Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dill Weed

Whew, I got worn out by those last few essays. So to recover, I will just clear my head of some random thoughts. Yes, it's time once again for a meta post where I riff off some previous posts, because I can toss one of these together like so much green salad.

Speaking of green salad, here's a good one. Get yourself a mixture of good greens like butter lettuce, romaine, radicchio, like one of those bags of lettuce shreds they sell nowadays. Put some nice Italian dressing on there and mix it with the greens. Now, you drop some real crunchy croutons on top, mixed white and pumpernickel if you can get it. Then sprinkle on some grated parmesan. And the coup de grace: a little dill weed right on top. Wow, that's good. The dill weed is the secret ingredient. It's called a weed, so you don't think you want it, but you do. Like this blog.


Stone House

Enough of that, huh?

The Stone House series is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to avoid by writing this blog. Sometimes I get onto a topic and it turns into a Thing. My plan had been to confine myself to what I could write in a week, and move on. Oh well. I had fun with it and I hope maybe someone else did. I especially liked part IV, and it needed II and III to lead up to it.

Did the photos of the Old Stone House in Maplewood look a little off to you? They look like faded film prints, don't they? Here's the story behind that.

The house is for sale. I'll tell you, if I could afford to finance $830,000 and pay $18,000 a year in real estate tax maybe I would buy it. That's an amazing price. I wonder what they would want for the joint if it did not have a busy passenger railway fifty feet from the front door. There's a minimum of four trains an hour, twenty hours a day. Maybe the stone walls muffle the sound. In my case, I like trains, so it wouldn't stop me. The slick sales brochure says nothing about the railway. Well, it does say trains to New York are nearby. You could put it that way.

So I walked over there one Sunday when they had Open House hours. The seller's agent was very nice. We talked a little about the house's history, and I took pictures inside and out. The next day when I loaded the photos onto my computer I realized to my horror that I had had the camera on a weird setting. They were all underexposed, very dark.

But some of the outdoor shots could be salvaged. I loaded them into Graphic Converter, a great program you should get if you have a Mac, and started playing around with them. I found that I could get something usable if I did this: push brightness way up, play with levels a little bit, and then really saturate the colors. There's no real black any more, which is what makes them look faded. But on the plus side, you can see details on the house, which was the point.

Here's a pair, showing you what the raw image looked like and (repeating from Stone House IV) the results.

The indoor photos are almost solid black no matter what I do with them. However I was able to get something out of one of them. It shows the 1763 document signed by Timothy Meeker, framed and mounted on the wall within which it was found. It's still pretty bad, even after processing, and I didn't want to take all this time to explain it in Stone House IV. But here you go.

We're standing in the old frame portion of the house, looking at the wall between the two portions. The finish wall here has been removed, so you can through to the stone wall.

I hope the document goes with the house as part of the sale. It was literally part of the house for almost two hundred years.



People. The College Stories are the most creative writing I have done in a dog's age, and what's all I hear about? Where the Kierkegaard quote comes from.

If anything I expected to hear about my uncanny ability to place Kierkegaard and Ed Wood quotes close together on the virtual page and have both of them be relevant. You don't see that very often, do you? In fact, I have Googled +kierkegaard +"ed wood" to prove the point. Steps is the third hit. The second hit is interesting, but hey, look at that first one. Professor Robert Markley at the University of Illinois has written both a book on Kierkegaard and an article on Ed Wood! I salute you, sir. But still, you don't quote both in the same essay, right? I win.

Some day, I will explain how cleverly put together the College Stories are, how lots of little things fit into a peculiarly satisfying whole. I'll give you a close reading. An exegesis. An explication de texte. I threw in stuff you didn't even notice. Inevitably I will make each of my commentaries even longer than the original, so give up any ideas about using them to cheat on assignments.

I should probably get around to that before the exemplars of "Mary" and "Lisa" stumble across this blog and "take care of me", as we say in Jersey. Both of them are on Linkedin. So am I. And I mention this blog in my listing. It could happen. All they have to do is think of me and search, and why would they not do that? But I am a man who lives for danger. All my friends know it.


A Sheep Spoke

Remember I wrote about the radar speed detector? I said it gave my speed as 4 when I was walking, and 6 when I ran at it. But I was running the way I would run if I was going to go a ways, more like jogging. Later I thought, what if I really went for it, and ran as hard as I possibly could? Sadly the device had been taken away by the time I thought of it.

