Second Postscript to “The Will of George Fox 1754”

Following the death of George Fox in June of 1754, his executors were obliged, as was usually the case, to deal with debts related to the estate. Judging by the number of documents filed with the Court of Common Pleas of Hunterdon County, the executors must have worked nearly full-time on this job.

Remember that in the 1750s and 1760s, the county seat of Hunterdon was Trenton, not Flemington. That meant that appearing before the Court of Common Pleas required a 25-mile journey to Trenton on horseback. For people trying to support themselves as farmers and millers, this was a tremendous burden. No wonder they hired lawyers.

One of the biggest challenges for Gabriel Fox, who was identified as the surviving executor in 1759, was collecting the debt owed by Samuel Stevenson, a mason of Kingwood. But first I must digress to think about the fact that a court document prepared for the 1759 August term of the Court of Common Pleas referred to Gabriel Fox as a surviving executor. This had to mean that his brother George Fox was no longer alive. But that contradicts my assumption that his brother George was the same George Fox who wrote his will in 1760. These Foxes! I have no explanation for this.

Well, continuing with the suit against Samuel Stevenson, Gabriel Fox got the court to order him to appear for the August term in 1759 [#25887]. Nothing further shows up in the archived records until June 13, 1763, the 33rd year of the reign of George II, which is how the years were identified. The court paper is labeled ‘Mary Fox v. Samuel Stevenson’ in which the court ordered Sheriff Micajah How to levy on the goods of Andrew Van Buskirck to produce the amount of £14. A side note states that Shf. How did carry out the writ, but only managed to collect ten shillings [#23287].

The reason that Mary Fox was suing Andrew Van Buskirck [sic] was that he had co-signed a note for Samuel Stevenson on June 13, 1763 for £33 [#7857]. This is confusing, since the first document was dated 1759, by the executor of George Fox dec’d, Mary Fox’s husband. Perhaps a new note was given to Mary Fox in 1763 that cancelled the previous note. But the ten shillings did not do much to cancel the debt.

I cannot say for certain who Samuel Stevenson was. He may have been the son of Thomas Stevenson and Sarah Jennings. A Samuel Stevenson was dismissed from the Middletown Friends Meeting to Kingwood Friends in 1748. His wife was Elizabeth Searle, and they had a son Thomas born about 1730. Samuel Stevenson died intestate in Lebanon Township in 1811.

In 1766, Mary Fox hired a lawyer, Joseph Warrell, to pursue the case. Another order was issued that year to produce Samuel Stevenson before the court. But things got more complicated the next year when Mary Fox was identified as the assignee of Micajah How. Apparently Sheriff How was sued for debt and had to assign his assets to one of his creditors, Mary Fox. It appears from one of the records that Sheriff How had taken Samuel Stevenson into custody on Aug. 2, 1766 and then let him out on bail. When Stevenson refused to appear in court on the appointed date, Sheriff How became liable for Stevenson’s debt [#s 33920, 28665, 12673, 12890, 8965, 12858]. Being sheriff was no picnic.

Mary Fox died in 1769. I don’t think she wrote a will, so there were no executors to pursue her case against Stevenson and Van Buskirck. However, one final document in this series shows that legal cases never seem to end. A paper was filed on May 2, 1814, in which one Jacob Hart, assignee of Mary Fox, widow, was suing William Cousces ? [could not decipher that name] and Thomas West. Andrew Miller was Hart’s attorney. And attached to that was a list of court expenses dated May 5, 1825, Nathaniel Saxton attorney [#910].

What a mystery. Perhaps an examination of the papers of Nathaniel Saxton, in the manuscript collection of the Hunterdon Co. Historical Society, could provide a clue. At least these documents show us that the widow Mary Fox was actively engaged in managing her husband’s estate. After having her goods and chattels taken from her by Sheriff Benj. Biles, she certainly had an incentive to call in debts. It seems she had little success.