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MIKE KEELER: Asa Hunt House Update Part Nine

Mike Keeler

“You from Jersey? Yeah? What exit?” Or perhaps we should ask, “Yeah? Which province?”

On July 1, 1676, four greedy men named Penn, Lawrie, Lucas and Byllynge had a legal thumb-wrestle with a fifth greedy man named Carteret over who owned a new British province called New Jersey. The resulting agreement, called the Quintipartite Deed, split the province in two, giving West Jersey to the foursome and East Jersey to Carteret.

Once this was resolved, the argument quickly pivoted to the issue of where to draw the border. In 1686, Surveyor-General George Keith was assigned to create the official boundary. He started in Little Egg Harbor on the south Jersey coast, and drew an arrow-straight line north-northwest up through the center of the province, until he came to the Sourland Mountains just north of Princeton. Foiled by the convoluted terrain and perhaps by Lenape natives, he stopped.

In subsequent years, two more complete surveys were undertaken, first the Thornton Line (1696) and then the Lawrence Line (1743), which became the final border for legal purposes. But the Keith Line had already left a long-standing mark. If you look at today’s map of New Jersey municipalities (by clicking here) you can see it running straight and unbroken, separating the counties of Burlington and Ocean, and Hunterdon from Somerset.

And here in Mercer County, the Keith Line endures in the form of a local road called Province Line, which separates the snobs in Princeton in the East from us laid-back country folk in Hopewell Township in the West. Yep, the Asa Hunt House sits about 3 miles west of Province Line Road. Which means that, as loyal West Jerseyans, we are supposed to root for the Eagles over the Giants, and order our breakfast sandwiches with “Pork Roll,” as opposed to “Taylor Ham.”

Well, too bad. We’re Denver Broncos fans, and we don’t eat much in the way of meat by-products. On the other hand, it has come to our attention while doing our renovation that our old farmhouse is West Jersey through and through. Our living room mantle came from Philadelphia; some of our furniture was manufactured in Camden and upholstered in Trenton; all of our antiques were restored in Lambertville; and we salvaged bricks and flooring from an old house in Flemington.

So here’s what we’ve decided. With our renovation nearing completion, the last major thing we need is a chandelier for the dining room. For this house the only thing that will suit is something brass with glass chimneys, perhaps a refurbished gasolier. We could find one pretty much anywhere. But to get ours, we are headed…west. This weekend we are crossing the Delaware (in the not-so-famous direction), continuing on past greedy old Mr. Penn’s house, and right on down to Philadelphia, where there are several massive antique and salvage warehouses.

Fingers crossed. The Asa Hunt House is nearly complete. And we’re counting on the Spirit of ’86 for the last missing piece.

Mike Keller


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