Chapter's VI and XIX deal with early Quakers (1686 - 1788) in and around the town of Woodbridge, New Jersey, including those Meetings formed in Amboy, Shrewsbury, Rahway and Plainfield.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Joseph Dally for his painstaking research and preservation of this bit of Quaker history.
The history of the Quakers in New Jersey has never been written, notwithstanding it is a field which presents interesting facts, throwing much light on the times of the settlement as viewed from the present. It is a well-known fact that the Friends were much more numerous in the State two hundred years ago, in proportion to the population, than they are now; hence their history is no insignificant part of the history of the State. A great many of them settled in East Jersey; and it is with these, especially those of them who came to Woodbridge, that we have to do in this chapter.
The first meeting in this section of which we have any account was held August 3d, 1686. The old book in which this record is made is a curiosity. It is bound, like the Woodbridge Town Book, in thick sheep-skin, and is written in the quaint chirography of the time. The orthography is also unmistakably ancient, but remarkably legible. With this old book in our hands we seem to be en rapport with the men and events of auld lang syne. Its record extends from 1686 to 1750.
The following is the entry under the first date:
"Friends at Amboy agreed to have a Monthly Meeting their and that upon the second 4th day of each Month, and the first to begin the second 4th day of the 9th Month 1686."
That is all. The next entry, made on the 10th of September, announces that the monthly meeting held at Amboy "agreed" that "all friends" should bring "minuts of ye Births & Burials since they first came into this place that they may be Recorded."
The Monthly Meetings continued to be held for three years at Amboy when a Monthly Meeting was begun at Woodbridge. But we will make a few extracts from the Amboy minutes, inasmuch the Woodbridge Quakers worshiped with those of that place until the period designated.
On the 8th of October (1686) the Friends "agreed to pay three pounds mony of this province for the yearly Rent of the Meeting Room." "Likwayes finds it necessary that there be six formes for seats in the Meeting room the Making of which John Laing toke into consideration." (1997 Editor's note - One definition of Form or Formes in the Oxford English Dictionary is: "Form - 17. A long seat without a back, a bench.")
The carefulness of the Friends in providing for the needy among them is seen in the following:
"At the Monthly Meeting held in Amboy the 13th of the 3d Month 1687 John pearce being present the Meeting told him that he had done wrong in sending a paper to the people of the world (desiring to be suplyd with a cow he being poor) and not coming to the Monthly Meeting of friends to lay his necessities before them. And thus left him to consider & whether he would Redress his fault if he feels it in himself.
On the 11th of March of the same year it was directed that "John Reid or his wife take care that widow Mill do not want & give Report to the Meeting." Also two Friends were appointed "to speak to widow Mitchel that shee do not talke of Peter Sonmans as it seems she doth, Rather wish hir to come to the Meeting and if yr be difference lay it before friends according to the order of truth."
At the next meeting (April 8th) the "difference" alluded to was settled by arbitration. The "formes" were reported as having been paid for.
Where the Meeting Room in Amboy was located is a matter of much uncertainty. The Friends themselves cannot tell. John Barclay's house may have been the place, (Mr Barclay's residence in Amboy was probably the old brick building , still standing the rear of the house for many years occupied by the Golding family, on High street near the Square.) inasmuch as he was a prominent member of the denomination. I judge this to be the case from another fact, although it is by no means conclusive: that John Barclay was appointed to receive the contributions for the payment of the "six formes for seats" - it being highly probable that the owner of the house should be entrusted with the funds for its internal improvement.
"At the Monthly Meeting held in Amboy on the 13th of the 5th Month 1687 The friends appoynted to speak to Benjamine Clerk brought his answer which was, that he would not come [to meeting] because Governor Lawry called him a divil (as he sayes) wherewith friends not being satisfied desires George Keith and John Barclay to speak to him again." But Mr. Clerk persisted in his charge against the Governor, after which we find no further reference to the matter.
On the 14th of October John Reid, who had hitherto kept the book, resigned it in consequence of leaving the place; going to Monmouth County, doubtless, to settle on the tract on the Hope River which was granted him for services in drawing maps for the proprietors. (Whitehead's Contributions, p.45) Benjamin Griffith was appointed to fill the vacancy. Whitehead mentions this man as arriving at Perth Amboy in 1687, and subsequently, in 1696, becoming a Commissioner of the Minor Court; and yet on the 17th of August, 1689, a meeting is appointed at his house "in Woodbridge." From these facts we infer that Griffith moved to Woodbridge somewhere about 1689. His penmanship is of an elaborate description, and easily read.
The first Monthly Meeting held in Woodbridge occurred on the 17th day of August, 1689, as above stated, and is recorded thus: "At a Monthly meeting in Woodbridge it was agreed that the monthly meeting should be kept the third Fifth day in every month, at Benjamin Griffith's in Woodbridge. That Friends of the Ministry coming to Visit us, should be taken care of."
The next entry in the record is written in a large, bold hand, as follows: "The above said Monthly Meeting fell from ye year 1689 to ye year 1704 by reason of George Keith's Separation which was 15 years and Then was appointed to Be Kept att Woodbridge First by a preparative Meeting and abt 2 years after Kept a Monthly Meeting."
The cause of this long interval of fifteen years in the history of the Woodbridge Quakers is well known. George Keith, a man eminent among the Friends in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, began preaching and writing in favor of plainer garments, "of the abandonment of all forcible measures to uphold secular or worldly government, and the emancipation of negroes after a reasonable term of service." Keith had many followers, causing much bitterness in the hitherto peaceful denomination. The leader, however, was unequal to the task of crystallizing the elements he had disturbed. He became censorious and overbearing, in consequence of which his influence declined; and in 1694 the yearly meeting in London divested him of all authority and his career as a Quaker was ended. In 1702 he visited Shrewsbury as an Episcopalian missionary and created a profound sensation.
On the 24th of August, 1704, at a quarterly meeting held in Shrewsbury, it was "agreed" that "for time to come it [the meeting] should be kept at Nathaniel Fitz Randolph's house, in Woodbridge every first day of the week until Friends se kause to alter it." "it was then and there proposed by some friends in and about Woodbridge, to wit, John Kensy, Benjamin Griffith, William Sutton and John Laing whether it might not be konvenient to have a Preparative-meeting setled there to be held once a month? the Question was considered by friends and they answered, that it was their sence that it might be Serviceable and agreed to it, and left the appointment of the day when it should be held, to the friends of Woodbridge meeting."
