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 8 of 34)
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account against the town which was not settled until a year
or more after Mr. Allen's coming :'''' and as the only agree-

* See Town Book, F. E.iiiJ.''s copy, pag-e 210.


niont with him on the part of the town was in regard to the
transportation of a minister from England in 1679, we pre-
sume that Mr. Allen was that minister, and that the town's
debt to the Captain was incurred in the manner indicated.

January ist, 1686, a committee was appointed to communi-
cate with Mr. Archibald Riddell (or '.' Ruddell ") " to Encour-
age him concerning his Settleing in tliis towne," as its
preacliL-r. Mr. Riddell accepted the call and in the same year
beean his ministrations. On the nth of October he was
granted eiglit acres of land, "adjoyning to the Meetinghouse
Orcen fronting upon the Highway that Runs west into the
woods from the Meeting House Green." He was also
uidmitted as a Freeholder and allowed one hundred and
twentv acres of upland for a farm and ten more "for plant-
ing" — all of which he enjoyed free of tax; but his heirs or
assigns were required to pay a half-penny per acre annually.
His ten acres "for planting" were laid out on the last day of
December, at a place called Bald Hill (a name given, perhaps,
by some wag in town to preserve in memor)^ the Christian
name of Mr. Riddell — Arclii-/';zA/). The eight acres granted
to him were returned to tlie town by the clergyman in Feb-
ruary, 1687, together with the frame of a house which he had
begun to build upon it. This was ordered to be finished, and
•Mr. Riddell to be indemnified for any expense he might have
incurred bv it thus far. The building was rented, as soon as
it was completed, by the year only, and brought a small
revenue into the town treasury.""'

It is supposed that Mr. Riddell ministered to the Wood-
bridge congregation until he left the country in 1689. He was
the brother of Sir John Riddell and seems to have been a
preacher of considerable povver.f Before he came from Scot-
land to New Jersey he was imprisoned at Edinburgh, ostensi-
bly for preaching in tlie open air contrary to law, but really
because he was connected "with tlie rising of Bothwell in
1679." Being finally released by intercessions in his behalf,
he emigrated hither; but, in the unhappy voyage which
befell the Neiirv and Francis, he lost his wife. He came

* Toun Book, -ni. -t See WhitchoaVB Conlr. K. .1. Hist., page 867.


to Woodbridge after landing, and settled, becoming the town
minister. Others, who arrived in the same vessel, may have
settled here, likewise; for many of them, it is supposed,
visited the place.* As we have stated, in 1689 he left the
country — designing to return to his native land, now that
political changes had made his residence possible in Scotland,
Setting sail in June with his son, who was but ten years of
age, a French war vessel captured the ship, on the 2d of
August, just off the coast of England, and the passengers were
imprisoned in Rochefort. Mr. Riddell and his son found
their way back to the hills and dales of Scotland after a bitter
experience of two years in the prisons of France. In 1700 he
disposed ot his Woodbridge land to Thomas Gordon. In the
deed he is called " Minister of the Gospel at Kirkaldie, in the
county of Fife." And this is our last glimpse of this heroic
man who once preached to our fathers. After such an event-
ful life, so full of shadow and storm, we cannot but hope that,
when its evening fell, some golden light from heaven broke
over his path, as the sun bursts through a rifted cloud at the
close of a cheerless day.

In Scott's Lay of the List Minstrel Sir William of Deloraine
makes a rapid ride from Branksome Hall to Melrose. A
stanza in Canto First reads thus:

" Unchallenged, thence passed Deloraine
To ancient RkkieWsfair domain,

Where Aill from mountains freeJ
Down from the lakes did raving come ;
Each wave was crested with tawny foam,

Like the mane of a chestnut steed."

The note referring to this verse is as follows : " The Rid-
dells took their name from Ryedale. Tradition carries them
back to 727 and 936, the dates of some stone coffins found

But to return to the Woodbridge meeting-house : On the
last day of May, 1686, the town decreed that the galleries on
the east and west sides of the building "should Be forth with

* Whitehead, p. 82. The " Henry and Francis " brought about 100 prisonera to New
Jersey, who were subject to intense suffering on account of the bad food eaten on the voyage.
Several died before the leaky ship came to land. Thn captain is said to hav« been very cruel to
the IwniBhed company. Riddell and others had embarked voluntarily.


m:ulc uscfiiil and Serviceable, to Be floured [i. e. flooredj and
Seated, and the Stairs made." December loth, 1692, is the
next date at wliich we find the meeting-house mentioned. It
needed shingling; and two men were to sliingle one side and
two others the opposite side of the roof, the town furnishing
ihc nails and allowing the citizens who did the work to deduct
the value of it from tlicir annual tax. The shingles were to
be made of chestnut— " Five Inches in Breadth & at Least half
an Inch in thickness," to be furnished at the rate of 6j-. per
hundred. E/ekiel Bloomfield and Matthew Moore, Jr., were
appointed to cover one side of the roof, and John Pike and
Thomas Pike were selected to repair the other.

