Howard M. (Howard Mickle) Cooper.

Historical sketch of Camden, N. J. online

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A revision and amplification of a paper read before the
Camden County Historical Society, June 13, 1899

With an Introduction by





Copyrighted 1908 and 1909


Printed by Illustrations by


Camden, N. J. Camden, N. J.



If one were to seek the genesis of Camden
he would not find it in the visit of the sturdy
Dutchman, DeVries, nor of any explorer who
followed, nor in the voyages of those in search
of a land where they might increase their
wordly possessions, but rather would he find
it in souls devoted to principle, and primed
with courage never to yield ; in a quiet contest
for right and equality, which knew no sub-

In one of his stories Robert Louis Stevenson
tells of a rider issuing from a forest upon the
high road and gazing upon it as it runs down
hill before him, joining road after road, skirt-
ing the sea and passing through city after city
to the farthest end of Europe. May we not
picture some such person, some one denied
that which he conceived to be right and de-
termined to seek a refuge elsewhere, looking
out upon the high road, and meditating upon
where it will lead him. As it reaches from
him it skirts the seashore, and suddenly melts
away and is lost to sight, for it has taken its
course across the "deep, dark, blue ocean"
leading to a spot upon the banks of the Dela-


ware, and there ending in the founding of a
home in another clime and upon alien soil.

Thus it was that William Cooper, leaving
his native land and tarrying for nearly a year
at Burlington, came to Camden about 1680,
where he built a home at Pyne Poynte.

Ruskin asserts that "all the pure and noble
arts of peace are founded on war," and that
"it is the foundation of all the high virtues and
faculties of man." This may or may not be
true, but it may fairly be said that all great
results proceed from contest and struggle and
it may as fairly be said that to contest and
struggle, not of deeds of arms, but for the
maintenance of rights, may we trace the begin-
ning of our city. Though this be true, still its
inception was as peaceful as is the bosom of the
river which flows past its door.

At this point I am tempted, in a few bold
strokes, to tell of the evolution of the wilder-
ness into a city, of the felling of the primeval
forest, of the growth of roads and streets from
little pathways, of the founding of new homes,
the advent of new faces, and of the innumer-
able things which gradually but surely alter
the face of the land, but were I to attempt it
I fear that the good people who have the
courage to read this introduction would accuse
me of theft of the idea from Hawthorne's


charming story "Main Street," of the facts
from Mr. Cooper's delightful and instructive

A descendant of the William Cooper above
referred to, Mr. Howard M. Cooper, has given
to the citizens of Camden a work of great
value, for in it he has recorded many facts
known to few besides himself and it suggests
the following thought: We now have daily
papers giving the current life of our city, but
there is much that rests alone in the memory of
our citizens that should be saved for the future
historian. In Holland there are public archives
where historic facts may be preserved. It
surely would be of value for such a depository
to be established in one of our public libraries.
Encouragement should then be given to our
citizens to reduce to writing their recollections
of past and present events, and, being safely
kept where access could be had to them at all
times, who can tell but that they might be an
inspiration to some one in the future to con-
tinue the labor of love and affection so admir-
ably begun by Mr. Cooper.

January 22, 1909.



Chapter i

In 1618 Lord De La Warr, sailing along
the Atlantic coast on his return to Virginia
from England, died at sea opposite the mouth
of "a goodly and noble river," which, as a
perpetual monument to his memory, forever
indicating the place of his death, was thence
called the Delaware. 1 Sailing up this wide river
in 1631, noting the creeks and estuaries empty-
ing into it, the Dutch commander, De Vries,
discovered about one hundred miles from
its mouth, on the eastern shore, a large
thickly wooded island, which he called Jacques
Eylandt. The Swedes, coming some seven or
eight years after, observing the same isle, with
much better taste called it by its Indian name,
Aquikanasra, an island destined to be, a
century and a half later, the site of the town
of Camden. By the concurrent testimony of
the early Dutch and Swedish writers it was
bounded on the west and north by the Dela-
ware; on the east by what the Indians called
the Asoroches river, the Dutch the Timmerkill,
the Swedes the Hiorte-Kilen our Cooper's
creek ; and on the south by the Ouinquorenning
of the Indians, the Graef Ernest of the Dutch
our Newton creek. 2

