May 18, 2022

Area Residents Turn Out For Tour of Historic Sites on Lawrence Hopewell Trail

By Anne Levin 

On Saturday, May 14, more than 40 area residents and members of the LHT Saturday Morning Walking Club took part in the official unveiling of “History Along the LHT,” an interpretive signage program developed for the Lawrence Hopewell Trail. 

“The Lawrence Hopewell Trail passes through many locations that reflect centuries of the rich history of this corner of Mercer County,” said former Lawrence Township historian and current LHT board member Dennis P. Waters at the event. He led a walk to three new signs along the LHT: the Brearley Oak, a tree between 255 and 410 years old; Lewisville Road, Lawrence Township’s oldest African American community; and Princeton Pike, one of New Jersey’s oldest toll roads. 

“From ancient trees to colonial thoroughfares to abandoned grist mills to remnants of the trolley era, local history sprouts from the trail at every turn,” Waters said. “With this project, we bring this history to life through interpretive signs at 31 locations that are significant in local history along the LHT’s 22 miles.” 

While no one knows for sure the age of the Brearley Oak, estimates for the eastern black oak range from 255 to 410 years old. The trunk’s circumference is 258 inches, and it stands 110 feet high with a crown of 148 feet, as measured in 2019. The tree is named for the Brearley family, which settled in the area in 1690, according to information from the LHT. Bristol Myers Squibb now owns the land and tends to the tree with the help of professional arborists.

In the decades before the Civil War, Lewisville became the home of the earliest African American community in Lawrence Township. “Though Blacks and whites resided together, the group of houses at its midpoint and the Black families who lived there formed a center of African American life in Lawrence for over a century,” reads the website of the Lawrence Historical Society.

The signs, covering different sites and topics from Lawrence and Hopewell history, are distributed throughout the trail route, offering users opportunities to learn more about the local heritage and culture.  

Other sites the project highlights include Reed’s Mill, a gristmill that operated continuously for nearly two centuries; King’s Highway, an important route for Revolutionary War soldiers; Maidenhead Meadows, a marshland with Native American heritage; Chamberlain Farm, a Hopewell Valley community landmark; Mount Rose, a crossroads village and hard “trap rock” formation; the Colonial-era Province Line dividing East and West Jersey; and a country home of Grover Cleveland, the only American president elected to two non-consecutive terms.

Seven signs have been installed so far. An additional five are scheduled to be installed by the end of this month. Waters plans to host further walks and talks along with his colleague, Richard W. Hunter, a former president of the Hopewell Valley Historical Society and the president/principal archaeologist of the historical resource consulting firm Hunter Research.

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