Twice in his career, Egbert T. Bush wrote about a small family burying ground in Delaware Township. The first time was in 1911, in a paper presented to the Hunterdon County Historical Society which was later published in the Hunterdon County Democrat. This was many years before Mr. Bush became a regular contributor to the Democrat.1
The second time Mr. Bush turned his attention to this graveyard was twenty years later in 1931. He included it in his article “The German Baptist Church and Vicinity,” which I published as part of my article “The German Baptist Church in Amwell.”
In his first paper Mr. Bush began by describing what has come to be known as the Moore Cemetery. Since that cemetery has already had lots of attention (See “A Stroll Through the Moore Cemetery” and “The Moore Cemetery“), it seemed appropriate to focus on the other cemetery that Mr. Bush mentioned. He wrote:
There is another cemetery not too far away from the Moore Cemetery, now called the Jones Cemetery because it is located on the farm that once belonged to Capt. David Johnes, a Revolutionary War veteran. That cemetery probably predates Johnes’ ownership; he and his wife Hannah are buried in the Presbyterian cemetery in Mt. Airy.
I have a few reasons for writing about this cemetery now, the first being that one of the people buried there has a connection with Gershom Lambert, who I mentioned in my previous article, “The Lawshe House.”
Another reason is that I just recently discovered Mr. Bush’s article while reorganizing my own papers. With it was a draft of an article on the cemetery that I never finished. That was because I was too uncertain about its location. Fortunately, Bob Leith, the great advocate for preserving Hunterdon’s small burying grounds, was able to show me exactly where it is. From this I learned that Mr. Bush was mistaken when he wrote that the cemetery was located on the farm of Capt. David Johnes. I will have more to say about that in my next post.
John & Mary Hart
Mr. Bush began his article with a description of the cemetery’s appearance when he visited it, probably in 1910:
The burial ground slopes sharply southward, and is now overgrown with forest trees. Rough stones, mostly unlettered, mark many of the graves. A few have rude initials or dates cut upon them. On entering this sacred if neglected spot in company with the well-known antiquarian, Mr. Cyrus Van Dolah, of Sandy Ridge, our attention was first drawn to a stone with this inscription:
“John Hart, departed this life Feb. 27, 1815, in the 65th year of his age.
Bob Leith visited this cemetery about five years ago and took this excellent photo of Hart’s gravestone. He wrote me that the stone was lying flat under about half a foot of dirt. Such a beauty! Thank goodness he found it. Bush continued:
By its side is another [stone] reading thus:
“Mary, wife of John Hart, died May 15, 1810, aged 58 years.”
Mr. Van Dolah says: This John Hart was born and lived as a man on the farm now owned by Charles Stevens. He was a near relative of the signer of the Declaration of Independence; and from this family of Harts sprang by his mother’s side the late Congressman John Hart Brewer, of Trenton.”
When someone mentions the name of John Hart of New Jersey, there is only one person who is thought of—that signer of the Declaration. But there were several John Harts in 18th-century New Jersey. It seems to have been a popular name. Deciding which John Hart was buried here was extremely difficult, and I have not entirely succeeded.
However, John Hart Brewer can easily be identified. He was born in 1844 to William P. Brewer and Susan Ott, He was the grandson of John Hart Ott (c.1792-1845) and Ann Servis (c.1788-1864), and great grandson of Joseph Ott (1756-1818) and Deborah Hart (1765-1848), who was the daughter of John Hart the signer of the Declaration. It took a little effort to establish that J. H. Brewer was the son of William P. Brewer, because none of the online biographies made any mention of John H. Brewer’s parents. Perhaps that is because William Brewer committed suicide in 1871. But that is another story.
So, what did Mr. Bush mean by “from this family of Harts”? Which family? and how exactly was the John Hart who died in 1815 related to John Hart the signer? I have not found the connection. Of the multitude of John Harts born in the 18th century that I am aware of, none of them seems to fit the John who was married to Mary and lived in Amwell Township.
