“Telling Our Story: Living in New Jersey Before and During the Revolution”


Telling Our Story: Living in New Jersey Before and
During the Revolution”

By Mr. David A. DiCostanzo, M.Ed, Social Studies Department Chair at Vineland High School North

A Depiction of the Greenwich Tea Party (December 22, 1774)

Courtesy of the Lummis Library, Cumberland County (N.J.) Historical Society.

Introduction:

Several Social Studies teachers from around the state conducted research for a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies (NJCSS). This grant examined the histories of ordinary people in New Jersey and how the events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War impacted their lives. The grant, “Telling Our Story: Living in New Jersey Before and During the American Revolution”, is an ongoing effort by the N.J.C.S.S. to prepare educators in New Jersey for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution during the 2025-26 school year. The 250th anniversary celebrations will continue through 2031 and is part of the overall mission of the N.J.C.S.S. to provide and make available meaningful lessons and activities to students, teachers, and the public.

The life of colonists living before and during the American Revolution in New Jersey is a fascinating aspect of American history.  It’s been pointed out that “Generations of scholars have echoed historian Leonard Lundin’s 1940 argument that New Jersey was the “cockpit” of the American Revolution, a central site in the struggle over the fate of the continent.” [1] The fact that New Jersey lies between Philadelphia and New York City was significant.  Both of these cities were major hubs of activity during the revolutionary era. The Declaration of Independence was drafted by the “Committee of Five” in Philadelphia.  Dozens of battles during the American Revolution took place in and around New Jersey.  George Washington’s victory in the Battle of Trenton is regarded by many as one of the major turning points in the American Revolution.  New York City would serve as our nation’s capital from 1785 until 1790 before moving to Washington D.C. during John Adams presidency.

What was life like living in New Jersey before and during the Revolution?  It’s reasonable to conclude that many, if not a majority, of the residents in New Jersey felt a certain sense of pride about the revolutionary cause.  In contrast, many New Jersey residents, including Benjamin Franklin’s son William, did remain loyal to Great Britain throughout the American Revolution.  William Franklin would serve as the Colonial Governor of New Jersey until 1776 when he was incarcerated for a couple of years.  In 1782, William Franklin departed for Great Britain and would live abroad for the rest of his life.  The relationship between father and son would remain permanently strained over William’s support of the British crown.

Exploring primary sources, such as journal entries, pamphlets, and letters related to the lives of people in various counties throughout New Jersey during the American Revolution is the most accurate method we have in determining how people lived.  Discovering how people from this era lived is important work because it engages students and residents in various counties throughout New Jersey about the birth of representative government in America. The majority of the counties in New Jersey have a rich history associated with the American Revolution. Several battles took place in various counties throughout New Jersey. The city of Burlington in Burlington County was the capital of West Jersey and Perth Amboy in Middlesex County was the capital of East Jersey prior to the American Revolution. In 1790, Trenton would become the official state capital.  Cumberland County also has a rich history associated with the American Revolution. Many of the people who lived in Cumberland County before and during the Revolution were huge supporters of American independence. 

Historical Background:

Cumberland County has a rich history associated with the American Revolution. The Greenwich Tea Party took place in Cumberland County in 1774 in support of the revolutionary cause. Greenwich is located along the Cohansey River which flows into the much larger Delaware river. 

Greenwich, New Jersey, from the banks of the Cohansey River (ca. 1800). The town dates back to the original English settlement of the region in 1676 by the Quaker proprietor John Fenwick.

Courtesy Lummis Library, Cumberland County (N.J.) Historical Society.

During the 18th Century, Greenwich was a stop for boats transporting goods.  It is commonly held by historians that:

“In mid-December of 1774, a British ship called the Greyhound was carrying a shipment of tea up the Cohansey River towards Philadelphia. Along the way, the Greyhound docked at Greenwich, and tea was hidden in the home of a local British sympathizer named Daniel Bowen. On the night of December 22, local residents were meeting at the Cumberland County Courthouse to discuss the recent guidelines stated by the Continental Congress. During the meeting, they were made aware of the hidden tea, and a five-man committee was appointed to determine what should be done about it. While this was occurring, a group of local citizens decided to take matters into their own hands. They confiscated the tea and burned it near where the monument stands today. Some of the tea burners faced civil and criminal charges. However, due in part to sympathies of the local citizens for the tea burners’ cause, the trials were not completed.” [2]

A Depiction of the Greenwich Tea Party (December 22, 1774)

Courtesy of the Lummis Library, Cumberland County (N.J.) Historical Society.

This event took place about a year after the famous Boston Tea Party which is widely considered one of the most important and legendary occurrences during the Revolutionary era.  It has been determined that “it would be difficult, following the Greenwich Tea Burning, to find a region more in tune with the Revolutionary call of Witherspoon, the Continental Congress and the Philadelphia and New York Synod than Cohansey.” [3] Clearly, the citizens of Greenwich wanted to leave an indelible mark on this time period as well.  A monument to the tea party was dedicated in Greenwich on September 30, 1908.  A couple of the images below show the sides of the monument that list the names of the twenty-three men thought to have participated in the Greenwich Tea Burning. Most of these men would go on to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, including Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian. [4] Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian life and family is the primary focus of this grant which includes a documentary and a couple of learning activities.

