brick store and home on Broad Street opposite Sacred Heart Academy. He had the first thoroughly equipped undertaking establishment in the city. Of his sons, the late "Jim" Taylor is best remembered for gallant service in the Civil War and subsequent prominence as a G. A. R. veteran. State Dairy Commissioner George W. McGuire, himself an old Mill Hill boy, has been kind enough to supply some notes of his early recollections upon which I shall draw from time to time, and I find that he has the following interesting passage about the Taylors:
"The principal undertaking establishment during the sixties was carried on by James C. Taylor, on Broad Street, opposite the Sacred Heart Academy. Mr. Taylor was a kind-hearted man and many a burial he performed without remuneration. His sons were James, Zachariah and Edward. Both James and Edward are deceased. Edward and I were about one age and attended the Centre Street School, in charge of Charles Sutterly, a noted pedagogue of his day, and this reminds me of an episode which occurred at the outbreak of the Civil War, in which Edward and myself played conspicuous parts. It was the custom of the boys at that time, to spend their Saturday holidays, when their parents granted them the privilege, on the Assunpink Creek. Boats were kept for hire at Quintin's Garden, whither about a dozen of us boys went on a certain Saturday. When a certain faction of the school learned we had engaged boats for that day they informed us that our passage would be blocked, and so being forewarned, we prepared for battle. War was in the air at the time (early 60's, and some of the boys had several cannon made from gas pipe. Several pieces of pipe, each about 12 inches long, were secured, plugged at one end and a touch hole drilled in the pipe. Ammunition such as powder, wadding and some slugs which my father used for proving rifles was secured, and we set sail. "We were stopped by the rival faction at a point where the Pennsylvania station now stands, and were compelled to abandon our boats. At that time the Pennsylvania Railroad Company had just finished the foundation walls of the original station, or the one which they erected before the present one was built. Our party took possession of this unfinished building and a battle royal was begun. As the time went on each side was reinforced with new recruits, a bon fire was made and torches lighted with which to touch off the cannon. Prisoners were taken on each side, and gradually spectators lined the bridge over the creek, watching us. About 2 o'clock in the afternoon a cry went up and it was learned that a boy had been shot through the leg. He was carried to his home on Ferry Street, where Dr. John Woolverton extracted the ball from his limb, and since I was supposed to be the ring-leader he brought it to me. I had the ball and a clipping from the True American giving an account of the battle for several years.
"Edward Taylor, John E. Lafaucherie, Harry Seabridge and George McGuire were four very much frightened kids, and as penance I was required to carry fruits and sweetmeats to the wounded boy until he recovered. It was later found that a ball had pierced one boy's hat and the trouser leg of another.
Another interesting figure of forty years ago was Henry M. Lee, who for nearly half a century carried on the blacksmithing business at what is now the northeast corner of Broad Street and Greenwood Avenue. Next to the blacksmith shop was a wheelwright shop kept by John Page, who, however, lived north of the Assunpink. The two frame buildings were at one time connected with a platform running out of the second story of the wheelwright shop, and from this platform, nicely raised over the heads of a large assemblage, more than one rousing political speech has been made. Mr. Lee was a staunch Republican and Mr. Page was an equally staunch Democrat, so the honors during a campaign were well divided. Mr. Lee attracted attention by his size. He must have weighed 300 pounds, he had a ruddy complexion like the blaze of his forge fire, his muscular arms resembled tree trunks and, vested in his well worn leather apron, he looked every inch the part of the proverbial village blacksmith. His home life reflected the hearty creature comforts of his native England. He lived in a commodious, well kept, two-story brick dwelling nearly opposite the Eagle fire house, to which was attached a fine garden with southern exposure. Fruit trees were numerous, there were vegetables in season, currant bushes were not lacking, and gooseberries as large as cherries were a sore temptation to passing school boys. Next to the Eagle engine house "Charlie" McKeever kept a restaurant, and it was neighborhood talk that after his plentiful evening meal, Mr. Lee was accustomed to visit the eating house frequently to finish off with a hundred oysters on the half shell. Seeing his immense avoirdupois, it was not difficult to credit the yarn.
But long gone is the blacksmith which, alive with work all week, invited a never failing tribe of idlers on Sundays when the anvil had ceased to ring. Gone, Too, is the wheelwright shop, a busy, gossipy resort for ward politicians. Brick stores take their place. Fortunately, we have a picture of the quaint old structures, loaned by the industrious photographer, John S. Neary and it is reproduced herewith. Mr. Lee passed away aged 77, in April 1881. He left several sons, also blacksmiths who have gone the way of all flesh, too. John Page, as upright a business man as Trenton ever knew, has been dead a long time. Mr. Lee's beautiful premises were encroached upon by the Pennsylvania Railroad when it inaugurated its four-track system and his house shared the fate of so many of its neighbors. It was made over into a restaurant and has gone from bad to worse in appearance.
Next Sunday will be given up to some of the old time builders like Robert Aitken and the Johnstons. Of the latter there were two distinct families.
No. 4 - Two Third Ward Contractors Who Did Much Towards Upbuilding of Trenton Years Ago
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, July 8, 1917.
There were several men who did a lot towards the building up of Mill Hill in a literal sense, conspicuously is Robert Aitken and William Johnson. The business activities of "Bob" and "Billy" as they were commonly saluted, extended even beyond the confines of the Third Ward and embraced the whole city. They were both men of known integrity and both had the best interests of the city at heart.
Mr. Aitken took a larger part in public affairs, having at different times served in Common Council, the Board of Freeholders and the State Assembly. In his later years he was president of the City Water Board. He came here from Scotland, a stripling of 16, away back in 1827, and he lived on the Hill for fully 66 years, passing away at the good old age of 82. So primitive a place was the section south of the Assunpink in his youth that when as a journeyman carpenter just out of his time he won the hand of Miss Lydia Green - one of the Greens of West State Street - Mrs. Grundy was a flutter at the thought of the young bride banished to a suburb where the streets were frequently deep in mud, there was no regular system of sidewalks and fashionable society was about as scarce as snakes in Ireland. However, it was not long till Aitken, having got into the business on his own account, set about building what is now 196 South Broad Street an attractive home which must have appealed to the eye even of critical callers from north of the creek. It was a two-and-a-half story frame house, kept painted immaculate white with green blinds, and the ample ground adjoining was planted with park-like bloom. It continued to make the same appearance up to the time of Mr. Aitken's death, some 20 years ago, but soon afterwards retail business took possession and you would never recognize it today as having been the cozy, substantial, inviting seat of old-fashioned hospitality it has so long been.
"It makes me sad to think about the change," said one of Mr. Aitken's daughters the other day; "whenever I go down on Mill Hill, I turn my eyes instinctively the other way."
A peculiarity about the Aitken home is that the kitchen, instead of being in the rear, stood on the street front just south of the living rooms. Land is a little too valuable for that sort of arrangement today on South Broad Street, but Mr. Aitken bought at the rate of $3 per front foot in the '30s. All the lots ran back to Jackson Street and at the Jackson Street end he had his carpenter shop.
Among the larger building contracts that Mr. Aitkin filled in his days of business activity were those for the erection of St. Paul's P.E. Church on Centre Street, the rolling mill of the New Jersey Steel and Iron Company, the old gas works, the Trenton Iron Company's mills on Hamilton Avenue, Fisher & Norris' anvil works, the original Clinton Street Railroad Station and various others. He also put up for the New Jersey Steel and Iron Company a row of frame dwellings on Lamberton Street, just north of Federal, and another row on Ferry Street, just west of Centre. The former was known as Puddler's Row and the latter as Helper's Row, from which one might gather the impression that there was social caste in the ranks of labor in those far off days.
The picture accompanying this article was taken when Mr. Aitken was about 65 and it very faithfully reproduces his keen, yet kindly, features as older townsfolk remember them. He was of massive frame, walked somewhat heavily and deliberately, always carrying a gold-headed, ebony cane, and not infrequently he wore a high silk hat. He liked broadcloth, donned fresh linen daily and in all respects was well-groomed and prosperous-looking. After a story told me not long since, however, I am not so sure that he deserved all the credit for his correct apparel. It was in the days of the daguerreotype photographers and one of them had persuaded Mr. Aitken to sit for his picture. He brought home the artist's work and the family inspected it with interest. Last of all Mrs. Aitkin gave a hasty survey with the exclamation: "Yes, it is your father, sure enough, with his stock upside down."
Evidently he had visited a barber's on the way uptown and rearranged his own neckwear which ordinarily a loving helpmate set in order.
Mr. Aitken was a Republican in politics, adhered to the Presbyterian creed and had the Scotch combination of being a strict Sabbatarian, yet loving a social glass with a few old cronies. The only thing that detracted from a very dignified bearing was his free use of chewing tobacco, but that was a common practice years ago. I have seen the erudite Barker Gummere while arguing a case before the New Jersey Supreme Court turn aside at intervals to give his attention to a cuspidor. While exact in his business dealings, Mr. Aitken was large-hearted as well as large-minded. An anecdote will illustrate his charity blended with a sense of characteristic Scotch humor. Among the several properties which he acquired in South Trenton was one small house occupied by a venerable widow. Without means she expected to be dispossessed, but was assured that she need have no fears.
"Yes," said he to my informant many years afterwards, "I promised not to dispossess the widow and I never will, but, say, John, I didn't expect she was going to live forever.”
Mr. and Mrs. Aitken gave to the community a group of daughters who were popular belles in their youth and who in more advanced years retain much intellectual vivacity and personal charm. They became through marriage Mrs. Joseph Sterling, Mrs. Philip Wentz, Mrs. John Goulding, Mrs. William Justice, Mrs. E. B. Sterling and Mrs. A. L. Worthington. It is a great treat to spend a half hour in the society of the surviving sisters, for they know old Mill Hill like a book and their recollections of the interesting and quaint figures of forty to fifty years ago, abound in lively entertainment. But like too many of our best storytellers who draw from life, they are apt to close the interview with "Now, not a word of this in print, you know" One incident narrated is too good to keep, and the writer will risk displeasure by repeating it.
"When Charlie Skelton was in Congress," said one of the sisters, "he secured an appointment to West Point for Richard Loder, of the well known Lodor family, our next-door neighbors, and in June, 1856, Richard was to graduate. Mr. Skelton secured three invitations to the event and gave them to Miss Mary E. Lodor, the graduate's sister; to Miss Bond, another neighbor, and to myself. You may be sure we three young girls were in a thrill and got our handsomest frocks ready for the gala day at the military academy. Our train was to leave Trenton at midnight and it was late in the evening before we had our trunks packed. Then came the problem of getting our luggage to the station which was on State Street near the canal, because in those days there were neither cabs nor express wagons to be had at so late an hour. Charlie Skelton being on hand to see us off, was gallant enough to put the trunks on a wheelbarrow and trundle them to the train. What girl of today ever received such rare attention from a member of Congress? What about the trip? O, nothing further, only that we had a lovely time sailing up the Hudson, that we attended the hop and danced with many of the handsome young cadets and saw Richard properly graduated."
Only a few weeks ago the death was reported of General Richard Lodor, in his 84th year - the young graduate of whom we have been speaking. Not without reason are we told that "life is but a span."
Of course, the Aitken girls had lots of beaux and were in demand at all of the social gatherings of their day north and south of the Assunpink. All are alive except Mrs. Justice, and all of the survivors are widows except Mrs. E. B. Sterling. They were very devoted to their father in his declining years and he was happiest in their midst. A curious thing happened when the Broad Street Bank organized 30 years ago and a proposition was made for the purchase of the Aitken home as the bank's future site. Mr. Aitkin would not give up his home and yet he was not happy over his decision. He had all his life been one of Trenton's most progressive citizens and on this occasion he remarked to his family somewhat sadly:
"I'm living too long. I am blocking progress on Broad Street."
So much space has been given to Mr. Aitken, that many interesting things which might be told of "Billy" Johnson will have to be omitted. He also was an estimable citizen. He lived a life of profitable industry and was endowed with the domestic virtues. His home was located on the easterly side of Centre Street between Ferry and Bridge (No. 120), and it still stands today (though partially turned to store purposes) with much of its original simple beauty. It belongs to the era of generous dimensions and thorough workmanship. Alongside it is a twin house of the same general character - a three story brick with wide doors and windows and white marble trimmings - which was erected for his eldest son. Mr. Johnson had a large carpenter shop between his home and Ferry Street. It was a frame structure and a very busy place with a number of journeyman sawing, planing and putting work together. In the period referred to, doors, window frames, sash, etc. were made in his own shop by the contractor. By the middle of the afternoon the journeymen would be knee-deep in shavings and we boys of the neighborhood were welcome to fill bags or baskets with that excellent material for kindling. Parents were thrifty and this was one of our regular chores after school hours. But "Billy" Johnson's carpenter shop is best remembered for the spectacular fire of which it was the scene in the early '70's. The blaze broke out about 1:30 p. m., just the hour for resuming studies, but it is safe to say that Centre Street School, Market Street School and St. John's - all within a stone's throw - saw few lads at their desks that afternoon. Owing to the flammable nature of its contents, the shop created a tremendous volume of flame and smoke and people, old and young, gathered from every quarter. The shop was utterly destroyed and was never rebuilt, the ground being rapidly taken up with brick stores and dwellings. Mr. Johnson removed his shop to Montgomery Street, just above the Assunpink.
At the time of the great fire, Mr. Johnson had the contract for the erection of the Judge Stewart home on West State Street (now occupied by Mrs. E. V. Oliphant and lately the temporary dwelling of Governor Edge), and the specifications called for black walnut woodwork throughout. During the winter the Johnson employees had been busy putting this large part of the contract in shape and it happened fortunately that the very morning of the blaze, the work had all been placed outside the shop and so was saved. Mr. Johnson had a hand in building many of the city's important structures, including the Opera House, the row of brick stores on North Broad Street at Hanover, the Cadwalder mansion on West State Street, the Judge Naar home, which stood on the site of the present George R. Cook house next to the waste weir, the reconstructed First Baptist Church (he was a member of that church), the addition to St. John's R. C. Church, one or two of the public schools and one wing of the State Capitol. Before the Civil War, Trenton builders usually worked without architectural plans. If a man wanted a house built by Mr. Johnson, the latter would say:
"You look around and see a house that you like and I'll give you one like it."
"Billy" Johnson was born in Hamilton Township, but lived practically all of his 71 years on Centre Street. He died October 12, 1881, within a few doors of the spot where he had learned his trade with William Napton, father of Mayor "Bucky" Napton. Mrs. Johnson, his widow, lived to her 94th year. Two daughters, Mrs. Anna Simmons of Stuyvesant Avenue and Mrs. Sarah English of Carroll Street, survive. There are several grand children, including Mrs. Charles H. Updike. When I was introduced a year or two ago to a fine young man as Mrs. Updike's son, and recalled that I had known his great-grandfather very well, it made me breathe hard for a second or two in a consciousness that the boys of 40 to 45 years ago are no longer as young as they used to be. There were two sons to survive "Billy" Johnson, Gershom and Charles, who were well known in the hardware trade up to the time of their decease. The late Lewis C. Wooley learned his trade as a carpenter with Mr. Johnson before turning his attention to school teaching. Mr. Johnson usually had four apprentices who were bound to him in the carpenter trade, which indicates the large extent of his business.
From first to last Mr. Johnson was of the hustler type. He went around week-days in his shirt sleeves and his fleshy, squat figure was familiar to many an important local building operation. Outside of business hours, he chiefly loved his home and after reading a little and chatting a little with his family, he was ready for bed, never going upstairs without a lump of sugar in his mouth. One of his favorite mottos was "Early to bed and early to rise." In life and death, everybody had a good word to say for his reliable workmanship, his integrity and his affable, agreeable manners. I cannot close this sketch better than in the summing up by Dr. Thomas H. MacKenzie, for many years a next door neighbor:
"`Billy' Johnson was a fine old fellow, hale and hearty, whom it was a pleasure to know."
Adam Exton and several other "high lights" of the older Mill Hill will receive attention next Sunday.
No. 5 - James Hammell, the Johnstons and Other Well-Known Building Contractors
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, July 15, 1917.
The present series of articles has jogged the memories of old Mill Hillites,
and the result is a considerable sheaf of stories and anecdotes which come
to the writer from unexpected quarters. "Billy" Johnson, the boss
carpenter, who was written up a week ago, evidently made an impression on
the circles in which he moved judging by the reminiscences which the mention
of his name has started. Some of the yarns are worth printing. Joseph Trier,
the octogenarian contractor, was an apprentice in the Johnson carpenter shop,
originally located at the flat-iron corner of Bridge and Ferry Streets, and
he recalls that "Billy," having discharged an incompetent journeyman,
the latter's wife came to collect her husband's wages. "Billy" told
her that Saturday was pay day and she could get her money then. She was in
bad temper, however, and berated the boss at a great rate. He was of the roly-poly
type himself, but nothing to the woman, for she had lost all shape, so fat
had she grown.
"I wouldn't stand all that abuse," remarked a journeyman in a tantalizing whisper to the boss: "why don't you take hold of her?"
"Billy" glanced quizzically at the bulky person in skirts and retorted with a laugh:
"B'gosh, I wouldn't know where to start at."
Gershon M. Howell asked Johnson to build a home for him on Centre Street below Ferry, and having agreed in a general way as to the style of house, the builder went ahead with the job, which proved highly satisfactory. Nothing was said all the while about payment, and finally after Mr. Howell had been occupying his new home a few weeks, he met Mr. Johnson on the street and asked:
"Say, Deacon Johnson (Billy was an officer of the First Baptist Church), isn't it about time I had my bill? I can't pay you all, but I'll give you a mortgage for the balance over my cash in hand."
"Don't worry about that," was the easy reply; "you'll get your bill in time."
It was nearly a year before the settlement was effected. While this looks like a loose way of doing business today, it evidently worked out all right with Billy's customers, for when he died his estate footed up $150,000, quite a fortune years ago.
Another builder of the first rank on Mill Hill in ante-bellum days was James Hammell. He resided for many years on Broad Street, opposite Livingston, and there all his seven children grew up. Born in Hamilton Township of a large land owning family, his father died young and his grandfather thought, under the circumstances that a good trade was the proper thing for James. Young Hammell was apprenticed to William Southwick, father of the late Allen Southwick, the dry goods merchant, and it used to be told in after years that Master Builder Southwick was so proud of his former apprentice he would sometimes say:
"Folks say I couldn't teach anybody anything. Well, there's Jimmie Hammell"
And the Hammell record was something to brag about. Not fully content with his successful career as a builder, Hammell became an architect, and late in life moved uptown, where, up until 1887, when he died in his 72nd year, he was an extremely busy man. He was very agreeable in all his personal relations, but insisted rigorously on good work in his contracts.
"I always bid higher, when Hammell is the architect," remarked a builder of the 70's, "for he makes you put two nails where one would do."
As a young man Mr. Hammell built a good deal of the Whittaker property on Mill Hill, also the German Lutheran Church, Temperance Hall, the Charles Scott building (southeast corner of State and Broad Street), and many of the city's most prominent private residences. The brick building opposite the State House, known as "The Bloomfield," was built by him, as the residence of Mrs. Geissenheimer, wife of the Lutheran minister here in the 50's. Mrs. Geissenhaimer was one of the wealthy New York Havemeyers. Mr. Hammell also built the Higginson house, afterwards remodeled by Charles G. Roebling as his present home. Later in life he drew many important architectural plans, which included the first State Home for Girls above this city, the old city almshouse, Dolton's Block, the wholesale grocer store of the Blackwells, and the Hotel Windsor. In his closing years he superintended a good deal of construction including some of the dormitory buildings at Princeton, for which one of New York's largest architectural firms supplied the design.
Mr. Hammell, as his picture indicates, was a handsome figure of a man. He stood six feet high and carried himself with a dignified air. That he was popular with his fellow townsmen is evident from the fact that he was several times elected to Common Council and also was a school trustee for years. He took an active interest in the old Board of Trade. When Abraham Lincoln visited Trenton, he was one of the Common Councilmen who dined with the Emancipator at the Trenton House.
Of Mr. Hammell's children, Col. William Hammell acquired prominence in Idaho, and Brevet Brigadier General John S. Hammell had a brilliant record in the Civil War. The late Mrs. Charles B. Yard (afterwards Mrs. Henry W. Dunn) was distinguished for her literary talent, which is shared by Miss Amanda M. Hammell, a surviving sister.
In connection with the references to old Mill Hill building contractors it would not be inappropriate to present a spectrum of the best construction of their period. The original Court House, erected about 1839 at a cost of $60,000, was designed by an architect named Charles Steadman, of Princeton, and long remained the chief ornament of the neighborhood. The style was Grecian, with Corinthian columns, front and back, and the material was brick stuccoed. The county clerk's office immediately north and the surrogate's office immediately south were miniatures of the same Greek school. The names of the builders have eluded my inquiries thus far. The county buildings set back from the street line sufficiently to give room for a fine green lawn, which was shaded by a number of beautiful trees. Here many out-door meetings were held, including the memorable one of July 4, 1876, incidental to the celebration of the Centennial year. Within the building several famous trials took place, including that of Lewis, the first murderer in the county's history, in 1864; Chief Justice Beasley and other distinguished jurists occupied the bench at different times and much brilliant oratory fell from the lips of men celebrated in the records of the New Jersey bar. But the old Court House and it adjuncts finally gave place to a modern structure better adapted to a growing county's business, though less pleasing to the eye - at least, in the judgment of veteran citizens. The destruction of so many beautiful old shade trees incident to the new building is very greatly to be regretted.
William Johnson, the contracting carpenter of Centre Street, was of English origin. There was another Third Ward builder of the same name, except that he spelled it Johnston. William Johnston and Alexander Reid, two North of Ireland men, located on Mill Hill in the 50's. and they built a pair of brick houses on Mercer Street, which were occupied by themselves and their respective families. They carried on a large contracting business and were substantial citizens. Mr. Reid's three sons, Andrew, John and William, died in early manhood and the Reid family, I believe, became extinct. Mr. Johnston's largest contract probably was the State Street M. E. Church, and I am told that he took it at too low a figure, in view of the breaking out of the Civil War about the time of its construction and the consequent advancement of prices. He afterwards conducted a hat store in the old City Hall, at State and Broad Streets. His two sons, Robert S. and William, continued in the mason business and executed either jointly or separately many large contracts, including the State House front at Trenton, the Morris Plains State Hospital for the Insane, the Y. M. C. A. building, a High School in Philadelphia, the Masonic Temple just being torn down, Taylor Opera House, and many private buildings in various cities. "Bob" Johnston also won distinction by his record in the Civil War. He enlisted as first lieutenant August 9, 1861, and was mustered in Company B, Fourth Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers, of which later he became captain (September 6, 1862). He served three years, being mustered out September 3, 1864. Although a strict disciplinarian, he was popular with his men because of his personal courage. After the war he took a hand in local politics and served some time in Common Council and the Board of Freeholders. Few figures were more familiar in the Third Ward for many years than Captain Johnston. And he was the kind of man that you were apt to look at twice. He was well-built, well-dressed and had a keen, searching eye. His military experience had rather tended to accentuate a commanding nature and to make him self-willed and stubborn in an argument. In the latter respect, however, William, who had not been in the army, was every bit his equal. Both were stiff Republicans.
I remember a discussion in John Page's wheelwright shop - the scene of many a lively brush after the Civil War - in which Mr. Page and Captain Johnston engaged. The Captain kept several teams and turned a good deal of work over to his neighbor, Page. One day the two differed on some matter of politics, and the cross-fire of words waxed so hot that Johnston threatened to withdraw his patronage to another wheelwright. Mr. Page, ordinarily an even-tempered man, but a strong Democrat, flared up with the rejoinder that he wouldn't do another job for the Republican disputant anyway, and ordered him out of his shop.
To the credit of Captain Johnston, he cooled down after a few days, and tendered and apology which settled the affair, and John Page continued to keep the Johnston wagons in running order.
"Bob" and "Bill" erected a pair of comfortable brick houses for themselves on the easterly side of Broad Street, south of Market, and the former lived there with his family until the time of his death some years ago. "Bill," after years of comfort on Broad Street, grew ambitious for a more pretentious home, and put up quite a showy place in the more fashionable neighborhood at the Northeast corner of Greenwood and Chestnut Avenues. Business reverse follows and some time before his death he moved back into the Third Ward, namely to Broad and Second Streets. The Johnston brothers were thorough masters of the art of masonry and the houses they built will stand when many flimsier structures of later date will have gone to wreck.
Among other building contractors on Mill Hill in years gone by were John Conover, Joseph Whittaker, Benjamin Walton, Furman & Kite, Aaron Carlisle and Charles Nutt. John Conover built a row of brick dwellings at Market Street and Conover Alley (the alley being named for him) and he also did much towards building up Clay, Jackson and other nearby streets. He had his carpenter shops on Conover Alley.
Joseph Whittaker was a brother of John Whittaker, the general merchant, and was highly thought of as a builder. He was associated at one time in a firm called Whittaker, James and Darrah, which conducted the limekilns on Stockton Street, All of the partners have, of course, passed away. J. H. Darrah, the real estate broker, is a son of the third member of the firm. The late William Whittaker, the chain manufacturer, was a son of Joseph Whittaker.
Furman & Kite had much to do with the erection of the stores known as the Assunpink Block (westerly side). Levi Furman of this firm resided on South Broad Street and was a city official in his day. The firm's shop was on Factory Street. Benjamin Walton built up a considerable section of Lamberton and Cooper Streets in the vicinity of Market.
There was little doing on Mill Hill forty to fifty years ago that the Carlisles did not figure in. Aaron Carlisle, of study Scotch stock, was the pioneer of the family in this ward, having been one of the early settlers on Jackson Street and continuing active until he passed away in 1876. He was a mason by trade and going into business for himself he took on many important contracts, such as the building of the Trenton Gas Works, the Trenton Iron Works and the Arms and Ordinance Works on Hamilton Avenue, the first Roebling rope shop and the massive piers of the Calhoun Street bridge. He and Charles Nutt, the carpenter, built the Delaware & Raritan Canal, including side walls and locks, from New Brunswick to Bordentown. Among his other large jobs was the stone bridge over the Pennsylvania railroad tracks at the Clinton Avenue Station. He was a big figure in Masonic circles and in the Eagle Fire Company, he had a pew at the First Baptist Church and he served a term in the Board of Freeholders. His son, Samuel, was Street Commissioner for a time and became superintendent of the old gas works. I remember Sam driving a white trotter geared to a runabout, an early evening drive being one of his regular diversions. Aaron built a pair of neat brick dwellings on Jackson Street for himself and Sam. Both are now dead. The only survivor of several children of Aaron is Mrs. William H. Nutt, who still occupies the house at No. 231, in which she was born.
Charles Nutt will be remembered by most old Trentonians. He built and lived in a large house at the foot of Clay Street, abutting the creek. His carpenter shop was on the rear of his lot and was a very busy establishment in those days. During the sixties he was employed by the Camden and Amboy Railroad Company, and it used to be said that where a new piece of track was to be laid, Mr. Nutt would take a stick and mark out the bed for the track of the ground and describe a curve as accurately as a skilled mathematician could do with his instruments. When H. N. Smith bought the Fashion Stud Farm he employed Mr. Nutt, who built or remodeled all buildings and laid out the grounds.
Mention of Adam Exton was promised for today, but the Mill Hill builders have crowded him out till next Sunday. Some of the sketches printed thus far or which will appear later, may seem inadequate. The writer presents only such information as he recalls or has brought to his attention. He will be glad to be supplied with additional facts and anecdotes to perfect and brighten up this record of old Mill Hill.