The Woodbridge meetings, except two, (held at John Kinsey's in November & December, 1707) continued from this time forward to be held at the house of Fitz Randolph until the Friends had completed their meeting house, in which the first session was held September 19th, 1713. We cannot tell where Fitz Randolph dwelt; hence we cannot designate the locality where the Quakers met, for so many years, in harmonious council. Nor are we wiser in regard to the house of Benjamin Griffith where the first Quaker meeting in the village was convened. In 1707 we find the latter spoken of as an inhabitant of Amboy, from which we infer that he had returned to that place, although he attended the Woodbridge meetings with unabated interest. It may not be out of place to state that some well-informed people believe Nathaniel Fitz Randolph's residence to have occupied the site of the building which was the property of the late John Barron, near the depot on Green Street.
The Preparative Meeting, which the Shrewsbury Quarterly Meeting had authorized in Woodbridge at the discretion of the Quakers at the latter place, was instituted September 9th of the same year (1704) and appointed to be held every third Thursday in the month.
We shall not, in the following account of successive events, make mention of every meeting held, but select such facts and sentiments as will prove most interesting to the reader.
On the 21st of October, 1704, Benjamin Griffith was re-elected clerk, and continued to serve in that position until his death, which occurred in April or May, 1709. December 15th, 1704, a long article, full of good counsel, was read in the meeting. it was sighed "G.F." Who "G.F." may have been, we can only conjecture. Possibly it was Grace Fitz Randolph, wife of Nathaniel. It may have been some Shrewsbury Friend of eminence writing an advisory letter occasionally to the East Jersey Quakers. The latter seems the more plausible supposition, from the fact that many of the things mentioned in the article referred to, pertain to matters of doctrine and discipline. Two letters, signed G.F.," follow the lengthy document, the first of which reads thus: "Dear Friends Be faithful in ye service of God and mind ye Lords business, be diligent, and bring ye power of ye Lord over all those that have gainsaid it; and all you that be faithful, go to visit them all that have been convinced, from house to house, that if possible you may not leave a hoofe in Egypt, and so every one go seek ye lost Sheep, and bring him home on your back to ye Fold, and there will be more joy of that one Sheep, than of the Ninety nine in the Fold."
From the second letter we make the following extract: "And Friends all take heed of sleeping sotishness and dulness in Meetings for it is an illsavory thing to se one sit nodding in a Meeting, & so to loose ye sense of ye Lord & shamefac'dness both; and it grieveth ye upright and watchful, that wait upon ye Lord, to se such things, and for ye Priests people and others that come into your Meetings, to se you that come together to worship God and wait upon him, to have fellowship in His Spirit, for you to sit nodding is a shame & unseemly thing."
In this December meeting, in the record of which the foregoing matters are written, a proposition was made for the purchase of a piece of ground for a meeting house and burial place. it was not regarded at that time with a general favor. The proposition was renewed at the next meeting, held January 13, 1705, with no better result, although considerable "discourse" ensued.
An act having been passed by the Legislature "for the Ease and Benefit of the People call'd Quakers," the April meeting (21st), made out a certificate, to be used in case of necessity, which under the provisions of the law, secured to the holder thereof exemption from military duty.
In the meeting of May 19th we catch our first glimpse of the trouble among the Friends in regard to the giving and taking of certificates of membership. A small minority opposed the system as being too much conformed to the ways of the world; the majority favored it because it prevented imposition and established the character of the member removing, above the reach of suspicion. Two letters were read from John Pearce of Elizabethtown, a man of very excitable temperament, in both of which he reproves the Woodbridge Quakers for using the certificates.
The yearly meeting, held at Burlington in July, 1705, issued a letter to "all Quarterly & Monthly Meetings in East Jersey, West Jersey & Pennsylvania," which is given in extenso in this old record. It is an ably written paper, occupying eleven large, closely-written pages. From this we learn that the Yearly Meeting was the chief authority among the Quakers, next to which ranked the Quarterly and then the Monthly Meetings. Two representatives were chosen in the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting four times a year to go to Shrewsbury, where the Quarterly Meeting was generally held. The Quarterly in turn sent at least four representatives to the Yearly Meeting, which was held at different places at the option of the Meeting itself. The Preparative Meeting is thus described: "__ye meeting called ye Preparative-meeting where they are established by ye monthly-meeting . . . be held at ye breaking up of every weekly-meeting of worship next before ye monthly-meeting they belong to, unless ye monthly-meeting se cause to appoint another day." The Woodbridge meeting was Preparative from 1704 until October 19th, 1706, when the yearly meeting established it as a monthly meeting.
The following extract will give modern readers an idea of the strictness which was enjoined upon Friends in "ye olden time":
They are not considered good Quakers "If any men or women friends young or old keep not themselves and children to plainness of apparel as becomes our ancient Christian profession, If any men weare long lapped sleeves, coats folded on the sides, Superfluous Buttons, broad Ribbands about their Hats, or gaudy flower'd, or striped stuffs, or any sort of Perriwigs unless necessitated, & if any are necessitated, then that it be as near ye colour as may be to their own, & in other respects resembling as much as may be a sufficient natural head of hair, without the vain custom of being long behind, or mounting on the forehead. Also, if any women yt profess the Truth, wear or suffer their children to wear their Gowns not plain, or open at the breast with gawdy stomachers, needless rolls at the sleeves, or line their mantues or Bonnets with gawdy colours, or cut their hair & leave it out on ye brow, or dress their heads high, or wear Hoods with long laps, or Pinners plaited or gathered on ye brow, or double hem'd or pinched, or wear long Scarfs open before, or have their Gowns pinn'd upon heaps, or plaits like the vain fashons of the world, or if any are found to wear or follow any other vain and needless fashon & dresses, for as it hurts their growths, so it also burthens the life in such as are careful & faithful, it being not agreeable to that shamefacedness, plainness & modesty which people professing godliness with good works ought to be found in, as the holy Scriptures testify. That therefore friends be careful as much as may be not to buy or sell any striped or flowered stuffs and that all Tailers concern'd be advised not to make any gaudy or superfluous aparrel.
"If there be any superfluous furniture in houses, as double-curtains and Vallants, great Fringes &c: that they be laid aside.
"If any accustom themselves or children to call the week dayes and months the names given them by the heathen in honor of their Gods it being contrary to Scripture and our antient testimony.
"If any accustom themselves or Children to speak the corrupt and unscriptural Language of you to a single person."
