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History of the Early Settlement and Progress of Cumberland County By L. Q. C. Elmers - Chapter 3

 

39 BRIDGETON.

CHAPTER III.

BRIDGETON.

IN 1754, Daniel Elmer, who was a surveyor, and the oldest son of Rev. Daniel Elmer, pastor of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church, laid out for Alexander Moore a town on the east side of the Cohansey, which it was proposed to call Cumberland. The streets were laid out at right angles, and the squares contained each 18 square perches. It extended from what is now Jefferson Street to a little north of the present iron works on the north, and from the river to about as far east as where Orange Street now is. Some of the old title-deeds refer to this plan, but the streets were never opened. Most of the site was then the original forest.

The road to Deerfield was laid out in 1768, upon the old travelled track from the bridge to near the corner of the present Corn. merce and Pearl Streets, thence northerly, a little south of where Pearl Street now is. In 1785, the road to Fairfield was changed, and laid out to begin at John Westcott's stone house-then a low one-story stone house-standing at the southeast corner of the present Commerce and Pearl Streets, afterwards for years owned and occupied by Mark Riley, the lot extending up to where Orange Street now is; thence southward along the present Pearl Street, over the dam made by Col. Enos Seeley, and thence along what is now the left hand road to the brick-kiln corner, and thence south along the old road-over Rocap's Run.

John Moore White having been licensed to practise law, and married, came to Bridgeton in 1791. and erected a handsome dwelling, now forming a part of the hotel at the corner of Commerce and Laurel Streets. He procured the road to be changed and to run as it does now, called Laurel Street. He laid out himself and fenced some of the other streets to correspond His lot, inclosed with a handsome fence, and well improved with shade and fruit trees, and an extensive, well laid-out garden, extended on Commerce Street from the corner of Laurel to the present Water Street, and on Laurel Street from the corner to James Hood's line.

 

BRIDGETON. 39

The present livery stables were his barn and stables, the tide in the river flowing up to near the building. North of him it was an open woods, in which the laurel was so conspicuous as to give the name Laurel Hill to the elevated ground still called by that name. The present Pearl Street was by him called Middle Street. Bank was called Freemason Street, and Washington was called Point Street. The road to Deerfield, after passing the first run north of the town, was very crooked. It was made straight in 1796 about half way, and a few years later as the turnpike now runs. The turnpike was made in 1852. The straight road to Fairton was opened in 1799; that to Millville in 18O5. In 1810, the road to Buckshootem was laid. The turnpike was made to Millville in 1853.

The road from Greenwich to Bridgeton, through Bowentown, was in use by the early settlers. In 1769, it was regularly laid out as a four-rod road, and then passed the court-house, down the hill to Water Street (now Atlantic), thence a straight course to the foot of the bridge. The road, however, was a deep gully below the courthouse until about 1802, when George Burgin, a prominent citizen, who had built the stone storehouse at the corner of Broad and Atlantic Streets, made the road passable for carriages, and caused the wharf it leads to to be erected. In 1800, the present Atlantic Street was laid as it now is; but for several years the old road passing in front of the Parvin House continued to be used by carriages, and was the foot-path until that house was taken away in 1825. The road from the foot of the bridge up the hill, and thence along what is now Franklin Street, was laid nearly as it now is in 1771. For many years, however, this road up the hill was a mere sandy track, but little used. In 1825, the late Dr. Ephraim Buck, having bad the office of overseer imposed on him, put it in good order, at an expense much complained of by the tax-payers, but which soon made it the main thoroughfare of travel, and proved an excellent improvement. The old middle road down the hill, which was never regularly laid out, was shut up in 1815. The straight road to Roadstown was, after several futile attempts, laid out and opened about 1798. Broad Street was formerly called Main Street. Until after the Revolution, Bridgeton was but an insignificant hamlet, having not more than from 150 to 200 inhabitants. The houses built up to that, time were in the neighborhood of the court-house, and on Vine and Main Streets, and on Commerce and Laurel Streets, south

40 BRIDOETON.

of Commerce. The bridge had no draw, and was a subject of con. siderable contention. The Rev. Philip Fithian, then a tutor in Virginia, visited the place in 1774. He records in his journal under the date of April 26, "visited Nathan Leak (in Deerfield). He told me the beginning and continuation of the quarrel of the magistrates, freeholders, and other officers, about raising money for repairing Cohansey Bridge." This quarrel grew out of a dispute about its location; a strong party, headed by Col. Enos Seeley, owner of the property on the creek below Jefferson Street, being in favor of putting it opposite Broad Street, while Alexander Moore and his friends insisted upon retaining the old site. Nothing but indispensable repairs was done to the old bridge until after Mr. White took possession of his property. He was desirous of having a draw, so that he might erect wharves above; and to induce the freeholders to incur the necessary expense, agreed to defray the cost of the draw, and keep it in good repair five years; and he also deeded to trustees a lot of land on the river, where the rolling and pipe-mills now are, to be used as a free public landing for wood and lumber. The lot was so used for many years, but becoming less and less important to the community, Mr. White-on the ground that the conditions of his grant had not been complied with-some twenty-five years ago took possession of it and sold it. The town is certainly far more benefited by its present use than it could be if held for its, original purpose. From 1799 to 1801, the present stone abutments were put up, and the bridge was built on piles, and raised much higher than it had been, and at this time the dispute about its location was renewed, George Burgin being desirous of having it placed opposite Broad Street.* Old inhabitants speak of the tide having risen above the floor in former times. The draw has been several times altered. For many years it was raised up; but it was a constant source of trouble and expense. There not having been any previous law authorizing this bridge, one was passed in 1834. The existing structure was built in 1849. The street on both sides of the bridge has been raised from five to eight feet.

An actual enumeration of the inhabitants made in 1792, found that they numbered 300. About this time General Giles built the

*Now, in 1869, arrangements have been made for building a bridge at Broad Street, so that soon, instead of only one, there will be three.

 

BRIDGETON'. 41

house on Broad Street, now occupied by Rev. Dr. Jones, and shortly after this, several pretty good houses were erected. That occupied by Mrs. Read was built by Ebenezer Miller; but it has been 'enlarged and much improved. All the houses occupied in 1748 have long ago disappeared. Among the early business men of the town was Col. David Potter. His wharf and store-house were on the west side of the river, next below the Mason line. His dwelling, a wooden structure at the northwest corner of Broad and Franklin Streets, was burned about the year 1780, and he then built the present brick dwelling and store at the same place. In his day, a considerable quantity of wheat, raised in Hopewell, Deerfield, and Pittsgrove, was brought to this place and exported to Philadelphia, and the Brandywine Mills. He died in 1805. Next after him were Seeley and Merseilles, who had a store near the southeast corner of the bridge. Merseilles built the store-house at the southeast corner of Commerce and Laurel Streets. He also built a good dwelling-house opposite, now a part of Grosscup's building. The town being at he head of navigation, a considerable business in carrying wood and lumber to Philadelphia grew up; but up to the beginning of the present century not more than three o four vessels were owned in the place, nor did the stores fairly compete with those at Greenwich. In 1780, a letter-of-marque schooner, called Gov. Livingston, was built on the Cohansey, at the place now occupied as a lumber yard by Messrs. Mulford, which made one successful trip. Upon her return from her second voyage, with a valuable cargo, she Was captured near the Delaware by a British frigate.

The sons of Col. Potter first kept the store at the southwest corner of Commerce and Laurel Streets. The most influential citizens in 1800 were Dr. Jonathan Elmer, Col. Potter, Ebenezer Seeley, Jonathan Bowen, Dr. Samuel M. Shute, James Burch, Zachariah Lawrence, Enoch Boon, John Moore White, and Gen. Giles. Ebenezer Elmer, who had been previously in practice as a physician, and was a prominent public man, moved on to a farm at Bow. town in 1795, from whence he returned in 1807. Col. Enos Seeley had become disabled by disease, and Judge Ephraim Seeley, son of Col. Ephraim, died in 1799, soon after finishing his house at the corner of Commerce and Bank Streets.

