The Terrible Fate of the Frelinghuysen Brothers, Part 2: Ulster County, NY

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By Helene van Rossum

Helene van Rossum is a Dutch-born researcher and writer, who worked at SCUA as public services and outreach archivist from 2016-2018

In our previous blog post we talked about the death of Johannes Frelinghuysen, Dutch minister in the Raritan Valley, and about his widow Dina van Bergh, who married Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh from Ulster County, NY. In this post we will follow up with Johannes’ three younger brothers, two of them called by Ulster parishes to be their minister. Their fate played a role in a schism in the Dutch Reformed Church in the American colonies between the “Coetus” and the “Conferentie” factions, and therefore ultimately in the establishment of Queen’s (later Rutgers) College.

Perished at sea: Jacobus and Ferdinandus

Hand colored engraving of the New York harbor, 1739 (source)

When Johannes Frelinghuysen died of a sudden illness in September 1754 on his way to an annual meeting of the Coetus, the ecclesiastical body was no more than an assembly of ministers and elders representing their congregations. But its position and function would soon be subject of a sixteen-year-long battle. As explained by former Rutgers University Archivist Tom Frusciano, the lack of authority within the churches to educate, examine, and ordain had become a pressing concern among ministers and congregations. While the numbers of churches had grown rapidly by the mid 18th century, there was a severe shortage of ministers to preach.

It was difficult to find Dutch ministers willing to move to the New World, like Johannes Frelinghuysen Sr. had done in 1720. For congregations it was a costly business to send a candidate to the Netherlands to be educated, licensed, and ordained. In addition, the journey was not only dangerous because of weather conditions, but also because of continuous warfare at sea. In 1745, on his way back after his ordination in Utrecht, Theodorus Frelinghuysen Jr. himself spent six additional months at sea because his ship had been captured by the French.

Detail from a 1779 map between Kingston and New Paltz in Ulster County, NY, with the location of the churches of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing added in red (source)

Despite these experiences, the Frelinghuysen brothers still favored the traditional way to get ministers licensed and ordained in the Netherlands.

According to historian Dirk Mouw, “As late as 1751, when he assisted the congregations of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing, New York, in making out a call to his brother Jacobus, it was Theodorus Jr. who urged, and finally convinced those consistories, not to ask for examination and ordination in the colonies, but rather to permit Jacobus to go to Amsterdam for promotion.”1

After Theodorus had convinced the three Ulster consistories to send Jacobus the young man and his brother Ferdinandus–who had been called to Kinderhook, 22 miles south of Albany, NY–left for the Netherlands. Sadly, when they sailed back two years later they both contracted smallpox and died in June, 1753, eight days apart. Though Theodorus notified the Classis in September 1753, it took him another month to be able to write the three Ulster consistories. The letter is kept at Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives along with other documents about the three Ulster congregations  (view document list).

“It is not without emotion that I take up my pen to write to you presently, after the Lord prescribed us bitter things, cutting off our hopes, hurting our expectations, turning our happiness into coldness and our imagined joy into sadness, as he took away our dearly beloved brothers Jacobus and Ferdinandus, lovable and beloved in life, and unseparated even in death. 

But he is the Lord: he has given, he has taken, praised be his name. They were his, he has taken them to himself, a glorious change for them, but a heavy blow for us.”

Letter from Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen Jr. informing the congregants of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing about the death of his brothers Jacobus and Ferdinand, October 22, 1753

Battle for the Benjamin, Henricus

Illustration from The History of Ulster County, New York (1917)

The death of the two Frelinghuysen brothers put new fuel on the smoldering fire. Soon after the news that their new minister had died, the congregations of Rochester, Marbletown, and Wawarsing decided to call the youngest brother, Henricus. Johannes Frelinghuysen in Raritan wrote to the Classis in August to ask for Henricus to be licensed and ordained by the Coetus.

“Not only has the loss of those two fine young men inflicted upon us a wound so severe, that we have the less courage now to let Henricus run the risk of the sea as well as other dangers; but he is the Benjamin in our family, and he has never had the smallpox. Churches have also already expressed their desire to have him as their minister. My humble request, therefore, of your Revs. is, that our Coetus may be authorized, upon evidence of his ability, to ordain him in the name of the Classis. Our case is an extraordinary one, and so there are extraordinary arguments for this request.”

