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

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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 10 of 34)
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general was very low in the settlement in consequence of the
lack of moral and religious influences; so that it is not


improbable that out of this fact grew the necessity ot this
committee. Jonathan Dunham, Robert MacCleland, Capt.
Pike, Nathaniel Fitz Randolph, and Samuel Moore were
elected under the provisions of the town order.

Nothing occurred worthy of note between that May Town
Meeting in 1686 and the one in January of the next year,
except certain ecclesiastical matters which are chronicled

A highway was laid'out on the 8th of January, 16S7, for the
Rahway settlers, beginning at Robert Wright's landing (at
William Edgar's corner, just as you enter Rahway from the
Woodbridge road), and extending thence easterly down to
^'John Codington's point" into the meadows. The landing
here mentioned was reserved, by town order, for a public
dock perpetually — as also was the landing at Capt. John
Bishop's on the same stream, east of the Captain's grist-mill.
These docks were first built for the transportation of hay;
but, although that continued for many years to be one of the
principal articles of export, an extensive trade gradually
developed in breadstulFs, etc., which rendered the landings
well-known and important points. Their names were as
familiar as household words in those early days; but the
advent of steam, superseding the oar and sail in commerce,
has nearly obliterated them from the memory of man. Of
the many landings all along our creeks, only four or five are
known to the present generation. One Autumn day we
started in search of an old-time dock on Smith's Creek, and,
after hunting diligently along its margin, we found it at the
end of a lane, leading out of the main road, the ruts of which
were filled with tangled grass. The wharf is very old, but its
appearance indicates that it is substantial even yet. This is
supposed to be the once well-known Cortland's Landing (see
Chapter II.), now seldom used and its history involved in

John Conger and Noah Bisliop, Avho, in 1685, were
appointed to prosecute any one in Rahway or adjacent places
who illegally cut the timber on the common land, were the
victims ot a suit, brought against them by Thomas Thorp in
1687, for removing from the commons some of Thorp's dressed


trees— by mistake, doubtless. The costs fell upon the town,
of course, as Conger and Bishop were acting as its agents in
the matter; and to prevent further litigation the meeting of
February 14th sent a committee to the victorious Thomas to
ask for a cessation of hostilities.

This meeting being occupied, till late in the afternoon, with
ecclesiastical business, it adjourned until eight o'clock the
next morning; at which time there was, probably, a large
attendance, for the second division of land was to be con-
sidered. The quantity ot land in the first division is found
approximately indicated in Chapter III., in the list of original
land-holders. The second division was to comprise sixty acres
cyf upland for each Freeholder . We transcribe the order for the
survey :

"Jt also passed By Vote that the Divisions of Land Now to
Be Laid out Shall Begin a little to the westward of the High-
way that Runs to Elizabeth Towne upon the west line
Betwixt Elizabeth towne and Woodbridge and So to Extend
westward So far as the towne Bounds Extends, and from
thence upon the South line untill they Come to the Heads of
the farms already Laid out, and if in that Circate [circuit] there
Be Not land Enough then to Begin at the Rear of the Lots
abovementioned, and to Run the Same way that the first
Range Did Runn, and to Continue the Same Manner rill the
Compliment of Lotts Be all Laid out if there Be Land
Enough: and for the Efecting the Leying out of the Said
Land, the towne hath appointed ten Men for that End, which
Men or the major part of them hath full power (if any Now
Nominated Do fail going) to make Choice of any other
person or persons in their Rooms, provided that Mr. Lipray,*
Jonathan Dunham or Saml. Moore Be one of the Major part,
they Being the three principle persons we would and Do
hereby oblige them with the Rest that Shall assist them to use
the Best of their Discretion to Ley out Each Division of Land
Eaqually as May Be & if it So falls out that one Lott of Land
be like to Be Better than the other, then to add So much in
Quantity to the Bad Lott that may Countervail the Goodness

• Anolbor pcrverttion of Gen. Voquillen's name.


of another, and Exactly to mark out Each Lott and to Num-
ber them as they are Laid out : and that the Said ten Men or
the Major part of them Shall Ley out the Said Lotts as Con-
veniently as they Can upon good Land: and if there be any
Low Barrin or Swampy Land Not fitt for Service or Jmprove-
ment, to Leave that out according to their Discretion : the
ten Men appointed for this Service are Viz: Mr. Robert
Voquillin, Jonathan Dunham, Saml. Moore, Saml. Smith,
John Blomfild, Ezekiel Blomfild, John Pike, Matthew
Moors, John Conger, Jonathan Bishop, and it is Desired that
these ten Men would make their Business forth with to Ley
out the Said Divisions of Land; Six hands to be Each Day
about the Said work and to have for their pains three Shill-
ings per Day."

