Frank D Andrews.

The tea-burners of Cumberland County who showed their resistance to British tyranny and unjust taxation by burning a cargo of East India tea on the evening of December 22, 1774 at Greenwich, New Jersey online

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Online LibraryFrank D AndrewsThe tea-burners of Cumberland County who showed their resistance to British tyranny and unjust taxation by burning a cargo of East India tea on the evening of December 22, 1774 at Greenwich, New Jersey → online text (page 1 of 4)
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Andrews, Frsnk D.
The t e a - b u r n e r s of
Cumberland County who






Burned ei Cargo of Tea










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DECEMBER 22, 1774


















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Unveiling and dedication of the Monument erected

in honor of the Tea-Burners of Cumberland

County, at Greenwich, N. J.,

September 30, 1908.

No event in the history of Cumberland County has re-
ceived such recognition, or been so highly honored as the act
of the young patriots who burned a cargo of tea stored at
Greenwich, and we preface this edition with some account of
the day and celebration.

The centennial of the event was the occasion of a cele-
bration held at Bridgeton, November 25, 26, 1874, attended
by thousands of visitors, their patriotism aroused by the
approaching centennial of the nation.

With the recent organization of societies of patriotic
women of the county, such an important event in its annals
could not long remain unhonored.

With one purpose in view, the Daughters of the
Revolution, and Mr. W. W. Sheppard, who, impressed with
the work of patriotic societies in the East, in preserving and
marking historical spots, suggested a monument; an effort
was made to secure the necessary funds. After many delays
an appropriation of $5,000 from the State was obtained and
a monument commission appointed. The result of their labors
is seen in a handsome granite memorial, fourteen feet in
height ornamented with Corinthian columns carved on front
and back. On the sides in raised letters are the names of the
Tea-Burners; on the face, a bronze tablet pictures the scene
of the burning of the tea; underneath is the following:




DECEMBER 22, 1774,



On Wednesday, the day of the celebration, residents of

the county and strangers from without its borders, laid aside
their cares and responsibilities and journeyed to the old
historic town on the Cohansey. Former inhabitants return-
ing as to an old home week to look again on familiar scenes
and meet the friends of their youth. Some, while awaiting
the opening ceremonies, visited the ancient Presbyterian
cemetery to pay homage to the Tea-Burners buried there, who
one hundred and thirty-four years ago made the day's cele-
bration possible; moving in and out among the graves of the
early settlers with reverent tread; reading the quaint in-
scriptions on the time stained stones; standing on the site of
the old brick church, by the tomb of the pastor, who on the
eve of the Revolution preached freedom from British
oppression. On the right, Whitefield once addressed the as-
sembled colonists; on the left, an old oak still stands as a
living witness of the changing scenes of two centuries,
near by the stream the Indians loved, murmurs as in the past.

Others sought the village, whose wide street, lined with
fine old trees, is the oldest in constant use in the county.
They admired as they passed and repassed the well preserved,
ancient houses which vied with modern habitations in the
display of flags and bunting. Opposite Market Square, and
the monument, was the speakers stand, where New
Jersey's governor, John Franklin Fort and prominent guests
reviewed the fine parade marshalled by an aged descendant
of a Tea-Burner.

Lunch was served on the lawn, under stately trees sur-
rounding the Friends Meeting House, about which cluster
memories of the past. Adjoining the grounds is the enclosed
burial place of the early Quakers, with rude native stones
marking the graves of the silent sleepers. Close at hand the
Cohansey River moves onward to the Bay while over all
blue skies and fleecy clouds add their charm to the peace-
ful scene.

The afternoons exercises were of an impressive character.
Rev. Louis C. Wainwright invoked the divine blessing on
the assembled multitude. Hon. Bloomfield H. Minch, the pre-
siding officer, spoke of the completion of a work long delayed,
and complimented the ladies through whose efforts it had
been accomplished. The Band played the "Star Spangled

Banner," the school children sang, and the flags veiling the
monument parted at the touch of Mrs. Robert Ward, Vice
President General of the Society of the Daughters of the
Revolution, revealing a beautiful and enduring memorial.

