Somerset Hills Timeline

Pre -1600 – The Lenni Lenape tribe of Native Americans lived in the Somerset Hills area prior to the 1600s. Their language is classified as part of the Algonquin language group.

1688 – Somerset County set off from Middlesex County by charter on May 22, 1688.

1693? – Somerset County divided into precincts. The Northern precinct covered the area that would eventually become Bedminster (chartered 1749), Bridgewater (chartered 1749), and Bernards (chartered 1760) townships.

1701 – The “Peapack Patent” of 1701 transferred lands from 24 proprietors of East Jersey to George Willocks and John Johnstone.

1708 – Deed from eleven Indians to European settlers mentions Indian town of “Peapock.” The consideration was kettles, axes, hoes, powder, knives, rum, etc.

1717 – Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church founded and a log church erected.

1717 – Three thousand acres in what is now Bernards Township was purchased by John Harrison, agent for the proprietors of East Jersey, from the Lenni Lenape Indians for $50.

1722 – John Annin, officially known as John Johnston of Annandale, Scotland, arrives in what is now Bernards Township and took title to 1,000 acres. The settlement was known as Annin’s Corner until the Revolution, when the name was changed to Liberty Corner.

1724 – Refugees from the German Palatine establish the Raritan in the Hills Lutheran church atop the 2nd Watchung Mountain in what is now Bernards Township. See more in February 2022 newsletter.

1733 – The name “Baskinridge” first appeared in the records of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. According to legend, early settlers saw wild animals “bask” on the ridge.

1749 – The Township of Bedminster was chartered on April 4, 1749 in the name of King George II. The township includes the historic villages of Burnt Mills, Vliettown, Pluckemin, Lamington, Pottersville, Greater Crossroads, and Bedminster.

1760 – George II of Great Britain establishes Bernards Township by charter on May 24, 1760. Both Bernards Township and later Bernardsville were named after Sir Francis Bernard (1712-1779), royal governor of New Jersey (1758-1760).

1771 – Elias Boudinot (1740-1821), future president of the Continental Congress, purchased land in Basking Ridge. He moved his family here in 1776 during the Revolutionary War.

1778-79 — General Henry Knox, under orders of General George Washington, establishes the Pluckemin Artillery Academy, an extensive officer and artillery training center, in Bedminster Township. Over 1,000 troops were stationed at the site which was the subject of archaeological excavations 1979-89.

1779-1780 – New Jersey Brigade encamps along Hardscrabble Road in Bernards Township (now Bernardsville).  For more information see the May 2022 newsletter.

1797—Bernardstown, in Somerset County, N.J., contained 2,377 inhabitants including 93 slaves according to the American Gazetteer, published in 1797. For more on slavery in the area, see the October 2022 and May 2024 newsletters

1803 – Robert Field Stockton, also known as Commodore Stockton, was a hero of the Mexican War and a student at the Basking Ridge Classical School until he was expelled for mischievous conduct.

1806 — Warren Township was formed from Bernards Township and a small section of Bridgewater Township on March 5, 1806.

1840 – Vealtown, a village in Bernards Township, is renamed Bernardsville through the efforts of Roderick Mitchell, the local postmaster.

1856 – Basking Ridge native William Lewis Dayton (1807-1864) ran as the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States on a ticket with presidential candidate John C. Fremont. Fremont and Dayton lost to the Democratic ticket of James Buchanan and John C. Breckinridge.

1872 – Railroad service is extended from Summit to Bernardsville by the New Jersey West Line Railroad.

1880 – The 1880 Federal Census listed Bernards Township with a population of 2,622 and Bedminster Township as 1,812. Within Bernards, Basking Ridge had 365 inhabitants and Bernardsville, 147.

1887 – Grant B. Schley (1845-1917), and his wife, Elizabeth, came by horse-drawn carriage to see his brother Evander H. Schley’s farms in Bernards and Bedminster. Elizabeth is said to have remarked on the beautiful vista of “far hills,” thus giving name to the place where there was yet no village.

1887 – Grant B. Schley begins building his Froh Heim (German for Happy Home) estate in Far Hills. Froh Heim in its heyday was about a 3,000-acre estate with a live-in staff of 36 servants. The silent films Madame Butterfly (1915) starring Mary Pickford and Wild Girl (1917) were filmed here. The original mansion was torn down in the 1930s by Schley’s son Evander. The estate was renamed Moorland Farms after 1954 by owner William B. K. Bassett.

