Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Meet the Milfordites! West Milford, the Story of a Suburb, Ch. 5

Chapter Five:  Meet the Milfordites!

The state of Connecticut has long been the bane of Liberals and Progressives.  Their hatred of Capitalism and freedom has its roots in Connecticut society, particularly the Nutmeg State of the 1950s, with its closed-door country clubs excluding all except White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants.  The Progressives despised its wealth, culture, homes, and churches; they set themselves the task of bringing down this middle-class suburb state of New York City.

The New Haven of the 1650s was in some ways, much worse, and in others, much better.  As the ideas of Roger Williams spread, the Dutch patroons, who prided themselves on their religious tolerance, began to wonder about the intolerance of the Puritans they had given “haven” to.

The Puritans were becoming increasing uncomfortable in their new habit, and grew restless at the increasing “tolerance” of other religions.  The New Haven Colony was seeking a union with the English authorities, at least in civil matters.  The Puritans began looking for a new place, a new Eden where their religion could flourish unmolested.

James T. Cunningham authored a book on the history of Newark, called appropriately enough, “Newark.”  He gives finely detailed, and very entertaining and insightful account of the first inhabitants of the city of Newark, where they came from, why they came to Newark, how they succeeded, at first, but ultimately failed in their design of creating a theocracy.  Cunningham tells us, Milford, or Newark as it soon came to be called, “was the last stand for the Puritans.”

 “Worry constantly beset the New Englanders,” Cunningham writes, “lest the sympathetic reign of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, come abruptly to an end.  Their worst fears were realized on May 29, 1660, when King Charles II ascended the throne.  Fearful questions swept through New England.  How would Charles regard the generous self-government that the Puritan colonies had enjoyed?  What retribution would he demand for the beheading of his father, Charles I, in 1649?

“Two of the judges who had condemned Charles I to death fled on a ship to New England in 1660.  The arrival in Boston of these regicides, William Goffe and Edward Whalley, caused mixed emotions, but in New Haven, a sympathetic minister took his test from the Bible:  ‘Hide the outcasts, betray not him that wandereth.”’ The pair went inland from hiding place to hiding place and finally found permanent lodging with Micah Tompkins in Milford on Aug. 19, 1661.

“The judges lived in utter seclusion for two years ‘without so much as going into the orchard.’  A few townsmen, including Robert Treat, knew of their presence in Tompkins’ cellar but when royal agents came seeking the pair, no Milfordite admitted anything.  Tompkins must have had some difficulty within his own family,  but it is related that none of his seven children – including four curious daughters – knew that the ‘angels were in the basement’ [were wanted men].  Sometimes the innocent girls sang a popular ballad ridiculing the regicides, greatly amusing the fugitives.

“Their success in hiding Goffe and Whalley only heightened the concern among Milford’s Puritans.  Suppose Charles decided to strike in fury at those Puritan colonies which openly hated the monarchy?  Connecticut Governor John Winthrop hastened to England in 1661 to plead for terms and to seek a new charter.

“As a counter-measure, Milford sent Robert Treat and three associates to New Amsterdam in November 1661 to negotiate for land in the Dutch colony.  New Amsterdam the previous spring had issued an invitation to ‘all Christian people of tender conscience in England or elsewhere oppressed, to erect colonies anywhere within the jurisdiction of Petrus Stuyvesant, anywhere in the West Indies, between New England and Virginia in America.

“Stuyvesant demurred when the Milford applicants boldly insisted that they must have sole right – religious and civil – to regulate their lives, without appeals to or interference from any authority, including Stuyvesant.  The governor replied that he would grant full religious liberty but wanted New Amsterdam to maintain civil control, including the right of any inhabitant to appeal.

“The Puritans wanted none of that.  Their theology rejected government other than on a local level, administered by the church – which was logical, they felt, since only members of the church would be able to vote or hold office.

“Milfordites refused to compromise, even when Winthrop brought back a charter uniting Connecticut and the New Haven communities (Milford, Branford, and Guilford among them) into one colony.  Winthrop’s document gave Connecticut dominion over a region ‘eastward to the Plymouth Line, northward to the limits of Massachusetts Colony, and westward to the Bay of Delaware, if it may be.’  Technically, therefore, New Amsterdam and what is now New Jersey came under Connecticut domination.

