Chapter 25

NJGenWeb ~ Morris County, New Jersey

Chapter 25
Morris Co. Up



CHESTER forms one of the southern tier of the townships of Morris county. It is bounded north by Roxbury and Randolph, east by Mendham, west by Washington and south by Somerset county. It was formed from Roxbury in 1799. The village of Chester, formerly called Black River, is twelve miles west of Morristown. It contains three churches--one Presbyterian, one Congregational and one Methodist; about one hundred and fifty houses and some fifteen or twenty shops and stores, and had a population in 1880 of 705. The area of the township was returned by the assessors in 1881 as 17,487 acres. The land is rolling, rising in some points nearly to a thousand feet, and the soil is under good cultivation. It is watered by Black River, a tributary of the north branch of the Raritan. It was almost entirely an agricultural community until within the last fourteen years, during which extensive and valuable deposits of magnetic iron ore have been discovered and developed, and it is now one of the most important mining districts of New Jersey. It is the terminus of two railroads--a branch of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, extending from Dover, twelve miles, and a branch of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, extending from High Bridge, seventeen miles. The Continental Railroad, from New York to Omaha, is surveyed to pass less than a mile south of the village of Chester.

The village was laid out into lots in the latter part of the last century, by General Horn, who purchased the land of Zephaniah Drake.

The population of the township in 1830 was 1,321. By the census of 1850 it numbered only 1,334; in 1860 it was 1,585; 1870, 1,743; 1880, 2,337. By the last assessment the real estate was valued at $954,595, and the personal property at $456,880--making a total of $1,411,475.


In 1713 and 1714, while Anne was yet queen of England, this tract was surveyed and run into plots, and was settled by emigrants from Easthampton and Southold, Long Island. Among the earliest names we find Seward, Cooper, Horton, Luse, Terry, Skellenger, Sweazy, Howell, Brown etc. The tract still belonging to the Cooper family was purchased in 1713 from Mr. Davenport, who had taken up the land from the province. At the same time came to Chester the ancestors of Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State under President Lincoln. The Fairclo family, who figured in the earlier days, came from Scotland, and in one respect were well fitted for pioneers, as one Deacon Fairclo is said to have been the father of twenty-one children.


The Cooper family of which Nathan A. was a member descended from Sir Astley Cooper, the celebrated surgeon, of England. Some of the family in 1700 settled on Long Island, whence Nathan Cooper came to Roxiticus, which comprised what are now the towns of Mendham, Chester, Washington, Mount Olive and Roxbury. He purchased 1,600 acres of land, made a clearing, and erected a small framed house, in which the family resided some years. His son, Nathan Cooper, was born February 22nd 1725, and was married in 1748 to Mehitable Seward, great aunt to ex-Secretary of State William H. Seward. They had six children. Nathan built a house near where the present Cooper mansion stands. It was recently demolished, but the stone steps remain to mark the site. He died December 30th 1797. His wife died April 15th 1812.

Their son, Abraham Cooper, was born February 18th 1762. He was married in 1799 to Anna Wills. Their children were Beulah Ann and Nathan A. Abraham died September 13th 1818, and his wife April 24th 1856.

Nathan A. Cooper, the subject of this article, was born April 29th 1802. His wife, to whom he was married in 1843, was Mary Henrietta, youngest daughter of Dr. John W. Leddel of Ralstontown. Their children were Anna E., Abram W., Beulah S., Mary L., Tillie R., Laura H., and Nathan A.; all of whom, as well as their mother, are living. General Cooper died of cardiac rheumatism July 25th 1879.

At the age of sixteen he inherited the large Cooper estate, comprising nearly all of the tract originally purchased by his ancestor. This is now owned by the fifth generation from the original purchaser. It includes extensive farming lands, an iron mine, operated by Marsh, Craig & Evans, much undeveloped mineral property, and a grist-mill.

About nineteen years ago the house in which General Cooper was born was demolished, and the present elegant and substantial mansion erected. The brick, sand, lime and timber used in building this house were all produced or manufactured on the Cooper estate.

