The great memory of Bordentown, however, is of the famous railroad, originally begun there, whose managers for nearly a half-century so successfully ruled New Jersey that it came to be generally known throughout the country as ” the State of Camden and Amboy.” In the little old Bordentown station, which still exists, set in the bottom of a ravine, with the house built over the railroad, were for many years held the annual meetings of the corporation; and its magnates also met in almost perpetual session, to generally run things, social, political and financial, for the State of New Jersey, and semi-annually declare magnificent dividends. Not far from this station a monument marks the place of construction of the first piece of railway track in New Jersey, laid by the Camden and Amboy Company in 1831. Upon this track the first movement of a passenger train by steam was made by the locomotive ” John Bull,” on November 12th of that year. This granite monument, erected in 1891 to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary, stands upon a foundation composed of the stone blocks on which the first rails were laid, and two of these original rails encircle it. A bronze tablet upon the monument represents – the old ” John Bull,” with his primitive whisky-cask tender, and the two little old-time passenger coaches which made up the first train he drew. Thus began the great railroad highway between the two chief cities of the United States.
The original method of transport between Philadelphia and New York was by steamboat on the Delaware to South Trenton, stages from Trenton to New Brunswick on the Raritan River, and then by steamboat to New York. This was the ” Union Line,” which for many years carried the passengers, and of which John Stevens was the active spirit. He conceived the first idea of a railway, and in 1817 procured the first railway charter in America for a railroad upon his stage route between Trenton and New Brunswick. In subsequent years there were advocates both of a railway and a canal across New Jersey, his son, Robert L. Stevens, being the rail-way chieftain, while Commodore Robert F. Stockton championed the canal, the rival projects appearing before the New Jersey Legislature in 1829-30, and causing a most bitter controversy. It is related that the conflict was ended in a most surprising manner. Between the acts of a play at the old Park Theatre in New York, Stevens and Stockton accidentally met in the vestibule, and after a few minutes’ talk agreed to end their dispute by joining forces. The result was that on February 4, 1830, both companies were chartered the ” Camden and Amboy Railroad and Transportation Company” and the “Delaware and Raritan Canal Company.” In furtherance of this compromise, what is known as the celebrated “Marriage Act” was passed a year later, creating the “Joint Companies,” their stock being combined at the same valuation, though each had a separate organization. They were given a monopoly of the business, paying transit dues to the State of ten cents per passenger and fifteen cents per ton of freight carried, and this afterwards practically paid all the expenses of the New Jersey State Government. The railroad was completed between Bordentown and Amboy in 1832, and on December 17th the first passengers went through, fifty or sixty of them. It was a rainy day, and the cars were drawn by horses, for they could not in those days trust their locomotive out in the rain. The next year regular travel began, galloping horses taking the cars from Bordentown over to Amboy in about three hours, there being three relays. Later in the year the locomotive “John Bull” took one train daily, each way. In 1871 all the railway and canal properties of the two companies, which had become very extensive, were absorbed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which pays as rental 10 per cent. annual dividends on the stocks.
The line of the Delaware and Raritan Canal begins at Crosswick’s Creek in Bordentown, and is constructed alongside the Delaware River up to Trenton, and thence across New Jersey to the Raritan River at New Brunswick. This is a much-used “inside water route,” and it had one of the old lines of the railroad constructed on the canal bank all the way. It was in former times a very profitable route, and is said to have made most of the dividends of the old monopoly, as it carried the greater part of the freight between the cities. It was originally projected in 1804, but the scheme slumbered for years. When the route was surveyed through Princeton,
where Commodore Stockton lived, he became interested, and he induced his father-in-law, John Potter, of South Carolina, who had over $500,000 in the United States Bank, to withdraw the money and invest it in the canal, he being the chief shareholder. Thus his fortune was not only saved from the bank’s subsequent collapse, but was increased by the profit-able investment. The canal is forty-three miles long, with fourteen locks in its course, having an aggregate rise and fall of one hundred and fifty feet. Its enlargement to the dimensions of a ship canal is suggested.