Giants, ghosts and a murder mystery are just part of the rich history that
Somerset County, NJ
) offers visitors.
You can see the grave of Colonel Routh Goshen, who was once known as the World’s Largest Living Man, in
, who once lived in
and was known as the Middlebush Giant, was billed as 7 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing 560 to 650 pounds -although some believe he was actually shorter than that – and he toured with P.T. Barnum’s Circus.
Before the OJ. Simpson and Lindbergh trials “of the century,” there was the Hall-Mills Murder trial in 1926, the most sensational trial the country had ever seen to that point. The brutal murders in 1922 of Rev. Edward Wheeler Hall (who was married to a Johnson & Johnson heiress) and Eleanor Mills, a singer in the reverend’s church choir, occurred in
. A teenage couple discovered their bodies under a crab apple tree along a lover’s lane with their throats cut and their love letters strewn about. Today, moderately sized homes are located on
and the only remnants of the farm where the bodies lay are two brick pillars, but at night, when traffic has lulled, you can almost imagine what it was like the night they were murdered. The murders remain unsolved.
also was the site of the “Battle That Never Happened” during the Revolutionary War, where General George Washington and his troops sat on one side of the
in Franklin and General Charles Cornwallis and the British troops waited on the other side. Eventually,
won the waiting game and the British moved on.
(located in Franklin as well as two other towns), and specifically, Rockingham, have another tie to the Revolutionary War. Rockingham, built in the early 1700s, is one of the many places
slept in. However, it has the distinction of being the place where
wrote his farewell address to his troops after the Treaty of Paris had been signed, effectively ending the Revolutionary War. On Nov. 2, 1783, in the “Blue Room,” he bid his troops “an affectionate – a long farewell.”
Rockingham, a New Jersey State Historic Site, is situated at the southernmost tip of
. The site’s usual hours are weekdays (excluding Wednesday) through Saturday 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. However, you are advised to call 609-683-7132 to be sure they’re open.
The 277-year-old Van Wickle House in the
, also played a part in the Revolutionary War – except this area was occupied by the British. The house, once situated on 200 acres of land in
, is touted as a great example of early 18th century Dutch architecture unique to the
area. But what some may find more interesting is that it is purported to have ghosts. Some say the strange noises and odd puddles of water are the work of Symen and Geradina Van Wickle, who reportedly died on the same day in 1757. Whatever attracts you to the place, it is definitely worth visiting. Open house tours are offered between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on the second Sunday of every month.
Two major transportation routes run through
– one was the King’s Highway (now Route 27) and the other is the
Delaware & Raritan
. This waterway, which runs from
, was a huge commercial route.During the Civil War, up to 200,000 tons of freight was hauled by mule and horse-drawn barges, a great economic boon for the area. The canal declined as the railroad became more popular, but this area now attracts visitors interested in nature and history. You can drive or ride along the canal by way of
or you can walk or ride the
Delaware & Raritan
towpath – both will take you through
About a third of the way down the canal, you can stop at the Blackwells Mills Canal House, a 171-year-old residence for the operators of the swinging bridges on the canal. The home now hosts a variety of programs including antique shows, plant sales and exhibits. Open house tours also are available from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. the second Sunday of the month. For more information you can call (732) 873-2133.
B lackwells Mills Canal House
Blackwells Mills Road & Canal Road
Somerset, NJ 08873
1289 Easton Ave.
Somerset, NJ 07783
tel. (732) 828-7418
County Road 603 (Laurel Avenue)
Kingston, NJ 08528