We have no means of knowing what was the precise number of inhabitants at this epoch, but they may be estimated to have been

 

42 BRIDGETON.

about four hundred. Nearly every house then existing can be identified. On the east side was the old Seeley mansion at the mill, no* gone; a house on Commerce Street nearly opposite the Methodist meeting-house, built by Mr. Fauver, on a lot at the southeast corner of John Moore White's property; the house at the corner of Commerce and Bank Streets, built by Ephraim Seeley; the academy on Bank Street, having, as now, the Masonic lodge in the upper story, and the house on the north side of Irving, fronting Bank, then owned by Ebenezer Seeley; a house on the south side of Irving, west of Bank Street; the old stone house at the southeast corner of Commerce and Pearl Streets, long owned by Mark Riley; five houses on Pearl, south of Commerce; house near the saw-mill, then owned by Col. Enos Seeley, long known as the house of Widow Jay; the house of his son, David Seeley, now Mrs. Buck's, fronting on Laurel; the old Boyd mansion opposite; five houses on the east side of Laurel, south of Commerce; one stone house on the west side; store-houses at the south corners of Commerce and Laurel Streets; a house and a shoemaker-shop a little west of it, built by James Burch, on the south side of Commerce Street (now James Potter's); a store-house near the southeast corner of the bridge; the old mansion of Alexander Moore, then a tavern, and two houses near thereto; White's mansion house, now the hotel; the house of Eden M. Merseilles, now a part of Grossoup's building; a house east of this built by Reuben Burgin; a blacksmith shop at the corner of Commerce and Pearl; a house on the east side of Pearl Street, now S. W. Seeley's; a house where the brick Presbyterian church stands; one nearly opposite owned by James Hood, a Scotchman, then following his business of making wrought nails, and his shop; 'a blacksmith-shop on Washington Street near the corner of Laurel; the stone house on the side of Laurel, nearly opposite Irving Street; two small houses near thereto; three houses above on the same street, and a store-house at the northeast corner of Laurel and Irving.

On the west side were the old Parvin House near the foot of the bridge and a stone house north of it, on Commerce Street, the old Cotting House, then Enoch Boon's; four other houses on Atlantic Street; a house on Broad Street below the jail; three houses on the north side of Broad near the court-house, one of which was then occupied as a tavern; two houses on the west side of Franklin Street; Col. Potter's house and store at the corner of Broad and Franklin; two or three houses between that and Giles Street; the

 

BRIDGETON. 43

mansion of Gen. Giles; two or three houses above on the same side; six or seven houses on the south side of Broad Street; three houses on the west side of Fayette Street; a large three-storied house where the court-house now stands, long occupied as a tavern, and five or six houses on Vine Street; a one-story school house where the public school now is, and the old brick Presbyterian church. The court-house stood in the middle of Broad Street. The only wharves at this time were a small one just below the bridge on the west side, another of better construction lower down on the same side, belonging to Col. Potter, and one on the east side constructed by Seeley & Merseilles, about twenty rods below the bridge, with the remains of the old Smith Wharf on the property now Mrs. Buck's. The wharves above the bridge were not built until after the draw was made, so that masted vessels could pass through. Among the first were those of Laurel Hill, now disused. Goose Hill above got its name from the circumstance that the owner of the farm opposite accused Abraham Sayre, who lived at the northern end of the town, of plucking the feathers from some of his geese, and shortly afterwards some of his pigs happening to go astray, he set up advertisements offering a reward for them, and hoping that Squire Sayre had not mistaken them for geese and pulled off the hair. This brought on a suit for libel, about 1810. The suit was settled by an arbitration; but the name Goose Hill became the popular usage.

About the year 1800, Levi Leake, of Deerfield, brother of the eminent lawyer Samuel Leake, and a warm Federalist, commenced building a new house on a lot he owned near where the pipe mill stands. Before it was finished, Mr. Jefferson was elected President, which so displeased him that he made a vow that he would not complete the building until the Federalists came again into power. As this never happened, the building remained near twenty years unoccupied, until on his death it was sold and moved, standing now on the side of Laurel Street, near to the corner of Washington.

The following houses have at different times been occupied as taverns: A house on the west side of Laurel Street above Irving, which was burnt in 1826; the hotel, the old Moore mansion, the old Parvin House, the double stone house on the west side of Atlantic Street, the house opposite the jail, the Cohansey Hotel, a large house standing on the present site of the court-house, the

 

41 BRIDGETON.

house of Dr. Hampton, on Vine Street, and the house at the southwest corner of Broad-and Giles Streets.

The number of families in 1829 was found to be 342, and the population 1736. Just previous to this the east side of the river began to outnumber the other side. There were then four taverns and ten stores. Twenty-five vessels belonging to the place were employed principally in the wood trade, besides several oyster boats. Upwards of 25,000 cords of wood were sent annually to Philadelphia.

In 1838, the number of inhabitants was found to be 2315, of whom 1513 were on the east side and 802 on the west. The growth during the preceding ten years had been almost exclusively on the east side. There were still four taverns and about twelve stores. At this time the streets were named as they are now known. The streets since opened are Orange, Pine, Walnuts Church, Cedar, and Elmer Streets on the east side, and Academy, Oak, and Hampton Streets on the west side. In 1850 the population of the town was 3303. In 1860 it had increased to fully 5000, which may be considered as the present population.-Two taverns are now found sufficient instead of the four maintained when there were not half so many inhabitants.

The journal of a young lady who visited Bridgeton in 1786, before mentioned, gives the name of the place Cohansey, and it is to be regretted that this old Indian name was not adopted as the name of this town, instead of being only the name of one of the townships (and since dropped entirely), containing hardly one third of the inhabitants. She mentions leaving Cooper's ferry (Camden) about 12 o'clock, part of the company in Mr. Potter's family wagon, Mr. Moore and I in his carriage, the latter being the old-fashioned one horse chaise, then lately introduced. They travelled through Gloucester, Woodbury, Greenwich, now Clarksboro, to the Pine Tavern, where they passed the night. This was a well-known wayside inn, now disused, about four miles beyond the Pole Tavern, which was also a noted house of entertainment before the Revolution. It was cold, and she complained of the scanty clothing on the beds, and that the windows were not glazed, and had no shutters, only boards nailed up, and these an inch apart. They left at 6 A. M. and called at Dr. Harris', in Pittsgrove, who married a daughter of Alexander Moore, some of whose descendants are still living. She records frequent visits to Moore

 

BRIDGETON. 45

Hall. On Sunday went to church at New England Town. The next Sunday Mr. Grier preached in the court-house; visited Mrs. Boyd, mother of the then wife of Colonel Potter, where she wag staying. "We strolled about in her garden; it is situated along the creek, and is really beautiful. Well might a poet sit under the rural willows and contemplate the beauties of nature and art. There were many beautiful flowers. Three sloops came up whilst we stood there, and cast anchor." This dwelling and garden have long since disappeared. It was one of the old time mansions, which the writer remembers to have seen more' than fifty years ago dilapidated and empty. It was just above where the new bridge from Broad Street is to cross. Mrs. Boyd was one of those excellent Christian women whose memory deserves to be perpetuated. Her husband, from the north of Ireland, came over to this country about the year 1772, leaving his wife and three children in their native home. After following the occupation of a peddler for a short time, he succeeded in commencing a store at Cohansey Bridge, and then sent for his wife and children. They left Ireland in the fall of 1773, but on their arrival, found that Mr. Boyd had recently died. The widow took upon herself the charge of her husband's store, and aided by an excellent clerk, James Ewing, the father of the late Chief Justice Ewing, whose mother was her eldest daughter, she succeeded in maintaining her family in comfort. Her only son, at the time of his father's death about six years old, was a promising young man, but having entered into business in Philadelphia, died of the yellow fever in 1795. The youngest daughter became the second wife of Colonel Potter, with whom her mother resided for some years before her death, ending her days in 1812 at the good old age of 80 years. The margin of the creek, on the east side, with the exception of the wharf near the bridge, and that of Seeley & Merseilles' lower down, was a low meadow until within the last twenty years.

Before the Revolution very few covered carriages were in use. Travelling by men was almost exclusively on horseback, the women riding on side-saddles, and frequently behind their male friends on pillions. Sleighs and sleds were used in winter, before carriages were common. Philip Fithian, whose journal has been referred to, travelled to Virginia on horseback in 1773, crossing the ferry from Elsinborough to Port Penn, Delaware, which was then much in use, but has been long discontinued. Dr. Jonathan Elmer travelled the

 

46 BRIDGETON.

same route to take his- seat in Congress at Baltimore, in November, 1776, returning in February by way of Philadelphia, not being then able to cross the river lower down in consequence of the ice. A memorandum of his expenses still remains, from which the following items are extracted:

1,14 0. Dec. 27, Paid J. Nousman,
12s. 5 d. Dec. 29, at Rogers',
6s. 0 d. at Port Penn,
3 3 at Bushtowu,
2 6 at Aiken's,
3 0 at Buck's,
9 28, at Bold's,
6 6 at Rush's, (Bait.),
1 9 at Charlestown,
6 6 at Stevenson's, 1 9

1777.

