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 13 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 13 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

largely employed in those days. The renewed line was
doubtless drawn, with the concurrence of both towns, on the
24th of March, the time appointed for the purpose. It was
felt to be a necessity that this should be done betore the
contemplated division of the common land was effected.
Throughout 1702 the matter of division was but little agitated.
Indeed, the Freeholders did not seem to desire any further
movement in that direction until the convulsions in the
provincial government were allayed.

In the meeting of January 29th, 1703, it was resolved that
no land in the commons should be laid out to any person on
any pretence, except a grant was first obtained from the town,
within the following bounds : Along the Rahway River from
its mouth to Jonathan Bishop's saw-mill, down the south
branch of the river to Trout Brook, and from thence in a
straight line to the west side of Stephen Kent's farm on the
Raritan River.

A new pound was among the things determined upon
September 29th, the "old stuff" being condemned to be sold
to help pay for the improved structure. Pounds, it will be
observed, received a large share of the public attention. Ani-
mals were not allowed to walk around tlie village with

The boundary line between Amboy- and Woodbridge was
ordered, on the same day, to be definitely fixed; and a com-
mittee, consisting of John Bloomfield, John Pike, and Thomas
Pike, was appointed to execute the will of the people, giving
due notice thereof to the neighboring town.

On the ist of November the Freeholders met in the meet-
ing-house. But it was so cold that, having chosen Capt.
Bishop (the young John) Moderator for the day, they hastened
over to Samuel Smith's house to warm themselves by his


blazing fire and discuss the business before them. It is no
difficult thing- to imagine the company gathered about the
wide and cheerful hearth, and the November Avind blowing
shrilly out-of-doors. Fancy you see, behind the kitchen-
table, the military man of the town, Capt. Bishop, calling the
meeting to order. Beside him sits the Town Clerk with this
very book, bound in sheep-skin as we see it now, laid carefully
under his hand. There are Nathaniel Fitz Randolph, John
Pike, Jr., Jonathan Bishop, Elisha Parker, and Adam Hude
among those present. Here, also, is Matthew Moore, so
highly complimented, as a cautious and capable man, by
Gov. Hamilton in a letter to the Governor of New York
during the Indian troubles on the frontier.* A very interest-
ing group was that assembled in Mr. Smith's house on this
November morning.

Fifteen pounds were ordered to be levied in the township —
^5 for the local government and ^/^lo^for tlie " Countreys
Concerns." To raise this amount 35-. were assessed to every
man in the corporation. Town rates had not heretofore been
very promptly paid. In some cases years were suffered to
intervene before payment was made by the delinquents; and
in many instances it was postponed to that mythic period in
the future which has not yet arrived — the convenient season.
To stir up such laggards this Town Meeting empowered
Elisha Parker and Jonathan Bishop as attorneys, with power
to prosecute and arrest all who were in arrears. These
attorneys began to work up sundry bad cases. Among others,
we find that Benjamia Cromwell was a victim to their zeal.
On the ist ot January, 1704, he paid to them ^\ for his
admission as a Freeman of the corporation; 10s. for ten acres
of land granted to him at the Wolf Swamp in 1696, for the
rent of which, during the seven years, he was required to pay
•^s. Sd. additional.

More strict resolutions were passed February 8th, 1704, for
punishing trespass and unlicensed felling of trees on the
public lands. Elisha Parker w"as chosen Corporation Treas-
urer. John Cleak was granted twenty acres of land on

* N. y. Col. Docs. vol. 4, p. 199.


condition tliat he put up his contemplated "fulling-mill" on
the south branch of the Rahway River. Mr. Cleak, Clake, or
Clark (poor fellow ! he is spelt several ways) agreed to this,
and the land was laid out March ist, with the further under-
standing that if he removed or gave up the fulling business
the twenty acres reverted to the Freeliolders. They began to
grow more chary in bestowing real estate.
jfr. From this date the minutes of the Town Meetings are less
full and circumstantial. The years tlit by more rapidly as we
turn the pages of the record. As we grow older Time passes
with swifter feet ; and thus it seems to be with corporations
— the Aveight of age gives them momentum onward which
permits them to note but little in the vanishina: years

The first Tow/i Committee was chosen March 30th, 1705, and
seven men composed it. They were Capt. John Bishop, Capt.
Elisha Parker, John Ilsly, Nathaniel Fitz Randolph, John
Pike, Joseph Rolph, and Thomas Pike. They were chosen
for one year, to act for the town in all matters relating to its
welfare except the disposition of land and the raising of

At this meeting permission was given to Elisha Parker to
build a '"good Grist Mill" on the Papiack Creek, with a
grant of a piece of land about forty feet square. It was to be
built as near the bridge as possible. This may have been the
laiill which once stood on the stream just back of Jaques
Venet's present residence. It has long ago disappeared.
William Coddington, recently deceased, informed the writer
that he remembered the old mill that occupied this site — that
he had, in boyhood, carried grain there to be ground.

