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Historic Clinton
Town History

Notable People

People of consequence have been associated with the history of Clinton.  These include rugged individualists and pioneers like the Hunt family that ran the mills opposite of each other at the confluence of two streams of water for so long in the 19th century that the village's first name was "Hunt's Mills." 

Then there is the Taylor family in its several branches, most of whom were mill owners, as here too, but also connected with the iron forge operation three miles distant on Spruce Run known as Union Forge during he Revolution. Robert Taylor was its superintendent.  Archibald, Robert's son, bought up 600 acres of land between the streams and his son John went into partnership with John Bray in opening a merchant's store opposite the mills, then starting a hotel, the Clinton House.  The Taylor name, much familiar to local history, appeared again when the new Presbyterian Church opened a graveyard and received the body of Midshipman Robert Taylor for first burial (reinterment). 

Another family of local stature was headed by Nathaniel Voorhees.  He filled the second position, cashier, of two officials, after the first bank was founded in the village and then, under different circumstances, decided to head his own bank, thus forming the First National Bank.  He also served in various positions in the local government.  His son was Foster Voorhees.

Foster McGowen Voorhees, the governor of New Jersey, 1898-1902, was born in Clinton on November 8, 1856.  His father, Nathaniel, was related by marriage to the prominent Leigh family of the town.  He was educated locally and at Rutgers University.  Voorhees became a lawyer through study in the office of William Magie, the Union County Republican State Senator.  In 1888, Voorhees was elected to the New Jersey Assembly, and headed the Republican minority.   In 1893, he was elected to the New Jersey Senate, and served as majority leader.   In 1896, after re-election, he became Senate President.  Upon the resignation of Governor Griggs, Voorhees became acting Governor in 1898.  In October of the same year, Voorhees resigned his Senate seat to escape the state's law that a governor could not succeed himself.  Consequently, in November 1898, he was elected Governor.   Among his accomplishments were the opening of the State Village for Epileptics at Skillman, NJ, which represented an advance in the care and treatment of sufferers from this malady.  He also appointed a Children's Guardian Board for foster care.  In other areas, he acted to open the Rahway Prison, to construct sewer lines in Newark, and to initiate revision of school funding.  In 1902 he left government service and became President of Banker's Life Insurance Company.  In 1925, illness caused his retirement to his farm near High Bridge where he died in 1927.  The farm property was willed to the State of New Jersey and is now Voorhees State Park. He was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Clinton.

Clinton also had its professionals, 19 who were well-educated physicians who lived in town, invested in rental properties and most of all took care of the residents' health.  Dr. Henry Field was among the earliest, living on what then was considered an estate in a house that he brought to Grecian stylishness.  Dr. John Manners, who had more than one career, filling elected office at one time, was another.  Dr. Sylvester Van Syckel was a graduate of Princeton. 20

But a person who gained celebrity status was a woman, Anna Case, who became an outstanding opera singer.  Anna Case was born at 15 East Main Street, on October 29, 1889.  Her father was the local blacksmith.   When she was young, her family moved to South Branch, Somerset County.  She assisted her father by collecting bills and cleaning up his shop.  Anna seemed to have a natural gift for music, and at 15 she became the organist and choir director at Neshanic Dutch Reformed Church, earning $12 a month.  She had no formal piano or organ lessons.  Anna Case began to take voice lessons from Catherine Opdyke of Somerville, until Opdyke revealed that she did not have the capacity to teach Case and took her to Madame Ohrstrom-Renard in New York.  On November 20, 1909, at the age of 20, Anna debuted as a cast member in "Lohengrin" at the Metropolitan Opera.   Six months later her first solo came in the opera "Werther."  Anna Case was the first American signer at the Metropolitan who had no European training or international reputation.  She remained at the opera house from 1909 until 1920, and traveled on concert tours extensively.  Case married Clarence Mackay in 1931.   He was a millionaire who had founded a postal telegraph system, which later merged with Western Union. They had no children (Mackay died in 1938), but she became stepmother to his three children from a previous marriage.  One of his daughters, Ellen, married Irving Berlin.  Although she retired at the time of her marriage, she continued to write songs.  None of her 50 songs is familiar today.  There is a plaque dedicated to Anna Case in the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House. 21

George W. Taylor, son of Archibald Taylor, was raised at "Solitude", a special elitist residential area that became High Bridge.  His family was wealthy.  His education included training as a Navy Midshipman.  For whatever reason, Taylor transferred to the Army, and in that service built a reputation as a strong disciplinarian during the ware against Mexico.  It was in that area that he met Philip Kearny, the "Jersey Devil."  When the Civil War broke out, Governor Olden appointed Taylor to command the First New Jersey Brigade.   He was joined in the military by his son, Archibald, as his aide-de-camp, and by his nephew, a captain in the Third New Jersey Infantry.  Taylor, a brigadier, led his brigade into McClennan's Peninsula Campaign. At the second battle of Bull Run, Taylor's unit came up against the larger forces of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.  In the fierce battle, Taylor was mortally wounded.  His body was accompanied to Clinton Station (now Annandale) on the Central Railroad by his nephew.  There had been a double tragedy for New Jersey, for Kearny had died in battle the same day at Chantilly.   The Daily Advertiser (Newark) published the account of Taylor's funeral.  The people of Clinton, respectful of his patriotism, followed the elegant flag-draped casket from the railroad station to the Presbyterian Churchyard, where burial took place.   One year later, the nephew was killed at Chancellorville, and was buried beside his uncle in the cemetery.  His son Archibald survived the war, and continued in the military over a long period of time.  George W. Taylor was Hunterdon County's only Civil War General. 22

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