Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mystery # 8: John Hinchman, Surgeon and Tavern Owner

Little is definitively known about the John Hinchman who resided in Sussex County, New Jersey during the latter part of the 18th century. Records indicate that he was a large landowner, a surgeon and a tavern owner. We do not know where he lived before settling in Sussex County. No record has been found as to how or when John acquired land in Sussex County.

Family histories identify John as the fifth son of Joseph and Mary Bloodgood Hinchman of Long Island. Joseph was a physician who died at a relatively young age in 1744, leaving a widow, and seven children under the age of 21. Joseph's will leaves his widow and children each 1/8 of his estate. Joseph left his books and instruments of "chirurgery" to his oldest son Joseph. A series of notices were placed by his widow in the New York Gazette newspaper between November 18 and December 2, 1751 advertising the December 9 public auction of the family estate, estimated to be 80 acres MOL.

A mortgage record places John Hinchman in Sussex County in 1771. On March 25 of that year, he was the mortgator to Joseph Barton, his father-in-law. This transaction is somewhat surprising since Joseph Barton was a wealthy man - it would appear to be more likely that John would be on the receiving end of the mortgage. John is listed on the 1773-1774 New Jersey Tax List for Hardiston Township, Sussex County, NJ.

John first applied for a tavern license in 1772 and was approved. He renewed his tavern license for most years from 1772 to 1775 and from 1787 to 1795. According to a record from the New Jersey Archives, John served as a surgeon in the Sussex County Militia during the Revolutionary War, roughly encompassing the years that he did not apply for a tavern license. The tavern was in his home, identified as being in Hardiston.

It is unlikely that John studied at a school of medicine. He, like most doctors of that day, probably apprenticed himself to an experienced practitioner. In colonial days, surgeons could be anyone who had a sharp instrument. Many were Barber Surgeons. This is the only individual I have found to be a Surgeon Tavern Owner, a combination that seems appropriate since his bar could serve nicely as an operating table and, as a tavern, there would have been an ample amount of alcohol to use as an anesthetic.

John died intestate in 1796. The papers of administration, with his wife as administrator, refer to him as a doctor. The division of the estate, which included about one square mile of land along the road now referred to as Route 94, took place on September 1, 1800 at the home of Thomas Blain, by then the second husband of Abigail Barton Hinchman.

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