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 18 of 34)
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sum of £60. But in 1773 the poor claimed the unprecedented
outlay of ^213. There is no account of a poor-tax levied
previous to 1705, when £^0 were assessed.

In the meeting ot March 14th, 1775, it was "Voted That the
Town Book [s] or one of them Be by Nathl. fitz Randolph
Junr Coppyd in a good Bound Book by thee Next Town
Meeting which will Be in thee year 1776 — & if t-'d. Nathel f:
Randolph Cannot attend, for thee Town Clark to Endevour to
git Sombody Else to Do it as it is in a Dangerous Setuation
by Reason of its being old & mutch to Peases." On the 15th
of November ^220 were appropriated for the poor and the
copying of the old book. Dr. Moses Bloomfield and Samuel
F. Parker were appointed to examine and compare the copy
with the original. In the March meeting (12th), 1776, Daniel
Moore was chosen in the place of Mr. Parker to make the
examination alluded to. It was resolved that Fitz Randolph,
the copyist, should have the "priviledge to chuse John Smith
of Amboy to Inspect sd. book in behalf of himself." And this
is the manner in which we were favored with Fitz Randolph's
excellent copy of the old town records.

After the town gathering of March 12th, 1776, in the
minutes of which there is not the remotest allusion to the war,
no other meeting was held until 1783 — at least, none of which
any account is preserved.

We append the following, in reference to an old bridge,
which appeared in a Perth Amboy journal* recently, entitled,
" A Relic of the Past " :

"A friend in Woodbridge sends the following copy of
a document, the original of which was found by a gentleman
of Philadelphia, among the papers of one of the old Wood-
bridge families, the Fitz Randolphs, and appears to contain
not only the names of those who did subscribe towards
building the Bridge, but also those in the neighborhood whom
the promoters hoped would do so :

* Middlesex Co. Democrat, March, 1871.



'"Woodbridee June nth 1757- , -i ^

Proposals bring made for building a good stone bndge

.cross the great brook adjoining to Thomas Lewis now

across '!"= S nrooertyl in order to encourage it, the follow-
JacquesVenetspropertyJ ^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^ .^ ^^

rrrtrtrei:°na=mes,on condition titat said bridge

is actually built directly. Viz:

Tames Parker (subscription illegible).
' Alexander Edgar, five load of Stone.

tSL Gach^Esq. Six load of Stone & load ot wood.

Tohn Bloomfield, three load of Stone.

Jonathan Inslee, five load of Stone & load ot wood.

James Pike, four load of Stone.

Tohn Conway, 14 Shillings.

Benjamin Bloomfield, 10 Shillings.


James Osborne, four days work.

Thomas Lewis, twenty Shillings.

Arthur Adlington, five Shillings.

Thomas Hadden, two loads of Oyster Shells.

Joseph Bloomfield, five load of tStone.

William Thorne, ten Shillings.

Marv Jackson, Seven Shillings.

Daniel Noe, (if sent for) one load of oyster shells.

Annanias Lewis, four Shillings

Toseph Shotwell, Jun., Seven Shillings.

Daniel Shotwell, Seven, Shillings

Jonathan Kinsey, one load of Shells.

David Evens, two load of Stone.

William Frazee, five shillings.

Tohn Thaxter, two days work.

lames C^rowell, three Shillings and Six pence.

Tames Walker, Seven Shillings.

Kaniel Fitz-Randolph (uncle) two days work.

Seriah Bunn, Seven Shillings.

Nathaniel Heard.

Tohn Heard.

William Kent, Cash 14 Shillings.


Isaac Tappen.

Joseph Cutter.

William Cutter, 3 loads of Stone.

Richard Cutter, 3 load of Stone.

Daniel Ayers.

Nathaniel Pike, 2 days work.

William Pike.

Richard Wright, 10 Shillings.

William Smith.

Shobal Smith.

Robert Stone, four load of Stone.

Samuel Barnes (or Barron).

William Stone.

David Harriot, 4 load of Stone & one ot wood.

George Harriot.

Benjamin Alford, 3 days work.

David Perkins.

James Jones, three load of Stone.

Jonathan Harned.

Doctor Moses Bloomfield.

Francis Compton.

Jacob Fitz-Randolph.

Joseph Havilan.

Joseph Thorne.

Samuel Jaques.

Rev. Mr. Nathaniel Whitaker.

Henrys Freema n, 3 Shill ings and 6 pence. '^

Isaac Freeman, 5 load of Stones.

Alexander Freeman.