“Uniting with Connecticut was bad enough.  Far worse, from the standpoint of New Haven and its coastal satellites, was the charter’s so-called ‘Half Way Covenant.’  This provided that all baptised persons, ‘not convicted of scandalous actions, are so far church members that, upon acknowledging their baptismal covenant and promising an outward conformity to it, though without any pretence to inward or spiritual religion, might present their children for baptism.’

“Staunch Milfordites and Branfordites seethed at the thought of “Half Way” Christians, ignoring the necessity for broadened suffrage if town and church were to be one, as in Congregational settlements.  Treat joined fellow townsmen in stepping up negotiations with Stuyvesant.  Not once, however, did the obdurate Puritans given an inch to stubborn Dutch insistence upon civil jurisdiction.

“There matters stood in August 1664, when invading English ships under Colonel Robert Nicolls forced Stuyvesant to haul down the Dutch flag over New Amsterdam.  King Charles II reigned supreme along most of the Atlantic coast in America:  Puritans felt stern controls must follow.  Then came news that Charles had ceded a tract of land to Lord Berkeley and George Carteret, with power to govern this region called New Jersey.  Hope swelled along the Connecticut coast after Colonel Nicolls, the first English governor of New York, issued an open invitation to anyone would settle lands west of the Hudson River.

“Milford reluctantly signed the despised Connecticut charter on May 1, 1665, but Branford insisted it would have ‘neither part nor lot’ of the document.   Dissenters in Milford and non-signers in Branford knew that the time had come to move on or knuckle under, to continue as Puritans or to accept some watered-down mixture of religion and civil rule.

“The way clearly led to New Jersey.  Governor Nicolls' invitation already had induced a group of Long Islanders and New Englanders to found Elizabethtown in late 1664 and early 1665.  Some of these Elizabethtowners were related to inhabitants of Milford and Branford and most were known by name or reputation.  They began their settlement happily, only to be shocked in August 1665, when Philip Carteret, a distant relative of George Carteret, arrived to be their governor.”

 Their dismay was well-founded, as Carteret was a friend of the Duke of York, another son of the murdered Charles I and brother of the vengeful Charles II.

“If the coming of the young Carteret to Elizabethtown dismayed those settlers, it provided an added gleam of hope to the Puritans fretting in Branford and Milford.  Carteret brought with him the Concessions and Agreements of Berkeley and Carteret, proprietors of New Jersey, promising ‘liberty of action in all religious concernment, provided it was not used to licentiousness or civil injury to others.’  Puritans in the coastal towns near New Haven chose to ignore the civil injury phrase and placed their hopes in the liberty of action.

Treat and some associates visited Elizabethtown in the fall of 1665 to discuss the matter with Carteret.  Treat first explored the Delaware River, with eye towards what is now Burlington.  But there on the Delaware were the hated Quakers.  Carteret suggested lands to the north, “where the broad Passaic River met the still unnamed bay.  There sweet green marshes grew to the edge of the open waters,” notes Cunningham, “and to the west rose the wooded Watchung Mountains.”

History doesn’t tell us whether Treat visited the site personally.  However, he evidently took Carteret’s word for it for, “Best of all, here was isolation; here was land off the beaten path, a perfect place for people who sought to be alone” and “It was not far different in physical appearance from the Milford location” which Treat had seen before it was settled and grown “into a bustling village, with a church, a Latin school, a mill and a busy shipyard.”

“So it was done,” Cunningham continues. “The Puritans who chafed under Connecticut rule in several towns no doubt exchanged views on a new settlement – although again there is no record – and before the Spring of 1666 the decision was reached to plant a new colony somewhere off the broad bay north of Elizabethtown.  Treat would lead the advance guard.  Others would follow when the site had been prepared.

“Wives gathered together precious family belongings – some pewter, wooden dishes, a kettle, a pan or two, a clock, the family Bible, a few cherished pieces of furniture.  They chose with care; their small ships must first of all carry the cattle and other animals, plus the tools, the wheel barrows and the bellow that would be far more needed than personal things.  Men cleaned their guns and polished their swords; they were invading strange territory, inhabited, perhaps, by unfriendly Indians in spite of Governor Carteret’s assurances that there would be no trouble.”

