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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

. (page 4 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 4 of 34)
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Newbury), came from Newbury, in Massachusetts. They are



^S WD.iiil'.kllK;!-; AK1> VICINITY.

the ancestors of the Insltrs of the present day* (many of
whom are now living in Woodbridge), as well as of the Ilslys
in different parts of the State. There is a tradition, which
may or may not be true, that they came over in the old ship
Cakthmia^ tiie wreck of which, for many years, was seen on the
shore at Perth Amboy, by some who are yet living. It is
said that, driven by persecution, the Ilslys, with other
dissenters, were compelled to flee from their homes, which
were either in England or in the north of Scotland, and were
allowed by their enemies to depart only because they
embarked on the unseaworthy Caledonia, which was confi-
dently expected to founder at sea and engulf the sturdy
heretics. But, lo ! they came safely into harbor! Before
they landed, however, the Dutch captain proceeded to bind
'them over as servants to the planters in the vicinity, accord-
ing to custom, until certain real or fancied debts in the old
country had been discharged. A Mrs. Ilsly, filled with
indignation, seized a bar of iron and, flourishing it over the
captain's head, declared witli emphasis that she and the rest
had fled from tyranny at home to find quiet in the new land ;
and that she would not submit to slavery right on the borders
of freedom. The doughty captain was cowed by the deter-
mination of the brave woman, and saved his head by landing
his passengers without the indentures having been executed.
At the same Town Meeting in which Elisha Ilsly was
elected a Freeholder "Robert Voquilin" (alias Vocklin, alias
Vanquillen, alias Liprary, alias La Prairie, etc.) was elected
to the same dignity, and was allotted ten acres of upland on
the hill south of the Papiack Creek, near its mouth. The hill
was known as " Voclin's Hill " thereafter. The special reason
for this man having so many names does not appear. His
parents must have made sad havoc with the dictionary when
Robert was christened — although of what language, it is not
so easy to tell; for while Vanquillen has a Dutch tincture,
/(/ Prairie savors strongly of France. It may be that the
maternal parent had occasion to answer the elder Vanquill en,

*For proof of this we rffcr to the Town Records, Liber B, page 117, where a desd for
wrtain hinds is sicncd liy " Willium Insly" and 'Mno. Inslee"'— the two men signing differ-
ently, as is Bln>wn by the (luolalion marks. This iia|)er is very old, being dated 1714; froui
which wo Infer that the name '• Inslee ■' is synonymous with the more ancient " Ilsly."



TOWN MEETINGS. 39

when the question was "popped," in a mixed way — thus:
'' Ich bin Dci/i, man homme chcr^ If so, we have a clue to the
whole difficulty — one was Dutch, the other French.*

This Voquillen (or whatever his name was) being Surveyor-
General of the Province, was employed very much of his time
in lavine out the lands of the inhabitants. The hill on which
his house stood is now the property of Mozart Pinner.

The Town Meeting held July 6th, 1669, sent Lieutenant
John Pike and Samuel Moore to talk to the Governor
concerning a draught of a Charter sent to the Freeholders
of the town. Some things in this first draught were regarded
as objectionable and burdensome. The same committee
with the addition of Thomas Bloomfield, Sr., and Stephen
Kent, Sr., was sent to the town of Piscataway to enquire
what were the grievances of which those in that section
complained. The Piscataway men had endeavored to destroy
the boundary marks set up by the Surveyor-General on the
Governor's warrant, between the two towns, and had so far
succeeded as to have defaced the trees which had been marked
— so that some confusion was likely to ensue if the matter
was not speedily righted. .On the 8th inst., two days after
this committee was appointed, another meeting was held and
it was reported by the committee that the Piscataway people
were very much aggrieved by the boundary line being drawn
so that Woodbridge was in possession of much territory
which ought to belong to themselves. The Woodbridge
people waxed war-like. The minute in the Town Book
reads thus : * * "it was passed by vote that that
bounds that is now sett and laid out by the Surveyor General
by vertue of the Governor's warrant between ye two Towns,
viz. : the towns of Woodbridge and Pascattaway: we conclude
doth of right belong to the freeholders of this town of Wood-
bridge, and that right they will maintain by all such just and
lawfull means as to their judgments may seem best, and this
to be returned to the Inhabitants of Pascattaway as the
answer of the freeholders of Woodbridge to their propositions
made by their messengers."

