and every township In the county of Hunterdon, together with the Jus-
tices of tho said county, having been previously notified to meet foi the
purposes of choosing managers, to build tin- said court-house aud gaol in
the way and manner as preserihed hy the said law, and a eufllcieiil uuiti-
her being met and making a board on the day aforesaid, did ch<
inato, and appoint managers, . . . who, pursuant to a law of the State of
J rsey, made this 8d day of Uarch, Anno Domini 1786, agree with
George Alexander, of Flemington, in tin- township of Amwell and county
of Hunterdon aforesaid, innkeeper, fur one-half acre of land, to be
hounded on and exclusive of roads, being n part uf the Lot! of land n here-
on the said George Alexander !i\- *^, innl on tin- tumtheast end th- â–
on the road leading to Trenton, and also butting on the mad as non usi d,
leading round the said lot! to Howell's Ferry on Delaware River, and tho
other two sides butting and bounded on other parts of the sal
Alexander's lot! as afon said, which by the survey thereof runs thus, -
viz.: Beginning at s rner in a line of four-rod road leading
to Trenton ; theneo south tWO decrees east two chains to a stone Oornar
on said road, and also a cornei In the turn of a four-cod road leading to
Howell's Ferry, on Delaw ire Rivi i ; thence on the line of that road south
slxty*elx and quarter degrees west two chains and a bail t
!.. ) â– thenos Dorth two degrees wesi two chains to a I
(.â€¢rner; thence north sixty-six and one-quarter dogrees east, two chains
and u half to the place of beginning ; containing half an aero of land.
Now this Indenture witnesaeth thai the said George Al
. . . for divers good causes and valuable consideration him thereunto
moving, and also f,,r a in I i n â– â– ! â€¢ i ...: i . >u . ,| i ho Hum of live -I-
gold and silver m y to blm In band paid uy tl iol jusll es
and freeholders ol the i ounty of B . . . .
"In witness whereof the said parties hive Interchangably set their
hands and seals hereunto. Dated the day and year above written,
"GroitoK Alexander [us.].
"Sealed and delivered In presence of
" JOSI I'M JOU IfSON,
"J VSI'i :
"Aokn -i i ii Bi u>ixo.
(>n the 27th of August, L792, al a meeting of the
justices and freeholders held al the house of John
Meldrum, n letter was laid before the board by Sam-
uel K. Stuart, attorney for Susanna Smith, who
HUNTERDON COUNTY, NEW JERSEY.
claimed a right of dower " in the lot of land whereon
the court-house and gaol-yard is erected in Fleming-
ton." A committee (John Gregg, Joseph Hankerson,
and Thomas Reading) was appointed to settle with her
" and take her quit-claim for said land and report at
the next meeting." On the 5th of August, 1793, the
committee reported her claim settled for four pounds
five shillings four pence, and produced the neces-
sary legal papers. At this meeting, also, the man-
agers for huilding the court-house and jail appeared
before the board and offered their account for settle-
ment. Andrew Keeler, Joseph Lambert, and Capt.
John Phillips, the committee to examine accounts,
presented the court-house bill, August 30th, as cor-
rect. The amount originally allowed to the construc-
tion of the public buildings was Â£2500. The itemized
bill of expense was Â£2427. 6. 5.
On the 8th of May, 1793, the board met at the
court-house, and the May term of court the same year
was also held there.
This structure (which embraced the jail) was burned
on Wednesday night, Feb. 13, 1828. Owing to the
want of an effective fire-engine, all attempts to save
the building were futile, and on the following morn-
ing all that remained of the venerable structure were
the naked walls and the smoking embers of its pon-
derous timbers. The fire was supposed to have been
the. work of design.* The prisoners confined in the
jail were transferred to the jail of Somerset County.
Fortunately, the county records were saved, the clerk,
perceiving the imminent danger of their destruction,
having removed them to a place of safety.
HUNTERDON COUNTY COURT-HOUSE.