The Town Committee were empowered, on the 24th of
October, to divide the commons according to their discretion.
A certain section of this land was to be laid out in equal plots,
except where the land was poor, when a larger quantity of
it Avas expected to offset the more favored places; and at a
set time lots were to be drawn, with numbers to designate
the parcels of land correspondingly marked. Sixty acres of
good land were assigned to each plot.

A committee was instructed to present certain grievances
of the town to the next Assemblv, in the meeting of March


28th, 1706. The Assembly was then expected to begin its
sessions in the following October ; but the mem)Ders refusing to
respond to Gov. Cornbury's proclamation, no sitting of this
august body occurred in 1706.* These grievances were consid-
ered in the Assembly of 1707. A Capt. Bown had made false
representations in the Province, asserting that he was a sort
of financial agent for the Government, by which means he
privately obtained the i^romise of large sums of money-
John Pike had agreed to furnish him witii ,-/?2of through his
(Bown's) accomplice, Richard Saltar. Others had also been
victimized by the imposture. These were indignant that the
government resorted to such means of replenishing its
treasury, not suspecting that the authorities knew nothing
about it. Their complaints elicited the truth; and Bown, a
member of the House of Representatives, was put on trial.
Samuel Dennis and John Pike were the witnesses irom Wood-
bridge. J; The Mouse voted to imprison Bown temporarily for
contempt in refusing to depose as to the disposition of the
money he had collected — Elisha Parker, one of the Wood-
bridge Representatives, being the only dissentient. Bown
was finally expelled from the House in disgrace, April 30th,

Tlie first division of land so-called, tliough really the sec-
ond (sec p. 108) was made on the 14th of October, 1706, in
accordance with the previous arrangements. The number of
lots drawn was sixty-eight, representing the sixty-eight orig-
inal Freeholders.

The second division, >j comprising twenty-two and a half
acres to each original Freeholder, was made some time in
June, 1707. The number of acres was at first limited to 20;
but for some unknown reason two and a half were subse-
quently added. In this division the Strawberry Hill Common
and certain other sections were to remain unmolested. Straw-
berry Hill, Papiack Neck, the Parsonage and School lands
w^ere laid out in "common fields " to be planted with corn.

The third division of land'^ was allotted in July, 1715, and
each plot embraced ten acres; the fourth division* (eight

* Journal Houie of Reii., [i- "'-i- Smith, p. 284. t Journal House of Ef p., p. 99. } Ibid.,
95. I Ibid., 00. ^ Freeholders" Book, fol. 1. ^ Ibid., fol. 19, 2S. * Ibid., 80.


acres) was made May 8th, 1717; the fifth":^ was drawn April
4th, 1720, the dimensions of each plot being about sixteen
chains long by eight rods broad. The sixth division was not
drawn by lot, but each representative ot the original Free-
holders was allowed to take a portion of land not exceeding
£iS in value, such land to lie in his own neigliborhood.
This allotmentf was ordered January i6th, 1721. The seventh
division]: was drawn by lot, in May, 1734, but the amount of
the allotment is uncertain. Another division,! the last of
which any account is preserved, was resolved upon in March,
1758, the details of which have not been recorded.

We have, in previous pages, designated localities occupied
by the first settlers in Woodbridge; but we now propose
making the picture of the settlement more complete by
grouping our facts together. Suppose we take our position
at the Kirk Green. The queer-looking meeting-house stands
on the left; the "town house" (used as a parsonage) is seen
at the right, a short distance along the western road; Dun-
ham's house stands on that knoll, north of the green ; down
near the creek is John Smith's house, and close to this is the
grist-mill with its big wheel moving slowly round dripping
with the water; before us, opposite the green, on the south-
east corner of the road, is Samuel Smith's house; near to that
is Edward Haine's blacksmith shop, from the rude chimney
of which do we not see the smoke curling.' Still further on
is the residence of John Dennis. Across the road (about
where J. M. Melick's house now stands) is Elisha Parker's
dwelling, and perhaps if we listen we will hear the noise of
his shuttle — for he is a weaver. A little to the south of
Parker's is the prison, a gloomy-looking structure with a
stockade built around it. Henry Lesenbe lived on the corner
(where Alex. Edgar now resides), and Samuel Moore kept a
tavern in the old house which stood where Dr. Freeman 's .
drug-store is located. Let us walk along this "back road"
leading to Uniontown. After passing Mr. Moore's we come
to Samuel Hale's; Judge Hale, they call him. Then comes
John Smith, the Scotchman; then Wm. Compton, the proud