On the 18th of August the building of a Meeting-house was again discussed, John Kinsy offering a plot of ground for the purpose. Kinsy's offer was not accepted on account of the inconvenience of the locality in which his land lay. It was resolved, however, to select a suitable place. In September, Nathaniel Fitz Randolph reported that no eligible spot had been heard of; but in October he stated that a man willing to sell a desirable piece of ground had been found. He was authorized to effect the purchase of it. On the 21st of January, 1706, he informed the Friends that the land, comprising of half an acre, could be obtained for six pounds. The meeting approved the proceedings of Fitz Randolph, and he was directed to make the purchase in his own name. A subscription of eleven shillings and six pence was paid, which was swelled at subsequent meetings to the full amount required. William Sutton, being about to remove from Piscataway to Burlington, on the 15th of June donated a year-old steer "towards building [the] Meeting-house." The animal was taken to be "wintered" for 6s. by Thomas Sutton, son of William, by order of the Friends. At this date the land in question had been laid out by Nathaniel Fitz Randolph and John Allen; and a deed was written by the Clerk, Benjamin Griffith, by which the land was held in trust for the Quakers by Fitz Randolph and John Kinsy. John Allen, formerly minister of the Woodbridge Town Church, was the man from whom the plot was bought , the said Allen owning considerable property about where the Methodist Episcopal Church now stands. Many of our Woodbridge readers remember the Friends' burial place recently occupied by the lecture-room of the Methodists; but few, if any, are aware that a Quaker Meeting House once stood there. Such is the fact, and the history of this ancient building, no trace of which is left, is that which we are now recounting. How soon, alas, perishes all the handiwork of man! This house cost much sacrifice and toil to complete it, as the records show; but what remains, except these yellow leaves, to tell us the struggles of the godly worshipers. May they sleep the sleep of the just in their unknown graves, for the story of their toils is know to One who giveth rest to His beloved.
The deed for the land for the Meeting-house and burying ground is recorded in full, and the bounds are thus given: "On the north by a highway, on ye west by land now in the possession of Benjamin Donham, & on ye south & east by land of the said John Allen." It is dated "the fourteenth day of the second month," 1707.
In the meeting of March 15th, 1707, the following minute occurs: "Agreed That the Land design'd for a Burying-place be fenced with Posts & Rails & John Lootbourrow & Joseph Fitz Randolph were desired to endeavor to git some body to do it." But this rail fence was not begun until March, 1708, a year after it was ordered; so that we regard the order as quite necessary which was passed at the latter date, that Loofbourow and Fitz Randolph "take care to git it finished."
In May, 1708, the first decided movement toward building the long-talked-of Meeting-house was made. On the 13th a subscription of 34 pounds was effected, to which 7 pounds. 5s. was added at the next meeting. That steer which William Sutton donated in June, 1706, was "wintered" at first for 6s.; then, in 1707, for 6s. 9d.; and in 1708, after vainly trying to sell the animal, John Laing prevailed on Daniel Sutton to "winter" it for 8s. 6d.; from which we infer that it was growing fat, and devoured more provender than in former years.
On the 19th of March, 1709, it was "agreed to build a Meeting-house of Timber thirty foot long from out to out, twenty foot broad & twelve foot high between ye cell and plate" In May and agreement was made with a carpenter to make the "outside" for 37 pounds. In August we find that "William Robinson is appointed to draw ye meeting hous timber to the place where ye hous is to stand upon. John Kinsy is ordered to provide for ye raising som victualls & drink it is left to his discresion how much & what."
The meeting of October 15th was altogether devoted to the new building project and the fencing of the grave-yard, for the fence had been only partially built. James Clarkson offered to carry the posts and rails to the burying-ground on the following week; but in the November meeting he reported that he could not find the posts and rails, so that he did not carry them according to promise. Nathaniel Fitz Randolph was ordered to get "shingling nayles for ye meeting house & Clabords nayles against time ye Carpenter wants them." In October an appeal had been made to the Shrewsbury Friends for financial aid, which was responded to - Edward Fitz Randolph, the Quaker financier of Woodbridge, bringing from Shrewsbury, in December, 4 pounds 15s. 10d. In February, 1710, William Robinson "is ordered to gett bords for ye meeting-house flore & to speak to ye brik maker for briks for ye chimney." Robinson seems to have been a stirring man. At the next meeting he reported that he had spoken to the brick-man about the bricks and he said that "assoon as he hath done burning a kill att Elizabeth town he will burn Some hear and then we may have Som." In April, John Griffith, Nath. Fitz Randolph and John Kinsy were appointed to draw stones to the site; and in May they stated that they had "got som but not enough to make ye back of ye chimney." Three thousand bricks were ordered for the chimney in the following month, and the lime was to be thus obtained: "John Griffith and John Kinsy is ordered to gett wood for a lime Kill to burn lime for ye meeting house & to agree with John pike for his oyster shels; James Clarkson to gett ye loggs for ye lime kill in readynes to draw; 12 foot is concluded to be long enough for ye sd kill."
On the 19th of August all work on the meeting-house was directed to be suspended until the following Spring. The materials, however were to be collected with all possible dispatch. John Lufberry reported at the next meeting that Henry Napp had agreed to furnish three thousand bricks for 3 pounds, and that Napp would deliver them at Thomas Bloomfields landing for 12s. more. This landing was probably on Bloomfield's nine-acre meadow on the west side of papiack Creek near the upland. A mason was engaged to "underpin ye meeting house and build ye Chimney." John Allen was requested to keep an eye on the burying-ground to "take Care that no Creatures be turned In there."
Nothing further was done until February 19th, 1711, when the work was pushed forward. In the April meeting the following bill was presented and ordered to be paid: "1 weeks diett to ye bricklayers, & 4s. 3d. Jno: Pike for shells , & 5s. due to Moses Rolph for two dayes work of his negro tending ye mason, & 9d. for watching ye Kiln & 13d. for a bottle of Rum and 3 shillings for his horse and boy to draw water for ye bricklayer." A second subscription for the meeting-house was begun. November 17th, Abram Shotwell presented his bill for work on the building, amounting to 9 pounds; and John Vail presented his bill of œ4 10s. The work went slowly but surely on. On the 15th of March, 1712, this "minute occurs: "This meeting appoints Jno. Griffith and Jno. Kinsy to gett a gate made to ye meeting house yard wth a lock and Key to It." In May more oyster shells for lime were ordered, "to plaister ye meeting house." In October "John Vail is ordered to Shingle abt ye meeting house Chimney and make latches and bolts for ye door and gett ye Chimney hearth fitt to make a fire In & wt other things are needful to be done" - for all of which he was paid 1 pound 2s.
By the 16th of February, 1713, the meeting-house was so nearly finished that the weekly meeting for worship(which had been held since March, 1709, at the house of John Kinsy on every fifth day of the week) was ordered to be held in it thereafter until further notice. Eighty additional bushels of oyster shells for lime were procured in March, and seats were afterwards made for the new structure. We presume that those who attended the weekly meetings previous to the making of the seats brought chairs or benches with them. But at last the meeting-house was completed, and the Monthly Meeting held its first session in the building on the 19th of September, 1713, much to the satisfaction of all the friends.
