|New York Tribune, 21 December 1901|
Not so in Hillsborough's sometimes colorful past. Take the 1901 case of Bophy vs. Vandermark. Mr. Vandermark, who lived up on the Sourland Mountain, had a long overdue grocery bill at the store kept by Mr. Bophy. Unable to extract payment, Bophy sought to impose a levy on Vandermark's household goods - an action that Vandermark attempted to evade by claiming that everything in his home was actually owned by his wife.
Bophy engaged 33-year-old Nelson Dungan, a former Somerset County prosecutor from Rocky Hill, to represent him in a lawsuit against Vandermark. Subpoenas were sent out by both sides to thirteen "mountaineers" prepared to give testimony as to who held legal title to Vandermark's worldly goods.
On the day of the trial, Friday, December 20, 1901, Justice George Corle - himself a grocer - rode up from Branchburg to oversee the proceedings, and Constable Dennis Wyckoff made the long carriage ride from Bridgewater to keep the peace in the courtroom. It's a good thing he brought two associates with him.
Hillsborough Town Hall was packed with hundreds of residents who apparently came out to see a good show. They got their money's worth. All thirteen of the witnesses came off the mountain dead drunk, and - according to a story which appeared the next day in the New York Daily Tribune - "proceeded to run the trial as they saw fit."
The first witness, Tom Johnson, was so drunk that he couldn't stay on his feet during the oath. When Constable Wyckoff attempted to help him up, Johnson started a fight - forcing the sixty-six-year-old Wyckoff to defend himself by striking Johnson a heavy blow to the head with the court Bible!
When Johnson was dragged from the room, a general melee ensued. Justice Corle, assisted by the three constables, was somehow able to regain control of the courtroom and determined to continue the trial, saying, "These mountaineers are as sober as they are ever likely to be".
Confused, incoherent testimony ensued, but it took the jury just ten minutes to return a verdict in favor of Mr. Bophy. The only possessions determined to be truly owned by Mrs. Vandermark were a bedroom set, and a lemon tree!