Township of Blairstown
Founded 1839, Inc. 1845
Blairstown, Past and Present
An Historical Narrative
The exact date of settlement by civilized man in
this area will probably never be known, but there can be little doubt
about it’s being among the earliest settlements within the limits of Warren
County. We do know that a track of land containing 1000 acres
was first surveyed by Samuel Green, Deputy Surveyor of West Jersey, in
1729, and was deeded to John Hyndshaw. This track of land was located
west of Walnut Valley Creek and just north of the Paulinskill, then called
the “Tonhonkneatkung” by the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) Indians, and is described
as being a part of what was then known as “the last Indian purchase”.
It is quite probable that there were white settlers in this vicinity as
early as 1700, or even earlier. Trappers could have come up the great
Delaware River from Philadelphia seeking furs or to trade with the Lenape,
but there are no records to support this theory.
Blairstown’s original name was Smyth’s Mills. Many years before the revolutionary war, approximately 1760, a man by the name of Benjamin Smyth had built a gristmill. The inhabitants of Pahaquarry, now part of Hardwick, brought their grain on packhorses to be ground into flour. Smyth’s grist- mill was still standing at the beginning of the 19th century. The present mill on Main Street was built in 1825 and was purchased and remodeled by Blair Academy in 1904.
The second name given to our little town, around 1795, was Butt’s Bridge. A gentleman named Michael Buttz (Butts) came to the little village of Smyth’s Mills and began to farm the rich soil. When Michael Buttz died, his son Jacob received the family’s land. The land was separated by the Paulinskill River, so Jacob joined his property by building the first bridge in town, hence the name Butt’s Bridge. The first post office was established at Butt’s Bridge on June 29, 1820, at which time William Hankinson was made postmaster. In 1820 the village consisted of a store/post office, several small dwellings, a tavern, a black smith shop, and a couple small barns.
John Insley Blair came to Butt’s Bridge in 1822 and commenced business with his cousin John Blair, a prominent merchant in Hope Township. After only two years, John I. Blair purchased his cousin’s interest in the business. John I. Blair was born near Belvidere ( Foul Rift ) New Jersey on August 22, 1802, the fourth of 10 children of Scottish immigrants John Blair and Rachel Insley. Only nine years after opening his first general store at Butt’s Bridge, John I. Blair owned a small chain of five stores and four flour mills. On September 20, 1828, John I. Blair married Nancy Ann Locke, and together they had four children: Emma Elizabeth, Marcus Laurence, Dewitt Clinton, and Aurelia Ann.
On November 20, 1824, Warren County was formed from parts of Sussex county by an act of Legislature. On August 25, 1825, the name of the town was changed again to Gravel Hill and John I. Blair was appointed postmaster. Blair remained postmaster until the appointment of Henry Space, in July, 1851.
The name of the village was officially changed to Blairstown by a vote of the citizens at a public meeting held Jan. 24, 1839. John I. Blair was only 36 years of age at the time. Blairstown Township was incorporated Feb. 20, 1845, and the first annual township meeting was held on April 14, 1845, at the home of John Hull.
Blairstown’s first township committee consisted of James Cool, Ira Cook, Walter Wilson, Abraham Wildrick, and John Flock.
Blairstown's first township clerk was Simeon Cooke.
Most of our surrounding communities view Blairstown as their "town
center". Within Blairstown's boundaries are the North
Warren Regional High School, a Warren County library facility, several
food markets, numerous restaurants and professional services as well as
a variety of commercial facilities. As part of its Memorial
Day festivities, Blairstown hosts an impressive parade followed by serving
of refreshments at Foot Bridge Park. Foot Bridge Park is also
the site of a July 4th celebration complete with activities and booths
for providing food and assorted items. The day ends with a
fireworks display at the High School.
Our approximately 5,900 residents have varied expertise and desires of what their community should be. Blairstown's sense of community is expressed in its numerous and diversified committees, commissions, boards, volunteer services, and recreational opportunities. Our Township Committee actively seeks input from its residents on issues affecting all of us.
After reading about our history, you understand why we are proud of our past, most notably the number of historic structures located in our Main Street village area. If you walk down our Main Street and block out the parked cars, you could be walking down the street more than 100 years ago. Blairstown expects to keep that sense of timelessness into its future.
Blairstown has been home to Yard's Creek, an electrical power generating plant, for many years. Visitors may still picnic on the property and get information at the visitor's center at the facility. The grounds of Yard Creek are open May 1st through September 30th on weekdays from 8am to 3pm and weekends 8am to 7pm.
Blairstown is also home to Blair Academy, founded in 1848, and currently considered one of the most prestigious private high schools in the country.
Blairstown provides many recreational facilities including hiking, biking and riding trails as well as streams and rivers for fishing, fields for hunting and parks for picnics. Our farmers offer local produce in season, opportunities for pumpkin picking and even choosing that "perfect" Christmas tree.
As you learn more about us, you may decide that Blairstown is the community you might want to call home. Before you leap to that conclusion, you should know that Blairstown has a very active Open Space Committee and in 2001, started a two cent Open Space tax. This past November our voters decided to increase this tax to four cents.Preservation is of utmost importance to our residents and our quality of life.
County and Local Websites That May be of Interest
|General County Government Information:||www.www.co.warren.nj.us|
|N.J. Historic Trust:||www.njht.org|
|Knowlton Township Historic Commission:||www.knowlton-nj.com/history.html|
|Warren County History:||www.co.warren.nj.us/about.html|
|Preservation New Jersey:||preservationnj.org|
|N. J. Historical Society:||www.jerseyhistory.org|
|N.J. Great Northwest Skylands:||www.njskylands.com|
|N.J. Historic Preservation Office:||www.state.nj.us/dep/hpo|
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