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 14 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 14 of 34)
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Whitehead's Contrib. to E. J. Hist., p. 8TS.





At noon on the X7th of May, 1714, a meeting of the Free
ho ders was held at Moses Rolph's house. Rolph was Free
holders Clerk, and had also been made Town Clerk H
held the latter position about nineteen vears-from 171. t
1731- ' '

The persons present appointed a committee to draw up
bonds tor the signature of all," by which they entered into
ODhgations to stand together for mutual protection in case ot
suits at law involving their rights as Freeholders Seven
men were empowered to lay out -portions of land in different
parts of the town tor commons perpetuallv, and to devise a
plan tor dividing the rest of the unappropriated ground
equitably between those holding original claims. Col Elishx
Parker, the Township Treasurer, was ordered to pav to
'• Master Will: Rodgers," a boy who wielded, perhaps, a ready
pen, SIX shillings for writing a letter of Attornev and a bond
Good for Master Rodgers !

On the Sth of March, 1715, Papiack Neck and Strawberrv
Hill were decided to be no longer common land, but eli-iblc
lor division lots to be distributed among the Freeholders
Ihis action was not popular, however ; and on tlie mh of
July the town order in regard to it was formally repealed
Alter voting for a third division of common land to comprise
ten acres in each plot, the citizens proceeded to exempt the
following pieces of ground: Strawberry Hilf Papiack Neck
the Meeting-house Green, the green before Moses Rolph's'
door (this consisted of two acres*), the plot between ''Doctor
Wade-s door " and Stephen Tuttle's land, a lane leading to
Bloomtield's Spring behind Langstaffs Hill, a plot between
Justice Hude's and Robert Gilchrist's, "and along by Georo-e
Brown's to a place called ye watering-place, allso a piece tf
land In wch is a Spring Lying North of a place known by
the name of David Ileslee'sgirdled trees;" and a plot between
Peter Elston's, John Skinner's, Joseph Gray's, and Benjamin
Rolph's' lands.

Thomas Pike was appointed Lot-layer for the third division
of commons, with four assistants, viz. : George Brown, Ben-

* Freeholders' Book, folio 26.


jamin Donliam, Willi^am Ilslee, and John Jaquish, These were
directed to re-survey the Parsonage and Scliool Lands, in
addition to their other duties.

The following item is an extract from the minutes of the
first recorded meeting in the second Town Book, dated March
12th, 1717 : "The overseers of ye Pore shall pay. the clerk ye
sum of fifteen shillings or theire aboughts to ennable him to by
a town book." The Town Clerk evinced considerable insrenu-
ity in spelling thercalw.tts as our readers will perceive This
order for purchasing a Town Book was only a reiteration of a
vote passed March ist, 1714. The fifteen shillings "or theire
aboughts" were not forthcoming until 17 18, four A-ears after
the first order. Verily, public affairs moved slowly in ye days
lang syne. A special tax Avas levied to buy the book, and a
board of Assessors elected, comprising Samuel Dennis, Ichabod
Smith, Jr., and Moses Rolph. An elegant volume would
naturally be expected as the product of all this excitement
and din of preparation ; but this plain, dark leather-covered
book, an inch and a quarter thick, with the faded words,
"Z/Z-. j5.Woodbridg," on the outside, is the result <:)f four years'

On the 19th of March, 17 17, all preliminaries were arranged
for the fourth division of the public land, and special pains
were taken to niake the disposition of plots as fair and equal
as possible. We find a more minute and satisfactory account
of this division than of any other, so we shall give the details
substantially as we read them in the Freeholders' Book (folio


