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 19 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 19 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

At a Rahway meeting on the i8th of May in the following
year, we see that the treasurer was ordered "to pay Cow-
perthvvaite Copland 26s. gd. it being for Phisick for John
Thorn his apprentice." We do feel sorry for John. Twenty-
six shillings' worth oi physic ' Whew!

For several years the question of holding negroes in bond-
age had agitated the Society. A report to the Monthly
Meeting at Plainfield in August, 1774, shows that at this time
cmly one negro "fit for freedom," within the jurisdiction of
the Society, remained a slave.

Robert Willis returned in September Irom Europe, having
visited the Quakers in England, Ireland, and Scotland. He
brought certificates from Dublin and London expressive of
the great satisfaction his sojourn had given to his foreign

Meetings in Woodbridge for worship were not yet altogether
abandoned. The hour of service was fixed, in February, 1775,
at II o'clock in the forenoon for the "first day" meeting — the
only one held here. In the Spring Jonathan liarned, Jr.,
fenced the meeting-house yard.

We now begin to catch occasional glimpses of the difiicul-
lics surrounding the Quakers through the protracted struggle
of the Revolution. Twenty pounds, proclamation money,
were subscribed by tlie Rahway meeting of July 19th, 1775, for
the relief of the New England Friends who were suffering by
the war. Under date of June 19th, 1776, the following appears
on the record :

" This [Plainfield] Meeting is informed that Benjamin Har-
riss has signed a paper for independency, and has suffered his
apprentice to go in the army and has received His Wages."
vSeveral Friends tried to show Benjamin the error of his ways,
but he refused to give them any "satisfaction for his Miscon-
duct." He was, therefore, cut off from their communion.



The Quaker meeting-house here was occupied, during a
part of 1776, by soldiers, as will be seen by these extracts:
[Plainfield, August 21st]— "This Meeting is informed that a
Number of Soldiers have enterd some time ago, & still abide
in the meetinghouse in Woodbridge. Joseph Shotwell, Ben^
jamin Shotwell, Abraham Shotwell, John Haydock, John &
Hugh Webster are appointed to enquire in what manner they
have taken possession thereof, and whether they obstruct
Friends from meeting quietly therein, & to visit that IMeeting
at times while they remain there," [Rahway. Sept. iSth].
'' The Friends appointed to visit the meeting at Woodbridge
& enquire how the Soldiers came posess'd of tlie Meeting
house, report they took Posession of it without leave from anv
Friends ; they at times continue thci^e yet, but dont much
interrupt Friends in time of Meeting."

The \Vinter Quarterly Meeting of 1776-7 at Shrewsbury
was very slimly attended. The representatives from this
section did not go, giving as the reason that they were " pre-
vented by an Apprehension of great difficulty attending their
passing through the contending Armies of Soldiers."

The Quakers in this vicinity during the first six months of
1777 were mulcted in the sum of ;^252, 5^-. 10.'/., for refusing to
bear arms or to pay the war tax.

Jonathan Harned having died in 1776, a bequei~t in his last
will of ;/^2o for the poor of the Society was put out at inter-
est. In May, 1788, this legacy had been reduced to ,-/^ii, 17^-.
2d. — the remainder having been lost through the "old paper
emission of the province," as the record expresses it. Jon-
athan Harned was a good mam A little while before his
death he manumitted Mary, his old colored servant; but
promised, nevertheless, to supply all her wants until she
should need them supplied no longer.

Robert Willis, who might rightly be called the Quaker
Missionary, had some idea of visiting the South in 1778; but
"great commotions" in Plainfield, "occationed by War,"
prevented his contemplated journey. He was loth to leave
his Friends in the midst of so much distress. A committee
for the relief of sufferers was formed this year, consisting of
Abraham Shotwell, Wm. Smith, Hugh Webster, John Vail,



Wm, Thorne, and Elijah Pound. Subsequently Thorne re-
signed and Edward Moore was chosen in his place. Thorne
said, in the November meeting at Railway, that he was
compelled to affirm his allegiance to the Continental Congress
several months before — having no choice except to do that or
be thrown into prison. Elijah Pound did the same thing, and
was, therefore, relieved of his position on the committee just
mentioned, being allowed to resign. Under similar circum-
stances and at the same time, probably, another Quaker
living in this section got into difficulty. He says:

"Whereas I, Marmaduke Hunt, was coming home, was
taken by a Party ot light horse and Carried to Morris Town
Goal where T was confind in a Nausious room to the Injury
of my health, and Deprived of the Necessaries of life to that
degree that I could no more for my support but one
meal for seven days; in this distress liberty was offered me on
condition of my taking the affirmation of fidelity to the States,
which, through unwatchfulness, I submitted to."

