CITY, VILLAGE AND TOWNSHIP HISTORIES, PASSAIC TOWNSHIP.
BY HON. S. B. AXTELL.
THE township of Passaic was established in 1866, by act of the Legislature, and was taken from the south part of Morris township. It lies along the Passaic River and extends farther south than any other portion of Morris county. The river bends round and partly encloses it, and separates the township from Union and Somerset counties. The word "Passaic" is said to be Indian and to have signified in their language "valley." The Passaic River flows through a valley, while the Hackensack has no considerable banks, but runs along through open marshy meadows and level plains. The name Passaic thus described the stream spoken of--the river that runs in a valley, not the river of the plain. The Passaic River above Paterson receives the Rockaway, an important branch, and the Whippany--properly Whippanong, also an Indian name, signifying "arrow"; but the main river is that portion of the stream which, rising in Mendham township, runs south and gracefully bends round the southern part of Morris county, returning north and east by Paterson and the valley of the Passaic to Newark Bay. The river above the Little Falls has but slight current for a long distance. From Lower Chatham bridge to Little Falls, a distance by the river of twenty-one and a quarter miles, the fall of the river bottom is but six and two-tenths feet, or less than four inches to the mile. The elevations above Chatham are also very slight. Chatham Pond is only 182 feet above mean tide; the head of Great Swamp, in Passaic township (at Big Brook, near Green Village), is 240 feet.
One of the marked physical features of the township is a beautiful park-like ridge of land which extends through it, reaching from Long Hill to Morristown. This ridge is a very prominent feature in the topography of the State, and is especially noted for its commanding views and its almost continuous succession of beautiful grounds. The road from Madison to Morristown runs along it--as beautiful a drive as there is in any State. This ridge is a watershed between the tributaries of the upper Passaic on the south and the branches of the Whippany on the north. It differs from the Short Hills in its level top and more uniform slopes. Generally its southward slopes are steep. This ridge is about three hundred and eighty feet above tide water, and about one hundred and forty feet above the general level of Chatham and Madison. The thickness of the drift mass in this ridge must everywhere be over one hundred feet, since nearly all the wells on it are of that depth. At the Drew Theological Seminary, in Madison, a well was dug one hundred and fourteen feet, and then a boring two hundred feet deeper, it is said, did not get through the loose materials. An abundant supply of water can, however, be easily obtained from the crystal streams and unfailing springs abundant in the northern part of the county. With the increase of wealth comes, with equal and regular steps, increase of knowledge; and the day is not distant when pure water and pure air, and well drained, wholesome homes will dim the splendor of doctors' equipages, and render brilliant corner drug stores and patent medicine palaces a thing of the past. When that day comes this ridge will be thickly gemmed with beautiful country homes, and its woods will ring with the shouts of healthy, happy children. The plain between Morristown and Madison and the ridge known as Long Hill are here spoken of as one.
The other marked feature of this township is known as the Great Swamp. This swamp is about seven miles long, with an average width of three miles; it was heavily timbered, but most of it has been cleared and drained and is now excellent meadow and arable land. This is the bottom of a great lake. In the annual report of the State geologist of New Jersey for 1880 we find a map and description of it as Lake Passaic--a glacial lake, a lake which was in the glacial period between the Whatchung Mountains and the Highland range. It was fully thirty miles long, from six to eight miles wide, and in most places two hundred feet deep. It covered the country where Madison, Chatham, New Providence, Basking Ridge, Hanover, Whippany, Troy, Pompton and Little Falls now stand. Long Hill, Riker's Hill and the Hook Mountain were islands. The higher parts of the Basking Ridge and of the New Vernon Ridge must also have stood above its cold blue waves as frozen, rocky, desolate land. The only outlet to this lake was by the valley of the Passaic at Paterson, and this at that time was closed by the ice of the receding glacier. The surface level of this lake was about 380 feet above the present level of tide water. The plain country between Madison and Morristown is of this height; so is the moraine ridge known as Long Hill. The top of the terminal moraine was leveled off and a part of its material was carried southward and silted on the bottom of the lake where are now the Great Swamp and the Dead River flats, in Passaic township. The erosion through the drift at Little Falls was probably the gradual wear of the Terrace period until the hard trap rock reef was reached. At that level the drainage stopped. The slow work of excavation through this barrier and the recession of the falls have been in progress since that time; and a gorge three hundred feet wide at the east, narrowing westward to the falls and between thirty and forty feet deep, has been cut back about six hundred feet in the rock. The further work of cutting through the barrier of trap rock must be very slow, and hence the drainage of the old lake basin may be considered as practically at an end unless furthered by the agency of man. This attempt was made and an act of the Legislature obtained, but it gave rise to litigation and strife, went into the courts and was finally repealed. The deep alluvial formations along Dead River and in the Great Swamp were the fine deposits on the bottom of this ancient lake. The depth of the rock basin is great. A well in the Great Swamp has been bored 165 feet in sand, clayey sand and fine sediment, or to within eighty feet of the ocean level, without finding rock.
