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History of the Early Settlement and Progress of Cumberland County By L. Q. C. Elmers - Chapter 1

 

5 FIRST SETTLERS AND PROPRIETORS

CUMBERLAND COUNTY was set off from the county of Salem, and. erected into a new county, by an act of assembly passed January 19, 1747-8. The Duke of Cumberland, who had not long before gained the victory of Culloden, and thereby established the house of Hanover permanently on the throne of Great Britain, was the great hero of the day, and the new county was named after him.

The first settlers of this part of West Jersey were probably Dutch and Swedes. Gabriel Thomas, a Friend, who lived for a few years in Pennsylvania, on his return to England in 1698, published. an account of that province and of West New Jersey. Describing the rivers, he names Prince Maurice River, "where the Swedes used to kill the geese in great numbers for their feathers only, leaving their carcasses behind them." Quite a number of Swedes settled in the neighborhood of this river, and engaged in hunting and cutting lumber, without, however, obtaining a title to the soil, until some of them purchased of the English. About the year 1743, a Swedish church was built on the east side of Maurice River, nearly opposite Buckshootem, where missionaries were accustomed to preach until after the Revolution. The graveyard with a few stones still remains. Many of the Swedish names have been continued in the neighborhood.

A few of the New Haven people, who as early as 1641 made a settlement on the creek called by the Dutch Varcken's Kill (now Salem Creek), may have wandered into the limits of Cumberland

 

6 FIRST SETTLERS AND PROPRIETORS.

and thus become the pioneers of the considerable number, who about fifty years later came from Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Long Island.

The Indians do not appear to have been numerous, consisting mostly of wandering tribes, having no permanent settlements, and no principal sachem or chief. There was a considerable tribe which generally resided in. Stow Creek and Greenwich, where many of their stone hatchets and other relics have been found. At the place still called Indian Fields, about a mile northeast of Bridgeton, they had a settlement before 1697, the place being referred to by that name in a survey of that date. Another contemporaneous survey referred to a settlement on the Cohansey, in Upper Hopewell, about a quarter of a mile below the mill known as Seeley's Mill. There was also a settlement on the west side of the same river, just above Bridgeton, on the property now belonging to the iron and nail works; and the tradition is that an Indian chief was buried, or, as some accounts say, placed in a box or coffin, on the limbs of a tree, on the point of land opposite North Street, since from that tradition called "Coffin Point." Other places of settlement or occasional places of resort are known to have existed near Fairton, and, on Maurice River.

Fenwick purchased the land of these, and to the fair and reasonable treatment they received from the Friends, who were the first English settlers, may probably be ascribed the absence of those desolating wars which prevailed in New England. But this circumstance has prevented much notice being taken of the aborigines in the early accounts of West Jersey. James Daniels, a minister among the Friends, whose father settled in the forks of Stow Creek, near the place now called Canton, in Salem County, in 1690, when he was about five years old, learned the Indian language, and says in his memoirs, "the white people were few, and the natives a multitude; they were a sober, grave, and temperate people, and used no manner of oath in their speech; but as the country grew older the people grew worse, and had corrupted the natives in their morals, teaching them bad words, and the excessive use of strong drink." Thomas, in his account of West Jersey before referred to, says "the Dutch and Swedes inform us that they greatly decreased in numbers to what they were when they came into this country, and the Indians themselves say that two of them die to every one 'Christian that comes in here." The minutes of the justices and

 

FIRST SETTLERS AND PROPRIETORS. 7

freeholders of Cumberland County for the year 1754, state that a charge of 4, 3e. 4d. was brought by Deerfield Township, for taking care of an old Indian who died in said precinct, which was allowed. At a conference held by commissioners appointed by the legislature with the Indians in 1758, one Robert Kecot claimed "the township of Deerfield, in the county of Cumberland, where the Presbyterian meeting-house stands, and also the tracts of James Wasse, Joseph Peck, and Stephen Ohesup." After this, all the Indian claims were fully paid for and relinquished. A few of the descendants of these original inhabitants lingered within the county until after the Revolution,. earning their subsistence principally by making baskets. Soon after the commencement of the present century they had all removed or died.