Two weeks ago, the thing turned up again, right along the street where I walk to the station. Here is documentary evidence of my running prowess:

Yes, I managed 9. I ran 9 for about twenty feet while Helen snapped a photo in the fading light. Look, I was so fast I'm a blur!

Oh it was just a long exposure. This time of year, by the time we get home from work, the sun has dropped behind the mountain, but I was afraid that if we waited for full daylight on the weekend, the police might have moved the thing to who knows where. So I got Helen to come with me and grab a shot while we could.

As we walked back to the car she gave me The Look.

Do you realize that those Olympic runners who do a four-minute mile are going 15? And they're going 15 for a whole mile? Amazing. Doing 9 is quite an effort, I can tell you. I couldn't do it for long.

I think Runner Girl does 6 for four miles. That's pretty impressive. I'm getting to where I have an idea of what a workout that is.


I know what you will say. If the speed detector had been gone by Saturday, I could have called and just asked where it was, right? Sure. Right. The audio tape would have recorded something like this:

Hello. South Orange Police.

Hi. You know that box that says "Your Speed" and shows the speed cars are going? Can you tell me where it is right now?

(cautious) Why... would you want to know that?

I just wondered.

(suspicious) Well...

I want to take a picture of it.

(suspicious) A picture of it?

OK. I will explain. I want to get a photo of myself running toward it, to show how fast I can run. It's not where it was a few days ago.

(disbelief) You want to...

What do you think? Would they tell me? If they told me, would they ask when I was going to do it, so they could send cars there to give the hard-working men and women of South Orange's Finest a good laugh?

It reminds me of one time back when we lived in the city. Someone broke in and took a few small things, and Helen and I were in the apartment with a couple of police officers, discussing the case. One of them picked up a jar from the floor and looked at it with a puzzled expression and asked what that was floating in the yellow fluid. "A monkey brain", Helen told him with a shrug, the way you would say it if plenty of people kept a jar with a monkey brain in it on the living room floor.

That really happened.

Next time: Reservoir.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Stone House IV

A continuation of the timeline I started in Stone House II and Stone House III gets us up to the Bethuel Pierson houses.

We suddenly come upon a flurry of house construction around 1774. This appears to be the date of the Riggs House rebuilding, the possible date of the stone portion of the Old Stone House in Maplewood, and the possible date of the Stone House by the Stone House Brook.

There are a few other existing houses in the two towns as old as these. We are interested in the ones I mention for a few reasons. The Riggs house, not longer in existence, was "rebuilt", whatever that means, from possibly the second house in South Orange. Bethuel Pierson's two houses are relevant to claims that the Stone House by the Stone House Brook is the oldest existing house in South Orange. It probably is, too, but by my reckoning it's almost a hundred years younger than is sometimes claimed.

January 11, 1774 (1773 old style)

Clark writes in one paragraph:

Bethuel Pierson, "heir-at-law", administered upon the estate of Samuel on Jan 11, 1773. Bethuel Pierson gave a mortgage upon one hundred acres, whereon he now lives at the mountain plantation by a certain brook called Stone House Brook. (A, m'tg'e Essex Co, p 250.)

This is the earliest documented reference to the Stone House in South Orange if the two sentences are intended to refer to the same date.

The first sentence is baffling. An heir-at-law inherits property from someone who died without a will, but who was Samuel? Bethuel's grandfather Samuel Pierson died in 1730, 44 years before this, his father-in-law Samuel Camp died in 1744, 30 years before this, and his uncle Samuel Pierson was still living. Did Clark mean to say the estate of Bethuel's mother Hepzibah, who died in 1769, a widow for ten years? At any rate Bethuel "administered upon" someone's estate.

The A mortgage book is not available, but the B mortgage book (the second book chronologically) starts at a date in 1777, giving us the latest possible year for the item Clark refers to.

What's the relation between settling an estate and taking a mortgage? It sounds as if Bethuel inherited money or property that he could use as collateral. I'll make a suggestion. These events were the basis for Bethuel building the stone portion of the Old Stone House in Maplewood, and building the Stone House by the Stone House Brook. The latter represents Bethuel stepping away from the mill business and living in the emerging village at South Orange.

Clark's wording, "Bethuel Pierson gave a mortgage upon one hundred acres, whereon he now lives" appears to be a quote from the A book. It's not Clark in 1884 saying that Bethuel "now lives". Since the words refer to giving the mortgage in past tense and living there in present tense, the book is recording a mortgage signed earlier than the date of record. We don't know the date of this entry in the A book, but Clark implies it is after January 11, 1774, and we know it is before some date in 1777. That's the best I can make of it. What's your interpretation?