No mention is made of any minister being sought, after Mr.
Riddcll left in 1689, until November ist, 1692, when a commit-
tee of eight were directed to write "to some Sutable Man for
the End aforesaid." As an evidence ot a perverted appetite we
notice that it was "Passed by Vote that Mr. Powel Shall
have and enjoy the grass that shall grow on tlie parsonage
Meadow the Ensuing year 1693.''

On the 8th of February, 1693, Ephraim Andrews promised
to go to New England, as a messenger of the town, in search
of a minister on condition that he was furnished " with money
Sufficient for his Journey and a Hors to Ride on." He was
directed to " Do his Beast Endeavour to procure a Sutable
Man." Ten pounds were accordingly raised to meet the
expense. This adventure was as fruitless as Samuel Dennis'
proposed trip "to the Northward" in 1674. Over two years
elapsed before a preacher was settled in the town. On the
ist of October, 1695, Mr. Samuel Shepard was voted ^50 per
annum, or its equivalent in the "current pay of the country,"
which, as our readers are aware, was pork, peas, wheat, etc.
This was to be raised by direct tax upon all the townsmen.
Samuel Dennis and Jonathan Bishop were appointed to
receive it.

On the ground of conscientious scruples William Webster,
a freeman (A the town, objected to the ministerial assessment.
Whereupon Capt. John Bishop assumed his share of the
annual rate during his (Bishop's) life-time. . A " memoran-
dom " in the Town Book sets this forth as follows : " William


Webster pretending that it was Contrary to his Conscience to
pay anything toward tlic Maintenance of a Minister, Capt.
John Bishop hath Engaged in open Town Meeting to free the
Said Webster from the Said Charge and to pay the Said
websters part so long as the Said Bishop Shall Live." This
was the first decided stand against the tax for the support of
the town minister of which we have an account. The matter
had, doubtless, been the subject of much private discussion,
and was destined to eventuate in the complete separation of
civil and ecclesiastical affairs, the town relinquishing the

I latter, remitting them to a regularly organized church.

In May (19th). 1696, Mr. Shepard for some reason having
determined to go to New England (whence he came to

' Woodbridgc, probablv. the yenv before) the Town Meeting
voted him the building known as the "Town House'' on
condition that he should return. In addition to this house,
thirty acres of land were offered to him on the same condition.
As there was only one suitable building owned by the
corporation, we presume that it was the one promised to Mr.
Shepard. This hcnise, it will be remembered, was built by
Mr. Riddell in part and completed by the town. So anxious
were tlie Fl-eeholders that Mr. Shepard should return that a
delegation of the most distinguished citizens Avas commis-
sioned, on the 28th of July, to wait upon him "to Signify the
Towns mind" that "they did unanimusly Desire that [he]

L Should Return."

We note that on April 19th, 1697, it was ordered that John
Pike should "■ Disbnrst the Money Raised for finishing the
galleries " of the meeting-house. July 15th, 1698, other
improvements were directed to be made. The walls of the
building were to be whitewashed by John Pike, member of
the Assembly and Clerk of the corporation ! Just think of
that, ye modern men of eminence I Ezekiel Bloomfield was to
build a "New Pulpit forth with." Ezekiel was an ex-Assera-
blyman, having held that office in 1687 ; and,

" Alas, how fortune varies I "

' in November, 1692, he became Pound Keeper, receiving, "for
each Beast /<7«/7</(r</," four pence. Men in those days thought
it was no disgrace either to go to the Legislature, impound


vagrant animals, or to whitewash. Woiihl that all the white-
washings of to-day were as honest and healthy as the coat of it
John Pike bestowed on the mectini^-house walls!

