The earliest permanent settlements in Cumberland County were along the Cohansey River. Between 1680 and 1700, settlers had begun to carve out of the South Jersey wilderness a home for themselves and their families.
Meaningful permanent settlement in what is now called Cumberland County dates from 1675 when John Fenwick purchased his tenth of West New Jersey from Lord John Berkeley. Fenwick established the town of Salem that same year, and in his will dated 1683 called for a second town to be built on the Cohansey Creek. Quakers came from Salem first, but were soon followed by Calvinists from New England and Long Island, naming the village Greenwich for the Connecticut community.
Cumberland County is bounded SSW. by Delaware bay, NW. by Salem County., NE. by Gloucester and Atlantic Counties., and SE. by Cape May Counties. It is about 20 in. long, breadth and width, and its extreme breadth, north and south, is 28 miles. It was included in Fenwick’s tenth, and was part of his colony. It formed a portion of Salem County until 1747, when it was erected into a separate county, and named by Gov. Belcher in honor of the Duke of Cumberland.. The county was, at its formation, divided into six townships, viz., Greenwich, Hopewell, Stow Creek, Fairfield, Deerfield, and Maurice River,—to which Miliville and Downe have since been added. Along on its SW. boundary, on the Delaware bay, is a tract of marshy land, varying from one to six miles in breadth. This marsh extends up the principal streams, Maurice river and Cohansey creek, for several miles. The surface of the county is level—its soil of alluvial formation, and generally a sandy loam, with some clay. A large portion of the NE. part is covered with a pine forest. Cumberland County is divided into eight townships, viz:
- Maurice River
- Stow Creek
Fairfield (now known as Fairton)
In May of 1697, a group of potential settlers from Long Island and from Fairfield, Connecticut purchased a tract of land in Cohansey. The Provincial Assembly voted that the township be called Fairfield and empowered it with the privileges of other townships. It was one of the six original townships of Cumberland County. Originally, the area of Fairfield included what are now Fairfield, Lawrence, Downe, Commercial Townships, and a part Millville, west of the Maurice River. It is about 11 miles long, 6 broad, and bounded northerly by Deerfield, Greenwich, and Hopewell, from the two last of which it is separated by the Cohansey river, E. by Miliville, and S. by Downe and the Delaware bay. The surface is generally level. Many of the present inhabitants are descendants of the Harrises and Ogdens from Fairfield, Connecticut; and the Batemans and Diaments from Long Island. The original Presbyterian church, First Presbyterian Church of South Jersey, now known as the Old Stone Church, was constituted by emigrants from Fairfield, in Connecticut, in the year 1697. Early ministers in Fairfield included an Daniel Elmer and Jonathan Davis. The first school in Fairfield was Bennett Town School, sponsored by the Old Stone Church.
The first Baptists known to have settled in South Jersey came from Ireland and were members of a Baptist Church at Cleagh Keating in the County of Tipperary in the Province of Munster in the south of Ireland. They arrived here about 1683 and settled Back and Shrewsbury Necks, in Fairfield Township, including David Sheppard, Thomas Abbott, and William Button. From their names we see that their origin was likely in the large number of English Protestants who settled in Ireland after Cromwell. Another family was Holmes. Later, Welsh Baptists, part of the Rev. John Miles' church, from Swansea, Wales, who had settled at Swansea, Mass., came from there about 1687 and settled about on the north side of the Cohansey in Hopewell Township and became a regularly organized church with Rev. Timothy Brooks as pastor
East Hampton, Long Island Families
See Long Island Genealogy for a list of East Hampton families that correspond to many of the early families of Cumberland County, to include: Mulford, Osborn, Dayton, Fithian, Stratton, and Shaw at a minimum.
Monmouth County Dutch Families
Conover and Bennett are of Dutch ancestry.
In 1705, in the midst of land clearing and house building between the two commerce centers of Greenwich and Bridgeton, plantation owner Robert Ayars purchased some 3,000 acres of land for his children and grandchildren. Most of that land is where Shiloh now stands. In that day it was not uncommon to use landmarks for establishing boundaries, and Shiloh was marked off from a single oak tree. Ayars' children were Sabbath-keeping Baptists who built houses and established the borough of Cohansey Corners.