On November 3, 1753, the three Ulster consistories wrote the Classis of Amsterdam themselves. One month later, they sent Henricus a call, listing responsibilities and obligations on both sides. The Dutch letter with sixteen wax seals, which is translated in English, is also kept at Rutger Special Collections and University Archives.

Last page of the call by the churches of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing to Henricus Frelinghuysen, December 3, 1753 

The Coetus – Conferentie schism

In reply to his letter of August 1753 the Classis of Amsterdam wrote Johannes on May 6, 1754 that he should send Henricus over anyway. No doubt Johannes wanted to discuss the matter during the following Coetus meeting in September, but he died of a sudden illness on his way to Long Island. Nevertheless, during the three-day-long meeting it was decided to change the Coetus into a Classis, which, according to the minutes, would free congregations from the heavy expenses of sending their candidates overseas as well as the young men’s exposure to danger and the loss of time. An important additional reason was also provided: “Thus too we can prevent persons from seeking ordination from other communions differing from ourselves.”

Members of the Coetus soon found out that their president had organized an alternative, conservative, assembly, called the “Conferentie.” In addition, he negotiated behind their backs that the newly founded King’s College in New York (the future Columbia University) would have a professor in theology to teach prospective Dutch ministers. Though educated here, they would still have to be ordained by the Classis of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

In response Theodorus Jr. in Albany wrote the congregations a circular letter, calling for a meeting on May 23, 1755 to establish an American Classis and found their own American College. Thus started the schism in the church between the Coetus and the Conferentie Party, which would tear communities and families apart for the next sixteen years.

Henry dies too

Marbletown Reformed Dutch Church burial ground, the possible grave site of Henricus Frelinghuysen (Photo: Wendy Harris)

Henricus was licensed by the Coetus in 1754, but he would not hold his position at Rochester, Marbletown, and Wawarsing for long. Only two weeks after his ordination by the Coetus in 1757, after the Amsterdam Classis had finally relented, he died of smallpox, like his brothers Jacobus and Ferdinandus before him. According to the Conferentie party in a letter to the Classis of Amsterdam Theodore Jr. defended his brother’s ordination during his funeral sermon and “sought to open the eyes of the people, saying that it was time to look away from the Classis.” One year later Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh from nearby “Rosendale” in Hurley would similarly be ordained by the Coetus to succeed their brother Johannes Frelinghuysen in the Raritan Valley in New Jersey.

You will find out about the sad fate of Theodore, the last remaining Frelinghuysen brother, in a following post by University Archivist Erika Gorder.

1 Mouw, Dirk Edward. “Moederkerk and Vaderland: Religion and Ethnic Identity in the Middle Colonies, 1690–1772.” Ph.D., The University of Iowa, 2009.

 

Part of the contents of this blog post were shared in the presentation “’That class of people called Low Dutch,’ African Enslavement Among the Dutch Reformed Churches of Ulster County and New Jersey’s Raritan Valley,” by Helene van Rossum and Wendy Harris at Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz, NY (April 7, 2018).

With thanks to Wendy Harris.

The Terrible Fate of the Frelinghuysen Brothers, Part 1: The Raritan Valley

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By Helene van Rossum

Helene van Rossum is a Dutch-born researcher and writer, who worked at SC/UA as public services and outreach archivist in 2016-2018

In our previous posts we talked about Dutch Reformed minister Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1691–c. 1747) as well as his enslaved servant Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, whom he purchased from his parishioner Cornelius Van Horne and converted to the Calvinist faith. This post and the next will be about the fate of Frelinghuysen’s five sons, who all became ministers themselves, but died within a short time.

The Frelinghuysen family

Detail of a 1762 map showing the Dutch parsonage along the King’s Road between the two creeks Six Mile Run and Three Mile Run (source)

Not too long after Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen became the new minister of the Dutch congregations of Raritan, Three Mile Run (including New Brunswick), Six Mile Run, and North Branch he married Eva Terhune from Flatland, Long Island.1 They were given a farm near the Three Mile Run church to live in, and the first child, Theodorus Jacobus Jr, was born in 1723. His four brothers Johannes (John), Jacobus, Ferdinandus, and Henricus were born between 1727–1735 and two more girls, Margaret and Anna followed in 1737 and 1738.

