Prior to the 1700's only the native American Minisink Indians knew about Black River and the rolling green hills of the area now known as "Hacklebarney." The Indians called the river "Alamatunk" which meant "black earth bottom." On the high ground to the east, where two trails met, the English, who migrated from Long Island established the settlement of Black River around the mid 1700's. The ancestors of these settlers came to Long Island from Chester, England which is probably why the inhabitants of Black River were anxious to rename their township Chester - granted by the state in 1799.

By the mid 1800's, Chester became an important way station between the Port of New Brunswick to the Delaware Water Gap and Elizabeth to Easton. The town had a host of travel-related businesses, an increasing population and several apple farms. Apples grown in Chester's many orchards were pressed into cider and distilled into Apple Jack and Apple Brandy which became known as "Jersey Lightning."

The Gulick-Hacklebarney Mine, located near what is now Cooper's Grist Mill, played an important role in Chester's iron ore mining boom period in the mid to late 1800's. It was during that period that many people moved to that area.

Around 1860, Robert D. Pitney (a descendant of one of the colonies earliest settlers - and also the maternal great-great-grandfather and namesake of the current farm manager) purchased approximately 150 acres of farmland in the Hacklebarney area and founded Hacklebarney Farm.