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Some Excerpts from the Letterbooks of Asa Matlack


Asa Matlack's letterbooks represent a remarkable historical resource.  They contain records of people whose lives did not always get recorded in deeds, wills and other more standard early documents and on occasion give life  and character to otherwise unknown or inscrutable persons.  They are also a record of events; some great and public, like the raising of a Church House and some small, personal and even poignant like a young and town bred mans reaction to the wildness of colonial West Jersey.    Matlack produced his letterbooks over a period of years, perhaps decades in the early nineteenth century.  Unlike the diaries of Samuel Sewall or Philip Vickers Fithian, the letterbooks are not an account of the author's day to day life.  Rather, they represent the strong antiquarian interest  of a man who understood that things were changing and that some sort of record ought to be made of the old times before they were lost forever. Observant readers will notice that these excerpts comprise only a tiny fraction of the material.

The original format was, as indicated by the title of this paper, a series of letterbooks.  However, at some time after they were filled, he or someone else copied the contents of the letterbooks into a single large volume, possibly adding some material as they went.  The excerpts included here were taken from the large volume.  Embedded cross references refer to places in the original letterbooks while the page number assigned at the head of each excerpt are from the large volume.  Both the large volume and the original letterbooks now reside in the collection of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania. A microfilm copy is available for viewing at the Gloucester County Historical Society.

Finally, the copiest did his best to avoid correcting spelling(A.M.'s was pretty good anyway), to retain capitalization whether it made sense or not and to reproduce the punctuation of the original material.  It is likely that some periods and commas have inadvertently found their way into this text where none existed before.   Bracketed words are added by the copiest either to clarify meaning or to explain something in the text.  Unless inside brackets, all parentheses belong to Asa Matlack .

Some Excerpts from the Letterbooks of Asa Matlack

Pg. 575

Samuel Coles informed me that Jonathan Thomas kept tavern at the house known as The Corner House in or about the year 1748[or 3, unclear]  when he S.C. first knew of it.  Thomas removed to Burlington and then Charles Ferguson came next after  Thomas in  sd. Corner House a weaver who [illegible word- my guess - ] (married) John Glover's Mother.  He then went to the House of John Ellis.  While he lived at this house Thomas Land told Me he was apprenticed to him learning the weaving trade etc. in 1748.

Pg. 573

A scotchman [doubtless the aforementioned Charles Ferguson] married John Richard and William Glovers mother.  He was a weaver and lived sometime in Samuel Coles House near Joseph Frenches Mill.

Pg.  573

Richard Barrow, an Englishman, a schoolmaster lived with Samuel Burrough.  First taught at Wallis School House then at Roberts where uncle Jos. Roberts first went to school   sd Richard lived and died at Burroughs the 2nd one Buried at Coles church.  Sometimes drinked too much.

Pg. 573

Alexander Crawford boarded at Enoch Roberts.  He was a stone cutter.

Pg. 574.

Job Coles remembers Joseph Browning, Taylor who lived at the Corner House.  Later he removed to R. Burroughs Plantation.

Pg. 574

Daniel German and wife(who was an Irishwoman) was the next at the Corner House and went to complain of John Cowperthwaite for scratching her face.

Then Thomas then Ferguson.

Some Excerpts from the Letterbooks of Asa Matlack

Pg. 576

Uncle Joseph Coles told me that James Wild Married  [Rachel]  [name apparently blank or illegible in original] Coles daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth (being his grandfathers sister as he thinks).  After marrige James and Sarah [ Rachel, according to the will]   (for Uncle thinks that was the name since they named their daughter Sarah)  settled and probably built the Corner House.

