Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stone House II

I wrote about old stone houses in South Orange previously. That was a very long rambling piece and if you had trouble following it I am sorry. I might write a more succinct piece eventually. If you think that's what this is, sorry again. What's happening here is that I started trying to clarify things by making a timeline, and I'm giving you the start of it.

This timeline concentrates on issues related to land ownership in South Orange, because if we are going to try to guess the dates of very early houses, we need some context. Particularly we need to scope the earliest and latest possible dates for things. To get earliest dates, we need to know about when land was purchased from the Lenape "Indians" and when places were first settled by the English. I found out that there are also some political issues that could affect recording of land occupation. Read on.

Charles McGrath's map of 1696, showing central South Orange, with my red spots showing the location of the three stone houses referenced in this article. John Brown 1677, upper left ; Joseph Riggs 1687, far left ; Bethuel Pierson "Stone House by the Stone House Brook", right. Both house dates are unproved. The Riggs house is shown here as on John Treat's property as per McGrath's theory. I would locate John Treat's land only east of the river as described in his survey of 1694, touching just the southern corner of John Brown's land.

August 27, 1664

The Dutch colony New Netherland was surrendered to England and became the Province of New York, granted to and named for the Duke of York (later James II of England, 1685-1688). Settlement by the Dutch had been primarily near the Hudson River, with a few farms in the Passaic and Hackensack valleys. No settlement in the Oranges is known.

The Duke of York sent Richard Nicholls to be governor of the new province. While Nicholls was still at sea, the Duke granted land rights for "New Jersey" (newly named) to two supporters, George Carteret and Lord Berkeley, designating them as Lords Proprietors of New Jersey. Only the Proprietors were authorized to purchase land from the Lenape tribes, but they could then sell or rent their land to settlers.

The Proprietors understood themselves to have the right to govern New Jersey as a separate province from New York, but this was not explicitly stated. It would be disputed later whether a duke had the authority to create a provincial government.

The Lords Proprietors distributed a document called the "Concession and Agreement" that was virtually a constitution, establishing a governor and an assembly. Under it, landholders were required to pay an annual "quit-rent" to the Proprietors beginning in 1670. A quit-rent is something like a real estate tax.

Shortly after his arrival Governor Nicholls, knowing nothing of the grants to Carteret and Berkeley, made two large land grants in New Jersey, called the Elizabethtown Purchase and the Monmouth Purchase. The former extended from the Raritan north to some point on the Passaic River, and west for twice the distance as north, thus including much of modern Essex County. The two grants conflicted with the Duke's grants of all New Jersey to Carteret and Berkeley.


George Carteret appointed a fourth cousin, Philip Carteret, to be governor. He arrived in August 1665. He found the Nicholls Grants already accomplished. The settlers of Elizabethtown had purchased their Grant from the Raritan tribe. Governor Carteret disputed Nicholls's right to make a grant to the settlers, but he considered the Lenape to have been paid fairly for their land and confined his dispute to what the settlers' rights were. Settlers in the two Nicholls Grants would dispute their need to pay the quit-rent required by the Concessions, claiming that they had title to the land.

Newark would be founded the next year by Puritans from New Haven Colony who dissented from its merger with Connecticut Colony in 1662. They wanted a theocratic state controlled by members of their own religion. Some including Robert Treat had had talks with the Dutch about relocating to future New Jersey as early as 1661.

In 1665 Robert Treat and John Gregory met with Governor Carteret, and he suggested they might settle on the Passaic River at the future site of Newark. Carteret provided Treat with a grant and documentation that the land had already been purchased from the Lenape (as part of the Elizabethtown Grant). By accepting the grant from Carteret the settlers implicitly accepted Carteret as Proprietor and would need to pay the annual quit-rent according to the Concessions, and so placed themselves to that extent under a non-Puritan government.

May 17, 1666

Robert Treat arrived at Newark by ship with settlers. Upon arrival they were met by members of the Hackensack tribe who told them the land had not yet been purchased.