Feb. 15, for keeping horse
Dec. 18 at Marcus Hook, 3s. 9d. In the country "
20, at Indian Queen,

five weeks, 1 17s. 6 d. (Phila.)10 0

" 17, Rodger's ferry,
12 6 at Sally Westcott's,
2 6 at Stevenson's,
1 6 at Cooper's ferry,
3 0 at Bird's,
3 2 at Haddonfield,
3 6 at Christeana,
5 0 at Eldridge's,
4 5 18, at Newport,
6 3 at Pine Tavern,
2 6 at Wilmington, 4 3

The Charlestown above mentioned was in Cecil County, Maryland; Rodger's ferry was over the Susquehanna; Eldridge's is believed to be the old Death of the Fox Tavern in Gloucester County, near where Clarksboro' now is. The currency was the proclamation money at seven and sixpence the dollar.

Another memorandum details the expenses of a horseback journey from Bridgeton to Morristown, the head-quarters of the American army, which he visited as .one of the committee of Congress on Hospitals. It commenced March 12, 1777, the first item being at Champney's 2s. This was at the Pole Tavern, then kept by the Widow Champney, mother of Dr. Champney; then comes Pine Tavern and Eldridge's; 13th was spent in Philadelphia; 14th and 15th visit to Haddonfield, where some of our troops then were; 16th to Burlington; 17th at Rocky Hill (near Princeton), 18th at Col. Potter's quarters (he then had the command of a regiment of militia); 20th and 21st at Baskenridge and Morristown, 22d to Trenton, and then to Philadelphia, which he left on the 31st, and home by Eldridge's, Pine Tavern, and Widow Champney's. The total expense of the trip was 7 lOs., or nearly $20. In April it is noted, paid Tybout for a hat (no doubt a beaver)

 

BRIDGETON. 47

3 5s., or $9.66. Such a hat of good quality lasted on careful heads five or six, and even ten years.

The land titles in Bridgeton are held under four different surveys. A tract called the eleven thousand acre survey was located for the West Jersey Society in 1686, but was not then recorded. In 1716 this tract was resurveyed It begins at a pine tree on the northeast side of the Cohansey, about two miles below the bridge; runs from thence east about two miles; then north, then west to the Cohansey, some two miles above the bridge, and then down the river to the beginning. Jeremiah Basse was for some time the agent of this Society, and seems to have had, or claimed to have, some right to the property; but the right of his heirs and devisees was released to Alexander Moore, including the old Hancock mill and adjoining property.

One of the London proprietors of West Jersey was 'named John Bridges. The Rev. Thomas Bridges graduated, at Harvard in 1675, then went to England, and returned in 1682 with testimonials from Owen and other eminent dissenting ministers. He was for a time a merchant, but after he became a preacher went to the West Indies. He was probably a son or near relative of John Bridges. He came to Cohansey, and preached in the old Fairfield church. In 1697 Thomas Revel made a deed to him reciting, "Whereas the Honorable West Jersey Society in England have, upon the consideration mentioned in their letter to Thomas Bridges, dated July 19, 1692, therein and thereby given, or proposed to give, to the said Thomas Bridges, in fee forever, 1000 acres of land of and belonging to the said Society within the said province of West Jersey, in what situation he should please to take up the same," and that said Revel being seized of 4000 acres by virtue of a deed from Jeremiah Basse, agent of said Society, he therefore conveys to him 1000 acres. By virtue of this deed a survey was at the same date made by Joshua Barkstead for Bridges, beginning at a pine tree standing on the north side of Mill Creek, about half way between the saw-mill and then going over across the run to the Indian Fields (which was a little above the present road to Millville); thence north 336 perches to a corner tree. The side lines run east and west, and the tract was surveyed for 1050 acres, of which 50 acres were for one Collett, to be held in common with Bridges, and he to have a proportional share of the Indian Fields. This tract was afterwards known as the Indian

 

48 BRIDOETON.

Fields tract, and was the first settled in the neighborhood, the titles being held under Bridges. The beginning corner was back of the Commerce Street Methodist meeting-house, the only part of the north line now marked being the fence between the graveyard and the parsonage lot, and it runs thence so as to strike the house fronting Bank Street, west of the railroad, and thence (it is supposed) to the tree so well known as the umbrella or sunset tree. Col. Ephraim Seeley for many years owned the land east of this line, up to Irving Street; he devised it to his son Ephraim, from whom it descended to his children. Upon the division of the latter property in 1800, this line, which in 1697 was run due north, was run N. 41W.; and in 1848 it was run N. 2+ W., thus showing the variation of the compass, as practically used, between those dates. Bridges had also a survey made for him on the Cohansey, bounding on Fuller Creek, since called Rocap's Run. This survey calls also for the line of the township of Pamphylia. Such a township was never formed, but it is probable there was a fulling-mill on the run, such a mill being almost as indispensable for the new settlement as a saw-mill.,

Bridges' Indian Field tract appears to have been subdivided for him into tracts of fifty acres, which he sold out as purchasers and settlers offered. One William Dare, described as of Cohansey, in the county of Salem, who probably came into this region with the Fairfield people, had located a tract of 100 acres of cedar swamp on Lebanon, as early as March, 1695-6. About 1700 he became the owner of two fifty-acre tracts, as set off by Bridges, comprising a part of the farm northeast of Elmer's mill-pond, recently occupied by David Dare, one of his lineal descendants, who died April, 1863. About 1753 William tare, son of the William first above named, and Col. Ephraim Seeley, purchased of the agent of the West Jersey Society several hundred acres lying south of Bridge's tract, and east of the tract sold to Moore. Most of the Indian Field settlers, who were the first in the eastern part of Bridgeton, were from Fairfield. Among them, besides Dare, were Riley and Loomis or Lummis, as the name has been since written-and Hood. Robert Hood's tract was a part of the Society land, purchased by him at an early date.

In 1752 Alexander Moore, of Cohansey Bridge, purchased of the agents of the West Jersey Society 990 acres, part of their 11,000 acre tract. This purchase begins on the Cohansey, a little

 

BRIDGETON. 49

above Pamphylia Spring, and runs several courses to Bridges' Indian Fields tract, striking it a little east of the beginning corner, thence along said tract, and several courses north of it to the Cohansey, something more than a mile above the town. By means of this deed, and of a release from one Pigeon, a claimant under Basse, of the tract connected with the Hancock mill, be became the owner of all that part of East Bridgeton lying west of Bridges' line. That line was probably so run in consequence of the mill tract being held by Hancock. Moore was of Irish descent, and was the first person who transacted much business at Cohansey Bridge. His grandson, the late Judge John Moore White, thought he came here about 1730, and married into the Reeve family. He accumulated a very handsome estate, built himself a good house near store, on the north side of Commerce Street, near the corner of Waiwhieh a 'tavern was kept for many years after his death, and which was removed to make room for the present brick building about 1830. He died at a good old age in 1786, on the farm now attached to the poor-house, where he, and his son after him. had an establishment known as Moore Hall. At his death there was a protracted lawsuit about the probate of his will. It appears by the depositions on file, that he had been paid by several of his debtors in depreciated continental money, when it was a legal tender, and he used to carry about him, and very frequently show to others, what he called his rogues' list of these debtors. The will, however, was confirmed. He devised his Bridgeton and much other property to his three grandsons, the three children of his daughter, a beautiful woman, who married an Englishman, a merchant in Philadelphia, named John White, who, during the Revolutionary War, was aid to Gen. Sullivan, and was killed in the attack on Chew's house in Germantown. Mrs. White died in 1770, leaving an infant, and lies buried with her father and mother in the graveyard at Greenwich. John Moore White, her youngest child, became of age in 1791, just previous to which time the land, except that in Bridgeton, was divided between the three brothers, by order of the Orphans' Court. In the course of a few years the two elder brothers, Alexander and William, died without issue, so that the Bridgeton property became vested in John. All of the tract within the limits of the town, lying south of Commerce Street, appears to have been sold by Alexander Moore in his lifetime, or released to persons who

 

50 BRIDGETON.

claimed it; but all the land north of that street became the property of John Moore White, who commenced selling lots in 1792, and in 1810 conveyed all the unsold residue to William Potter and Jeremiah Buck.

