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 24 of 34)
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Middlesex Militia from 1776 to 1778, when he resigned.

TheToITovvrng appears in the minutes of the Council of the
same date: "Agreed that there be paid t o Israel Freeman fo r (
coming with his Waggon & two horses from Woodbridge \
with Guards & five prisoners to the Council of Safety and '
returning to Woodbridge ^4. 11. 6."

On the next' "3ay"(Tu e scTay7 the 9th) the Council "Agreed
that his Excellency [the Governor] direct Col. Seely com-
manding at Elizabethtown to remove the Cattle from Rahway
Neck, and such other places where from tlieir proximity to
the Enemy they may be in danger of being carried off by
tlicm, to places of greater security, (the owners of such cattle
refusing to do it, on notice given to them for that purpose)
and that the removal of such Cattle be Effected with as little
damage to the proprietors as circumstances will allow or the
public service requires."

Col. Seely was directed on the Saturday following to
remove all "sheep and hogs," also "out of the reach of the

On the afternoon of the 20th the Council "Ordered That
Majr. Potter be directed to remove to Staten Island, Sarah
Barron, & the wife of William Smith, the wife of John Heard,
& the wife of Samuel Moore, as well as the wives of such
other persons as have returned from the Enemies' lines,
without leave, after having been removed into the same by
order of the Council of Safety; cSc make a return of what he
shall have done in the premises with all convenient speed.
A^^reed that there be paid to Matthew Freeman for himself &


Guard & three prisoners from Woodbridge, wilh a Waggon
& 2 horses and a spare horse, the sum of ^11. o. o."*

A petition was received by the Council on the loth of
January, 1778, from certain of the inhabitants of Woodbridge
asking that Mrs. William Smith might be permitted to remain
in the town, which was granted on condition that she should
remain with her father's family. In the Spring of '78 several
of these wives of disaffected parties were taken by Maj.
Potter from Woodbridge to Elizabethtown, whence they were
sent by a flag of truce to Staten Island. f

On the 5th of June Ebenezer Ford, a Woodbridge man, was
appointed Commissioner for Middlesex to dispose of Tory
property, in place of Capt. Baker, who had resigned. J On
the 17th Gen. Winds was directed to remove all the cattle
from Woodbridge Neck and its vicinity, as they were liable
,to fall into British hands. §
sj On the first Thursday evening in June, 1780, a party of
thirty Tories landed on the Raritan River and proceeded to
Woodbridge, where they captured Tustice Freeman,_ a Mr.
Edgar, six other white persons, and two negroes, all of whom
were taken to New York.^

During 1781 the "Cow Boys" visited the Jersey border,
opposite Staten Island, in frequent forays, plundering and
imprisoning the inhabitants in unprotected localities with
impunity. One Wednesday night in March (21st) a party of
them from the Island entered Rahway and kidnapped nearly
a dozen of its residents, besides stealing all the available
property along the way.||

In 1782, William Clarke, one of these "Cow Boys," was
shot near Woodbridge while making one of his predatory
excursions in this vicinity. It was asserted that he had
carried into the British lines, since the Autumn of 1776, over
one hundred fine horses from this and neighboring counties.
He was a sharp fellow and managed, by disguises, to keep ;
within the American lines a large part of the five years in
which he plied his dangerous vocation, without being de-
tected ; but he was decoyed into an ambuscade by several

* Minutes of Council, p. 177. t Minutes of Coun. of Safety, p. 215. t Ibid.,p. 247.
5 Council of Safety, p. 255. H His. Coll., p. 326. II Hatfield, p. 502.



patriots, wlio lured him by a forged letter, purporting to come
from a confederate, in which he was informed that at a certain
place near Woodbridge wpuld be found on a given day two
valuable horses tied to a tree. Tempted by the chance, Clarke
approached the spot only to be slain by a volley of musketry.*

On the nth of April, 1783, Congress proclaimed a cessation
of hostilities, a treaty of peace having been signed between
Great Britain and the United States; and at noon on Satur-
day, the 19th, just eight years after the war began, the
proclamation was officially promulgated to the entire Ameri-
can army, and the independence of the colonies Avas estab-

We return now to the personal narratives of those who
lived in tlaese stirring times :

