31 March 2021

The Enduring Mystery of Millstone's Secession

The Hillsborough Township Committee meeting minutes for June 7th and 8th, 1894, barely hint at it. Local newspapers published that spring are silent. The well-researched 1976 history "Portrait of a Village" gives the topic half a paragraph then throws in the towel - for good reason. There just doesn't seem to be any good information out there - either now or then.

The reasons for Millstone, New Jersey's secession from Hillsborough Township and incorporation as an independent boro on May 18, 1894, remain a mystery. 

It is often said that Hillsborough is a township of small villages. That was never a good description - Hillsborough was a township of farms, with a few small villages at major crossroads, and is now a township of residential developments with a few shopping centers along the highway. But in acknowledgement of that first description, it is important to say that among Hillsborough's villages Millstone stands apart.

Situated on the major north-south road between Bound Brook and Princeton at the intersection of the road that leads to New Brunswick, it is no wonder that Millstone was settled early and was the seat of Somerset County government during the Revolution. 

After the Delaware and Raritan Canal opened in the 1830s, East Millstone - across the river in Franklin Township - gained in prominence while its sister village declined. 

So what happened in 1894? After years of looking into this the only clue that I have turned up - and it's merely circumstantial evidence - is that exactly two months after Millstone Boro's incorporation, the brand new Central New Jersey Traction Company announced plans to extend a trolley line south from Finderne through the sleepy boro and on to Trenton. This project - and by the way it was never built - must have been in the works for months in 1893 and 1894, with inquiries about land purchases and surveyors out on Millstone River Road.

I wrote about the trolley line here. But this certainly isn't the end of the line for this mystery. 

29 March 2021

Foothill Acres Rehabilitation and Nursing Center (1954 - present)

Foothill Acres Nursing Home - early 1960s

Dr. Samuel H. Husted received his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1929. In July 1930, he opened his own practice on North Bridge Street in Somerville. He was just 30 years old.

15 July 1930 Home News

The Cumberland County, New Jersey native chose the right time to move north. In 1930, Dr. John E. Anderson of Neshanic was finishing up his 45th year as Somerset County's quintessential country doctor - and he was worn out. Beginning in the horse and buggy days of the mid-1880s, Dr. Anderson estimated that he regularly drove 30,000 miles a year over the unpaved country roads and byways of Hillsborough and the surrounding area caring for the sick and delivering babies - more than 2,000 of them. He didn't switch to an automobile until 1914.

The "Doctor's House", Neshanic

He put out the word that he was looking for a young doctor to join him with the idea that this partner would take over the practice upon his retirement. Dr. S.H. Husted fit the bill perfectly, and by January of the next year he had taken over much of Dr. Anderson's work. In fact, by May Dr. Anderson and his wife had moved out of their home on Main Road across from the Neshanic Dutch Reformed Church - and Dr. Husted and his wife moved in.

28 October 1954 Home News

Dr. Anderson continued seeing patients right up until his death in 1936 at the age of 74. For the next 17 years, Dr. Husted continued in much the same fashion as his predecessor - then he had an idea. 

What Hillsborough and Somerset County could really use was a new modern nursing home. Not a convalescent home repurposed from an old house with substandard facilities, but a brand new building with the latest state-of-the-art equipment to care for the elderly and infirm.

In 1953 he partnered with Somerville pharmacist Milton Kahn to build Foothill Acres on 8.5 acres on the Old Amwell Road (now designated as a continuation of East Mountain Road). The general contractor for the construction of the 76-bed facility was Walter Dietz. Jr.

When Foothill Acres opened in October 1954, the Home News hailed it as "New Jersey's first completely fire resistant nursing and convalescent home. Dr. Husted saw Foothill Acres as not just a building, but as the embodiment of his philosophy that "the ill, the aged, and the infirm should have the opportunity to live as full a life as possible." His 90-year-old mother moved in as one of the first residents.

It was important to Dr. Husted that Foothill Acres be as "homey" as possible. They provided comfortable common living rooms, outdoor patios, and liberal visiting policies to try to make the residents comfortable. You can see some of the amenities in the series of postcards from the early 1960s.