No. 6 - A Bunch of Englishmen Who Helped to Put Mill Hill on the Map
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, July 22, 1917.
From the time when Mahlon Stacy erected his little mill of hewn logs on
the south side of the Assunpink and so laid the foundation of the present
city of Trenton, Englishmen and their half-brothers from Scotland and Wales
have been large factors in the industrial progress of the town and have aided
very greatly in giving the Third Ward distinction. In an earlier chapter we
have dealt with such captains of trade and manufacture as John Whittaker,
James Taylor, Aaron Carlisle, Robert Aitken and others. Of course, Samuel
K. Wilson, the woolen manufacturer, was also a prominent figure, but since
this series of sketches is concerned with the residents of Mill Hill, no detailed
reference will be made to him. It will be sufficient to say that for many
years his huge establishments on Factory Street, in the Third Ward, and on
Fair Street, in the Fourth, were hives of industry where hundreds of men and
women were constantly employed. Today it is proposed to give exclusive space
to Britons, who have written their names in large letters across Mill Hill
annals. Not all such men can be embraced in this chapter, but a few representative
types will serve our purpose. Others will be alluded to in later articles.
The career of Adam Exton covered a long stretch of years. This Lancashire lad at the age of 15 ran away to America, worked on a farm near Trenton for some time, then found occupation in a local printing factory and by industry and thrift was able to buy a plot of ground on which to build two frame houses at Centre and Furman Streets, and began the manufacture of the Exton cracker. His native mechanical talent enabled him to develop machinery as a substitute in large measure for hand work and he had it patented in 1861. The sales multiplied at a remarkable rate and the Exton product attained world-wide fame. The pioneer remained at the helm for forty-five years, saw his plant very greatly enlarged and meanwhile took his brother, John and his son-in-law, William H. Brokaw, into partnership. The business is still successfully carried on by Mr. Brokaw and Adam Exton, Jr., John's son. But Adam Exton, Sr., was something besides a cracker baker. He conceived a deep attachment to his adopted city from the start and was always alert with advice and financial backing to push schemes for its advancement. He was for years a live wire in the city Council and in the Board of Trade of which, unless memory betrays me, he was for a time president. When street markets were abolished, he was a leader in the erection of Washington market, the only survivor today of numerous such enterprises started in the early 70's. In 1875 he conferred an immense benefit on South and East Trenton by organizing the city Railway Company, which operated north and south and into Chambersburg. In the early 70's also, he had Architect James Hammell to prepare plans for what was then the handsomest modern home on South Broad Street, and to this imposing dwelling he moved from Centre Street. It is the same three-story dwelling which is now occupied by Dr. Walter Madden. Mr. Exton was an ardent patriot and took special interest in the celebration of the Battle of Trenton annually. The observance in 1876 was, of course, on a mammoth scale, and the Exton Guards, 400 strong, which he equipped, took a prominent part in the sham battle. This enterprising gentleman would have felt honored by a call to the mayoralty and he once conducted an aggressive campaign for the place, but with G. D. W. Vroom, then in the hey-day of his popularity as his Democratic opponent, the Third Warder went down to defeat. Mr. Exton left no sons, but there were six daughters of whom two survive, Mrs. Charles Y. Bamford and Mrs. H. B. Costill. Not a little of his success was due to his fortunate choice of a wife (a Miss Apsden) at the beginning of his business career. She was a wise counsellor, a gracious lady, and a kindly neighbor. Few men deserve to rank higher in public esteem by reason of civic loyalty and substantial service to the community than the modest subject of this paragraph.
Another Englishman who during fifty years of industry, became a landmark on Mill Hill was William Brooke, the carpet weaver. He was of rather a retiring disposition, dividing his time between his business and reading or walking according to the state of the weather. The son of an English schoolmaster, he did not come strangely by his studious habits, and if he remained aloof from public affairs, it was not because he lacked ideas which indeed he could express clearly and vigorously when occasion demanded. As he grew in years and allowed his white beard to attain its natural length, he took on a patriarchal air, and we younger people regarded him with something approaching awe. He was, however, a pleasant man to talk with and liked conversation with serious folks. He did not affiliate with any of the churches, but was charitable in an unostentatious way, and never drank nor smoked. His independent views were reflected in the direction he gave to have his body cremated when he passed away in 1901, at the venerable age of 82. His wife, an intelligent Scotch woman, survived him three years. Mr. Brooke started the making of rag carpet at what is now No. 256 Jackson Street, about 1848, but soon moved to Broad Street, next to where Andrew W. Farley has a drug store at present. This site was afterwards used by another carpet weaver (Mr. Siddall), Mr. Brooke having removed further south to No. 438, opposite Ferry Street. Here he prospered. In the sixties the demand for rag carpet grew to large proportions. In later years he would say:
"In war times I made the money. I charged from $1.25 to $1.50 a yard for carpet and sold lots of it."
Mr. Brooke worked steadily himself and had the help of two sons and a nephew. In those days frugal housewives let no old garments go to waste. They were torn into ribbons and in leisure moments the pieces were stitched together, rolled into immense balls and when there was a sufficient accumulation, they were taken to the weaver's where they were made into the old-fashioned carpet that formed the floor covering of most modest homes. Out of his growing means Mr. Brooke tore away the old house and built a new up to-date, three-story brick store and dwelling. At the same time he branched out into oilcloths and curtains as a sideline. So well and honestly did he work that his market grew, and from his stock he filled orders in far-away cities. Sometimes old Trentonians moving elsewhere carried the reputation of the Brooke carpets to other States and this explained distant calls for them which continued to come in after his death. He was Trenton's pioneer in the business and it is claimed that no such rag carpets can be found today as passed from his looms. John W. Brooke, a son of the old weaver, rose to prominence in Democratic politics and as a member of Common Council had much to do with the formulation of the general system of sewerage and other important city affairs years ago. He is now one of the big apple growers of the state of Washington.
William H. Smith, father of Frank H. and Lewis Smith, the newsdealers, belongs in the class of Englishmen with Mr. Brooke. The same thing may be said of George Fitzgeorge, father of several well-known sons, including Edwin the publisher and George, the druggist. Both Messrs. Fitzgeorge and Smith were early in the business of newspaper carriers. Mr. Smith was born at Cairo where his parents went in the English civil service, he was the first Egyptian (by actual birth) ever naturalized in Mercer County. He was 14 years old when he came to Trenton in 1846 and later married a daughter of Fred Thornley, who had a newspaper route which Smith bought in 1862. He made his daily routes for thirty years and must have found it profitable for we see him buying up Cooper Street land (on the west side) till he owned most of the lots from Market Street southward. He sold off some to Sheriff Benjamin F. Walton and between the two men Cooper Street was largely built up. Mr. Smith built a particularly fine pair of brick houses opposite the Sacred Heart Church and made one of them his home which he beautified with flowers and shrubbery like an old English garden. He also opened up Cosey Place in the same neighborhood and erected six dwellings there. George Fitzgeorge, who lived most of his life on Jackson Street, had learned shoemaking in Yorkshire but ran away to the "land of the free" and in 1854 began to serve Trentonians with newspapers and periodicals. He remained in business for just half a century, having had a stand in the old Post Office for years. He had much to do with the erection of Washington Market and was long its custodian. Elizabeth, his wife, belonged to the Booths, another family, long connected with newspaper carrying. He was active in organizing Central M. E. Church, and was prominent in Free Masonry. Mr. Fitzgeorge was a thorough Englishman in his love of outdoor sports. He and Mr. Smith lived to a green old age. I think all who knew them, will endorse my recollection of both as amiable, good-hearted, well-informed gentlemen whom it was always a pleasure to meet.
Another native of Yorkshire who brought an interesting personality to Mill Hill was Edwin Green, who for twenty years was the efficient superintendent of the Trenton Iron Company's wire mills. Mr. Green, like many of his fellow countrymen, was blessed with musical talent and sang at different times in the Fourth Presbyterian, old Green Street M. E. and other churches. He was one of the organizers of the Trenton Musical Society, probably the first of its kind here, and with which the best people of the town were associated. In 1860 he formed a celebrated local quartet, the other members being Mr. Fletcher, Mr. Baldwin, and Mrs. Warner. Mr. Green played the violin in the Langlotz orchestra. He dealt in pianos and organs and conducted a music store on the west side of Broad Street, below Factory. His musical skill was inherited by his daughter, Mrs. W. Bradford Parker and their son also has a high musical reputation.
It would take a full page of the Times-Advertiser to tell the dramatic story of Thropp, MacKenzie & Wilkes, so that task will not be attempted here. Just a bird's-eye glance at the beginnings of a Third Ward firm that began in the backyard of John E. Thropp's premises at 230 Second Street. Mr. Thropp was superintendent of the arms and ordinance works, which flourished on Hamilton Avenue during the Civil War and he thought he might do a little machine work on his own account.
"So he set up a little shop in the rear of our home," said former Sheriff, Tom Thropp, his son, a few days ago, "and here my mother helped by kicking the one lathe he had; thus, they gradually built an engine that found a buyer in the West."
In 1865 the elder Thropp entered into partnership with Duncan MacKenzie, and Peter Wilkes, all three being brothers-in-law, and the firm started business on the south side of what is now Greenwood Avenue just where it joins the canal. So it was a Third Ward concern from the start. All three partners lived on Second Street, below Furman. They moved their shop to Hamilton Avenue, but soon severed the partnership and John Thropp again located on Lewis Street, where a mammoth plant now stands. He resided in his elder days in the famous "iron house" on Lewis Street, whose sloping roof painted red, white and blue used to be viewed with interest by Mill Hill folks. The "iron house" escaped the predictions of the wiseacres at its building that it would be a fine target for lightening, but it has recently been razed to make room for a further wing of one branch of the Thropp works. Messrs. Thropp and Wilkes were of pure English stock and Mr. Mackenzie was a Scot. Between these pioneers, all now dead, and their offspring, Trenton has been enriched with a number of extensive establishments in various sections, devoted to iron foundering, machine construction and other lines of manufacturing, and the Third Ward has real reason to be proud of their numerous achievements.
There has been so much British stock in the more important personnel of the Third Ward that it cannot all be handled today. A few lines, however, must be found for the late John Exton. In most respects John was the antithesis of his brother Adam. Adam was a somewhat delicate man of slight frame and with rather polished manner. John was of rugged physique and stocky build and neither in dress nor conversation did he ever depart much from the standards of workaday life in which he spent his youth. He had a penchant for sidewalk gossip with everybody he knew, rich or poor, and he loved to tell of the stern struggles that marked his early career. Another difference was that while Adam occasionally liked to "suspend discipline," John was a strict teetotaler, and although in no fanatical spirit he considered it his duty to warn all young men against the evil of strong drink. John was not as broad-visioned in public affairs as Adam, but he was a man of many practical charities and he took a particular interest in the instruction of the masses. It is claimed that he provided the funds for Trenton's first night Schools, the need of this form of training doubtless having been impressed upon him by the case of numerous boys employed in the daytime at the cracker bakery. Many stout champions declare that the city will not have freed itself from a load of debt to John Exton till a school has been named in his honor. We will close with a story pertaining to John and the night schools. There was a spelling bee for the night school pupils at the Market Street building one evening and John was the guest of honor. One by one the spellers went down in defeat till only three remained - a lad named Donnelly, a colored boy and "Tom" Hickey, the ex-Freeholder. The announcer sent terror into the youngsters with the poser, "Ecstasy." Donnelly couldn't find the right combination and the colored chap also failed by a close call. You could see John Exton's face expand in a smile when Tom gave the correct spelling. When it was all over, John, with a twinkle in his eye, whispered into Tom's ear:
"Wouldn't it have been awful, Tom, if a nigger had downed two Irishmen?"
John presented the winner with a $2.50 ivory handled pocket knife which the future sheriff carried proudly for many a year.
The foregoing story reminds us that there were some Irish on Mill Hill also, and this suggests that they are entitled to a chapter of recollections. Next Sunday for them.
No. 7 - Irish-Catholics Who Contributed to the Life and Activities of the Third Ward Years Ago
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, July 29, 1917.
On can scarcely speak of the older generation of Irish Catholics on Mill
Hill without thinking of St. John's Church, destroyed by fire some thirty
years ago, and of the Rev. John P. Macklin, under whose pastorate it was erected.
The congregation had outgrown the original diminutive edifice at Market and
Lamberton Streets and Father Macklin showed his foresight and breadth of vision
by selecting as the new site the fine corner at Broad and Centre Streets.
He was in the vigor of young manhood at the time, but his spiritual, no less
than his secular burdens wore him down and in 1859 he went on a prolonged
vacation. When he was ready to return, the vacancy had been permanently filled
and he took other charges till January 1, 1871, when the Rev. Anthony Smith,
being transferred to the new St. Mary's, Father Macklin was able once more
to shepherd the fold that was dearest to his heart. It was a joyful home coming
for pastor and people. A warm-hearted man of impulsive Irish nature, he had
long hungered for those among whom his last years had been spent. He was of
scholarly tastes and was an effective, persuasive pulpit speaker but he won
sinners even more by the example of his open, simple life. His urbane manners
made him a welcome guest in the best homes of the city and his fine social
instincts found gratification in meeting his fellow citizens of every rank.
It was during the few years of his second pastorate that I had personal knowledge of Father Macklin. He owned one of those one-horse low-cut phaetons popular years ago in which he could travel about more readily than afoot now that he had grown fleshy. It was his pleasure to take some one of the school boys with him as a rule. I was favored on different occasions, and I recall his witty observations on people and things which fell under his notice. He had a smile for everybody who showed an inclination to exchange greetings, and he was eager to reestablish acquaintanceships broken through his eleven or twelve years of enforced absence from town. Naturally he had lost track of many, especially those who had grown up in his intervening years. As he tipped his hat in familiar fashion, he would say to me in a sort of side whisper:
"And who is that now?"
It made him happy when I could tell him who they were. Sometimes he would halt his horse for a longer conversation when he found that it was some parishioner of other days or some grown-up boy or girl of an old friend. He would stop at houses by the roadside to chat with their occupants and especially was disposed to do so if there were children in view. He loved the little folks and delighted to draw them into conversation. Once when I happened to be away from home, he took my younger sister in the phaeton. She had a talent for mimicry and apparently she entertained the good man greatly.
"Well, what did Father Macklin say to you and what did you say to him?" my mother inquired with some concern when the little girl returned home.
"O, I told him all about the Far-Downs," said the child, "and the queer way they talk."
"You did, eh?" said my mother anxiously, "and what did he say to that?" Mother knew of course that Father Macklin came from the North of Ireland, and so was a Far-Down himself, but the child was in blissful ignorance of the fact.
"O," said my sister gaily, "his sides shook with laughing and he made me tell it all over again."
Such was the good-humored popular Soggarth Aroon who left an imperishable impression on the people of Mill Hill, regardless of creed. Too soon the end came. Heart disease carried him off in the early spring of 1873. At his funeral the church was jammed and the crashing of a kneeling bench started a panic which resulted in fatal injuries to one or two persons and a scene of great excitement. I was an alter boy at the ceremonies and recall it all as if it occurred yesterday.
Among the Irishmen who stand out from many in my youthful recollection are Martin Keegan and John Birt, near neighbors on South Broad Street. Mr. Keegan was a Kildare man who had received a good education and was able to advance rapidly in public life. The Democratic Party, of which he was a vigorous supporter, elected him at different times to the offices of Councilman, Freeholder, Street Commissioner and City Tax Assessor. He was active in Irish organizations. After some years in responsible positions with Cooper, Hewitt and Company, he embarked in the coal business on Broad Street opposite Bridge, and at other times was a street paving contractor and assistant superintendent on the City Railway line. A well informed man, I found his conversation entertaining, no matter what subject was on the carpet. Captain Frank Donnelly, of the Fire Department is his son-in-law, and with him he spent the last days of a rather eventful life.
John Birt, who lived to the grand old age of 85, is still well remembered. He kept a model liquor store, but touched little of the goods himself. However, he seldom was without a cigar. Half a dozen modest brick dwellings on Second Street below Bridge are known as "California Row," in memory of the fact that they were built out of moneys acquired by Mr. Birt in a sojourn on the Pacific Coast during early gold-finding days. He was a substantial citizen, highly esteemed for probity and fair dealing. On the latter account he long served as treasurer of the Democratic Executive Committee in the Third Ward. He disbursed moneys for the hire of pool committees, carriages to take invalid voters to the Eagle Hotel to vote, etc., and therefore was very much in request about election time. Once or twice he seriously endangered his popularity with the ward workers by returning a balance to the City Executive Committee after the polls closed. His exactness in money matters may be further illustrated by an experience with his pastor who asked the old gentleman one day when he expected to pay a promised donation.
"Why, I gave you the money some time ago," was the reply.
The good priest had no recollection of it and they debated the matter without moving John in the slightest.
"This is extraordinary," said the clergyman finally; " you don't recall when you paid the money or where, and yet you are sure you gave it to me. Why are you so certain about it?"
"Because it's off my mind," was the ingenuous reply.
If people generally kept as strict account of their obligations, there would be less work for bookkeepers. Mr. Birt left a snug estate to his son, Frank, and daughter, Sarah.
William Bayley, father of Mrs. William D. Phelan for so many years organist at Sacred Heart Church and now serving in the same capacity at the Blessed Sacrament Church, was a figure of importance on Mill Hill, but died rather suddenly of pneumonia in 1879, while still a comparatively young man. He was a trusted employee of Superintendent Joseph Stokes at the old rolling mill, holding the place of foreman of the rail mill. On coming here from Ireland, he had located on Second Street. At the time of his death he was one of the trustees of St. John's Church and was zealous in all Church enterprises.
Robert Wilson ranks well up among Mill Hill citizens of the past. He came from Dublin and had the attractive personal qualities for which the historic capital city is famed. His brother Thomas operated an ax factory on the east bank of the canal below Elmer Street and Robert accepted an invitation to come to America to be his bookkeeper. But the plan failed and Robert, who meantime had brought out his family, was for a time sorely pressed, his chief handicap being a withered arm. But he at last got a start in the fruit business and his industry and cordial manners enabled him gradually to acquire leadership in the local retail trade. For a long time himself and his courageous helpmate conducted a stand on the east side of Broad Street just south of State and then they took a store in the same vicinity. Mr. Wilson built himself a three-story brick house on Broad Street nearly opposite Livingston and here with his family lived in ease and comfort to his 73rd year. He gave his children the advantage of a superior education and one of the daughters has for many years held the distinguished office of Superior General of the Holy Cross Order of Sisters with headquarters at Notre Dame, Ind. James Wilson and Mrs. George W. Meredith are the other surviving children.
Mr. Wilson took a large interest in Catholic Affairs generally, but his charitable disposition led him to give special attention to the work of St. Vincent de Paul Society, of which he was for many years treasurer, He bubbled over with enthusiasm for his native land. I remember going to New York City with Mr. Wilson, Michael Hurley and Lawrence Farrell about thirty-five years ago to invite Stephen J. Meany to address the local branch of the Irish Land League. We found Mr. Meany at Sweeney's Hotel, a famous downtown hostelry in those days. He was a tall, well-built man, well along in years but with glowing memories of the unique experience of his early manhood when as a young press reporter he attended Daniel O'Connell's movements on the Emancipator's famous tour throughout the Emerald Isle agitating for Constitutional reforms. No hall would hold the immense assemblages and so it was that surrounded by from twenty to forty thousand people, one of the most magnetic orators of any era made the halls of Ireland ring with his magnificent rhetoric. As a young man, Mr. Meany's anecdotes impressed me forcibly, but not more so than they did the three whole-souled Irishmen who represented the Trenton Land League.
Peter P. Cantwell was the scholar of the parish. A school master in Ireland, he became the first male parochial teacher in Trenton. People whispered, rather than talked aloud of his accomplishments.
"And e'en the story ran that he could gauge."
At all events, his fellow countrymen leaned rather heavily on the dignified school teacher whenever there was need to cast resolutions, petitions and other important papers into correct literary form. Mr. Cantwell's health failing prematurely, he devoted himself exclusively to the duties of a European steamship agent and a dealer in books, toys and notions at what is now 9 Centre Street. I remember how we youngsters lined up in front of his show windows at holiday times a few pennies richer than usual and studied how we could get the most for our money. Mr. Cantwell also was a Justice of the Peace, an office that carried some weight in the long ago. Mr. and Mrs. Cantwell were both Tips and both died in their early 40's. They left the city and state two gifted sons - the late lamented Dr. Frank V. Cantwell, of high surgical fame, and the Rev. William P. Cantwell, LLD., of Perth Amboy, a trenchant writer, witty orator and idolized parish priest.
Thomas Crawford, by reason of his civic merits, his business ability and his unremitting devotion to religious work, earned for himself a place of honor among old Third Warders. He came from Dublin and settled on the Hill About 1850, or earlier. Having learned the blacksmith trade from Henry M. Lee, his energy and ambition led him soon after to open a shop of his own at Market and Lamberton Streets, and he became one of the city's leading horseshoers. D. S. Quinton's string of trotters were shod by him, which is evidence of his skill. Later in life he went into undertaking and scored a fine success, thereby clearly proving again his unusual business capacity. Mr. Crawford was tireless in his support of St. John's Church from first to last. In the early days the congregation was recruited from all the country around, and I recall hearing men who talked of walking from the quarries at Greensburg, from Lawrenceville, Bordentown and other points equally distant on both sides of the river to attend Sunday mass. Mr. Crawford, accompanied by Matthew Weldon, trampled this wide range of country several times collecting subscriptions for the church and unnecessary to say, they didn't need rocking at night when they laid their heads on the pillows. For many years Mr. Crawford was one of the church trustees. Mr. Crawford's steadfastness in good work may be realized from the fact that he was for fifty years president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. His force of character, his resourcefulness and his zeal on behalf of a worthy undertaking, no doubt, went far towards keeping that little body together through periods of stress and trial. Although he does not seem to have been an office-seeker on his own account, Mr. Crawford took a hand now and then in politics in support of the Democratic ticket. He was a good "mixer" and possessed a tactful spirit in all the relations of life. He was, I think, the first Catholic summoned to do Grand Jury service in this county and he told me how in a case in which an Irishman and a negro were involved, a narrow-minded juror from Hopewell Township blurted that he wouldn't believe an Irishman on his oath. Did Mr. Crawford fly into a rage, as the circumstances might justify? No, but he "called" the Hopewell juror in a quiet way, asking him with that well-remembered smile of his what justification he had for such a statement. The man tried to evade the issues but Mr. Crawford kept at him while the rest of the jury listened and finally Mr. Hopewell man admitted that he had spoken thoughtlessly and without reason. An interesting sequel was that Mr. Crawford and the rural juror became fast friends and so continued ever after.
It was in ways like this, spread over a long life which almost reached fourscore years, that Mr. Crawford performed useful civic service. Mrs. William M. Jamieson and George Crawford are the only survivors of a large family. One son, Thomas, died some years ago, and a grandson, Thomas, also passed away, but it is an interesting circumstance that today Thomas Fourth, who recently blessed the home of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel I. Crawford, will be baptized to perpetuate a name that deserves a lasting place in local Catholic records.
Mr. Crawford was not the first Catholic undertaker here, Jerry Kelly, who as a lad served mass for Father Macklin, had become an upholsterer in Philadelphia during the 60's and on Father Macklin's return, Mr. Kelly set up the funeral directing business alongside St. John's Church. He prospered under Father Macklin's favor, but subsequently ill-health intervened. "Jerry" was a mild-mannered man, gentle as a woman, and is remembered for his amiable traits.
Anthony Shields owned the house where "Jerry" Kelly started in business (3 Centre Street), and conducted the manufacture of slippers in the rear. Mr. and Mrs. Shields came from Slige and it looked at times as if most of the other slippermakers of that ancient city followed them to Trenton. Carpet slippers were much worn and a dozen hands were employed in the busy seasons. What a jovial set they were - "Uncle Mickey" Shields, Pete O'Connor, the Fagans, Johnnie McGowan, the singing comedian, and others whose names are forgotten. Luke Dillon, an ardent Irishman, visited from Philadelphia occasionally; he has since undergone the horrors of solitary confinement in a Canadian prison for alleged complicity in an attempt to blow up the Welland Canal locks, but is again free. Cut and jibe and joke and snatches of an Irish rebel song flew around the workroom and meanwhile the carpet slippers piled in a mound in the centre. And when labors were suspended, Mrs. Shields had a full table in readiness. Ever cheery as a cricket, she was a wonderful little woman. She scarcely knew A from B but she had a head full of knowledge. She had a home cure for every ill and she thought nothing of sitting up all night with a sick neighbor. If the pot of broth for her own boarders was particularly savory, a big bowlful invariably went next door. If there was a gathering at a neighbor's for a marriage, a christening or a sadder event, she insisted on helping to lay the cloth and loaning her tableware. Mrs. Shields puts life in her husband's business and made an excellent saleswoman. If the Shields's and their boarders - all dead now - were typical of Sligo people, then Sligo is a pretty good town to abide in.
John McQuade acquired a competence as a wholesale dealer in ale and porter before lager beer got its great vogue and his later years were spent in comfort at his Ferry Street home. He was a constant newspaper reader, a red-hot Celt and a Blaine Democrat. A man of positive convictions and honest in word and act, he did not readily yield to opposition, as evidenced by his protracted suit against the Pennsylvania Railroad for damages growing out of a change of street grade. Defeated in New Jersey, he carried the litigation to the Washington courts. Among intimate acquaintances he was a lively, pleasant companion and loved discussion which indeed he pursued so energetically that within ten minutes he would relight his cigar five times, take a single puff each time and forget it then till it went out. His favorite recreation was a game of cards with a few old cronies, and the little party often became so engrossed over "Forty-fives" that they lingered far into the night. I think that once or twice they stayed so late that they were just in time for early mass next morning. In their case, it was a harmless pleasure. Mr. McQuade brought a deeply religious spirit from his native county of Meath and it held him to the last. The large statue of the Sacred Heart in the niche in front of the Sacred Heart Church was his gift.
Dr. P. J. Gallagher, who married Miss Ann King, a niece of Father Byrne's, was of course prominent during the years that he lived on Broad Street next door to Adam Exton's. He was of the sterling Catholic type characteristic of Donegal, and he reflected honor on his church and city by a life filled with kindly, charitable deeds incident to his profession.
When John Shields, Sr., took up his residence on Mercer Street, about 1849, there were cornfields all around but he lived to see the neighborhood grow thickly populated. He was a millwright and carpenter, but later in life erected a store north of the Sacred Heart Church and carried on the flour and feed business. He was a County Antrim man and had some of the stern traits of that section, but this was only on the surface. He long worked with the other charitable members of St. Vincent de Paul Society and was a kindly, worthy citizen. His son, John, is the present well-known haberdasher, who, by the way, is one of the best living authorities on Mill Hill history for half a century and over.
Michael O'Neill, the portly grocer, who did business for years at Broad and Factory Streets, was prominent on the Hill as he had previously been in the Fourth Ward. Several sons, Francis, Felix and John, are well known citizens and his widow, having crossed the 90th milestone of life is probably the oldest member of Sacred Heart Church. She holds her own wonderfully well and it is an entertaining sight to see her step out in lively fashion to catch a trolley car, despite the well-meant efforts of her son Francis to keep her down to his own moderate gait. She never misses the 10:30 Sunday mass at Sacred Heart Church, winter or summer.
If space permitted, the old families could be marshaled at much greater length. But having already gone beyond the approved limit of our Sunday chapter, I can only make hurried reference to a few others.
