(From “To A Mouse” by Robert Burns, 1785)
by Jerseyman ©2010
Evidence of the London and Yorkshire Friends’ erstwhile settlement plans for the Eastern Shore of the Delaware River below the Falls and why they quickly came to naught
The Period from 1664 to 1675
After England won New Netherland, including the Zuydt or Delaware River, from the Dutch without firing a shot in 1664, James, the Duke of York, gifted the land comprising present-day New Jersey to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. The name “New Jersey” or Nova Caesarea pays homage to Carteret’s governorship of the Isle of Jersey in 1649, a location he successfully defended for the Royalists (Smith 1765 :35-51). Following the rout of the Dutch, the English sought to develop settlements along the eastern shore of the Delaware River. In February 1666 (n.s.), New Jersey Governor Philip Carteret wrote from New York to “Mr. Wm. Jones and the rest of the undertakers of the Plantation upon Delaware bay or River” (Whitehead 1880:51-54). No further records have been found regarding this “plantation” and it is unknown whether settlement actually occurred. The proposed plan does suggest, however, an English determination to quickly establish farms and communities within the new territory won from the Dutch. In July 1673 the Dutch reclaimed New Netherland, albeit temporarily, when warships from Holland sailed into New York Harbor during the third Anglo-Dutch War. In February 1674 the Hollanders surrendered all of its New Netherland lands in finality to the English under terms provided in the Treaty of Westminster, which ended the war. With the territory back in British control, King Charles II issued a new patent for New Jersey to his brother, the Duke of York. James, in turn, executed a new deed of conveyance to Carteret for the same (Prowell 1886:23).
With the Dutch governmental presence permanently removed from the territory, English settlers began arriving in earnest along the Delaware River seven years prior to William Penn establishing Pennsylvania, and occupied either new settlements or, in some cases, lands taken from the Dutch, Finns, and Swedes. The westward movement from Great Britain for settling the eastern shore of the Delaware River began with John Fenwick arriving and establishing his colony in Salem, New Jersey during 1675. Fenwick acquired title to one-half of New Jersey from Lord Berkeley in 1674 under Berkeley’s original deed of 1664. Edward Byllynge, a bankrupt London merchant and brewmaster, acted as a silent partner in the transaction. Byllynge’s creditors protested Fenwick’s acquisition of this large expanse of land, suspecting that Byllynge paid for it with money that rightfully belonged to them. Most of the creditors were members of the Society of Friends from London and Yorkshire, so, to resolve the disagreement, they collectively prevailed upon William Penn, Gawen Laurie, and Nicholas Lucas to act as trustees and mediators in deference to formal public court action. After due consideration and some rancorous negotiations, the three trustees granted one-tenth of the one-half of New Jersey to Fenwick in a tripartite deed and viewed him as a partner or tenant in common in the undivided land. However, Fenwick, always desirous of establishing his own colony, wasted no time in gathering a group of Friends to settle Salem, Fenwick’s Colony. The group of “adventurers” sailed for the New World in June 1675, an action that incensed Penn, Laurie, and Lucas as Fenwick had signed an agreement to participate in the division of the entire landmass, receiving one-tenth of the each 10,000-acre block. Instead, Fenwick chose to take his land in one block, selling 148,000 acres to fifty investors and settlers (Pomfret 1956:62-75).
William Penn, et al., Commission James Wasse, Richard Guy, and Richard Hartshorne as Agents
In an effort to counteract Fenwick’s territorial usurpation, William Penn and company requested that James Wasse, a London Churgeon (surgeon) who was planning to travel to Maryland to purchase a tobacco plantation during August 1676, serve as an agent in settling matters in West New Jersey. Penn and the other trustees provided Wasse with a set of 15 itemized instructions for directing his actions and that of Richard Hartshorne and Richard Guy in their roles as agents. Hartshorne had emigrated to New Jersey in 1669; Richard Guy had acquired 10,000 acres and James Wasse had purchased 5,000 acres from Fenwick while still in London. Guy then sailed with Fenwick to the New World in 1675. Wasse also carried a draft copy of the West New Jersey Concessions and Agreements to the New World for Penn, et al. The instruction document read as follows:
London, the 18th of 6th month called August, 1676 (o.s.).