John Laing tells the same stoiy. He, also, was taken to
Morristown and locked up for several days in what he
describes as a " very Loathsome goal," being liberated only on
making affirmation of allegiance.

Several tables appear on the record showing the articles
confiscated for taxes and fines. The officers took all sorts of
things: chairs, Bibles, shovel-and-tongs, andirons, spoons,
kettles, bedding, cows, horses, oxen, hogs, basins, watches,
corn, guns, pails, bellows, hay, sheep, tubs, overcoats, etc. On
a warrant issued by Henry Freeiuan, Justice , Edward Moore
was visited three times during 1780 by Daniel Compton, the
Constable, for the collection of a tax of £,2(), and a fine of
p^5oo. Two tables were taken at the first visit, February
28th. The second call of the Constable, July 29th, resulted in
a deficit of two calves, an iron pot, a hand saw, an auger, a
square and compass, broad-ax, drawing-knife, hammer, grind-
stone, spade, and a hand-saw file. On the 9th of August the
Constable came again. He only wanted Moore's cow this


In the same year Jonathan Harned, Jr., of Woodbridge, was



called on, first by Constable Compton, then by Constable
Peter Harpendine, on warrants issued by David Crow and
Jeremiah Manning, Justices. These visits cost Harned "3
Sydes [of] Leather." Some time in February Compton car-
ried off Mary Dunham's tea table for unpaid war tax. Harned
was subsequently called on for more leather, from which we
judge that he was a tanner. Edward Fitz Randolph was
compelled, in 1781, to surrender four and a half bushels
of wheat. Amon^ other things taken from James Haydock
we notice " 13 chizzles " and a " mouse trap."

Among the officers, civil and military, who were conspicu-
ous in enforcing the existing laws against non-combatants,
were James Edgar, David Dunham, David Crow, and David
Crowell, Col. John Webster, Col. Moses Jaques,'Sergt. James
Bishop, Sergt. Benjamin Sears, Sergt. James DeCamp, Col.
John French, Capt. John Paine, Sergt Joseph Marsh, Sergt.
Abraham Morris, Col. John Hart, Samuel Fitz Randolph and
H enry Free rnap, Justices.

But we must bring this chapter to a close by mentioning
briefly several relevant matters.

At a meeting held at Rahway, July 15th, 1784, the Friends
determined to sell the meeting-house at Woodbridge. An
unknown person offered to buy it, but tlie negotiations were
broken off; for a w^hile, at least. The old building has long
since been demolished, and the ancient burying-ground is now
the property of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Quakers began to build a school-house at Rahway, in
1785, on the meeting-house lot. It was constructed to front
the road, was twenty feet by thirty, and Vv^its one story in

A new meeting-house was built in Plainfield during 1787-8.
The plans were settled on the 15th of November, 1787. The
dimensions of the building were to be thirty-four by forty-
eight feet. A passenger on the New Jersey Central Railroad
will observe the modest structure on the right as the train
approaches the Plainfield depot from New York. It is
substantially the same as when it was erected eighty-five
years ago. A recent fire injured the southern part of it, but it
was repaired in a style similar to the unburnt portion. This


meeting-house does not stand on the site of the old one, but
was built on ground situated near the house of " John Web-
ster the third " — so called to distinguish him from two other
Johns. May it long remain as a memento of that time long-
past, of which all our dreams are poetic, but, which, alas !
was a time to many of bitter griefs and scalding tears.



The Presbyterians — Rev. Azel Roe — The Metuchen
Church— The New Woodbridge Church — Rev. Messrs.
Mills, Barton, Martin, and Lucas — The Old Burv-

In a preceding chapter (XV.) we brought the history of the
Presbyterians down to the time of Rev. Azel Roe. In the
present chapter we shall conclude our investigations with
respect to this ancient Christian body.

One year after Mr. Whitaker's removal from the Wood-
bridge pulpit, in 1761, Mr. Roe, a licentiate of the New York
Presbytery, was invited to preach on trial at this place. In
response to a call tendered him he was installed and regu-
larly ordained pastor of the Woodbridge Church in the
Autumn of 1763.