Wiiether Mr. Shepard visited New England or not is a
question ; but if he did, he returned to Woodbridge and
probably lived in the "Town House,"' which had been granted
to him, after the year 1697. During that year we infer, from
two or three facts, that he boarded with Ephraim Andrews.
November iSth the latter was to be paid by the town a certain
amount to "Defray the Charge of Mr. Shepards Diet." This
was re-considcred at the same meeting, and it was voted that
his salary should be increased from ^50 to ^'60 and Mr.
vShepard himself to pay for the past year's " diet." Ills salary
"for the time to Come " was fixed at the same figure — ;^6o
per annum. But to raise this amount was a matter of some
trouble. The Quakers strongly opposed an indiscriminate
assessment as unjust. They were contributing for the support
of their own Society and considered that it was not equitable
to be compelled to pay the tax for the support of a ministry
which they did not and could not enjoy. On the 5th of
February, 1700, we find that a committee, consistin^g of Sam-
uel Dennis, John Pike, and Thomas Pike, " were by Vote
made Choice of: to Discours with our Desenting Neighbours
the Quakers; and the town Do hereby Impower the persons
abovesaid (if they think fitt) to make a final End of the Dif-
ference that hath Been Betwixt us and them Concerning their
paying to the publick Ministry in this Town." In 1699 the
salary had been obtained by public tax, but in 1700 it was
ordered to be raised by subscription — a decided victory for
the anti-tax men.



Governor Andross — Bridge over the Paptack — Low
Treasury — Township Court Regulations — Deputv-


There is a hiatus in the history of Town Meetings, extend-
ing from September 26th, 1676, to June 24th, 1679. A brief
minute is written under the latter date and pertains to noth-
ing of sufficient importance for us to chronicle. The record
of July 15th is one concerning meeting-house affairs. On the
2d of December a rule was laid down for levying the township
tax for the year, viz. : by the shares of upland appropriated
by each man, accounting sixty acres of upland to a share.

These three meetings are all that are recorded for 1679.
One in 1677 (March 9th), written out of its appropriate place,'"
makes provision for the settlement of the Lords' Ouit Rents.

In 1680 occurred that "little misunderstanding " between
Gov. Andross of New York and Gov. Carteret of East Jersey.
Andross pretended that his authority extended over the
territory adjoining New York, and informed Carteret that he
intended to build a fort at Sandv Hook to enforce his claim.
This was on the i8th of March. On the 20th Carteret wrote
back that he would resist any fort-building or other aggress-
ive acts. But Andross was determined to accomplish his
purpose. On the 7th of April he visited his rival, accom-
panied by several of his officers and principal men, intending
to intimidate him. But Carteret had about one hundred and
fifty soldiers drawn up to receive his hostile guest. He was
entertained with as much show of hospitality as could be
expected. The matters of dispute were debated, but with no

* Town Book, F. R.'s, p. 195.


jjood result. Andross embarked, after dinner, in his sloop and
set sail lor New York. Notwithstanding that Carteret had
expressed his willingness to abide by the decision of the
ICnglish Government in respect to the impertinent claims of
Andross. the latter proceeded to establish his right to govern
East Jersey by violence. On the last day of April a party ot
soldiers landed at Elizabethtown. and, at dead of night,
marched to the Carteret mansion. A servant of the Governor
having been bribed, led them without delay to his master's
room. Carteret was dragged from iiis bed, brutally kicked,
drawn through a window, and hurried down to the shore
without being permitted to clothe himself. Hastily throwing
him into a canoe, the kidnappers paddled off with their
prisoner. Arriving in New York, he was supplied with
clothing and immediately taken to the fort and imprisoned.
Here he became very sick. Subsequently, in speaking of the
outrage, he says he fears he will " hardly be a perfect man
again."* His trial did not occur until the 27th of May, and
resulte;], on the following day, in his acquittal. Although
pronounced not i^uilty by the jury, Andross would not let him
go until he gave security that he would not resume his office
and authority. Wicii great pomp Carteret was escorted to
Elizabethtown by a distinguished retinue of New Y"ork ladies
and gentlemen. The wily Andross on the 2d of June (before
Carteret was brought home) addressed an Assembly at Eliza-
bethtown, endeavoring to persuade the Deputies that his
cause was just. Hut it was of no avail. They would not
acknowledge his authority. They submitted to the existing
state of things until they were endorsed or repudiated by the
Proprietors in England. Of course, the decision was adverse
to Andross, and Carteret resumed his government in March,

