A Brief History of Millstone, also known as Somerset Courthouse
The First Settlers
[singlepic id=32 w=200 h=150 float=right]Before colonists from Europe settled New Jersey, the Lenni Lenape tribe of the Eastern Algonquian Confederacy occupied the area along the Millstone River, including a sizeable settlement in or near the present boundaries of Millstone. An Indian mortar (originally used for grinding corn – shown at right) was discovered locally on the Van Doren farm and is now located in front of the Hillsborough Dutch Reformed Church. The plaque accompanying the mortar states that there was once an Indian village “one thousand feet south of the Church,” probably the same village referred to as “Hunters’ Wigwam” in the property deed and bill of sale acquired by Lady Elizabeth Carteret in 1631. A similar mortar in front of the Forge on North River Street is dedicated to the “first American mechanic.”
The Millstone area was first settled by Quakers, around 1690. Captain Clement Plumstead obtained the land that incorporates Millstone in 1688. In 1699, the Hockenberry house was built in Millstone. Dutch settlers came around 1700 for the rich farmland of the river valley, the religious freedom offered by the New Jersey Proprietors, and to escape the British who had seized New York in 1664. Other ethnic groups settled the Valley, including the Scots and some English and Germans, but the Dutch community was predominant. Dutch surnames such as Van Doren, Vanderveer, Van Cleef, Cortelyou, Van Neste, Beekman, Veghte and Hageman are still prominent in Somerset County today. In 1760, the Millstone Dutch joined with the Presbyterians to erect a church on land to the northeast of the present Dutch Reformed Church in Millstone.
The Village Called Somerset Courthouse
The county seat was moved c. l738 from Six Mile Run to what is now Millstone, and the town was designated Somerset Courthouse. The County Courthouse and jail were located near the river. In 1778, New Jersey’s first patriot Governor, William Livingston, established the Supreme Court here. By the time of the American Revolution, Somerset Courthouse had developed into a bustling rural center with diverse tradespeople, two taverns, two churches, stores, the courthouse, and jail. In July, 1774, a County Committee of Correspondence was selected here to keep informed of resistance throughout the colonies and to raise troops. By February, 1776, with events becoming more strained with the motherland, the Eastern New Jersey Treasury moved to the town for safe keeping.