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 7 of 34)
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publication of which, in English, the Woodbridge Friends
subscribed in 1721); "Forced Maintenance," by Thomas
Chalkley, and other works.

These authors are alluded to by Whittier, the Quaker poet,
in his Winter Idyl, "Snow-bound." Speaking of his mother,
he says :

" Then, haply, with a look more grave

And soberer tone, some tale she gave

From painful Sewall's ancient tome,

Beloved in every Quaker home,

Of faith fire-winged by martyrdom,

Or Chalkley's Journal, old and ([uaint,

(Jentlest of skippers, rare sea-saint !

Who, when the dreary calms prevailed,

And water-butt and bread-cask failed.

And cruel, hungry eyes pursued

His portly presence, mad for food,

^Vith dark hints muttered under breath

Of casting lots for life or death,

• Barber & Howe's UUt. CoU. of N. J., p. 859.


Offered, if Heaven wihlield supplies,

To be liimself the sacrifice. (?)

Then suddenly, as if to save

The good man from his living grave,

A ripple on the water grew —

A school of porpoise flashed in view.

' Take, eat,' he said, ' and be content ;

These fishes in my stead are sent

By Him who gave the tangled ram

To spare the child of Abraham.' "

The book of Discipline, which was obtained in 1722, was
ordered to be publicly read in the meetings three times a

We find on page 89 the following extract fx'om the Yearly
Meeting's minutes for 1716*, which shows at once the hostility
of the Quakers to the importation of Africans and their " con-
servatism " on the slavery question in general ;

" For the Quarterly Meeting at Shrewsberry — Chester
meeting proposes their concern about the practise of buying
negroes imported. -s * * Urging that former
minuits and orders are not sufficient to discourage their
importation and therefore requests that no friends may buy
any negro for the future. As to the proposal from Chester
meeting about negroes, there being no more in it than was
proposed to the last Yearly meeting this meeting cannot see
any better conclusion than what was the judgment of the
last — and therefore do confirm the same * * and
in condesension to such friends as are streigthened in tlieir
minds against the holding them '•'' "- " it is desired
that friends generally do as much as may be avoid buying
such negroes as shall be hereafter brought in, rather than
offend any friends who are against it '' * Yet this is
only caution not censure."

In the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting of June 17th, 1738,
the following was read, which bears on the same question, and
shows that the conscience of this influential people was not
at rest ;

" Pursuant To a Request in the extracts of the yearly

* Meeting held at Burlington, N. J.


niccling minutes at Philadelpliia conscrning the Importation
of negroes & buying thcni after they are Imported friends
liave inquired into it & Do find that four or five years ago Som
liave bin ImjKJrted by a friend and that it hath bin tliree or
four years Since friends have bouglit of them tliat was Im-
ported and not since to their Knowlidg."

A weekly meeting was begun October ]6th, 1725, at John
Laing's, to accommodate the friends who dwelt about him that
were unable to attend the services in the meeting-house on
account of the distance. John Laing lived at or near Plain-
field, and it was certainlv a long distance for him to ride every
"First day." On the 21st of September, 172S, the day of the
Plainfield meeting was changed from the first to the fourth of
the week in order not to afiect the attendance of the Wood-
bridge meeting, which was held on the first day;* and the
residence of the Laings was still the place appointed for ser-
vice, although John, the promoter of it, was dead. He be-
queathed to the Friends a plot of ground on which to build a
meeting-house; and on the 27th of March, 1 731, the Wood-
bridge monthly meeting gave permission for its construction,
directing that it should not exceed in its dimensions 24 feet
square and 14 feet ''between joynts." It was completed
and all accounts settled by the latter part of the year 1736.
In 1744 a " hors stable " was built adjoining the new meeting-
house, toward which, as well as toward the building of the
meeting-house itself, the Woodbridge Friends liberally sub-

Another weekly meeting, productive of like good results,
was permitted by the Woodbridge monthly meeting to be held
at the house of Joseph Shotwell, in Rahway, on the i6th of
October, 1742. It was designed to continue for three months,
through the coldest weather only, " on ye first Dayes of the
weak." In August (iSth), 1744, the Rahway Friends asked to
hold their meetings twice a week (on first and fourth days) at
Joseph Shotwell's, from August to the middle of February,
which was granted. In 1745 the same arrangement was
made; but in May of the following year the meeting was

