Part of the American History and Genealogy Project

The Settlers of East Jersey

To the province of East Jersey the settlers brought a strong spirit of political and religious independence. Whether they came from Massachusetts, the Connecticut Valley, from the "shore" communities of Long Island, or from the Calvinistic centers of England and Scotland, they were filled with that mighty purpose to create in the new land a government where political righteousness should guide the course of the State. In this effort, as in all attempts to establish a community upon the teachings of a given creed, there was a tendency toward political dogmatism. In nearly all the East Jersey towns political preferment was based upon strict adherence to the teachings of a particular religious society, while the settlers of Newark went so far as to provide that only those who were members of a Congregational church should be allowed to hold office and vote.

While this restrictive action may be subjected to criticism, it was quite in accord with the spirit of the age. Most of the influential men of East Jersey had experienced the wave of religious enthusiasm which had swept over England and Scotland, upon the coming of Cromwell, and which flooded New England with high resolve and concomitant austerity. It had been a time of religious controversy, and of the establishment of new forms of religious belief. Nor was the spirit less noticeable in West Jersey, where the Society of Friends did not outwardly declare the union of church and State, but where the power of the meeting to make the careers of men was equally potent.

The English speaking colonists of East Jersey, in the main, were of yeoman stock. Various motives underlay the action of the settlers. The return of the House of Stuart to power, with the re-establishment of a dissolute court and the general popular reaction from the social, political, and ecclesiastical severities of the Cromwellian movement, gave to the majority of the new comers sufficient excuse for leaving England. Others from New England hoped to find in East Jersey a land more hospitable, where the power of the church might be further extended. Some were moved by an evangelical spirit, wishing to convert the Indian and to establish their faith in a land beyond the sea; others dimly saw that there might grow up powerful dependencies of the crown in which a certain religious faith would be dominant, while a small number were moved by a restlessness, and gave religious persecutions as an excuse for a life of adventure and, mayhap, of profit.

But over all and under all ran the spirit of theocracy, which entered into the daily acts of the entire body of emigration. The rigidity of the local laws, the strictness of church discipline, the slowness of assimilation with the Dutch, who, in creed, were with them but not of them, the intense striving for a theocratic commonwealth, gave a harshness to life, but it likewise gave a stability to East Jersey that has been permanent throughout all the modifications of government and the later injection of cosmopolitan social elements.

But one instance need be cited to show the distinctively Calvinistic type of early East Jersey life. It is in the matter of personal nomenclature. To East Jersey the settlers from New and Old England brought Christian names indicative of a Puritan and in some cases Quaker ancestry. Among ancient deeds and wills are to be found some curiosities of "given names" which descendants have carried down to distant generations. Thus in the family of Lippincotts, of Shrewsbury, in 1683, were living Freedom, Remembrance, and Restore. Jedediah Allen, who lived near by, in Neversink, had among his children Experience, Ephraim, Judah, and Patience, while in 1688, in that portion of Monmouth County, resided Exercis, probably a corrupt spelling of Exercise, and Elisone Coale, daughters of Jacob. Among the names of women appear Sybiah Dennis, Faith Hewitt, in 1691, and Safty (Safety) Grover, the latter a daughter of James, of Middletown. In 1697 there was Hope Bloomfield, of Woodbridge; in 1701, Eupham, wife of John Johnston, of Monmouth County, and Bethiah Kitchell, daughter of William, whose home, in 1683, was in Newark. In 1694 Hephziabiah Mannin, of Piscataway, was the widow of one of the plantation owners, and in 1697 Tidey buried her husband, George Warren, of Elizabethtown. Comfort was the wife of Samuel Marsh, of Rahway, while Deliverance is mentioned as a daughter of John Throgmorton, of Middletown.