After the destruction of the court-house the courts
were held in the meeting-house of the Methodist
Episcopal congregation of Fleming-ton, whose trus-
tees, with commendable promptness and liberality,
tendered its use for the purpose. An act of the Leg-
islature (passed Feb. 15, 1828) made it "lawful to
hold the Circuit Courts, Courts of Oyer and Ter-
miner and General Jail Delivery, Courts of Common
* Ilmitcrdon Gazelle, Feb. 20, 1828.
Pleas, General Quarter Sessions of the Peace, and
Orphans' Courts, to be held in and for said county of
Hunterdon, in the Methodist Episcopal church in
Flemington until the inhabitants of said county shall
erect a court-house for said county." (Proceedings
General Assembly, 1828.) The corner-stone of the
present court-house was laid on Wednesday, May 7,
1828, in the presence of a large concourse of people,
with appropriate ceremonies, by His Honor, Justice
Drake, of the Supreme Court, in which the Rev. J. F.
Clark and Mr. McClay, of New York, participated,
and after which Peter I. Clark delivered an appro-
It is a large stone structure, rough-cast, with Gre-
cian front and Ionic columns, and is two stories in
height, the court-room being in the upper and the
jail and sheriff's residence in the lower or basement
story. Adjoining the court-house, and north of it, is
located a neat two-story brick building which contains
the clerk's and surrogate's offices of the county, with
all the books, records, etc., of their respective depart-
THE BENCH AND BAR OP HUNTERDON
Hunterdon County noted for the Ability of her Judges and the Brilliancy
of her Bar â€” Early Colonial Judges â€” Judges and Justices â€” Samuel
Johnston, Samuel Tucker, Daniel Coxe, Isaac Smith, Moore Furman,
Jasper Smith, John Mehelm, John Dagworthy, Andrew Smith, Stacy
G. Potts, John Carr, Jolm S. Stires, Joseph Reading, etc. â€” Eminent
Jurists â€” Early Lawyers â€” Later Lawyers â€” Biographical Notices of
George C. Maxwell, William Maxwell, Joseph Bonnell. Thomas Potts
Johnson, Samuel R. Stewart, Nathaniel Saxtou, William H. Sloan,
Alexander "Wurts, Garret D. Wall, Richard Howell, Samuel Lilly,
James N. Reading, Samuel Leake, George A. Allen, Richard S. Kuhl, etc.
Hunterdon County has been, even from colonial
times, noted no less for the number and ability of its
bench than for the brilliancy of its bar, the members
of both embracing an array of names which has given
added lustre to the jurisprudence of the State.
Among the names of the early colonial judges of
this county we find those of Thomas Leonard, James
Trent, Joseph Stout, Daniel Coxe, John Reading,
Benjamin Smith, John Dagworthy, Martin Ryerson,
Andrew Smith, Theophilus Phillips, Thomas Cadwal-
lader, and Andrew Reed, officiating on the bench
from about 1724 to 1750 and later. :|: During the pe-
riod extending from 1750 to the Revolution the court
records present the names of John Garrison, Jasper
Smith, Cornelius Ilingo, Philip Ringo, Samuel Stout,
Theophilus Severns, William Clayton, Benjamin
Byles, Isaac Smith, John Grandin, Micajah Howe,
and Lewis Chamberlain.
f In the corner-stone wc
a brass plate upon which v.
of the architect, building i
J See preceding clmpto:
i inclosed a Bible, the laws of New Jersey,
i engraved tho year of erection, the namea
i '* Courts and County Buildings," for many
Interesting facts connected with this early period.
THE BENCH AND BAR OF HUNTERDON COUNTY.
During the Revolutionary period the beach pre-
to our notice, among others, the honored mimes
of Samuel Johnston, Joseph Reading, Moore Furman,
Joliu Mchelm, Robert Hooper, Nathaniel Hunt,
James [Swing, Joseph Beavers, and Jared Sexton.
