Pluckemin History
--- An early New Jersey village

The historic village of Pluckemin, New Jersey was settled in the early 1700s and played a significant role  during the Revolutionary War.   Pluckemin is one of the villages that comprise Bedminster Township in Somerset County.  (The main street of Pluckemin is Route 202-206, and can be reached from exit 22 and 22A off of Interstate 287).

Pluckemin Presbyterian Church
At the village center is the Pluckemin Presbyterian Church,  which was built in 1852 over the site of St. Paul's Lutheran Church which had been built in 1756 at the same location, damaged by a British raid in 1776, and torn down early in the 19th century the original church when it was no longer safe.

The original subscription agreement for St. Paul's Lutheran Church signed by 130 persons provided that one-half of the sermons would be in English and the other in high-Dutch.   Jacob Eoff donated the land for the church.  St. Paul's Church was damaged by the British in a raid in December 1776 when the  British Cavalry made a raid on Pluckemin.  Dwellings were robbed, cattle driven off, doors of the Church were battered down, pews broken up, and the pulpit hacked with sabres.  The object of the raid was to capture Captain Issac VanArsdale but he escaped to the woods.  A second raid followed shortly after, at which time the British went as far as VanderVeer's Mills (toward what is now Bedminster) on the north branch of the Raritan, and took Elias VanderVeer prinsoner.  Although it was mid-winter, he was driven off without coat or hat and he died from the effects of this and other hardships several years later.  The wounded were distributed to houses in the village, and 230 British prisoners were placed in the damaged St. Paul's Lutheran Church. After the battle of Princeton, the Continental Army retired to Pluckemin.    On Sunday January 5, 1777, Generals Washington, Sullivan,  Knox and Dr. Benjamin Rushwere on hand in Pluckemin for the burial of British Captain William Leslie, son of the Earl of Leven, Scotland, with military honors in the church cemetary.  The cemetary contains other early gravestones, including those of Revolutionary war soldiers.  (An illustration of the gravestone of Captain William Leslie is listed in the The Princeton University Library Chronicle, Index, Volumes I - XXV, 1939 - 1964,  Biblia, Volumes I - X, 1930 - 1938, Index to Illustrations as listed on the web at:
Later, Mrs. Washington joined General Washington in her first visit to New Jersey in 1777.   General Washington met her in Pluckemin.

Pluckemin Presbyterian Church in 1955, and later in 1990 it appeared much the same.
The small chapel to the right had been built as a methodist chapel in 1831 and was moved from it's original site in what was now the parking lot to it's present location.  It served as the Pluckemin School until 1912. (Notes:  Schleicher, p. 27)

The Boylan house built in 1751, is located in Pluckemin across the street from the Pluckemin Presbyterian Church.   The house was built by Aaron Boylan, who also helped provide funds to build St. Paul's Church across the street.   The Boylans had a store in Basking Ridge at the time  the Boylan house was built.  The first year after the house was built, the ground floor was used as a store, but as soon as a new store was completed it became a residence only.   Aaron's son John Boylan was born in 1746 and died March 4, 1793, according to the Somerset County Historical Quarterly Vol. 6, 1917, p. 101 .  According to Snell p. 712, and Story of an Old Farm p. 582,  John Boylan  had four stores:  at Pluckemin, Liberty Corner, Vealtown (Bernardsville), and Vanderveers Mills.  

John Boylan and his wife Eleanor Hodge Boylan lived in the house for many years, and entertained George and Martha Washington in Pluckemin at the Grand Alliance Ball of 1779.   John and Eleanor Boylan are buried in Basking Ridge Church.  Samuel Boylan, the son of John and Eleanor, was born in 1768, and married Mary Eoff, daughter of Jacob Eoff and his wife Mary.  (Jacob Eoff, a prominent citizen and tavern keeper in Pluckemin.  Jacob Eoff was a native of Holland and purchased five hundred acares of land from the heirs of John Johnstone.   He built the first inn in Pluckemin 1750 that stood near the intersection of Route 202-206 and Washington Valley Road and was destroyed by fire in 1814.  During the Revolutionary War his tavern was the meeting place for the committee of safety, and Washington's army.  His son Christian Eoff succeeded him and built the "Barracks" on the opposite corner). [Information from The Story of an Old Farm by Andrew Mellick, Jr., p. 162-165, 1889].  (For more on the Boylan and Eoff families see the Web resources at the end of this site.)

  photo c.1960                               photo c. 1976                      photo c. 1990

The Boylan house was built in 1751, modernized in 1897, restored in 1944, 1950, and 1961, and later in 1970s and 1980s. The original house contained four fireplaces, and was brick covered in clapboard.