The ships sailed in silence on the broad river, scarcely moving as the banks lessened the wind.  Nearly four miles off the bay, Treat waved the boats toward shore at a spot where the bluff leveled off.  No sound came from the land.

But the arrival did not go unnoticed.  From the marshes near the clam beds, from the trees and the rushes, furtive Indians sullenly watched the landing.  These were the Lenni Lenape on their annual spring visit from the Delaware to fish for succulent seafood.  Treat knew that Indians frequented the grounds and believed that all their claims on the land had been satisfied by Governor Carteret.”

The Indians, indeed, noted the arrival of the newcomers – and they had an axe to grind.

“The boats of Milford cruised southwestward from Connecticut in the spring of 1666, sailed through Long Island Sound [where they had briefly tried to establish a colony in Southampton] and down the East River.  They passed the English village of New York – whose low, jagged skyline continued to resemble a Dutch burgh – and sailed westward through the Kill von Kull that opened onto the calm waters of a great bay.  Near lay the promised land.

“The crude little boats, fashioned by men of agriculture, law low in the water, for most of the thirty families aboard averaged five or six children, plus animals, household good, weapons and a few fruit trees.  If any of the immigrants wrote of the trip, their letters or journals have not been found, and history is mute as to the number of boats, the number of passengers, even the exact day of arrival.  Tradition says it was May 18, 1666.

“Their leader, Robert Treat, guided the fleet across the bay, northward past the swaying marsh grasses on shore and on to where the bay narrowed into a river the natives called “Passaic.”  Near water’s edge, the marsh was blue with iris; in the hills beyond, white dogwood brightened the woodland.  As the course turned westward, the river bank edged sharply upward from the river, rising well above the deck line.

“The boats nudged up to a landing spot while the Indians watched in silence.  First ashore, according to an abiding story, was 17 year-old Miss Elizabeth Swaine, aided by her attentive sweetheart and future husband, Josiah Ward.  Two young lovers, then, were the first settlers to put foot on soil that would give rise to a great city.”

The watchful Indians came towards the landing boats “from the marshes near the clam beds, from the trees and rushes,” where they had sullenly watched the landing.  These were the Lenape on their annual spring visit to fish.  “Treat knew that Indians frequented the grounds and believed that all their claims” to the land had been satisfied by Gov. Carteret.

“Abruptly, it became clear that the natives were not a welcoming party.  They used easily understood gestures to point out that neither these newcomers nor anyone else had made arrangements for this occupation of their fishing ground without payments – and they were not swayed by Treat’s adamant pleas that it was an oversight.  Even in rudimentary sign language, the meaning of the Lenape was unmistakable:  no money, no land.

“Confused and angered, the New Englanders reboarded their boats and withdrew slowly down wind in the direction of Elizabethtown, many of them crossly insisting that they might better return home than bear this indignity.  They dropped anchor off Elizabethtown, where Governor Carteret hastily supplied Treat an interpreter and guide to lead him and some others up the Hackensack River to the tribal headquarters of the Hackensack.

“Confusion and dismay, tinged with anger directed mainly at Governor Carteret for his failure to clear title with the Indians, filled the Milford boats.  Some argued that such a reception could bode only evil for the future, but cooler heads persuaded the voyagers to bide their time and await the outcome of Treat’s conferences with the Lenni Lenape.”

 “The ties with Connecticut had been cut – and not without prolonged thought and prayer.  Why let this irritation, this minor delay, turn them aside from their lofty purpose?

“As they waited for the definite word from the Indians, the colonists on the boats drew up a compact that would insure settlement by families from Branford, Guilford, Milford, and New Haven.  All of those present signed the covenant on May 21, requiring that Branford and Guilford must sign the document before Nov. 1 to make it valid.

“Captain Samuel Swaine carried the compact back to Connecticut, fully able to embellish it with tales of the beauties of the land of New Jersey.  Here was an earthly Eden, a land of beauty and abundance.”

Meanwhile, Trent met with the Lenape in Hackensack  “and signed a temporary agreement with Perro, an Indian acting with approval from Oraton, the aged, venerable chief of the Hackensacks [a road has been named for him].  Perro agreed to come later to the new town to discuss formal terms, convinced by Treat that the newcomers wished only to live in peace.  Perro and Treat acted through interpreters to hammer out terms for the would-be settlers from Milford.”

