For those of us who look for genealogical information in deeds, there is a very special word we hope to find: “Whereas.” This wonderful word introduces a clause that should appear in every deed, but often does not—the recital clause, which states who the seller of the property bought it from. Most of the time, that’s all it does—name the preceding property owner. But every once in a while, mostly in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, you will get a recital that goes all the way back to the beginning, to the original proprietary owner.

Needless to say, those recitals are gems, and are treasured by researchers. The information provided in them is often unavailable anywhere else, because recording deeds and other documents in the 18th century was no picnic. It often involved a day’s traveling just to get to the court house.

Recently I came across a wonderful recital that involved two of my ancestors, John & Orcha Wright. I knew they lived in Amwell Township in the first half of the 18th century, but had no idea where, and did not expect to ever find out. But now I know exactly where they lived.

Detail of deed from estate of George Wilson to Gershom Lambert

Detail of deed from estate of George Wilson to Gershom Lambert

This discovery made me realize that information like this should be shared. The names in these recitals never turn up in index books, so there is no way to search for them. That is why today, I am initiating another series of articles,1 which I will call “Recitals.” I’m making a tag for these articles so they can be easily found in the future.

The Deed

From Hunterdon County Deed Book 23, pages 305-3072:

April 15, 1788

George Wilson deceased of Amwell Twp., Hunterdon County, NJ (Daniel Wilson and George Wilson of Amwell and Joseph Hartz of Kingwood, executors)

to Gershom Lambert of Amwell Township, a tract of 179 acres for £755.5.6.

Recital:

WHEREAS John Wright, late of Amwell, blacksmith, was seized of and in a certain tract of land and plantation in Amwell of 147 acres, as shown in an Indenture between Joseph Howell of Kingwood yeoman and the sd John Wright dated the 17th and 18th days of May anno Domini 1727, and did by his last will & testament order the said plantation to be sold by two of his sons, namely John Wright and Herman Wright after their mother’s decease for the best price that could be got, but before this could happen, the sd Herman departed this life and did die intestate so that the execution remained with John Wright jr alone.

AND WHEREAS the sd John Wright the Younger did by one Indenture of Bargain and Sale dated on or about the eighth day of [month left blank] anno Domini 1727 purchase of and from Richard Green of Amwell one small piece or parcel of land containing 3.5 acres and 17 rods adjoining and being contiguous to the easterly end of the aforesaid tract of land,

which the said John Wright (his mother being first dead) in pursuance of the trust aforesaid and by order and agreement of the Legatees of the said Fathers Will did for a consideration to him in hand paid did by one Indenture of Bargain and Sale dated the 14 day of June Anno Domini 1750 sell and Convey until Benjamin Severns of Amwell aforesaid and to his heirs and assigns forever all the aforementioned Tract of Land Together with the said three Acres and a half and Seventeen Rod and the said Benjamin Severns being So possessed thereof did by his Deed dated the thirteenth day of February Anno Domini 1750 for the Consideration therein Mentioned Sell and Convey the Same to the aforesaid George Wilson Deceased and to his heirs and assigns forever

And the Said George Wilson by his Last Will and Testament in Writing duly proved and registered did among other things order his Executors before named after the decease of his Widdow to Sell the remainder of the said Tract which he the said George Wilson had not before disposed of and the monies arising from the Sale to be Disposed of According to the directions of the said recited Will.

Chain of Title

1. John Reading

This recital did not go all the way back to the original proprietor, but it was easy to figure out who that was. In 1715, John Reading purchased a tract of 147 acres which can be seen plotted out on the Hammond Map (Map F) of Hunterdon County.

Detail of Hammond, Map F, showing John Reading's 147 acres

Detail of Hammond, Map F, showing John Reading’s 147 acres

The tract (outlined in red) was bordered by Richard Bull on the east, the Lotting Purchase line on the north, William Rittenhouse on the west, other land of John Reading, and John & Wm. Dimsdale on the south. 3 According to Hammond, today’s Route 523 runs through the east side of the property.

