The Hopewell Museum was incorporated in 1922 under the laws of the state of New Jersey with the name "The Hopewell Free Public Library and Museum Funding and Building Association." It was formed to raise funds for a building to house a collection of antiques offered to the community by Miss Sarah D. Stout. This collection became the nucleus of the present museum which bears the much simpler name of "The Hopewell Museum."
Shortly after its formation the Museum purchased the red brick bank building which is now the Hopewell Borough Library. This was subsequently sold and the present property purchased in 1924. For many years the brownstone structure which forms the front portion of the present building, housed both the museum and the Library. During this period the museum owes much to the efforts of the Misses Susan and Eleanor Weart who not only worked long hours at the Museum/Library, but were tireless in their hunt for local items which they felt were worth preserving.
Steps leading up to the main entrance.
Front of the current building.
By 1965 both the Museum and Library were crammed for space and the Library moved to its present location. in 1967 a large two-story addition was made to the Museum Building through the generosity of Dr. David B. Hill. Dr. Hill was a former resident of Hopewell who, as a boy, lived a few doors from the museum. The additional space has enabled the Museum to display its many Collections to great advantage and to house Dr. Hill's superb collection of American Indian crafts.
The mission of the Museum is to preserve and display what is most typical and interesting of village life in America from its colonial beginnings to the present. Most of its treasures have been drawn from homes in the surrounding area. Many of the outstanding items on display were used by the ancestors of today's residents. The history and traditions of a quiet industrious community and its people are presented in review.
Partial List of the Many Fine Displays and Collections
A Colonial parlor;
A Victorian parlor;
Colonial furniture and furnishings;
Antique chine, glass, silver and pewter;
Early kitchen utensils and spinning wheels;
Deeds, documents, charters and pictures;
Photographs and maps of the area;
Costumes from colonial days to the present;
Genealogical material - books and manuscripts;
Southwestern American Indian artifacts;
Delaware Indian artifacts;
Early tools and farm implements;
Early tools and farm implements;
Highlights of Hopewell Valley History
Roger Parke, as far as is known, was the first permanent settler in what is now Hopewell Township. He occupied a farm on the banks of the Stoney Brook around the year 1700. Jonathan Stout was the first settler in the immediate vicinity of Hopewell Borough. He moved there in 1706 after the purchase of a large tract of land described as one-sixteenth of one hundredth part of West Jersey. He had first visited the area to hunt with friendly Indians. Descendants of both these pioneer settlers still live in the community and take an active interest in the Museum.
Hopewell early established schools. In 1756 Isaac Eaton opened an outstanding Academy in the Holcombe house on West Broad Street. The New Jersey Legislature would not grant a charter to expand the school into a college so it was moved to Rhode Island where it received more encouragement. This eventually became Brown University.
John Hart, a leading citizen and an ardent patriot was one of the five New Jersey signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. When Governor Franklin was arrested and removed as the Royal Governor, Hart as the Speaker of New Jersey Legislature, became the acting head of the government. He was an elderly man when the Revolution began, but he spent the remainder of his life trying to raise funds to support the Revolutionary effort. He died before the victory was won and lies burried in the Old School Baptist Churchyard on West Broad Street.
In 1778 at nearby Hunt House, George Washington called Monmouth. His army was encamped in the hill above Hopewell Borough. Present at George Washington's conference was what has been called the greatest aggregation of military talent ever assembled under one roof during the Revolutionary War. In addition Washington, Generals Lee, Green, Stirling, Lafayette, Steuben, Knox, Poor, Wayne, Woodford, Patterson, School, and Duportail were present.
Many of Hopewell's early residents moved on to settle the west, particularly the Ohio Territory. Wilson Price Hunt from Hopewell led the Astor Expedition to the Pacific, the first expedition to cross the Rockies since Lewis and Clark. He pioneered much of what was later the Oregon Trail.
Until 1825 Hopewell was called Columbia. That year a post office was established and the name of Hopewell was used. Earlier the name was applied to the entire Township. The Borough of Hopewell was formally incorporated in 1891.