All vacant lands being-according to the law of Great Britain vested in the crown, and it being the established principle of European law that countries uninhabited, or inhabited only by savages, became the property of the nation taking possession, King Charles II. granted all that territory, called by the Dutch New Netherlands, including part of the State of New York, and all New Jersey, to his brother, the Duke of York, afterwards James IL, March 12, 1663-4. The duke conveyed New Jersey to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, June 24, 1664. In 1672, the Dutch reconquered the province; but in 1673 it was restored, and new grants were executed. Berkley, in 1673,. conveyed his half to John Fenwick, and shortly afterwards Fenwick conveyed nine-tenth parts of his half to William Penn, Gawen Lawrie, and Nicholas Lucas, in trust for the creditors of Edward Billing. The abovenamed persons had all become followers of George Fox, and were then called Quakers, adopting themselves the name of Friends. Fenwick had been a member of a church of Independents, whereof John Goodwin was the pastor.. He held a commission as major of cavalry, which Johnson, in his History of Salem, says was written in Cromwell's own hand.

In 1676, the province was divided, Fenwick, Penn, Lawrie, and Lucas becoming proprietors of the half called West Jersey. Billing, who was a London merchant, having failed, his nine-tenths, held by Penn and others, was conveyed to his creditors and others in hundred parts, or, as the deeds made in England set it forth, in ninety parts of ninety hundredth parts, so that a full proprietary interest came to be reckoned a hundredth part. Lesser

 

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parts of the hundredths, or a definite number of acres therein, were also frequently conveyed to individuals. Fenwick, and Eldridge, and Warner, to whom he executed a long lease in England, for the purpose of raising money, were recognized as owning ten proprietaries, or one-tenth of the province. It would seem that each particular hundredth was at first in some way designated, and the respective owners drew lots for their several shares; but this designation was never fully carried out, and it is not known how the parts were owned. Fenwick's ten proprietaries, however, were all considered to be contained in what was called the Salem tenth, extending from Berkeley River (now Oldman's Creek) to a creek a little east of the Cohansey, originally called the Tweed, which, having a wide mouth where it empties into the Delaware, was supposed to be a stream commencing far up to the north, but which proved to be confined to the marsh, and has since been called Back Creek.

Fenwick came into the Delaware in June 1675, with his family and servants, consisting of two daughters and their husbands, one unmarried daughter, and two servants. His wife remained in Eng-land, and never came to America. Edward Champney, one of his

sons-in-law, brought with him three servants, one of whom was Mark Reeve, who settled at Greenwich, and built a house not far from the Cohansey, near the house where John Sheppard long lived. The servants, as is remarked by Smith, in his History of New Jersey, being accustomed to work, and willing to encounter the hardships and privations incident to the settlement of a new country, succeeded much better than their masters. Mark Reeve, among others, became a considerable 'proprietor, and is still represented by numerous respectable descendants.

So far as is now known, the Dutch and Swedes never took any steps to secure a permanent title to the laud upon which they set. tied, and did not even take deeds from the Indians. Whatever title they may have claimed as the first settlers and improvers, was ignored by the English, although there is reason to believe they were, in many cases, permitted to become purchasers at the usual price for the unimproved land. A few .names apparently not English are found among the early freeholders.

Penn and the other legal proprietors of West Jersey, in 1676, signed an agreement the original of which, well engrossed on vellum, in a bound quarto volume, is preserved in the land office

 

FIRST SETTLERS AND PROPRIETORS. 9

at Burlington, regulating the government and the mode of disposing of the lands. It provided for dividing the territory into tenths, originally intended to take the place of counties, and the tenths were to be divided into hundredths. Fenwick did not sign this agreement, but assumed to act independently of the other proprietors, which was the occasion of much contention. Salem, however, was always recognized as one of the tenths, and Fenwick, or his grantees, as the owners of ten proprietaries. During part of his life he claimed to be sole or chief proprietor of the moiety of New Jersey, and established his government at the place he called New Salem, now the city of Salem. He appointed a Secretary and Surveyor General, the latter being at first Richard Hancock, who came over with him. In 1678 James Nevill was appointed Secretary, and his son-in-law, Samuel Hedge, Surveyor General, Hancock having favored the claims of the other proprietors, and acted under them.

