Part of the American History and Genealogy Project

The Indian King Inn

The Indian King is situated on the old King's Highway, in the center of the historic town of Haddonfield, N. J. It was built in 1750, by Matthias Aspden, a native of England, who became a merchant and ship owner in Philadelphia, and lived for many years in that city and in Haddonfield.

On the site of the building was born, in 1730, Colonel Timothy Matlack, of the Revolutionary Army, Free Quaker, at one period Commissary General of the Army, and after the war. Master of the Rolls of Pennsylvania. The Indian King was a famous village inn from 1750 until Haddonfield had become a prohibition town about 1880, and was the very centre of the village life. Here in the early days the militia were mustered, the local elections were held, and the leading men of the village gathered to discuss national or local affairs. Here the stage-coaches for Egg Harbor and other distant points stopped for refreshments.

In the Revolutionary War period the First Assembly of the State of New Jersey, driven from Trenton and Princeton by the movements of the armies, held sessions in the Indian King from January 29th, 1777, to March 18th, 1777; from May 7th, 1777, to June 7th, 1777, and from September 3rd, 1777, to October nth, 1777.

In this building, in May, 1777, the Committee which had been appointed by the Assembly to prepare a State Seal, made its report and the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey was formally adopted.

Therein, by an Act of Assembly dated March 15th, 1777, the Council of Safety of New Jersey was created.

This body began its meetings in this building March 18th, 1777. It met therein again from May loth to June 9th, and again on September 12th, and on September 22nd. Therein, on September 20th, 1777, was passed an Act to the effect that "From and after the Publication of this Act all Commissions and Writs which by the Constitution are required to run in the name of the Colony shall run in the name of the State of New Jersey." This was the official recognition by the Assembly of the colony's independence and the formal christening of the State of New Jersey.

During the Revolutionary War period the Inn was owned by Hugh Creighton. He was the uncle of Dorothy Todd (nee Payne) who at that time, having broken away from her maiden life, was a gay young widow in Philadelphia. She often visited her uncle in Haddonfield, and John Clement, then a young man, used, in his old age, to tell his son, the late John Clement, President of the Historical Society of New Jersey, tales of the merry dances at which Dolly Todd was hostess, and of the sleighing parties with the village beaux in which she participated. Soon she married and became "Dolly" Madison, and has come down to us through many a legend as the most charming mistress that ever graced the official social life in Washington.

There are interesting military letters dated at Haddonfield written by Wayne, Greene, Lafayette, Pulaski, Weddon, Varnum, Ogden, Joseph Ellis and other officers of the American Army, and there are orders, letters and journals of Sir Henry Clinton, Cornwallis, Major Andre and others of the British Army. No doubt some of these were written in the Indian King, and no doubt all of these men trod its oaken floors. During its long time of hospitality the old Inn stood under a number of signs and names. The earliest known and probably the original name, "The Indian King," appears in a newspaper advertisement in 1764.

Recognizing the interest and importance of the events which had happened within its walls, the State Legislature, in 1902, created a Commission to purchase and care for the building, and later made appropriations for this purpose and for its restoration. From year to year there is a growing interest in its history and a constant increase in the number of its visitors.

New Jersey AHGP

Source: Indian King Inn, New Jersey Society of Pennsylvania, Volume 1, Compiled by James L. Pennypacker, 1917.

 



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