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 15 of 34)
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" Mary Wilkinson.

Wife of Capt. Cutter.
Oct. 1710— Judge Hude.

" George Brown & Wife.

" Widow Lockhart.

" Wife of Thomas Ayers.


Oct. 1710— Wife of Robert Ayers.
" Jcjnathan Frazee.

" Hannah Perkins.

Oct. 1710— James Rosse.

Elizabeth Miller.

The year 1707 has generally been regarded as the date of
the establishment of Presbyterianism in Woodbridge — a
theory open to some dispute. In the first place the ordination
and installation of Mr. Wade were performed in January,
1708, in accordance with the time-honored customs of the
New England Independent Church ; that is, with an ordain-
ing council of" messengers " and clergymen from neighboring
Independent Churches. In the second place, the Newark and
Elizabethtown Churches, represented by " messengers " at
Woodbridge on this occasion, were both Independent at that
time. Thirdly, Messrs. Hale, Pike, and Bishop, spoken of as
having been "communicants in other Churches," had come
from the Independent Church in New England; and yet they
officiated in these ceremonies — something they would have
been incompetent to do if it were a Presbyterian ordination.
Lastly, the " Records of the Presbyterian Churches in the
United States" assign the year 1710 as the period when the
Rev. Mr. Wade and his congregation joined the Presbytery of
Philadelphia.* The Independent Church of Elizabeth became
connected with this Presbytery six years afterward. Indeed,
Presbyterianism became popular among the New England-
bred people throughout the Province, although they at first
treated it with great caution.

The evidence that the Woodbridge Congregation became
Presbyterian in 17 10 is corroborated by an entry in the
Church Book, in which the officers of a Presbyterian form of
government are mentioned for the first time. Here it is :

"March 2Sth, 1710. At a Church meeting, chosen: John
Foard, John Pike and Thomas Pike for Euli/ig Elders in the
Church of Christ in Woodbridge."

In 1711, as will be seen by reference to Chapter XI, a
serious difference between Mr. Wade and certain of his people
caused a secession from the Presbyterian Church. An invita-
tion was sent, by the recusant members, to Rev. Edward

* See Hatfield's Elizabeth, p. 330. Hodge's Pres. G. S3.


Vaughan, Episcopalian missionary at Elizabetiitown, to estab-
lish services in Woodbridge after tlie manner of the Church
of England — an opportunity which Mr. Vaughan was
not slow to improve. Now, what was the cause of this differ-
ence? Mr. Vaughan, in speaking of it, says it was Mr.
Wade's "irregular life and conversation." This, however,
being cx-parte evidence, Avould not weigh much with any
reader unless supported by incontestable proof. Intimations
of such proof we find in Dr. Charles Hodge's History of the
Presbyteria7i Church in the Ujiited States, the very best authority
on questions relating to that communion. He takes his facts
from the official records. He tells us that at the date of his
ordination many were opposed to Wade. That was in 1708.
The difficulty became so great that, as a propitiation to the
disaffected parties, Rev. John Boyd, of Freehold, was induced
to preach in the Woodbridge meeting-house, in 1708, every
third Sabbath.'" This did not have the intended soothing
effect. The congregation divided into two parties — one fav-
oring Mr. Wade and the other denouncing him. The cause
of this opposition was, perhaps, two-fold: Mr. Wade's per-
sonal unpopularity being one element of it, and the desire of
some for Presbyterianism and of the rest for Independency
being the other element. The preacher, doubtless, favored the
proposed change of ecclesiastical government, for he entered
the Presbytery of Philadelphia, with his congregation, in 17 10.
It is altogether probable that his action in this matter was
offensive to some of his parishioners and was the cause of the
secession of Benjamin Dunham and his adherents to the Episco-
pal body. Mr. Wade seems to have been a man of dogmatic
temperament, very much bent upon having his own way. The
early congregations of the Independents were famous for their
obstinacy. So Greek met Greek, and then came the " tug of
war." Dr. Hodge, speaking of this unlovely strife, says that
the Woodbridge Church "gave the Presbytery more trouble
than all the rest put together" — not a very complimentary
remark, but a true one, as the general records attest.

