Mahlon Taylor advertised the mill site for sale in November 1781, as having stone grist mill, also oil and saw mills with 150 acres, frame house and kitchen, almost all new, stone barn, and small tenements. An additional 145 acres with lime kiln and orchard of 200 apple trees and 145 acres with a frame house were also for sale. 3 Mahlon Taylor sold the mill to Daniel Hunt, Esq., in 1782. The Hunt family, originally from Lawrenceville, Mercer County, also engaged in milling. The community around the mills began to flourish as a center for business and commerce in the largely agrarian county, and the site became known as "Hunt's Mills".
Daniel Hunt had two sons, Ralph and Benjamin, to whom he passed along 385 acres in 1803. Daniel Hunt died in 1809, and the children quarreled over the division of the estate. This resulted in Ralph buying out the shares of the others and taking over the mill operations on both banks; he built a stone structure near what is now Lower Center and Main Streets used for a store and at times for housing mill hands. Benjamin became the local doctor. By 1818, Ralph Hunt had on the east side of the river, besides the grist mill, a fulling mill, while on the west side, he had a flaxseed mill, a plaster mill, a woolen mill and a saw mill.
In the next two decades, a blacksmith, a cooper, a tailor, and a tanner opened shops in the near vicinity of the mill. A land sale in 1823 of a large tract referred to a few small buildings near the mill. In 1817, a school house was started in an existing shop on Center Street, and the next year a post office opened, indicating a population in town. Ishe Hunt, Ralph's son, became the first postmaster. Mail was received once a week by wagon from Trenton to Hunt's Mills and on to Frenchtown. At about this time, the colonial artery leading past the mills was being made over into the New Jersey Turnpike (New Brunswick to Easton), and this action, along with another to create the Spruce Run Turnpike between Flemington and the Union Forge, fueled a developer's spirit in John W. Bray.
Bray was one of a number of entrepreneurs attracted to the potential of the mill location. He was brother-in-law to Archibald Taylor of the family of Taylors of this vicinity, who lived in a house called "Solitude" where High Bridge is now located, a few miles distant. John W. Bray started a store or improved upon Hunt's store by the mill about 1825, and soon conceived the idea of a business partnership with Archibald's Taylor's son, John B. Taylor. Bray talked Archibald Taylor into buying half his general store inventory to make his son an equal partner in the business. The firm of Bray and Taylor was formed in 1828. A survey of the streets by the mill was ordered with the intention of selling off miniscule building lots for trade and housing. At the same time, Bray succeeded in getting Hunt's Mills renamed "Clinton" after Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York State, who had just died. Governor Clinton was generally admired by the public for his accomplishments in office and for the creation of the Erie Canal. Bray and Taylor also started a new tavern/hotel, The Clinton House, though there were others just outside of town. Bray also took over as postmaster in 1828.
Unable to pay his debts, Ralph Hunt was sold out by the sheriff in 1828. This included the mills and about 288 acres of land, which was sold for $15,820 to satisfy a mortgage of $12,605. Ralph left town to join his brother in Miami, Ohio, in the new settlement opened by Judge Symmes. Archibald Taylor was the buyer, the entrusted it to the management of it to Bray and Taylor.