Many of the ahovo-meutioned judges were "judge
and justice," but in thai vast army of justices who
held court in this county from 17-1 to lsnn, â– other
than those before named, are to be found the names
of Timothy linker, Jacob Bellcrjeau, Charle- Wolver-
tnii, Ralph Mi-art, John Porterfield, John Burroughs,
Jeremiah Bass, Hezekiah Bonham, John Knowles,
Adrian and Harmon Lam-, Richard Seudder, Robert
Eaton, John Haywood, John Budd, Joshua Ander-
son, Francis Bowes, William Cornell, Abr. Ketchell,
Benjamin Rounsaval, Abraham Van Horn, Edward
Rockhill, Ralph and John Smith, Nicholas and Klias
Wyekolf, Henry Woolsey, Daniel, Nathaniel, and
Edward Hunt, Lndrew Muirhead, Henry Traphagen,
Richard and Luther Opdyke, Benjamin Van C'leve,
Nathan Stout, David Frazier, William Lowrey, John
Lambert, Hugh Runyan, Thomas Reading, Henry
Rockafeller, Nicholas Stillwell, Jacob C'line, John
Coryell, John T. Blackwell, etc. And during the
first quarter of the present century we come across
tin- new names of "justices" of Ananias Mulford,
Benjamin Dean, Robert McNeely, Philip and David
Johnston, George Rea, Peter Risler, Jacob Case,
David Brearley, Peter and Zachariah Flomerfelt,
Paul II, M. Prevost, Matthias I Irater, Richard Gano,
Baltuf Btiger, Morris Fritts, James Larason, Thomas
Capner, Asa ('. Dunham, David and William Stout,
James Honeyman, John Thompson, etc. Those who
ili -in the dates for the above, Or wish tO trace tin-
line nf judges and justices to the present time, are
referred to the "Civil List," in a subsequent chapter.
It will be impossible, within the limits of this work,
Lc give personal mention of but a few of the Beveral
li ii m I n ii I judges ami justices who have figured in the
courts of 1 [unterdon I lounty.
Prominent, however, among the early colonial
judges was SAM! EL JOHNSTON, who settled in the
County about 1740 and owned a large tract of land in
its northern part. 1 1 is house is said to have been the
most -.lately mansion in all this portion of the State.
and in its broad hall- be, as chief magistrate of this
Beet ion of West Jersey, held court mi Monday of each
Week. His house became the resort of culture and
lali-ni. lb- was the father of Col. Philip Johnston,
who left his class in Princeton I lollege i" serve in the
French war in Canada, and who, during the Revolu-
tion, was killed while leading his (the First New
Jersey) regiment at the battle of Long Island. His
daughter Mary, reputed to have been one of the beat-
read women in tin- province, became the wife of
Charles Stewart, of Hunterdon < lounty.
Daniel Coxe, son of Dr. Daniel Coxe, the pro-
prietor, was born in 1664, probably at Burlington.
He became a lawyer, and in 1710 was appointed by
( io\ernoi- Hunter a member of the Provincial I "oiineil,
and in 17"! was made an associate justice of the Su-
preme Court of New Jersey. He died April 2,">, 1 789.
lb- was a public-spirited citizen, and a judge of no
orhnarv ihilit- He did verv much in living the
foundation of law and morality for the State of New
Jersey. He proposed a scheme of confederation of
all the American colonies, and the same scheme was
adopted, with but slight modification, in 177ii. The
design of bis propo-ed scheme of union was to limit
the influence of the Spaniards and French in the
South. The work containing these propositions was
published in London in 1722.
Sami i.i. Ti i-ki-.i: was, Sept. 4, 177G, elected an
a-soeiate justice of the Supreme Court, and in No-
vember following held a term of the court, â€” the first
under the State constitution, the last at which the
colcnid pi-ti; : s i I- reilcnck -Smyth flu f justim and
David Ogden) were present having been held in May.
lie was not a lawyer, but wa- prominent in civil mat-
ters, and held many important public Stations. He
was a man of much influence at Trenton and through-
out Hunterdon County during his time. He was
sheriff of Hunterdon, a member of Assembly in 1769,
and held the position until the Revolution put an
end to the provincial government. He was an active
member and president of the different Provincial
Congresses, and signed the constitution of 1776 in
that capacity. He wa- also treasurer of the State.
