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 6 of 34)
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Whitehead mentions this man as arriving at Perth Amboy in
1687, and subsequently, in 1696, becoming a Commissioner of
the Minor Court {Contrib., p'. 44); and yet on the 17th of
August, 1689, a meeting is appointed at his house '^ in JVood-
bridge." From these facts we infer that Griffith moved to
Woodbridge somewhere about 1689. His penmanship is of
an elaborate description, and easily read.

The first Monthly Meeting held in Woodbridge occurred on
the 17th day of August, 1689, as above stated, and is recorded
thus: "At a Monthly meeting in Woodbridge it was agreed
that the monthly meeting should be kept the third Fifth day
in every month, at Benjamin Griffith's in Woodbridge. That
Friends of the Ministry coming to Visit us, should be taken
care of"

The next entry in the record is written in a large, bold
hand, as follows: "The above said Monthly Meeting fell
from ye year 16S9 to ye year 1704 by reason of George Keith's


Separation which was 15 years and Then was appointed to Be
Kept att Woodbridgc First by a preparative Meeting and abt
2 years after Kept a Monthly Meeting."

The cause of tiiis long interval of fifteen years in the
history of tlic Woodbridge Quakers is well known. George
Keith,* a man eminent among the Friends in Pennsylvania
and New Jersey, began preaching and writing in favor of
plainer garments, "of the abandonment of all forcible
measures to uphold secular or worldly government, and the
emancipation of negroes after a reasonable term of service."
Keith had many followers, causing much bitterness in the
hitherto peaceful denomination. The leader, however, was
unequal to the task of crystallizing the elements he had
disturbed. He became censorious and overbearing, in
consequence of which his influence declined; and in 1694 the
yearly meeting in London divested him of all authority and
his career as a Quaker was ended. In 1702 he visited
Shrewsbury as an Episcopalian missionary and created a
profound sensation.

On the 24th of August, 1704, at a quarterly meeting held in
Shrewsbury, it was "agreed" that "for time to come it [the
meeting] should be kept at Nathaniel Fitz Randolph's house
in Woodbridge every first day of the week until Friends se
kause to alter it." " It was then and there proposed by some
friends in and about Woodbridge, to wit, John Kensy,
Benjamin Griffith, William Sutton and John Laing whether
it might n(jt be konvenient to have a Preparative-meeting
setled there to be held once a month ? the Question was
considered by friends and they answered, that it was their
sence that it might be Serviceable and agreed to it, and left
the appointment of the day when it should be held, to the
friends of Woodbridge meeting."

The Woodbridge meetings, except two,t continued from
this time forward to be held at the house of Fitz Randolph
until the Friends had completed their meeting house, in
which the first session was held September 19th, 17 13. We
cannot tell where Fitz Randolph dwelt; hence we cannot

• Whitehead's Contrlb., p. 16. t These were held at John Klnsey's in November and De-
cember, 1707.


designate the locality where the Quakers met, for so many
years, in harmonious council. Nor are we wiser in regard to
the house of Benjamin Griffith where the first Quaker
meeting in the village was convened. In 1707 we find the
latter spoken of as an inhabitant of Amboy, from which we
infer that he had returned to that place, although he attended
the Woodbridge meetings with unabated interest. It may
not be out of place to state that some well-informed people
believe Nathaniel Fitz Randolph's residence to have occupied
the site of the building which was the property of the late
John Barron, near the depot on Green street.

The Preparative Meeting, which the Shrewsbury Quarterly
Meeting had authorized in Woodbridge at the discretion of
the Quakers at the latter place, was instituted September 9th
of the same year (1704) and appointed to be held every third
Thursday in the month.

We shall not, in the following account of successive events,
make mention of every meeting held, but select such facts and
sentiments as will prove most interesting to the reader.

On the 2 1 St of October, 1704, Benjamin Griffith was
re-elected clerk, and continued to serve in that position until
his death, which occurred in April or May, 1709. December
15th, 1704, a long article, full of good counsel, was read in the
meeting. It was signed " G. F." Who " G. F." may have
been, we can only conjecture. Possibly it was Grace Fitz
Randolph, wife of Nathaniel. It may have been some
Shrewsbury Friend of eminence writing an advisory letter
occasionally to the East Jersey Quakers. The latter seems
the more plausible supposition, from the fact that many of the
things mentioned in the article referred to, pertain to matters
of doctrine and discipline. Two letters, signed " G. F.,"
follow the lengthy document, the first of whicli reads thus :
"Dear Friends Be faithful in ye service of God and mind
ye Lords business, be diligent, and bring ye power of ye Lord
over all those that have gainsaid it; and all you that be
faithful, go to visit them all that have been convinced, from
house to house, that if possible you may not leave a hoofe in
Egypt, and so every one go seek ye lost Sheep, and bring him
home on your back to ye Fold, and there will be more joy of
that one Sheep, than of the Ninety nine in the Fold."



