Near one of the broad avenues in the Rockaway Cemetery, and near the Presbyterian Church is the monumental record of John McRandall, died May 10, 1823, aged 70 years. The stone shows age, over eighty years have passed since the burial of the man who had a history. Not more so than many others who were buried in The "grave ground" many years before and after.
John McRandall, or as he wrote in many of the old church records, John McRandel, was born in Ireland, 1753, and emigrated at an early age to America, and is said to have taken an active part in the Revolutionary war.
He married, first wife, name unknown, and settled at Denville, or rather between Denville and Rockaway, and is said to have owned, built and lived in the story and a half house now standing in the field opposite the dwelling of Dr. Mendes, not a very inviting location at the present day, but was the home with all its indearments to John McRandall.
His first wife is said to have died here and buried at Rockaway, but no monumental or church records. The date of her death was probably before 1780, as he married (2) Susanna, widow of Timothy Sourthard who died Jan. 31, 1771. She was Susanna Sworden, born April 23, 1741, and died Oct. 16, 1796. Traditionally buried at Rockaway, but no records.
Timothy Southard was a Revolutionary soldier, and is said to have died from the effects of the war, and buried at Rockaway. His father, also named Timothy, was among the first settlers in the Hibernia mountains from Long Island. His wife died, leaving young Timothy by a few weeks old, born Oct 6, 1736. His father sold out his household belongings and started on foot to return to relatives at Long Island. He passed the first night at Haden's at Denville, and was induced to leave young Timothy, and return later, or during the next summer. He never returned, and was never heard from. Young Timothy grew up with the Haden family, and married Susanna Sworden May 16, 1762, and had several children who married in Revolutionary families of this section.
This Southard family is said to be related to the families that came later from Long Island and settled in this county. They became distinguished members of New Jersey's Temple of Fame and known as "New Jersey's favorite sons."
John McRandall married (3) a widow McFall, who came from Ireland and settled at Denville. She died some years previous to her husband, and was buried at Rockaway. He had one sister who was connected by marriage to the McFalls, and who came to American about 1810, and died soon after. Traditionally buried at Rockaway. The McFall's and his sister were Catholics, but John McRandall did not adhere to the faith of his ancestors.
He was a liberal and perhaps cheerful giver to the church and ministry at Rockaway in 1784 and 1785. His name is also on the list of subscribers to finish the "meeting house" in Feb. 1794 by a contribution of one pound, but his name is not on the church books as a member.
Besides the tilling of the few acres of his home farm, he found employment at the Rockaway Iron Works as a laborer, and was always ready with a quick and brilliant response, to all the questions of the day, a trait peculiar to that descent.
At one time employed in the building of the road where it now is, the old road first traveled from Denville to Rockaway elbowed considerable to the right, the commisionery had "laid out" the road through a find wheat field belonging to the Jackson's, the stone fences were being torn down, and the work had commenced. Col. Jackson did not approve of these proceedings, and said to McRandall, that he would help them put the road through if the commisioners had ordered him to go through his house and tear it down. "Surely, Mr. Jackson," said he "I don't know that I could, but I would surely be at it."
During his later years, work, strong drink, the burial of so many wifes and all of his relatives, as it is not known that he had any children, with the few acres of not very productive lands and not much lain by for a "rainy day" he rapidly passed the days of his usefulness, and a long seige of sickness taxed the neighbors considerably and patience and waiting had ceased to be virtues, as friend after friend departed it was even hinted that John McRandall would be better off dead than alive. Soon the beautiful morning of May 10, 1823, his labors ended, and he was at rest. The neighbors were called upon to assist in the last sad rites — the burial.
There were no mourning relatives and the followers to the grave were few; the mortal remains were enclosed in a very plain coffin, a word used in that day, and bourne to the grave a distance of about one mile, upon the shoulders of four strong men acting as pall bearers, one of the customs of that day, when the distance was not too far. The prayers were few, the sermon short and the afternoon followed close to the evening, and darkness closed upon the scene.
One remarkable incident is related, which has been regarded with no little superstition, that nature furnished the chief mourners for the occasion. It was noticed as the remains were taken from the house that large numbers of whip-poor-wills, the "night hawks" of that day, had congregated and in their raid descent with open mouths to catch the insects that are on the wing, a very doleful noise is made, and this strange procession with their repeated and rapid movements, accompanied the remains and the followers to the open grave, disappearing as mysteriously as they came. A life among the lowly was at rest.
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