In 1682 Fenwick conveyed all his interest in New Jersey to William Penn, except the part which was called Fenwick's colony, containing, as was supposed, 150,000 acres. When he died in the latter part of 1683, be appointed Penn and others his executors, giving them "full power to lett, sett, sell and dispose" of his whole estate, for the paying of his debts and improving his estate, for his heirs during their non age. By virtue of the aforesaid deed and will, Penn and the other executors made conveyances of large parcels of land, besides what Fenwick had himself conveyed, by virtue of which surveys were made, and under which the titles are held.

There seems to have been for several years after Fenwick's arrival, a constant conflict between him and the Assembly, which at length occasioned his deed to Penn in 1682. In May, 1683, he appeared himself as a member of the Assembly, and it was then enacted as a law that the lands and marsh or meadow formerly laid out for Salem Town bounds, by agreement of John Fenwick and the people of Salem Liberty, shall stand and be forever to and for the only use of the freeholders and inhabitants of said town. It was then agreed that, "only John Fenwick excepted his tenth, which he said then at that time was not under the same circumstances, but now freely consenteth thereunto," that the concessions agreed on in 1676, should be the fundamentals and ground of the government of West Jersey.

 

10 FIRST SETTLERS AND PROPRIETORS.

This assent, however, does not seem to have been understood by Fenwick as hindering him from disposing of his land, without regard to the agreements or concessions or laws. His will, an ancient copy of which is before me, dated August 7, 1683, made on his sick bed at Fenwick's Grove, professes to dispose of large manors and tracts of land to his grand-children. It contains this clause: "Item: I give and bequeath to my three grand-children and their heirs male forever, all that tract of land laying near the river heretofore called Cohansey, which I will have hereafter called Caesaria River, and which is known by the name of the Town Neck; and my will is that it, together with the land on the other side which is called- Shrewsbury Neck, and other the lands thereunto belonging, which is contained in my Indian purchase, and so up the bay to the mouth of Monmouth River (Alloway's Creek was then so called), and up Monmouth River to the head or farthest branch thereof, and so in a straight line to the head of Caesaria River, all which I will to be called the manor of Caesaria, and that there shall be a city erected, and marshes and land allowed as my executors shall see convenient, which. I empower them to do and to name the land; further, my will is that out of the residue of the land and marshes shall be divided equally among my said heirs, and that Fenwick's dividend shall join to the town and Bacon's Creek, where, my will is, there shall be a house erected and called the Manor house, for keeping of courts." This manor, it will be seen, embraced the present townships of Greenwich, Hopewell, Cohansey and Stow Creek in Cumberland, Lower Alloway's Creek, and part of Upper Alloway's Creek Townships in Salem; but, like many other magnificent projects, it was never carried out. None of his grants or devises of specific parcels of land, except Salem Town, have been recognized as valid; and no titles under them are good, unless regular surveys have been made and recorded, or such a length of actual possession has teen had as to bar a rival claimant.

Directly after Fenwick's arrival, he provided for laying out a neck of land for a town at Cohansey, one-half for the chief proprietor (himself), and one-half for the purchasers, the lots to be sixteen acres each. The town thus projected was called by the settlers Greenwich, although it continued for many years to be also called Cohansey. A memorial of the proprietors of East and West Jersey to the crown, dated in 1701, prays that the port of Perth Amboy, in East

 

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Jersey, and the ports of Burlington and Cohansey, in West Jersey, may be established ports of those respective provinces forever. An act of the Assembly of West Jersey, in 1695, recites that a considerable number of people are settled on or about Cohansey, at Caesaria River, within the county of Salem, and enacts that there shall be two fairs kept yearly at the town of Greenwich at Cohansey aforesaid; the first on the 24th and 25th days of April, and the second on the 16th and 17th days of October. These fairs were continued and were largely attended until .1765, when a law was enacted reciting that fairs in the town of Greenwich had been found inconvenient and unnecessary, and that therefore no fairs should be hereafter held there. Ebenezer Miller, a Friend, who resided at Greenwich, was a member of the Assembly this year, and doubtless procured this act. By this time fairs had become much less important than they had been, by the increase of regular retail stores, whose proprietors were anxious to get rid of the fairs. One of the provisions of the original concessions and agreements of the freeholders of, West Jersey was that the streets in cities, towns, and villages should not be under one hundred feet wide. In pursuance of this, a street was laid out at Greenwich, from the wharf to where the Presbyterian church was afterwards built, of that width, but by whom is not known. It is quite probable that Fen. wick himself visited the place in his barge, which he particularly mentions in his will; but it does not appear that he sold any lots there. His will provides "that Martha Smith, my Xtian friend, to have two lots of land at Cohansey, at the town intended on the river Ceasaria."*

* The following extract from an interesting account of the Ewing family, printed only for the use of the family, will give us a very good idea of the situation and habits of a well-to-do pious Presbyterian family in the county of Cumberland, about the middle of the eighteenth century. It is a part of the biography of the wife of Maskell Ewing, who married Mary Pagett, in 1743.