“Now the way was clear to grasp a dream that had been developing for thirty years and more:  a peaceful sanctuary dedicated to the greater glory of God.  This, in time, would be Newark.

“Rigid in their belief that all action must be related to the Bible and morally certain that they were a special object of God’s care, the Puritan planters moved inexorably onward in their quest for a Kingdom of God.  Newark was simply one more testing ground, and it became their last.

“Most of these wanderers had been born in England or were descended from parents who had suffered under the persecution of Puritans under King Charles I.  Undying were memories of their uncompromising split from both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England.  They wanted no part of hierarchy, of dogma, of ceremony; they believed their authority stemmed not from an established church but directly from God.

“Some had fled England during the great wave of Puritan migration in the late 1630s.  They tried Massachusetts briefly, knowing that their friends aboard The Mayflower had prospered there, then moved on to Connecticut and Long Island, aware that they required isolation to keep alive their religious dream.  Contact with others tended to corrupt, and so did open spaces.  They needed a compact, tightly knit community, aloof from the world, if their religion was to stay unsullied.

“None typified the determined searcher for religious peace more than the Rev. Abraham Pierson.  A graduate of England’s University of Cambridge, Mr. Pierson emigrated to Boston in 1639, joined the congregation and found to his dismay that Puritanical beliefs already were being modified in the wilderness.

“Within a year after his arrival in America, he went to Lynn, Mass., gathering a small band who organized their congregation by making a covenant with one another and with God.  But Lynn was not to be their Zion.  Following their religious will-o’-the-wisp, Mr. Pierson and his congregation wandered in the wilderness, stopping briefly in Southold, Long Island, before moving again, in 1640, to Southampton.

“Southampton seemed a perfect, isolated, independent place where church and town government were one.  But there was to be no peace.  When Southampton was placed under the control of the Connecticut colony, Mr. Pierson led his flock out of Long Island and across the sound to Branford, Conn., then under the jurisdiction of New Haven, a Puritan colony in its own right and not yet part of Connecticut.   Immigrants from Wethersfield joined the congregation, and Branford became a center of pure thought and action, as measured by the Puritan yardstick.”

“Mr. Pierson was a man of strength and wisdom.  His people followed him willingly, for he was, in effect, their church.  They found him as well a bulwark in dealings with the Indians.  He studied the Indian language, the better “to treat with the ignorant children of the forest concerning the things of their peace.”  The pastor prepared a catechism in the native language, using a translator to finish the work.

“Nearby, the people of New Haven, Milford,  and Guilford maintained their equal faith.  Their towns were small, self-contained and self-sufficient, completely dedicated to the proposition that only Puritans were right.  They felt that no church could save Man from damnation; that must be God’s decision.  But if a religion could help, they had it.  And they were determined that only “Godly men” must govern.”

“[I]n Milford, the leader was Robert Treat, one of four sons of the Richard Treat who had left England for the New World in 1638.  The Treats followed the same nomadic pattern of Crane and Mr. Pierson before taking root in Wethersfield, Connecticut.  The elder Treat stayed in Wethersfield, but son Robert went to Branford in 1639 at the age of 16, possibly to study for the ministry under the town pastor.”

“Branford’s spiritual leader, Mr. Pierson, was not on the first boats.  He stayed behind to prepare his congregation – nearly all of Branford’s population – to join him in seeking a new and better land, a Zion in the Wilderness.  When he came later, he brought all church records with him, thus merely changing location of his congregation rather than establishing a new church.

“The time had come to leave.  Winter’s icy grip had relaxed, freeing the bay in early May of 1666 as Treat led about thirty families aboard two or more boats.  They said their good-byes and set sail with mingled hopes and heavy hearts.

“This was not a crew of treasure-hunting adventurers.  These were sound, established people, many of them well off by colonial standards.   Nearly all had a reasonably good education, considering the times.  Several of them were skilled – carpenters, potters, sawyers, millers – all needed in a new land.  Most of them had large families, a definite asset in an agricultural economy.  All were stirred by devout faith.

“They had no interest in in religious toleration in the modern sense.  They never had a moment’s doubt about their obligations or their rights in founding a town upon the shores of the Passaic River in 1666; they sought religious freedom – for themselves, on their own terms.  That was not unusual.  Except in Rhode Island and Delaware, the concept of genuine religious freedom was non-existent in colonial times.