In the Town Meeting of tlie 24th of July, 1680, a paper was
laid before the Woodbridge Freeholders, signed " Sir Edmund
Andross, Knt., Governor General, &:c.," requiring them to
send to New York three names of "fit persons " for holding
Monthly Courts "and Determining matters Not Exceeding

* I.o.iminj; & S[i!c«r, p. 676.


torty Shillings." The fussy Governor was reminded that the
Charter oPthe Township permitted the people to settle this
matter themselves; tliat it lodged the ordination of the Court
and the choice of its officers and justices in the liands of the
owners of the soil ; and therefore they saw no reason for
complying with his command. This seems to have irritated
the Sir Knight, for on the 14th of August a more peremptory
summons was sent to the refractor)^ Freeholders. Whether
the doughty Governor frightened our fathers, or whether they
assumed, trom policy, a loyalty they did not feel, does not
appear; but it is certain that they interposed no further
objection, and, on the 31st of August, sent in the following
names of Justices for the Court : Samuel Moore, Ephraim
Andrews, John Ilsley, and John Bishop, Jr.

The meeting of September 17th appointing two "rate-
gathers," Samuel Moore " Ingaged to find House Room to
Receive it," i. e. the rate; for be it known that the taxes were
not in the shape of jingling coin or rustling bank notes, but
in quarters of beef, bushels of grain, or barrels of pork. Mr.
Moore's house must have presented a spectacle, if the tax was
promptly paid, at which Mrs. Moore has stood aghast. Load
after load of sirloin, veal, sausage, liver, wheat, corn, etc.,
strewed upon the floor! How many modern wives would
liave endured such an invasion of domestic comfort .''

Samuel Dennis and Daniel Robins were appointed, Novem-
ber 1 6th, to superintend the construction of a causeway over
the meadow from Dunham's mill to the upland on the other
side the stream — John Bishop, Junr., to build "a good horse
bridge " over the Creek. This order for a " horse bridge "
was made null and void at a subsequent meeting, the universal
desire being expressed for a "good cart bridge " instead of it.
So the plan of the bridge was enlarged to accommodate

If we could have looked in upon the "full town meeting "
ot February 23d, 1681, when the bridge was under discussion
we should doubtless have been much interested. The rude
building in which they met, the sun-browned and rough-clad
farmers who composed the assembly, the solemn earnestness
with which the question was debated, the feverish excitement



with which some economist opposed the enlargement of the
structure over the Papiack, the dignified aspect of the Town
Clerk, the anxious persistence of the trans-Papiack inhabitants
whom a cart bridge would most benefit, the gravity with
which the vote was taken, the satisfaction of the one party and
the disappointment of the other when the result was
announced — iUi these things combined to make a scene which
would Iiavc been of absorbing interest to us if we could have
looked upon it.

In the same meeting the Clerk was authorized to notify the
inhabitants of future meetings by putting up a paper on the
south side of the building in which they were accustomed to
meet. The order concludes thus : " And all and every indi-
viduall person that shall willingly or wilfully Neglect come-
ing to meet with and assist their Neighbours in Doing towne
Business, Shall forfit to the use of the towne for Every
Neglect, three Shillings, to Be taken By Distress if payment
Be Denyed."

Under date of October 17th some matters pertaining to tlie
mccting-house, which was then in course of construction, were

On the i5ih of November Capt. John Pike, Capt. John
Bishop, and John Dennis were elected " Rate makers " and
John Pike, Jr., " Rate gatherer" for the ensuing year. All
"out-land" was voted to be rated at s^- ^^ acre. Swine above
a year old were to be rated at los. per head. One of the
Bishops, which one is not stated, protested against the 5^'. tax
on out-land — contending that the vote was illegal on the
ground that a vote had been previously passed in this very
meeting fixing the rate at 4s. In a parliamentary point of
view Bishop was right, but it is no uncommon thing at the
present day for august assemblies to vote twice and differently
on the same question without the formality of a vote of
re-consideration; so that we are constrained to excuse the
VVoodbridge Freeholders.

The last meeting in 1681 was held on the 8th of December,
when Capt. Pike was elected President of the Township Court,
with Ephraim Andrews, Samuel Bacon, John llsly, and Capt.
John Bishop as assistants.


Thus we have the recot;d of only five meetings during the
whole of this year. If there were more, no minutes of them
were taken — or, if so, they have been lost.