James C. Moore resided, during the Revolution, with his
father on the f;i.rm now well known as the Maj. Edgar Home-
stead; and, although he was quite young, he remembered and
would relate, previous to his sickness and death, many inter-
esting incidents connected with tliat heroic period. He said
that on the opposite corner, east of the house, stood a cider-
mill which fronted the dock. Lurking in the neighborhood
was a man from Staten Island who was suspected of being a
Tory and a spy. Knowing these suspicions were aroused the
stranger began to feel uncomfortable, and vet he found it dif-
ficult to get back to the Island because all intercourse there-
with was prohibited and no boats were permitted to cross the
Sound. His situation becoming more critical every day he
grew desperate; and going to the cider-press one dark night
he loosened the large trough, which was used to receive the
crushed apples, and launched it with the ai d of rollers into the
river. A shovel, which he found in the mill, served for a
paddle — and thus he began his novel voyage, which, it is said,
he accomplished in safety. If this was not " paddling his own
canoe" it was as close an imitation of that far-famed operation
as he could achieve with somebody else's craft.

A shrewd lady was Grace Lacky. While Woodbridge was
infested with Hessians they impudently entered the houses of

Historical Coll. of N. J., p. 325.


the inhabitants and carried off anything on which they could
lay their hands. Grace did not fancy such visitations and
accordingly devised a plan to prevent them. She inscribed
in large letters on her door the woVd, " Small-pox ! " It is
hardly necessary to say that when the import of the dreadful
term was made known to the redoubtable sons of Hesse they
deserted that part of the village with commendable speed.

Grace was by no means a coward. On or about the 20th
of May, 1777, as she was passing a deserted house in this
village she looked through the window and saw an intoxicated
Hessian soldier lying on the floor. He had evidently strag-
gled from his party and entered here to sleep off" the effect of
his copious potations. What should she do ? There was no
American force nearer than a mile, nor were there any men
of Continental principles anywhere at hand. Should she
consult her own convenience and safety and leave the drunken
fellow? No, that she would not. Going home, she hastily
clothed herself in man's attire and sallied forth again. Enter-
ing the forlorn dwelling in which the soldier was peacefully
snoring, she cautiously took his gun away and then aroused
the sleeper with a demand for his immediate surrender.
Somewhat sobered by the critical situation of affairs, he gazed,
in a muddled sort of way, at his captor, who stood ready to
discharge his musket at his head if he made a hostile demon-"
stration. At Grace's command he staggered to his feet and
walked, with an uncertain gait, out of the house and down the
road toward the American quarters. The patrol guard of a
New Jersey regiment, stationed near Woodbridge, met the
effeminate captor wnth her victim, and the prisoner was placed
in the custody of the soldiers, to the great satisfaction of all
parties, except the Hessian.*

What is known among our oldest citizens as the "battle of
Ash Swamp " was fought in this township. By a recent act
of the State Legislature creating Raritan Township (passed
in March, 1870), the scene of that engagement is no longer
embraced within the limits of Woodbridge, but within those
of Raritan. Its exact locality is a little west of Robert C.

* This is a reliable tradition. For corroboration see Barber & Howe's Hist. Coll., p. 825.


Vail's present residence. Robert Coddington was at that
time a boy about sixteen years of age — so his son, Robert,
tells us— and he acted as a guide to the American troops.
The battle probably occurred in the Spring of 1777, and was a
desperate conflict. Previous to the contest the British pre-
pared and ate a repast on the farm of Daniel Moore — for some
of them it was the last meal. No doubt there was ereat
hilarity among the red-coated soldiers as they partook of the
rustic dinner. We imagine we see them scattered in pictur-
esque groups over the wide field, with the blue smoke from
many camp-fires rising in languid spiral columns from the
ashes and embers. There pace the vigilant sentinels ; here
dozes a sleepy teamster; there prance the cavalry horses;
here gleams the burnished steel of a stack of mhskets; there
flutters the bunting of England — the British cross; here
reclines a thoughtful officer in the brilliant uniform of the
Royal Light Horse; there is a busy aid-de-camp hurrying from
company to company ; here is a noisy crowd discussing the
probable issue of the campaign. In graceful attitude stands
not far away the bugler with his higlily polished cornet in his
hand awaiting the word of command. When the clear ring-
ing notes are heard at length the aspect of the whole camp is
changed. The men vault lightly in their saddles, the drums
tremble with the rapid strokes of the loud "call to arms," the
infantry fall into line; and, as if by magic, the hour of uproar
and feasting is succeeded by complete silence of human
voices. The birds sing gaily in adjacent woods, save which
only the heavy tread of the splendid troops is heard as they
move to the tap of the drum.