Mr. Cooper was always an active and prominent man in the public affairs of Morris county. He was thoroughly conversant with the political history of the country, and politics was with him a favorite theme of discussion, though from choice he never held any prominent political office. He was always a consistent and unwavering Democrat.

He was a man of extraordinary ability, a natural orator, of imposing appearance, and endowed with a voice and manner at once commanding and impressive. His conversational powers were great. His memory was wonderful. He forgot nothing, and with great accuracy he could recall the dates and circumstances of events that transpired more than half a century before.

In 1854 he was commissioned a brigadier general of cavalry, and at the time of his death was the oldest general officer in the State. He was a lover of horses and an expert horseman. He had great fondness for field sports, and was unexcelled as a marksman. He was a man of strict and unbending integrity, a good citizen, and a kind husband and father.


Very early Black River began to occupy an important position in the line of travel between New York and Easton, Pa. When the first settlers came among these hills no turnpike was yet in existence, and the travel was by bridle paths which had been worn in the wilderness. As late as 1768 Rev. William Woodhull made his way into the parish, of which he became pastor, on horseback, with his wife and child riding on the same horse behind him. The first spring wagon was introduced by James Topping, who died here in 1874, in the 94th year of his age. With the beginning of the century an impulse was given to the work of facilitating travel. No less than 54 turnpikes were chartered by the State between 1800 and 1830, among them the Washington turnpike, from Morristown to Easton, in 1806, running through Chester from east to west. In Alden's Register for 1812 we find that Jared Haines, a prominent citizen of Chester, was then one of its eight directors. The proprietor of the first line of stages on this road was Zephaniah Drake, of Chester, who built the first brick building in the town in 1812 and kept it as a public house. This is still the Chester Hotel. Coaches gorgeous with scarlet and gilt, and drawn by four horses, made the journey from Easton to Paulus Hook and back again once a week. Subsequently the stages ran daily, and Chester was a favorite station for refreshment and change of horses.


The first settlers of Chester were men of strong religious character. From the beginning there were two distinct methods of church order. The emigrants from Southold were Congregational. The emigrants from Easthampton were Presbyterian. Both classes being men of decided convictions, churches of each denomination were very soon organized, and they have continued side by side to the present day.

The annals of the Congregational church tell us that as early as 1747 a house of worship was erected, with pews and galleries capable of accommodating an audience of 400. In 1803 this building was demolished, but a part of its timbers still exist in the framework of a barn on the premises of William H. Seward. About the time of the building of the first church the excitement which caused the separation in the Congregational churches of Connecticut and Long Island reached this settlement, and a majority became "Separates" or "Strict Congregationalists," as they were then called. These Separates, it is said, retained the doctrines and form of government of the regular Congregational churches, protesting against what they regarded as the oppressive and worldly influence of the union between Church and State, especially in Connecticut. The first pastor was Rev. Samuel Sweazy, who ministered to the church about twenty years, until 1773, when he removed to Mississippi, near Natchez.

The years 1777 and 1778 brought stirring times to New Jersey. Chester or Black River was off the line of conflict, but both the Congregational and Presbyterian churches were used as hospitals for disabled soldiers. Regular worship was suspended, and the moral and religious habits of the people suffered greatly. About 1779 a union of the two churches was attempted under Rev. David Baldwin. A covenant was mutually subscribed (of which an original copy is still preserved in the archives of the Presbyterian church) entitled "A covenant entered into by the members of the Presbyterian and Congregational churches in the town of Roxbury, now denominated only by the name of 'the Church of Christ,'" and services were held alternately in the two churches; but the attempted union failed.

This church was then reorganized, and in June 1785 Rev. James Youngs was ordained and installed. He died in November 1790, aged 32. The church records have this entry concerning him: "All accounts go to prove him a most amiable man and a sincere and devoted Christian." From 1790 till 1801 the church was without a regular pastor.

On June 16th 1801 Stephen Overton was ordained and installed, and in 1803 the original house of worship was replaced by another of more modern appearance. Mr. Overton's pastorate continued until March 1828, and he died in the following September. The church records speak of him as possessed of strong intellectual powers and endowed with a vigorous constitution. He traveled much, preaching sometimes more than once a day for weeks in succession.