Ex-Governor Stokes on being introduced reviewed the
colonial history of the county, and the issues which led to the
destruction of tea in Boston Harbor, and later on the banks of
the Cohansey. in closing he formally presented the
monument to the State. Governor Fort with due formality
accepted the trust and said, "We want more such memorials
all over the state where ever there have been events which
justify their erection. They are object lessons more
valuable than study and books. The object lesson remains
through life,"

Miss Adaline W. Sterling, Regent of the N. J. Society of
the Daughters of the Revolution, followed with a most in-
teresting historical address picturing the scene of the tea
burning and paying tribute to the Revolutionary heroes of
Cumberland County.

Professor Warren W. Sheppard delivered a scholarly
oration in which he traced the migration of the ancestors of
the English people who settled this country, and the growth
and development of the spirit of freedom until it became a
living issue with the men who burned the tea.

A poem "What mean these Stones," written for the
occasion by Mrs. Charles Watson, was read by Mr. James
Hunt. After singing America by the school children, Rev.
Joseph Lyon Ewing of Bridgeton pronounced the benediction,

A galax wreath, presented by the New Jersey Society
of the Daughters of the Revolution, was placed upon the
monument by Mrs. Ward, and with that added tribute to the
men honored, visitors, with a last look at the stately object
lesson standing in its majestic granduer for the principle of
right and justice, departed for their homes pleased with the
celebration, the cordiality and generous hospitality of the
Greenwich people, and charmed with the tranquility and
quiet beauty of the place.

Vineland, New Jersey.
October 3, 1908.


Although the rich farming land along Cohansey River
found ready purchasers and the settlers commenced the im-
provement of their plantations, it was not until after the
death of the proprietor, John Fenwick, in 1683, that the town
he had planned and named Cohanzick, was laid out on the
north side of the river by his executors.

During the ninety years of its growth and development
preceeding the Revolutionary era, the first settlers, those
who crossed the Atlantic with Fenwick, and those of
New England origin, who, in remembrance of their home in
Connecticut colony, changed the name of the town to Green-
wich, had alike passed on to their reward, leaving numerous
descendants to inherit the fruit of their labor. An active,
energetic. God-fearing people, these men and women to the
manor born. Their inheritance was not only houses and
land, but those traits of character which adorn and add lustre
to a community, industry, patience and forbearance character-
izing the Friends; while energy, thrift and economy marked
the descendants of New England ancestry.

Others had been drawn to the settlement by its
advantageous location, the enterprise of its people and its
fertile soil. They had also helped to develop and build up
the place.

Many of the descendants of the early settlers had lived
their allotted time, some by reason of strength, had reached
four score and past and still lingered amid the scenes of
their youth. It was the children of these sturdy men and
women, who, grown to manhood and womanhood were in
active life at this period.


The united labor of three generations of these in-
dustrious people had made Greenwich a prosperous
community and a pleasant dwelling place. As the rude
habitations of the first settlers gave way to more comfortable
dwellings, so they in turn were succeeded by homes both
substantial and elegant for the time.

The village street from the river landing to the Presby-
terian Church, a distance of two miles, was more thickly
settled than other parts of the township. On highways
leading to neighboring settlements, amid fertile fields, were
farm houses of brick, of stone, or wood according to
the wealth and enterprise of the owner.

At this time Greenwich was the largest and most
prosperous town in Cumberland County, Hither came the
farmer to trade, here maid and matrons found the best assort-
ment of goods to select from, the village merchants carrying
an ample supply for their simple needs.

At the landing on the river, at the beginning of the
"great street," a ferry had been long established, for there
was much travel between Greenwich and Fairfield, and
visiting of relatives and friends.

Many crossed the river to attend the Cohansey Baptist
Church, over which Rev. Robert Kelsey was settled. He
was from the north of Ireland, and a most methodical,
painstaking man, as his records testify.