Besides the Passaic River the township is well supplied with beautiful brooks. The Primrose, Black and Big Brooks have been celebrated for trout and are lovely streams. The soil of the township is excellent; the farmers thrifty and independent.
CENTERS OF POPULATION.
There are numerous villages, of which New Vernon, only four miles from Morristown, is the largest. Logansville, Pleasantville, Green Village, Myersville (population 145), Millington (population 112), Stirling (population 185) and Gillette are also thrifty, enterprising and growing towns. The first census of Passaic as a township was taken in 1870, when its population was 1,625. The census of 1880 gives the population at 1,896, an encouraging increase. The school census of 1878 showed 525 children between the ages of five and eighteen years. The West Line Railroad runs through the southern portion of the township, giving easy access to New York. This road connects with the Morris and Essex at Summit. Gillette, Stirling and Millington are stations on this railroad.
There are two manufacturing establishments in the township--one for agricultural implements at Millington, the other a button factory at Stirling. These factories employ about two hundred hands.
The figures relative to township valuation, area, taxation, etc., in 1881 were as follows: Acres, 19,240; valuation of real estate, $764,620; personal property, $195,960; debt, $147,235; polls, 378; State school tax, $2,070.46; county tax, $1,932.81; road tax, $2,500; poor tax, $100.
Before proceeding to speak of the pioneers of the township it is permissible to mention a book published in 1851 by John Littell. It is entitled "Family Records or Genealogies of the First Settlers of Passaic Valley and Vicinity above Chatham, with their Ancestors and Descendants." The preface to the book contains the following commendable sentiments:
"It is an interesting object of curiosity to most men to search into the origin of their own families, to trace their descents and to collect the history of the individuals who compose them. However remote in time or consanguinity it is natural to believe that we inherit from our fathers their mental and physical peculiarities, though modified by circumstances. We enter affectionately into their concerns, and rejoice in their honors and prosperity, and are personally grieved by their misconduct or misfortunes. The love of our kindred is the first degree of the expansion of the heart toward universal benevolence."
Such sentiments are an honor to human nature; and a man who does not love his kindred discredits not only his humanity but his Christianity:--"For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?" We can but regret that the author of this book did not give us more history of these pioneers. He has in most instances confined himself to mere genealogy; but his book is a step in the right direction, and cost a world of pains-taking labor occupying its author seven years in its compilation. We are indebted to this book for many facts about Passaic's pioneers.
These Littells formerly spelled their name Little. George and Benjamin Little, brothers, were merchants in London and emigrated about 1630 to Newbury, Essex county, Mass. John Little, son of George, left home to seek his fortune, and went to Barnstable or Martha's Vineyard, thence to Long Island, and thence the family knew not where. This was before 1665, before steam or rail; and how long these to us little journeys then seemed, away from Massachusetts to Long Island! But, says our faithful chronicler, "soon after 1665 Philip Carteret, governor of New Jersey, sent messengers through all the adjoining provinces to invite settlers." How much this sounds like an Old Testament narrative! "Sent messengers through all the adjoining provinces." This is the germ of an immigration society. These settlers came in considerable numbers from New England (a colony of them to Newark the following year, 1666), and in 1676 we find John Little in Elizabethtown, a purchaser of land from the proprietors. This John Little is assumed to be the father of Samuel Littell. Samuel changes the spelling of his name a little, and marries Lydia Bonnell. They had children Elizabeth, Martha, John, Samuel, Joseph, James, Benjamin, Daniel, David, Jonathan, Sarah, Abigail, Catherine and Nathaniel--fourteen sons and daughters, and two others who died young.
