A BRIEF HISTORY
The history of Flemington dates back to the 1700’s when the Lenape Indians lived in the rolling hills of Hunterdon County including “greater Flemington”. The Lenape Indians were a peaceful people who hunted, fished, and grew crops in the tradition of agricultural living. In 1738, a German settler, John Phillip Kase, purchased land from the sons of William Penn and built a log cabin along what is now known as Mine Brook. Chief Tuccamirgan, whose encampment was nearby, opened his Wigwam home to the first settlers and the families developed a long-lasting friendship.
Samuel Fleming, a man of Irish-Scottish descent, settled in the area in 1746. He was granted a tavern license and built the first real house in Flemington in 1756. Fleming’s Tavern was a welcome stop for weary travelers in need of home-cooked food, good conversation, and the latest news. Now known as Fleming Castle or Samuel Fleming House, this structure has been thoughtfully preserved and can be visited today.
Families continued to expand their agricultural lifestyle and local homesteads became self-sufficient. In the second half of the century, local grist mills, saw mills, and tanneries developed. In 1783, two years after the end of the Revolutionary War, Flemington became the county seat of Hunterdon County. The Courthouse was built six years later, and the post office was established in 1794. Popular architectural styles in the 1700’s were Pre-Revolutionary (about 1715), Georgian (1715-1785), and Federal (1785-1820).
During the 1800’s, industry in Flemington thrived. Flour and grist mills were joined by woodworking and basket factories, brickyards, clock making, a rake factory, peach orchards, iron foundries, copper mines, and railroads. By 1822, Main Street between the Presbyterian and Baptist churches contained twenty-five homes, the Courthouse and county offices, three hotels (Moore’s, Hart’s, and later the Union Hotel) and Bonnell’s), shops, and two schoolhouses. On February 15, 1828, the Hunterdon County Courthouse on Main Street was burned beyond repair. One year later, a new stoic Greek Revival-style Courthouse was built which still stands today as a symbol of justice.
The coming of Flemington’s first bank, Hunterdon County Bank, and concurrently the Flemington Railroad strongly influenced the economy. Growth included Fulper Pottery, Flemington Gas and Light Company, the Flemington Water Company, and the opening of Flemington High School. New and different architectural styles also appeared. Master builder and designer, Mahlon Fisher, built several Greek Revival-style structures including his home, the Doric House, today’s home of the Hunterdon County Historical Society. Residences were also built in Gothic, Italianate, French, Second Empire, and Queen Anne styles.
One cannot speak of the 1900’s in Flemington without discussing the “Trial of the Century”. On March 1, 1932, twenty-month old Charles Lindbergh, Jr., son of Charles A. Lindbergh, was kidnapped from his crib. The heartbroken Lindbergh family would be told six months later that their baby son’s body had been found near Hopewell. Bruno Richard Hauptmann was charged with the crime. His trial was held in Flemington at the Hunterdon County Courthouse. Hauptmann was found guilty on February 15, 1935.
The 1900’s also brought change and prosperity to Flemington. The town attracted visitors for its historical significance, beautiful architectural structures, and its creative artisans. Stangl Pottery, Flemington Cut Glass, Liberty Village, and Turntable Junction were well-known. Visitors came to watch craftsmen who were candlemakers, weavers, woodworkers, gunsmiths, blacksmiths, and glassblowers.
Today Flemington is ever-changing, but remains a town of amazing people, rich history, and beautiful architecture. Flemington is fortunate to have citizens and organizations who continue to appreciate, preserve, and restore its historical treasures.
This information has been gratefully excerpted from Guide to Flemington New Jersey, written by Barbara Clayton and Kathleen Whitley.