Others crossed the ferry to unite with the Friends in
silent worship or passed on to the Presbyterian Church,
where with the villagers of that faith they listened to Rev.
Andrew Hunter, an able divine, who for nearly thirty years
had expounded the gospel to their great satisfaction.

Greenwich had long enjoyed water communication with
Philadelphia, and vessels bound for New York, Boston, or
more distant ports were not unfrequently seen at the landing,
taking on board the product of field and forest.

Frequent intercourse with the business and social world
of Philadelphia and other centres of population had had its
influence upon the citizens of Greenwich, and evidence is not
wanting to show that refinement and culture were to be
found in many households. Books had readers and admirers,
and the more intellipent of the townspeople kept in touch


with the outside world through the interchange of letters and
the newspapers of the period. Ambitious men there were in
the community who sought to rise above their fellows,
aspiring to positions of trust and responsibility in the
service of county and state.

For the most part, however, the people were tillers of
the soil, who followed with little deviation the habits of their
ancestors, opening for cultivation new fields as they cleared
the forest, adding more acres to the original purchase and
prospering in a moderate way. Some with insufficient help
availed themselves of their proximity to the City, securing
from the Captains of incoming vessels Redemptionists, who
had bound themselves to work out their passage money.
This was not always a safe investment as the new
arrivals frequently proved untrustworthy and absconded be-
fore their time of service expired.

With the beginning of the year 1774 the agitation regard-
ing the rights of the colonists and the unjust and tyrannical
course of the British Parliament became a subject of general
discussion throughout the country. At Greenwich, many
sided with the king and condemned any opposition to his

Others there were, with an ardent love of liberty who
freely discussed the political situation, taking sides with the
Boston patriots, commending their action in destroying the
tea in Boston Harbor, and giving with a liberal hand toward
the relief of the sufferers from the "Port Bill" which
Parliament had decreed as a punishment.

We may well believe the patriotic citizen of Cumberland
County took great interest in the meetings of the Con-
tinental Congress and heartily approved of its declaration of
colonial rights.

The young men especially were alive to the issues of the
day, and the spirit of liberty and desire for freedom from
British oppression which was rapidly overspreading the
whole country, so influenced the most adventurous among
them, they were ready for any action wherein they might
assert their independence of kingly rule and show their

The year was not to close without an opportunity for


such a demonstration; unexpectedly there came sailing into
Cohansey River, December 12-14, the brig Greyhound,
Captain J. Allen, with a cargo of tea on board. Probably
the Captain had been warned by the pilots in the Bay, of the
reception awaiting him should he attempt to land his cargo in
Philadelphia whither he was bound.

With the port of destination thus closed against him, he
sailed up the river to Greenwich, doubtless expecting to find
a loyal subject of King George, willing for British gold to
defy public opinion and receive the tea on storage. Such a
man was found and the tea was accordingly placed in the
cellar of Dan Bowen's house on Market Square.

Although the landing was conducted with much secrecy
the Greyhound's mission was soon discovered by the watchful
inhabitants and long before the ship had proceeded far on its
return voyage, the villagers were in a state of excitement
over the extraordinary circumstance.

A temporary committee was appointed to take charge of
the tea, and await the action of the general committee, to be
chosen at a meeting to be held the following week at

The opportunity thus unexpectedly opened for the young
patriots to follow in some manner the example of the Indian
disguised Bostonians was not to pass unnoticed.

Active work on the part of the leaders so perfected their
plans that the Thursday evening following the appointment
of the general committee was decided upon for the decisive
stroke which would effectually rid the county of the
obnoxious herb and relieve the committee of its responsibility.
On the day appointed a general meeting of the inhabitants of
the county met at Bridgetown and unanimously approved of
the articles of association agreed upon by the Continental
Congress. A committee of thirty-five were appointed to en-
force the law throughout the county. They were informed
of the landing of the tea at Greenwich and the appointment
of a pro tempore committee of five who waited their action in
the matter. After deliberation they reported: "that being
ignorant of the principles on which the tea was imported,
from whence it came, or the importers names, they thought
best in his absence to have it privately stored," and proposed


to meet the following morning for that purpose.