The titles west of the Cohansey, are held under three different surveys. The first was made for Robert Hutchinson, May 27th, 186, for 950 acres. The north line of this tract cornered at a white oak on the Cohansey, marked H, standing in the hollow near the river, above the place of going over to Richard Hancock's mill. Above this was a survey made for Cornelius Mason, in 1689, for 5000 acres. As originally described it began at the bound tree of Robert Hutchinson, standing in a valley by the west-northwest side of the north branch of the river Cohanzick, thence up the river, to a white oak tree standing upon a hill near the branch in an Indian old field, thence W. N. W. 800 perches. Mason, who was a London trader, called this tract "Winchcomb manor," after a manor of that name he owned in England. The original survey was taken to England and never recorded until 1764. The farm lying above Muddy Branch, as the stream, now a pond, just above the iron works was formerly called, appears to have been partially cleared by the Indians, who had a burial place on it, since called Coffin Point. As early as 1697 one John Garrison settled and built a house on it, and about 1715 built a house of cedar logs, near the bridge, in which Benjamin Seeley lived. About 1734 Silas Parvin purchased the land of Garrison south of Muddy Branch, and in 1741 that lying north of the branch. But Parvin's right to the property was disputed by Mason, and about 1741 suits were commenced which were in some way compromised. After this the persons claiming to be Mason's heirs conveyed the whole tract to Israel Pemberton, a friend, residing in Philadelphia, and he commenced suits. In the progress of the controversy the land was resurveyed, and a jury of view settled the corner to be twenty perches south of the bridge, where it has been ever since held to be. The south line runs thence through at the middle of Oak Street, and a little south of the academy. It was supposed for a time that the Hutchinson survey cornered at the same place, and Cotting took a conveyance for a considerable tract under that title in 1739. It was, however, ascertained that the true corner of the Hutchinson survey was at the place formerly called the shipyard, now the lumber yard of Messrs. Mulford. This left a considerable

 

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tract of land between the two surveys unclaimed, which Ebenezer Miller, a deputy surveyor, residing in Greenwich, and a Friend, in 1749 covered with a survey containing 427 acres, under whom the titles of the land, from Oak Street on the north to a considerable distance south of Vine Street are held.

Silas Parvin laid a survey of 20 acres on the land where his house stood; and dying in 1779, his son Clarence remained in possession of the house, and set up a claim to all the land between Muddy Branch and the Mason line, a part of which he transferred to Dr. Jonathan Elmer. During the war of the Revolution, Pemberton, being ranked as a Tory, took no steps to vindicate his title; but in 1783 he commenced an ejectment against Parvin, which does not appear to have been tried. In 1788 Parvin died insolvent, and shortly afterwards Parvin died; and his heir proving insolvent, his property was sold by the sheriff, and purchased by Jonathan Bowen, who released to Dr. Elmer the part lying west of Franklin Street, and these persons, or those claiming under them, have ever since been in possession of the property, now of great value. It is probable that the Parvin title was also sold by the sheriff, but no deed is on record, or now known to exist. Jonathan Bowen conveyed a part of the property, including the old Parvin house, to his son Smith in 1790, and, dying in 1804, devised the remainder retained by him, including the sites of the iron works and grist-mill, to his said son and to his grandchildren.

It is probable that Ebenezer Miller laid out Broad Street its present width of 100.feet, like the Main street of Greenwich, but there is no record of either. No law having for a long time existed authorizing streets so wide, the overseers declined to keep them in order, and hence a section was inserted in the general road act, declaring these two streets to be lawful highways. Commerce Street, above Franklin, was not opened until about 1805, when Dr. Elmer opened it. Since, it has been regularly laid out. An old plan, which was never carried out, proposed to lay out that part of the town west of the river into regular squares.

The first notice of a stage to Philadelphia that has been discovered, occurs in the journal of Mr. Fithian, April 22, 1774; he records: "Rode to the stage early for the papers." His father, at whose house he was then on a visit, lived in Greenwich, near to Sheppard's mill. It is supposed the stage stopped at Roadstown. May 2, he records: "Very early I rode over to Mr. Hollinshead's

 

52 BRIDGETON.

(he was the minister at New England Town, and then lived on the parsonage in Sayre's Neck) at Miss Pratt's request, to carry her to Mr. Hoshel's, to be ready to-morrow morning for the stage. Dined at Mrs. Boyd's (Bridgeton), and after dinner we rode to Mr. Hoshel's. 3d, I conducted Miss Pratt to the stage this morning by 5 o'clock."

A letter from Martha Boyd, afterwards Mrs. Ewing, to her mother, dated Allentown, March 18, 1778, says: "We left Mr. Hoshel's at 12 o'clock night; we had eight passengers, middling clever, and arrived at Cooper's ferry at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The next morning at nine o'clock, set sail in the stage boat for Bordentown where we arrived at noon."

Mr. Hoshel lived in Upper Hopewell, not far from the Salem County line, and probably kept a tavern, and was the proprietor of the stage. During or not long after the Revolution, this or some other stage line was started from Bridgeton, making two trips a week, at first by the way of Roadstown, but afterwards one trip on that route, and one by the way of Deerfield; and so it continued to go until about the year 106, when it went up one day and down the next. In 1809, when Mr. White's house was changed to a hotel, a stage was started from there, to run up and down on the alternate days, and to go through in a shorter time.-The two lines were afterwards consolidated, and there has always since been, until the opening of the railway, a daily stage both ways between this place and Philadelphia. For many years the time for starting was at sunrise.

Until after the establishment of the federal government, all the correspondence in this part of the State had to depend upon private conveyances. There was indeed before this time no postroute in New Jersey, except the main road between Philadelphia and New York. In 1792, while Jonathan Elmer was senator, a post-route was established from Philadelphia to Salem, and thence to Bridgetown. Between the latter places the mail was carried once a week, on horseback or in a sulky, for ten years, the post-office being kept by John Soulard, at his house on Broad, near the corner of Fayette Street. In 1802, after Ebenezer Elmer became a member of Congress, a mail-route was established from Woodbury to Bridgeton, Millville, Port Elizabeth and Cape May. The first carriers, beginning in 1804, were Benaiah Parvin and son, who kept a tavern in the old mansion house of Alexander Moore. James Burch, who built and owned the house opposite, now James

 

BRIDGETON. 53

B. Potter's, was the postmaster; and it is remembered that the letters were kept in the front parlor and handed from the window, then so high above the walk as to be barely reached by the raised hand. The mail was carried on Monday by way of Roadstown, and returned on Wednesday by the same route. On Thursday it was carried by way of Deerfield, returning on Saturday the same way. A daily mail commenced about 1816. The postmaster who succeeded James Burch was Abijah Harris, who lived nearly opposite. After him, Stephen Lupton kept the office in his shoemaker shop, on the north side of Washington Street, about half way between Laurel and Pearl. About 1618 he resigned, and was succeeded by Curtis Ogden, who held the office longer than any other incumbent, keeping it in his tailor shop, south side of Commerce Street, about where Brewster's store now is. Jeremiah Lupton superseded him in 1842, then Daniel B. Thompson from. 1845 to 1850, then S. P. Kirkbride until 1854, then Henry Sheppard until 1861, when Geo. W. Johnson, the present incumbent, was appointed.

A steamboat company was incorporated in 1845, and a fine steamboat, called the Cohansey, ran regularly to Philadelphia; but the length of the water route, about 60 miles, made it difficult for a day boat to compete with the route by way of Salem, partly by stage and partly by boat, and with the regular daily stages, and it was soon found that the enterprise must be abandoned. The boat was therefore sold, and after running a year or two by private parties, was withdrawn. A night boat, which ran for two or three years recently, was more successful.

The West Jersey Railroad Company was incorporated in 1853, and contemplated a road from Camden to Cape May; but owing to financial and other difficulties, it was at first completed and put in operation only to Woodbury. But in 1859 the road from Glass. boro' to Millville was made, and the impetus thus given to the original West Jersey Company, brought about the completion of their road from Woodbury to Bridgeton, which was opened in July, 1861. The terminus of this road, it is supposed, will always remain at Bridgeton, and the original design of connecting Philadelphia with Cape May will be carried out by extending the road to the latter place from Millville, now nearly complete.

A gas company was incorporated, and succeeded in completing the present works in November, 188. Soon after this, the town, ship committees of the townships of Bridgeton and Cohansey were 0'

 

54 BRIDGT0N.

constituted a joint board, with power to raise money by tax for lighting the streets, which is now done, and also with power to grade and regulate the streets. A grade has accordingly been adopted, in accordance with which Commerce Street., west of the bridge, and other streets in Cohansey were graded in 1861, at an expense which has been much complained of, as was the first attempt at this kind of improvement, made by Dr. Buck, a quarter of a century sooner.

In the year 1814 Messrs. James Lee, then of Port Elizabeth, and Ebenezer Seeley, of Bridgeton, who had purchased from Abraham Sayre, Esq., the land lying on the east side of the main stream of the Cohansey, joined with Smith Bowen, who owned the property on the west side of the stream, in erecting the dam, thus forming the water power still in use. Bowen sold his half of the water power to Benjamin Reeves and David Reeves of Camden, who commenced the erection of the iron works the same year, and commenced making nails in 1815. They were cut for many years of the best Swedish iron, across the grain of the metal. The writer remembers to have seen, in the year 1805, the first machine for cutting and heading nails at one operation ever invented. It was on Crosswicks Creek, in Burlington County, and was comparatively very complicated. The patent having been obtained by the Messrs. Reeves, was soon very much simplified.