From the second kilcr vvc make the following extract:
"And Friends all take heed of sleeping, sotishncss and
dulness in Meetings for it is an illsavory thing to se one sit
nodding in a Meeting, & so U) loose ye sense of ye Lord &
shamefac'dness both; and it grieveth ye upright and watchful,
that wait upon ye Lord, to se such things, and for ye Priests
people and others that come into your Meetings, to se you that
come togetlier to worship God and wait upon him, to have
fellowshrp in His Spirit, for you to sit nodding is a shame &

unseemly thing."

In this December meeting, in the record of which the fore-
o-oing matters are written, a proposition was made for the
purchase of a piece of ground for a meeting house and burial
place. It was not regarded at that time with general favor.
The proposition was renewed at Lhe next meeting, held
]anuary 15th, 1705, with no better result, although considera-
ble "discourse " ensued.

An act having been passed by the Legislature " for the Ease
and Benefit of the People call'd Quakers," the April meeting
(21st), made out a certificate, to be used in case of necessity,
which, under the provisions of the law, secured to the holder
thereof exemption from military duty.

In the meeting of May 19th we catch our first glimpse of
the trouble among the Friends in regard to the giving and
taking of certificates of membership. A small minority
opposed the system as being too much conformed to the ways
of the world ; the majority favored it because it prevented
imposition and established the character of the member
removing, above the reach of suspicion. Two letters were
read from -John Pearce of Elizabethtown, a man of very
excitable temperament, in both of which he reproves the
Woodbridoe Quakers for using the certificates.

The yearly meeting, held at Burlington in July, 1705, issued
a letter to "all Quarterly & Monthly Meetings in East Jersey,
West Jersey & Pennsylvania," wliich is given in extcnso in this
(jld record. It is an ably written paper, occupying eleven
large, closely-written pages. From this we learn that the
Yearly Meeting was the chief authority among the Quakers,
ne>wt to which ranked the Quarterly and then the Monthly


Meetings. Two representatives were chosen in the Wood-
bridge Monthly Meeting four times a year to go to Shrews-
burv, where the Quarterly Meeting was generally held. The
Quarterly in turn sent at least four representatives to the
Yearly Meeting, which was held at different places at the
option of the Meeting itself. The Preparative Meeting is
thus described: '• — ye meeting called ye Preparative-
meeting where they are established by ye monthly-meeting
* * be held at ye breaking up of every weekly-
meeting of worship next before ye monthly-meeting they
belong to, unless ye monthly-meeting se cause to appoint
another day." The Woodbridge meeting was Preparative
from 1704 until October 19th, 1706, when the yearly meeting
established it as a monthly meeting.

The following extract will give modern readers an idea of
the strictness which was enjoined upon Friends in " ye olden

They are not considered good Quakers '■ If any men or
women friends young or old keep not themselves and children
to plainness of apparrel as becomes our antient Christian
profession. If any men Aveare long lapped sleeves. Coats folded
on the sides. Superfluous Buttons, broad Ribbands about their
Hats, or gaudy flower'd, or striped stuffs, or any sort of
Perriwigs unless necessitated, & if any are necessitated, then
that it be as near ye colour as may be to their own, & in
other respects resembling as much as may be a sufficient
natural head of hair, without the vain custom of being lon^*-
behind, or mounting on the forehead. Also, if any women
yt profess the Truth, wear or suffer their children to wear
their Gowns not plain, or open at the breast with gawdy
stomachers, needless rolls at the sleeves, or line their mantues
or Bonnets with gawdy colours, or cut their hair & leave it
out on ye brow, or dress their heads high, or to wear Hoods
with long laps, or Pinners plaited or gathered on ye brow, or
double hem'd or pinched, or wear long Scarfs open before, or
have their Gowns pinn'd upon heaps, or plaits like the vain
fashons of the world, or if any are found to wear or follow
any other vain and needless fashon & dresses, for as it
hurts their growths, so it also burthens the life in such as are



careful .^ laitliful, it being not agreeable to that shamefaced-
ncss, plainness & modesty which people professing godli-
ness with good works ought to be found in, as the holy
Scriptures testify. That therefore friends be careful as much
as may be not to buy or sell any striped or flowered stuffs
and tliat all Taylers concern'd be advised not to make any
gaudy or superfluous aparrel.

