Joseph W. cn Dally.

Woodbridge and vicinity : the story of a New Jersey township ; embracing the history of Woodbridge, Piscataway, Metuchen and contiguous places, from the earliest times ; the history of the different ecclesiastical bodies ; important official documents relating to the township, etc. online

. (page 1 of 34)
Online LibraryJoseph W. cn DallyWoodbridge and vicinity : the story of a New Jersey township ; embracing the history of Woodbridge, Piscataway, Metuchen and contiguous places, from the earliest times ; the history of the different ecclesiastical bodies ; important official documents relating to the township, etc. → online text (page 1 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook








3 1833 02255 4114




i m i * III iiiiii tint.

jE'iii'brtiwin'ijj the History of Wood'bridge^ J^is-

Gcitiaway^ Metuehen and <cont%gvLOU3 places,

from the earliest times ; the History of

the different JEcclesiastical JBodles ;

Important Official Ufocwunents

relating to the Township^ etc




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1S73,


In the Office of the Librarian at Washington, D. C.



It has been the aim of the author of this volume to transfer
and preserve every fact given in the early records of Wood-
bridge Township, and to exhibit an authentic pen-picture of
the ancient hamlet. It was once a much more conspicuous
and important place than it now is, and deserves, therefore,
all the study we have bestowed upon its interesting history.

The proceedings of the town meetings are comprised in three
MS. books, the last of which comes down to our own time in
its dales and facts. The first is rapidly going to pieces; but,
fortunately, it was copied by Nathaniel Fitz Randolph, Jr.
(not the Town Clerk), in 1775, by order of the town meeting,
and as the copy was conscientiously made, being diligently
compared with the original by a committee chosen when it
was completed, I have relied upon it in writing my earlier
pages. This I have been compelled to do because the leaves
of Liber A are, in many places, torn or worn so badly that it
is impossible to read their contents. Many leaves are detached
or very loose, and nearly all are very much faded and soiled.
So that, like the memory of those whose deeds it tells, the old
book is passing away. Liber B is full of loose leaves and is
also soiled — the dark brown leather cover being almost simi-
lar, in color, to the pages within. The last entry in Liber A
is dated March 13, 1716, and the first in Liber B bears date
March 12, 1717. The third book, which begins in 1799, comes
down to our own time.

In the Spring of 1859, a reward was offered for the recovery
of the Freeholders' Book of Records, and the matter was
reely advertised by the town authorities. The book, a large


and valuable MS. volume, dating from May 30, 1707, to a
recent time, was found ; and to this I have had recourse for
many facts.

But it would be a tedious task to indicate, in this place, the
many sources whence we have derived the material of our his-
tory. Reference will be made to them by foot notes. For
valuable aid afforded, I am much indebted to William A.
Whitehead, the eminent New Jersey historian ; to Abel V.
Shotwell, of Rahway ; to T. H. Moiris, Jeremiah Dally, Dr.
E. B. Freeman, and many others, to whom due credit has been

The first three chapters of this volume, as will be observed,
are introductory in character — intended to give a general view
of the early settlement. The subsequent chapters will be more
satistactoi-y to the majority of our readers, because they enter
more minutely into the history of the town.

I submit thesPpages, which represent months of honest and
earnest toil not unmixed with pleasure, to the candid criticisr.i
of those who love to study the ways and doings of the people
of "ye olden time."


Wood;;ri]jge, N. J., September, 1873.




Ancient New Jersey — Hunting — Origin of Woodbridge —
Gov. Carteret's Arrival — The Articles of Agree-
ment — PiscATAWAY — Travel — Newark — Elizabeth-
town — Early Romance.

When Capt. Hudson sailed up the North River in 1609,
there was not a single indication, on either side of the bay, 01
the vast population which to-day pours its mighty tide through
the city of New York and thence over all the neighboring
borders of New Jersey. The good ship Half Moon was
the first which had ever appeared in these waters, and the
river was very appropriately named Hudson in honor of the
discoverer. New Jersey was, at that time, without a white
inhabitant. The Indian tribes were few in number and were
widely scattered. So that what is now a garden and a fiwored
place of residence was then a great wilderness almost deserted.
But wild beasts were to be found by the venturesome hunter
in any part of the State.* The shriek of the wild cat, the cry
of the wolf, and the cautious tread of the bear and the panther
were familiar sounds in the ears of the early settlers of New
Jersey. Deer abounded in large numbers and were a favorite
game. Every means was taken to capture the animal by the
v/hite people. One method was to set in the woods a large
iron trap whose huge jaws sprang sharply together when the
unsuspecting deer approached too near, and the cruel teeth

