This post is a follow-up to the previous one about the Bray family of Delaware Township, Andrew Bray and Sarah Rittenhouse. That post includes copies of the portraits of Andrew and Sarah Bray by William Bonnell.

Andrew Bray’s Later Life

In 1838, when Delaware Township was created out of old Amwell Township, there were several meetings at which the annoyed citizens of Amwell protested against the high-handedness of the state legislature, for creating the township without any notice to the residents. Curiously, Andrew Bray did not involve himself in these matters, nor did he volunteer to serve in the original committees of the new town government.

He also did not involve himself in real estate speculation, as so many prosperous people did at this time. One of the few deeds I found concerned David Howell of Amwell, who became bankrupt, and on May 22, 1841, assigned all his property to Andrew Bray to satisfy Howell’s 27 creditors. Howell owned a lot in Lambertville on Coryell St., and “3 dwelling houses.” Bray was obliged to sell this property and divide the proceeds among Howell’s creditors, himself being the greatest of them.1

On March 10, 1842, Andrew and Sarah’s son Daniel died at the age of 23. Surprisingly, there is no obituary for him in the Hunterdon Gazette, so the circumstances of his death remain a mystery. This left only Elisha Bray and younger brother Anderson. The family of Sarah’s father, Elisha Rittenhouse, also suffered considerable mortality. Several of his children died before reaching middle age, and at least one died as a child. Mortality was high in those days, for some families more than for others. By the time Elisha wrote his will in 1839, he only had three surviving children out of at least ten. He died on December 15, 1846, leaving to his daughter Sarah Bray six shares in the Centre Bridge Co. for her own use, exclusive of her husband. Rittenhouse had already transferred ownership of the nearly 250-acre farm to Sarah and her husband for half its market value.

And Now For A Little Diversion

History is complicated, and it is all too easy to find oneself distracted by tangents, which I am going to indulge in now, by describing an incident that I know practically nothing about. It took place in 1843, when Anderson Bray was only 16, and is interesting because it involves a terrifying crime, a home invasion.

The incident took place in Changewater, Warren County near Port Colden on the Morris Canal. An older man named John B. Parke, rumored to be wealthy, lived there with his sister, Mary Matilda Castner, her husband John Castner, their daughter Maria and two sons, and also a boy named Jesse Force. The Parke family originated in Hopewell Township in the late 17th century. One branch of the family settled in Delaware Township in the person of Ozias Parkes.

On May 1, 1843 John B. Parke and some members of his family were discovered brutally murdered by stabbing. The only survivors were the two Castner sons who had slept through the night. The suspects were Mary’s brother Peter W. Parke and Joseph Carter, Jr. Those two had fled and were later captured in Trenton. Anderson Bray was

“among the few persons living {in 1901} who saw the two men, Carter and Parks, on their way from Trenton to Belvidere, where they were hung {at the Warren County Court House} for the murder of the Castner family, in the early forties. They were guarded by a troop of twenty-four horsemen. They were also on horseback and hand-cuffed together. They made a short halt, at what was then known as Buchanan’s Tavern, on the Trenton road, three miles west of Flemington, now the residence of Asa Robbins.”2

This description was probably provided by Mr. Bray from his recollections. The trial drew as much attention for its time as the Lindbergh kidnapping trial did nearly 100 years later. Apparently, there is some reason to think at least one of the men might not have been guilty.3 The two men were buried in the Mansfield-Woodhouse Cemetery, not far from the burial place of the five victims.

Deaths of Andrew and Sarah Bray

The last real estate transaction I have found for Andrew Bray took place on April 1, 1848 and involved a lot of 20.75 acres purchased from John and Sarah Gordon for $1290.4 This lot was located on the southwest corner of Andrew Bray’s farm.

Andrew Bray died intestate at the age of 59 on March 27, 1849. I suppose he thought he had plenty of time to write a will. He must have been taken by surprise, either by illness or accident. The obituary in the Hunterdon Gazette does not enlighten us. It appeared in the issue of April 4, 1849: “DIED in Delaware township on the 20th ult., Andrew Bray.” Most obituaries of those days were alarmingly brief.

By the time of his death, Andrew Bray had only two surviving children, his sons Elisha R. and Anderson Bray, Elisha being 8 years older than Anderson. Andrew’s wife Sarah was only 52 when she became a widow, and her sons were 30 and 22 years old. They carried on with the farming and supported their mother for the rest of her long life.

Sarah Bray’s Will

Sarah Rittenhouse Bray wrote her will on July 24, 1875, being “advanced in years but of sound mind, memory and understanding.”5 To her son Elisha R. Bray, she gave “nothing, he having an abundance of property to maintain him as long as he lives.” This may reflect the fact that her other son Anderson Bray had to pay Elisha $5000 to buy out Elisha’s interest in the family farm.6 See Addendum, 6/11/2012, below.