"If there be any superfluous furniture in houses, as double-
curtains and Valiants, great Fringes &c : that they be laid

" If any accustom themselves or children to call the week
dayes and montlis the names given them by the heathen
in honor of their Gods it being contrary to Scripture and our
antient testimony.

"If any accustom themselves or Children to speak the
corrupt and unscriptural Language ofjou to a single person."

On the iSth of August the building of a Meeting-house was
again discussed, John Kinsy offering a plot of ground for the
purpose. Kinsy's offer was not accepted on account of the
inconvenience of the locality in which his land lay. It was
resolved, however, to select a suitable place. In September
Nathaniel Fitz Randolph reported that no eligible spot had
been heard of; but in October he stated that a man willing to
sell a desirable piece of ground had been found. He was
authorized to effect the purchase of it. On the 21st of
January, 1706, he informed the Friends that the land,
comprising half an acre, could be obtained for six pounds.
The meeting approved the proceedings of Fitz Randolph, and
he was directed to make the purchase in his own name. A
subscription of eleven shillings and six pence Avas paid, which
was swelled at subsequent meetings to the full amount
required. William Sutton, being about to remove from
Piscataway to Burlington, on the 15th of June donated a
year-old steer "towards building [the] Meeting-house." The
animal was taken to be " wintered " for 6^-. by Thomas Sutton,
son of William, by order of the Friends. At this date the
land in question had been laid out by Nathaniel Fitz
Randolph and John Allen ; and a deed was written by the


Clerk, Benjamin Griffith, by which the land was held in trust
for the Quakers by Fitz Randolph and John Kins}-. John
Allen, formerly minister of the Woodbridge Town Church,
was the man from whom the plot was bought (Quaker
Records, p. 36), the said Allen owning considerable property
about where the Methodist Episcopal Church now stands.
Many of our Woodbridge readers remember the Friends*
burial place, recently occupied by the lecture-room of the
Methodists ; but few, if any, are aware that a Quaker Meetino-
House once stood there. Such is the fact, and the history of
this ancient building, no trace of which is left, is that which
we are now recounting. How soon, alas, perishes all the
handiwork of man ! This house had cost much sacrifice and
toil to complete it, as the records show; but what remains,
except these yellow leaves, to tell us the struggles of thegodly
worshipers? May they sleep the sleep of the just in their
unknown graves, for the story of their toils is known to One
Avho giveth rest to His beloved.

The deed for the land for the Meeting-house and burying-
ground is recorded in full, and the bounds are thus given:
" On the north by a highway, on ye west by land now in the
possession of Benjamin Donham, & on ye south & east by
land of the said John Allen." It is dated "the fourteenth
day of the second month," 1707.

In the meeting of March 15th, 1707, the following minute
occurs : " Agreed That the Land design'd for a Burying-place
be fenced with Posts & Rails, & John Lootbourrow & Joseph
Fitz Randolph were desired to endeavour to git some body to
do it." But this rail fence was not begun until March, 1708,
a year after it was ordered ; so that we regard the order as
quite necessary which w^as passed at the latter date, that Loof-
bourrow and Fitz Randolph "take care to git it finished."

In May, 1708, the first decided movement toward building
the long-talked-of Meeting-house was made. On the 15th a
subscription of ^34 was effected, to which jQ-] 5^-. was added
at the next meeting. That steer which William Sutton
donated in June, 1706, was "wintered" at first for 6^-.; then,
in 1707, for ds. gd.; and in 1708, after vainly trying to sell the
animal, John Laing prevailed on Daniel Sutton to " winter"


it for Ss. Gd.y from which wc infer it was growing fat, and
devoured more provender than in former years.

On the 19th of March, 1709, it was "agreed to build a
Mccting-housc of Timber thirty foot long from out to out,
twcnty^bot broad & twelve foot high between ye cell and
j)late." In May an agreement was made with a carpenter to
make the "outside" for^sy. In August we find that "William
Robinson is appointed to draw ye meeting hous timber to the
place where ye hous is to stand upon. John Kinsy is ordered
to provide for ye raising som victualls & drink it is left to his
discresion how much & what."

