Chapter 02
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.


THE act creating the county of Morris was passed by the Legislature March 15th 1738. Colonel Lewis MORRIS was at the time governor, having been formally appointed in February 1738 and publishing his commission and taking up the duties of the office August 29th. The act was introduced by John EMBLEY, one of the members from Hunterdon, and seems to have met no opposition. The name given the new county was in honor of the governor, who was the first governor of New Jersey distinct from New York, and one who had been largely instrumental in bringing about the separation from the sister colony.

The act declared that "all and singular the lands and upper parts of the said Hunterdon county lying to the northward and eastward, situate and lying to the eastward of a well known place in the county of Hunterdon, being a fall of water in part of the north branch of Raritan River, called in the Indian language or known by the name of Allamatonck, to the northeastward of the northeast end or part of the lands called the New Jersey Society lands, along the line thereof, crossing the south branch of the aforesaid Raritan River, and extending westerly to a certain tree, marked with the letters L. M., standing on the north side of a brook emptying itself into the said south branch, by an old Indian path to the northward of a line to be run northwest from the said tree to a branch of Delaware river called Muskonetkong, and so down the said branch to Delaware river, all which said lands being to the eastward, northward and northeastward of the above said boundaries, be erected into a county; and is is hereby erected into a county, named and from henceforth to be called Morris county, and the said bounds shall part and from henceforth separate and divide the same from the said Hunterdon county."

The "Allamatonck" Falls were on what is now called the Black River, which formed the dividing line at that point between Hunterdon and Somerset, and not what is now called the north branch of the Raritan, which crosses the south line of Morris where the townships of Bedminster and Bernard, of Somerset county, corner. It will be seen that only a part of the southern boundary of the new county was fixed by this act, from the most southerly point of what is now Chester township, west. The line between the new county and Somerset remained uncertain until March 28th 1749, when the division line was fixed by act of Legislature, and directed to be as follows "Beginning at a fall of water commonly called Allamatonck Falls, and also mentioned in the before recited act; and from thence on a straight line, in a course east and by north as the compass now points, to the main branch of Passaic River, and so down the said river as the before recited act directs; anything herein or in any other act to the contrary thereof notwithstanding.

The territory thus described and made a new county included the present counties of Morris, Sussex and Warren. It comprised about 870,000 acres or some 1,360 square miles. It was considered as a part of West Jersey, though two-thirds at least of it was east of Lawrence's line of 1743. In the letter of transmittal of the act to the Duke of Newcastle, dated May 26th 1739, Governor MORRIS says:

"Among the acts herewith sent there is one to erect the northern parts of Hunterdon county, in the western division, into a new county by the name of Morris county. Their having of representatives is suspended till his Majestie's pleasure is known on that head. If his Majestie should think fit to grant them that favour it will be adding two representatives to the western division more than the eastern has; but if his Majestie will give me leave to add two to the eastern division, in such place or places as I shall judge most propper, to make them equall (as by his instructions it seems to be intended they should be), such is the scituation of this new county that I am in hopes by the addition of these four members to put the support of the government upon a better and more certain footing than it is at present; & to get money rais'd for the building a house and conveniences of a governour's residence, sitting of Assemblyes &c., all w'ch are very much wanting."

Notwithstanding the recommendation of Governor MORRIS representatives were not allowed to the new county, and May 22nd 1756 in the minutes of the Assembly it appears that several petitions were presented to the house from the county of Morris, signed by 190 hands, setting forth "the hardships they labor under by having no members allowed to represent them in General Assembly; praying the Legislature to grant them the usual privileges as the other counties enjoy in being represented by two members in General Assembly for the future; which were read and ordered a second reading."

It was not till the last colonial Legislature, which met in 1772, and till after Sussex county had been set off from Morris that representatives were received from this new county. These representatives were Jacob FORD and William WINDS, both exceedingly prominent and active in the stirring scenes soon to be enacted.

On the 25th of March 1740, one year after the act was passed constituting the county, we have the record of the first court, which met at Morristown, previously called New Hanover, probably at the hotel of Jacob FORD, one of the judges. The names of the judges present the first day are not given, but on the next day, the 26th, to which they adjourned, there were present Messrs. John BUDD, Jacob FORD, Abraham KITCHEL, John LINDLEY jr., Timothy TUTTLE and Samuel SWEZY. Their first business was to divide the new county into three townships. The minute of their proceedings is as follows:

                             "March 25th MDCCXL. 
                         "General Sessions of the Peace. 