The Elizabethtown Grant covered lands of two tribes who had set their boundary at Weequahic Creek (the modern Newark-Elizabeth boundary). The settlers, possibly considering "Indians" interchangeable, had paid the Raritans but not the Hackensacks. Treat quickly met with the Hackensack chiefs and worked out a deal for the land, but when he brought it to Governor Carteret at Elizabethtown, Carteret refused to pay any more for land he considered already purchased.

The settlers then paid for the land themselves, setting up problems later. Since the Proprietor had not paid for the land, the settlers later considered themselves free of the obligation to pay quit-rent. Settlers in other Nicholls Grant areas took the same view.

The deal was made about May 20, 1666, and the Hackensack allowed the settlers to land and begin establishing a village. The final Bill of Sale was dated July 11, 1667. Among the settlers signing it was John Brown (1620-1690), who was possibly the first settler in South Orange (see below).

Treat's group from Milford were joined in October by Reverend Abraham Pierson's group from Branford and Samuel Swain's group from Guilford. Treat gave the new town the name Milford, but upon his arrival Pierson had it changed to Newark, probably for Newark-on-Trent, England, where he had been ordained. Treat must have had a change of heart, because he returned to Connecticut in 1672 and was governor there from 1683 to 1698. His son John (1650-1714) remained in New Jersey and owned land in South Orange (see below).

The bounds of the Town of Newark ran to the foot of the first Watchung Mountain, with north and south boundaries approximately the same as the modern Essex County borders. It included most of South Orange and Maplewood. The south boundary with Elizabethtown was fixed on May 20, 1668, as running along Weequahic Creek and then a line northwest to the end of the ridge at modern Millburn.

March 25, 1670

The first quit-rents were due on this date, as per the Concessions of 1664, the first day of the new year under the old style calendar. The settlers at Newark refused to pay because they and not the Proprietor had paid the Hackensacks for their land, and they even sent a party to see Governor Lovelace of New York about their rights. Settlers in other Nicholls Grant areas also refused, because they too had paid Lenape tribes for their land.

The situation was stalemated over the next two years. After Governor Carteret sailed for England in 1672 to get support from the Lords Proprietors, the resistors imprisoned some of his government officials. The Proprietors refused to abate the quit-rents and required all arrears to be paid on March 25, 1673. The settlers at Newark then offered payment in wheat but were refused, and they fortified the town.

July 30, 1673 - February 9, 1674

The Dutch seized former New Amsterdam and ruled for just over six months. The Newark settlers began to negotiate titles with the Dutch, but nothing was resolved.

The English recovered New York and New Jersey by treaty. Philip Carteret returned as Governor of New Jersey, and Edmund Andros became Governor of New York. Andros immediately began questioning why his jurisdiction did not include New Jersey.

July 1674

The Duke of York restored the Proprietorships, but this time he divided New Jersey into two provinces along a north-south line. George Carteret was given the land and government rights to East Jersey. Its capital was Elizabethtown until 1684 and then Perth Amboy to the end of East Jersey province in 1702.

Carteret announced an "explanation", actually a rewrite, of the Concessions of 1664. All property holders now required a Patent from the Surveyor General. Many settlers in Newark paid the fee for a Patent, but some continued to object to paying anything to the Proprietor.


Counties were formed for judicial purposes. In modern terms Essex County included Union, Essex, and the southern part of Passaic.

May 28, 1675

The Town of Newark ordered the Third Division of its common land, to allot private property in the large area they called Newark Mountain, lying between the built-up area (now downtown Newark) and the first Watchung ridge.

March 13, 1677

Newark purchased from the Hackensacks a strip of land to shift the western boundary from the base of the first Watchung ridge to the top.