May 8tli was the day for the drawing of the lots. It is not

difficult for VIS to imagine the impatience with which certain
necessary business matters were disposed- of. Caleb Campbell
was permitted to draw a lot in consideration of the fact that
his wife was the first Christian child born in Woodbridge.
Robert Gilchrist was Moderator for the day. John Parker
was elected to draw the lots. It was agreed tiiat each Free-
holder should pay down to Daniel Britton, the town treasurer,
six shillings and six pence for expenses, immediately on
drawing his lot. The plots had all been marked out and
numbered beforehand. Tlie modus operandi is fully explained



by this resolution, to wit: " Itt was voated & agree! yt ye
ffreholders should prosede to Draw there sd fourth Division
Lots: (& accordingly they Did) they being Numbered on
Little pices of Paper & putt Jnto a bagg & Drawn by John
Parker according [to] ye fore going voatc: ve sd Lotts beino-
Drawn Jn ye Names of ye originall freeholder's." Eio-ht
acres of good land were to be represented by each slio of

The first lot taken out was in the right of Daniel Pierce.
It was number nineteen. Mow many jokes were perpetrated,
or astute prognostications derived from this initiatory draft
cannot be conjectured. Parker again plunged his hand into
the bag, this time in the right of Joshua Pierce. A moment-
ary rustling of fugitive bits of paper is succeeded by a jerk
upward, and, amid the profound silence of the group, Parker
calls out: "No. 42!" Caleb Campbell, who had been so
fortunate as to marry the first-born native of Woodbridge,
drew No. 35, which proved to be a plot on the road to
Piscataway. It may be interesting to our readers, so v.-e
transcribe the list of drawings:

Daniel Pierce 19 1 Obadiab Ayers ' 5(J

Joshua Pierce 43

John Martin, Sr 18

Hopewell Hull 22

Hugh Dun 20

Charles Gilman 8

Matthew Moore 4.j

John Smith, Scotchman 1

Matthew Buun 14

John lleslee 53

Abraham Tappeu 01

Isaac Tappeu 59

Robert Dennes : 38

John Dennes 16

Samuel Denues 49

Thomas Bloomfield, Sr 47

John Bloomfield 2

Nathan Webster 13

George March 51

Thomas Alger 07

Robert Rogers 62

"William Comptou 25

J ohn Watkins 65

Thomas Bloomfield 3

Samuel Moore 7

John Smith 28

Samuel Smith 27

Elisha Parker 58

Henry Jaques 54

Hugh March 5

SamuelHale 21

Henry Leseube 39

John Adams 32

Henry Jaques, Jr 12 i Benjamin Parkes 9

Stephen Kent ^...10 Jedediah Andrews 28

S. Kent, Jr 03

Daniel Gresey 50

Richard Vrorth 29

John Pike, Jr —

Jonathan Haines •. 6

John Witclier 57

George Little 36

Elisha lleslee 23

Enhraim Andrews 4

JolmDille C9

Daniel Robins 44

John Crounvell 24

John Conger. 15

Samuel Bacon ^^

Mr. Le Prairie '■ 31

John Trueman 00


Jonathan Dunham 38

David McKeuney 52

Joshua Bradley 34

Philip " Cartwright."* 40

John Allen 06

Jonathan Bishop 41

Thomas Adams 64

John Everit 46

James CI arkson 43

Thomas Pike 30

Caleb Campbell 35

Job n Bishoj), Sr 68

John Bishop, Jr 17

John Tailor 37

It was now nearly fifty years since the first of these original
Freeholders had come to Woodbridge. Some of them had
died, others had moved away. Some had sold their rights, as
had John Dilly, whose claim was owned by Robert Gilchrist ;
the children of others had inherited their fathers' rights, as
had the younger Samuel Moore. Of the^men who drew in
their own right as original Freeholders five certainly were
present on this occasion, viz. : John Bloomfield, John Bishop,
Jr., Samuel Smith, Thomas Pike, and Stephen Kent, Jr.
Possibly a few others were there, but it is doubtful. These
five were all old men; and not many years after, their familiar
faces were missed from their accustomed haunts in tlie village,
and others occupied the homesteads they had built.

" Thus star by star declines,
Till all are passed away."

The minutes recorded in the second Town Book embrace
the period from 1717 to 1799. One meeting a year, for the
election of officers, is all we find, except in a few instances.
A large part of the volume is taken up with the designation
of the ear-marks put upon cattle to indicate the ownership of
them. This peculiar record extends from 1720 to 1809, and is
a good means of showing the number of well-to-do families
in Woodbridge. Here is an entry in the year 1766 :

" May ye 2d Azel Roe, ye minister, made Entryey of his Ear
mark which is a Swallow fork in ye Left ear and two halfe
penneys under ye Right."

