Chapter 01
Morris Co. Up

History of Morris County, New Jersey with Illustrations, and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers, 1739-1882; New York: W.W. Munsell & CO., 1882.


BEFORE the year 1700 the territory now called Morris county was probably in the undisturbed possession of the Indians. During the times of the Dutch supremacy in New York people of that nationality had settled upon the flat lands bordering on the Hudson and spread themselves northward into the county of Bergen. After 1664 the English from Long Island and New England, by way of Elizabethtown and Milford, as Newark was then called, began to dispute with the Hollanders the settlement of the eastern part of the State. The English, Quakers, Swedes and Dutch had become established upon the Delaware and were commencing to look inland; but there is no evidence that an actual settler had as yet disturbed the aborigines in their possession of the unbroken wilderness which extended from Orange Mountain to the "Great Pond." So distinct were the settlements upon the Hudson and the Delaware that their separation into East and West Jersey, so singular to us now, was a natural one. The line between the two divisions, described as a "streight lyne from the said Creeke called Barnegat to a certaine Creeke in Delaware River next adjoyneing to and below a certaine Creeke in Delaware River called Rankokus Kill, and from thence up the said Delaware to ye northermost branch thereof, which is in fforty-one degrees and fforty minutes of Latitude," was a fruitful source of dispute. In 1687 Keith, the surveyor-general of East Jersey, ran this line from Little Egg Harbor as far as the south branch of the Raritan, but it was deemed by the West Jersey proprietors too far west, and they objected to its continuance any farther. On September 5th 1688 Governors COXE and BARCLAY, representing the opposite sides, stipulated that the line should be extended to the north branch of the Raritan, near Lamington Falls; thence up the river to its rise on Succasunna Plains, and from there to the "nearest part of Passaic River;" thence up the Passaic and Pequannock to the 41st degree north latitude, and thence due east to the partition point on the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York. This line passed about five miles north of Morristown, and seemed to be regarded as the division line, but not invariably or for any length of time. The line run by John LAWRENCE in 1743, which passes through Budd's Lake (the "ninety-three mile tree" standing just north of the lake), was finally settled upon as the true one; but until after the Revolution the proprietors of West Jersey claimed to the compromise line of Coxe and Barclay, or to a line running from Barnegat Inlet to Port Jervis, and the proprietors of East Jersey claimed to the line of Keith, continued to the Delaware.

John BARCLAY, Arthur FORBES and Gawen LAWRIE, writing to the Scots proprietors March 29th 1684, say: "We cannot positively answer, to give an account of the whole length and breadth of the province. But we are informed that it is a great deal broader than ye expected, for those who have traveled from the extent of our bounds on Hudson River straight over to the Delaware River say it is 100 miles or upwards. We shall know that certainly after a while, for the line betwixt us and New York is to be run straight over to Delaware River, about three weeks hence, and after that the line betwixt us and West Jersey; after which we shall be able to give a true account of the bounds of that province. * * * There are also hills up in the country, but how much ground they take up we know not; they are said to be stony, and covered with wood, and beyond them is said to be excellent land." Endeavoring to give as flattering an account as they could of the settlements in the province and their extent, in their reports to their friends in the old country, no mention is made of any nearer Morris county than Newark.

As late as January 21st 1707 the Legislature passed an act defining the boundaries of the then nine counties of the State, and exhibited an ignorance of the geography of the upper portion of the State only to be accounted for by the fact that that region was uninhabited except by Indians and wandering hunters. The bounds of Essex county ran up the "Rahway River to Robeson's branch; thence west to the division line between the Eastern and Western division aforesaid, and so to follow the said division line to Pequaneck River, where it meets Passaick River; thence down Passaick River to the bay and sound." The lines of Burlington county followed the same partition line "to the northernmost and uttermost bounds of the township of Amwell; thence by the same to the River Delaware;" thence down the Delaware to the place of beginning. This arrangement placed part of Morris county in Essex and part in Burlington. The division line referred to was evidently the Coxe and Barclay line, as Keith's division line of 1687 or its continuation did not run within miles of the Pequannock or any of its tributaries. Lawrence's line, still farther to the east, intersected only the head waters of the Walkill.

March 11th 1713-14 all the upper part "of the said Western Division of the province of New Jersey lying northward of, or situate above, the brook or rivulet commonly called Assanpink" was created a county, to be called Hunterdon.

The Indians who inhabited northern New Jersey at the time of the first settlement by the whites were the Lenapes or Delawares, who are treated of on page 7. The Minsi tribe, called by the English Muncys, extended from the Minisink, on the Delaware, where they held their council seat, to the Hudson on the east, to the head of the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers on the north, and on the south to the Musconetcong and Lehigh hills. Tribes of the Iroquois or Mengwe also roamed through the country at will. The different tribes of these Indians were often called by the whites after the Indian names of the rivers along which they dwelt. Hence we have the Whippanongs, the Pomptons, the Rockawacks, the Parsippanongs, the Minisinks, the Musconetcongs. A very favorite place with these aboriginal tribes was the Great Pond, now called Lake Hopatcong; and the traces of their sojourn there are treated of in the history of Jefferson township.