* A nioeting was likewise held in Woodbridge on 5tli days.


ordered to be held on first da)'s at half-past three o'clock in
the afternoon, from the middle of February to the middle of
August ; and at twelve o'clock from the middle of August to
the middle ot February. A fourth-day meeting was also to be
established, to continue from August to February. In 1747
the erection of a meeting-house at Rahway was agitated in the
Woodbridge meetings ; but the subject was regarded unfo-
vorably, and was submitted to the Quarterly Meeting at
Shrewsbury. In the meantime, however, the Woodbridge
Friends made a movement toward dropping the meetings at
Joseph Shotwell's and the occasional meeting at John Shot-
well's — the latter service to be removed to Woodbridsje. This
met with considerable opposition both from Rahway and
Plainfield members. In November it is recorded that
'' Friends in and about Woodbridge are oneasey and applies
to the Quarterly meeting at Shrosbery." This uneasiness did
not arise from purely selfish motives. The general good of
the Society was doubtless a prominent cause of it. It was
evident from the reports of the overseer (a person selected to
give monthly statements of the condition of the Society) that
the Woodbridge meetings for worship were slimly attended
in comparison with those of Rahway and Plainfield; the
building of a meeting-house at Rahway would, therefore,
greatly weaken and perhaps extinguish the organization at
Woodbridge. But the opinion of the Shrewsbury Quarterly
Meeting, which was received in December, settled the matter
for a time; it being recommended to the Rahway Friends "to
"wave the building the meetinghouse untill they are more
unanemous amongst themselves." It was agreed in February,
1748, that the afternoon meetings should be discontinued in
Rahway, but that the meetings on first and fourth days should
be held yearly from the ist of September to the ist of
February. And thus the matter stood for several years.



Tin: Town Meetixg-house— The Kirk Green— The First
Minister, Samuel Treat— Benjamin Salsbury— John
Ali-en— The New Meeting-house— Archibald Riddell
—Samuel Shepard— Objection to Taxation for Sup-
porting the Town Minister.

A large proportion of those who settled in Woodbridge
having come from New England, it was but natural that thev^
should introduce their customs in the place. One of these
was the commingling of ecclesiastical matters with those of a
political character. Hence in the old Town Book w^e find
Land Grants, Court business, Calls to clergymen and Plans
for building the Meeting-house, all curiously mingled.

Ten acres of land, known for many years as the "Kirk
Green," were set aside for the erection of a prospective meet-
ing-house. Two hundred acres were, according to the terms
of the Charter, to be devoted to the maintenance of the-
ministry. The management of these two plots of land was
lodged in the hands of the Freeholders in Town Meeting
assembled ; and the retention or dismissal of the clergymen who
might be called to officiate in Woodbridge Avas subject to the
same authority. Tlie " Kirk Green " was the spot upon Avhich
the first ecclesiastical structure in the township was built — the
history of which, with kindred topics, we now propose to give.

The Presbyterian Church and its adjoining burying-ground
covers part of- the "Green," as also does the Protestant
Episcopal Church and its grounds. It is supposed that the
" Green " extended along the brook on the north, across the
highway, comprehending within its bounds the house of the
late James Bloodgood. The meeting-house which was built
on it stood at tlic north-east of the present Presbyterian
Church — the south-west corner of the former impinging on


the north-east corner of the latter. This view is the only one
which accords with the descriptions and measurements given
in the records.

It is supposed that the first religious services were held in a
small house, near or upon the Green, which was used until
the meeting-house was constructed.

At an early day a movement was made to secure, if
possible, the services of some clergyman. At a Town Meet-
ing held June 8th, 1669, George Little and Samuel Moore
were directed to go to Newark to interview " young Mr.
Pierson " and " endeavour to get him to Be our Minister." So
confident were the Freeholders that their offer would be
accepted that arrangements were made for his reception —
John Bishop, Sr., and Joshua Pierce being appointed to
entertain the coining man with " meat, drink and lodgings."*
Two meetings were appointed, whether social or religious we
cannot tell, one at Robert Dennis' residence on the east side
ot Papiack Creek and the other at the house of John Smith,
the Constable, on the west. But all this preparation was of
no avail, for Mr. Pierson did not come. Whitehead says that
the advanced age of the elder Pierson, who was pastor of the
Newark congregation, made it necessary for the Freeholders
of that town to choose an assistant, and it was already pro-
posed to secure the son for that position. The ensuing month
found "young Mr. Pierson" duly installed in Newark — an
event which was hastened, doubtless, by the visit of the
Woodbridge committee.