As it drew on toward Winter the meeting "taking into their consideration ye usefulness of a fire to be kept twice a week for ye service of this meeting therefore doth conclude to allow money out of ye monthly Collection to pay for three Cord of wood for that purpose During this winter weather."
On the 19th of January, 1713, the meeting offered to William Sutton and his wife, and aged couple, the privilege of living up-stairs in the meeting-house. We presume that the offer was accepted.
On the 20th of November, 1714, after two months' consideration, it was ordered that a "stable" should be built to accommodate those coming to meeting with horses to be 25 feet in length, 16 feet in breadth and "6 feet between sill and plate." It was to have a shingled roof the sides and ends to be covered with boards. An agreement was accordingly made with John Vail to put up the building.
Elizabeth Griffith was appointed in August, 1716, "to look after the meeting house to sweep it, & to make fire in it when there might be occasion." In September a new fence was ordered for the burying-ground; and "Abraham Shotwell was appointed to make a table with a draw & a lock to it for ye use of ys. meeting." In September, 1717, John Vail was directed to re-lay the meeting-house hearth.
On August 16th, 1718, Henry Brotherton became janitor of the meeting-house. In September, 1719, "John Vail was ordered to take down the Glass [windows] in the meeting house & alter it, and put up the shutters on ye fore side."
From the record of June 16th, 1722, we find that the structure actually had a gallery, as well as comfortable rooms up-stairs. The stairs and part of the gallery were taken down in order to make space for a larger number of seats - an indication of prosperity and growth. Just two years after, June 20th, 1724, John Vail was ordered to wainscot the building. In 1728 it was in part newly shingled.
In the monthly meeting of September 20th, 1729, the following occurs: "this meeting Recommends the oversight of the burying ground to Danil Shotwell and Desires that friends or such others as may have leave to bury there be careful for the future to Dig and Leigh the corps as near to each other as may be with conveniency."
July 21st, 1732, "Thomas Gach is Desired to git the glass windows of the meeting house mended." In February, 1736, Thomas Haddon is directed to repair the stable and the fence of the burial-ground. Twenty-five hundred cedar shingles were ordered for "covering the meeting house." on the 20th of the following November. "Shobill" Smith was appointed to make a new fence around the grave-yard on the 21st of July, 1738. No improvements are mentioned after this, until June 21st, 1746, when Edward Fitz Randolph was "desired" to repair the meeting-house and "hors stable"; and on the 16th of February, 1747, Jonathan Harned was directed to adjust the fence.
At the meeting of July 20th, 1750, a request was directed to be sent to the Quarterly Meeting at Shrewsbury asking that two Quarterly Meetings should be held during each year at Woodbridge. On the 21st of December and answer was received, in which the Quarterly Meeting agreed to hold one session annually among the Woodbridge Quakers. This intelligence was the signal for great preparations. 70 pounds were ordered to be raised by subscription for enlarging the little meeting-house that it might accommodate the large assemblage of Friends. The work was to be done "with all conveniant speed" for the first meeting of the kind in Woodbridge was set down by the Shrewsbury Quakers for the "last second day of the 5th mo."
Here the old record abruptly closes, and we shall be compelled to search another manuscript volume for the later facts in the history of the Woodbridge Quaker meetings. These events we shall reserve for another chapter; but, before closing this one, we will pick up a few threads which we dropped awhile ago that they might be woven in just here.
As the reader will have observed, Shrewsbury was the headquarters of the East Jersey Quakers. The Friends were the first to establish a religious society in that ancient town, organizing as early as 1672, eight years after the settlement of the place. In the same year a meeting-house was in course of construction, and the Friends were favored with a visit from the celebrated George Fox in the Autumn. A monthly and a quarterly meeting were begun, which as we have seen were destined to a long and useful career.
In the early times of which we have been writing, books were not numerous and a good book was highly prized. The Woodbridge Quakers had a very small circulating library - the Friends borrowing the volumes of the Monthly meeting. The most popular book, if we may judge by the number of times it was called for, was entitled, "New England Judged." Besides this, there were "George Fox's Journal," "Robert Barclay's Apology," "The History of the Christian People called Quakers," by Wm. Sewall, of Holland (toward the publication of which, in English, the Woodbridge Friends subscribed in 1721); "Forced Maintenance," by Thomas Chalkley, and other works.
These authors are alluded to by Whittier, the Quaker poet, in his Winter Idyl, "Snow-bound." Speaking of his mother, he says:
"Then, haply, with a look more grave And soberer tone, some tale she gave From Painful Sewall's ancient tome, Beloved in every Quaker home, Of Faith fire-winged by martyrdom Or Chalkley's Journal, old and quaint, Gentlest of skippers, rare sea-saint! Who, when the dreary calms prevailed, And water-butt and bread-cask failed, And cruel, hungry eyes pursued his portly presence, mad for food, With dark hints muttered under breath Of casting lots for life or death. Offered, if Heaven withheld supplies, To be himself the sacrifice.(?) Then suddenly, as to save The good man from his living grave, A ripple on the water grew A school of purpoise flashed in view. Take, eat,' he said, and be content; These fishes in my stead are sent By Him who gave the tangled ram To spare the child of Abraham.' " The book of Discipline, which was obtained in 1722, was ordered to be publicly read in the meetings three times a year.
We find on page 89 the following extract from the Yearly Meeting's minutes for 1716, which shows at once the hostility of the Quakers to the importation of Africans and their "conservatism" on the slavery question in general:
"For the Quarterly Meeting at Shrewsberry - Chester meeting proposes their concern about the practise of buying negroes imported. . . . Urging that former minuits and orders are not sufficient to discourage their importation and therefore requests that no friends may buy any negro for the future. As to the proposal from Chester meeting about negroes, there being no more in it than was proposed to the last Yearly meeting this meeting cannot see any better conclusion than what was the judgment of the last and therefore do confirm the same . . . and in condensation to such friends as are streigthened in their minds against holding them . . . it is desired that friends generally do as much as may be avoid buying such negroes as shall be hereafter brought in, rather than offend any fiends who are against it . . . Yet this is only caution not censure."
In the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting of June 17th, 1738, the following was read, which bears on the same question, and shows that the conscience of this influential people was not at rest:
"Pursuant to a Request in the extracts of the yearly meeting minutes at Philadelphia conserning the Importation of negroes and buying them after they are Imported friends have Inquired into it & Do find that four or five years ago Som have bin Imported by a friend and that it hath bin three or four years Since friends have bought of them that was Imported and not since to their Knowlidg."