* Dr. Hatfield says VoquiUen was a French srentleman from the city of Caen, and that he
came over with Gov. Carteret. (History of Ehz.alieth, p. 4S.) He was called for some reason,
"Sieur des Prairie" — Lord of the fields. Perhaps this had reference to his vocation, as he was
a surveyor. There were twenty-two ways of spelling his name ^Hatfield, p. 97. note).



4<) WOODDRIDGE AND VICINITY.

That sounds as thougli our fathers had their tempers
roused.

The next meeting was held on the i6th of August, and the
Freeholders "thankfully accepted " the Charter of the Town.
The Piscataway trouble came up again. The people over
there had been pulling up the stakes and the bounds of the
town were "being demolished." The old committee who
went to see the Governor in regard to the Charter were
commissioned to go again to complain of the Piscataway
men "concerning the injury, abuse and wrong" sustained by
the Freeholders of Woodbridge.

On the 2otli of August the inhabitants were permitted "to
joyn together 4, 5, 6, 8 or ten, more or less," to view " such
parcels of land " as were convenient to that already owned by
tliem, whicli, if the next Town Meeting approved, should be
divided among the company by lot.

On August 27th it was voted that Strawberry Hill should
be patented as a " perpetual Sheep Common" for the inhab-
itants on the west side of Papiack Creek. Lieut. John Pike,
Matthew Bunn, and Samuel Moore were appointed to appor-
tion "the Indian purchase so as To know what is due for each
man to pay towards it."

The next meeting was held September loth, at which John
Smith, the Constable, was elected Moderator, or Chairman,
"until the Inhabitants shall see cause to the contrary."
Daniel Hendricks was permitted to become an inhabitant of
the Piscataway plantation, being the first of four men whom
the Woodbridge authorities had the privilege of settling
there.

September 22d a "good, serviceable, stout bridge" was
ordered to be constructed over the Creek below the " Meeting-
house Green." Thomas Wiatt was elected the second Wood-
bridge man to settle in Piscataway, according to an agree-
ment between the two towns.

In order to make the settlement as compact as possible,
it was ordered on the 9th of October that no large quantities
of land should be taken up within a mile of the body of the
town; "that is to say, a mile or thereabouts from the brook
on the north side of the Meeting-house or Kirk Green, a mile



TOWN MEETINGS. 4I

or thereabouts from Stephen Kent, Senr., his now dwelling
house, and a mile from Strawberry Hill or the Sheep Com-
mon." Where two or more of the companies, mentioned in
the meeting of August 20th, had selected the same plots of
land, or Avhere land was selected which was insufficient in
quantity for supplying a single company, it was ordered that
lots should be cast by the claimants to solve the difficulty.
Samuel Moore and John Smith were appointed to assist the
Surveyor-General in laying out the land ; and those employ-
ing them were required "to give them mete satisfaction in
seasonable help or otherways, that their Domestick afairs
may not too much suffer at home by their owne absence."
The Constable was directed to entertain the Surveyor-
General wnth " meat, drink and lodging " at the charge of the
town.

"Spunk Hill," so called, we presume, because it required
considerable spunk to climb it, was situated on the south side
of the old Piscataway road ; and, according to an entry in the
records, was occupied by David Makany.

At the following meeting, held October 19th, the Township
Court was erected, Lieut. John Pike being chosen Judge and
the senior John Bishop assistant. " Theophilus' house-lot "
was granted to Samuel Bacon. What circumstance gave it
this name we cannot tell. It may have been a dry joke at the
expense of some would be Freeholder whose surname is
forgotten. Under this date an order is recorded granting
\os. for every wolf killed — the animal's head to be taken to the
Constable's house. And this reminds us what a good-natured
man John Smith must have been ! Did the people wish to
attend Town Meeting.' They must go to John Smith's.
Did they want the Surveyor-General to be entertained .' Let
him go to John Smith's. Did they want a place to bring all
the wolves' heads unto .' Take them to John Smith's house.
Clever John Smith ! would that thy hospitality were as fre-
quently met with as thy name !

On the 22d of October, the first Tuesday in every month
was set apart for the Town Meeting day — the session to begin
at ten o'olock in the morning and to close at four o'clock in
the afternoon. Extra meetings were to be called when



4: woonnRiDc.E and vicinity.

necessary. F.ate-comers were to be fined si.\ pence and
absentees two shillings.