Not discouraged by this signal failure to obtain a minister,
on the 5th of July of the next year it was resolved, by the
Town Meeting, that they "would have a settled Ministry set
lip in this towne." So John Pike and John Bishop were
ordered to go to Elizabethtown to enquire whether it was
likely that Mr. Peck (or Peek) could be prevailed upon to
come to Woodbridge as its preacher. If Mr. Peck was
immovable, the Committee were empowered to "Do the best
of their Endeavours to procure Mr. Saml Treat," to serve at

* Whitehead says that "Robert Djnnis'" was appointed to furnish tie refreshments, etc..
a mistake in conseiiuence, probably, of the bluired condition of the old Town Book. At the
time Whitehead wrote the copy by Fitz Randolph was not known to be in existence. I;s dis-
covery has thrown much light on som3 passages otherwise obscure.


least six months. Mr. Peck was too much for the Committee,
so they essayed to cflcct a treaty with Mr. Treat. After
thinkini? over the proposition, the latter sent a letter in
November to Capt. Pike, wiio, by virtue of his office as Justice,
convened the Town Meeting " by warrant " on the i6th and
hiid the letter before the Freeholders. After debate, Samuel
Treat was formally tendered twenty-one pounds sterling if he
would come and preacli for the six months ensuing. It is
said that this offer was accepted, althougli no record of it is to
be found.

On the 7th of February, 167 1, it was ordered that a house-
lot and "other accomodations," equal to those of other
inliabitants, should be reserved for the use of a minister.
Permission was given to Jonathan Dunham in June to mow
the grass on the parsonage meadow for four years, provided
he would puc up a good fence to keep the cattle out, and
surrender it if a minister should chance to come — the town
paying for the fence in the latter case.

On the 5th of December a committee of eight was selected
to meet at Robert Dennis' house on the 19th to devise what
should be done to obtain ministerial services. The meeting
occurred and the members thereof passed a resolution that
"there should be a settled Ministry " — a resolution that must
iiave struck them on account of its originality. This was
reported to the Town Meeting of January 2d, 1672, and the
resolution was approved, of course. The same acute com-
mittee was directed to communicate with Mr. Treat, to secure
his services permanently; but the eftbrt was unsuccessful.

On the 2d of October,* 1674, "the Towne Did also unani-
musly agree with Mr. Benjamin Solsbury that he Should
Serve in the place of a minister and preach to us for the Space
of three Months upon trial to See how the Inhabitants did
jthinkj of him, and he of them; his time of Beginning Being
the Lords Day before Micklemast and for his pains that three
Months provided he Did preach twice Every Lords Day the
Town Did Engage to pay him ten pounds in Currant pay of
the contry at contry price, and if he Did continue the vear

• This lg according to the Fitz Randolph copy. Whitehead says "July 2d, 1674," which is
the date of the Town Mooting immediately preceding.


after the Same Rate provided they Did agree for Jiis continu-
ance after his three months was Expired."

But they didn't like him, and were not long in acquainting
him with that fact. On the 27th, not a montli from the time
they had invited him, it was voted " that Mr. Benjamin
Solsbury may Be pleased to take Notice that when his
Quarter is out he is free from any Engagemeot from this
Tovvne that he may Be at Liberty to Dispose of himself as he
Shall See good, and Mr. Robert Dennes, Mr. John Bishop
Senr. and Mr. Samuel Dennis to Deliver this to Mr. Solsbury
as the mind of the Towne." Which all goes to prove that Mr.
Salsbury. or Solsbury, was very unpopular. Notwithstand-
ing the rebuffs which attended all their attempts to establish
religious services, the Freeholders, with the pluck of New
England men, resolved to try again. In order that their
chances for attaining their object might be improved, it was
determined, on this very 27tli of October, to build a meeting-
house thirty feet square "and 15, 16 or 17 foot Between
Joynts." A committee was appointed to make the usual
agreement with a suitable number of carpenters.