A weekly meeting was begun October 16th, 1725, at John Laing's, to accommodate the friends who dwelt about him that were unable to attend the services in the meeting-house on account of distance. John Laing lived at or near Plainfield, and it was certainly a long distance for him to ride every "First-day." On the 21st of September, 1728, the day of the Plainfield meeting was changed from the first to the fourth of the week in order not to affect the attendance of the Woodbridge meeting, which was held on the first day; and the residence of the Laings was still the place appointed for service, although John, the promoter of it, was dead. He bequeathed to the Friends a plot of ground on which to build a meeting-house; and on the 27th of March, 1731, the Woodbridge monthly meeting gave permission for its construction, directing that it should not exceed in its dimensions 24 feet square and 14 feet "between joynts." It was completed and all accounts settled by the latter part of the year 1736. In 1744 a "hors stable" was built adjoining the new meeting-house, toward which, as well as toward the building of the meeting-house itself, the Woodbridge Friends liberally subscribed.
Another weekly meeting, productive of like good results, was permitted by the Woodbridge monthly meeting to be held at the house of Joseph Shotwell, in Rahway, on the 16th of October, 1742. It was designed to continue for three months, through the coldest weather only, "on ye first Days of the weak." In August (17th), 1744, the Rahway Friends asked to hold their meetings twice a week (on the first and fourth days) at Joseph Shotwell's, from August to the middle of February, which was granted. In 1745 the same arrangement was made; but in May of the following year the meeting was ordered to be held on first days at half-past three o'clock in the afternoon, from the middle of February to the middle of August; and at twelve o'clock from the middle of August to the middle of February. A forth-day meeting was also to be established, to continue from August to February. In 1747 the erection of a meeting-house at Rahway was agitated in the Woodbridge meetings; but the subject was regarded unfavorably, and was submitted to the Quarterly Meeting at Shrewsbury. In the meantime, however, the Woodbridge Friends made a movement toward dropping the meetings at Joseph Shotwell's and the occasional meeting at John Shotwell's - the latter service to be removed to Woodbridge. This met with considerable opposition both from Rahway and Plainfield members. In November it is recorded that "Friends in and about Woodbridge are oneasey and applies to the Quarterly meeting at Shrosbery." This uneasiness did not arise from purely selfish motives. The general good of the Society was doubtless a prominent cause of it. It was evident from the reports of the overseer (a person selected to give monthly statements of the condition of the Society) that the Woodbridge meetings for worship were slimly attended in comparison with those of Rahway and Plainfield; the building of a meeting-house at Rahway would, therefore, greatly weaken and perhaps extinguish the organization at Woodbridge. But the opinion of the Shrewsbury Quarterly Meeting, which was received in December, settled the matter for a time; it being recommended to the Rahway Friends "to wave the building the meetinghouse untill they are more unanemous amongst themselves." It was agreed in February, 1748, that the afternoon meetings should be discontinued in Rahway, but that the meetings on the first and fourth days should be held yearly from the 1st of September to the 1st of February. And thus the matter stood for several years.
Chapter XIX We resume the history of the Woodbridge Quakers by opening the second book of records, which is a well-kept and very legible volume. Much of it is of a private character. We shall spread before our readers only such facts as are of a public nature.
At the monthly meeting held in Woodbridge on the 17th of February, 1751, we find it stated that "Some friends hauing been Consernd in Seting up grave Stones in our Burying ground, John Vail and Joseph Shotwell are desired to Treat with them and to desire them to Haue them Remoued." On the 21st of April a report was rendered that some had taken the stones down, but had laid them on the graves. Others had not done even that the stones remaining in their original positions. On the 17th of the next month, however, it was reported that all the stones were taken down.
The last Monday in May was a day long remembered among the Quakers in Woodbridge. The Quarterly Meeting assembled for the first time in the village. heretofore this important body had met in Shrewsbury. It was with much gratification that the Friends at this place entertained those from abroad, arrangements for which had been in progress for a long time. John Shotwell and Edward Fitz Randolph were the representatives from the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting. The Quarterly Meeting, as our readers will remember, was to be held henceforward once, at least, during the year at this place; but a communication from Shrewsbury asked that the time of holding it might be changed - May being regarded as an unpropitious part of the season. The traveling during the Spring must have been decidedly wretched; for with all the modern improvements the region around Woodbridge is even at the present day the muddiest of the muddy in the Spring-time. A native never comprehends these lines or anything like them:
"Oh, how I love the Spring-time, When Winter's reign is o'er!"
He regards such sentiments as so many heartless jokes intended to recall the unhappy time when his wagon stuck fast in the road, and the wicked school-boys on Strawberry Hill bellowed out in a chorus: "Mister, your wheel is turning round!"
The Quarterly Meeting referred the matter of changing the time to the Woodbridge Friends, who, after mature reflection, decided that the month of May was the "moste suitable," and they desired its adoption as the season of the regular meeting. The Shrewsbury Quakers objected, but the first Quarterly Meeting in 1752 sustained the Woodbridge Friends.
On the 15th of October one of the members here sent in a letter to the Monthly Meeting condemnatory of himself for attending the marriage of a Friend who wedded a person not a Quaker. It illustrates the strictness with which these men of old endeavored to fulfill every duty enjoined upon them: "Wharas I haue had my conuersation amongst the people called quakers and for want of a close walking up to the measur of grace Receiued haue gon to a marriage of a friend who married out of friends vnity for which I am Trewley sorrey for it and hartily condem my Self and desire friends to pass it by."
Shobel Smith and Nathaniel Fitz Randolph were appointed on the 18th of June, 1752, to take care of the burying ground.
The Monthly Meeting of February 15th, 1753, was held on a stormy day. Friends who had been to Shrewsbury were present, however, and had brought from thence a package of ten new books, all copies of a work entitled "Memories of the Life of John Roberts," by Daniel Roberts. We may imagine the eagerness with which these volumes were read by the Friends. Frequently such were the gifts brought from Shrewsbury; so it is probable that the return of the representatives from that town was an event of some importance to their constituents.
For some reason the Quarterly Meeting of May, 1753, was held at Shrewsbury instead of being convened at Woodbridge. Small-pox prevailed at the former place, which intimidated two of the representatives from this town, but the third attended the meeting notwithstanding the contagion. It would appear from the minutes of July 19th that the protest of the Shrewsbury Quakers against the holding of the Quarterly Meeting at Woodbridge in the Spring had at last proved effectual; for the Summer session was held in the latter place. This was the season, for many years subsequently, in which the Friends met here in Quarterly Meeting.