Quote from A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1772) (source)

We do not know exactly when Frelinghuysen purchased Gronniosaw in the 1720s, but the young African must have known all the children since they were very little. He was there when Theodore Jacobus Jr. left for the Netherlands in 1743 to study, be licensed, and ordained, and then answered a call to Albany, NY. He saw Johannes leaving for the Dutch Republic too in 1747, the year when Theodore Sr, fell ill. He helped care for the minister, who told him on his deathbed that he had freed Gronniosaw in his will.

Though a free man, Gronniosaw decided to stay to serve the widow.  According to his Narrative he was heartbroken when Eva Terhune died, either shortly before or after her son Johannes’ return. The three younger brothers were between 15 and 20 years old at the time, their sisters 11 and 12.

Johannes Frelinghuysen and Dina van den Bergh

Banns of marriage register entry for Johannes Frelinghuysen and Dina van den Bergh, Amsterdam, 20 February, 1750 (source), which mentions that Johannes was living with Rev. Gerard van Schuylenburgh in Tienhoven.

After Eva’s death, according to his Narrative, Gronniosaw subsequently served her five sons, until they all died too. He may have started with Johannes. The young man had received a call from the parishes of Raritan (Somerville), North Branch (Readington), and Millstone (later Sourland, then Harlingen), written on May 18, 1749.

When Johannes received the letter he was living in the parsonage of the Dutch pietist minister Gerardus van Schuylenburg in Tienhoven. Van Schuylenburg must have introduced him to the pious merchant’s daughter Dina van den Bergh in Amsterdam, with whom he had been corresponding. When John asked her in September to marry him and come with him to serve the parishes in the Raritan Valley the young woman was stunned.

There are many stories about Dina, who signed her letters as Dina Van Bergh. She was so pious that she had refused the dancing lessons her parents wanted her to take. As a teenager she was said to have stopped her father and his friends playing cards for money by starting to pray when she walked into the room. She kept a religious journal in 1746-1747 and in 1749, which has been translated into English. In the last part she documented her struggles to accept John’s proposal under the heading “Some few notes on how my heart, through hidden instructions, was prepared and afterwards bent by the Lord towards marital relations with the Rev. Mr. Johannes Frielinghuysen, minister at Raritan in New Netherland.

Life with John in the parsonage

The Dutch Parsonage, built for Johannes Frelinghuysen and his bride in 1751

Dina hoped to send Johannes to New Jersey and fetch her one or more years later, but when a storm prevented him from leaving, she felt it was a sign from God to join him. According to local lore, the ship in which the couple finally sailed almost did not make it to the New World because of a terrible storm that caused a leak. In one story Dina had her chair tied to the mast of the ship and prayed throughout the ordeal, until the winds stilled. A swordfish was later found to be wedged in the crack, stopping the leak.

Another story tells us the ship carried bricks for the new parsonage in Raritan to be built in by the three congregations. Constructed in 1751, the sturdy brick house is presently known as the “Old Dutch Parsonage” in Somerville. Before it was moved to its present location, according to a description of the building the parsonage had slave quarters and two wide fire-places and an oven in the basement. Though a free man, Gronniosaw would have slept in the basement, along with the enslaved servants Dina would refer to in a letter to Henricus in November 1754, published along with her diary.

The couple had two children; Eva (born 1751) and Frederick (born 1753), the ancestor of the Frelinghuysen family of Somerset County. They were only toddlers when their father unexpectedly became sick and died in September 1754 during a trip to Long Island to attend a meeting of the Coetus (an assembly of Dutch ministers and elders). Dina went to fetch the body herself. The story goes that when the boat carrying the coffin pulled into the dock it could not come close enough to debark. Dina then ordered the coffin to be used as a bridge across the gap, telling the passengers “‘Tis only a shell, his spirit is gone. Cast it across.”

Marriage to Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh

“Rosendale,” home of Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh’s parents. It is often mistakenly described as the house where Sojourner Truth lived until she was two (read why).