"His wife was a woman of plain manners, though lady-like, and very sensible. She was remarkable for her powers as a housekeeper. With the exception of her husband's Sunday-coat, which was the one that had served at his wedding, and which lasted for a good part of later life, she had on hand the making of his and their children's garments from the flax and the wool. All the bedding and house linen must be made, and geese kept to find materials for beds; some thousand weight of cheese to be prepared annually for market; poultry and calves to be raised; gardening to be done; the work of butchering-time to be attended to (this included the putting up of pork and salt meat to last the whole year, besides sausages for winter, and the making of candles); herbs to be gathered and dried, and

 

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Penn and the executors of Fenwick made several conveyances of sixteen acre lots on the east side of the street; one to Mark Reeve, describes him as of Ceasaria River, and is dated August 9, 1686. It contains the lot at the corner near the wharf, on which he had built a house. In December of the same year Reeve, in consideration of 80, conveyed it to Joseph Browne, late of Philadelphia, "reserving to himself and his heirs a free egress and regress to and from a certain piece of ground, containing 24 square feet, where the said Mark Reeve's wife lies buried" Browne conveyed it to Chalkley, a Friend, in 1738, and he to John Butler. Butler conveyed it to Thomas Mulford, and he to William Conover, who conveyed it to John Sheppard, December 16, 1760, in whose family it has remained ever since. No survey under the proprietors appears to have been recorded for this lot. Chalkley, in 1739, laid a survey on half an-acre adjoining it, including the wharf, and in 1743 another for 15 acres, thus making up a sixteen acre lot.

One Zachariah Barrow possessed a farm held under Fenwick considerably further north, on the east side of the street, above the Friends' school-house, and by his will made in 1725 devised it" for the benefit of a free school for the town of Greenwich forever." In 1749, just after Cumberland County was established, to perfect the title-no survey having been before recorded Ebenezer Miller procured a survey to be duly laid on this farm to himself and two others, attorneys duly constituted by the town of Greenwich, and they executed a conveyance to David Sheppard, subject to a yearly rent of thirteen pounds, for the use of a free school to the inhabitants of the town of Greenwich, within certain bounds set forth in the deed. From this and other circumstances, it is known that Greenwich was made a township at an early day, and probably with the bounda-

ointments compounded; besides all the ordinary house-work of washing, ironing, patching, darning, knitting, scrubbing, baking, cooking, and many other vocations, which a farmer's wife now-a-days would be apt to think entirely out of her line. And all this without any 'help,' other than that afforded by her own little daughters, as they became able; and for the first twenty-two years, with a baby always to be nursed. This afforded no time for any reading but the best; but many a good book she contrived to read by laying it on her lap, whilst her hands plied the knitting-needles, or to hear read, by the husband or one of the children, while she and the, rest spent the evening in sewing. On the Sabbath, a folio Flavel, the Institutes of Calvin, and, above all, the Bible, were the treasures in which her soul delighted."

 

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ries contained in the deed. The act establishing the county divides it into six townships, the bounds of Greenwich containing considerably more territory than is described in the deed. In New England what we call townships are usually called towns. The reserved rent continues to be paid, and by a decree of the Court of Chancery, to and for the benefit of the public schools within the bounds of the town, as described in the deed.

Fenwick's will, before quoted, mentions a creek called Bacon's Creek. There is still extant a deed from two Indians to John Nicholls of Nicholls Hartford, near Cohansey, dated 25th of 4th month (June of the old style), 1683, whereby, in consideration of one blankets one double handful of powder, two bars of lead, three pennyworths of paint, one hoe, one axe, one looking-glass, one pair of scissors, one shirt, and one breech cloth, they sell and convey to him a parcel of land containing, by estimation, one hundred acres, beginning at a tree near the creek called the Great Tree Creek, and bounding on Cohansey River and land of Henry ,Jennings, George Hazlewood, and Samuel Bacon, who are believed to have been of the early Baptist settlers. This deed was approved by Richard Guy and James Nevill, in accordance with a law passed the same year, which forbade the purchase of land from Indians without their sanction. A somewhat similar deed is in the possession of the Bacon family. Whether a title was also obtained by survey under the proprietors is unknown. Unless there was, the legal title of' the present possessors rests upon the possession, and not upon the Indian deeds.