The parcels of land were drawn by lot after they were laid
out and numbered — the numbers being written on slips of
paper and thrown promiscuously into a bag, from which they
were drawn by one the Freeholders appointed for that pur-

January ist, i68S, being Sunda3% the meeting was adjourned
to assemble on Monday, alter electing two Deputies to the
Legislature. But nothing of any importance occurred be-
tween this date and June 15th, when the long period of Mr.
Moore's official life is seen to have come to an end. It was
during this year (May 27th) that he died, and Samuel Dennis
was elected Town Clerk in his stead, in the June meeting.

We have elsewhere alluded to the varied and efficient public
services of Mr. Moore. Matthew, his brother, is frequently
mentioned in the old Town Book ; but he did not attain to
the distinguished position of Samuel. Tlie latter seems to
have been a capable, faithful, and honest servant of the town-
ship and province; and, as such, he will ever be held in honor
— and it is no small part of our purpose to rescue from
obscurity the names of those who have done well in '' ye days
of yore."' Samuel married, in New England, Hannah
Plumer, who died, eighteen months afterward, in December,
:654.. In September, 1656, he married again — Mary Ilsley
becoming his wife and removing with him to Woodbridge.

• Freeholders' Eecords, r- ^^-


Hy her he had six children — four sons and two daughters.
Whitehead considers it probable that "he was married a third
lime (Dec, 1678) to Ann Jaques." This is possibly correct.
His wife Mary was living in June, 1678, as we learn from the
Birth Record, in which her name occurs in connection with a
ihubly interesting event ;* but it would seem scarcely probable
that he married in December, even if his former wife died in
June, which is not chronicled. But he did marry a third
time; and by Ann he had one child, Sarah, who was born
September i6th, 1681. This daughter died in January of the
same year her father was buried — a little more than four
months intervening.

So in June, 1688, Samuel Dennis became Town Clerk ; and
in October following he was elected Moderator, to serve
"dureing the towns plasure." John Dennis, on the 29th of
the latter month, was appointed to superintend the making of
a bridge near his house over the brook which runs across the
road on the west of Alexander Edgar's residence. Dennis
lived on the east side of the highway, about where Edmund
Ayers now lives.

The death of Israel Thornell, the '-rate-gatherer" for 1688,
seems to have made a great deal of trouble. He died, prob-
ably, in September or October, after some of the taxes had
been paid; but left his accounts in an unsettled condition
Evidence and personal oaths Avere required to settle the ques-
tion of payment in many cases. Not that Thornell was
dishonest; but being stricken down suddenly, he had no time
to adjust his business with the town. A^ receipts were not
given by the Collector the inhabitants were liable to be visited
a second time for the same year's tax. John Ilsley acceptably
filled out the unexpired term of Mr. Thornell.

The first sidewalk we read of was ordered to be made ou
the 24th of October, 1689 — to follow the highway leading to
Thomas Pike's house, in the direction of Rahway. We need
not assure the reader that the sidewalk was not flag:sred or laid
a la Asphaltum. Very likely the blackberry vines and young-
sassafras trees were cut down on the side of the road and
then — the path was done !

» Twins.


1C90— 1700.

The Rangers — Geese Troubles — Town in Debt — The
Courts — Another Town Clerk — Indian War — A Sick
Man in Town — New Bridge — Walker's Experience —
Too Much Talk in Meeting — The Freemen — A Model
Compact — Riot in Woodbridge.