March 3o, 1677

John Curtis and John Treat are assigned to "run the West Line with the Indians", that is, define the new western boundary.

unknown, possibly 1677

At unknown dates, properties in Newark Mountain were granted to at least two prominent settlers, John Brown and John Treat. This is evidenced mainly by later deeds and surveys suggesting their prior ownership. A possible reason for missing documentation is the quit-rents. If settlers were not recorded as owning the land, they were not charged. Historian John Pomfret has noted that around 1675, some settlers in the Nicholls Grant areas would take a Warrant on land but delay taking a Deed. A Warrant allowed time to survey property and occupy it pending a Deed.

Treat's property appear to have greatly exceeded the maximum size proposed in the Third Division, including much of the land along the Highway (South Orange Avenue) in modern Vailsburg and South Orange.

Brown's property was on the slope purchased in 1677. Beatrice Herman implies that John Brown was issued a Warrant, and she may have been relying on something in the Brown family archives.


Construction of a stone house, no longer in existence, by brothers Thomas and Joseph Brown, sons of John Brown, on his property, according to Beatrice Herman. She based this date on papers in the Brown family archives owned by Tillou family. In modern terms the site was near the corner of Ridgewood Road and Tillou Road (a block north of South Orange Avenue).


George Carteret died in January 1680. In his will he left the property to six peers in England as trustees, to settle his debts. In March Governor Andros of New York took this opportunity to announce his claim of jurisdiction over New Jersey, and in April his soldiers arrested Governor Carteret and imprisoned him in New York. Andros appeared before the New Jersey assembly on June 2 and told them to adhere to New York law, but they refused. The matter was not settled until March 1681, when a letter arrived from the Duke of York, dated November 1680, in which he explicitly relinquished claim to New Jersey. Andros returned to England and Carteret was restored as governor.

September 28, 1680

Records of the Newark Town meeting state:

Item— Nathaniel Wheeler, Edward Riggs, and Joseph Riggs, have a Grant to take up Land upon the upper Chesnut hill by Raway River near the Stone House ; provided they exceed not above fifty Acres a piece.

This notice appears to use the Brown house as a reference point that is "near" the land being described. Chestnut Hill was the vicinity of modern South Orange.

This notice is the basis for South Orange's claim to being settled in 1680, and the reference to a stone house has sometimes been applied to the Stone House on Grove Street.

February 2, 1682

Carteret's land rights were sold on February 2, 1682 to William Penn and eleven others, each of whom then sold half their interest to another investor. The twenty-four formed the Board of Proprietors of East Jersey, recognized as a corporation by the Duke of York in 1684.

December 1682

Governor Philip Carteret died. One of the Proprietors, Robert Barclay, a friend of William Penn, was appointed governor.


The Assembly passed a law stating that only Patents and Grants issued in the name of the Proprietors were valid.

This law threatened all of the Third Division settlements. It voided rights held under the Nicholls Grants and under Newark's purchases from the Hackensacks. Charles McGrath reports records of land holders buying the same land again from Proprietors to ensure title. But many would not do so.

February 1685

The Duke of York became King James II of England, the last Catholic king. He sent Andros to be Governor of New England, and dissolved the former charters of Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

March 9, 1685

Records of the Newark Town meeting state:

Item— It is agreed, that those Persons as want their Third Division of Land laid out, shall have it now laid out by the Town Surveyors, before any other Land be taken up, provided it be done between this Day and the first of April next ensuing.

Item— Joseph Brown and Thomas Brown have Liberty to take up Sixty Acres of land between them, when the Third Division is completed and they are willing to pay the Purchase— this Land is to be laid out by the aboves'd Surveyors, John Curtis and William Camp.

I don't know what to make of this "liberty" to the Brown brothers.

October 4, 1686

Records of the Newark Town meeting state:

Item— Joseph and Thomas Brown have Liberty granted, to exchange their Father's Third Division of Land lying beyond Elizabeth River, and to take up the Quantity thereof on this side Ruway River, below the Mouth of Stone House Brook.

The earliest documented use of the name "Stone House Brook". The name appears to refer to the Browns' own stone house opposite its mouth. Note that Luddington Brook similarly joins the Rahway River opposite the Luddington property.