A volley is heard. There is a halt. A man here and
another there fall wounded in the ranks. There is a hurried
consultation. When the smoke clears away a body of Amer-
ican infantry is descried, opposing the further advance of the
invaders. The latter were ch-efly British Light Horsemen ;
but some of them were foot-soldiers, who, reliable traditions
tell us, covered their musket-balls with verdigris and so
poisoned the Americans, wounded by them, that many died
who otherwise Avould have recovered. The British cavalry
charged upon the sturdy patriots who before them. It is


probable that this flight was a ruse ae giirrre, because the
Americans hurriedly retreated into the treacherous swamp.
They were well acquainted with it, but the cavalry men, who
came thundering after them, were not at all informed of its
morasses and fenny recesses. So eager was their pursuit that
they plunged into, the swamp at a swift gallop and soon
discovered their fatal mistake. From behind the large trees
a shower of balls greeted the unfortunate horsemen and many
a steed started riderless away. In vain the spur and rein.
The soft adhesive mud clung to every hoof. The animals,
with trembling limbs, struggled wildly for solid ground, and
the confusion increased momentarily as the unseen foe dimin-
ished the British ranks with terrible precision.

At last the carriage was ended. The Americans were vic-
torious. Those of the British who had not ventured too near
the swamp retreated in safety. Every house in the neighbor-
hood was filled with the wounded, and we may readily believe
that not many inhabitants in that region retired to sleep that
night. What a woful scene must have been presented

" Wlieu the eveniug star went down."

Tiie dead were buried on the farm late Noe Clarkson's.
Noe was a boy at that time, and was employed, with sled
and oxen, in bringing water to the wounded. For many
years the inhabitants told the story of this battle; and as late
as 1 82 2 musket balls were to be found on the ground and
every tree bore marks of the terrible struggle."^

Ezra Mundy, born near Oak Tree, was a chill during the
war. He has told liis descendants that he was once taken by
his mother to an old barn near the school-house while British
troops were passing. His father was in the American army,
so that the family was without a protector. Other women
and children, similarly situated, had sought the same refuge.
As Ezra was playing with some of his companions he heard
one woman say to another: " How little these children know
of our danger ! " As if to emphasize the remark a cannon
ball soon after passed through the barn. But the hiding-place

* I am iudebted for information concerning this engagement to A. V. Shotwell, Robert
Coddington, and the " Bridge-to\vn Museum " of July 27th, 1822.


was not further molested and the troops passed out of sight.*

It is supposed that the house now occupied by Benajah
Kelly, not far from Oak Tree, was once a British guard-room.f
Cut into the glass of a window in the east room is the following
inscription : " Capt. Wm. Thompson arrived at this house
from New York loth Day of October 1775 and with sorrow
and harts Distress he many days hear spent much." Over
this is the name of John Cutter, who was, doubtless, another
rebel prisoner.

Speaking of Cutter reminds me that Stephen Cutter, son of
Deacon William, had some Revolutionary experience which
deserves to be remembered. A party of the enemy from
Staten Island once came up the Woodbridge Creek and took
him prisoner. He lived, so it is supposed, in the house now
occupied by Samuel R. Cutter, which is the old homestead
and has been in possession of the family over one hundred
and fifty years. As the house is very near the water it is not
singular that the British visited it, especially as Stephen was
a "rebel." He was taken at night, and in crossing the Sound
his captors commanded him to take the oars to assist in row-
ing, which he refused. They threatened to throw him over-
board, if he did not comply, but they did not execute the threat.

Tabitha Cutter, Stephen's wife, was no friend to the British,
especially after a visit some of them made, when they dam-
aged her furniture and took the dinner-pot from the fire and
spread the contents over the floor. She regarded this as
unpardonable, and what woman would not.' She was the
daughter of Samuel F. Randolph, and died, aged eighty-nine,
in 1841. Her husband lived to be seventy-eight years old,
and died in Woodbridge on the 21st of June, 1823. J

Ford Cutter, son of Richard, was a farmer in this town.
He was born about the year 1757 and died in 1817. In the
battle of Monmouth his. health was badly shattered. The day
was intensely hot and our troops suffered terribly, many of
them dying of thirst. Ford never entirely recovered from the
bodily injuries he received during that notable struggle.

At the time when this part of the country was overrun with

' Dr. E. M. Hunt's Metucfien, p. 11. t Ibid. I " See Cutter Family," p. 93.