The Indians who inhabited this region appear to have been very peaceably disposed, as there are no records or traditions of any fights or massacres with or by them, and no settler appears to have been disturbed by them. The scene of Tom Quick's wonderful adventures is laid farther west and north, on the head waters of the Delaware. The aborigines lingered in the neighborhood until the middle of the eighteenth century, when they seem to have finally disappeared from the county, but not from the State. As late as 1832 an act was passed authorizing the purchase, from the Delaware Indians who had removed from this State to Michigan, of all their rights in all the territory of New Jersey. The Indian paths from one lake to another or from the seashore westward were the first roads of the county, and are often referred to in old deeds and land titles. The Pequannock valley was one of their traveling routes, as there was a path, called the Minisink path, running through "the Notch," crossing the Passaic at Little Falls, thence passing along the foot of the hills to Pompton and so up the Pequannock river toward the Delaware.

The first actual settlement by the whites was probably in the northeastern part of the county, near Pompton Plains. On the 6th of June 1695 Arent SCHUYLER, in behalf of himself and his associates, Major Anthony BROCKHOLST, Samuel BYARD, George RYERSON, John MEAD, Samuel BERRIE, David MANDEVILLE, and Hendrick MANDEVILLE, purchased from the Indians all the territory lying between the Passaic on the south, the Pompton on the north, and between the foot of the hills on the east and on the west; and in November of that year purchased 5,500 acres lying east of the Pequannock river, of the proprietors of East New Jersey. The next year Schuyler, Brockholst and Byard purchased a tract of 1,500 acres or thereabouts, and other lands, on the west side of the river, including all the present Pompton Plains. The houses of these men, so far as can be ascertained, were built upon their first purchase, east of the river; but it is altogether probable that in 1700 settlers had begun to make improvements on the purchase of 1696 in Morris county. If this be the case the honor of the first settlement of the county is due to the Dutch.

Following closely upon the heels of the Pompton Plains settlers the New Englanders, who had located along the Passaic, extended their boundaries to the west and entered Morris county by way of Caldwell and Livingston. Passing the extensive Troy meadows, then no doubt a dense swamp covered with a growth of original forest timber, they were attracted by the high lands of Hanover and Whippany. In the "History of the Hanover Presbyterian Church," written by the Rev. Jacob GREEN in 1767, when there were many alive who were eye witnesses of the events he recorded, it is stated that "about the year 1710 a few families removed from Newark and Elizabeth, etc., and settled on the west side of the Passaic river, in that which is now Morris county. Not long after the settlers erected a house for the public worship of God on the bank of the Whippanong river, about one hundred rods below the forge which is and has long been known by the name of the Old Iron Works." This fact indicates the character of these first settlers, and that they had not forgotten the cause which brought them or their fathers over the water. September 2nd 1718 a deed was made for this church lot by "John RICHARDS, of Whippanong, in the county of Hunterdon, schoolmaster." The land is said to be situated in the "township of Whippanong, on that part called Percipponong, on the northwestward side of Whippanong river"; and the land was to be for "public use, improvement and benefit for a meeting-house, burying yard and training field and such like uses, and no other."

In the records of Hunterdon county no mention is made of any township but Hanover within the present bounds of Morris county; and it is to be presumed that the settlement of Hanover gave name to the whole region, and that the county was comprised in one township, whose western boundaries were of the most vague description. From Hanover or Whippany the settlers moved westward to Morristown, called at first New Hanover.

Passing up the Basking Ridge neighborhood, which does not appear to have been occupied by actual settlers before about 1720, we come to the high lands of the southwest part of the county, which were peopled from the west. The renunciation of Protestantism in 1697 by Frederick AUGUSTUS, elector of Saxony, made it so uncomfortable at home for many of his subjects that in 1705 they determined to leave their country. They went first to Neuwied, in Prussia, then to Holland, and in 1707 sailed for America, expecting to join the Dutch in New York. Carried south by adverse winds they entered the Delaware instead of the Hudson, and landed in Philadelphia. Determined still to join the Dutch settlements in New York they crossed the Delaware near Lambertville, and commenced their march across the State. But when they arrived at German Valley, and saw the goodness of the land and the beauty of its surrounding hills, they abandoned their original purpose and began to make a home for themselves where their descendants still live.

In 1713 James WILLS, an Englishman, bought of the proprietors of East Jersey a large tract of land of what is now called Ralstonville, west of Mendham, and the actual settlement of the Mendham neighborhood probably soon followed. In the same year the site of the village of Chester is said to have been laid out in lots for settlement.

