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The Old Campbell Tavern
« on: June 21, 2007, 08:49:12 PM »
This article by Kevin Wright is from a BCHS 1998 newletter about the Rev War Tavern keeper -- Archibald Campbell. His descendant Frank Campbell just passed away and is eulogized on another page in message board.

On Saturday morning, September 13, 1873, wreckers commenced an arduous assault upon the old “stone fortress in the heart of the village.” But Campbell’s Tavern, long a Hackensack landmark, would not go easily and would not die alone. Many inhabitants dawdled about the dusty scene, each one having “a story to relate of what he knows about its history.” School boys probed the crumpled hulk, believing that hidden treasures lay somewhere buried in its foundation. Onlookers encouraged the young prospectors in hopes “that something would be found to indicate the date of erection of the building” — but the mystery endured as no interesting clues or relics were unearthed.
For most townsfolk, the quaint, old Dutch tavern evoked a flood of memories, being fondly recognized as the “theatre of many events, which have been lost to history.”1 But its origins remained the object of much conjecture as no old-timer could guess how long it had stood at the corner of Main and Morris Streets. At the time of its demise, the only light that octogenarian Samuel Dawson could shed on the subject was to say “that when he was young it was an old house.” Its exterior had been up-dated to suit changing architectural tastes, but demolition bared the antique methods and materials of its anatomy — thick stone walls and heavy hand-hewn timbers — and further fed public surmise as to its age. Henry D. Winton, publisher of The Bergen County Democrat, offered his observations of the building’s construction:
“Lime was of little use in the mixture of mortar in those days, and there is barely a sprinkling of it in the laying up of the foundations. The timbers were as sound as when the house was put up, consisting of oak and white wood. The [plaster] walls and ceilings were six inches in thickness, and made of a mixture of clay and straw, which answered the same purpose as hair and lime does in mortar at the present time. The lath were split out of oak, and looked more like wagon staves than ceiling lath.”2
Abraham Ackerman, a merchant, purchased a lot on the west side of the King’s Road (now Main Street), 62 feet wide and 100 feet deep, from Jacob Titsort, a blacksmith and County Judge, for £4 on April 13, 1751.3 The property was bounded north by land of Barent De Boogh, west by the remaining land of Jacob Titsort, and south “by the Lane [now Morris street] that now leads to his [that is, Jacob Titsort’s] house.” Ackerman’s brownstone house, built on a corner of the Hackensack Green in 1751, stood nearly opposite (and perhaps 150 feet distant from) the Bergen County Court House erected in 1731.4
The documentary record is silent for two decades after Ackerman’s  construction of the stone dwelling. Then, on January 11, 1771, Archibald Campbell mortgaged “All that Messuage, Tenement and Land...on the West Side of the King’s Roade near the Court House” to John Vanderbilt of New York for £200 in New York currency.5 According to the mortgage deed, the boundary survey began at the King’s Road (now Main Street, Hackensack) by the lane of the house lot of Barent De Boogh, running westerly along this lane 150 feet, thence running southerly along the land of James Van Beuren 62 feet to the lane (now Morris Street), thence easterly along the lane 100 feet to the King’s Road, and thence north along the road (that is, Main Street) 62 feet to the beginning point. The tavern lot was bounded north by the house lot of Barent De Boogh, west by land of James Van Beuren, south by a lane [now Morris Street] and east by the King’s Road.6
Archibald Campbell was born on the Isle of Man and settled at Hackensack in 1765 at the conclusion of the French and Indian War. His wife Catherine, born in northern Ireland, arrived with their eldest son, Robert, then only four years old, in 1768. Three more children were born to the couple: John (1770), George (1772), and Hannah.7
Though the tavern’s age was a matter of speculation, its associations with the Revolutionary War were common knowledge and a prized piece of village folklore. The oldest inhabitants would confidently relate how “during the revolutionary war it was occupied as a public house, and a sort of refuge for the tories.” Its proprietor, Archibald Campbell, “had the honor of furnishing supplies for the table of General Washington who was then occupying the residence of Peter Zabriskie, opposite (now the Mansion House property) as his headquarters.” Some recollections were particularly vivid, spilling from memory onto the pages of history. Robert Campbell, Archibald’s thirteen-year-old son, painted with words the scene about Campbell’s Tavern in the autumnal gloam of those trying times:
“After the evacuation of Fort Lee, in November, 1776, and the surrender of Fort Washington, Washington, at the head of his army(about 3,000)7, entered Hackensack about dusk. The night was dark, cold and rainy; but I had a fair view of them from the light of the windows as they passed on our side of the street. They marched two abreast; looked ragged — some without shoes to their feet, and most wrapped in blankets. Washington then and for some time previous had his headquarters at the residence of Peter Zabriskie, a private house, the supplies for the General’s table being furnished by Archibald Campbell, the tavernkeeper.