Reconstruction by Daniel Riggs (1724-1786) of the Joseph Riggs (c1642-1689) house, no longer in existence. Clark writes that the house was "added to and rebuilt in 1774 ... The memorial stone over the entrance had a double heart, enclosing the letters: D S R 1774".

The date is clear from the description of the stone, even though the house no longer existed when Clark wrote in 1884. It is not obvious what was meant by it being added to and rebuilt.

The first clearly dated mention of the Stone House by the Stone House Brook happens to be in connection with this same Daniel Riggs's death in 1786 and the survey of another property he owned a few blocks farther east.

A painting of the house was reproduced in Wickes's History of the Oranges, 1892. The spot above the door would be the stone heart mentioned by Clark. The dimensions might be 25 by 40 feet, but there may be some artistic license involved, because the left side of the house seems to be on a larger scale than the right: is it one story or two below the attic?

unknown, possibly 1774

Construction of the stone 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 about 30 feet square. The usual date given is approximately 1774. The Historic American Buildings Survey (1936) says, "According to local tradition, the house was built by Timothy Ball and completed in March 1776." Ball did not build the house, but the date is similar to other accounts.

One of the stone steps leading to the door of the stone portion has a monogram of J and H carved into it, which may identify the original owners of the frame portion, Joseph and Hepzibah Pierson. If so, and a date of circa 1774 is correct, it was a gesture to them by their son Bethuel who now owned it.

I had a good conversation with Susan Newberry at the Durand-Hedden House, in which she pointed out that the J H monogram could be from any date. But the ownership of the old house by Joseph and Hepzibah Pierson seems to have been forgotten by the 1930s, so it seems to me that the monogram is old. It might even be argued that the monogram means that the stone portion dates from their ownership of the house, before Joseph's death in 1759. I have no good argument against this. The type of construction is consistent with the Timothy Ball House of 1743. The only reason I date it as late as circa 1774 is the tradition that it was built around that date. But that could be wrong.

In 1967, the owners of the house found two documents in the wall between the wood frame and stone portions of the house. One was for an auction in 1750. The other document was a land transfer signed in 1763 by Timothy Meeker, the widower of Bethuel Pierson's sister Sarah, who died in 1738. Both documents therefore are older than the stone portion, if a date in the 1770s is correct.

An undated statement in Clark says:

Deacon Bethuel Pierson had a stone addition added to his dwelling-house, which he caused to be dedicated by religious ceremonies, especially requesting that the following words should be sung on the occasion: "Be not too proud by any means, / Build not your house too high ; / But always have before your mind, / That you were born to die."

Cheerful. This appears to refer to the Old Stone House on Jefferson Avenue. That house clearly had an addition made to it. The statement has often been applied instead to Bethuel Pierson's other house in South Orange. My original Stone House piece is an example.

I wish to thank Lynn Gale for pointing out to me that the statement could refer to this house. I think this makes more sense. Bethuel's South Orange stone house shows no evidence of being added to, while his Maplewood house clearly does. If it was still Bethuel Pierson's "dwelling-house", then he had not yet relocated to the Stone House in South Orange, and if the date of 1774 is correct, then the Stone House is later than 1774. That's two "if"s.

The house was owned by Daniel Beach from 1837 to 1853, and then by the painter Asher B Durand (1796-1886) and family until 1922. Beach was married to Betsy (Elizabeth) Durand, Asher's sister. It is sometimes called the Beach-Durand House or simply the Durand House, not to be confused with the Durand-Hedden House still standing a few blocks away on Ridgewood Road.

A photograph from the late 19th century shows the front of the house in the same condition as a drawing by Asher Durand dated 1866. The Morris and Essex Railroad was still at street level, and the driveway from Dunnell Road was still open. The small barn at the left is in the Durand drawing too. The little wood frame portion is dwarfed by the stone addition to its right, as modest as it is, with just a door and two windows.

A postcard mailed in 1909 gives a similar view of the "Durand House". It was owned by the Durand family at the time.

Once the railroad grade was raised, about 1915, the front yard of the house facing Dunnell Road became hidden, and the owners planted bushes where the lawn had been. Views like those above became impossible. Below, photographs from 1936 and 2009 show the south side of the house. The dormer windows were added in the mid 1920s when the interior was renovated.

A close view of the front side shows the carefully cut stones.