On the 30th of November it Avas directed that a room should
be fitted up for the "comfortable entertainment" of the
unknown minister who was confidently expected to make his
appearance in the Spring — this room to be in the house of
either Samuel Hale or Samuel Moore. It was then unani-
mously agreed that a vote should be taken "by papers " (i. e.
by ballot) to designate who should go "to the Northward"
in search of a minister^ and that upon whomsoever the choice
should fall no objection should be made and no excuse should
be taken. The unfortunate victim of this wild-goose chase
was Samuel Dennis Money not being abundant, provision
for the expenses of the said Dennis was made by ordering
three thousand "pipe staves," to be made b}' Samuel Dennis,
John Bloomfield, and John Pike, Jr., (each to make one
thousand), the " Town Ingageing to alow Reasonable wages
for Every Day they are making them." Th.QS>Q pipe staves v;qxq
manufactured in large quantities in Woodbridge, being sold
to coopers in this and adjoining towns for the making of
pipes^ or large barrels. The staves were to be procured with


the greatest possible dispatch and taken to a convenient
landing—" tlic Said Samuel Dennis to Dispose of them for the
Best advantage he can, and at the End of his Journey to
Return the overplus to the Town if any be of the product ot
the Said Staves." But, although the staves were taken to the
landing, they were not disposed of until one year afterward,
when they were sold to Samuel Edsall "for twelve pounds of
good powder." We presume from this that Samuel Dennis
did not go "to the Northward; " or, if he did, that he Avas
blown there, for we cannot see how twelve pounds of powder
would afford any other means of transportation. At any rate,
the whole project was a failure — no minister appeared.

In May, 1675, the frame of the meeting-house was erected,
although it was not thirty leet sqAiare as the town had ordered.
We presume that the venturesome builder tried to give it a
slio-htly better shape than the huge equilateral box which was
first designed.

On the lytli of the same month, com.munication with
■Jeremiah Peck was authorized with a view to securing him
as the Town Minister. This is supposed to be the same Mr.
Peck who declined the position in 1670. If so, the people
were a second time disappointed. In 1676 the town was
assessed to defray the expense of the new meeting-house,
which amount was to be obtained by distraint, if necessary.
In April a letter was sent to Messrs. Richard Dole (Senior
and Junior; living, probably, in Cambridge, Mass.*), asking
tliem to procure a minister for the Woodbridge congregation,
offering to meet all the expense incident to the effort. This
also proved a doleful venture; but in January of the following
vear success seemed imminent. By some means the Free-
holders got on the track of Ezekiel Fogg, and made him a
brilliant offer. They told him they would give him fifty
pounds' worth of wheat, peas, pork, Indian corn and beef if
he would preach for them one year. Besides, he should be
made a Freeholder. It is regarded as certain, since Mr.
Fogg's name does not appear in the list of Freeholders, that
he withstood all the allurements of "peas and pork."

' See MS. Records of Woodbridge Deeds, p. 65, Hist. Soc. of N. J.


A long- pause followed this disheartening failure — indeed,
our fathers seemed to be he-/o^gcd for a while, reminding one
of the helpless condition of Oloffe, the Dreamer, when his
brain was stupefied with tobacco smoke. On the 15th of July,
1679, they made another effort to procure a pastor, sending to
England for him. Capt. Andrew Bound, a man who is
supposed to have been master of one of the vessels plying
between England and the American Colonies, was commis-
sioned to carry letters to two clergymen on the other side of
the water, viz.: Dr. Ovin and Mr. Richard Baxter, in whicii
letters the condition ot the Woodbridge congregation was, no
doubt, set forth in pathetic terms. Capt. Bound was author-
ized to briqg a man at the expense of the town, in case he was
too poor to pay his passage hither ; and, if he had opportunity,
the Captain himself was requested to treat for a minister,
engaging him in behalf of the Woodbridge men at ^50 per
year, with the use of the two hundred acres of parsonage land,
and possibly other advantages. Whether in consequence of
this or some subsequent arrangement we know not — but in
September, t68o, John Allen became the preacher. It had
been six years, nearly, since the Gospel had been proclaimed
in the town — a serious matter in its effects on the moral
character of its inhabitants. During the entire fifteen years of
the existence of the settlement only nine months of religious
services had been enjoyed. As might have been expected, the
succeeding generation became demoralized, and the vicious
of the preceding one became mucli more so. In 1682, when
the population only comprised one hundred and twenty
families,* the Township Court was appealed to for the
suppression of scandalous disorders in the place. f Nor were
these effects confined to that period. The growth of evil is
much more rapid than its suppression. On the loth of June,
1715, "John Lut"borrow " and Grace Kinsey were directed to
act as a sort of police around the Quaker Meeting-house
during services on Sundays, to prevent interruptions in the
Avorsliip {Quaker Records).