I have written about John Reading frequently on this website. The most informative articles are “John Reading and the Creation of Hunterdon County,” parts one and two.4

2. Joseph Howell

About the year 1710, John Reading Sr. gave to his daughter Mary and her new husband Daniel Howell about one-square mile of property fronting on the Delaware River. This gift did not include the adjoining tract of 147 acres surveyed for John Reading. But according to the recital, this property came into possession of Joseph Howell, who was Daniel Howell’s brother.

John Reading, Sr. died without a will in 1717, and his son John Reading, Jr. had administration of the estate. The 147 acres was sold to Joseph Howell either by John Reading, Sr. before his death, or subsequently (and more likely) as part of Reading, Jr.’s disposition of the estate. In either case, the property came to Howell sometime before 1727.

Meanwhile, Richard Bull, who owned the bordering property to the east, died in 1722. Since Bull died childless, some of his property went to his sister Sarah, which means in effect that her husband, Samuel Green, became the owner. The property came into possession of Samuel’s son Richard Green, sometime after Samuel Green moved north to Sussex County.5 In a few years, this will become relevant to the chain of title.

3. John and Orcha Wright

WHEREAS John Wright, late of Amwell, blacksmith, was seized of and in a certain tract of land and plantation in Amwell of 147 acres, as shown in an Indenture between Joseph Howell of Kingwood yeoman dated 17 and 18 May 1727 . . .

This deed, from Howell to Wright, was not recorded, so this recital is the only record we have of the transaction.

John Wright began his life as Jan Reyt, born about 1690 at Flatlands, Long Island, New York. On April 11, 1713, he married Aartie Bras at the Dutch Reformed Church in Hackensack.6 They had seven children, all of whom were baptized in the Hackensack Reformed Church, the youngest being baptized on August 14, 1726. By 1727, Jan Reyt had become John Wright. That year, on January 11th, he and wife Aertye sold a tract of 60 acres in New Barbadoes (later known as Hackensack) which had previously been owned by Aertye’s father, Hermanus Bras, and had been sold to the couple on August 7, 1717.7

This transaction took place shortly before John and Orcha Wright purchased the property in Amwell Township from Joseph Howell. Why they decided to leave Bergen County for Hunterdon I cannot say.

Wright did not live in Amwell Township very long; he wrote his will only five years later, on November 24, 1732, when he was about 42 years old. In the will Wright identified himself as a blacksmith of Amwell. He named his wife Orka or Orcha, and children Harmanus, John, Hannah, William, Elizabeth, Katherine and Affea. An inventory of Wright’s estate was taken on December 29, 1732, so we can assume that Wright died less than a month after writing his will, leaving a widow with six minor children to raise. She was named sole executrix; the witnesses were Samuel Green, Daniel Woolverton and Ruth Woolverton.8

One of Wright’s children is of especial interest. This was his daughter Hannah, who became the third wife of Samuel Green, about six years after her father’s death. Samuel Green came to Amwell Township almost as early as John Reading, Sr. did. He was one of the first officeholders for the township in 1709, and acquired hundreds of acres there. When he arrived in Amwell he came with his second wife (Sarah Bull) and their four children, plus his son from his first marriage. As previously mentioned, Samuel and Sarah owned the tract of land bordering the Wright farm on the east. Sarah Bull Green died sometime before 1738, but the date is not known.

As a neighbor, the widower Samuel Green became acquainted with the family of John Wright, dec’d and the daughter Hannah (or Annatie, in the Dutch), who would have been 22 years old in 1738. I suspect Samuel Green and Hannah Wright married shortly before they moved to Greenwich Township in what was then Sussex County, later to be part of Warren County. There the aging Samuel Green and his new wife started a new family of seven children.

4. John Wright, Jr.

John Wright Jr., born about 1714 (christened in Hackensack on June 27, 1714), was the eldest surviving son of John & Orcha Wright, his brother Harmanus having died before his mother did, according to the recital.

