T'HE fine old Buttonwood standing in the Friends’ Burying Ground at the northwest corner of Main Street and Chester Avenue near the handsome new home of the Burlington County Trust Company is undoubtedly our most cherished land mark. It is the only living thing in Moorestown today that witnessed the passing of the British troops on those historic days in June, 1778. It stood on King’s Highway and many noted men and women have passed beneath its boughs as they rode or walked along the historic old road. This tree was set out by Henry Warrington, the progenitor of the Warrington family in Burlington County in 1740 and used by him as a hitching post when he attended Meeting in the old stone Meeting House nearby. It was a good sized sapling when planted and is now undoubtedly about 200 years of age. It measures sixteen feet three inches in circumference, three feet above ground. A bronze tablet with the following inscription was placed on the tree by the Colonial Dames Society of New Jersey at the time of their Convention held in Moorestown on October 17th, 1929:
“This tree planted on King's Highway in 1740 stands near the site of the original Friends' Meeting House, the first place of public worship in the community.”
OUR HISTORIC OAK TREE - The beautiful white Oak standing at the southwest corner of the Community House yard, is about 145 years old. It was referred to in the deed transferring the property to Thomas Ewing in 1804 as a “good sized sapling.” The first Methodist Church or Meeting House as it was called in those days, was erected in 1815 and stood almost beneath its branches in the yard of the adjoining property on the west. The old tree is cherished
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by all Moorestonians as a splendid specimen of our native forests.
THE ZELLET HOUSE—There are a number of homes now standing in or near Moorestown that were erected prior to the Revolutionary War. The old homestead standing on the “Zelley Farm” on Stanwick Avenue now owned by Lester Collins, is undoubtedly the oldest of these. This farm was in the possession of the Zelley family for several generations and the homestead is still known locally as the “Zelley” house. The date stone on the southeastern end of the building is plainly marked “G. H. 1721.” I regret that I cannot state who the letters “G. H.” stand for. One writer suggests that George Hollinshead built the house shortly after his marriage to Ann Curran in 1716, but as the family records show that they settled near Cape May this can hardly be correct. I cannot find that the farm was ever owned by one of that name.
The plantation undoubtedly came into the possession of the Atkinson family at a very early date. Samuel Atkinson purchased 237 acres from Thomas Adams in 1719 and 200 additional acres from Benjamin Field in 1722. The Adams farm was part of the Dr. John Rodman tract that extended along the ridge in East Moorestown and the Field plantation joined it on the north. The “Zelley” farm was undoubtedly included in one of these purchases, probably the latter. Samuel Atkinson conveyed the farm to his son, Samuel, in 1764 and he in turn sold it to Isaac Dudley, great-great-grandfather of Mrs. Caroline Zelley Lippincott, in 1782.
Mrs. Lippincott, who was born in the old house, told me many interesting things about the home of her childhood. Zelley Avenue was originally the lane. It made a sharp turn to the right near Central Avenue and led directly to the house.
Her father, Chalkley Zelley, who also was born in the old homestead, often told her in her childhood days that an old road passed between their home and the barn which led
to Bridgeboro. This road is supposed to have followed an Indian trail. The private burying ground of the Dudley family located in the rear of the old house, has been abandoned for many years but its location is plainly marked by an iron fence which surrounds it.
THE ROBERTS HOMESTEAD—The old brick house on Lester Collins’ farm on the Lenola Road about three-quarters of a mile east of the Haddonfield Road, has a most interesting history. It was built in 1736 by John Roberts, son of John and Sarah Roberts, who settled on the north branch of Pensauken Creek near Maple Shade in 1683. The letters, “J. R.” and the figures “17-6” may be seen on the end next to the road, the figure 3 having been obliterated when the present window was placed in the wall. This old home known as “Elmwood” remained in the Roberts family until about 1860, when it was sold to Jonathan G. Williams, whose wife, Susan Roberts Williams, was a direct descendant of John and Sarah Roberts. The house is built of blue end bricks, which according to family tradition were brought from England. I do not question the truth of this or any other particular tradition but I am convinced that comparatively few bricks were imported from England as the brick making industry was established in West Jersey at a very early date. The West Jersey Assembly passed an Act in 1683, regulating the size and quality of bricks manufactured within its jurisdiction, which indicates that the industry had already been established. Bricks were required to be “no less than 2¾" in thickness, 4½" in breadth and 9½" in length.” Two inspectors were appointed to see that the bricks were of the proper size and properly baked.