“Indeed, had anyone asked the opinion of those aboard the Milford and Branford boats, they would have agreed completely with the early Massachusetts preacher who declared, ‘Tis Satan’s policy to plead for an indefinite and boundless toleration.’  They would have understood and said, ‘Amen!’ to another Puritan who denounced freedom of worship as ‘the first born of all abominations.’  Southwestward they sailed, sure of what they were about, certain that God smiled on them all the way.”                                                                                              

“The first families spent the summer building crude shelters, in many cases little more than caves.  Convinced that they had found their long-sought Zion, they began bringing down from Connecticut more household goods and such domestic animals as cows and sheep.  There is little question that the boats sailed often between Milford and the Passaic that summer.”

“Before they left to join those already in New Jersey, the heads of 25 Branford families carefully examined the document Swaine had brought and signed this article of faith on Oct. 30, 1666:

“’1st – That none shall be admitted freemen or free burgesses within our Town upon Passaick River, in the Province of New Jersey, but such planters as are members of some or other of the Congregational Churches, nor shall any be chosen to Magistracy or to carry on any part of said civil Judicature, or as deputies or assistants, to have power to vote in establishing laws, and making or repealing them, or to any Chief Military Trust or Office.  Nor shall any but such Church Members have any vote in such election.  Tho all others admitted to be planters have right to their proper inheritance, and do and shall enjoy all other civil liberties, privileges, according to all Laws, orders, grants which are or hereafter shall be made for this Town.

‘2nd – We shall with care and diligence provide for the maintenance of the purity of religion professed in the Congregational Churches, whereunto subscribed the Inhabitants of Branford.”

“All who signed the document, then or later, affirmed the right – indeed, the duty – of the church to control both spiritual and civil activities.  Non-believers might come and enjoy some privileges but would have little or no say over their legal lives.  They would be uncomfortable, out of place.

Some names from the original settlers are familiar to old-time residents of northern New Jersey:  Kitchell, Tichenor, Baldwin, Lyon, Ward, Ball.  Originally, the town was named Milford, after the town they had left behind in Connecticut.  But Rev. Pierson was a beloved figure, and it was finally settled that the town would be named after the town in England where he had been ordained as a minister:  Newark-on-Trent, shortened to Newark, which has a Biblical connation of “New Ark” or “New Work.”

“The Newarkers signed a formal treaty with the Hackensacks on July 11, 1667, for a tract ‘bounded and Limited by the bay Eastward, and the great River Pasayak Northward, the great Creke or River in the meadows running to the head of the Cove, and from thence bareling a West Line for the South bounds, wh. (which) said Great Creke is commonly Caled and known by the name Weequachick, on the West Line backwards in the Country to the foot of the great Mountain called Watchung, being as is Judged about seven or eight miles from Pesayak towne…the bounds northerly, viz:   Pesayak reaches to the Third River above the towne, ye River is called Yauntakah, and from thence upon a northwest Line to the aforesaid mountaine…’

“Pasayak or Passaic (a river of many spellings, even within one document), Weequachick (Weequhick) and Yauntakah or (Yantacaw) are names still existing.  The old boundaries are best located in terms of modern place names – from Clifton to Hillside, north and south; from Newark Bay to the base of First Mountain, west and east.  The tract included present-day Montclair, Bloomfield, Nutley, Belleville, Glen Ridge, most of the Oranges and Irvington, parts of Maplewood and Short Hills.

“For this real estate, the transplanted New Englanders gave ‘fifty double-hands of powder, one hundred barrs of lead, twenty Axes, twenty Coates, ten Guns, twenty pistolls, ten kettles, ten Swords, four blankets, four barrells of beere, ten paire of breeches, fifty knives, twenty howes, eight hundred and fifty fathem of wampum, two Ankors of Licquers or something Equivolent and three troopers Coats.’  Except for ‘only a small remainder engaged to them by bill,’ the commodities were paid on the spot.

“The deed does not indicate where the ceremony took place, but eighty years later very old residents recalled that it was at the ‘head of the cove’, now the far southern end of Weequahic Park.  The pleasantness of the season, the nearness to town and the fact that the Indians surely were on location for their annual summertime shellfish hunt, make it likely that a large audience looked on.