Mr. Roe was born at Setauket, L. I., on the 20th of March,
1738," and continued to preach at Woodbridge until the year
ot his death, 1815. His style of preaching is represented as
argumentative and very effective. He was a man of excellent
address and commanding presence. His memory is precious
to many who have never seen him, simply because of the
heroic traditions that embalm his name.

He was a zealous man. He rode frequently o\-er to
Metuchen on horseback in order to hold meetings at private
houses. Thus he won the affections of the people throughout
all this region.

The Metuchen Presbyterians had, for several years prior to
this, effected some sort of an organization, holding meetings
for religious worship by the courtesy and with the assistance
of neighboring ministers. It is said that a rude structure
served, during the early years, as a cliurch — the one standing

Hunt's Hist. Metuchen— quoting Sprague'a Annalp.


during the Revolution being the second which had occupied
the same site.* The old one had originally been a barn, if
tradition is reliable. On ^the 5th of August, 1767, the Me-
tuchen congregation united with that of Woodbridge,f by
which arrangement Mr. Roe's services were to be divided
eqvially between them — preaching on alternate Sabbaths at
the two places. In Mr. Roe's MS. church history we find it
stated that " these churches were to be considered as one in all
things of an ecclesiastical nature; in their government and
discipline to have but one Session ; but separate and distinct
in their temporalities." Until 1793 the Metuchen society was
known, after the union, as the " 2d Presbyterian Church of
Woodbridge ;" frequently it was distinguished as the "upper

An unfortunate dispute arose in regard to the disposition
of the 200 acres of land left for the maintenance of the
ministry of the township by the charter of Woodbridge. For
several years the " lower congregation " had enjoyed it exclu-
sively. Later, the " upper congregation " was permitted a
share of one-third of the rent of it (^20). Still later, the
Metuchen people asked for an equal share in the property as a
right guaranteed to them under the township charter, contend-
ing that, as Metuchen was within the township limits, and six
or more of the original settlers were members of the " upper
conereofation," the grant was intended as much for their
benefit as for the emolument of Woodbridge. This was
denied by the latter ; hence the dispute. The Woodbridge
Church authorities say that "in or about the year 1768 they
[the Metuchen Church] separated from us," and were re-united
with the the lower congregation in 177 1 at the i-equest of the
Metuchen Presbyterians. J Now, neither Mr. Roe, in his MS.
history, nor the historian of the Metuchen Church, makes an)'
reference to any separation in 1768 or a re-union in 177 1.
Indeed, Mr. Roe says, after speaking of the original union of
the two societies, "it pleased God, in the course of a feiv years,
to visit this ttnifcd church with the more than ordinary influ-
ence of his Spirit." But if the separation took place in 1768,
one year after the union, and lasted nearly or quite three

* Hunt's Metuchen, p. 29. t Ibid. X Brief statement, etc., by the Trustees.


years, why is no allusion made to it by Mr. Roe.' And vet
such an episode may have occurred. We are searching for
facts : not to establish any rival claim, but to make our story

In 1780 the Metuchen society paid Mr. Roe ^70 — one-half
of his salary. In 1787 (October), it was incorporated as tlie
2d Presbyterian Church of Woodbridge ; and the first Trustees,
Benjamin Manning, John Conger, John Ross, Ebenezer Ford,
Ellis Ayers, Timothy Bloomfield, and Robert Ross, were
elected on the 5th of April of the same year.*

In 1783 this Church was allowed one-third of the rent of the
parsonage land, and in several succeeding years one-half of
the rent was granted.! ^^ '^19- the edifice at Metuchen was
enlarged fifteen feet in depth, chimneys built and stoves put
up for the first time — foot-stoves having been the limited
means of warmth heretofore indulged. The buiidintJ: was
now about thirty-six by forty. In this partial reconstruction
application was made to the Woodbridge Church for permis-
sion to procure the required timber from the "Great Parson-
age," as it was called. The request, so the Metuchen people
say, was evaded; and, instead of an answer, the lower congre-
gation asked that the two churches should "jointly apply to
Presbytery " for an assistant minister. Metuchen not acced-
ing, Woodbridge alone applied for a separation in October,
1792, but without success. The Presbytery of New York met
at Orange, N. J., on the 9th of May, 1793, when the applica-
tion was renewed by the Woodbridge Presbyterians for a
separation from the Metuchen Church, which was granted.