Pg.  723

Samuel Tomlinson, an Carpenter married in the 9 m in 1758 at Haddonfield to Ann Burroughs (Sister to Thomas Thornes wife Abigail).  This Samuel Tomlinson Built for himself a new house at the Top of the hill at Colestown on land said to belong to K Cole (___   which was agreed for by said Tomlinson to build his house thereon(being the first house erected at this place) therein he lived while occupied in building this house, in the dwelling house that had lately been Thomas Coles in Colestown aforsaid.  After sd Samuel Tomlinson deceased (which I presume he did not long after building his house)  Ezekiel Lindsay Bought sd house and land.  Ezekiel was an old man when I first knew him and lived at this place.  Ezekiel, as I have been told, learned the shoemaking Trade of Robert Hunt at Colestown.   he married in 9 mo. 1749 to Rachel Shoars(she was of that family of Shoars who live about Cape May).  After her decease Ezekiel married Eliz. Troth (see p 44)   Said E.L.  had no children to leave his estate to and so he bequested his real estate to Lindsey Nicholson and to his brother John Nicolson when lindsay and John had arrived at 21 years of age.  Sd John Nicholson Conveyed by deed his share of the estate to his brother Lindsey Nicholson who by deed dated ______   conveyed _____ perches of said estate to Asa Matlack and the conveyed the remaining part to Joseph Roberts Jr. who has built on an addition to the house, took down the old barn and built a large new one and at this present time owns the sd land together with a large plantation ( to be given him by his father Jos. Roberts) and several tracts of land ( all adjoining to each other), a fulling mill, Saw Mill, and which the said Jo.  Roberts Jr purchased from divers owners.

Pg. 721

Daniel Lipponcott (according to an account from FM)  Built a New House on Land near to John Hunts and removed himself to it.

Pg.  722

Samuel Collins (Blacksmith at Colestown) son of Samuel and Abigail married in 1748 to Rosanna Stokes daughter of Thomas and Rachel.

Some Excerpts from the Letterbooks of Asa Matlack

Pg. 632

My father, RM , went next to work at Colestown in the year David [Claypoole] was of age 1775 in the Shop late of Saml. Collins.  He worked for [Bishop(hard to read)] and made Salt Pans.

Pg.  971

______ Wallis dec d  and his widow in the spring of 1759 purchased a house and lot in Colestown of Israel Heulings(Taylor)  ...   at this place intermarried with Henry Jones (cordwainer)   She conveyed by deed 23  2 mo  1762 to Andrew Stone

Pg. 561

[Referring to Robert Hunt]
John Hunt, Born in 1740 says ... he learned the trade of Shoemaker in Burlington then came to a small village called Colestown in Chester Township.  The country was then much like a wilderness I heard him say, and that so as he came along through the woods he sat down on the road and wept.

Pg. 572

[Schools.  around Colestown]
Theophilus Fanning  a schoolmaster kept school in a house near my house.  I saw a picture worked by Fanning in this school house in 1756.  To this school house came John Hunt and his sisters and Job Cole and [etc.][AM here employs a symbol that appears to mean etc.]
It appears upon Enquiry that there was a school house near the Brickyards in T. Thornes field and in the year ___ it was removed to a lot of sd Thornes joining to William Matlacks 50 acres.  While at this place Rich.  Barrow kept therein.  It was removed from this place to a lot of 4 1/2 acres whereon my father [RM] settled and when my father was about to build [1770's-1780's?] the s.h. was sold to John Wilson who removed it away.  The above description is erronous but the following is true.  The said school house where my father was to build was removed to Thornes field and thence to John Wilsons as aforsd.

Some Excerpts from the Letterbooks of Asa Matlack

Pg. 578

[Concerning an early Friends Meeting]
Called upon the Clerk of Burlington Monthly Meeting John Gummere[sp?] who procured me the book that contains the minutes of said Meeting.- commencing the 1678 and continuing till 1733.  I noticed when I cursory read along that a minute was made importing [reporting] that Friends at Pennsuaking alias Easom requested the liberty to hold a religious meeting for worship to be held at the dwelling house of Timothy Hancock one first day and the next at John Kays which was granted to said Friend on 9 of 9 mo 1685.  I further noticed the next minute on the subject of the sd meeting stated that the "meeting had been altered by some ______ private persons unknown to this meeting which disapproves thereof and Newtown Monthly Meeting is to take the charge and care of the sd meeting  & for the future."   This was agreed upon in the 10 mo 1686.

Pg. 649

Thomas Thorne and his brother John Thorne first came to these parts (it is sd) from Long Island...  Sd Thomas Thorne by deed 3 of 2 mo 1733 bo't of Thomas Cole 50 acres  __  five acres more of James Wildes by deed 5 of 5 mo 1735  also bot 115 acres more of John Wildes making 170 acres in one tract upon which Charles French (a mason) and George Matlack(carpenter) built a brick house [presumably for Thomas Thorne]  in 1742.

