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 11 of 34)
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deed, according to my ability and its occasions, at all times I
will endeavor to prevent the evil and to promote the good and
just interest of this body and each member thereof, on penalty
of correction or expulsion, as default may require. In
testimony hereof, we, underwritten, have subscribed our

During the remainder of this, and all of the following year,
nothing more intcrestinGf than routine business was done in
the Town Meetings. January ist, 1697, Town Meetings were
directed to be "warned" by "a paper Set up on the Meeting
House Doore Six Days Before the Meeting; " from which it
is is evident that the Constables i-elished the task of carrying
the news through the township as little as did Mr. Walker.

Wolves must have become troublesome again, for on the
13th of March 2^s. were offered for every one killed before
January ist, ensuing.

At this meeting an order was passed to prohibit the waste
of timber on the common land. Certain individuals would
go on the commons and cut down the finest trees, which they
would sell or export to adjacent towns by boats. This order
required that, unless authoritative consent was obtained, no
such privilege should be permitted. A license committee.


consisting of Messrs. S. Dennis, S. Hale, E. Andrews, E.
Bloomfield, and Thos. t'ike, was directed to attend to this

April 19th, the meeting was largely taken up with orders
regulating the feeding of swine and " Jadges " on the common
land. Xovv, what iba"jadge.'" Whitehead asks the same
question in his sketch of Woodbridge, except that he calls
them Fudges. But Judges is the way it is written. They
were animals, that much is certain ; but whether they were
jack-asses or goats, or both, we cannot tell. The swine were
to be "yoaked and ringed " before March ist annually.

The order of May 31st, 1686 (see Chapter IX.), is again
unanimously passed on the loth of June, 169S. The com-
mittee to carrv out its provisions is changed — Capt. Bishop,
Justice Hale, Justice Dennis, Jonathan Dunham, and John
Pike being elected.

John Crandal, blacksmith, was granted two aci'es of upland
on the 15th of July, 1698, provided he would settle in Wood-
bridge and follow his trade. This he agreed to do and set vip
a shop accordingly.

The wolves must have been brought into the village in too
great numbers for the condition of the treasury; for in
September the price fixed for each one slain was X2s. — a
reduction of it,s.

It will be remembered that in March, 1695, the Freeholders
passed a resolution requiring each other to be silent after
speaking on any question before the Town Meeting — thus
preventing interruptions and giving all a chance to express
an opinion. It became necessary to reiterate the resolution
on the 2d of January, 1699; and, as a penalty for its violation,
it was distinctly declared that the obnoxious Freeholder
should " pay down nine pence in money" (not \n peas and pork
this time) — and if he refused he was to be unceremoniously
"turned out of the Meeting House." The Tow^n Meetings
were all held in the meeting-house, except in the coldest
weather, when an adjournment to a neighboring dwelling was
speedily effected. Indeed, this very January meeting, after
re-affirming the resolution of 1695, just referred to, found it so
cold in the meeting-house that the residence of Samuel Smith


across the road, was invaded by its half-frozen members, and
the remainder of its business was transacted there. Among
other things Samuel Dennis was directed to consult an "able
Counseler" in regard to defending the common land from
intruders and false claimants.

For a few years past considerable excitement had arisen
whenever Proprietary rule was discussed in the Province.
It had reached a degree of violence in 1699 which was fright-
ful. The people denied that the Proprietors had any right to
rule, and desired to be brought directly under the Crown.
Consequently the authority of the officers of the Proprietors
was set at naught. Indeed, they were beaten, and prisoners
in their charge were rescued, jails being broken open to effect
the release of criminals. As the Woodbridge jail was the one
in which were incarcerated the provincial prisoners, it was
attacked and emptied by a crowd of desperate men. On the
i6th of May the government records contain the following
item: "Ordered that a writ of Inquiry be Issued out to the
Sherriff of the County of Monmouth to return a Jury upon
he riot comitted at Woodbridge. "^^

Nathaniel Fitz Randolph was High Sheriff of Middlesex,
out had shown such contempt for the existing government!
that the case was not given into his hands.

The disorders reached their culmination in 1701. Disorders
prevailed throughout both East and West Jersey to such an
extent that the Proprietors, wearied of the struggle, surren-
dered the government in the following year — Queen Anne
accepting it on the 17th of April, 1702. Henceforth East and
West Jersey were known as one province which was called
New Jersey, Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, being the first
Governor under the new regime — his dominion extending also
over New York.