“Secure in their holdings, the Puritans laid out their own on the order of New Haven, setting down street patterns that still exist.  In the town center, running generally north and south along an old Indian trail, they established a magnificent street eight rods (132 feet) wide.  Bisecting this, east and west, they laid out a street of equal grandeur.  This intersection eventually became Broad and Market Streets, the celebrated ‘Four Corners.’”

“Plots of land were allocated in a lottery, with each family head drawing a number which gave him a chance to specify his choice of land.  Great care was taken to see that no man suffered an injustice in receiving property.

“The settlers agreed to let Robert Treat choose his lots before the drawing and gave him eight acres – two more than the six granted the others.  Treat took his six acres in the town center – the southeast corner of today’s Broad and Market Streets, extending east to Mulberry Street and south to beyond the location of the present First Presbyterian Church.  For his ‘Recompense,’ or bonus, he chose two acres on the corner of Market Street and West Back Lane (Washington Street).

“Mr. Pierson chose a lot adjacent to Treat’s, south along Broad Street.  Land for the meeting house and graveyard was reserved on the south-west corner of Broad and Market, across from Treat.  On this lot was a glistening little pond.  Settlers named it Frog Pond, undoubtedly in memory of home.  Early Milford [Conn.] maps had a ‘Frog Lane.’

“Every settler agreed to pay taxes for the support of the ‘upholding of the settled ministry and the preaching of the Word in our town.’  Highways were deemed a public necessity, and they could be built anywhere, ‘yea though it should fall out to be across or within any man’s land.’

“The worth of every settler for purposes of taxation was judged by a committee of seven men.  Every family head was considered worth 50 pounds in his own right and every child or servant was assessed at ‘ten pounds by the Head.’  Thus a man with four children and two servants would be worth 110 pounds (his wife not counting anything of value for taxing purposes).  In addition, ‘all other kinds of goods and estates, real and visible, were considered part of a man’s worth.”

“There was always the possibility that a potential trouble maker might somehow acquire land in Newark.  To forestall this, the settlers voted that ‘in case any shall come into us or arise up amongst us that shall willingly or willfully disturb us in our Peace and Settlements, and especially that would subvert us from the true religion and worship of God, and cannot or will not keep their opinions to themselves or be reclaimed after due time,’ such dissenters must ‘quietly depart the place seasonably.’  In fairness, they would be paid ‘valuable considerations for their lands or houses.’”

Once they had built their houses, in equally divided lots so that everything was fairly shared, they set themselves to the task of building their meeting house (church).

“Until they raised their meeting house, Newark’s founders felt unfulfilled.  Gathering in an open air town meeting on Sept. 10, 1668, the residents agreed to build their meeting house ‘as soon as may be’ on a precise spot on the six-acre corner church lot to be chosen by the Rev. Abraham Pierson, Robert Treat, and Deacon Ward.

“All abled-bodied men in town were obliged to help if given ‘seasonable warnings.’  The wealthiest were expected to contribute the most in labor, but every man was pledged to work at least two days on the meeting house.

“Immediately after voting to build the church, the townspeople hired young Thomas Johnson to beat the town drum during the coming year, warning of daybreak when energetic men must be about and sounding the hour when tired men should be abed.  He would summon men to work, alert the town to danger, route the late-risers out of bed on Sunday mornings and get them headed for church.  For this, young Johnson would receive eight shillings in advance, plus five shillings a month – all payable to his father.”

 “The crude frame meeting house finally was ready and it served well.  Newark’s Puritans approved its lack of ornamentation, the complete absence of statues or paintings.  Men sat on one side, women and children on the other, with boys and young men in the back, where they could easily be watched and punished for misbehavior.”

 “The town meeting of March 1669 appointed a committee to determine what drains were required in the meadowlands.  Three months later, men labored on both a drainage ditch and a new road across the meadows, contributing toil according to their assets:  a day of work for each 100 pounds of net worth on the road and a day for each 200 pounds of worth on the ditch.  A day’s work was considered a ditch two rods long (33 feet), two feet wide and two feet deep.  Each property owner dug his share, then warned his next neighbor to take it from there.  If a slacker ‘refused to work when warned,’ the town could hire substitutes, ‘though it be for double or treeble wages,’ paid by the laggard.