In tlie November meeting (ist) a little breeze was occa-
sioned bv some one succeeding in pushing through a town
order for a new election for officers of the Township Court.
Josluia Bradley stoutly protested that the order was illegal —
contending that these officers had already been elected and
recorded. He was followed by eleven others who joined in
the protest. The officers previously chosen were suffered to
remain in the Court, but two additional dignitaries were
elected, viz.: S. Kent, Sr., and S. Moore, Assistants — the latter
being sworn in as Clerk of the Court.

The two Woodbridge Deputies were instructed to consult
with representatives from other towns in the Province (Nov.
22) in order to }:)etition the Governor for an explanation of
the fact that no Legislature had recently been convened; also
to ask why all the laws of the last session had not been
published.

By a minute of the December meeting we perceive that
Samuel Moore has tl:e office of Constable added to his other
honors. But in January, 1670, Richard Worth is the happy (.')
recipient of this position. In the same meeting, held on the
4th, John Smith and Samuel Moore were elected Deputies to
the General Assembly, and the latter was chosen Town Clerk
and Moderator for the year. Three days after, a special
meeting was held to " smouth over" the ruffled feelings of
some of the citizens in regard to the Court elections. Con-
siderable bitterness had been evoked in the meeting of
November ist, when the new election had been under
discussion, and the asperity had increased in the meantime.
The foIloSving is the preamble to a document presented at this
meeting :

" Whereas there hath been and still are many considerable
and uncomfortable dcsircanccs in this Towne, occationed by
the various apprehentions of the Inhabitants and freeholders
of the same, about the erecting of a Court of Judicature and
the prosecution of the same: and the Inhabitants and free-
holders being mett together to compose the same, and in
order thereunto have by a joynt consent made choice of Mr.



TOWN MEETINGS. 43

John Smith and Samuel Moore to consult together and
to draw up some propositions for the considerations of the
Towne, that in their judgments may seem most Rationall for
the uniteing of the freeholders and Inhabitants and for the
composing of the Desireances now in being."

Then follow seven propositions, the first of which reads
thus: ''That the Inhabitants and freeholders may with
suteable purposes resolve and declare each to other that
whatever hath been spoken and acted either in words or
jestures by way of sturing up of strife or exassperating
each other's spirits should be buried in oblivion, and so
recorded."

There is something noble in this language despite the
homely phraseology. It breathes of Christian charity — the
choicest of all virtues.

C The six other propositions retained the officers in the
Court which were originally elected ; provided for an annual
election of such officers ; for the choice of jurymen ; for fees
and salaries and fines; and for four sessions a year. In case
an extra session were called the plaintiff was to be required to
pay the cost of it. It speaks well for the spirit of the meeting
that this paper was adopted unanimously ; and it was ordered,
very properly, to be recorded in the Town Book. And thus
pleasantly ended the Township Court difficulty — the first
which had disturbed the harmony of the people.

At a meeting held February ist, 1670, some old grants were
brought in and recorded. On the ist of March a committee
was appointed to look for a mill-site; and a present of two
hundred and fifty acres of upland and meadow was ordered to
be given to the Governor, Philip Carteret — a township
present.

The meeting on April ist was an unimportant one, and
that of Mav 13th likewise. It will be remarked that the town
order designating the first Tuesday in each month as the
regular Town-Meeting day was •' more honored in the breach
than in the observance." Very few meetings were held on
this day.

A communication was read in the June meeting from the
Governor, in regard to military affairs — urging the appoint-



44 WOODRRIDGE AND VICINITY.

mcnt of a Captain, Lieutenant, and Ensign. Under this date
is recorded the agreement of Jonathan Dunham with the
Town to build a grist mill, concerning whicli we have spoken
elsewhere. Tiiis Dunham was a man of great energy. When
he determined upon an enterprise he pushed it forward to
success with indomitable penBeverance. So many of his
relatives settled north of the Kirk Green that the neighbor-
hood was known as Dunhamtoiun for many years.

The meeting of July 5th refers to the procuring of a
settled Ministry in the Town, to which, with kindred topics,
we have devoted chapter VII. There is only one item
recorded in the August meeting (2d) and that relates to a very
serious affair if it was carried out as it is written. It reads in
Fitz Randolph's copy as follows : " It passed by vote that
there should be twenty shillings paid to any person that kills
a wolf or wolves within the bounds of this corporation, the
party bringing the head of the Constable." We were horror-
struck when we first read this murderous. edict, but we have
been convinced by subsequent investigation that the Con-
stable's head was not at all required. When the wolf was
killed the head was to be brought "/^ the Constable " — i. e.
the head of the wolf.