Andrew, Thomas and Edward Brown, all closely related, were leading citizens of Lamberton Street, the late Thomas A. Brown, excise commissioner and druggist, and Councilman James Brown were sons of Andrew. Rev. James T. Brown is a son of Thomas and there are several daughters.
Felix McGuire, father of Dr. McGuire and other children, was a well-known coal dealer on Mill Hill for years. His family will be more fully noted in a later article.
John Dunphy, who gave two sons to the priesthood and a daughter to the convent, lived on Cooper Street where he and his wife kept store.
The Sampsons were earnest supporters of Old St. John's. The boys have died but one daughter, Mrs. A. Mullen, is living at Long Branch.
Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Connelly lived for some time on Ferry Street, they left numerous progeny including in the present generation Rev. Joseph Casey, Dr. John Connelly, Edward Connelly, of the Times staff, among others equally well known.
The Egans, the Flanagans, the Dwyers, the Nolans, and various other families gave sons and daughters to the church and left honorable records.
Filial modesty should not, I suppose, prevent a reference to my father, Michael Cleary, who for over thirty years was active in every local movement for the Irish cause, was an officer in various fraternal and charitable societies and in the religious fraternities of his parish. He also busied himself considerably with Democratic ward politics and by appointment by Mayor Magowan served a short term as a city tax assessor.
Thomas Clark, who kept a store on Ferry Street, was one of the last men of Trenton to wear a shawl in place of an overcoat. I remember seeing him often come into the church in such a garment, several times folded and drawn over his shoulders.
No. 8 - What the Germans Have Done For Growth of Third Ward
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, August 5, 1917.
The German immigrants of from fifty to sixty years ago knew a good thing
when they saw it, and so settled in the Third Ward in large numbers. As they
grew in importance many of them set up in business, and it was noticed over
forty years ago that those more successful representatives of the race had
a fancy for Mill Hill, or the upper end of the ward for their shops. The following
is from one of the local dailies of April 13, 1874:
"The Dutch have not exactly taken Holland, but our German fellow-citizens are making strong efforts to take the northern part of Broad Street. Henry Thoene, the dyer, has purchased a handsome property adjoining Dowling's Hotel, and Charles Woerner and Martin Staiger are about putting up two handsome brick houses on the brow of the hill. On the opposite side of the street at this point is Turner Hall, kept by Mr. Metzler, and altogether we are getting a substantial German element on the hill. This part of the city is in fact the great centre of attraction at this time, and we congratulate our German friends on getting into it. For the present year there will be more building going on in this part of the city than at any other point."
Turner Hall and the first Lutheran church in Trenton were prominent buildings on South Broad Street and have served as centres of German influence and action. The church came first, while the Turners have moved about from place to place, did not enter into ownership of their fine property until about twenty years afterwards. It was in 1871 that the heart of the whole German body was made glad by the report of Capt. John Winter and Christopher Wentz, serving as a committee for the purpose, that negotiations had been closed with Pete Crozer for the purchase of his commodious home and grounds. The building was converted to the needs of the new proprietors for social and athletic ends. Some of the Turner Society's most happy history was made in the old hall, but the ambitious views of a few of the leaders led to the razing of the original structure and the erection of the present imposing building, representing an entire investment of about $60,000. The gradual subsidence of public interest in the character of athletics of which the Turners were exponents, and the partial diversion of social functions to other halls are matters of easy recollection and need not be dwelled upon here. The final sale of the entire property by the surviving Turners a few years ago marked a tragic close to a movement of much merit which had been entered into with high hopes in the early seventies. Nobody has clearer recollection of the "golden age" of the Social Turn-Verein than Col. E. C. Stahl, who was one of its most active spirits from first to last.
"The old hall and the new hall," said Colonel Stahl to the writer a few days ago, "were the scene of many memorable functions. Of course, it would be too difficult a feat to recall all the smaller social events of each winter in which the German families of the city used to participate. Of the larger functions, the Liedertafel masquerade ball was an annual feature that interested the entire city. In fact, the whole public social life of the Germans of Trenton centered at Turner Hall until, following the growth of the Roebling mills, the German population swelled in the Chambersburg district to a point which inspired the erection of Liederkranz and Paderetz Halls. Our societies pretty much all met in Turner Hall and the exhibitions which our turners and singers gave there are part and parcel of local German history. Then there was the well-remembered Rifle Corps which I commanded for a time and of which John J. Schaber was captain at another period - this body had its headquarters at Turner Hall.
"Perhaps most memorable of all single events was the appearance there in 1891 of Major-General Franz Sigel, who delivered an address before a huge crowd that went wild over the Civil War hero. You know what a badge of honor every German veteran of the Civil War regarded it when he proudly said: `I fights mit Sigel'
"Another great occasion for our people was the celebration of the Bicentennial of German immigration in 1881. We went into the thing on a grand scale, and one of the most successful street demonstrations ever seen in Trenton was the result. It took on largely an industrial nature, and numerous beautiful and characteristic floats won admiration from all beholders. Our committee was aghast, however, at the way we had contracted bills, and they asked where we were going to raise $1,600. I told them we would do it with a ball, which was to wind up the day's festivities. They shook their heads dubiously, but when the night came we not only filled Turner Hall, but had to hire Washington Hall to accommodate the overflow. The net receipts paid every bill and left $150 over, which was distributed between St. Francis Hospital and the Children's Home."
Among the older generations of Germans who had much to do with the early success of the Turn-Verein, one easily recalls Jacob Klemmer, John Bohlinger, Charles C. Woerner, Andrew Metzler, Louis Coutier, Frederick H. Enderbrock and, of course, Col. Stahl. Captain Michael Gaiser was also prominent as "Mine Host" in the basement of the old building, later in the one-story saloon erected to one side of the building and finally in the new Turner Hall. "Mike" Gaiser was a typical German inn-keeper. He was rotund, affable, good-natured, did not object to being made the butt of his customers' jokes and was ready to laugh loudest at his own occasional blunders of one kind or another. Jacob Klemmer, who had been a successful merchant tailor, went into the saloon business later, nearly opposite Turner Hall, but there was no rivalry in a disagreeable sense. Both places were largely patronized by the same customers, who, by way of frolic, would set up practical jokes on the two landlords, always taking one of them into the plot upon the other. The fun was fast and furious at times, and it usually ended in "drinks for all hands at the expense of the house." Captain Gaiser never fully conquered the intricacies of the English language and the sport often turned upon his verbal monstrosities. One department in which he excelled was rifle shooting and he once had a clear lead for the gold medal which had to be won three times consecutively in the Rifle Corps in order to be held permanently. The jolly Captain, having scored high twice, entered upon the third contest at Hetzel's Grove, in such high hopes that it was thought he would have a walk-over. A great crowd was present to bear the victor home in triumph and it was understood that in his place of business preparations had been made for a hospitable spread to which all would be invited. But the best-laid plans miscarried once more, for Captain Gaiser shot with easy confidence and failed to get the bull's-eye. Still there was only one other to shoot - a little cross-eyed tailor, who didn't know how to hold his rifle straight - and Gaiser's friends were scarcely interested in this man's performance. But, wonder of wonders, whether by skill or accident, he struck the bull's-eye and put the fat Turner Hall landlord out of the running. Great was the laughter at Mike's expense, and for once Mike's face was grave rather than gay. However, such an incident was soon forgotten and to the end of his days, Captain Gaiser continued to be a splendid entertainer.
The older Germans of the Third Ward were musically inclined and it is not surprising that several of them rose to distinction in that field. One of the most conspicuous representatives was Rudolph Ruhlman, who conducted a brass band for some time, in which he played the clarinet and an orchestra in which he was the violinist. He was for 22 years leader of Taylor Opera House orchestra and he also gave music lessons in many Trenton families. Prof. Ruhlman came from Easton in 1864, lived for a time on Broad Street and then built himself a three-story brick home on Cooper Street. He was an estimable gentleman of studious habits and devoted himself exclusively to the cultivation of his art. John S. and Fred Ruhlman, both expert musicians, are his sons, and Attorney Cassel R. is his grandson.
Another Third Ward German identified with musical interests was Christopher Messerschmitt. He married in the early 70's a Miss Haslach, daughter of Francis Haslach, himself a man of note in the Mill Hill section. He was an expert machinist and from his arrival here in 1851 was with the old Trenton Iron Company till his death 26 years later. This Mr. Haslach was an old-fashioned Bavarian who always took his children to Sunday School to make sure that they got there and would not contract a debt even to give himself a home. It thus happened that he counted up his money one day and finding he had just enough to erect a house with two rooms downstairs and one upstairs, he entered into a contract for that amount of construction a 221 Second Street. Later he accumulated enough to add a kitchen and two rooms upstairs, and finally out of another year's careful savings he put on a third story. In this three-story brick dwelling, Mr. Haslach raised his family and here also Mr. Messerschmitt lived till his death 18 years ago. Older citizens will have no difficulty in recalling the familiar features of the accompanying picture. He looked like one of the heaviest men in Trenton, owing to peculiarities of his makeup, but actually never weighed more than 220 pounds. Besides giving music lessons, Mr. Messerschmidt was the clarinet player in the Opera House orchestra for 25 years and he was a member at different times of Petermann's and Winkler's Bands. Mrs. Messerschmitt also was a musician, playing the organ in St. Francis Church from the time she was about 11 years old and continuing there for 38 years. She filled other engagements as well. It is not strange to find the offspring of this worthy couple musically gifted.
Miss May succeeded her mother as organist at St. Francis and besides is a favorite violinist. Adeline is a harpist, Eva and Jennie are pianists, Helen is a 'cellist and Chris, Jr., the youngest child, can handle the cornet. The sisters play together as an orchestra.
Allusion was made in the opening paragraph to some of the Germans who had settled on Mill Hill up to 1874, but there are others also to be named. John Miller, a popular barber, kept a shop on the easterly side of Broad Street, North of Livingston Street. Charles P. Mueller kept the Veteran house next door for years. The Mott Memorial Association used to meet yearly at his place incident to their Memorial Day exercises. Mueller himself had been a brave soldier. He went to Europe one summer with Charles C. Engel and Charles J. Woerner and his two companions had the sad duty of accompanying his remains back to America.
Captain Joseph B. Becker, who was a member of Council in the 60's, conducted a saloon at Broad and Factory Streets and overhead Becker's hall accommodated certain societies with a meeting place. He was an educated German and attracted a fine class of trade. He married the daughter of a wealthy brewer at Newark, whither he removed. Joseph Schnitzer had a saloon at the northwest corner of Livingston and Mercer Streets with a bowling alley in the rear and with baths all the year around. All the buildings are still standing. Louis Schoendewolf succeeded Schnitzer and was the last landlord at that point.
Other Germans in business on the upper end of South Broad Street included Philip and Chris Wentz (of whom more later on), John J. Schaber, the shoemaker; August C. Hammer, the locksmith; Frederick H. Enderbrock, the confectioner; John Snyder, a cigar maker; Martin Speigel, a saloon-keeper, and others. Speigel and Charles J. Woerner built together a fine pair of three-story brick stores where Mr. Woerner and his son continue to this day while Speigel removed to Warren Street. Originally Woerner had a small shoe-making shop and thereby hangs a tale.
Captain E. C. Stahl came to Trenton in the early 60's and was recruiting an artillery company at Camp Perrine (where the Wilson and Stokes Company are now located). He wanted a pair of military boots and had Woerner take his measure. Money was plentiful in those days and $10 was the price. In about a week the Captain came up from camp and by accident walked into a shoe shop a few doors south from Woerner's He asked if his order was ready and was fitted with a handsome pair of boots that reached his knee which he paid for and carried away. As he proceeded up the street, Woerner with whom he had no personal acquaintance at the time, called out: "Captain Stahl, your boots are ready." The Captain was treated to a fine surprise on seeing another pair of expensive boots dangling before his eye, but he was a dead game sport and took them too. It was years afterwards before he told Mr. Woerner of the amusing incident.
Further down Broad Street, of course there were other business men of German stock, like Dr. Herman Schafer, the druggist (Supt.., of Police Telegraph Oliver M. Schafer is his son), John Reiser, the saloonkeeper, William Ossenberg, the grocer; Phillip Freudenmacher, Mr. Guenther, the baker, and others. The Guldens lived on Factory Street and former Mayor Bechtel's folks for a time resided on the same street. Other Germans of consequence in the ward were Excise Commissioner Jacob Blauth, whose barber shop on Centre Street was long a favorite political resort; John Sloer, of Centre Street, whose family includes Albert B. Sloer, the artist, and Fred J., the optician; John B. Zisgen, supervising principal of music in the public schools, and Miss Mary K. Zisgen of the Roebling offices and whose son is counselor John W. Zisgen; Frederick and George I. Kuhn, the tailors; Sebastian Walter, the bottler; Nicholas Zimmerman, the saloon keeper; the Millers and Knorrs of Cooper Street, and others too numerous to mention.
Beatrice Weigand, Flora Weigand and Antonia Weigand were a group of German girls who had a somewhat unusual experience. They all became the wives of Third Ward storekeepers and each of them evinced a keen talent for business. Only the eldest is dead, who became Mrs. Frederick H. Enderbrook, the couple doing a prosperous wholesale and retail candy business just south of Dowling's Hotel for a number of years. Mr. Enderbrock is still quite vigorous, though rather deaf, at the age of 84. Their business declined he says, when he refused to compete with cheap adulterated confectionery. Children of this couple include William P. Enderbrock, the architect, Augustus W. Enderbrock, letter carrier and bandman; Fred H., Jr., and others. Of the two surviving sisters, Flora, now 80 years of age, married William Paff, a tailor, and between them they established the toy and variety store just above the Skelton School on Centre Street over half a century ago. It is a landmark in the vicinity for all the children that have attended the Skelton and St. John's Schools. Some years ago, following her husband's death, Mrs. Paff turned the business over to her son, John L. and she now resides at 113 Market Street, adjoining her sister, the widow of George Schaffner, who was a slate roofer. Mrs. Schaffner has carried on a candy and toy store for over forty years at No. 110, which has a historical connection inasmuch as it was the first German Catholic school in Trenton.
"When my father brought his family to Trenton in the early 50's," said Mrs. Schaffner to the writer one day last week, "the Irish Catholics had only recently built St. John's Church and the old church at Lamberton and Market Streets was turned over to the German Catholics. We attended the first Sunday service in this little church under German auspices. It was little but the congregation was a very little one too. Some time later, the congregation built this frame house we occupy as a parish school and the Sisters in charge lived upstairs. The frame additions either side were put up later. It was here that Sister Hyacinth made her home when she began work for the erection of St. Francis Hospital."
Mrs. Schaffner recalls when only a great field stretched away to the south of her home. It was farmed by Larry Martin, who specialized most of the time in cabbages, of which he sold great quantities. Then Sheriff Benjamin F. Walton put up two brick dwellings, one of which he occupied and thenceforth Cooper Street built up rapidly.
There is not space to trace all the interesting German settlers of Mill Hill and its vicinity. A considerable number came from Allentown, Pa. when the old rolling mill got started and they founded in the lower Third and Fourth Wards lines that now reach out in many directions. The Backes family was one of these, John Backes taking up his home at Federal and Turpin Streets. Across the way the Backeses saw the late General Richard A. Donnelly paying attentions to the Federal Street girl who afterward became the first Mrs. Donnelly. John Backes, who was a blacksmith, received injuries in an explosion in the rolling mill in 1872, which resulted in his death two years later. Several other workmen were killed and injured. There were five Backes boys left on the widows hands, the family having meantime removed to the Fourth Ward. How well the industrious, ambitious widow succeeded is attested in the fact that all five boys have become successful lawyers (Peter, Theodore, William and Albert) and one of them (John H.) has mounted to the Vice Chancellor's bench. Mrs. Backes, Sr. has happily lived to enjoy her sons' rise to positions of dignity and importance.
There was another German widow who also raised a son to do honor to her and to the Third Ward, John Rellstab, first a potter's apprentice, afterwards a pottery salesman, then a lawyer, city counsel, judge of Mercer Common Pleas and now filling with credit the office of Judge of the Federal District Court for New Jersey.
The Gellers of Second Street have had numerous progeny. The progenitor with whom we are chiefly concerned was John, who died in the Fatherland. His widow came to America with nine or ten children and she located on Broad street nearly opposite Hamilton Avenue. One of the children became the wife of Carlman Ribsam, Sr., for so many years Trenton's leading florist, and who is now represented in business by Martin C. and Joseph F. with grandsons also in active service. Mrs. Carlman Ribsam, Sr., a fine old lady, still survives. Nicholas, a brother of Mrs. Ribsam, married a Miss Wagner and settled on Second Street, and their children include Assessor Charles Geller, John, William and Martin Geller, Mrs. Martin P. Devlin and a single daughter, Emma. Another branch of the Geller family, now numerously represented, is located in Chambersburg.
The Lutheran Church on South Broad Street, began its existence in 1851 and had several popular pastors in the long ago. One of them was Rev. G. F. Gartner, who made a wide acquaintance by tutoring in German many children of our well-to-do families. Rev. J. Zestner was pastor when the congregation sold off the Douglass house which was part of the church. It had been used as a rectory up to that time (1876). Mrs. Oscar Niedt is a daughter of the Rev. Mr. Gartner.
The Lutherans provided a fine three-story brick school building for their children on Cooper Street in the rear of the Church. From ninety to one hundred children attended at one time and from 1868 to 1884 and again from 1889 to 1893 the English and German teacher was the late Carl F. Lebtien. Mr. Lebtien naturally was identified with the progress of church and school throughout that long period. During practically all the time he was secretary of the congregation and for some time he was church organist as well. He aided in organizing two of the leading church societies and served both as secretary up to his decease 24 years ago. There were two specially interesting circumstances in Mr. Lebtien's life, namely that he became naturalized as promptly after arriving in the United States as the law allowed, and secondly that he was one of those who had the privilege of being married in the historic Douglass house. His wife was Magdalene Rosenburg, also a German by birth. From first to last Mr. Lebtien was an excellent citizen. There are five surviving children, Mrs. Magdalene Lebtien, Miss Emma C. Lebtien, Gus A. Lebtien, C. Edward Lebtien and Mrs. Paul Lupke.
No. 9 - Some Leaders in the Grocery trade of the Third Ward Long Ago
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, August 12, 1917.
In war times, like the present, the problem of feeding the multitude is acute.
Even in times of peace the process is interesting. The grocery store, the
meat shop, the milk depots are important spots on the map of each community.
Usually the men who operate them are wideawake, progressive citizens. We have
seen in the case of John Whittaker a few Sundays ago what a man of spirit
and foresight can accomplish from the background of a general store in a bustling
little place such as Mill Hill was before the Civil War. Mr. Whittaker succeeded
the Evanses and he in turn gave place to other men animated with enterprise
and possessed of the alert minds essential in profitable trading. Mr. Whittaker
appears to have retired in 1851, after a long and prosperous career and was
followed by George James, who also cut a wide swath in Mill Hill affairs for
a number of years. He was interested in various lines of business. The following
extract from an advertisement in the city Directory of 1854 (the first local
publication of the kind) will give some idea of what was carried in the store:
"George James, 59 Broad Street, opposite the Court House; groceries, flour, crockery, hardware, botanical medicines, lime, plaster, etc."
James's limekilns on Greenwood Avenue between Jackson Street and Conover's Alley, were heavily patronized. In my younger days, they had fallen into disuse and finally made room for a small brown stone Lutheran Church, which in turn disappeared too. Mr. James was in Common Council from 1858 to 1861.
Trentonians of today have a clearer recollection of the Wentz brothers. "Phil" and "Chris" Wentz were the sons of a sturdy German immigrant who on coming to Trenton, joined the Roebling force of employees. "Phil" married a daughter of Robert Aitken and she is still living. He was City Treasurer from 1873 to 1875, and was one of the directing influences in Democratic politics for years. He died at his Market Street residence on December 11, 1882. "Chris" married Miss Mary Cook, of Lawrence Township, and a large family was the result, including two daughters, both now dead, who became the wives of Lawyer Joseph E. Hunt, of this city and Dr. A. M. Steen of Palatko, Fla. Of the sons, James G. is an electrical engineer with the New York Telephone Company; Richard C. is in business at Los Angeles, Cal., and Walter is traveling in Egypt, having achieved a literary reputation by his exhaustive work, "Fairy Faith in Keltic Countries," and other publications in the same field of enquiry.
"Chris" himself is still alive and hearty and living at La Mesa, Cal., with his second wife, whom he met at Palm Beach, Fla., some years subsequent to the death of the first Mrs. Wentz. A letter recently received from him by the writer, supplies some details that old Trentonians will read with interest. Enquiry was made for his explanation of the double vault in the rear of the old Whittaker stores opposite the Court House. Mr. Wentz writes:
"Dear Sir - Your letter and enclosure received. I began clerking for George James in the old Whittaker store on March 21, 1851, and worked for him about 3 1/2 years when he sold out to D. P. Forst. I continued with the new proprietor some three years longer and then started in business for myself in the store owned by Jerome Tantum at Taylor (now Greenwood Avenue) and Broad Streets. In a few months I took my brother Philip in as a partner and at the end of the year John Taylor persuaded us to buy out D. P. Forst, Forst and Taylor going into the wholesale grocery business.
"James B. Holmes had a grocery store at the corner of Broad and Market, built by Joseph Whittaker, which my brother Philip bought after we dissolved partnership.
"Brother sold a lot off the property to Dr. William Green for a drug store.
"Next to the home of John Whittaker was a building built for a jobbing house where they sold what was called Bond stripe, a cloth used for men's clothes. Next came Oliver Bond's dwelling.
"Next was a brick building used as a drug store by Simon B. Conover. Simon B. Conover and Hamilton Jay went to Florida together as "carpetbaggers." The former became United States Senator and the latter postmaster at Jacksonville. Hamilton Jay, on leaving the postoffice was connected with a newspaper and became quite famous from writing what he called `tramp sermons.' About 25 years ago he committed suicide by taking cyanide of potassium. I was talking to him a few days before and he said he didn't want to become a burden to any one as he was afraid he was losing his mind.
"Your father clerked for me at the old Whittaker store during pork packing time. I remember buying dressed hogs at 3 1/4 cents a pound and beef at 4c. a pound by the side.
"The Whittaker store and dwelling were built before my time so I cannot tell what the double vault was built for originally, but was used for ice always and up over it charcoal was kept in one half and the other half was used as a smoke house.
"Sorry I can't give you dates of anything of special interest.
"I am living in the finest all the year 'round climate in the world. Passed my 81st birthday last September, and am in very good health. I enjoyed reading your article of recent date and have shown it to several, and all have had a good laugh over it."
One of the best-known Third Ward grocery and provision stores 30 to 40 years ago was John V. Hutchinson's on South Broad Street near the canal bridge. Mr. Hutchinson came from Hamilton Square and, marrying the eldest sister of the late William Dolton, about 1856, formed a partnership with his brother-in-law and took over the well-known South Warren Street grocery of Edward Dolton. The Dolton name began nearly 70 years to be associated with the local grocery business, either wholesale or retail. The eldest of the line here, Edward, was a very successful merchant and his son William inherited his father's aptitude for trade. The daughter who became Mrs. Hutchinson was also endowed with first-class business traits and the prosperity which followed the Hutchinson store from first to last, was in no small degree due to her initiative and shrewdness. He was tall and bearded; she was a mite of a woman, but of boundless energy. Mrs. Hutchinson, by the way, was the woman who detected the burglars at work at the "White Marble" bank many years ago, while she was on her way to Sunday evening service, and giving the alarm, sent them flying from the police with their work only half done. This is well remembered, but it is not so generally known that her life was subsequently threatened in secret by the robbers and that her later years were haunted by a fear, happily never realized, of harm at their hands. The worst that befell her was to have her home burglarized and a costly set of silver tableware carried off, this ware having been the gift of the bank which she had so notably befriended.
The South Warren Street partnership lasted only a year and the Hutchinsons then bought the property next to the Grant (afterwards MacPherson & Maharg) lumber yard and there founded a flourishing business which lasted till their retirement. The store profited by the proximity of the homes of the workers at the Roebling mills, the rolling mill and other industrial establishments, as well as by the rapid growth of Chambersburg. Not only was a large and varied line of groceries carried, but Mr. Hutchinson also maintained an extensive meat department. In season he cut up many wagon loads of dressed hogs from Burlington County and the sausage and scrapple which he made had an immense sale. There were no telephones, but several delivery wagons were on the go from early to late. On the whole, the store was an exceedingly lively place and most of all on Saturdays. The store which had put a hundred thousand dollars in the Hutchinson pockets, gave way some years ago to private dwellings, a rather unusual change on a street where the tendency is ordinarily in the reverse direction.
Mr. Hutchinson was a Republican, but not an officeseeker. His social inclinations found their outlet in church activities, he being a member of the First Baptist congregation. He had one hobby and that was his annual gunning trip to Ohio, where he incidentally visited a cousin. In those days it seemed like a far western journey and he was usually accompanied by the late F. W. Roebling, Sr., and John Taylor. Both Mr. Roebling and Mrs. Hutchinson are deceased, as is their eldest daughter, who married William A. Poland, the well-known architect. Another daughter, Mrs. W. A. Mellon, is living in Pennsylvania.
The Howell name is another familiar in the local grocery and milling world. James Howell, pioneer of the family on Mill Hill, had been a storekeeper on Second Street, below Cliff, up to 1857, but quit to take up farming. In 1859 he had a chance to buy out Richard Killian, at the flat-iron frame building then standing at Broad and Centre Streets, and he succeeded to a good general store business. Two years later, however, he sold out to William B. Allen, who remained till after the close of the Civil War when the grocery was abandoned and Hiram Lenox, father of Walter S. Lenox (Lenox, Inc.) set up the hardware business. James Howell the went into the milling business and prospered. William G. Howell, present president of the Mercer Trust Company; Gershon M. Howell, for many years in the County Clerk's office and later custodian of the Broad Street Bank Building, and Charles W. Howell, the miller of Lawrence Township, are sons. William G. was an active figure in the grocery trade on Mill Hill during the 60s. He was with his father as a lad and stayed on when the store passed under Allen's control. He also clerked for Philip Wentz at Broad and Market Streets and while there surprised the town by defeating Joseph W. Bond, a prominent Third Ward Republican, for Common Council in 1867. It was a great feat for a youngster in politics. William G. conducted a grocery of his own from 1867 to 1870 in what was known as the Tantum block on Broad Street just below Greenwood Avenue. Mr. Howell tells a good story of a rival who set up in opposition to him in the latter year.
This rival came here a stranger and went by the name of John Little, He had a brother associated with him and they rented No. 3 Centre Street, painting the front in the gaudiest colors, filling the store with showy cases and goods and making large display on the sidewalk and posting ridiculously low prices for everything on sale.
Mr. Howell across the street built up a large trade, having been probably the first grocer in Trenton to establish the practice of soliciting business. He had his wagons out picking up orders when they were not filling them. But the bargains offered by Little were too much for the Howell customers who dropped off at a surprising rate. Even strong friends like "Billy" Johnson, Henry M. Lee and Aaron Carlisle, wanted to know why he couldn't sell as low as the new dealer. This went along for about three months when one morning an agent for Jones, the up-town spice man, dropped into Howell's and asked why John Little's store was closed. A few minutes later D. P. Forst & Co., had an anxious inquirer on the ground. It was then found that mysterious movements had been noticed about the premises during the previous night and as quickly as the thing could be done, the Sheriff was in charge. The door being forced open, it was found that the store had been stripped of practically everything but a fine line of hams, which hung invitingly in bright yellow covers, but proved to be only sawdust and brick inside, and also a great variety of bogus package goods, that looked good to the eye, but revealed nothing eatable within. John Little had decamped, too confiding wholesalers had a lot of bad accounts to charge off, and the Howell customers came back, admitting that the reign of cheap prices was at an end. That Little was a clever rogue was evidenced in the fact that he voluntarily paid three months' rent in advance when he began business, thus creating a favorable impression in the neighborhood as to his intention to become permanently located.
