Settlement in the immediate vicinity of the future Borough of Hopewell NJ began in 1696/7.
Settled by the Dutch as early as 1658, Hopewell was first referred to as “Sourland”. It was not until 1713 that it was incorporated as a borough. Its name was changed to Hopewell in honor of Jonathan Stout’s wife, Hannah Hopewell, who died in 1715. By 1816, there were 1,400 inhabitants in the Township. At this time, the residents wanted to be annexed to Middlesex County, as it was then called. The first attempt at annexation failed in the General Assembly, but in 1828, a successful petition led to an election in the Township which established the Hopewell Union Fire Company.
Settling the issue was not easy, however. A dispute arose among the members over the site and the matter was brought before the County Court. The court, by a unanimous vote, ruled in favor of Joseph Stout, the first freeholder in the Township. The land was deeded to him, and in 1749, he built the first church at the present site of Hopewell Borough. The members agreed upon the location and the Reverend George Burdick, pastor of the New Brunswick Church, was chosen as the minister in 1753. The building was begun in 1754 and completed the following year. It was one of the most impressive churches of the early eighteenth century.
In 1749, they built a log church on what is now known as the “Stout Corner” on what is now State Route 611. The original structure had a steeple, but the building was too small to accommodate the growing membership and it was removed. A new meeting house was erected on the same site in 1802. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1829, and a new meeting house was erected on the same site in 1833. It was replaced in 1853 by another frame building, which stood until 1867, when it burned.
. Roger Parke and Thomas Tindall, two Quakers from south of present Trenton, bought land for occupancy from Stoney Brook eastward to the edge of the present Borough in that year. A decade later, Jonathan and Ann Stout bought a large tract lying between Amwell – Aunt Molly Roads and the Province Line. In 1723, when the forest path that became Broad Street was surveyed as a King’s Road, the landowners whose farms lay along this road, east to west, at the future Borough were James Hyde, Joseph, Benjamin, and William Merrill, John Parks, and Jabez Jarvis. They had come here to clear land and grow wheat.
The arrival of Jonathan Stout from Middletown in Monmouth County was significant to the history of the Township and the Borough because of his strong adherence to the Baptist faith. On April 23, 1715, he and his wife Ann, their son Joseph and wife Ruth; Thomas and Alise Curtis, Benjamin and Mary Drake, and four individuals, organized a Baptist congregation under the solemn direction of three visiting ministers and their elders. For the next thirty-two years, the little congregation met in members’ houses at various places in the Township. In 1747, when the membership had grown to 65, they resolved to build a church. Joseph Stout, at whose home the group had been founded, argued for the construction of the church on his land, up the slope of the Sourlands along the Province line. Most of the members objected, preferring a more central and accessible place. It was the outcome of that debate that fixed the future location of Hopewell Borough.
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