* Gov. and Council, p. 223. t Ibid., 227.



The Episcopal Congregation — George Keith — Edward
Vaughan — Halliday — First Church — Piscataway
Church — Shutting out Halliday — Skinner — Chand-
ler — McKean — Parker — Preston — The War — Church

Although no congregation of Episcopalians was formed
previous to 171 1, yet, as early as 1702, George Keith, the dis-
affected Quaker, having been sent out as a missionary by the
" Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts "
(an English Episcopal organization), arrived in Woodbridge
on a mission of propagandism. This was a work for which
/he was well qualified, and his labors, in some parts of the
State, were attended Avith much success. In his Journal" he
mentions his visit to Woodbridge thus : " On Thursday, De-
cember 30, 1702, preached in Woodbridge at the Independent
Meeting House, at the desire of Mr. Sheplierd and some others
there, on i Tim. 3, 16. After sermon Mr. Shepard kindly
entertained us at his house."

These were acts of Christian courtesy, on the part of Mr.
Shepard, which present his character in an attractive light.
He was the town preacher, and therefore liable to the preju-
dice and jealousy which existed, to some extent, in every
denomination at that time. It is pleasant to find that he, with
some others in his congregation, rose superior to such narrow

Keith preached on the same day in Piscataway.f In 1704
Mr. John Brook preached at Piscataway, Rahway, Amboy,
and other places until 1707, when he was lost at sea; but
Woodbridge had no Episcopal missionary in the town until

* ■Whitehead, H. Contr. p. 8S9. t Whitehead, p. 212, note.


woonRRinoE and vicinity.

Rev. Edward Vaughan (an able man who was sent to Eliza-
betbtown in 1709, by the " Society for the Propagation of the
Gospel ") responded to an invitation from several men who
were dissatisfied witii Rev. Nathaniel Wade, the town preach-
er, and began to visit and minister here in 17 11. At first he
held service in a house offered for that purpose by Benjamin
Dunham. Rev. Thomas Ilalliday, who came to Amboy in
17 1 1, subsequently assisted Mr. Vaughan at Woodbridge.

I am indebted to the Hon. W. A. Whitehead, the historian,
for the privilege of making the extracts, which follow, from
the letters of Vaughan, Ilalliday, and others, to the " Society
for the Propagation of the Gospel." The original MSS. are
now in the possession of Rev. Francis L. Hawks, D. D., who
intends publishing them, together with other documents of
the Society.

On the 5th of August, 171 1. the Rev. Mr. Halliday writes
to the Secretary of the Society that he is officiating at two
places, Amboy and Piscataway. Concerning the latter place
he says :

" Piscatoqua makes a much greater congregation, and there
are some pious and well-disposed people among them. Some
come from good distances to this meeting, but there is noth-
ing among us like the face ol a Church of .England, no sur-
plice, no bible, no communion Table, an old broken house
insufficient to keep us from injuries of the weather, and where
likewise the anabaptists which swarm in the place and do
sometimes preach and we cannot hinder, the house belonging
to the Town."

From a letter written by Rev. Mr. Vaughan to the Secre-
tary, bearing date February 28th, 1712, we learn that his labors
had been divided between Elizabeth and Rahway after Mr.
Halliday had arrived to assist him. He says that he delivers
a monthly lecture at Rahway and catechizes the children
there; that he has complied with a request from some individ-
uals in Woodbridge to officiate in that town, it being " so evi-
dent a demonstration of their good disposition to receive the
doctrine of the gospel from my mouth." He says further that
a project is on foot to build an Episcopal Church in Wood-
bridge; and that it is his intention to officiate there once a


fortnight during the Summer, and in the Winter to visit
Woodbridge and Elizabethtown alternately.*

On the 24th of December, 1714, a letter was sent to the Sec-
retary by the Church at Piscataway, making a report of their
circumstances. It is signed by the two Church Wardens,
Thomas Wetherel and John Barrow, and ten others. It sets
forth that a man bv the name of Barron had as^reed to " build
a timber Church fioor'd and plaistered and furnished with a
decent communion table and pulpit;" for which he was to re-
ceive ^100. But some desired a brick Church ; so the agree-
ment was broken. The brick Church was designed to be 87
feet in length, 23 feet wide, and the height of the side walls 13
feet, p^ioo had been subscribed. Mr. Barron had already
delivered to them stone, brick, and lime to the value of ^80,
of which only about one-half had been paid. The letter con-
cludes thus :

" We are a people who are only the first beginnings of a
Country ; the whole Township which is 10 Miles broad and 10
Miles long contain but about 100 families, and not many more
than 10 of those truly affected to the Church, or who live a
convenient distance for giving constant attendance on the
Lord's Day."