If William G. wished, he could tell a lot of other pretty good stories of the grocery business on Mill Hill, including a few lively experiences about the time when himself, Sam Margerum and Charles Johnson (Billy's son) clerked together for "Bill" Allen. Those tales, however, are reserved for private recital. Allen subsequently kept a livery stable on Market Street in the rear of the Mercer Trust Company's new site.
Not long ago the Sunday Times-Advertiser printed an entertaining story of how Samuel W. Margerum when clerking as a young fellow for Chris Wentz, buried the store wheelbarrow in a well because he was summoned too often after hours at night to trundle a bag of flour or a bushel of potatoes to some customer's home. Tom Hickey, his partner, has another story to match the one just referred to. The incident did not occur in the Third Ward, but just over the line in the Fourth; however, it is worth repeating.
"As a boy, I was with George Spracklen, the grocer, on Bridge Street for five years," said Tom, "And I served an active apprenticeship. George was a good business man, but he was too methodical to suit a boy's idea of doing things. There were five window bars to be put up every night with iron pins in them and to be taken down again in the morning. Then there were three doors with half windows, which were commonly in use in all stores, and I had heavy shutters to put on them, and I thought it was awful slow work turning the screws at night when I was in a hurry to get away. George would not permit me to put a hand to closing up till 9 o'clock struck. Then, likely as not, shortly before closing time, some woman would come in with a big order which had to be taken to her home in a wheelbarrow, and that put me back another half hour. Well, one day, when I was sick looking at the wheelbarrow, a farmer turned up to carry a lot of waste away and I asked him if he wanted a good barrow. Of course, he did, so I helped him get it into his big hay wagon and we piled the waste over it. Mr. Spracklen looked high and low for the missing property and I told him he could search me. I never saw another wheelbarrow around and people who made late purchases after that had to wait for the wagon delivery next morning."
Here is a story Gershom M. Howell tells of an incident at his father's store during the pastorate of the Rev. O. J. Walker, one of the most popular preachers ever stationed at the First Baptist Church:
Mr. Walker had been visiting some of the poor of his congregation one winter day and such was his charitable nature that soon he was left without a penny of money. He stopped in to chat with Grocer Howell, who was one of his flock. While there, Henry Lee, the 250 pound blacksmith, who was another parishioner, lumbered in. Mr. Lee had an eye for good eatables always, and he became interested in a big hog just bought from a farmer.
"Do you like pork Dominie?" he asked.
Mr. Walker confessed to a weakness for that appetizing winter food.
"Well, Jim," said the blacksmith, with that large cozy way of his to Mr. Howell, "Just cut off a hind quarter and send it around to the Dominie. Put it on my bill."
Mr. Howell had previously been remonstrating with Mr. Walker for emptying his pockets so completely in charity, but now the clergyman, highly elated, exclaimed: "Cast they bread upon the waters for thou shalt find it after many days - I didn't have to wait even one day"
These stories impede the progress of our narrative somewhat, and yet people who have been following the course of the Mill Hill reminiscences for some weeks past, appear to derive so much pleasure out of anecdotes from the old-time life that I am loath to omit them. We will have to return to the grocers and butchers next week to finish this chapter. Any of the veteran Mill Hillites is invited to contribute to this symposium of personal recollections.
No. 10 - Prize Beeves Butchered to Make a Mill Hill Holiday -More About Old Third Ward Grocers
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, August 19, 1917.
Old Mill Hillites like to talk of the time when they had their own market
and when they slaughtered their own beeves right on South Broad Street. The
young people of today may well feel somewhat incredulous over such doings,
but they are of record just the same. John Denny & Company were leading
butchers for a number of years after the Civil War and had an establishment
on Broad Street just above old St. John's Church. One of the famous incidents
that the older generation of Third Warders remember, is the public slaughter
of some magnificent steers on what was then a large vacant lot between "Curley"
Sampson's hotel and "Bob" Elliott's bottling establishment, almost
opposite Ferry Street. There is a row of brick houses there now. The following
advertisement in the local newspapers gives an idea of the importance attached
to the event:
"Messrs. Denny & Son, of 98 Broad Street, have just received fat and sleek from Ohio expressly for this market two of the most splendid cattle ever on a Trenton stall. Their weight is 5,500, young, tender and luscious. They will be slaughtered on Wednesday next at the Sampson hotel and on Saturday will grace the stalls of the enterprising butchers mentioned so that our gormandizing lawmakers as well as our citizens can feast on broils, boils or rosy roasts such as never before tickled their palates."
If it were a victorious General home from the European wars, he could scarcely be accorded a finer reception than was given to the splendid animals before they were slaughtered. They were paraded up and down Broad Street with the points of their horns covered by lemons and both horns and tails decorated with gay-colored ribbons. You may be sure that no Mill Hill boy of spirit was lacking from the crowd that packed Broad Street along the front of the slaughter yard on that bright winter afternoon. Those boys - those of them that survive - can tell you to this day just how the huge animals were tied, how the ponderous blows were struck that felled them to the ground and how the long keen-edged blades were driven home. But possibly the gentle reader of today is squeamish and will prefer to have further details omitted.
Archer's butchering establishment on Broad Street near Bridge was a landmark for years but after being turned out, the firm removed across the canal. They dealt chiefly in pork products as did Hugh C. Hill and S. S. Hill, who did a very large trade in the rear of their home on Centre Street below Bridge. The alley where they had their buildings and prepared immense quantities of sausage, came to be known as Hill's alley. They supplied many customers in market. The Rev. Judson S. Hill, who has for some years been president of a college in Tennessee, is a son of Hugh Hill. H. F. English and the Margerums, still in business, date back nearly two score years. John Poland, another well known butcher of the Third Ward forty years ago, was the father of William A. Poland, architect and the city schools business manager in our own day, and of several daughters who have been capable school teachers. One of them, Mrs. Elizabeth Yard, is principal of the Washington School. Mrs. H. F. English, mother of Assistant Prosecutor Charles H. English, is another daughter.
Are there many Trenton people who recall the public market on Market Street just east of Broad? Those who do must have some memories that go back over two score years. It was quite an institution in its day. Butchers had meat stands there, farmers brought in their trucks, and there was a full supply of fresh fish, clams and oysters in season. "Burt" Davis, the fisherman, is particularly well recalled. He was of the hustling type and he had a wife, Kate, who weighed 250 pounds and used snuff with the result that there was a dark ring around her nose all day long. She was a good saleswoman, however. The market was erected by John Whittaker and some others under ordinance of Common Council of March 13, 1854, and it is likely that Mr. Whittaker threw enough of this land on the south side, into Market Street to provide the necessary width. To this day the extra width between Broad and Jackson Streets is noticeable. It seems that the enterprise proved a serious one for an extension of time had to be given by the Common Council to October 4,1855, to complete the construction. Market was held Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Early in the 70's agitation for the removal of all street markets began, but while some citizens argued that they should be ordered down as an obstruction, the owners of the Market Street market (October, 1873,) contended that the city should pay them $2,500 for their property. It was said that the stock was held in some cases by widows. Finally, a settlement was effected with the owners and the market was sold at auction May 11, 1874, and soon after was removed.
I have been at some pains to find a picture of this old landmark but without success. If any of the Times-Advertiser's readers know of the existence of such a picture, the writer will be obliged for further information on the subject.
Last Sunday allusion was made to the extensive grocery business done by the Doltons on South Warren Street between Bridge and Fall streets. No doubt a number of active clerks graduated from that establishment to follow different lines of business. One of those clerks was William E. Williams who had been a roller in the old Cooper & Hewitt mills but owing to a strike, switched off to clerking. After staying with William Dolton for some time he went to the store of John V. Hutchinson also mentioned last Sunday, and later - in 1859 - he branched out for himself with $300 borrowed capital, starting at 214 Centre Street, now occupied by his son, M. C. Williams, the jeweler. In the early 70's he removed to the northeast corner of Centre and Federal Streets (the Jesse Davison property) where he had erected a commodious brick store and dwelling. Here he continued to prosper until failing health compelled him to retire in 1887, just forty years after his arrival in this country. He died the following year. State Parole Officer William J. McLaughlin and others conducted the grocery subsequently.
Mr. Williams became a familiar figure in Third Ward circles during the nearly thirty years that he was active in business. He was a Welshman by birth, a strong Republican in politics, and an upright, fair-dealing merchant. A quick temper got him into trouble sometimes but he was the first himself to regret his occasional outburst. Atonement was made more than once by a bag of flour sent to the home of somebody at whose expense he had indulged in an intemperate remark. One day the pastor of the Central M. E. Church called and after a few words of greeting, remarked to the busy grocer:
"Brother Williams, I don't see you at old Central as often as I would wish."
"I like you all right as a man," was the tart rejoinder, "but I don't like your preaching."
After the interview had closed, Mrs. Williams quietly suggested to her spouse that he had hurt the parson's feelings. The result was that a substantial check was sent to the church forthwith. The same preacher attended the plain-spoken grocer the day before his death and received this injunction:
"Don't make a long harangue at the grave. Too many people get cold and die and you do no good. Make it short"
A store specialty with Mr. Williams which may be remembered by old citizens was his line of hams and bacon cured in the old English method by drying process. It is said that he was the first to introduce this style in Trenton. The English families of East Trenton including the Coxons and other pioneer potters, came to hear of it and as a result Mr. Williams' wagon went three times a week to Millham and Wilbur to deliver meats and groceries. Of seven children born to the worthy Williams couple, the four youngest have died and the three oldest are living, M. C. Williams, Mrs. Jennie Leland and former City Assessor Lewis R. Williams.
The southwest corner of Market and Mercer Streets is the oldest grocer stand in continuous use on Mill Hill. There were earlier stores but they have disappeared or been converted to other purposes. Charles Dobbins began the sale of groceries in a small two-story frame house in 1858, having purchased the property from John Whittaker, the merchant prince of Mill Hill and large owner of real estate in the vicinity. It was on March 28, 1864, that Charles W. Pratt succeeded Dobbins. Pratt had come here from Massachusetts as a machinist to work for Bottom and Tiffany, being a nephew of the latter member of the firm. The first Mrs. Pratt, who had been a Miss Tantum, had a pronounced taste for business and it was she who conducted the grocery at first. Trade proved so good that after some years the present three-story brick building was decided on. Mrs. Pratt who was evidently the treasurer of the household, surprised her husband by exhibiting a bank book which justified the new venture.
An interesting circumstance was that while Matthew Lumley, the housemover of those days, slowly transferred the old frame structure diagonally across to the northeast corner, business went on as usual, and it so continued until the new building was ready for occupancy. The old house served subsequently as an annex to Trenton's first high school, but was torn down finally to make room for a school extension. A very flourishing business was carried on by the Pratts for a number of years, but for the last ten years of his life the husband was an invalid and his son John succeeded to the management.
Charles W. Pratt was a man of large ideas. He was not so much of a salesman, but he excelled as a buyer and a judge of trade conditions. One of his hobbies was a fast driving horse, and it was not uncommon for him - say, when eggs were very scarce - to hook up and drive far into the country, visiting many farmers and bringing back perhaps barrel filled with fresh eggs, which readily sold at fancy prices. He would at an opportune time fill his large cellars with potatoes at a low figure and command a large return when other grocer's stocks were run down. Mr. Pratt died about fifteen years ago, leaving a second wife and three children - John, William and Mrs. Richard S. Wilson.
Among the young men who clerked for the Pratts was William West, who later went to Philadelphia and became associated with the A. Colburn Company, a million dollar concern engaged in the wholesale tea, coffee and spice business. West achieved expertness as a tea taster, commanded a princely salary, and before his death became president of the company.
Two other clerks at the Pratt store were Henry R. Hawk and A. S. Pittenger, each of whom afterward went into business on his own account. Still another clerk was Thomas S. Sands, who is the present proprietor of the Pratt store at Market and Mercer Streets. Mr. Sands has been connected with the local grocery trade for over 50 years and probably is the city's oldest representative in that line in point of years of service. He is still bright and active and not ready to retire.
"I might do so, though," he remarked, smilingly, a few days ago in answer to an inquiry, "if I could collect all the money that is on my books."
Mr. Sands has seen the business undergo many changes. The chain system is of course a modern innovation. When he started there were few package goods compared with today. One of the few old time packages that has persisted through half a century is Kingsford's starch. Of course there was no automobile delivery til recent years and no opportunity to take orders by telephone. A pretty efficient delivery system was maintained by the use of one or more horses and orders were taken by the delivery clerk. Small parcels were carried in vessels and baskets by the housewife, but there was lots of wagon delivery, present-day stories to the contrary notwithstanding. Where now there is a bewildering variety of fancy biscuits, in former times the grocery handled little in that line outside of water crackers, wine crackers and ginger snaps. Instead of bags of all sizes, good were wrapped in straw paper sheets twisted into cone shape and carefully tied with twine.
There were so many other grocers on Mill Hill and its environs that even a mere mention of them would make a long list. Of course William Ossenberg, recently deceased, was prominent because of his activity in fire affairs and in the political and public life of the city generally. He started at Broad and Bridge Streets on his return from the Civil War and he must have done well since he was able to retire in about twenty years. The Roeblings had favored him by buying from him practically all of the feed for their large stables during most of the time. But "Bill" has been written up so often that it is not necessary here to dwell upon his busy corner. Isaac C. Gearheart was another of the old timers, having conducted a grocery store at Centre and Bridge Streets from the early 50's up to possibly thirty years ago. Joseph Y. Lanning, afterwards in the hardware business, and president of the Broad Street Bank, had a grocery at Bridge and Second Streets for nearly twenty years, George W. Lanning and Samuel W. Margerum being associated with him part of the time. Joseph Y. was originally a carpenter, employed on gun stocks in the old arms and ordinance works. Struble & Armstrong had the Lanning store later. It was an old stand but dropped out some years ago. M. A. Huff, at 340 South Broad Street, Gerret D. Parks, opposite the Court House, Patrick A. Nolan, at 166 South Broad, A. C. Barwis, at 402, and Joseph R. Woodruff, at Broad and Livingston Streets, are among other well-remembered names in the list of old Mill Hill grocers.
No. 11 - Juvenile Sports and Pastimes Graphically Portrayed by One of the "Old Boys" of Third Ward
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, August 26, 1917.
There has been such a scattering of old Third Warders to other sections as
almost to amount to a stampede. A few of the veteran residents, however, still
hold out. Howell Quigley, for so many years identified with the printing firm
of MacCrellish & Quigley, maintains his home on Jackson Street above Market,
in the same vicinity in which he has lived from boyhood. With commodious house
and ample, well kept grounds adjoining, he may well cherish a love for a spot
endeared by many memories. Nobody knows old Mill Hill more intimately than
Mr. Quigley, as the following lively tribute from his pen, in response to
my invitation, makes clear. The title of the paper is "The Youngsters
of the Mill Hill End of the Third Ward Years Agone, as Remembered by One of
I well remember the old Third Ward gang of boys - rooters, scrappers and fighters for Eagle No. 3 - how they struggled with the Good Will No. 5 crowds, and always, of course, came out victors. They fought like warriors on a long, fierce battle front. One of the chief weapons was "voice," as well as brawn - led on by "Jack" Bradley, Eddie Voorhees, Charley Pierson, "Joe" Bradley, Charles Farrell, "Bill" Read, "Az" Pierson and many subordinates.
The water ducks, of the then famous wire mill basin, met nightly on the banks of the canal during the swimming season, displaying many specialities and stunts in the way of water dare deviltry - diving from bridges 10 to 30 feet high, remaining under water for an alarming stay, championed by Joe Pierson, Jim Phillips, Charley Hauser, Bill Haws; and John Beatty, prominent for his long dive across the canal, "a big feat."
Then there was the football and shinny bunch, on the Mercer Street hill, working strenuously amid a babble of noise for the goal; no fault found if shins were occasionally "shinneyed." Among the stars would be John and George Cotton, "Dolph" Jay, Enoch Case, Sam Gaston, Charley Nutt, John Nutt and, towering over all, the 6-foot boy, Hamilton Jay, well remembered by many, who later in life became one of the backers and the mouthpiece for Simon Conover; a Third Warder, also who, after the war, became a carpetbagger, journeyed 'way down South, located in Florida, was graciously received and elected to the United States Senate. Senator Conover and "Ham" Jay (familiarly known to his intimates) later on made a visit to Trenton, and old friends lionized the duo, "Ham" boasting that they carried the keys of the Flowery State vaults in their pockets.
The Saturday morning crowd went on their weekly pilgrimage down the canal, for fishing in the meadow streams, and, if near Fourth of July, also to gather cat tails for use on the national day; long poles, many lines, much bait, bare feet, big lunch, early start, sometimes get a ride on a canal boat down to the lower lock, then off into the wilds of the meadow lands, cool springs, cheery breezes; strings of sunfish, catfish, perch, some frogs and eels. Oh, the fun - forget it. Let's go home, and away we start, just in time for supper. The prizes won on these trips generally were awarded to George Tantum, John Gaston, Mike Haws, "Mill" Laird, and the captains of the trip would be "Sam" Tantum and John Shields.
THE BOATING CREWS
At the foot of Jackson Street, where the iron bridge now is, was a lovely garden park, owned and operated by Andrew Quintin. Beautiful walks, terraced promenades, bubbling fountains containing gold fish, large shady trees, many weeping willows, silent nooks, meandering paths, gorgeous shrubbery - and all these beauties alongside of the mill pond, a body of water on whose surface the full moon would shed a silvery light and where enchantment was dominant and a surcease from the day's toil was to be found (a breathing place such as our city needs today in a dozen locations). Connected with this garden was an ice cream saloon, and along the water's edge a fleet of row boats for an afternoon's row up the creek, its winding course leading under the bridges at Montgomery and Stockton Streets, through the culvert, amid picturesque scenery, along the then beautiful grounds fronting on Greenwood Avenue, whose rear lawns ran down to the water's edge, where boat houses and summer rests were erected. The twisting stream was narrow and the shore was dotted with grass plots, and verdure. Oh, they were boat rides through fascinating country, and we boys were the enchanters as we pulled on the oars and took in the pleasure. Away 'round to East Trenton we would follow this waterway. Sometimes, far from our base, we would be assailed by a "Millham" clan, and danger would brew, and delays in getting home would cause some of the party to walk. Among the oarsmen who would stick to the "ship" and bring it back to the dock would be John Reid, "Howl" Quigley and "Lew" Hauser.
The skaters; multitudes, early as Thanksgiving and the holidays, a thousand strong, would congregate on the Assunpink mill pond; good, clean ice reaching from the Greene Street paper mill dam all the way to the canal; excited, enthusiastic performers, and there were some notable achievements in those days, while the great throng of onlookers applauded their champions. Among the best, and never excelled in this community, were "Bill" Bond, "Gus" Auten and "Bill" Lindsay.
The turn-cap-follow-me clique, on their run through the neighborhood, across the fences and yards, disturbing the sanctity of the Quaker Church lot, and even climbing onto the roof of the building, in and out of the barns, over the sheds, into cellars, anywhere, every where, and, oh, the dare of the leaders; none could flunk - no, not one "Come on" was the call - and away they go, Andrew Reid, Charley Nutt and "Joe" Appleton leading.
The milkman's wagon - "Daddy" Luken's - and his old bay mare and many cans of fresh country milk - called by this pet name, for all loved and did him reverence - the boys' friend. Jump in, take a ride, ring the bell, you can drive, and he never was short of a load. "Mill" Laird, Frank Pullen, "Wats" Hottel, always ready to get on the "water" wagon.
The Court House Hill - a night of fun When the snow was fine, and the air was cold, the Third Warders assembled. Oh, the higgledy-piggledy mass of sleds and runners of all shapes - the cheer, the good time - who can run to the water power bridge? If you ran into a telegraph pole, never mind, up and at it. Nine o'clock, getting late ten o'clock, hurry home. All the boys were there, and many girls, also.
The solemn school "Wanders" on their way to "Charley" Britton's headquarters, down the Market Street hill; or "up" to "Prof." Wooley's tuition department "down" Mercer Street way; some to the well-known Trenton Academy, where George S. Grosvenor and Mr. Wood taught us.
The straw rides, the parties the "calls," the singing school, the inspiring all-round good times, for we lived in a half-city, half-country atmosphere way "down" town, but "up" on Mill Hill.
The boys of this period, not only were fun-lovers - but a vein of sentiment and pride for the heroics of life was ever to be recognized. There is a small brick house on Market Street, the hill end of the ward, which the writer has passed, probably a thousand times, and a feeling of proud reverence rises in memory as I move slowly by the door. Why? Many years ago a semi-epidemic of smallpox was ravishing our city, and in this little home a man lay dying of this pestilential disease; he knew his end was near, and he expressed a desire for some spiritual consolation; but who would visit him under such conditions? There was at that time a pastor of one of our large churches - a pastor, indeed, "by their work ye shall know them." This man of God was a tall, dark-visaged personage, a hail fellow among the people, fearless; he was informed of the stricken man's request and of the seriousness of the surroundings, and the besetting dangers. There was no hesitancy; indeed, there were no qualifications - but with the warm blood of a sturdy man of God, he answered, "I will go and see him; this is my business; where a soul is in trouble, a mortal is ushering into eternity and desires my help, I belong;" and immediately he entered that doomed home, that abode where the blackest of all diseases was feasting upon the vitals of a brother. The consolation of religion was given; the man died. No after trouble came from the call. This pastor was acclaimed by the boys a hero, and his deeds did more for the cause of right than many sermons; and during his long interval of years we have ever remembered the name of a former leader of the First Baptist Church, the Rev. Henry Miller.
Then Saturday morning at the old market house on Market Street, between Broad and Jackson Streets. A busy hive - butchers, hucksters, one of whom was James Parent, an old Third Warder; the mothers with their market baskets, the boys to carry the loads; the usual market day gossip; the regular fun for the youngsters. The old building was also used as a drill shed during the war.
The crowning collection of the boys, 2 a. m., 3 a. m., on Fourth July. Awake all night; who will be out first? The noise, the patriotism, and the special duty of the "earlies" to get out the "laggards." How we would gather around Mercer, Market and Jackson Streets, a center for all the goings on in that area. Among other names not mentioned we remember "Joe" Case, "Ed" White, "Same" Gaston, "Johnnie" Hauser, "Alex" Reid, "Lew" Slover, "Al" Slover, Charles Beatty, Charles Pullen, "Dick" Brown, "Hill" Dobbins, "Al" Brown, "Jim" Snyder, "Ed" Southwick, Frank Snyder, "Johnnie" Jay, George and Charles Mitchell and "Pete" Provost.
The boys and the Old Jail furnished an episode in our lives. The Market Street school lads were quite in touch with the interned fellows in the old Mercer County Court House bride well. The grate windows of the lounging room opened on Market Street at Cooper Street, and through the iron gratings a certain laxity of restraint existed, so the boys on the outside would pass in knick-knacks and horse hair and the boys on the inside would make up horse hair rings as their part of the bargains. They were a jolly set of fellows, as a rule, incarcerated for minor offenses.
One morning the news was startling A dastardly murder had been committed at Princeton. Soon a man was arrested at Kingston, and brought to our jail. This, of course, made our prison house a very important point of interest. The suspected man was lodged in an inner and most secure cell, about the centre of the row. After a long trial, the prisoner being defended by an imported attorney from New York, was convicted and sentenced to be hung. The date for the execution was fixed, and extra guards secured to watch the doomed convict; day and night he was never supposed to be out of sight of his guards. A ring of iron was inserted in the floor of the cell, a heavy chain encircled his ankle and was attached to the ring. The door of the cell was solid iron, not having an inner grated door as now in vogue. A bull's eye or peep hole in the door was the mode through which he was to be carefully watched. As time drew near for the execution, religious convictions appeared to overcome his former haughty and imperious demeanor, and he asked to see a minister of the gospel. The man of his choice was a large man, about his own size, the Rev. O. T. Walker of the First Baptist Church. The day for the visit was about fixed, when some misunderstanding occurred, and together with an aroused suspicion, the Sheriff decided on a thorough examination of the surroundings, when to the wonder and astonishment of all, the astounding discovery was made that the chain on the prisoner's leg had been filed loose, and he was free to move at will.
The only explanation forthcoming was "the rats gnawed it off" - and an ironical laugh followed the disclosure of his plot. The supposition exists until this day that a scheme was started, after the chain was severed, to lure the preacher into his cell, about the hour when least notice would be given - and under the guise of spiritual instructor, he would not be subject to close watching; then to craftily murder him, don his clothes and pass out as the caller.
"Sam" McFarlan, an old Trentonian, was one of the guards. He was a firm friend of the writer, a lad among the boys around the jail, looking for any stray news or excitement. Calling me to him he asked: "Would you like to see him?" Would I - would any boy miss such a chance? Sure, was the natural answer. "Sam" arranged the date - and the night before the execution was the time set. I was let in through the big iron gates into the corridor; the gates closed. Down through the dimly lighted walk he led me to a cell, and very quietly pointing to the peep hole in the door, he whispered, "look in there." Through this long vista of years I have never lost the vision - with my eye against the bull's-eye, I gazed into the cell where a doomed man awaited an early dawn which was to usher in his last day of life - and on which tomorrow, he was to be "hanged by the neck until dead." He was half reclining on the bed, in the rear of the cell, his face toward the door; alone, quiet, apparently deeply occupied with his own condition; but an outward expression of disdain and fearlessness of all before him. The lights were low, and shadows of somberness pervaded the atmosphere; I was looking at a man sentenced through the law, to death, for having performed the same deed to a fellow-man by other means, and under different circumstances; in one case, a justification under the law of man; the other case a condemnation under the same law. The present laws of our State, after these many years, show there was a doubt as to the then prevailing opinion.
My time was up. My friend escorted me to the door, the iron gates swung behind me. I was free. On the day following, the execution took place. The man's name was Lewis.
Some of the families mentioned here are entirely extinct; some have members yet living; others of the names will be remembered by a few who still reside in the neighborhood.
Of the boys themselves, some are mingling with the throngs of our city today - but,
Most of these boys of the long ago,
After battling in life's checkered bout,
Have been dropped by the stronger arm of time,
Taken the count - heard the call - you're out
No. 12 - Varied Recollections in Which Several Correspondents Lend a Helping Hand
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, September 2, 1917.
The article in last Sunday's Times-Advertiser by Howell Quigley, dealing
sympathetically with playful pranks and striking episodes in the life of Mill
Hill boys of fifty years ago, awoke stirring recollections in the mind of
many a Trentonian now combing gray locks. It may be interesting to say that
the Quigleys, the Pratts, the Shields's and Tantums, who all lived within
a stone's throw of one another on Market, Jackson and Mercer Streets, were
related by blood or marriage. Something has been said about the Pratts and
the Shields's. They were substantial but modest citizens, and the same thing
may be remarked of the Tantums and Quigleys. Major William H. Tantum was once
superintendent of the water works when it was a private corporation and he
was succeeded by John B. Quigley, father of Howell. Mr. Quigley, Sr., served
the corporation and subsequently the city for many years. The city never had
a more conscientious or faithful official. In fact he was so scrupulous that
he gave offense at times to some of his relatives when he ordered them to
discontinue sprinkling their sidewalks or lawns outside of hours fixed by
the water department. On another occasion he presented a bill to a neighbor
- a lady in one of the families above mentioned and she inquired:
"What does this mean? You know very well we have no hydrant."