The next evening, after the Americans had passed through the British were encamped on the opposite side of the river. We could see their fires about 100 yards apart, gleaming brilliantly at night, extending some distance below the town and more than a mile up toward New Bridge. Washington was still at his quarters, and had with him his suite, life guards, a company of foot, a regiment of cavalry and some soldiers from the rear of his army. In the morning, before he left, he rode down to the dock [of John Varick] where the bridge now is, viewed the enemy’s encampment some 10 or 15 minutes, and then returned to Mr. Campbell’s door and called for some wine and water.  After he had drunk, and when Mr. Campbell was taking the glass from him, the latter, with tears streaming down his face, said: ‘General, what shall I do? I have a family of small children and a little property here; shall I leave it?’ Washington kindly took his hand and replied: ‘Mr. Campbell, stay by your property and keep neutral.’ Then bidding him good-bye, rode off.
About noon next day the British took possession of the town, and in the afternoon the Green was covered with Hessians — a horrid, frightful sight to the inhabitants. There were between 3,000 and 4,000, with their whiskers, brass caps, and kettles or brass drums. A part of these same troops were two months later taken prisoners at Trenton.”8
If indeed Washington did counsel neutrality, he did so loudly enough to lull the suspicion of unfriendly eavesdroppers, for sullen Tories were reportedly numerous in the little county town. Mr. Campbell’s tap-room might prove a well of useful intelligence in the days and weeks ahead. Protestations of neutrality, however, did not dissuade the Crown forces who came in the Americans’ wake, for they emptied his larder, linen closet, fowl pens and barn.9 They burned 26 panels of new five-rail fence in their campfires and vandalized his back house.
Even the bleak field of war offered opportunities to the watchful eye. On May 16, 1778, Archibald Campbell paid £100 to Hendrick Bosch for ten acres of land lying along the public road leading from town down to the Hackensack Ferry.10 As he was soon reminded, cash and valuables could easily be carried away and only the land safely remained. According to claims submitted for his losses during the war, Archibald Campbell had a Japaned server taken in 1777 and he paid a guinea to retrieve a stolen mare. In October 1778, the enemy absconded with the Campbells’ milk cow, sheep, shoats, pigs, fowls, smoked pork, fresh pork, potatoes, sheets, shirts, stocks, shifts, aprons, summer clothes, trousers, stockings, a petticoat, a half gallon of rum, and 20 gallons of cider. But the worst was yet to come.
The winter of 1779-80 exceeded any in memory for severity and the Continental army, encamped at Morristown, suffered from the deprivation of proper clothing and provisions. To protect his line of communications with West Point and New England and to gather intelligence on enemy movements around Manhattan, Washington posted a small body of troops at Paramus.
Throughout the long, deep winter, Tories in the neighborhood relayed detailed intelligence on the disposition and strength of the American outpost to New York City. The British command contemplated a surprise attack, but were inhibited by harsh weather. A January blizzard buried the countryside. Using sleighs, American and British troops skirmished across the frozen bay between Elizabethtown and Staten Island. The waterways remained frozen until late February. Spring was slow in coming and a heavy mantle of snow still covered the ground in March. On March 18, 1780, Major Christopher Stuart and the Fifth Pennsylvania Regiment relieved the guard at Paramus and purposely took up quarters in the homes of British sympathizers living near the church. To provide an alarm in case of an enemy advance, Captain John Outwater’s militia company was ordered to Hackensack. 