In 17 1 1, the members of the Presbytery say, " diverses of

* Dr. Hodge's History, p. 83.


the people of Wobdbridge appeared, some for and some
against him [Mr. Wade], against which he made the best
vindication he could, but not so good but^that we thought it
convenient to advise him to demit his pastoral relations to the
whole people of Woodbridge."* The Town Meeting, acting
on the supposition that Mr. Wade would heed this advice
appointed a committee on the 6th of December, 1711, " to look
out for a minister " — from which it appears that the town still
manifested an active interest in the ecclesiastical matters they
had controlled so long. /This committee consisted of Capt.
Elisha Parker, John Fc/rd, Samuel Dennis, George Brown,
and Thomas Pike.

yir. Boyd, the Freeliold minister, did not long supply the
Woodbridge pulpit, nor did Mr. Wade leave his charge as the
Presbyter}'- had advised ; so that things remained tn statu quo
until the following year. The Presbytery then authoritatively
dismissed Mr. Wade and appointed a Rev. Mr. GillLspie in his
place. This displeased Mr. Wade very much. He appealed
to Dr. Cotton Mather, going to Boston to confer with him'.
The eminent divine, doubtless misunderstanding the case, sent
Mr. Wiswall to Woodbridge in company with Mr. Wade,
recommending him as a suitable minister for the people at
that place. In the meantime, Mr. Gillispie was preaching
acceptably in the little meeting-house. The arrival of Mr.
Wiswall and his unpopular escort led to more tumult, in the
midst of which Gillispie left. Mr. Wiswall did not long
remain here. So Mr. Wade again became the preaclier, as is
proven by the following minute of the Town Meeting held
Januaiy 28th, 17 14:

"Granted to Mr. Wade to have the use of the Parsonage
meadow so long as he shall continue our minister."

The Parsonage Land is mentioned so frequently in this
volume that it is only proper that we should give a few facts
concerning it before proceeding further.

As is well known, this land was granted b)' the Lords-
proprietors for the support of the ministry in the town. In

* Dr. Hodge, p. 87.


1682 (October loth), it was decided by the Town Meeting
that twenty-four acres of it should be " meadow or marsh ; " the
remaining one hundred and seventy-six acres to be upland.
At various times it was rented, and sometimes it was planted
with corn for the benefit of the public treasury. The follow-
ing is a correct transcript of the survey of this land, made
March 12th, 17 16. (See Freeholders' Book, folio 84.)

"Then Layd out by us vnder named two Hundred acors of
land Given by Lord John Barkley & Sr. George Carteret, ye
former proprietors of ye province of new jersy, to ward ye
Charge of maintaining a gospell minister in this town, wch
shall be Called & seatled amongst us by ye mejority of ye
hinhabitance in ye town of woodbridge ; ye sd. Land Lying &
being att a place known by ye name of trout Brook neck:
Begining att ye south west Corner of ye School Land, from
thence runing north & by west twenty two Chaine to a
maple tree markt on four sides, standing in ye line of ye sd.
School land; thence west south west seven Chaine to ye
south East]Corner of John Edde ['s] land; thence south west
in ye line of sd. Eddes. So Extending on ye same Course forty
one Chaine to ye north East Corner of Jchabod Smith ['s] third
devision lott; thence southerly on ye sd Smith ['s] line of sd.
lott ten Chaine to his south east Corner; thence south south
east twenty one Chaine to a stake planted six rod east ward of
ye northeast Corner of william Ilslee['s] addition; so Extend-
ing from thence to matuching [i. e. Metuchen] Road, leaving
a highway between ye sd. addition & sd. ministers [land];
from thence Easterly on sd. Road thirty five Chaine to a large
white oak markt on four sides standing by ye sd. road; thence
north & by -west forty seven Chaine to a beech tree markt on
four sides standing four rod west ward of ye great spring &
from thence East four rod to ye place where it began,
by ye appointment of ye town.

Thos. pike, lott Layer,
■ John Jaques,
George Brown,"

It will be considered appropriate for us to introduce just
here the survey of the " Meeting-house Green," entered in the
Freeholders' Book, folio 134:


"Surveyed the 28th of the 8th month, called August, 1784,
at request of Doctor Moses Bloomfield and Jonathan Bloom-
field, Esq. (at the same time were present Samuel Barron,
Esq., William Smith, John Noe, John Barron, and Charles
Jackson), a lot of land, lying in the Town Spot of Woodbridge,
whereon is erected the Presbyterian Meeting-house and a
building commonly called a Church, which said lot of land
is called the Meeting-house Green: Beginning at the North-
west corner of the home lot of land, formerly laid out foV
Samuel Smith, now belonging to William Smith; from said
beginning running N. 11° 46', E. 20 chains, 55 links, to a
gray rock, now within Samuel Barron's enclosure; thence
with the line of the said Samuel Barron S. 18° and 25 minutes
— E. 19 chains, 90 links, to a stone planted and shown by
Samuel Barron for the South-west corner of his land; then
S. 15° 20', W. 2 chains, 61 links, to a stake; then S. S° 40',
E. 5 chains, 97 links to a stake now standing within William
Smith's enclosure ; then with the said William Smith's line N.
80° 30', W. 8 chains, 93 links, to the beginning — containing
eleven acres and three-tenths of an acre, as per the Plan
delineated by a scale of 4 chains to an inch."

