Town History
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Historic Clinton
Town History

Town Planned

Bray and Taylor had significant financial difficulties, and ran up huge debts backed by bank notes signed by Archibald Taylor.  In 1830, Israel Smith opened the tavern previously erected by Bray and Taylor, now the Clinton House.  In 1830 or 1831, they sold their store to James R. Dunham, the son on Nehemiah Dunham, and George T. Taylor.  Finally in 1834, they abandoned their mill business - Dunham and George T. Taylor became the owners of the mill on the east bank and John W. Snider became the owner of the mill on the west bank.  

Much had been accomplished in setting the village on a course of planned development. Archibald Taylor wrote to his other son, Midshipman George W. Taylor, "Clinton now looks perty(sic). You will hardly know the place when you return." 5 A map of building lots was drawn and sales took place, first by this team and afterwards with Archibald involved. This offering served as a magnet to industrious Germans living in the region, and it is to their presence that the town owed its somewhat systematic growth.  The new residents and shopkeepers had such names as Young, Stiger, Hoffman, Garman, Kline and Fisher.  Another early primitive house was build on a lot purchase in the 1830s from Bray and Taylor by a Garman.  It is of stone, steeply embanked.  Near it was another like it, on land owned by a Hoffman, since demolished.  This vernacular form was not uncommon for this period when newcomers were arriving as settlers.  A third house like it, built for a laborer on Halstead Street, perhaps even at a later date, also follows this convention.

One other property sold in 1832 by Bray and Taylor backed up on the mill dam and fronted on the turnpike with almost 6 acres.  This was in great contrast to the German's small lots and was indeed intended for a privileged citizen coming to town to set up a medical practice, Dr. Henry Field.  In that same year, another hotel was started on one of the new lots by Israel Smith, this building to be in brick; Smith had sold his tavern west of the river to General Hope.  As the turnpike continued across the river under the current name West Main Street, some development also occurred on its route.  To this day, one farmhouse survives on a small portion of its tract; and two other houses more or less opposite each other at the outer end of the street so differ from the plain modest houses that that appeared spottily on the street that they must have been the homes of well-to-do farmers of the 1830s.  They wear the refinements of the Federal era of building.

Although the names of Kline, Hoffman, and Young were added to the list of large property holding as time passed, the German culture did not leave any mark in material ways.  The churches that were founded in the decade of the 1830s all represented faiths appealing to individuals of English stock.  These were the Presbyterians, the Methodist in 1839, and the Episcopal in 1837 (which died out shortly, and was replaced by a private academy).

Barber and Howe in their Historical Collections (1842, 1844) saw Clinton village as set "in a delightful champagne valley" advantageously located on a river with great water power, an important post road, and only 10 miles distant from Flemington, the county seat.  Claiming that the village had very few buildings in the 1820s, and those being generally associated with the operation of the two mills, they noted its spurt of growth in the next two decades.  Listed were 3 mercantile shops, 2 large mills, one also having an oil mill, 3 taverns, about 15 mechanical shops of various kinds, a brickyard, a substantial limestone quarry, 3 churches, 62 houses and 520 inhabitants." 6  One of the two schools was a grammar and classical school.

Meanwhile, in 1836, Archibald Taylor disposed of four tracts of land to another potential developer, Caleb Halstead of New York and New Brunswick, who afterward acquired additional land between Spruce Run and the river, from James Dunham, where the street now bearing his name lies.  In the 1840s, this newly arrived developer hired a surveyor to map out more than 80 diminutive building lots.

Just about this time, another nationality was about to make an impact on the town's economy and growth, bringing its hard labor, skills and energies to the operation of a profitable business mining the limestone cliffs.  As a result of the famine in Ireland, enterprising young men had been making their way to America, among whom was  Francis Mulligan, who arrived in Clinton in 1840.  He was followed by brothers Patrick and Terence.  They worked at the quarry which was then owned by the miller J. W. Snyder, bought a small lot from Halstead and put up a house in 1845 which was shared by all three families.  The mill alone was sold in 1847 to J. S. Stiger, and the brothers then seized the opportunity to buy the quarry the next year. 7

Additional Irish arrived in town, taking up work at the quarry and elsewhere, but choosing to huddle close to their own nationality in houses on upper Halstead Street, which led to its labeling as Irishtown.  Together, these Irish were interested in having a Roman Catholic Church, and services were begun in the barn on Francis Mulligan's property.  This was eventually replaced by a church building in 1879, which no longer stands.  Another Mulligan gave a lot he owned for St. Mary's Cemetery.  The original three brothers sold the quarry eventually and left town.   A fourth brother, James, remained and the quarry was purchased all over again on three acres.  Originally in 1848 it had cost $600; in 1866 it cost $5950.   James' son Michael is perhaps best known in local history as the proud Irishman who wanted to prove he was as good as the oldtimers in town, and made his point by buying a house with a prestigious address directly opposite the Presbyterian Church.

The cemeteries associated with the Presbyterian and Catholic churches contribute to the Clinton historic district in recording town's history of families through burial sites.  Clearly, the Presbyterian Cemetery is most significant as the favored place for respectable prideful people to rest in peace and be remembered.  Graves of three of the Taylor family, all in military service, make it important.  The local childhood resident, Foster Voorhees, later Governor of New Jersey, is also interred here.  The cemetery is also noteworthy for its funerary art on grave markers for leading families, including the Klines and Shipmans.  In the same manner, the later-opened Baptist Church and cemetery, both on land provided by wealthy congregation member John. T. Leigh, record another aspect of the town's history.

Next... Incorporated at Maturity

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