 "As each man finished his share of the ditch or road he hammered in a stake, painted his initials on it to proclaim to his neighbors that he had dug his way.

“Newark had little patience with drones or non-participants, yet reading between the lines of Treat’s entries into the town Minute Book, one learns there were both.  Those who ‘refused to go when warned’ of work were proof that to be a Puritan was not necessarily to be enthusiastic about work or town affairs.

“Lack of interest in community affairs began early.  Henry Lyon, Sergeant John Ward and John Brown were appointed in September 1668 to ‘hear every man’s reason of his or their absence, late coming or disorderly departing or withdrawing from any of our town meetings.’  By May 1671, it was agreed that ‘any twenty of the freeholders’ could carry on ‘any business belonging to the whole town,’ provided notice of meeting had been given the town.  The following year, the town fathers agreed to fine any man who “doth not come timely’ to town meetings after receiving 24 hours’ notice.

“Government business went on despite the recalcitrants.”  The town leaders attended to such matters as straying livestock, for which a community pen was built and a pen keeper assigned.  They also turned to such concerns as wandering livestock, further divisions of land and the need for military preparedness.

“The original great piece of real estate acquired from the Indians had to be split up, both to satisfy those who had paid taxes for the acquisition and to fix responsibility for property.  Land divisions were made several times in the first few years, first through allocations of meadow lots in January 1669, then through dividing the ‘salt meadow’ in February 1670.  All of the property was assigned by lot.

“Three years later, a third drawing acknowledged that a new generation was itching for space.  It was agreed that young men must share in the lottery along with older inhabitants.  In six years, the children of the original colonists were forming new families, the joy of any young community.

“Newark was dedicated to aloofness, but commerce began in the burgeoning town.  Henry Lyon, town treasurer, wealthy land holder and builder of the town pound, was instructed in 1668 to ‘keep an ordinary for the entertainment of travellers and strangers.’   Few strangers ever came, but Lyon had to provide bed and board and a spot of liquid refreshment to anyone happening by his ordinary (inn).

Being an unincorporated village in a divided colony, Newark had no money (a circumstance which is not so different from the present). Taxes were paid in crops, livestock, and skills.

“All commerce thrived on such barter.  Men paid their taxes or bought necessities with what they possessed:  the harvests of their fields or the labor they could supply with their muscles, for there was little actual cash in circulation.  In his first year in town, Mr. Pierson accepted as part of his salary a house, with the remainder ‘in several kinds of payments,’ including ‘a pound of butter for every milk cow in town.’  Butter, wheat, corn, milk, boards and nails, were all acceptable for either taxes or trade for many years.

“Men traded with their skills, too.  Azariah Bush was given three acres in May 1669, agreeing to maintain ‘a good sufficient boat or bigger vessel for the use and commodity of the town as they may need.’  The same year, John Rockwell received six acres for similar service.  Zacariah Burwell and John Baldwin received concessions for sawing wood for a town mill.  Others came, offering desired trades, and Newark could not ask them to be both skilled and Puritans.  Thus, secularization spread.

“The years sped by.  Families had begun to grow, a second generation was moving on.  Many of these clung to the old stern views, for they had been reared in the unrelenting atmosphere of Milford, Guilford, and Branford.  They went to church, married church members and baptized their children with such good Biblical names as Obadiah, Ephraim, Josiah, Moses, Zebediah, Caleb, Hannah, Rebecca, Phebe, Rachel, and Sarah, plus many a John and Elizabeth.

“Increasing numbers of little Obadiahs and Hannahs as well as Josiahs and Sarahs, prompted a concern for education.  At first, learning stemmed from the Piersons.  The elder Mr. Pierson had brought with him to Newark a library of more than 400 volumes, one of the largest private collections in the New World.  Such education emphasized reading from the Scriptures.

“Then in November 1676, the town agreed to hire a school master to ‘teach the children or servants of those as have subscribed, the reading and writing of English, and also arethmetick if they desire it.”  He had to give them ‘as much as they are capable to learn and he capable to teach them.’”

“Life was stern and cheerless for the young, and some of them rebelled.  Joseph Walters was appointed in November 1680 ‘to look after and see that the boys and youth do carry themselves reverently in the time of public Worship upon the Lord’s Day and other Days.”