A rouo^h sketch of the ears is made in each case, with the
marks plainly drawn on them. A " Swallow fork " is simply
made by cutting a piece out of the ear in the shape of an acute
triangle, the acute angle extending inward. A "half penny "
is a piece cut out about the size indicated by the term.

* Carteret.


Leonard Melick records his ear-mark in 1790, and Peter
Melick enters his in 1802. We find William Berry's entered
in 1731; Joseph Alwood's* in 1738; Jonathan Harned's in
1732; Zebulon Pike's in 1732; Jonathan Ilslee's (son of John)
in 1726; Joseph Oilman's in 1720; John Heard's in 1720;
Abraham Tappen's in 1721; J onathan Freeman's in 1723';
Peter Noe's in 1727; William Bloodgood's in 1728; Thomas
Hadden's in 1729; Richard Coddington's in 1730; Samuel
Barron's in 1735; J'^hn Morris, Jr.'s, in i739_and many
others might be named in this connection if our space would
permit. One man, unknown to fame, is written down by the
Town Clerk as " Joshaway Rickhow ! " U fos/iaway had been
looking over the scribe's shoulder while this fearful spellino-
was being done, he might have put an ear-mark on the Clerk's
ear — a regular "swallow fork" — without the least injury to
his intellect.

Turning from the barren records of Liber B, we open the
Freeholders' Book, and find that, in a meeting of April 7th,
1719, another division of the public land was under discus-
sion. This was the fifth division, which was made April 4th,
1720 — just a year after the meeting alluded to.

We are reminded in a minute of the meeting of March 25th,
i72o.f of the death of the venerable Samuel Dennis, who has
figured conspicuously in the preceding pages. He died,
probably, some time between March, i7r5, and the following
August. Our reasons for supposing this to be the date are
that, as one of the division lot-layers, his name is attached to
a survey of a lot March 12th, 1715, and is omitted in the next,
made in August ;J and that in May, 17 17, he is spoken of as
deceased,'^ his son Samuel drawing the fourth division lot in
his name. As he never resumed his duties as lot-layer we
take it as strong presumptive evidence that he died in 17 15 —
and certainly his death occurred previous to May, 17 17.

He was a prominent public man ; and, as such, it is fitting
that we pause in our narrative to do him honor. He cam.e from
New England, probably, with Robert and John, his brothers.

* This is often spelt " Alward "— see Lib. B., folio 63. t Frtth. Booi, Tol. 81. } Freoli.
Book, rol. 63. § Ibid., foL 72.


By reference to the lists of tOAvnship officers in Chapter XII.
it will be seen that he filled many important ])ositions. He
was Deputy to the General Assembly in 1675, 1680 to 'S3,
1688, and '98-99. In 1699 he was appointed by Jeremiah
Basse one of the Governor's Council, a post which he held
with honor for several years. From .1688 to 1692 he was
Town Clerk of Woodbridge. He was elected to the same
position in April, 1694, but refused to serve in spite of the
earnest solicitation of his friends. In the years 1683 and 1692
we find his name in the list of Assistant Justices of the
Township Court. It would appear, from the minutes of the
Governor and Coienci/- {p'p. 143-4), that he was President of the
Court in 1686-7. "While in the performance ot his duties in
the last-mentioned office in 1686, he was arrested, at the
instance of the Governor, Lord Campbell, for an alleged
violation of the laAV in holding a session of his Court in
Piscataway on the third Tuesday of December. The minutes
of the Governor's Council, held at Amboy on the 27th of
December, 1686, contain the following facts in regard to this
matter. We quote :

*' My Lord gave this Board an Accompt of the Transactions
of the Justices of the County of Middx in holding a Court att
the Towne of piscataway the 3d Tuesday in this Instant
month of December, Contrary to Act of General Assembly
and the Governors p'ticular proclamation — Whereupon it's
Agreed and ordered that a warrt bee issued out to the High
Sherifife of the County of Middx, Im'ediately to bring before
this Councill on tomorrow morneing by Eight of the Clocke,
the boddy of Mr. Samll Dennes of Woodbridge, who was
prsident of that Court, to answer to prmisses," &c. j