John Freeman.]

Esseck Fitz Randolph, 5 Shillings.

John Barron, 10 bushels of Shells and 4 days work.

Isaac Fitz Randolph.

Reuben Fitz Randolph.

Thomas Thorp.

Henry Martin.

James Smith.

David Dunham.

James Brown.



George Brown.
Thomas Brown.
John Brown.
\Vm. Smith.

John Moore, 3 Shillings and 6 pence.
Joseph Moore, 8 Shillings and 8 pence.
James Kelly, one load of Stone if he can.
Wm. Walker, 4 load of stones.

Nathaniel Fitz Randolph, Blacksmith, 40 bushels of lime.
Samuel Fourd, 2 load ot Stones.
John Kent, i Shilling and 9 pence.
Samuel Moore, Shoemaker 2 shillings and it pence.
John Geddis.

Andrew Brown, 3 days work. •

Robert Fitz Randolph.
Jacob Fitz Randolph.
\/ Henry Freeman Junr.

John Kelly, Jun. 10 Shillings.'"


1T51— 1788.

The Quakers — Grave-stones Taken Down— First Quar-
terly Meeting in Woodbridge — The Draft— Mend-
ham Quakers— Rahway— Ministerial Friends— War
Troubles — Rapid Decline in Woodbridge — The Rev-

We resume the history of the Woodbridge Quakers b}-
opening the second book of records, which is a well-kept and
very legible volume." Much of it is of a private character.
We shall spread before our readers only such facts as are of a
public nature.

At the monthly meeting held in Woodbridge on the iSth of
February, 1751, we find it stated that "Some friends hauino-
been Consernd in Seting up grave Stones in our Buryino-
ground, John Vail and Joseph Shotwell are desired to Treat
with them and to desire them to haue them Remoued." On
the 2 1 St of April a report was rendered that some had taken
the stones down, but had laid them on the graves. Qthers
had not done even that — the stones remaining in their orio-inal
positions. Qn the i8th of the next month, however it was
reported that all the stones were taken down.

The last Monday in May was a day long remembered
among the Quakers in Woodbridge. . The Quarterly Mectinf>-
assembled for the first time in the village. Heretofore this
important body had met in Shrewsbur}-. It was with much
gratification that the Friends at this place entertained those
from abroad, arrangements for which had been in progress for
along time. John Shotwell and Edward Fitz Randolph were
the representatives from the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting.
The Quarterly Meeting, as our readers will remember, was to

' The prerious Chapter on the "Quakers" is the VI;h, p. 59.


be held henceforward once, at least, during the year at this
place; but a communication from Shrewsbury asked that the
time of holding it might be changed — May being regarded as
an unpi'opitious part of the season. The traveling during the
Spring must have been decidedly wretched ; for with all the
modern improvements the region around Woodbridge is even
at the present day the muddiest of the muddy in the Spring-
time. A native never comprehends these lines, or anything

like them :

"Oh, how I love the Spring-time,
When "Winter's reign is o'er!"

He regards such sentiments as so many heartless jokes
intended to recall the unhappy time when his Avagon stuck
fast in the road, and the wicked school-boys on Strawberry
Hill bellowed out in a chorus: "Mister, your wheel is turning
'round ! "

The Quarterly Meeting referred the matter of changing the
time to the Woodbridge Friends, who, after mature reflec-
tion, decided that the month of May was the " moste suitable,"
and they desired its adoption as the season of the regular
meeting. The Shrewsbury Quakers objected, but the first
Quarterly Meeting in 1752 sustained the Woodbridge Friends.

On the 15th of October one of the members here sent in a
letter to the Monthly Meeting condemnatory of himself for
attending the marriage of a Friend who wedded a person not
a Quaker. It illustrates the strictness with which these men
of old endeavored to fulfill every duty enjoined upon them :
"Wharas I haue had my conuersation amongst the people
called quakers and for Avant of a close walking up to the
measur of grace Receiued haue gon to a marriage of a friend
who married out of friends vnity for which I am Trewley
sorrey for it and hartily condem my Self and desire friends to
pass it by."

Shobel Smith and Nathaniel Fitz Randolph were appointed
on the i8th of June, 1752, to take care of the burying ground.

The Monthly Meeting of February 15th, 1753, was held on a
stormy day. Friends who had been to Shrewsbury were
present, however, and had brought from thence a package of
ten new books, all copies of a work entitled " Memories of the



Life of John Roberts," by Daniel Roberts. We may imagine
the eagerness with which these volumes were read by'^the
Friends. Frequently such were the gifts brought from
Shrewsbury; so it is probable that the return of die repre-
sentatives from that town was an event of some importance
to their constituents.

