Mary Fox, born about 1738 in Kingwood Twp., was the second daughter and sixth child of George Fox (iii) and his wife Mary. Her older sister was Anchor Fox who married Uriah Bonham. We know very little about Mary, except that when she was about 18 years old, in 1756, she got into trouble. Sad to say, this story is more about the man who got her into trouble than it is about Mary. Historical records are woefully silent when it comes to women.

The cause of Mary Fox’s troubles was the Baptist preacher, Malakiah Bonham, son of Hezekiah Bonham and (probably) Mary Alger. He was an older brother of Uriah Bonham, and therefore Mary Fox’s brother-in-law. He began preaching at the Kingwood Baptist Church, as early as 1749. As Rev. William Curtis wrote in his “History of the Baptists” (1833), pastor Bonham was “bred a Sabatarian; but changing his opinion relative to the Sabbath, he joined Hightstown first, and then Kingwood.”

The reference to ‘Sabatarian’ has to do with Malakiah’s father Hezekiah Bonham, who found nothing in the Bible that named Sunday as the day of rest. This prompted a dispute with the resident Baptists of Piscataway, NJ where he was living. The dispute may have encouraged Hezakiah Bonham to move his family to a less religiously restrictive area. About 1699, he moved to Maidenhead (now Lawrenceville) in what was then Hunterdon County. Malakiah was born 1713/14, the seventh of thirteen children of Hezekiah Bonham and his second wife. All but one of the children were boys, and all had names from the Bible ending in ‘iah,’ except for son Ephraim. The name Malachiah or Malakiah is not found in the Bible. The biblical name is Malachi; the ‘ah’ was added to make the name rhyme with the others. They were: Hezekiah Jr., Nehemiah, Zedekiah, Amariah, Amaziah, Jeremiah, Josiah, Zachariah, Isaiah and Obadiah. Imagine calling all of them to dinner.

In 1742, the Hopewell Baptist Church lost some of its members to a group living in Bethlehem Township (which at the time included Kingwood). They had been given leave to set up their own congregation at Baptistown, but they had trouble finding a pastor. Hopewell was going through a lean time of its own in the 1740s, so around 1746, Malakiah Bonham began to preach there. After a year or so, he began preaching at the church in Kingwood (which separated from Bethlehem Township in 1749). In August, 1749, Malakiah Bonham, age 36, was ordained a minister to the Kingwood congregation. He sold some land in Maidenhead to John Johnson, and probably bought land in Kingwood. There are no deeds recorded in the NJ Archives for him, but an advertisement in the 1763 Philadelphia Gazette showed that he had a farm of 210 acres.

Some accounts claim that Malakiah Bonham’s first wife was Deborah Harker, widow of Samuel Harker of Sussex County. This is doubtful, since the Rev. Samuel Harker did not die until 1764 in Morris County. It is my belief that Deborah Harker married Malakiah Bonham sometime after 1764, becoming Bonham’s third wife.

Orra E. Monnette, in First Settlers of Ye Plantations of Piscataway and Woodbridge (1930) wrote that Malakiah Bonham had these children: Daniel c.1735, Zephaniah c.1737, Absalom 1739 and Zerviah c.1740. If these dates are correct, then Malakiah Bonham did marry whilst living in Hopewell Township (or, perhaps, as Rev. Curtis mentioned, in Hightstown), but the name of this first wife is not known. She probably died soon after 1740.

While Malakiah Bonham was ministering to the Kingwood Baptists, a branch of the congregation began to form in nearby Amwell Township, near what today is known as the village of Locktown. According to James Snell, a church was built there as early as 1750 on land donated by George Burket. The church was made of logs and was 30 by 38 feet. It was known as the Lower Church, while the Baptistown church was the Upper Church. Both shared the same minister, and generally alternated services from one week to the next. This pattern continued for a hundred years or more.

Sometime around 1750, Malakiah Bonham made the acquaintance of the widow of John Heath of New Castle, Delaware. Heath died there in 1748. The name John Heath shows up frequently in records of old Amwell Township in the 18th century. John Heath of New Castle is almost certainly related to the Amwell Heaths, who owned land not far from Locktown, but I have no idea how. Perhaps it was Heath family relations that brought the widow of John Heath to Hunterdon County.

It seems reasonable to suppose that Rev. Malakiah Bonham ministered to the bereaved widow, Hannah Heath. If so, his ministrations were so successful that they married on July 19, 1751, probably in Bucks Co., where Hannah is thought to have come from. Her maiden name was Buckingham, and she is said to have been the sister of William Buckingham of Bucks Co.

Mary Fox

About 1751, Malakiah’s brother Uriah Bonaham married Anchor Fox (their first child was born in 1752). This was probably the time that Malakiah first knew Anchor’s sister Mary, who would have been about 13 at the time. Three years later, in 1754, Malakiah Bonham, together with his brother Nehemiah Bonham, witnessed the will of Mary’s father George Fox. By 1756, it was clear that Rev. Bonham was too well-acquainted with Mary Fox, according to this excerpt from the Minutes of the Kingwood Baptist Church:

[Monday] Feb. 7, 1757, “Mary Fox suspended for having a bastard child which she swore was Malakiah Bonham’s. Sent for Mr. Benjamin Griffey and Mr. Benjamin Miller in regard to Malakiah Bonham who will be notified by Brother Romine.”