The next day the officer appeared before the august tribunal
with the prisoner. He was examined as to his offense. He
admitted that at the time specified he had held a Court at
Piscataway; but declared distinctly that he had not acted
contrary to law. He was given a week to find security in
;^3oo to appear at the next session oi the Court of Common
Right at Amboy in May to answer the charge; in default of
which he was to be " Close Com'itted to the Gaole of wood-


bridge." It is likely that the Governor found out his mistake
and discharged the Judge. By the law of 1675 (see Learning
and Spicer, p. 96), the Governor was right; but by the law of
16S2 (L. and S., p. 229), w^hich virtually annulled the former,
the Judge was right. (See page 113 of this volume.) The
third Tuesday in December was, in 1682, set down for the
holding of the County Court at Piscataway.

In the House of Deputies on the i6th of March, 1698, Mr.
Dennis was elected to the Speaker's chair, a post which he
worthily and honorably filled for a year, when he was taken
into the Council by the Governor.

He went down to the grave full of honors, and amid the
profound regrets of the people he was buried.



The Town Meeting-House and the Presbyterian Congre-
gation — Samuel Shepard— His Wife's Decision — Na-
thaniel Wade — Presbyterianism — The Secession — Sur-
veys OF Parsonage Land and 'The Meeting-House
Green — Rev. John Piers®n — Rev. Nathaniel Whita-


The thread of our narrative concerning the old Town
Meeting-house was broken off in the midst of the pastoral
labors of the Rev. Samuel Shepard (see Chap. VH.). Every-
thing seemed to be favorable to the prolongation of Mr.
Shepard's ministry. He was popular, having received many
proofs of the esteem of his Woodbridge friends. In a short
time, however, one little circumstance was destined to change
the whole aspect of affairs. On Thursday morning, April
loth, 1 70 1, the Town Meeting passed a resolution directing
that Mr. Shepard sliould be ordained as the Woodbridge
minister; and the following influential men were delegated to
talk with him on the subject and obtain his consent, viz.:
Samuel Dennis, Samuel Hale, John Ilsley, Adam Hude, Wm.
Stone, Gawen Lockhart, John Pike, Jonathan Dunham, Jon-
athan Bishop, Joseph Rolph, and George Brown, These men
represented the wealth and intelligence of the town. They
waited upon Mr. Shepard and urged him to consent to ordina-
tion as the village minister on the ground of mutual benefit.
But ordination meant a settlement for life; or, at least, for a
longer period of service than Mrs. Shepard, the clergyman's
wife, desired. The committee, therefore, reported that ordina-
tion could not be thought of, as the lady in question positively
obiected to it.

Further action was deferred until June 24th, when Messrs.
Hale, Andrews, and Lockhart were commissioned to hold


another conference with the preacher, and to present to the
next Town Meeting a full report of the result. On the 14th
of the next month a notice was conspicuously posted," calling
a meeting on the 23d to hear the report and take further
action. Accordingly, at noon on Wednesday, the 23d of July,
the grave men of Woodbridge assembled in the Meeting-
house. The report of the latter committee was embodied in
that of the former. Being called upon, the eleven men ap-
pointed on the loth of April presented substantially the same
report as was given by them to the meeting of June 24th.
They said that they had been several times in conference with
the reverend gentleman on the subject of ordination, but that
his invariable answer was, that "though he is otherwise will-
ing to be ordained, he cannot admit of ordination to settle as
a minister in this town," because " his wife is so adverse to
his settling here." The committee hinted that " his wife, upon
second thoughts, might be persuaded." Mr. Shepard replied:

" There is no hope of my wife's compliance with my settling
here; and therefore I would advise you to look out for

"It will be more difficult," said the committee, "to get and
settle another minister than it hath been formerly upon
several accounts, one of which is your being on the most
convenient place for a minister's dwelling, by the Meeting-
house." (Mr. Shepard's land lay on the north of the Kirk
Green and his house was, doubtless, the Town House, voted
to him in May, 1696. That stood on the west side of the

"That shall be no hindrance," responded the clergyman,
" to the settling another minister; for let the town but pay me
my disbursements laid out on the place [where] I live, and
[they may] settle another on it as soon as they please."