To Anderson Bray, who appears to have been Sarah’s favorite, she left the use of her estate, plus a few smaller lots, for his lifetime. Her estate consisted of “my right in the farm where I now live and the one-half interest in the moveable and personal property held by my son Anderson Bray and myself.” It is surprising that Sarah would limit her son’s ability to dispose of the property. She did consider the possibility that the bachelor Anderson might someday have a legal heir, in which case, said heir or heirs would inherit when they became 21.

She also considered the possibility that Anderson Bray would not have an heir. In that case, Sarah ordered that “$1000 of my estate [be given] to the Old School Baptist Church at Kingwood to be used towards the purchase of a parsonage for the use of said church the lot to be in the vacinity {sic} of Locktown and not more than two miles from their meeting house in this place the time of purchasing and the place of using the said sum of $1000 to be left to my Executor, and in case of his decease to be taken care of and used by the trustees of said church in the manner ordered above after the payment of the taxes and expenses thereon.” I will say more about this interesting bequest later on in this post.

Whatever remained of the estate would be “divided equally between the children of my brothers Robert Rittenhouse and Alanson Rittenhouse {both of whom had already died} and my sister Keturah Risler and Edward Priest share and share alike.” She named her nephew, Cyrus Risler, to be her executor, who was ordered to “take charge of my Estate after the decease of my son Anderson Bray.”

As for Edward Priest, he is a curious fellow. In the 1870 census, Edward Priest 19 and Sophiah Priest 42, were living with Anderson Bray 42 and his mother Sarah Bray 70, and also Elisha Bray, age 50. Edward was a farm laborer. The census does not tell us whether Sophiah was his mother or not. In 1880, Edward Priest had his own household and worked as a farmer. His widowed mother Henrietta, 52, who was born in Denmark, was living with him; his father was also born in Denmark. Immigrants from Denmark to Hunterdon County are pretty rare. It would be interesting to know more about this family, but it also appears from census records that Edward Priest left Hunterdon County before 1900.

The Later Years of Sarah Bray

In March 1876, Anderson Bray partnered with a distant cousin, Richard M. Rittenhouse, to purchase a farm of 43.35 acres on Pine Hill Road from the estate of Stacy Risler deceased.7 The same year, in October, a regrettable incident took place.8 It concerned a hunting party that included John Williamson, “employed by Joseph Smith, of Delaware Township,” who

“went gunning on the farm of Anderson Bray, about 2 miles north of Sergeantsville. John was standing on a stump, resting his arm on the gun, when it slipped and discharged its contents, blowing off part of the left arm. The other load went off and hit him in the abdomen. He was taken to his father’s residence where he died in a few hours. He was about 20 years old and much respected by all who knew him.”

John Williamson was the son of Emley Williamson (1829-1909) and Celinda Snyder (1836-1918).

In the census of 1880, taken on June 16th, Anderson Bray was listed as age 53, a farmer, living with his mother Sarah age 84. Also in the household was Anderson’s brother Elisha 58, “at home,” which means he had no known occupation. There was a housekeeper, since Sarah was too old for the arduous work of maintaining a 19th-century household; her name was Kate Roberts, age 48, and her daughter Kate, age 13, was at school. The school was not the old Risler school, which was no longer in use; most likely it was the school in the village of Locktown. There was also a boarder named Charles C. Smith, age 10, who was not at school.

I cannot help but wonder if that Charles C. Smith, listed in the 1880 census in the Bray household, might have been related to Jacob B. Smith and Isaac Smith, to whom Anderson Bray and Richard M. Rittenhouse sold their lot on Pine Hill Road for $1626 on April 4, 1882. This lot was not at all connected with the Bray farm on Upper Creek Road, or with the estate of Sarah Bray.9

Sarah Bray’s Inventory

Sarah Bray died on February 3, 1882 at the age of 85. Her obituary in the Hunterdon County Democrat was not as brief as her husband’s was.

”The funeral of Mrs. Sarah Bray, widow of Andrew Bray, dec., and daughter of Elisha Rittenhouse, took place on Tuesday at Locktown, She had died on 4 Feb. 1882. She had been a faithful and consistent member of the Old School Baptist Church for many years and was highly respected by all who knew her. She was about 83 years old and had died at the home of her son, Anderson Bray, in Delaware Tp.”

The inventory for Sarah’s estate is a curious one. The appraisers, Richard M. Rittenhouse and Abel Webster, agreed with the executor, Cyrus Risler, that it was not possible to separate out Sarah’s one-third interest in the real estate of her deceased husband. But they thought it “be just and right to take the one third part” of the personal estate of Andrew Bray dec’d, which was valued at $4,128.94 when his inventory was taken on April 5, 1849. This amounted to $1,376.31, to which they added interest from 1849 to Feb 5, 1882 at 5%, which came to $2,259.42, which added to the “principal sum” resulted in a total of $3,635.73. Anderson Bray acknowledged that he had the amount of $3635.73 in hand and would dispose of it as his mother’s will directed.10

This must have been a burden for Anderson Bray. I have not seen any record to explain how he disposed of the money, although it would be worth checking to see if an account was submitted by Sarah Bray’s executor, Cyrus Risler.