Greenwich Tea Burning Monument (Dedicated September 30, 1908)

Courtesy of the Revolutionary War New Jersey Website

Ordinary People:

Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian

Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian

Courtesy of the Lummis Library, Cumberland County (N.J.) Historical Society

Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian was born in Greenwich, Cumberland County, New Jersey, in 1747. Philip was the eldest son of Joseph and Hannah Fithian. Fithian had fond memories of his childhood in Greenwich and often referred to the town affectionately.  His various journal entries and letters to various people including several members of his family contain his thoughts and observations on a wide-range of topics including American independence, plantation life, the treatment of African-American slaves, and religion. It is commonly held that:

“Philip attended Princeton University, which was then called the College of New Jersey, in 1771-1772 to study for the clergy. He studied under the college president John Witherspoon, who would later sign the Declaration of Independence. Philip also met other future Revolutionary War figures such as James Madison, Aaron Burr, and Philip Freneau, who were attending the college as students. After graduating, he spent some time in Virginia as a tutor and then returned to Greenwich where he became a Presbyterian minister. He preached at a number of locations, including the Greenwich Presbyterian church. Philip was a supporter of the American cause of independence and is believed to have been one of the Greenwich Tea Burners.” [5]

Greenwich home where Philip Vickers Fithian was born.

Courtesy of the Lummis Library, Cumberland County (N.J.) Historical Society

Fithian’s letters “did not commit his own thoughts on independence immediately to paper so far as we know. Yet for him and many of his contemporaries, the great Declaration marked the climax of a long personal patriotic odyssey. Fithian’s actions after July 4, 1776, speak eloquently of his inner convictions. Love of country, religious conviction, and the bravery of his friends and relatives in service swept Fithian, along with his old friend, Andrew Hunter, Jr., into the Revolution.” [6] Like thousands of colonists, Fithian clearly had an emotional response the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. He clearly had positive feelings related to the Colonies’ call for independence.

After graduating from Princeton, Fithian returned home and it has been surmised that “the year spent reading and preparation for ordination, cultivating the affective bonds with friends that were essential to a civil society, and learning hard lessons from his relationship with Elizabeth Beatty simultaneously enhanced his local attachment to Cohansey and sharpened his skills as a learned gentleman. His way of improvement, rooted in Presbyterian notions of moral and societal progress, was lived daily in the context of this remote landscape. Indeed, for Philip, “rural enlightenment” was not an oxymoron.” [7]   He clearly used the comfort of living in the country as a way of improving himself spirituality, emotionally, and intellectuality. 

Images of the Philip Vickers Fithian Exhibit

Courtesy of the Gibson House, Cumberland County (N.J.) Historical Society

When Fithian was in Virginia as a tutor he was very critical of slavery.  In various letters to members of his family Fithian made it clear that “learning of the food allowance for slaves and hearing of harsh treatment of those considered to be difficult, he wrote of their owners, “Good God! Are these Christians?” Some overseers he called ‘bloody’, and he believed that black slaves from Africa were less economical than free white tenant farmers would be.” [8]  This mindset wasn’t unusual for a Presbyterian minister from Greenwich. A large segment of the population in Cumberland County during this time period was against the practice of slavery. Several southern counties in New Jersey including Burlington and “neighboring counties (Gloucester and Cumberland) also saw a significant decline in the number of slaves after 1790, while the slave population in East Jersey counties grew between 20 and 30 percent.” [9] In general, slavery in New Jersey during the late 18th century was actually more evident in the northern part of the state. The data indicates that, “in 1790, it’s estimated there were 120 slaves in Cumberland County and 141 in Cape May County. By 1800, that number dwindled to 75 and 98, respectively, until finally, in 1830, Cumberland had only two slaves and Cape May had three.” [10] In fact, “local Quakers who, unlike Quakers in North Jersey, didn’t own slaves sold small plots of land to the free blacks.” [11]

Cumberland County also played a large role in the Underground Railroad.  It has been reported that “there’s a small church in Cumberland County that played a large role in South Jersey’s efforts to help runaway slaves seek their freedom. The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Springtown, Greenwich Township, was a significant stop along an Underground Railroad route running from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Canada.” [12]  The church still stands today as a reminder of those who helped guide African-Americans to freedom.

The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Springtown, Greenwich Township

Courtesy of the Cumberland County New Jersey Website

Fithian would serve as a military chaplain in the local militia and traveled north with the soldiers from Cumberland County to help in the defense of New York.  Due to crowded and unsanitary conditions, a great deal of disease spread throughout the camp where Fithian was posted. A smallpox epidemic was sweeping through New York during this time and would eventually lead to the decision to vaccinate the entire Continental Army.  Fithian became very ill in late September of 1776 with a high fever and with boils all over his body. Fithian held on as long as he could but died on October 8th at the age of 29.   He is remembered for his various accomplishments as well as his views on slavery, and his support of the Colonies.  John Fea, who wrote a well-researched book on Fithian makes it clear that “such chronicling—the stuff of encyclopedia entries and biographical dictionaries—only scratches the surface of Philip’s life. It fails to acknowledge the inner man, the prolific writer who used words—letters and diary entries mostly—to make peace with the ideas that warred for his soul. Philip was a man of passion raised in a Presbyterian world of order.” [13] As his numerous journal entries and letters reveal, Reverend Philip Vickers Fithian died for the cause of liberty.