* Smith's Hist, of New Jersey, page 502.


held him fast until the hunter came. The difficulty attending
the perfect operation of this engine of destruction lay only in
the fact that, as it was concealed, it was as merciless with
human kind as with othej- animals; in consequence of which a
law was passed early in the i8th century forbidding its use —
a law which few regarded. Equally dangerous, and also the
object of legislative enactment, was the trap made with a
loaded gun — as liable to kill a, man who came near it as to
slay the deer.

Besides the animals we have already mentioned, the country
abounded in otter, red and grey foxes, raccoons, squirrels,
mink, rabbits, etc., with a few beavers. It will be seen from
these statements that enough game was at hand to have given
food to a large tribe, or a large number ot tribes, of Indians, if
they had chosen to inhabit this section. It is probable that
fierce wars, of which some tradition was preserved among the
Indians themselves, were the cause of the comparatively sparse
population found by the Europeans who settled New Jersey.
That this was the case was a fortunate circumstance for the
^\^hite people ; otherwise, prolonged and bloody feuds might
have retarded the prosperity of young settlements in this State
as they did in New England, where the red men were numer-
ous and powerful.

But it is not our purpose to write a histoiy of New Jersey,
however alluring such a task might be. We have an humbler
office to pertorm : to tell the simple story of one of its historic

WooDBRiDGE, the name of the village and township concern-
ing which these pages are to be written, was so called in honor
of Rev. John Woodbridge, of Newbury, Mass. We presume
that this distinction was conferred upon him by his friends
and admirers, who came from New England at the solicitation
of Gov. Carteret. In the old manuscript "Records of Deeds
and Surveys in Woodbridge "* we find his name attached to
the acknowledgment of a deed given by Richard Dole to
John Rolf, the date of which is April 27, 1685. The deed
was given for some Woodbridge land. The buyer and seller

* In N. J. Historical Soc. Library, \>. (K.


were both Massachusetts men— Rolf, however, removing to
this place after his purchase.* From the manner in which Mr.
Woodbridge's name is attached to this paper, we should infer
that he was an Assistant Justice, such as were annually elected
to the Township Court of Woodbridge in the days of its early
history. This inference is supported by Coffin's extracts from
the old records of Newbury, in which we find that the select-
men of the town were directed to petition the General Court
to make Mr. Woodbridge a magistrate.f As he is subse-
quently spoken of as "John Woodbridge, Esquirc,"t it is
beyond doubt that the Court clothed him with magisterial
powers. He was born in Stanton, Wiltshire, England, in
1613, and emigrated to New England in 1634, settling in New-
bury the following year. He married Mercy Dudley, daugh-
ter of Gov. Thomas Dudley. § He returned to England about
the year 1647; but in i663 came back to Newbury,|| and on
the 26th of July was engaged to assist his uncle, Mr. Parker,
in preaching the Gospel in the quaint town mecting-housc,
receiving, for the first six months, ^30. His death occurred
March i^, 1695— the venerable minister having attained the
age of eighty-two.
" The following (which is copied from the East Jersey
Records, Vol. i. p. 2, in the Secretary of State's office, Tren-
ton, N. J.) will give us some idea of the original ownership
of the soil upon which Woodbridge has been built;

"A contract made by Capt. Philip Carteret, Governor ot
the Province of New Jersey, John Ogden and Luke Watson, of
Elizabethtown, of the first part, and Daniel Pierce, of New-
burv, Massachusetts, and his associates, of the second part.
This article of agreement dated December 11, 1666. Daniel
Pierce paid to the party of the first part the sum of four score
pounds sterling, being in full for said tract of land known by
the name of Arthur Cull, or Amboyle, or any other name it
may be called by. This land was purchased from the natives
or Indians by John Bayly, Daniel Denton, and the said Luke
Watson, as by said bill of sale from the natives, bearing date
the 28th day of October, 1664, will more at large appear;

-Town Book, p. 221. tllUt.ofNewbury. p.135. J Ibid., i-. 149. §322. i:63.