The meeting of October 15th was altogether devoted to the
new building project and the fencing of the grave-yard, for
the fence had been only partially built. James Clarkson
offered to carry the posts and rails to the burying-ground on
the following week; but in the November meeting he re-
ported that he could not find the posts and rails, so that he
did not carry them according to promise. Nathaniel Fitz
Randolph was ordered to get "Shingling nayles for ye
mectin"- house & Clabords nayles \_naih'\ against time ye
Carpenter wants them." In October an appeal had been
made to the Shrewsbury Friends for financial aid, which was
responded to — Edward Fitz Randolph, the Quaker financier
of Woodbridge, bringing from Shrewsbury, in Decemberi
^4 155-. 10^/. In February, 17 10, William Robinson "is
ordered to gett bords for ye meeting-house flore & to speak to
ve brik maker lor briks for ye chimney." Robinson seems to
liavc been a stirring man. At the next meeting he reported
that he had spoken to tlie brick-man about the bricks and he
said that " assoon as he hath done burning a kill att Elizabeth
town he will burn Som hear & then we may have Som." In
A]-)ril, John Griffith, Nath. Fitz Randolph and John Kinsy
were appointed to draw stones to the site; and in May they
stated that they had "got som but not enough to make ye
back (jf ye chimney." Three thousand bricks were ordered
for tlic chimney in the following month, and the lime was to
be thus obtained: "John Griffith & John Kinsy is ordered
to gctt wood for a lime Kill to burn lime for ye meeting house
iS: 10 agree with Jolin pike for his oyster shels; James


Clarkson to gett ye loggs for ye lime kill in readynes to
draw ; 12 foot is concluded to be long enough for ye sd kill "
[i. e. kiln].

On the 19th of August all work on the meeting-house was
directed to be suspended until the following Spring. The
materials, however, were to be collected with all possible
dispatch. John Lufberry reported at the next meeting that
Henry Napp had agreed to furnish three thousand bricks for
/^^, and that Napp would deliver them at Thomas Bloom-
field's landing for 12^-. more. This landing was probably
on Bloom.field's nine-acre meadow on the west side of Papiack
Creek, near the upland. A mason was engaged to "under-
pin ye meeting house and build ye Chimney." John Allen
was requested to keep an eye on the burying-ground to
" take Care that no Creatures be turned In there."

Nothing further was done until February 19th, 171 1, when
the work was pushed forward. In the April meeting the
following bill was presented and ordered to be paid : " i
weeks diett to ye bricklayers, & 4^-. 3^. Jno: Pike for shells, &
5.T. due to Moses Rolph for two dayes work of his negro
tending ye mason, & gd. for watching ye Kiln & i^d. for a
bottle of Rum and 2 shillings for his horse and boy to draw
water for ye bricklayer." A second subscription for the
meeting-house was begun. November 17th, Abram Shotwell
presented his bill for work on the building, amounting to
^9; and John Vail presented his bill of ;!^4 10s. The work
went slowly but surely on. On the 15th- of March, 171 2, this
" minute " occurs ; "This meeting appoints Jno. Griffith and
Jno. Kinsey to gett a gate made to ye meeting house yard
wth a lock and Key to It." In May more oyster shells for
lime were ordered, "to plaister ye meeting house." In
October "John Vail is ordered to Shingle abt ye meeting
house Chimney and make latches and bolts for ye door and
gett ye Chimney hearth fitt to make a fire In & wt other
things are needfuU to be done " — for all of which he was
paid ^i 2s.

By the i6th of February, 17 13, the meeting-house was so
nearly finished that the weekly meeting for worship (which
had been held since March, 1709, at the house of John Kinsy

-o woonimiDGii and vicinitv.

on every fiftli clay of tlic week) was ordered to be held in it
ihcreafter until furiher notice. Eijrhty additional bushels of
oyster shells for lime were procured in March, and seats were
afterwards made for the new structure. We presume that
those who attended the weekly meetings previous to the
making of the seats brought chairs or benches with them.
But at last the meeting-house was completed, and the Monthly
Meeting held its first session in the building on the 19th
of September, 17 13, much to the satisfaction of all the Friends.