September 6th the town ordered the erection of fences
around the corn-fields, and a committee of four men were
directed to inspect the fences in the Township, who should
decide whether damages were claimable for the destruction ot
the crop by hogs and cattle. If the fences of the plaintift
were in good condition the claim for indemnify was to be
granted ; but if they were poorly constructed the verdict was
to be, in effect : " Served him right ! "

But we must bring this chapter to a close, promising to
resume the history of the " Town Meetings " in the next.



OHAPTEE T.

166T— 1677 {Continued).

Dissatisfaction with Tax — Cross Letter from the Gov-
ernor — Wolf Pits — First Grand Jury in Woodbridgf,
— The Honest Scotchman — Paying Fees in Pork —
Robert Cuts — Dutch Rule — More Piscataway Trou-
ble — The Pound — Stockade — Magazine — Importing
Paupers — Legislature Meets in Woodbridge — The
Laws it Passed — Second Session in Woodbridge — The
Pikes.

For some time previous io the events recorded in the pre-
ceding chapter, Woodbridge liad been agitated by certain of
the settlers who aimed to set aside the claims of the Lords-
proprietors on the ground that the purchase of the lands was
made from the Indians themselves. It was virtually paying
twice for them if they paid the tax levied by the English pro-
prietors — so they argued. This view of the matter w^as pre-
sented in such a plausible shape that many were inclined to
adopt it. In order to crush this movement the Governor sent
a message to Judge Pike, directing him to notify all parties con-
cerned that those persons who did not conform to the terms of
the Lords-proprietors should be denied the privileges of citi-
zens of the town — not being permitted to vote in the town
meetings or to hold office. Their lands were ordered to be
confiscated. This order was issued October 25th, 1670, and
was read November ist in the town meeting. At the same
meeting Voquillen, the Surveyor-General, presented a crusty
letter from the Governor. Here it is:

" To Mr. Robert Voquillen, alias Laprary — Sir : In answer
to yours of the 3d Instant, I do not understand that the Town
of Woodbridge hath any power to dispose of the Lords-pro-
prietors' lands without their approbation, and contrary both to



^6 WOODBRIDGE AND VICINITY.

their laws and to ihcir own articles. When it is theirs accord-
ing to tlieir Charter they may do with it what they please ; till
then it is at the Lords-proprietors' disposing. Therefore
without more ceremony, if there be any so contentious and
will not patent their land, lay it out to them that will, and let
them go and look for land where they can get it. For Amboy, |
I wonder Mr. Pierce should be so unadvised as to speak any |
more concerning it. He knows it was reserved for the Lords |
in lieu of the seventh part, therefore [he] may set his heart at
rest ior that he shall never have; and if he will not patent
that land that is allotted for him, you may lay it out amongst
the rest to those that will — I was absent when several of your
Town brought corn which Champpine did receive, but not
upon the account of Rent due to the Lords. He hath kept an
exact account of what he hath received from every particular
man, which I will [be] accountable for, and Avill give no re-
ceipt to any of them upon the account of rent but those that
have patented their lands ; therefore their policy in that will
fail them. — For the Piscataway men, their dividing their lands
without order will signify nothing for I am about to patent
their land to particular persons which will be glad to have it
upon the same conditions ihry might have had it, and to turn
them out of the country ; and then let them go to England
and dispute it in law with the Lords-proprietors who hath ye
greatest interest. I have not more at present but that I am,

Sir, Your assured friend,

4th of April, 1670. Philip Carteret."

Vocjuillen presented in this meeting another paper — a war-
rant from the Governor for laying out lands regardless of the
interference of the disaffected settlers, who were to be ac-
counted devoid of any right or title to any property in the
Town.

The meeting of November i6th was held to take measures
for securing a Minister of the Gospel. That of December 6th
voted ^8 for the Surveyor as payment for surveying the
bounds of the Township and making a draft of the same.

In the January meeting (3d), 1671, the following officers of
the Township Court were elected :

President: John Pike, Sr.; Assistants: John Smith, John



TOWN JMEETINGS, CONTINUED. 47

Bishop, Sr., John Martin, and Samuel Moore; Marshal:
Samuel Hale; Jurymen: Jonathan Dunham, T. Bloomfield,
Sr., Abraham Tappen, Isaac Tappen, John Bloomfield, Oba-
diah Ayers, John Adams, Samuel Dennis, Benj. Parkis,
Thomas Auger, Ephraim Andrews, and John Smith, "Scotch-
man."

