“Repeated Rascalities” Create
Embarrassment for a New Church

A continuation of the Kingwood Baptist division of 1839

The Missionary Baptists of Kingwood got off to a very rough start. After a promising beginning, they turned their backs on the pastor who led them through the creation a new church, and chose instead a newcomer who proved to be a scoundrel. (You can see the first installment of this story here.)

After the Swamp Meeting House was locked on March 2, 1839, Rev. Wigg and 60 members from the old church, along with 52 new members just baptized, gathered temporarily at the nearby Christian Chapel on April 14, 1839.1 Several ministers from surrounding churches were invited to join them and oversee the process of creating a new religious congregation or “conference.” The minutes gave the names of the Ministers and Deacons who were asked to be a council of Brethren.

“Elder James M. Challiss, pastor of the Lower Dublin Baptist church in Pennsylvania, and Enock Wright were a Delegation from the above named Church  Elder Joseph Wright, Garret Wilson, Chas Warwick & Holcomb Dilts were a Delegation from the sandy ridge Baptist church NJ.  Elder C. Bartolette  Nicholas Swallow  Wm. Swallow  John Lee & John Higgins were appointed a delegation from the Flemington Baptist church but owing to ill Health & wet weather Brother C. Bartolette was absent.”2

The meeting then proceeded to business. James W. Wigg was asked to join the visiting ministers to be part of the council, who asked Wigg the following questions:

“1  for what purpose were we called here  2  have you provided a covenant & articles of faith  3  The reason why you wish to be constituted into a gospel church – these being satisfactorily answered by the representative. The council voted unanimously. . . . Upon which the moderator Promised them an independent church and gave to them the right hand of fellowship to them as the particular Missionary Particular Baptist church of Kingwood.”

On April 20th, the Missionary Particular Baptists met again, chose Elder Wigg as their pastor and decided to raise a subscription for his salary of $250. Deacons were Joseph West and Mordecai Roberts. Lequear wrote that “the anti-mission party” had a majority of the members, so “they claimed both houses of worship . . . The mission party, rather than contend about the matter, peaceably gave up their rights and let the anti-mission wing take the property.” So, at the meeting of April 20th, the Missionary Baptists agreed to build a new meeting house, 38 by 45 feet, on a lot to be provided by John Sine.3

At the meeting of May 11th, the Missionary Particulars chose their trustees: James Pyatt, Daniel Pierson, Daniel Seabold, Joseph West, Mordaica [sic] Roberts, Wm Laire [Lair] and Edward Maison [Mason]. The congregation also agreed that the building committee (Pyatt, Pierson, Seabold and West, plus E. Bird) be authorized to locate the meeting house wherever they thought best. Apparently the deal with John Sine fell through.

The lot that was chosen was directly across the road from the Old School Baptist church in Baptistown. The new church was completed by the fall of 1839. Mr. Lequear observed that from this time the old church began to decline until finally the congregation had to disband, while the new church continued to thrive. Lequear made this observation in 1887, but eventually the new church in Baptistown also declined. The last sermon was given there in July 2013, after which the building was offered for sale.

Back to the meeting held on April 20, 1839: the new church passed a resolution to accept “any of the members of the old Kingwood Church” who wished to join them. Meanwhile the conservative Baptists continued to suspend Rev. Wigg’s followers “who have left this church in order to Join the New School church which has been constituted in this Neighborhood.” They continued to vote to suspend these members at subsequent meetings until April 25, 1840, when they were officially excluded. There were some like Benjamin and Susan Swallow, and Charity Mires, wife of Cornelius Mires, who became disaffected with the new church and returned to the old one.

New Troubles for Rev. Wigg

In November, 1839, the 60-acre farm in Kingwood “on the road leading from Sergeantsville to Baptisttown [the Locktown-Sergeantsville Road], now in the tenure and occupancy of the Rev. James W. Wigg,” was offered for sale by it owner, David Lair. On it was “a large and commodious dwelling house” and land in “a high state of cultivation.” Anyone wishing to view the farm could contact David Lair or his agent William Lair, or by visiting “the Rev. James W. Wigg on the premises.”

David Lair was in the process of moving his family to Ohio. He had already sold some of his land in 1837 (79 acres located about “half a mile from the stone meeting house”). The 60-acre farm, which Lair had bought from Benjamin Rittenhouse, was sold in 1840, but the deed made no mention of James Wigg as a tenant.4 Either Rev. Wigg found himself another place to live in Kingwood, or he remained on the Lair farm. In 1840 it was owned by William Archer Lair (1785-1857), step-brother of David Lair, and apparent supporter of Rev. Wigg. Whether or not they were living on the Lair farm, the Wigg family was counted in the Kingwood census of 1840, both adults being in their 30s, with three children, a boy and girl under five, and a girl 5 to 9 years old.

