A House of Many Windows
The House of Jamesburg's Treasures
"Lakeview", the home of James Buckelew, in Jamesburg is a house of many
many windows which many different people have watched and been watched
during the ever-changing life of Jamesburg for almost three centuries.
Jamesburg is a 0.9 square mile town, incorporated in 1887. It was named after
James Buckelew, a very influential man in Jamesburg's history. He brought
modernization and commerce to Jamesburg that still continues today.
The area of Jamesburg was part of South Amboy Township, which was created in
1685 from the South Ward of Perth Amboy. It was part of the large tract owned
by the East Jersey proprietor Robert Barclay.
The Manalapan itself was probably the most important thing in the view
from the low-ceiled room with windows on two or possibly three sides.
The Manalapan, so named by the Indians "Land of Good Bread", and its source well
into Monmouth County, from which it flowed northwestward to Jamesburg, then north
and northeasterly to the early settlement of Spotswood where it united with
the Matchaponix (Land of Poor Bread) to form the South River.
There was a mill in operation at Jamesburg well before the Revolution, probably
as early as 1734. The miller's family probably lived on the Buckelew House
grounds in a small house that is connected to the mansion today.
On November 10, 1832, Mr. John Mount who had repossessed the mill was glad
to sell his entire interest to James Buckelew, and the name was changed to
Buckelew's Mills. When the Buckelew's moved into the house, known as the Gordon
homestead, they could see the grist mill which Mr. Buckelew soon enlarged.
Across the bridge, near the dam and the Nicholas VanWinckle house was the
sawmill. A sandy road, (now Buckelew Avenue) passed in front of the houses.
To the east of the house was another dwelling, one of which end was used as
a store. The Buckelew House faced Manalapan Lake and was flanked at the back
by Barclay's Brook which emptied into the Manalapan beyond the mill.
Thus, the scene was set for the impact of James Buckelew! Until he was thiry-one
years old, James Buckelew worked as being a successful farmer and in running
a small milling operation on his own farm which bordered the Manalapan about
four miles from Buckelew's Mills, in what is now Monroe Township. His purchase
of the mill at Jamesburg coincided with the opening of the Camden and Amboy
Railroad which crossed the opposite end of the settlement.
Mr. Buckelew was one of the few early friends of the Camden Amboy Railrod.
He saw the railroad as the great civilizer of the 19th century and welcomed
the arrival of the "Iron Horse"! He was one of the contractors for the
construction of the original lines of the Camden & Amboy Railroad.
James Buckelew was born on August 13, 1801. On December 12, 1829, James
married Margaret Chambers, daughter of Issac G. and Ann Salter Snedeker of
Cranbury, New Jersey. They were just beginning their family when they moved
into the miller's house at Buckelew's Mills. Their six children grew up at
Lakeview. Soon after the Buckelew's moved to Lakeview, the house was enlarged,
not only because of the many children, but also because Mr. Buckelew's
need for a house suitable for large-scaling entertaining. A large,
two-story, front addition was made in the 1830's, including the wide center
hallway, spacious double parlors, wide floorboards, mantelpieces,
stairway and door paneling, curving mahogany bannister, coffin niche at the
stairway and a wide, pillared verandah overlooking Lake Manalapan.
Behind Lakeview was a carriage house with living quarters above for coachmen.
When this was finally town down in recent years, the beams and doors were
used in the construction of the present garage.
On February 23, 1838, Buckelew's Mills became part of the newly created
Township of Monroe, which was set off from the Township of South Amboy and
included all that part of the Township of South Amboy which lay west of the
Matchaponix Brook and the South River.
Most interesting things which the Buckelew children could watch from the
windows at Lakeview were the results of their father's foresight and ability.
They could watch the passage back and forth of the seven hundred mules
housed in brick barns behind the mill. In 1840, Mr. Buckelew obtained the
contract for team towing on the Delaware and Raritan Canal. He continued this
for twenty-five years. He was considered one of the largest dealers of mules in the
United States. His valuable mules could preform a mile in three minutes in harness.
They were never droopy-eared as ordinary mules are. When the vast mule barns were
torn down, the bricks were reused for building houses still in use on Pergola
Avenue near Lakeview.
In 1847, because he was incensed by the refusal of authorities to admit a
colored boy to the township school, Mr. Buckelew built a brick schoolhouse
on the lot of West Church Street where the Presbyterian manse now stands and
declared it open to all children. At the dedication ceremonies,
the people acclaimed it as the "James B." or Jamesburg School. After this,
the stop on the railroad and the town became known as "Jamesburg". The name
was unifying because it brought under one title the old Buckelew's Mill at
the southern end of town and the old West's Turnout at the northern end
which was rapidly becoming a thriving railroad center.
The Buckelew draining tile manufactory produced 3,000 tiles daily. The brick
kilns produced 800,000 bricks per annum. The brickyards were located down
the road between the gristmill and the "miller's house". It was called
"Brickyard Road" until it was officially named after Mr. Joseph Pergola,
a later land owner and developer.