The parsonage had also been used for teaching young aspiring Dutch ministers at the parsonage, who boarded there. One of Johannes’ students was future president of Queen’s (Rutgers) College Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh from Ulster County, NY, son of Johannes Hardenbergh (1706-1786), who lived in a large house called “Rosendale” in what was still Hurley at the time. Jacob was eighteen when Johannes died and, as a boarder, must have known Dina well. Although he was probably aware that she wanted to go back home he proposed to the eleven years older widow to marry him instead. ”My child, what are you thinking about?” she reportedly exclaimed.

Unwilling, Dina continued to make preparations for her trip home. But when a storm prevented her from leaving, she felt it was another sign from God. They moved in with Jacob’s parents in Ulster County, where he finished his studies. Formally called to be Johannes’ successor, Jacob married Dina two years later in Raritan and the family moved back into the Dutch parsonage. A dress that was passed down though the family as her wedding dress is kept at Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives.

Wedding dress of Dinah Van Bergh at Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives

Why Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh did not go to the Netherlands to be licensed and ordained, like Theodore Jr., and John Frelinghuysen before him, we will hear in the following blog post: The Terrible Fate of the Frelinghuysen Brothers, Part 2: Ulster County.

1  I am following genealogical findings published in Barbara Terhune, “The True Parents of Eva (Terhune) Frelinghuysen and her sister, Annetje (Terhune) Schuurman,” New Netherlands Connections, vol. 12, no. 3 (2007). An early version can be found online here

 

Contents of this blog post were shared in a presentation “’That class of people called Low Dutch,’ African Enslavement Among the Dutch Reformed Churches of Ulster County and New Jersey’s Raritan Valley,” by Helene van Rossum and Wendy Harris at Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz, NY (April 7, 2018)

Updates about Ukawsaw Gronniosaw Part 2: Frelinghuysen’s convert

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By Helene van Rossum

Helene van Rossum is a Dutch-born researcher and writer, who worked at SCUA as public services and outreach archivist in 2016-2018

 

In our previous post we shared information about Cornelius Van Horne, the Dutch merchant in New York who enslaved Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (c. 1705-1775) on his plantation on the Raritan and sold him to his minister, Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen. In this post we share insights about A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1772), the first book by a Black person to be published in Britain. According to historian Ryan Henley it should be seen in the context of the propaganda war between pro- and antislavery Calvinists in England, where Gronniosaw went to find George Whitefield, charismatic leader of the Great Awakening.

Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1691- c. 1747)

Dutch reformed minister Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen was 28 when he gave his first sermon to the Raritan congregation in January 1720, later the First Reformed Church of Somerville. The congregation had sent a call for a minister to Amsterdam together with the congregations of Three Mile Run, Six Mile Run, and North Branch (later the First Reformed Churches of New Brunswick, Franklin Park, and Readington, respectively). He resided in Three Mile Run, where he and his wife Eva Terhune–whom he met soon after his arrival–were given a farm.

Frelinghuysen was not pleased with what he saw among his congregants. According to the translator of his first sermons he found that

great laxity of manners prevailed throughout his charge … that while horse-racing, gambling, dissipation, and rudeness of various kinds were common, the [church] was attended at convenience, and religion consisted of the mere formal pursuit of the routine of duty.

Passionate and blunt, Frelinghuysen caused a stir. Convinced that he could distinguish between the “generate” (the spiritually and morally reformed) and the “ungenerate,” he excommunicated three members of the community. This led a group of disgruntled families from all four congregations to appeal to the church authorities in the Netherlands (the Classis of Amsterdam), a conflict that lasted eighteen years.

Focussed on the conversion of sinners rather than on the nurture of believers,” Frelinghuysen addressed his parishioners with fiery language.

Quote from Frelinghuysen’s sermon “The Great Earthquake: Emblem of Judgement on Enemies of the Church”, translated and published in 1738 (source)

Among Frelinghuysen’s listeners was James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, whom the pastor had purchased after hearing how the young man had warned his mistress not to swear. He had asked a tutor, Peter Van Arsdalen (described as ‘Vanosdore’ in Gronniosaw’s Narrative) to teach him to read and write and school him in the Dutch Calvinist faith. It is no wonder that Gronniosaw underwent the experiential conversion that Frelinghuysen preached. According to theologian Joel Beeke “Frelinghuysen taught that only those are truly saved who have experienced conversion, which includes [ . . . ] not only the knowledge of sin and misery, but also the experience of deliverance in Christ, resulting in a lifestyle of gratitude to God.”