"No, but you draw water from the hydrant you put in your tenant's yard next door." was the vigilant superintendent's answer.
"Well, I certainly will never pay the city for a few buckets of water drawn from that hydrant, since our regular supply comes from our own pump," said the aggrieved lady.
Superintendent Quigley coldly stated that in this event he would shut off the water in the tenant's yard. His fair relative was pretty well cornered by this time, but she said by way of final retort:
"Hereafter, when I want hydrant water, I am going into your yard, John Quigley, and then we'll see what you'll do about it."
It looks as if for once the exacting water chief was outwitted by a woman.
I have a pleasant letter from Thomas P. Kane, son of John Kane, who had the carpenter contract for the original St. John's Church built in the 40's. Mr. Kane, Jr., removed from South Trenton many years ago and entering the government service at Washington, rose step by step to his present position as assistant to the Comptroller in the United States Treasury department. Mr. Kane, as will be noticed from the following letter, has not forgotten his Trenton associations of long ago:
"Dear Mr. Cleary - I received a copy of the Trenton Sunday Times - Advertiser, which you kindly sent me, containing your article in regard to Trenton in former years.
"Many of the people and the scenes which you describe are very familiar to me, and the picture of the old church (St. John's) brings me back to boyhood days. That is a very good picture of Father Macklin at the time it was taken. Many a time he has taken me to ride in his buggy. He would look over the school fence at recess time and call one of the boys to go riding with him. He was very quizzical and asked so many questions that after a while I got tired of riding with him and used to keep out of his way. I remember one time when we were on the road to Princeton, in passing a milestone I told him that I had cut my initials on every milestone between Trenton and Princeton, and he gave me a scolding for doing it and told me that was vandalism and that I must not do anything like that.
"I remember very well Messrs. Wilson, Crawford, O'Neill and the others whom you mention, especially Caniwell, as he was our school teacher at that time. The article is very interesting and I enjoyed reading it."
Here is still another old Trentonian now in New York, from whom there comes an appreciative greeting:
"Dear Sir - The writer has just read with pleasure your No. 7 article in Old Mill Hill series. It brought my old boyhood days before me. The faces of Tom Crawford and Father Mackin are familiar, but more the one of Robert Wilson (a good one), from whom and his wife I bought peanuts, etc., at the corner of State and Greene Street for a good many years. I notice that James Wilson and two sisters are living: if you see them, please tell them I am the same good natured, happy disposition as in my younger days (now 72) and in this office at work every day.
"Not having seen your former articles, do not know if there was an account of my father (Isaac Dunn) having a sash and blind factory back in the forties at the foot of the hill alongside of the creek dam, which was burned down and he then built another factory on State Street near the State House over the raceway, where John L. Murphy afterwards lived. My father afterwards sold the factory to Furman & Kite, and went into the hardware business on State Street, where the Majestic restaurant is and built the first brownstone house on State Street and I think in Trenton. The writer is of the seventh generation of the Dunn family, born in New Jersey, my nephew (Clifford E. Dunn) is the eighth and his son (2 years old), is the ninth generation born in New Jersey (named Hugh Dunn 3rd) after his ancestor, Hugh Dunn, who settled in Piscataway, Middlesex County, N. J., in 1666, which makes our family one of the oldest in New Jersey.
"You may recollect the writer, as he does you, when a kid. Also your father. I was in the hardware business with my brother Alex, and was a member of Council 1871 to '73. I also belonged to the Trenton Hose Company. There are only six of us left among the group photograph in the Exempt headquarters.
"Excuse this long letter: your articles brought so many scenes to my mind, I could not help writing. I remain,
"Very truly yours,
"William C. Dunn."
Former Judge George W. Macpherson is a former Mill Hill boy, too. His father was Thomas J. Macpherson, of the firm of Macpherson & Maharg, lumber dealers on Broad Street, near the canal crossing. During the Civil War Mr. Macpherson was collector for internal revenue, and a very capable one. An old citizen tells me he can remember hearing persons say that they had laid their gold watches away for fear Mr. Macpherson would discover them and tax them, such personal property being taxable at that time. Judge Macpherson contributes some valuable recollections of the Third Ward, drawn from his early impressions.
"My father," he says, "moved with his family from Front Street to Mercer Street in the winter of 1864, the same house which my sister, Miss Ella A. Macpherson still occupies. Mercer Street at that time was not fully built up. The only house from the Creek to Market Street on the east side, was a row of four or five houses in one of which lived Joseph B. Yard. From this point up to the pair of frame houses still standing on the northeast corner of Mercer and Market was a woods, commonly known as Yard's Woods, and on part of which the first High School was erected. On the west side of Mercer Street, from Livingston Street to Market, was the Quaker Meeting grounds, and two pair of frame dwelling houses which are still there. On the northeast corner of Market and Mercer lived Alexander M. Johnson, former City Clerk. His two boys, Thomas K. and Montgomery were my playmates. I think Montgomery, who was an engineer, is now deceased. Thomas is the Deputy Commissioner of the State Banking and Insurance Department. On the corner diagonally opposite from Alex Johnson lived Charles W. Jay. He had three sons and several beautiful daughters. Hamilton and Randolph were much older than I was and were companions of my older brother. John Jay was about my age.
"Lewis Parker lived next to Jay's and with him was his nephew Ewing Mulford. Next to Parkers lived Peter Provost, railroad engineer. He had four boys, Peter, Robert, Fred and Harry, the latter being Deputy U. S. Marshall. Ezekiel Pullen had a cracker bakery on Market Street where in vacation time I sometimes worked. The men I remember I stood most in awe of were Major Tantum who lived on Mercer Street next door to Mr. Shields, the father of John Shields, who now keeps the gents' furnishing store, and John Quigley, father of Howell Quigley. The Quigleys, Pratts and Tantums were three forcible men in that neighborhood. Right opposite our house were two saloons, one kept by Jerry Hawkes, and the other by a man named Bohlinger. I think a Mr. Hauser kept the saloon prior to Bohlinger. I know Hausers owned the premises for members of that family still live in the premises which has been changed from a saloon.
"Professor A. C. Apgar of the State Schools faculty lived about half way up the block from us prior to building his house on East State Street, and a Mr. Stokes, father of Rudolph had a milk station right near it. Sheriff George Brearley lived on Market Street, my impression being that he built the house while he was Sheriff. Miss Mary C. Brearley, principal of the Skelton School, is his daughter and still resides in the old homestead at 403 Market Street."
Judge Macpherson having been asked as to his recollection of old Third Ward baseball clubs wrote:
"I belonged to so many baseball teams when I was young that my memory is somewhat hazy about them. We had a club which was called 'Quicksteps,' but the only real boys' club that I have distinct recollection of is the club which we called 'The Red Stockings.' My associates on the Liberty team which I recall most vividly are Frank Pitman, who since kept a grocery store for many years on Front Street; `Happy' John H. Britton, connected with the present Insulated Wire Rubber Co; Creighton Brown, son of the former rector of the Episcopal Church on Centre Street; Bob Farrell, and a boy by the name of West. I do not recall his first name. They kept a boarding house on the corner of Market and Broad."
Judge Macpherson's reference above to a Mr. A. M. Johnston recalls a favorite Democratic campaign orator of the '60's and '70's. Old Third Warders recall with pride the part he played in local politics and the eloquence with which he swayed popular assemblages. Former Judge Alfred Reed, who also was a resident of Market Street for some time, was another favorite on the hustings. Alexander M. Johnston was a lawyer by profession with a special genius for public life. He was city clerk of Trenton from 1866 to 1871 and he was clerk of the New Jersey Assembly three successive terms (1868-1870), which was an unusual tribute in those days. Leon Abbott was Speaker of the House during two of the terms and the sessions are memorable in legislative history. Mr. Johnston passed away in 1880, a comparatively young man.
No. 13 - Bright Galaxy of Wits and Writers Who Have Lived in Third Ward
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, September 9, 1917.
Mill Hill's claims to local fame are manifold. That fact has been pretty
well established by the preceding chapters in this series; the evidence will
be piled still higher in the few papers that follow.
"On Mill Hill," said the True American during the month of August, 1867, "we have philosophers, astronomers, mechanics, moral essayists, Democratic and Republican politicians who live so cozily and pleasantly together that they can and do meet two or three time a week at the National Hotel, kept by Colonel Dowling, and discuss a variety of questions of a very interesting and profitable character. It is said that some of the best specimens of wit and philosophy are brought out occasionally. We shall send a reporter to the next meeting."
That the American did not exaggerate the entertaining character of the discussions will be conceded when it is recalled that leaders in the verbal sallies were men of the type of Charles W. Jay and Franklin S. Mills. Both were residents of the ward, Jay for some years and Mills for the largest part of his life-time. This leads us to a consideration of Mill Hill as a literary centre.
Messrs. Mills and Jay were for a long number of years bright lights in Trenton journalism. "Charlie" Jay was the snappier, more aggressive writer, but "Frank" Mills had substantial qualities accompanied with a mellow humor that never left a sting. Mills took a higher place in public esteem as instanced by his elevation to the Mayoralty of the city (1859-61, and 1863-67), and his appointment to various other public offices first in the old borough of South Trenton, and, after annexation, in the larger city. He had been chief burgess of the borough in 1842 and 1843. He closed his public career as the first clerk of the Trenton District Court. Jay served one term as City Clerk (1849-50); and was a candidate for other offices at various times, but either because of his erratic character or owing to the personal antagonisms he had created by his merciless use of the editorial pen, he did not succeed in winning popular support. He kept the town laughing by the effrontery of his merry attacks upon prominent citizens, but he paid the usual penalty of reckless journal ism. He alienated influential friends and the general public never took their entertainer seriously. Many stories of Jay's slashing thrusts have been told. Once when a distinguished citizen, slightly afflicted with squinting eyes, was appointed to the county Judgeship, Jay's newspaper congratulated the public on the fact that at last we were to have a Judge "who could see both sides of a case at once."
In a purer spirit of fun, when one of the local banks held its annual election of directors, the caustic editor printed a highly eulogistic notice of the new officials, but with this postscript: "We just learned that they have refused to discount my note, so I take it all back."
Having published a stinging article about the pompous Col. Jacob R. Freese, a rival editor, and having been served notice of a suit for $10,000 damages, Jay made this rejoinder in his paper: "Our first inclination was to pay the Colonel's claim, but upon consulting our bank balance, find it would hardly stand the strain, so conclude to let the suit go on." As all his readers knew that "Charlie" was never more than about one good jump ahead of the Sheriff, this rejoinder was accepted as a delicious bit of drollery.
In his day Jay published many newspapers, most of them being short-lived campaign sheets. There was the Clay Banner in 1844, the Republican Privateer in 1852 and the Volunteer in 1865. The Union Daily Sentinel is the only one of the ventures with which Jay was connected, that I recall personally. It was a lively afternoon paper started in the late 60's. In the fall of 1871, however, Jay, in shattered health, removed to the West; he returned to Trenton for a time but eventually settled in Michigan and while there wrote and published a small volume, entitled "My New Home in Northern Michigan."
In it he tells how, at 10 years of age, he became a "bearer-off" in a Trenton brickyard at $4 a month, and how, in the course of time, he got work around a newspaper office where for thirty years he exercised a gift for writing. "I wrote as the humor happened to direct or necessity impelled, careless of what I said. Indifferent to public opinion, reckless of the effect upon my personal interests, I went in on the Irish injunction of wherever you see a head, hit it." He admits that this sort of journalism reacts in time on the writer, but took his medicine philosophically, repented at 50, and spent his remaining days in tilling the soil, and thus, Charlie Jay ended a checkered career on Dec. 9, 1884.
Jay, while a resident of Mill Hill, lived at the southeast corner of Market and Mercer Streets. Mills' home was on South Broad Street, the three-story brick house having since been razed to make room for the present Grand Theatre. The two journalists, while fighting each other through opposition newspapers, were personally on friendly terms. In fact, they were "boozin friends," and after the night's work was finished often lingered over the flowing bowl so long as a complaisant landlord would keep the lights burning, and then trudged somewhat painfully over to Mill Hill. Jay would see Mills home and continue to his own domicile on Market Street. One night they got separated, and Jay navigated down Broad Street alone. As he passed the Mills house, he noticed an empty wheelbarrow in front and joyously remarked:
"It's all right. Somebody else had brought Frank home safely."
Mayor Mills, however, fell from grace less frequently, and for at least a score of years was a staunch temperance advocate. He was a pleasing speaker and addressed many church meetings, Harvest Homes and similar gatherings. As mayor he was often in demand and was always able to fit the occasion with a graceful, informing address. Before leaving Jay entirely, let me quote a letter which this erratic writer sent to one of the dailies in the early 70's, in sharp reply to an unauthorized announcement that he was to address a temperance meeting in one of the local halls:
"I have about all I can do to keep watch over my own infirmities. There are about enough reformers in the field who preach temperance one week and get drunk the next."
I have very agreeable recollections of Mills. I had no personal acquaintance with Jay, but I came to know his "esteemed contemporary" very well in the journalistic field, and as Clerk of the City District Court. He was a benevolent man, with an especially kind feeling towards young reporters, and it was an evident pleasure to him to help me out with local items of interest. Charlie Levy, Charlie Briest and myself were the sole reporters on the three morning dailies at the time referred to, and some one of us called each afternoon at the court room where we were practically certain of at least one story to help brighten the local page. The reporters exchanged their news in those days; otherwise they couldn't have covered the field. Incidentally, Squire Mills frequently indulged in reminiscences of the older Trenton, which he knew so well, and he always found me an interested listener.
Squire Mills was the first reporter to sit in daily attendance upon the legislative sessions. He began that work in 1835, being then 21 years old. He was associated in the publication of several newspapers in his earlier years, the first being the Sheet Anchor, in 1843, but most of his long life was spent in the reportorial harness. It is interesting to note that although always a consistent Democrat, he faithfully served newspapers regardless of their political preferences. At the times of his appointment as District Court Clerk in 1877, he had a record of 35 years as a local reporter, twenty years on the True American, two terms of seven and four years on the Gazette, and the rest of the time on the old Emporium. He represented the Associated Press in Trenton for upwards of forty years.
Mayor Mills' wife was Catherine Redman, daughter of Jesse Redman, who, when he passed away in 1866, was Trenton's oldest inhabitant. He was 92 years of age, and up to the time of his death used often to tell how he had seen Washington passing through Trenton on his way to be inaugurated First President, and how, as a boy, he had viewed the passage of the French Army through the city after the close of the Revolutionary War. I am informed that Jesse's wife before the Civil War kept school in the rear of their house, afterwards occupied by Mayor Mills, and the children, when unruly, were turned over to Jesse for corporal punishment. The daughters of the late Robert S. Aitken, still living, were among the pupils.
Squire William S. Mills, surviving son of Mayor Mills, says that he recalls grandfather Jesse sitting on the front porch of their home (then a frame structure) every bright afternoon, taking the sun in his rocking chair and chatting of revolutionary events with passers-by who evinced an interest in the subject. One day the venerable gentleman was found dead in the rocker. Mayor Mills himself died in 1885 universally regretted by his fellow-citizens.
Turning from newspaper writers, we find that Mill Hill has been the home of more ambitious publicists too. It claims Dr. Charles C. Abbott, the famous archaeologist, and John O. Raum, author of the History of New Jersey and the History of Trenton. Dr. Abbott was born in a brick house that stood on Broad Street on the site of the present Turner Hall, his father being Timothy Abbott, a well-known local banker and long connected with the Cooper & Hewitt Company. The home was one of the handsomest on Mill Hill in its day and had the advantage of well-kept grounds about it. Dr. Abbott has a national reputation as an investigator and author in the department of natural history and archaeology. His discussion of the existence of prehistoric man in the Delaware River Valley, has given him special fame. Dr. Abbott's works include the "Stone Age of New Jersey," "Naturalist's Rambles About Home," "Travels in a Tree-Top" and a score of other titles. He is still working and writing at 74 years of age.
John O. Raum, the historian, was born in a small brick dwelling erected by his father in 1800 and still standing, though now altered into a store at 318 South Broad Street, just south of Market. He resided here from 1823 to 1862 and was active in Mill Hill matters, having served as president of the Eagle Fire Company for 16 years. He also took a special interest in Free Masonry and Odd Fellowship. He held the office of City Treasurer for a time. All in all, Mr. Raum was an estimable citizen and by his life and works reflected credit upon the ward wherein he was born and so long resided.
It is a somewhat curious circumstance that exactly opposite to the Raum home Mill Hill's only publisher did business for some years. This was Daniel Fenton, whose little establishment was at what is now 317 South Broad Street. On the site of the late Dr. Herman Schafer substituted for the small stone house, a brick dwelling and drug store about forty years ago and since his death it has been occupied by Fred A. Kemler, the tailor. Mr. Fenton's personal history is somewhat obscure. Dr. John Hall in his History of the First Presbyterian Church refers (page 202) to the "Christian Circulating Library established by the excellent Daniel Fenton in 1811," indicating our publisher's favorable repute. It is unfortunate that Dr. Hall did not give us fuller information about a man of whom he evidently had some knowledge. Raum's History" mentions the "stone house" as still standing in the early 70's.
Clayton L. Traver, the bookseller, has a number of publications bearing the imprint of the Mill Hill publisher. They are chiefly religious works, to which the serious-minded people of Fenton's day were addicted, and some of the titles follow:
A Guide to Prayer, by I. Watts, D. D., published by Daniel Fenton, Mill Hill, near Trenton. James J. Wilson, printer, 1811.
The World to Come, Same author, Mill Hill near Trenton.' Published by Daniel Fenton; Joseph Bakestraw, printer.
It seems from the foregoing that the actual printing was not done at Fenton's place, but he was the responsible publisher. Mr. Fenton's stay on Mill Hill as a publisher and bookseller would appear to have ended in 1811, unless he returned later, since subsequent publications in Mr. Traver's possession bear imprint from uptown localities. These localities include "nearly opposite the Post Office, Trenton," which was then located at State and Warren Streets (northwest corner). A circular on April 1,1816, of which Mr. Traver has a copy, speaks of the Fenton book and stationary store "next to the City Tavern, nearly opposite the Post Office," where were sold "books, stationary, ink and stand sands, law, medical, classical and miscellaneous and theological works." So far as I know, no representative of the Fenton family is now located in this section of the country. Only a few weeks ago, a lady came to Trenton from Washington, D. C. in an effort to run down some information relative to the publisher, having been retained to do so by certain descendants at the National Capital. We shall await the result of her inquiries with interest.
No. 14 - Best Known of the Older Taverns and Their Landlords
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, September 16, 1917.
Allusion was made last Sunday to Colonel Dowling's National Hotel as the
resort of Mill Hill wits, philosophers and politicians in the long ago. The
place is worthy of more than passing mention, and while we are at it we may
as well give up this entire chapter to the best known of the old Third Ward
drinking resorts and their landlords. It must be remembered that in days gone
by John Barleycorn stood in greater favor by far than today. Most of the sociability
of the time was characterized by more or less indulgence in alcoholic or malt
beverages. The inns and taverns were favorite evening resorts of well-to-do
and respectable citizens. Often an eating bar was attached and considerable
food, especially oysters and game in season, was consumed. Our fore fathers
were heavy eaters as well as generous drinkers. They sat around tables for
hours gossiping, playing cards or dominoes and occasionally indulging in song.
John A. Dowling, the plumber, recalls an invariable rule of his father's to
close the doors of his hotel at 11 p. m., but not infrequently a favored knot
of Mill Hill singers was permitted to remain in a side room to indulge in
their vocal talent. They were among the city's best, and John says that more
than once, lured by the sound of good music, he crept downstairs to listen,
but he was soon discovered and chased back to bed by his father. The party
primaries were usually held in the hotels of the city, which also tended to
give them standing.
The origin of the National Hotel is lost in the twilight of local history. The printed records carry it back only to 1830, when it was kept by Margaret Gordon, and there are references in the Nottingham Township Committee books to meetings held there. In noting the razing of the original hotel to make way for the new one erected by Robert Dowling, however, one of the local dailies of October 7, 1869, mentions that "the oldest inhabitant now sees the last vestiges of this revolutionary hotel going." After Margaret Gordon came John McGuire as "Mine Host," some of whose grandchildren today are George W. McGuire, chief of the State Milk Control Department, Dr. James J. McGuire, Timothy F. McGuire and J. Frank McGuire, all of this city. The firstnamed has obliged me with the following interesting particulars about his grandfather:
"John McGuire came from Innis Killen, Fermanagh County, Ireland, in the year 1815 and located in Trenton. He obtained a situation with Benjamin Fish, of the Camden and Amboy Railroad Company and held it for years, having charge of the storehouse located on Fair Street near the old Edwin Forrest wharf, on the Delaware River. Our family history tells us that he was driving along Broad Street one day (I do not know the year) and, seeing an auction being held of the property of the old National Hotel, he alighted from his wagon and bid on the place, which was knocked down to him, after which he went to his home and secured several bags of coin, the result of his many years' savings, went back and paid for his purchase. He operated this hotel until about '60 or '61. The hotel yards and stables were headquarters for farmers for miles around, and on 'market days' the place was a veritable beehive, merchants congregating there to purchase the produce from the farmers.
"His garden, of large dimensions, was his special delight, and the dahlias and peonies which he cultivated in great numbers were admired by many of the townspeople. He married Mary Handlin, who was born in a large brick house on the river below the Trenton Brewing Company's plant, and reared four children - James H., Felix, Catherine and Mary, all of whom married and raised families in Trenton.
Robert Dowling succeeded to the National Hotel soon after Mr. McGuire's death, and became a very popular landlord. As noted above, he rebuilt the house in 1869, removing the original building pictured herewith. I remember Col. Dowling very well, an alert wideawake man, rather under middle height, of trim figure, well dressed and of cordial manner. He kept a well conducted house and many a political bit of strategy had its inception under his roof. The leading Democratic orators spoke more than once from a platform raised during campaign times on the vacant ground just north of the hotel building. Before coming to the National, Col. Dowling was landlord of the old Jenny Lind Hotel at the southeast corner of Ferry and Warren Streets, long since displaced to make room for dwellings. The National was sold to the Knights of Labor about thirty years ago, when that organization was in a highly prosperous condition, and Col. Dowling retired from business, taking up his residence in the Sixth Ward, where he died in 1897. John A. and Andrew R. Dowling are his sons.
The Knights of Labor, after some years, parted with the property in question and it returned to hotel purposes. Samuel Levin enlarged it materially and it is now occupied jointly by him and John C. Geller.
The True American Inn stood nearly opposite to the old National but nearer to the Assunpink. Its last proprietor was Henry Katzenbach, father of Peter Katzenbach, so long identified with the Trenton House. As generally known, Frank S. Katzenbach, Sr., and Frederick S. Katzenbach are sons of Peter, while Frank S. Katzenbach, Jr., Hall and Edw. L. Katzenbach are of the same old Mill Hill stock. The True American Inn was destroyed by fire March 28, 1843.
Another hotel of the olden time was the Baron Steuben House, nearly opposite Livingston Street. It had a large swinging sign in front, carrying a life size likeness of the famous baron on horseback. 'Squire William S. Mills, who in his youth lived directly opposite Livingston Street, recalls a town pump on the sidewalk a few feet north of his home. It was probably the last surviving relic of the Baron Steuben House which had disappeared years before.
Coming farther down Broad Street there stood the Flag Tavern close to where the Lutheran Church is now a fixture, and on the corner of Broad and Market Streets, where the Mercer Trust Company is erecting a new home, the Mercer County Hotel proved a popular stopping place for many years. The former house was destroyed by fire. It was once kept by John McKonkey, doubtless one of the McKonkeys associated with Washington's Crossing history.
Allusion has been made in previous papers to the Eagle Hotel of Revolutionary fame and to Turner Hall's hotel history. Joseph B. Becker, who about Civil War times kept the house at Broad and Factory Streets, was sufficiently well liked to be elected to Common Council in 1869.
Another notable place for some years was the one kept by Joseph Schnetzer at the northwest corner of Livingston and Mercer Streets. It was well patronized during the 60's by all classes of citizens, but particularly the Germans. A feature was the bowling alley in the rear. This alley, after the saloon went out of business, was converted into a row of little dwellings. People crossing the Montgomery Street bridge over the Assunpink are apt to notice this row of houses and to wonder at their strange location off any regular city street. The explanation is the fact just mentioned.
The Jackson Hotel kept throughout my earlier years by Samuel Bowers, stood on Broad Street on the lot now occupied by the Sacred Heart rectory, but unlike the rectory, it was erected on the line of the sidewalk. A large circular sign swung in front bearing a picture of Andrew Jackson on horseback, and underneath the words, "By the Eternal" which was the favorite oath of the General. The inscription never ceased to shock the sensibilities of certain worshipers at the adjoining church. The Jackson House was not so much a hotel as a drinking resort. It was an old frame building with the barroom in front, entered from the street by means of two or three steps. The bar looked very much unlike the average bar of today with shining mirrors, mahogany fixtures, and an attractive display of wet goods. The floor was covered with white sand, there were large spit boxes that nobody could miss, and the ale and porter were drawn by means of old fashioned pumps over a plain fly-blown bar. The place was frequented by excellent people and regular callers were the English potters from Taylor and Davis' pottery nearby, the two proprietors also dropping in to enjoy the easy familiarity and noisy mirth which "Mine Host," Bowers never objected to. 'Alf-and-'alf was the favorite drink. Sam was a rough-and-ready sort of fellow and while good natured ordinarily, could act as his own "bouncer" when circumstances warranted. While Sam looked after the bar and the stable yards in the rear of the property, Mrs. Bowers provided a good wholesome table for the boarders and an occasional guest. One of the red-letter events in the history of the house occurred in January, 1868, when according to a local paper of the period about one hundred sat down to an evening meal at which the principal feature was Denny & Son's show beef. "They had splendid roasts of this beef; also little porkers roasted; chicken pie and indeed everything a man could desire. Mrs. Bowers astonished her friends by the grand and sumptuous arrangement."
With Bower's death some thirty years ago, the fame of the house passed and after the burning of old St. John's Church, the property was taken over by the congregation and the land was used in the erection of the new rectory.
One of the best known landlords on Mill Hill for a long term of years was James Sampson, commonly known as "Curly" Sampson. His place was at Broad Street and Hamilton Avenue and in his later years he did a wholesale liquor business, in addition to conducting a retail bar. He made a lot of money and invested most of it in house building in the immediate vicinity of the saloon. He was a typical Irishman in his love of outdoor sports and in his ready wit. A master of repartee his facetious comments were quoted from one end of town to the other. On Monday mornings, it was his habit to visit his long list of customers in the liquor trade to take orders and to collect accounts, and he never failed to find a line-up of "sitters" in each place whom, in accordance with immemorial custom, he had to invite to "take something." One Monday morning he noticed a familiar Fourth Ward character repeating. He was in the gang of free drinkers at Jim Kelly's saloon, Warren and Lafayette Streets, and to "Curley's" surprise, he was ahead of him when he drove down to the Fort Rawnsley. Then "Curley" whipped up his nag for a stop at the Marion Hotel, Warren and Mill Streets. The same chap was again on deck. After the round of drinks, "Curley" lost sight of him and having finished his business drove away to Jimmie Duffy's Ferry and Fair Streets, only to meet the same familiar figure panting among the regulars.