To resume our story :

The ReV:,^jQh2.^Jerson succeeded to the pastorate of the
Woodbridge Church in 17 14. He was the son of Rev. Abra-
ham Pierson, of Killingworth, Conn., the first President of
Yale College. John was only about twenty-eight years ojd
when he came to this place. It is supposed that Rev. Jonathan
Dickinson, the talented and celebrated Independent preacher
at Elizabethtown, introduced young Pierson to the notice of
the people here. Dickinson had been educated by the elder
Pierson, and an attachment had grown up between the hoys,
thus associated, which continued throughout life.

John Pierson was ordained, as the Woodbridge minister,
April 29th, 1717 — his friend, Dickinson, participating in the
services.* The Presbytery of Philadelphia met, on this
occasion, in the quaint meeting-house here, and Mr. Dickin-
son was enrolled among its members for the first time.

* Hatfield's Elizabeth, p. 830.



From a letter written by Rev. Thomas Halliday, November
8th, 1 716, we judge that Mr. Pierson's salary was about ;^8o
per annum, raised, of course, by private subscriptions. Speak-
ing of Newark, Elizabethtown, and Woodbridge, he says : " In
each of those towns there is a large Independent congregation
who support their preachers with the allowance of ;^8o per
annum, besides House, Glebe, and perquisites of Marriages."*
The Woodbridge congregation was not then Independent, but
of this he may not have been aware; or, it may be, that he
preferred using the old term to prevent riiisunderstanding.

Nothing of . importance occurred during Mr. Pierson's
ministry, which continued for thirty-eight years. The
" Church enjoyed great peace and quietness, gradually increas-
ing; there being no remarkable revival of religion in his day.
Its number was small, at no time exceeding thirty."f

In the Town Meeting of October 29th, 1722, this minute is
recorded : " Mr. John Peirson our present minister Shall have
the whole use of the Land Layd out for the use of the person-
age dureing the time he continues minister of the Gospel Jn
this town, Giving him here by full power to Take Care to
preserve the timber from being destroyed or taken away by
any person or persons whatsoEver."

March 12th, of the ensuing year, the Town Meeting agreed
" that mr. John Person our present minister shall have power
to make what Jmprovement ; he pleas on ye personage Land
by Letting of it out or other wise as he Shall Se meet for the
further Jmprovement thereof."

In 1732 Mr.Pierson was deprived, by death, of the compan-
ionship of his wife. Her epitaph on the tombstone in the old
grave-yard at Woodbridge represents her as being remarkable
for meekness, prudence, and piety — shining qualities in a
minister's wife. The following is the chief inscription on the
old slab :

" Here is interred the precious remains of Mrs. Ruth
Pierson, wife of the Rev. Mr. John Pierson, and daughter of
the Rev. Timothy Woodbridge of Hartford, in New England,
who fell asleep in Jesus 7th of January, 1732, aetatis 38."

* Hatfield's Elizabeth, p. 829. t Rev. Azel Eoe's M9. History.



At the Town Meeting held on the second Tuesday in March,
1745, we find the next and last mention of the minister in the
township records. We transcribe the " minute ";

"It also passed by a major vote that Robart Hude Esqr.,
James Smith, Esqr., John Moores, Esqr., Mr. William Stone
& Mr. Joseph Blobmfield shall be a Commetie (any three of /

them to have power to act) to Joyn with the presbyterian '

minister of this town for the time being to manage ye parson-
age Land by Leseing of it out or otherways as ye sd. minister
& ye major part of ye sd. commetie or their sucsessors shall
Judge most advantagidus for and towards the Suport of
a presbyterian minister in this town."

Edward Crowell, the Town Clerk, says, in regard to this
action, that " this was done as I was informed at the request of
Mr. John Pierson our present minister." In March, 1748,
Abraham Tappen and Joseph Freeman were added to the
committee "to manage ye parsonage Land."