An alarm was created in the Province, in the Spring of
1690, by the report of the approach of hostile French and
Indians. Elizabethtown sent the note of warning, suggesting
that Woodbridge, as other towns were doing, should employ
an able man to range the woods, in company with the rest)
"above the towns," in order that they might not be surprised
and butchered by the foe. But no tomahawk was lifted, nor
did a Frenchman make his appearance in the hamlet. Mr.
T.yon, the Ranger, put up his gun and brought in his bill for
;£i e^s., after tramping in the woods for a little more than a

The geese began to be troublesome on Strawberry Hili,
This classic spot was set apart for sheep alone; but the geese,
in^defiance of the Town Meeting, invaded it and ate the tender
grass with keen relish, thus depriving the sheep of their means
of sustenance. In September the geese came near being
•'dealt with according to law';" but the settlers never fell
over each other through excessive haste, so the matter was
postponed. On the 30th of March of the next year the fol-
lowing order removed all hope from any Woodbridge goose's
breast of again enjoying the timothy and red-top on Straw-
berry Hill ;

" It passed By Vote that from and after ye fifteenth Day of
May Next Coming after the Date hereof, that Neither the
freeholders or Jnhabitants of this towne and Corporation Shall
Suffer any of their Geese or ganders to go and feed on any


the usual Sheep Commons or feeding ground within the said
Corporation." And if any goose or gander was so unfor-
tunate as to be caught taking a sly nibble in the forbidden
places the fowl was to be killed forthwith. From all of
which we conclude that the settlers were " sound on the goose

The sheep of the settlers were distinguished by certain
marks and ran together in large flocks ; but between the 20th
of July and the loth of November yearly, after 1691, the
rams were taken from the rest and housed by the respective
owners. Tliey occupied the commons, especially congregat-
ing in large numbers on Strawberry Hill, which is hence often
spoken of in the records as the Shci'p Common.

In November, 1691, we find the town's credit impaired. A
third part of all its former debts was to be "abated," by the
consent of the several creditors. The following debts for
1690-91 were provided for by special tax in the Town Meet-
insr of December loth :

•' For five wolfs, £^i. 6j-. 8^. to Mr. Lyon ^i. 55. to Jonathan
Bishop £^\. to Samuel Dennis for Clerkship £^\. to Rate
gatherer 15 Shillings: for the Covering the Meeting House
^8." None of this was to be paid in cash, but in produce.

During the ne.xt year great attention was given to the

improvement of the highways. Edward Hains was granted

\ permission to put up a blacksmith shop on the cast side of

the road, adjoining Samuel Smith's. This is near the spot

occupied by Mr. Lorraine Freeman's residence.

In November liberty was given to any inhabitant of the
town "to plant or Jmprove by Sowing" any of the common
land for six years, provided no more than six acres were
taken by any individual, and that the land should be restored
to the town " well cleared of trees."

In the meeting of January 2d, 1693, the Monthly Court
(Otherwise called the "Court of Small Causes," was estab-
lished in the township. Tiiis Court was authorized by Act
of Assembly in 1675, for the trial of cases involving 40.T. or
less,* to relieve the calendar of the County and Corporation

• Learning & Spieer, 99.


Courts, and to afford relief to the poorer classes, who, by-
reason of the expense attending a suit in the upper Courts,
were unable to recover their small amounts by action at law.
It was required to meet on the first Wednesday of every
month, and was to comprise three persons only (without a
jury""), one of whom was to be a Justice of the Peace. Execu-
tion, in due process, might issue from this tribunal ; and even
a jury might be summoned, if either plaintiff or defendant
demanded it. A Clerk and a Messenger were its officers.

The County Courts, or "Courts of Sessions," were author-
ized in the same year (1675), as also was the Province Court,
or "Court of Assize," which was ordered to meet yearly at
Woodbridge on the first Tuesday in October.f The Middle-
sex County Court held two sessions annually, at first — one at
Woodbridge on the third Tuesday in March, and the other at
Piscataway on the second Tuesday in September.^ These
two towns comprehended the county then, as the enactment
declares. Later (in 1682), Middlesex is thus described:
" Middlesex County, to begin from the parting Line, between
Essex County and Woodbridge Line, containing Woodbridge
and Piscataway, and all the Plantations on both ^des the
Rariton River> as far as Chesquake Harbor Eastward, extend-
ing South-West to the Division Line of the Province, and
North-West to the utmost Bounds of the Province."||

In this year (1682) the sessions of the County Court were
increased to four, as follows : " The third Tuesday in March
yearly, in the publick Meeting House, in Woodbridge. The
third Tuesday in June, in the publick Meeting House in
Piscataway. The third Tuesday in September in the publick
Meeting House at Woodbridge. And the third Tuesday in
December, in the publick Meeting House, at Piscataway. "§
Criminal and civil causes were tried by this Court, the Judges
of which were the Justices in the County. Three of them, at
least, were required to occupy the bench in all trials — a jury
of twelve men rendering the verdict. In Woodbridge for
several years the jury was chosen annually for the Township
Court, just as were the other town officials.