British troops, large herds of cattle were kept by them in the
commons around the Strawberry Hill school-house. Among
the animals was a yoke of oxen belonging to Ford. He, of
course, was not consulted when they were driven from his
field, and he felt indignant at the robbery. One night he
quietly entered the enclosure and released the creatures, which
recognized and followed him from the Hill. The rest of the
cattle silently followed Mr. Cutter's oxen until they were all
beyond the soldiers' reach. We do not know whether any of
the animals were re-captured or not.

Ford Cutter in 1797, while living at Elizabethtown, was
interested in a line of stages running from that place to New
Brunswick. This was part of the passenger line from New
York to Philadelphia.*

Clarkson Edgar, sometimes called " General Edgar," is
buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery at Woodbridge. He
died, at the age of sixty, on the 21st of July, 1816. He was
Captain in the ist Regiment of Middlesex, and then First
Major in the same corps. The latter commission was given
to him on the 12th of December, 1778. On the 9th of October,
1779, he was transferred to Col. Holmes' New Jersey Regi-
ment with the rank of Major.f

Britain Moores, son of Daniel, was a sturdy friend of the
American cause and suffered for it. The Tories visited the
house in which he lived in Woodbridge and carried him, a
prisoner, to New York, where he was kept " in durance vile "
for six wrecks. James, his brother, was also abused for his
patriotism. The mother, Mrs. Moores, was very sarcastic in
her conversations with the Tory neighbors and sometimes
openly hostile to them. One of these, Isaac Dunham, would
drop over to see the Moores occasionally, and appeared
covertly pleased with the evidences of misfortune he saw at
the old homestead. He always seemed to know w^hen a raid
had been made and availed himself of' the first opportunity to
call on the afflicted household to rejoice in its sorrows. An
emphatic protest by Mrs. Moores, on one occasion, accom-
panied by vigorous demonstrations with various loose articles

' " Cutter Family," pp. 101, 102. t Geu. Stryker'a Roster, p. 364.


near at hand, caused Isaac to i^"t his long legs in rapid
motion, with a mental resolution never to go near that dan-
gerous woman ar-in- "^i^^ni^^^y as he was kindly informed
H.a.. .1 .-„ ^ame to the Moores place after this his head and its
appurtenances would be laid under contribution by a well-
directed broomstick or some other eflfective appliance. It is
unnecessary to remark that he suspended his neighborly
visits for an indefinite length of time.

Daniel Moores, the father of Britain and James, was a
prominent man in the township. He was an elder in the
Presbyterian Church and led the singing for many years. The
war broke out about seventeen years before his death, which
occurred in his sixt3^-fourth year, on the 28th of April, 1792.

Jennet Gage was another historic character belono-infr to
this period ; but her name is chiefly associated with the
raising of the first "liberty pole," or flag-staff, in Woodbridge.
It was some time after the close of the Avar. Popular excite-
ment ran high for awhile over the joyful result of the pro-
longed struggle. The general enthusiasm manifested itself
in various ways. Jennet was determined to have a pole
erected; so, taking the black man "Joe," and a yoke of oxen,
she went into the woods and selected one of the stateliest and
most symmetrical hickory trees. "Joe" cut it down with
great satisfaction and trimmed it with care. Tiien the oxen
were brought into requisition and the tree was drawn to the
corner of the road opposite Commoss & Ensign's store, where
it was set in the ground by Jennet and " Joe." Here the
"stars and stripes" were unfurled and gracefully saluted tlie
villager's as the rattling halliards bore them to the top of tlie
pole. This staff was standing nearly in front of the old
"Cross Keys' Tavern; " but it became so insecure that it was
taken dow^n.

Jennet was the sister of Zebulon M. Pike's father and was
the mother of Ellis, James, and "Big Philip" Gage. She
lived below Hampton Cutter's present residence— half way
between his house and his clay-bank, along by the brook. It
is not improbable that she found her tall hickory in the woods
near her dwelling. Jennet is represented as being a woman
of enthusiastic temperament and of rather masculine charac-
ter, but of undoubted patriotism.



Conclusion — Town Meetings During the Revolution —
Our Great Men.

We have now brought down the history of Woodbridge and
vicinity to the period we had assigned as the limit of this
volume. But before closing we must gather up several frag-
ments which belong to this portion of the story of our town-

The following are the minutes of the Town Meetings from
1776 to 1783 inclusive, literally transcribed from Liber B, It
will be seen that between March 12th, 1776, and March nth,
1783, no meetings are recorded; and our readers will not fail
to observe that no allusion is made to the war. These minutes
are valuable, however, because they show who held the town-
ship offices during this memorable time: \

" March ye 12th, 1776 — At a general Town Meeting of thee
Jnhabitants of woodbridge Persuant to an act of General
Assembly it Passed by a general and free voate as followeth —

ist William Smith Shall Be Moderator for thee Preasant
ad That Robert F. Randolph Shall Be Town Clark ye Jnsu.

