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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 2 of 34)
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is Jane, or Mary, or whoever the Woodbridge youth is in
search of. The messages are delivered. How cordial the
greetings are ! People who have never met before shake
hands with each other. " So you have come over to try the
new country, have you ? " " From what part of England did
you come ? " " Did you know the Smiths in Lanca'shire? "
•'How is Betsy.?" "How is the baby ? " These and hun-
dreds of other questions are poured forth by the eager friends
and equally eager passengers. We know these things to be
so, without being eye-witnesses ; because it is human tor
people so to do — and all our fathers and mothers of long ago
were human, Darwin to the contrary notwithstanding.



ORIGIN AND SETTLEMENT. 15

And now we confess to a little perplexity. That young
Woodbridge man has a girl to take home, and there is no way
to get there except on foot, for we forgot to let the fellow
take a horse. How he is going to transport her across
the Rawawak is beyond our imagination, and hence we leave
it to that of our patient reader.



OHAPTEIl II.

1667—1677.

The •^' Town Book." — Randolph's Copy — First Highways
— Dunham's Grist Mill — View oyer the Sound — Old
Dock — The First Mechanics in Woodbridge — And
the First Baby — Old Landings.

The earliest Town Records are the chief sources of inform-
ation concerning tlie first years of this settlement. It is a
gricYOus shame that the old " Town Book " has been
mutilated by the abstraction of the first pages of it. The old
Record ot Surveys, in the possession of the N. J. Historical
Societv, is also half destroyed. Such an outrage as the
destruction of public records for the advantage of some
individual (for this is, no doubt, the cause of the vandalism)
deserves something more than the severest censure.

We have handled the " Town Book " with reverence.
Many of the leaves are loose, and all of them are yellow with
age. A heavy piece of parchment forms the binding. Here
we see the nervous penmanship of Samuel Moore, the second
Town Clerk. It is so faded, in some places, as to be scarcely
decipherable. This Book was copied in 1775-6 by Nathaniel
Fitz Randolph, in a clear, round hand, by order of the
Freeholders; and this well-preserved copy is in the hands of
Mr. T. Harvey Morris, of Woodbridge.

In accordance with the order of December 3, 1667, we find
it recorded, on the <Sth of February, 1668, that several high-
ways had already been opened. The first one mentioned ran
down by the " Kiirk Green/' over the Papiack Creek, into the
upland beyond.

In regard to the size of the streams in Woodbridge a great
■change is said to have taken place. Papiack Creek ha.s



THE ANCIENT TOWN.



17



dwindled to a brook, compared to its former majestic flood.
\'essels once rode al anchor in the stream by the Salamander
Works, which is now dishonored and forsaken. Nearly two
hundred years have choked it up, and tradition tells us that it
has become only the miniature of what it once was.

It was along the road, over the Papiack, at the first bridge
to which you come afier passing the Presbyterian Church,
tliat Jonathan Dunham built the first grist mill ever erected
in this part of the country, in the year 1670, The town
agreed to give Jonathan ^30 for the improvement and all the
sod out of the meadow' he might need for damming. His toll
was to be one-sixteenth, and tradition gives him credit for
turning out the most beautiful meal ; and we are assured that
his toll was so light that a man who brought a bag of grain to
liim took back two bags of flour. This old mill stood for
many years, grinding for the comfort of several generations,
and the old timbers which once supported it are lying on the
ground and mark the site of the ancient building, on the west
side of the stream. The writer had the satisfaction, recently,
of examining one of the mill-stones which Jonathan used in
his mill. It is still to be seen near the house adjoining the
Trinity Church, which house was once the residence of the
great Woodbridge miller; although, of course, the beautiful
structure now erected there, as the Trinity parsonage, is a
transformation. When Jonathan's house was built it was the
tine house, /t?;- excellence, in Woodbridge. It wa-s standing two
years ago, and looked so weird and strange that some were
glad to see the builders reconstructing it, while others were
sad when they saw the landmark disappear. It was originally
constructed of brick, said to have been brought from Holland
by vessels sailing hither and used as ballast on tlie voyage.

Coming up from Papiack Creek the highway, of which we
iiave been speaking, passed the " meeting house green " (i. e.,
the land appropriated for religious purposes, upon part of
which the Presbyterian Church now stands), and took a
westward course. Another road, laid out at the same time,
crossed the former at nearly right angles, running over the
'• meeting-house green," and having a north and south
direction.

B



l8 WO.)Dl{RIDGi: AND VICINITY.

