With Valentine’s Day nearby, here’s a peek into John and Catherine Wicoff’s story, a love that led to the construction of the Historic Wicoff House.
Born in 1844, Catherine Lucretia Britton was the daughter of Colonel Dean Britton, a prosperous landowner in the Plainsboro area and veteran of the American Civil War. After her father passed away, Catherine inherited a large sum of land in 1872, and by this point was a 28 year old unmarried woman. This was unusual for the time as women in the 19th century were expected to marry by their early 20’s and typically not landowners. Catherine was heading into her 30’s happily single with a newly settled estate in need of someone to manage the 150 acre farm she had just inherited.
Born in 1829, John Wicoff was a prominent and successful wholesale merchant in the farming industry. In 1872, he was hired by Catherine to manage the farm land she had acquired while she lived in nearby Dayton. It was not long before John and Catherine fell in love and were engaged to be married in 1875. The two began their new life together by having a new house constructed on the same land where they had met. This house, built in 1880, would later be named the Wicoff House.
John and Catherine Wicoff had one son born in 1878, John Van Buren Wicoff, who would later spearhead the founding of Plainsboro Township, serve as Plainsboro’s first mayor, and become head of the Board of Education. Although John Wicoff suddenly died at the age of 63, Catherine and their son continued on, expanding the house multiple times to accommodate a hired farmer’s family and future children.
In the early 1900’s John Van Buren Wicoff met Lavinia Applegate of Hightstown. They married in 1904 and took a three month honeymoon to the wild west and Alaska. They later had seven children and the Wicoff House was full of life. Catherine, the matriarch of the family, made sure that family came first. In 1908, she took in her orphaned niece and nephew after their parents passed as well as her widowed cousin Rue.
It seems as though love was always prevalent in the Wicoff House, from its construction to its transition into a historic museum that celebrates Plainsboro’s history.