Rochambeau’s Army Encampment in Somerset Courthouse
In September 3, 1783, the Second Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolutionary War, and the thirteen colonies became free from British rule. The final battle making that treaty possible was the Battle of Yorktown, in Virginia, which began on September 18, and ended on October 19, 1781. On that date, the American army under General Washington and the French forces under the French General, the Comte de Rochambeau accepted the surrender of the British forces under Lord Cornwallis. To reach Yorktown, the American army marched south from New York and New Jersey, and the French forces marched 600 miles south from Rhode Island. This monumental march was made possible by the support of the population in towns where the armies camped and obtained provisions. On August, 1781, 5,000 troops of the French army under General Rochambeau camped Somerset Courthouse. They were welcomed by the citizens of the town, who hoped that the support of the French might bring an end to the war, and with it, the longed-for independence from Britain. The French Army returned to New England in September 1782, camping in Millstone on September 8 and 9. There are excellent maps by Louis-Alexandre Berthier for Rochambeau documenting both French encampments in the village. After September 1782 large-scale military movements in the Somerset Court House area ended.
After the War
On April 16, 1783, Governor Livingston officiated at a great celebration to mark the end of the war, with the Rev. Solomon Froelich of the Somerset Courthouse Dutch Church leading a “divine service” for the assembled troops and citizens. But Millstone’s courthouse had been burned during the Revolution, and in 1874 the county seat was moved to Somerville. Somerset Court House became Millstone. Politically, it remained a part of Hillsborough until it was incorporated as a Borough on May 14, 1894. In fact it retained its own identity as a political, economic, social, and cultural hub in this largely rural part of New Jersey well into the 20th century.
Millstone was also noted for its artisans, in particular the Van Doren family of farmer-weavers. Peter Sutphen Van Doren and Isaac William Van Doren, grandsons of John and Marreyte Van Doren of Revolutionary War fame were both well-known weavers. George Van Doren, who had a shop in Millstone about 1830, is credited with the designing of the Liberty Coverlet. This reversible spread or blanket is graced with a floral design usually done in white and red or blue. The repetitive border design consists of a spread eagle alternating with the word “Liberty.” Van Doren coverlets are collected today for their beauty, craftsmanship, and historical value.