We whose names are hereunder subscribed, do give full power, commission and authority, unto James Wasse, Richard Hartshorne and Richard Guy, or any two of them, to act and do for us according to the following instructions; and we do engage to ratify and confirm whatsoever they shall do in prosecution of the same.
1. We desire you to get a meeting with John Fenwick, and the people that went with him, (but we would not have you tell your business,) until you get them together; then show and read the deed of partition with George Carteret; also the transactions between William Penn, Nicholas Lucas, Gawen Lawrie, John Edridge and Edmond Warner, and then read our letter to John Fenwick and the rest, and shew John Fenwick he hath no power to sell any land there, without the consent of John Edridge and Edmond Warner.
2. Know of John Fenwick, if he will be willing peaceably to let the land he hath taken up of the natives be divided into one hundred parts, according to our and his agreement in England, casting lots for the same, we being willing that those who being settled and have cultivated ground now with him, shall enjoy the same, without being turned out, although they fall into our lots: Always provided, that we be reimbursed the like value and quantity in goodness out of John Fenwick’s lots: And we are also content to pay our ninetieth parts of what is paid to the natives for the same, and for what James Wasse hath purchased of John Fenwick, and he setting out the same unto him, not being in a place to be allotted for a town upon a river, but at a distance, and the said John Fenwick allowing us the like value in goodness in some other of his lots; we are willing he shall possess the same from any claiming by or under us; and for the town lots we are willing he enjoy the same as freely as any purchaser buying of us.
3. Take information from some that knows the soundings of the river and creeks, and that is acquainted in the country, and when James Wasse is in Maryland, he may enquire for one Agustine, who as we hear did found most part of Delaware river and the creeks: He is an able surveyor; see to agree with him to go with you up the river as far as over against New-Castle, or further if you can, so far as a vessel of a hundred tun can go; for we intend to have a way cut cross the country to Sandy-Hook; so the further up the way, the shorter: and there, upon some creek or bay, in some healthy ground, find out a place fit to make a settlement for a town; and then go to the Indians, and agree with them for a tract of land about the said place, of twenty or thirty miles long, more or less, as you see meet, and as broad as you see meet. If it be to the middle, we care not; only enquire if George Carteret, have not purchased some there already, that so you may not buy it over again.
4. Then lay out four or five thousand acres for a town; and if Agustin will undertake to do it reasonably, let him do it; for he is the fittest man; and if he think he cannot survey so much, being in the winter time, then let him lay out the less for a town at present, if it be but two thousand acres, and let him divide it in a hundred parts; and when it is done, let John Fenwick, if he please, be there; however, let him have notice: But however, let some of you be there, to see the lots cast fairly by one person that is not concerned, The lots are from number one to a hundred, and put the same numbers of the lots on the partition trees for distinction.
5. If John Fenwick, and those concerned with him, be willing to join with you in those things as above, which is just and fair, then he or any of them, may go along with you in your business; and let them pay their proportion of what is paid to the natives, with other charges: And so he and they may dispose of their lots with consent of John Edridge and Edmund Warner; which lots are, 20, 21, 26, 27, 36, 47, 50, 57, 63, 72.
6. If John Fenwick and his people, refuse to let the land they have taken up of the natives be divided, and refuse to join with you; you may let the country know in what capacity John Fenwick stands, that he hath no power over the persons or estates of any man or woman more than any other person.
7. What land you take of the natives, let it be taken, viz. ninety parts for the use of William Penn, Gawen Lawrie and Nicholas Lucas, and ten parts for John Edridge and Edmond Warner.
8. After you have taken the land as above, and divided for a town or settlement, and cast lots for the same as above; then if any have a mind to buy one or more proprieties, sell them at two hundred pound specie; they taking their lots as theirs do; paying to you in hand the value of fifty pounds in part of a propriety, and the rest on sealing their conveyance in London; and so they may presently settle. When any of the lots fall to us, that is to say, he that buyeth a propriety may settle on any one lot of ninety parts; which said persons that buys, and what lots falls to them, there they may settle, and acquaint us what numbers they are; and if any will take land to them and their heirs forever, for every acre taken up in a place laid out for a town, according to the concessions, they are not to have above what shall fall by lot to a propriety in a town.