Foothill Acres underwent an expansion in 1958 and again in 1964 - two years after Dr. Husted's death. Amazingly, in 1962 - just a few months before Dr. Husted's passing - the Hillsborough Township Committee was desperately seeking another doctor to locate in Hillsborough as Dr. Husted was the only doctor servicing western Hillsborough.

For the next 45 years, Foothill Acres remained frozen in time. While upgrades occurred inside, there was no major construction at the facility until they broke ground on a completely new building in 2009. 

The new two-story building expanded capacity from 122 to 200 beds, and included many new features such as a subacute and rehabilitation are for people requiring a short-term stay, and an Alzheimer's wing. Director of Admissions Mary Ann Siebert told The Courier News, "We're established and we've had a great reputation over the years. That's something we're trying to maintain as we move into our new facility - that family, the homeyness, the great care." Dr. Husted couldn't have said it better himself.

28 March 2021

Farm Barn Stone Well House, Then and Now

Nearly all of the stone structures built at Duke Farms over a century ago - well houses, spring houses, summer houses, bridges, etc. - still exist today. They were a favorite of photographers in the early years of the last century and turn up frequently in published postcards.


Postcard circa 1912

The well house depicted in the bottom right of the three-scene postcard above is decidedly underrepresented in the historical record. In fact, this small image is the only early professional photograph I have been able to find of the structure located in the field to the east of the Farm Barn/Orientation Center.

Postcard Detail

It is similar in design to the Lovers' Tower located in the historic core of the James B. Duke estate shown in the top right of the three-scene postcard - just not elevated.

Privately printed postcard, 1908
(Collection of Gillette on Hillsborough)

The only other representation of this scene that I have been able to locate is a privately printed postcard photographed in an inadvertent double exposure by a shaky-handed tourist in 1908.

March 2021

Today, work is almost complete in repurposing the well house as a birding platform. This summer, perhaps?

March 2021

23 March 2021

His Visitor Was Dead...

Friends of Stephen P. Tallman began arriving at the foot of Liberty Street before 9 a.m. on the morning of June 25th, 1897. As they waited for the Central Railroad of New Jersey ferry that would take them across the Hudson to Jersey City, they spoke to each other about their friend's tragic passing. 

The Central Railroad of New Jersey Ferry Terminal, NYC
circa 1900

Tallman was an attorney working in the railroad business. He was also an inventor who held several patents around stock car improvements, and an entrepreneur who turned some of those inventions into businesses of their own.

Tallman's automatic brake - 
illustration from the September 28, 1883, Science Magazine

One of his first successful enterprises was the Tallman Automatic Car Brake Company which was incorporated in 1881 with a capital stock of $2 million. In later years he took his expertise to the Burton Stock Car Company. Lately, he had retired to Flagtown where he purchased a stock farm.

Illustration from the July 1897
Official Railway Equipment Guide

Tallman's friends must have been shocked when they picked up their daily newspaper on March 8, 1897. The Sun, The Telegram, The Herald - they all carried headlines such as the one below. On the morning of the previous day, Tallman was cleaning a double-barreled shotgun at his farm when some mishap caused the firearm to discharge directly into his hands. The newspapers reported that Tallman was known for his cool reserve - which he displayed by walking calmly to his bathroom and placing his arms in a bowl of water. 

8 March 1897 New York Evening Telegram

He called out for his farm manager James Painter. When Painter got to the house, he removed his hands from the water, held them out, and said, "Jimmy, please cut off these fingers for me." After Painter removed four of the most mangled fingers, he harnessed the fastest horse on the place and they drove the seven miles to Somerville over the rough country roads. 

Office of Dr. William J. Swinton, Main Street, Somerville,
circa 1891

By the time they reached Main Street the men and the wagon were covered in mud and blood - shocking the townsfolk who were on their way to church. They pulled up at the office of Dr. W. J. Swinton - an ear and eye specialist who Tallman was acquainted with when Swinton was a physician for the Jersey Central Railroad. Swinton did what he could with what he had to work with - it was reported that Tallman left the office that day in a cheerful mood, but missing half his fingers.