* Learning & Spicer, 229. t Ibid., 97. * Ibid., 93. l Ibid., 229. § Ibid., 231.


The Court of Common Right, or Supreme Court, was
established in 16S2, and lield four sessions yearly at Eliza-
betht(Mvn. Its members might number from six to twelve,
none of wliom were permitted to belong to the High Court of

The town of Amboy Perth, as it was then called, was not of
sufficient importance until 1686 to establish a Court there. In
that year the Middlesex Court sessions were thus arranged:
The third Tuesday in December at Amboy Perth; in March,
at Piscataway; in June, at Woodbridge ; in Septemberj'at
Amboy Perth again; "and so to go circularly and successively

Another Town Clerk was sworn into office in January,
1693. Samuel Dennis had become tired ot it, besides being
burdened with a multitude of other public cares. His suc-
cessor, the fourth Clerk of the Corporation, was Thomas Pike,
son of the distinguished Capt. John Pike. For some cause
not now kno\Yn, Dennis was chosen Town Clerk instead of
Pike on the nth of April, 1694, and was required to appear to
take the usual oath. Richard Powell, Daniel Robins, and
Obadiah Ayers. Senior, were sent to bring him to the meeting
for that purpose ; but he stubbornly refused to come. Pike
was, therefore, re-elected, and held the office until 17 11 — a
^Qviod. o^ eighteen years. Between 1707 and 17 11 his time was
largely occupied in laying out lots for the Freeholders, and
recording them.

But to return to 1693 :

On the 2d of February it is recorded that John J^ioomfield
and Jonathan Bishop should each receive 12^-. for '"going up
to the Jndians this Last Spring." It is likely that they went
to the north to treat with the savage tribes and secure their
friendship. At tliis time the Indians were in alliance with the
French and were disturbing the frontier. The war between
England and France was raging, and the emissaries of the
latter were plotting the destruction of the English colonies.
All means were employed to propitiate the red men, and the
Jersey settlers generally were secure from their fury. Gov-

* Learning & Spicer, 370. + Ibid., 296.


ernor Hamilton, in October of this year, called for men and
money to forward to New York for the defence of that
Province from the allied forces/'' The Deputies agreed to
send fifteen men to Albany to protect that point. The Gov-
ernor was indignant. Fie wanted thirty men, at least. They
said they had five more, making twenty, who might go. The
Governor told them that it "seemed very strange that they
should bargaine as if they were buying or selling a horse or a
Cow, when their own seafty & Credit Lyes at stake. "f But
the Deputies would only send twenty men, arguing that they
v\"ere too poor to pay the expenses ofa larger number. They
were poor, doubtless; but their generosity was not remark-

In April the Tovv'n was unwillingly the nurse ofa sick man
— a stranger, named John Taggett. He had come into the
place and fallen ill. The Freeholders -were much distressed
thereat. Thomas Svran was paid 5.^. a vv-eek to keep the poor
fellow, and Samuel Hale promised to receive the pork and
wheat, etc., to dispense to the tender-hearted" Swan as the 5^.
worth of them fell due. A committee was appointed to warn
all strangers to leave the place if they seemed to be poor and
likely to be sick. They were permitted to stay by giving
security that they would behave and free the town from all
expense in case of sickness or other misfortune.

Two men, Ephraim Andrews and John Pike, were appointed
in November to meet the Justices at the next session of the
County Court to make some provision for its expenses.
Andrews was also enipowered "to Clear the waj' Between
Amboy Bounds and Pascataway path," over v.-hicli some trees
had been felled.

A committee of four was sent in January, 1694, to look at

the Papiack Creek, near Jonathan Dunham's mill, to consider

how best to construct a cart bridge over it. The old bridge

was either worn out or had been swept away b}^ a high tide.

The new one was to be built immediately.