3d That John Shotwell Jsaac & Matthew freeman be Over
Seears of the Poor for the Jnsuing year —

4th Benjamin Thornal & Samuel Force be Freeholders for
ye year.

5th That Joseph Shotwell Serve as assesor for ye year
Jnsuing —

6th That Nathl. Heard Serve as Collector to geather ye
taxes ye Jns.

7th That James Bonny & Robt. Clarkson Be Serveyors ye
year Jnsuing.

8th That John Marsh, Marmeduke Hunt, Jsrael freeman,



David Kent, Wm. Moore Junr., James Munden, & James
Ayres Be overseears of thee Roads thee year Jnsuing—

9th That Samuel Jaquish, Benjamin Thornal, Moses Bloom-
fielu, Nathaniel Heard, Robert Clarkson & Joseph Shotvvell
be continued as trusteeas to the Scool Land & Money for thee
year Jnsuing. The Report made by thee aforeSd. trustees is
that thee Total, Principal, Jntrest, &c., of Schooal Land
Money amounts to ;^ii62: 12: 6.

loth Voted that Daniel Moores Jnspect thee town Book in
thee Rooam of Samuel Parker & that sd. Moore & Moses
Bloomfield Valine sd. Town Book & give an order on thee
overseears of sd. Poor for thee Sum — and' that Nathl. f. Ran-
dolph shall have the priveledge to chuse John Smith of Amboy
to Jnspect sd. book in behalf of himself

Robt. Randolpli,

Town Clark."

The last minute above has reference to the Fitz Randolph
copy of the old Town Book, as we have shown elsewhere
(see page 205). The item relating to the School Fund, under
the next date, is omitted, as it is embodied in Chapter XVL

" March nth, 1783, at a general town meeting of the inhab-
atants of the township of woodbridg pursuant to a JVac^ of
general assembly it passed by a general and free Voate as fol-
loweth ;

1. that Moses Blumfield be moderator for the preasant
day —

2. that David Frazee shall be town Clark for the year insu-

3. that Marthe w Freeman and Cornelas Baker be freholders
the year in suing.

4. that Clarkson Edger shall be assesor for the year insu-

5. that Jeremiah Clarkson and James Manning shall be
Corlectors and over sears of the poor the year insuing—

6. that Henery Marsh, Asher F. Randolph, Jeames Bonney.
Jsreal Thornal Shall be the asestants to the assesor ye insuing

7. that Thomas Edger, John Ross, Cornelas Baker, be Com-
misheners of apeels the year insuing —



8. that Benjaman Shotwell and Carlile Brown Shall be the
Survarcs of the Roods the year insuing —

9. that Thomas Eston, Jur., Jsaac Tappen, Thom as Fjree-
ma n, Henery alien, John Brown, John Dobs, John Mursha-
row, Carlile Brown, Benjaman Kelly Shall be ovcrsears of the
Roods for the year insuing —

10. that Jonathan Conger, Danel Compton, Bcnjamen Ford
shall be Constabels for the year insuing —

11. that Jeremiah Clarkson, Jeames Bonney, to joyne the
commitey of the Schoole Land in the Rume of Justice man-
ning and Josiah Freeman —

12. that John Brown call on Robert F. Randolph and get
the town Books that are in his hands —

13. that Clarkson Edger and Jeames Bon_ney agree with
John hampton on tlie best tarmes they can for the town Books
that are in his handi-;.

14. that Jonathan Blumfield, Ilenery Marsli, Clarkson
Edger, John Marsh, Marthew Freem an, for to settel with the
committey of the School Land."

"June nth, 1783, the town meeting apinted to Rase money
for the Relef of the poor is agurnde to tuesday 17th of this
Jnstant [when it is recorded],

1. that it passed by a general and free vot that Moses Blum-
field be moderator for the day —

2. that one hundred pounds be Raised for the Releef of the

3. that twentey pounds be Raised to Repare bridges of said

There is some frantic spelling in tluse minutes which is not
altogether unintelligible. In the last lecord we are sorry to
spoil such a scholastic invention as agit/nd:; but through pity

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 24 of 34)