“Shocked adults pondered this rising generation, which ‘do misbehave themselves’ inside and out of the Meeting House, carrying on by ‘sleeping, whispering or the like.’  There were also ‘grown persons as well as Boys’ engaged in such disregard for the teachings and preachings of their elders.

Meanwhile, Robert Treat returned to Connecticut.  “Treat lived with distinction for 37 years after leaving Newark.  He fought vigorously in King Philip’s War, was elected Governor of Connecticut in 1683, and won his colony’s lasting gratitude in 1686 when he hid is charter in an oak tree (the Charter Oak) to keep it out of the hands of Sir Edmund Andros, then Governor of New England.  The old soldier died in 1710 at the age of 88 – 44 years after he had helped found Newark.

“Time moved on for all the elders who had migrated from Connecticut in 1666 and 1667.  The venerable Mr. Pierson survive a withering sickness in 1671 and continued in poor health even with son Abraham Jr. aiding in church duties.  When Newark’s first minister died in 1678, the son stepped into the pulpit and became the second spiritual leader of the changing town.”

“Young Mr. Pierson, described as ‘fleshy, well-favoured and comely-looking,’ was 33 when he succeeded his father in the Newark pulpit.  He had been educated at Harvard and returned to Newark after graduation in 1668.  He married Miss Abigail Clark, a young woman from his home town of Milford, and in Newark, they began their family of four boys and five girls.  This Mr. Pierson was different from his father – more liberal, more controversial, more independent, more given to Presbyterian doctrines.  His philosophies irritated some strict members of his congregation to the extent that they withheld his salary for a time in 1686, only to restore it fully in January 1687.”

“Twenty-one years had passed since 1666, long enough for a baby born that year to have reached legal maturity.  Younger people yearned for more liberties, but older heads tightly controlled both church and town affairs.  Mr. Pierson stayed for another five years before sailing for Connecticut to become pastor of a church in Killingworth (now Clinton).  Ten years later, he became the president of the College of Connecticut, later known as Yale College.  So great was his influence that the college was first located in Killingworth to suit Mr. Pierson’s convenience.

“By the time the second Mr. Pierson returned to his boyhood colony, many of the original Newarkers lay beneath sandstone markers in the old graveyard beside the meeting house.  Lawrence Ward, Robert Kitchell, Hugh Roberts, Matthew Camfield, Delivered Crane, Stephen Crane, John Harrison, and Josiah Ward of the original settlers all had preceded the first Mr. Pierson in death.

“As each of the signers of the original compact died, old Newark died a little, too, although its philosophy had been doomed from the start.  The time for a rigidly limited theocracy in colonial America had passed even before 1666.  A bigger world rubbed against the sound little town on the Passaic.  Young people moved off to the hills and away from the church.  The gradual involvement with other towns, other personalities, other ideas became important:  a ‘new’ Newark – the first of many – was in the offing.”
By 1695, Arent Schuyler had purchased the Pompton tract and by the early 18th Century there were tolerant Dutch settlers and German immigrants already settled in a place called “Newfoundland.” Sehulsters and other Newark residents, dissatisfied with Newark’s turn towards Presbyterianism and seeing British rule in the cards for the diverse colony, they worked their way up into the Northern Highlands, much as future suburbanities would do hundreds of years later.

Seeking lands of their own and room for their growing families, the second and third generations of Newark began spreading out in the adjoining countryside, particularly the woods and hills of northern New Jersey.  In time, some of them sought out the hillsides of the upper Pequannoc tract of Pompton and the outer reaches of Bergen County where land was abundant and the Lenape were peaceful and friendly (for the most part). They took with them their livestock, tools, housewares, Bibles, and their stubborn, only slightly-less uncompromising attitude they'd inherited from their forefathers, their still-unquenched desire for isolation from corruption, their "leave-us-alone" attitude, and transplanted into the iron hills of northwestern New Jersey. 
 
There it dug strong roots and was passed on even to current generations, generations who moved in centuries later.  Perhaps these "invaders" - as the descendants of the original settlers regarded them - had very little in common with the Puritan faith, but they shared the same love of independence and home rule.  That love dug itself into the iron woodlands where it has held fast (so far), even against the floods of overdevelopment, the Mount Laurel decision, and Regionalization.
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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