As the weather improved, a pincer attack was launched from Manhattan against the Pennsylvanians at Paramus. Three hundred men commanded by Lt. Colonel John Howard landed at Closter and marched to Paramus Church and  Hoppertown by way of Wierimus.  Another three hundred British and Hessian troops, commanded by Lt. Colonel Duncan McPherson, of the Black Watch, landed at Weehawken. Making their way undetected to Little Ferry, they passed the Hackensack River about midnight in a whale boat and canoe. A party of about two dozen men from the 43rd Regiment hurried through Hackensack to seize the New Bridge and so protect their avenue of retreat. About three o’clock in the morning, the main body of the British column marched through the village and up the lane (Passaic Street) to Zabriskie’s Mills. Captain Thorn and a hundred soldiers, including about 50 German soldiers from the First Anspach-Bayreuth Regiment, remained behind with orders “to attack every house that should be pointed out to them by the guides and refugees.”11 Captain John Outwater’s militia company, quartered for the night in the barracks, barns and out houses of the village, were rudely awakened. Most hastened to safety across moonlit fields but some had the presence of mind to mount their horses and ride off to alert the Continental outpost at Paramus. The invaders set fire to the Court-House and burnt the dwellings of shoemaker John Chapple and Sheriff Adam Boyd.12 They kicked in William Provoost’s  doors and took him prisoner.  Reverend Dirck Romeyn, residing at the house of John Varick, escaped capture “by secreting behind the Chimney on the Collar beams.” His brother, John, was made a prisoner. The wanton looting continued as soldiers “almost tore the house of Mr. Camp-bell, inn-keeper, to pieces, after plundering him of a very considerable sum of specie and continental money. Their cruelty and brutality to the women was unparalleled; some they most inhumanly choaked to make them tell where their money was; and one, we hear, was so unfortunate as to have her arm broke by them.”13 The stricken Court House stood on the west side of the Green, only 150 feet from Campbell’s tavern, spewing tongues of flame and gasps of glowing embers. Fortunately, the wind was from the west, and Archibald’s wife and children saved their home and livelihood by throwing water on the roof.
 Lt. Col. McPherson and his troops reached the vicinity of Paramus church too late to join in the action. The British force  returned to Zabriskie’s Mills where Captain Thorn and his civilian prisoners were waiting. The slow train of men and wagons retraced their steps toward Hackensack, turned northeast on Main Street, and slogged towards New Bridge. Wagons carrying wounded were accompanied by the unwilling gaggle of prisoners under armed guard and a stream of soldiers laden with sacks of plunder. The road followed level but soft? ground along the foot of the Red Hill. Though held at bay by flankers, a gathering swarm of militia, reinforced by a few Continental troops from Paramus, were constantly taking pot shots. The small irregular force of Americans “pushed them, on their retreat, very hard, took a few prisoners, and killed and wounded several, whom they carried off in waggons.”15 One American eyewitness reported that “the Enemy had three or four waggons full of killed and wounded — their retreat was so precipitate, that when any of their dead and wounded fell off the waggons, they did not tarry to take them up.” In the running battle, several prisoners escaped their captors. One Hessian musketeer on the retreat later wrote:
“We took considerable booty, both in money, silver watches, silver dishes and spoons and in household stuff, good clothes, fine English linen, silk stockings, gloves, handkerchiefs, with other precious [linen] goods, satin and stuffs. My own booty which I brought safely back, consisted of two silver watches, three sets of silver buckles, a pair of woman’s cotton stockings, a pair of man’s mixed Summer stockings, two shirts and four chemises of good English linen, two fine tablecloths, one silver tablespoon, and one teaspoon, [several] Spanish dollars, and six York shillings in money. The other part, viz., eleven [pillow cases] of fine linen, and more than two dozen handkerchiefs, with six silver plates and a silver drinking mug, which were tied together in a bundle, I had to throw away on account of our harried march, and [I left] them to the enemy that was pursuing us.”
It took nearly two hours for the British and German troops to pass New Bridge. A rear guard then tore up the planks to cut off further pursuit by their tormentors. In the action at New Bridge, Captain Anstruther of the 42nd Regiment was mortally wounded. In all, the invaders counted ten killed, thirty-one missing and many wounded. The Bergen militia also suffered casualties. Captain Outwater was struck by a musket ball below the knee, which was never extracted. Hendrick Van Giesen, of Hackensack, was “wounded by a spent ball, which cut his upper lip, knocked out four front teeth, and was caught in his mouth.”
Archibald Campbell’s night was not over yet. His harrowing adventure was recounted in 1844:
“This gentleman, who had been several weeks confined to his bed by rheumatism, they forced into the streets and compelled to follow them. Often in the rear, they threatened to shoot him if he did not quicken his pace. In the subsequent confusion he escaped and hid in the cellar of a house16 opposite New Bridge. He lived until 1798, and never experienced a return of the rheumatism.” 