9. What charges James Wasse is at, by taking up the land of the natives, we do oblige to pay the same unto him again, with what profits is usual there upon English goods; and he may pitch upon two lots, one in each town; if they be taken up before he comes away, to his own proper use, for his trouble and pains: And we do also engage to allow and pay what charges any of our commissioners shall disburse in executing these our instructions, to them or their assigns.
10. Let us be advised by the first ship that cometh for England, of all proceedings hereupon, and write to the friends at Sandy-Hook, letting them know how things are, and that we have divided with George Carteret, and that our division is all along on Delaware river; and that we have made concessions by ourselves, which we hope will satisfy friends there. If John Fenwick, or any of the people with him, desire a copy of the deed of partition, let them have it.
11. We desire that our original deed may be kept in your own custody, that it may be ready to shew unto the rest of the commissioners, which we intend to send over in the spring, with full power for settling things, and to lay out land, and dispose upon it, and for the settling some method of government according to the concessions.
12. If you cannot get Agustine to go with you or that he be unreasonable in his demands; then send a man to Thomas Bushroods, at Essex lodge, in York river, for William Elliot, who writes to Gawin Lawrie this year, and offered himself to be surveyor, and tell him you had orders from said Lawrie to send for him, and take him with you. He will be willing to be there all winter, and will survey and do other things. He had a good character in Virginia, but was not able to keep it; he is a fair conditioned sober man: Let him stay there all winter, and order him something to live upon.
13. If the said Elliot go with you, give him directions what to do. If you cannot stay ’till a place for a town be surveyed, yet we think you may stay until you have not only pitched upon a place for a town, but also upon a place for a second town and settlement, and have marked out the place round about there, and let William Elliot divide both, which no doubt but he may do before the spring, that we send over more commissioners and people; and if John Fenwick be willing to go on jointly with you there, his surveyor may go along and help ours, and the charges shall be brought in for both proportionably on all. Mind this, and speak to Richard Guy, or Richard Hartshorne, and leave orders with them to let William Elliot have provisions for himself ’till spring, and we shall order them satisfaction for the same; and if there be no house near the place you take up for the surveyors to lodge in, then let there be a cottage built for them on the place, and we will allow the charges.
14. And whereas there is tackling there already, for fitting of a sloop, as we judge, in the custody of Richard Guy: We also give you power if you see meet, and that it be of necessary use and advantage for the whole concern, you may order these ship-carpenters to build a sloop suitable for these materials, and appoint them some provision for their food, and for the rest of their wages they shall either have it in a part of the sloop, or be otherwise satisfied in the spring of the year; the said sloop to be ordered and disposed upon by you until more commissioners come over with further instructions.
15. For the goods we have sent over with James Wasse are to be disposed of for purchasing land from the natives or otherwise as need is, giving us account thereof.
(Dunn and Dunn 1981:411-414)
Eight days after Penn and the other London Friends drafted the instructions for Wasse, Hartshorne, and Guy, the same five men, along with John Edridge (Eldridge), penned a letter to Richard Hartshorne, who resided on his estate named “Portland,” located near present-day Middletown in Monmouth County. The Londoners desired to clarify their instructions to Hartshorne, whom they trusted and knew would come to no harm from Fenwick and his influences.
London, 26th of the 6th month, 1676 (o.s.).
We have made use of thy name in a commission and instructions, which we have sent by James Wasse, who is gone in Samuel Groome’s ship for Maryland; a copy of which is here inclosed, and also a copy of a letter we have sent to John Fenwick, to be read to him in presence of as many of the people that went with him as may be; and because we both expect, and also entreat, and desire thy assistance in the same we will a little shew things to thee, that thou may inform not only thyself; but friends there; which in short is as follows
1st. We have divided with George Carteret, and have sealed deeds of partition, each to the other; and we have all that side on Delaware river from one end to the other; the line of partition is from the east side of little Egg Harbour, straight North, through the country, to the utmost branch of Delaware river; with all powers, privileges, and immunities whatsoever: ours is called New West-Jersey, his is called New East-Jersey.