Let us look at another of these ancient worthies. The parents of Daniel Cooper emigrated from Holland to New York in the year 1695. It is said he was born at sea, May 1st 1695. In 1726, when twenty-nine years old, he married Grace Runyon. He removed to Passaic Valley, Morris county, in 1732; bought lot No. 2 of the Berkley tract, containing 500 acres; and had children Catherine, Daniel, Agnes, Peter, John, Benjamin, Rosannah, George, Providence and Anne. He had six wives--Grace Runyan, Jane Westbrook, Grace Manning, widow Fanny Jones, Barbara Margaret Gibbs and Hannah Martin, widow of Colonel Ephraim Martin, and died May 2nd 1795, one day over one hundred years from the day of his birth! John G. Cooper, Esq., fourth child of George Cooper, son of Daniel Cooper (ancient worthy), lived in the valley where his father did. He married Eleanor Perrine, and their son George went to Michigan, and was treasurer of that State.
General Benjamin Ludlow lived on Long Hill, where his father did. He was major-general of militia, judge of the court of Morris county, and several times a member of the Legislature. This name is sometimes spelled Ludlum.
John James and George Badgley, with their three sisters, Phebe, Sarah and Betsey, came from Long Island to Elizabethtown. George settled there, and the others came and took a tract of 400 acres between the First and Second Mountains in the year 1736. Jonathan Badgley, a descendant, had thirteen children, Dayton had eight, Samuel had nine. Huma Badgley, fourth child of Samuel, married Ezekiel Clark and had nine children, and Jacob F. Badgley, ninth child of Samuel, had eight children.
Thomas Baker emigrated from England and settled on Long Island, thence removed to Connecticut Farms (now Union), and there died. His son Thomas jr. married Hannah Thompson, and removed to Passaic Valley in 1738.
A descendant of Daniel and Margaret Osborn had fourteen children, and his eldest child, Mary, married to Ezekiel De Camp, had thirteen children.
Samuel Beach was an early settler.
Benjamin Bedell had a child baptized in 1764, and "kept tavern" in the time of the Revolutionary war. His descendants require six pages to merely name them.
Nathan Bonnel came from Long Island to Elizabethtown; was one of the first company of the "Elizabethtown Associates"; removed thence to the Passaic River above Chatham; married Hannah Miller of Westfield, and left numerous descendants. Her second son, Captain Nathaniel, had thirteen children; her son John had eleven, and the tribes increased and multiplied and replenished New Jersey, and took possession thereof and subdued it.
Solomon Boyle emigrated from Ireland and married a French girl in this country. He purchased of the East Jersey proprietors 600 acres of land crossing Long Hill. He had ten children. One of his daughters has the peculiar name "Lynche." She married John Cooper, son of Daniel 1st (ancient worthy). His son John also had a daughter Lynche. Solomon Boyle must have settled here about 1730, as his second child was born in 1734. We also find Byrams, of the Mendham family.
James Cauldwell with his wife Mary emigrated from Ireland about the year 1732, and settled on Long Hill.
Daniel Clark gives cause for pages of Clarks, and William Cole was a surveyor and schoolmaster, and was known as Master Cole.
William Conklin married Ruth Hedges of Long Island, removed from there to Basking Ridge, and children.
Henry Connet, born in 1698, is the ancestor of the Connets at Brookside, in Mendham township.
There were Corwins and Carys, Crigs and Cranes, Davises and Days.
Philemon Dickerson lived at the east end of Stirling Valley, on the road to Morristown. He married Johannah Sweazy, above Morristown.
Then follow twelve pages of Dods and Dodds, one of the most gifted families of New Jersey; and Joseph Doty, who came from Long Island.