For some reason the Quarterly Meeting of ]May, 1753, was
held at Shrewsbury instead of being convened at Woodbridcre.
Small-pox prevailed at the former place, which intimidared
two of the representatives from this town, but the third
attended the meeting notwithstanding the contagion. It
would appear from the minutes of July 19th that the protest
of the Shrewsbury Quakers against the holding of the Quar-
terly Meeting at Woodbridge in the Spring had at last proved
effectual ; for the Summer session was held in the latter place.
This was the season, for many years subsequently, in which
the Friends met hei-e in Quarterly Meeting-.

From the minutes of the Monthly Meeting, assembled on
the 17th of July, 1755, we learn that legacies had been
bequeathed, at different times, to the Woodbridge Month])'
Meeting, amounting to ^100; besides the half-acre given bv
John Laing for building the Meeting-house at Plainfield.

In the same meeting the question "respecting a man's
marrying his wife's first cousin " was considez-ed, and it was
decided that it was a difficult matter to determine. Neverthe-
less, the prohibition of such marriages, heretofore existino-
among the Friends, was re-affirmed as the wisest and safest
plan to be adopted.

On the 19th of November, in accordance with the recom-
mendation of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a Ministcis' and
Elders'" meeting was established in Railway, to gather monthly
at the house of John Vail, "on the third 2d day of the weak at
Eleven oclock."

A member of the fraternity living at Metuchen was reported
as being addicted to intoxicating beverages, and he was, ot
course, called to account. His excuse was that he took the
dra\ight as a remedy. In December he " acknowledges lie has
Sundery times Taken more iiquour then was Servissable but
not to be disguised thereby Except once when under a fit ot


the cholick he took the Liqueur for a Remedy." But on
investigation this statement was found to be a slight deviation
from the truth. Either the colic was very bad or the man
thought it would be; for he took his remedy very industri-
ously, the effects of which were visible. He was, therefore,
publicly disowned by the Friends at Woodbridge.

During the year 1756 a draft was made to fill the quota
Irom this State of the soldiers required in the war against
France. This contest was, of course, discountenanced by the
Quakers, quarrels and warfare being contrary to their cherished
principles. Stephen Vail's son was among the drafted men.
On the 19th of February this appears on the record: ''Com-
plaint is made that Stephen vail Imployed a person in the
place of his Son who was prest to go to ye fruntears in order
to .build block houses." In other words a substitute Avas
procured, which was regarded as abetting the evil. Jon-
athan Kinsey was also complained of for attempting " to
Raise a number of men in order to Transporte prouisions
to the armey Intended to attack the Subjects of the King of
france." Several Mendham Quakers suffered some animad-
version for redeeming their goods from the authorities which
had been taken from them for refusing to " train " with the
militia. A committee of enquiry, consisting of John Web-
ster, Abner Hampton, William Morris, Jacob and Joseph
Shotwell, was instructed to go to Mendham and notify the
culpable parties of the dissatisfaction of the Woodbridge
Quakers. In August the offending members, seven in num-
ber, acknowledged tliat they had done wrong and were peni-

At Mendham a fifth-day Weekly Meeting was authorized by
the Monthly Meeting of this place (for the Friends at that
town were subordinate to the Woodbridge society), and a
Preparative Meeting was also established there, to be con-
vened once in three months.

This entry, January ist, 1757, indicates that Rahway mem-
bers were growing restive :

" Friends at Rahway haue Repeatedly made application to
the monthly meeting for' leave to build a meeting house at
that place which friends at Woodbridge are oneasey with, Jind


to put an end thereto it is Refered to the Consideration of the
Quarterly meeting."

-r The representatives brought word from that body, the sub-
stance of which was that, in regard to the matter in question,
it was "the Solid Sence of that meeting that a meeting house
aught to be built at Rah way." Without further opposition
the project was pushed forward. During February and
March much was done toward the new enterprise. Solomon
Hunt, Samuel Marsh, Abraham Shotwell,* and Benjamin
Shotwell were appointed to purchase a suitable lot. Francis
Bloodgood, Abner Hampton, and Robert Willis were ap-
pointed to assist in selecting the ground and determining the
size of the plot. It was decided that the new building should
be thirty-four feet long and thirty feet wide. Meetings for
worsliip were established on " first days " at Rahway, to begin
at four o'clock in the afternoon — the vote for this innovation
having passed on the 21st of April. The effect of it was no
doubt apparent in a short time in the diminished attendance
at the Woodbridge assemblies, a result long foreseen by the
Quakers residing here.

