Monmouth Patent Granted

By William Horner
Originally published by
Moreau Brothers of Freehold, NJ 1932
Reprinted in 1974

Monmouth Patent Granted

When the ensign of the Netherlands was hauled down in supine surrender at the fort in New Amsterdam and in its place the hoisted British flag was boldly flung to flaunt its bravery to the breeze, the Dutch grip on the Jersies was broken, save for one final convulsive effort, and her fair field were laid open to English settlers and to English settlement.

The Monmouth Patent

Captain John Bowne and his associates had, as has already been told, anticipated the British conquest of New Netherland, and had negotiated with the Indians for the lands of their desire. They had even made the beginnings of a settlement near the site of the present village of Middletown. Now, they proceeded to obtain from the Royal Governor, Colonel Richar Nicholls, confirmation and sanction of their purchases from the Indians and authority for the carrying out of the plans and purposes whereby they aspired and hoped to plant for themselves and for their children and their children's children the seeds of a commonwealth whose foundations should be laid in honor and built upon in that ordered freedom of conscience and of action that would know no limits save only those properly imposed by common consent, voices through representatives chosen by ballot.

On their petition Letters Patent were issued (April 8, 1665) by Governor Nicholls granting these lands and this authority to the twelve men ever after to be known as the patentees of Monmouth: William Goulding (Golden), Samuel Spicer, Richard Gibbons, Richard Stout, James Grover, John Bowne, John Tilton, Nathanial Sylvester, William Reape, Walter Clark, Nichols Davis, and, Obediah Holmes.

Sanctions and Limitations

By these Letters Patent, the Patentees and their Associates were bound to settle on the lands granted them, within three years of the date of the Patent, at least one-hundred families. By them they were granted, Liberty of Conscience and of Worship, the right to build villages at places of their own selection, and the authority to erect Courts for the trial of Small Causes, criminal jurisdiction being, for the time, withheld. By them they were empowered, moreover, to elect by majority vote five or seven other persons to act with them, with full power and authority to make prudential Laws and Constitutions.

Territory Covered by Patent

The extent and boundaries of the tract comprehended in the Monmouth, or Nicholls, Patent are somewhat vague and uncertain -- its western side not being described with sufficient exactitude to permit its true courses to be definitively determined. The reason for this is probably that the Patentees themselves had no very clear ideas on the subject. It was not until a dozen years later (1676) that the line, ever since marking the western borders of Monmouth, was run from Little-Egg-Harbor toward the Delaware. Roughly speaking, the grant, or Patent, may be said to have comprised the present Monmouth and Ocean counties, with segments of Mercer and Middlesex.

The patent leaves some doubt, also, as to whether the Reverend Obadiah Holmes and John Tilton, Sr., were of the original Patentees, or whether John Tilton, Jr., and Obadiah Holmes, Jr., are intended.

The Monmouth Patent Voided The Patent itself was almost at once set aside in favor of the grant to Berkly and Carteret, which had, in fact, been executed at a date earlier than that on which Colonel Nicholls had signed the Monmouth Patent. It is in this Berkely and Carteret conveyance that the name Nova Cesarea, or New Jersey, is first used. Futile legal processes to sustain the Monmouth and other simila Patents were at once set on foot, and some of the cases arising under these were still pending in the courts at the outbreak of the Revolution.

The Lords Proprietors did, however, so far recognize some equity as accuring to the Monmouth Patentees under their patent that they granted tracts of 500 acres to each of the Twelve, in recognition of or as compensation for their claims.

(What is known as the Schenck-Couvenhoven burying-ground is located on the five-hundred-acre allotment so made to Captain John Bowne. In early days this was considered the choicest bit of farmland in Monmouth.)

The Actual Settlement

Under the terms of their patent the grantees were bound to settle on the territory covered by it, within the space of three years, one-hundred or more families - in Town or Village, the houses of which were to be not too far distant from each other to preclude mutual support and protection. In compliance with there conditions the families of John Bowne, Richard Stout, James Grover, and Richard Gibbons, aldready there, were soon added to by numbers of their associates and by others seeking homes in the new "Development." Land- speculators, too, put in appearance and were very much in evidence - making use of tricks and devices, still current with us, that were already hoary with age in the day of Abraham.

