Early Dutch Settlers

The Story Of An Attack On The Middletown Courts

The Court Records of 1700 Written to Serve a Malicious Purpose - Testimony from Other Sources About the Case

Jacob VanDorn, as the name is now spelled, with his brother-in-law, Arie (Adrian) Bennett, moved from what is now a part of Brooklyn, then known as Gowanus, to Monmouth county in the year 1697or 98, just two centuries ago. About 1694 he married Marytje, (Maria of Mary) a daughter of Arian Williamse Bennett and Anjenietje Van Dyke, his wife, who then lived at Gowanus. Jacob VanDorn became a communicant in the Dutch church of Brooklyn in 1695. The records in the Monmouth county clerk's office show that John Reid, a Scotchman, who was quite prominent in public affairs of this county was a faithful agent for some of the Scotch proprietors, sold to Richard Salter on December 23d, 1689, part of his land called Horteneia, lying principally in what is now Marlboro township and likely running over into what is now Holmdel township; for Freehold township in 1689 had not been set off from Middletown township. In this deed it is stated that the lands conveyed begin where "West Branch comes into Hop brook at a place called Promontoria." John Reid, who was an intelligent and prudent man, had doubtless satisfied the Indians and also procured a legal title from the proprietors of East Jersey for this tract of land prior to his transfer to Salter.

Under date of April 2d, 1697, Salter assigned this deed to "Adrian Bennett and Jacob VanDorn of Gowanus, Kings county, Island of Nassau," (Long Island). This assignment was a very singular method to convey real estate. The number of acres is not stated. It appears that Bennett, VanDorn and Salter were thrown together by this business transaction and that Salter must have gained the good will and friendship of those two men by his fair and kind treatment of them; for only a year or two later we find Bennett and VanDorn resisting the sheriff of the county, John Stewart, and preventing him from arresting Salter. The court records show that for their action in this matter they brought upon themselves the vengeance of the notorious Lewis Morris of "Tintern Manor," as he or his uncle, the first Lewis Morris, had named it. This place in now known as Tinton Falls, in Monmouth county.

The minutes of the courts of Monmouth county for the year 1700 shows the following record entered at the instance of, and no doubt dictated by Lewis Morris himself; for a new clerk, Drummond, also a Scotchman, had just been appointed and he had no experience in making up the court records. The following is a correct copy of this record.

A count of inquiry held at Shrewsbury for the counsy of Monmouth, the 27th day of August, 1700.

    Lewis Morris, president.
    Samuel Leonard, Justice
    Jedediah Allen, Justice
    Samuel Dennis, Justice
    Anthony Pintard. Justice

    The grand jury for present service were these:
    John Reid, a Scotchman
    Jeremy Stillwell,     Alexander Adams,*
    John Slocum,     Thomas Webbey,
    Thomas Hewett,     Patrick Cannon,*
    Abiah Edwards,     James Melvin,*
    John West,     Peter Linbley,*
    John Leonard,     Samuel Hoppenge
    William Layton,     William Hoge,

    These marked with * are Scotchmen.

After taking the oath Lewis Morris charged them. We have no record of what he said, but judging by his other writing, when angered, it must have been a violent harangue for the jury to indict Jacob VanDorn, Arie Bennett and the other persons who had resisted his pet sheriff, John Stewart, also a Scotchman. The jury, outside of John Reid, the foreman, and the other Scotchmen, was made up almost entirely of Lewis's retainer and henchmen in Shrewsbury township. The justices, who set with him, had also all been lately appointed at his suggestion by the Scotch governor, Andrew Hamilton. In plain words this jury was packed by Lewis Morris for the express purpose of indicting Jacob VanDorn, Adrian (Arie) Bennett and others of the Middletown people. The jury soon returned the following indictment, which had probably been drawn up by Lewis Morris himself and given to some of his agents on this grand jury. The following is a true copy of this indictment:

    "August ye 27th, 1700. We, jurors, present Richard Salter, John Bray, James Stout, David Stout, Benj. Stout, Cornelius Compton, Wm. Bowne, Thomas Hankinson, Jacob VanDorn, Arian Bennett, Thomas Sharp, Benj. Cook, Robert James, Thomas Estill and Samuel, a servant of Salter, for riotously assembling on the 17th of July and assaulting John Stewart, High Sheriff, and Henry Leonard, in the path near house of Alexander Adams and beat and greviously wounded these said persons, took their swords from them, carried them away and kept them to the value of five pounds, money of this province, in breach of the peace and terror of the king's liege people. Signed in behalf of the rest by
        JOHN REID, Foreman."

We have an account written by two of the most respected and honest citizens of Middletown township at the time of this occurrence which throws a different light on this subject. There is nothing in our early records to throw the least smirch upon the characters of Andrew Bowne and Richard Hartshorne. They were straightforward, honest men, who tried to do their duty in a plain, unostentatious manner. They commanded the respect of all the people of Middletown. Even Lewis Morris, with his abusive tongue and malicious heart, could say nothing worse of them then that one was an Anabaptist and the other a Quaker, and that they had defeated a bill to tax the people for the maintainance (sic) of the Episcopal priests and prelates, as in England.