8 woodbrid'ge and vicinity.

which John Bayly and Daniel Denton have made over to the
said Philip Carteret and John Ogden, as will appear b}- the
bill of sale. Daniel Pierce made choice of, as his associates,
Joshua Pierce, John Pike, John Bishop, Henry Jaques, and
Plugh March, of Newbury; Stephen Kent, of Haverhill; Rob-
ert Dennis, of Yarmouth; John Smith, of Barnstable, and in
New England. These writings were signed, sealed and deliv-
ered by Daniel Pierce in Elizabethtown, and it was ordered
to be recorded by Philip Carteret, Governor of the Province
of New Jersey, December 3, 1667."

From this we find that the land was first purchased ot the
Indians by John Bayly, Daniel Denton, and Luke Watson in
1664, and that it was afterward "made over " to Gov. Carteret
and John Ogden ; and then in 1666 the two latter sold it to
Daniel Pierce and others for ^So. Daniel Pierce and his
associates took immediate possession: and what they furtlier
did will be fully detailed in the chapters devoted to the history
of the "Town Meetings."

The first settlers came to Woodbridge in the latter part of
the Summer of 1665, and were a portion of the company of
thirty English people who came to New Jersey with Gov.
Carteret immediately after his commission was given to him
by his brother,* Sir George Carteret, joint proprietor of the
Province with Lord Berkeley. The Governor instantly sum-
moned a council at Elizabethtown, which he so called for
Elizabeth, wife of Sir George, and established his residence
there. With considerable enterprise he published throughout
New England the advaiitasfeous terms offered to land-holders
in his Province, and succeeded in drawing hither a number
of families from that section, some settling at Elizabethtown,
some at Woodbridge, Piscataway, and Newark. The Gov
ernor's ship, the Philip, returned to England at the close of six
months, and the following 5'ear came back to Elizabethtown
with other emigrants' and with implements and seed for tilling
and planting. Other vessels in the meantime arrived at the
Jersey port bringing substantial encouragement from the pro-
prietors ; and the people who came were scattered through

*PliilipiB known as Sir George's brother, but he was really his fourth cousin. — Hatf. Eliz. 110.

3 1833 02255 4114



the few towns in East Jersey — Woodbridge, doubtless, receiv-
ing its proportion beciuse of its neighborhood to Elizabeth-
town, the Capital.

"On the 2ist of May, 1666, articles of agreement were signed
between Gov. Carteret, in behalf of the Lords-proprietors, on
the one hand, and John Pike, Daniel Pierce, and Abraham
Tappen in behalf of tliemselves and their associates of Wood-
bridge and Piscataway, on the other. In these articles the
Woodbridge and Piscataway people were to have liberty "to
settle one or two plantations or townships, consisting each of
forty or one hundred families, more or less " [rather precise !]v
"between a creek or river called Rawawak " [or Rahway]
"and Rariton's River, and to begin to settle the same between
this and the month of November." They were to have liberty
to assign to each man the proportion of land due him,
"according to their judgment and discretion." Two lots
were to be laid out in each town for the benefit of the Lords-
proprietors — each lot to contain five hundred acres of upland
and meadow. The towns were to comprise six or eight mile?
square. The proprietors' lots were not to be inhabited by any
to whom the residents made objection. Charters were asked
for both of these towns, in which the residents were to have
the privileges of choosing their own magistrates, their own
ministers, and of nominating their military officers — the mag-
istrates and officers subject to the Governor's approval. The
agreement further empowered them to hold courts for the
trial of all causes actionable within their own jurisdiction,
from the decisions of which no appeal could be made which
involved a sum less than five pounds. Liberty of conscience
in religious worship was to be allowed, and two hundred acres
of land Avere to be set apart for the maintenance of the minis-
try perpetually. Provision was made for a church and
church-yard, to be exempt forever from tax of any kind. The
Governor, Council, and General Assembly were the joint
authority for levying tax, but they w^ere authorized to do it only
tor the public good; and all the freeholders of the Province
were to be permitted free trade with the citizens. The yearly
rent of half-penny per acre to the Lords-proprietors was to
begin March 25, 1670— thus giving the inhabitants nearly four