From the minutes of the Monthly Meeting, assembled on the 17th of July, 1755, we learn that legacies had been bequeathed at different times, to the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting, amounting to 100 pounds; besides the half-acre given by John Laing for building the Meeting-house at Plainfield.
In the same meeting the question "respecting a man's marrying his wife's first cousin" was considered, and it was decided that it was a difficult matter to determine. Nevertheless, the prohibition of such marriages, heretofore existing among the Friends, was re-affirmed as the wisest and safest plan to be adopted.
On the 19th of November, in accordance with the recommendation of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a Minister's and Elders' meeting was established in Rahway, to gather monthly at the house of John Vail, "on the third 2nd day of the weak at Eleven oclock."
A member of the fraternity living at Metuchen was reported as being addicted to intoxicating beverages, and he was of course, called to account. His excuse was that he took the draught as a remedy. In December he "acknowledges he has Sundery times Taken more liquour then was Servissable but not to be disguised thereby Except when under a fit of the cholick he took the Liquour for a Remedy." But on investigation this statement was found to be a slight deviation from the truth. Either the colic was very bad or the man thought it would be; for he took his remedy very industriously, the effects of which were visible. He was therefore publicly disowned by the Friends at Woodbridge.
During the year 1756 a draft was made to fill the quota from this State of the soldiers required in the war against France. This contest was, of course, discountenanced by the Quakers, quarrels and warfare being contrary to their cherished principles. Stephen Vail's son was among the drafted men. On the 19th of February this appears on the record: "Complaint is made that Stephen vail Imployed a person in the place of his Son who was prest to go to ye fruntears in order to build block houses." In other words a substitute was procured, which was regarded as abetting the evil. Jonathan Kinsey was also complained of for attempting "to Raise a number of men in order to Transporte prouisions to the armey Intended to attack the Subjects of the King of france." Several Mendham Quakers suffered some animadversion for redeeming their goods from the authorities which had been taken from them for refusing to "train" with the militia. A committee of enquiry, consisting of John Webster, Abner Hampton, William Morris, Jacob and Joseph Shotwell, was instructed to go to Mendham and notify the culpable parties of the dissatisfaction of the Woodbridge Quakers. In August the offending members, seven in number, acknowledged that they had done wrong and were penitent.
At Mendham a fifth-day Weekly Meeting was authorized by the Monthly Meeting of this place (for the Friends at that town were subordinate to the Woodbridge society), and a Preparative Meeting was also established there, to be convened once in three months.
This entry, January 1st, 1757, indicates that Rahway members were growing restive:
"Friends at Rahway haue Repeatedly made application to the monthly meeting for leave to build a meeting house at that place which friends at Woodbridge are oneasey with, and to put an end thereto it is Referred to the Consideration of the Quarterly meeting."
The representatives brought word from that body, the substance of which was that, in regard to the matter in question, it was "the Solid Sence of that meeting that a meeting house aught to be built at Rahway." Without further opposition the project was pushed forward. During February and March much was done toward the new enterprise. Solomon Hunt, Samuel Marsh, Abraham Shotwell (from Rahway), and Benjamin Shotwell were appointed to purchase a suitable lot. Francis Bloodgood, Abner Hampton, and Robert Willis were appointed to assist in selecting the ground and determining the size of the plot. It was decided that the new building should be thirty-four feet long and thirty feet wide. Meetings for worship were established on "first days" at Rahway, to begin at four o'clock in the afternoon - the vote for this innovation having passed on the 21st of April. The effect of it was no doubt apparent in a short time in the diminished attendance at the Woodbridge assemblies, a result long foreseen by the Quakers residing here.
The use of odd names in the designation of different localities is frequently illustrated in these as well as other ancient records. We read of a Quakeress who came from "Gunpowder" to visit those of her faith in this village. In 1758 Abner Hampton made a journey to "the Oblong," in New York State, bearing the greetings of the Friends at home. It is possible that the shape of the meeting-house at the "Oblong" accounts for the name - this being given to distinguish it from the square structures which almost universally prevailed.
On the 19th of April, 1758, arrangements were made for building a house of worship at Mendham, to be built on land belonging to Robert Schooley. The size of it was at length determined to be "26 foot wide & 25 long" a queer-looking piece of architecture to modern eyes. Its estimated cost was 73 pounds.
In December Abner Hampton informed the Friends that he was "under a consern To vissit the Isle of Berbados and perhaps Sum of the adjacent Islands, and Requests friends consideration thereon, and a Certificate if they are Easey therewith." The certificate was given to him, but a general objection to his making such a long journey appears to have prevented his departure. The Quarterly Meeting discussed the matter and doubtless influenced Hampton's friends to keep him at home.
At this time Thomas Lewis had the care of the Woodbridge Meeting-house, George Parker had in charge the one at Plainfield, Cowperthwait Copeland that at Rahway.
Robert Willis was one of the most active ministers of the sect in this part of the country. he often made journeys to other places to the edification of those among whom he sojourned. On the 17th of April, 1760, he informs the Woodbridge Friends that "he has been under an Ingagement of minde for sum time to Vissit the meetings of friends in the Southeron Provinses." His proposed trip was approved, and a commendatory certificate was given to him. The record says: "He being under low Circumstances, Joseph & Abraham Shotwell are appointed to provide a hors & to furnish him with necessarys of all kindes Suitable for that Jarney."
Sarah Shotwell was also well known as a speaker, and a pattern of humility and faithfulness. After her death a memorial was written by a committee, John Webster and Abner Hampton, which was adopted in the June Monthly Meeting.
The senior John Vail (there were three Johns) had some eminence, several years before, as an instructive teacher of the truth. Likewise was William Morris at one time an honored and useful minister who "went about doing good."
In July of this year (1760) it was decided that Mendham should pay one-fourth of the money required for the treasury of the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting. A proposition was made in the following month to remove the Plainfield Meeting-house, which was rejected in September. Where it was proposed to move it, and why it was considered necessary to do so, are not stated.
Robert Willis returned from the South in October with pleasant testimonials of his useful ministry in and about "West River" in Maryland, which were a source of much satisfaction to the Woodbridge Quakers.
The minutes of the October Monthly Meeting are largely occupied with the report of the sufferings of those who refused to bear arms or train with the militia between 1737 and 1760. From the list given we learn that twenty-three experienced the penalty of the law - the heaviest fine being imposed on Hartshorn Randolph. He valued the goods taken from him at 3 pounds, 16s. When Jacob Laing, who was fined 3 pounds, was brought before the officer, Col. Jacob Ford, he was asked what reasons he could give for refusing to accompany the expedition against the French. He answered that "he was principled against bearing arms against his fellow creatures." After several hours' detention he was permitted to go home - a distance of twelve miles.
