Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stone House III

A continuation of the timeline I started in Stone House II gets us up to two existing houses. Neither is in modern South Orange Village, but they are within the former South Orange Township. I'm mentioning the Timothy Ball House because it may incorporate the oldest existing house in the township, and it is only two blocks outside South Orange Village. And I'm mentioning the undated but possibly older wood frame part of the "Old Stone House" on Jefferson Avenue, partly for its age and partly because it was owned by Bethuel Pierson, who also owned the "Stone House on the Stone House Brook" in South Orange.

Detail of a map of South Orange Township in Shaw's History of Essex and Hudson Counties, 1884. I have added red spots to show the locations of houses I mention. The green line shows the approximate bounds of the Joseph Pierson mill property. The streets and railroad shown are contemporary to 1884.


This timeline makes no mention of various houses that were built in South Orange from about this date forward. The focus here is on a few old houses that are still in existence.

March 10, 1713

Two surveys of this date establish the owners of property around the "Old Stone House" in Maplewood. I will use modern street names. The surveys are quoted by McGrath.

The land the house is on was surveyed for Jonathan Crane and Nathaniel Wheeler. It is bounded by the Rahway River east, Crooked Brook south and west, and a line north of Parker Avenue north. Parts of Crooked Brook can still be seen aboveground: where it crosses Ridgewood Road next to the Timothy Ball House, then where it runs from Jefferson Avenue to Dunnell Road east of the Jefferson School, and then where it runs in Memorial Park to meet the Rahway River just north of Baker Street. Crane and Wheeler obtained this grant "by virtue of the purchase right of John Treat, Esq, and Nathaniel Wheeler, Jr ... and also by virtue of a deed of bargain and sale from William Robinson, Esq, for a certain share of the Proprieties [sic] for right granted to the said Nathaniel Wheeler".

The land to the south was surveyed for Joseph Meeker. It is bounded by the Rahway River east, Crooked Brook, a small brook near Durand Road, and a line north, top of the mountain west, and the boundary with Elizabethtown south. This four hundred acre spread is now partly in Maplewood and partly Millburn. Joseph Meeker of Elizabethtown (not a Newark man) was granted this "in right of Mr William Robinson".

Other than the above surveys, ownership in this area is hard to understand. A road survey of 1728 indicates that land to the east of the river was owned by Samuel Crowell.


According to Wickes, the second mill to be built in Newark was "on the Rahway River a short distance below South Orange, 1718". This would be Joseph Pierson's mill.

unknown, possibly 1718

Construction of the smaller wood frame portion of the Old Stone House, still standing at 22 Jefferson Avenue, Maplewood. The date of this portion of the house is unknown. It is probably not much older than 1718 or later than 1735, by my guess, and I lean to the older date.

This portion was about 16 by 20 feet, with a stone hearth, and otherwise wood frame. There is no basement under it. It is one room, with an attic story inside the peaked roof that was probably reached by a ladder.

The original owners were Joseph Pierson (c1693-1759) and his wife Hepzibah Camp (1698-1769), owners of the mill that Wickes dates to 1718. Pierson established a grist mill (for grain) and a saw mill. Joseph Pierson was 25 in 1718, the same year he and Hepzibah had the first of their eight children. My reasoning on dating the house early is that he would establish himself with an income before he was married, and build a house before he had children.

Beatrice Herman provides a map she plotted of Joseph Pierson's land. In modern terms it extended from north of Parker Avenue southward almost to Baker Street, on both sides of the river, the west side being from Crane and Wheeler land surveyed in 1713 and the east side possibly from Crowell land. The river was dammed to form two ponds around Parker Avenue, and the water was sent on a level "raceway" channel to the mills near Oakland Road. The Pierson house was about halfway between the pond and the mills, on the west side of the river.

Joseph Pierson's father was Samuel Pierson (1663-1730), who came to Newark in 1666 with his father Thomas Pierson, possibly a brother of Reverend Abraham Pierson.

Joseph Pierson's children were: Sarah (1718-1738), Bethuel (1721-1791), Patience (c1722-?), Joseph (c1723-?), Elizabeth (c1726-?), Mary (c1727-?), and Jemima (1734-?). I've found a few variations of this list, and only the first two, Sarah and Bethuel, seem to be well documented.

Sarah married Timothy Meeker (1708-1798), the son of Thomas Meeker, who owned the land to the south, as noted in the 1713 survey. She died at age twenty a week after her second child was born, named Sarah Meeker (1738-1792). (Timothy Meeker later moved to what is now Morris County. He married Hannah Munn, who died after one child, and Desire Cory, with whom he lived for more than fifty years and had thirteen children.)

Below, two photos of the wood frame portion, October 4, 2009. The closeup shows the outside wall of the stone hearth.

January 19, 1740

Thomas Ball and Aaron Ball (sons of Thomas Ball, brothers of Timothy Ball) bought from Joseph Pierson a half share in his grist mill and saw mill, described as being near the house of Samuel Crowell (which was near the modern corner of Parker Avenue and Valley Street).