Whether these early historians were abso-
lutely correct in their geography or not, it will
not seem impossible that the waters of Cooper's
Creek once had an outlet into Newton Creek

i Barker's Sketches, 14; Smith's Hist. Va., 148.
a Lindbtrom's Map, Vol. 9, p. 19, N. J. Hist. Soc.


to any one who will carefully observe the
topography of the land along the Haddon-
field turnpike about where the White Horse
road branches off, and note on the one hand the
ravine across Harleigh Cemetery, that, even
now, when its upper end has been filled for a
roadway, puts up almost to the turnpike, and
a little beyond, on the other hand, winding
through the low land skirting the road, the
small rivulet that is the head of the north
branch of Newton Creek, with only the narrow
water-shed along which the Haddonfield turn-
pike runs, dividing them. Seeing this, and
recollecting how universally the cutting off the
forests lessens the rainfall and diminishes the
streams, the observer will hesitate before accus-
ing the early Dutch and Swedish discoverers
of anticipating Munchausen.

Though they explored, neither the Dutch
nor the Swedes settled here where the
Maeroahkong tribe of the Delaware Indians
lived, as their fathers had before them, undis-
turbed by the fact that across the great water
an humble shepherd, aroused by the light within
him to God's call, was preaching the absolute
equality of man, and the entire peaceableness
of God's Kingdom, and was drawing down
upon himself and upon those whose consciences,
awakened by his calls, were in numbers joining
him, the oppression and the ire of those who
profited by caste and lived by the sword. Until
persecution in England drove the Friends to
West Jersey for asylum, these Indians, under
Arasapha, their king, with their village at


Cooper's Point, were the only inhabitants
within our limits.

Who first of the English emigrants made
the future Camden. his home is uncertain, but
it was probably Richard Arnold or William
Cooper. Few traces remain of Richard Arnold,
who seems to have left no descendants in these
parts. William Cooper, ancestor of many
families that still cluster about his choice of a
home, came from England in 1679 and stopped
for about a year at Burlington, before he chose
his permanent residence. Passing up and down
the Delaware, the bold bluff, heavily wooded
with pine timber at the point where the river,
sharply curving, receives the stream called by
the Swedes the Hiorte-Kilen, or Deer Creek,
from the many deer seen along its banks, and
along which grew "peach trees and the sweet
smelling sassafras tree," striking his fancy, he
fixed upon it as his future abode, and called it
"Pyne Poynte." His name, however, soon
attached itself permanently to both point and
creek. He located at Cooper's Point in the
spring of 1681, building his house well out on
the river's edge, just below the mouth of the
creek, a site long years ago washed away by
the encroaching tide.

Recognizing the brotherhood of the Indians
and their right to the soil that they and their
fathers hunted over and possessed undisputed,
the commissioners sent over by the proprietors
of West Jersey bought of them their right from
Oldman's Creek to Assunpink, securing their
title by three deeds, the earliest of which, dated


September loth, 1677, covered Camden's terri-
tory, and extended from Timber to Rancocas
Creek. 1 William Cooper, further to satisfy the
tribe at Cooper's Point, paid them for the right
they still claimed, and received from them a
deed executed by Tallacca, their chief, and
witnessed by several of their tribe. Returning
the red man's trust and friendlessness with hon-
esty and fair dealing, Camden's early settlers
found them always friends, and no tales of
Indian massacre blot her history.

Thus was commenced, at the very outset,
that never-varying policy of justness in all her
dealings with the Indians that has given to our
fair State such enviable and exceptional fame,
enabling Samuel L. Southard eloquently to
say : "It is a proud fact in the history of New
Jersey, that every part of her soil has been
obtained from the Indians by fair and volun-
tary purchase and transfer, a fact that no other
State in the Union, not even the land which
bears the name of Penn, can boast of."