The use of odd names in the designation of different locali-
ties is frequently illustrated in these as well as other ancient
records. We read of a Quakeress who came from " Gun-
powder " to visit those of her laith in this village. In 1758
Abner Hampton made a journey to "the Oblong," in New
York State, bearing the greetings of the Friends at home. It
is possible that the shape of the meeting-house at the
"Oblong" accounts for the name — this being given to dis-
tinguish it from the square structures which almost universally

On the TQth of April, 1758, arrangements were made for
building a house of worship at Mendham, to be built on land
belonging to Robert Schooley. The size of it was at length
determined to be "26 foot wide & 25 long "—a queer-looking
piece of architecture to modern eyes. Its estimated cost was


In December Abner Hampton informed the Friends that he

He lived at Rahwsy. Another Abraham lived at Metuchen.


was "under a consern To vissit the Isle of Berbados and
perhaps Sum of the adjacent Islands, and Requests friends
consideration thereon, and a Certificate if they are Easey
therewith." The certificate was given to him, but a general
objection to his making such a long journey appears to have
prevented his departure. The Quarterly Meeting discussed
the matter and doubtless influenced Hampton's friends to
keep him at home.

At this time Thomas Lewis had the care of the Woodbridge
Meeting-house, George Parker had in charge the one at
Plainfield, Cowperthwait Copeland that at Rahway.

Robert Willis was one of the most active ministers of the
sect in this part of the country. He often made journeys to
other places to the edification of those among whom he
sojourned. On the 17th of April, 1760, he informs the Wood-
bridge Friends that "he has been under an Ingagement of
minde for sum time to Vissit the meetings of friends in the
Southeron Provinses." His proposed trip was approved, and
a commendatory certificate was given to Jiim. The record
says: " He being under low Circumstances, Joseph & Abra-
ham Shotwell are appinted to provide a liors & to furnish him
with necessarys of all kindes Suitable for that Jarney."

Sarah Shotwell was also well known as a speaker, and
a pattern of humility and faithfulness. After her death a
memorial was written by 'a committee, John Webster and
Abner Hampton, whicli was adopted in the June Monthly

The senior John Vail (there were three Johns) had some
eminence, several years before, as an instructive teacher of the
truth. Likewise was William Morris at one time an honored
and useful minister who " went about doing- o-ood."

In July of this )'ear (1760) it was decided that Mendham
should pay one-fourth of the money required for the treasury
of the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting. A proposition was
made in the following month to remove the Plainfield Meet-
ing-house, which was rejected in September. Where it was
proposed to move it, and why it was considered necessary to
do so, are not stated.

Robert Willis returned from the South in October, with


pleasant testimonials of his useful ministry in and about
"West River" in Maryland, which were a source of much
satisfaction to the Woodbridge Quakers.

The minutes of the October Monthly Meeting are largely
occupied with the report of the sufferings of those who refused
to bear arms or train with the militia, between 1757 and 1760.
From the list given we learn that twenty-three experienced
the penalty of the law — the laeaviest fine being imposed on
Hartshorn Randolph. He valued the goods taken from him
at jQt,, i6s. AVhen Jacob Laing, who was fined ^3, was
brought before the officer, Col. Jacob Ford, he was asked what
reasons he could give for refusing to accompany the expedi-
tion against the French. He answered that " he was princi-
pled against bearing arms against his fellow creatures." After
several hours' detention lie was oermitted to s:o liome — a
distance of twelve miles.

In 1758 Hugh Webster was drafted and taken three miles
from his dwelling. Capt. Benjamin Stites, before whom lie
was taken, demanded that he should go into the service him-
self or furnish a substitute. Hugh positively refused to do
either; so he was led away eight miles further to a spot where
the guard expected to find the company assembled. The
soldiers, however, had marched away. He was left to take
care of himself, and returned to his residence, stopping at Capt.
Stites' house to inform him that his men had set him free.

Several soldiers under C3ol. Samuel Hunt seized the horses
and wagon of Abner Hampton on the 24th of May, 1760, as he
was driving leisurely along the road, nine miles from home.
They wanted the team for the transportation of their baggage
a distance of twelve miles. They endeavored to persuade
Abner to drive for them or procure a teamster, promising
a generous remuneration. He declared that conscientious
scruples forbade either his performing the task or receiving
any reward therefor. The wagon was laden and the soldiers
disappeared with it, the worthy Quaker pursuing his lonely
way homeward on foot, Avith no very bright hope of seeing his
horses again. But on the 27th who should drive up to Abner's
door but Azariah Dunham with the team all safe and sound !