Construction of the Timothy Ball House, still standing at 425 Ridgewood Road, Maplewood. Dated by a stone built into the chimney with "T E B 1743", for Timothy and Esther Ball. The house is located just south of the Stone House Brook.

The original part of the house is 25 feet square, with stone walls around the ground floor and part of the second floor. A frame addition of 1772, dated by a stone in the other chimney, doubled the size of the house. The pretentious columns were added in 1919, and an addition was made to the rear in 2007.

Clark (in Shaw's History of Essex and Hudson Counties) asked in 1884, "Is not this house the oldest now standing in the village?" By this date the Brown and Riggs houses were gone, and Clark evidently did not consider the Stone House in South Orange to be this old (and there is no evidence that it is). The house was not strictly in South Orange Village, although its postal address at that time was South Orange.

Here are three views of the north or front side as seen from Ridgewood Road. The older half is on the left, with the stone-walled ground floor and partly stone upper story. The floor of the newer portion is about halfway between the two older floor levels.

Below, the appearance of the house during some winter before 1919, from a photograph at the Durand-Hedden House and Garden Association, printed in Images of America: Maplewood (Arcadia Books, 1998). The columned porch and dormers had not yet been added. As noted in the book, the house probably looked very much like this since 1772.

Below, the house seen in 1936, when it was the Washington Inn. Photo by John Spinola, October 20, 1936, for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Below, the house on October 10, 2009. On the far right is the new addition.

Now here are two views of the south and east sides. The first is by R Merritt Lacey, May 5, 1936,for the Historic American Buildings Survey. The second is October 10, 2009. Notice the oven projecting from the wall. The door near the street was converted after 1936 to a window with a wood frame wall below it.

Below is a plan of the foundation story, from the Historic American Buildings Survey, 1936. I want to emphasize how clear it is that this house was built in two parts. That stone wall across the middle was the original outside wall of the 1743 portion, which is on the righthand side here. As usual the oldest part has a large hearth that was used both to prepare food and to keep warm in the winter. This hearth includes an oven, which can be seen from the outside in the photographs above.

unknown, possibly 1746

Bethuel Pierson (1721-1791) took on operation of his father's mill at about age 25.

Bethuel's first wife was Elizabeth Riggs (1725-1776), the daughter of James Riggs (1664-1744), who was the son of Edward Riggs (1636-1716), one of those named in the 1680 grant. Their children were Rhoada, Mary, Joseph (1754-1835), and Cyrus (1756-1804).

Late in life Bethuel would marry the "Widow Taylor".


Bethuel Pierson's father Joseph died. Bethuel continued to operate the mill as shown by the item below, 1767.


Bethuel Pierson was appointed an Elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Orange, a position he held for the rest of his life. He was known as Deacon Bethuel Pierson.

March 16, 1767

Joseph Crowell conveyed land to Aaron Tichenor, referring to modern Parker Avenue as "the road from Newark to Bethuel Pierson's Mill and the Mountain".

November 25, 1767

A deed for land sold by Joseph Gardner and his wife Mary to Daniel Riggs (owner of the Riggs stone house), for property now in downtown South Orange, states:

Beginning at a Corner, the Corner of the widow Mary Hedden's Land, thence Southerly on sd Mary Hedden's Line to the Road, thence South Easterly along sd Road until it comes to the Road that goes to Elisha Ward's, thence North Easterly as the Road goes until it comes to the Road that comes from Newark, Abel Ward, thence Northwesterly as the Road goes until it Comes to the first mentioned corner or place.

The deed was witnessed by Bethuel Pierson and John Hedden Jr. By a misreading of Clark (in Shaw's History), this deed has been confused with the next document he quotes from, which is dated 1787. This deed has almost nothing to do with our story of stone houses, and I have quoted it here to show that it does not mention a house owned by Bethuel Pierson.


Bethuel Pierson's mother Hepzibah died.


Construction of the second portion of the Timothy Ball House (see above, 1743).

Time to stop. Next time, we get to Bethuel Pierson's two stone houses, I promise, and then we'll end this. Neither house is well dated, but they are probably later than both parts of the Timothy Ball House.

My correction here as to the deed of 1767 is very important. Many writers, including me in the original Stone House piece, have said that the Stone House by the Stone House Brook must have existed by 1767 because it is mentioned in the deed of that year, but that is wrong. The first verified mention is twenty years later.

Next time: Stone House IV.


  1. I love the work. Fabulous. If some of you are aware of the CURRENT street addresses of these sites...that would be terrific. We have dial up here and the mapping/plats don't always show properly. We love the history and the facts! Pierson Descendents of MN

  2. Timothy Ball House is 425 Ridgewood Road, Maplewood NJ. Private residence.

    The Pierson "Old Stone House" is 22 Jefferson Avenue, Maplewood NJ. Private residence, currently for sale.

    The Bethuel Pierson "Stone House" is 219 South Orange Avenue, South Orange NJ. Owned by South Orange Village, in poor condition.

    The other two on the map have been gone more than a hundred years.

  3. There is an Aaron Ball house that was moved to Westfield at one point. Do you know anything about this house? It may be a house with a current address of 526 Wychwood Road, but I am not certain.