The Battle of Harlem Heights, September 16, 1776

Courtesy of the Lummis Library, Cumberland County (N.J.) Historical Society

Below is an image and a link to a transcription of the last known letter Philip wrote to his wife Elizabeth which was a few days after the Battle of Harlem Heights:

This is the last known letter that Philip Fithian wrote to Elizabeth Beatty Fithian, dated September, 19 1776. Courtesy of the Lummis Library, Cumberland County (N.J.) Historical Society

As mentioned, Fithian kept several journals and wrote numerous letters to various people about his beliefs and experiences. These documents demonstrate that “Philip is an Enlightenment (and American) success story: the oldest son of a grain grower who turns his back on the farm to pursue a college education and a life or learning. On the other hand, his life reminds us that even the most eager of eighteenth-century Enlightenment hopefuls balance rational quests for improvement that could not be explained by reason alone.” [14] This grant focused on some of the key people in his life.  His wife, father-in-law, and cousin were all major influences in Fithian’s life.  These ordinary individuals provided a tremendous amount of insight into what life was like for people living in New Jersey before and during the American Revolution.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Beatty Fithian

Image of Dress Worn by Elizabeth “Betsy” Beatty Fithian

Courtesy of the Gibson House, Cumberland County (N.J.) Historical Society

About six years before his death, Philip began to court Elizabeth “Betsy” Beatty. Unfortunately, no known image of Elizabeth Beatty Fithian exists.  What we do know is that Elizabeth, whom Philip referred to as “Laura”, was born on March 26, 1752 in Neshaminy, Pennsylvania.  She was the fourth child of Charles and Ann Beatty. Charles Beatty, who was a highly respected clergyman from Neshaminy, was helpful in Philip’s education in the clergy. It is clear that “Philip first met Elizabeth “Betsy” Beatty in the spring of 1770 when she visited the southern New Jersey town of Deerfield to attend her sister Mary’s wedding to Enoch Green, the local Presbyterian minister.” [15] Subsequently, Betsy would make several trips to Deerfield to visit her sister Mary and would on occasion see Philip.  Philip would also travel to Neshaminy to meet with her father Charles and to call on Elizabeth.    

In accordance with the customs of the time period “much of Philip and Betsy’s courtship was conducted through letters, the exchange of sentiments usually flowed in only one direction. Perhaps Betsy did not like to write. Perhaps she preferred more intimate encounters or feared the lack of privacy inherent in letter writing. Or perhaps she did not want to encourage her suitor with a reply. Whatever the case, women generally did not write as much as men, especially when it came to love and courtship letters. In other words, Betsy may simply have been following the conventions of her day.” [16]  Many of the letters from Philip to Elizabeth included poetry he used to describe his feelings for her.  After a long and somewhat tense courtship, the couple finally married on October 25, 1775 at the Deerfield Presbyterian Church in Cumberland County.

Below is an image and a link to a transcription of a letter written to Elizabeth Fithian by Thomas Ewing a few hours before Philip’s death:

         Transcription of October, 8 1776 Letter

This is a letter written to Elizabeth Beatty Fithian from Thomas Ewing, dated October, 8 1776. Courtesy of the Lummis Library, Cumberland County (N.J.) Historical Society.

After her husband’s tragic death, Elizabeth would go on to marry Philip’s second cousin Joel Fithian on February 2, 1780, brother of Dr. Enoch Fithian and grandson of Samuel, an emigrant from Long Island, dating back to 1700, and first of the name in Cumberland County. Mr. Joel Fithian represented the county in the legislature, and was an elder in the Presbyterian Church. [17]  Elizabeth would have nine children with Joel.  Elizabeth would die at the age of seventy-three on August 6, 1825 in Stow Creek Landing, Cumberland County.  She is buried next to her second husband, Joel, in the Greenwich Presbyterian Church Cemetery which is also in Cumberland County.

Reverend Charles Beatty

Reverend Charles Beatty

          Image Courtesy of www.findagrave.com

Reverend Charles Beatty was the father of Elizabeth.  As mentioned, Reverend Beatty had a positive influence on Fithian as a clergyman.  Fithian actually followed in his father-in-law’s footsteps. Reverend Beatty served as a military chaplain during the French and Indian War. Between 1770 and 1772,  Philip would travel to Neshaminy to preach in that area, meet with Reverend Beatty, and to call on his daughter Elizabeth.  In various letters Philip describes that while at Princeton “he joined fellow classmates on weekend excursions into the country to visit Charles Beatty’s church in Neshaminy (about thirty miles from Princeton), and it was during these visits he made his first serious attempts to court Betsy.” [18] Charles Beatty was born sometime in Ireland in 1715. It is well documented that:  

While very young he sailed for America, and, with other passengers, was landed on Cape Cod in a nearly famished condition, the ship having run short of provisions. Making his way to the neighborhood of Philadelphia, he began peddling in the vicinity. On one of his excursions, he stopped at the “Log College” near Neshaminy, and fell into conversation with its founder, the Rev. William Tennent, who discovering that the young peddler had a classical education, and possessed the true missionary spirit, persuaded him to study for the ministry, and he was ordained on 13 Oct., 1742. He became pastor of the Presbyterian church at the forks of Neshaminy, Pa26 May, 1743.” [19]