Good John Allen became very popular. On the i6th of

* Smith's N. J. Hist., p. If.S. t Town Book, F. R.'s copy, p. 202.

<!2 woonnRinc.K and vuintiy,

November, i6So, voluntary subscriptions to his salary by all
the inhabitants were agreed to, instead of the arbitrary assess-
ment of the rate-makers. On the ist of January, 1681, the
following complimentary language respecting the new min-
i*;ter appears in the records: " We the freeholders and inhab-
itants of Woodbridge having sent to England to have an
honest, able, godly minister to Come over to vs to preach the
word of God sinserly and faithfully— and Mr. John Alin by
the providence of God being for that End Come amongst vsr
and we having had Sum Experience of his good Abilities : are
willine and doe hereby make Choise of him to be our
Minister and desire to put ourselfs under his ministry Accord-
ing to the Rules of the gospel."

In February it was voted in Town Meeting lliat if Mr,
Allen would consent to remain in tlie place as its clergyman
he should be made a Freeholder. He consented and was
honored accordingly. On the 15th of November ensuing he
Avas presented with a house-lot often acres.

It will be remembered that in May, 1675, the frame of the
Meeting-house had been erected. Well, so swiftly did the
structure approach completion that on the 17th of October,
1681, it was ordered that it should be "plaistered all but the
South Side, upon the Clabords." Why the south side should
escape the " plaistering " does not appear.

The voluntary subscription plan adopted in 1680 was
discarded in the following year — it being ordered that the
preacher's salary should be raised in the same manner as
«)ther taxes. John Allen must have had a good deal ot
patience, for up to September, 1682, the land designed for his
use had not yet been laid out, and certain parties had occupied
parts of it with the evident intention of eventually claiming
it. The public school land was similarly neglected by the
a\ithorities. It was resolved to pro.secute all persons wh(.
refused to quit these lands, and means were taken for their
future securitv.

The Town Meeting of June 23d, 1682, was almost altogether
occupied with meeting-house matters. The building was far
from being finished, and a determined effort was made to
bring about such a desirable result as its completion would


be. It was ordered that it should be " Lathed and Daubed
Substantially Round within as high as the plates and Beams."
In those days "daubing" was plastering, and " plaistering "
was painting — at least, so we infer from the use of the terms.
For it is improbable that the inside would be plastered twice
within a year, which would be the case if daubing and plaister-
ing both mean plastering, for in October of the preceding year
it was "plaistered." Besides, it is unlikely that the plaster
for a wall would be put upon the clap-boards — yet in that
October it was "plaistered upon the clabords," on "all but
the South Side." The south side being the front, probably,
it was adorned, perhaps, with a brighter paint or wash, as the
custom is, to this day, in some parts of the State. Capt. John
Bishop, Matthew Moore, John Ilsly, and Joshua Bradley were
appointed to oversee the " Daubing [of] the Meeting House."
The entire male population was called out to participate in
the daub, "with such tools as [were thought to be] Suteable."
Two doors were yet to be made, for whicli nails were ordered ;
and the third door, which \vas hanging w^ithout a lock, was to
be supplied with one immediately. Four thousand lath nails
were also bought. And thus all things presaged a speedy
termination ot the struggle with the half-finished meeting-

On the 36th of September, 1682, the townsmen petitioned
the Governor and Council to " Induct " John Allen formally,
as their minister, into his holy office. Capt. Pike bore this
paper to the august assemblage, and was undoubtedly suc-
cessful. Some time previous to January ist, 1686, Mr. Allen's
connection as pastor to the Woodbridge congregation was
severed. The cause can only be conjectured : but it is
probable that the health of the clergyman had suffered some-
what, for he did not go elsewhere to preach. He lived in
Woodbridge until the day of his death, which was January
19th, 17 15. He was married three times. The name of his
last W' ife was Deliverance Potter ; the names of the others are
unknown. It is not certain that he came from England to
this settlement, but it is probable; for Capt. Bound had an

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 7 of 34)