"Give that man a double drink, Jimmie," said Sampson, in his usual dry style; "for he can outrun the fastest horse in my stable."
Sampson kept a string of speedy animals and delighted in having them at Quintin's and other near-by tracks. He usually did his own driving. As the story goes he had very bad luck one season, so that finally a friend remarked somewhat cuttingly:
"Curley, your horses don't get you anywhere."
"O, I'm satisfied. They get me where I have a good view of the race," was the quick replay.
Sampson was also fond of sport with the gun. He competed with Miles Johnson and other wing shots of his day. Charlie Holt's place at the Jersey entrance to the Yardley (Pa.) bridge was a favorite meeting place. "Curley," while too shrewd to waste his money, was generous in its use for worthy causes. In the latter particular, he found a willing assistant in Mrs. Sampson, a handsome, large-hearted lady, who is well remembered for her generous support of every enterprise undertaken for the benefit of old St. John's Church. Their daughter, Cassie, married and has long been located at Long Branch. There were several sons - all well-known and popular - Frank, James and George, but all have passed away. George's death was pathetic. He had been at Seton Hall College with several of us young Third Warders, but changed to Notre Dame College in Indiana and was in his new Alma Mater but a few weeks in the fall of 1877 when he went hunting with several companions and was killed by the accidental discharge of his shotgun while climbing over a fence. And so today little remains in Trenton to remind the present generation of a family that cut considerable figure on Mill Hill in the 70's and 80's.
There were other popular houses in the Third Ward besides those mentioned, but our space is about exhausted for today, and we may only mention Haas' alehouse on Mercer Street, a favorite spot for quiet tipplers; Nicholas Zimmerman's on Ferry Street, where there was often a select gathering of choice spirits, and the three places kept by women, Sally Ann Thompson's on Centre below Broad; Mrs. M. C. Link's, on Broad below Ferry, and Mrs. Josephine Mueller's on Broad south of Livingston. These will all be remembered as landmarks of the period about which we have been chatting this morning.
No. 15 - City's First Sunday School and Free Day School Were Held in the Third Ward
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, September 23, 1917.
Today we shall devote most of our space to Mill Hill's prominence in certain
phases of religious and educational progress, but before entering on that
subject, the following reference to two interesting figures out of the past
Phila.Pa., Sept. 1st, 1917
Mr. Jno. J. Cleary
Dear Sir - As a native of Mill Hill district, I have read with great pleasure your splendid accounts of that part of Trenton of long ago. Memory has brought to me the vivid pictures of my boyhood days and a homesick twinge of sadness goes over me when I think of those bygone times. While you have mentioned the names of many of the oldtime citizens, there are a number of others I recall to mind. I will mention two whom I remember very distinctly.
The first was Benjamin F. Stokes, who was engaged in the milk business. Milkmen in those days served their customers from a kettle and became familiar figures by daily going into the homes. Milk bottles were unheard of then. Mr. Stokes located on Mercer Street in the 60's and did a large business running several wagons. He was very charitably inclined and many a poverty stricken family was aided by him and never knew their kind benefactor. Mr. Stokes was a staunch Democrat and often rode horseback in the parades. On one occasion he was prevented from parading by a balky horse and thus escaped being in the mob that murdered Stephen Tice, the railroad flagman, of whom you have spoken. He was a member of the old Eagle volunteer fire company and played the fife in their band. He also belonged to the military company called the Jersey Blues, under Captain Napton, and during a sham fight of the battle of Trenton he was wounded in the leg by a ramrod fired by some careless gunner.
Mr. and Mrs. Stokes were admirers of Father Macklin, and when the priest was buried Mrs. Stokes attended the services in old St. John's Church. In the panic that took place she was severely injured and her life was despaired of for a long time. Mr. Stokes died several years ago, aged 86, and left five children living, Rudolph of Trenton Junction, Mrs. E. H. Woolston of Philadelphia, and Anna, Samuel and Charles of Morrisville.
The other person I recall was Jerry Hawes, who kept a saloon on Mercer Street. Jerry was a good-natured man and always gave his best liquors to the sick in the neighborhood and refused any pay whatever. Jerry had one trouble at least and that was the mischievous boys. He seemed to be the victim of many of their pranks, and was often badly tormented. While I cannot vouch for it, a story was told me of how a gang of boys placed a railroad tie leaning on the front door of his saloon and knocked on the door. When he opened the door, Jerry was knocked down. The story ended by stating that it was not safe for boys to be seen around his place for a long time after. Mr. Hawes has one daughter, Mrs. Kate Lanning, who at last accounts was residing in the old home on Mercer Street.
Hoping I may have the pleasure of reading more of the history of Trenton from your able pen, I am
The foregoing is a valued addition to these Mill Hill stories and is one of the many contributions by voice and pen which reach the writer. Coming from a Philadelphian, it suggests how widely the old Mill Hillites are scattered and in connection with other letters received indicated that the interest in the old neighborhood reaches over many cities and states.
The pioneer spirit must have been strong on old Mill Hill, it gave the start to so many useful innovations for the upbuilding and betterment of the entire community north and south of the Assunpink. The first free school was erected on Centre Street, of which the present Charles Skelton School is the successor. Trenton's first High School, as everybody knows, was on Mercer Street (now the McKinley School). Few Trentonians know that the first regularly organized Sunday School in town, was held in the room over the market house on Market Street about 1815-1816. The Baptists, the Methodists, the Friends and the Presbyterians joined in this movement. Classes were held at 8 o'clock Sunday mornings (they were early Sunday risers in those days), and there were six teachers for the twenty-six scholars. Those interested in this Sunday School will find more about it in Dr. John Hall's History of the Presbyterian Church (pages 382-383, first edition). The first Catholic Church in South Jersey was erected in 1814 on the southeast corner of Market and Lamberton Streets to be succeeded some thirty years later by St. John's Church at Broad and Centre Streets. The first Lutheran Church in town stands on Broad below Livingston. The first Baptist Church of any importance erected in Trenton was at Centre and Bridge Streets, the site of the present edifice.
The first industrial establishment in the city was, of course, the famous Mahlon Stacy mill of the south bank of the Assunpink. It was because of this circumstance and of other industries following as time went on that the neighborhood got its name of Mill Hill. The pottery on Greenwood Avenue, known long as the Taylor and Davis pottery, was among the first plants of the clay industry in the city.
It was not without a struggle that the Centre Street School for the free education of all the children of this section was obtained. There had been schools previously for the very poor but they were supported by precarious funds and only the most indigent could attend. But through the splendid efforts of Dr. Charles Skelton, then a resident south of the creek, and a few other professional citizens, the Legislature in 1844 granted to Nottingham Township the privilege of raising $600 for the support of a general public school and $500 additional for the purchase of a building. The voters accepted the privilege in town meeting and the Township School Committee found themselves, owing to some monies which had been saved, in possession of something less than $2,000.
"Here was the first triumph of the friends of public education and this too after a desperate struggle of two years," says Charles Skelton in his "Early History of the Public Schools of Trenton."
A few details about the erection of this first school cannot fail to be interesting. The committee purchase a 100-foot-square lot on Centre Street for $160 and "Billy" Johnson, the Centre Street builder, erected a brick house, thirty by fifty feet, containing two stories and four classrooms with seats for 75 pupils in each room. The entire cost of lot and building footed up $2,400, which was in excess of the appropriation. A celebrated lawyer of the day added to the committee's embarrassment by declaring their proceedings illegal and that they were without power to mortgage the premises. But a town meeting was called and the necessary power was extended, despite loud protests of a few of those reactionaries who are present in every community.
"Much clamor was raised," says Dr. Skelton, against building a house so large and fine; a brick building two stories high and containing four rooms was evidence of a spirit of extravagance that was sure to ruin the country."
The friends of free schools were not deterred by criticism. Four teachers were employed with Joseph Roney as principal and the doors were thrown open September 1, 1844. To the discomfort of the "kickers," over 400 children presented themselves, half of whom had never attended a school. In order to keep the attendance down, somewhere near proper school capacity, the five-year-old rule was abrogated and only pupils of 7 years or older were admitted. The school started off as a great popular success. Mr. Roney was evidently a cultured gentleman well ahead of the prevalent ideas of his day, for he introduced music, led on the violin, and appropriate songs were regularly sung. To numerous critics he declared that music had a refining influence which should enter into the education of the young. One at this late day may appreciate the difficulties of the progressive school principal of seventy years ago in attempting to add anything beyond the three R's to the common school curriculum. I have no doubt that the courage and high ideals of men like Dr. Skelton went far in sustaining Principal Roney in his progressive policies. Dr. Skelton deserves well of the people of Trenton for his work in connection with the establishment of the free schools of Trenton. His name has appropriately been given to the Skelton School. He served as superintendent in Nottingham Township for a time, residing on Broad Street below Livingston about where Dr. Cornelius Shepherd afterwards made his home.
In Dr. Shepard, the local public school system had another warm and influential supporter. He served on the School Board, was superintendent of schools for a time and had a leading part in the erection of Trenton's first high school, being its first chairman of the building committee. The latter school was dedicated October 2, 1874. Dr. William H. Brace, first principal of the new High School, resided for some years on Broad Street just north of the Sacred Heart Academy.
Of the subsequent history of the Centre Street School after Prof. Roney's day - under Charles Sutterly and Thomas M. White - many interesting anecdotes might be told, but the former students of the school are so numerous that it would be almost indelicate for me to usurp a function which is properly theirs. Perhaps some of them may before long give us a series of recollections. Of course the original little building disappeared years ago in the reconstruction and enlargement to present proportions. I should like to have had a picture of the first four-room structure, but have not succeeded in locating one.
Of the older church congregations, not alluded to in previous papers, we may now briefly mention the First Baptist and St. Paul's Episcopal. St. Paul's was erected and opened about 1848, at the time of the influx of newcomers incident to the establishment of the old rolling mill. St. Paul's, built of brownstone and in Gothic style on Centre Street, north of Federal stands today substantially as originally erected excepted that the upper part of the spire has been removed. The interior, however, has been remodeled and makes an attractive appearance. Its present active rector, Rev. Horace T. Owen, is at present gathering material for a historical sketch of the parish, which will be awaited with interest. The seventieth anniversary will occur next year.
Although the origin of the First Baptist congregation carries one into the Sixth Ward, where Rev. Peter Wilson began preaching as early as 1787, first in Hannah Keen's home and afterwards in a small edifice on land donated by Col. Peter Hunt, the more conspicuous life of the church clusters around the corner of Centre and Bridge, whither the congregation removed in the first half of the last century. The first meeting house became too small in the 50's; a new lecture room was erected in 1858 and the following year it was resolved to build a new church, 100 by 60 feet, William Johnson undertaking the contract for $12,852.25. A spire 175 feet high was a striking feature over the edifice. Some years ago, lightening set the steeple afire, which did so much damage that the upper portion of it was removed entirely. The picture accompanying this article shows the old church previous to 1860, and makes an interesting souvenir. The building is almost hidden behind a line of Lombardy poplars which were very popular in the Third and Sixth Ward many years ago.
The First Baptist Church has been an important factor in the life of the Third Ward and its influence, like its membership, has extended far beyond ward lines. Its pastors have usually been men of forceful character and its lay officials represented the more progressive element of our citizenship. Rev. O. T. Walker and D. Henry Miller, for instance, left a lasting impress on the religious life of the city. Mr. Howell Quigley in a recent contribution to these reminiscences, paid a deserved tribute to the former. It was during his pastorate that the new church of 1860 was erected. Dr. Miller, his successor, was also an attractive preacher, and a good citizen. Revs. G. W. Lasher and Elijah Lucas are well remembered for zealous pastoral work. Among the elder deacons one comes across such names as Gershom Mott, James Howell, William Johnson, Daniel B. Coleman, William W. Mershon, George Parker, and others that were prominent also in civic affairs, while the list of trustees is equally suggestive of a wideawake congregation. E. I. Vannest, the late Henry U. Coleman, the present L. B. Risdon, Wm. A. Poland and C. W. Howell, have also been connected with the officeholding membership. Former Police Marshall Charles P. Brown as Bible Superintendent and Gershom M. Howell as clerk, are still in active service after a long term of years. Both joined the church in 1860.
The social side of this interesting congregation has always been well developed. The pastors have seen to it that the young people have had opportunities of coming together under agreeable auspices, seasonable church festivals being a feature to supplement religious functions. The music has always been of a character to interest worshipers too. The result, said an old member of the church the other day, has been that it seemed to me as a young man there was always something doing in the matrimonial line. Many happy homes date their foundation from acquaintances formed in the Sunday School or at some social affairs connected with the church.
Next Sunday two very interesting characters in the history of Mill Hill - Ann Douglass and Andrew Quintin - will engage attention.
No. 16 - Ann Douglass, Andrew Quintin and "Soapy Joe" Yard Were Interesting Figures in Life of the Section
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, September 30, 1917.
To sketch life on old Mill Hill without some allusion to Andrew Quintin
and Ann Douglass would almost be like attempting to put on the play of "Hamlet,"
omitting the title role. They both were interesting and conspicuous characters,
Mr. Quintin by reason of his personal activities and Miss Douglass largely
because of her family history.
Ann Douglass was a grandniece of Alexander Douglass, at whose house Washington and his Generals held their council of war the evening before the famous strategic retreat to Princeton a few days following the Battle of Trenton. Major William Douglass was a brother of Alexander and had a son, Joseph, who was Ann's father. Ann was born in 1804, and she was in occupancy of the historic Douglass House on South Broad Street, when the building and lot to the north of it were purchased by the Lutherans early in the 50's. The first Lutheran church was a small one, and the Douglass House was used as a rectory till 1876, when a larger church edifice being required, the house was sold and moved to a new site on Centre Street, where it now stands in a dilapidated condition. Touching Ann's stay in the old homestead just before the Lutheran's acquired it, I have an interesting statement from W. P. Rickey, Sr., now retired after many years spent as local freight agent for the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Company. Mr. Rickey says:
"When a boy about eight years of age, in the year of 1851, I lived with grandmother and aunt, who occupied the old Douglass House, adjoining what is now the site of the Lutheran Church. Ann Douglass occupied a room for herself. I recollect her as wearing short curls, quite loud in her speech, always talking of her father's return, and very eccentric. When she sold her house, if my memory serves me, she moved to a new frame house on Jackson near Market. I accompanied grandmother to see her quite often."
Mr. Rickey is another of the old Mill Hill boys who are now so widely scattered all over town. His father was Joseph Rickey, who was a bookkeeper for Upton & Miller, hardware dealers where Katzenbachs now carry on the same business. Joseph Rickey lived for a time on Market Street, and it was there that William was born in 1843.
As I never made the acquaintance of this historic old lady, it is a pleasure to be able to quote from men like Mr. Rickey and others who remember her quite well. One of my informants tells me that Ann was in the party of young women who served on a reception committee in Lafayette's honor on the occasion of the illustrious Frenchman's second visit to Trenton in 1824. She would have been 19 to 20 years old at the time.
Former Judge Alfred Reed resided with his mother in the frame house, 136 Jackson Street, where Ann lived for some years. He was only a youngster at the time, but he recalls her face and form distinctly, and the fact that she was a seamstress, sewing for a number of our best known families.
Robert M. Anderson, long a Trentonian, but for some years past assistant treasurer of Princeton Theological Seminary, also has vivid recollections of Ann Douglass. She was an intimate friend of his mother's, and she was a frequent caller at their house up to the time of his mother's death in 1877, after which he lost track of her to a great extent. Mr. Anderson tells this interesting incident:
"I well remember the house on Jackson Street, midway between Livingston and Market Streets, where she had a collection of rare old china and revolutionary relics. There was a bedstead with four tall posts and a feather bed on it so high that she had to mount a step to get into it. There was also the uniform of a Hessian soldier, including the helmet which I often played with as a child. Most interesting of all, however, was the sword of her granduncle, Lieutenant Douglass, in whose home the Council of War was held which led to the victory at Princeton. As far back as I can remember, I coveted that sword, and as a youngster I was not at all backward in giving expression to the hope that some day the weapon would be mine.
"The house she occupied was heavily mortgaged to the late Judge Edward W. Scudder, who continued to advance her money on it as long as he lived, until the loans far exceeded the value of the property. After the judge's death she was compelled to find shelter elsewhere, and she became an inmate of a Home maintained by St. Michael's P. E. Church for their old and dependent women members, remaining there till her death.
"What became of the old china, furniture and other relics I do not know. They would command a high price today. I was very happily surprised soon after Miss Douglass' death by the receipt of the revolutionary sword at the hands of some of the ladies who were interested in the maintenance of St. Michael's home. She had never forgotten me, and her dying wish was that the historic weapon should be given to me. I value it as the most precious thing of the kind that I own."
A very pretty story indeed, and it gives us a new light upon the character of this venerable lady whom people enjoying only a casual acquaintance with her have been too ready to dismiss as an odd sort. Miss Douglass lived to her 90th year, passing away December 17, 1893 at St. Michael's home and being interred in St. Michael's Church yard on North Warren Street. No one had been interred in this quiet old haven of the dead in many years and it required a special permit in order to lay Ann Douglass to rest there.
Andrew Quintin was a more familiar figure of 30 to 50 years ago. He is known to fame both as one of the early conductors on the railroad between Trenton and Philadelphia, having begun service in 1829, and as the founder and proprietor of the very delightful amusement resort known as Washington's Retreat. Mr. Quintin's grandfather, David Scott, was an officer in Washington's army and witnessed the Battle of Trenton, so that the story of that event left a lasting impression in the family and doubtless led Mr. Quintin's thoughts in the direction of establishing a public pleasure ground on the banks of the Assunpink. At all events he undertook this work more from sentiments of patriotism than a desire of profit, and in 1846 purchased the land south of the creek and east of Broad Street from Jesse Reman, Kerr Hamilton and others. Many relics of the struggle of 1776, such as bullets and cannon balls, were unearthed in grading and terracing the place. The park was appropriately called Washington Retreat, because nearby the Father of His Country began the night march by way of Sandtown road and Quaker Bridge to Princeton.
Listen to this inviting description from the True American in 1851:
"The grounds are spacious, laid out in walks and shaded with beautiful trees of various kinds. The pendant branches of the pensive willows fringe the banks of the creek the whole length of the Retreat. All up the terraced heights are trees and bushes and flowers of most agreeable variety. A fountain throws up its jet continually and shady bowers invite one to partake of refreshment within their enclosure. In the evening when it is aglow with lighted globes of red, white and blue among the foliage, it forms a scene of singular attractiveness and beauty."
Another newspaper article of the period refers to it as "a work created by private expense for the benefit of the public" and the statement is made that "were we to have a few more Quintin's and were the work of terracing to be carried from the bridge to the canal, the banks of the Assunpink would present us with a landscape as pleasing to the eye as it would be creditable to the taste of our citizens."
The Retreat had entrances on Broad, Jackson and Livingston Streets; there was a bowling alley, a rifle gallery, "hot, cold and shower baths," boats for pleasure parties, but no spirituous liquors. Many American historic pictures graced the interiors of the buildings. The tall tumblers used in serving soda water and lemonade were decorated with military emblems. The iron railing around the fountain where gold fish capered was specially cast with a design of crossed swords and guns about a Continental cap and knapsack. A section of this iron railing is preserved as part of the porch protection at the dwelling, Livingston and Mercer Streets. Everything about the garden was suggestive of patriotic thoughts. While boating was the pleasure of young folks all summer, the frozen Assunpink in winter time afforded splendid skating.
But while the Retreat was very popular, the expense of maintenance must have been too heavy for a town of Trenton's size 40 to 50 years ago. The old pleasure ground was gradually encroached upon for more profitable uses by the advance of business south of the creek and finally, on February 11, 1878, we find this item in the State Gazette:
"The old pleasure garden, Washington's Retreat, has been almost entirely covered with buildings. William Johnston proposes to erect five brick buildings at the foot of Jackson Street near the Assunpink."
But long before this date the place had been losing its vogue. It must have distressed Andrew Quintin greatly to see his beautiful hopes vanish. However, he kept on cheerily to the end, which came about 26 years ago. He had long resided on Livingston Street, but finally removed to Avon, where his death occurred. He had been retired by the Pennsylvania Railroad on a pension in 1881, and his old age was passed in comfort. He was a kindly gentleman of the old school and owing to his lengthy connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad, had a wide circle of acquaintances. Mr. Quintin was the father of two daughters who are well remembered for their talents and beauty, and one of whom still survives - Mrs. Rose E. Q. Dixon, of Wilmington, Del. The subject of our sketch had vainly attempted to have the name Washington Avenue, given to the thoroughfare embraced in what is now Broad Street.
Perhaps we have sufficient space left this morning to refer to another well-known individual or rather striking personality who lent picturesqueness to Mill Hill life forty to fifty years ago. This was none other than "Soapy Joe" Yard. If the gentle reader is disposed to turn away his olfactories and say "enough of him," allow me to say "Hold awhile; despite the sobriquet, we have here an unusual person who is well worth your study." His place of business was on South Broad Street where the present Mercer Trust Company has its home. The Yard soap-house, a low, rambling frame building, was not much to look at but the genius who ruled over it attracted to its interior a remarkable gathering of prominent citizens. During terms of the County Court, distinguished lawyers often dignified the place with their presence, and as for junior counsel, they flocked there in droves at the lunch hour to listen to the profound utterances of the proprietor. Sometimes they were highly amused and at other times they had to marvel at the wide range of Joe's knowledge, always aired with the utmost gravity. It still tickles Judge Reed's risibilities to recall how Joe patronizingly asked him one day what he was reading (in law) at the time and when he answered "Greenleaf on Evidence," the Mill hill wiseacre promptly gave his approval: "An excellent work, young man"
"Business men from the nearby stores also found the Soap-House oracle entertaining. There one was apt to find merchants and professional men gathered to discuss politics and the other news of the day, some standing and others lucky enough to get seats on greasy boxes, and as an estimable lady put it to the writer, "everything dirty with soap." The proprietor in his soapy working clothes was a recognized arbiter and when he broke into the discussion with this impressive "I tell you, gentlemen, etc.," there was absolute silence, till he had finished. I am told that Father Macklin of old St. John's Church found great entertainment in attending the frequent sessions of this mock court. The soap vats were near, and the odor at times was overpowering, but "Joe Yard's Club" as it came to be called, had charms which drew well despite all unfavorable circumstances.
But when business for the day was done and Joe cast aside his workaday clothes, he was a different person. I am indebted to Miss Amanda M. Hammell, a lady of excellent memory, with a fine sense of humor and a keen appreciation of Old Mill Hill, for this picture:
"Every evening Mr. Yard, dressed in his best suit, high hat and always carrying a cane, went up town, generally stopping at City Hall to again discuss the affairs of the day. He got back home between 10 and 11 o'clock, when he would take quite a heavy luncheon and then read until the small hours of the next morning."
To Miss Hammill I am obliged for the further information that Joe was the son of Jethro Yard, a surveyor, who married Ruth Potter of Deerfield, Mass. He died young, and Joseph, then a lad, went to New Orleans, going up and down the Mississippi on the river boats. He used to tell with great gusto of happenings "When I was on the Mississippi." Coming back to Trenton, he found his brother had started a small soap factory. He engaged to work for them, but in a short time he was at the head of the business, his soap house property at one time reaching from Broad Street through Cooper to Lamberton Street, where he resided. He was a bachelor.
This quaint and striking figure passed from life on May 13, 1872, and the testimonials of regret at the time were such as to make it clear that if his manners had been somewhat fantastic and bizarre, he at bottom had qualities of sterling merit. This is indicated by the presence at his funeral of some of the leading men of Trenton and among the women was his old neighbor, Ann Douglass. Dr. John Hall of the First Presbyterian Church conducted the service and spoke of the family's connection with the old church in former days. As a matter of fact the Yard family was among Trenton's early settlers and large land owners, north and south of the creek. The Yards were prominent officials in State and Church and although Joe was not strong on public religious practices he was proud of what his lineage had accomplished. Further confirmation that deceased was no ordinary man is found in the following eulogy from the True American on the day following his death:
"Mr. Joseph Yard
"This old citizen died yesterday after a long illness, aged 72 years. He has been associated with the history and business of this city for a long time. Early in his life, he took a Southern and Western trip, and was in New Orleans when only 18 years of age and from a humble beginning he fought his way to a financial competency. Settling in Trenton in business, he was successful. He was a well-read man, a staunch Democrat, and one who delivered his conclusions in a forcible and original manner. He was a great hater of shams of all descriptions, and an admirer of the Republic. Many have sat at his feet to hear his words of wisdom and though not convinced, have always been sensible of the honesty of the man. He spent hours every day in reading the affairs of the world and was wonderfully well versed in all matters pertaining to governments. Before his lengthened sickness, his memory was wonderfully clear and his welcome to those who went to see him out of friendship, always free and hearty. He was well known to our old citizens and also to the dwellers around for many miles on all sides. Careless of dress, regarding mind more than outward ornament, jealous of reputation, a warm friend and a bitter foe - such may in short be said to have been the leading characteristics of the deceased."
In conclusion it may be said that the designation of "Soapy Joe" - which the hearer never relished - was due not so much to the character of his business as to the need of distinguishing among some half dozen men of the same name about the same time. "Long Joe" Yard, "Short Joe," "Stumpy Joe," Gentleman Joe," "Howdy do Joe" and "Iron railing Joe."
Jethro Yard, a brother of Joe's and also in the soap business, was a peculiar character, too. He had a habit of walking uptown about noon every day in the week and after carefully comparing his watch with the town clock would return to Mill Hill. Rain or shine, he always carried an umbrella. He died May 1874, in his 66th year. Yet another member of the same family and decidedly eccentric in his habits was "Soapy Bill" Yard who gave himself an important air and tried without great success to imitate "Soapy Joe's" manners. He aspired to be a political wiseacre. I remember him often down at the heels but invariable topped with a high silk hat somewhat the worse for wear. "Bill" died in the 80's.
And the old soap house? It was the subject of a suit in 1874 in which the proprietors were charged with maintaining a nuisance. You see people were becoming a little fastidious over on Mill Hill. The primitive simplicity of life was vanishing. Robert Aitken, John G. Stout, Charles Leblein and other neighbors testified that the smell was so bad at times that they dare not open the windows of their homes. The trial concluded in a verdict against the continuance of the soap house which, according to testimony, had been maintained for 41 years.
No. 17 - Various Recollections, Including Lively Stories of Lewis R. Williams' Boyhood in Southern End of Third Ward
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, October 7, 1917.
Last Sunday's chapter of these reminiscences commanded unusual attention
and a number of ladies and gentlemen have communicated with the writer to
supplement the information about "Soapy Joe" Yard and Andrew Quintin.
I am reminded, for instance, that upon Joe's death, the soap house property
went to his brother Archibald. A second brother, Jethro, was mentioned last
Sunday. It was during Archibald's ownership that the making of soap was suppressed
as a nuisance. The three brothers lived with their aged mother and two sisters
on Lamberton Street. I am reminded by another reader of the story that after
the execution of Lewis, the notorious murderer, about the close of the Civil
War, his remains were placed in one of the steaming soap vats and the flesh
being thus removed, the skeleton was secured for the late Dr. R. R. Rogers,
Sr., who kept it for many years in a closet at his home. Archibald was the
only one of the three brothers who married. The late Dr. Pierson Yard was
Mention having been made of only two daughters in Andrew Quintin's household, word comes to me from a gentleman who often enjoyed the hospitality of this delightful home (still standing at Livingston and Mercer Streets) that there were five daughters, all of them beautiful girls, and one son. The youngest, Mrs. Dixon, of Wilmington, mentioned a week ago, is the only survivor.
