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Ayers Allen House
My name is Tyreen Reuter and my husband I live in the house in the Ayers-Allen House on Durham Avenue. Although we have not yet found indisputable proof that the Americans and British drank together here, that is what we have been told by local historians. I have read that this kind of thing did actually happen, and there was certainly a great deal of activity in the area at the time. I found copies of tavern licenses from the late 18th century for an establishment to be operated by a member of the Ayers family here in Metuchen at the State Archives, and I presume it was in this house.
The house sits on what used to be the main intersection in Metuchen (then known as Woodbridge), an ideal spot for a tavern, and was known to have a good well. There was a skirmish fought a few hundred yards away in June 1777, and others not to far away later on.
We bought the house about 3 years ago and were lucky to have inherited a great deal of research that already had been done. Pasted in below is the text from a handout we gave to the 4th grade class who toured the house as part of their NJ history class last year. Keep in mind it was written for children! They pretty much all knew the ghost stories so we had to address that issue up front - we didn't want them scared.
A weird coincidence is that the medium mentioned below was named Ethel Meyers. After we bought the house we found out about her and were very surprised to learn her name - - I am originally from northwestern Connecticut (about three hours from here) and she had been the previous owner of the house I grew up in. Less strangely, I also then found out about a number of my ancestors who fought in the Revolution, some of which in this area of New Jersey even though they were all from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
Welcome to the Ayers-Allen House
According to records that have been found, it was a man named Jonathan Ayers who built this house in 1740. His Uncle Thomas was a carpenter and probably helped or taught him how to build the house. His grandparents were Obadiah Ayers and Hannah Pike, who were some of the original founders of Woodbridge in 1669. Back then, the area we now call Metuchen was part of Woodbridge Township. Members of this same family owned the house for almost 200 years. This year, the house is celebrating its 260th birthday!
Zachariah Allen (Jonathan's grandson) and his wife Catherine lived here during the Revolutionary War. They are supposed to have used part of the house as a tavern, where soldiers and other local people could come to eat and drink. We have found copies of tavern licenses for a house in Metuchen during that time at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton. Maybe this is where the troops stopped to rest after the skirmish fought here with the British in June of 1777. Some of the people who lived in this house fought in the war and many in the family are buried in the old colonial cemetery.
Since the house is so old, there are lots of stories about it. As a tavern, it was supposed to have a good well and was famous for having served ginger cakes and ale. Many people believe that the ghost of a Revolutionary War soldier haunts the house, or that it is a Hessian soldier who hung himself here in one of the upstairs rooms. Some people have seen a woman wandering around looking for her young son who was murdered by the British. Others have seen the spirits of two Native Americans from the tribe of Chief Matochshoning who were hung unjustly in a tree in the yard.
There are two trap doors and a hidden room in the house which some people think prove it was part of the Underground Railroad which helped slaves escape to freedom in the 1800's.
In 1924 Hannah Talmadge (who was still part of the Ayers and Allen families) sold the house out of the family for the first time to the Wales. They found very interesting things in the house, including a sword and some old coins. We have a letter from one of their children describing what it was like when they moved in. The Kadisons lived here for a few years in the 1940’s, and then Mr. & Mrs. King bought the house in 1947. Mr. King, who’s first name was Samuel, passed away about 20 years later, but his wife Louise lived in the house for about 50 years. She was a school teacher, and may have even taught some of you, your parents or grandparents. She was very fond of the ghost “with piercing blue eyes.” She allowed a famous ghosthunter named Hans Holzer to come with a medium and have a séance here in 1960, but she made him promise not to scare away any of "her" ghosts. Mr. Holzer wrote about the séance in his book called Ghosts. He changed their name to Kane, but it is still called the Metuchen Ghost. Mrs. King had many experiences with the ghost, and would tell her stories to her students. She loved the house very much and had it listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places in the hopes that it would always be here for people to visit and enjoy.
The house has three working fireplaces, and there used to be even more, because that was how the people who lived here heated the house and cooked their food. In one of the fireplaces is a beehive oven that was used for baking bread and pies. It was hard to heat the house only using fireplaces, so the ceilings are very low. This is because lower ceilings traps the heat better. If you are tall you have to be careful not to hit your head when going into the rooms!
The floors are made of very wide wooden planks which make creaking noises when you walk. The floors and walls are uneven in some places because the house has settled over the years. In the house we have found a silver spoon that is a hundred years old and lots of glass marbles. There was a boy who lived here in 1925 used to play with them and lose them in the house. In the yard we often find oyster shells and bits of pottery leftover from when it was a tavern. The front door is a Dutch door, which means it is split in the middle so you can open the top and leave the bottom closed. Since this house was part of a farm, the door would keep little kids in the house, and cows and chickens out, and provide fresh air at the same time.
We moved here in 1998 and have had a few experiences with ghosts ourselves. We believe that at least one of them, which we call Jonathan, is a protective ghost who is trying to make sure nothing happens to his house.
If you want to know more about Metuchen and the Revolutionary War, or anything at all about the history of Metuchen contact the Metuchen-Edison Historical Society. They have hundreds of photographs and files that you can look at that will tell you more about the town and probably even your own house.
Thank you for coming to visit!
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Lasted updated 02/02/03 by Jim Halpin.