Before the settlement of our overshadowing
neighbor of Brotherly Love, a few other scat-
tering Friends, following William Cooper,
began to locate in the neighborhood of his
home; and as they had braved the perils of
the ocean and of the wilderness, and tore them-
selves away from all ties of home, kindred and
early associations, for the boon of worshipping
God uninterruptedly in the way that to them
seemed right, they immediately, though but two
or three gathered in His name, opened a meet-

j Howe's Hist. Coll'n, pp. 21, 220.


ing for His worship, the first record of which
is this minute of the Monthly Meeting held at
Thomas Gardiner's house, Burlington, Seventh
month (September) 5th, 1681 : "Ordered that
Friends of Pyne Poynte have a meeting on
every Fourth day, and to begin at the second
hour, at Richard Arnold's house." Arnold's
house stood, as shown on Thomas Sharp's map
of A. D. 1700, a short distance above the mouth
of Newton Creek, and thus, within its log
walls, at the very beginning of the settlement,
was the first of Camden's ever widening circle
of churches established. It was the only
"meeting" between Salem and Burlington, and
the third in priority in West Jersey, and has
been kept up by Friends without a lapse from
that time to the present.

Shortly afterward the meeting was held at
Pyne Poynte, at the house of William Cooper,
a minister, and continued there until the arrival
of the "Irish Friends," who settled at Newton
in the spring of 1682, when, as Thomas Sharp,
their historian, quaintly says, "Immediately
there was a meeting sett up and kept at the
house of Mark Newbie, and in a short time
it grew and increased, unto which William
Cooper and family, that live at the Poynte, re-
sorted, and sometimes the meeting was kept at
his house, who had been settled sometime

But as the Newton Friends were much more
numerous than the few scattered families about
the Poynte, it was more convenient to most of
the members for the place of worship to be


located at their settlement; and in 1684 the
first building devoted to religious meetings in
Gloucester county was built on the middle
branch of Newton Creek, at what is now West
Collingswood Station, on the Reading Rail-
road to Atlantic City. It, and the graveyard
by its side, were placed on the bank of the
stream, the only available highway in those
days of roadless forests, when the water bore
alike the halcyon voyages of youth, the grave
worshippers and the solemn funeral train.

By 1686 quite a number of emigrants had
arrived in this part of West Jersey and settled
about Red Bank, Woodbury, Arwames or
Gloucester, Newton and the Poynte, and felt
strongly the inconvenience of having to go all
the way to Salem or Burlington to transact
their public business. Accordingly, on the 26th
of May, 1686, the proprietors, freeholders and
inhabitants of the "Third and Fourth Tenths,"
that is, the territory between Pensauken and
Oldman's Creek, acting in the spirit of pure
democracy, met at Arwames and formed that
quaintly curious frame of county government,
having only ten short paragraphs, that is still
preserved in the original book of minutes, in
the Clerk's office of Gloucester county, at

"This was the origin of Old Gloucester, the
only county in New Jersey that can deduce its
existence from a direct and positive compact
between her inhabitants." 1

I Mickle's Reminiscences, p. 35.


The action of the people in thus forming
their county organization, without any author-
ity of the Legislature, was, after having been
indirectly recognized in one or two other laws,
directly sanctioned, in 1694, by an act of the
Legislature, establishing the boundaries that
they had themselves chosen, and adopting their
title of the County of Gloucester.

The courts of the county so organized met
for ten years in taverns or in private houses,
sometimes at Red Bank and sometimes at
Arwames. At the latter place, on December
2d, 1689, they ordered "a goale or logg house
for the securing of prisoners," 1 to be built.
And on June ist, 1696, they ordered "a prison
twenty foot long and sixteen wide, of a suffi-
sient heighth and strength made of loggs to
be erected and builded at Gloucester with a
Court House over ye same of convenient
heighth and largeness." The first of the series
of court houses that has culminated in Cam-
den's noble one of to-day.