David Roberts of Moorestown, whose great grandfather, Joseph Roberts, lived in the property at the time of the Revolutionary War, has in his possession a fine old secretary that stood in the house in June, 1778, when part of the British Army passed along King's Highway on its way to New York. The Hessian soldiers entered the house and
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finding the secretary locked endeavored to pry it open with their bayonets. The marks of the bayonets may plainly be seen on this interesting old desk. There is an interesting tradition in the Roberts family that their great grandmother, Susanna Roberts, made butter in this old house for George Washington and his family when they lived in Philadelphia. The house is pleasantly located on high ground commanding a beautiful view of the surrounding country and could easily be converted into a very attractive colonial residence. It is to be regretted that it has not remained in the Roberts family as it is the oldest building now standing in the community erected by the first or second generation of the pioneer settlers.
THE SMITH MANSION—This old homestead located at No. 12 High Street, the residence of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Cadbury, Jr., historically speaking, is the most interesting house in Moorestown. It stands on the first tract of land surveyed for English settlers in Moorestown Township. The western part, which is much the older, was undoubtedly built long before the Revolutionary War. The interior construction of this section, especially the hand hewn beams and joist that may be seen in the cellar indicate great antiquity. Years ago paper stamps were seen on these old timbers and according to tradition, they were British stamps issued at the time of the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765. If so, they had no significance from a historical standpoint as the famous Stamp Tax applied only to commercial and legal documents, parchment, writing paper, etc. A paper which I have in my possession written by Judge Clayton Lippincott, who was a highly respected citizen of Moorestown, states that the eastern end was built by Edward Harris, who purchased the property from the executors of Richard Smith in 1798. Judge Lippincott could not state with certainty when or by whom the western end was erected but was of the opinion that it was the second house that stood on the premises. This probably was true as there was a house on the farm when Joshua Humphries
purchased it from Nehemiah Haines in 1738. The original homestead may have been destroyed by fire or taken down by Joshua Humphries and the present house erected by him prior to the sale of the farm to Samuel Smith, the historian, in 1766. Local tradition supported by papers written by old residents says that the present house was built by Joshua Humphries. It possibly may have been erected by Samuel Smith when the farm containing 160 acres came into his possession in 1766, but I am inclined to believe that the tradition that it was built by Joshua Humphries is true.
As far as I can learn, Samuel Smith never settled on the property. It is generally supposed that he bought it for his son, Richard. Richard inherited the property in 1775 and occupied it until his death in 1796. Richard Smith was a prominent citizen and many noted men were entertained at his home during the Revolutionary period. It was considered the finest homestead in Moorestown at that time. The tradition that George Washington spent one night in the Smith home cannot be verified. One account intimates that this visit was made shortly after the retreat of the British Army from Philadelphia in June, 1778, but this was clearly an error, as history records that Washington and his army which was encamped at Valley Forge, crossed the Delaware at Coryell’s Ferry (Lambertville) and passing through Hopewell, Rocky Hill and Englishtown, intercepted the British Army near Freehold. The tradition that Lafayette was the guest of the Smith family as he was passing through Moorestown to join General Washington in north Jersey is probably true. Hessian officers in command of the wing of the British Army that encamped in Moorestown on June 19th, 1778, made the Smith house their headquarters as will be more fully told in the next chapter. Audubon, the great naturalist, was frequently the guest of Edward Harris when the property was in his possession.
FOREST BROOK FARM—The old homestead on Forest Brook farm, which is located on the south side of Camden Avenue a little west of Moorestown is an exceptionally fine
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example of the colonial homes of this section of New Jersey. It was built by Edward French in 1770 and formerly faced King’s Highway which passed south of the homestead and a little north of the brick tenement house still standing on the farm. The name, Charles H. French, 1819, scratched on a window pane in the southeast room on the first floor may still be seen. He was a son of Edward French and at that time was supposed to have been 23 years of age. He afterwards inherited the property from his father and lived there for many years. Doubtless Edward French and his wife had uninvited and unwelcome guests on those historic days when the red coats passed along the old Highway. Forest Brook Farm is part of the original French tract located by Thomas French, the progenitor of the family in Burlington County in 1689. It was purchased by Elisha Roberts, father of the Roberts brothers of Moorestown at the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Hooton in 1842. Elisha Roberts sold it to Eliwood Hollinshead, father of S. Thornton Hollinshead, the present owner, in about 1857.