Among the children of Thomas Thomson, of Elizabeth, in 1675, were Aaron, Moses, and Hur. In 1669 Hopewell Hull was a settler in Woodbridge; Dishturner Ward appears in Newark in 1696; and in 1694 Barefoot Brynson is alluded to as a son of Daniel. In 1682, or shortly thereafter, occurred the marriage of Nidemiah Sanford, daughter of William, to Richard Berry, son of John Berry. The respective fathers presented to the young couple as wedding gifts several slaves. John Berry had, among other children, Peregrine and Grace.

An examination of Christian names throughout this period shows the strong influence of Biblical nomenclature. Aside from these somewhat eccentric designations appear a host of names still common. Except in a few cases, those of distinctively Norman-French origin, and not found in the Old and New Testaments, are extremely rare.

Toward the close of the seventeenth century there came into East Jersey, and to a limited degree in West Jersey, particularly in Salem, a new and valuable racial element. This was the French Huguenot, who, bringing to the eastern division the faith of Calvin, found, at least, a community of religious interest among the English and Scotch.

The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV, in 1685, drove from France no less than half a million Protestants, who, under the name of Huguenots, sought in other lands that freedom of conscience denied them in their own country. So bitter was the persecution that by 1705, it is said, there was not an organized Huguenot congregation in all France.

To these people, many of whom were of the ancient nobility and nearly all of eminent respectability, the English colonies in America opened an avenue of escape from the rigors of the governmental inquiry and persecution. To nearly every seaport between Nova Scotia and Florida they came, many selecting New York and some Philadelphia as their new homes. From these centers the movements of population carried certain of these French families to New Jersey. By 1686, and even earlier, Huguenot family names appear in the towns of the Monmouth shore. With their coming a new element appeared in the provinces--an element which was so distinctively Romance as to make its presence among settlers of Germanic stock as picturesque as it was valuable.

With but few exceptions the Huguenot had no political ambitions, or at least had not in the early years of the eighteenth century. He spoke not the language of his new home. Around him lay restraints in his advancement in the political state, which a new generation did not overcome. Yet the Huguenot social and moral influence was early patent and has remained a power until the present day.

To New Jersey came Antoine Pintard, Peter Bard, Pierre le Conte, Joseph Ray, Ives Ballinger, Elias Boudinot, and Hyppolite le Fever, names with which one could conjure in either East or West Jersey. There, too, were the De la Fontaines, the Stelles, Monsieur Hance, Jaques la Rue, the De Cous, John de la Valle, and the Demarests, some of whom, forgotten, some remembered, have impressed themselves and their families upon the history of New Jersey.

Too few in number, too weak to sustain racial customs or language, the children of the original emigrants contracted marriages among those not of distinctively French ancestry. In a few instances the Huguenot blood remained unmixed until the Revolution, yet in the general breaking down of social lines following the war even this characteristic became lost. No trace of any French words which may have been contributed to the English language, as used in New Jersey, remains.

The influence of the Huguenots in New Jersey is subjective rather than objective. They stimulated the growth of the Protestant, particularly the Presbyterian churches in East Jersey, most of the Huguenots in West Jersey attaching themselves to Saint Mary's at Burlington or joining the Society of Friends. As large landowners, possessed of personal estate embracing objects of value, with artistic taste, they brought new refinements to America, and gave to their children a love for the beautiful--a sentiment in which the English were often lacking, by reason of environment, or which, if present, was suppressed on account of the severity of religious discipline. But standing clear and distinct against the early colonial horizon, the Huguenot star shines brightly, but under the later glow of the sun of English influence it merges into the greater glory. Yet the star dimmed remains in its courses, even while the sun stands in meridian.

New Jersey as a Colony and as a State, One of the Original Thirteen, by Francis Bazley Lee, Associate Board of Editors William S. Stryker, LL.D.: William Nelson, A.M., Garret D. W. Vroom: Ernest C. Richardson, PH. D.; Volume One; The Publishing Society of New Jersey New York MDCCCCII (1902) transcribed by Fred Kunchick

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