William Matlack - Story from "West Jersey Surveyor's Association"

Summary: We republish from the minutes of the West Jersey Surveyors' Association the following interesting paper, read by Hon. William Parry, of Cinnaminson: Cinnaminson Township, about which I was appointed to report, is of recent date, being set off from the township of Chester, in the county of Burlington, N. J., by an act of the Legislature, passed March 15th, 1800, by a line extending from Rudderow's Bridge over the south branch of Pennsaukin(sic.) creek, to the bridge over Hackney's Run, near the Rancocas creek, by which it is bounded on the east, and by the Delaware river on the north, and the Pennsaukin(sic.) creek on the west, and is drained by two other streams on which there are several mills for the manufacture of flour and lumber, running northward to the Delaware river on the north, and the Pennsaukin(sic.) creek on the west, and is drained by two other streams on which there are several mills for the manufacture of flour and lumber, running northward to the Delaware river at convenient distances from each other and the creeks, so that all parts of the township are well supplied with streams, and a gently undulating surface between them to carry off the water. Being about three miles in width and over five in length upon the river front, contains about ten thousand acres of land, mostly sandy, early and very productive. It is well adapted to raising grain, vegetables and choice fruits, and immense quantities are grown here for the Philadelphia and New York markets, carried on sloops, steamboats and turnpikes; and the Camden and Amboy Railroad, connecting the two greatest cities in the Union, passes through the whole length of this township, rendering unusual facilities to the inhabitants, whose number now exceeds three thousand. There are several towns of considerable importance, such as Westfield, Riverton, Bridgeborough, Progress, Palmyra and Pennsaukin(sic.). There are four post offices, churches, stores and mechanics of all kinds, amply sufficient to supply the requirements of the neighborhood. Lying and situate in the river and between the two creeks, there are twelve miles of navigable tide water front, on which there are numerous wharves for the landing of heavy articles, such as coal, lumber, lime, manure and other fertilizers, affording excellent accomadations to the farmers and fruit growers, who do not fail to embrace the opportunities within their reach, as will appear from the report of some of their crops. The premium crop of corn yielded one hundred and three bushels per acre, and forty bushels of wheat per acre have been grown. The soil and climate are admirably adapted to the growth of fruits. Sixty acres of peaches have been grown on a single farm. Apples, pears and cherries flourish finely, and even small fruits are very profitable. Within the last five years there have been grown in this township over ten thousand bushels of strawberries, three thousand bushels of raspberries, and five thousand bushels of cultivated blackberries, making in all eighteen thousand one hundred and fifty-four bushels of those three berries, which brought for the growers thereof $95,043 as the reward for their labor. For the earlier history we must refer to the township of Chester, from which Cinnaminson was taken, as before stated. The river front of this township was formerly called Cinnaminson, the Indian name for sweet water, there being many sugar maple trees growing there, to tap which the Indians came from the interior of the State, in early spring, to draw the sap, cinnaminson or sweet water, and carry it home to mix with their food. About thirty years since when the post office was established at the village of Westfield, there being an office of that name in East Jersey, it became necessary, according to the good regulations of the post office department, to adopt some name not used for the same purpose in any other part of the State, and Cinnaminson being free from that objection was agreed upon, and thus the ancient title to the shore will be perpetuated through the post office and township to future generations. The name of Westfield being taken from the location of the first school built there by the Society of Friends, in Thomas Lippincott's West Field, at which there were ample provisions made for the education of the youth; not only the children of Friends, but colored children, and others of the neighborhood freely partook of learning to qualify them for business, long before the establishment of a public school system by the State. Some of the first settlers located on and between the two branches of Pennsaukin(sic.) creek, which forms the south-west boundary of Chester and Cinnaminson township. William Matlack, the ancester(sic.) of the principal families of that name now residing here, came from Nottinghamshire, in Great Britain, in the ship Kent, Captain Gregory Marlow, with Thomas Olive ane(sic.) Daniel Wills, which ship came to Sandy Hook near Perth Amboy, and thence to Chester, on the Delaware river, the 16th of 6th mo., 1677, where the people left the ship and went up the river in small boats to the place where Burlington was afterwards built, then called Chygoe's Island, from an Indian Sachem who lived there.