John Boylan died in 1793, and his widow Mrs. Eleanor Boylan died in 1846.  The house was then left to their sone William Boylan of Wake County, North Carolina.  When he died in 1864, he left the Boylan house to his sister, Sarah B. Parker.  When she died in 1882, the house was left to Mary VanDerwoort, Mary Parker, and Sarah J. Bohmer.  The Boylan house was purchased from them in 1885 by Dr. John B. Beekman.  (The front side porch still contains a communication "pipe" for patients to reach the doctor at night in emergencies before the advent of phones).  In 1905, the Dr. Beekman sold the house to Nathan Compton, and in 1905 he left it to his son Andrew.

In 1913, while the house was owned by Andrew  Compton,  he participated in an Anniversary Celebration in 1913 of the original Grand Alliance Ball of 1779 in Pluckemin.  (See the book Images of America: Bedminster, for a view of what may be the same home identified as "The Maples" on p. 31 owned by the Compton family  at the turn of the century.)   In the 1950s, the Boylan house was the home and antique shop of Hanscom Antiques, and from 1961 to 1976 it was a home and the antique shop, Fireside Antiques.

The Boylan house was a residence and home based craft shop from 1977 until 1988.  In 1989 a real estate firm and converted it to an office and retail center it is today under the name Courtyards at Pluckemin.  The 1990 photo shows the original house in red, and a duplicate of the Boylan house in yellow to the left that was constructed in 1989/90 to accommodate shops and offices.

General Knox's Lane bordered the  rear property line of the Boylan house.   The lane was built at General Henry Knox's orders during the Revolutionary War for access to the Continental Army's artillery encampment in the fields in back of the property.  By 1960 General Knox's lane was a grassy lane the width of one car.  The huge fields ran from the rear of the property to the hills behind it are now the site of homes which are part of the Hills development  built in the 1980s.

"Major General Henry Knox American Revolutionary General and Washington's first secretary of war was born in Boston, July 25, 1750 and died October 25, 1806."    For more information, see the American Revolutionary Home Page at:

Washington and his army camped in the village on January 4 and 5, 1777, on their way to Morristown from the January 3, 1777 Battle of Princeton.  In those fields behind the house in Pluckemin, where the Hills Development stands today, was the site of a massive Revolutionary war artillery encampment which included an artillery school established by General Knox, that was the forerunner of West Point. (Notes:  Schleicher, p. 10).  For a source of more about this large Revolutionary War artillery encampment including a reference to a doctoral dissertation on the topic, click here.

The Grand Alliance Ball  of 1779 in Pluckemin

General Washington and 400 others attended the celebration held on the grounds of the Boylan House in 1779.

The letter below is from General George Washington and describes the Grand Alliance Ball of  February 18, 1779.   The ball celebrated the first anniversary of the alliance with France, which ended in victory for the allies at Yorktown.  The ball was attended by more than 400 dignitaries.  George and Martha Washington attended the ball that took place on  grounds of what was John Boylan house, near the northwest side of the Cornelius Eoff farm.  (Somerset County Historical Quarterly October 1917)

A fuller description of the Grand Alliance Ball in Pluckemin from General Knox's letters is included below.  It is part of the writings of George Washington that are at the Library of Congress and part of the American Memory database.  This letter is one of 20 letters from Washington that mention Pluckemin or Pluckamin.

See American Memory from the Library of Congress at the web site below to read these letters. (search both spellings:  Pluckamin and also Pluckemin)

Below is the text of one letter at this web site at the  Library of Congress describing the Grand Alliance Ball took place on the grounds of the Boylan house in Pluckemin in 1779. (By tradition, the shoes worn by Mrs. Boylan when she danced with George Washington were passed down in the family).

Letters describing the Grand Alliance Ball of 1779:

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources,
1745-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor.--vol. 14

Letter written by General George Washington
Head Quarters, February 16, 1779.

Sir: I have received your favour of yesterday. Your observations on the necessity of the Deputy Commissary of prisoners residing on the spot, are just. I was not before fully apprised of Mr. Adam's situation. There certainly can be no propriety in any officers staying at his own home, for private conveniences seven or eight miles from the place where his duty calls him while public business is suffering for want of his presence. I shall therefore desire Mr. Beatty, to direct his deputy to reside for the future at Elizabeth Town, and I shall give particular instructions that the several irregularities you complain of may be remedied.

I should be happy to indulge your request of being present at Pluckemin on the 18th. [96] But I do not think it can be done with propriety, especially under the present appearances of a movement among the enemy, which your letter, concurring with the intelligence received from Capt Stokes, indicates.
The enemy may think our attention too much engaged in the exhibition of that day, and may be encouraged to some enterprise on that account. I must therefore beg you will remain at your post, and have a look out more vigilant than ordinary upon the occasion. You will for that purpose give notice to all your guards and parties along the sound and enjoin them to be particularly alert."