In 1853, the lot where the Jamesburg Presbyterian Church now stands was given
by Mr. Buckelew, whose wife was a charter member of the church. He later
gave the parsonage lot and the land for Fernwood Cemetery. In 1878,
Mrs. Buckelew gave the land for the Roman Catholic Church of Saint James
the Less in Jamesburg.
Mr. Buckelew's abilities, possessions, and generosity were well-known in state
governing circles. In 1861, when President Lincoln needed transportation
from the Trenton Railway Depot to the State Capitol, Mr. Buckelew was asked
for the use of his handsome new carraige and horses to transport Mr. Lincoln.
The horses were four beautiful bay stallions from imported Eclipse and Abdallah
stock. The driver was the experienced stagecoach driver, Dent Miller. The
horses and coach were housed behind Lakeview.
Always alert to any economic advantage, James Buckelew ans his sons organized
the First National Bank of Jamesburg in 1864. It was the 288th institution
of its kind to be chartered by the United States government. The stone bank
building, an impressive structure, was built directly across Buckelew Avenue
from Lakeview, between the railroad and the street. Mr. Buckelew had his
offices on the second floor.
The projects started by Mr. Buckelew, which by his death on May 30, 1869,
had amassed a fortune for him and also contributed to the extraorbinary
development of Jamesburg as a thriving and commercial town in the late 1800's.
The railroad's presence was responsible for the establishment of Downs, Gourlay,
and Finch shirt factory in 1871. By 1882, this was the largest shirt factory
in the world. It occupied the whole block on West Railroad Avenue between
Willow Street and Forsgate Drive. It could be seen from the picket-fenced
yard of Lakeview.
Mr. James Buckelew died at the age of sixty-eight and was interred in
Fernwood Cemetery on land which originally had belonged to his great-grandfather.
His was a well-balanced mind, an indomitable will and firmness of purpose.
He was a man of deeds, not words. Although he never sought public office or
resorted to oratory, he was an infomred citizen. Nothing pleased him more
than to entertain his associates on local, county, and state level,
his partners in railroading, his fellow agriculturalists in his spacious
mansion, Lakeview, still standing on the avenue called "Buckelew".
Mrs. Buckelew continued to live in the Lakeview. In the 1870's the roof was
raised to include a third story of large airy bedrooms with pleasant views,
closets, and a small sewing room at the end of the hall. The second floor
bedrooms had shuttered doorways, in addition to the regular doors. This
assured summer air circulation, as well as privacy. All of the windows
and some doorways at Lakeview were shuttered. This was the established
means of preserving the coolnes in the bricklined building in the summertime.
In 1887, the square mile prosperous settlement withdrew from Monroe
Township and became the Borough of Jamesburg.
The fact that Jameburg had its own high school building in 1911 brought an
influx of young college graduates to teach and live at Jamesburg. Sometimes
these young people would take board in Lakeview.
Although it was probably not visible from Lakeview, no one living there could
have been unaware of the gigantic ice cutting operation which continued every
winter until 1919. Ice cutting was begun when the ice was eight inches thick.
Children were not allowed to skate until after the ice cutters had finished
their business, but they could certainly watch the expertise of horses and
their drivers. Ice cakes, 24" x 18" were marked, cut, and loaded on an elevator
which placed them either in railroad cars or in the icehouses along the
lake where insulation was provided by sawdust filled partitions with salt hay.
As well as supplying water power for the mills and comercially marketed
ice, the lake was a source of constant entertainment for the town's youth --
swimming, boating, lakeside walks, and marvelous skating -- all very visible
from at least the upper floors of Lakeview.
New factories replaced the old grist mill and silk mills. Jamesburg Water
Company with its artesian wells appeared between the factory and Lakeview.
More and more houses were built along Pergola Avenue. Fewer and fewer trains
rattled by. Eventually, the station was moved to another site. The
railroad's glorious era was over!
The Buckelew House later, after many owners and experiences, had no owner
because of extensive work and restoation that had to be done to the structure.
The newly formed Jamesburg Historical Society was interested in restoring Lakeview,
but funds seemed unattainable. With tenacity and dedication resembling
that of James Buckelew, himself, Robert Mendoker and other historical society
leaders got verifications of Lakeview's worth and possibilities from
professional historic researchers. Lakeview was placed on the National
and State Historic Registers. In time, the property became available
to the historical society. Many local craftsman offered their services
for help in the restoration. Slowly but surely, the changes began to
take place. Constant progress has been visible since that winter night when
a newly painted porch column suddenly appeared, until again, on a summer
night this time, a whole row of newly painted, green shutters on the third
floor windows give promise of the eventual full recovery of Lakeview at the
bend of the Manalapan and on the avenue called Buckelew in Jamesburg.
Excerpts from A House Of Many Windows "Lakeview", The Home Of James
Buckelew In Jamesburg, New Jersey.
Prepared for the Jamesburg Historical Society
by Louise Johnson Kerwin
Adapted and Edited for the Internet by Thomas C. Bodall
© The Jamesburg Network