John the signer had a son John Hart, Jr. (1748-1790), but he was married to Catherine Knowles, not Mary. Perhaps John of Amwell was a nephew. And yet, he was not the son of John Hart’s brother Edward. Another John Hart, who died in Hopewell in 1812, mentioned his cousin John Hart in his will of that year. The only sibling I know of for that John was Elijah Hart, son of John Hart & Hannah Phillips, who does not seem to have had a son John. I am puzzled.
One thing that the gravestone can tell us is that this John Hart was a man of some standing and wealth. It must have cost something to get such a handsome stone carved.
Another mystery is the farm where the Amwell John lived. Mr. Vandolah claimed he “was born and lived as a man on the farm now owned by Charles Stevens.” The farm of Charles E. Stevens (1845- after 1920) was located south of Sandbrook, along the Sandbrook-Headquarters Road. It had previously been owned by William Aller, and before him by Asa Moore, Jacob Fox and John Lake. Nowhere in the chain of title for that farm is there evidence of John Hart as an owner.
John Hart, weaver of Amwell, and wife Mary do appear in the deeds of Hunterdon County, but nowhere near the Sandbrook farm of Charles Stevens. They owned two small lots on the Delaware River, one they sold in 1784 to John Meldrom, the other in 1804 to Neil Hart.2 This may be the Neal Hart (1778-1837) who lived in Flemington and bought a lot of property in Amwell Township, including some near Sandbrook. But his Sandbrook purchases were not from John and Mary Hart. Given Neal Hart’s age, he could have been the son of John and Mary Hart.
Addition, May 3, 2019: While researching another story, I came upon a map of New Jersey published in 1795. It shows the location of Hart’s Ferry on the Delaware River. Perhaps this was the property sold to Neil Hart in 1804.
John Hart, Tavernkeeper of Ringoes
There was another John Hart who is much more intriguing, because he acquired Ringo’s Tavern on October 9, 1792. He was identified in the deed as John Hart of Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, and he purchased the tavern lot and several others in the village of Ringoes from Henry Chapese, Doctor of Physic, and his wife Sarah, late of Bucks, “now of Fayette Co, Pennsylvania,” for £1,000.3 Curiously, Charles Boyer, in his well-known book, Old Inns and Taverns in West Jersey, when giving the history of Ringo’s Tavern does not mention either Chapese or Hart, even though the deed explicitly stated that the tavern was part of the property. And there was no deed recorded for John Hart’s sale to another owner. According to Boyer, the tavern was owned by Henry Mershon about 1779, and in 1785 by John Snyder who conveyed it to Joseph Robeson. Chapese’s deed to Hart states that he got the tavern property from Joseph Robeson, but did not cite a deed. After 1792, when Hart owned the lot, Boyer has John Landis taking over in 1793 and in 1795, conveying it to Nathan Price.
Here is a case where checking mortgages can really pay off when researching a property. The day after purchasing the Tavern lot, John Hart “of Northern Liberties, innkeeper,” mortgaged it and the other five lots to Henry Chapese (the grantor) for £655.4 What makes this particular mortgage so special is that in the margin of the Mortgage on file in the County Clerk’s office, a “Memorandum” was written stating that on May 6, 1794, the mortgage was brought to the Clerk’s Office, cancelled, by John Meldrum. According to Charles Boyer, John Meldrum had taken over the tavern in 1789. It seems likely that he was the active innkeeper and John Hart was an absentee owner, at least from 1792 to 1794.
What makes this really interesting is the deed I mentioned before of 1784 when John and Mary Hart of Amwell sold to John Meldrom, also of Amwell, miller, a lot in Amwell located four rods from the Delaware River, bordering Samuel Holcombe, Edward Nixon, __ Leonard, and Philip Finn.5
In other words, the John Hart who purchased the tavern was the same John Hart whose wife was named Mary and was living in Amwell in 1784 and died in 1815. And the John Hart who sold a lot to John Meldrum in 1784 was almost certainly the same John Hart who owned the Ringoes Tavern in 1792. He was not “another John Hart” at all! Too bad his gravestone in the Hart-Taylor Cemetery did not read: ‘John Hart, former tavern owner.’