Another higliway was laid out, running nortli from tlie foot
of Strawberry Hill, or the " Sheep Common," as it was often
called, crossing Manning's Brook and entering the common
land beyond. Another road began at the soutliwest corner of
the same hill and ran in a southerly direction, crossing the
" Spa Spring " Brook, and thence continuing toward Perth
Amboy. Another was surveyed from the west 'side of the
liill, and, after passing through a thick wood, held a crooked
course to Piscataway. Another was laid out, soon after those
above mentioned, which was intended to accommodate
persons who owned meadow adjacent to the upland over-
looking the Sound. It began at the mouth of the Papiack
Creek, in the neighborhood of the spot Avhere Boynton's
factory now stands, and ran northward, nearly parallel with _
the Sound, for a mile or two, and thence continued until
it crossed the road leading up from the meadow where
Jonathan Dunham's mill afterward stood.

Along these highways " house lots " were surveyed for the
freeholders, to each of which a specified amount of" meadow-
land " was added. The house lots were not of the same size.
They varied in this respect very much. John Pike's lot,
which was on the east side of Strawberry Flill, w^as ten acres
in extent. The elder John Martin's, on the north of this hill,
was a lot of eleven acres. Samuel Dennis had twelve acres
for his house ; old Thomas Bloomfield, seventeen and a half;
young Thomas, eleven and a half ; Samuel Moore, sixteen ;
John Dennis, nineteen and a half; Henry Lesenbe, ten ;
Obadiah Ayers, sixteen, etc.

The highway running nortli past the Kirk Green was net
exactly "laid out" as we now find it. It ran behind the
present Presbyterian Church building, instead of passing
before it; and, if it sliould ever be opened again, it would be
found crossing the present highw^a}- at an acute angle in front
of the Trinity Church, the northern branch diverging to the
west and the southern branch tending eastward.-'

The view over the sound on the upland, across the



* Mr. T. H. MorriB, a practical surveyor, gives tliis as his opinion, after a careful st;nly
of the old records.



THE ANCIENT TOWN. Iq

meadows, is a very fine one, and we do not wonder that our
fathers chose it as part of their inheritance. If we blot from
the picture before us the houses on Staten Island, the fences
and dwellings in the Neck on the left, and the sails from the
water we shall have a scene very much, if not entirely, like
that the early settlers looked upon. Not long ago we stood
upon the bluff and tried to imagine that we were livino- two
centuries in the past. Below us stretched the beautiful beach
upon which the Indians used to wander at low tide in search
of oysters. Far to the left the quiet waters of Smith's Creek
were seen, winding this way and that, looking like a
crumpled blue ribbon thrown at random on the o-reen
meadow. Farther still, on the left, appeared the groves and
white farm houses on what was once called " Papiack Neck."
Before us the clear waters of the Sound swept around a
graceful curve, fringed with the tall reeds that grow so
abundantly in our salt marshes. Across the broad expanse
are the highlands of Staten Island, which make a handsome
background for the picture — especially witli the delicate blue
sky of this August afternoon right above it. Pleasure boats
are gaily floating yonder, and in the bend near Rossville we
watch the approaching steamboat bound for New Brunswick.
As she passes us the distant murmur of her paddle-wheels
comes to our ears like the music of an ocean shell ; and so we
note her disappearance far down the Sound. If we lean
forward we may see, on the right, under the bluff, the red
building used for several years as a hay-press establishment ;
and right in front of it the steamboat landing, where, in
modern times, until the railroad was laid through Wood-
bridge, we embarked for New York.

Long ago, we imagine, an August afternoon would have
presented us an Indian canoe on the water, with a swarthy
occupant nonchalantly watching his fishing line. Perhajjs
some settler has parted the bushes and is glancing from this
very bluff over the Summer scene. Farther up a group of
Indians have gathered in the shade of some forest trees, and
are gazing abstractedly at the smouldering fire where oysters
are being roasted in the ashes. And along the beach, the
beautiful sandy beach, there wanders another of the mel-



CO \voudbridc;e and vicinity.

ancholy race, listening to tlic sympathetic voices of the little
•waves that plash upon the shore. Perchance the hungry face
of a wolf peers through the upland thicket, and we almost
expect to hear the sharp crack of the rifle of John Ilsly, the
great Woodbridge wolf hunter.

