The Story of Hamilton Farm Golf and Equestrian Center
compiled by Mrs. Harden L Crawford, III
At its zenith Hamilton Farm sprawled across 5000 acres
in the counties of Somerset, Morris and Hunterdon in New Jersey. Here
in the first decades of the 20th century, James Cox Brady created a resplendent
country estate and one of the largest working farms in New Jersey.
Brady, a New York
financier, was the grandson of an Irish immigrant and son of Anthony Nicholas
Brady who had made a fortune in utilities. Brady was known for his competitive
spirit and keen desire to excel.
After the turn
of the century, when other wealthy New Yorkers were building homes in
the hills of Morris and Bernards, Brady looked west to the green fields
and woodlands of Bedminster. He was attracted to the area through his
friendship with Charles Pfizer, the pharmaceutical magnate, and his affiliation
with the Essex Hunt.
Brady's first purchase
was in 1911, a 180 acre farm adjoining the Pfizer estate, acquired for
$100 per acre. He named the farm for his wife, Elizabeth Jane Hamilton
Brady. He bought many other farms in the succeeding years. Ultimately,
Hamilton Farm reached into three counties and embraced the headwaters
of the North Branch of the Raritan River.
the farm began in 1911. The first building completed was the lodge, located
along the main drive. It was used by the Brady family during the hunting
season for brief visits to the farm.
main house was a two and one-half story clapboard house built on a knoll
overlooking the formal gardens and a greenhouse. It was handsome and spacious,
but not as elegant as the residences on Bernardsville mountain. The horse
barn, bull barn and blacksmith shops were completed in 1913. Three years
later the cow barn and the horse stable were finished.
The farm became
a vast operation. More than 4000 acres were cultivated. Corn, wheat, oats,
rye and hay were harvested. Dairy and beef cattle, sheep, pigs, ducks,
dogs and geese were raised at Hamilton Farm.
One hundred or
more men were regularly employed, exclusive of the staff in the main house
or extra laborers hired for construction.
Management of the
farm was under the careful eye of Fred Huyler, who held the job for fifty
years. Huyler was the Peapack carpenter singled out by Brady to help him
acquire the land, develop the farm, erect the houses, barns, stables and
kennels, and buy, breed and exhibit the livestock, poultry and dogs.
A tight chain of
command from Brady through Huyler to various employees kept the farm running
smoothly. Huyler, a showman at heart, spent much of his time on the road
successfully exhibiting the Brady Herefords, Jersey cows, Dorset sheep,
Duroc-Jersey swine, chickens and German Shepherd dogs. Huyler became an
international authority on training hounds and breeding chickens.
The Brady stock
traveled to exhibitions and competitions by private train car. The animals
were herded down the back farm drive directly into the Peapack station
and loaded into specially outfitted cars. There was a festive air in the
village when the parade of animals came to the station.
In 1921, the main
house burned. On its foundation, Brady built a larger residence, a Georgian
brick mansion with 64 rooms, eleven fireplaces, two elevators, and a chapel
with stained glass windows and an organ.
Hamilton Farm flourished
during the 1920's. The stable was filled with Hackney ponies, hunters,
Clydesdale and Percheron draft horses, and Shetland ponies. In the greenhouses
grew nectarines, pineapples, melons, and every sort of vegetable and flower.
The residence was furnished with the finest antiques, carpeting and works
of art. The grounds and gardens were planted with specimen trees, bushes
and flowering plants. Farm machinery and equipment was the newest and
most sophisticated available. Every animal was an outstanding specimen
of its breed.
The influence of Hamilton Farm on the community was profound. Employment
was provided for a generation of local people. Merchants prospered through
endless orders for farm equipment and supplies. The lives of the people
on the farm and in the neighboring villages were expanded by these proximity
to such splendid abundance.
Then suddenly it
was over. When Brady died of pneumonia in 1927, his heirs closed down
most of the farm operation. The animals were sold. The farm was retained.
Today most of the original land is owned by the Brady family.
THE COACHING HERITAGE
AT HAMILTON FARM
Hamilton Farm will
never be forgotten for its contribution to and interest in the sport of
coaching and driving. During the lifetime of James Cox Brady, the stable
was home to some of the best driving animals the United States had to
offer. Hamilton Model, a Hackney stallion, was an undefeated national
champion and King Larigo, a Shetland stallion, was undefeated champion
of the world. Their many get were ridden and driven to top awards throughout
the United States and Europe in the early 1900's by Brady children and
Ted Williams, originally from England, was hired by Mr. Brady as head
groom in the stable. He drove Model and King Larigo to many of their championships.
Williams was also a top four-in-hand whip.
Hamilton Farm had
a beautiful collection of carriages, acquired by Mr. Brady, made by the
best carriage makers in the world, such as Million & Guiet, the well-known
French maker, and Brewster in the United States. Several carriages from
the collection can still be seen in the Shelburne Museum carriage collection,
at Shelburne, Vermont, including a small-sized coach by Million & Guiet
which was probably used to drive a four-in-hand of the Hamilton Farm Hackney
ponies that were bred on the farm.
In 1960, a granddaughter
of Mr. Brady's, Mrs. harden L. Crawford III, living at Hamilton Farm,
started a coaching career to put to use some of the beautiful carriages
that had laid idle since her grandfather's death, and to take advantage
of the knowledge that the then aging Ted Williams had to offer. She brought
back Mr. Williams, then in his late seventies, to teach her to be a proper
From 1960 to 1976,
under his tutelage, Mrs. Crawford competed in pleasure driving competition
throughout the United States and Canada, driving four-in-hand, unicorn,
pair, tandem and single turnouts to many a successful first place, continuing
the tradition of her grandfather. She retired the trophy in the Devon
Horse Show's Carriage Driving Marathon in 1972, driving a tandem of Welsh-Thoroughbred
crossbreds to a cocking cart, and won the Pleasure Division of the four-in-hand
competition at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, Canada, driving the same
Welsh-Thoroughbred crosses to the beautiful Bertram Mills road coach.
After fifteen years of coaching, Mrs. Crawford retired from the sport
due to shoulder injuries and difficulty finding someone to replace Mr.
The beautiful weathervanes which adorned the top of the farm's stable
attest to the driving heritage of the Brady family and Hamilton Farm.
Commissioned by Me. Brady, two of them depict his horses put to a coach
and a tandem cart (the whip in both is Mr. Williams). A third is the famous
Hackney stallion, Hamilton Model.
It is indeed a
tribute to Hamilton Farm and its heritage that the first World Driving
Championship to be held in the United States took place here on its grounds.
In 1998, Hamilton Farm was purchased by Daylar Properties LLP. It is
currently being converted into a golf club while also remaining a world-class
equestrian center. The new name, reflective of its new design, is the
Hamilton Farm Golf and Equestrian Center.