It is a great surprise to me that Charles Boyer, Cyrus Vandolah and Egbert T. Bush knew nothing about John Hart. Even James P. Snell in his History of Hunterdon County did not mention this, and neither did the authors of the History of East Amwell. But there it was, in black and white.
However, I have not been able to show that John Hart, tavern owner of Ringoes, ever lived or owned the farm of Charles E. Stevens of Sandbrook, and his connection with the signer of the Declaration of Independence remains to be proved. But I am delighted to have found an important role for him in Hunterdon’s history.
And now, let’s get back to the cemetery.
And, by the way, what shall we call this cemetery? Mr. Bush called it the Jones Cemetery. But if that is supposed to be in honor of David Johnes, we will need another name. It is sometimes referred to as the Taylor-Jones Cemetery and other times as the Hart-Taylor Cemetery, both names based on the few recognized burials there. Hart seems an appropriate name. And as Mr. Bush shows, Taylor is also appropriate. He wrote:
Other noticeable markings are as follows:
“Elizabeth Taylor, died April 5, 1836.”
“M. A. E. 1767”
“H. P. S. T.”
“G. I. G. 83”
“G. S. 1756”
“D. O. T. 28”
“Jerusha, formerly wife of Peter Taylor, and late wife of James Jones, who departed this life Aug. 29, 1823, in the 72nd year of her age.”
As I mentioned before, the Jerusha Taylor buried here was a member of the Lambert family. In fact, she was the sister of Gershom Lambert who had sold an 8+ acre lot to John Hunt in 1814, which I wrote about in my previous article, “The Lawshe House.” I will have more to say about Jerusha below. Mr. Bush continued:
It will be noticed that some of them have initials and date, some initials only, and some simply the date. The oldest date decipherable is 1683. There are no other markings on this stone. Few indeed must have been the attendants at this lonely burial so long ago. Whether on that occasion parents mourned a child, or children a parent, or whether some friendless adventurer was here laid to rest, one can only conjecture.
Once again, I have problems with this information. I cannot believe that anyone who died in 1683 was buried here, unless they were Lenapes, and of course, Lenapes did not put up gravestones. There were no Europeans in the neighborhood in the 1680s, at least none of record. This cemetery was located north of the Lotting Purchase line, which was surveyed in 1703, but no property was sold there until 1712. It is true that land south of the Lotting Purchase line was surveyed for Adlord Bowde in 1688, but why would anyone who was exploring this purchase get buried in such a location? It makes no sense. Perhaps it was Bush’s “friendless adventurer,” but if so, he was not entirely friendless, since someone bothered to erect a stone in his memory. If, if, if—the stone has not been found.
Another mystery is who all those gravestones with initials were for—MAE, HPST, GIG, GS and DOT. Much to my surprise, I cannot suggest names for any of them. Perhaps HPST and DOT were members of the Taylor family; perhaps not. Another mystery burial found by Bob Leith read “CK 1767 May 14.” Another unknown.
And as if to frustrate us completely, someone was buried here who died in 1750, but whoever set up the gravestone entirely neglected to add any hint of who that person was. This stone was invisible to Vandolah and Bush in 1910 but was found by Bob Leith.
Who died in 1750? I cannot say, or rather, I have too many possibilities. But it is a truly remarkable gravestone!
Taylor & Jones
There are two people in the cemetery connected with the Taylors: Elizabeth, who died on April 5, 1836, and Jerusha, wife of Peter Taylor. Peter was the son of William and Catarien Taylor. (See the Taylor Family Tree.) William Taylor of Amwell wrote his will on August 24, 1785, naming wife Catrien, daughter Catarien Gano, and sons William, George, John and Peter. But by then, son Peter was deceased, so the share that would have gone to him was to be divided between his children: Daniel, Sarah, Susannah and Elizabeth. That Elizabeth was the Elizabeth Taylor who died in 1836, apparently unmarried, and probably in her early 50s. As for her siblings, Daniel, Susannah and Sarah Taylor, I have no information on them other than that they were born in the late 1770s and early 1780s.