In 1794 (April 22d) a call was given to Rev. Henry Cook,
of Morris county, who on the ist of May became tlie pastor at
Metuchen, receiving a salary of ^^120.

The law-suit between the two churches in regard to the
parsonage land was begun in 1795 and was prosecuted by the
Metuchen congregation with great vigor until 1800, when the
Court of Errors, to which the case had come up from Chan-
cery, confirmed the previous decision in favor of the Wood-
bridge people by a vote of eight to five.

Dr. Hunt's Metuchen, p. 32. t Ibid., p. 30.



It is eminently proper that the matter in^dispute should be
impartially stated. We shall make the statement succinctly
without comment : Metuchen claimed the land in part because
the errant was asserted to be for the maintenance of the
ministry of the town of which Metuchen was^a part, some of
its residents being among the earliest settlers. To this Wood-
bridge responds : It was intended for the town ministers, but
for the ministers in succession, not for those of different congre-
gations ; besides, Metuchen has no title to this property, while
Woodbridge /^^zi- a title to it of excellent character. If there
were any doubt in regard to the purpose for which the land
was appropriated, is not that doubt solved by the uniform
action of the Freeholders in permitting its use for the succes-
sive ministers of the Woodbridge Church only 1 To which,
in effect, Metuchen makes answer: For many years we were
parl^nd parcel of that Church, and we did not sun-ender our
right to the land when we separated from it. As there was
no other congregation but the one at Woodbridge for a long
time, no occasion was given for any deviation from the
uniform action of the Freeholders. Their action would have
sanctioned a division of the land had they foreseen a division
of the Church. Woodbridge replies: If all the churches in
the township were to share in the property it would necessi-
tate endless divisions and sub-divisions, and defeat the very
purpose for which it was granted. Hence it is improbable
that the property was left in such uncertain tenure.

This, we believe, is the substance of the arguments pro and


At the age of fifty-five Mr. Cook died (in 1824), having
spent thirty years among the people of Metuchen as their
pastor."" He married twice, and the four daughters who
survived him are now dead. He is spoken of as an ordinary
man physically, but as an exceptionally good preacher.
What consolation there is in that fact for a homely clergy-
man ! Mi\ Cook was a good man and his death was lamented
by a large circle of affectionate friends. In 1818, during his
ministry, a revival resulted in the addition of one hundred and

* Hunt's Metuchen, p. 37.


seventeen to his own, and a number to the neighboring church
(Baptist), at Piscataway. This gracious event greatly invio-.
orated the membership, and much of its fruit was gathered
" after many days."

A small house and a lot were purchased in 1795 for ^200,
which were known for a long time as the Metuchen parson-
age property. Ellis F. Ayers now occupies the premises. A
small lot was added to the parsonage land in 1807.

Mr. Cook's successor was Rev. Michael Osborn, who was
installed February 23d, 1825, at a salary of ||oo per year. He
was born on the 21st of March, 1796, and died at Farmville,
Va., July 3d, 1S63. His ministerial life was largely spent in
the South. After a little more than two years he severed his
connection with the Metuchen Church, and went to Schraal-
enburg, N. J., as pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church at that
place. ^'

Rev. Holloway Whitfield Hunt, son of Rev. Gardiner A.
Hunt, was the next preacher at Metuchen. He was born at
Kingwood, X. J., March 31st, 1800. His installation occurred
on the 29th of April, 1828, and his pastorate continued about
eighteen years.

A new church was proposed in 1834 and was completed and
dedicated January 30th, 1836, The dimensions of this build-
ing were forty by sixty feet.

After Mr. Hunt's resignation, Rev. Peter H. Burghardt
became pastor November 30th, 1847, and resigned June 5th,
1850. He was born at West Stockbridge, Mass. Rev. Robert
J. Finley was the successor of Mr, Burghardt, and was
installed November 14, 1850. He remained in Metuchen until
October, 1857, when he went to Talladega, Ala., where he died
in i860.

Rev. Gardiner S. Plumley, the present able pastor of the
Metuchen Church, succeeded Mr. Finley, and was installed
April 28th, 1S58. Mr. Plumley was born at Washington, D.
C. He wields a facile pen and is favorably known as a
lecturer. But there is little need- for us to speak of this
talented preacher in terms of laudation. Is his name not
written in the hearts of his people ?

' Dr. Hxmt's Metuclien, p. 41.