Before the Revolutionary War it can hardly be said that there were any towns in the county. Greenwich was the place of most business up to the beginning of the present century. The stores there contained the largest assortment of goods. A young lady who visited Bridgeton in 1786, mentions, in a journal which has been preserved, going to Greenwich "to get her broken watch crystal replaced, but the man had not received- any from Philadelphia as he expected." She mentions going to Wood and Sheppard's store to get a few trifles. They transacted so .large a business as to make it worth while o have bonds printed payable to them. The river forming an excellent harbor, vessels traded direct to the West Indies and other places; but as New York overshadowed Perth Amboy, so Philadelphia overshadowed Greenwich or Cohansie. There was, a regular ferry kept up over the river, and much

 

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intercourse between Fairfield and Greenwich. In 1767, after John Sheppard came there, a law was passed establishing the ferry, and in pursuance of its provisions, he bound himself to keep good and sufficient boats, fit for ferrying travellers .and carriages for 999 years, and to keep and amend the roads, and bound his property to make good his agreement. About 1810, and again in 1820, efforts were made to have a draw-bridge built at the expense of the county; but this project was strenuously resisted by those living on the river above, and being defeated, caused much rejoicing. For several years a horse-boat was in constant use; but as other towns grew, and capital increased, Greenwich lost its relative importance, and the ferry had but little business, so that in 1838 Mr. Sheppard, in consideration of paying $300, was released from his engagement. Like other parts of the county, it has since greatly improved, but it is now only the depot of a rich agricultural region in its immediate neighborhood.*

Those familiar with the history of the English colonies in North America, will remember that it was the persistence of the British government hi taxing the people, without allowing them to be represented in Parliament, that brought on the Revolution, and hastened their Independence. In 1773, all those taxes were repealed but the duty on tea, which our forefathers not only resolved not to use, but which they would not suffer to be landed and offered for sale. The East India Company, which then had the monopoly of this commodity, was encouraged to send it to this country, and was allowed a drawback of all the duties paid in England, it being supposed that the cheapness of the article would tempt our people to purchase largely. Cargoes were sent to all the large seaports; but at some places the tea was not permitted to be landed, and at others it was stored, but not allowed to be sold. In December, a party disguised as Indians boarded one of the ships in Boston harbor, and threw the tea into the water.

A brig called the Greyhound, bound to Philadelphia, with a cargo of tea, the captain of which was afraid to proceed to his place of destination, in the summer of 1774 came into the Cohansey, landed his tea, and had it stored in the cellar of a house standing in front of the then open market square. This house is not now standing, and the market-square has been inclosed as private pro-

* When not otherwise stated, the time referred to as "now" is the year 1865.

 

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perty. Imitating the example of the Bostonians, a company of near forty men was organized, with the concurrence of the committee of safety of the county, of which Jonathan Elmer, the royal sheriff; was an active ember, ho disguised themselves as Indians, and on the night f , 1774, broke into the store-house, took out the boxes of tea, and burned them in a neighboring field. The writer remembers to have known in his boyhood one of the party, a man named Stacks, who, it was said, tied strings round his pantaloons at his ankles, and stuffed them with tea, which he carried home to his family, and thus got the name of Tea-Stacks.

The owners of the tea commenced actions of trespass against such of the disguised Indians as they thought they could identify, in the Supreme Court of the State, Joseph Reed of Philadelphia, and Mr. Petit of Burlington, being their lawyers. Money for the defence was raised by subscription, and Joseph Bloomfield, then residing at Bridgeton, George Read of New Castle, Elias Boudinot of Elizabethtown, and Jonathan D. Serjeant of Philadelphia, all eminent counsellors, were employed on behalf of the defendants.. No trial, however, ever took place. The plaintiffs were ruled to enter security for the costs, which being neglected, a judgment of non pros was entered at May Term, 1776, but at the succeeding term security was filed, and the non pros set aside. The new constitution of the State, adopted in July, having displaced the Royal Judges, and their places being filled in the succeeding winter with Whigs, the actions were dropped, and no further proceedings took place on either side.

