THE DUTCH SETTLERS
Early Dutch and English Colonial Period, beginning 1623
The Dutch West India Company established New Netherlands (which included northern New Jersey) in 1623. When the English took over the area from the Dutch, New Jersey was formed with a 1664 grant issued by the Duke of York to Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley. The grant was divided into East and West Jersey in 1674. In 1675 East Jersey was divided into four counties, with the Millstone area being part of Middlesex County.
Millstone became part of Somerset County when Somerset County was set off from Middlesex County on May 14, 1688.
When Sir George Carteret died, East Jersey became the property of 12 Quaker gentlemen led by William Penn. On June 10, 1688, William Dockwra received patents from of the 12 proprietors for 2000 acres in the valleys of the Millstone and Raritan. In 1690, Captain Clement Plumstead obtained a large grant of this land, including the territory of the present Borough of Millstone, and extending along the river's west side to Blackwell's Mills. A boundary dispute between Plumstead and his neighbor, John Royce of Roycefield, was resolved when both agreed that the brook flowing through the disputed land should serve as a boundary. They named the brook “Peace Brook”. The brook bisects Millstone and flows into the Millstone River; itis still called “Peace Brook”.
Early Settlement Period, beginning 1699
The Raritan and Millstone area began to be permanently settled after 1682. In 1699, the Hockenberry house was built in Millstone. The new-world descendants of the New Netherland Dutch began settling the Millstone valley around 1700. The Dutch, mainly farmers, were attracted by the fertile farmland of the Millstone River Valley. 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.
A bridge over the Millstone River connecting Somerset Courthouse with New Brunswick probably existed in 1738. The Amwell Road crossed the river here, extending on to settlements further west. In 1738 there were about fifty families within three miles of the present borough. Farmers in this vicinity came to the village to ship their produce to market, using the Millstone River to connect to the Raritan River. The original settlement around Somerset Courthouse consisted of large farms, but by the end of second quarter of the 18th century several structures were clustered near the river by the bridge. During the "Court House" years the village developed into a bustling rural center with diverse tradespeople.
Ledgers from the Van Neste–Van Lieu store for 1772-1775 list customers by occupations: 3 weavers, 4 coopers, 3 blacksmiths, 6 tailors, 2 hatters, 2 shoemakers, 4 carpenters, a doctor and a miner. John Coffee, a free Negro, did business here. There was an inn in the village in the 1730's. By the time of the Revolution there were two taverns, both said to do a prosperous business.
PRECOLONIAL HISTORY OF THE MILLSTONE RIVER VALLEY