"The Court, taking into consideration the necessity of dividing the county of Morris into Proper Townships or Districts, for having proper officers within every such Township or District, and more especially for such officers as are to act in concert with other Townships, we therefore order and Determine that from henceforth a certain Township, bounded on Pissaic River, Poquanock River to the lower end of the great pond at the head thereof, and by Rockaway River and the west branch thereof to the head thereof, and thence cross to the lower end of said pond, and shall henceforth be called Poquanock Township, District or Precinct.

"And that a certain road from the Bridge, by John DAY's, up to the Place where the same road passes between Benjamin and Abraham PIERSON's, and thence up the same road to the corner of Samuel FORD's fence, thence leaving Samuel FORD to the right hand, thence running up to the road that leads from the Old Iron Works towards Succasunning, and crossing Whippenung Bridge, and from thence to Succasunning, and from thence to the great pond on the head of Musconecung, do part the Township of Hanover from the Township of Morris; which part of the county of Morris, Lying as aforesaid. to the Southward and Westward of said roads, lines and places, is ordered by the Court to be and remain a Township, District or Precinct, and to be called and distinguished by the name of Morristown."

These descriptions are absurdly indefinite in some respects, and impossible of identification in regard to some of the localities mentioned. But the general boundaries of the townships by modern landmarks were as follows: Pequannock township included the territory bounded north by the river of that name, south by the Rockaway River and west by Lake Hopatcong. Hanover township was bounded north by the Rockaway River, east by the Passaic River and south by a road passing through the present township of Chatham near the village of Madison, and so to and along the road which forms the present boundary between Morris and Hanover to the present Randolph line, and by a line thence across the mountains to Succasunna Plains, and from there to the lower end of Lake Hopatcong, where all the townships met. Morris township included all the rest of the county.

The first township officers were appointed by the county court, and were as follows:

For Morris township--Zechariah FAIRCHILD, "town clark and town bookkeeper;" Matthew LUM, assessor; Jacob FORD, collector; Abraham HATHAWAY and Joseph COE jr., freeholders; Benjamin HATHAWAY and Jona OSBORNE, overseers of the poor; Joseph BRIDDIN and Daniel LINDSLY, surveyors of the highways; Stephen FREEMAN and John LINDSLEY, Esq., overseers of the highways; Isaac WHITEHEAD, Alexander ACKERMAN and William DAYLESS, constables.

For Pequannock township--Robert GOLD, "town clark and town bookkeeper;" Garret DEBOUGH, assessor; Isaac VANDINE, Esq., collector; Robert GOLD and Frederick TEMONT (De MOUTH?), freeholders; Matthew VANDINE and Nicholas HILER, overseers of the poor; Henderick MORRISON and Giles MANDERFIELD, overseers of the highways; John DAVENPORT, constable.

For Hanover township--Timothy TUTTLE, Esq., town clerk and town bookkeeper; David WHEELER, assessor; Caleb BALL, collector; Joseph TUTTLE and Caleb BALL, freeholders; John KINNEY and Jonathan STILES, overseers of the poor; John KINNEY and Samuel FORD, surveyors of the highways; Paul LEONARD, Robert YOUNG, Benjamin SHIPMAN and Edward CRANE, overseers of the highways; Joseph HERRIMAN and Stephen WARD, constables.

Most of these names are still familiar in these townships and among these officers will be recognized the ancestors of many of the present generation.

It is well in this connection to follow out the subsequent changes in these townships up to the present time. December 24th 1740 the township of Roxbury was formed from the township of Morris. This action of the court is thus set forth in their minutes:

"A peticion to the Court from Sundry of the inhabitance of the Southwesterly part of this County of Morris, Praying they may be made a Township for several causes therein set forth, the Court grants there Petition and Bounds same Township, to be called henceforth Roxberry, from the bounds of Summerset County, thence up the River commonly called Pesack, and up the same including the same to that Branch or part thereof called Indian River, and thence Northerly and Westerly by the bounds of hanover to the Grate Pond; thence down by the same and Musconitcung to the Bounds of the County; thence by the Bounds of Hunterdon County, Essex and Summerset to the Place first mentioned."

It is quite impossible to define exactly the limits of the township thus vaguely described, but it evidently included all the present townships of Washington, Mount Olive and Chester, and part of Mendham, Randolph and Roxbury, "Indian River" being what is now called the north branch of the Raritan.

The next year Wallpack township is mentioned and officers appointed for it, and on March 23d 1741-2 there is the following quaint entry in regard to another township of the region afterward known as Sussex: "Whereas the Court is informed that in time Past, before the Division of the County of Hunterdon, Grinnage Township was set apart and bounded on Dillaware river from Musconecung to Powlins Kill, being the bounds of Wallpack Township, be and remain from hence forth a Township or District by the name of Grinnage Township."