The Parsonage House

Despite the wishes of Sarah Bray, no such parsonage was ever built for the Old School Baptist Church in Locktown. There is a house, known as the Parsonage House, across the road from the current Presbyterian Church, corner of Locktown-Sergeantsville Road and Locktown-Flemington Road. But that was built for the Locktown Christian Church in 1876, before Sarah Bray died.

Elder Aaron B. Francis of the Old School Baptist Church, probably 1870s

The pastor of the Old School Baptist Church, when Sarah wrote her will in 1875, was Elder Aaron Bise Francis, a Confederate veteran from Virginia. He certainly must have had a beneficial influence on his congregants if Sarah Bray wished to provide him with a house. (In a future post I will explain why Elder Francis was so well received. It is quite a story.) But Elder Francis already had a house on Upper Creek Road, which Francis himself built in 1871. It appears in the 1873 Beers Atlas at that location, and has been owned John and Judy Schoenherr for many years. Elder Francis remained there during the length of his pastorship which came to an end a year before the death of Sarah Bray in 1882.

Judy Schoenherr’s son Ian Schoenherr did some research on Elder Francis and discovered that Francis had written a paragraph in his memoir about his stay in Hunterdon County. It is worth quoting here:

“On the 15th of September 1870, I with my wife went to live in Hunterdon Co. New Jersey. I had been called to the pastorate of the Kingwood Old School Baptist Church located at Locktown, a Small village in Hunterdon Co. seven miles west of Flemington the county-seat. In the following year 1871, I bought a piece of land eighteen acres, about half  mile south of Locktown, and built a house into which we moved the first of November of that year. . . . During our residence at that place our eldest child died of Scarlet Fever March 10, 1873 . . . . During my pastorate of the Kingwood Church, I baptized quite a number, but the deaths fully equaled the additions.”11

After Elder Francis left Hunterdon County, the house he had lived in was owned by Adam Ruppell, a German immigrant, born July 1829, who was not associated with the Locktown Baptist Church. The pastor who succeeded Elder Francis in 1882 was Balis Bundy of Otsego, New York. I do not know where he lived. The answer may be found in the County Clerk’s Office.

We are left to wonder why a parsonage was never built, and what happened to the money allotted for it. I must leave these questions unanswered for now.

The Last Years of Anderson Bray

Interestingly, about 7 years after Sarah Bray’s death, Anderson Bray married a much younger woman. She was Amy Snyder (1860-after 1920), daughter of Samuel B. Snyder and Matilda Brewer.12 Anderson was about 62 years old, but Amy Snyder was only 28. She had a 14-year-old daughter, Ida (born November 1875), and an infant daughter, Margaret (born in May 1881). The father of these children is unknown. Perhaps this marriage was an act of generosity on Bray’s part.

Elisha R. Bray, Anderson’s brother, died in October 1891, at the age of 73, unmarried. Oddly enough, despite his mother’s contention that he had more than sufficient property to live on, there is no estate recorded for him, at least in the Index of Hunterdon County Estates.

In 1900, Anderson Bray and his family were listed in the census for Delaware Township. He was still a farmer, even though he was 73 years old, born in December 1826. His wife Amy, born March 1860, was 40 years old. They had 3 children, all of them alive. Living with them was daughter Sarah age 8, born September 1891, and daughter Maggie Snyder 19, born May 1881, single. By this time, Ida or Ada Snyder had married Mahlon Corson of Delaware Township.

Anderson Bray wrote his will on January 14, 1905. Since he only had a life estate in his mother’s share of the farm, which was to be inherited by his heirs, he was limited in what he could bequeath. He made earnest efforts to see that his wife Amy was well-provided for, stating that if their daughter Sarah were to die without issue, then her rights in his estate should pass to his wife Amy. He also provided that if both daughter Sarah and wife Amy were to die, then the estate should go equally to Ida Corson, wife of Mahlon Corson, and to Maggie Higgins, wife of James Higgins, the daughters of Amy Snyder Bray before her marriage to Anderson Bray. And he named Mahlon Corson executor along with Amy Bray.

By 1910, when Anderson Bray was 83 years old, he had given up farming. He was living “on his own income” with his wife Amy M., age 56, having been married for 21 years. Between them, they had three children, all of them still alive, including daughter Sarah, age 19. As part of the household, James C. Higgins 29 was listed as a farmer, wife Margaret 30, married 8 years but no children, and James’ mother Margaret Higgins 63, widow. James Higgins must have been farming for his father-in-law. His own father, William Higgins, had died sometime between 1900 and 1910.