At first the nails sold for from 10 to 15 cents per pound, now they sell for 3 cents. Very soon the Cumberland nails obtained a preference in the market, which has never been lost: In 1824 a fire having consumed the building first erected, the works were rebuilt and enlarged and the whole establishment greatly improved. Seeley and Lee not having the capital to use their half of the water power to advantage, were obliged to reconvey it to Mr. Sayre. He erected a flour mill on the east side opposite Coffin Point, which was used as a grist-mill for a few years, but on his death in 1820 the mill and water power were purchased by Messrs. Reeves, who then became the owners of the whole water power. The grist-mill was taken down and removed to the works on the west side, where after a few years it was burned up.

The rolling-mill operated by steam on the east side of the creek was erected in 1847 and in 1853 the building used for manufacturing gas pipe was put up. About the year 1843 a great change was made in the mode of cutting the nails, by means of which a

 

BRIDGETON. 55

much superior nail can be made from inferior iron. The iron is rolled in sheets 12 or 15 inches wide, which are then slit into strips of a width, corresponding with the length of the nail to be produced. Then the nails are cut lengthwise of the grain of the metal instead of crosswise as before. This establishment has always been well conducted and has been one of the principal means of advancing the growth and prosperity of the town. When in full operation about 400 hands are employed, mostly heads of families, who have been profitably employed, and have contributed in their turn to the business of other mechanics and traders. There are twenty furnaces, two trains of rolls and 102 nail machines, the annual product, in favorable years, being 100,000 kegs of nails and 1,500,000 feet of gas pipe.

Benjamin Reeve, one of the original founders, died in 1844. Other partners have been from time to time admitted. In 1856 the concern became an incorporated company, by the name of the Cumberland Nail and Iron Works, and is under the management of Robert C. Nichols, Esq. The value of its real estate, as assessed, is 266,000 dollars; the. capital of the company being 350,000 dollars.

About the year 1818 Benjamin Reeves conveyed to the late Daniel P. Stratton the undivided half part of a lot of land, where the grist-mill stands, and half a sufficient quantity of water to drive a first class merchant flour-mill, it being the intention that Mr. Stratton and Mr. David Reeves should erect the mill together as joint owners. But doubts soon arose whither water power for such a purpose could be safely spared, without endangering the iron works, and Mr. Reeves declined to build the mill. Mr. Stratton then applied for a division of the lot, and one half being set off to him, he proceeded to erect the existing flour mill in 1822. The quantity of water he had a right to use was adjusted by an arbitration.

As the business of the iron works was from time to time increased, and as the quantity of water furnished by the seven distinct streams entering into and forming Cohansey River, diminished, it was found that the water power sometimes failed. To remedy this it was at first proposed to increase the power by putting a dam across the river where the bridge now is that connects the works; and for this purpose an act of the legislature was obtained in 1839. But before this purpose was carried into

 

56 BRIDGETON.

effect, the plan was devised of heating the boilers necessary to drive a powerful steam engine, by means of the same fires that heat the iron, which fully succeeded, so that the darn was never erected, and after a time the rolling of iron at the works on the west side, which required so great a supply of water, was abandoned.

About the year 1825 those persons in the town who kept a horse were so much annoyed by applications to lend or hire him, that a livery stable was started by a joint stock company, and so carried on five or six years, until like most concerns of the kind it was found unprofitable and the stock was sold at a loss of more than half the original capital. This start, however, effected the object, one or more livery stables, kept by different individuals, have been continued ever since. For several years past the business has been rather overdone, there being now four.

The glass works were established in 1836 by the firm of Stratton, Buck & Co. After the death of Mr. Buck, in 1841, the business was carried on by a joint stock company which did not succeed. For a time window glass was made. After passing through several bands it was enlarged, in 1855, and is now in successful operation, the yearly product being about $iao.000.

It may be remarked that for about twenty years the firm of Stratton & Buck carried on the largest business that was done in the county. This firm and that of Bowie and Shannon from 1812 to 1836 in the stone store at the corner of Broad and Atlantic Streets, transacted a heavy retail business, and brought to the place customers from all the surrounding districts.

It is doubtful whether any newspapers were regularly received in Bridgeton until after 1775. In that year an association was formed, of which Ebenezer Elmer, then a student of medicine, was the Secretary, by the members of which weekly papers on various topics were written, and these being copied, were left at the tavern kept by Matthew Potter (believed to have been the house next east of the present Cohansey Hotel), to be there perused by such as chose. Among the writers of those papers were Dr. Jonathan Elmer, Joseph Bloomfield, Dr. Lewis Howell, and his brother Richard, afterwards Governor of the State.

Previous to this time, about 1773, a society existed, which generally met in Bridgeton, but of which several young persons residing in Greenwich, Fithians and Ewings, who were then dis-

 

BRIDGETON. 57

tinguished for intelligence, and for the beauty of some of the females, were members, called the Admonishing Society. Communications were made to this society. in writing, anonymously, admonishing members of faults, and on other subjects, which were read at the meetings. If the members admonished thought it necessary, they were allowed to defend themselves, or replies might be made in writing. Of this society, Robert Patterson, from Ireland, who then kept a store in Bridgeton, was a member. By way of enlivening the proceedings, he sent in written proposals for a wife, giving the requisite qualifications, which left one young lady, from whom, in her old age, this detail was received, who it was said had refused him, too young. Another lady, however, sportively answered the challenge, and what was thus begun in sport ended in marriage, and a long and happy union. The husband, after studying medicine for a short time, and serving during the war for several years as an assistant surgeon in the army, and after settling for a short time on a farm at Carll Town in Hopewell Township, was in 1779 appointed Professor of Mathematics in the University of Philadelphia, and afterwards, by .Mr. Jefferson, Director of the Mint. In 1819, he was chosen President of the American Philosophical Society, ending a long and honored career in 1824, at the age o 82. The writer well remembers him, having had the benefit of his instruction in mathematics and philosophy more than fifty years ago.

In 1794 James D. Westcott started a newspaper, which was called the Argus, and continued nearly two years. Afterwards his brother, John Westcott, tried another about 1803, but it did not succeed. In 1815 a political, association, composed of Democrats, and called the Washington Whig Society, set up in opposition to a Washington Benevolent Society formed by the Federalists, established a paper called the Washington Whig, published at first by Peter Hay, Esq., now an Alderman in Philadelphia, who was by profession a printer. It has been ever since continued, under different names and under the patronage of different parties. In 1817 Mr. Hay sold to Wm. Shultz, who in 1821 sold to John Clark, during whose time the paper supported the administration of John Q. Adams. Clark sold in 1826 to J. J. McCbesney.

In 1822 S. Siegfried started a second paper, called The West Jersey Observer. In 1824 he sold out to Robert Johnston, and in

 

58 BRIDGETON.

1826 he purchased the Whig and consolidated them into one paper, called The Whig and Observer.

The Washington Whig was then revived, and after several changes, both being purchased by James M. Newell, he merged them in a new one, called The Bridgeton Chronicle, about 1837. He carried it on until his death in 1851, and different proprietors and editors have published it until the present time. -

About 1846 another paper was started, called at first The West Jersey Telegraph, but it was soon changed to The West Jersey Pioneer, by which name it is still published. This paper and the Chronicle for several years have been conducted as neutral in politics.

In 1862 Fayette Pierson, who was connected with the Washington Whig in its early days, started the Aurora, now published as a democratic paper; so that there are three papers, where only one really good one can thrive, this being a case where, as in most of the towns of the State, too much competition has not tended to increase the value of the article produced.

As the early settlers of Bridgeton we're mostly of Puritan lineage, there was always a disposition among them to encourage education. The first school of which any notice remains, was one kept by John Wescott in 1773, in which mathematics were taught. About the year 1792 Mark Miller, heir of Ebenezer Miller, deeded to trustees the lot on Giles Street for school purposes. In 1795 the Academy was erected on Bank Street, by a joint stock company, and for many years a good classical school was taught in it. Rev. Andrew Hunter, father of the present Gen. Hunter; taught a classical school in the town about the years 1780 to 1785. The public school-house on Bank Street was first erected in. 1847. The number of youths between the ages of 5 and 16 in the township of Bridgeton, was then 540. In 1851, the number between 5 and 18 was 687. In 1862 there were between the same ages 9i7. The public school-house in Cohansey Township was built in 1848. Number of youths that year, 241. In 1853 the number was 301. In 1862 the number between the ages of 5 and 18 was 407. The school in Bridgeton employs 8 teachers, all females but one, and that in Cohansey one male and two females.

The Presbyterian Academy was built in 1852-53, and first opened in 1854. It is an incorporated body, governed by trustees

 

BR1DGETON. 59

elected by the Presbytery of West Jersey. There is, besides, an excellent school for young ladies, conducted by Mrs. Sheppard.

