John W. Hays
Morris Co. Up


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

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For more than thirty years Mr. HAYS was one of the leading contractors and builders of Morristown and a prominent factor in the progress and improvement of the locality, while a long ancestral history connects him with the period of early development in this section of the state. His honored father, Joseph P. HAYS, who is still living, tells the story of the pioneer times, as related to him by the participants in the events. His grandfather, Abial HAYS, was born about the year 1752, when "the colonies" were still in possession of Great Britain. As the years passed and the yoke of British oppression began to bear more heavily upon them, the spirit of resistance began to make itself manifest and at last resulted in an organized opposition known in history as the war of the Revolution. Deeply in sympathy with his fellow colonists, Mr. HAYS joined the American army and was made a colonel of a New Jersey regiment. At the battle of Springfield a record still extant tells how he manifested a spirit of braver by rescuing a friend who had been shot. The account says: "At this time, as the army was approaching the meeting house, a Mr. BALL had stationed himself behind a shoeshop at the foot of Church hill, across the road, to watch the movements of the enemy. As he was looking from his hiding place to see how near they had come, a ball passed through his head and brought him to the ground. On the opposite side of the street Abial HAYS and James W. WADE were secreted behind a shoe-shop and were witnesses to the fate of Mr. BALL. Not willing to see him suffering without offering assistance Mr. HAYS crossed the street in the face of the enemy and carried away his companion under cover of the shop and house behind which the unhappy BALL had fallen, and bore him to the house where Joel SEARING now resides, in Connecticut Farms." Colonel HAYS died in 1824.

His son, West HAYS, was born in Irvington, New Jersey, in 1781, and married Hannah SMITH, a daughter of Stephen SMITH, whose wife was a sister of James W. WADE, mentioned in the little Revolutionary incident given above. West HAYS was a sawyer and weaver, following both occupations. To him and his wife were born the following named:

  • Keturah, who married Thomas DAY;
  • Abbie;
  • Sarah, who married Anson TRAVER; and
  • Joseph P.

The father of our subject, Joseph P. HAYS, was born in Irvington, New Jersey, January 13, 1809, and in early manhood went to Westfield, where he engaged in shoemaking for a number of years. He afterward established a grocery store, which he successfully conducted for some time, and later he carried on a grocery in Scotch Plains. In the year 1864 he entered the service of the government, in the quartermaster's department at Hilton Head, where he remained until the close of the war. In 1866 he came to Morristown and accepted the position of bookkeeper for the firm of Greenwood & HAYS, serving in that capacity for fifteen years. He filled the office of justice of the peace and that of police justice in Morristown for some years and conducted the public business with that fairness and ripe judgment that can only come from an extended experience in dealing with men. He has now, at the age of eighty-nine, almost the vigor of a man in his prime, and his mental and physical faculties have withstood with remarkable strength the inroads of time. His life spans a wonderful period. Even colonial history is familiar to him from the accounts of those who participated therein, and he has witnessed the wonderful progress of the republic, the introduction of the railroad, the telegraph, the telephone and the marvelous inventions relating to all the industrial arts. He has witnessed the downfall of slavery, great changes in governmental policy and wonderful advancement in science, letters and art. He has outlived all his boyhood associates and even the friends of his early manhood, and therefore has no one with whom he can review the scenes and events of the past, for the younger generation have newer and different interests. He has, however, the respect and high regard of many of Morristown's citizens, who enjoy hearing him relate his reminiscences of days of "auld lang syne."

Joseph P. HAYS married Miss Maria CLARK, eldest daughter of Ezekiel and Huma (BADGLEY) CLARK. Mrs. HAYS died in 1861, leaving the following children:

  • John W.;
  • Anna Eliza, wife of Joseph BLANCHARD;
  • Abbie G., wife wife of Cornelius B. WILLET;
  • Joseph A.;
  • William H.; and
  • Kate M., widow of James A. NORTH.

John W. HAYS, whose name begins this article, is a worthy representative of an honored old family, and has added new dignity and luster to the untarnished name. He was born in Westfield, on the 29th of April, 1839, acquired a fair education in the public school, and when fourteen years of age began working, on a farm. The following year he assisted his father in carrying on the grocery store in Scotch Plains, and when sixteen years of age he began learning the carpenter's trade with M. S. DUNN, of Scotch Plains. Having mastered the business, he worked as a journeyman in Newark for several years, and in 1863 located in Morristown, where he has since made his home. In 1865 the firm of Greenwood & HAYS was established, and for thirty years it continued one of the most popular and reliable concerns in the city. They did a very successful and extensive business and many of the most important buildings in the city stand as monuments to their architectural and industrial skill. They received a liberal patronage and their fidelity in fulfilling the terms of a contract always insured them a continuance of the business of a patron. Mr. HAYS was connected with the building interests of Morristown until 1895, when he withdrew from that enterprise, and is now with, the real-estate department of the Mutual Life Insurance Company.

He has been twice married. In 1859 he was joined in wedlock to Miss Eliza TOMPKINS, of Littleton, New Jersey, who died in 1866, and in 1868 he married Miss Eliza S. TOMPKINS, daughter of Usal TOMPKINS. She was called to the home beyond in 1895. The children of Mr. HAYS are

  • Joseph A., who married Clara BARRETT;
  • Eliza S., wife of D. A. YAUGER, of Norwich, Connecticut;
  • Harry H.;
  • Fred O., who, married, Phoebe PIERSON;
  • William, B.;
  • Lewis T. and
  • John R.

In his political affiliations Mr. HAYS is a Democrat, and is a prominent representative of his party. He has been honored with several offices, has served as a member of the board of freeholders for four years, as a member of the town committee for three years, is a member of the Washington Association and belongs to Washington Engine Company, No. 1. Socially he is a Royal Arch Mason and in his religious connections is a Baptist. His life has been well spent and has been crowned with financial success and the high regard of those with whom he has been brought in contact. His business career has been characterized by energy, enterprise and progressiveness, and by resolute purpose and close application he has worked his way upward to a position of affluence. His life, in all its relations, is honorable and straight-forward and commends him to the confidence and good will of all.

This biography was scanned and contributed by Catherine Smith DeMayo.


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