2d. We have made concessions by ourselves, being such as friends here and there (we question not) will approve of; having sent a copy of them by James Wasse; there we lay a foundation for after ages to understand their liberty as men and christians, that they may not be brought in bondage, but by their own consent; for we put the power in the people, that is to say, they to meet and choose one honest man for each propriety, who hath subscribed to the concessions; all these men to meet as an assembly there, to make and repeal laws, to choose a governor, or a commissioner, and twelve assistants, to execute the laws during their pleasure; so every man is capable to choose or be chosen: No man to be arrested, condemned, imprisoned, or molested in his estate or liberty, but by twelve men of the neighbourhood: No man to lie in prison for debt, but that his estate satisfy as far as it will go, and be set at liberty to work: No person to be called in question or molested for his conscience, or for worshipping according to his conscience; with many more things mentioned in the said concessions.
3. We have sent over by James Wasse, a commission under our hands and seals, wherein we impower thyself; James Wasse and Richard Guy, or any two of you, to act and do according to the instructions, of which here is a copy; having also sent some goods, to buy and purchase some land of the natives.
4. We intend in the spring to send over some more commissioners, with the friends and people that cometh there, because James Wasse is to return in Samuel Groom’s ship for England: for Richard Guy, we judge him to be an honest man, yet we are afraid that John Fenwick will hurt him, and get him to condescend to things that may not be for the good of the whole; so we hope thou wilt ballance him to what is just and fair; that John Fenwick betray him not, that things may go on easy without hurt or jar; which is the desire of all friends; and we hope West Jersey will be soon planted; it being in the minds of many friends to prepare for their going against the spring.
5. Having thus far given thee a sketch of things, we come now to desire thy assistance, and the assistance of other friends in your parts; and we hope it will be at length an advantage to you there, both upon truth’s account, and other ways; and in regard many families more may come over in the spring to Delaware side, to settle and plant, and will be assigned by us to take possession of their particular lots; we do entreat and desire, that thou, knowing the country, and how to deal with the natives; we say, that thee, and some other friends, would go over to Delaware side, as soon as this comes to your hands, or as soon as you can conveniently; and James Wasse is to come to a place called New-Castle, on the other side of Delaware river, to stay for thee, and any that will go with him; and you all to advise together, and find out a fit place to take up for a town, and agree with the natives for a tract of land; and then let it be surveyed and divided in one hundred parts; for that is the method we have agreed to take, and we cannot alter it; and if you set men to work to clear some of the ground, we would be at the charges; and we do intend to satisfy thee for any charge thou art at, and for thy pains: This we would not have neglected; for we know, and you that are there know, that if the land be not taken up before the spring, that many people come over there, the natives will insist on high demands, and so we shall suffer by buying at dear rates, and our friends that cometh over, be at great trouble and charges until a place be bought and divided; for we do not like the tract of land John Fenwick hath bought, so as to make it our first settlement; but we would have thee and friends there, to provide and take up a place on some creek or river, that may lie nearer you, and such a place as you may like; for may be it may come in your minds to come over to our side, when you see the hand of the Lord with us; and so we can say no more, but leave the thing with you, believing that friends there will have a regard to friends settling, that it may be done in that way and method, that may be for the good of the whole; rest thy friends,
(Dunn and Dunn 1981:416-418)
Based on the instructional document quoted above, Penn and the other trustees designated Wasse to negotiate with John Fenwick concerning land title issues and his disregard of the signed agreement. The first two paragraphs of the instructions describe how Wasse and the other agents should deal with Fenwick and his settlers, as did various other sections in the instructional document. Penn, et al., then directed Wasse to meet with Fenwick and as many of his followers as possible, and inform them that the title to their land might be unfounded. Fenwick’s continuing capricious actions finally led to his arrest and imprisonment in New York under Governor Andros. He returned to Salem under probation in October 1677 and continued to create problems for Penn and the other trustees (Whitehead 1880:220-224; Pomfret 1956:76-79).