Samuel Bennett came to Western New Jersey, from Holland. He was the first to erect a saw and grist mill. His son, Nathan, married Sarah Bateman. Their children were Nathan, William, Samuel, John, Josiah, Sarah, Abigail, Ruth, and Rhoda. William married Esther Elmer.
Bereman / Berryman Family
Leonard Bereman moved down from Staten Island sometime after 1691. His daughter, Sarah, married Jeremiah Bennett.
About the year 1687, a little colony of Baptists located along the river called by the Indians "The Cohanso." The Cohansey River settlement (as it was called by the white settlers) was near the old town of Greenwich which lies near the mouth of the Cohansey River, in Cumberland County, (then Salem county) New Jersey. A few miles up the river from Greenwich the white settlers took up land and built a little log church. Rev. Thomas Killingsworth of Salem was their pastor until his death in 1709.
During the summer of 1690, a band of Welsh Baptists (mostly Seventh-Day worshippers) from Swansea, Mass. came to the Cohansey Settlement. Among these were Timothy Brooks, Sr. Timothy Brooks, Jr., the Bowens, Barretts and Swinneys. The Bowens and the Brooks moved farther inland to the section of Roadstown. Here, on the road leading to the Bridge, (Bridgeton) they bought farms and named their settlement, "Bowentown." The Barretts located on a run which is called to this day, "Barrett Run." Reverend Timothy Brooks (Sr & Jr) relocated from the same general New England area (Swansea) with the 'Bowen Company' in ~1700.
Bridges' Indian Field tract appears to have been subdivided for him into tracts of fifty acres, which he sold out as purchasers and settlers offered. One William Dare, described as of Cohansey, in the county of Salem, who probably came into this region with the Fairfield people, had located a tract of 100 acres of cedar swamp on Lebanon, as early as March, 1695-6. About 1700 he became the owner of two fifty-acre tracts.
There is some dispute as to whether the various Davis families were related. One theory is that there were three brothers, John, Jonathan, and Daniel. John's branch settled in Pilesgrove, Salem, NJ. Jonathan's branch includes several prominent Seventh Day Baptist ministers, e.g., two Reverand Jonathan Davises and Elnathan Davis, the Surveryor General of New Jersey. Benjamin Davis, son of Daniel, settled in Cumberland county at Back Neck, a section of fertile land on the south side of the Cohansey river opposite Greenwich. He later moved to Deerfield.
The ancestors of the Davis Families which settled in South Jersey came to this country in the years 1642-1660 in company with a large number of Welsh Baptist emigrants under the leadership of their Pastor John Miles. In this land were the Bowens, Bacons, Brooks, Davis, Barretts, and Sweineys, and perhaps others. They came from Swansea, Glamorgan Co., Wales and landed at Boston, Mass. and made a new settlement near there. They called it Swansea after their native place in Wales.
Being persecuted however by the Puritans they soon left and a large number of these under the leadership of Timothy Brooks in the year 1687 came to New Jersey and settled about Bowenstown, Roadstown, and Shiloh.
In the year 1727 Daniel Elmer emigrated to Fairton from Connecticut He was a young man and a clergyman of considerable note in his native State. He was a pastor of Fairfield Presbyterian church up to the time of his death which occurred in 1755. From him originated the Elmers of Cumberland county many of whom have been distinguished men in professional and civil life up to the present day.
The first industries of the township were common to all early settlements. Samuel Fithian owned 1/8 share of the grist mill and the saw mill built at Forke Creek before 1702. The other owners are unknown, but it is believed that these mills were probably held in common—as would have been the practice in New England at that time. Previous to 1763, the site of the mill-dam was moved to near Clark’s Pond Road.
John Ogden, son of Richard Ogden of Long Island and of Fairfield, Connecticut, was the first Ogden to arrive to Cumberland County, New Jersey. He was one of the signers of the 1697 Agreement in Fairfield. From him originated the many Ogdens in Cumberland County.