In another version of these events, Campbell escaped his captors standing in two feet of water beneath the New Bridge, “which hydropathic treatment may account for the fact that he was cured of his painful disease, unless we may suppose that vigorous bodily exercise for two miles at the point of a bayonet, or a good thorough fright could serve as well as a curative.”17
At war’s end, the Bergen County Board of Justices and Freeholders met at the house of Archibald Campbell eight times between September 1783 and December 1787. A new Court House was finally built in 1784.18
According to a report in The New-Jersey Citizen, Campbell’s tavern was long known as the “Albany Stage House,” having been a stage depot for carrying passengers and mails between Manhattan and Albany. In the early days of the Republic, it became “Federal Headquarters” and was widely patronized by the legal fraternity in court times. On August 28, 1797, Archibald Campbell was named Hackensack’s first postmaster. His son George succeeded him as tavernkeeper after his death on December 28, 1798. George Campbell was appointed postmaster in 1803.19 Thereafter, the old stand was successively occupied by Brom Allen, John Baird, Brom Allen again, Widow (Catherine) Campbell20, William Jones21, Jacob J. Banta, Garry Bamper, James Vanderpool, William Van Beuren, Samuel Dawson, Victor W. Ramee, and D. L. Edmonton.
The weathered old building was rejuvenated in April 1860 and divided into stores. Speaking of “village improvements,” a reporter for The Bergen County Journal strolled Main Street and made note of the changes:
“We come next to the old Campbell house, which in the hands of its present proprietor, Mr. John Feldman, seems to have renewed its youth. It would be difficult to recognize in the present modern-looking building, the old, quaint, Dutch tavern, before which, in ‘the times that tried men’s souls,’ Gen. Washing-ton was wont to rein up his horse in order to taste old Archibald’s applejack. As we have said, the building has been modernized: the high stoop is among the things that were; the short, unsightly windows, with solid board shutters, have expanded into large show windows which admit light to conveniently arranged stores; and the painters have also assisted in putting a very different complexion upon the edifice. One of the stores is occupied by Mr. Feldman as a cigar store and has been very nicely fitted up for that business. One of the others has been hired by Mr. S. Feder for a clothing store; and two stores, one 12 by 21 feet in size, and one 18 by 36 feet, (at the corner of Morris street), are yet to be let.”22
On January 23, 1872, Samuel H. Campbell and Eliza Jane, his wife, of New Barbadoes Township, released the lot, “known as the old Tavern Stand,” bounded by Main and Morris Streets, to John Feldman of Hoboken for $3,000.23 In September 1873, Campbell’s Tavern was razed to make way for the Bergen County Bank, a brick building, three stories high, measuring 25 by 75 feet, which occupies the site to this day.
Footnotes
1. “An Old Landmark Gone,” The Bergen County Democrat, September 19, 1873
2. Ibid.
3. Bergen County Deed Book C, p. 440
4. See Richard W. Lenk, Sr., “Early Hackensack,” Bergen County History 1988, (River Edge: Bergen County Historical Society, 1988), pp. 31-43
5. Bergen County Mortgage Book A, p. 75
6. This mortgage was discharged on October 12, 1793.
7. Clayton, W. Woodford, History of Bergen and Passaic Counties, New Jersey, (Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1882), pp. 192-193.
John Campbell, son of Archibald and Catherine Campbell, was born February 13, 1770. He married Jane Waldron in New York on November 28, 1792. They had ten children. He was a physician in Hackensack and died December 15, 1814. Their son Adolphus Waldron Campbell was a merchant whose store was located on a corner of the Hackensack Green.
Robert Campbell (born circa 1764) was a prominent lawyer in Hackensack. In 1804, he was one of the incorporators of the Bergen Turnpike Company. He died a bachelor on July 5, 1846, at 82 years of age.
George Campbell was born June 24, 1772. He succeeded his father as innkeeper in 1798, but removed to New York City where he carried on the dry-goods business for many years. He eventually returned to spend the remainder of his life in Hackensack. He married secondly Margaret Kingsland, daughter of Henry and Helen (Van Vorst) Kingsland, and had seven children. George Campbell died March 11, 1864.
His son Robert was born in Lodi Township on May 21, 1815. He came to Hackensack about 1824, residing with his uncle Robert Campbell. In 1827, he apprenticed as a clerk in the Hackensack store of Adolphus W. Campbell, a son of Dr. John Campbell. A. W. Campbell was credited with introducing the tomato to this area. After three years Robert removed to Newark and then, about 1833, to Brooklyn. After two years, he purchased a store in New York City where he remained until 1841, when he bought the former store of his cousin Adolphus and returned to Hackensack. He retired from trade in 1844.