"I hope you are not going to forget Cuckoo Hall, which stood next to Yard's soap house," writes another interested reader.
It is somewhat curious, indeed, that just about the time that "Joe Yard's Club" began to wane, a new resort next door to the north should start to win favor. John G. Stout opened a cigar store at the place referred to early in the 70's, and by reason of the Cuckoo clock which was a prominent decoration, it came to be known as "Cuckoo Hall." Mr. Stout set aside a room for the convenience of patrons who like to sit around, smoke and play checkers or dominoes, incidentally discussing politics of the day. There was one crowd in the afternoon and another gathered after supper. Some few were "repeaters." The patrons were usually retired citizens or active business men who snatched an hour or two away from their occupations. They comprised some of the most prominent ward politicians, mingled with elderly gentlemen who were simply killing time. John E. Thropp and John Exton often dropped in for a social chat and they had the reputation of being impressionable "jolliers." Both had a fancy for farming and each was particularly proud of his ducks. The one who could spin the biggest yarn on the subject was considered the victor of the day.
"Well, how are the ducks coming on?" Mr. Exton asked his venerable competitor one morning.
"Splendidly," said Mr. Thropp: "they have got so fat that now we have to feed them lying down."
"Mine beat that," was the rejoinder.
Having been asked how this could be, Mr. Exton replied: "Why, we have to keep ours away from the water. They have got so fat that when one strayed into the pond yesterday, he sank by his own weight and was drowned."
The cracker baker, amid laughter, was voted best man that day.
It is impracticable to give a full list of the "members" of the "Cuckoo Hall Club," but some of the most persistent habitues previous to 1890, according to one of themselves, were: Charles Allen, Edward Ashmore, Dr. Anderson, William Bond, Aaron Carlisle, Joseph Carter, Adam Exton, John Exton, James D. Field, Levi R. Furman, Julius J. Johnston, Manuel Kline, Emil E. Hammell, George W. Lanning, Edwin F. Lenox, John Margerum, Jesse R. Mills, Alexander Mitchell, John Birt, James H. Morris, Martin Moses, Colonel James H. Murphy, Charles Nutt, Charles W. Pratt, Robert G. Provost, Clem Richardson, Frank C. Robertson, James W. Rue, John Rulon, Charles W. Seeds, William H. Tantum, George Thompson and Edgar A. White.
Almost all the foregoing are dead. The suave, wide-awake proprietor also passed away some years ago. Mr. Stout, by the way, had learned the trade of snuff making in his youth and he opened the store at 199 South Broad Street to go into the snuff business, combining with it the sale of cigars and tobacco. Gradually the trade fell off, but the sale of smokers' articles grew more active. The premises are still occupied as a cigar store, but it is an entirely new generation that gives it patronage.
A highly entertaining communication has been addressed to the writer by former City Assessor Lewis R. Williams who tells many interesting things about youthful adventures in that section of the Third Ward which lies at the base of Mill Hill. Mr. Williams, whose father was one of the well-known grocers of years ago, writes as follows:
Being an old Third Ward boy (I say "boy," not withstanding the fact that the records in the office of the state Bureau of Vital Statistics show that just a few days prior to St. Valentine's Day, 1850, I made my debut in Nottingham Township or the Borough of South Trenton, which was formed in 50 or 51, I cannot say which). I have been very much interested in the articles published in the Times-Advertiser for several weeks past about old-time residents of Mill Hill, especially the one by my friend, Howell Quigley. Many, if not all of those he mentioned, I was personally acquainted with. I do not intend to let my friend Howell get by with the impression that Mill Hill proper contained all the acres or all the boys of the Third Ward.
In one of your articles reference was made to Adam Exton who came to this country with the writer's father about the year 1844. Soon after landing in our town, both secured board and lodging with a Mrs. Hurd who kept a boarding house on Fair Street, between Bridge and Ferry Streets, and both shortly after settled within a stone's throw of each other on Centre Street. I will never forget the Exton bakery as I knew it when a boy - a small unpretentious building standing back from the building line, with its grape arbor in front - the boys' club house on summer evenings, while in the winter we would take possession of the south side of the building where we could utilize the surplus heat from the bakery. Among the few that worked at the bakery at that time I recall Pete and James Dakin, Thomas Tootel and the witty Irish lad, Jimmy Down and the two McCormack brothers, one of whom some years ago was, I believe, the editor of a labor paper in our city, and last but not least, John Walser, who continued in the Extons' employ until recently when he was summoned to his last home.
During the Civil War, the new recruits, or rookies as now called, were always halted on their way to the arsenal for equipment and refreshed with lemonade, cake and crackers at the bakery. I am glad that in our serious times of war and grasping greed for the almighty dollar, some one has taken the time (and I believe on your part the pleasure) of publishing the articles about the old residents of God's acres, Mill Hill and South Trenton.
The present war in Europe recalls to my mind the battles waged in South Trenton some 55 or 60 years ago, and our government was never called upon to pension the wounded or the slain. I have reference to the stone battles between the Centre and Lamberton Street boys that were hardly settled, when the Second Street battalion would start something. Our fights continued, spasmodically, for several years until we got older, or perhaps the stone knocked a little sense into our heads. Among the participants in the battles and foremost in the ranks of the Second Street division were Charles G. Roebling, John Hargraeves and Peter Wilkes. The last two having gone to the great beyond, the former is still actively engaged in employing many thousands of our townsmen. The writer is ever reminded of him by the tattoo marks he inflicted on him while idling in the prison lot on Third Street, opposite the prison, at that time a beautiful grove where the shinny crop never failed us boys. In those days a police officer was unknown by that name. The city was protected by constables elected in each ward. In our ward we had two, George W. Brindley and George Regnault, who served alternately. We boys kept religious tabs as to which one was on duty and scorned with impunity the one who was not. The equipment of a constable consisted of a short ladder, candle and an almanac. Their chief duty was to light the few and far between street lamps, the ladder for ascension purposes after the brilliant rays of the candle had located the post. They were not supposed to light up on moonlight nights, so the almanac was a very necessary part of their outfit. It might be as dark as Hades but if the book said moon, there was no illumination.
Oftimes we boys would stray away from our own bailiwick, cross the dead line and get up town. I would not like to see the boys do now what we did then for I fear that Jamesburg, Rahway or electrocution would be their fate. About where the First M.E. Church is situated, a man names Philip Smith kept a bakery and confectionery store. His bakery wagon stood every evening in front of his place of business and we boys often would pull the wagon up the hill to State Street, hold or fasten up the shafts and Ford down the hill to Front Street. (I don't believe George La Barre or the traffic officers would allow it now). In my older and more mature years, I am inclined to think that automobiling must take second place to the pleasure we experienced in our horseless wagon, coasting down the Greene Street hill.
In one of your articles on the old residents of the ward, there is mentioned one that was an angel to us boys when we were short of pennies. I have reference to old Bobby Chambers as we called him who lived on Broad Street, just above Greenwood Avenue and bought rags, bones, old iron and maple seeds. We would make our sale at the front, and I am sorry to say that some of the boys not having the fear of God in their hearts, would shortly after refill their bags from the Conover's Alley entrance and resell at the front again. It was a sort of endless chain system, proving conclusively that frenzied finance is not a latter day growth.
My friend Howell in his article on Mill Hill might, I think, have strayed beyond the "Washington Retreat" and wandered past the old McCall paper mill, crossed the creek and included Capt. Martino's ice cream garden. where the boys and their best girls of South Trenton were wont to go to refresh themselves with ice cream, or hire a boat for a pleasure ride up the Assunpink Creek. It was near to the aristocratic settlement of Mill Hill but we boys of the rollers, puddlers and helpers in the old rolling mill in South Trenton enjoyed the Retreat as well as anybody else.
But I must stop for I feel that you are thinking "it not enough of a ramble, that is neither interesting, entertaining or instructive to any one who was not a boy in the village of Trenton in 1860."
For boys were boys when the world began:
In this age, don't let's try,
In their little heads - don't try to cram
The wisdom of an old guy.
They soon will give us cards and spades
And easily beat us out.
For soon we've got to wilt and fade
With the boys still in the bout.
So, in our old and declining days,
Let's say "God bless the boys"
We've had our day, just a few years' play,
Who'd begrudge their joys.
LEWIS R. WILLIAMS
No. 18 - A Bunch of Good Stories About Old Third Warders, Lay and Clerical
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, October 14, 1917.
"That story which Lew Williams told last Sunday about boys of the 50's
coasting down the Broad Street hill from State to Front in Philip Smith's
purloined baker wagon reminds me of another incident along the same line and
dating pretty nearly as far back," remarked a member of the city fire
The speaker with other boys of the 1870 (or thereabout) period, used to make their headquarters in the vicinity of the old Eagle engine house and they were ready for almost any kind of juvenile adventure.
"In those days" he continued, "there was only one Catholic Church for people of the Irish race in Trenton - old St. John's - and churchgoers came to it from distant points in the country. Many walked into town and others had horses to bring them. It was nothing unusual to see the neighborhood of old St. John's lined with rigs Sunday morning, the service beginning at 10:30 and ending about noon. We boys thought it a shame to see so many horses standing idle, so we would pick out the most likely-looking among them and once the organ began to play, giving us the assurance that high mass had begun, we would jump in the carriages and drive off. You may be sure we got the horses going at best speed as it was safe to go, making certain to be back before the Angelus bell rang at noon, because that meant the service was over, and the owners of the rigs would be coming out of church. I don't think we were ever suspected, although it must have puzzled the farmers to see how their horses sweated after standing (?) by the hour on a June day."
Talking of horses brings to mind Alfred W. Lawshe's interesting recollection concerning Thomas Crawford, the well-known blacksmith, about whom I printed a paragraph some weeks ago.
"Mr. Crawford deserved all you said about his skill as a horseshoer," was Mr. Lawshe's comment, "and I can supplement it with additional proof." He then went on to tell how Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the New York millionaire, was a great lover of fine horses and at one time kept "Rockingham," a famous trotter of fifty years ago, at Wheat Sheaf under care of William Doble, father of Budd Doble, both of them celebrated handlers of the ribbons. Nobody was allowed to shoe "Rockingham" but Mr. Crawford and the horse was regularly driven to his shop at Market and Lamberton Streets, Every week or two Commodore Vanderbilt came from New York City to see the trotter tried out on the Wheat Sheaf track and afterwards he would stop off at Trenton and visit Mr. Lawshe's father in the latter's office. Mr. Lawshe remembers the little group that usually helped to entertain the distinguished guest - Thomas J. Stryker, Samuel Stryker, Jacob Taylor, Furman Hendrickson, Elias Phillips, John R. Dill and General Lewis Perrine, all of them prominent local figures about the time of the Civil War.
Charlie Jay stories have apparently received a new lease of life since the sketch of the witty editor in these reminiscent articles a few weeks ago. I have heard a dozen or so within the past few weeks.
One stormy night when Charlie was making his way to his home on Mill Hill, he started across to the east side of Broad Street at Washington Retreat. In front of the Retreat was a tall lamp-post with red, white and blue lights flaming at the top. The storm had washed the gravel roadway possibly a foot and a half below the curb and loosened the foundations about the lamp post. Charlie trying to mount the sidewalk and meantime studying the patriotic colorings of the lamp, grasped the post which yielded and as he went down ingloriously, another wayfarer heard him exclaim: "United we stand; divided we fall"
Once Judge Alfred Reed and Dr. John Woolverton were invited to an evening party at Mayor Franklin S. Mills' home on South Broad Street. There was a considerable party and a suspicion prevailed that Mills was preparing to run for Mayor again. The host, according to Judge Reed, announced that a little later in the evening refreshments would be served in a rear room and he would lead the way at the proper moment. When the "proper moment" arrived, Mayor Mills was surprised to see Jay comfortably seated at table helping himself. Mills didn't hesitate to reproach him for his bad manners and the answer he got was:
"Frank, it is so seldom I get into polite society that I forget my manners. Pass me another service of that roast beef."
His delight was to vex Frank, who in turn tried to get even at every opportunity. Frank wrote a description one day of the imaginary finding of Jay's body and referring to his improvident habits, said the only money in his clothes was a big copper cent.
"The description was entirely accurate," was Charlie's answer in the next issue of his own paper, "but the writer forgot to add that it takes ten Mills to make one cent."
It was the same evening as the party mentioned above, I believe, that an anti-war Democrat ventured to try a joke on Charlie for his frequent shifting of his political principles.
"Charlie," he called across the table, "are you going to change your party hide this fall?"
"I haven't decided," the town wit drawled out, "but if I do, it will only show that others besides Copperheads can shed their skins."
I am indebted to Mrs. Ward, widow of the late Dr. John W. Ward, for an interesting old newspaper clipping. In the recent sketch of editor Jay, mention was made of how he complemented one of the local banks on its board of directors and then added a postscript taking it all back because of their refusal to discount his paper. Mrs. Ward's father, the late Caleb Sager, was president of the bank referred to and she happened to have in her scrap-book, the very item in question, which she has kindly loaned. Here it is in its original form from Jay's paper:
"The First National Bank of this city has reelected the old Board of Directors for the ensuing year. Caleb Sager, Esq., was unanimously reelected president, and A. Thorn, Jr., cashier. Mr. Sager is an old citizen of Ewing and widely known in this community, and has the public confidence to a flattering degree. Mr. Thorn is a new-comer among us, whose gentlemanly bearing and correct business deportment makes him singularly well adapted to the important position he holds in this institution. The `First National' has commenced business under highly favorable auspices, and it is bound to become a permanent and successful banking establishment.
"P. S. - Since writing the above, our little note for fifty dollars has been thrown out of that concern. We call for a committee of investigation to probe that rotten 'monopoly' oppressor of the virtuous poor. Let us have an air-line bank at once."
There are other humorous yarns afloat about the famous old free-lance editor, but this series of articles must end somewhere and it never would if many things worth while in their way were not omitted.
There, for instance, was "Curly" Sampson, to whom I did only partial justice a few Sundays ago, People keep telling me of the bright repartee which even years after his death, travels around tagged with the hotel man's name.
"Curly, this is a fine row of houses you have built," said a neighbor, referring to the three-story brick dwellings he had just erected north of his place of business.
"A lot of workmen in the wire mill built them," answered Curly, "but I happen to hold the deed."
It was characteristic of Sampson to be direct and even blunt of speech. A customer filled his glass to the brim with whiskey and passed over a dime. A nickel in change was given to him.
"How's this?" the surprised drinker said, "I thought whiskey cost 10 cents a glass."
"Not when you take it wholesale" was the quick retort.
A workman from the neighboring wire mill settled an old score one Saturday afternoon. He put a $20 bill on the bar and "Curly" was passing over $6 or $7 change. Then a second thought occurred to him.
"So you're paying most of your wages for rum and going to take that balance home to your family. Well, I guess not. They need it worse than I do. You take $15 to them and the rest will do me."
We will switch from the barroom to the church. I have told stories illustrating the late John B. Quigley's scrupulous administration of the city water department - how he stopped even his relatives from sprinkling the streets after hours and attempted to prevent waste in every possible way. There was a series of evangelical meetings in one of our churches and Mr. Quigley among others was moved to tears by the power and eloquence of the preacher. A witty lady who saw the tears trickle down the cheeks of this severe guardian of the public treasury, leaned over to a companion and whispered:
"I am going to report John Quigley for wasting water."
Another church anecdote, but of different flavor. William G. Howell, president of the Mercer Trust Company, recalls that when the First Baptist Church was rebuilding in 1860, Pastor O. T. Walker got along well till it came time to raise the tall spire. There was work to be done in connection with this job which required a larger gang of men than was available. Dr. Walker was at his wits' end to find hands but one day he came into the grocery store of Mr. Howell's father, who was one of his church officials, and in a jubilant tone announced:
"Do you know what has just happened, Jimmie? Father Macklin has promised me all the help I need and up goes the spire tomorrow."
No wonder that Father Macklin is so agreeably remembered not only by persons of his own faith but by all who knew him, irrespective of creed, He was what we would call today "a fine mixer." He mingled with all classes of the population and could adjust himself with ease to whatever society he found himself in. And Dr. Walker was much the same type - broadminded, well educated and of pleasant personality.
Evidence of the wide esteem in which Father Macklin used to be held was afforded by the character of the assemblage which attended the good man's funeral in the late winter of 1873. Persons of every faith mingled in the crowd, which packed St. John's Church and which, by the way, witnessed one of the worst panics that Trenton has ever known. Dr. Emily F. Hollinshead of Montgomery Place was one of the many, not members of the church, who were present. She has a particularly lively recollection of the sensational scene that occurred through mistaken apprehension that the church walls had caved in. Dr. Hollinshead, who was living at the West End opposite the State House, entered the church accompanied by Mrs. Sarah W. Hicks. Mrs. Hicks had sung in the church choir and being recognized by the ushers, the two ladies were escorted to seats close to the alter rail. Let Dr. Hollingshead tell the rest in her own vivid style:
"Suddenly, when the solemn ceremonies were about to begin and the immense congregation were craning their necks to observe, a crash was heard. Owing to the silence in the church, it sounded twice as loud as otherwise it would, and so great was the crowd that nobody could see well what had happened. Instantly the cry went up, `the galleries are falling,' and again, `the wall is giving way.' The scene that followed is impossible to describe. There was a mad rush for the exits. The doors were blocked with people tumbling over one another. From the gallery windows children were being dropped down and adults were jumping. Cries of distress went up on every hand. A curious thing happened to me, I had just undergone a great bereavement and it was almost with a sense of relief that I contemplated death. Mrs. Hicks, on the other hand, thought of her children and their names were instinctively on her lips.
"Inside the alter rail were scores of white surpliced priests and possibly a dozen altar boys. Many of the clergy were agitated, too, and all were quite as mystified as the rest of us over the general alarm. To one of the priests I appealed piteously, `What is the matter?' And I remember his answer: `They say that the church walls have given away.' I turned to another clergyman and, asking the same thing, his answer was `They say a mad bull has broken into the church.' In those days there were often droves of cattle on the street and occasionally one of them broke away and made trouble. The thought of being gored to death was frightful enough. Meantime the utmost noise and disorder prevailed. I remember glancing at Father Macklin in his black casket, for we were very close to him, and remarked the stillness of his figure, the deadly immobility of his face, his hand steadfastly clasped around the golden chalice on his breast. Only here was peace amid this tumultuous assemblage. Finally, one or two priests who had been crying from the altar for order succeeded in making themselves heard and the organ pealed forth soft music. It became evident that after all no serious mishap had occurred to the building and that the crowd was gradually forcing its way outdoors in comparative safety. We succeeded in getting out also. In the vestibule and on the sidewalk, however, there was more wild excitement. Ladies hats, shawls and furs and pieces of clothing of men and women were scattered in every direction. The fire department had arrived with clanging bells and wagons were drawn up in front of the church to carry off the injured. Friends and relatives, parents and children were separated and the worst things possible were feared. My sister, Mrs. James S. Aitken, who lived up the street was much concerned for me, knowing I had gone to the funeral. Gradually, however, the disorder subsided, people recovered their senses and those who had spread wild rumors were somewhat abashed to learn that the whole panic had no more serious cause than the breaking of a kneeling bench."
At least one woman died as the result of injuries sustained and a number of others suffered more or less seriously from falls and crushing of limbs in the crowd.
I have been asked when the old paper mill on Broad Street, opposite Factory, was taken down and the improvement of the Assunpink Block was commenced. This mill, known as the McCall mill, and the Lewis mill was the scene of a destructive fire on the afternoon of May 8, 1872, the whole department being in service and fully half the town turning out to witness the spectacular burning. It was a three-story stone structure. As a local paper of the time said, "The flames shot forth in savage grandeur, catching the window frames and roaring and blazing in the interior at a rate that the common remark was 'the paper mill is gone this time, sure.' The final razing of the building to make way for modern stores was begun February 28, 1874. Henry M. Lewis, one of the last proprietors of the mill, is remembered by old citizens as an enterprising, broad-gauge business man, who kept things humming for a number of years. His home was at 219 West State Street, in the stately white house now occupied by W. J. B. Stokes. Mr. Lewis had a pronounced taste for beautiful grounds and is said to have been the first to bring from the South the much-admired magnolia trees that now grace a number of West State Street lawns.
No. 19 - Well Remembered People and Industries of a Former Generation
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, October 21, 1917.
A group of old Third Ward citizens who stood near the Court House a day
or two ago, watching the progress of work on the Mercer Trust Company's new
building grew reminiscent through a reference to these weekly Mill Hill sketches.
"This neighborhood sure enough has changed mightily since I was a boy," remarked one of them; "the old merchants and old residents have disappeared entirely. Where that bank is going up was Mercer County Hotel and for years it did a lively business. The landlord in my boyhood days wore spectacles and we boys called him 'Four-eyed Scarborough.' because it was uncommon then to wear glasses except for reading. Next door above the hotel Albert and afterwards Wesley Whittaker had an office. Then there was Henry Guenther's bakery. The old Whittaker grocery store, which passed through various hands afterwards, was next above. In my day Garret D. Parks was the proprietor, specializing in coffee and mince meat. Simon Conover, who became a carpet-bag United States Senator from Florida after the Civil War, had a drug store a few doors above Whittaker's and then came William VanSant's cigar and tobacco place, with an Indian Pompey in front. I remember that VanSant's was a favorite resort with the men of the neighborhood who wanted to gossip of an evening and I stood outside many a winter night looking in at the lighted interior where cigar makers were busy and politicians stood around in easy poses. One of the men often seen there was Andrew K. Rowan, still alive but very old, whom in his younger days I regarded as the handsomest man in town. He was well built, of fine carriage and with an impressive profile in which many people used to find a remarkable likeness to the famous Bonaparte. In cold weather he wore a short semi-military, blue cloak instead of an overcoat, which no doubt heightened the resemblance."
"Of course you know," another of the group interrupted, "that William VanSant was the father of Irene VanSant, one of Mill Hill's war-time beauties, and whose subsequent life was shadowed by a well-remembered tragedy in the Centennial year."
Other members of the little party took up the thread of the gossip. They recalled, in the order given, the hospitable, roomy homes of long ago, Oliver Bond's, Robert Aitken's, the Lodors', Dr. Cornelius Shepherd's and those of other prominent citizens, and finally the old grocery stand at Broad and Livingston Streets which knew many different proprietors in its day.
"My youthful recollection of Broad Street," was the comment of one man, "is that of a beautifully shaded thoroughfare from end to end. There were so many trees, in fact, that at night, owing to their foliage, the little street lamps, fed by oil or gas, threw their beams only a short distance from the posts and outside of this radius, it was treacherous walking over irregular sidewalks. The trees added very much to the attractiveness of the highway. Take a look down Broad street today from Turner Hall and I don't think you can count six trees as far as Bridge Street - and those few are dying fast."
Stories followed about the time that Daniel Webster appeared in a case in the old Court House which filled up with people to hear the celebrated orator; about the old market on Market Street; about several private schools throughout the ward which left their 'mark' on the more or less studious youth of 50 years ago, and about a pump that stood on Broad street almost opposite Livingston Street and which indicated the site of the Baron Steuben Hotel, itself razed too long ago to be recalled by anybody in the party.
"Who remembers Mrs.. Mary Ann Parent's little store on the east side of Broad Street, just above Livingston?" asked one of the speakers smacking his lips; `that is where I first tasted ice cream and it certainly did taste good. She sold candy, notions and yeast. I used to go there for yeast for my mother and usually I had an extra penny for sweets."
According to the recollection of the veterans, James L. Dippolt, afterwards tolltaker at the lower Delaware bridge, kept a shoe-making shop at the corner of Livingston Street where O'Neill carries on similar business now, but by machinery instead of by hand; former Freight Agent Wm. P. Rickey's parents lived a little above and then came Timothy Abbott, one of our most distinguished citizens, and Peter Crozier, from whom the Germans bought the property converted by them later into Turner Hall. Nearer to the Assunpink were of course the paper mill, also a sash and blind factory, a match factory and a blacksmith shop, besides Washington Retreat.
Mention is made above of Oliver Bond. The Bond family is worthy of special treatment. Oliver and Joseph W. Bond were brothers and their sister Margaret became the first wife of Samuel K. Wilson. They were the children of Richard J. Bond, of whom I have the following interesting particulars from Isaac Weatherby, among the best-known of Trenton's venerable citizens:
"Richard J. Bond was the oldest manufacturer of my day on Mill Hill. He had made a famous reputation in manufacturing 'Bond Stripes' which were well known among the farmers in Bucks, Mercer and Burlington Counties, and the country around. The farmer boys usually bought two pairs, one for Sunday and one for week days. They were everlasting. The Bonds sold out to Samuel K. Wilson during the Civil War and cotton became so high that the manufacture of "Bond Stripes" was abandoned. Richard J. Bond was a great Methodist and entertained all the preachers who came to town - and that was no small job as their salaries were small in those days and appetites good, and they all loved chicken."
Oliver Bond, as stated above, lived on the east side of Broad Street. Joseph's home was the more southerly of the two brick dwellings which still stand next above the Lutheran Church. The more northerly of the pair was the home, in my early recollection, of the late James S. Aitkin, City Solicitor, who afterwards removed to the familiar Freese mansion on West State Street.
Next above the Aitken home in the 50's was the dwelling of Major William Paul, a prosperous wholesale produce dealer. The change in the appearance of the properties is most remarkable. Alterations were made a number of years ago, in order to convert the houses into stores and there is no longer any trace of the substantial beauty of their earlier days. Wide lawns alongside the houses with pretty hedges and a prospect of pleasant gardens in the rear gave the houses a very attractive setting. Joseph W. Bond was a big man with a ruddy face and of commanding appearance. With Oliver he followed in the business of his father and later conducted a plumbing store. The name "J. W. Bond and Son" still appears on many an iron lid of the water boxes along the curb line through the older sections of the city. Joseph W. played a leading role in public affairs on Mill Hill and was elected to Common Council in the 50's but was defeated in the 60's by William G. Howell, then so young a man that he was slightingly referred to by the Republican State Gazette as the "beardless candidate."
As an evidence of Mr. Bond's progressive spirit, probably the first improved roadmaking in this vicinity other than turnpikes, was a piece of street in front of his residence. In those days Broad Street was unpaved - dusty in dry weather - muddy in wet. Mr. Bond dug out about a foot of soil, placed large stones for a bed and finished the surface with small cracked stones, well rolled - making in effect a bit of macadam. He took great pride in it and kept it properly sprinkled.
Speaking of "Joe " Bond recalls the splendid Newfoundland dog he owned. The animal was known throughout South Trenton for his size and intelligence. On market days he accompanied his master, carrying the basket, and was a familiar sight to the market people. In winter Frank was often harnessed to a sled and lots of Mill Hill boys recall a ride drawn by their canine friend.
William A. Bond, a plumber of this city, Frank of Collingswood, N. J., and Edward of New York City, were sons of Joseph W. Bond. The two latter are still living. "Bill" Bond attained local celebrity in his youth by his feats as a skater. It was previous to the erection of the Assunpink block, when the creek was damned just east of Broad Street, backing up the water into a great expanse whole solidly frozen surface afforded rare sport through the long winters of those times. All of us past 50, I suppose, recall the enlivening spectacle. Even if we didn't skate ourselves, we were able to take up positions on the Broad Street bridge and admire the gyrations of hundreds of skilled skaters of both sexes, each endeavoring to excel the other in grace or daring. Among them all there was no more daring than "Bill" Bond, and when a girl had him for a partner, she felt privileged. One day a wide swath, measuring ten feet or more, had been cut down the centre by men filling the ice house on the north bank, and it wasn't long till young blood thrilled with the thought of jumping across the threatening water. But of all that looked longingly to the other side, only "Bill" Bond dared to make the leap. Spectators hearts were in their throats as he took a long start and sprang clear through the air on his sharp runners. Maybe there was a round of applause when he landed safely and went on skating in circles on the opposite side as if nothing happened
"Bill" Bond became a plumber, locating in Chambersburg after his father's death, and he passed away about six years since. His daughter is the wife of City Plumbing Inspector Frank H. Fitzgeorge, who is also of old Mill Hill stock, son of the late George Fitzgeorge, the newsdealer.