Formal Organization of Monmouth

Under the headship of Captain John Bowne the little community at once set about organizing itself. The near-by lands were surveyed, under the supervision of James Grover, and were mapped-out (Dec. 30, 1667) into town-lots, out-lots, and salt-meadow lots. Three townships were erected - Middletown, largely settled by Batpists, Portland, also largely Baptist, and Shrewsbury, in which the Friends, or Quakers, predominated. Of these townships, Portland lapsed after a few years. Villages were planned and plotted at Middletown, Portland Point, Pot-a-peek, and Shrewsbury. Additional lands were bought from the Indians, both by the Patentees and by individual purchasers. Church, mill, school-house, and jail were provided for, township officers were selected, and a House of Deputies or General Assembly, chosen, of which Captian John Bown was the first Speaker.

In 1667 Richard Richardson was appointed Recorder in General; William Goulding (Golden),John Bowne, John Tilton, James Grover, Richard Stout, Samuel Spicer, and Richard Gibbons, Custodians of the moneys of the three townships - Portland, Middletown, and Shrewsbury; and, on Dec.12th of the same year the following officials were elected:

For Middletown - Richard Gibbons, Constable; Jonathan Holmes and William Lawrence, Overseers; and Stephen Arnold and James Ashton, Deputies.

For Portland - Henry Percy and Richard Richardson, Overseers; James Bowne, Deputy.

For Shrewsbury - Peter Parker, Constable; Christopher Allmy and Edward Edward Pattison, Overseers; Eliakim Wardell and Bartholomew West, Deputies.

The Deputies, together with the Patentees, made up the House of Assembly, sometimes called the House of Deputies, and sometimes the General Court - a House that under the astute and vigorous leadership of John Bowne, Richard Hartshorne, and others, stood ever between the covetous greed of the Proprietors and rapacious Royal Governors and the toiling masses, these would exploit to their own aggrandizement. They used as their chief weapon the control of the Assembly over money-bills and taxation - a weapon which has since been recognized as the only sure protection against tyrants and tyranny.

The Overseers may, perhaps, be regarded as corresponding in a measure to the Freeholders of a later day, or or to the Supervisors of sister states.

While the earlier archives of our people have not been preserved, and information concerning the activities of their first few years is obtainable only through more or less imperfect copies of the older records, and through extracts from them and from incidental references and ancient traditions; yet it is probably true that nothing of really vital or fundamental value has been lost and that material exists, which, if brought together, would make possible the drawing of a picture of the times, true, vivid, absorbing, that would even include many of the lesser details and nuances that give life and color to history.

It would appear that the financial basis of the colonization rested on the sale of shares in the enterprise, some of which shares remained with the Twelve Proprietors, some went to actual settlers, and some went to friends and well-wishers of the undertaking, in Rhode Island, Long Island, and elsewhere; while still others went to those who were "willing to take a chance" - for there were speculators then, as now. The chief source of income was, of course, through the sales of land to actual settlers, or those who bought to sell again as the values of land should be enhanced.

The Men Who Came To Monmouth

From the limitations and conditions contained in the Monmouth Patent, and for other reasons, the period between 1665 and 1670 may be considered as marking the first wave of early settlement, and the settlers coming within our first lustre as being the Founders of Monmouth.

Among the actors in this living drama, this moving-picture, we may find side by side, the wise and simple men who sought but the shelter and protection of their own vine and fig-tree, with the privilege of rearing families in the fear of God; adventurers pure and simple; rovers who stayed not long in any place, but ever pressed-on in quest of fabled Isles of Blessedness; and, too, those who came to stay, but, discouraged by the hardships of pioneer life or the querulous complaints of their women-kind, soon returned whence they came, those who came simply as speculators and flitted away when they had sold out at a profit; and those who came but for a season, only to perfect their land-titles by a "window-dressing" show of at least a hundred families within the alloted time, for, while the Monmouth Patent was still in litigation its terms must be complied with. Some of these early settlers maintained residences in the places of their former habitation as well as in Monmouth - and were counted as residents of both places. There were others, too, floaters and men of lesser breed.