The Town ^.leeting met in the meeting-house, as usual, on
the 22d; but it was cold in there, and they hastily adjourned

* Gov. & Council, lo9. t Ibid., 161.


to " Samuel More liis liouse." We presume this " More " was
the eldest son of Samuel Moore, the late Town Clerk, and
that he had succeeded to his father's business as inn-keeper.
He was only twenty-four years of age at this date. At the
two subsequent meetings during th« Winter the Freeholders
adjourned to Richard Powell's house, which was nearer,
probably, than Moore's; but nothing of special note is re-
corded in these gatherings, except some ecclesiastical and
educational matters referred to, in the proper places, in this

In the Autumn, the bridge over the Papiack was pushed
forward to completion, under the supervision of Matthew

In January, 1695, the standard prices of certain products, by
which the annual taxes were gauged, were as follows : Indian
corn, per bushel, 2s. dd. ; Rye, 3^. ; Wheat, 4i\ ; and Oats,
\s. dd. On the 1st of February the Freeholders beat a retreat
from their cheerless meeting-house to the hospitable home of
Richard Powell to hold their Town Meeting. Stoves were
not dreamed of in those days, and a fire-place in a meeting-
house was sacrilegious and ridiculous. So our fathers shiv-
ered all through the sermon, and our mothers sat patiently
anticipating Summer, while the good man told, perchance, ot
the land over which blow " no chilling winds " — into which,
doubtless, they have since entered.

A committee of five was appointed, consisting ot Messrs. S.
Dennis, S. Hale, E. Andrews, E. Bloomfield, and J. Pike, to
call Town Meetings by written notices sent by Francis
Walker throughout the region round about. Walker prom-
ised to do this as long as he remained in the place; he was to
receive 3^. for every meeting, going to each man's house to
give the notice. His first and last experience was in March.
He retired from the position iu disgust. To travel from
Ra,hway to the verge of Piscataway and from Amboy through
the settlement to the Rahway River on the north, was not an
easy task — especially in the unpropitious month of March,
concerning which Byron was not iar wrong in describing its
coming —

"With storms of wind and chano-ina; skies."


After Walker's defection the two Constables were empow-
ered to carry the notices through the township, receiving ^s.
each for every " warning," as it was called. To secure punc-
tuality the Freeholders were not permitted to vote on any
question which had been settled by a majority vote previous
to their arrival at the meeting.

The meeting of the 25th of March, which w^as the one called
at the expense of the boots and patience of Francis Walker,
found it necessary to check the volubility of its members. It
was ordered " that No person Shall (in our meetings) Speak
to any Towne Business, Except he Shall first obtain leave
from the Moderator So to Do, who having Spoke his Mind
Shall Be Silent and give place to others; and when Every
man have had free Liberty to Speak, then to Jssue the Same
By a Vote."

The order of 1672, requiring the vote of every Freeholder
present to make valid an appropriation of common land to an
applicant, was now repealed. Such an appropriation might
be made hereafter by the consent ot the majority.

Several /;-6V///r/^ having been accepted by the town, it was
considered necessary to define the privileges and responsibil-
ities of this class of people. Hence the following appears on
the record :

" T/ie Terms /or Admiting free Men and Disposcing of Land.

" March ye 25th, 1695, Jt passed By a free Vote of the
freeholders of the towne and Corporation of woodbridge, that
whomesoEver Shall Be admited a freeman of this Corpora-
tion, Shall By Virtue of Said admition have Liberty of graz-
ing or feeding (according to proportion) on the Commons?
fire wood, fenceing and timber for their use upon their planta-
tions, and for this they Shall Be obliged to pay Down or
within three Months after their admition twenty Shillings for
the Townes use: and also to Bear their Eaqual proportion of
the five pounds per annum for our Commons; 2dly that
whomesoever Shall have any Land granted out of our
Commons, Shall pay twelve pence per acre at the Delivery
of the Said Land; and Shall pay one half penny er acre
Sterling Money to the use of the Towne yearly for Ever; and
also they are to pay twenty Shillings for their freedom as


aforesaid, unci lo Boar Eaqual proportion of the Common
Rent as abovesaid from llic time of their Being So admited."

The following paper was signed by thirty-four of the best
citizens. Why sucli an excellent agreement was not more
generally favored is not apparent. We have modernized the

"Corporation of Woodbridge, April the 17th, 1695 —
"The engagement of all freeholders by original rights, and
all free men winch have been, are, or shall be so admitted in
this town and Corporation — viz : As a good and useful mem-
ber of this entire body, in government and guidance I will be
subject to all the lawful and regular motions thereof, and to
the utmost of my skill and ability I will move and act with
it so as may most directly tend to its peace and prosperity.
Its nakedness I will cover; its secrets I will not discover;
but its weakness I will support. And finally, in word and

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 10 of 34)