Quote from A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1772) (source)

According to Ryan Hanley, “the final criterion of Frelinghuysen’s vision for salvation was fulfilled when Gronniosaw ‘blest God for my poverty, that I had no worldly riches or grandeur to draw my heart from him’.” But most important for pro-slavery Calvinists was what was written next. “Gronniosaw reconciled himself to his own enslavement, declaring that he ‘would not have changed situations [ . . . ] for the whole world.’”

George Whitefield (1714-1770)

George Whitefield Preaching in Bolton, June 1750, by Thomas Walley (source)

Gronniosaw’s conversation was in line with what many Americans in the 18th century experienced in what became known as the “Great Awakening,” a time of spiritual renewal in the colonies among protestant congregations, with parallels in Europe. Presbyterian revivalist Gilbert Tennent (1703-1763), minister in New Brunswick since 1726, was one of the movement’s early leaders. He was great friends with Frelinghuysen and claimed to have learned a lot from his preaching.

The most important leader of the movement, however, was Anglican evangelist George Whitefield, founder of the Methodist movement in England together with the brothers John and Charles Wesley. Preaching mainly outdoors, he drew crowds in England as well as in the American colonies, which he toured seven times between 1739 and 1770. On November 20, 1739 he preached in New Brunswick three times at Gilbert Tennent’s church. In his journal he described Frelinghuysen as a “worthy old soldier of Jesus Christ,” who was the “beginner of the great work which I trust the Lord is carrying on in these parts.”

According to his autobiography, Gronniosaw was so impressed with Whitefield’s  preaching that after the death of Frelinghuysen’s widow and sons he decided to go to England to search for him.

Quote from A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1772) (source)

Gronniosaw was not the only Black person who was impressed by Whitefield. Among the thousands of people who came to hear Whitefield preach, a substantial number were enslaved. After traveling through the South in 1739 Whitefield wrote a passionate “letter to the inhabitants of Maryland, Virginia, North, and South Carolina,” published in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin. He chastised Southern slave owners for mistreating their servants and not helping them convert to the Christian faith.

However, by the mid 1740s Whitefield owned a plantation and enslaved workers himself. Realizing he could not raise funds for an orphanage in Georgia without enslaved workers he became a leading proponent of legalization of slavery in Georgia, where slavery had been banned. According to church historian and biographer Thomas Kidd, Whitefield’s relationship to slavery represents the “greatest ethical problem in his career.”

Selina Hastings (1707-1791)

Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, by unknown painter (source)

Whitefield died in 1770 during his seventh tour in the American colonies. In his will he had left his plantation and slaves, as well as the orphanage that he founded, to his patroness Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, who played an important role in the religious revival and Methodist movement in England and Wales. Though she and Whitefield were originally close to John Wesley, they grew apart over the Calvinist concept of predestination.

They disagreed about slave ownership too. In 1774, Wesley published his anti-slavery views in Thoughts on Slavery, while Selina Hastings had financed the publication of Gronniosaw’s Narrative two years earlier. Written with the help of a woman in Hasting’s circles, in the Narrative Gronniosaw seemed to embrace his enslavement as a means to get to know God.

In a preface of the 1790 edition minister Walter Shirley – a cousin of Selina Hastings – stated that the book provided the answer to the question how God will deal with “those benighted  parts of the word where the Gospel of Jesus Christ hath never reached.”

Part or preface of Walter Shirley, cousin of Selina Hastings, in the 1790 edition of Gronniosaw’s Narrative

For Walter Shirley the answer was clear. “Whatever infidels and deists may think; I trust the Christian reader will easily discern an all-wise and omnipotent appointment and direction in these movements.”

The financiers, producers, and readers of Gronniosaw’s text were “Calvinists seeking to prove that freedom was not necessary to achieve salvation,” Hanley concludes. “Many of them derived the bulk of their wealth from the institution. It can hardly be surprising, then, that the Narrative does not call for the abolition of the slave trade as some of its more famous successors would.”