The town of Burlington being laid out the following autumn by a surveyor named Richard Noble, who came over two years previous in the ship Griffith, from London, and landed at Salem in 1675, being the first English ship that came to West Jersey. He was employed by two companies called respectively the Yorkshire and London Companies, in honor of the places from whence they came, who having agreed to settle near each other and unite their strength in building a town, had Main street run as now opened from the river. The Yorkshire Company having their lots run off on the east and the London Company taking taking theirs on the west of said Main street. Hence the names of the two bridges on either side of Burlington, viz: Yorkshire and London Bridges.

William Matlack was the first man of the company that put his foot on the said island. He served four years with Thomas Olive, and being a carpenter, helped to build two of the first frame houses in Burlington, one for John Woolston, and the other for Thomas Gardener, which were finished in the summer of 1768, and in which Friends held their religious meetings, until after the decease of Thomas Gardener's widow, when they built a brick meeting house. He also assisted Thomas Olive to build his water mill on his plantation in Willingboro', near Rancocas river, which was finished in 1680, being the first water mill that ground corn for the new settlers.

He married Mary Hancock, in the sixteenth year of her age. She came from Brayles, in Warwickshire, in old England, in the ship "Paradise," Captain Evele, on the 7th of March, 1681. Her brother, Timothy Hancock, came with her and paid the passage money, so she came in free.

On the 14th of November, 1682, William Matlack located one hundred acres; Timothy Hancock located one hundred acres; John Roberts located two hundred and eighty-seven acres, in the second tenth, now Burlington county, adjoining each other, and between parallel lines extending from the North to the South branch of Cimissick (alias Penisaukin[sic.]) creek,) which name is derived from the Indian town or settlement located thereon, called Penisauken(sic.). The boundaries of one of these tracts as taken from Revell's Book of Surveys may illustrate the manner of locating lands: "Surveyed then for John Roberts one tract of land lying at an Indian town called Penisaukin(sic.), between two branches of Cimissick creek, beginning at a black oak for a corner at the more North branch; and runs thence south-west ninety-eight chains to a red oak marked for a corner at the more south branch; to a white oak for a corner; thence north-east ninety chains to the said north branch to a white oak for a fourth corner; so down the said creek to the corner first aforesaid. Surveyed for two hundred and eighty-seven acres."

Timothy Hancock's one hundred acres being eleven chains in width was located next above John Roberts; and William Matlack's one hundred acres of the same width, was located next above Timothy Hancock's land. William Clark in 1684 took up one hundred acres between the two branches of said Penisaukin(sic.) creek, lying on the lower side of John Roberts' track. Much care was observed by the early settlers to maintain friendly relations with the Indians. John Roberts, Timothy Hancock, William Matlack and others, the first who settled at Penisauken(sic.), apprehended it would be advantageous to them and their families to have the friendship and good liking of the Indian natives, who were at this time many, and they were but few, took care to purchase from them by deed, this good understanding being as follows: "Know all people, that I, Tallaca, have had and received from John Roberts, with the consent of the neighborhood at Pensaukin(sic.), one match coat, one little runlet of rum, and two bottles of rum. In consideration whereof I, the said Tallaca, do hereby grant, bargain and sell unto the said John Roberts, Timothy Hancock and William Matlack, all those plantations at Penisauken(sic.), promising forever to defend the said John Roberts &c., from other Indians laying any claim thereto. In witness whereof I, the said Tallaca have hereunto set my hand and seal, the twelfth day of April, 1684. Witness, TALLACA [Seal.] NACKONTAKENE, QUEIECKOLEN, NOTTHOMON, GIMIESS JACOBYH, FALIKIN CRESS, THOMAS EYES." Some of the old Indian deeds are still preserved, and are quite interesting to look over, showing how rude and simple an instrument was sufficient to bind both parties before they became educated to the tricks of the trade.