The Sharp Family
At a high rise in the land between Gropp Avenue, Sharps Lane and Hempstead Road sits an old farmhouse, white stucco with dark green trim. It is of colonial design with two large fireplace chimneys at each end. This is the Sharps Farm, and it has been called that since 1857 when William H. Sharp and his bride Elizabeth Robbins, both of Clarksville, purchased it from Peter DeCou who once lived in the Abbott-DeCou mansion.
A family tradition relates that the DeCou family purchased the house in about 1767 from a Colonel Mitchell. It is believed the house was built prior to the American Revolution and was known as "The Mitchell Farm".
An interesting story revolves around the farm's very deep well. At the time of the Battle of Trenton, a Colonel Maynard who led a detachment of soldier sunder General Washington, stopped at the farmhouse. The men and horses were watered and fed, and then they went on to fight the Battle of Princeton.
The walls of the house are brick and are fourteen inches thick. The floor joists are made of oak and were cut square with a broad axe. There are fireplaces in each downstairs room as well as in the north side of the house. The living room fireplace is still used today, but the others have been covered. The rafters are all hand-hewn. On one wall of the cellar there is a faint outline of a bake oven which must have been in place during the early days of the house.
At one time, between 1860 and 1880, two families of Sharps lived here. The rooms were partitioned, making it a double house. These partitions were removed by Edward Sharp, who died in 1976.
The house was remodeled in 1918. In 1972 shutters were restored to the windows, adding to the exterior charm. At the time of this history of Hamilton Township, the walls of the house are brick covered with white siding.
George Sharp's father, Edward C. Sharp, made many improvements to the farm, including an 1894 addition of a windmill to pump water into the house so that the family could have running water, and the convenience of a bathroom in the house. Previously, water had been drawn from two open wells with an old oaken bucket.
In 1925 Edward Sharp gave the farm lane to Hamilton Township for use as a street. Today, Sharp's Lane is lined with houses on both sides.
The Sharp family raised hogs, cows, chickens as well as vegetable and fruit produce which included potatoes, wheat, corn, apples and asparagus. The asparagus was shipped to New York daily by a truck.
George Sharp started a dairy farm here just after the first World War. He also delivered milk, and as a side business venture obtained manure from the livery stables in Trenton which he sold as fertilizer. Livery stable were the forerunners of today's parking garages. When suburbanites from Hamilton needed to go to Trenton for shopping or for business, they usually travelled by horse and wagon. Once in Trenton, the horse and wagon would be left at a nearby livery stable. until it was time for the owner to return to Hamilton Township. A lively livery stable could be an excellent source of fertilizer for the organic farming of that earlier time.
In the earlier part of the century, a two-horse tread power was used for threshing grain, grinding feed, and sawing firewood. George Sharp remembers threshing by horse-power. It was hard work for the horses. After threshing one hundred sheaves, the horses were given a rest.
About 1910 the Sharp family purchased six horse-power Olds engine to do the threshing and grinding. Mr. Hendrickson of Hendrickson and Dilatush had recently installed Olds engine in their fertilizer plant, and it was through Mr. Hendrickson that Sharp bought his engine. From then on, gas power gradually took the place of the horse on the farms.
When the Sharp family sold some of the farmland to real-estate developers, the township would not approve of having the area developed unless the family gave four acres to the Township school Board for a new school. The Gropp family owned the adjoining land and had to do the same. When the farms were broken up and sold to the school board, other lots were also sold to the Klein Development Corporation which began the housing development around Gropp Avenue, Martha Drive, Hempstead Road and Arena Drive. The William A. Robinson elementary School was built on the former site of a field next to Sharp farm.
Evelyn Sharp Waldron, daughter of George and Marion Sharp, was always very interested in horses. She held 4-H Club horse shows and Pinto Pony Club shows at the farm. Ms. Waldron maintained constant contact with other stables, and a result at least four horse shows a year would be held at the farm which many remember as being well attended. The shows were quite festive, with a food stand for the convenience of visitors and a chance to win one of hand-knit afghans made and donated by Marion Sharp. Today, the Sharp farm is noted for its boarding facilities that can house up to twenty-seven horses.
The farmhouse also reflects Evelyn Sharp's special interests and talents: the downstairs rooms are filled with ribbons and trophies won by Evelyn, as well as many paintings of horses which were presented to her.
For over a century the lovely old farmhouse has been home to the Sharp family. The house overlooks an apple orchard, fields, the William A Robinson Elementary, and a housing development.
References and Acknowledgements
1. Lee, Francis Bazley. Genealogical and Personal Memoir of Mercer County, New Jersey, New York. Lewis Publishing Company, 1907.
Special thanks to Mildred Klockner Steiner and Richard B. Klockner for sharing their memories.