THE BARCKLOW HOUSE—Another interesting old house that witnessed the stirring events of the Revolutionary War is standing at 272‑4 West Main Street, the residences of Mr. and Mrs. Rich. R. Wood and Mr. And Mrs. William Leconey. It was the home of Elisha Barcklow, the father of our townsman, J. Harry Barcklow, for many years and is still known among the “old timers” as the Barcklow house. The frame portion at the western end is the older and was erected about 1765. The property was purchased by William Roberts, possibly shortly after the Revolutionary War and the brick portion was added by him. The house originally stood directly on King’s Highway which passed in front of it, rejoining Main Street near Locust. It will be noted that this house as well as the Cadbury home on High Street does not stand parallel to Main Street. These two old homesteads clearly mark the route of the Old Salem Road or King's Highway as it was called after
the Provinces of East and West Jersey were surrendered to the Crown in 1702.
THE SCHOOLEY HOUSE—The house standing at the northeast corner of Main and Schooley Streets in East Moorestown, the residence of Miss Sarah Sloane, generally known as the Schooley house, was standing at the time of the Revolutionary War and was occupied by British officers and soldiers on the night of June 19th. It was then the residence of Joshua Bispham, an ancestor of David Bispham the great singer. Joshua Bispham purchased the lot on which it stands from Nehemiah Haines in 1744 and the house was erected by him shortly afterwards. I do not know the history of the house adjoining it on the east which in appearance is older than the one on the corner. There is no cellar under the front of this house and the cellar under the rear portion which was added later was placed there in recent years. Old residents recall when these two buildings were connected by a one story building but I do not know when this addition was added. Some old records refer to the two properties as the barracks which was probably because the buildings were occupied by the British troops in 1778.
There are many other interesting old homes in or near Moorestown to which I can but briefly refer in this article.
The house on the northern side of Camden Pike opposite Pleasant Valley Avenue, now owned by Mrs. Edward Stone stands on the original Thomas French tract and the first French homestead was located very near this spot. The farm on which it stands was purchased by Edward French who lived at that time on Forest Brook Farm but I cannot state definitely whether or not the present homestead was built by him. A portion of this farm was sold to Ellwood Hollinshead, father of S. Thornton Hollinshead and Ellwood liollinshead of Moorestown in 1872, the farm having been in the possession of the French family for 183 years.
The middle portion of the club house of the Valley Brook Country Club, formerly the home of Charles C. Haines, was
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erected by Jeremiah Matlack, the grandson of William Matlack, the progenitor of the family in Burlington County in about 1753. The house was somewhat altered by the Country Club but the general lines of the exterior have been carefully preserved. This house stands very near the site of the first Matlack homestead erected in 1683.
The old house standing at the northeast corner of Fellowship Road and the lane leading to the brick school house was built about 1751 by Wm. Matlack, the grandson of the pioneer. It stands on the survey of 100 acres for William Matlack in 1682, which extended from creek to creek and originally stood on King’s Highway. It is now owned by Elizabeth Matlack and it is interesting to note that the farm has been in the possession of the family since 1682.
The old homestead on the northeast corner of Haddonfield Road and the Lenola Road which could easily be converted into a very attractive colonial home was built by Thomas Cowperthwaite in about 1754. The Cowperthwaite family was active in the affairs of the Meeting and community in the early days but apparently has entirely disappeared from the neighborhood of Moorestown.
An interesting old house north of Moorestown is located on the eastern side of Church Street just out of the town. It is a brick building but was covered with a coat of stucco some years ago. It is supposed to have been built by Samuel Lanning who purchased the property from Edward French in 1770. It was later the home of Robert French, Jr., who married Hannah Warrington in 1785 and settled in this homestead.