John Hancock
Morris Co. Up


Biographical and Genealogical History of Morris County New Jersey. Illustrated. Vol. I., Lewis Publishing Company, New York and Chicago, 1899.

Among the first representatives of the Methodist ministry in Morris County was John HANCOCK, " a unique man of Chatham township, whose character may be summed up in the word which describes Barnabas a good man and full of Holy Ghost and faith." He was born in Springfield in 1776; left fatherless when eight months old and in his mother's arms he was carried from the blackened ruins of the village, burned by the British, to Madison. His advantages were few but his diligence was great. The first book he ever owned was "A New Geographical, Historical and Commercial Grammar, and Present State of the Several Kingdoms of the World" This he bought for six dollars, all obtained from selling hazelnuts gathered in the evening when his work was done, for at that time he was serving as an apprentice in Columbia. He thoroughly mastered the contents of that book. He early began to write, and all though his long life his thoughts flowed into rhyme as easily as into prose, his works having some of the rude quaintness of BUNYAN. His early religious exercises were genuine and deep. He joined the Methodist Episcopal church in 1801, and learning to speak in the class meeting he soon went forth into schoolhouses, private dwellings and wherever a door was opened, publishing the glad tidings. In 1803 he was licensed as a local preacher, in 1814 ordained as a deacon and in 1833 ordained as elder by Bishop HEDDING. His own house, as soon as it was completed, in 1803, was opened for a regular place of preaching and continued to be such until 1832. For the rest of his life while still supporting his family by his business and farm, he preached in the circuit formed by Flanders, Paterson, Newark, Rahway and New Providence, in heat and cold, in sunshine or storm, his expenses generally more than his receipts, he continued his work, ever fulfilling the injunction, "As ye go, preach." He had a great fund of humor, which, however, he kept within bounds. He died in great peace, in full possession of his faculties, in his seventy-eight year, leaving blessed memories behind him in all these neighborhoods. Close by his dwelling Mr. HANCOCK had set apart a portion of land for a family cemetery, which in his will he made " a public burial place." Near the entrance, and in full view of those who pass by, may still be seen a square board tablet, sustained by two tall posts, on which were painted in large yellow letters, no partly obliterated, some homely but practical lines, written by himself and commencing thus:

"Ye travelers though the value of strife
To endless death or endless life,
Here you may learn midst joy or tears
The end of worldly hopes or fears."

Transcribed by Ida King


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