From its formation until 1810 the church and pastor were enrolled as members of "The Separate Congregational Convention of Connecticut and Long Island." In 1810, with other churches, it formed a new and similar convention, which in 1828 was dissolved.

In the autumn of 1828 Rev. Abner Morse became acting pastor of the church. He was dismissed at his own request in the spring of 1833. From August 1833 to 1835 Rev. Charles Jones officiated as acting pastor. In granting him his dismission the church paid him a high compliment as an able and faithful minister of the gospel. Rev. John Fishpool, a native of Essex in England, was stated supply of the church from October 1835 to October 1836. From 1836 to 1840 the church was supplied by different members of the New York State Congregational Association, with which it had now become connected. For some eight months in 1839 Rev. Lewis Terrill, from Elizabeth, N. J., acted as stated supply. On December 15th 1841 Luke I. Stoutenburgh, of Poughkeepsie, N. Y., a licentiate of the New York association, was ordained and installed, and his pastorate continued until December 1867. In 1854 the present house of worship was erected. In December 1867 Rev. Dr. James S. Evans, of the Presbytery of New York, was called, and he was pastor of the church from June 1868 to April 1871. From September 1872 to May 1875 Rev. B. F. Bradford acted as stated supply. In June 1875 the congregation extended a call to Rev. Frank A. Johnson, a native of Boston and a graduate of Hamilton College and the Union Theological Seminary of New York city. He was installed December 15th 1875, and is still the acceptable and beloved pastor. During this pastorate a commodious chapel has been built, the church has been thoroughly renovated and the congregation is united and prosperous.


As already stated, a portion of the early settlers of Black River were Presbyterians from Easthampton, Long Island. Previous to 1740 a Presbyterian house of worship had been erected between Black River and Mendham, one and one half miles west of Mendham. In 1745 the church building was erected in Mendham village, and the Presbyterians of Black River soon after were organized into a church, under the name of the First Presbyterian Congregation of Roxbury, and erected an edifice about a mile north of the present village of Chester. The first pastor was Rev. Samuel Harker, or Harcour, probably of Huguenot descent. He graduated at Princeton College, was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, and according to the records of that presbytery was ordained and installed at Roxbury, on Black River, October 31st 1752. He was therefore probably the first pastor installed in the town. He is mentioned in Foote's Sketches of North Carolina, where some of his family resided, as remarkable for size, vigor and strength. Some of his descendants have occupied most honorable positions. One of his daughters married Judge Symmes, of Marietta, Ohio, and was mother-in-law of ex-President Harrison. The son of another daughter who married Dr. Caldwell, of Lamington, N. J., was Rev. Dr. Caldwell, at one time a teacher in the College of New Jersey, and for more than thirty years president (the first) of the University of North Carolina. In an autobiography of Dr. Caldwell, published at Chapel Hill by the editors of the university magazine, reference is made to his grandfather's settlement at Black River and the high estimation in which he was held by the community. Mr. Harker, however, unfortunately entertained some doctrinal errors, which caused his separation from the church eleven years after his ordination. The presbytery was about to proceed against him in 1757 when it was found that he had left his charge and had gone for a time as chaplain in the army. In Hodge's history of the Presbyterian church may be found full details of his case and his final deposition from the ministry by the synod of New York and Philadelphia in 1763. His case is regarded as particularly interesting as an illustration of the early practical administration of Presbyterian government. Mr. Harker perished at sea by the foundering of a ship, with his son, who was on his way to England to receive Episcopal ordination. For five years after the removal of Mr. Harker the church was under the care of presbytery, but without a regular pastor until the fall of 1768, when it settled Rev. William Woodhull, of Brookhaven, Long Island. He graduated at Princeton College in the class of 1764, and studied theology with the celebrated Samuel Buell, of Easthampton, Long Island. With his brother (afterward Rev. John Woodhull of Freehold), he attended the school of Rev. Caleb Smith, at Newark Mountains, Orange, N. J. The following items from a bill still preserved in the family illustrate the school bills which met the eyes of the fathers in the last century:

"1757, October 26th, to Billey's wood and candles, 16s.; to one Newark grammar, 2s. 6d.; to Clark's Introduction for making Latin, 3s.; to an old hat of mine, 5s. 2d.; to dressing the hat by Nehemiah Baldwin, 2s.; paid the steward for Billey's board, 5 8s. 3d.; to a taylor for making a banyan, 5s. 3d.; to (???) yard for cloath and trimming for banyan, 17s. 8d.; to one Tully's Orations for Billey, 13s."