[Note 96: Washington himself attended the celebration of February 18, at Pluckamin, in honor of the French Alliance. It had been postponed from February 6 on account of the Commander in Chief's absence from camp. Thacher's Military Journalgives a meagre account.]

General Henry  Knox (1750-1806) was an American Revolutionary General and Washington's first secretary of war.   General Knox had an artillery corp of 49 companies in Pluckemin in 1778/1779 with 1607 men and 60 cannon.   He organized a temporary military academy at Pluckemin, N.J.  More about General Knox can be found at the General Henry Knox page of The American Revolution Home Page at

On February 28, 1779,
General Henry Knox wrote a letter to his brother describing the Grand Alliance Ball:

"We had above seventy ladies, all of the first ton in the State, and between three and four hundred Gentlemen. We danced all night--an elegant room, the illuminating, fireworks, &c., were more than pretty." The entertainment was given by the artillery corps, which erected a temple, or frame, of 13 Corinthian arches, about 100 feet in length and proportionably high, each arch containing an illuminated painting emblematic of the Revolution. Fireworks were devised by Colonel Stevens and set off from the top of the frame. The entertainment began with a discharge of 13 cannon at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, which was the signal for the commencement of the supper at which many toasts were drunk to patriotic sentiments. After the fireworks display, the ball was opened by Washington and Mrs. Knox in the Academy building in the village of Pluckamin."

The Anniversary Celebration at Pluckemin on February 21, 1913, commemorated the original Grand Alliance Ball ball.

In 1913, an Anniversary Celebration was held commemorating the original Grand Alliance Ball of 1779.   Andrew Compton was involved in the 1913 celebration.  Andrew Compton owned the Boylan house where Eleanor Boylan entertained General and Lady Washington, and appeared as General Washington at the 1913 celebration. Seventy-five citizens of Pluckemin attending the 1913 ball.   More than 400 attended the original 1779 celebration.

An article describing the 1913 anniversary celebration appeared in the Somerset County Historical Quarterly Vol. II, No. 2, April 1913, p. 155-156.  The text of the 1913 article appears below:

"An Anniversary Celebration at Pluckemin
(Somerset County Historical Quarterly, 1913)

    Seventy-five of the most patriotic citizens of Pluckemin and vicinity met in the Presbyterian parsonage on Friday evening, February 21, to commemorate one of the most notable social events in the early history of the place.  This event was the grand fete and ball given February 18, 1779, in honor of the first anniversary of the French Alliance, which was attended by General and Lady Washington, and a distinguished company.  The parsonage was selected as the most appropriate place for the celebration, as it faces the old camp ground, which was beautifully located on a high piece of ground in the northern part of the village.  The decorations on this occasion would have done honor to the first celebration.
    Andrew Compton, who owns and resides in the house where Eleanor Boylan entertained General and Lady Washington, appeared as the stately Commander-in-chief and Mrs. Martha Powelson assumed the honors of Lady Washington.  The distinguished couple served bountiful refreshments from a large center table lighted with tallow candles, and the blue ware used had seen service during the trying days of the American Revolution.  The young waitresses appeared in the gowns of their great grandmothers.  Revolutionary tales were told, and the occasion will long be remembered as one greatly enjoyed by all."  (Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 2, April 1913, p. 155-156.)

More images of Pluckemin from the past:

The Pluckemin Store, called the Pluckamin Store in early years, has served the village from the mid-1700s until today.  An article entitled: A Pluckemin Store in 1768 and later:  As per James Vosseller's Day Book and Ledger, appeared in the Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. II, 265 FF  (1913).    (George Vosseller who may have been the son of James Vosseller, was thought to be born on October 21st, 1763 in Pluckemin NJ.) The photo below is from about 1902.  The original store burned in 1892, and after that was moved diagonally across the street  to the location in the photograph.  It has served as general  store, post office,  and even school bus stop over the years.

Photo taken by Edythe Van Doren, and is the only image on this site from an excellent book of more than 200 images of Bedminster Township at the turn of the century, including Pluckemin, entitled:
Images of America:  Bedminster by William A. Schleicher and Amanda R. Schleicher.
This book, containing many never before seen photos, many taken by Edythe Van Doren, from the turn of the century, is highly recommended for those interested in Pluckemin history.  This paperback  be purchased in local New Jersey book stores and also online from

The Kenilworth Inn was built in the 1890s in the vicinity of what was then called Pluckamin, where the current A&P shopping center now stands at the intersection of Washington Valley Road and Route 202-206.   The Kenilworth Inn was built in the 1890s.  Temperance Society pressures forced Pluckemin to go completely dry and sell no alcohol from just after the Civil War until 1904.  The prohibition against alcohol hurt the inn and it soon failed.  It became a State Police Headquarters until 1928 when the structure burned down.