* Freeholders' Book, fol. 85. t Ibid., 95. * Ibid., 93. Ilbid., 94.


father of the first white child born in the town; then young
Thomas Bloomfield. Their houses seem to have been built
on the south side of the highway. Now we are at the corner
of the road. We will turn to the left presently and cross the
brook (Manning's), but let us glance around before going

On the north-east corner is the elder Kent's house ;'^' on the
north-west is the pound, with squealing pigs, obstinate
"jadges," and hissing geese; on the south-west is John
Taylor's blacksmith shop. The other corner, as we have seen,
is occupied by young Bloomfield, whose father owns a house-
lot just west of the pound, on the north side of the road. On.
the south side, a short distance beyond Taylor's shop (and
somewhere near William Edgar's house), is to be seen Samuel
Dennis' house-lot, which adjoins the "Molden Men's lots.''
Joshua Bradley's lies west of these, on the same side of the

Who were the " Molden Men"? Gentle reader (that is the
way authors begin when they get into a " fix "), we cannot
tell. But we always could give a theory for anything we ever
heard of, and we are not much nonplussed by our ignorance
on this subject. Our theory is that these fellows made l>n'c/is\
— humble predecessors of Wm. H. Berry ,r/ al.; that, in fact,
they were motdding men. The probability is that these lots
were given to induce them to remain in Woodbridge and ply
their trade. Whether they discovered and made use of the
rich clay beds of Woodbridge are matters unknown; but such
may have been the case.

We turn to the left and go down to the brook. Behind
Taylor's shop is Hugh Dunn's lot, then Charles Oilman's.
Crossing the stream, we find Hopewell Hull's lot on the
corner (long known as Hollister's Corner). These three
lots lie on the west of the road. It is probable that Hull did
not occupy his land very long, and perhaps. he did not build
upon it at all; for he sold it not a great while after it came
into his possession to Rehoboth Gannit.

♦Stephen Ksnt, Sr , certainly had a house here; but it is said that he lived at Ford's
Corner. No doubt he hart propertj' in both p'aces. Perhaps youn? Stephen hved at Ford's
Corner and old Ste^)hen at Woodbridge in 16fi9. (See pp. 35 and 41 of this volume.)
t The opinion, also, of T. H. Morris and .Jeremiah Dally.


Strolling along toward Strawberry Hill we sec vacant lots
on both sides of the highway. The rising ground on the
right of us is crowned with large torest trees. The low
ground on the left is the paradise of frogs, which croak
melodiously among the tall calamus blades that nod grace-
fully in the wind. Along here are the house-lots of Israel
Thornell, Obadiah Ayers, and John Adams. Richard Worth's
house stood somewhere near the present residence of Capt.
Isaac Inslee. South of his lot a little stream made its way,
coming frDm a spring on Strawberry Hill. A narrow cart-
way was laid out to skirt Worth's land on the south — in-
tended, doubtless, to accommodate Adams and Ayers, who
lived east of the main highway.

Now, following the road, we begin to ascend the hill. On
the east is John Pike's residence; on the west is the ground
allotted to Jedediah Andrews. Two hundred and forty acres
to tlie south of us are the property of John Pike. Crossing
"Spa Spring Brook " we soon stand upon the knoll and look
in the direction of Perth Amboy. The land immediately
below us is known among the settlers as Pike's Neck. It is
that region south ot the well-known "Benton place."

Let us now retrace our steps. It is September, and the
Aveather invites us to ramble; but we have taken along walk
and we need a little repose. Shall we sit down under this
tall wild cherry tree for a tew moments.' Across the way we
see the bright crimson torch of the sumach and the pale
3'ellow flower of tlie wild flax below it. The early frost has
changed the sober green of the sassafras yonder to a brilliant
yellow. The untrained vine that clambers over the fence
proudly flutters its carnelian hues, and ambitiously stretches
upward, with uncertain motion, one slender branch. Small
purplish flowers nestle in shady places, and tufted yellow
stalks dance in the sunshine.