In January 1840, the church asked Rev. Wigg to be pastor for another year, but would not set a certain sum for his salary. (The church had a $700 debt to pay for construction of their new meeting house.) By 1841, there had been a change in the congregation’s attitude toward Rev. Wigg. At the meeting held in January 1841 when the church was to choose their pastor for the coming year, Brother E. H. Barker was nominated as well as Rev. Wigg.5 When the vote was taken at the next meeting on February 27th, it was Br. Barker who was chosen to be preacher for the year, rather than Br. Wigg.

How did this happen? A clue lies in the fact that the other order of business was to name a committee to settle the “difficulties between Br. E. Everitt and J. W. Wigg.”6 The difficulties may have had something to do with the loss of confidence in Br. Wigg, but the minutes did not say what the problem was. Whatever complaint Everitt had, he soon fell out of favor. At the March 14th meeting, the “Committee on E. Everitt’s case reported unfavorable” and Ezekiel Everitt was unanimously excluded, for reasons not described in the minute book. (In October 1841, Ezekiel Everitt asked for readmission to the church, which was granted.)

Rev. Wigg seems to have been slow to accept the situation. He conducted six weddings in 1840, but in 1841, after he was no longer a pastor, he conducted three more. His last weddings were performed in August 1841, one of them on August 11th for his wife’s sister Delilah Ann Rittenhouse of Raritan, who married William Bodine. The other was on the 25th, when Reading Housel and Mary Heath, both of Kingwood, were married.7

As things turned out, Rev. Barker did not serve as pastor after all. Once again, the minutes are mute about the reasons. Whatever the case, by May 1841 the church had a new pastor, named Stelle F. Randolph.

The Brief Pastorate of Rev. Stelle F. Randolph

Stelle F. Randolph seems to have come out of nowhere. He and wife Mary Ann were living in or near Plainfield, NJ before moving to the vicinity of Baptistown. They may have been the couple in their 20s who were counted in the 1840 census for Warren Twp., Somerset County, living with Stelle Randolph, who was in his 50s. If so, they must have come to Hunterdon County shortly afterwards. A date of admission to the Missionary Baptist church would have helped, but it did not appear in the minute book until after Randolph had been made pastor. I also cannot say exactly where the Randolphs were living when they came to Hunterdon County because they did not buy property. They probably rented a farm, just as Rev. Wigg had done.

Randolph appears to have been one of those charismatic newcomers who quickly acquire followers. He obviously made a good impression on the congregation, but apparently not on Rev. Wigg. On the same day that Randolph began his pastorate (June 25, 1841), James W. Wigg asked for a letter of dismissal to the Baptist Church in Flemington. It was as if he could not bear to worship in the same church as Randolph.

Now here is a curiosity—even though James Wigg was dismissed to the Flemington church, his wife Huldah remained a member of the Kingwood Missionary Baptists. She was still called “Sister” when she came forward at the meeting held on December 30, 1841, and

 “Made Charges Against Sister Miss Elizabeth Wagonor and Said she was a thief and that she Could Prove it  the Charges was first Muslin for 4 night caps some stocking legs  a silk hankerchief and Night Cap.”

A theft of items like this suggests that Elizabeth Wagner had easy access to Mrs. Wigg’s home, which makes me think she was probably employed by Huldah Wigg as a domestic servant. It was a fairly common practice for neighbors to hire out some of their teenage children to work for other families.

Given the seriousness of this unusual accusation, the church agreed it should meet again the next day, at which time “Brother C. Wagonor” asked if Mrs. Wigg had any further charges to bring. (This most likely was Christopher Wagner, although I did not find his name on the list of members in 1841.) Mrs. Wigg answered that she had none that she could “substantiate,” so Sisters Wigg and Wagner/Wagoner were asked to “withdraw,” while the Church debated the matter. Their decision was to exonerate Elizabeth Wagner. Then the Moderator, Daniel P. Rittenhouse, informed Sister Wigg that “she was implicated in the forgoing Accusations.” The church adjourned until January 1842.

Reading between the lines, it seems as if the friends of Elizabeth Wagner managed her defense with a strong offense. And it is more than likely that Rev. Randolph was foremost among her defenders.

