One of northwestern New Jersey's oldest communities, is Johnsonburg once known as "Log Gaol" , which means log jail due to it being the location of jail which was erected in 1753. It was once the seat of newly formed Sussex County in the 1750s before joining Warren County. The log jail was the first county building erected for Sussex.County. The town was renamed Johnsonburg after a store owner who had been of the Johnson family.
I found myself driving out to Warren County in New Jersey once again to see the small town which still retains its original general stores, mill and hotel. At one time in the 19th century, it was a place of importance, a place where horse-drawn carriages moved up and down the streets and the tavern became was an important meeting place where court meetings and elections would be held.
Originally a stagecoach stop in which an east-west route carried mail from Dover, New Jersey to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and a north-south route which carried mail from Albany, New York to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the routes crossed through here and the town grew.
But the 19th century saw a new era, the age of canals and trains, which didn't make its way through Johnsonburg. The result was a town which grew little and remained stuck in the past. Many of the buildings were built in the 1800’s.
Upon entering the town I am greeted by the Hardin's Store, which dates to 1871 when is was built by Samuel Hardin, who had ownership of the mill at the time.
The wheelwright shop still stands on Allamuchy Road.
At the end of the road is the Johnsonburg Hotel with a store on its left. I had a nice talk with the man who currently owns the hotel and hes been in the process of renovating it for quite some time.
Next to the hotel is the Old Stone Episcopal Church.
Drake & Mackey store is pictured below, which was built in 1860.
Frelinghuysen Township Hall which is housed in the former Presbyterian Chapel.
On the western edge of town is an old barn.
Below is the Armstrong-Blair house. The home first was owned by William Armstrong and then was was acquired in the 1840s by James Blair. William Armstrong was a principal landowner at the time in the area and had control over the gristmill, tavern and a store. Blair is responsible for the Greek Revival remodeling of the home. The wagon house of the property sits on the site of the old jail.
William Armstrong was known as the village's pioneer merchant.
On Route 661 , I come to the mill which has been a focal point in the town since the 18th century. It ceased operation in 1937. The large mill pond to the north was created by damming Bear Creek and connected to the mill by a short head race while an underground tail race returns water to the creek.
At the end of the town on the western side of Route 661 are the ruins of the Van Horn Farm which sits upon the site of the Petite tavern which was operated by Jonathan Pettit as early as 1753. This was definitely a surprising find after reading a 1874 map of the area. The site was destroyed by a fire.
On Allamuchy Road is the small Johnsonburg Christian Church Cemetery which was established in the mid 19th century, and contains a variety of 19th and early 20th-century grave stones.
Johnsonburg today is a quiet residential neighborhood.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gonzalez is a photographer, blogger and historian currently residing in Newark, New Jersey.