March 29th 1749 Mendham township was created by the court, their action being recorded as follows:

"A Petition From Sundry of the Westerly part of the inhabitants of the Townships of Morris and Hanover and Sunderie of the Easterly Part of the Inhabitants of Roxbury To This Court, praying that they may be made a Township or proccuts [precinct ?] for Sevrall Causes therein Sett forth. The Court upon Reading the same grants them their Petition and Bounds said Township as followeth: Beginning at Pasiak River, at the South Corner of Henry WICK's Land, and from thence a straight Line to the Contry Road Between Ezra HALSEY's and Stephen LYON's Land; thence a Straight Line to the Mouth of Robert YOUNG's Meddow Brook, up Rockaway River to the Uper end of Spruce Island in said River; thence to a River commonly called and known by the name of Black River, the nighest to Suckasona mine; thence down the same till an East point will strike the head spring of the Most Westerly Branch of Dorson's Brook, which is near the house where Sam'l PITDNEY Lately Dwelt; and Down the Stream issuing from said Spring till it comes to the Road Between James WILLS and Noah RUDE; from thence ten chain to the post of Joseph CASEN's new dwelling house; from thence South to the Lines Between the County of Somersett and Morris, and thence along said Line to pasiak River and by said River to the bounds first mentioned; and to be from hence forth called Mendham."

This included not only the present township of Mendham but also Randolph, and nearly all of Chester.

June 8th 1753 the act of the Legislature was passed which took from Morris county the territory west of the Musconetcong river, Lake Hopatcong and a line drawn northwest from the head of the "Great Pond," and formed it into the county of Sussex. The boundaries of Morris have remained unchanged since that time. There were in the new county the townships of Grinnage, Wallpack, Hardwick and New Town. In the old county were the five townships of Pequannock, Hanover, Morris, Mendham and Roxbury; and for forty-five years there were but these five in Morris. The subsequent alterations are to be found in the laws of the State.

Washington township was formed February 12th 1798, Chester township January 29th 1799, Jefferson township February 11th 1804, Randolph November 13th 1805, Chatham February 12th 1806, Rockaway March 5th 1844, Passaic March 23d 1866, Boonton and Montville April 11th 1867, and Mount Olive March 22nd 1871.

Changes were made in the township lines as follows: Between Randolph and Chester in 1806, between Randolph and Pequannock in 1831, between Washington and Chester in 1840 and 1853, between Washington and Roxbury in 1858 and 1859, and between Morris and Passaic in 1867.

From the time of its separation from Hunterdon Morris county grew rapidly. In 1745 it had a population of 4,436, and seven years before the whole county of Hunterdon had but 5,570.

In 1765, in a "short geographical description of the province," by Samuel SMITH, the first historian of the State, the county was said to be populous for a "late settled county." "They raise grain and cattle chiefly, for New York market, and cut large quantities of timber of various sorts for exportation. In this county resides Peter KEMBLE, Esq., president of the Council. The places for worship in this county are--Presbyterians nine, Lutherans one, Anabaptists one, Quakers one, Separatists one, Rogerines one."

In the thirty-five years between 1740 and 1775 the face of the country greatly changed. Instead of a few villages (at Pompton, Whippany, Morristown, German Valley, Chester, Dover and Rockaway) the whole county had been opened up by actual settlers. Furnaces and a slitting-mill had been built. Forges, grist-mills and saw-mills were on all the streams, and every considerable fall of water turned a wheel of some kind. Only the roughest hills and the large lakes or little "gores" of land overlooked by the surveyor were left to the proprietors. No census was taken, or if taken has been preserved, for the years immediately preceding the war; but it seems probable that the population was not less than 10,000 at that time. They were an independent, self-sustaining people, raising their own bread, and manufacturing all that their wants required. No county in the State was better prepared to be thrown upon its own resources, and it was owing quite as much to the character of the people as to its situation and natural defenses that during the eight years' struggle which was to follow no force of the enemy entered its bounds except as prisoners of war.

The population of the county at the various census dates has been as follows: 1745, 4,436; 1790, 16,216; 1800, 17,750; 1810, 21,828; 1820, 21,368; 1830, 23,580; 1840, 25,861; 1850, 30,173; 1860, 34,678 (680 colored); 1870, 43,161 (742 colored); 1875, 49,019 (788 colored); 1880, 50,867.

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