www.co.hunterdon.nj.us | Borough of Stockton

 

STOCKTON BOROUGH HISTORY

Information obtain from "Stockton, New Jersey - 300 Years of History" by Iris H. Naylor.

For a complete copy of this Historical Pamphlet, please contact the Borough's Office at 609-397-0110. Copies are $10.00 plus postage. Or you may pick one up at the Borough Hall.

Stockton Borough HallJohn Reading, a proprietor of West Jersey, one of the first surveyors of the wilderness area that is now know as Hunterdon County and one of the men chosen to meet with the Indians in 1703 in order to purchase this land. He chose for himself a large tract of land bordering the Delaware river. Part of this land contained the present day Stockton.

Reading established a ferry across the Delaware and the area became known as Readings Ferry. When John's daughter Mary married Daniel Howell part of her dowry was a square mile tract of land fronting the river. This property included the location of the ferry. The name was then changed to Howell's Ferry.

In 1792, John Prall, Jr., a veteran of the Revolutionary War, purchased some property owned by Joseph Howell (son of Daniel and Mary) and mill property in 1794 once owned by the Woolvertons. John proceeded to build a grist mill, saw mill, oil mill a store and several stone dwellings. There was also a quarry located on this property. The area became known as Prallsville as it remains today.

Another revolutionary veteran settled in the area we now call Brookville. John Anderson purchased this land later known as Colligan's Farm.

In 1811, the States of New Jersey and Pennsylvania passed an act authorizing the construction of a bridge to be built over the Delaware between Blacks Eddy (Bulls' Island) and Well's Ferry (New Hope). The formation of the Centre Bridge Company caused the areas on both sides of the river to be called Centre Bridge.

The bridge was finished in 1814. It was also a toll bridge. In 1830 the bridge was torn down and rebuilt due to faulty construction.

A canal was begun in 1832 and finished 2 years later. The men area around Centre Bridge was coming alive. Many of the workers who were mainly Irish Immigrants created the need for food, lodging and supplies. Asher Johnson turned his home at the end of Bridge Street into a hotel and a schoolhouse was built on the same spot where the Stockton Elementary School now stands. This land was owned by Thomas P. Holcomb.

The river overflowed it's banks regularly. In 1841 it flooded badly destroying every bridge between Easton and Trenton. The covered bridge at Stockton broke into two on January 8, 1841, striking the Lambertville Bridge on its way down the Delaware.

Charles Bartles and Aaron Van Syckel enlarged the hotel in 1850 that Johnson opened in 1832. They also built a store on the corner of Main and Bridge Streets. In an exchange of property between Bartles and Van Syckel and the Centre Bridge Company a road was made that ran a straight line from the Bridge to the front of the Hotel which is now called The Stockton Inn.

The Stockton Inn, ca. 1880
The Stockton Inn, ca. 1880
Woolverton Inn/John Prall House, 1793
House built by John Prall in 1793,
now known as The Woolverton Inn
Main Street Stockton
View from the Bridge to Main Street

A railroad was graded in Lambertville in 1850 and reached Stockton shortly thereafter. In 1853 a new post office was built near the bridge and the town was named Stockton in honor of Senator Robert Field Stockton who helped to make the canal a reality, with which helped the new community to thrive.

Within the next 15 years a general store was opened by Samuel Rogers and Bro., a lumberyard in Brookville was built in a partnership between Hiram Deats and Joseph Case, another lumberyard was opened between Centre Bridge and Prallsville by Johnson Fisher and S.C. and William S. Hoppock. In 1862 a steam saw mill was opened by John Finney. In 1850 Maurice Woolverton purchased John Prall's house on what is now called Woolverton Road. The House is now a Bed and Breakfast called the Woolverton Inn. St. John Terrell, who created the Music Circus in Lambertville made his home there for a period of time. In 1861 the Berean Baptist Church was dedicated. The Church is made of stone and was once plastered in an imitation granite. The Spire stands 108 feet from the ground. A group of citizens organized in 1861 to raise money to build an academy. the school was advertised as a school for teaching "the common English and the higher branches including the classics. The Academy is now a private residence. In 1867 the Presbyterians decided to build a church. Property was purchased across the street from the schoolhouse. The Gothic style building was erected with stone from Stockton's quarries. The Church was completed in 1869.

Several quarries were being worked in Stockton. The sandstone from this town is both beautiful and durable. Nassau Hall at Princeton University was built from stone quarried in Prallsville. Many buildings as far away as New York City are made from stone quarried from the Stockton area.

Stockton Elementry SchoolIn 1871 the State of New Jersey passed an act that made all public schools free. The following year the voters of the school district decided to build a new schoolhouse in the middle of the lot where the existing schoolhouse was. The structure was completed in 1872. In 1884, an addition was placed on the structure making it 3 rooms in all.

In the late 1860's a Methodist Church was built on Broad Street, then called New Street. In 1876 a lot was purchased on the corner of Main Street and a new road that would be called Church Street. The building has since become the home of Orpeheus Lodge No. 137, F & A.M. a Masonic Lodge.

On April 14, 1898 Stockton became a Borough of the County of Hunterdon, State of New Jersey. An election was then held to choose a mayor, council members, a tax assessor and a tax collector, a justice of the peace, a constable and commissioners of appeals. This election took place on May 24, 1898 and Theodore S. Moore was elected as the first Mayor of the Borough.

In 1905 the worst fire in the history of the town occurred. The fire destroyed much of the business district since the closest fire department, Colombia Fire Company, was located 4 miles away in Lambertville. After the fire was finally extinguished it consumed 10 buildings and left several families homeless. In 1906 the town voted to construct a water works, purchase a steam engine, 600 feet of hose and purchase property to erect building to house the equipment. It was also decided to construct rooms and offices for the Borough Council meetings and officers. The Borough still uses this building as the municipal headquarters, however a new fire house was constructed in 1964.

The Catholic Church of St. Agnes was built in 1919 next to the lot that the school was located. The building was constructed from a stone house that was already on the property.

1923 Covered BridgeOn July 22, 1923 lightening struck the wooden covered bridge and set it on fire. Fire companies from New Hope and Lambertville helped to battle the blaze, but to no avail, the bridge was destroyed. The citizens of Stockton and Centre Bridge went without a bridge for nearly 4 years. finally a steel bridge was erected by the Joint Free Bridge Commission of New Jersey and Pennsylvania who purchased the properties from the Centre Bridge Company. The new toll-free bridge was opened in 1927.

On August 19, 1955 Hurricane Diane hit the area leaving 8 to 10 inches of rain. The following week Hurricane Connie left 8 inches of rain in her wake. The ground was unable to absorb all of the water and as a result the following day the Delaware River overflow. The waters went all the way to the Stockton Inn and caused sever damage to all of the homes between the river banks and Main Street.

The railroad station in Stockton was closed in 1958. The trains that play an important part in the growth and history of the community were reduced to 2 passenger cars a day. All freight trains were handled at the Lambertville Station. After tracks were removed in the 1980's, the rail-bed was turned into a path for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Stockton is no longer an industrial town. The quarries are closed, the railroad is gong, the bank was also closed in 1991. The Berean Baptist Church is now a Wesleyan Church, the Methodist Church is a Masonic Hall and many small family businesses have come and gone.

In Stockton, volunteers maintain the fire company and rescue squad, the churches, youth programs and civic association. They raise money for community projects, they support the school system. They organize celebrations such as the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Celebrations a tradition since 1927 and the Centennial that was held this year. The willingness to volunteer is what has made and will continue to make this community strong.

 

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www.co.hunterdon.nj.us | Borough of Stockton