The charges made by Sister Wigg were carried over to the new year. On January 13, 1842, Christopher Wagner “rose and Charged sist H. B. Wigg of trying to destroy the Charictor of Sister Elizabeth Wagnor.” Huldah Wigg responded by accusing Elizabeth Wagner of stealing butter and then denying it. A committee was named to visit Elizabeth Wagner “to get information respecting the charge.” Chosen were Brother Randolph, who had been continued as pastor for the year of 1842, and Brother Daniel Pierson.

Their intervention must have worked because at the next meeting, held on March 3, 1842, Mrs. Wigg “produced a written confession,” and it was “agreed to Recv her.” But that was not the end of the matter. At the March 19th meeting, a committee reported on their visit to Sister Wagner. She must have been very persuasive because the outcome of that interview was that the church unanimously agreed to exonerate her from the charge of lying. Not only that, it also unanimously resolved to exclude Huldah Wigg from the very church that she and her husband had helped to found, until she should make some kind of satisfaction to Elizabeth Wagner. Then, in what appears to be a sop to the consciences of a few, they agreed to a subscription to raise funds to pay “Mr. Wigg” his back salary.

The humiliation of the Wiggs was complete. And yet, as things turned out, they had the last laugh. In April, the Baptists discovered they had made a big mistake, not only about Elizabeth Wagner, but also about their pastor. At the meeting held on April 29, 1842, only a month after excluding Huldah Wigg, the case of their pastor, “Still” F. Randolph was taken up and “he was excluded for eloping with [none other than] Elizabeth Wagoner.” She was also excluded with the accusation of “holding an unlawful connection with each other.” In 1887, John Lequear called it “a gross violation of morality.”8

After excluding both Randolph and Wagner, the church agreed to give Mrs. Marion Randolph a letter to unite with the Baptist Church in Plainfield, NJ. She was probably eager to get away from the embarrassment she was exposed to, and took her family back to her parents’ home.

She was not the only one who was uncomfortable. There must have been some shame-faced church-goers that day. An attempt to undo the damage to Huldah Wigg was recorded, but if apologies were made, they were not part of the minutes:

“this Conduct of young Elizabeth Wagoner evidenced to the church and World that she was a base girl and Sister Huly Wiggs Case appearing better than before   On Motion Resolved Huly Wigg was Restored and the Church granted her a letter to unite with the Morestown Church.”

The letter to “the Morestown Church” is a surprise. The only Moorestown I know of is in Burlington County; if they meant Morristown, that also seems too far away. Why not Flemington where her husband went? Perhaps Huldah and James Wigg were no longer living together. It seems that everyone would have been better off if the Baptists had kept Rev. Wigg as pastor. Yet, despite this setback, the Baptist Church in Baptistown thrived for another 175 years and more.

The Rest of the Story: James & Huldah Wigg

Meanwhile, Rev. Wigg was in need of money. On February 22, 1842, he advertised for sale in the Hunterdon Gazette:

“at the house of the subscriber, in the township of Kingwood, near the Swamp Meeting House, five good milch cows, that will calve this spring, also one horse, a light wagon and harness, an excellent one horse sleigh nearly new, several farming implements, two clocks, good time keepers, one a brass eight day one; two stoves, and a variety of household and kitchen furniture; and oats and potatoes by the bushel.”

The location of this house suggests that he was still living on the farm of David Lair. Wigg must have been preparing to depart, and it looks like his household was broken up.

The sale was held, but the bills were not all paid. On December 12, 1842, William Lair who lived near Locktown advertised in the Gazette that “Vendue Notes of Rev. James W. Wigg” were in his hands for collection. These may have been from the sale of his goods & chattels the previous February. And Wigg may have assigned these notes to Lair in lieu of rent he could not pay.

On September 13, 1843, the following notice appeared in the Hunterdon Gazette:  “DIED, Suddenly at Lambertville, on the 5th inst., Rev. J. W. Wigg, formerly of Kingwood township, in this county.” Nothing else was said. Obituaries were far too succinct in those days. He was only 44 years old and was buried in the Rosemont Cemetery. The last two years of his life must have been very stressful.

After the death of James Wigg, his widow Huldah went to live in Kingwood Twp. with her mother, Delilah Rittenhouse. She was counted there (age 42) in the 1850 census, but her children were not living with her. The census of 1840 suggested that the Wiggs had two daughters, but I have found no further information about them.

Also missing from the 1850 census was her son, William B. Wigg. However, on July 28, 1855, William B. Wigg and Clarissa Green were married by Rev. E. H. Stokes, probably at the Methodist Church in Sergeantsville. (Stokes was a Methodist preacher from Clinton.) Clarissa Green was the daughter of John Green and Prudence Johnson of Sergeantsville, who are buried in the Methodist Church cemetery there. William Wigg was living with the Greens in 1860, working as a farmer. By 1863, William and Clarissa Wigg had moved to Wantage in Sussex County, where William was registered for the draft, and had by that time decided to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a clergyman.