Ebenezer Elmer, who was one of the Indians, enters in a journal he kept during the year 1775, under the date "Die Jovis (Thursday, May 25, 1775), "Came up to Bridge (from his Daniel Elmer's, who lived at Cedarville) just before court, being Supreme Court. Judge Smith gave very large charge to the grand jury concerning the times, and the burning f the tea the fall before, but the jury came in without doing anything, and the court broke up." Under the date of Septembe7, he enters, "Expected as Sheriff Bowen had got a jury of Tories, we should be indicted for burning the tea and taking Wheaton, but they could not make it out." Wheaton had been arrested by order of the committee of safety, as a dangerous Tory, but, nothing appearing against him, had been discharged. The grand jury, to whom he complained, did make a presentment against the journalist and others, for an

 

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assault and battery, and false imprisonment, which is now on file, but the court did not think proper to order a formal indictment to be presented, and nothing was done.

The Judge Smyth mentioned in the journal was Chief Justice Frederick Smyth, the last of the Royal judges who presided in the Oyer and Terminer of this county. His charge fell on very dull ears, the Whig sheriff; who knew all about the tea burning, having taken care to summon a Whig jury, the foreman of which was his nephew, Daniel Elmer. Before the ensuing September term this Whig sheriff, who held his office at the pleasure of Governor Franklin, who was not superseded until arrested by order of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey in the following June, was displaced, and David Bowen, who was supposed to be more loyal, was appointed in his place. He held the office of sheriff a little more than a year, being superseded in the fall of 1776 by Joel Fithian, who was elected pursuant to the new constitution.

The place now called Roadstown, surrounded by a fertile region, was settled at an early date, and until Cohansey Bridge was established as the county town, was the place next in importance to New England town, and Greenwich. It is called Kingstown in an old mortgage on record, but if it was ever generally known by that name, which is doubtful, that designation was wiped out by the Declaration of Independence. Prior to, and for some time after the Revolution, it was called Sayre's Cross Roads, Ananias Sayre, originally from Fairfield, who was a prominent citizen, and at one time sheriff, having settled there, and built the house at the northwest corner of the cross roads.

The first proprietors of the land within the bounds of what is now Cumberland, were principally, but not exclusively, Friends. But few of the actual settlers were Friends, that people being principally confined to Greenwich, and at a later day a few on Maurice River. Richard Hancock, who was Fenwick's first Surveyor General, after his falling out with him came to the place now called Bridgeton, and before 1686 erected a saw-mill on the stream then and since called Mill Creek, at the place where Pine Street now crosses the dam, then first made to form the pond. The low ground adjoining this creek was then covered with, cedar trees, and pine and other large trees covered the hills. What title Hancock had to the land does not appear. It was included within the 11,000 acre survey, about this time located for the West Jersey

 

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Society, formed by several large proprietors living partly in London and partly in the province. Probably he held under them. It does not appear that he ever lived here, his residence being at the place in Salem County named after him, Hancock's Bridge, where there still remain some of his descendants. Thomas says, "a goodly store of lumber went out of the Cohansey to Philadelphia."

It was an early regulation that surveys should not extend on both sides of navigable streams. Surveyors, of whom John Worlidge was one, are said to have come from Burlington in a boat. The rights west of the Cohansey seem all to have been purchased of Fenwick or his executors. Most of the land was covered by surveys before 1700. James Wasse, Joshua Barkstead, R. Hutchinson, George Hazlewood, John Budd, Cornelius Mason, and Edmund Gibbon made large surveys, which extended nearly from the Cohansey to the Salem line.