But we resume our walk and arrive at " H^llister's corner."
We turn to the east. North of the spot where T. J. & G, W.
Daily's store now stands were the house-lots of Robert
Rogers, John Ilsly, and young John Pike. Henry Jaques,
Thomas Pike, the Bishops, and some others lived in the
direction of Rahway. Daniel Grasie (or Gresy) and William


Elstone I'esided somewliere in the neighborhood of the Kirk
Green — perhaps to the south or south-west of it. John Dilly
and the two Pierces, with several others, occupied lots across
the Papiack, on the upland beyond the meadows.

At the point where we started forth to ramble through the
ancient town wc now arrive. The beautiful green spreads its
carpet around us and the level acres are dotted with lowing
cattle and bleating sheep. Yonder, perhaps, wander arm-in-
arm through the field, two who are oblivious to all bvit
themselves; and if the eight o'clock bell is in use here as it is
in New England, an anonymous poet well describes the scene,
and gives the loving twain a song:

" Here, where those low lush meadows lie,
We wandered in the Autumn weather,
AVhen earth and air and arching sky
Blazed grandly, goldenly together.

And oft, in that same Autumn time.
We sought and roamed these self-same meadows,

When evening brought the curfew chime.
And peopled field and fold with shadows."



The Pound Again — Pike vs. Sonmans— Pike & Cutter's
Mill — Freeholders' Book — Judge Hude — Moses R®lph
— Strawberry Hill — The Commons — Second Town
Book — Fourth Division Lots — Ear-marks — Death of
old Samuel Dennis.

It will be observed that there is a void of two years in our
history — from 1707 to 1709 no record being given except that
of the lot-layers, Avho were busy surveying- and assigning the
land embraced in the two divisions already made.

At a Town Meeting, held July 14th, 1709, ^^25 for the relief
of the poor were levied. Thomas Davis was made pound-
keeper, on condition he "forth with Build a Sufficient
Pownd," with the following fees ; For impounding a horse,
ijT. ; neat cattle, per head, 9c/.; a hog, 3c/.; a sheep, 2d.\ a goose,
\d. We fancy Davis must have considered it worth all of one
penny to drive a goose a mile or two to the pound; and an
equally pleasant and profitable undertaking it must have been
to escort thither "a pig for three pence — though it is barely
possible that these domestic favorites were not afflicted with
the obstinate wandering propensities which distinguish their
descendants. Notwithstanding, wc are not prepared to say
that the office of pound-keeper was a sinecure in those halcyon
days, nor can we imagine how Mr. Davis could see his way
clear to build a pound for nothing with such miserable
inducements. However, il is none of our business, and pos-
sibly he became rich in

'Pounding tlie geese
At a penny apiece.

Peter Sonmans, a quarrelsom.e citizen of Perth Amboy^
having laid claim to several acres of common land in Wood-


bridge, was sued for its recovery by John Pike in behalf of
the Freeholders. It proved to be a long and tedious litigation
— the case not being removed from the Courts until the latter
part of I737/''' after Sonmans was dead. The name ot" Peteri
his son, appears in the place of his father's at the close of the
suit. It was ended in the Supreme Coiu-t, the decision being
rendered, in default, against the claim of Sonmans. In this
July meeting a committee was appointed to raise money to
pay John Pike's expenses incurred bv the suit thus far.

At the same time John Pike and Richard Cutter were per-
mitted to build a grist-mill "on the North Side of the Ditch
at the South Side of the Cornfield Landing, and to have So
Much Land adjoining to the Said Ditcli and the ]Main Creek
as Shall be for the Convenience of Said Mill vSo it Doth not
Prejudice the Said Landing." In Nov^ember these two men
entered into equal partnership, and in the following year (1710)
the mill was built. It has long since fallen, and has been

Richard Cutter (or Cotter, as it is sometimes spelt) was, no
doubt, the progenitor of the family of that name now living
in Woodbridge. He married Mary Pike, August 2otl], 1706.
Jennet Cotter, a widow, was living in this place in 1689, so
that it is probable there were others here bearing the name, at
a period even more remote.

In the Town Meeting of October 2otii, 17 10, twent}' acres
of common land were allotted for sale to defray tlie cost of the
law-suit pending between Pike and Sonmans. Pike and
Cutter, the millers, were granted a piece of ground in the
vicinitv of the new mill — the plot not to exceed an acre.
Richard Soper applied for and obtained permission to put up
a srrist-mill on Kent's Creek.