Meanwhile, his widowed mother Huldah Wigg was living in Frenchtown in 1860, working as a milliner. Living with her was her niece Rachel Rittenhouse age 14, daughter of Wilson B. Rittenhouse and Ury Ent.

Gravestone of James and Huldah Wigg, from "Find-a-Grave"

Gravestone of James and Huldah Wigg, from “Find-a-Grave”

By 1870, Huldah Wigg had moved in with her son William, who was now 35, and ministering in Hope, Warren County. Also living with him were his wife Clarissa age 32, and sons Cuthbert 14 and William J. Wigg, 9 months old. A minister’s life is generally a peripatetic one, and this was the case for Rev. Wigg. He was living in Jersey City in 1880, and in East Orange by 1900, when he was 63 and a widower (Clarissa/Clara had died in 1892). He was still a clergyman then, but was living in rented quarters with a housekeeper named Ida M. Warman. He died in 1910, age 73.

Huldah Rittenhouse Wigg died on August 27, 1890 (age 82), and was buried next to her husband in the Rosemont Cemetery. She shares a gravestone with him that was probably installed by their son William. Above their names is carved “Father” and “Mother.”

The Rest of the Story: Stelle F. Randolph

There is much more to Stelle F. Randolph’s story. Randolph’s name derives from an old New England family, the FitzRandolphs. They emigrated to Piscataway, NJ in the late 17th century, seeking more religious freedom than they had under the Puritans. The Stelle family were also early residents of Piscataway, who intermarried with the FitzRandolphs.

Stelle F. Randolph who came to Hunterdon County was married to Mary Ann FitzRandolph, a cousin. She was the daughter of Thomas and Hetty FitzRandolph. Following the elopement of Rev. Randolph and Elizabeth Wagner, Mrs. Randolph asked for a divorce. At that time divorces were handled by the state legislature, as they were far less common than they are now. The details of this particular divorce caught the attention of some Catholic newsletters, who published the following descriptions:

“A Bill to Divorce Mary Ann F. Randolph from her husband Stelle F. Randolph, passed the Council of New Jersey on Friday. The petition set forth that Randolph was a Baptist preacher, that they lived together in peace and harmony, having several children, up to 1841, when Randolph went away with another woman–that he wrote back a letter, (also read), stating that it was not his intention to return, as he had been entrapped by a Miss Van Wagoner, and rather than submit to an exposure, he had determined to leave his family and his home forever.”9

“Divorce in New Jersey–Mary Ann F. Randolph from her husband Stelle F. Randolph. He was a Baptist preacher, but took it into his head one day, having a family of several children, to travel off with another woman. He wrote back a letter, stating that it was not his intention to return—[from] Irish Citizen.–the sang froid with which these things are done is frightful.–Catholic Herald of Philadelphia.”10

By the 1850s, Randolph was still involved with the Baptist Church. In 1853 he appeared as a member of the Baptist Church in Keyport, NJ, when he and Edward T. Stelle were listed among those collecting donations.11 In May 1854, he attended The Missionary Union in Philadelphia, along with other members from New Jersey (i.e., Morgan R. Cox, Samuel Sproul, William V. Wilson, many others).12

Randolph may have been a member in good standing with the Missionary Baptists, but at least one person was not fooled. In July 1854, a letter of warning was published in the Rockland County Journal, Nyack, NY.13 It has a couple errors, but the story is “delectable”:

“Another Reverend Rascal.—The very Rev C. C. Morse, Pastor of the 4th Baptist Church of Louisville, Ky., having became out of patience with the repeated rascalities of one of his brethren of the cloth, named the Rev. Dr. Stelle F. Randolph, gives the following delectable history of his crimes, between the heading of  “Publish the Villain” under his own signature, in one of the Louisville papers. The Rev. Dr. Morse commences by saying in a sort of semi-justification, that Randolph has become a villain of too great notoriety to pass longer without warning to the public. He then continues thus:

“S. F. Randolph is a native of New Jersey, and by trade a tailor. About fourteen years ago {c.1840}, he married a daughter of Thomas Randolph, Esq., who resided in his native village. By this marriage he had two children, whom, with his wife, he seemed to love, dearly. In 1841, after he had preached about one year and a half at Northfield, Essex County, N. J.,14 he left his house, telling his wife that he was going to hold a protracted meeting at Trenton, N. J. An arrangement had been made between Mr. Randolph and one of the females whom he had baptized a few weeks before, to meet at a certain place and elope. Mrs. Randolph and the two children were taken home by her father. When Randolph returned, which was in about two months, he pretended to be very penitent, and solicited his wife to reside with him again.”