Peter Taylor died intestate in 1784. On October 23rd of that year, administration of his estate was given to Jerusha Taylor and John Lambert; fellowbondsman was Joseph Taylor.6 John Lambert was Jerusha’s brother, the eventual Senator. John and Jerusha were children of Gershom Lambert and Sarah Merriam. Jerusha’s other brother, Gershom, Jr., was the one who purchased 179 acres from the estate of George Wilson in 1788. (See The Lawshe House” and “The Lambert Tree.”)
With his wife and daughter buried here we must ask where was Peter Taylor buried? He ought to be in this graveyard, and perhaps he was, but his stone is missing.
Egbert Bush had this to say about Jerusha Taylor, in his 1931 article, “The German Baptist Church and Vicinity:”
Partly on this farm and partly on what is generally known as the William Moore farm adjoining it on the east is an old neglected grave yard, with many rough and unmarked stones and one slab which, despite its tumble-down condition, plainly bears this inscription: “Sacred to the Memory of Jerusha, formerly wife of Peter Taylor and late wife of James Jones, died Aug. 29, 1823, aged 72 years.” According to the best information available, this James Jones was the father of Asa Jones, Sheriff of Hunterdon County in 1833-35; grandfather of John L. Jones, Sheriff in 1862-64; and great-grandfather of Asa Jones, Esq., until recently a resident of Flemington.
Jerusha Lambert Taylor was only 33 when her husband Peter died. It was not long afterwards that Jerusha married her second husband, James Jones (1754-1823). As it happens, it was also Jones’ second marriage. His first wife was Hannah Rouser. In his will dated February 14, 1783, Rev. Gideon Rouser named his daughter Hannah Jones, and named his executors his son Jacob Rouser and son-in-law James Jones. It appears that Hannah Rouser Jones died soon after the will was written.
James & Jerusha Jones
James Jones was living in Headquarters in 1790, when he bordered the old mill site then owned by Benjamin Tyson.7 Based on a survey by Nathaniel Saxton for George Holcombe, it appears that Jones owned the plantation previously owned by Henry Kitchen, and may have acquired it about the time of his marriage to Jerusha Lambert Taylor. His ownership of this property was also confirmed in a survey by Thomas Gordon in 1802, also for George Holcombe.8 Unfortunately, the conveyance from Kitchen to Jones was not recorded.
James and Jerusha Jones had their first child, son John, about 1786.9 As Mr. Bush mentioned, Jerusha’s second child was the future sheriff, Asa Jones (1792-1871), who became well known in Amwell and Hunterdon Co., but whose history is not connected with this cemetery.
James Jones died intestate in 1823, at the age of 69. To my dismay, estates for that year have, as they say, ‘gone missing.’ We do have his inventory, which was sworn to by Amos and John Jones as administrators. He died on August 29, 1823, as attested by his gravestone in the Moore Cemetery.10
Intriguingly, Jerusha Lambert Taylor Jones died on the same day, according to Egbert Bush. And yet, she was buried in a separate graveyard, the Hart-Taylor Cemetery. True, the distance between the Moore cemetery and the Hart-Taylor cemetery is not great, but the couple’s separation does seem odd. It seems to suggest that Peter Taylor, Jerusha’s first husband, was buried in the Taylor-Jones Cemetery, and Jerusha chose to be buried with him. But I am just speculating.
There was one more burial in the Hart-Taylor Cemetery that caught Mr. Bush’s attention.
“The last person buried here,” says the antiquarian, “was John Crips, in or about 1836.” Unfortunately, no stone points out his resting place. The death of this man created considerable excitement at the time, and was much talked about for a generation. It seems that at the time of his death, he was engaged in chopping wood at some distance from his home, not far from Croton. The neighbors, having failed to see anything of Crips for some time, made search, and found his body half reclining against a great oak, with his dinner pail beside him.