Not all the members of that committee had reached their
homes that short December day, before the well laid plans
for the destruction of the tea were taking shape for speedy
execution. Men from Fairfield and from Bridgetown, in little
groups, with here and there a lone rider were making all
speed toward the appointed rendezvous near Shiloh, the home
of Richard and Lewis Howell. Here others joined the little
company which soon hastened on to the Fithian homestead,
not far from the old mill, where the Greenwich men im-
patiently awaited them.

Completing their arrangements and perfecting their
disguise with no fear of discovery in this unfrequented spot,
they again took up the line of march moving rapidly toward
Greenwich street.

Were we to visit Greenwich this year of our Lord nine-
teen hundred and eight we would find houses still standing as
old or older than those at which they met that evening.
May we not enter one of these ancient dwellings and in
imagination picture the scene that took place one hundred
and thirty-four years ago?

Turning backward the wheels of time we find ourselves
within the walls of one of the most pretentious residences of
that period. Uninvited and unseen let us join the family
circle about the broad hearthstone and before the blazing logs
warm into life faculties benumbed by our long flight through
the receeding years.

As the approaching gloom of night overspread the land
and the work of day is done, candles are lighted and the
evening meal served to the household.

The Quaker speech and manner are observed by this
family who do not unnecessarily linger over their simple
though substantial repast, but again seek the welcome
vibrating heat of the fireside, for the day has marked the
approach of winter, snow has fallen in Philadelphia, and the
chill in the atmosphere has penetrated the house.

Comfortably seated once more the interrupted con-
versation may perchance turn upon the events of the year:
the death of Dr. Ward, the late cold spring, with ice an inch
thick in May, the injury to the fruit and scanty crops, the


marriage of Amy Ewing and Robert Patterson, or more recent
occurrences; first day meeting, Captain Allen's visit, the
Greyhound's cargo, and the probable result of the days meet-
ing at the county -seat.

From the conversation we may gather, not all the
townspeople are in sympathy with the recommendation of the
recent Congress. We find there are many faithful subjects
of King George in the neighborhood and we also learn who
some of the partiots are. But listen! through the silence of
the night, do we not hear the subdued murmer of voices and
the tread of passing feet? The little group desert the
comfortable fireside seeking an explanation of the unusual

Let us follow them and join the startled villagers who
dimly see a motley crowd apparelled as the Red Men of the
forest moving swiftly past.

At Market Square they halt before the building in which
the tea is stored, speedily effect an entrance, and soon we
may see the boxes passed from hand to hand into the
neighboring field where the broken chests and contents form
a goodly pile.

But look! was it from that lantern in the hand of an
Indian brave, or from the flint and steel of that kneeling Red
Man a tiny spark appears, flutters in the breeze, which soon
fans it into a blaze lighting the square with burning tea.

The flames reveal the presence of many spectators
drawn thither by the unusual occurence. It also reveals the
masqueraders, who, like the brave men of the forest they
personate work in silence or with an occasional expression of
satisfaction, as box after box is added to the burning pile.
Some in a lively vein may join hands and dance and caper
before the blaze, their grotesque actions and elongated
shadows making a weird and fantastic scene worthy a
painter's brush.

As the flames rise high and still higher, lighting up the
village and surrounding countryside, conflicting emotions fill
the mind of the amazed spectators; some declare it an outrage
for which the severest penalties should be visited upon the
offenders, some endeavor to penetrate the disguise and
discover the active participants with a view of their


apprehension; others secretly rejoice the tea is destroyed,
but fear trouble from the lawless act, while others uphold the
tea-burners action and regret they could not have taken part.

Who among that curious throng, as they watched the
burning tea, brought half way around the world to light up
old Cohansey, thought the act of sufficient worth to be
remembered for centuries? Little thought they as they saw
the drama played, of the far reaching influence of that nights
work; little did they imagine the actors would be honored and
the event commemorated by generations far removed.