The Pluckemin School, built in 1912,  served as a primary grade elementary school (referred to as the Pluckemin Grammer School) until the late 1950s, when the Pluckemin school closed, and the then new Bedminster Township School began serving students from Kindergarten through Grade 8.  The Pluckemin School later served as offices for local police.

Web and print resources mentioning Pluckemin:

The American Revolution Home Page
Mention of Pluckemin within this site is on the General Henry Knox page at:

The Early Settlers of Somerset County, New Jersey

Boylan Ancestry

Boylan Family Genealogy Forum

More information about the Boylan family is available in the
Somerset County Quarterly 1916, Vol. 5

CLARKSON Family Genealogy:   Descendants of Philip CLARKSON and Sarah POWELSON (searching "Pluckemin" in Find in Page of this site found:
1740/41 Matthew & David CLARKSON wholesalers in Pluckemin

Centennial; The Presbyterian Church of Pluckemin,  Pluckemin, New Jersey, 1851-1951, (Locally printed, c. 1951).

The Eoff Family Research Site

Eoff Family Genealogy Forum

The Eoff Family of Pluckemin, Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. VII, pp. 284-293, (1918)

Images of America:  Bedminster by William A. Schleicher and Amanda R. Schleicher.
Charleston, SC:  Arcadia Publishing, 1998.
This book, containing many never before seen photos, many taken by Edythe Van Doren, from the turn of the century, is highly recommended for those interested in Pluckemin history.  This paperback  be purchased in local New Jersey book stores and also online from

A Pluckemin Store in 1768 and later:  As per James Vosseller's Day Book and Ledger, Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. II, 265 FF  (1913).

Powell:    Charles Powell in the Revolution

CLARKSON Family Genealogy:   Descendants of Philip CLARKSON and Sarah POWELSON
(In 1740, 1741 Matthew & David CLARKSON were wholesalers in Pluckemin)

Snell, James P. History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties (Philadelphia, 1881).

VanArsdale Genealogy (includes ancestors in Pluckemin)

Revolutionary War History and Pluckemin

The American Revolution Home Page
Mention of Pluckemin within this site is on the General Henry Knox page at:

Artillery - Continental Artillery Regiment (Revolutionary War)
Stevens' Provisional Artillery Battalion broken up 22 December 1778 at Pluckemin, New Jersey, and companies reverted to Crane's Continental Artillery Regiment

Seidel, John Lewis. (doctoral dissertation) The Archaeology of the American Revolution: A Reappraisal and Case Study at the Continental Artillery Cantonment of 1778--1779, Pluckemin, New Jersey. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 1987. (film 363 in the David Library of the American Revolution)

Somerset County Historical Quarterly  (Check libraries or use the source below for reprinted volumes)

Washington in Pluckemin
The writings of George Washington that are at the Library of Congress and part of the American Memory database.  There are 20 letters from Washington that mention Pluckemin or Pluckamin.
See American Memory from the Library of Congress at the web site below to read these letters. (search both spellings:  Pluckamin and also Pluckemin)

Libraries and Historical Societies

Clarence Dillon Public Library,  Bedminster, New Jersey

New Jersey State Library

Somerset County Library

Pluckemin Today

In 1982, the village was named to the National Register of Historic Places, which meant that it could not be disturbed by state or federal projects.  Commercial development is not affected by the registry and has continued to change the face of the village, but the historical significance remains.

Historic Districts in Somerset County

Bedminster Township, New Jersey

Bedminster, Somerset County, New Jersey

Things to do in Somerset County, NJ:  Historic Sites

The Hills Online   (web site for the development communities in Pluckemin)

* More on Dr. Benjamin Rush, the 18th century physician and his connection to Pluckemin:

As a medical student in Edinburgh, Rush fell in love with Lady Jean Leslie, daughter of the Earl of Leven. They parted when he  returned to America, and both married other people. However, he was grief-stricken when Jeany's beloved brother, Captain  William Leslie, 17th Regiment, was killed by the Americans at Princeton, and paid for a tombstone to be put up on the boy's  grave in Pluckemin in New Jersey, after the war. He sent Jeany a miniature portrait of his wife, Julia - who sang the sang the  same song, 'The Birks of Endermay', with which Jeany had won his affections when they were very young. The reverse of the  picture contained an imaginary scene, done in hairwork, of Rush showing Jeany her brother's grave.


Contact the web site creator for comments or suggestions.  The information and images are intended for educational use and were created for those with an interest in the history of Pluckemin.  (1999)