and as such had a large amount of the paper cur-
rency, etc., in his custody, which, in an affidavit laid
by him before tin- Legislature In February, 1777. he
alleged were taken out of his possession in December
previous by a party of British horsemen who made
him prisoner. Governor Livingston disputing the
accuracy of his statement, In- appeared before the
Legislature ami resigned his commission. His weak-
iie- in hiking advantage ol the nil-, r ol ] ritioh pro-
tection during the panic which prevailed at Trenton
previous to it- capture bj the Hessians was attrib-
utabli . perhaps, to the tact that his wife was an Eng-
lish lady. It is certain he thus forfeited his character
as a patriot, and died in 1789 still under the cloud. t
[saao Smuu. who resided at Trenton, held the
office of associate justice of the supreme Court for
twenty-eight year-, until lsii.'i, being succeeded by
William Rossell. He was a physician, bul appears
to have made of himself a pretty good lawyer. He
Was an ardent Whig, and a colonel of militia during
the Revolution. Flom the time of his retirement
t'r the bench, in i so:,, until his death, he was presi-
dent of the Trenton Banking Company. He died
Aug. 20, L807, aged Bixty-eighl year-.'
MOOR] Ii i-.MW. grandfather of the late Capt.
I'.-i in,. i,. lull li.it >i-,- ,lm|,|.-r .,, "Civil l.i-t ,,t ! I onto] I
t Jndgo Hmoi*! Romlnl* eu i â€¢, pp. 284, 206,
; n.i.i. p, m.
HUNTERDON COUNTY, NEW JERSEY.
William E. Hunt, of Trenton, was a commissary of
the American army in 1776. He was the first mayor
of Trenton, in 1777 was judge, and in 1781 first held
court as a justice. His office was in a one-story brick
building which formerly stood where the Chancery
Building in Trenton now stands.
Jasper Smith was one of the early colonial judges
of this county, officiating in 1754, et seq. He was the
descendant of one of the early settlers of Hopewell,
possibly was related to Benjamin or Andrew Smith,
as both were prominent on the bench of the county
about 1739.* It is very probable he was the son of
Jasper Smith, whose name appears in a deed of date
March 18, 1698-99,t and was a member of the council
of Trenton in 1748.J Judge Jasper Smith graduated
at Princeton College in 1758. In 1776 he was one of
the Committee of Safety from Amwell township. He
seems to have taken an active part in the Revolu-
tionary struggle. He may have resided near Law-
renceville, N. J., about the opening of this century,
as his name appears as a ruling elder in the Presby-
terian Church, Lawrenceville, on the first preserved
record of that church, in 1807. He died in 1814.
His son, Jasper, united with the same church in
1808, and left the parsonage property to that body.
The will is on record in the Hunterdon County clerk's
office. He was a practicing lawyer in Flemington,
and built the house now owned by John Jones, Esq.
He was prominently connected with the courts and
legal business of this vicinity during the early part
of this century. His relatives still reside in the
bounds of Lawrence township, Mercer Co., to which
place he subsequently removed from Flemington,
John Mehelm, who was judge of Hunterdon
County in 1779, emigrated to this country from Ire-
land and took an active part in the Revolution. He
was located on the North Branch, at a place since
known as Hall's Mills. He was also surrogate for
Hunterdon and Somerset Counties during Governor
Livingston's administration, and was removed by
Governor Bloomfield in 1801. In all the old docu-
ments his name is coupled with that of John Hart,
another member of the bench of Hunterdon County
(1774), an honored Revolutionary patriot, and a
signer of the Declaration of Independence. He went
by the name of " Honest John Hart."
John Dagworthy, who was one of the bench of
1739, was in 1728-29 the high sheriff of the county
who complained of the jail being so out of repair that
escapes took place daily. \
Andrew Smith was no doubt the eldest son of
Andrew, the first of the name in Hopewell, Hunter-
don Co. (whose purchase in 1688, which he named
* Hunterdon County Court Kocorde.
f Rev. Goorgo Halo, D.D., History First Presbyterian Church, Hope-
well, p. 47.
X Baum'i History Trenton, p. 72.