Tallman's New York friends were certainly relieved. And that would have been the end of the story if real estate broker William Tunis had not decided to pay Tallman a visit at his farm some week after the incident. As Tunis and his driver approached the Tallman farm, Tunis asked for the carriage to be stopped so he could look around. When he stepped down, he collapsed from a massive heart attack. The driver put him back in the carriage and drove with all speed up to the farmhouse. 

7 June 1897 New York Sun

Tallman had been sitting on the porch with Dr. Swinton. When they saw the agitated state of the driver, Swinton ran out to meet them and found that Tunis was dead. This was such a shock to Tallman that he immediately collapsed and died two weeks later.

Flagtown Station

The New York friends changed trains at Somerville and were met by carriages at the Flagtown Station to take them out to the farm for the funeral. Stephen P. Tallman was reported to be 61 years old.

19 March 2021

Belle Mead Farm Colony and Sanatorium - Carrier Clinic (1910 - present)

Two hundred years ago, at the base of the Sourland Mountain on the border of Hillsborough and Montgomery Townships where the East Mountain Road met the road to Blawenburg, there was a tiny hamlet by the name of Post Town - so named because this was a place to send and receive mail. By the 1850s the name of the little village had been changed to Plainville and soon boasted a store, two blacksmith's shops, schoolhouse, hotel, and several residences. Today they are all gone.


Advertising postcard for the Belle Mead Sanatorium

The demise of Plainville can be traced to two events. The first was the arrival of the Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad with their Van Aken (later Belle Mead) Station exactly one mile due east. The second was the arrival of Dr. John Joseph Kindred in 1910 with plans to build a sanatorium on the site.

1850 (top left), 1860 (top right),
and 1873 (bottom) maps of Plainville

Kindred was born in Virginia in 1864 and had been practicing medicine in New York since 1889. He became interested in mental illness - picking up a degree in the specialty from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland) in 1892. In 1896 he opened the River Crest Sanitarium in Astoria, Queens. Looking to expand into New Jersey, he was drawn to the scenic beauty and convenient transportation available near Belle Mead. In 1910 he purchased 211 acres - buildings and all - essentially the entire hamlet of Plainville.

15 April 1912 Trenton Evening Times

The Belle Mead Farm Colony and Sanatorium was incorporated in June 1910 with Kindred, his cousin James E. Gillette, and Ward Sampsell as principals. He installed Gillette as the superintendent - a position he had served in at River Crest - and they began with the first of the two missions laid out in their 1910 charter, "to deal in farm and dairy products, breed cattle, and conduct a general agricultural business."

John Joseph Kindred (1864 - 1937)

In 1912 they applied for a state license for the second mission, "to establish and maintain a colony for the care and treatment of the sick, particularly those suffering with nervous and mental diseases." At the time of the application, Kindred was halfway through his two-year term as a United States congressman from New York's 14th district. He later served four terms between 1921 and 1929 from the nearby 2nd district. In between these two stints in Congress - and while managing the River Crest and Belle Mead facilities (and at least one other in Connecticut) - he attained a law degree and passed the bar in 1926.

Advertising postcard for the River Crest Sanitarium
and Belle Mead Sanatorium.
Despite the different spellings,
a sanitarium and a sanatorium are exactly the same thing.

24 April 1947 Home News

Long before John Joseph Kindred died in 1937, the management of the Belle Mead Sanatorium fell to his son, Dr. John Cramer Kindred. By all accounts Dr. Kindred the younger was absolutely dedicated to his patients. For proof, we need look no further than the events of April 24, 1947, when a fire that began in the basement of the women's dormitory quickly filled the upper floors with choking black smoke. Two died in the fire (one later in the hospital), but not before the brave doctor personally saved 34 patients by going back into the burning building again and again at great risk to his own life.

25 April 1947 Courier News

Kindred spent two weeks in the hospital in Somerville, most of that time in critical condition in an oxygen tent. If that wasn't bad enough, his 76-year-old widowed mother, upon visiting him in the hospital five days after the fire, was so anxious about his condition that she had a heart attack upon seeing him and died in the hospital the next day. 