Rev. Mr. Vaughan writes to the Society under date of Sep-
tember 2Sth, 1 7 16, concerning the Elizabethtown and Wood-
bridge Churches. In respect to the claims of the latter, on
the attention and support of the Society, he says that the in-
habitants of the town are " chiefly of English and Scotch ex-
traction, born in New England and Scotland, and bred in both
places in the greatest prejudice and opposition to the estab-
lished Church of England;" that up to 1711 they had wor-
shiped after the manner of the Independents and Quakers;
but at that time some of them " being deeply scandalized and
much offended with the irregular life and conversation of Mr.
Nathaniel Wade their then congregational teacher " (this is
Mr. Vaughan's language), they sent him the following invita-
tion :

* Hatfield's Elizabeth, p. 357.


"Sir the unhappy difference between Mr. Wade and the
people of Woodbridge, is grown to that height, that we cannot
joyn with liini in tlic worship of God as Xtians ought to do,
it is the desire of some people here that if you think it may
be for the Glory of God, and no damage to other Churches,
that you would be pleased to afford us your help sometimes
on the Sabbath days, according as you shall think convenient ;
we do it not with any interrt to augment the difference among
us, but rather hope that with the blessing of God, it may be a
means for our better Joyning together in setting up the true
worship of our Lord Jesus Christ, here amongst a poor delu-
ded people, this is the desire of your humble servants,

"Rich. Smith, John Ashton, Benj. Dunham,

" Amos Goodwin, Gershom Higgins, Henry Rolph,

"John Bishop, Will'm Bingle, George Eubancks,

" Robert Wright."

Mr. Vaughan quotes this invitation entire in the report to
the Secretary of the Society in England, September 28th, 1716.
From 171 1 until about 17 16 services were sometimes held by
him in a house offered by Benjamin Dunham, and sometimes in
the new Church, which he almost immediately began to build.
This Ciuirch was never finished, but services w^ere neverthe-
less held in it when the weather would permit. Vaughan
says of it that it is " probably the smallest you have ever seen,
but amply sufficient for the congregation at this day." Where
the building stood which Benjamin Dunham offered for
religious worship we cannot tell, but probably it was situated
somewhere within the precincts oi DunJiamtoinn, just north of
the Meeting-house Green. The little Church stood on the
Green, north of the Meeting-house, occupying a lot granted,
by general consent, to the Episcopalians.

Mr. Vaughan continues his letter by stating that he sent to
the Governor of the Province [Hunter] soon after the above
invitation reached him, for a license to build a Church at
Woodbridge, and that the Governor had graciously given it
and subscribed ^5 toward the enterprise. Of the location of
the new Church, Vaughan says, it is situated " upon a piece
or lot of ground appropriated in the first settlement of the



town for that use and purpose by the prudent and pious care of
Philip Carteret, Esqr. and the Governor of the Province of
New Jersey under the then Lds Proprietors, John Ld Barclay
and Sir George Carteret." The death of Benjamin Dunham
is spoken of as having a depressing effect upon the congre-
gation, the completion of the Church being prevented by the
sad event. Benjamin was the son of Jonathan Dunliam, the
Woodbridge miller, and was a man of considerable wealth
and influence. His demise was, therefore, a misfortune to
the struggling Church from which they did not speedily

Under date of July Sth, 1717, Mr. Vaughan w^rites to
England that no Church has yet been built at Piscataway.
He says he now lives there, having removed from Amboy.

Rev. Mr. Halliday, in a letter written on the 9th ot October
following, states that he has agreed with Mr. Vaughan to
attend, jointly with him, Elizabethtown, Piscataway, Wood-
bridge, Amboy, and Freehold.

