Flemington plays an important part in the history of NJ in the American Revolution. Thomas Lowrey was a good friend of Samuel Fleming, whom Flemington in named after, and an early pioneer of Flemington. The story that follows is from the History of Frenchtown NJ: The Quicksilver Era.
Two Irish immigrants; Samuel Fleming, and his friend Col. Thomas Lowrey, came to America and settled in Hunterdon County NJ in 1755. One year later, in 1756, Samuel Fleming began purchasing land and built the first house in Flemington. Fleming Castle as it is now known, still stands today on Bonnell Street and is sometimes referred to as “Fleming’s Tavern”. As time progressed, and other houses were built, the community came to be known as Flemings, and later Flemington.
When Fleming and Lowrey immigrated, Lowrey was only 18 years old. Lowrey married the daughter of his friend Samuel Fleming, Esther Fleming. In his seminal book; History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey” published in 1881, James P. Snell draws a marvelous stark comparison between the business acumen of Samuel Fleming and Col. Lowrey. He states; “Lowrey was as successful as Fleming was unfortunate.” Fleming apparently never stopped buying and ended up selling off his holdings at a loss, to pay off his debts.
It was in Flemington NJ before 1767, that Colonel Thomas Lowrey purchased his first property. In the Plan of Flemington, dated April 24, 1767, Lowrey is shown as the owner of two important properties on what is now Penn Avenue near the main road to Trenton (now Main Street). In 1775, Lowrey built a grain and produce store near the site of where he had earlier built his first store. This early Flemington business was an important market for grain in the region. This business fit in well with his other business venture that was located a mile or two distant, which was a mill. This mill is known as Atkinson’s Mill, Quick’s, and Rockafeller’s Lower Mill over the years.
May 20,1776, Thomas Lowrey purchased a large tract of land that was partly in Alexandria and partly in Kingwood Township. For some time however, Lowrey did not move to Frenchtown. He continued to live in Flemington and build his businesses there. It is this phase of his life that he became an important figure in the American Revolution in New Jersey. Lowrey had been appointed a Deputy Commissary in the American army and had stored a great number of army supplies which in the factual accounts from the court records of the time consisted of salt pork and beef for the use of the troops. Other local accounts that have never been verified claim that Lowrey had the salt pork and beef and a large quantity of muskets. When the British occupied Trenton and Penny-Town NJ, they heard of this local storehouse and decided that they must capture these supplies to weaken the Revolutionary cause.
On December 14th, 1776, the British sent a detachment of 8 cavalrymen of the illustrious 16th Light Dragoons, also known as the Queen’s Light Dragoons, under command of a Cornet Francis Geary to investigate the Flemington storehouse. The group did indeed find the military provisions in the storehouse and set out to report to their superiors what they had found and to return with reinforcements. As they traveled through the New Jersey countryside, somewhere in the forest between Copper Hill and Larison’s Corner, they were ambushed by a small group of local militia, and Cornet Geary was killed. In another undocumented retelling of the events of this day from 1894, Lowrey is given a much more prominent role in the story. Rev. George S. Mott’s, “History of the Presbyterian Church in Flemington…”, tells of Lowrey’s actions on that day: “Geary saw a man on Mullins Hill, who was Colonel Lowrey, evidently reconnoitering; and on inquiry was told that just beyond the hill a body of troops was encamped. This was a military lie, but it had the effect to hasten Geary’s departure.”