A few years after his settlement Mr. Woodhull was obliged to give up his pastorate on account of broncial trouble, and for a time the church obtained supplies from presbytery. He afterward opened a Latin school, in which General Mahlon Dickerson, secretary of the navy under General Jackson, was a scholar. Mr. Woodhull represented Morris county as Assemblyman in the first Legislature of independent New Jersey, which met at Princeton in August 1776. He was elected to the same position in 1777. In the Legislature at Perth Amboy in 1789 and in that at Burlington in 1790 he again represented Morris county, as member of Council. He was appointed a judge of the common pleas in 1808, and was a prominent man in the town and county until his death, in October 1824.

During the stormy period of the American Revolution the church was again without a settled pastor. Near the end of the war was made the unsuccessful attempt to unite the Presbyterian and Congregational churches, already referred to. Among the records of this church is a paper dated May 24th 1786, bearing the signatures of sixty male members, declaring themselves "heads of families and members of the First Presbyterian Congregation of the Township of Roxbury, and supporters of the Gospel in said Congregation."

From the parish records of 1784 we learn that a call was extended to Rev. Nathan Woodhull, a cousin of the former pastor, but he had already made an engagement at Newtown, Long Island.

In 1785 Rev. Lemuel Fordham, of Long Island, was obtained as stated supply, and in 1786 he received a unanimous call. As with Mr. Woodhull, his time was divided between Roxbury and Succasunna. He remained pastor of the church thirty years. He was succeeded in 1815 by Rev. Jacob Cassner, a native of Liberty Corner, N. J., and, like the previous ministers, a graduate of Princeton College and also of the theological seminary. In the fall of this year the first Sunday-school was established in Chester Academy, by James H. Woodhull, a grandson of the former pastor. The text-books were the Bible and the Westminster Catechism. Mr. Cassner gave this church one-third of his time, preaching at Black River, German Valley and Fox Hill. He was succeeded in 1818 by Rev. John Ernest Miller, of Albany, N. Y. He left Chester in the spring of 1823 for the Dutch Reformed church of Tompkinsville, Staten Island, and was succeeded in the same year by Rev. Abraham Williamson, a native of New Jersey and a graduate of Princeton College and seminary. During his pastorate of thirty years important changes occurred. Two colonies swarmed from the mother church. In 1738 48 members were dismissed to organize the Presbyterian church of Mt. Olive, and in 1852 26 were dismissed to form the Presbyterian church of Flanders.

In 1851 the congregation abandoned the old edifice on the hill top and built and occupied the present church in the village. Mr. Williamson remained in charge of the church until 1853, in the autumn of which year Rev. George M. S. Blauvelt (son of Rev. Dr. William Blauvelt, for the last fifty-five years pastor of the Presbyterian church of Lamington, N. J.), a graduate of Princeton seminary, began a pastorate which continued until October 1856. From June 1857 Rev. Josiah Markle, of the college and seminary at New Brunswick, was pastor of the church for nine months, until April 1858. In the following June Mr. James F. Brewster (a descendant of Elder William Brewster, one of the founders of the Plymouth colony of 1620), a graduate of Rutgers College and Princeton Seminary, became the stated supply. He was ordained and installed by the Presbytery of Passaic October 12th 1858. During this pastorate the parsonage has been built, the church edifice renovated, and a handsome chapel erected--the gift of James E. Hedges, of Elizabeth, N. J.