AND WHEREAS the sd John Wright the Younger did by one Indenture of Bargain and Sale dated on or about the eighth day of [month left blank] anno Domini 1750 purchase of and from Richard Green of Amwell one small piece or parcel of land containing 3.5 acres and 17 rods adjoining and being contiguous to the aforesaid tract of land, . . .

This Richard Green was the son of Samuel Green and Sarah Bull. The transaction suggests that John Wright, Jr. was living on his father’s Amwell plantation, probably taking over the role of his deceased father. Very soon after this purchase, on June 14, 1750, John Wright, Jr. sold his father’s farm and the new lot to Benjamin Severns. Since John Wright, Sr.’s will ordered that the farm be sold after his wife’s death, we can conclude that Orcha Wright probably died in the early months of 1750. She would have been about 55 years old. The sale was made to benefit the surviving heirs.

. . . which the said John Wright (his mother being first dead) in pursuance of the trust aforesaid and by order and agreement of the Legatees of the said Fathers Will did for a consideration to him in hand paid did by one Indenture of Bargain and Sale dated the 14 day of June Anno Domini 1750 sell and Convey until Benjamin Severns of Amwell aforesaid and to his heirs and assigns forever all the aforementioned Tract of Land . . .

It seems that after this sale, John Wright, Jr. moved north to live near his sister Hannah Green. In 1747, he married Alida Dingman of Smithfield, PA. She may well have been related to Andrew Dingman (1711-1796), after whom Dingman’s ferry is named, but I have not found definite evidence of that. John and Alida lived on a 100-acre tract near Log Gaol on Bear Creek that Alida sold after John’s death in 1759.

5. Benjamin Severns

. . . and the said Benjamin Severns being So possessed thereof did by his Deed dated the thirteenth day of February Anno Domini 1750 for the Consideration therein Mentioned Sell and Convey the Same to the aforesaid George Wilson Deceased and to his heirs and assigns forever . . .

“The same” was 147 acres plus the lot of 3.5 acres and 17 perches. Benjamin Severns (c.1710-1792), brother-in-law of John Wright, Sr.,9 was acting on behalf of the family. He did not intend to keep the farm for himself. He already owned many acres of land, thanks to his generous father-in-law, Samuel Green, and around this time he had probably moved to Sussex County to join his Green relatives there.

6. George Willson

I have a hard time researching the Wilson families of Amwell Township. There are just too many of them, and they are not all related. Some are English, some are Irish, and all of them left very few records behind.

George Wilson (who’s name also appeared as Willson) might have been a grandson of the Jonathan Willson who bought a 500-acre proprietary tract almost adjacent to this, as shown on the Hammond Map above. According to another recital in a different deed, it was surveyed to Jonathan Wilson on May 2, 1712, in right of his wife Mary Stacy, daughter of Henry Stacy, original owner of the proprietary shares.10 However, it appears that Jonathan Willson remained in London.

George Willson was taxed in Amwell Township on 150 acres in 1780, plus two horses, 4 cattle and 3 pigs. This would be the 147 plus 3 acres that Willson had purchased from Benjamin Severns. A George Willson, Jr. was taxed as a householder. George Willson, Sr. was taxed in Amwell again in 1786, still with 150 acres, the same amount of livestock, and £32 out at interest. This is all I know about him, other than his purchase of the Wright farm, and his last will & testament.

And the Said George Wilson by his Last Will and Testament in Writing duly proved and registered did among other things order his Executors before named after the decease of his Widdow to Sell the remainder of the said Tract which he the said George Wilson had not before disposed of and the monies arising from the Sale to be Disposed of According to the directions of the said recited Will.