1899 – Developers led by Clinton Ledyard Blair (1867-1949), owner of the 500-acre Blairsden estate in Peapack, dam the north branch of the Raritan River creating Ravine Lake.

1899 – Evander Schley and David Dumont drew up a subdivision plan of the Dumont Farm and offered lots for sale in what was to become Far Hills village in Bernards Township. A unique clause was written into each deed prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages on the premises.

1902 – Around 1902, the original Bernardsville Railroad Station (built 1872) was moved to its current location at 17 Morristown Road (Route 202). It was later the offices of The Bernardsville News.

1910 – C. Ledyard Blair of the Blairsden estate in Peapack served as Commodore of the prestigious New York Yacht Club. His 254-foot yacht The Diana, served as flagship.

1910 – February 10 – The First Farmers’ Day celebration is sponsored by Charles Pfizer (1861-1229) of Bernardsville, and hosted by his hunt club, the Essex Fox Hounds to thank local farmers for use of their land. Farmers’ Day was the precursor to today’s Far Hills Race Meeting.

1910 – T. Leonard Hill, son of Garner Ferris Hill was one of Peapack’s first automobile owners, creating the first auto taxi in the Garner Hill Livery Service.

1912 – James Cox Brady named Hamilton Farm in Bedminster after his first wife Elizabeth Jane Hamilton.

1912 – On June 6, 1912, Peapack and Gladstone were set off from Bedminster Township and incorporated as an independent twin borough.

1915 – October 23 – The New Jersey Hunt Cup and the Essex Hounds Club run its first official steeplechase. The next year the event moves to Froh Heim in Far Hills, the estate of Grant Schley, which later becomes Moorland Farms. The event is now called The Far Hills Race Meeting.

1919 – The Frothingham/Sloan House (now the U.S. Golf Museum) in Liberty Corner was designed and constructed in 1919 by architect John Russell Pope. The original owner, Thomas Frothingham later sold (1926) to John Sloan, a prominent furniture retailer.

1921 – Far Hills secedes from Bernards Township. Rising taxes led the 200 residents of Far Hills to separate from Bernards Township and to incorporate as a Borough. The local property tax rate jumped from $2.72 in 1919 to $3.53 in 1920.

1923 – The Friends of the Oak Tree was organized in 1923 to save the 600-year-old oak tree in the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Churchyard. The tree trunk was cleaned of its disease, leaving space for four men to stand in its trunk. Three tons of concrete were poured into the cavity. These efforts proved successful until 2016 when the historic tree died and was taken down.

1924 – Bernardsville, originally part of Bernards Township, was incorporated by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 6,
1924. The act did not take effect until a majority of voters in the proposed new borough approved the action in a special election on April 29, 1924.

1926 – Thomas Frothingham (1891-1971), sold his Dogwood estate in Liberty Corner (now USGA Golf Museum) to John Sloan, due to Frothingham’s bankruptcy as partner of investment company Potter Brothers & Company.

1928 – South Maple Avenue in Basking Ridge was paved with concrete, a new trend in road construction.

1930 – July – The Veterans Administration Hospital was dedicated at Lyons in Bernards Township, and soon began receiving its first patients.

1931 – January 6 – The first electric train (3,000 volts direct current) runs on the Passaic and Delaware Branch of the Lackawanna Railroad from Summit to Gladstone. Thousands of people turned out in Bernardsville to welcome the train. Twelve cars made the initial run carrying 1,682 passengers.

1933 – Upon Walter Graeme Ladd’s death of pneumonia on May 21, his will noted that after his wife Kate Macy’s death (1945) the Natirar Estate in Peapack would become a convalescent home for women until May 21, 1983 – 50 years from his death. King Hassan II of Morocco then bought Natriar.

1935 – Tommy Dorsey – The “Sentimental Gentleman of Swing,” purchases the red brick Tall Oaks estate on Old Army Road in Bernardsville as a summer home. He sold the estate in 1944.

1942 – The Hamilton Farm stables in Bedminster are converted to the first civilian base hospital for merchant marine seamen who had been wounded in World War II.

1943 – John Jacob Astor VI (1912-1992) purchases the Baker Farm on South Maple Avenue (now Somerset County’s Stable at Lord Stirling Park).  Astor was the posthumous son of John Jacob Astor IV who died on the Titanic. Astor IV’s wife Madeleine, pregnant with their son, survived the disaster.