Rev. Jonathan Elmer was born in Norwalk, Conn., in 1727. He came to Turkey (New Providence) and was the stated minister of the "Presbyterian church and congregation" from October 1757 to 1793--thirty-six years. He died in 1807, aged 80 years; his wife died at the age of 94. His son Jonathan married Susan Bedell, and they had eleven children.
Rev. James Caldwell was shot by a drunken soldier, standing sentinel at Elizabethtown, in 1781. His wife Hannah had been shot in 1780 at Connecticut Farms (Union) by a British soldier. They left nine children, who were all taken up to Chatham to the house of Stephen Day, whose wife was a sister of Mrs. Caldwell. The nine children of the Caldwells were: Margaret, who married Isaac Canfield, of Morristown; Hannah, who married James R. Smith, merchant of New York; John Edwards, taken by the Marquis de la Fayette to France; James B., for many years a judge of the court of Gloucester county; Esther, who married Rev. Robert Finley, D. D., of Basking Ridge; Josiah F., many years in the post-office department at Washington; Elias, for some years clerk of the United States supreme court; Sarah; who married Rev. John S. Vredenburg, pastor of the Reformed Dutch church at Somerville; Maria, who married Robert S. Robertson, merchant of New York. History does not give knowledge of any other country where a family of nine helpless orphans, so tragically bereaved, could thus be carried in sympathetic arms and planted in happy, useful homes. If other republics have been ungrateful it is not true of ours.
Richard Runyon was born in 1719, of French ancestry. Daniel Runyon, son of Elias, owns his father's farm at Long Hill. He was appointed a justice of the peace in 1834, and acted in that office fifteen years.
Simeon Morehouse came up from Elizabethtown in the time of the Revolutionary war, and lived some time back of Long Hill, north of Peter Rutan's. He married Rebecca Meeker. They had ten children, and lived to be respectively 81 and 86 years of age.
Isaac Moore married Sally Smalley. They had seventeen children; all lived to be men and women, and all married, but one daughter, who died a young woman.
The following named citizens of Passaic have held the offices attached to their names: In Morris county, Colonel Cornelius Ludlow, Brigadier-General and Major-General Benjamin Ludlow, Brigadier-General and Major-General Solomon Doughty, Captain and Major Solomon Boyle, Captain and Major William M. Clark, Captains Peter Layton, Samuel Stanbury, Benjamin Conklin and Henry W. Tuttle. Judges of the court of common pleas of Morris county: John Carle, Benjamin Ludlow, John G. Cooper, Cornelius Ludlow. Sheriff and county clerk, George H Ludlow. The present governor of New Jersey is a son of Israel and grandson of Colonel Cornelius Ludlow.
The Carles came from Long Island. Jacob Carle bought 500 acres, one-fourth of the Berkley tract, on the north side of the Passaic River. Carles still live on their ancestral lands. John Carle, son of Jacob, lived on Long Hill on a part of the 500 acres. He was a justice of the peace, a judge of the court, and several times a member of the Legislature of the State, and in 1783 was a member of the privy council.
William Alexander, called Lord Stirling, owned 1,000 acres of land lying on both sides of the Passaic, but mostly on the north side and to the north of the point where the river forces its way through Long Hill. The thrifty manufacturing town of Stirling in the immediate vicinity was named in his honor. This land was at the lower end of the Great Swamp. Lord Stirling's residence was on the west side of the Passaic, in Somerset county. It has been modernized and is in good repair.
The inhabitants of this section of the township belonged to the congregation and society of Basking Ridge, and their history is to be found incorporated with the history of that beautiful village. This place was settled by Scotch Presbyterians and a log church erected about 1700. In 1749 a wooden structure was built. This church is cotemporaneous with the Presbyterian church at Morristown, which was established in 1740. There was at Basking Ridge in very early times an academy, which, under the intelligent supervision of Dr. Finley and Dr. Brownlee, attained a high reputation. Many of the older residents of Long Hill attended this academy. Henry Southard was brought here by his parents from Long Island when he was eight years old, in 1755, and here his distinguished son, Henry L., was born and educated.