James Wasse and the Settlement of Lands above Fenwick’s Colony
Dealing with the Fenwick problem was not Wasse’s only assignment. In an effort to leapfrog around the issues surrounding Fenwick and his Salem colony, paragraph three of the commissioning document orders Wasse to locate land for a Town:
…thereupon some Creek or bay in some halthy Ground find out a Place fitt to make a Setlment for a Towne and then goe to the Indians and agree wth Them for a Track of Land about the said place of Tuenty or Therty myles long more or less as yee see met, and as broad as yow see meet…. (Dunn and Dunn 1981:412)
In paragraph four, Penn commissions Wasse to layout the town:
…Then Lay out four—or five Thousand Akers for a Towne and if Agustine will undertake to doe it reasonably lett him doe it for He is the fittest Man and if He think he cannot Survey soe much being in the winter time then let him lay out the less for a Towne at present If it be but two Thousand Akers and let him devide it in a hundred parts…. (ibid.)
Paragraph 13 of the instructions states that Wasse should “…not only pitched upon a place for a town, but also upon a place for a second town and settlement, and have marked out a place round about there…” (Dunn and Dunn 1981:414). Wasse carried out his orders concerning settlements with all due diligence. He did fail in obtaining the services of the surveyors suggested in the instructions, so Wasse likely employed Fenwick’s surveyor, Richard Hancock, who worked with Wasse without Fenwick’s knowledge or approval. During the period when Wasse used Hancock’s surveying abilities, Fenwick was languishing in the New York gaol following his arrest by Governor Andros. He later complained bitterly, “James Wasse and Richard Guy began vigorously to seize upon my said colony causing the same to be survey by Richard Hancock (my sworn surveyor-general) without my knowledge” (Stewart 1939:34). Upon completing his work under the terms of the instructions, Wasse most certainly provided the London Friends with a full written report, but that report has never been found, although many have searched. We only have one evidentiary exhibit that clearly delineates what Dr. James Wasse has accomplished: the John Thornton and Robert Greene undated publication, A Mapp of Virginia Mary-land, New-Jarsey, New-York, & New England.
Despite the lack of a stated publication date, we can be safe in stating that Thornton and Greene published this map in late 1677 or in early 1678, due to the depiction of both Wasse’s proposed settlements and the label “Bridlington” appearing on the map together. Whether other states of this map exists or did exist is unknown to this author.
The 1677 arrival of the London and Yorkshire Settlers
Gregory Marlow’s good ship KENT carried the first group of Quaker adventurers to West New Jersey since Fenwick departed England in June 1675. The KENT arrived in New Castle, Delaware, on 16 September 1677 and then proceeded up the Delaware to the Swedish settlement centered on Raccoon Creek, where they established temporary quarters. Meanwhile, the appointed commissioners left the remaining pioneers while still at New Castle and traveled up the Delaware to a location known as Chygoes Island. The island’s name, formerly thought to be the name of an Indian chief, is actually a corruption of Peter Jegou’s surname. Jegou, a Frenchman, had arrived on the Delaware prior to 1663 and taken up land, probably as a squatter, in present-day East Burlington near the confluence of the Assiscunk Creek and the Delaware, where he established a tavern at Lassa Point (DeCou 1945:3-4). The group of commissioners carried a number of Swedish interpreters for negotiations with the indigenous people concerning the lands the Friends desired to purchase. The commissioners departed the meeting with three transactions: all the land from Oldman’s Creek to Timber Creek; all the land from Timber Creek to Rancocas Creek; and all the land from Rancocas Creek to the Assunpink Creek near the Falls. The Yorkshire Friends chose the Falls as their settlement location and the commissioners declared the purchase of land between the Rancocas Creek and the Assunpink Creek as the First Tenth. The Londoners selected Wasse’s town location at Arawames for their settlement and the commissioners labeled the land between the Rancocas Creek and Timber Creek as the Second Tenth. The land between Timber Creek and Oldman’s Creek then became the original Third Tenth (Smith 1765 :92-98).
