John Richards, II (c.1655 - 1718)

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Birthplace: Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Death: Died in Hanover, Morris, New Jersey, United States
Occupation: Schoolmaster
Managed by: Marcus Pezzè
Last Updated:

About John Richards, II

  • Inherited the estate of his uncle Thomas of Newark.
  • In 1683, at age 28, John Richards II was a schoolmaster at Westfield, Massachusetts. On August 29 of that year he was elected schoolmaster at Springfield, Massachusetts.
  • On October 7, 1686, at age 31, John married 24-year-old Abigail (Parsons) Murm, then the widow of John Munn

Schoolmaster Richards' Career

In 1697 John Richards II was serving as schoolmaster at Enfield, Connecticut. The following year he was elected schoolmaster at Deerfield, Massachusetts and owned property there. He served as Tax Assessor for Deerfield in 1700/1, and as Selectman in 1702. He remained as schoolmaster at Deerfield until 29 February 1704 when an Indian massacre occurred. Indians sacked the town, burned the Richards' house, and captured their youngest daughter, Jemima, then aged 9 or 10. Jemima never returned and is presumed to have become a casualty of the Indian massacre.

    Within two weeks after the massacre (March 13, 1704), the Richards returned to Enfield. The following year, John sold property to his step-sons, John and Benjamin Munn, by then aged in their early twenties. By 1707, the Richards had returned to Westfield, Massachusetts. By 1709, John Richards had reclaimed and rebuilt the house at Deerfield which had been attacked by the Indians, and that year sold the property to his step-son, Benjamin Munn.

Migrating from New England to New Jersey

Thomas Richards II, John Richards' uncle, moved from New England to New Jersey and was one of the early settlers of Newark in 1667/8. He was one founding members of a Presbyterian church at Newark in 1668, and held the office of Deacon. Thomas Richards II married twice (his second wife was named Hannah), but had no children.

* About 1708, Thomas Richards named his nephew John Richards, a legatee in his will. Sometinie in the 1709-1713 period, John Richards and his family moved from New England to Newark, New Jersey to join old Uncle Thomas at his home there. 

By 1713, John Richards owned some land in New Jersey that had formerly belonged to his Uncle Thomas. Two years later, Uncle Thomas died, and John inherited his homestead and lands. John was established as a schoolmaster in Newark in 1717 or early 1718.

* At about that same time, John Richards and his son-in- law, John 3 Bigelow (spelled Biglow on his tombstone, and Bigalow elsewhere), bought land at Whippany and moved there. The village of Whippany was some 14 miles northwest of Newark, located along the rapids of the Whippany River, not far beyond the series of ridges then called the "Newark Mountains," later the "Watchung Mountains."

The New Schoolmaster's Matching Gift to the Whippany Congregation

    By 2 September 1718, at age 63, John Richards was serving as schoolmaster at Whippany. On that day he donated a 3 1/2 acre tract of land on the north bank of the Whippany River to the developing community of Whippany into which he had recently moved. He specified that the tract be used for a meeting house [church], school house, a burying yard, training field [presumably "for training militia soldiers] and such like public uses... "
    Note that Richards used the term burying yard in his deed. In the 19th century, the tract was referred to as a grave yard, and in the 20th century as a cemetery. 
    The deed which conveys the gift of land is an unusual unilateral instrument, naming no specific institution or trustees as the new owners of the donated land, nor any tangible consideration received for the property transfer. John Richards simply donated the land to the general congregation of the developing village, and encouraged his new neighbours to follow or match his major gift with their own subscriptions of support to build the church. He mentions grantees in his deed, but does not name any. The two witnesses of the deed, Jovidiah Buckingham and John Cooper, were probably among his intended recipients. Schoolmaster Richards conveyed the gift of prime land between the river and the main road to whomever might subscribe contributions to the building of a meetinghouse. 
    Although of questionable legal correctness, the deed conveying ownership appears to have never been challenged, and the tract, with more than 300 graves, remains publically owned, 279 years later. 
    Forty-eight burials are recorded in the old "burying yard" during the 21-year period 1893-1914 (average 2.3 per year). Ninety burials were recorded over the 36-year period 1914-1950 (average 2.5 per year). Twenty burials occurred over the 26-year period 1950-1976 (average less than one per year). The only burial since 1976, that of Leonard Thompson, occurred in 1989. The property was maintained over the 1966-1976 period by the Whippany Cemetery Association, which transferred ownership to the Township of Hanover in 1976.The original copy of Richards' deed is reported to reside in the library collection of Morristown National Historical Park. 
    Schoolmaster Richards died on 10 December 1718,three months after making his gift. He was the first to be buried in the graveyard his gift had established. His tombstone was the first erected in the cemetery and is believed to be one of the very oldest extant artifacts in all of northwest New Jersey. The reddish stone is decorated with the image of a primitive skull or death mask. It was securely embedded in a sturdy granite monument in 1914, thus ensuring its permanence. -  '''author, Donald Kiddoo.''' 
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John Richards, II's Timeline

1655
1655
Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, United States
1681
November 7, 1681
Age 26
1686
1686
Age 31
1687
July 26, 1687
Age 32
1689
January 10, 1689
Age 34
Springfield, Hampden, MA, USA
1694
1694
Age 39
1718
December 10, 1718
Age 63
Hanover, Morris, New Jersey, United States
????
Whippany, Morris, NJ, United States