Who were these men who suddenly appeared, defied the
law, and as mysteriously disappeared when their purpose
was accomplished? Who were they who opened the eyes of
the Tories and disaffected to the fact that the spirit of
patriotism and the love of liberty was in their midst, that
tyranny and injustice must cease and their rights be
respected? Whence came these brave men who by one
decisive stroke so strengthened the cause of freedom in
Cumberland County that the enemies of independence were
overawed, if not silenced, and her liberty loving citizens
sustained during the long conflict with Great Britain?

Who were they? They were young men of spirit, full
of life and enthusiasm, men of character and education, of
judgement and understanding, devoted to their country, who
believing the British Parliament had no right to impose taxes
on the colonies, or regulate its internal affairs, determined to
give expression to their opinion in such manner as would
convince those in authority that colonial rights in Cumberland
County would be maintained.

When the prominence to which many of these young
men attained in the service of their country, state and
county is considered, the importance of securing such record
of their acts and deeds as are now attainable for preservation
in an enduring and permanent form.

In one goodly company
will be recognized by all who have an interest in the his-
tory of the past.

It is a cause for regret that the names of all who
took part in the destruction of the tea that December night
are not known to this generation and held in remembrance


with their companions. Doubtless among them were those
equally brave, equally as patriotic and with as ardent love of
liberty, deserving of our tribute, for the successful lives are
not alone those whom their fellow countrymen delight to
honor, unknown beyond the community in which their lives
are spent, are those in restricted surroundings who by their
adherence to principle, by strict integrity and unselfishness
unconsciously mould and tem.per the lives of those about

May not the influence of some of these unknown heroes
who played their part so well in the little drama, have passed
into other lives and shown forth anew in the cause of right
and justice in conflict with the evils that in every generation
oppress mankind.

The secrecy and disguise of those who took part in tlie
destruction of the tea proved unavailing, in part at least, for
the owners, John Duflleld and Stacy Hepburn, commenced a
suit in trespass at the April term of the Supreme Court 1775,
against Joel Miller, Abraham Sheppard, Ephraim and Silas
Newcomb for damages to the amount of six hundred pounds.
Suit was also brought against Alexander Moore, Jr., Henry
Seeley and Richard Howell for the same amount.

Joseph Bloomfield, a friend of some of the party, after-
wards governor of the state, had recently been licensed to
practice law and was located in Bridgeton. To him his com-
panions naturally turned, engaging him to defend them.
Duffield and Hepburn were ordered to file security, which
they neglected to do.

The denunciation of the Tories and the condemnation of
the law abiding citizens who had not awakened to the spirit
of the time brought the sympathy of the friends of the
defendants to the front and money was raised for their

The services of Jonathan D. Sergeant, an able lawyer
of Philadelphia, who later became a member of the
Continental Congress, was retained and other legal talent
secured. Duffield and Hepburn engaged Joseph Reed of
Philadelphia, who afterward attained high rank in the
Revolutionary Army, and Charles Pettit, his father-in-law,
who like the opposing counsel, became a member of


Continental Congress. Notwithstanding this formidable
array of legal talent the plaintiff having at last filed security,
found too late that delay had put an end to royal authority in
New Jersey.

An effort to have the tea-burners indicted was also un-
successful. "At the May Court of Oyer and Terminer held
May 1775, Chief Justice Frederick Smyth, presided and
charged the Grand Jury, dwelling upon the unlawful action
of the offenders." Ebenezer Elmer, one of the party in the
destruction of the tea, was present and recorded in his
journal: "The jury came in without doing anything &

1 3 4

Online LibraryFrank D AndrewsThe tea-burners of Cumberland County who showed their resistance to British tyranny and unjust taxation by burning a cargo of East India tea on the evening of December 22, 1774 at Greenwich, New Jersey → online text (page 1 of 4)