In 1758 Hugh Webster was drafted and taken three miles from his dwelling. Capt. Benjamin Stites, before whom he was taken, demanded that he should go into the service himself or furnish a substitute. Hugh positively refused to do either; so he was led away eight miles further to a spot where the guard expected to find the company assembled. The soldiers, however, had marched away. He was left to take care of himself, and returned to his residence, stopping at Capt. Stites' house to inform him that his men had set him free.
Several soldiers under Col. Samuel Hunt seized the horses and wagon of Abner Hampton on the 24th of May, 1760, as he was driving leisurely along the road, nine miles from home. They wanted the team for the transportation of their baggage a distance of twelve miles. They endeavored to persuade Abner to drive for them or procure a teamster, promising a generous remuneration. He declared that conscientious scruples forbade either his performing the task or receiving any reward therefor. The wagon was laden and the soldiers disappeared with it, the worthy Quaker pursuing his lonely way homeward on foot, with no very bright hope of seeing his horses again. But on the 27th who should drive up to Abner's door but Azariah Dunham with the team all safe and sound!
Such instances of devotion to their time-honored anti-war principles served to strengthen the Friends in Woodbridge and its vicinity.
In the early part of 1761 Robert Willis made a tour, in his ministerial capacity, to South River, "Isle White," Cider Creek , and Fredericksburg. In the same year Abner Hampton and Joseph Shotwell (who was, for many years, the excellent Clerk of the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting) made a fraternal visit to West Jersey and Pennsylvania. These journeys seem to have been the cause of much congratulation among all the parties concerned. Willis went to New York and New England in the Summer. He was apparently indefatigable in his ministrations abroad.
On the 20th of August, 1761, three Preparative Meetings were established: one at Plainfield on the last week-day meeting preceding the monthly; one at Woodbridge at the same time before the Monthly Meeting there; and one at Rahway under similar circumstances.
The trouble with Nathaniel Fitz Randolph, which began in January, 1759, threatened at one time very serious consequences to Quakerism in this place. Fitz Randolph became offended at certain utterances of two prominent members of the Society. Efforts were made to bring about a reconciliation; but as Fitz Randolph would retract nothing and the accused members were proven to be guiltless, not much satisfaction resulted. The matter was not settled until 1762. The Monthly Meeting publicly disowned the refractory member; whereupon he appealed to the Quarterly Meeting, which after a patient hearing of the case, referred it to the Woodbridge Friends for re-consideration, by whom the sentence was confirmed. As Fitz Randolph belonged to an old and influential family these proceedings created considerable excitement.
During July, 1762, the question of holding several Monthly Meetings at Plainfield, instead of confining them to Woodbridge, was mooted. The arrangement was altered so far as to include Rahway in the plan, when it was submitted (in 1763) to the Quarterly Meeting. In May the programme was published, according to orders received from the Quarterly Meeting. The Monthly Meeting was to be held thereafter at each place four times a year as follows: At Woodbridge on the 3d fourth day of April, May, July and August; at Plainfield on the 3d fourth-day of March, June, September, and December; at Rahway on the same day in January, February, October, and November. This arrangement went into effect immediately.
That the Society began to wane in Woodbridge and grow in the other towns, is sufficiently evident in the minutes of a Rahway meeting in February, 1766, where it is recommended that the Rahway and Plainfield meetings should, "from time to time" appoint some of their members to visit those at this place. In May it is recommended that "as friends Feel a spring of Love in them selves they chearfully Give up to Go & partake with thir Brethren at woodbridge."
Three years after this the Woodbridge Preparative Meeting was removed to Rahway, and the Monthly Meeting held its last session in Woodbridge on the 19th of April, 1769. Henceforth it alternated between Rahway and Plainfield, in which towns the Quakers still have their strongholds. The Quarterly Meeting, which up to this time, had assembled a large number of Friends once a year in our village, was requested to be held hereafter at Rahway. At an expense of about 161 pounds the meeting-house there was enlarged for the reception of the delegates who met in it for the first time in August, 1769.
In 1770 Robert Willis left his friends to go to Europe to preach the truth, intending to spend a portion of his time in Ireland.
In October of this year the Weekly Meetings here were so thinly attended that it was seriously proposed to drop them altogether. A Quaker who had come from a distance to worship at the old-fashioned meeting-house found that the service for that day was entirely abandoned. The "sclackness and Indifferency" of the Woodbridge members were freely discussed in the November meeting at Rahway.
On the 20th of February, 1771, a committee was sent to enquire into the dereliction of duty, viz: Samuel and Benjamin Shotwell, James Haydock, and Solomon Hunt. They found that no meetings had been held during the Winter, but a feeble effort was being put forth to recover the lost privileges.
In the July meeting of 1773, held at Rahway, we find that complaints were lodged against several Friends for "giving way to drowsiness." The overseers reported that they had "treated" with some of them with a view to keeping them awake during public service. Truly. sleeping in church has antiquity in its favor, though it has not devotion.
At a Rahway meeting on the 18th of May in the following year, we see that the treasurer was ordered "to pay Cowperthwaite Copland 26s. 9d. it being for Phisick for John Thorne his apprentice." We do feel sorry for John. Twenty-six shillings' worth of physic! Whew!
For several years the question of holding negroes in bondage had agitated the Society. A report to the Monthly Meeting at Plainfield in August, 1774, shows that at this time only one negro "fit for freedom," within the jurisdiction of the Society, remained a slave.
Robert Willis returned in September from Europe, having visited the Quakers in England, Ireland, and Scotland. He brought certificates from Dublin and London expressive of the great satisfaction his sojourn had given to his foreign Friends.
Meetings in Woodbridge for worship were not yet altogether abandoned. The hour of service was fixed, February, 1775, at 11 o'clock in the forenoon for the "first day" meeting - the only one held here. In the Spring Johathan Harned, Jr., fenced the meeting-house yard.
We now begin to catch occasional glimpses of the difficulties surrounding the Quakers through the protracted struggle of the Revolution. Twenty pounds, proclamation money, were subscribed by the Rahway meeting of July 19th, 1775, for the relief of the New England Friends who were suffering by the war. Under date of June 19th, 1776, the following appears on the record:
"This [Plainfield] Meeting is informed that Benjamin Harriss has signed a paper for independency, and has suffered his apprentice to go in the army and has received His Wages." Several Friends tried to show Benjamin the error of his ways, but he refused to give them any "satisfaction for his Misconduct." He was, therefore, cut off from their communion.