Pg. 685

Enoch Roberts, son of John and Mary Roberts, married Anno 1744 by esq[?]  to Rachel Cole, _____,  daughter of Samuel and Mary:   The first winter after marrige they lived in Coles-Town where was born their daughter Mary, his father having built a new house for them upon the N side of the S branch of Pennsauken Creek on the south end of the 267 acre tract mentioned on f-4 [pg. 678] of this book.  To this house they removed themselves.

died 9/12/1782

Pg. 695

Thomas Hooten further says that sd John Hancocks widow Mary married to George Matlack (see B8 P11).   T Hooten well remembers the remains of George Matlacks old saw mill in the creek, when he and Jacob Hollinshead attended school at Heritages School and they went to buy snails of Benj Heritages whose lane ended in the old Salem Rd. where sd school house was situated.

Pg. 701

When Robert Hunt Removed from Colestown he went to Harrisburg PA.  (See book 2 pg 56)

Some Excerpts from the Letterbooks of Asa Matlack

Pg. 698

Last Bear killed in Chester Township 1761

Pg. 714

In and about the year 1752  was built commonly called Coles Church House  (John Inskeep of Waterford provided lumber cut at his sawmill. )
In the latter end of 3 month 1825 I was happening to pass sd church house [and ] observed carpenters at work therein.   On my return from the widow Coles I stopped in, to observe what was doing in the sd church house;  The front sill of the house had decayed so much the workmen were putting underpinnings at every joist and others of the workmen were putting some work under the pulpit in a different form from what it had been heretofore.   Abraham Browning , Abrm Haines, Isaac Welsh and John Cole were all the persons at this time working here and I asked A. Browning if he knew what year the ground whereon this House was built had been consecrated  ____ by  __J__Jenner&[etc].  He answered it could not have been before his father came to this country Who he said gave  money towards defraying the expense of building this house.

Pg. 721

Thomas Draper was a wheel wright that worked at Colestown when Saml. Collins was the Smith there; [later] he removed with his family to Pennytown and from there to the Back country.

Pg. 721

Robert Stiles, born _____,  Brought up at Thomas Coles in Colestown ...   Married Hannah Burrough in 12 mo 1743 at Haddonfield ...  [and] was settled on 90 of the 425 acres as before mentioned near the N branch of sd Creek [I know, I know, when I shortened the quote I missed the name of the creek].

Pg. 751

of John Cowperthwaite.   I am told he removed to the Corner House built a larger house there and died 21 2 mo 1775(see page 5 of book 3).  J. c. purchased 25 acres of land from Thos. Cole and Alice his wife by deed dated 12 of 3 mo 1757.

Some Excerpts from the Letterbooks of Asa Matlack

Pg.  330

An Old Road
Complaint by inhabitants of Chester and Waterford Townships that no return of road from Salem Road to Samuel Burroughs Mill  can be found and desiring us to establish the same ---
 A for pole road was then laid out
Beginning at Salem Road near Wm Matlacks House by or through land of Wm and Jerimiah Matlack.  Thence by the southermost of Two roads to [the ] N side of a school-house.  Thence to Samuel Burroughs Mill.

Dated at Chester 24th June 1758 by the Surveyors
Frances Collins                                                                                        William Ellis
                                    }  Chester                                                                                                   }  Waterford
John Roberts                                                                                                Joshua Stokes

Thomas Evans
                                     }  Evesham
Michael Branin

        Copy per  John Cox   CLK
         as record[ed]

Pg. 774

From FM
John Matlack  married 20 of 3 mo 1708 to Hannah Horner  /  settled East of Haddonfield on the N side of the most northerly branch of the S branch of Coopers Creek.

Pg. 811

Samuel Matlack, Born March 1752 - carpenter married to Elizabeth Burroughs Born June 1734.  Daughter or John and Barbary [Burroughs].  Settled principally in the house of his father (Isaac Matlack  [who] married Rebecca Bates , settled 1 mile SE of Haddonfield near to South Branch of Coopers Creek  just above the entrance of Bates Run [Tyndalls Run?

Pg. 854

Thomas Coles must have been about 19 when he fell heir by his fathers will to 103 acres of land, blacksmith tools and a gun.  At 24 yrs of age he married about which time he erected a grist mill and Called the place Colestown.