Beatty married Ann Reading on June 24, 1746. They would go on to have eleven children together. Like Fithian, Beatty would also write numerous letters and keep extensive journals about his life including his various travels to Europe, the British Isles, and through many areas of Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.   It’s important to note that “in 1766, Mr. Beatty made a prolonged missionary tour through the frontier settlements of Pennsylvania. Some of his sermons were printed, and he published the “Journal of a Two Months’ Tour among the Frontier Inhabitants of Pennsylvania” (London, 1768), also a letter to the Rev. John Erskine, advocating the theory that the American Indians are the descendants of the lost Hebrew tribes.” [20] 

            Like Fithian, Beatty’s journals and letters cover a wide range of topics.  American independence was a topic of conversation noted in his journal.  Beatty refers to a conversation he had at a dinner in February of 1769 while fundraising in England.  In his journal he states “the question discussed was whether America wd. not be subjected to greater difficulties by being independent than depending upon the Legislature of Great Britain. Several Spoke to the Question — I Spoke twice — the Chairman in summing up the whole seemed to give it in the affirmative.” [21]  This mindset was not uncommon in the late 1760s because many people, both at home and abroad, were still torn about the relationship between the Colonies and Great Britain.

 Reverend Beatty spent time doing missionary work in Virginia, along the Shenandoah Valley, and in various parts of Western Pennsylvania and Ohio. Beatty didn’t technically live in New Jersey prior to and during the American Revolution but he spent a considerable amount of time visiting and preaching in the state.  Furthermore, two of his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, settled in Cumberland County after they were married. One of his sons, Dr. John Beatty, resided in Princeton before and during the American Revolution.  It is also important to point out that Reverend Beatty was a huge supporter of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and served as a trustee for several years. In fact, he died prematurely of yellow fever while on a visit to Barbados trying to raise money for the then struggling college in 1772. The sugar trade brought tremendous wealth to Barbados during this time period. Beatty’s journals would go on to be edited by research historian Guy Soulliard and published by the United Presbyterian Church in 1962.

Joel Fithian

Joel Fithian

Joel and Philip were second cousins who grew up together in Greenwich.  The cousins were close and Joel would serve as the co-executor of Philip’s will. Joel Fithian would also serve as an elder in Greenwich Presbyterian Church and was one of the participants in the tea burning that took place in December of 1774.  The Fithian family had deep roots in Cumberland County.  It has been documented that:

The Fithian family of Cumberland County descended from William, who according to tradition was a native of Wales. He was a soldier under Cromwell and present at the execution of Charles I. After the restoration of Charles II, he was proscribed as a regicide and obliged to flee the country. He came first to Boston, then to Lynn, from there to New Haven, finally settling in East Hampton, Long Island. He died about 1678. His son Samuel, married Priscilla Burnett, March 6, 1679: removing to Fairfield about 1698, he soon afterwards settled in Greenwich, where he died in 1702.” [22] 

Joel Fithian was the eldest son of Samuel and Pricilla Fithian. Joel was born on September 29, 1748.   He was well educated growing up and with his father’s guidance and encouragement Joel pursued a career of public service. At the age of twenty-eight “his patriotism led to his election as sheriff in 1776, an office of much responsibility and attended with no little danger in the exciting times of the early part of the Revolutionary War. He served also in 1777 and 1778, when feeling his presence needed in the field he commanded a company in Colonel Enos Seeley’s battalion and rendered service at the battle of Princeton and elsewhere.” [23] 

Joel served as a captain through much of the American Revolution and settled in Greenwich permanently when he had concluded his military service. Joel would eventually marry his second cousin’s widow Elizabeth “Betsy” Beatty Fithian. Joel Fithian was first married to Rachel Holmes who died in 1779 at the age of twenty-eight. Rachel gave birth to a boy prior to her death.  Elizabeth and Joel were married on February 2, 1780. In letters written by Elizabeth Beatty Fithian it is made clear that “immediately following the wedding, Betsy returned with Joel to the familiar surroundings of the Cohansey. Her brother, Reading, surmised that Betsy’s “partiality for that country” and the fact that Joel was a “good fat farmer” convinced her to remarry. Their courtship probably lacked the passion of Betsy’s relationship with Philip, but Joel certainly offered his new bride stability and security.  Joel and Betsy would have nine children together. They named their third son Philip.” [24] Joel Fithian served in the state legislature for several years before dying in 1821.   He is buried next to his second wife Elizabeth in the Greenwich Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Cumberland County.

Conclusion:

The life of colonists living before and during the American Revolution in New Jersey is a fascinating aspect of American history.  It is difficult to characterize these individuals as ordinary because they lived through such an historic and uncertain time.  Discovering how people from this era lived is important work because it engages students and residents in various counties throughout New Jersey about the birth of representative government in America. Cumberland County has a rich history associated with the American Revolution. Many of the people who lived in Cumberland County before and during the Revolution were huge supporters of American independence. It’s an acceptable assumption that many, if not a majority, of the residents of New Jersey felt a certain sense of pride about the revolutionary cause.

What was life like for these individuals who lived in New Jersey before and during the American Revolution? Duty to one’s family, public service, the belief in American independence, and a strong religious fervor were all important values that each of them possessed.   It’s also important that we ask “what can we learn from the life of Philip Vickers Fithian? He reminds us that Enlightenment cosmopolitanism always existed in compromise with local attachments.” [25] Greenwich was Philip’s local “attachment” that he would return to throughout his life for rest and self-reflection.  Philip used the comfort of his home as a way of improving himself spirituality, emotionally, and intellectuality.  He was one of the thousands of ordinary individuals that died for the cause of liberty.