As It drew on toward Winter the meeting "taking into
their consideration ye usefuUness of a fire to be kept twice a
week for ye service of this meeting therefore doth conclude to
allow money out of ye monthly Collection to pay for three
Cord of wood for that purpose During this winter weather."

On the iQth of January, 17 13, the meeting offered to
William Sutton and his wife, an aged couple, the privilege of
living up-stairs in the meeting-house. We presume that the
offer was accepted.

On the 20th of November, 17 14, after two months' consider-
ation, it was ordered that a "stable" should be built to
accommodate those coming to meeting with horses — to be 25
leet in length, 16 feet in breadth and " 6 feet between sill and
plate." It was to have a shingled roof — the sides and ends to
be covered with boards. An agreement was accordingly
made with John Vail to put up the building.

Elizabeth Griffith was appointed in August, 17 16, " to look
after the meeting house to sweep it, & to make fire in it when
there might be occasion." In September a new fence was
ordered for the burying-ground ; and "Abraham Shotwell
was appointed to make a table witli a draw & a lock to it for
ye use of ys. meeting." In September, 1717, John Vail was
directed to re-lay the meeting-house hearth.

On August 1 6th, 17 18, Henry Brotherton became janitor of
the meeting-house. In September, 1719, 'John Vail was
ordered to take down the Glass [windows] in the meeting
liouse & alter it, and put up the shutters on ye fore side."

From the record of June i6tli, 1722, we find that the
structure actually had a gallery, as well as comfortable rooms
up-stairs. The stairs and part of the gallery were taken down



in order to make space for a larger number of seats — an
indication of prosperity and growth. Just two years after,
June 2oth, 1724, John Vail was ordered to wainscot the
building. In 1728 it was in part newly shingled.

In the monthly meeting of September 20th, 1729, the follow-
ing occurs: "This meeting Recommends the oversight of the
burying ground to Danil Shotwell and Desires that friends
or such others as may have leave to bury there be careful for
the future to Dig and Leigh the corps as near to each other as
may be with conveniency."

July 2ist, 1732, ''Thomas Gach is Desired to git the glass
windows of the meeting house mended." In February, 1736,
Thomas Haddon is directed to repair the stable and the fence
of the burial-ground. Twenty-five hundred cedar shingles
were ordered for " covering the meeting house," on the 20th
of the following November. "Shobill " Smith was appointed
to make a new fence around the grave-yard on the 21st of
July, 173S. No improvements are mentioned after this, until
June 2ist, 1746, when Edward Fitz Randolph was "desired "
to repair the meeting-house and " hors stable " ; and on the
1 6th of February, 1747, Jonathan Harned was directed to adjust
the fence.

At the meeting of July 2otli, 1750, a request was directed
to be sent to the Quarterly Meeting at Shrewsbury asking
that two Quarterly Meetings should be held during each year
at Woodbridge. On the 21st of December an answer was
received, in which the Quarterly Meeting agreed to hold one
session annually among the Woodbridge Quakers. This
intelligence was the signal for great preparations. ^70 were
ordered to be raised by subscription for enlarging the little
meeting-house that it might accommodate the large assem-
blaofe of Friends. The work was to be done " with all con-
veniant speed " — for the first meeting of the kind in
Woodbridge was set down by the Shrewsbury Quakers for
the " last second day of the 5th mo."

Here the old record abruptly closes, and we shall be
compelled to search another manuscript volume for the later
facts in the history of the Woodbridge Quaker meetings-
These events we shall reserve for another chapter; but,


before closing this one, wc will pick up a few threads which
we dropped awhile ago that they might be woven in just here.
As the reader will have observed, Slirewsbury was the
headquarters of the East Jersey Quakers. The Friends were
the first to establish a religious society in that ancient town,
organizing as early as 1672, eight years after the settlement
of the place. In the same year a meeting-house was in course
ot construction,* and the Friends were favored with a visit
from the celebrated George Fox in the Autumn. A monthly
and a quarterly meeting were begun, which, as we have seen,
were destined to a long and useful career.

In the early times of which we have been writing, books
were not numerous, and a good book was highly prized. The
Woodbridge Quakers had a very small circulating library —
the Friends borrowing the volumes of the Monthly meeting.
The most popidar book, if we may judge by the number of
times it was called for, was entitled, " New England Judged."
Besides this, there were "George Fox's Journal," "Robert
Barclay's Apology," " The History of the Christian People
called Quakers," by Win. Sewall, of Holland (toward the

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 6 of 34)