The other committee said that they had called on Mr.
Shepard to see if his wife's mind had not undergone a change.
Vain hope !

" When a woman says she will, she will, you miiy tlepehd on't,
And when she says she won't, she worCt, and there's the end on't."


Juvenal, horrid fellow ! says that "few disputes exist which
have not had their origin in woman." However, we confess
to a liking for Mr. Shepard, because of his abnegation. His
wife, Alice, did not wish to live in Woodbridge all her days;
her husband, surrendering his own inclinations for her sake,
abandoned all his advantages as a settled pastor. Worldly
wisdom may say it was foolish ; but we say it speaks well for
his heart, and that it is a good exposition of the text; "Hus-
bands, love your wives ! " The preacher informed the per-
sistent committee that his wife was " utterly adverse to his
settline here." He savs *' he concludes she will so remain"
if they should "still wait longer for a change of her mind."
"He therefore adviseth us," says the committee, "to have no
further dependence on him, but look out for another."

Considerable debate, doubtless, followed the presentation of
these facts. The general feeling was one of disappointment.
It is altogether probable that Mrs. Shepard was unsparingly
condemned, and that her husband was spoken of as- "tied to
his wife's apron-string."

The Freeholders proceeded to declare themselves "absolutely
free from any and all former engagements by them made "
with the minister. A committee was sent to him with this
information. This committee was also empowered to procure
a successor to Mr. Shepard "with all convenient speed," and
close all business relations with the late pastor. Notice was
sent to liim that all improvements hereafter made to the place
on which he lived should be at his own expense.

In December of 1702 Mr. Shepard was still in Woodbridge,

preaching in the old Meeting-house. His salary was paid out

of the town rates, as of yore, in spite of the protests of the

Quakers. The following minute appears on the record under

date of January 3d, 1703 :

" It Passed By Vote that Mr. Sliepard Should Be Desired

to Preach in this Town upon the Saboth Days untill we Can

Supply ourselves with another Minister." From which it

appears that the usual fortune befell the Woodbridge men in

their hunt after a preacher. So that Mr. Shepard continued

to minister to them in holy things until as late as 1705-6,*

* Hatfield's Elizabeth, p. 29T


perhaps even later. He removed from the place in 1707,
probably ; for his name does not occur, after that date, in the
records. One child, Joanna, was born to him in Woodbridge,
December 20th, 1701, After his removal v/e lose all trace of
him. Whitehead says he died in 1722 or 1723;* and here the
curtain falls over the life-story of another historic character
conspicuous in our village annals. f

Samuel Hale and Adam Hude were appointed, on the 29th
of September, 1703, to " Repair the Meeting House and Hang
the gates of the Burying Place." In October, 1705, ;^3o wei-e
levied by the Town Meeting, parti}' for the relief of the Poor
and partly for repairing the meeting-house and the grave-yard
fence. In the "March meeting of the ensuing year this sum
was devoted entire to the Poor, and the dilapidated fence was
left to its own resources.

In 1707 the " minister's land and meadow'- were rented.
During this year Nathaniel Wade came to Woodbridge and
began his ministry. He was ordained and installed in Janu-
ary, 1708. The first entry in the Church records, written by
Mr. Wade himself, is in relation to this fact, and reads thus:

"January 29th, 1707-8, Was gathered the Church of Christ
in Woodbridge by Nath. Wade, Pastor. Present there were
as Messengers, two from ye Church of Newark, and one from
the (Church of Elizabethtown ; Tlieophilus Pierson, Jonahs
Wood, Benjamin Price. The foundation of ye Church was
laid first upon three persons who had been Communicants in
other churches, viz; Sam'l Hail, John Pike, and Noah

Here follows a list of the members of the church during
Mr. Wade's pastorate We give their names below with the
dates of their admission to the communion;


Jan. 29lh — Samuel Hail, Assistant.