What can our students learn from studying these ordinary people? Maybe the importance of living your life in a certain way can be appreciated and realized? Some historians argue that even today “Americans still pursue self-betterment through higher education and career advancement in cosmopolitanism. They are often willing to fight and die for modern ideas such as liberty and freedom.  Yet, they also long for the passion, love, and faith that bring meaning, in a transcendent way to their lives.” [26]  Like the ordinary people examined as a part of this grant, the majority of Americans today, at some level, are still seeking ways to improve themselves and our country while living during uncertain and historic times.  We are still seeking democratic values, encouraging civic participation and working towards a country that supports opportunities for all Americans regardless of a person’s religion, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background.  The history teachers of New Jersey have a unique opportunity to use these lessons and activities related to these ordinary people from the American Revolution to help their students improve themselves not only as citizens but also as human beings.

Works Cited

Andrews, Frank D. The Tea-Burners of Cumberland County Who Burned at Cargo of Tea at Greenwich, New Jersey December 22, 1774, Vineland, Cumberland County, New Jersey, 1908.

Andrews, Frank D. Philip Vickers Fithian of Greenwich, New Jersey Chaplain in The Revolution 1776 Letters to His Wife Elizabeth Beatty, Vineland, Cumberland County, New Jersey, 1932.

Barlas, Thomas Cumberland County played a large role in Underground Railroad Route, The Press of Atlantic City, April, 2015.

Bennett, Eileen. Slavery Slumbers in Cumberland’s History, The Press of Atlantic City, November, 1997.

Fea, John. The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

Fea, John. Presbyterians in Love, Commonplace: The Journal of Early American Life, January, 2008. http://commonplace.online/article/presbyterians-in-love/

Frazza, Al. Revolutionary War Sites in Greenwich, New Jersey, Revolutionary War New Jersey, December, 2021.  https://www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com/new_jersey_revolutionary_war_sites/towns/greenwich_nj_revolutionary_war_sites.htm

Gigantino, James A. The American Revolution in New Jersey: Where the Battlefront Meets the Home Front, Rutgers University Press, 2014.

Klett, Guy, S. Journals of Charles Beatty 1762-1769, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962.

McCluskey, Vincent Stanley, Ph.D. The Life and Times of Philip Fithian Vickers, (William & Mary Dissertation) New York University, 1991.

Montclair State University Anthropology. Part 5 – The Struggle For Abolition, https://www.montclair.edu/anthropology/research/slavery-in-nj/part-5/ , Accessed January 12, 2022.

Parker, Franklin; Parker, Betty J. Philip Vickers Fithian (1747-1776), a Princeton Tutor on a Virginia Plantation, ERIC, 1996. P.8 https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED393773.pdf

Philip Vickers Fithian of Greenwich, New Jersey, Chaplain in the Revolution 1776, Letters to His Wife with a Biographical Sketch by Frank D. Andrews, Smith Printing House, Vineland, New Jersey 1932.

WikiTree Contributor. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Beatty-1996 , WikiTree, Where Genealogists Collaborate, Accessed 14 December 2021.

WikiTree Contributor.  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Beatty-495 , WikiTree, Where Genealogists Collaborate, Accessed 14 December 2021.


[1] Gigantino, James A. The American Revolution in New Jersey: Where the Battlefront Meets the Home Front, Rutgers University Press, 2014, P. 1.

[2] Frazza, Al. Revolutionary War Sites in Greenwich, New Jersey, Revolutionary War New Jersey, December, 2021.  https://www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com/new_jersey_revolutionary_war_sites/towns/greenwich_nj_revolutionary_war_sites.htm

[3] Fea, John. The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, P 149.

[4] Frazza, Al. Revolutionary War Sites in Greenwich, New Jersey, Revolutionary War New Jersey, December, 2021.  https://www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com/new_jersey_revolutionary_war_sites/towns/greenwich_nj_revolutionary_war_sites.htm

[5] Frazza, Al. Revolutionary War Sites in Greenwich, New Jersey, Revolutionary War New Jersey, December, 2021.  https://www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com/new_jersey_revolutionary_war_sites/towns/greenwich_nj_revolutionary_war_sites.htm

[6] McCluskey, Vincent Stanley, Ph.D. The Life and Times of Philip Fithian Vickers, (William & Mary Dissertation) New York University, 1991.

[7] Fea, John. The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, P 105.

[8] Parker, Franklin; Parker, Betty J. Philip Vickers Fithian (1747-1776), a Princeton Tutor on a Virginia Plantation, ERIC, 1996. P.8 https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED393773.pdf

[9] Montclair State University Anthropology. Part 5 – The Struggle For Abolition, https://www.montclair.edu/anthropology/research/slavery-in-nj/part-5/ , Accessed January 12, 2022.

[10] Bennett, Eileen. Slavery Slumbers in Cumberland’s History, The Press of Atlantic City, November, 1997.

[11] Barlas, Thomas Cumberland County played a large role in Underground Railroad Route, The Press of Atlantic City, April, 2015.

[12] Barlas, Thomas Cumberland County played a large role in Underground Railroad Route, The Press of Atlantic City, April, 2015.

[13] Fea, John. Presbyterians in Love, Commonplace: The Journal of Early American Life, January, 2008. http://commonplace.online/article/presbyterians-in-love/

[14] Fea, John. The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, P 7.