With good academies at New Providence, Basking Ridge, New Vernon and Morristown it is not surprising that the people of this township should be exceptionally intelligent. There are in this small township six church societies, with suitable houses of worship--two at New Vernon (Presbyterian and Methodist); one at Green Village (Methodist), one at Myersville (Lutheran), one at Stirling (Presbyterian) and a congregation of Baptists at Millington. The church edifice is across the river in Somerset county.
The West Line Railroad is rapidly developing the Passaic Valley from New Providence to Basking Ridge; beautiful residences are being built and flourishing manufactures established, and it is not at all improbable that within ten years the population of the valley will double.
The land about Gillette station is owned by the brothers Robert N. and Alonzo Cornish. Mrs. Robert Cornish was a Harrison, from Orange. Their two eldest sons are taking a full classical course at Andover and Yale. Lands in that part of the township are pleasantly situated and very fertile, and are fairly worth $100 per acre for farming purposes.
The term "Swamp" is hardly applicable now to the rich alluvial lands where was once the bottom of the great Passaic Lake. They have been mostly cleared and ditched; the sun has been let in; the dam across the Passaic where it breaks through Long Ridge has been removed, and fall enough thus obtained for an easy flow of water, and what was the "Great Swamp" is fast becoming a great rich garden. It is now held in small parcels by hardy, industrious Germans, and the day is not distant when it will be the most valuable agricultural portion of Morris county. It was to a late period a refuge for bears and other game. Some of the early settlers in the Swamp were mighty hunters and famous men in their day. This land was very heavily timbered with oak, and ship timber was obtained here in great quantities, including the timber for several government vessels. As an illustration of the depth and fertility of the soil the following fact is mentioned: There was a white oak tree cut for ship timber which was over five feet in diameter at the ground, and at the height of 100 feet it squared 12 inches. It was floated to Chatham and from there hauled to Elizabethtown. It required 12 yoke of oxen and a pair of horses to draw it, and brought $500.
New Vernon was originally called South Hanover. Abraham Canfield was among the most prominent of its early settlers. He came from Connecticut, by way of Newark, and settled here about 1740. His wife was a sister of Joseph Hedden, of Newark.
The Heddens were noted for courage and firmness. Joseph Hedden lived to be ninety-six years of age. He was wont to speak with pride of the fact that he had eight sons in the service of the country during the long battle for freedom. His son Joseph was a man of great nerve. Simon Hedden, Joseph's brother, was a man of great strength and ignorant of fear. In the Newark Sentinel of Freedom, November 1798, we find the following notice of the elder Hedden: "This venerable citizen (he was 96 years of age when he died) had from his youth sustained the character of an honest and upright man and was much lamented by those who were acquainted with him. He had 13 children, 176 grandchildren, 106, great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren." Joseph Hedden jr. was taken from his bed in Newark by British soldiers, on the night of January 25th 1780, carried to New York, and confined in the Andersonville of the Revolution, the infamous Sugar House prison. In consequence of exposure and hardship on the night of his capture, and cruel treatment in prison, his limbs mortified, and he died the following September, in the 52nd year of his age.
Mrs. Abraham Canfield was a worthy representative of a worthy family. She also had thirteen children. Her son Israel lived for a long time at New Vernon, but afterward removed to Morristown. His son B. O. Canfield has fully sustained through a long and useful life the honorable reputation of his ancestors, and now in a green old age lives to enjoy a competency honestly acquired, and is a living witness that the ways of virtue are the ways of pleasantness, and the paths of rectitude the paths of peace. His son John D. Canfield is a rising lawyer in Morristown.
Abraham Canfield was a blacksmith, and carried on at New Vernon the business of working in iron. In fact he was a manufacturer in the broadest sense, for he sent his own pack animals to the iron mines in the vicinity of Dover, brought down the iron ore and manufactured it into the iron which he used. He also kept a country store. He assisted in his day to build a suitable house for an academy at New Vernon, where was long kept up one of the best schools in this section of the State. The house was also used for public meetings, but the people belonged to the church congregation at Morristown, then called West Hanover.