George Willson of Amwell wrote his will on May 1, 1779, leaving to wife Mary “the plantation where I live,” and the following legacies: to eldest son Daniel, 10 shillings; to son George, a wagon; to grandson William, son of George Wilson Jr., a horse; to granddaughter Nelley Wilson, daughter of my son William, £15; to grandchildren George and Elizabeth, children of my son Thomas dec’d, £10 each. After the death of his wife, the plantation was to be sold and the proceeds given to sons Daniel, John, George and Samuel and daughters Ann, Mary, Elizabeth and Eleoner. Executors were sons Daniel, John and George. The will was witnessed by his neighbors “Albartes” Ringo, Daniel Thatcher, and Benjamin Howell. Almost ten years later, George Willson wrote a codicil to his will, dated March 16, 1787, in which he appointed Joseph Hart as Executor, “in the place of my son John,” who had married Lydia, the daughter of Amos and Lydia Thatcher, and removed to Ohio. Only a couple weeks later, George Willson died. The inventory of his estate was taken on April 4, 1787 by William “Hoogland” and Benjamin Howell, and amounted to £33.12.6.

7. Daniel Wilson and Gershom Lambert

The deed that provided this interesting recital conveyed the Wilson farm a year later to Gershom Lambert. The deed was dated April 15, 1788, for a total of 179 acres “strict measure” costing £755.5.6 or about £4 per acre. Gershom Lambert probably lived on the farm, but it appears that he shared it with George Wilson’s eldest son Daniel Wilson.

There was a family connection between Wilson and Lambert. Daniel Wilson’s sister Elizabeth was married to Gershom Lambert’s brother, Joseph Lambert, and one of her children was named Gershom Wilson Lambert.11

Gershom Lambert (1759-aft 1822) married Rebecca Hunt, daughter of John Hunt and Mary Carpenter, about the year 1780. He was taxed as a householder in 1786. Later on, he would sell an 8.5-acre lot out of the Wright farm to father-in-law John Hunt.

In 1780, before the death of his father, Daniel Wilson was taxed in Amwell on 70 acres, 3 horses, 3 cattle and 6 hogs, with £100 out at interest. In 1784 he was again taxed in Amwell Township as Daniel Wilson, and in 1786 he was taxed on 110 acres, livestock and a grist mill. After that time his name appears in the ratables not as Daniel Wilson, but as “Wilson & Lambert.”

In 1789 “Wilson & Lambert” were taxed on 179 acres, just as they were in 1790. In 1800, Daniel Wilson and Gershom Lambert made the inventory of the estate of Albertus Ringo, who owned the adjacent plantation on today’s Covered Bridge Road. A lot of 4.5 acres from this farm was sold to Gershom Lambert in 1792.12 In 1807, “Wilson & Lambert” were taxed in Amwell on 183 acres.

Daniel Wilson died intestate in 1815. An inventory of his estate was made on March 17, 1815 by neighbors Joseph Sergeant and Charles Ent, which included carpenter tools and cooper’s tools. It was sworn to by George Dilts and Jacob Housel, administrators.13

Daniel Wilson might have been the “Daddy Wilson” referred to in a letter by John Lambert Esq. dated January 16, 1807: “you must remember my love to granny, to Daddy Wilson, to mamy to Aunt Achsah to Maria, aunt Amelia hanna Brown, Betsey, to Billy & to Sam’l and all the rest of my friends,”14

We know he was Gershom Lambert’s brother-in-law, which means he was also brother-in-law of John Lambert, Esq., who served his last year in the U. S. Senate in 1815. John and Gershom Lambert had a sister Sarah, about whom I know nothing. Could she have married Daniel Wilson? The term “Daddy Wilson” suggests a close family relationship.

Because Daniel Wilson died intestate, we do not have family information the way we would if he had written a will. The administrators of his estate were not relatives, as far as I know. So, Daniel Wilson remains one of my Wilson mysteries. But thanks to the recital in Deed Book 23 we know much more about him than we did before.