[15] Fea, John. Presbyterians in Love, Commonplace: The Journal of Early American Life, January, 2008. http://commonplace.online/article/presbyterians-in-love/

[16] Fea, John. Presbyterians in Love, Commonplace: The Journal of Early American Life, January, 2008. http://commonplace.online/article/presbyterians-in-love/

[17] WikiTree Contributor. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Beatty-1996 , WikiTree, Where Genealogists Collaborate, Accessed 14 December 2021.

[18] Fea, John. The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, P 81.

[19] WikiTree Contributor.  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Beatty-495 , WikiTree, Where Genealogists Collaborate, Accessed 14 December 2021.

[20] WikiTree Contributor. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Beatty-495 , WikiTree, Where Genealogists Collaborate, Accessed 14 December 2021.

[21] Klett, Guy, S. Journals of Charles Beatty 1762-1769, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962.

[22] Andrews, Stephen. The Tea-Burners of Cumberland County Who Burned at Cargo of Tea at Greenwich, New Jersey December 22, 1774, Vineland, Cumberland County, New Jersey, 1908.

[23] Andrews, Stephen. The Tea-Burners of Cumberland County Who Burned at Cargo of Tea at Greenwich, New Jersey December 22, 1774, Vineland, Cumberland County, New Jersey, 1908.

[24] Fea, John. The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, P 211.

[25] Fea, John. The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, P 211.

[26] Fea, John. The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, P 215.

Local History: Albany High School Students Weigh Philip Schuyler’s Legacy

Local History: Albany High School Students Weigh Philip Schuyler’s Legacy

Matt Hunter

Reprinted by permission from Spectrum Local News, Albany NY.

Albany High School is partnering with the Underground Railroad Education Center to teach students about social justice through the lens of history. Students in the school’s Young Abolitionists Leadership Institute meet once a week after school to explore the legacy of the slave-owning Revolutionary War general, Philip Schuyler and examine the public debate over statues and other commemorations. Schuyler was also Alexander Hamilton’s father-in-law. A statue of Schuyler in front of Albany City Hall has stoked controversy and discussion and the city administration has announced it will be moved. The students are compiling a report that city leaders will consider when deciding what to do with the statue.

The school day had wrapped up less than a half hour before, but Franz Gopaulsing and his peers were only getting started on their discussion about one of the more well-known and, now, controversial figures in Albany history. “Some were servants, but it was mostly enslaved people that did most of the work,” Gopaulsing told the group about his visit to the historic Schuyler Mansion over the summer. “They are kind of shown as heroes and stuff, but when you actually go in the mansion and take the tour, you see that they actually had a lot of slaves.”

The sophomore is a member of Albany High School’s Young Abolitionists Leadership Institute, which is discussing and debating the legacy of Philip Schuyler during their weekly after-school sessions this fall. “It changed my view on him because I thought, if this guy got a statue, he must’ve been someone who was perfect, he never did something bad in his life,” Gopaulsing said.

More specifically, the students are exploring what to do with the statue of Schuyler that has stood in front of City Hall for decades. It became a controversial symbol earlier this year, when it came to light the Revolutionary War general owned and housed slaves at his Albany mansion.

“It wasn’t shocking,” said senior Junique Huggins, who’s been part of the group for the past few years. “I mean, it’s known that back in that time for a white man to have slaves, so it wasn’t something that was shocking to me.”

During their own breakaway discussion, Huggins and sophomore FranZhane Gopaulsing, Franz’s twin sister, agreed getting to discuss the topic more in depth is enlightening.

“It’s interesting to see everybody have different perspectives on the statue, or even Philip Schuyler himself, and to learn more about it,” Huggins said. “I didn’t get taught about Phillip Schuyler in school, so to learn it here was really good,” FranZhane Gopaulsing said.

The program is overseen by Mary Liz Stewart, the co-founder and executive director of the local Underground Railroad Education Center. “This program is intended to create an environment in which teens can learn history that they are not learning in school and look at it from a social justice perspective, relating that history to themselves today,” Stewart said. By digging deeper into local topics like the Schuyler debate, and more global social justice discussions like the death of George Floyd, Stewart says the students are learning how to affect change in their own community. “I want you to think back to the protests that have been going on, especially since George Floyd’s murder,” Stewart said during the group discussion. “Think about what you picked up across the airwaves and in news reports related to statues.” “I became more interested in it after George Floyd’s death because there was a whole protest and everything that sparked up after his death,” FranZhane Gopaulsing said.

The group will eventually write a report that city leaders will consider when deciding what to do with the statue. “It feels kind of cool because it feels like we are being heard and that we are kind of important,” Franz Gopaulsing said. Only a couple weeks into the program, most in the group have yet to make up their mind, but they’re already debating a number of alternatives. “We should have the together hands that would show, like, unity of people of color and other races coming together as one,” Huggins proposed during her discussion with FranZhane Gopaulsing.

Regardless of the outcome, group members say the discussions definitely have them thinking about the issue and their own experiences in a whole new light. “It’s sort of got me thinking about which historical things are celebrated and do they really need to be celebrated?” Franz Gopaulsing said. “It feels good to leave a positive impact and even bring change into the city itself, it actually feels good,” Huggins said. 