A vivid reminder that the barbarous criminal
punishments of England of the seventeenth
century were not left behind them by the emi-
grants to New Jersey is found in the minute
of that Court, of March ist, 1691, that a man
was found guilty of perjury and sentenced by
the jury "to pay twenty pounds fine or stand
in ye pillory one hour. To which ye bench
assents, and ye prisoner chusing to stand in ye
pillory they award and order the same to be
in Gloucester on ye twelfth day of April next,

i Mickle, p. 37.


between ye hours of ten in ye morning and
four in ye afternoon." Equally striking is the
minute of a little later date that, "It is agreed
by this meeting that a payor of substantial
stocks be erected near the prison with a post
at each end, well fixed and fastened with a
hand cuff iron att one of them for a whipping

The necessity of a regular ferry to Philadel-
phia being very soon felt by the new settlers,
they applied to their new Court, at Gloucester,
to license one, which on the first day of First
month, (March) 1687, it did, as appears by
this minute: "It is proposed to ye Bench y-t
a fferry is very needfull and much wanted from
Jersey to Philadelphia, and y-t William Roy-
den's house is look-t upon as a place con-
venient, and the said William Royden, a per-
son suitable for that imploy, and therefore an
order desired from ye Bench that a fferry may
be there fixed, &c., to which ye Bench assents
and refer to ye grand jury to methodize ye
same and fix ye rates thereof." This they pro-
ceeded to do in a very leisurely manner, for not
until one year afterwards, on the first day of
the First month, 1688, did they issue their
license to William Royden and his assigns,
permitting and appointing "that a common
passage or ferry for man and beast be pro-
vided, fixed and settled in some convenient and
proper place between ye mouths or entrances of
Cooper's Creek and Newton Creek," within
which limits "all other persons are desired and
requested to keep no other common or public


passage or ferry." The license also fixed the
ferriage at not more than 6d. per head, for each
person, and I2d. for man and horse or other
beast, except swine, calves and sheep, "which
shall pay only six pence per head and no

Thus was established the original of our
present ample ferry facilities. It was located
near the foot of Cooper street, its boats being
open flat-boats propelled by oars or sails. A
few years afterwards it was purchased by
William Cooper, and for more than one hun-
dred years thereafter Camden was everywhere
known as Cooper's Ferries. To-day our Roy-
den street perpetuates the memory of Camden's
first ferryman.

Cooper's Creek was much too great a river
to ford, so that Samuel Spicer, who lived on
its east side, near its mouth, established a ferry
across it, at what is now Federal street, that
was maintained until the year 1747, when the
first bridge was erected. Thus, with ferries
across the western and eastern boundaries of
the island of Aquikanasra, its inhabitants
were in full touch with their neighbors. From
that island to-day, five steam ferries cross the
Delaware to Philadelphia and four bridges
span Cooper's Creek. Who can say that the
much-talked-of tunnel under the Delaware may
not soon more closely unite the twin cities on
its shores?

The establishment of the county only sup-
plied a part of the necessary political ma-
chinery, and so on the first day of June, 1695,


the Grand Jury, with the assent of the Bench,
and in accordance with an act of the then last
Assembly, constituted the constablewick or
township of Newton to extend from "the
lowermost branch of Cooper's Creek to ye
southerly branch of Newton Creek bounding
Gloucester," but fixing no bounds on the east.
With their local government thus completed,
the people in these parts remained content for
one hundred and thirty-three years. Thus was
created old Newton township, which, after
having its fairest portion cut off in the creation
of Haddon township, was finally, after a life
of one hundred and seventy-six years, swal-
lowed up by its own progeny and obliterated
from the map in 1871, when Camden's revised
charter was obtained.

Robert Turner, an Irish Friend, residing in
Philadelphia, owned large estates in Pennsyl-
vania and in East and West Jersey, among
which were some large tracts of land within
the present limits of Camden. In 1696 he
sold to John Kaighin four hundred and fifty-
five acres, and the next year five hundred and
ten acres, lower down the river, to Archibald
Mickle. John Kaighin came originally from
the Isle of Man and Archibald Mickle from
Ireland. Both settled for a short time in Phil-
adelphia, but each moved to Jersey on making
these purchases. John Kaighin chose for the
site of his house the Point that bears his name
to this day, and shortly afterwards built, with
bricks brought from England, a substantial
house, modeled after an English farm house


which, standing at the southeast corner of
Second and Sycamore streets, but so greatly
enlarged and changed as to have lost all its
original appearance, and now numbered 1128
and 1130 South Second street, is probably the
oldest house in Camden. Its site on the river
bank, its front yard extending to the water's
edge, was a beautiful one, with its un-
obstructed view at the Point up and down the
broad Delaware. Elizabeth Haddon, a good
friend of John Kaighin, about the year 1704,
on her return from one of her visits to her
old English home, brought with her some box
and yew trees and gave two of each to him,
who planted them in front of his house, where
they lived and grew for nearly two hundred
years, landmarks of Kaighn's Point. The last
of the box trees was blown over during a great
storm, on February 2, 1876. The yew trees
lived until the winter of 1898-99 when they
died, but one of them yet stands at the corner
of the two streets. At Haddonfield, in the
yard of Samuel Wood, near his dwelling,
which stands on the site of Elizabeth Haddon's
home, yet live yew and box trees which she
brought to America with those she gave to
John Kaighin.

