The lands adjoining the Falls of the Delaware River were a natural location for early European settlement, just as they had been a focus of native American occupation. The Falls were little more than a stretch of fast-running shallow water between present-day Trenton and Morrisville, but the rocky river bed could be forded here, causing several colonial regional routes to converge on this spot. The heads of tide and navigation also lay just downstream, leaving the left bank of the river ripe for development as a port, fishing center and ferry location.
While the Dutch intermittently traded at the Falls of the Delaware as early as the 1620s and 1630s, true settlement did not begin until 1678 following the docking of the Shield at Burlington. Among those aboard this vessel were the Quakers Mahlon Stacy and Thomas Lambert who continued on to the Falls to establish the first plantations in what was then part of the Yorkshire Tenth of West Jersey. Between the late 1670s and the early years of the 18th century, numerous farms were set up along both sides of the river, mostly by settlers coming into the area through Burlington and Philadelphia.
Access to the river was key to the success of early farms in the Middle Delaware Valley and farmhouses were located close to the river bank within reach of a landing from which contact and trade with the outside world were maintained. Another critical element in the early settlement was Mahlon Stacy's establishment of a gristmill in 1679 near the mouth of the Assunpink Creek where locally grown grain could be processed. This mill, one of the oldest and largest in colonial New Jersey, became the core of a hamlet that would soon evolve into the village of Trenton.
Links to learn more - Isaac Watson House, Hamilton; Burlington County Historical Society, Burlington; New Jersey State Archives, Trenton