years of exemption. All land patents were to be recorded
within a year of the time when they were surveyed by the
Surveyor-General. In case of war the Woodbridge and Pis-
cataway men agreed to combine with other towns in the
Province against the common foe. All freeholders were to
have a "free voice " in the election of Deputies to the General
Assembly. They swore allegiance to the King and pledged
their fidelity to the Proprietors. They claimed the privilege
of removing when and where they pleased, and of selling their
land to the best advantage. They were to have the necessary
authority to impose fines upon criminals, and inflict corporal
punishment by " stocking, ducking, pilloring, and whipping"
— the latter, provided the criminal did not merit more than
twenty stripes. Ducking must have been instituted for the
benefit of hot-headed culprits who needed cooling off in the
adjacent mill-ponds. Seven years' possession of the land
was to secure the same to tlie settler, his heirs or assigns for-
ever. The democratic doctrine of a ruling majority is set
forth in the concluding item of this document. The agree-
ment is signed by the parties interested and witnessed by John
Ogden and Thomas Louel. Three months were allowed for
the consideration of the matter, during which the Governor
promised to make no disposition of the lands which were
indicated by the settlers of the proposed towns.

On the nth day of May, 1668, eight new signatures were
added to the instrument — all of them the names of Wood-
bridge and Piscataway men, viz. : John Martin, Hopewell
Hull, Robert Dennis, John Gilman, Benjamin Hull, John
Smith, Charles Gilman, and Hugh Donn. From this circum-
stance it will be seen that the original makers of the agree-
ment on behalf of the settlers failed to meet its requirements
within the time specified; which was no fault of theirs, of
which we may rest assured, because no more liberal terms
were ever offered to any people. It is probable that every
effort was put forth to accomplish the object in view ; but it
was no easy matter to bring into one community forty or
more families in those early days — especially to bring them
into a wilderness such as Woodbridge was at that time.

At the request of Daniel Pierce, the Governor extended the


time mentioned in tlie agreement ; and subsequently, wiien
the'requisite number of families were settled in Woodbridge,
the Governor generously fulfilled the conditions of the paper.

The early history of Piscataway is very closely interwoven
with that of Woodbridge. Notwithstanding its establishment
as a plantation over two hundred years ago, it is still a small
village — so small as to scarcely merit the name, although it
bids fair to improve rapidly within a few years. Piscataway
is a plaintive Indian word : " It is getting dark." It is supposed
that the tribe which first sought out and named the place
arrived at nightfall or in cloudy weather. The Indians say
but little, ana it is probable that as the company halted here
on the edge of the evening one of the grim travelers ejaculated
the word, which thus became the designation of the place.
Others suppose that the name W'as given by some emigrants
from Maine, who settled the town in part — the section in
Maine from which they came being known as Piscataqua.
However, it had been an Indian village for a great many years
before the white people came into it; and these Indians, if
their traditions are reliable, came from the West. So that
every one is at liberty to determine the matter to his own sat-
isfaction. The preponderance of evidence is in favor of the
second supposition, although we are reluctant to surrender
the beautiful Indian legend.

Piscataway was not erected into a township at the same
time as was Woodbridge (which was contemplated by the in-
habitants when the "agreement" of 1666 was drawn up).
And yet we are told that the Gil/nans had settled there as early
as 1663, two years before Woodbridge was inhabited.* The
slow growth of the population was, of course, the cause of the
delay in making a township of the plantation. This honor
Piscataway realized in 1798, one hundred and thirty-two years
after it was first broached.

Three years after the Gilmans entered the place several
oth-er ftimilies settled there, after which Piscataway was sta-
tionary for a while.

The modes of traveling, in the days of which we are writ-

*.IIistorical Coll. if N. J., p. 323.



ing, were limited. No roads were vet constructed, and thi
chief method of locomotion was, tiierefore, the primitive on
of walking;. Ridinc^ on horseback was also somewhat if
vofjiic ; hilt si) mucli depended upon a man's being ric
cnoiiqh to own a horse and fortunate enougli to keep one tror
the prowling Indians, that even this means of travel was some
thing of a luxury. The tales, therefore, of the strength an^
hardihood of the men and women of those times may be read
ily accepted. The rough pioneer school in which they learne(
life's lessons must have either killed them or made then