How rudely is our reverie broken ! Just behind us, on this
•classic highland, is tlic noise of carts coming and going.
There is a railroad in course of construction, and it requires
no prophet to foresee that in time this bluff" will be crowned
with Summer cottages, rivaling in elegance those of some of
the sea-side resorts.

For a sliort distance from its mouth. Smith's Creek keeps
nearly to a north and south line. The first bend is toward
the east. On the west side of this elbow there has evidently
been a dock. The road-tracks are yet to be seen, thougli
thickly overgrown with grass. It is supposed that this is the
site of a very old dock which our fathers used in the
transportation of salt hay.

Ancient Woodbridge seems to have been well supplied
with mechanics. Among them we notice five carpenters,
viz.: John Ilsly, Samuel Hale, John Bishop, Henry Jaquis,
and Hugh Marcli ; one slioemaker, John Watkins; four
blacksmiths, John Crandel, John Robinson, Daniel Pierce,
and John Taylor ; one mason, Benjamin Cromwell ; two
tanners, William Elston and John Mootry ; and three
weavers, Samuel Dennis, John Robeson, and Adam Hude.
John French was a dealer in bricks, and was elected a
Freeholder, on condition that he should furnish the Wood-
bridge men wich bricks in preference to all others. He was
a mason by trade, and no doubt plied his vocation. Good-
natured John Smith was a miilwriglit. There was another
man bearing this name (as there always will be), and the
neighbors tried to keep them unmixed by addressing the
latter as John Smith, Scotchman. Benjamin Parker was a
ioiner. " Benony Blacklich," who came into the settlement in
1671, was a shoemaker. Elisha Parker is mentioned as a
merchant. Two doctors of medicine prescribed for the ailing
— George Lockhart and Peter Dessigny.

About the middle of November, 1667, a sensation was



THK ANCIENT TOWN, 21

created in tlie settlement by the arrival of a baby — the first
white baby born in the place. The town recognized the
event in May (icth), 17 17, after the child had grown to
womanhood and was married, by the following order; " itt
was voatted & allowed yt Caleb Gamble shall Draw a Lott
with use Jn this fourth Division [of] Lotts. Jn Consideration
liis Wife was ye first Christian Child yt was born Jn this
town."* Her name was Mary Compton, daughter of
William and Mary Compton. She married Caleb Campbell,
January ist, 1696. Her grave is still to be seen in the rear of
the Presbyterian Church, marked by a brown stone partly
covered with moss. The inscription reads as follows :

" In memory of Mary, Wife of Caleb Campbell, who died Febry the
15, 1735. Aged G7 years and 3 months. The first Bom child iu Wood-
bridge."

We cannot resist the temptation to muse a little while.
Was Mary pretty ? Was her life a happy one f Could her
friends say of her, as Whittier has done of another:

" The blessing of her quiet life
Fell on us like the dew ;
And good thoughts, where her footsteps pressed,
Like fairy blossoms grew " ?

How much we might learn from her lips if they could be
unsealed and the memory of other days be recalled ! It
seems so strange that in this silent graveyard are hushed
voices which two hundred years ago were familiar sounds in
the settlement. Now, aught of good or evil they cannot tell
us. And two hundred years from to-day — what then } Will
some one be standing over the stone which records your
forgotten name, and wonder about you, as we marvel now
i)ver Mary's tomb 1

" Death comes, life goes ; the asking eye
And ear are answerless ;
The grave is dumb, the hollow sky
Is sad with silentness.



*Freeholder8' Eec.irds, MS., page 30.



22 WOODBRIDGE AND VICINITY.

•'But warm, sweet, lender, even yet
A present help is lie ;
And faith has still its Olivet,
And love its Galilee."

It matters little where they laid thee, Mary ; for if thou
hadst faith in Jesus thou shalt rise from this sunken grave to
live with Ilini who saved thee.

Pierce's Landing was a point at which many boats
discharged their cargoes two centuries since It was named
from the Pierces, who lived near by, and was situated at the
mouth of the Papiack Creek (or River, as it was sometimes
called), about where Boynton's dock is now located. It is not
probable that any wharf was built there, but that the cirgo
was landed on the beach, which, tradition tells us, was
beautifully graveled and sloped toward the water. Joshua
Pierce, and Daniel, his father, lived a short distance along the
upland road. Joshua's pasture land was contiguous to the
Landing, and required to be protected by a "good, sufficient
gate" placed in the roadway.