This is the first documented reference to Brown's ownership of land here, but it refers to land already owned, evidenced by the survey (just below) stating that the house was already there. John Brown was still living, and this grant anticipates the sons inheriting John Brown's Third Division grant located in modern Irvington and then exchanging it for his other land where they had built a house.

1686 (after October 4)

Survey of the Joseph Brown property by the town surveyor, quoted by Clark (Shaw):

... a piece of upland granted by the Town vote, 30 acres on the mountain side down to Rahway River, bounded by the River East, John Treat South, Top of the Hill West, and Thomas Brown North ... note this Land hath a House on it, built by Joseph Brown and Thomas Brown, either of them having an equal share of it.

The first mention of the Brown house in town records.

"John Treat South" is a crux. The river here runs from northeast to southwest, and the Brown property lines running from river to mountain were at about right angles to it. McGrath took "South" to mean southwest, that is, the next property that ran from river to mountain. Herman takes "South" literally and identifies it with Treat's later documented property that would share not much more than a corner with the Brown land. The latter is simpler and probably correct. The implication then is that no one owned land to the southwest, since no neighbor is named.

unknown, possibly 1687

Construction of a house, no longer in existence, just southwest of the Brown house, for Joseph Riggs. Since Riggs is not mentioned as neighboring Joseph Brown in the 1686 survey, it probably means the family did not yet occupy the land at that time. But a "mountain home" is mentioned in Joseph Riggs's will, dated January 1689. If this is the house, it seems to have been built in 1687 or 1688.

Joseph Riggs (c1642-1689) willed his "mountain home" to his sons Samuel (c1676-1709) and Zopher or Zophar (c1678-?). Riggs was one of the three named in the 1680 town meeting grant. His second wife was Hannah Brown (1658-?), sister of John Brown. Notice that the children given the mountain home were only about thirteen and eleven years old in 1689.

Several historians identify the mountain home as what would be later the Daniel Riggs house, at the modern corner of Ridgewood Road and South Orange Avenue. Joseph Riggs's marriage to John Brown's sister would have influenced their choice of location.

However, by 1705, the house was occupied by descendants of Joseph Riggs's brother Edward Riggs (c1636-1716), namely Edward's son Joseph Riggs (c1675-1744) and then his son Daniel Riggs. If the mountain home is the Daniel Riggs house, then ownership was conveyed somehow from Samuel and Zopher to their cousin Joseph. This might seem contrived, but while a sale to Joseph Riggs (c1675-1744) is not documented, neither is any other way by which he acquired the property. His father Edward had taken property farther south, near Millburn, not here.

Hannah Riggs nee Brown later married an Aaron Thomson at an unknown date. She is still named Hannah Riggs in John Brown's will, 1690. Hannah Thomson (a widow again?) is named in a Warrant issued April 10, 1696, as being given 100 acres, but the location is unknown. McGrath does not list her Warrant. No land is granted to a Riggs in the Warrants of 1694 or 1696, which to some degree repeat earlier grants. The Warrant to Hannah Thomson may be for the land at the Daniel Riggs house. If so, she must have transferred it to her nephew Joseph Riggs sometime between that date in 1696 and the date of the road survey in 1705.

(Historian James Hoyt wrote in 1860 that Zopher Riggs "is supposed to have been the father of Joseph", but this is clearly impossible since Joseph Riggs (c1675-1744), known to be age 69 at his death, was three years older than Zopher!)


King James II authorized Governor Andros of New England to annex the provinces of New York, East Jersey, and West Jersey to his domain. The annexation was not accomplished, because the king was deposed in the Glorious Revolution the same year, and Andros was put out of office. William and Mary succeeded James in 1689.


Governor Barclay died. Following two short-term governors Andrew Hamilton was made governor in March 1692. He was removed in 1697 because of a peculiar law that only English subjects could hold such office. He was Scottish. The Proprietors and some leaders in East Jersey disputed the application of the law and the authority of his successor Jeremiah Basse. The Proprietors' attempts to restore Hamilton only raised the question in English courts of the Duke of York's right to establish a provincial government at all. Hamilton meanwhile was restored in 1700 while the case was heard, on his word that he would adhere to English law. The dispute wound through the English courts from July 1699 to April 1702.