From an entry dated February 7tli we learn that two wolf-
pits had been constructed in different parts of tiie town, and
it was ordered that twenty acres of common land should be
set apart for keeping the pits in repair. It will be seen from
this and previous orders that tliese animals were very numerous
around Woodbridge. Many methods were employed to de-
stroy them, but it was a long time before the settlers were
exempt from their destructive forages. These pits, we pre-
sume, were deep excavations Avith perpendicular sides, the
opening being covered with slender strips, upon which were
scattered leaves so thickly as to close up every crevice and
present the appearance of solid ground. Of course, the
moment the weight of the unsuspecting wolf came upon it
the frail fabric gave way, and the animal found himself a pris-
oner at the mercy of the first hunter that came in that direc-
tion.

The next meeting, March 7th, reveals nothing important in
town affairs. On the 4th of April " all Births, Burials, and
Marriages " were ordered to be recorded thenceforth ; and it
was voted that two Grand Jurymen should annually be chosen
" to take Notice of. Enquire into, and to make Due present-
ment of all or any kind of Misdemeanor in this corporation,
and to have an oath administered to them for that End." The
two chosen for 167 1 were Thos. Bloomfield, Sr., and John
Martin.

Two months after this, on the first Tuesday in June (6th),
the next town meeting assembled and appointed two "Way
wardens " to attend to the mending of the country roads. An
order was passed forbidding the obstruction of the highways
by the felling of timber; a grievance which must have been
common, for the heavy fine of los. was exacted for ever}- tree
felled across the road.

John Smith, Scotchman, was a man of such remarkable



aS WOODBRIDGE AND VICINITV.

integrity of character that tlic July meeting (4th) directed
that his half bushel measure should be the standard by which
all the freeholders should be governed in buying and selling ;
'> and all those that shall sell or buy by any other measures,
until law makes other provision, shall be accounted villianous
to buy or sell by unjust measures." What a tribute to the
Scotchman's honesty !

Nothing noteworthy occurred in the meetings of August
1st and September 5th ; but in that held on the last day of the
latter month a warrant from the Governor was read requir-
ing the immediate election of two Legislative Representatives.
John Smith and Samuel Moore were chosen.

The nieeting of the 30th ot October made the preparations
for the Indian expedition which are alluded to elsewhere.
One thing, however, strikes us as having a ludicrous aspect.
The ammunition for this war was ordered to be paid for "by
the Constable ;'// wheat or pork out of the Treasury^ How
many towns in the State have a pork-barrel for a Treasury ?
And how many government contractors are there to-day who
are content to be paid in spare-rib and pickled pigs' feet for
the supplies they furnish.' "(9 temporal O mores!''' We
almost imagine we see the solemn-looking Constable fishing
in the Treasury for his salary, and the great Justice of the
Township Court carrying his greasy fees to his home at
Strawberry Hill. These were literally /a/ (?^(:^i-.

On the 5th of December the Common Lands within the
bounds of the township were ordered to be patented to the
Freeholders of the town forever, according to an offer of the
proprietors, in consideration of a yearly tax of ^5, to be paid
to the Governor.

The regular January election occurred on the 2d, in the year
1672, Thos. Bloomfield, Sr., being chosen Constable; Samuel
Moore, President of the Court; John Smith and Robert
Dennis, Deputies, etc. The Deputies were allowed ^s. 6p. per
day, during the sessions of the Legislature, o-ut of Avhich they
were expected to pay their expenses.

On the 7th of May the Freeholders agreed to allow Robert
Cuts to build a store-hous3 near the landing, on the east side
of Strawberry Hill (now known as Cutter's Dock), giving



TOWN MEETINGS, CONTINUED. 49

him a strip of land for the building 60x25 feet, and a dwelling
house lot at some other place to be selected by himself.

We are compelled to jump from the last date to July 2d,
1674, as only one record of any Town Meeting occurs during
this long interval of two years. It is probable that tlic
possession of New York by the Dutch in 1673, and the
demoralization attendant upon the change of government in
the Province (for the conquerors at New York extended their
doniinion over all the surrounding country), affected Wood-
bridge ; and Town Meetings were, for a time, abandoned.
Besides, Samuel Moore was too loyal to the English Gov-



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 4 of 34)