In 1773 Richard Kemble, an Englishman living on the south side of Mount Washington, imported from England a copper still of twelve gallons capacity, and manufactured the first applejack or Jersey lightning made in Morris county. Kemble was a thorough John Bull. He was during the Revolution a pronounced royalist, and gave especial directions in his will as to the disposition of his portraits of the royal family. He was twice married, and in his will speaks of his second wife as his "second venture." The Kembles were large slave owners, and most of the thrifty farmers owned one or more families of negroes.
REMINISCENCES OF THE REVOLUTION.
The grounds occupied by the soldiers in 1779-89 and 1781 for encampments are nearly all situated in this township, and it was on the first level bench below Mount Washington and just north of Kimball's (now Hoyt's) corner where the troops were exercised and reviewed. There was a great abundance of fine chestnut timber on these hills. These chestnut trees were cut to a suitable length, and the logs split in halves, which were put endwise into the ground to form the sides of the huts; other split logs covered these for a roof; the whole was chinked with split pieces of chestnut, and daubed with clay. A stone fireplace and chimney filled one end, and the whole "edifice" was often covered with leaves and dirt. With plenty of rock oak and hickory wood for fire, these huts were far from being uncomfortable, especially when covered over with the deep snow of 1780. The situation of the camp was admirable. It was only the lack of provisions and clothing which made the army uncomfortable. Give any set of pioneers abundant "wilderness" and provisions and they will make themselves very comfortable; and the soldiers of the Revolution were pioneers. The house which the officers of the army lived in near camp, and which Washington often visited in person, is still standing. It is on the road from Mendham to Hoyt's Corners, and is known as the old Wick farm house. It is built in the style once so common in this section of New Jersey--a low, one-story house, the eaves coming near the ground; a long house, with door and narrow hall in the middle, and great chimneys at the ends. This style of house is also seen in New England. It is the one kind of dwelling built by our ancestors here one hundred and fifty years ago. Does not this house distinctly point out what nationality the builder belonged to? This style was built by all the families who came from Long Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Newark and Elizabethtown. Who will kindly tell us what part of Old England it represents? or is it Holland? It was in this house that Tempe Wick so long concealed her favorite riding horse. The huts have all long since disappeared; but the piles of stones used for fireplaces and chimneys still remain, and can be found scattered over a large extent of woodland. During these three winters that the army lived here many soldiers died from natural causes, and the place where they were buried is on the Wick tract, in the north part of Passaic township. The burial ground was thickly planted with locust trees to protect it. It is now overgrown with briars, but has been undisturbed for a hundred years. Here lie the bones of many a poor soldier who laid down knapsack and musket and reported for duty directly to God.
The house is still pointed out, near the boundary of this township, where General Charles Lee was taken prisoner by a party of British cavalry, December 13th 1776. The "Mr. Mackelwraith" who has been accused of betraying General Lee to the British was Elder Samuel McIlrath, of Mendham. He was himself surprised and taken prisoner while walking along the road. He did not reside in the neighborhood and was ignorant of General Lee's movements, and whatever he did to point out any house where officers were quartered, or in any way to act as a guide to the British, he did under compulsion and to save his own life, and not as a traitor. Elder McIlrath was as well known as any man in Mendham, and it was known and read of all men that he was not a tory.
Five years subsequent to this (January 1st 1781) a more sombre event occurred in this vicinity. Two thousand old soldiers, veterans of over three years' service, were in open revolt. The whole Pennsylvania line were mutineers; Captain Billings was killed by his own men and other officers were wounded. General "mad Anthony" Wayne was pushed aside as a boy, and told that if he attempted violence he would be instantly put to death. These troops were full of courage and patriotism, but their manhood had been outraged. They believed that their term of enlistment had expired, and they were refused their discharge. They claimed their rights and were willing to die fighting to defend them. Let not the benefit of this example be overlooked or lost. It will ever be found dangerous to trifle with the rights of a patriotic soldiery. These troops marched to Princeton; their demands were acceded to, they were honorably discharged, and thus disastrously were the camp fires of the Revolution forever extinguished in Morris county.
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