Here we enter upon the important data of the years 16S2-3.
Two counties were erected in East Jersey in the year 1682 —
Bergen and Middlesex. Monmouth and Essex had been
already constituted (in 1675), although the boundaries of the
four counties were so indistinctly designated that Legislative
enactments were necessary some time subsequently in order
to the settlement of them. Middlesex county was drawn upon
in 1688 for the entire construction of Somerset, which reduced
its area considerably.

The first Town Meeting in Woodbridge in 1682 was held on
Sunday, January ist. Nothing but the election of Samuel
Dennis and Ephraim Andrews as Deputies to the Legislature
was transacted The business was resumed on the followinar
day. The Deputies were voted four shillings per day while
serving the town in the Assembly. The following general
instructions were given to these officers;

"the towne By their Votes Doth Ingage their Deputyes
Now Chosen to act Legally according to the best of their
Judgments, for the good and welfare of the Contry and to
maintain the Contrys previledges By Concession, and to
oppose anything that may Infring any of those previledges,
and the towne will Bear them out in So Doing."

Jonathan Bishop is admitted as a Freeholder and granted a
parcel of common land, in consideration of his building a saw-
mill on it alongside the southern brancli of the Rahawack
(Railway) River. The mill is to be exempt for five years
from town tax. The price of Jonathan's initiation as a Free-
lioider is fixed at ^os. "in good pay."

On the 24th, the following note was sent to Mr. Bollen,
Secretary of the Province :

" Capt : James Bollin, the Inhabitants of this towne Being-
Mett together and they Being Informed that there are Comis-
sions Ready for Court officers, and that your Demands for the
Same is twenty Shillings in good pay : the towne hath made
Choice of Saml. Dennis & Israel Thornill to Come and


ncquaiiu you Uiat the town Doth By these presents Ingage to
Saiisly and pay y(»ii twenty Shillings out of the Next Rate
that is made for this year: for the two Comissions Now in
your hands, Desircing that you would please to Send the Said
Comissions Hv the Bearer hereof, and they Shall rest yours.

" In Behalf of the tovvne & b>' their order
"Saml. Moore — Town Clerk."

From which it appears that the Town treasury had beea
depleted to such an extent that it became necessary for the
town to ask for credit in the small matter of 20s. The '' rate "
on swine above a year old was raised to 15J. per head. Those
in the settlement who had no lands, but plied any trade or
realized profit from any business, were to be assessed accord-
ing t(3 the discretion of the Rate-makers.

Capt. John Pike iiaving objected to his election as Justice
of the Corporation Court, the Town Meeting of February 9th
waived his objection, which w^as raised on some technical
ground, and confirmed him in the office. His fee was fixed at
2s. for any action tried by him, and that of his assistants at is.
At this meeting a committee, consisting of Samuel Moore,
Samuel Dennis, and Samuel Hale, reported the following in
regard to the Court :

That there should be four sessions annually — one to begin
the 2d Tuesday in May, the next to begin the 2d Tuesday in
August, the third the 2d Tuesday in November, and the fourth
the 2d Tuesday in February. Special sessions were recom-
mended in urgent cases, for which double fees for the Court
Clerk should be exacted from the party bringing, the action.
The fees were recommended to be put down at is. per action
for the Justices (except the President, who had been allotted a
double fee) and is. for Jurymen. The Clerk's fees should be
(> pence for entering each action ; is. for writing a declaration;
6 pence for each evidence sworn in Court; for recording a
judgment and jury's verdict, \s. and 6 pence; for writing an
execution, i.v. Gd.; for recording it, 9 pence; for entering or
withdrawing a non-suit, 6 pence. Other writings were to be
charged at the discretion of the Court. The Sergeant's fees
were recommended as follows: for serving a summons, 6


pence; if it required a journey of more than hialf a mile for
the service, ly., and for each mile beyond, 6 pence; for sum-
moning a jury, is. 6tf., "to Dito for attending the Court for
Each action Six pence;" for serving an execution, 2y. 6^.;
" for apprisement to have for all Sums under five pounds, ten
pence upon the pound ; for all Sums above five pounds and
under ten pounds eight pence upon the pound; all Sums
above ten pounds and under fifty pounds Six pence upon the
pound ; all Sums above fifty and under one Hundred pounds,
three pence upon the pound; for all Sums above one Hun-
dred pounds, twenty Shillings." Every action committed to
the jury was to pay whole fees; if w'ithdrawn or nonsuited,
to pay half fees — "the Clerk to be accountable for all Court
fees, and to have Every tenth penny for the Same." Each

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 8 of 34)