Apparently, rather than look for a new tenant, Gershom Lambert decided to sell the farm, that is the tract of 175 acres, plus the 4.5-acre lot, and minus the 8.5 acres sold to John Hunt. He did this on May 1, 1815, six months after the death of Daniel Wilson.15 The new owner was Isaac Skillman, who paid a whopping $10,440 for it, or $58 per acre.

In a letter dated January 1, 1815, Sen. John Lambert wrote to his daughter Maria: “you say that your uncle Gershom has sold his place to Isaac Skillman and that he is in high spirits about moving. He wishes I was a little younger, he would take me along with him.”16 Interesting that the sale had unofficially been made in January, even though the deed was dated May 1st.

Gershom Lambert left for Porter Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania where he applied for a land grant of 160 acres in 1816. In 1817, he returned to Amwell township for a visit with his brother’s family. I do not know if his wife Rebecca was alive at this time or when she died.17

As for Isaac Skillman’s history with this property, it was a very troublesome one for him, as you might imagine. Skillman ended up being unable to pay his mortgages. He was sued for debt in 1822 and the property seized by the Sheriff. At a public sale on November 22, 1822, and purchased by one of his creditors, Andrew Larison.

Postscript: The other two John Wrights.

It took me quite awhile to sort out the three John Wrights who were living in West New Jersey at the same time. Rev. Richard E. Wright came to my rescue with information about Jan Reyt of Hackensack. Otherwise I would have assumed that John Wright of Gloucester County was the one who moved to Amwell Township, since his neighbors John Reading and Samuel Green did so. That was an assumption I should not have made.

John Wright of Gloucester

This was the son of Richard and Constance Wright of Gloucester, born about 1670. He wrote his will on September 18, 1736, naming wife Elizabeth executrix. He named two children: son John, who got the 100 acres where he was living, and son Richard, who was given the personal estate after Elizabeth’s death. The will was proved on December 9, 1736.

The third John Wright also had me fooled, since he also purchased land in Amwell Township.

John Wright of Burlington

There is another deed (with another interesting recital) that says John Wright of Burlington was “seized of a tract of land in Amwell of 218 acres [known as Block 19, lot 9 in Delaware Township], and conveyed the same to Stephen Calvin of Bethlehem,” but the deed did not state when Wright purchased this property, or when he sold it to Calvin.18.

I suppose this was the John Wright who was born about 1680 and wrote his will on December 1, 1732. He named his wife Abigail, and left legacies to Elizabeth Branson and her children, David, Samuel, and Mary. Executors were friends John Steward and Benjamin Kirby. The will was proved on February 13, 1733.

Footnotes:

  1. Some of my previous and ongoing series are West New Jersey, John Lambert’s Letters, Queries, and Sources.
  2. Deed acknowledged on May 1, 1788, and recorded on September 17, 1814.
  3. West Jersey Proprietors, Survey Book A p. 159.
  4. For more articles on the Reading family, go to “Families,” and click on “Reading”.
  5. For more on this property, click on the topic “Pauch Farm” in the right-hand column.
  6. Marriage record, The Records of the Dutch Reformed Church of Hackensack, 1891, p. 35.
  7. Bergen Co. Deeds, Book X p. 173.
  8. NJA Abstracts of Wills, 1730-1750, #99J.
  9. For a genealogy of the Green family, see Generations of Greens.
  10. West Jersey Proprietors, Survey Book A, p. 128; Recital, H. C. Deed Book 23 p. 307.
  11. Elizabeth Wilson Lambert must have died about 1780; Joseph Lambert married second Mary Holcombe, about 1785.
  12. H. C. Deed Book 23 p. 307.
  13. NJA Abstract of Wills, #2843J.
  14. Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Emma Welch Collection, #703, Letters of John Lambert.
  15. H. C. Deed Book 24 p. 446.
  16. Emma Welch Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
  17. Gershom Lambert is supposed to have died around 1822 in Porter Township, but his grave has not been identified as yet.
  18. Recital in H. C. Deed Book 6, p. 178