Many of those who were most vitally interested in the success of the Monmouth settlement and most active in bringing it about, including seven out of the Twelve Patentees, never came to our county at all (though the children or other members of the families of some of them did). or came in the sloops that were constantly plying between our own waters and those of Eastern ports, for brief visits of inspection and encouragement.

All these, such as they were, became our ancestors - lineal or constructive. For this reason a brief glance at each of thse various individuals, concerning whom we have knowledge, may serve to take them out of the class of meaningless items in a list of names and make them stand out as living entities - whose blood flows in our veins, whose influence in forming and shaping our community in its nonage still bears fruit among us and is indelibly stamped upon our civic and political institutions - men whose deeds and memories deserve to be held in pride and honor.

These were:
The Tweleve Patentees, who have been already named;

The first Lot owners of Middletown: - John Ruckman, Edward Tartt, John Wilson, Walter Wall, John Smith, Richard Stout, Richard Gibbons, Thomas Cos, Jonathon Holmes, George Mount, William Cheeseman, Anthony Page, Samuel Holman, William Laiton (Layton, Lawton), William Compton, James Grover, Stephen Arnold, Samuel Spicer, John Stout, Obadiah Holmes, Benjamin Devell, Job Throckmorton, James Aston, John Throckmorton, John Bowne, Benjamin Borden, Edward Smith, William Lawrence, David Edsell, Robert James, Thomas Whitlock, Richard Sadler, and, James Grover.

The first Lot owners at Portland Point (Atlantic Highlands) - John Horabin, James Bowne, Richard Richardson, Randall Huet, Sr., Henry Percy, John Bird, Randall Huet, Jr., William Bowne, and, William Shackerly.

The Township men, or Middletown and Shrewsbury;

The original share holders and first subsequent purchasers;

The not inconsiderable number of "first settlers" who can be classed with none of these.

Included among all these were the Associates of the Patentees - William Bowne, Thomas Whitlock, John Wilson, John Ruckman, Walter Wall, John Smith, Richard Richardson, John Horabin, James Bowne, Jonathan Holmes, Christopher Allmy, Eliakim Wardell, Bartholomew West, John Haunce, James Ashton, Edward Pattison, William Shaddock, Thomas Winterton, Edward Tartt, Benjamn Burden, Richard Lippencott, and, Nicholas Brown.

In 1668 the citizens of Monmouth were called upon to take the oath of Allegiance to the British Crown. In the same year Luke Watson and Samuel Moore were appointed Collectors of Rates.

In 1668 James Bowne was made County Clerk, and Richard Stout, Jonathan Holmes, Edward Smith, and John Bowne were the Overseers.

At a meeting of the Court, or General Assembly, held at Portland Point, Nov. 2, 1669, the following were present: James Ashton, Constable; Richard Stout, James Grover, John Bowne, and James Bowne, Patentees; Jonathan Holmes and Edward Smith, Deputies.

(James Bowne and William Bowne, his father, of Newasink Neck, had been appointed as Acting Patentees, in place of John Tilton and Samuel Spicer, of Gravesend, and it is as such substitutes that their names sometimes appear among the Patentees. John Ruckman seems to have been added to the Acting Patentees a little later.)

At a subsequent meeting of the Assembly, at Portland Point, Dec. 28, 1669, there were present: John Bowne, James Grover, Richard Gibbons, Richard Stout, WIlliam Bowne, and John Ruckman, Patentees; James Bowne, Jonathan Homes, Edward Smith, Richard Lippencott, and John Haunce, Deputies and Overseers; and, James Ashton, Constable.

(The office of Constable was one of much greater importance and dignity, as well as of greater scope in power and authority, in Colonial times than it is to-day. The same may be said of the Office of Justice of the Peace - to be a Member of the Quorum was, in early days, a very high honor indeed.)

Introduction and Preface-Hornor - useful advice in reading chronicled history
The Patentees Themselves-Hornor
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