This came four days after a jury had come to the same conclusion. On Feb. 3, 1757, in the case of “King v. Malakiah Bonham,” the twelve jurors ruled that “Malakiah Bonham Late of the County aforesaid [Hunterdon] Yeoman, being a married man, on the first day of April in the 29th year of the Reign of our Now Sovereign Lord King George the Second [1756] at Kingwood . . . with one Mary Fox spinster then and there Adultery did commit contrary to the form of an Act of General Assembly in such cases . . .” [Supreme Court Cases, Box 371 #20473, NJ Archives].

In colonial New Jersey, adultery was taken very seriously. The legislation referred to in the case above was passed in 1704 and was titled “An Act for Suppressing of Immorality within this Province of New-Jersey.” The two subjects dealt with in this bill were drunkenness and adultery. The penalty for a man convicted of adultery was a fine of five pounds, plus security to the town where the child was born to save it from the cost of caring for the child, and finally, to be “whipped at three several Courts and each time receive thirty lashes on the bare back, or pay a sum of thirty pounds.” For a woman, the penalty was the same five pounds or, if she could not pay it, to receive thirty lashes on the bare back, and in addition to receive thirty lashes at three “several Courts” or pay thirty pounds.

So, presumably, Malakiah Bonham had to pay five pounds to the Hunterdon Court on Feb. 3, 1757, plus give security to Kingwood Township for the child’s care. And, if he did not have £30, he was given thirty lashes on the bare back. Compare this to the treatment of public figures today who have been ‘found out.’ As for Mary, it’s hard to imagine that a young woman who had just given birth to a child would be whipped at a public court. But she could not rely on her father to come up with the money to avoid this fate since he had died three years earlier. And as has been described in a previous post, her mother had little money to spare, due to law suits over her husband’s estate. There was nothing in the court records to show what punishment was meted out.

The Baptists of Kingwood held another meeting on Aug. 27, 1757, with Andrew Bray as clerk of the meeting (previously Malakiah Bonham’s job). This was Bray’s notation in the minutes: “Malakiah Bonham found guilty and barred from the church. Hannah Bonham’s letter of dismission to be written by Joshua Obdike.”

It appears that Malakiah Bonham’s wife Hannah was not the type to “stand by her man.” That letter of “dismission” from the Kingwood Baptists was basically a certificate dismissing Hannah from the Kingwood Baptist church to another Baptist church in another location. As far as the Baptists were concerned, she did not share in Malakiah’s disgrace, but she seems to have preferred to put some distance between herself and her husband. She moved to the state of Delaware to live with her daughter Elizabeth (from her first marriage, born 1722) and son-in-law, Jacob John of Delaware.

The courts were not done with Malakiah Bonham. In another paper in the Supreme Court file [#20473], Judge Samuel Nevill at the session of the Supreme Court held in Burlington on Feb. 5, 1759, ordered that the Hunterdon Court of General Sessions produce the writ of indictment against Malakiah Bonham at the next Supreme Court session to be held in Perth Amboy on the 3rd Tuesday in March, 1759. Judge William Morris of the Hunterdon Court of Common Pleas sent the writ of indictment to the Supreme Court [this paper was not dated]. I examined the Supreme Court Judgment Books at the State Archives and could not find any mention of this case in March 1759. Perhaps the case was delayed, or there might be something in the Court’s minute book. There was nothing in the files of the Hunterdon Court at the county archives pertaining to this case.

Not everyone thought the Reverend was guilty. According to his successor, Rev. William Curtis, he “was refused the pulpit on account of an evil report that was spread concerning him.” This is all we know. Mary Fox disappears from the records. Regrettably, bastardy cases did not begin to be recorded in Hunterdon County until 1761, or we would learn whether Kingwood Twp. took responsibility for her welfare. Since this happened after her father died, his will tells us nothing. Who the baby turned out to be is also not known. There was a younger Malakiah Bonham who may have been the son of Mary Fox; he married a Mary Williamson about 1780.

Next post: What happened to the reverend Malakiah Bonham?

Correction: Originally I had written that we had no record of Malakiah Bonham’s marriage to Hannah Heath, noting that the Kingwood Baptist church records were very sketchy in the 1750s and speculating that they might have married in Bucks County. Linda Peacock corrected me (see her comment), providing a marriage date and a source (“PA marriage license”). Linda also stated that Elizabeth, daughter of John and Hannah Heath was born in 1722, and was therefore unlikely to have traveled from New Castle to Hunterdon with her mother. So I have revised the text to fit Elizabeth into the story more appropriately.

Also, the whole subject of who Malakiah Bonham was married to before he married Hannah Heath is controversial. As far as I can tell, there just isn’t enough hard evidence yet to say one way or another. To learn where Bonham researchers stand on this issue, please read the comments of Brownie MacKie and Linda Peacock.

For the rest of Malakiah Bonham’s history, see What Happened to Malakiah Bonham?