A Methodist Episcopal church was organized in the early part of 1881, and Rev. E. S. Ferry, of Orange, N. J., was appointed its first pastor. For five or six years previous services were held with more or less regularity in the village academy, by the pastors of the Peapack church. During the winter of 1880-81 the M. E. church at Bedminster was removed and erected in Chester. This house, originally a Baptist church, was bought by Bishop Janes under foreclosure, and donated by him to the Newark Conference in 1854. It was given by the conference to the Methodists of Chester and rededicated here in July 1881.


The work of education has kept pace with that of religion. The earliest school of which we have any record was that taught by Rev. William Woodhull in a log house near his residence, and which was broken up by the Revolutionary war. He received a few boarders into his family, for whom the price per week was the same as the market price of a bushel of wheat. Private schools were early held in the residences of some of the principal inhabitants. One of the first of these was taught by Miss Phebe Jagger, of Long Island (afterward wife of Rev. Mr. Burt, of Lamington, N. J.). The building was on the Cooper estate, and the families of Cooper and Haines united in their support.

From 1800 to 1812 John G. Gardiner, of Connecticut, taught a school in the village. In 1812 we find his name enrolled as a licentiate of the Presbytery of New Jersey. Another teacher was Miss Hester Brackett, afterward wife of Rev. Dr. Henry White, of Union Theological Seminary, New York city.

The Legislature of New Jersey established a public school system in 1829, and under this system (modified in 1847) the town was divided into eight districts, and regulated according to the State law. At the Chester Cross-roads a substantial stone building was erected in 1830, the upper part of which was used as a chapel by the Congregational society, which still has an ownership in it.

In the year 1854 William Rankin, who had been teaching at Deckertown, N. J., purchased and enlarged the brick hotel and established a classical school. This school was liberally patronized by the surrounding country until his removal to Mendham, in October 1862. Mr. Rankin was an enthusiastic and successful teacher. While in Chester he had under his instruction nearly 500 scholars. In a schedule prepared a year or two before his death he tells us that he had prepared 76 students for college and 150 for teachers. Fifty of his students had become clergymen (two of whom were foreign missionaries), thirty lawyers and twelve physicians. He probably taught more than two thousand youth in New Jersey. Rev. L. J. Stoutenburgh, Miss Susan Magie, Mrs. M. F. Hoagland, Rev. P. S. Smith, Mrs. C. Y. Baker and Rev. J. H. McCandless have successively been principals of "The Chester Institute." In 1869 Hon. Daniel Budd erected a spacious three-story stone building for the use of the school, in a conspicuous part of the village, and of this Miss Magie took possession in 1870. At present a private school is taught in the chapel of the Presbyterian church, under control of the pastor, Rev. James F. Brewster.


For the most part Chester has been an agricultural community. In early times its abundant fruit employed several distilleries. Three or four flouring-mills and four or five saw-mills have long been in operation. Previous to 1827 a woolen-mill was built and operated by Stephen R. Haines, on the Haines estate, on Black River. This was bought in 1827 and carried on by William Nichols, of Vermont. The business was continued by his son William H. Nichols, and the property is still held in the family.

From 1844 to 1861 John and Abraham Van Doren carried on a manufactory of threshing machines,and in 1857 they introduced into the township the first steam engine. This industry is still carried on by William K. Osborn.

Chester, however, is principally important for its mining wealth. Its hills are filled with deposits of magnetic iron ore. For more than a hundred years the forge at Hacklebarney has been in operation. Hon. Daniel Budd, in partnership with Mr. Bartley, carried on this forge for many years. Their iron was classed with the best in the State, and drawn into all the shapes required in business. In 1867 mines were opened in various places, and the mining was facilitated by the building of the Chester Railroad in 1869. The veins of ore have been opened on some twenty-five or thirty different properties, and have yielded several hundred thousand tons, but they are yet only partially developed. There are four or five veins running through the township, the two principal of which are near the village and are called the North and South veins. The ores from these two veins are low in phosphorus but contain sulphur, and yield from 40 to 65 per cent. of iron. When separated from sulphur they are valuable for the manufacture of Bessemer steel, on account of being low in phosphorus.