Edmund Gibbon, an English merchant residing in New York, in the year 1677, to secure a debt due to him by Edward Duke and Thomas Duke, took from them a conveyance of 6000 acres of land in West Jersey which had been conveyed to them by Fenwick in England. Gibbon, by virtue of this deed, had a tract of 5500 acres surveyed for him by Richard Hancock in 1682. It was resurveyed by Benj. Acton in 1703, and included within its bounds Roadstown, the east line running between the present Baptist meeting-house and the cross-roads, and extending southward to Pine Mount Branch, and westward to the Delaware. He devised this tract to his grandson [nephew] Edmund, who devised it to Francis Gibbon of Bennonsdere [Bennodore] In 1[date?]Francis devised it to his two kinsmen, Leonard and Nicholas Gibbon, of Gravesend in Kent, described as "all that part of lands called Mount Gibbon, upon the branches of unknown creek, near Cohansey in West New Jersey," provided they go and settle upon it. They both came over and erected the mill formerly owned by Richard Seeley, who was a descendant of Nicholas, and now by his daughter, the property having continued in the family to this time. This was probably the first mill erected for grinding grain, unless the tide mill, which was situate on the stream a little east of Greenwich Street, and has been many years gone, preceded it. A fulling mill was erected at an early day on Pine Mount (as Mount Gibbon is now called) Run. The mills of John S. Wood and of Benjamin Shep-

 

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pard are also of old date. Wood's Mill was for a long time owned by John Brick, the tradition being that he also owned large tracts in Lower Pittsgrove, and that through his influence the line between Cumberland and Salem was so run as to leave them in the latter county. Leonard and Nicholas Gibbon divided their tract in 1730, Nicholas taking the southern part, including the mill, and 2000 acres of land. Nicholas built a good brick house in the town of Greenwich, where he resided until 1740, when he removed to Salem. Leonard built a stone house about two miles north of Greenwich. Both these buildings remain, but have long since gone out of the family, of whom there are still very respectable descendants, residing principally in Salem.

On the east side of the Cohansey a large tract of 11,000 acres was surveyed by Worlidge and Budd for the West Jersey Society in 1686, and re-surveyed and recorded in 1716. East of that tract a large survey, was made for the heirs of Penn, which extended to Maurice River. On the west side of that river, and bounding on the Delaware, a large survey was made for Wasse. In 1691 a large survey was laid on the east side of Maurice River for Thomas Byerly. Indeed, it may be safely said that four-fifths of the land included in Cumberland County was covered by surveys before 1700.

Surveys for Helby and John Bellers, creditors of Billing, living in England, covered most of Fairfield. The Helby surveys were sold out to settlers at an early day, but the Bellers title was the occasion of much difficulty. It extended from Mill Creek, at Fairton, to the Tweed or Back Creek. His agent, Thomas Budd, had a power of attorney to sell 400 acres, which he deeded to Ephraim [Joseph] Seeley.* But he made leases to the Connecticut settlers,

 

* Thomas Budd became a Friend in England, came over to Burlington in West Jersey, in 1678, and held several important offices in the province. In 1681, he was chosen, by the Assembly, a commissioner for" settling and regulation of lands, and was afterward a member of the Assembly. In 1684 he went to England, and there published a pamphlet entitled, "Good order established in Penn-sylvania and New Jersey, in America, being a true account of the country." Probably he had not at this time visited South Jersey, as he confines his description to the parts in the vicinity of Burlington. This pamphlet has been recently published with very copious and interesting historical notes, by Edward Armstrong, Esq., of Philadelphia.

Budd appears to have returned to Burlington the same year, and soon afterwards removed to Philadelphia, where he owned considerable property, took an

 

FIRST SETTLERS AND PROPRIETORS. 19

reserving small quit-rents, and entered into bonds that a good title should be made, or their improvements paid for. Under these leases most or the tract was parcelled out to the settlers, and the land improved. But Bellers appears 'to have been ambitious of being lord of a manor in America, and upon his death in 1724 entailed this property so that, it could not be sold. The Rev. Daniel Elmer procured the semblance of a title to the 400 acres of Seeley's heirs, and in 1745 located part of this right so as to include the farm on which he resided and had built himself a house, and the adjoining meeting-house lot and burial ground lying on Cohansey River, below Fairton. About the same time he and his son Daniel, who was a surveyor, laid out a town, which was never built, on the bank of the river, extending eastwardly so as to include part of the present sight of Fairton, which it was proposed to call Fairfield. Could the title have been secured, it would probably have become an important town and the county seat. In 1750 the settlers sent over Capt. Thomas Harris to England with money to purchase the Bellers title; but, not succeeding, he laid out the money in Bibles, Watts' Psalms and Hymns, then just coming into use, a folio edition of Flavel, and pewter dishes, which were distributed among those willing to take them. The pewter dishes took the place of wooden trenchers for those able to indulge in such a luxury. Some of them and some copies of Flavel still remain.