28 August 1947 Bernardsville News

In the years after the fire, the Belle Mead Farm Colony and Sanatorium started to get out of the farming business - beginning with selling all of their prize-winning registered Holsteins on September 10, 1947. 

After Kindred's brother-in-law, Russell N. Carrier graduated medical school he thought of becoming a surgeon. Kindred convinced him instead to take a position at the River Crest facility.  It was there that he learned electro-shock therapy (known today as electro-convulsive-therapy). In 1951 he came to Belle Mead as the medical director.

12 December 1956 Courier News

Dr. Kindred suffered for six years from the after-effects of the 1947 fire and finally succumbed in 1953. In 1956 Dr. Carrier purchased the Belle Mead Sanatorium from his sister and changed the name to Carrier Clinic. At that time the capacity of the clinic was 89 beds, and most of the buildings were quite old. Before he retired in 1973, Dr. Carrier began a building and modernization program which swiftly led to a doubling of capacity. Today, there are nearly 400 patient beds at the facility which is a licensed psychiatric hospital, a detoxification and rehabilitation center, and an adolescent residential facility that includes a fully-accredited middle and high school.

The Carrier Clinic today.

In 1936, the Somerset County road department eliminated a sharp curve where the Belle Mead-Blawenburg Road used to meet East Mountain Road, thereby erasing Plainville's "Main Street" for good. 

17 March 2021

The Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad

The Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad - later a division of the Philadelphia and Reading and known in Central New Jersey today as the West Trenton Line - is one of the most important railroads in New Jersey history. It is also important to Hillsborough history - not only because 7 of its 27 miles of track were laid in Hillsborough but because of the connection to Hillsborough of two men intimately associated with the story.


Henry Martyn Hamilton and Peter Dumont Vroom

Governor Peter Dumont Vroom was born in the village of South Branch in 1791. He attended grade school at the "Old Red Schoolhouse" (it was brand new then!) on River Road near Beekman Lane, and "high school" at the Somerville Academy. After graduating from Columbia and reading law in Somerville, he practiced in Sussex and Hunterdon Counties before moving back to Somerville in 1826 and being elected to the state legislature and then as governor in 1829.

1870s Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad ticket,
(collection of Gillette on Hillsborough)

One of Vroom's most important acts as governor was to nurture the nascent railroad and canal business in New Jersey. He promoted granting charters to the Camden and Amboy Railroad and the Delaware and Raritan Canal which gave those companies exclusive rights to build interstate (i.e. New York to Philadelphia) transportation lines across the state - and then he endorsed the merger of the two companies as The United Companies, thus creating a virtual railroad monopoly enshrined in state law.

1884 railroad map showing the stations of the
Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad.
Missing from the map is Weston Station
 which was just north of Hamilton.

Henry Martyn Hamilton was born in Ohio in 1831. He attended college first in Ohio but a case of typhoid fever prevented him from graduating. After recovering he continued at Hamilton College in New York State where he also received his law degree. The enterprising young man then returned to the midwest and became one of the four founders of the town of Grinnell, Iowa. It was in this enterprise that he first became involved in the railroad business, trying to lure railroads to build lines through Grinnell and other midwest cities. He soon came to the New York area, making money as a financier and settling in Bloomfield.

Belle Mead Station circa 1905
(collection of Gillette on Hillsborough)

By the mid-1860s Hamilton started to think that he could build a railroad from Philadelphia to New York and, against the advice of experts, began brainstorming ways to break the United Companies monopoly. He knew that some provisions of the charter would expire in 1869, so he began purchasing "paper" railroads - lines that had been incorporated but never built - in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The Delaware and Bound Brook Yardleyville Centemmial Bridge

The United Companies lobby was enormous, as would be expected. After all, they controlled all of the traffic - passengers and freight - in the lucrative New York to Philadelphia corridor. The machinations and litigation which followed Hamilton's venture could easily fill a book. In 1867, against great odds, he got the New Jersey legislature to pass an act incorporating the Hamilton Land Improvement Company. The act allowed the company to build a railroad from the Delaware River north of Trenton to a point near the village of Millstone in Hillsborough Township. It also allowed the company to build another 6 miles of railroad anywhere in the state.

