Jamesburg's History

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.

Lakeview in the late 1800's. Home of James Buckelew for whom the town of Jamesburg, NJ was named. 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.

A tranquil scene in Jamesburg, NJ in the late 1800's.  
Behind Lake Manalapan, the Grist Mill, Lower Jamesburg Station, Lakeview, - home of James Buckelew, and the First National Bank of Jamesburg - 1864. 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.

Elsworth Hausman with his horse 'Mack' out for a ride on Buckelew Avenue. 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
September 1981

Adapted and Edited for the Internet by Thomas C. Bodall
© The Jamesburg Network