The Quaker meeting-house here was occupied, during a part of 1776, by soldiers, as will be seen by these extracts:
[Plainfield, August 21st] "This Meeting is informed that a Number of Soldiers have entered some time ago, & still abide in the meetinghouse in Woodbridge. Joseph Shotwell, Benjamin Shotwell, Abraham Shotwell, John Haydock, John & Hugh Webster are appointed to enquire in what manner they have taken possession thereof, and whether they obstruct Friends from meeting quietly therein, & to visit that Meeting at times while they remain there."
[Rahway, Sept. 18th] "The Friends appointed to visit the meeting at Woodbridge & enquire how the Soldiers came posess'd of the Meeting house, report they took Posession of it without leave from any Friends; they at times continue there yet, but dont much interrupt Friends in time of Meeting."
The Winter Quarterly Meeting of 1776-7 at Shrewsbury was very slimly attended. The representatives from this section did not go, giving as the reason that they were "prevented by an Apprehension of great difficulty attending their passing through the contending Armies of Soldiers."
The Quakers in this vicinity during the first 6 months of 1777 were mulcted in the sum of 252 pounds, 5s. 10d., for refusing to bear arms or to pay the war tax.
Jonathan Harned having died in 1776, a bequest in his last will of 20 pounds for the poor of the Society was put out at interest. in May, 1788, this legacy had been reduced to 11 pounds, 17s. 2d. the remainder having been lost through the "old paper emission of the province," as the record expresses it. Johathan Harned was a good man. A little while before his death he manumitted Mary, his old colored servant; but promised, nevertheless, to supply all her wants until she should need them supplied no longer.
Robert Willis, who might rightly be called the Quaker Missionary, had some idea of visiting the South in 1778; but "great commotions" in Plainfield, "occationed by War," prevented his contemplated journey. He was loth to leave his Friends in the midst of so much distress. A committee for the relief of sufferers was formed this year, consisting of Abraham Shotwell, Wm. Smith, Hugh Webster, John Vail, Wm. Thorne, and Elijah Pound. Subsequently Thorne resigned and Edward Moore was chosen in his place. Thorne said, in the November meeting at Rahway, that he was compelled to affirm his allegiance to the Continental Congress several months before - having no choice except to do that or be thrown into prison. Elijah Pound did the same thing, and was, therefore, relieved of his position on the committee just mentioned, being allowed to resign. Under similar circumstances and at the same time, probably, another Quaker living in this section got into difficulty. He says:
"Whereas I, Marmaduke Hunt, was coming home, was taken by a Party of light horse and Carried to Morris Town Goal where I was confind in a Nausious room to the Injury of my health, and Deprived of the Necessaries of life to that degree that I could procure no more for my support but one meal for seven days; in this distress liberty was offered me on condition of my taking the affirmation of fidelity to the States, which through unwatchfulness, I submitted to."
John Laing tells the same story. He, also, was taken to Morristown and locked up for several days in what he describes as a "very Loathsome goal," being liberated only on making affirmation of allegiance.
Several tables appear on the record showing the articles confiscated for taxes and fines. The officers took all sorts of things: chairs, Bibles, shovel-and-tongs, andirons, spoons, kettles, bedding, cows, horses, oxen, hogs, basins, watches, corn, guns, pails, bellows, hay, sheep, tubs, overcoats, etc. On a warrant issued by Henry Freeman, Justice, Edward Moore was visited three times during 1780 by Daniel Compton, the Constable , for the collection of a tax of 29 pounds, and a fine of 500 pounds. Two tables were taken at the first visit, February 28th. The second call of the Constable, July 29th, resulted in a deficit of two calves, and iron pot, a hand saw, and auger, a square and compass, broad-ax, drawing-knife, hammer, grindstone, spade and a hand-saw file. On 9th of August the Constable came again. He only wanted Moore's cow this time.
In the same year Jonathan Harned, Jr., of Woodbridge was called on, first by Constable Compton, then by Constable Peter Herpendine, on warrants issued by David Crow and Jeremiah Manning, Justices. These visits cost Harned "3 Sydes [of] Leather." Some time in February Compton carried off Mary Dunham's tea table for unpaid war tax. Harned was subsequently called on for more leather, from which we judge that he was a tanner. Edward Fitz Randolph was compelled in 1781, to surrender four and a half bushels of wheat. Among other things taken from James Haydock we notice "13 chizzles" and a "mouse trap."
Among the officers, civil and military, who were conspicuous in enforcing the existing laws against non-combatants, were James Edgar, David Dunham, David Crow, and David Crowell, Col. John Webster, Col. Moses Jaques, Sergt. James Bishop, Sergt. Benjamin Sears, Sergt. James DeCamp, Col. John French, Capt. John Paine, Sergt. Joseph Marsh, Sergt. Abraham Morris, Col. John Hart, Samuel Fitz Randolph and Henry Freeman, Justices.
But we must bring this chapter to a close by mentioning briefly several relevant matters.
At a meeting held at Rahway, July 15th, 1784, the Friends determined to sell the meeting-house at Woodbridge. An unknown person offered to buy it, but the negotiations were broken off; for a while, at least. The old building has long since been demolished, and the ancient burying-ground is now the property of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Quakers began to build a school-house at Rahway, in 1785, on the meeting-house lot. It was constructed to front the road, was twenty feet by thirty, and was one story in height.
A new meeting-house was built in Plainfield during 1787-8. The plans were settled on the 15th of November, 1787. The dimensions of the building were to be thirty-four by forty-eight feet. A passenger on the New Jersey Central Railroad will observe the modest structure on the right as the train approaches the Plainfield depot from New York. It is substantially the same as when it was erected eighty-five years ago. A recent fire injured the southern part of it, but it was repaired in a style similar to the unburnt portion. This meeting-house does not stand on the site of the old one, but was built on a ground situated near the house of "John Webster the third" - so called to distinguish him from two other Johns. May it long remain as a memento of that time long past, of which all our dreams are poetic, but, which, alas! was a time to many of bitter griefs and scalding tears.
The preceding material has been copied from a book entitled: Woodbridge and Vicinity, by Joseph Dally. This book was published by A.E.Gordon in 1873 and the copy I found is available on the 4th floor of the New Jersey State Library in Trenton NJ (call # J974.941.W88.D147).
Chapter's VI and XIX deal with early Quakers (1686 - 1788) in and around the town of Woodbridge, New Jersey, including those Meetings formed in Amboy, Shrewsbury, Rahway and Plainfield.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Joseph Dally for his painstaking research and preservation of this bit of Quaker history.
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