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Roots: Preacher Grandma Survives a Runaway Horse January 18, 2013

Editor’s Note: If you dig into your family roots, you’ll discover you have a lot of awesome Grandmas, like mine. My Grandma Holcombe was a preacher. Now I understand that tendency to get on a soap box and preach … This story was originally published for Julie’s Fresh Air in 2006.


Family Research From Pennee Murphree, guest blogger for Julie’s Fresh Air

I found this about one of your 8th great grandmothers (you have 256 of them), Elizabeth Woolridge Holcombe who was born in England in 1680.  She must have been a very brave lady. Regardless, it makes for a good story. This is from your Grandma Murphree’s side of the family. They were Quakers and settled in New Jersey. I was looking at the Holcombe Family Tree and after carefully reading some of the history of John Holcombe and Elizabeth Woolridge I found buried in the notes this interesting story about Elizabeth. It’s fun to find a comment about the ladies because they were often overlooked. I included some other information. I found out about Lambert and where the Holcombe Farm existed. 

   Julie Murphree and siblings     

Aubrey Pat Murphree  

Frances Pritchard Murphree  

1 Etta Wilson Pritchard  2 Almedia Reed Wilson   

3 Eveline Holcombe Reed

  4 Elijah Holcombe  


5 John Holcombe  6 Elijah Holcombe   


7 Samuel Holcombe   

8 Elizabeth Woodridge Holcombe



Elizabeth was a preacher, and went over to the Buckingham Friends meeting every 1st and 4th day of the week.  On one of these occasions the Delaware River was very high and the ferryman begged her not to cross it as it would be most dangerous. “The Lord will protect me”, said Mrs. Holcombe and she went on. She reached the meeting safely and addressed those present. When the meeting was over, she was helped, on her horse, a powerful stallion of the old hunting stock, and, as was customary in those days, was strapped to the saddle. As she started for home, the horse gave a powerful leap and sprang off on a full run. Several of the Friends who had horses, quickly mounted and pursued, fearing Mrs. Holcombe would be killed. They, however, could not overtake her, but when near the river shouted to the ferry man to “Stop the Horse”. 

This was of no avail, the horse plunging in the deep swift river. Mrs. Holcombe had the presence of mind to head him a little upstream, thus breaking the strong current. When they reached the other side of the river, the horse, merely shaking the icy water from his flanks, tore off again at the same wild speed, nor did he slacken his pace, until he reached the stable door, having in his mad hast to get there, jumped a four-rail fence. This little escapade of Mrs. Holcombe’s took place in December. Another version Elizabeth: was an active member of the Society of Friends and preached among them.  She attended the Pennsylvania Meeting and crossed the Delaware River by ferry on horse. On one occasion the river was flooded and her horse bolted out of her control and galloped into the river on her return although the ferrymen tried to stop it. Her presence of mind to rein the horse in the water guided it to the other side where the horse took off again and galloped straight home. Found the story twice so it must be true. Ha! 



The land now occupied by the City of Lambertville was originally purchased from the Delaware Indians as a portion of a 150,000 acre tract along the Delaware River north of Trenton. Agents for the council of West Jersey purchased the parcel in 1703 for seven hundred pounds, or about $2,800. The council subdivided and sold the land to farmers and developers over the years. In 1705, the first resident of Lambertville, John Holcombe, purchased 350 acres north of the first survey line, the Old Bull line. In 1724, he built the stone house on

North Main Street

that became known as Washington’s Headquarters. Holcombe purchased more property to the north that is now known as the Holcombe-Jimison Farmstead. The Farmstead has been restored as a museum to illustrate farm life in Hunterdon County.


The land south of the survey line from Delevan to the far end of town was subdivided and transferred several times before Emanuel Coryell purchased the portion between

Church Street

and Swan Creek in 1732. He also obtained a charter to operate a ferry crossing the Delaware River slightly south of the present Lambertville-New Hope Bridge. Along with his ferry service, Coryell opened a tavern and inn to accommodate travelers. The settlements-Lambertville and New Hope-were called Coryell’s Ferry. Lambertville was the mid-point on the two-day journey between New York and Philadelphia.

During the Revolutionary War, Coryell’s Ferry served as an outpost and crossing point for General George Washington and his troops. Before the Battle of Monmouth in the summer of 1778, the colonial Army camped in an orchard at the corner of Bridge and Union Streets. Washington and his fellow officers were quartered at the Holcombe Farm. 


The Lambert family settled north of John Holcombe’s land between 1735 and 1745. Their descendant, John Lambert, served in the United States Senate during Thomas Jefferson’s administration. He persuaded the Postal Service to open an office at Coryell’s Ferry. His nephew, Captain John Lambert, was appointed postmaster and his inn was designated as the post office. Having procured a post office for Coryell’s Ferry, the Lamberts renamed the village Lambert’s Ville in 1810. This outraged the Coryells, who thought the town should be named Georgetown in honor of Captain George Coryell, who had served in the New Jersey forces in the Revolution. The industrialization of Lambertville began in 1851 when the Belvidere-Delaware Railroad was built along the canal north from Trenton. The Holcombe farm hampered development on the north end of town. In 1851, when John Holcombe died, the estate was divided between his children, John and Cynthia. Cynthia, whose land lay east of

North Main Street

, kept her portion intact, but John subdivided his into lots. His plans, however, were stymied by a large house which stood on

Delevan Street

directly in the path of northward extension of

Union Street

. On September 11, 1863, the house mysteriously burned down and northward development began.


The Hairpin Factory opened in 1901, manufacturing 15 tons of hairpins a week. It closed in 1922 after women began bobbing their hair. The Pennsylvania Railroad, a major employer, moved its maintenance yards to Trenton in 1909. This took jobs and also affected shipping to other businesses. Fortunately, the Lambertville Pottery Company began manufacturing toilets that year with two kilns on

North Union Street

, and by 1922, twelve kilns were producing 300 bowls and tanks daily. The Pottery Company, unable to provide sinks and bathtubs along with toilets and tanks, could no longer compete and closed in 1925.





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1. Pennee - July 26, 2006

I like this lady!

2. Pennee - July 27, 2006

It was sad when they closed the hairpin factory. Can you imagine the conversation when the husband said to the wife who had just cut her hair, ” I think I will close the hairpin factory.” And I wonder what their next busness venture was!