Such instances of devotion to tlieir time-honored anti-war


principles served to strengthen the Friends in Woodbridge
and its vicinity.

In the early part of 1761 Robert Willis made a tour, in his
ministerial capacity, to South River, " Isle White," Cider
Creek, and Fredericksburg. In the same year Abner Hamp-
ton and Joseph Shotwell (who was, for many years, the
excellent Clerk of the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting) made a
fraternal visit to West Jersey and Pennsylvania. These
journeys seem to have been the cause of much congratulation
among all the parties concerned. Willis went to New York
and New England in the Summer. He was apparently inde-
fatigable in his ministrations abroad.

On the 20th of August, 1761, three Preparative Meetings
were established: one at Plainfield on the last week-day
meeting preceding the monthly ; one at Woodbridge at the
same time before the Monthly Meeting there ; and one at
Rahway under similar circumstances.

The trouble with Nathaniel Fitz Randolph, which began in
January, 1759, threatened at one time very serious conse-
quences to Quakerism in this place. Fitz Randolph became
offended at certain utterances of two prominent members of
the Society. Efforts were made to bring about a reconcilia-
tion; but as Fitz Randolph would retract nothing and the
accused members were proven to be guiltless, not much
satisfaction resulted. The matter was not settled until 1762.
The Monthly Meeting pviblicly disoAvned the refractory mem-
ber; whereupon he appealed to the Quarterly Meeting, which,
after a patient hearing of the case, referred it to the Wood-
bridge Friends for re-consideration, b}' whom the sentence
was confirmed. As Fitz Randolph belonged to an old and
influential family these proceedings created considerable ex-
citement. ■

During July, 1762, the question of holding several Monthly
Meetings at Plainfield, instead of confining them to Wood-
bridge, was mooted. The arrangement was altered so far as
to include Rahway in the plan, when it was submitted (in
1763) to the Quarterly Meeting. In May the programme was
published, according to orders received from the Quarterly
Meeting. The Monthly Meeting was to be held thereafter at


each place four times a year, as follows: At Woodbridge on
the 3d fourth day of April, May, July, and August; at Plain-
field on the 3d fourth- day of March, June, September, and
December; at Rahway on the same day in January, February,
October, and November. This arrangement went into effect

That the Society began to wane in Woodbridge and grow
in the other towns, is sufficiently evident in the minutes of a
Rahway meeting in February, 1766, where it is recommended
that the Rahway and Plainfield meetings should, "from time
to time," appoint some of their members to visit those at this
place. In May it is recommended that "as friends Feel a
spring of Love in them selves they chearfully Give up to Go
& partake with thir Brethren at woodbridge."

Three years after this the Woodbridge Preparative Meeting
was removed to Rahway, and the Monthly Meeting held its
last session in Woodbridge on the 19th of April, 1769. Hence-
forth it alternated between Rahway and Plainfield, in which
towns tlie Quakers still have their strongholds. The Guar-
terly Meeting, which, up to this time, had assembled a large
number of Friends once a year in our village, was requested
to be held hereafter at Rahway. At an expense of about ^161
the meeting-house there was enlarged for the reception of the
delegates who met in it for the first time in August, 1769.

In 1770 Robert Willis left his friends to go to Europe to
preach the truth, intending to spend a portion of his time in

In October of this )-ear the Weekly Meetings here were so
thinly attended that it was seriously proposed to drop them
altogether. A Quaker who had come from a distance to
worship at the old-fashioned meeting-house found that the
service for that day was entirely abandoned. The " sclackness
and Indifferency " of the Woodbridge members were freely
discussed in the November meeting at Rahway.

On the 20th of February, 1771, a committee was sent to
enquire into the dereliction of duty, viz: Samuel and Benja-
min Shotwell, James Haydock, and Solomon Hunt. They
found that no meetings had been held during the Winter, but
a feeble effort was being put forth to recover the lost priv-



In the July meeting of 1773, held at Rahway, \vc find that
complaints were lodged against several Friends for " giving
Avay to drowsiness." The overseers reported that they had
"treated" with some of them with a view to keeping them
awake during public service. Truly, sleeping in church has
antiquity in its favor, though it has not devotion.

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 18 of 34)