The Town of Newark appealed to the Proprietors to recognize their titles to land including the Third Division. This yet another move in the longstanding dispute over quit-rents.

April 27, 1694, and April 10, 1696

Newark issued General Warrants, two on April 27, 1694, and a third on April 10, 1696, to a total of more than forty people. The Warrants appear in many cases to repeat earlier grants. I have not been able to figure out the implications of these Warrants. They were not issued in the name of the Proprietors as required by the act of 1683, but of course Newark still argued ownership of their purchases from the Hackensacks.

Of interest here, one of the 1694 Warrants gives John Treat the property "south" of the Brown property that he seemed to already own (see next item), and the 1696 Warrant gives Hannah Thomson (apparently the widow of Joseph Riggs), 100 acres that may be the mountain home willed to Samuel and Zopher Riggs.

The 1696 Warrant also gives Nathaniel Wheeler (1639-1726) three tracts including the site of the Stone House in South Orange. Wheeler was one of the three named in the 1680 grant. However he had built his house (possibly in 1684 according to a newspaper article seen by Herman) near the modern corner of Main Street and Valley Road, West Orange, and it would be named as a landmark in the 1705 road survey.

The Thomas and Joseph Brown properties are not in any of these Warrants, but then they were the subject of a special grant in 1686.

April 27, 1694

Survey of John Treat property warranted to him April 27, quoted by Clark (Shaw):

Land bounded by Stone House Brook on the north, Rahway River west, and measurements south and east bordering unsurveyed lands.

The second mention of the name of the brook.

This appears to describes the same property called "John Treat South" in the Browns' survey of 1686.

April 26, 1699

Survey of the three tracts warranted to Nathaniel Wheeler in 1696 (date from Clark (Shaw); 1696 in McGrath):

... the third [tract] on the upper Chestnut Hill, by the Stone House Brook, bounded south by the said brook, west by Samuel Freeman and unsurveyed land, north by Thomas Luddington ...

Once referenced to the Freeman and Luddington properties, this clearly describes property including the site of the Stone House in South Orange. Nothing is said of a house on these properties, but that is not significant because houses were not always mentioned. What is significant is that Wheeler did not live on any of these three tracts.

April 17, 1702

The provinces of East Jersey and West Jersey were abolished and surrendered to Queen Anne. New Jersey became a royal province, and the Proprietors were now purely a corporation of land owners. Hamilton, who had been governor of both Jerseys, was not selected as governor, but rather a fresh start was made with the appointment of Viscount Cornbury, who arrived in New Jersey in August 1703. Hamilton had died in April.

October 8, 1705

The first Essex County road survey describes the road now called Valley Road (West Orange) and Ridgewood Road (South Orange), from Main Street to South Orange Avenue, marking the ends as near Edward Wheeler's house and Joseph Riggs's house.

Can we stop here? We're going to start getting into Bethuel Pierson's two stone houses, and try to sort out when they were built. One is the "Stone House by the Stone House Brook" in South Orange, and the other is the "Old Stone House" in Maplewood. I'm pretty sure neither had been built yet in 1705, but we're closing in on one of them. Just you wait.

I think this article has a couple of new contributions. I have not seen the argument made that John Brown's grant might have been deliberately not recorded, nor have I seen any recognition that Hannah Thomson's 1696 Warrant was for Joseph Riggs's widow and possibly for the Riggs property. And I am repeating the idea from Stone House that the name of Stone House Brook comes from the Browns' stone house near its mouth.

Next time: Stone House III.


  1. I added March 9, 1685 after publication.

  2. That was awesome! Probably one of the more interesting reads in awhile.Damn interesting……..

    public records

  3. How did Zophar Riggs' cousins get his house? According to census records, Zophar moved to New York before 1800 and on to Ohio, where he died. It makes sense that he sold out before leaving New Jersey.