• The spire which adorns tlie Metuchen .Church was con-
structed in 1863, and in June, 1865, a bell was placed in it.*
The number of communicants in 1870 was 250. Soon after
Mr. Finiey's departure, in 1857, about lorty members seceded
and organized a Dutch Reformed Church which is now in a
nourishing condition.

With this brief sketch of the Metuchen Church we return to
the parent congregation at Woodbridge.

Rev. Azel Roe continued to grow in the affections of his
people, and some pleasant things are told of him. He became
prominent as a patriot, warmly aiding the cause of liberty by
voice and action. On one occasion he incited some of his
members to assist a company of Continental troops in attack-
ing some British soldiers near Blazing Star. He was in this
skirmisli, the result of which is unknown. Subsequently he
was taken prisoner and removed to New York, where he was
compelled for a time to accept the dubious hospitality of the
Sugar House prison. On the way the British officer, who had
charge ot him, offered to carry the rather portly and reverend
gentleman across a small ford. With true ministerial regard
for his shoes and stockings, the preacher bestrode the back of
his amiable escort, facetiously remarking: "Well, sir, you can
say after this that you were once priest-ridden. "f

The drinking of intoxicants was universally indulged in at
this time, and the preachers were not at all disgraced by taking
a "wee bit" occasionally, and the excellent Dr. Roe was no
exception to the general rule. Tlie matter was not looked
upon at that period with the reprobation which now attends
it. Dr. Hunt, of Metuchen, tells of an expected visit of the
pastor to Dugald Campbell's house in that place on a cold,
blustering day in March. Henry, tlie son, remembers that his
mother came to the door and called to his father : " Dugal !
Dugal ! Don't you know that Parson Roe is to preach here
to-night, and w^e haven't got a drop of sperits in the house.'* "
And the generous host responded : " Well, then, one of the
boys will have to go and get some." Accordingly, a messen-
ger was dispatched to Bricktown for the liquor.

• Hunt's Metuchen, p. 45. t Hunt's Metuchen, 34, quoting Spragus's Anuals.


From reliable tradition we know that the people regarded
it as a breach of hospitality for them to fail to provide
" sperits " for the honored guest, and we suspect that not a
little was the pastor's popularity enhanced by his hearty
appreciation and acceptance of the " flowing bowl." Not that
he ever drank immoderately. Nor do we, at this late day,
" cast a stone " at those who conformed to the usage of which
we speak, for it is not within our province to sit in judgment
on such cases as these; and, if it were, we should judge
leniently, for how should we dare to stretch forth our hands
" against the Lord's anointed " ? God used these men, and to
Him alone belongs the judgment of them. They were weak
and sometimes sinning — but which of us is strong and wholly
pure.' Will unfriendly hands, in days to come, turn over the
faded leaves of your life's history and find no blot, no mis-
take, no sin .' We make no' apology for wickedness ; it has
our imqualified hatred. But these men of yore were so true
and so good, with all their errors, that we feel like taking the
language from the sacred lips of the Master: "He that is
without sin among you let him first cast a stone."

In April, 1803, "the people set about building them a new
house of worship, their present house being old and going to
decay, having stood for almost a century."- So says Dr-
Roe; but as the ancient building in Woodbridge was erected
in 1675 it must have been more than a century old at the time
the new structure was begun. It was, indeed, one hundred and
twenty-eight years since the frame ot the meeting-house was put
up. The good Doctor (Mr. Roe was honored by Yale College
in 1800 with the degree of D. D.) says that the new building
was undertaken with "great unanimity and spirit," and that it
was "almost finished by the Fall, so that it was opened and
consecrated in the beginning of December." It is described
as "a very decent, convenient house, sufficiently large and
spacious." As the structure still stands, with but slight altera-
tions, on the old " Meeting-house Green," no extended descrip-
tion of it will be necessary. We hope it will be permitted to
remain substantially as we now see it, with its old-fashioned,

• Dr. Roe's MS. Cliureh History.



tall, white steeple pointing heavenward for many years after
the present generation has passed away.

It may not be amiss to give a list of the subscriptions toward
the building of the new church. The paper was circulated in
April, 1802, with the understanding that a fourth part of the
amount each man subscribed was to be paid in August; a
fourth in January, 1803; a fourth in July, and the remainder
in January, 1804. The money was to be applied to the erec-
tion of a Presbyterian Church, as the paper states, " nearly
where the old one stands," to be sixty-six by forty-six feet,
Avith posts twenty-four feet high and enclosed with shingles.

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 19 of 34)