Updated: Sep 24, 2019
In the Beginning
Religion was central to the lives of the Dutch farmers who settled Central New Jersey. They brought the Reformed Dutch Church to America from the Netherlands in the early 1600s. Wherever the Dutch settled you are likely to find Reformed churches today—north/central New Jersey, Hudson Valley/Albany, NY, and Michigan (i.e. Holland, MI). The Reformed churches, including the Dutch Reformed, are those that broke away from the Roman Catholic faith and formed their own denominations in the 1500s. Named for the Reformation, they include the Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, and other protestant denominations.
The Dutch immigrants in southern Montgomery Township worked their farms for over 70 years without a village or church close by. The Reformed Dutch Church at Harlingen was the only church in close proximity to what would become the village of Blawenburg, but getting there by horse and buggy on rugged, dirt roads was difficult.
The church at Harlingen was first called the Church over the River. It was so named to differentiate it from the Six Mile Run Reformed Church in Franklin Park. Some residents of Blawenburg attended the Six Mile Run Church, which was nearly 10 miles away. Most southern Montgomery families would attend the Sunday service at Harlingen. They were not likely to participate in church services and activities on the other days of the week, especially in the dark winter months.
By 1802, before there was a village in Blawenburg, James Lake, a resident of the Covenhoven farm, petitioned the Consistory, the governing board of the church at Harlingen, on behalf of the residents to build a church in the southern part of the township. The Consistory took no action on the request.
Turnpike Helps Create a Village
Things changed between 1818 and 1822. The municipal governing bodies of several communities between Georgetown (now Lambertville) and Franklin (Kendall Park) agreed to improve the old, 20-mile road that ran between the communities and open it as a turnpike. The road became known as Georgetown-Franklin Turnpike, and it was a major road for travel between New York and Philadelphia.
William Griggs’s wife’s family (the Covenhovens) owned much of the land that constitutes the village of Blawenburg. He saw an opportunity to build the first home in the village that was not a farmstead. He and his wife built and ran it as a tavern and stage coach stop. In recent years, the tavern has been the residence of the Hartshorne family.
After the turnpike was finished, Cornelius Stryker recognized the need for a general store and built a house and store at the intersection of the turnpike and road that ran from Princeton to Plainville (Belle Mead). Between 1830 and 1845, several more houses were built along the turnpike east of the crossroad and the village of Blawenburg emerged.