J MiuuteB of the Court, vol. ii.
" Hopewell," was adopted as the name of the town) ;
he graced the bench in 1739, and for a number of
years. He had brothers, Jonathan and Timothy ;
married Mrs. Mershon, and had Charles and Zebulon,
unmarried, and Andrew, who married Sarah, daughter
of Josiah Hart, Sr., and had Benjamin (deceased),
George W., and Nathaniel. ||
Stacy G. Potts, for seven years one of the jus-
tices of the Supreme Court, became in 1808 a resident
of Trenton, then in this county. He was of English
Quaker descent, and educated in the Friends' school.
He commenced the study of law with Mr. Stockton,
but finished with Garret D. Wall. In 1828-29 he was
a member of the Legislature ; from 1831-41 clerk of
the Court of Chancery ; in 1844 the honorary degree
of A.M. was conferred on him by Princeton College ;
in 1852 he became one of the justices of the Supreme
Court. He was at different times connected with
various boards and institutions of the Presbyterian
Church, of which he was a member, and was in 1836
ordained a ruling elder. He died in 1865. Perhaps
the most important case before Judge Potts was that
of Cornelius vs. Giberson (1 Dutch. 1), involving the
location of the line between East and West Jersey.
His ruling on that question remains undisturbed, al-
though the judgment was reversed on the question of
fact as to adverse possession.^
John Care, who was a judge of the Common
Pleas Court in 1829, a justice of the peace, etc., was
born in 1763, and died in 1831 (December 9th). He
was highly esteemed for his public services and pri-
vate worth, as a faithful officer and exemplary Chris-
tian. He was for many years a deacon of the Baptist
Church of Flemington.
The Stout family of Amwell and Hopewell was
ably represented upon the bench, quite early in the
history of the county, by Joseph Stout, in 1726 and
again in 1736 ; Samuel Stout, in 1754 ; Nathan Stout,
1795 and 1800; David Stout, 1804 to 1828; and Wil-
liam Stout, in 1842. Thomas Stout was a judge and
justice in 1787 and 1792.
John S. Stiees was a judge and justice of Hun-
terdon County from 1823 until his death, in 1851.
Samuel L. Southard, who when living was often
denominated New Jersey's " favorite son," and who,
besides many other honors, was elevated to the bench
of the Supreme Court, although a native of Somerset
County, passed the first few years after his admission
to the bar in Hunterdon County, residing in Flem-
ington.** When appointed an associate justice, in
1815, he was perhaps the youngest man ever graced
with that honor in New Jersey, â€” only twenty-eight.
See further sketch in the chapter on " Bench and Bar
of Somerset County," in this work.
Joseph Reading first appears as a judge of the
|| Rev. Georgo Halo, First Presbyterian Church of Ilopowell, pp. -12, 43.
1f Elmer's Reminiscences.
** Ho built, and resided in until about 1H17, the houso now occupied by
Alexander Wurts,â€” the first north of the surrogate's office.
THE BENCH AND BAR OF HUNTERDON COUNTV.
Common Pleas Court in 1777, and -mi. I for linmy-
five or more years. For a more extended notice see
history of the Reading I'ainily, elsewhere.
SAMUEL Lilly, of Lambertville, a judge of tin-
Court of Appeals, was horn in Geneva, N. Y., Oct.
28, 1 815. His grandfather, Samuel, the emigrant an-
cestor of the American branch of the family, was an
eminent barrister in England, bul alter coming to
America took orders as an Episcopal clergyman, and
I.e.. nee rector of St. John's Church, Elizahethtown,
N. .1. His father, William, was a merchant and an
early settler at Lambertville. Samuel, his son, gradu-
ated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1X37, and,
with a doctor's diploma, commenced practice at Lam-
bertville, where he soon acquired a reputation as a
skillful physician. But it is not with his medical rec-
Ord We have here to deal ; that may he found treated
in another portion of this work, under the heading of
" Medical Profession." From 1849 5] he was mayor
of Lambertville ; for eight years director of the board
of freeholders of Hunterdon County; in 18,">2â€” 53 a
member of Congress ; in 1861 was appointed by Presi-
dent Buchanan consul-general to British India.