Ethan Osborn was born on August 21, 1758 in Litchfield, Connecticut and died May 1, 1858 in Cumberland County, New Jersey. He shows up in the 1830, 1840, and 1850 Census in Cumberland County. He married Elizabeth Riley of Cumberland County. He was the only member of his immediate family to settle in New Jersey.
In 1752 Alexander Moore, of Cohansey Bridge, purchased of the agents of the West Jersey Society 990 acres, part of their 11,000 acre tract. This purchase begins on the Cohansey, a little above Pamphylia Spring, and runs several courses to Bridges' Indian Fields tract, striking it a little east of the beginning corner, thence along said tract, and several courses north of it to the Cohansey, something more than a mile above the town. By means of this deed, and of a release from one Pigeon, a claimant under Basse, of the tract connected with the Hancock mill, he became the owner of all that part of East Bridgeton lying west of Bridges' line. That line was probably so run in consequence of the mill tract being held by Hancock. Moore was of Irish descent, and was the first person who transacted much business at Cohansey Bridge. His grandson, the late Judge John Moore White, thought he came here about 1730, and married into the Reeve family. He accumulated a very handsome estate, built himself a good house near his store, on the north side of Commerce Street, near the corner of Water, in which a tavern was kept for many years after his death, and which was removed to make room for the present brick building about 1830. He died at a good old age in 1786, on the farm now attached to the poor-house, where he, and his son after him, had an establishment known as Moore Hall.
About 1753 William Dare, son of the William first above named, and Col. Ephraim Seeley, purchased of the agent of the West Jersey Society several hundred acres lying south of Bridge's tract, and east of the tract sold to Moore. Most of the Indian Field settlers, who were the first in the eastern part of Bridgeton, were from Fairfield. Among them, besides Dare, were Riley and Loomis — or Lummis, as the name has been since written — and Hood. Robert Hood's tract was a part of the Society land, purchased by him at an early date.
Descendants of Edmund Shaw of Long Island, New York.
n 1733, Watson’s Ferry connected Greenwich with Fairfield Township. In 1767 the ferry was taken over by John Sheppard. For many years, the ferry was powered by a horse located on the Fairton side. Economic pressures put the ferry out of business in 1838.
Benjamin Stratton, son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Edwards was born circa 1675 in East Hampton, Long Island and moved with his wife, Mary, to Fairfield, Cumberland County. He died before September 1716. His son Benjamin was born 1701 in Fairfield and married Abigail Preston.
It is quite possible that Methodism reached Fairfield via the Methodist Circuit Riders, however, the earliest record of Methodism was in the late 1790’s. Michael Swing, the pioneer Methodist Preacher purchased a farm at New England Town in 1790 from the Reverend Daniel Elmer. The Year 1791 officially marked an organized Methodist Society with Micheal Swing ordained as the local Preacher. A Methodist Meeting House was built in during 1819-20 on the road from Fairton to Back Neck, directly in front of the old graveyard of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church. As long as it existed (1866) the church was known as “Swing’s Meeting House”. The new church was built in Fairton Village and dedicated on January of 1867.
The ancestors of the Potter, Ewing, Fithian, Westcott, and Bateman families also came from New England and settled at Cohansey in the latter part of the seventeenth or early in the eighteenth century They have held an influential position in Cumberland county for several generations (as of 1876 writing).
Old Stone Church (First Presbyterian Church of South Jersey)
The monument erected at the entrance of the old burying ground bears the following inscription:
"IN MEMORY of the true and good men and women who coming in the seventeenth century founded here on the Cohansey, THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IN FAIRFIELD. It came under the care of the Presbytery of West Jersey, May 19, 1708. This monument is erected by their descendants and the Presbytery of West Jersey, June 15, 1909. REV. THOMAS BRIDGE WAS THEIR MINISTER."
"Signers of Agreement in Fairfield, June 10, 1697."