In 1740 the eloquent Methodist divine, George Whitefield,
preached in Mr. Pierson's Church. The congregation was
very large. The sermon was preached on Monday morning
at ten o'clock, April 28th. The distinguished clergyman
dined, with the fi'iends who accompanied him, at Mr. Pierson's
house; and then hastened to Elizabethtown where an audience
of 2,000 souls were assembled to hear him in Jonathan Dick-
inson's house of worship.*

The brilliant Dickinson died October 7th, 1747, of 'pleurisy,
in the 60th year of his age. Mr. Pierson, his life-long friend,
preached the funeral sermon at Elizabethtown on the 9th.
This sermon was subsequently printed. Fifteen years before,
Mr. Dickinson had performed the sad service over his friend's
wife, Ru,th Pierson ; and now that friend was pronouncing a
long farewell to his much-beloved Jonathan. Twentv-three
years after, the three met in the Kingdom,

" To be parted nevermore. "

Mr. Pierson died at Hanover, N. J., in 1770, in the Sist
year of his age, having preached the Gospel for fifty-six years.

* Hatfield's EUzabeth, p. 341.


In 1752 he was dismissed from Woodbridge at his own'request
in consequence of " some dispute or difference arising betwixt
him and his people."" He was, however, dismissed " w ithout
the least censure or imputation upon his character or con-
duct. He was justly reputed and esteemed a worthy and able
minister of the New Testament, sound in the faith. Of
exemplary conversation and candor, he well supported the
dignity of his office, and had but few equals in his day in
theological knowledge."! He was one of the first Board
of Trustees of the College of f^ew Jersey, of which the
lamented Dickinson was the first E^?5ident.

Rev. Nathaniel Whitaker, a licentiate of the Presbytery of
New York, svicceeded Mr, Pierson. He was ordained and
duly installed December loth, 1755. There is very little
known of this clergyman. He remained in Woodbridge five
years, and was then dismissed at his own request. A disturb-
ance in his Church, fi-om some trivial cause, occurred during
his ministry, producing, to use Rev. Mr. Roe's language, "a
small rent."

In 1756 the Presbyterian Church at Woodbridge secured a
royal charter incorporating it as the " First Presbyterian
Church " of this town. It was given by Gov. Jonathan
Belcher, and is dated September 8th.

The Rev. Azel Roe succeeded Mr. Whitaker; but we
reserve for a future chapter the history of this distinguished


• Church Ilistory \>j Her. A. Roo. t Ibid.



Educational — Thp; Free School Land — First Scih^ol-
Teacher — John Browne — John Beacher— Survey ok
THE School Land — Rahway School Matters — Straw-
berry Hill — George Eubanks — School Fund — The Old

Provision for the education of children was made by the
township of Woodbridge in the days of the settlement. A
school v.'as regarded, by the villagers, as indispensable, and
was named in the Charter, in 1669, as an object for the appro-
priation of public land. The general location of this land was
agreed, upon, but it was not at first surveyed. In conse-
quence, some ungenerous persons sought to occupy the
chosen ground and obtained patents for it. This aroused tlie
indignation of their fellow-citizens. In September, 16S2,
resolutions were passed in a Town Meeting strongly con-
demnatory of the men holding the free school tract, declaring
their patents to be illegal. It was determined to complain to
the authorities that the grievance might be redressed. In case
this should prove ineffective, the law was to be invoked to
secure the ejectment of the intruders. Capt. Pike, John
Bishop, Sr., Thomas Bloomfield, and Samuel Moore were
appointed a committee to enforce the sentiments and deter-
mination of the town. The committee did as they v/ere
instructed. The land was recovered for school purposes
alone. It consisted of one hundred acres, twelve of which, by
a town order of October loth, 1682, were to be marsh and the
remaining eighty-eight to be upland.

The first school-teacher in Woodbridge was James Fuller-
ton, Avho was elected to that dignity on the 3rd of March, 16S9.
The following is the minute in regard to the matter:

"Jt also passed By Vote that they were generally willing



that James Fullerton Shall Be Entertained in this towne as a
School Master, and to be Encouraged by Such as See cause to
Employ him."