Voquillen's Landing, named for the provincial Surveyor-
General, was nearly opposite Pierce's Landing, and is well
known as the " Old Stone Dock " even at the present. It was
intended to accommodate the inhabitants living on the other
side of the Papiack, or Woodbridge Creek. The road leading
down to it passed through Voquillen's land; and his en-
deavor to shut oif all communication with the dock by the
inhabitants provoked the latter into compelling him to
re-open the highway.

Several other landings were known to the early settlers —
among them Bacon's Landing, Cornfield Landing (now
Cutter's Dock), Cortland's Landing, etc. The last is supposed
to have been located on Smith's Creek, near the property of
Mr. J. Bunn ; and doubtless this is the site of Cortland's saw-
mill — one of the earliest constructed in the Province.

Other localities and points of interest will be designated as
they are found recorded in the Town Book,



CHAPTER Hi.

1667—1677 (Continued).

WoODBRiDGE Charter — Its Confirmation by the Lords-
proprietors — First Legislature of New Jersey — In-
surrection AGAINST GOY. CaRTEREt's GOVERNMENT

Names of Settlers— Samuel Moore — Ouit Rents —
" Amro Point" — Indian Sale — The Old Prison — Odd
Names.

As WAS stated in the preYious chapters, Woodbridge was
ordered to be laid out December 3d, 1667. It is probable that
this order was in process of execution throughout the fol-
lowing year. On the ist of June, 1669, Woodbridge Town-
ship was created, and on the 16th the Charter was granted.
Gordon says, very truly, in his History of Nciu Jcrsc\\ that this
Charter " was one of the most liberal ever given in America."
It was framed in accordance with the "Agreement" of 1666.
Some of the landmarks by which the boundaries were designa-
ted are, of course, unknown ; but a general idea of ancient
Woodbridge may be obtained from this paper.

The line began at the mouth of the Rahway River (called
Rd'iUack) and followed the stream as high as the tide flowed to
a fresh-water brook running west north-west, " where there
stands a beech tree that is marked on the four sides of it."
From this tree the line ran straight west through one large
swamp and two small ones until it reached a walnut stake in
an open field. This stake was marked with two notches and
a cross. The distance from the beech tree to the stake was
five and a half miles. The line turned sharply to the south
from this pcnnt, running through what Avas known as " Dismal
Swamp," and striking the Raritan River at a distance of seven
and a half miles from the walnut stake mentioned above.
The line now comes within ten chains west of two red cliff's



24 WOODBRIDGE AND VICINITY.

on the opposite side of the river. On theborder of the meadows
were two black-oak trees, about a rod apart, which were
marked with three notches, breast high, and a notch on the
four sides of each tree on the stump, and a cross upon each
tree above tlie upper notches. There was certainly no danger
of losing those trees, unless some mischievous scamp had
marked neighboring black oaks in the same mysterious
manner. However, no bad boys were in existence at that
time; so no danger was apprehended from this source.
Midway between these two ti^ees there was a stake driven,
over which the township line extended from the point this
side of the red cliffs mentioned before, and tw^o more stakes
indicated the boundary across the meadows.

The Charter then gives the general bounds, thus : " On
the east side by the Arthur Cull River, otherwise called the
Sound, that parts Staten Island from the maine [land] ; on
the north side by the bounds belonging to Elizabethtown,
on the west side by the bounds belonging to New Piscata-
way, and on the south side by the aforesaid Rariton's River."
Allowance being made for waste places and highways, the
township was to contain six miles square, " which amounts
to twenty-three thousand and forty acres, English measure."
The proprietors reserved to themselves half of the gold and
silver found in the New Jersey mines, and this reservation is
mentioned in this Charter ; but no great quantity of either
precious metal was ever found in the township, and then only
as it was brought in by the traders.

The Charter further provided that sixty families at least
should be comprised within the limits of the township, among
whom the upland and meadow should be equally divided by
lot, or in such other manner as they themselves might agree
upon : " provided that Amboy Point be reserved, to be
disposed of, by the Lords-proprietors, tov/ards the thousand
acres of upland and meadow that is reserved by the first
articles made before the settling of the said township." An
official record ot each man's allotment was to be made, which
was to be placed on file in the Secretary's office in Elizabeth.
Two hundred acres of good upland and meadow were to be
laid out for the use of the minister, and one hundred more



EARLY EVENTS. 25

for "the maintenance of a free school." In addition, lands for
building a church thereupon, for use as a church-yard, for the
erection of a school-house, for a market-place, and other
public purposes, were donated to the township, and forever
exempted from taxation. The creation of a township Court,
with the officers necessary for its effective operation, was
authorized in accordance with the provisions of the " Articles
of Agreement." The sections in the Articles in regard to
Free Trade, War, Election of Deputies, Liberty to sell and
remove from the place, were all substantially adopted in this
generous Charter.