In December (the 3d) of 1667 the authorities ordered tha

Woodbridge should be laid out — that is, surveyed, and plot:

assigned to the settlers, and roads marked out. In the con

struction of these public highways there was not, in some sec

tions, as much difficulty as might at first be imagined Befon

the English came, the Indians had been accustomed to burr

the woods in order to kill the deer, which had the effect t(

keep the forests very clear of underbrush. This custom o

burning made the task of clearing up the lands and buildins

public roads comparatively easy. Before the latter were laic

out, however, the paths leading from place to place wen

nothing more than "trails," the direction of which wa

indicated by marks on the trees that stood in the course. I

was needful, therefore, that the traveler should exercise great

careMn the prosecution of his journey, else he would be lost

for days in the wilderness around him: not a pleasant

prospect to the most experienced hunter ; for hungry beasts

and lawless Indians were not the most agreeable creatures

for a solitary white man to meet in an unknown wood. Il

he were abundantly provided with ammunition and a gun, his

chances for securing regular meals were good; for wild

pigeons were plentiful a great part of the year— coming in

such immense Hocks sometimes as to darken the sky\nd

break the limbs of the trees upon which they rested in their

flight* Besides, there were pheasants, plovers, wild ducks,

and other birds in large numbers. But the trouble was the

•Smith's New Jersey, p. 511.




07C'dcr. Ammunition was very scarce. And it n.ust have

en a source of considerable aggravation for the epicurean
ihabitants to see so many fat dinners flying overhead, with
hope of bringing them down.

As a matter of contemporary history, it may be mentioned
lat Newark was settled about nine months after Wood-
ridge, May 17, 1666, by the Rev. John Pierson. This
lergyman came from Branford, Conn., and brought with
im, to found the new village, thirty families. But for more
lan sixteen years Woodbridge seems to have been ahead of
[ewark in population. It is unnecessary for us to tell
srseymen that this has not always been the case, but that, at
le present time, the figures are out of all proportion in favor
f Newark, tlowever, it is some satisfaction for us to know
lat at one period our own village was the more populous,
he population of Newark is to-day more than double that of
le whole county. of Middlesex, in which county the town of
7oodbridge is situated.

Elizabethtown was the most highly favored of all the
rovincial towns in East Jersey, especially during the admin-
tration of Gov. Carteret, which extended from 1665 to 1682.

was natural that it should be so favored. It became the
;at of government and the residence of all the chief officers
f the Province. It was accessible for vessels of the largest
)nnage which in those days crossed the seas, although it had
natural harbor like that at " Ambo Point " (Perth Amboy).
'oubtless it was the most lively town in this section. Ships
liled back and forth between here and England, bringing
lence friends, letters, and needed supplies. And we can
nagine we see the Woodbridge settler making his way
)wards the port, across ten miles ot almost untrodden path.
le folhnvs the edge of the salt-marsh — a great land-mark

hich has remained unchanged amid many changes. He is
le bearer of exceeding precious messages to those who are
xpected to arrive in the next ship, or to those waiting to

turn to " merrie England." Perhaps it is a love-letter,
diich he is commissioned to forward home by the next vessel
oyaging thither. And it may possibly be that he is
xpecting some dear friend on the inward-bound ship, who is


to share with him the toils and pleasures of his pioneer life. ,
How eagerly he asks the stranger whom he may chance to
meet, " Has the ship come in ? " He reaches Rawawak River.
If the tide is out he seeks a shallow place and wades across;
if the stream is full he must either swim to the opposite bank
or sit down in patience until the waters How back to the sea.
When he at last approaches the Capital, he does not come
with nicely-polished boots and a resplendent hat, as the
Elizabethtown beau of the present time enters the presence of
his chosen one. His boots are made of rough skin, and the
only beaver he knows anything about is the one that
builds its daui in the swamp ; for his head is surmounted by a
shao-gy cap. He carries a gun on his shoulder and a powder-
horn dangles by his side.

The Capital is not an imposing city. When Gov. Carteret
arrived there in August of 1665 he found only four buildings
erected, and they were log huts which had probably been
built in the previous year by the emigrants fj-om Long Island
or New England. The government buildings, which were
constructed on the arrival of the Governor, might have been
more pretentious ; but there is no trace of them remaining.
Our traveler sees them, and no doubt is impressed with so
much unwonted grandeur in this new country, and augurs
from it more wonderful things in the future. How surprised
he would be if he could stand in Water street to-day and be-
hold the transformation which two centuries have produced !

The ship is in ! There are tidings from home ! Ah ! there

Online LibraryJoseph W. cn DallyWoodbridge and vicinity : the story of a New Jersey township ; embracing the history of Woodbridge, Piscataway, Metuchen and contiguous places, from the earliest times ; the history of the different ecclesiastical bodies ; important official documents relating to the township, etc. → online text (page 1 of 34)