Cumberland Bank was first chartered in 1816, and commenced business in September of that year, with a capital of 52,000 dollars; James ,j1es, President, and Charles Read, Cashier. Giles died in 18 and was succeeded by' Daniel Elmer, and he having resigned in 1841, James B. Potter was appointed President. Mr. Read died in 1844, and was succeeded by the present Cashier, William G. Nixon. About 1857 the surplus earnings enabled the capital to be raised to 102,000 dollars, without the advance of any money by the stockholders; and so well has the institution been managed from the first, that it has always deserved and obtained the entire confidence of the community, and maintained its notes par with those of Philadelphia, often continuing to pay specie when the banks in the city could not. During the first fifteen years the deposits averaged about 20,000 dollars; then, for the next fifteen they averaged about 30,000, while for the last fifteen they have averaged 50,000, often reaching 100,000 and 150,000 dollars. For the first thirty years there was a regular dividend of three per cent, half yearly, besides an extra dividend in 1844 of 24 per cent. Since that time 4, 4, and 5 per cent, have been divided semi-annually. The surplus earnings, besides the regular dividends, have amounted to about 86,000 dollars, of which near 25,000 remains unappropriated.

Until within the last twenty years there were but few foreigners in the place, and they were persons born in Ireland or Scotland, who came to America in their youth. One young German who deserted from a Hessian regiment is remembered, who married and raised a large family. A very considerable number of Germans came into the county before the Revolution, and settled in the upper part of Hopewell, and in the adjoining part of Salem County, some of whose descendants took up their residence in Bridgeton. Most of these, it is believed, were glassblowers, who were employed to blow glass at the works early erected not far east of Allowaystown, said to have been one of the first established in America. Among these settlers was Jacob Fries, whose two sons, Philip of Friesburg, and John of Philadelphia, became men of considerable wealth. The writer remembers to have heard that when Independence was declared by the American colonies, old Jacob Fries was much concerned as to the possibility of getting along without

 

60 BRIDGETON

a king, and advised that one should be brought over from Germany. That country, it is certain, has a plenty of rulers to spare, such as they are, but judging from the experience of the Grecians, it is doubtful whether one could-be found worth a trial. An excel-' lent teacher, a preceptor of the writer in his youth, was quite as much impressed with the impracticability of a republican government as Mr. Fries, and predicted that the writer would live to see a king inaugurated. The race of these doubters, it would seem, it not yet extinct.

About 20 years ago a German butcher, named Christian Cook, came to this place from Salem, and still carries on the business. Since his arrival, the number of families from different parts of Germany has so increased, that it is quite a common thing to hear the language in the streets, and the total number of that nation is not less than four or five hundred. They are in general an industrious, frugal race, and adopting a different usage from that which so long prevailed in Pennsylvania, by encouraging their children to learn and use the American language, it is hoped they will be a valuable addition to the population.

Most of the original settlers in the region called Cohansey, were Baptist or Presbyterian, from the New and Old England, and happily their influence upon the religion and morals of the people was good, and is still apparent. Mr. Fithian enters in that journal, so frequently quoted, of the date June 26, 1776, while he was engaged in making a missionary tour up the Susquehanna River, in Pennsylvania: "I met on the road a tinker, on the way to what is called the new purchase. He has been at Cohansey, knows many there, at Pittsgrove, Deerfield, and New England Town. He told me that he had been acquainted in seven colonies, but never yet saw any place in which the inhabitants were so sober, uniform in their manner, and every way religious, as at New England Town, and Mr. Ramsey was his favorite preacher." While in Maryland he mentions a collection having been taken up, and says, "There were 34 pieces of silver in cut money." His summing up of this tour is, "Wherever I have been their character is mean, dishonest, and irreligious. A Jerseyman, and an impertinent every way troublesome scoundrel, seem to be words of nearly the same meaning." Under date of August 16, be writes: "I saw Mr. Farquar, a Scotch Presbyterian; he pronounced one sentence from his observation which is a most solid truth, and which I will record, 'I have dis

 

BRIDGETON. 61

covered since my arrival that there are no slaves in America, but the Presbyterian clergy." In April, 1774, on his visit to Greenwich, after he had spent some months in Virginia, he enters, "The morning pleasant and Cohansie looks as delightsome as it used to be, and I went to meeting. How unlike Virginia; No rings of beaux, chattering before and after sermon on gallantry; no assembling in crowds after service to drive a bargain, no cool spiritless harangue from the pulpit; minister and people here,. seem in same small degree to reverence the day there neither do it." In the succeeding July, after his return, while residing as a tutor in the family of Mr. Carter, a wealthy gentleman, whose large mansion and possessions were on the west side of the Potomac in Westmoreland County, he enters: "A Sunday in Virginia don't seem to wear the same dress as our Sundays to the northward. Generally here by 5 oclock on Saturday, every face, especially the negroes, looks festive and cheerful; all the lower class of people and the servants and slaves consider Sunday as a day of pleasure and amusement, and spend it in diversions. The gentlemen go to church to be sure, but they make that itself a matter of convenience, and account the church a weekly resort to do business."

Before dismissing this interesting journal, affording us so many glimpses of transactions in days long past, it may be interesting to make a few more extracts from it. His journey from home, on horseback, commenced October 20, 1773, when he left Greenwich by six, morning, rode to Michael Hoshel's, 8 miles, then to Quinton's Bridge, over toll bridge to Penn's Neck Ferry, then by North East to Baltimore. Then forded Patapaco to Bladensburgh, ferry at Georgetown, Alexandria, Colchester, ferry at Dumfries, Aquia, Stafford C. H., on the 28th arrived at Col. Carter's, Nomini Hall, Westmoreland, in all 260 miles, expense 3 6s. 6d. Returning next spring, he crossed the Potomac to Port Tobacco in Maryland, and then to Annapolis, and from there in a boat 25 miles to Rockhail, then to Chester Town and to Georgetown, Delaware. "Lodged at Mr. Voorhees; had evening prayers; since I left Cohansie have not heard the like. By Port Penn and Elsenborough to Greenwich. Stopt to see the forsaken Mrs. Ward." Her husband, Dr. Ward, had recently died. She was a Holmes, afterwards married Dr. Bloomfield, of Woodbridge, father of Gov. Bloomfield, and upon his death came to Bridgeton, where she died, quite aged. "Many had died the past winter-a very mortal winter." May 4,

 

62 BRIDGETON.

"Last night fell a very considerable snow; 5th, last night was very cold, ice two inches thick; 6th, still very cold, the leaves on the trees are grown black, the fruit must be past recovery." In Virginia, he states, "the frost of May was very severe, killed the peaches, and in the upper counties the wheat and rye." May 11, "an ox killed to-day in Bridgeton which weighed upwards of 1000 lbs., supposed to be the largest ever killed in the county."

The poor of Cumberland have for a long time been mostly-supported in a poor-house, situate about a mile and a half westwardly from Bridgeton. The question of having an establishment of this kind began to be agitated as early as 1799, but it was not until 1809 that Moore Hall and the property belonging to it was purchased. The present building was erected in 1852. -

During the latter part of the last century it was quite common for persons in good circumstances to own one or two slave

generally as house servants. Acts of the legislature passed as early as 1713 and from time to time until 1798 had sanctioned and regulated the owning and treatment of them. In 180t an act was passed for the gradual abolition of slavery, which declared that those born after the 4th of July of that year should be held to service if a male until the age of 25 years, and if a female until the age of 21 years. After this some of those who were slaves for life, were manumitted. A few have remained nominally slaves until comparatively a recent period. The number in the county in 1790 was 120; in 1800 they had decreased to 75; in 1810 to 42; in 1820 to 28; in 1830 there were only two.

Very few newly-settled districts of country are healthy. The southern part of New Jersey was for many years an unhealthy region. Fever and ague were almost universal in the latter part of the summer and during the early part of the fall, generally disappearing after the nights became frosty. Until comparatively a recent period, scarcely a young person of either sex escaped the fever and ague. Every other day, and sometimes every third day, the person would be able to attend school or other avocation, but about the middle of the second or third day would be taken with a chill, which in the course of an hour or two would be followed by a hot fever. Often very violent intermittent or bilious fevers were epidemic. A healthy summer or fall was the exception and not the rule.

In a journal kept by Ephraim Harris, of Fairfield, who was born

 

BRIDGETON. 63

in 1732, and died in 1794,.he enters: "That fatal and never to be forgotten year 1759, when the Lord sent the destroying angel to pass through this place, and removed many of our friends into eternity in a short space of time; not a house exempt, not a family spared from the calamity. So dreadful was it that it made every ear tingle, and every heart bleed; in which time I and my family was exercised with that dreadful disorder, the measles; but, blessed be God, our lives were spared." It is quite probable that the disorder here called measles, was in fact the smallpox.