The 1929 west Trenton Station,
photographed circa 1961

That six miles would prove to be the key, and three years later when the United Companies realized what was happening, all hell broke loose. They desperately lobbied legislators to repeal the 1867 legislation, while at the same time courting the Pennsylvania Railroad as a partner. Meanwhile, Hamilton renamed his company The National Railway and in early 1871 attempted to get a federal law passed through congress that would officially allow a rival railroad through New Jersey. 

Pennington Station

On June 30, 1871, the Pennsylvania Railroad signed a 999-year lease with the United Companies allowing them to run trains over their tracks, but basically nothing else. This lease cost them - in the first year alone - $1,948,500 paid in dividends to United Companies stockholders! You can imagine how motivated they were now to keep any rival railroad from building.

Hopewell Station

Over the next few years each side pulled out of every trick they could think of. Hamilton's National Railway introduced several bills in the New Jersey Legislature with hidden "Trojan Horse" provisions allowing them to proceed - all defeated. The Pennsylvania Railroad  - who now controlled the "monopoly" - began building their own railroad from "north of Trenton to Millstone" which resulted in the famous Frog War covered here.

Stoutsburg, Skillman, and Harlingen Stations -
top to bottom

In the midst of all of this, Hamilton took a meeting with a "former State Governor" and a representative of the United Companies. An offer of a half million dollars up front and a $5,000 no-show job was made to entice Hamilton to walk away, but as he told confidantes, "I can afford to be defeated, but I can't afford to sell out my friends."

Remarkably - notwithstanding the Frog War three years later -  the rivals set aside their differences in 1873 and compromised to support a general railroad law allowing for competition.

Royal Blue Line postcard
(collection of Gillette on Hillsborough)

Hamilton began building immediatley in an effort to have the railroad open in time for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. The line had been surveyed through Mercer and Somerset Counties to "a point near the village of Millstone". That spot was in the vicinity of today's Hamilton and North Willow Roads - which is where Hamilton moved with his family and built a station. 

Ad for the Royal Blue Line -
an upscale passenger service between New York and Washington

You may have guessed the the essential "six miles anywhere in the state" was exactly what was needed to finish the route to Bound Brook. The original concept was for the National Railway to cross over the Central Railroad of New Jersey line and continue northeast and east to Jersey City, but in the end the National Railway simply acquired trackage rights of the Central past Bound Brook.

Hamilton Station on North Willow Road
in Hillsborough

The Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad was incorporated on May 12, 1874. Hamilton gave the Pennsylvania portion of the project to the North Pennsylvania Railroad. 

Hillsborough's Weston Station circa 1905 

The new Jersey portion of the line crossed the Delaware at the Yardleyville Centennial Bridge (replaced in 1912) and had station stops at Ewing, Pennington, Moore's, Hopewell, and Stoutsburg in Mercer County. The twin stations at Pennington and Hopwell are still standing.

The Reading "Crusader" - a stremlined speedster -
near Weston Station

In Somerset County the stations were at Skillman, Harlingen, Belle Mead (originally called Van Aken), Hamilton, Weston, and Bound Brook. The new stations built at Belle Mead in 1919 and Bound Brook in 1913 are the only ones that survive. 

The 1875 Philadelphia and Reading railroad bridge
crossing the Raritan River
(collection of Gillette on Hillsborough)

The Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad opened on May 1, 1876 - about three years after the death of Governor Vroom. In 1879 it was leased to the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. Hamilton attempted to build a namesake city at the location of Hamilton Station in Hillsborough. He laid out streets and tried to get investment, to no avail. 

The 1913 Philadelphia and Reading Bound Brook Station

He lived out his later years rather quietly at home with his wife Cornelia and unmarried daughter Mary. Hamilton died in 1907, Cornelia in 1920, and Mary in 1941. Hamilton station was abandoned by the Philadelphia and Reading in 1956.

After the railroad bankruptcies and mergers of the 1960s, New Jersey Transit operated pasenger trains on the line until service was ended in 1982. Today, CSX operates the 27 mile freight line as part of their Trenton Subdivision.