William Cooper, John Kaighin and Archi-
bald Mickle soon became prominent men, and
their descendants gradually increased their pos-
sessions until they owned all the land within
the limits of our city before its absorption of
the town of Stockton. The Coopers' land,
extending southward to Line street, so-called


because it marked the line between them
and the Kaighins; the Kaighins' land extend-
ing southward from Line street to Little New-
ton Creek, popularly known as the Line Ditch,
because it was the boundary between them
and the Mickles; and the Mickles' land ex-
tending southward from Line Ditch to Newton
Creek, and every title in Camden to-day, be-
tween Cooper's Creek and the Delaware, can
be traced back to a Mickle, a Kaighin or a

At the opening of the Eighteenth century
the smoke curling from less than a dozen clear-
ings by the water's edge pointed out the fore-
runners more than two centuries ago of our
present expanding town. A score of years of
hard work had passed since they landed; they
had gathered about them some few of the com-
forts they had left behind across the seas ; they
had "sett upp" the meeting for the free worship
of God that caused them to leave friends and
relations and "transport themselves and fam-
ilys into this wilderness part of America";
they had established ferry communication with
their friends across Delaware river and
Cooper's creek; they had settled their free
form of local civil government, and, having
recognized the right of the aborigines to the
soil and treated them as its owners, they were
living in most harmonious relations with them,
and, gradually increasing their clearings, they
were quietly prospering. Their growth was
only the steady increase of an industrious pop-
ulation. For, after the arrival and settlement


of the Irish Friends at Newton, there was no
great influx of emigrants to this part of West
Jersey, Philadelphia attracting the greater part
of the new-comers. Occasionally a family
would move across the river, but down to the
time of the Revolution the population was
mainly the descendants of those who were
swept over here on that swell of migration
caused by religious persecution in England in
the Seventeenth century, so that when the
Declaration of Independence had been made,
while Philadelphia had become the first town
in the colonies, our territory was yet largely
woodland, dotted by a few farm houses and
intersected by but one or two roads.

However, in 1773, Jacob Cooper, a merchant
living in Philadelphia, and a lineal descendant
of the first William Cooper, foreseeing the
future town, employed Thompson, a Philadel-
phia surveyor, to lay out forty acres into a
town plot. A Whig, sympathizing with his
fellow Whigs in their struggles to obtain from
their mother country that representation
which they claimed should ever accompany
taxation, and venerating those Englishmen
who, believing in the justness of this demand
of the colonies, had the courage to openly avow
their belief, Jacob Cooper named his new town
Camden, in honor of that great English judge,
that wise English statesman, that powerful
champion of constitutional liberty and firm ad-
vocate of fair dealing with the colonies, who
has been called the right arm of Lord Chatham,
Charles Pratt, first Earl of Camden, who so


endeared himself to our countrymen that twen-
ty-one towns in the United States to-day bear
his name. In the infant town thus christened
only six streets ran north and south King,
Queen, Whitehall, Cherry, Cedar and Pine, in-
tersected at right angles at the Delaware side
by Cooper and Market streets only, but on the
eastern side by Plum street also.

With that same admixture of loyalty and
defiance so marked in almost all the earlier
steps taken by our Revolutionary forefathers,
while naming his town after one of the fore-
most champions of the American cause in Eng-
land, Jacob Cooper honored his King and
Queen in the naming of his streets, and
through all the bitter feeling engendered by
our two struggles with the mother country
his nomenclature remained unchanged. It was

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Online LibraryHoward M. (Howard Mickle) CooperHistorical sketch of Camden, N. J. → online text (page 1 of 5)