Anderson Bray died on June 6, 1913 at the age of 86. Like his mother, he had remained true to the Old School Baptist Church. Its publication, Signs of the Times, printed an obituary for Anderson Bray, written by D. M. Vail.13 As was customary in religious publications, little was said of Bray’s life, but quite a bit about how peacefully and resignedly he died. Vail wrote:

“He bad been in very poor health for many years, but was in bed only about a week before he passed away. Although he suffered greatly at times, yet he bore his suffering with patience. He always had some kind word of comfort for his family. . .  Mr. Bray was born on the farm where he died. I was personally acquainted with Mr. Bray, and am well satisfied that he was a subject of God’s saving grace. I have spoken in his house several times, and he always expressed complete satisfaction with what I said. . . . He leaves a lonely widow and two daughters,14 with friends, to mourn, but not without hope. . . . He was buried in Sandy Ridge Cemetery.”

As the wills of both Sarah and Anderson Bray had declared, Anderson’s only child Sarah inherited his estate. Shortly after the death of her father, Sarah Bray married Clarence Pyatt. Their first child, Albert S. Pyatt, was born about 1915. In the 1920 Delaware Township census, Anderson Bray’s widow Amy was 65, living with Sarah and Clarence Pyatt on the farm located on the “Locktown-Covered Bridge Road,” as Upper Creek Road was known at that time. Four of their five children had been born, including twins Robert and Ruth in 1819. Listed next to them was George C. Pyatt, brother of Clarence, and his wife and daughter. Clarence and George were sons of Albert Pyatt and wife Henrietta, and grandsons of King Pyatt and Elizabeth Bellis.

It is at this point that I shall leave the Bray family and the Bray farm on Upper Creek Road. There is always more to be said, but this post is long enough.


5/2/2012:  Ian Schoenherr pointed out to me that the original date of 1901 that I had given for the carte d’visite of Elder Aaron B. Francis was incorrect, that by 1901 Elder Frances was a much older man. The picture probably dates to the time when Elder Francis was living in Locktown.


6/11/2012:  I have just learned the importance of looking very closely at the census records. One tiny mark on a page can change the meaning of a person’s life entirely. I am referring to the census of 1880 for the family of Sarah, Anderson and Elisha Bray. What I missed, until today, was the little mark next to Elisha Bray declaring that he was insane. This explains everything about how his property was handled in the deeds I’ve described here. Further research would no doubt turn up a declaration of insanity in the Hunterdon Archives. Live and learn. 

  1. Deed 75-406. I have no information, at this time, linking this David Howell to the early Howell family of Amwell/Delaware Township. All deeds require some kind of “consideration” or payment to be legally valid; in this case, Andrew Bray paid David Howell 50 cents.
  2. Buchanan’s Tavern was at the intersection of Routes 523 and 579. Quote from The Democrat-Advertiser, March 28, 1901.
  3. See History of Sussex and Warren Counties by James P. Snell, pg 499; also The Sussex Register, 1897, Ancient Local History, pg. 50; and Also see from The Library Company of Philadelphia, Protest of Peter W. Parke, who was executed on Friday, Aug. 22d, 1845, in which he declares his innocence to the last moment of his life, also his opinion concerning the Changewater murder, with a brief examination of the character and testimony of some of the principal witnesses for the state. Published for the benefit of his widow and three orphan children. Also Report of Cases Argued and Determined in the N. J. Supreme Court, 1847-1848, pg. 310, Furman v. Parke, in which David Parke sued to have the reward for discovery of the perpetrators given to him. Many thanks to Ian Schoenherr for discovering these sources.
  4. Deed 91-461. The price amounted to $62 per acre.
  5. Hunterdon Co. Wills, Book 13 pg. 673.
  6. This was done on January 24, 1857; see E.T. Bush’s article on the Bray family.
  7. Deed not recorded; sale referred to in Deed 224-188.
  8. It was reported in The Democrat-Advertiser on November 1, 1901.
  9. It appears that Charles C. Smith was the son of Mahlon D. Smith and Sarah H. Bryan, although I have very little information on that family, and no indication of a connection between Mahlon D. Smith, and Jacob or Isaac Smith.
  10. Hunterdon Co. Inventories, 19-150.
  11. A copy of the Francis memoir was sent to Ian Schoenherr by a Francis descendant, Roger Vandegrift.
  12. The marriage was not listed in Deats’ Hunterdon County Marriages, nor in the Minute Book of the Kingwood Baptist Church.
  13. Signs of the Times, vol. 81 1913, pg. 414, provided by Ian Schoenherr.
  14. I cannot explain why Mr. Vail wrote that only two daughters survived Anderson Bray. All three of them appeared in the 1920 census.