On the ist of August ensuing Mr. Hallida}'- reports to the
Society as follows: " In Woodbridge there is a timber Frame
clap boarded without either floor or glass ; it was built by a
subscription procured by Mr. Vaughan which was near a
^100 — money very well laid out though there is but a small
congregation belongs to it. The ground on which it stands
was given by Governor Cartwright [Carteret] to the Church
for Parsonage, &c., on which land there is no considerable
improvements, new brick buildings, &c., and I'll procure a
copy of the Deed and send it to your Secretary."

It is probable that the plural, " buildings," is a mistake.
The " new brick building" may be the Dunham mansion on
the edge of the Meeting-house Green. This building is now
Episcopalian property, which was not the case when Halliday
wrote; so that he was, doubtless, referring to the improve-
ments on the Church-land and the contiguous property, to
indicate its value.

Some, who have thought it improbable that a building was
erected by the Episcopalian Church at that earl}^ period, will
undoubtedly be convinced, by the foregoing testimony, that
it was actually constructed. To "make assurance doubly


sure" we subjoin an extract from a letter, dated September
22d, 1764, written by James Parker, the printer, than wliom
no more honorable man is mentioned in these pages. He
lived in Woodbridge at this time and held the office of Justice
of the Peace. He says: " I remember a very small Church or
building was standing in this village about forty-five years
afro, and divine service was sometimes performed in it; but
the number of members were so few, and these but poor, the
building fell to the ground."

As Parker was a member of the Episcopal Churcli, acting
occasionally as lay-reader in tlie Woodbridge congregation,
and as the letter from which this extract is taken was sent to
the authorities ot that Church in England, no doubt can exist
that the building he refers to was the first Episcopal Church
in this place.

Mr. Halliday mentions, in the same letter which we Vv'ere
considering before this digression, that a frame structure had
been put up at Piscataway, but the congregation worshiped
in a "country house." He says that there is no glebe or
parsonage house in the Province for the Episcopal clergy,
nor any local support, pecuniarily, except at Elizabethtown,
where a salary of ^30 annually is paid. He complains that
Mr. Vauijhan had been the cause of the agreement being
broken between the Piscataway congregation and Mr Barron
for the building of a wooden church. Mr. Vaughan wanted
a brick church, Avliich was never erected, and his breaking the
agreement had retarded the buildina^ of the other.

No very friendly feeling existed between these men, Hal-
liday and Vaughan. They both, however, did a great deal
of good in the communities where they ministered which
will never be forgotten. While we state unpleasant facts
without color, we cast the broad mantle of Christian charity
over tliem. If we consider the asperities of a missionary life
in that early time, the long years bringing more shadow than
sunshine, the multiplied annoyances, the successive disap-
pointments, the bitter cup of poverty pressed to the lips as
age and feebleness came on, the long rides to service, the care
of dependent ones — ah, well ! it does not behoove us to sit in
judgment on such men as these. It would make your heart



throb with pity to read some of the letters of the missionaries.
The Church doors were closed against Mr. Hallidav in
Woodbridge and Amboy at the instigation, so it was asserted, of
Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Talbot, the latter also a missionary.
The truth of the matter is, that Mr. Halliday had espoused
certain political sentiments, having for their object the
supremacy of the Church of England in the Colonial Gov-
ernment and the repression of the Quakers, who were rising
in power;* and this gave great offence to the Woodbridge
and Amboy congregations. George Willocks, at Aniboy,
was the leader of this opposition, whom Mr. Halliday de-
nounced publicly — asserting that he had dishonestly used
certain funds which had been collected for buildins: a Church.
The people who had hitherto borne with him were filled with
indignation. He became unpopular. Gov. Hunter speaks of
him, in a letter to Willocks, as ''that wretch," and Avishes
'' the countrey could get ridd ot him at any rate."t Hence the
Church doors in Woodbridge and Amboy were shut against
him. Mr. Vaughan expresses his regret at this proceeding,
in a letter to England dated November 4th, 17 18. He re-
grets, also, that it should have been said that it was done
by the express order of himself and John Talbot; but he
thinks the punishment well deserved for "his base and bar-
barous treatment of Mr. Willocks."

Mr. Halliday continued to officiate at Piscataway.;}; His
rupture with the two Churches, related above, occurred in
the Summer of 17 13, and he remained in the Province until
about 1 7 18.

Rev. William Skinner was sent, by the "Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel," and arrived at Perth Amboy
in 1722. Under date of March 7th he writes to the Secretary
that " the congregation at Piscatoqvia also grows daily, and
they are now building a Church there, and in all probability
will be as numerous a congregation as any in these parts.