It was not until about 1811 that this Bellers 'title was extinguished. When about ten years before this time the late Benjamin Chew, of Philadelphia, became the agent of the English proprietors, the occupants refused to purchase, and resisted the surveyors who attempted to run out the tract and cut off' the tail of the agent's horse. Suits were brought, and the Supreme Court of this State made a special order, requiring the sheriff to call out the posse comitatus and protect the surveyors, who pointed out the land to a jury of view. One case was tried, and a verdict rendered for the plaintiff: A compromise then took place, by which three persons from the adjoining counties were selected to determine how much the occupants should pay. They awarded two dollars

active part In disputes that arose among the Friends, and died in the year 1698. His descendants, and those or his brother William, who resided in Burlington County and was an Episcopalian, are numerous and very respectable, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

 


20 FIRST SETTLERS AND PROPRIETORS.

and fifty cents per acre, and seventy-five cents per acre for the costs, which was eventually paid, and deeds made to each occupant. A small part of it remains nominally in Chew's heir.

A similar difficulty occurred when the proprietors of the Penn tract commenced selling. A gentleman now living remembers when, about the year 1804, the squatters thereon threatened to hang the agent, who had some difficulty in effecting his escape, which he was enabled to do by the swiftness of his horse that carried him safely over Maurice River bridge at Millville before his pursuers could overtake him.

A map annexed to Thomas's description of Pennsylvania and West Jersey, before referred to, contains on it the names of two towns, viz: Dorchester, on the east side of Maurice River, and Antioch, on the south side of Cohansey, the only towns within the bounds of Cumberland which are named. Dorchester was surveyed and returned as a town plat. of '2500 acres, and although no town was built until after 1800, it retains the name. .Antioch was probably surveyed in a similar manner, but never recorded, unless, as is most probable, the map places it on the wrong side of the river. The original map of Hancock's survey for Gibbon, refers to the boundaries of Antioch or Greenwich town. No town called Antioch ever existed in the county.

The Connecticut immigrants called the place most thickly settled New England Town, by which name, or that of New England Town Cross-roads, it was long known. The first road from Salem to Maurice River was laid out in 1705, through Greenwich, crossing the river there, and then along by the meeting-house at New England Town, up to the neighborhood of the present Fairton, and then through the woods towards Maurice River, without stating precisely where it was to go or where to end. The road from New England Town to Burlington-the seat of government of West Jersey-was no doubt the first road used in the county. It passed over the north branch of the Cohansey, called Mill Creek, at a place where the mill was first erected, somewhat below the present mill-dam, and then along the Indian path about a mile east of Bridgeton, through the Indian fields, passing by the Pine Tavern, then over to the road from Salem, near the present Clarksboro in Gloucester County, then through Woodbury and Haddonfield. The bridge and road at Carpenter's Landing were not made until the forepart of the present century.

Fairton was not so called until the post-office was established,

 

FIRST SETTLERS AND PROPRIETORS. 21

about the year 1812. It was previously called by the nickname Bumbridge, a name said to have originated from the circumstance that a constable-then often called a Bum-bailiff, which is a corruption of the word bound bailiff, that is, a bailiff bound with a security-in attempting to arrest a person, fell into the water, owing to some defect in the bridge over Rattlesnake Run, and thus occasioned the bridge to be rebuilt, and to acquire a name. For many years the road over this run crossed considerably above where the bridge was made. When the country was first settled, what is now called Mill Creek, at Fairton, was known as the north branch of the Cohansey.

Cedarville became a place of some local importance directly after the Revolution, but was not known by this name until the post-office was established. It was settled at an early period; but when the mill was erected is not known.

Gouldtown - partly in the northern, part of Fairfield, and partly in 'Bridgeton townships although never more than a settlement of mulattoes principally bearing the names of Gould and Pierce, scattered over a considerable territory, is of quite ancient date. The tradition is that they are descendants of Fenwick. His will contains the following clause: "Item, I do except against Elizabeth Adams (who was a granddaughter), of having any the least part of my estate, unless the Lord open her eyes to see her abominable transgression against him, me, and her good father, by giving her true repentance, and forsaking that Black that hath been the ruin of her, and becoming penitent for her sins; upon that condition only I do will and require my executors to settle five hundred acres of land upon her."




 

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