Some Excerpts from the Letterbooks of Asa Matlack

Pg. 4

Thomas Land is said to be the oldest man in Chester.  To him I paid a visit in 1818.  The substance of our conversation ... follows.
He says some of the inhabitants in early times or about the year _____  assemble[d] at John Chambers house and orchard at Penshawkin (Peter Shin now owns the place) to perform Divine Service according to the manner used in the Church of England - also at a school house in Cinnaminsing (in which house Jacob Hollinshead and  Thomas Land received some education).  The minister came from Penna.  which was prior to the building of the church house at Colestown.  (T. Land died 11-8-1822 at the age of 91 years  /  buried at Westfield Friends Burying Ground near to which place he had long lived)

Pg. 5

Aunt Susannah Roberts says the said church house was raised up in the year she was born ,
1751-2 and that one J  Zane was the carpenter who finished the house and that one of his apprentices broke H[umphrey]  Days tombstone.

Pg. 6

Dr  _____   Jenney was an early minister at Coles church who came over from Phila.  He consecrated the ground for the house, graveyard etc.

Pg. 6

[The First regular mister at Colestown]
Nathaniel Evans (a youth of 19 years of Age by agreement  concluded to officiate and perform Divine Service in the house denominated "St Marys Church" Colestown for 5 years having received an ordination when he was 21 [years] of  age .   Mr Evans boarded at Haddonfield.  Mary Dellaplane was his housekeeper .  When he deceased on the 29 of Oct 1767 his remain were conveyed to Phila. and interred at 2nd street.   To the great loss of his hearers (so they say in their Annals)

Some Excerpts from the Letterbooks of Asa Matlack

Pg. 7

He was succeeded Nov. 19 1772  [that seems like a long time to leave a pulpit empty]  by Robert Blackwell (who married Rebecca Harrison) and went to officiate in the Army . [he was apparently succeeded by Samuel Sprague]
[The] church [was] vacant until Henry Miller (Master of the College in Phila. helping)  succeeded.   Mr Miller was succeeded by Rev John Wade who died  in 1799.  He was succeeded by Andrew Fowler(wife and 4 children).  He was succeeded by Rev Heath (of Burlington (who occasionally attended)).  He was succeeded by Mr Samuel Passey  (who made a division in the congregation and now (1821) is living in Phila.    He was succeeded by William Higbee.  He was succeeded by Rev Richard Hall (at Woodbury in 1824)

Abagail Rudderrow who gave this information Died 6 24 1825 ... (she was born 1-23-1743)

Blackwell Boarded at Joseph Rowands.

Pg. 8

Samuel Sprague succeeded Robert Blackwell.  He was from Mt Holly
John Wade lived at Wm Rudderrows and lies interred near the aisle of the church 1799
Samuel Passey
Andrew Fowler
Daniel Higby        1810-1811
Richard Hall
John Ward
Samuel Starr   (from Conne)
Henry Burrough   (from Boston)
Andrew Bell Patterson    (estate of 306  -  -    uncle)

Pg. 10

Kendal Cole intended (early parishoners intended) Church to be called St Johns.

Pg. 10

Thomas Stiles Died  2-17-1779 , Buried at Coles Church.
Ephriam Stiles, the father of the above Thomas hung himself in his barn 9-14-1771.  My Uncle Job who then was Sexton at the church, would not let his corpse be interred in that yard tho his father Kendal had given the family a grant to that effect.

No reference

David Claypoole was apprenticed to John Inskeep in 1762.

Some Excerpts from the Letterbooks of Asa Matlack

Pg. 849

From a deed dated 1717 by Roger Andrews of Evesham to his son Thomas for 300 acres of land ___  will that Samuel Coles first mentioned in the Book before his arrival while in England was a Haberdasher...
I find one Jerimiah Richards by deed dated 17  Sept 1683 purchased 500 acres of Land of Henry Stacy ... The sd 500 acres was taken up and located by Richards in the 3rd Tenth and is situated on the South Branch of Penshawkin Creek and the S.B. runs through sd survey as appears from a draft made by R Bull in the year 1709.
Said Jerimiah Richards by deed dated 11 Mar 1685 conveyed the sd 500 acres of land to Saml Cole and Cole located 292 acres more land adjoining to the 500 first Mentioned.  It was surveyed by Thomas Sharp 17 or 3 mo 1690


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