The Irish Tenth

During the winter, the Irish Quakers who had arrived at West New Jersey in September 1681, were given shelter in Salem. When spring 1682 arrived, they set to work building their own settlement. The location they chose was a site opposite what would soon be Philadelphia. They laid out their own Tenth, running from Timber Creek to Pennsauken Creek, and established a town center called Newton. The original site of Newton was in the present-day city of Camden.

At about the same time, another settlement was begun at Woodbury Creek by three brothers, Henry, John and Jonathan Wood. The ‘three brothers’ story shows up again and again in genealogies. It goes something like this: three brothers emigrated together, usually in the 17th century, but once they got to America, they went their separate ways, one to New England, one to Virginia or other points south, and one remained in the mid-Atlantic area. One must be skeptical whenever this yarn pops up, but in the case of the Wood brothers, the story is partly true, the difference being that all three brothers stayed in one place. They were joined by Thomas Gardiner, Thomas Mathews, John Test, Wm Ware and their families.

A third settlement was begun at Pennsauken by John Roberts, Wm. Matlock, Timothy Hancock and others.

Population Growth in the Delaware Valley

“In the year 1682, a large ship of 550 tuns burthen arrived at West Jersey, which got a-ground in Delaware bay; where, after laying eight days, by a favourable wind and tide, got off; and coming up the river, landed her passengers, being three hundred and sixty in number, between Philadelphia and Burlington A. D. on the Jersey shore: Their provisions being nigh gone, they sent ten miles to an Indian town near Rankokus creek, for Indian corn and pease: The king of this tribe being then there, treated them kindly, and directed such Indians as had provisions, to bring it in next morning, who accordingly brought plenty; which being delivered and put in bags, the messengers took leave of the king; who kindly ordered some of the Indians to carry their bags for them to their canoes.”1

If only Mr. Smith had told us the name of that boat, its captain, where it sailed from and some of its passengers. I believe he included the ship’s arrival simply to show what sort of reception many of the new settlers received from the Indians living near them. It is a source of lasting regret that the Indians were not treated in kind, even by these mild Quakers. On the other hand, many Quakers had very friendly relations with the Indians, and, according to a couple 19th-century writers, actually took Indian wives.2

The story also illustrates the growth of population along the Delaware River. By 1680, the population of East New Jersey had grown to about 3,500.3 Another source states that in 1682 the population of the Delaware Valley (i.e., both sides of the river, from Whorekills (Lewes, Delaware) to Trenton) was about 3500 people.

This count may have included the first boatload of Quakers whose destination was Pennsylvania, rather than West New Jersey. After a difficult voyage, in which a third of the passengers died of smallpox, William Penn arrived on the ‘Welcome’ on October 28, 1682. As David Hackett Fischer wrote:4

“In the year 1682 the scale of this migration [to the Delaware Valley] suddenly increased when twenty-three ships sailed into Delaware Bay with more than 2,000 emigrants who founded the colony of Pennsylvania. One of these vessels was the ship Welcome, which carried William Penn himself and 100 other Quakers on a ghastly voyage where smallpox was also a passenger and thirty died at sea of that dread disease. The Welcome was followed by ninety shiploads of settlers in three years from 1682 to 1685.”

As he stepped ashore, Penn was given “turf, twig and water, symbols of his feudal possession of the country.”5 I cannot help but wonder how readily the residents of West New Jersey would tolerate a feudal overlord, even if it was William Penn. The New Jerseyans had already spent considerable effort on maintaining their independence and autonomy. I suspect that such experiences made them less amenable to authoritarian control, even if it was benign.

In a letter written in 1683 [Myers’ Narratives, pg 224-244], Wm Penn estimated that each of the 90 ships that arrived in the Delaware River between 1682 and 1685 had about 80 passengers each, for a total of 7,200 immigrants.6 In 1670 West Jersey had 100 European residents and Pennsylvania had none. Ten years later, there were 1,700 people living in West Jersey and  only 700 in Pennsylvania. But in 1690 things had changed dramatically. West Jersey had increased by 800 to a total of 2,500 people, but Pennsylvania had 10,800 new souls for a total of 11,500.7 With 9,000 more residents than West Jersey had, Pennsylvania completely eclipsed West New Jersey as a haven for Quakers.

Perhaps inspired by the arrival of William Penn, the settlements at Salem, Newton and Burlington each established a quarterly Friends meeting this year.

Markets and Communication

News of the ships’ arrivals and of Court sessions and elections for the Assembly had to be communicated to residents who lived on farms scattered throughout the Tenths. How to communicate without the benefit of newspapers? In November 1682, the Burlington Court ordered that the laws passed by the Assembly should be read at Burlington, “being the market day there.” Presumably, someone was chosen to do the reading, and he probably stationed himself at one of the taverns, perhaps one closest to where the market was set up. Probably a significant minority of residents were not literate. Posting the laws in written form in a public place, as became the practice in the 19th century, would have been ineffective if those laws could not be read.

As for market day, that is intriguing. If only we had more details. It makes perfect sense that a market day would be the vehicle for buying and selling in an agricultural community. This was a long-established custom in England, and even as far back as Roman times, so naturally it would be continued in New Jersey. There were designated days during the year for a market fair. They were so important that one of the earliest laws passed by the Assembly provided for market fair days in Salem:

“Resolved yt two ffayrs be kept att Salem yearly and Every Yeare, The former ffair thereof to bein The nyne and twentieth day of ye Seaventh Month next [September 1686], And ye Latter fair to begin on ye first day of the third Month next [May 1687], And soe to Continue yearly, and Salem to have ye Like priviledges as Appertayns to ye ffairrs Att Burlington.”8


  1. Samuel Smith, The History of the Colony of Nova-Caesaria or New Jersey. Burlington, 1765. Reprinted Spartansburg, SC: The Reprint Co., 1975. Smith (1720-1776), p.150. This is the first written history of the state, written by a member of the colony’s political elite. Samuel Smith was a NJ native and held many political offices there. John Witherspoon thought it was the only reliable source of information on NJ history in the 1780s.
  2. These were derivative sources; I have no evidence of this.
  3. Peter O. Wacker, Land & People, A Cultural Geography of Preindustrial New Jersey: Origins and Settlement Patterns, Rutgers Univ. Press, 1975, p.130. Wacker wrote that West New Jersey did not reach that level until 1699.
  4.  David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, Oxfod Univ. Press, 1989, p.421.
  5. Albert Cook Myers, Narratives of Early Pennsylvania West New Jersey and Delaware: 1630-1707. Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1912, p.220.
  6. Myers’ Narratives, pp.224-244.
  7. Fischer, Albion’s Seed, pg 421.
  8. From The True Origin of Old Gloucester County, N.J. by Carlos E. Godfrey, published by the Camden Historical Society, 1922.