The Capners were neighbors to the Case family, who owned the land that now serves as the Hunterdon Land Trust’s Dvoor Farm headquarters. Joseph Capner purchased from the widow of Johan Philip Case acreage situated mostly east of the Walnut Brook. The purchase included the first stone home built by the Cases on the farm. We are able to learn more about that home and the farm land here through the Capner family papers stored in the collections of the Hunterdon County Historical Society.
By the time English emigrant Joseph Capner (originally Capnerhurst) arrived in America, the Cases had been established on its farm for several decades, and the family patriarch, Johan Philip, had been in his grave for more than 30 years.
Capner came to Philadelphia in 1786 and stayed with his uncle John Hall while looking for a farm to buy so he could bring the rest of his family from England. Joseph and his uncle traveled to Flemington on Oct. 12, 1786 to look over some property. According to John Hall’s diary:
Oct. 13: Got up, walked to Flemming Town arrived near 1, was kindly received by the Burges family, dined and went with young Mr. Burges to look over property. Jo, I and Mr. Burges went on the hilly part, very unpromising, then thru the wood and not much better, then to house, good orchard of 11 acres of wheat stubble and full of clover. This more promising, below had better soil, good meadows, a good run of water down the middle, not bad. Went and called on woman proprietor and bid 550 but she would not take it. Looked at the house of good stone, not very convenient barn but tolerable good, bid half her price, she refused, we left and went to Mr. Burgess. Jo very anxious to get something, and it was a tolerable low price and by industry he would do well. We agreed to go tomorrow and pay her price.”
The 172-acre farm Capner purchased the next day lay east of the present Dvoor farm house. The west border of the farm ran parallel and just east of present-day Shields Avenue stretching just north of today’s Capner St. running south and stopping shy of current Dayton Road. Capner’s property was very long and narrow, hence its name Long Range Farm. The Walnut Brook cut through the middle of his property.
John Hall wrote to Mary Capner (Hall’s sister and Joseph’s mother) in England on Jan. 1, 1787 and described the location of the original stone house. This house was built in the late 1730s by Philip Case. “This place of Jo’s contains 170 acres and is an oblong square the house stands about the middle or as I suppose nearer the ends towards the wood and high land. At one door or window he will have a clear view of all his land downwards. He will likewise look all over the upper part of his land up to the wood out of a window on the other side the hou. There is a small run of water down the middle of the land below the house. Mr. Passand and I must undertake cutting it straight and floating all the low land. There is some in tillage just below the house of a most excellent soil. There is a publik road crosses it. The house will want considerable improvement and alterations. The barn is a considerable large one in good repair.”
This original house was stone mortared with mud and had a full basement, two full stories and living space in the full attic. The first two floors had four rooms each and a center hall. Joseph settled into his new home, clearing and working the fields. In April 1787, his family arrived in Philadelphia from England, traveling on what is now the Old York Road, across Coryell’s Ferry to Flemington.
Capner ran a successful dairy operation, making large quantities of cheese that were sold mainly in Trenton and Philadelphia. Later, he imported English Bakewell sheep and breeded them. His farming business was quite successful before his untimely death in 1809 at the age of 49.
Sometime in the mid-1800s, the original stone house built where Capner lived was torn down.
(This is part of our series of articles over the course of the next several months celebrating Hunterdon Land Trust’s 20th anniversary, our efforts to protect the places you love and our area’s rich agricultural heritage. Information for this article derived largely from the following sources: The Case-Dvoor Farm Site Management Plan and the Hunterdon County Historical Society Spring 1988 Newsletter, “The Long Range Farm: Home of Joseph Capner (1760-1809) and Family by David Parsons Brackett.)