John Pike,

Noah Bishop,

Jan. 20th— Stephen Tiittle.

" John Ford, Deacon.

Feb. 28th— Eobert Groves.

" Thomas Pike, Deacon.

♦Hist. C ntr., p. -386.

+ In tlie list of Marriages we find that Elizeus Barron ancl Mary Andrews were married
by Mr. Shepard Dec. 'iT. 1705, and he signs himself " Saml. Sliepird, Jmtice " We inf^r from
this that he still lived in Woudbriiljre and was an officer. lat.T, Timothy Bloomfield aad Rose
Hijgins viere married by him, April 2, HOT.



Feb. 28th— John Ayers, Ass<istant.

" Richard Skinnor.

June 6th, 1708.

" Joseph Gray.

" Lydia Bishop.

" Francis Skiner.

" 20th— Mattliew Fors.
Aug, 15lh — Joseph Thorp.
" Daniel Britton.

" Richard Cutter.

Warah Pike.
" Elizabeth Britton.

Sarah Fors.
Elizabeth Gray.
" Lydia Pangborn.

" 20th— Sarah Holland.
John Ilsley.
" John Jaques.

" John Skiner.

" Nathaniel Pike.

" Mary Groves.

*' Ann Skiner.

Elizabeth Ilsly.
" Mary Cutter.

Mercy Pike.
Mary Stilhvell.
'" Susannah Jaques.

Desire Walker.
" ]\Iehitable Butler.

V " Hannah Freeman.

Mary Wade.
" Joannnh Dunham.

Ester Bloomfield.
Oct. 31st— John Chaplin.
" Benjamin Jones.

*' John Robinson.

" Daniel Dane.

" Mary Curtis.

" Elizabeth Thorp.

" Phebe Ayers.

Dec. 26th, 1708.

Nathaniel Dunham.
Mary Ayers.
Sarah Congor.
Jan. 2d, 1709.

William Thorp.
" Mary Tliorp.

Feb. 27th— Moses Rolph.

" Hopewell Bloomfield.

May 12th— John Conger.

" Edward Wilkinson.

Thomas Collier.
Mary Rolpli.
" Mary Conger.

"May 12th— Anna Thorp.

" Samufcl Butler.

June 26th.— John DilJe.
Elias Foard.


June 26th— Ruth Dille.

" Joanna Paogborn.
" Hannah Crowd.

" Susannah Shippy.

" Penelope Titus.

" Rebecca Phylips.

" Obadiah Avers.

Jan. 1st, 1710.

" Peter Pain.

" Joanna Ayers.

" Hannah Right.

June 25th — Benjamin Thorp.

" John Scudder.

Sept. 10th — Hannah Colliar.
" Rebecca Mills.

Oct. 3d — Joanna Jones.
" John Ayers, Jun.

Wife of Daniel Thorp.
Wife of Benj. Fors.
" Wife of Elip't Phillips.

Charles Fold.
' ' Jonathan Dennis & Wife.

" Samuel Rolph.

" Esther Borroughs.

Ezekiel Thorp.
Wife of Benj. Thorp.
" Thomas -Edgar.

" Obadiah Ayers.

" V Joseph Bonny & Wife.
" David Dunham & Wife.

.Joseph Bloomfield & Wf .
" Samuel Jaques & Wife.

" Eph. Lockhart & Wife.

Wife of John Moores.
Ocilla Hoviof.
" Rebecca Stone.

Wife of Peter Pain.
' ' Wife of Samuel Freeman.

" u John Campbell.
" ^ Mrs. Heard.

David Chimbcl.
Rachel Chimbel.
" Stephen Pangbouru.

"■ Jonathan Chimbel.
" Abrahnm Tappen.

" Anne Moores.

" Sarah Rennols.

Samuel Moffet.
" Mary Coddington.

Wm. Ford & Wife.
" Mary Ayers.

" Abigail Loufberry.

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 14 of 34)