There was much talk of foul play, but the body was brought here and buried. Then suspicion became so strong that a jury was empaneled and the body disinterred for examination. The verdict was death from natural causes; but this did not convince everybody. For twenty or thirty years afterward, opinions varied much in the neighborhood. Some agreed with the jury, while others stoutly maintained that the man had been shot to death while sitting against the tree taking his midday lunch. It was conceded that certain marks in the chest might give rise to that supposition; but the jury thought, as the body had been so long exposed, these might be otherwise accounted for. Examinations were not so thorough then as now. The exact manner of his death remains and must forever remain unsolved.
This is the end of Bush’s article. But this story about John Crips raises interesting questions. First of all, since there was no gravestone visible back in 1910, how did Mr. Bush know he was buried in this cemetery? Supposedly he was told by Cyrus Vandolah, but that is not certain.
And who was this John Crips? I could find nothing for a John Crips who died in 1836. There was no mention of him in the Hunterdon Gazette, and he was not a property owner. The Crips I have a record of is Herbert, born about 1770, who died in 1824. He had married Ann or Anna, the daughter of Simon & Elizabeth Myers about 1800. In 1816, Herbert Crips got a lot of 8.8 acres out of the division of Simon Myers’ real estate.
Herbert and Anna Crips had two children, Catherine, born 1812 and John born 1816, perhaps the John Crips Mr. Bush was writing about.
What is intriguing about Herbert Crips is that there was some suspicion in 1824 that he was murdered. This is according to an item in the Capner Papers,11 which identified the witnesses that were examined in an inquest: Chas. Grasman, John Robbins, Jacob Mires, Peter Mires, and Geo. Bowman. Regrettably, his murder was not mentioned in the Trenton newspapers, and the Hunterdon Gazette did not start publishing until 1826.
But the fact that someone named Crips got murdered in 1824 makes me wonder about this story about John Crips. Perhaps the son was confused with the father. It seems to be another one of those legends that cannot be verified.
There recently was an article published on nj.com titled “See some of the smallest, loneliest cemeteries in N.J.” by Lori M. Nichols for NJ Advance Media. She included the Pickell Cemetery in Readington Township and seems to have conscientiously attempted to list at least one for every county. She did not know about the Hart-Taylor cemetery. It is very small, but thanks to the efforts of Bob Leith and his cemetery committee, it is not quite as neglected as it has been in the past.
The next post will examine the early owners of the property where the Hart-Taylor cemetery is located.
Postscript: I neglected to check my records on John Crips. Turns out, he died in 1885 at an advanced age, as his obituary in the Hunterdon Republican (published July 1, 1885) shows:
“Last Thursday, the dead body of John Crips, a man about 70 years old, was found in the hay mow on the farm of Henry Crum, near Sand Brook. Dr. John H. Ewing was summoned, and he pronounced the cause of death as heart disease.”
- The first article by Mr. Bush in the Democrat was published in 1929. The first in any newspaper that I am aware of appeared in the Hunterdon Republican in 1896 titled “Croton and Vicinity.” This was also a paper that he read before the HCHS. ↩
- Recitals in H.C. Deeds, Book 11 p. 127 and Book 10 p. 148. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 1 p. 615. ↩
- H.C. Mortgage Book 1 p. 529. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 11 p. 127. ↩
- I would expect Joseph Taylor to have been a brother of Peter, but have no record of him. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 1 p. 405. ↩
- These surveys are on file in the HCHS Archives in the Nathaniel Saxton Papers, Collection #8. ↩
- All I know of this John Jones is that he was unmarried in 1824 when he quit claimed his rights in one of his father’s farms to his brother Asa Jones in exchange for Asa’s rights in another farm. ↩
- What happened to the Headquarters property owned by James Jones is not really pertinent to this article. Suffice to say, the sons John and Amos divided it between them. Amos sold his share to Israel Poulson in 1824 and John sold his to David Lair in 1832. ↩
- HCHS Coll. 31, The Capner Papers, Box 15 file 903 ↩