Cemeteries of Delaware County, New York: A Driving Tour

Cemeteries of Delaware County, New York: A Driving Tour

The Historical Society of Middletown, New York

New Kingston Valley Cemetery

New Kingston Valley Cemetery: Thompson Hollow Rd, ½ Mile North of Kingston

Park along the main road (though it is a busy stretch!) or drive through the iron gate to follow a loop road that exits through this same gate. The monument to Myron Faulkner, storekeeper, postmaster, news correspondent and unofficial “mayor” for many years, is straight ahead and to the left. At least two folks buried here met death by water: Revillow Haynes (on the left, near the stone wall) who in 1910 was strapped in a stream under an overturned wagonload of hay, and James Sanford (center rear), who was just seven years old when he drowned in the Mill Brook in 1867.As the road circles back around to the gate, note the stone to Lincoln Long, State Assemblyman and school superintendent; and, to your left in the front corner, Charles Halleck, who traveled the country as an opera singer and taught music at the general store here.

Sanford Cemetery: Delaware Co. Route 3 (New Kingston Rd) 1 Mile from NYS Route 28

Park in the grassy area take a leisurely stroll through this lovely cemetery where some of the earliest settlers in Middletown are buried. These include the Smiths, Sanfords and Waterburys who founded the Old Stone School in Dunraven. The central cemetery section contains some very old graves relocated from areas inundated by the Pepacton Reservoir. A few were carved by an itinerant stone carver nicknamed the “Coffin Man” for the coffins he would etch in the bottom of the headstones. Look for George Sands’ monument to see an example of his work. To the right of this section, meander towards the back under the trees to find the resting place of Thankful Van Benschoten, who started the commercial cauliflower growing industry in the Catskills in the 1890s.Facing the cemetery from the parking area, in the far left corner is the grave of Karl Amor, an Estonian war refugee who gained fame in the folk art world for his distinctive grapevine and reed baskets.

Halcottsville Cemetery: Back River Road, ½ Mile North of Halcottsville Off NYS Route 30

Watch for the cemetery sign on the left, and proceed through the open iron gate up the one-lane access road. Don’t be surprised if you startle a deer or a flock of wild turkeys when you break into the clearing at this secluded hilltop burial ground. Enter through the impressive stone wall and note the granite-and-iron enclosed plot of Isaac and Maria Weld Hewitt. Like John D. Hubbell, buried in the Kelly Corners Cemetery, Isaac led a congregation of the Old School (Primitive) Baptist Church which was once dominant in the area. Nearby is a marble monument to J. Foster Roberts, whose father established a homestead in Bragg Hollow in 1815.Look for monuments to David, Norman and George Kelly who in 1899 built the Round Barn just south of the hamlet. In the far left front corner of the cemetery is the grave of Virgil Meade, whose family ran the Round Barn farm for many years after the Kellys.

Margaretville Cemetery: Cemetery Rd, Just Off Main St. Margaretville

Park in the lot directly in front of the receiving vault. The driveway loop into this part of the cemetery is open from May 1 to Nov. 1. Foot entry at other times of the year is via the ramp in front of the vault. Note the old section to your right. Look upslope to see ALLABEN in white marble; Dr. Orson Allaben helped develop the village in the mid-1800s.Continue around the loop—in the center are the monuments of later entrepreneurs: Clarke Sanford (Catskill Mountain News), Sheldon Birdsall (Margaretville Telephone Company) and Lafayette Bussy (Bussy’s Store). Exit to the parking lot if driving, or, just before the exit, walk up the drive to your right that sweeps uphill and across the terraced hillside and into the oldest part of the cemetery. Look to the left of the driveway for the distinctive concrete bench where Pakatakan Art Colony artists J. Francis and Adah Murphy are buried. To the left of the driveway’s exit onto Cemetery Road is a section devoted to reinterments from Arena and other communities that were claimed for New York City’s Pepacton Reservoir in the 1950s.

Kelly Corners Cemetery: NYS Route 30, 3 Miles North of Margaretville (a/k/a Eureka Cemetery)

Park in front of the fence and enter on foot through either of two unlocked gates. The prominent monument near the right front memorializes John D. Hubbell, an elder in the Old School Baptist Church who established the cemetery, and members of the family whose homestead is nearby. Two rows behind the Hubbells, look for the monument to Jason Morse, who, with three brothers, marched off to the Civil War. The pink marble stone near the top of the central knoll, belongs to Grant and Lina Kelly who kept a popular boarding house near here for decades. The climb is steep but the view of the East Branch and mountains to the east from the top of this hill was a striking scene in the 2000 film “You can Count on Me” starring Mathew Broderick, Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney.

Bedell Cemetery: Little Redkill Road, 4 Miles from Main Street, Fleischmanns

Park along the road and enter through the gate with the arched sign overhead. You will be struck by the number of Kellys in this cemetery! Blishs, too. Seven monuments on a concrete wall one row from the rear of the cemetery memorialize Civil War veteran Silas Blish and family members. An especially poignant double stone remembers two of Chancy and Catharine Hicks’ daughters who died in 1861 and 1863, both at the age of two. Find them to the right of the entrance, about five rows from the road, in the middle of the old section. By far the longest inscription belongs to Bryan Burgin (1908-86), legendary state game warden (second row from the front, midway between the first and second gates). Find an unusual hand chiseled memorial set in 2002 in the shape of a large wrench in the top right corner of the cemetery.