Photographs from 1936 and 2009 show the north side. This is the only side readily visible today, since it faces Jefferson Avenue. (Riders on New Jersey Transit's Morris and Essex Line can still see the original front from the train window.)

The rarely photographed back (west side). On the right is the modern kitchen, an enlargement of a kitchen that was added during the 1920s renovation. The kitchen is in the back of the frame portion.

The J H monogram. This on the steps leading to the front door of the stone portion.

Elevation, and plans of the basement and ground floor, from the Historic American Buildings Survey, 1936. There is no basement under the old frame portion. The ground floor of the stone portion is supported by an awkward arrangement of two wooden beams with iron post interior supports, similar to houses from the 1920s and thus probably dating from the 1920s renovation. Only the ground floor room of the wood frame portion has an authentically colonial period look to it, and even that may be partly re-created since the upper floor has been changed to a more modern style.

May 1775

Bethuel Pierson was elected to represent Essex County in the Provincial Congress.

unknown, possibly 1775

Construction of the Stone House by the Stone House Brook, still standing. The date is my guess.

The size of the house, 30 by 50 feet, is similar to the size of the Timothy Ball House as enlarged in 1772. The foundation of this Stone House gives every indication of construction as a unit, with a center stone wall running lengthwise, allowing for joists spanning just 12 feet on both sides. By contrast the Ball house and the Old Stone House have more square sections requiring a center beam about 22 feet in length carrying joists of about 12 feet on each side of it.

Tradition is that Bethuel's son Joseph began managing the family mill at an early age. His 21st birthday was in 1775. Is this the year when Bethuel moved to the large house at the Stone House Brook in South Orange and turned over the mill and the old house to Joseph?

Bethuel's wife Elizabeth died in 1776. Her brother Daniel Riggs owned the property immediately south of the Stone House at the Stone House Brook, although he seems to have lived at the old house he rebuilt in 1774 (see above). Is there any connection?

The northwest corner of the Stone House by the Stone House Brook, South Orange, seen in June 2009. The rubble stone construction is quite a contrast with the Old Stone House, Maplewood. Was it meant to be hidden under a finish coat of cement? Was the front, now hidden under walls of the 19th century frame portion, of cut stone?

August 21, 1787

A survey by Thomas Ball (brother of Timothy Ball) of a portion of the "Bowers Place", which was the property sold to Daniel Riggs on November 25, 1767 (see Stone House III). The survey was done in connection with Daniel Riggs's will, dated October 1, 1786. In it he gave 10 acres of the Bowers Place to John Hedden and 4 acres to his daughter Phebe. Excerpts, from Clark (Shaw):

The 10 acres piece which sd John Headen is to have ... Begins at the east corner of the widow Mary Headen, By the Road that goes to or past Bethuel Person's, and from thence south 20 Degrees and a half west, 6 ch, 83 links to the Road that Leads to Town by Daniel Hays', thence along sd Road south 29 degrs east 8 chains to a stake by sd Roads, thence north 42 degrs and 5 minutes, east 14 ch and 90 l to a stake by the Road first above mentioned, near against sd Person's house, Thence along sd Road North 61 degrs and 35 min, west 1 ch and 15 l, Thence North 79 Degrs and 15 min, West 10 ch and 72 links to the Begining Corner, Containing teen acres, Strict Measure.

A Survey of a Tract, of 4 acres of the old feild Near Mr Elihu Ward's and one acre of wood land adjoining the same that was Given unto Phebe, Daughter of Daniel Riggs, now the wife of Amos Turrell, by her father, Daniel Riggs, deed.

This is the first clearly dated reference to Bethuel Pierson's house on the Stone House Brook. The "Road that goes to or past Bethuel Person's" is South Orange Avenue, and the "Road that Leads to Town" is Irvington Avenue.

Please note that the correct date for this reference is 1787. That is not a typographical error. The survey was done following Daniel Riggs's death in 1786.

Could you figure out that first description? I had to draw it to understand it. Here is the five-sided shape. The circle is the starting point, the east corner of the widow Mary Hedden, and the survey goes clockwise from there. There are 100 links to a chain, and 8 chains to a mile. A chain is 660 feet (and that's why a mile is the peculiar value of 5,280 feet.)

The road that goes past Bethuel Pierson's house, South Orange Avenue, is represented by the last two lines. The rightmost corner of the pentagon is at Grove Road, so the Stone House by the Stone House Brook is just north of that short line at the upper right.

Next time: Dill Weed.

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.

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.