The following is a true copy of the account of this trouble by Andrew Bowne and Richard Hartshorne, as given in Vol. II of New Jersey Archives:

    "East Jersey, Middletown ye 23d July, 1700, &c.-Yours of 6th of April last come to our hands, it being the first we received from you, for which we thank you; but could have wished you had sent us a more certain account of the settlement of the government, which, never so much as now, wants to be settled. Since the departure of Mr. Slater, Col. Hamilton (the usurping governor of that date) hath put Mr. Morris (Lewis Morris of Tinton Falls) into commission of his council and justice, believing him to be the only man that can make the province submit to him as governor, without the king's approbation, and in order to effect it they turned out an Englishman who was sheriff and put in a Scotchman (John Stewart, who resided in what is now Eatontown township) who they thought would obey them without reserve. And it is said Morris has given out that he will carry his point in making the people submit to Col. Hamilton or he will embrue the province in blood. In order to which they seized upon several persons intending to force them to give security for their good behavior, which one of them refused to do, and so continues in the sheriff's custody. This the people took grieveously (sic), it being harvest time, and they had given out warrants to seize Richard Slater and others. And the sheriff (John Stewart with his deputy Henry Leonard), banged him and broke his head and sent him packing, upon which, as we are informed, the people resolved to meet on Friday, the 19th day of July, in order to go and fetch home him that was in the sheriff's hands; upon which Morris and Leonard (Lewis Morris and Samuel Leonard), dispatched an express (man on horseback to ride fast) for Governor Hamilton (he then resided at Burlington City) who immediately came to them (at Tinton Falls). They pressed about fifty men (Morris's henchmen in Shrewsbury township and his Scotch contingent around Freehold, likely) and came on 19th of July (only two days after Sheriff John Stewart and Henry Leonard had been thrashed) in arms (with guns and other weapons) to Middletown (the village) and came to the ordinary (the tavern or public house, which then stood where George Bowne's dwelling now, 1898, stands) and there inquired for said Salter and one Bray (John Bray). Then they launched off (went back to Tinton Falls). The people of Middletown (township) were assembled to the number of about 100 (another account says about 150 men) but without arms, only sticks (mild term for clubs) yet had it not been for the persuasion of some much in the public favor there would have been broken heads if not further mischief, the said justices having persuaded the person in the sheriff's hands to give security for his good behavior the day before this meeting. In this position things stand in this county and we believe that throughout the province, including the Scotch, there is six to one against owning Col. Hamilton Governor, and almost all bitterly against Morris, who they look upon as the first man (as indeed he was) that opposed government.
         One of ye Council."

Some Newark historians have in their o...nded efforts to eulogize Lewis Morris, spoken in a slighting way of Captain Andrew Bowne. There is no evidence to justify this in our early records. He was a plain, outspoken, sincere man who always stood four square in his tracks. He could not cajole or flatter like Lewis Morris when he wanted favors, nor could he abuse in bitter fashion his opponents, like Morris. He had no such command of vituperative language, but what he said he meant, and he was always consistent. Those who knew him best (his neighbors of Monmouth county) respected him, while Lewis Morris was detested for his arbitrary and unscrupulous efforts to further his own interests even when he sat as judge of the county courts. He was constantly in law suits during the years running from 1692 to 1698, and his influence and that of his cousin, Lewis Morris, of Passage Point, who was also a justice, gave him a decided advantage over the people he sued. The attempt of Governor Hamilton and Lewis Morris to overawe and intimidate the people of Middletown by an armed body of men failed. It ought to have been evident to them that the people of Middletown would not submit. They were distinctly informed to this effect and had warning of what would happen and what did happen at Middletown village on the 25th of March, 1701.

This record of that court as it stands on the minutes in the clerk's office was evidently entered at the dictation of Lewis Morris, who was then the presiding judge of the county courts. This record represents the people of Middletown as breaking up this court and taking Governor Hamilton and the county officials prisoners, out of sympathy with a self confessed pirate, who had served under the notorious Capt. Kidd, and in order to rescue this pirate from the officers of the law. This was a grave and serious charge and one very likely to be noticed and punished by the English government. Piracy, however, was an offense outside of the jurisdiction of the Monmouth courts, as it occurs on the high seas, and it is cognizable only in Admiralty courts. So Lewis Morris failed to bring upon the people of Middletown the vengeance of the home government. He, however, sent a certified copy of the court record to the English government, backed up by a long communication. He also wrote about the same time to the Bishop of London, saying that the people of Middletown were the "most ignorant and wicked people on earth and that they have no such thing as a church or religion among them." He also, a short time after his captivity at Middletown, went to England, in order to accomplish his vindictive or ambitious designs.

Jacob VanDorn and Arie Bennett, although indicted and harassed for some time by the officers, were never brought to trial, for the proprietors of New Jersey surrendered the next year, in 1702, their right of government to the English crown. Lord Cornbury and other new officials came into power, who ignored entirely all the old disputes and quarrels.

This old record, while unexplained, throws a dark shadow on the characters of Jacob VanDorn and Arie (Adrian) Bennett, but when the real facts are understood, it appears that they stood up manfully without regard to consequences to protect their friend, Richard Salter, and to resist the tyrannical and illegal acts of a usurping governor and his pretended officers of the law. It speaks well for their resolution, courage and intelligence.

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, November 9, 1898

More Early Dutch Settlers

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 1 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 2 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 3 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 4 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 5 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 6 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 7 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 8 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 9 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 10 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 11 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 12 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 13 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 15 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 14 Red Bank Register