Mr. Fithian enters in his journal under the date of July 4, 1774, when he was in Virginia: "We have several showers to day; the weather is warm, funky, very damp, and I fear will not turn out long to be healthful. With us in Jersey, wet weather about this time is generally thought, and I believe almost never fails being a forerunner of agues, fall fever, fluxes, and our horse distempers." Under the date of August 9, 1775, when he was in Western Maryland, he enters: "News from below that many disorders, chiefly the flux (by which he means dysentery), are now raging in the lower counties, Chester, etc. I pray God Delaware may be a bar, and stop that painful and deadly disorder. Enough has it ravaged our poor Cohansians. Enough are we in Cohansey every autumn enfeebled and wasted with the ague and fever. Our children all grow pale, puny, and lifeless." The dysentery was very prevalent and fatal in Cumberland County in 1775, and again in 1806.

After the enlargement of the mill-pond east of Bridgeton, in 1809, and the raising of the new pond northward in 1814, intermittent and bilious fevers were common in Bridgeton for successive years. In 1823 these diseases prevailed to a fearful extent; but after this, in the course of three or four years, they ceased to prevail either in the town or other parts of the county. This improvement has been ascribed to more perfect draining, and to the use of lime for agricultural purposes. But while it is probable that these causes have had some effect, the change was too sudden, and has been too great to be ascribed mainly to them. Atmospheric, telluric, or other influences far more potent, must have occurred. What these are we do not know. The important fact, for which our people cannot be too thankful, is, that the providence of God has, for thirty years past, given us healthful seasons, instead of the sickness formerly so common. Our fall

 

64 BRIDGETON.

seasons are now as generally healthful as any other part of the year. Id those years when the cholera was so fatal in many parts of the country, we were mostly exempt. Thirty years ago it could not be said with truth that Bridgeton was as healthy a place as most of the towns in the northern part of the State; but now this may be affirmed without fear of contradiction.

But little is known of the early physicians in Bridgeton or its vicinity. The first of whom there is any notice was Elijah Bowen, who, in 1738, was one of the founders of the church at Shiloh, and who had considerable practice afterwards in that vicinity. He was of the Baptist family, which settled and gave their name to Bowentown. - After and partly contemporaneous with him was James Johnson from Connecticut, who was a practitioner as early as 1745, and appears to have resided near Bowentown, and died in 1759. It may be mentioned as characteristic of the habits of that time, that among the accounts of his executor are charges for wine for the use of the watchers, and of wine and rum for the funeral. After him was Dr. John Fithian, who in 1751 built the house on the south side of Broad Street, next above the residence of Charles E. Elmer, Esq. Dr. Jonathan Elmer commenced practice in 1768.'

Jonathan Elmer was son of Daniel Elmer second; was born in 1745, and died in 1817. He was one of 'the first graduates of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania, receiving the degree of M. B. (Bachelor of Medicine) In 1768, and of 31. D. in 1771. In 1772 he was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society, of which Dr. Franklin was the President, and was considered the equal in medical knowledge of any physician in the United States. His health being infirm, he turned his attention more to politics, and was much in office until the change of parties in 1800. With all the family he was an ardent Whig, and entered earnestly into the measures of opposition to the encroachments of the British Government on the rights of the people of America. Although not a military man, he took a commission as commander of a company of militia, and was active in organizing measures of defence. He was one of the Committee of Vigilance, which, in fact, was for some time the governing power of the county; and in 1776 was a member of the Provincial Congress, and a member of the committee which framed the first constitution of the State. During most of the time the war lasted he was a member of Congress, and afterward on of the first senators. For many years he was the presiding judge of the Court of Common Pleas of the county, and was, in fact, a well-read lawyer. He became an elder of the Presbyterian church in Bridgeton. His descendants in the city are still numerous and highly respectable.

Ebenezer Elmer was a brother of Dr. Jonathan, was born in 1752, and died at the age of ninetyone In 1843. Having studied medicine with his brother, and when about to commence practice, the Revolutionary War broke out, and, in January, 1776, he was commissioned as an ensign, and shortly after as lieutenant a corn

 

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He was probably the first regularly educated physician in the county, unless 'Dr. Ward of Greenwich, from Connecticut, who died young in 1774, may have been of that class. Dr. Thomas Ewing studied under Ward, and after practising a short time n Cape May, returned to Greenwich, and was an officer in the continental army. He died in 1782. His eon, Dr. William B. Ewing, after a thorough education, settled as a physician in Greenwich in 1799. Dr. Elmer graduated in the newly-established medical school of Philadelphia as a Bachelor of Medicine in 1768, and in 1771 took the full degree of Doctor, his thesis in Latin having been printed. Dr. Rush said of him, that in medical erudition he was exceeded by no physician in the United States. He built, in 1772, a dwelling on the site of Charles E. Elmer's house; but being of feeble health, and not able to endure the long horseback journeys to which a physician was then exposed, he turned his attention to political life, received the appointment of sheriff, and was a member of Congress, and afterwards of the Senate. His brother Ebenezer commenced studying with him in 1773, and in 1775 began to visit patients in all parts of the county. He however entered the army at the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, and did not return to practice until it was over. In 1783, and for a few succeeding years, he was in full practice in Bridgeton and the neighborhood; but he soon became engaged in public life, and was afterwards onIy consulted in special cases and as a surgeon.

What physicians there were in other parts of the county, before the Revolution, is not known. There were probably very few. Jonathan Elmer, during the first year of his practice, appears to. have gone to all parts of the county and more than once to the sea

-pany which soon joined the northern army; and in this capacity he served more than a year. During the remainder of the war he served as a surgeon, having been in service altogether seven years and eight months.

He was for a few years in business as a physician in Bridgeton, after the war, but soon relinquished it, and was much in public life as a member and Speaker of both branches of the legislature of New Jersey, a member of Congress, and supporter of Mr. Jefferson; collector of the customs, clerk, surrogate, and magistrate. In 1814 he commanded a brigade of militia called out for the defense of Philadelphia, and was usually known as General Elmer. In early We, as he has recorded in his journal, he "became a believer in the gospel plan of redemption by faith in Jesus Christ;" and afterwards was a member of the Presbyterian Church. He was the writer's father.

 

66 BRIDGETON.

shore. In 1775 Ebenezer Elmer, then a student with him, visited Fairfield frequently to prescribe for the sick, and also Hopewell, Greenwich, and Deerfield. Dr. Otto, from Germany, who during the war lived in Gloucester County, and whose house and barn were burned by the British troops in March, 1778, and who was known as the Prussian Doctor, was called upon in difficult cases, not only in the neighborhood of his residence, but in -other places in the adjoining counties of Salem and Cumberland.

Benjamin Champneys a descendant of John Fenwick, studied with Ebenezer Elmer in 1793, and after a few voyages to sea married a daughter of Col. Potter, and settled as a physician in Bridge. ton. He was much esteemed, but died young in 1814. Samuel M. Shute, who had been for a few years at the close of the war an officer in the army, studying medicine with Jonathan Elmer, and having married his daughter, was a leading physician until his death in 1816. They were succeeded by Isaac H. Hampton, whose father was a physician at Cedarville, but who commenced practice at Woodbury. He married a daughter of Gen. Giles and removed to Bridgeton in 1814, where he was in good practice until failing health obliged him to give it up about ten years ago. William Elmer, a son of Dr. Jonathan, commenced business as physician in 1812, but gave it up in 1817 upon the death of his father. He was succeeded by Dr. Ephraim Buck, Dr. William S. Bowen, and after some years the present Dr. William Elmer took a large share of the business. Besides these, there have been from time to time others, whose business was less extensive.

For some time after the formation of the county, the lawyers residing in Salem and in other parts of the State, were relied upon to transact the business. An old man named Busted told the writer many years ago, that when Geo. Trenchard, of Salem, was the king's attorney, and was examining him as a witness in a case of assault and battery, on trial in the Court of Quarter Sessions, he asked him several times how the accused struck him, and that having no better mode of explaining the matter he struck Mr. Attorney on the face and knocked him down. The lawyers in those days, as is still the practice in England, were required to stand up while they examined the witnesses. One of the Salem lawyers named Van Leuvnigh, who was very tall and slender, had the nickname of the Devil's darning needle. Samuel Leake, who was born in this county but resided in Trenton, and Lucius H.

 

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Stockton often attended the courts here. Cortland Skinner, who was attorney-general at and before the Revolution, was in the habit of granting a nolle prosequi in petty cases, for a fee of half a job, $8. Several are on file in the clerk's office.

