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Warren County, NJ

History of Warren County

Index map of Warren County municipalities

Warren County came into existence in 1825 when an act of the New Jersey Legislature, passed on Nov. 20, 1824, took effect and separated the area from Sussex County. The county was named in honor of Dr. Joseph Warren who, although he had no known association with the area, earned a heroic reputation throughout the original 13 states for his devotion to the revolutionary cause, which led to his death in the battle of Bunker Hill. During the Revolutionary War, a large majority of the 13,000 colonists who lived in Sussex (and what is now Warren) supported the patriotic cause. Sussex was among three New Jersey counties commended by the Provincial Congress in 1775 for “spirited exertions” in raising minutemen for the fight for independence.

The county originally had the townships of Greenwich, Hardwick, Independence, Knowlton, Mansfield, Oxford and Pahaquarry, from which the present 22 municipalities were carved. The Town of Belvidere was chosen as the county seat, a decision that was considerably influenced by the action of General Garrett D. Wall, who donated grounds for a county courthouse and public square in Belvidere.

THE CUMMINS BUILDING was built on Belvidere’s courthouse square in 1834 by John B. Maxwell, a newspaper editor and two-term Congressman. Today, Warren County government offices are located there, including the Department of Human Services and, as of Spring 2001, the Board of Taxation.

Springtown Stagecoach Inn

Route 519 South Pohatcong, Warren County The Springtown Stagecoach
Inn has a long history that includes serving as an inn, blacksmith shop/forge, store, private residence, grange, municipal garage, and the Town Hall for the community of Pohatcong.

The oldest section of the building, a one-and-a half-room stone structure, dates to about 1750; the upstairs and adjoining two-story structure—the second-oldest section—was constructed roughly fifteen years later. The third section, the Springtown Inn, constructed of red brick, was built around 1825 and was a stagecoach stop on the road leading out of Easton, Pennsylvania, through Phillipsburg, New Jersey, to points east, such as Somerville and Trenton; some of the stagecoaches traveled the New Brunswick Turnpike.

There is a very strong local oral tradition that the inn served as an Underground Railroad safe house. The normal trafficking to and from an inn would have provided a perfect cover for a UGRR stop.

Shippen Manor/Oxford Furnance

On a hill overlooking the Furnace and the village of Oxford Furnace (its historical name) sits Shippen Manor, once the home of the ironmaster and now a Museum. The Georgian-style stone mansion was built in 1753 by Joseph and William Shippen, owners of the Oxford Furnace, and at one time the estate consisted of 4000 acres. Here, at the home of the ironmaster, the Shippens stayed when they visited their investment; the house also had a basement kitchen where the ironworkers ate.

Jonathan Robeson, an experience ironmaster, and Joseph Shippen, Jr., both of Philadelphia, built the Furnace. Later Shippen’s brother, Dr. William Shippen, Sr., became a partner, then eventually the sole owner. Dr. Shippen was a member of the Continental Congress and counted among his worthy patients Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, George Washington, and Generals Gage, Howe, and Lafayette. His grandfather had been the first mayor of Philadelphia, and Dr. Shippen was related by marriage to the Lees of Virginia and the Livingstons of New York. His grandson was the personal secretary of Thomas Jefferson.

The Oxford Furnace in the 1870s. The grist mill next door is now the Methodist Church

Oxford Furnace is a state and county treasure and the entire district surrounding the Furnace is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The distinctions that the Oxford Furnace holds are many. Built in 1741, it was the third furnace in Colonial New Jersey and the first where iron ore was mined. Prior to that time, ore was scooped out of bogs in South Jersey. And if all the above were not enough, the Oxford Furnace operated the longest of any of the Colonial Furnaces. The two furnaces that pre-dated it, Tinton Falls and Mount Holly, no longer stand, and furnaces at Ringwood, High Bridge, and Waterloo came later–with Oxford being “blown out” in 1884. It was also the site of America’s first successful “hot blast” in 1835.  Before that time unheated air was pumped, by bellows or other method, into the furnace.  A hot blast sent pre-heated air into the furnace, and cut production time.

Arches or “tuyeres” on three sides of the furnace can still be seen, and it was through these apertures that air was blown into the furnace; molten iron was removed through the fourth opening. The Furnace produced 200-500-pound firebacks and pig iron in its early days; later it cranked out railroad car wheels, nails, and other prosaic objects.  In spite of popular legend, there is no proof that Oxford supplied cannon balls for any American war.

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