During the years 171 1 and '12 nothing of note is mentioned
and bvit little recorded. On the 6th of May, 17 13, three
Sheep-masters were appointed to protect the flocks from
wolves and dogs, and to prevent the destruction, by the
sheep, of the growing corn and the grass in the pasture lands.

With this brief item we pass to the year 17 14.

* Freeholders' Book, folios 93 and 94.


T!ie January meeting (28th) was called "by virtue of a
warrant from two of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace, viz.
John Pike and Moses Rolph, Esqs." Rolphwas now serving
as Town Clerk, having been elected in the room of Thomas
Pike on the 3d of March, 1712. "The weather being uncom-
fortable," says the record, "the meeting was, by a unanimous
vote, adjourned to the house of Joseph Oilman." This
indicates that fires were not yet introduced in the old meet-
ing-house. We do not know where Joseph Oilman resided,
but we presume that his dwelling was near at hand. Charles
Oilman, one of the early settlers in Woodbridge, and one ot
Joseph's kindred, lived on the west side of the road, near
Manning's Brook, midway between Ensign & Commoss' store
and Rowland's corner. Possibly Joseph dwelt there in 17 14,
and the Town Meeting adjourned to that place; but we are
inclined to tiiink his residence was not so far from the meet-

Ensconcing themselves comfortably by Mr.' Oilman's fire-
place, the Freeholders leisurely proceeded to business, which
was chieflv the appointment of a committee of four to take
" special care " of the School Land ; and the gift of two acres
of land near Richard Skinner's, at Rahway, for building
a school-house.

March ist, 17 14, ^"15 were appropriated, partly for the pur-
chase of a_^' town book " and partly for the relief of the poor.
This Book was bought, and is known as the Freeholders' Book.
It was re-bound in October, 1S68, by order of the Town
Committee, and is, therefore, in a good state of preservation.
The first pages are occupied with surveys of the Second
Division lots, laid out in 1707, which, of course, were copied
in the book seven or eight years subsequent to the dates
attached to them. The contents throughout are principally
made up of surveys, but occasionally we find the minutes ot
a Freeholders' meeting.

In the Town Meeting of March 22d, 17 14, John Bishop, Jr.,
John Pike, Jr., James Clarkson, and John Kinsey protested
against making any further division of the public land until
the land already divided was properly assigned.

John Kinsev and John Moore were chosen, pursuant to an


act of the General Assembly, to consult and co-operate with
the Justices in respect to the building of a "gaol" and a
Court-house. In the meeting of March 13th, 17 16 (which is
the latest one recorded in the first Town Book), Samuel
Dennis, Jr., and Daniel Britton were appointed to meet the
Justices to choose "managers" to "carry on the work of
building a Prison and Court-House." No traces of these
buildings now remain, except the obscure ones designated in
Chapter III. And yet they must have been important features
in the legal economy of the township in its early days.

Here we close the first Town Book and open the second—
^dividing our attention, however, between the latter and the
Freeholders' Book, because in some particulars they are
cotemporary. The Freeholders' Book has the minutes of
several meetings which should have been in the first Town
Book. One of these, dated May 3d, 1714, was in regard to a
plot of ground of one acre and a half granted to Robert
Grove. The land was on Reed Brook, "a little below David
Donham's barn." A committee was also appointed, at this
meeting, to advise with some legal gentleman as to how the
Freeholders could release each other in the division of the
commons. The same committee was authorized to " run the
line between Amboy and our town."

Adam Hude, Justice, presided on this occasion, a man of
eminent judicial qualities and inllexible integrity. He was
one of the passengers on the notorious vessel, Henry and
Francis. He resided at first on Staten Island, but in 1695 he
came to Woodbridge and became one of its honored citizens.
He built a dwelling about a mile north of the meeting-house
and resided there. He and his wife lie buried in the Presby-
terian graveyard. In '1718 Mr. Hude became one of the
Judges of the Middlesex Court of Common Pleas, soon
became Presiding Judge, which position he held until 1733,
and was Master in Chancery at one time, and a member of the
General Assembly in 1701. He died June 27th, 1746, in the
eighty-fifth year of his age, leaving two sons and one daugh-
ter. Robert and James, the sons, lived in New Brunswick
and became distinguished men. Of the daughter, Agnes,
little is known.*

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 13 of 34)