James S. Aitken, next door neighbor of the Bonds from 1858 to 1874, was a successful lawyer. At different periods he served as City Solicitor and also was in Common Council for two years, He had a talent for public life, but his later years were hampered by protracted invalidism. Surviving sons are Charles S. Aitkin, holding a responsible position in the Secretary of State's office; Howard Aitkin, secretary-treasurer of the trolley system at Schenectady, N. Y.; Elizey S. and Al King, also well known Trentonians.
Allusion has been made in earlier articles f this series to the McGuires, among the best-known families in the Third Ward for a long number of years. One of the sons of John McGuire - Felix - I placed among the supported of the Eagle Fire Company some weeks ago, whereupon a friend, who knew Felix better than I did, remarked jocosely when we met:
"If he were alive he'd box your ears for putting him among the Eagle boys. He was a staunch member of a rival company, the Good Will."
My apologies to the departed spirit of Felix
Another of the McGuire's was James H., one of the most active men in the public life of the city for a couple of decades or more. He was for a time marshal of the police force and in the 80's when I knew him best, he was City Health Inspector. In both offices he was a fearless public servant. He had a kindly feeling for the newspaper boys and more than once on dull days, he took me on an inspection of "the Swamp" where there was never any shortage of material for a news story. He lived for years in the Third Ward.
State Dairy Commissioner George W. McGuire is a son of the last named gentleman and I find that he has an excellent memory for old time incidents on Mill Hill, and a ready pen with which to describe them. His recollections have been of service to supplement my own on various occasions and I am now going to place myself still further in his debt with the following interesting memoranda that he supplies.
One of the most important Third Ward industries in the 60's and 70's was the pottery on what was then Taylor Street, operated by the firm of Speeler, Taylor & Bloor. Each of the members of this firm lived on Mercer Street, and the business carried on was considered very extensive at that time. I believe they were the pioneer potters of Trenton. Mr. Bloor left Trenton in the early 70's and I understood that he engaged in the pottery business in Ohio. Mr. Speeler left three sons, and many of the old residents will remember Henry and William, who were prominent socially in our city. His younger son, John, recently died. Mr. Taylor left several daughters but no sons. One of his daughters was the wife of Mr. Isaac Davis, who subsequently operated this pottery. The descendants of Mr. Taylor are well known Trenton families.
The machine works now operated by the Thropp Company on Lewis Street was established by Moses Golding, William Gillingham and Dionisius Hargraeves. The first two-names resided on Jackson Street and Mr. Hargraeves on Clay Street. This firm established the flint and spar business and the Golding family later built up a very extensive business in grinding flint and spar in this and other states. The descendants of this family have been very active in business in Trenton and other cities.
Matthew Lumley was a very important personage in the Third Ward in the sixties and later. He carried on the ice business at the foot of Clay Street in what was then a large building equipped with modern machinery for transferring ice in cakes from the Assunpink Creek to the building. He was also a mover of buildings, in which business he had a monopoly in this vicinity. He ran half a dozen ice wagons at one time.
Another important industry at that time was the iron working establishment operated by Timothy Field, located at what was then the foot of Taylor street, along the canal. My father was employed by Mr. Fields as foreman of the plant for many years. Railroad supplies such as spikes, frogs, chains, etc. were manufactured principally for the Camden and Amboy R. R. Company. Spikes used for fastening the rails to the ties were made by hand. They were originally about eight or ten inches long and forged on the anvil. On of the first machines operated in this country for making spikes was installed in this plant and revolutionized the art, one machine with one operator turning out as many spikes as a dozen men could do in the same length of time. When the war broke out Mr. Field received a contract for manufacturing rifles and my father (James H.) was appointed by the government as inspector of arms. He was later transferred to the sword factory of Emerson & Silvers, near Roebling's mill, and still later to Van Cleave & McKean's plant on Hamilton Avenue, and also to Bridesburg, Pa., and Springfield, Mass.
Timothy Field was not a Mill Hill man, having resided on Hanover Street, just east of Broad, but his son James, who as associated with his father, took up his residence at Mercer and Market Streets when he married sixty years ago, and till quite recently he continued to make his home in that vicinity. He is still alive and in fair health at 80-odd years and with many interesting memories of Mill Hill before the Civil War and later. There are two sons, Charles P. Field, chief engineer at the State House, and Timothy Field of Lamberton Street.
There lived on Mercer Street in the sixties a gentleman named John C. Lafaucherie, a fine old Frenchman, who left two sons and two daughters. His eldest son, named for his father, was an ardent Democrat and very active in Third Ward politics. He is now Mayor of Belleville, N. J. The other son, Rostein, is still a citizen of Trenton. One daughter married John W. Zencker, a sergeant of our police force, and the other is the wife of George Fraley. The descendants of Mr. Lafaucherie are all useful citizens of our city.
There were two frame houses on Mercer Street, built in the fifties and occupied by Major William Tantum and John Shields. Major Tantum served with distinction all through the Civil War. He left two sons and I think, two daughters. John Shields was a substantial, but modest, citizen and was highly esteemed in the neighborhood. The firm of Tantum & Shields, haberdashers, on Assunpink Block, was composed of the sons of these men. I believe there are none of the immediate family of Major Tantum in Trenton, but Mr. Shield's only son, John is in business on State Street and is a highly respected citizen.
The Whittaker family had much to do with the business and public affairs in the fifties and sixties. Albert J. occupied an office opposite the Court House for many years in the block of buildings in which his father kept a general store. During the financial stringency in '57 the employees of the rolling Mill, Wire Mill, VanCleaf & McClain's and other manufacturing establishments were paid in scrip, or order for household supplies. Many of these orders were traded at the Whittaker store and later redeemed by the manufacturers. Very little money changed hands that year. Albert wrote the wills of many old residents and gave them plenty of good advice relative to investing their savings, and I am sure that much of the success obtained by them could be traced to the counsel and help rendered by this modest-appearing gentleman.
No. 20 - Wherein the Curtain Falls Upon These Pictures from an Interesting Neighborhood's Past
Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, October 28, 1917.
"I wouldn't give a two-year-old bull for the best boy ever raised on
The man who said that a good many years ago, must have spoken purely in anger. Still it has been a byword from time out of mind, usually quoted as a pleasantry but nevertheless with a sting in it for old Mill Hillites. It was that remark which led me originally into the field of enquiry which has resulted in the present series of articles. A full year was occupied in an accumulation of matter and the expectation was that the subject would be threshed out in half a dozen issues of the Sunday Times-Advertiser. The writer's own recollections and personal researches, however, stirred the memories of other Third Warders and suggestions of a helpful character have come from many sources. It did not take long to demonstrate that old Mill Hill occupies a warm spot in the hearts of a multitude of people, scattered through the different wards of the city and not a few of them now living far away from Trenton. They are either former residents of the Third Ward or the descendent of men once prominent in its affairs. So abundantly has the material flowed in that the series has extended to a score of articles, and indeed it might be continued for weeks to come. Incident to the publication of many entertaining anecdotes and a revival of public knowledge with respect to prominent people of a by-gone day, the slur against the boys of Mill Hill uttered in a spirit of thoughtlessness or malicious humor, has been effectually disposed of. No other section, it has been clearly demonstrated, cuts a more important figure in the history of Trenton. It was the site of the first local settlement and has never ceased to contribute in full measure to the town's industrial activity, to the enrichment of its official life and last, but not least, to a harmless spirit of gaiety north and south of the Assunpink.
One part of the neighborhood south of the creek, about which little or nothing has been said, is the westerly side bounded on the north by Factory Street. An old friend, who will not permit me to use his name, has gone to the pains of drawing a map indicating some interesting points when he was a boy, which would be about the beginning of the Civil War. At that time Thorn's cracker bakery, long a landmark at the westerly corner of Factory and Cooper Streets, had not been erected. The lot was vacant. At the easterly corner of Lamberton and Factory Streets, Joseph H. Moore had a flax seed mill. Between the corners named James F. Starin, John Hargood and David Tartar were located. The familiar S. K. Wilson mills and storehouse had already been established. There were four residents on the east side of Lamberton Street, including William P. Mulford, and below them was a vacant space known as Megill's lot, where Mrs. Dan Rice held a circus once. That is a new one for most people; I never heard before of a circus in the Third Ward. Below Megill's lot came Caminade's alley, running from Lamberton to Cooper, called for Dominick Caminade, afterward proprietor of the well known hotel, northeast corner of Warren and Bridge Streets, and father of the numerous Caminade boys of a later day. South from Caminade's home at the corner of the alley on Lamberton Street were the following and in the same order: Charles Gants, Charles Douglas, William Aitkin, Mrs. Able, William D. Lanning, Peter Obert, Pharis Campbell, John L. Gordon, John W. Cassidy; vacant lot farmed by James Traver; Joseph Yard; lot farmed by "Boss" William Donnelly; Mr. Martin; and finally Crawford's blacksmith shop at Market Street.
Various other interesting things are shown on the map, including an unfenced hill running from the rear of the National Hotel back to Cooper Street, which was a playground for the kiddies of the 50's and 60's. There were only a few scattered houses on the westerly side of Cooper Street between Factory and Market Streets. St. John's School was about the only notable building on Cooper Street south of Market. At Market and Cooper, the public school stood as today, and above Market there was a private school.
William P. Mulford, mentioned above, was the father-in-law of the late Lewis Parker, and kept a small wood-turning mill, where Young America got its baseball bats. The first bats were flattened but later took the round form as today.
Considerable space was given last Sunday to early recollections of a few veterans with respect to Broad Street north of Market, South of Market this same street has witnessed many changes.
"Of those living on the block, (westerly side) from Market Street to Greenwood Avenue when I resided there," said Judge Erwin E. Marshall a short time since, "there remain only Monsignor Hogan and Capt. George Larison."
Judge Marshall's father kept a bakery near where Assemblyman William T. Exton afterwards had a similar business. The Marshalls removed elsewhere about thirty years back. Dr. Herman Schafer's pharmacy was one of the landmarks on this block. It is now a tailor shop owned by Fred A. Kemler.
On the opposite side of the same block, which was largely devoted to business, the changes are still more striking. The Ashmore and Taylor undertaking establishments were prominent. Dr. William Green's drug store, Barnet T. Slingerland's coal yard and Peter A. Spracklen's cigar store were also familiar objects. Page's wheelwright shop and Lee's blacksmith shop have been previously referred to. All these have been wiped out with a number of other places of business and many residences of well known people, most of them touched upon in previous issues. The Spracklen family, last to leave, are still in occupancy of the venerable homestead opposite the Sacred Heart Church, which was erected many years ago by the Slingerlands, Mrs. Spracklen's parents who were among Mill Hill's early settlers. Quartermaster E. C. Murray resided a couple of doors above the Slingerland home when his father came first to this city as superintendent of the old Vise and Tool works on Union Street.
The flat-iron corner at Broad and Centre Streets in the old days was the site of Hiram Lenox's hardware store and is interesting as the spot where Walter S. Lenox began his remarkable career as a ceramic artist. It was well along in the 70's when Walter turned his attention to pottery decoration.
"I had a little knack of drawing at school," he told me recently in answer to enquiries, "and I pretty nearly had it licked out of me. One of my teachers had a head like a poll parrot and a nose in absolute keeping, and I couldn't resist making caricatures of her on my slate. One day I was caught and got an awful walloping. However, I had developed a taste for the pottery business too. As I passed the open windows of the old Taylor pottery nearby, I used to smell the clay and it got into my nostrils and I grew to love it."
Walter's father permitted him to indulge his youthful fancy for pottery chemistry and decoration in the large empty room on the second floor of the hardware store. As I came and went to my room across the street, I saw him in his shirt sleeves absorbed in his chosen work many a time. His subsequent success, his rise step by step, is a matter of common knowledge. Mill Hill is certainly proud to claim as one of its sons the president of ''Lenox Incorporated," whose plant in East Trenton is world-famous and makes ware so admirable in form and decoration as to be a favorite on the White House table.
An entirely different sort of citizen, but one equally excellent in his way, was Jacob Blauth, the big, hearty Centre Street barber close by. "Jake" was a highly interesting character and his little one-chair shop for nearly two score years was a favorite resort of ward politicians and wiseacres. Some of those who frequented it were Sam Carlisle, Curly Sampson, Tom Boyd, John W. Brooke, Bob Elliott, William M. Jamieson, Henry Pennington, Phil Freudenmacher, Thomas Crawford, John McQuade, Ed Taylor, Peter Stracklin and others too numerous to mention. Jake was an easy and somewhat noisy talker. He ruled his little establishment with a rod of iron and sought no man's trade. He was a tonsorial artist of the old school and never believed in taking two stokes with the razor where one would do. The man with a tender skin might wince under this strong arm treatment, but it was dangerous to file a complaint. I knew of one man to do so and although he was only half-shaved, Jake ordered him off to some other shop where he could get better suited. This old-fashioned proprietor, who, by the way, never married, was not ill-tempered, however; he enjoyed a joke as well as anybody and he could stand joshing, but there must be no reflection on his art. It was not unusual for him, when a hot argument was on, to turn away from the chair and swinging his razor back and forth, by way of emphasis, to take a hand in the oratory for minutes at a time, entirely oblivious of the heavily-lathered customer awaiting attention.
Jake's popularity was attested on different occasions. He serviced his ward in Common Council and also was a member of the city Excise Board. He was kindly and good-natured and many a time he gave a helping hand to deserving persons. He and his brother Charlie, who was as quiet as his big brother was loquacious, are dead for some years.
Mill Hill, in years gone by, had a little Bowery all its own which should not be forgotten. It was variously known as Hardin's Hollow and Hardtown. The True American of March 29, 1868, said:
"Hardtown is a place where almost anything can be purchased. They have a fish market, fruit and vegetable stands, a place to trade horses, a segar store, a lager beer saloon and a hotel not far off."
This resort was located at the junction intersection of Broad and Second Streets and at times was rather a lively place, notably Saturday nights as the following bit of doggerel of long ago indicates:
"If you doubt the truth of what I say I wish to prove it any way; Go yourself and see the sight In Harding Hollow Saturday night."
Major Tantum was mentioned last Sunday with the comment that none of his family remained in Trenton. I am informed that Mrs. Edward B. Zerman of Delawareview Avenue is a daughter. Other children are Geo. Tantum, of Brooklyn, Mrs. Josephine Everett, who resides at present with Mrs. Zerman; Mrs. Emily West (whose late husband's success with the Colborn Mustard Co., Phila. has been mentioned) and Harris Tantum, of Pelham, N. Y.
Joseph Pierson, the well-known bricklayer, was brought up in the Third Ward. He said to me the other day:
"That picture you had of the old bowling alley along the Assunpink struck me all right. Why I set up pins there when I was a boy."
And so it has been with most of the incidents described in these reminiscent sketches. Everyone of them has awakened echoes in somebody's breast of happenings of interest long past and almost forgotten.
"Full many a dart at random sent
Finds mark the archer little meant."
It must have surprised many of my readers as it has surprised myself, to find Mill Hill so well represented in the official as well as business life of Trenton during a long term of years. Space will permit only a reference - and a brief one at that - to a few.
George W. Brearley, Benjamin F. Walton, Dr. Walter Madden and Harry A. Ashmore of the Third Ward have been sheriffs of the county. The first-named, who at various times was in the cracker and woolen business lived for perhaps thirty years on Market Street where his daughter, Miss Mary C. Brearly, Principal of the Charles Skelton School, still resides. Mr. Ashmore lived till a few years ago on Broad Street, and conducted an undertaking business there.
Thomas J. Macpherson and Alexander M. Johnston have been among our City Clerks. Their children are prominent in the life of Trenton today. Both resided in the vicinity of Market and Mercer Streets.
John O. Raum, John Margerum and William J. B. Stokes, all old Third Warders, have been city treasurer. The family of Mr. Margerum especially, including Mahlon and Samuel W., are well known. John Margerum in Common Council was known as the "watchdog of the treasury." He deserves more space than I can give him today.
In public school affairs, Third Warders have rendered conspicuous service. Dr. Skelton, Dr. Cornelius Shepherd, Abram R. Harris and Dr. Thomas H. MacKenzie have been superintendents and many others have been prominent in the School Board.
By the way there is a good story of how Dr. MacKenzie came to locate in Trenton and in the Third Ward.
"It was in 1871," said he, "that I graduated from the Harvard Medical School and came to Trenton to visit my brother on Second Street. I had saved money from school teaching to put me through college where, by the way, myself and three others clubbed together for room and board which cost us $2.50 a week each. How's that for high living I had intended to settle in Illinois but on reaching Trenton found myself strapped and there was nothing to do but open an office here which I did on Centre Street."
And so the Third Ward gained one of its best citizens. Nor has Dr. MacKenzie ever regretted settling in a town that has always shown warm appreciation of his professional talent and personality.
Franklin S. Mills and Dr. Madden have been in the list of Mayors.
Chief John J. Cleary, of the police force, has been almost a life-long Third Warder and those other Third ward names - Ossenberg, Freudenmacher and Boyd, stand out strong as heads of the old volunteer fire department.
City Commissioner Lee was long a resident of the Third Ward. So was Peter E. Hurley, superintendent of the local trolley line.
Henry C. Buchanan, former State Librarian, spent many years as a resident of Market Street.
The Thorn family, including E. M. Thorn, the bank cashier, were long residents of Jackson Street.
The late Richard P. Wilson, of South Broad Street, was for years a power in Republican politics of the city and county. His sons are today among Trenton's best known citizens.
It is not only of recent years that the Third Ward made good in landing a large share of political honors. Out of nine officials elected by Common Council in 1867, four were from the Third Ward - A. M. Johnson, city clerk; John O. Raum, city treasurer; James H. McGuire, city marshal; Dr. Cornelius Shepherd, city physician.
Bare mention may be made of a number of Third Warders of years ago who would each furnish a long paragraph.
Elias Duer, who kept a coal yard on South Broad Street; Michael Donnelly, the newsdealer; Samuel Brackett, of Fisher and Norris' plant; William Bailey, the railroad conductor; John Bucknum, long court crier at the Federal Court and sexton of the Second Presbyterian Church for 40 years; Reuben Pownall, the shoe manufacturer; Gaston and Bainbridge, one or the other of whom took everybody's photograph downtown in the old days; Charles H. Knowles, principal of the Second Street School long ago; Joshua Beatty, the toy man on Broad Street; Peter Baker, public-spirited Councilman; Peter Wilkes, who lost his life in the Civil War with several other Third Ward boys; William J. Crossley, prosecutor of the pleas; David M. Campbell, long janitor at the State House, and many others, some in the long ago and some of quite recent date.
Let me close with the following paragraph from the State Gazette of January, 1868, which reveals the importance of Mill Hill at that period:
"This street (South Broad) is one of the principal thoroughfares for entrance and exit from the city. There are, possibly with the exception of the junction of Warren and Greene Streets with State, more people from the country constantly coming in and passing out of the city by Broad Street than any other. Not only persons in vehicles and afoot, but great loads of pork, grain, potatoes and other kinds of produce may be seen daily passing to marts of exchange. The street is also one of the finest and straightest in the city."
The foregoing was a preliminary to advocacy of new and larger stores on Mill Hill. Just now the same section is in another state of transition. The Grand Theatre, the new Mercer Trust home and one or two other improvements are stimulating public thought towards still further building, and it is likely that within the next four or five years there will be a general reconstruction of the older stores that have been standing for so many years. With thorough reconstruction, the last of the old land marks will disappear and Mill Hill will enter on a new era of enterprise and prosperity, leaving only fading memories of the associations which crowned its early history. Even its familiar name doubtless will gradually be lost to public knowledge.
LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHS THAT ACCOMPANIED ARTICLES (WITH CAPTIONS)
No. 1 (June 17, 1917)
OLD-TIME GATEWAY FROM UPTOWN TO MILL HILL
This picture is a rare one. It is from John S. Neary's collection and represents conditions about 1860 or earlier, where the Assunpink Block is now located. The large building with smoke-stack in its rear was the old paper mill that had long stood on Broad Street opposite Factory and which was torn down beginning January 15, 1874. The buildings to the right are still standing, one being the saloon property at Broad and Factory Streets; the others, south of it, have since the photograph was taken, been modernized and elevated to three stories in height. The buildings to the extreme right also are still standing on Factory Street, but the lower floor has been converted into stores. The bridge itself was only about the width of the present roadway over the creek. In 1870 this bridge was replaced by one of full street width, and with iron railings. It in turn disappeared in the spurt of enterprise which led to the erection of the double row of stores comprising Assunpink Block, just previous to the Centennial year.
THE EAGLE HOTEL
Revolutionary Landmark That Is Still Standing at the Comer of Broad and Ferry Streets.
Driver of the Eagle Engine in the "Good Old Days" of the Volunteers.
No. 2 (June 24, 1917)
OLD WHITTAKER HOME AND STORES
One of the Third Ward's Most Important Citizens Before the Civil War.
No. 3 (July 1, 1917)
LEE'S BLACKSMITH SHOP AND PAGE'S WHEELWRIGHT SHOP
These Were Landmarks For Many Years at the Corner of Broad Street and Greenwood Avenue.
Pioneer Manufacturing Potter.
Founder of Chambersburg, Who Lived in the Third Ward.
No. 4 (July 8, 1917)
Who for Over Fifty Years Was Prominent in Business and Politics.
Contracting Carpenter, Who Put Up Many Large Buildings Here.
No. 5 (July 15, 1917)
Who Built the Lutheran Church, Temperance Hall and Other Prominent Old-Time Structures.
THE ORIGINAL MERCER COUNTY COURT HOUSE
Prominent Third Ward Builder With Many Fine Contracts to His Credit.
No. 6 (July 22, 1917)
JOHN E. THROPP
Third Ward Pioneer of Thropp, Mackenzie and Wilkes Company and Its Numerous Branches.
For Half a Century He Weaved Rag Carpet on South Broad Street
Who Lived All His Life in Third Ward and Did Much for City's Benefit.
No. 7 (July 29,1917)
OLD ST. JOHN'S CHURCH
(Building Adjoining it was the Residence of the Pastor, the Late Father Mackin.)
For Fifty Years Active in Civic and Church Relations.
REV. JOHN P. MACKIN
Beloved Pastor of Old St. John's Catholic Church.
Enthusiastic Irishman and Successful Broad Street Merchant.
No. 8 (August 5, 1917)
OLD TURNER HALL AND GAISER'S SALOON ON MILL HILL
Who Played Clarionet in Opera House Orchestra and Left Musically-Gifted Family.
CARL F. LEBTEIN
Long Lutheran Church Official and Teacher of the Parish School.
SOCIAL CARD PARTY IN OLD TURNER HALL
The man standing is Michael Gaiser, and the others include the late John G. Boss, Harry Metzler, Jacob Klemmer and two unknown to the writer.
No. 9 (August 12, 1917)
Once City Treasurer and Prominent in business on South Broad Street.
He and his sons have been in the limelight in the Third Ward.
Old?time Broad Street Merchant now enjoying life at 82 in California.
JOHN V. HUTCHINSON
In His Day he Conducted Most Prosperous Grocery on Lower Mill Hill.
No. 10 (August 19, 1917)
CHARLES W. PRATT
His Store Developed a Number of Clerks Into Grocers on Their Own Account.
Prominent as Soldier, Fireman and Politician, as Well as in Grocery Trade.
WILLIAM E. WILLIAMS
Grocer, Who Introduced Here English Method of Curing Hams and Bacon.
No. 11 (August 26, 1917)
A QUIET CORNER IN WASHINGTON RETREAT
The pleasure-ground on the south bank of the Assunpink, east of Broad Street, which was the pride of Mill Hill in the '60's.
REV. O. T. WALKER
First Baptist Pastor Against Whose Life Lewis, the Murderer, Had Plotted.
No. 12 (September 2, 1917)
MAP OF THE THIRD WARD ABOUT THE YEAR 1860
(Note names of old workshops long out of existence; Yard's soaphouse where Mercer Trust Company is now located; Mercer County Hotel at northeast corner of Broad and Market Streets; Quintin's Washington Retreat buildings north of Livingston Street, etc. This drawing has been reproduced by the City Engineer from old city map.)
ALEXANDER M. JOHNSTON
Favorite Campaign Orator and Prominent Politician who lived on Market Street.
No. 13 (September 9, 1917)
JOHN O. RAUM
Native of Mill Hill, who wrote "The History of Trenton."
FRANKLIN S. MILLS
Third Warder, who became Mayor, and was Prominent Journalist.
CHARLES W. JAY
This Witty Editor of Past Era resided on Market Street.
DR. CHARLES G. ABBOTT
Famous Archaelogist was born where old Turner Hall stands.
No. 14 (September 16, 1917)
ORIGINAL NATIONAL HOTEL
Revolutionary Building which stood on South Broad Street till late sixties.
JAMES "CURLEY" SAMPSON
What the well?known sporting man looked like in his younger years.
ODD LOCATION OF DWELLINGS
This little row of houses in rear of Livingston Street was formerly a bowling alley attached to Schnetzer's Third Ward saloon.
No. 15 (September 23, 1917)
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH BEFORE 1860
The older edifice and the new have been centers of religious and social activity of great importance in Third Ward history.
REV. D. HENRY MILLER
Popular Pastor of First Baptist Church from 1863 to 1867.
DR. CORNELIUS SHEPHERD
Conspicuous Among Mill Hill Residents and Leader in City's Educational Progress.
WILLIAM W. MERSHON
Pennsylvania Railroad Ticket Agent and Identified for many years with First Baptist Church.
No. 16 (September 30, 1917)
Patriotic Citizen Who Created Washington Retreat on South Bank of Assunpink, and Was Old P. R. R. Conductor.
Last Survivor of Family Associated With Famous Douglass House on South Broad Street.
"SOAPY JOE" YARD
Old-Time Third Ward Oracle, Whose Factory Was Rendezvous of Trenton's Most Prominent Citizens.
No. 17 (October 7, 1917)
LEWIS R. WILLIAMS
Who Writes Entertainingly Today of the Frolicsome Boys of Fifty to Sixty Years Ago.
JOHN G. STOUT
Snuff Maker and Tobacconist Who Kept "Cuckoo Hall," Once Popular Broad Street Resort.
No. 18 (October 14, 1917)
HENRY M. LEWIS
Proprietor of the Old Paper Mill, Long a Land Mark on Broad Street Which Was Torn Down in 1874.
No. 19 (October 21, 1917)
JOSEPH W. BOND
Prominent in Business and Public Life and Member of One of Old Mill Hill's Best-Known Families.
Still Alive and Active at Over 80, Long Identified With the Old Field Foundry -This Photograph Was Taken as a Man of Middle Age.
No. 20 (October 28, 1917)
Barber and Politician Who Shaved and Orated in His Centre Street Shop for Nearly 40 Years.
THOMAS J. MACPHERSON
Well-Known Mill Hill Business Man Who Was City Clerk from 1837 to 1842, When Trenton Was First Clothed With Full Municipal Powers.