Thus from opposite sides, under different auspices and by men of different nationalities, the work of subduing the wilderness was begun. The energy and perseverance of these first settlers made rapid progress in the work of clearing up the forests, and bringing the soil under cultivation and developing the wealth of the country. These pioneers kept pressing forward until within a few years they met in the center of the county, and what had been in 1707 almost an unknown country had become in 1725 explored and dotted with hamlets. The roads were still but bridle-paths and the houses were of logs; but the wants of the people were few and easily supplied. The streams were stocked with fish, and game of every kind was abundant. The first colonists in Morris had neither the sterile soil nor the cold climate of New England nor the malaria of the southern seaboard to contend with; and both by immigration and by natural increase the county grew wonderfully in numbers.

From 1710 to 1715 the proprietors of West New Jersey, attracted by the richness of this new country, began to allot to themselves large tracts of its land. William PENN, John READING, William BIDDLE, John KAYS and others took up in this way tracts of 1,200 acres and more at a time, on West Jersey right, as far east as Morristown. These locations do not appear to have extended further north than Budd's Lake, Dover and Rockaway Valley, the country north of these places seeming to these early speculators too forbidding and unpromising for their purposes. Titles to lands in this region are derived from locations on East Jersey right, after the division line had become more definitely settled; and of these locations the first were small, covering the streams, natural meadows and smooth land. They were made by actual settlers, who could not afford to purchase the surrounding rough hills, the mineral wealth of which was entirely unknown to them. Timber then was too plentiful to be desired, and it was not till after the Revolutionary war that the hills were thought worth purchasing for the wood which covered them.

The first location in the northern part of Jefferson and Rockaway townships was to John DAVENPORT, in 1750, of 210 acres near Petersburg. Earlier than this by five years was the "Nevil tract," which extended from Berkshire Valley only to Longwood and was the first in that neighborhood.

In 1722 the settlements in Morris county had grown sufficiently to be thought worthy of the honor of bearing a part of the burden of government, and in the minutes of the Hunterdon county court of June 5th of that year is this entry: "Whereas there is no assessor returned to this court to serve for the inhabitants of the township of Hanover, it is therefore ordered by the court that Elisha BIRD serve assessor for the said township of Hanover for the ensuing year, to assess the tax to be levied upon the said inhabitants towards the support of his Majestie's government; and it is hereby ordered accordingly."

The next year all the township officers were appointed by the court, and we see among them names from all sections of the county. John HAYWARD and Samuel VANDERBOOK were to serve as "Comishoner of the Highways," Benjamin HATHAWAY and Morris MORRISON were appointed constables, and James HAYWARD, Abraham VANDINE and Benjamin BEACH were to be the overseers of the highways and John BIGELOW was to be collector for the township of Hanover.

At this same court it was ordered that the commissioners of Amwell and Hopewell attend those of Hanover "in order to lay out a road from Amwell to Hanover thorow the Western Division, betwixt this and the next court, and to meet at Mr. John READING's the first day of October next for that purpose."

In 1724 we find the names of Samuel POTTER, William SHORES and Abraham VANDINE as town officers, and March 14th 1725 there were appointed for Hanover as freeholders Jonathan GILBERT and Abraham VANDINE; as commissioners, John CORTLAND and Thomas HUNTINGDON; as overseers of highways, Joseph LINDLY and Daniel GOBLE; as collector John LYON, and as assessor Jonathan GILBERT.

The earliest town meeting of which we have any account was that of March 14th 1726-7, and the record of it is as follows: "It being the General Town Meeting appointed by Law for Electing their Town Officers, and the Inhabitants of our Said County being met on that acct., proceeded to chose as follows: John MOREHOUSE asessor for ye Govener Tax, Joseph LINDSLEY Collector, Morris MORRISON and Joseph COE Freeholders, Abraham VANDINE and Jonathan STILES commissioners for laying out roads, Benjamin BEACH and Matthew VAN DINE, Thomas HUNTINGTON, Nathaniel COGSWELL and John COURTER overseers of ye Highway, John MOREHOUSE Town clerk."

Three years afterward Ephraim RUE, Stephen TUTHILL and Paulus BERRY were appointed constables.

In 1732-3 for the first time another township is mentioned within the bounds of what was afterward the three counties of Morris, Sussex and Warren. At that date officers were nominated for Walpack township. In October 1737 among the associate judges of Hunterdon county appears the name of Abraham KITCHEL, grandfather of Aaron and Abraham KITCHEL, afterward so prominent in the history of Morris county.

Hunterdon county, with its county seat at Trenton, had at this time a population of 5,288 whites and 219 slaves, and of the aggregate it is likely that one-third only were within the boundaries of the northern section, which was about to be made into the new county. But there is evidence that these early settlers had become dissatisfied with their long journeyings to the distant court-house, and the subject of a separation was being agitated. Though the population could have averaged hardly two persons to a square mile the measure was adopted, and in 1738 Morris county obtained a separate existence.

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