But she [Mrs. Randolph] would neither see him nor reply to any of the communications which he sent through the servants connected with the family. Randolph then left and came out west. He married again in Alabama, and took his wife to Booneville, Missouri, where he set up as a doctor as well as a minister. He had by this marriage one son, but he soon left his family at Booneville, and went in search of a better location. He now repudiates this wife as well as the former, and seems to be in search of still another. This imposter may be easily known from the following brief description : He is about 35 years of age, rather stout built; his right leg about six inches shorter than the other, but lengthened by a cork beneath the foot in the boot, and the hip on the right side out of joint. [signed] C. C. MORSE, Pastor Fourth Baptist Church, Louisville.”

The editor of the newspaper concluded:

   “We commend the above narrative to the particular attention of this rascal’s reverend friends in Plainfield, Camptown, Northfield, and other towns in New Jersey, where he figured some time back as a most fervent laborer in the vineyard. There are persons living in New Jersey who are acquainted with still more of his rascality, and they would oblige by bringing it before the public.”

Whatever happened to Rev. Randolph after this I cannot say. If he made his way west and created a new identity for himself, he would not have been the first to do so. But he probably remained a scoundrel.

And Finally, Elizabeth Wagner

Rev. Randolph and Elizabeth Wagner must have fallen out not long after the elopement, but what her fate was after this remains a mystery. It cannot have been good for a woman in her position in the 1840s. But who was Elizabeth Wagner? She was the only Wagner listed in the church membership of 1841, so we get no clue there. Since Christopher Wagner came to her defense, there is reason to think that she was a member of his family. Christopher Wagner Sr. was the son of Peter and Eve Wagner, and died intestate in 1847 in Bethlehem Township. His son Christopher Jr. also lived in Bethlehem Township. He was probably born about 1815, and may have been the brother of Elizabeth Wagner. Perhaps Wagner family researchers can help answer this question.

Footnotes:

  1. This ‘chapel,’ built in the early 1830s, was the first building used by the Locktown Christian Church, and was replaced by a new building in 1864.
  2. There are two minute books on file at the Hunterdon Co. Historical Society, one for the Old School Baptists, from which I quoted in the previous post, and one for the break-away group or New Schoolers, which is used extensively in this post.
  3. Sine’s name was not on the list of congregants in 1841.
  4. H.C. Deed 74-139.
  5. I have not identified E. H. Barker; he was not a long-time resident of the area.
  6. There were several Ezekiel Everitts at this time. Sorting them out is surprisingly difficult. There was an Ezekiel Everitt counted in the Kingwood twp. 1840 census who was in his 40s (born in the 1790s), with a wife also in her 40s, and 7 younger people, probably not all of them his children. This is most likely the man who disputed with Rev. Wigg in 1841, but I cannot distinguish him from other Ezekiels without doing a lot more research. The only other Everitts counted as members of the new Missionary Church were Mary and Catherine Everitt, but neither were married to Ezekiel, nor were they listed next to him. And no one named Ezekiel Everitt appears in lists of the cemeteries for the Baptist Church in Baptistown, or the Baptist cemetery in Locktown, although that does not prove anything. There was an Ezekiel Sr. and Ezekiel Jr. from Bucks County, but Sr. died in 1829, and his son Ezekiel Jr. seems to have remained in Bucks County. I have not yet consulted The Everitt Family of Hunterdon County, New Jersey by Keith Parent. Perhaps he has the answer.
  7. Hunterdon Gazette, 1841.
  8. Lequear, Hunterdon Republican, Feb 9, 1887.
  9. Published in The Nazarene, Asher Moore and John H. Gihon, eds., Philadelphia, Nov 11, 1843, p. 359.
  10. Published in The Bengal Catholic Herald, March 30, 1844, No. 13 vol. VI, p. 182, published in Calcutta (of all places), and found on Google books.
  11. Baptist Missionary Magazine, vol. 33 p. 498, Donations, Dec. 1853. Listed under Keyport, NJ.
  12. Proceedings of the Missionary Union in Philadelphia, The Baptist Missionary Magazine vol. 34 p. 206.
  13. HRVH {Hudson River Valley Heritage} Historical Newspapers, Rockland County Journal, vol.  13, no. 208,  July 29, 1854, p. 2.
  14. What an odd mistake; I suppose Hunterdon County was too off the beaten track by then.