SOURCE: “History of Burlington and Mercer Counties, New Jersey, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Their Pioneers and Prominent Men” by Major E. M. Woodward & John F. Hageman, 1883.

 

PENNINGTON BOROUGH HISTORY

 
     
 

(When this text was written in 1883, Pennington borough (or village) was still a part of Hopewell Township.)

PENNINGTON. - July 12, 1797, thirteen hundred acres of land were sold to Johannes Lawrenson, of Maidenhead, by ThomasRevell, agent of the West Jersey Society. Lawrenson conveyed his title to Richbell Mott, May 14, 1700, and Mott sold out his claim Nov. 11, 1708, to John Cornwall, John Mott, Nathaniel Moore, and Thomas Read. It is on this section of land that the village of Pennington was built, measuring about a mile and three-eighths north and south, and from east to west embracing about two square miles.

The first name of the village was Queenstown, which was given it in honor of Queen Anne. Later it was by some, in derision of its comparative insignificance, Pennytown, and as early as 1747 it began to be called Pennington.

The pioneer merchant is believed to have been John Smith, who had a store here about 1725, and perhaps earlier. John Carpenter kept store in the building now opposite the Presbyterian Church as early as 1800. He was succeeded by John D. Hart, in 1825, who admitted Henry Baker to partnership in the concern in 1835. Some years afterward Hart withdrew from the firm, and was succeeded by C. L. Wynkoop. Baker soon sold his interest to Wynkoop, who after some years took in Benjamin Holt as a partner. The latter withdrew in two years, and Wynkoop sold the establishment to Holmes & Martin. Two years later this firm separated, Holmes removing to Cranbury. J. P. Martin carried on the business till his death about ten years later. The store was reopened by Benjamin Blackwell, who was succeeded by Wickoff & Bunn. This firm was in existence about five years, when Mr. Bunn withdrew from the enterprise. Four years later Wickoff sold out to Emma Blackwell, who in about three years was succeeded by Charles T. Blackwell, the present proprietor.

Tumbleson & Welling were merchants four or five years.

In 1843, Augustus A. Frisbee bought a cabinet-making business of Titus & Bunn, and converted it into a general store. Five years later he was succeeded by his son, Joseph A. Frisbee, and he seventeen years later by his son, George H. Frisbee, the present proprietor.

In 1839, Andrew B. Drake erected a building in which he traded until 1842, when he was succeeded by William Owens, who sold out to John Muirheid in 1844. In 1849, Augustus A. Frisbee became Muirheid's partner. In 1852 he disposed of his interest in the business, and the style of the firm was changed from Muirheid & Frisbee to Muirheid & Ogden. In 1854 it was changed to Muirheid & Silvers. Two years later John Muirheid became sole proprietor and so continued until 1858, when he sold the establishment to Muirheid & Gray, who have continued the business to the present time.

John Bullman kept a public-house on Main Street in Pennington, prior to the Revolution. John Hunt kept the same house in 1825, and was succeeded by Philemon Blackwell, who did the honors of the place only about a year. This building has several times been renovated, and had numerous occupants at one time and another. It is now occupied by Poe Reed, who keeps a restaurant in a portion of it. A hotel was built on Delaware Avenue at an early date and first kept by John Bullen, who occupied it many years. The present hotel, on Main Street, is kept by the widow of George W. Matthew, and is known as the Matthew House. An eating-house on Main Street is kept by Mrs. Noah V. C. Woolsey.

The first druggist was Rev. William McLenahan. The present druggist is John M. Titus.

The first cabinet-maker was Joseph Bunn, who began business about 1820. In 1840 he took in a partner, and the establishment was owned by Titus & Bunn three years, and by them sold in 1843 to Augustus A. Frisbee, who converted it into a general store. John C. Titus opened a cabinet-shop about 1841, and in a few years was succeeded by Daniel C. Titus, who continues the business. Ralph Hart is also engaged in this branch of industry.

Henry Simons was the first blacksmith, about 1800. Josiah Baldwin, George Lanning, and James R. Bergen are blacksmiths and wheelwrights.

The earliest remembered postmaster was Joseph Bunn, who kept the post-office in his cabinet-shop. Among others who have held the office may be mentioned Dr. Henry P. Welling, who kept the post-office in his house, J. P. Martin, Ripley T. Martin, and William B. Curlis, who was appointed in 1861, and has served continuously since.

M. & W. L. Taylor established a lumber-yard in 1872. They were succeeded by Drake & Buckman, from whom the business passed in 1876 to Lewis & Buckman, who in 1881 were succeeded by Clarkson, Knowles & Co., who removed the enterprise from the old yard on the old Mercer and Somerset Railroad to the present yard on the Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad, and deal in lumber, hay, grain, sand, coal, and produce.

About sixty years ago Amos Lanning had a tailoring shop in Pennington. He was succeeded by William B. Curlis, who in 1861 entered the army, leaving the business in the hands of Joshua Allen, who carried it on until 1865, since when it has been conducted by the firm of Curlis & Allen.

About 1864, Joseph B. Wiggins began the manufacture of cigars, which be has continued to the present. Another cigar-factory was opened in 1881 by David Chatten, Jr.

A decorative establishment was started in 1881 by Muirheid & Lewis. It is located on Delaware Avenue, and all kinds of pottery ware from potteries at Trenton here receive those final touches which add so greatly to their desirability in the market.

Meat-markets are kept by Benjamin Taylor and Liscomb Stout. A tinner's business is conducted by Nathaniel Reed.

Mercer County Mutual Fire Insurance Company. - An act of the Council and General Assembly of the State, passed in 1844, constituted Henry P. Welling, Henry Higgins, Stephen B. Smith, D. B. Skillman, John Conrad, Esq., Benjamin Muirheid, Ephraim Woolsey, Benjamin Vancleve, Jeremiah Vandike, Joshua Bunn, Isaac Welling, D. N. Wiley, Aaron W. Stout, and others, their associates, successors, and assigns, a body corporate and politic by the name of “The Mercer County Mutual Fire Insurance Company.”

In 1882 the directors were as follows: Henry P. Welling, president; J. G. Muirheid, J. Moore Phillips, Enoch H. Drake, Charles Fish, J. C. Norris, and Edward Howe, of Mercer County; Clayton A. Black, Joseph Wills, and Charles Remine, of Burlington County; N. S. Rue, of Monmouth County; J. H. Voorhees, of Somerset County; and C. F. Fisher, of Hunterdon County. William B. Curlis was secretary.

The village contains three churches, one hotel, a lumber- and coal-yard, three general stores, three blacksmith- and wheelwright-shops, two meat-markets, three undertaking establishments, two furniture-stores, a tailor-shop, a fire insurance company, and three seminaries, and a permanent population of about seven hundred.

Among the early physicians who located in Pennington was Dr. Woodruff, who practiced some years, and was followed by Dr. Henry W. Blatchley, who was very successful, and soon sent to New York for his brother Absalom, a law student, who dropped Blackstone and took up the study of physic. For years these two were among the most prominent physicians in the county, and enjoyed a large and lucrative practice. Dr. Lewis Sprenge practiced 1825-32, and was succeeded by Dr. Henry P. Welling, who has practiced continuously fifty years. Dr. James B. McNair began practice in 1834, and was succeeded by Dr. John H. Phillips in 1840, who remained till 1855. The present resident practitioners are Drs. H. P. and Edward L. Welling, and Drs. Israel and Edgar Hart.