Before the Revolution the judges wore gowns and wigs, and the lawyers wore gowns and bands, while in court. The sheriff, with as many justices and freeholders as he could conveniently summon, met the Justice. of the Supreme Court., when he came into the county to hold a Circuit and Oyer and Terminer, which was commonly once in a year at the county line, on horseback, and escorted him to his lodging. This was the practice in England, and was required by the Governor's ordinance in this State. It was mentioned in the newspaper a few years ago, that one of the English Judges had fined the sheriff 100 pounds for neglecting this duty. The general introduction of railways has, however, abolished the practice in most cases. At the opening and closing of the court, from day to day, the sheriff and constables, with their staves of office, escorted the Judges from and to the tavern at which they dined, to the court-house, a practice which has been only recently abolished.

Courts of oyer and terminer and general gaol delivery were, until 1794, held by virtue of a special commission under the great seal, requiring, generally, two justices of the Supreme Court by name, the presence of one of whom was indispensable, and the county judges, and sometimes one or more1justices of the peace by name, to hold the same for a number of specified days. Until 1845, the justices of the peace constituted the court of General Quarter Sessions of the peace, which had jurisdiction in all criminal cases, except those of a high grade. Judges of the Pleas were commonly also commissioned as justices; but only a small part of the justices were judges. For many years it was the practice for most. of the justices, as well as the judges, to attend at least the first day of the term and dine together, all the court fees payable to them being appropriated to pay the expense, and in case these fell short, as was commonly the case, the justices were all assessed with their share of the balance, whether they attended or not.

The first attorney who is known to have settled in Bridgeton was Joseph Bloomfield, whose father was Dr. Bloomfield, of Woodbridge, the same who married the widow of Dr. Ward. The former

 

68 BRIDGETON.

attended for a time a classical school kept by Rev. Enoch Green in Deerfield. Having been admitted an attorney, he took up his residence in Bridgeton about 1770. In the spring of 1776he left as captain of a company of soldiers. He remained in the army two or three years, and then resumed his profession, making Burlington his residence, where lie married. In 1783 he was appointed Attorney General. In 1801 he was elected Governor by the Democrats, and held the office, with the exception of one year when there was a tie between the political parties, and the State was without a Governor, until 1812, when he was appointed a Brigadier General in the army. Richard Howell, of this county, became a lawyer, and sometimes attended our courts, but did not reside in the county. He was Governor from 1793 to 1801.

After the war James Giles, a young officer of artillery, attached to the corps commanded at the close of the war by Lafayette, whose father was an Episcopal clergyman, studied law, and having married a sister of Gov. Bloomfield, took up his residence in Bridge. ton about the year 1787. In 1791 he built the house in which he resided until his death in 1826. He transacted a large business as an attorney for many years. In 1791 John Moore White commenced, and continued until 1808, when he removed to Woodbury, where he resided until his death in 1862, at the age of 91. Daniel Elmer was licensed in 1805; in 1808 married a daughter of Col. Potter, and took up his residence for a short time in White's deserted mansion. He had a large and lucrative business until 1841, when he was appointed one of the Justices of the Supreme Court. About 1809 Isaac W. Crane came from Salem, and continued until 1839. Elias P. Seeley and Lucius Q. C. Elmer were licensed in 1815. The former was Governor in 1832 and died. The latter was appointed Attorney General in 1850, and in 1852 one of the Justices of the Supreme Court. Henry T. Ellet practised law here from 1833 to 1837, when he married a daughter of Governor Seeley, and moved to Port Gibson, Mississippi, where he still resides. James U. Hampton was licensed in 1839, and died in 1861. Charles E. Elmer was licensed in 1842. In 1845 John T. Nixon was licensed, and he, together with Charles E. Elmer, James R. Hoagland, James J. Reeves, John S. Mitchell, Franklin F. Westcott, William E. Potter, and J. Leslie Lupton, are now, in 1b69, the lawyers of the place.

 

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But little is known of the military organization previous to the Revolution. Upon an old map of the farm lying on-the west side of the road to Irelan's mill, as the mill now used for sawing staves was long called, and north of the run emptying into Jeddy's pond, there is laid down a lot of half an acre, about where the road to Shiloh now goes, marked as "town barracks." The precise meaning of this is now unknown.

The journal of Ebenezer Elmer, kept in 1775, shows that the county was alive with military preparations, especially after the news of the bloodshed at Lexington on the 19th of April. Companies were organized and officers chosen, and frequent drills took place. Richard Howell, afterwards Governor, raised the first company of one year men that left the county, by recommendation of the Committee of Safety, in October, 1775. Sunday, December 10, the entry is, "Went to meeting at Greenwich; Capt. Howell's soldiers there; came and went away in form. Coming home, Mr. Bloomfield proposed to me to send a petition to the Provincial Congress for himself Captain, Josiah Seeley 1st Lieutenant, and myself 2d, which was agreed to." The entry 13th of December is, "The soldiers went on board the Greenwich packet at evening, to sail for Burlington." 14th, "Cloudy day. The soldiers, captain, and all but eight or ten, went off in the dead of the night, on foot, to get clear of their creditors; their going aboard the vessel turned out only, a sham."

It would seem from this last entry that Capt. Howell's men were, many of them, like those that gathered themselves unto David at the cave of Adullam, in distress, in debt, or discontented. The suspicions of the journalist, however, may not have been warranted by the facts. It appears from several previous entries that he had been desirous of procuring a commission in this company, and his disappointment may have produced his unfavorable surmises.

In the succeeding spring another company was raised, as proposed by Bloomfield, except that Josiah Seeley, having concluded to take a wife and stay with her, another person was commissioned as 1st Lieutenant, which marched for the northern frontier in March, 1776.

Several times during the Revolutionary War, fully half the militia of this county was in actual service. Col. Newcomb, of Fairfield, commanded a regiment, and so did Col. Potter. The latter was taken prisoner near Haddonfield, but was soon exchanged. John

 

70 BRIDGETON.

Gibbon, the uncle of Mrs. Seeley, was also taken prisoner, and was among those 'Who died on board the Jersey prison ship at New York. The British troops never reached this county.

During the war with Great Britain in 1814 a brigade of the militia of South Jersey was drafted, and encamped at Billingsport for the defence of Philadelphia, under the command of General Ebenezer Elmer, then the Brigadier General of the Cumberland Brigade. During the summer of that year the Poictiers, an English ship of the line, under the command of Sir John Beresford, lying in Delaware Bay, succeeded in breaking up the navigation as high up as the Cohansey. No serious engagements, however, took place between the hostile forces.

The inhabitants of Bridgeton suffered a terrible fright, which, alarming enough at first, in the end partook more of the ludicrous than the serious. To prevent boats from the enemy's ship coming up the river in the night, and plundering the town, a nightly guard was detailed and posted at a point on the river two or three miles from the town, but more than twice that distance by the water. All the vessels and boats passing the guard-house during the night were hailed and required to give an account of themselves. If an enemy appeared, a messenger was to be sent to a prudent officer at the town, who was intrusted with the duty, if needful, of giving the alarm by firing a cannon, and ringing the court-house bell, that being then the only bell in the place. About two o'clock of a midsummer night the gun was fired, and the bell rang with great animation. The scene that ensued may be imagined, but cannot easily be described, and great was the consternation. No one doubted that an enemy was close at hand. One or two persons threw their silver down the well. The militia, except some who as usual were among the missing, were assembled, and an attempt made to organize them for action. Happily, however, their prowess was not tested. The alarm, although not sounded until all doubt of its necessity seemed to be removed, turned out to be a false one, originating in the fright of a family near the guard-house, the head of which was absent, and in the fool-hardiness of the skipper of a small sloop, who took it into his head to pass the guard without answering their challenge, and who succeeded in bringing on himself and his crew a volley of musketry, and running the risk of being killed by a ball which passed directly over his head.

During the first quarter of the present century, the annual train.

 

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ing day was the festival day next in importance to the fourth of July. The companies met for drill twice a year, and the regiments or brigades for inspection and review by the commanding general. On this latter day there was commonly a great turn out of men, women and children. Many evils grew out of the system, so that in South Jersey, although the law remained unaltered, after about 1830, the whole system fell into disuse. It is by no means certain, however, that the change has been for the better. The evils of the system, as happily is the case with most human affairs, were compensated by many advantages. The habit of bearing arms, and meeting for exercise, produced a spirit of self-reliance of no little consequence, while the holiday, which occurred on the day of the "great training," served to bring the people together and to cultivate kind and generous feelings, at a time when the means of intercourse were far more limited than they now are. It has been well remarked, in reference to the people of the Northern and Middle States, that the three things which had enabled them to carry on a republican government so successfully, were the congregational meetings and preaching on Sunday, the town meetings, and the training of the militia.

Bridgeton was incorporated as a city in 1865, with a Mayor and Common Council, and is divided into three wards, covering the territory of the former townships of Bridgeton and Cohansey. The number of inhabitants is estimated to be about 7,500.




 

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