Mr. Fullerton, with his brothers, Thomas and Robert, came
into the Province in 16S4. James settled on Cedar Brook, on
land claimed by Jeffrey Jones. In 1693 Jones ousted Fuller-
ton, who, in September, brought a suit against Jones for the
recovery of the property. The trial was held in May, 1695,
before the Court of Common Pleas at Perth Amboy, and
Fullerton was restored to the ownership of the disputed
territory. Jones appealed to the King of England, who, after
a re-hearing of the case, reversed the judgment of the Court,
and Fullerton was finally dispossessed.*

It is probable that he faught the Woodbridge school until

In January, 1694, Nathaniel Fitz Randolph and John
Bloomfield were sent "to Discourse with John Browne of
Amboy or any other person that May Be Sutable," to secure
his services as teacher. On the 27th of February, " Jt Passed
By Vote that John Brown of Amboy Should have twenty-
four pounds a yeare alowed him for keeping a free School in
this towne this next yeare." John Conger protested against
this vote, on what ground does not appear. He demanded
that his protest be recorded, which was done. Doubtless he
thought ;£24. too lavish an expenditure for teaching one year.
His views of a liberal educational policy were well illustrated
in the signature he attached to an important township paper
a year after — subscribing his name with the cabalistic X — "his

Previous to Mr. Brown's advent we must place John
Beacher, who was offered ^13 to teach six months on trial.
The offer was extended to Beacher December loth, 1691, with
this proviso : " that he Shall be constant & faithfull in that
employ as a School Master aught to Be, and that he Shall Be
Jngaged to attend the School this winter time untill Nine
oclock at Night."

* Hatfield's Elizabeth, p. 241.


Whether John was a progenitor of the distinguished Brook-
lyn orator, Henry Ward Beecher, we are not assured.^'

On the 1 2th of June, 1695, a tax was ordered to be levied
forthwith to make up the School Master's salary, which was
largely in arrears. John Browne, of Amboy, who was teach-
ing the village school at this time, could not have been very
much fascinated with his professional prospects in view of
this state of things.

In the Town Meeting of January 29th, 1701, it was decided
that no division of the common land should be made until the
" Free School land " was laid out. A committee was appointed
to make the survey, and to lay out the land " in such place or
places as they in their discretion should judge best." This
survey was ordered to be recorded, which was done. The
property is situated not far from the Uniontown station on the
Pennsylvania Railroad, and is now better known as the Poor
House Farm, the township having hired the land from the
trustees for the benefit of its homeless poor. The followino-
is a copy of the survey alluded to, taken from the Town Book
(see Randolph's copy, page 124). It will be seen that it is all
upland, instead of part marsh as was first intended:

"December ye nth, 1701. Then Laid out by us here under
Named, one Hundred acres of upland, which was granted to
the Town of Woodbridge by the proprietors of New Jersey
for a free school : begining at a maple tree marked on all four
sides Standing on a point on the west Side of the mouth of a
fresh brook, known by the Name of trought brook : from
thence Running Southerly as the said brook Runs forty
Chains to a bending white oake marked on all four Sides,
Standing by the Said brook ; from thence west and by South
twenty five Chaine to a beach tree — marked on four Sides
Standing about two Rod Eastward from a Spring known by
the Name of the great Spring, from thence North and by west
fourty Chaine through a great Swamp known by the Name of

* It Vvill be observed t]aat Mr. Whitehead calls this mau "John Boael;er," iustead cf
" Beacher." Randolph's copy spells it as we have done. Notwithstanding, Mr. Whitehead's
rendering is possibly correct. It must be borne in mind, however, that the original To\Mi
Book is badly blurred, and Randolph copied it when it was more legible. A discrepancy in
the date of the school-teacher's arrival will, also, be noted. The dale we give is plainly writ-
ten in RandoliJh's copy.


Rahawack Swamp to a Beach tree marked on all four Sides,
Standing Near to the Northwest branch; from thence East
twenty two Chaine to Rahawack River where Standeth a
Swamp oak tree marked on all four Sides: and from thence as
the Said River Runs to the maple tree where it first began :
in the aforesaid Land there is alowance for a Highway if there
be occation for it : —

Samuel Dennis, John Bishop,
Samuel Hale, John Bloomfield,
Jonathan Dunham, Thomas Pike."

We find a call for a Town Meeting in the old records bear-
ing date July 14th, 1701 — tlie Freeholders to assemble in the
Meeting-house on the 23d, at 12 o'clock, to consider, among
other things, the project for erecting a school-house. The
meeting v/as held at the time specified, but the ordination of
Rev. Mr. Shepard was the exciting topic of discussion, and the
school-house is not even mentioned in the minutes. Never-
theless, it is not improbable that it was under consideration;
for Railway was not as large a settlement as Woodbridge, and
yet in the following December ten rods of land were set apart
there by the township Freeholders "to build a School-house
on." This land lay " between John Robinson Tailers House
and the House of John Alstone." If the Woodbridge Town
Meeting should thus make provision for primary education in
Railway it is reasonable to suppose that it would early make
the same in this more populous section. The famous Straw-
berry Hill school-house is supposed to have been built during
this year. Before that structure was completed it is likely

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 15 of 34)