- Bateman, John
- Bellnap, Samuel
- Bennett, John
- Bennett, Thomas
- Chatfield, John
- Curtis, Joshua
- Dallglesh, Robert
- Foster, Samuel
- Griffin, John
- Grimes, Joseph
- Hauna, Michael
- Johnson, Nicholas
- Jones, Thomas
- Kernes, Thomas
- Lummis, Edward
- Mills, John
- Morehouse, Jonathan
- Ogden John, the the son of Richard Ogden of Long Island and of Fairfield, Connecticut
- Roberts, John
- Sayre, Joseph
- Seelye, Joseph
- Smith, Eleazar
- Smith, John
- Smith, Joseph
- Wheeler, Joseph
- Wescott, Daniel
Other Early Families
In addition to the names upon the monument, a partial hst of the heads of families who early settled within the limits of Fairfield township, or immediate vicinity, is here given. Not all were Presbyterians however; some were Friends, others Baptists, and worshipped elsewhere. A few among the number removed to other set- tlements after a few years residence.
- Abbot, Thomas, died 1718.
- Alderman, Thomas and Alderman, Mary. Thomas died in 1715.
- Alexander, Samuel
- Allen, Ebenezer and Allen, Mary. Ebenezer died in 1716.
- Ayars, Robert and Ayars, Hester. "Removed to Shiloh."
- Bagley, Charles
- Barns, Samuel and Barns, Patience Barns, his widow, who died in 1716.
- Bennett, Jeremiah
- Berriman, Leonard
- Bishop, Nathaniel and Bishop, Sarah. He died April 24, 1723.
- Bishop, John
- Brooks, Isaac
- Brooks, John Brooks
- Brooks, Josiah Brooks, died about 1732.
- Buck, Henry and Buck, Rachel. He died February 1725-6.
- Buck, Henry Jr. and Buck, Ruth, his wife. He died March 1725-6.
- Button, William
- Clarke, William and Clarke, Patience. He died about 1702.
- Dare, Captain William
- Dare, William Jr.
- Davis, Benjaman. "Removed, and settled in Deerfield."
- Dioment, Thomas
- Dixon, Anthony. Died about 1728.
- Douglas, Robert.
- Eastland, Joseph and Eastland, Ann. Joseph died in 1728.
- Eldridge, Capt. Ezekiel and wife Eldridge, Sarah. He died 1710
- Fairbanks, Thomas.
- Fithian, John, died about 1702
- Fithian, Jonathan
- Fithian, Samuel and Fithian, Priscilla. Samuel died in 1702,
- Fithin, Samuel Jr. "Removed to Greenwich."
- Fithian, Josiah. "Removed to Greenwich."
- Francis, James
- Fullerton, James, merchant. Died about 1729.
- Furbush, Thomas, died 1701 or 1702.
- Garret Garrison.
- Jacob Garrison, wife Christiana. He died 1708 or 1709.
- John Garrison.
- Edmund Gilman, wife Hannah. He died in 1715.
- John Gilman, Sen., died 1695.
- Rachel Gihnan, widow of John, died 1695 or 1696.
- John Green and his wife Ursula. He died in 1696.
- Stephen Halford.
- Richard Hancock. He died in 1689.
- Thomas Harris.
- Robert Hood.
- William Johnson and wife Frances. He died in 1694.
- Hezekiah Lare.
- Nathan Lorrance.
- Thomas Maskell. Removed to Greenwich, died in 1712.
- WilHam and Mary Mulford. William died in 1719.
- Joseph and Joyce Newcomb. He died 1732, or 1733.
- Jeremiah Nixon. He died about 1727.
- John Nixon.
- Jonathan Ogden.
- Richard and Elizabeth Ogden. Richard died in 1726.
- Samuel Ogden. Removed to Deerfield.
- Nicholas Osborn.
- James Padgett.
- Thomas Parvin.
- William Paulin.
- James Peirce. He died in 1694.
- William and Ruth Pope. He died in 1715.
- Howell and Elizabeth Powell. He died in 1716.
- Levi Preston.
- Mark Reeve, wife Ann. He died in 1694.
- Joseph Riley.
- David Sayre.
- Ebenezer Sayre. Died 1725 or 1726.
- Elisha Sayre. Died 1726, probably unmarried.
- Ephraim Sayre, wife Sarah. He died in 1715-6.
- Joseph Sayre, wife Priscilla. He died in 1710.
- Joseph Sayre, wife Margaret. He died 17 15 or 1716.
- Benjamin Seely.