"During his connection with the consulate, the civil
â– war, and our relations with England growing out of
the Mason and Slidcll affair, rendered the adminis-
tration of his office one of great responsibility. Some
American merchant-vessels, loaded partly with salt-
petre, were detained at Calcutta during that ex-
citement. Dr. Lilly contended rigorously for the
rights of the American traders, who were then allowed
to depart. Previous to his Leaving Calcutta for the
United States the American merchant- there resi-
dent presented him a handsome service of plate, and '
on his arrival at Lambertville he was welcomed â–
by an ovation at the bands of his lei low -townsmen."
In 1868-72 be was judge of the Court of Common
Pleas for the county of Hunterdon, He was one of
the commissioners to locate and build the new State
Lunatic Asylum. In Is;:: he was appointed by Gov-
ernor Parker one of the judges of the ( \mrt of Errors
and Appeals. He died in 1879, -April 8d. If 1, It
bul one child, â€” John, â€” who is now practicing law in
Judge Lilly "was a man of good and temperate
habits, of refined and literary tastes," eminent as a
judge, and honored as a man.
David Van Fleet, of Flemington, was born in
EUadington, Hunterdon Co., \uu. 18, L819, a -on of
William Van Fleet, of that place, and of Dutch de-
sccnt. He received a g 1 common-school education,
loll,, wed school-teaching for a time, and clerked in a
Btore at Centrerille, N. J. In 1848 be was elected to
the Slate Legislature, and re-elected in L849. For a
few years following he was engaged in mercantile
pursuits at Centrerille. In 1866 he was oneofthe
Democratic Presidential elector-; in 1859 surrogate
of Hunterdon County; in 1869 was appointed by
President Grant oneofthe inspectors of customs at
New York; and in L872 a judge of the Court of Com-
mon Pleas of Hunterdon County. Be is a Blaster in
( 'ha i ic, tv, and a I- 1 trustee for several estates, as well
as a director of the Hunterdon County National
Bank. Is a member of the Methodist Episcopal
Church. He married, 1845, Susan A. Cole, daughter
of David 0. Cole, of Readington.
New Jersey has always been noted for the intel-
lectual ability of its jurists. The high character of
those of the past generation i- well sustained by the
present. As an evidence of thi- is the fact that dur-
ing the present year llssil) the honorary degree of
LL.D. has been conferred by Princeton and Lafay-
ette Colleges upon four distinguished members of the
bench and bar of this State, i -half of which honors
came to Hunterdon, the Hon. Bennet Van Syckel, of
the Supreme Court, and Vice-Chancellor A. V. Van
Fleet, being the honored recipients of this county.
Bexxet Van Syckel, associate justice of the
Supreme Court of New Jersey, was horn in Hunter-
don County (Bethlehem township), April 17, 1830.
Immediately after hi- graduation from Princeton, in
1846, he entered the law-office of Hon. Alexander
W'urts, Flemington, with whom he remained until
admitted to the bar, in 1851. lie at once commenced
his I, - a | practice in Flemington, and soon won a high
reputation at the bar. He possesses forensic abilities
of the first order. In 1SG9 he was appointed to the
bench of the Supreme Court of the State, and reap-
pointed in 1876. Incumbent of the position, he ex-
emplified "in the discharge of his judicial duties, as
formerly in hi- practice, that profound learning and
spotless integrity which have made the judiciary of
\ i ,\ .1 er-ey known and honored throughout the laud."
In 1858 be married Elizabeth, a daughter of W. II.
Sloan, of Flemington. by whom he had three -inl-
and two daughters.!
\i.i:\m V. Vw Fleet, rice-chancellor of the
State of New Jersey, was born in Hillsborough,
Somerset Co., N. J., Jan. 6, 1881. He was admitted
to practice as an attornej at the November term of
|s,"iiÂ», and as a counselor in I-"'-. Hi opened his first
law-office in Flemington, where he soon acquired a
large and lucrative bu-ineâ€” . He has devoted him-