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. 

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