The paper concludes with the reservation, to the Lords-
proprietors, of nine hundred acres of upland in and around
Amboy Point, and one hundred acres of meadow " in the most
convenient place adjacent to Amboy Point." This was to be
the tract of one thousand acres, mentioned previously, to be
held exclusively by the Proprietors of the Province.

The document is signed by the Governor, Philip Carteret ;
by his Private Secretary, Jas. Bollen ; and by the Council of
the Province, viz.: Robert Vanquellin, William Pardon)
Robert Bond, Nicholas Ver Lett, Samuel Edsall.

AlthouQ:h the Charter went into effect immediatelv after it
was granted, three years and a half elapsed before it was
confirmed by the English Proprietors. The following is the
Confirmation :*

" We, the Lords-proprietors of the Province of Neii)
Cesarea, or New Jersey, having taken a view of this above
written deed, grant, or charter, made by Capt. Phillip
Carteret, Esq., Governor of our said Province, and his
Councell, bearing date ye first day of June, 1669, whereby he
did enable and give power to ye Justices, Magistrates,
and Freeholders, in the Towne of Woodbridge, in the said
Province forever to become a corporation with generall
limitations, priviledges, Buttalls, and bundalls therein par-
ticularly expressed, Ncno, know ye that wee, the said Lords-
proprietors, at the request of the said Justices, Magistrates,
and Freeholders, and for divers good causes, and considcr-



*East Jersey Eecords, vol. 1st., p. 144.



26 WOOnnRlDGE AND VICINITY.

ations, us there-unto-nioving have ratified and confirmed, and
by tlicsc presents do lor our heirs, successors, and assigns,
for ever Ratifye and confirme unto the said Justices,
Magistrates and Freeholders of Woodbridge, the said grant
and Charter with all and every — the lands and meadows soe
limited butted and bounded and all and singular other
priviledges and immunities therein mentioned and expressed.
Reserving to us, our heirs and successors what else is
therein reserved. Giving order hereby to ye Secretary of oiu-
said province to enter this our confirmation into our Records
there, and to fix to it our province scale, Given under our
hands and Scales at Whitehall, the seventli day of December,
in the year of our Lord God 1672.

Jo. Bkrkeley. Go. Carteret."

With such advantageous terms as were those embraced in
the Charter it would have been strange, indeed, if the town
had not become one of the most prosperous in this section.

The first Legislature of New Jersey met at Elizabeth on
tile 26tii (jf May, 1668 ; the first election for Deputies (of
whom two were to be chosen from each town) being ordered,
by proclamation of the Governor, on the 7th of April
]:)revious. In this session Woodbridge was represented by
Samuel Moore and Robert Dennis, two leading men in the
settlement. The second session was held on the 3d of
November of the same year. Deputies were present from
Newark, Elizabeth, Bergen, Shrewsbury, Woodbridge, and
Middletovvn, at these sessions, which were both short — the
first being four days long, the next three. The latter was by
no means a iiarmonious assemblage, and after its three days'
purposeless discussion it adjourned. The next Legislative
session was not held until seven years afterward.

The year in which the prosperity of Woodbridge was
signalized by the erection of a grist mill came near proving
disastrous to the Province at large. Shrewsbury and
Middlet<nvn had been settled under grants from Gov.
Nichols, of New York, who imagined that his jurisdiction
extended over all the country surrounding Manhattan. The
settlers of these towns had bought their lands from the
Indians, in addition to securing grants from Nichols; so that



EARLY EVENTS. 27

they asserted that they were free from any obligation to pay
the tax upon the land which was demanded by the Pro-
prietors. This annual rent was to begin in 1670; and as the
time drew nigh the malcontents became openly hostile to
Carteret and his government, and resolved to overthrow them.
Deputies were elected in the towns, and met in Elizabeth on
the 14th of May, 1672, claiming to be the legal Legislature of
New Jersey. The Governor went to England, carrying the
news of the outbreak to the Proprietors. The Duke of
York, under whom Gov. Nichols had been appointed, and
under whose authority, therefore, the insurrectionists had set
up their claims, wrote to Governor Lovelace, of New York,
that he would not countenance the NeAV Jersey riot, and he



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 2 of 34)