Lt. Colonel Abraham Bonnell served under the direct command of George Washington and after the battle of Monmouth was personally praised by George Washington for his bravery in battle.
Hunterdon County gave much to the cause of the Revolution, and Clinton had a number of prominent patriots. One was Abraham Bonnell who was made Lieutenant Colonel of the Second Regiment of the Hunterdon County Militia in 1777. By that time he had participated in discussions that culminated in the Declaration of Independence. More than a decade earlier, on March 11, 1766 at the home of David Reynolds, he had been selected as one of the Sons of Liberty, an appointment which was approved at a Town meeting at Ringoe’s Tavern two weeks later.
Although the tavern itself sits just across the town border in the Township of Union, the Bonnell Tavern has been associated with and played a prominent role in Clinton's early history and there has been a tavern on this site as early as 1764. Abraham Bonnell, who was licensed as a tavern owner in 1764, had operated the Boar's Head tavern in Ringoes prior to opening the Bonnell Tavern in 1767. As one of the most prominent land owners in the area, he devoted much of his efforts to political affairs. The family patriarch migrated from Cheshire, England in 1630. Abraham’s great grandfather, Nathanial Bonnell, built what is today the historic Bonnell home in Elizabeth, New Jersey, home to the NJ Historical Society. Apart from being the meeting and voting place for the northern section of the county, the tavern remained a fixture in the community until 1870 under Abraham’s son Clement and succeeding Bonnell descendants. The tavern, once named “The Gypsy Girl” by William Bonnell, was also part of the Underground Railroad, which moved Southern slaves to freedom in the northern states.2