7. Washington’s army at Fort Lee numbered slightly less than a thousand men.
8. Barber, John W. and Howe, Henry, Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey, (Newark: Benjamin Olds, 1844), pp. 81-82; the tale may have come from one of Archibald Campbell’s surviving sons, probably Robert, who would have been 13 years old in 1776 and who died at 82 years of age in 1846.
9. The British and their Loyalist allies made off with Archibald’s horses, potatoes, turnips, turkeys, ducks, fowls, sheets, pillow cases, table cloths, towels, shirts and shifts, handkerchiefs, cravats, gown and trousers.
10. Bergen County Deed Book D, p. 296
11. McPherson Report, quoted in Leiby, Adrian C., The Revolutionary War in the Hackensack Valley, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1980), p.240; see also  Klyberg, Albert T., “Action at Paramus (March 23, 1780),” Bergen County Historical Society Papers 1960, (River Edge: Bergen County Historical Society, 1960).
12. According to his claim for damages, shoemaker John Chapple had “a House burnt down to the Ground which contained two Rooms and an entry and a Milk House on the lower floor and on the Upper Story was Convenience for two Rooms more, the one being finished and the other not and a Good convenient Garret.” It was appraised at £200.
In 1731, the County of Bergen employed “Carpenters Masoners and Other Laberours” to build a new County Court House, 48 feet long and 30 feet wide. A bell was installed in 1736. In 1763, a “clock and Hour Work” was set “In the Steple of the Courthouse.” In its claim for reparations, the County claimed: “to Burning the Court House £500. To the town Clock £57.12s.0”
13. Nelson, William (Ed.), Documents relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey, Vol. IV, Extracts from American Newspapers Relating to New Jersey Nov. 1, 1779-Sept. 30, 1780, (Trenton: State Gazette Publishing Co., Printers, 1914), p. 257.
Archibald Campbell vividly recalled the events of that night. On November 2, 1782, he inventoried the losses he suffered at “about 4 o’clock in the morning” of March 23, 1780: 222 Spanish milled dollars, 4000 Continental Dollars, silver tablespoons, silver tea spoons, large silver punch ladle, large silver tea tongs, silver watch Dublin made cost seven guineas, silver sauce boat, silver watch, bag of old silver, bag of copper, satin cloak, white cloak, black silk hat, white silk hat, lawn apron, gauze apron, handkerchiefs, dress cap, spring muslin cap, black silk gloves, burnt china cups and saucers, large china tea pot, burnt china gallon bowl, 1/2 gallon china bowl, china plates, women’s stays, mahogany tea chest full of Hyson tea, child’s dressing cape, 1 fowling piece.
14. Prisoners included John Van Antwerp, John Bogart, William Provoost, Henry Van Winkle, G. Van Wagenen, Morris Earl, John Duryee, John Banta, Jacobus Brower, William Brower, John Van Giesen, Isaac VanValen, Peter Zabriskie, John Demarest, John Romeyn, Guilliam Barthoff, Jonathan Doremus, and Christian Demarest.
15. Nelson, op. cit., p. 257
16. John Zabriskie’s house, now the Steuben House.
17. Romeyn, Rev. Theodore B., Historical Discourse Delivered on Occasion of the Re-Opening and Dedication of the First Reformed (Dutch) Church at Hackensack, N. J., May 2, 1869, (New York: Board of Publication, R. C. A., 1870), p. 35
18. In 1784, a new County Court House, 30 feet wide and 60 feet long, two stories in height, was built on a lot donated by Peter Zabriskie on the east side of Main St., bounded south by “a Certain Road [Bridge Street] intended to be laid out by the sd. Peter Zabriskie towards the Hackinsack River...”
19. Tax ratables for New Barbadoes Township in 1802 list George, Catherine and Robert Campbell.
20. The tavern house of the widow Campbell is mentioned in a legal notice in The Bee and Paterson Advertiser on April 8, 1816.
21. Documentary evidence shows that William Jones was tavernkeeper from at least 1819 through 1822. In 1820, the tax ratables list Lawrence Van Orden, owner of a “stage,” immediately after the name of William Jones.
22. “Village Improvements,” The Bergen County Journal, Saturday, April 7, 1860
23. Bergen County Deed Book J8, p. 266.
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