The blast furnace is treated of on page 61. It employs about 100 men.


In 1872 and 1873 the tracks (about five miles long) which connect the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad with the Hedges mine and the Hacklebarney mine were built by William J. Taylor & Co. A part of the road was on a grade of 176 feet to the mile. This subsequently came into possession of the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey, who completed the road to High Bridge in 1876. In 1881 this track was extended through the village one and one half miles northeast to the Swayzee, Leek and Cooper mines; and surveys were made with a view to extending it to Pottersville, five miles to the south.

The earliest physician of whom record is left was Joseph Hedges, M. D., a member of the family who settled in Easthampton, Long Island, about 1649. He came to Chester about 1800, and married a daughter of Rev. William Woodhull. Their descendants to the third generation have continued the profession in Chester.

Prospect Lodge, No. 24, F. & A. M. was removed from Mendham to Chester in January 1874. The hall was dedicated during the same winter. This lodge numbers 48 members, of whom J. M. Drinkwater is the present worshipful master.


Hon. Daniel Budd was one of the most influential of the citizens of Chester, both in business and political circles. He filled many positions of trust, and did much to develop the resources and increase the prosperity of his native town. Like his father and his grandfather, he lived and died in Chester, and the activities of his entire life were closely identified with the interests of his ntive place. His ancestor, John Budd, five generations before, emigrated from England to New Haven, about the year 1632, and became one of the first proprietors of that settlement. He subsequently removed to Southold, Long Island, and thence to Rye, Westchester county, N. Y.

Daniel Budd, the grandfather of the subject of our sketch, moved from Rye, N. Y., together with his father, John Budd, in the early part of the eighteenth century, and purchased the old Budd farm, near Black River. His mother was Mary Strang or (L'Estrange), daughter of a French Huguenot who fled from France, on account of religious persecution, in the days of Louis XIV. and found refuge at New Rochelle, Conn. Romantic stories of danger and escape have been handed down from generation to generation. This Daniel Budd was for a long time assessor of the township of Roxiticus, and a captain in the reserves of the Revolutionary war. On one occasion, during his absence on duty, his house was burned, under circumstances which led to the suspicion that it was an act of revenge, on the part of tories.

Joseph Budd, son of this Daniel and father of Hon. Daniel Budd. was a captain in the war of 1812. He commanded his company at Sandy Hook and other places of defense. His wife was Joanna Swayzee, and after her husband had lost his health in the war, which he never recovered, she endeavored bravely to fill his place in many of the active duties of farm life.

Their son Daniel was born June 8th 1809. When a boy he had much of the charge of his invalid father, and after his death remained with his mother upon the farm as long as she lived. He was married February 25th 1847 to Mary K. Hunt, daughter of John Hunt of Newton, Sussex county, and sister of Hon. Samuel H. Hunt. He was engaged at various times in many avenues of active business--being a farmer, manufacturer, surveyor, drover, colonel of cavalry, and a general business man, settling estates and holding positions of confidence. He was always prominent in the political affairs of his township, and for many years was returned as a freeholder, and in the board of freeholders always exercised a commanding influence. In the years 1856 and 1857 he was a member of the New Jersey Legislature, and in the years 1860, 1861 and 1862 he filled the office of State senator. While senator he was chairman of the committee on corporations, and a member of other important committees, and was chosen State director of the Camden and Amboy Railroad. For many years he carried on the business of manufacturing malleable iron, and devoted much time and energy to the developing of the mineral resources of Chester. To him may be attributed largely the building and completion of the Chester Railroad.

He was a friend to the poor, ever ready to contribute to their wants, and to assist those who were struggling in business, and he was a liberal supporter of the church and of public enterprises. He erected many buildings for manufacturing purposes, and took the warmest interest in the cause of education. In 1869 he erected in the village a large three-story stone building for the use of a boarding school, at a cost of many thousand dollars.

He died in June 1873, at the age of 64, leaving a wide breach in the community where he had lived and labored; and an immense concourse of people, gathered from various parts of the State, accompanied his remains to their last resting place in the cemetery of Pleasant Hill.

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