Bear Tavern RoadAlthough much of the surrounding countryside has changed over the course of the more that two centuries that have passed since George Washington and the Continental Army made their famous march to Trenton n late December of 1776, there re still readily identifiable elements on the modern landscape that provide a tangible connection to that pivotal moment in the Nation's history.
For example, Bear Tavern Road, which crosses Jacobs Creek immediately before you, was an important early colonial thoroughfare known then as the "River Road" or the "Great Road." The current road generally follows its original alignment. During George Washington's time, travelers along the road crossed the Creek by means of a ford. The current bridge, constructed in 2014, is at least the third bridge to stand on the site.
Bridges of Jacobs CreekThe first bridge was built in 1796, just upstream from the earlier ford. The road had to be relocated slightly to the north to facilitate its construction. That early bridge was replaced in 1882 by a wrought iron truss bridge that was manufactured by the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company of Cleveland, Ohio. That bridge would stand for almost 125 years until storm damage to the bridge's abutments required its removal.
The Lost RailroadIn 1874, interests of the Pennsylvania Railroad opened the Mercer & Somerset (M&S) branch of its Belvidere Delaware line along the east side of Jacobs Creek, near where you now stand. The line ran from Somerset Junction on the Delaware River through Pennington and Hopewell to Millstone, where it connected to another subsidiary line to New Brunswick. Initially constructed to frustrate the completion of the Reading Railroad's competing Delaware & Bound Brook line for traffic between Philadelphia and New York City, the M&S line was a last-ditch effort by the Pennsylvania Railroad to protect its traffic monopoly between the two cities. The conflicts culminated in a frog war in Hopewell in January 1876. In railroad parlance, a frog is a device that allows two rails to cross, and a frog war occurs when one private railroad company attempts to cross the tracks of another, resulting in a standoff between the completing lines.
The Delaware & Bound Brook won the challenge, and by April 1876, the line was open. Its superior route and direct connections led to the almost immediate demise of the parallel Mercer & Somerset line, which was abandoned and sold at public auction in 1879.
Jacobs Creek RoadIn the early 1880s, a new road was opened along the east side of Jacobs Creek, along the abandoned right-of-way of the Mercer & Somerset Railroad from the Delaware River eastwards to the Washington Crossing-Pennington Road. A short section of Bear Tavern Road, made redundant by the new road, was abandoned around the same time.