1950 – John Jacob Astor VI (1912-1992) purchases the former Owen mansion (now Bernards Township Municipal Building).

1951 – What was formerly the Blairsden stables in Peapack was sold to the Matheny School and is the present location for the Matheny Medical and Educational Center which focuses on children and adults with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida.

1961 – The Gladstone train and freight stations were used as locations for the film The Miracle Worker (released 1962). See: October 2021 Newsletter.

1967 – Declining enrollment and rising costs led to the closing of the Far Hills School. The borough’s 80 kindergarten through 8th grade students began attending Bedminster School that fall.

1968 –The Astor Estate (known as Cedar Hill) and 28 acres were purchased from John Jacob Astor 6th by Bernards Township in 1968 for $140,000. The estate, originally built by Samuel Owen (1912), once included an apple and peach orchard farm.

1969 – The descendents of Grant Schley sold Schley Mountain for $2.2 million for development of what is now known as The Hills Development of Bedminster and Bernards Township. By the time construction began in earnest on the Bernards side in the mid-1990s, Johns-Manville had sold its 50 percent share to William E. Simon and Sons. This group, in turn, auctioned off huge parcels to major home builders like K. Hovnanian, Pulte Homes and Toll Brothers.

1971 – AT&T bought 225 acres in Far Hills and an adjoining 140 acres in Bedminster (lands once part of the Froh Heim estate) and constructed an office complex for its Long Lines Division. AT&T pledged to keep the Far Hills lands open space forever and to continue to make the land available for the annual Far Hills Race Meeting.

1972 – Routes 78 and Routes 287 were completed in Somerset County 0pening the Somerset Hills to further commercial and residential development.

1972 – The United States Golf Association (USGA) buys the former Frothingham/Sloan house in Liberty Corner. Designed by architect John Russell Pope, mansion now houses the USGA Golf Museum and Library. Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State in the Carter administration, once lived in carriage house on the estate.

1974 – Starting in 1974, AT&T moved 6,300 employees to two large corporate parks: AT&T Long Lines in Bedminster at the foothills of Schley Mountain and AT&T Headquarters on North Maple Avenue in Basking Ridge.

1978 – Hamilton Farm in Bedminster (the former Brady Estate) was sold to the Beneficial Management Corporation.

1982 – The Hills Development Company and Toll Brothers begin building the The Hills residential development in Bedminster and Bernards townships.

1983 – King Hassan II of Morocco purchases the Natirar Estate in Peapack (formerly the Kate Macy Ladd Home) for $7.5 million, setting a record for a home purchase in New Jersey.

1986 – Far Hills voters and the Borough Council rejected a proposal to permit the sale of alcoholic beverages in the borough. Far Hills remains a dry borough today.

1988 – Beneficial Management Corporation donates the main stable and surrounding acres at Hamilton Farm in Bedminster to the U.S. Equestrian Team (USET) to use as its headquarters. The USET had leased the stable since 1961.

1988 – The Basking Ridge Historical Society changed its name to The Historical Society of The Somerset Hills to broaden its historical endeavors in Bedminster, Bernards Township, Bernardsville, Far Hills, and Peapack-Gladstone.

1990 – The census population of Bedminster soared to 7,086 from 2,469 recorded in the 1980 Census—an increase of 187%. Most of the growth was caused by the opening of the Hills Development.

2001 – Nineteen Somerset Hills residents are killed in the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in New York City (17 Bernards Twp., 1 Bernardsville, 1 Peapack). Many commuted to work in the city from area train stations. A monument was erected on April
11, 2002 at the Basking Ridge station in memory of the 17 Bernards Township residents who died.

2004 – Portions of the 2004 film The Stepford Wives was filmed in Bedminster (Lamington).

2012 – Hurricane Sandy makes landfall on the New Jersey coast. The Somerset Hills were especially hard hit with downed trees and power outages, some lasting two weeks.

2016 – After losing its top branches at the beginning of the year, the 600+ year-old white oak in the Basking Ridge Presbyterian churchyard died and was taken down the following year.

2018 – Hamilton Farm Stable Complex, home of the United States Equestrian Team (USET) in Bedminster, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2019 – The Moses Craig Lime Kilns in Peapack are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Do NOT forget to visit Meet the Historians. These people have live here and know history inside and out. It’s a fantastic historical perspective.