* "^ I have preached but once at Woodbridge, for
the Church there, being made up of Clapboards nailed
together in a very sorry manner, and nothing done to the

* Whitehead's Hist. Contr., p. 216. t, p. 2IT. i it.ia.


inside, one can hardly be in it any space of time in the winter
without imminent danger. Those that raised that Church
are dead some years and the place being within four miles of
Amboy, those of tlie Church of England which are there
but three attend here [at Amboy] but so soon as the season
will permit I design, God willing, that Sunday I preach at
Amboy to preach at Woodbridge in the afternoon, hoping
some people at Amboy will be so religiously disposed as to
accompany me till such time as, by the blessing of God, I
can o-lean a congregation there; and though I have but little
hope of finding acceptance with a New England people, by
which that place is chiefly settled, yet I am resolved to try,
trusting in Providence for success."

This is additional evidence of the existence of an ancient
Episcopal Church — although Mr. Skinner's description of it
is anything but flattering.

On the 22d of May, 1724, he writes to the Secretary that he
still preaches at Woodbridge. There is a "handsome chapel "
at Piscataway Vv^iere the number of communicants is eighteen
or nineteen. On the 7th of October following he writes that
he has a congregation of "about 50" at Woodbridge, but
"almost all dissenters and violently attached to the New
England scheme." He says he lived at first in Amboy, but
had removed to the other side of the river.

In a letter written July 5th, 1749, he states that the Church
at Piscataway is crowded with antipedobaptists. He must
have been highly appreciated by the Baptists, as Avell as by
his own people, for in May, 1741, he reported that he preached
every third Sunday in the Piscataway chapel, and his congre-
gation numbered from 200 to 300 persons.

Mr. Skinner died, aged 70, in 1758. For thirty-five years he
had been rector of St. Peter's Church at Ambo}'', serving the
Woodbridge and Piscataway congregations also, as we have
seen. There was another place at which he ministered dur-
ing the Summer of 1749, and perhaps subsequently, of which
he thus speaks ;

"Now is my time of trial. In this extraordinary dry and
hot summer, hitherto, since Whitsuntide, I have gone, and to
the end of October must go, to South River every Sunday.


In doing which I must cross a river almost two miles broad,
and that done, ride twelve miles in the sand, equally scorch-
ing with those of Arabia, and not a house by the way except-
ing one by a saw-mill, and that good for nothing. This
is hard service at the present time of day with me, for I am
old and also much worn out."

He left five children. Gertrude, the only daughter, became
the wife of James Parker. Cortland, his eldest son, was
made a British General during the Revolution. The venera-
ble clergyman was buried in the shadow of old vSt. Peter's
Church, but the precise place of his rest is unknown.

Rev. Thomas B. Chandler, of Elizabethtown, began his
missionary labors here in 1752 — six years before Mr. Skinnex
died The latter, however, had grown too old to supply
Woodbridge — which, indeed, neither he nor any other Episco-
pal clergyman had done for twenty years previous to Mr
Chandler's arrival.

Mr. Vaughan, rector of St. John's Church at Elizabethtown
having died in October, 1747, left that Church without a
pastor until 1751, when Mr. Chandler arrived from England
with the necessary credentials. From 1747 until 1751 Chan-
dler had held the position of catechist, or lay-i-eader, in St.
John's Church, being called to it froni Woodstock, Conn.,
where he had been teaching scliool. In 1766 Oxford con-
ferred the dignity of D. D. upon him. He is represented as
•'a large, portly man, of fine personal appearance," and as
possessing "an uncommonly blue eye." He had a "strong
commanding voice " and " fine powers of conversation.'"'-

He ministered monthlv at Woodbridge. He wrote to the
Society in 1752 that the place " has not been visited by any of
our clergy for upwards of twenty years." During this time some
of the congregation had attended Mr. Skinner's Church at
Amboy, and others had joined dissenting bodies. He speaks
encouragingly of the future and says that he has seldom less
than two hundred hearers at Woodbridge, and that the
number of Episcopalian families there is fifteen.

His time being more occupied in a few years, Mr. Chandler's

* natfl Id's Elizabeth, p. 551.



visits were made once in six weeks. In the interim James
Parker acted as lay-reader on tlie Sabbath.

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 11 of 34)