Based on information appearing on the Thornton and Greene map, Wasse’s Bethlem Township, a.k.a. Arawames, an old aboriginal name, would serve as the new home for the initial settlers who arrived on the Delaware from London. Historian Samuel Smith writes, “To begin a settlement there, [Thomas] Olive [of London] sent up servants to cut hay for cattle he had bought…” from the Swedes (Smith 1765 :98). The Yorkshire Friends assumed control of Wasse’s second planned settlement, a 5,000-acre reserve at the Falls of the Delaware—the present site of Trenton. When the Yorkshire pioneers realized the distance that separated their settlement from that of the Londoners, however, they quickly told those at Arawames “…if they would agree to fix by them, they would join in settling a town, and that they should have the largest share, in consideration that they (the Yorkshire commissioners) had the best land in the woods: Being few, and the Indians numerous, they [the Londoners] agreed to it” (ibid.).
When the two groups agreed to settle together, they selected a location approximately halfway between the Falls and Arawames: Chygoes Island, where the land negotiations with the Indians had occurred just a couple of weeks before. Richard Noble, who had arrived with Fenwick, laid out the new town for the two groups of Friends (Smith 1765 :98). Initially, the nascent settlement carried several names, including “New Beverley” and “Bridlington,” before the founders agreed on “Burlington.” With the change in settlement patterns, the boundary lines for the Tenths underwent revision, with the First Tenth now extending from the Falls to the center of High Street, Burlington. The Second Tenth included the land between the center of High Street to the Pennsauken Creek, while the Third Tenth now covered the land between the Pennsauken Creek and Big Timber Creek. The new Fourth Tenth extended between Big Timber Creek and Oldman’s Creek (Snyder 1969:12, 29).
The third identified location on the Thornton and Greene map associated with James Wasse is Antioch Township, which Wasse based on the 5,000 acres he had purchased from Fenwick while still in London. It is only this toponym that appears in the early land records of West New Jersey as Wasse sold off portions of the tract (Nelson 1899:, 397, 513, 550). Notice that Antioch Township appears on the map to wrap around Salem, as if Wasse, either consciously or even subconsciously, attempted to contain Fenwick’s ambitions through the barrier of owning the land immediately outside the boundaries of the Salem colony. When the London settlers abandoned Arawames and most of the Yorkshire pioneers left the Falls and relocated to Burlington within a month after arriving, Wasse’s proposed and surveyed settlements at the Falls and Bethlem Township quietly evaporated into the fog of history and they remain missing from much of the documentary historical record. The name “Bethlem Township” quickly fell into disuse, but settlements occurred within the land it comprised beginning in 1681 with the Newton Colony. Gloucester Town followed three years later, initially under the name “Arawames” (Mickle 1845:34, 48).
It seems painfully obvious that John Pomfret and other historians who sought to provide us with substantive and factual early histories of West New Jersey never viewed the Thornton and Greene map. If they had viewed it, these scholars would have reached the same conclusions that I have discussed above.
De Cou, George
1945 Burlington: A Provincial Capital. Library Company of Burlington, Burlington, New Jersey.
Dunn, Mary Maples and Richard S. Dunn, editors
1981 The Papers of William Penn. Volume One : 1644-1679. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1845 Reminiscences of Old Gloucester:…. Townsend Ward, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Nelson, William, editor
1899 Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey, Volume XXI, Calendar of Records in the Office of the Secretary of State, 1664-1703. [The New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, New Jersey.
Prowell, George R.
1886 The History of Camden County, New Jersey. L.J. Richards & Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Pomfret, John E.
1956 The Province of West New Jersey : 1609-1702. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
1765 The History of the Colony of Nova-Cæsaria, or New-Jersey…. Second Edition. William S. Sharp, Trenton, New Jersey.
Snyder, John P.
1969 The Story of New Jersey’s Civil Boundaries. Bureau of Geology and Topography, Trenton, New Jersey.
1939 Major John Fenwick. Salem Standard and Jerseyman, Salem, New Jersey.
Thornton, John and Robert Greene
[c. 1678] A Mapp of Virginia Mary-land, New-Jarsey, New-York, & New England. John Thornton at the Sundyall in the Minories and Robert Greene at ye Rose and Crowne, in Budg-rowe, London, England.
Whitehead, William A., editor
1880 Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey. New Jersey Archives, First Series, Vol. 1. [New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, New Jersey].