- Ephraim Seelye, wife Mary. He died 1722-3.
- Edmund Shavy, Sen., wife Rachel. He kept the first inn in Fairfield, as early as 1698. He died in 1719.
- John Shaw.
- William Shattock. Removed to East Jersey.
- David Shepherd, wife Eve. He died 1695, she in 1710.
- Dickeson Shepherd.
- Enoch Shepherd, wife Elizabeth. He died in 1717.
- James Shepherd. He died in 1690.
- James and Eve Shepherd. He died in 1713.
- John Shepherd. Died in 1710.
- John Shephard. He died in 1715-6, unmarried.
- Joseph and Ann Shepherd. He died in 1728.
- Mary Shepherd. She died in 1713-14.
- Jonathan Smith.
- Solomon Smith. Removed to Burlington.
- Thomas and Ann Smith. He died in 1692. She married Thomas Yard, who left her a widow in 1695.
- Benjamin and Mary Stratton. He died in 1716.
- Philip and Hannah Vickary. He died in 1703.
- Joseph Wheeler.
- Richard and Elizabeth Whitacar. He died about 1709.
- Richard and Abigail Whitacar. He died in 1718-9
- William Worth. Removed to Shrewsbury.
Other names from early Fairfield documents are: Abigail, Rebecca and Peter Bateman; Marj' Bowen; Edward Burrows; Richard Butcher; Hugh Chard; John Clarke; William Couseus; David Foster; Joseph Hodge; James Hudson; Samuel Hunter; John Jones; Stephen Leek; Restore Lippencott; Richard Mathis; James Moir; John Peirpoint; Israel and William Petty; Joseph Rogers; James Robbenson; Roger Ryderwood; James Silver; Alexander Smith; Thomas Vaughn; William Waithman and Samuel Wescott.
The settlement of the New England people in Fairfield was early called "New England Town," and "New England Cross Roads," names now seldom heard.
Families: Abbott, Ayars, Bateman, Bennett, Berryman, Brooks, Burrows, Butcher, Button, Chard, Dare, Davis, Diament, Elmer, Fithian, Harris, Holmes, Johnson, Lippencott, Lummis, Maskell, Nixon, Ogden, Parvin, Reeve, Riley, Sayre, Seelye, Shaw, Sheppard, Stratton, Westcott, Wheeler, Whitacar.
- History of the early settlement and progress of Cumberland County, New Jersey : and of the currency of this and adjoining colonies (1869) by Elmer, Lucius Q. C. (Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus), 1793-1883
- History and Genealogy of Fenwick's Colony, New Jersey by Thomas Shourds, published by G.F. Nixon, 1876.
- Notes on Cumberland County Place Names by Lots of People
- Cohansey Baptist Church: A History of the Cohansey Baptist Church in Old West Jersey, By Charles E. Sheppard, 1846 - 1939
- Inscriptions Extracted from Tombstone Inscriptions, Cumberland Co., NJ
- Inscriptions in the early gravestones on the old "New England Town" burying ground Fairton (1909) by Frank Andrews
- The Ogdens of South Jersey, the descendants of John Ogden of Fairfield, Connecticut by William Ogden Wheeler
- Origins of the Jersey Settlement of Rowan County, North Carolina: First Families of Jersey Settlement, By Ethel Stroupe 1996 about those who settled Hopewell, NJ and how some of them formed the New Jersey Settlement in Rowan Co, NC.
- Family tree for Harris family
- Hopewell Township: A Brief Early History
- A History of the Cohansey Baptist Church in Old West Jersey, By Charles E. Sheppard 1846 -1939 (Prepared by J. Meade Landis, from his original notes)
- Bi-centennial celebration of the Old stone church, September 29, 1880
- Stratton Genealogy of Long Island
- Descendants of Thomas Harris
- Essex Institute historical collections, Volume 53 By Essex Institute, Peabody Essex Museum: Edward Lumas of Ipswich Mass and some of his Descendants Compiled by George Harlan Lewis from the notes of Elisha S Loomis Ph D with additions by Charles A Lummas
- [ http://www.osborne-origins.org/linkrecs/f7640.htm Osborne Origins Org website]