Clovesville, B’nai Israel & Irish Cemeteries: Old NYS Route 28, 2 Miles West of Fleischmanns

Three distinct cemeteries can be accessed by turning onto dead-end Grocholl Road. Park in pull offs, or drive into the main Clovesville Cemetery entrance and park to the side (the nearby church parking lot is not cemetery property). Look up the bank to the right of the driveway to see a large stone for John and Delia Blish. John Blish sold land to the Fleischmanns distilling family who established a summer compound near the village that was later named for them. Note two unusual stones to the left of the roadway—a “white bronze” (zinc) monument to John and Rachel Munson beneath a square of four pine trees, and, in an enclosure on the knoll beyond, a concrete tree stump and bible inscribed to James and Mary Ostrum Richard. Closer to the church, look for the headstone of Samuel Todd, Revolutionary War veteran. Follow the driveway to the rear of the cemetery to find the entrance to B’nai Israel, the Jewish cemetery established in the 1920s.It is closed to visitors on Shabbat (Saturday). On other days, walk through the center gate and to the rise towards the rear of the cemetery. There you will find a large monument—Edelstein/Berg—the resting place of Gertrude Berg, aka “Molly Goldberg” of radio and TV fame, her parents and husband. Gertrude Berg got her start in show biz at her family’s Fleischmanns boarding house. Across Old Rte. 29 from the Clovesville Cemetery is a small burial ground where several Irish immigrants and their descendants are buried. Due to the poor condition and uneven terrain, it’s advisable to view it from the roadside. Many Irish came to the area in the mid-19th century to work in tanneries and mills. One who is buried here, Michael McCormack, who served in the Civil War along with two of his sons.

A Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Battle of Brooklyn Sites

A Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Battle of Brooklyn Sites

Marion Palm

Used by permission from the Brooklyn Eagle (Source: http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=27&id=35883)

Two scouts from the leading column of the Royal Marines and Tories and two companies of Long Island Tories were attracted to watermelons growing near the southwest corner of Green-Wood Cemetery. Riflemen fired on the would-be melon poachers.

The Old Stone House now at Fifth Avenue and Third Street in Park Slope, which has an interpretive center, was then named the Vechte Farmhouse, located south of Gowanus Creek. The event involving the retreat of the Americans says that Lord Stirling (he was on our side) gathered 2,000 men. These included troops from Delaware and Pennsylvania, along with an elite regiment from the First Maryland Regiment.

The Old Lyon Inn is now an American Legion Post near the IKEA on the point of Red Hook. The chance meeting at the watermelon patch became a major confrontation that stretched for a quarter of a mile and was responsible for convincing the Americans that the major attack would be on the Gowanus Road. With two sides confronting each other in regular battle formation, this was the first time the Americans, as an independent nation, faced the British in an open field. With no fortifications or stones to hide behind, only hedges and trees to face Grant, the commander of the British (not related to our former president General Grant) took on the fight.

The Brits, however, went east and linked up with the Hessians (paid German mercenaries) to seize high ground in what we now know as Battle-Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery.

The main body of the enemy came down through Flatbush to the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy. (5). The British were very sneaky in this maneuver, as they swung around in a loop behind the Americans and attempted to capture them all. Howe, the British general ordered his men to cut off the American retreat to the Brooklyn forts on Brooklyn Heights. Most of the Americans survived, some were captured by the British, and others were bayoneted as they tried to surrender to the Hessians.

There is a monument to those who died in terrible conditions as prisoners of the British on ships in our harbor. An obelisk stands in Fort Greene Park that is a 150-foot tall Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument and crypt, which honors some 11,500 patriots who died aboard British prison ships during the American Revolution.

Washington’s headquarters, and he had many of them during the war, was at The Four Chimneys in a mansion overlooking the harbor from Brooklyn Heights. A small garden with a flagpole now marks this spot on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. There is also a small plaque with information about the house embedded into the stand that supports the flag. Washington held his war council there on August 29, 1776. The British, despite their clever advances, made a tactical error. They wasted time digging trenches. This decision took away the Brits’ opportunity to win the war in one stroke.

Lord Stirling managed to disengage from Grant and get around Cornwallis’s forces stationed around the Vechte farmhouse, blocking the Post Road, now First Street in Park Slope. Stirling ordered his troops to plunge into the marsh and go across Gowanus Creek on August 27, 1776.

On what can be seen now as a suicide mission, he staged a preemptive strike against Cornwallis in and around the Vechte farmhouse and its orchard. This sacrificial rearguard gave the bulk of the American wing a chance to escape across the marshes along Gowanus Creek.

A very dense fog drifted in and Washington and his men escaped from the Ferry Landing next to what is now the elegant River Cafe. Washington took the whole regiment by ferry to New York. The last man over received permission to go back for his horse and he and the volunteers were fired upon in what he said was a salute from the enemy with musketry that couldn’t reach them as they returned to safety.

General Howe was in Red Hook and his men were spread all the way to Hells Gate to keep the Americans guessing where he would attack, but he never crossed the East River to pursue them. Howe did succeed to take Brooklyn Heights and Governor’s Island, concealing his invasion flotilla in Newton’s Creek, the border between the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens at approximately 32nd Street.

General Howe is said to have dallied too long at the home of Robert Murray on a hot evening of September 15th when Mrs. Murray and her two daughters opened the wine cellar at the mansion and served cakes and Madeira to the British generals and Governor Tyron. Howe’s delay allowed the Americans to slip away again. There is a plaque to mark the mansion on Park Avenue and 37th Street in Manhattan.