The Frelinghuysen sons

Quote from A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1772)

When Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen was dying he told Gronniosaw that he had freed him in his will. Gronniosaw, who had already served the Frelinghuysen family for over twenty years, decided to continue to serve the widow and her children. All five sons became ministers, and the two daughters married ones.

The tragic story of the five Frelinghuysen brothers will be told in another post.

 

Contents of this blog post were shared in a presentation “‘That class of people called Low Dutch’: African Enslavement Among the Dutch Reformed Churches of Ulster County and New Jersey’s Raritan Valley,” by Helene van Rossum and Wendy Harris at Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz, NY (April 7, 2018)

Further Reading

Balmer, Randall H. 2002. A Perfect Babel of Confusion: Dutch Religion and English Culture in the Middle Colonies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hanley, Ryan. “Calvinism, Proslavery and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw.” Slavery & Abolition 36, no. 1 (2015): 360-381.

Matthews, Christopher, The Black Freedom Struggle in Northern New Jersey, 1613-1860, an illustrated essay in six parts

Tanis, James. 1967. Dutch Calvinistic Pietism in the Middle Colonies: A Study in the Life and Theology of Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff

 

Updates about Ukawsaw Gronniosaw Part 1: the Van Horne plantation

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By Helene van Rossum

Helene van Rossum is a Dutch-born researcher and writer, who worked at SCUA as public services and outreach archivist in 2016-2018

 

Quote from A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1772) [source]

When Scarlet and Black’s first volume Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History came out in 2016, it was Rutgers’ connection to Sojourner Truth that made the headlines. The chapter about James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, enslaved servant of Dutch minister Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen–an early advocate of Queen’s College–did not get much attention. That is not difficult to understand, because Gronniosaw’s 1772 autobiography–the first book of a Black person to be printed in England–did not fit in the genre of abolitionist “slave narratives.” Just before the Scarlet and Black volume came out British historian Ryan Hanley published an article in which he not only identified the Dutch parishioner who sold Gronniosaw to his pastor, he also placed Gronniosaw’s book in the context of the propaganda war between pro- and antislavery Calvinists in England.

James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (c.1705-75)

Obituary in the Chester Chronicle or Commercial Intelligencer, Chester, England, October 2, 1775 (Source)

Although he had spent most of his life in New Jersey, Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (who also used the name James Albert) died in England only three years after the publication of his book. According to his Narrative he was born an African prince, who willingly left his family and country as a young teen, because he was mocked for his belief in a power higher than the sun, moon, and stars that were worshiped at home. He ended up being sold to a Dutch captain who sailed to Barbados, where the boy was purchased by a young Dutch merchant with the name “Vanhorne,” who lived in New York.

Put to work as a house servant, the teenager’s second language became Dutch, which apparently included a lot of swearing. Everybody swore, according to Gronniosaw, so he did so as well. An old enslaved servant named Ned overheard how he scolded a servant girl and “called upon God to damn her.” Ned warned him about a “wicked man called the Devil, that lived in hell” and would burn all people who used those words.

Quote from A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1772) [source]

Terrified, Gronniosaw immediately stopped swearing. When he overheard his mistress swearing herself he felt obliged to warn her about the consequences. She shared the story with everybody in the neighborhood, which must have included Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen. He had been minister of Raritan and three nearby Dutch churches in the Raritan Valley since 1720. But if she lived in New York, how would they have met?

Cornelius Van Horne (1693-1768)

The Van Horne family was a prosperous family of merchants in New York. According to Jan Cornelis Van Horne and his descendants the family’s founder and his young family emigrated from the Dutch city of Hoorn to New Amsterdam by 1645. His son Cornelius, a furrier and hat dealer, had three sons who all became wealthy merchants: Jan or John (1669-1735), Gerrit (1671-1737), and Abraham (1677-1741) van Horne. They traded, among others, from Barbados, owned land in New Jersey, and can be found among the sloop owners bringing captives into New York.

Looking for the “young, Dutch merchant” among the next generation Ryan Hanley identified Jan’s son Cornelius Van Horne (1693-1768) as the one who purchased Gronniosaw from a Dutch captain sailing from Barbados. That would have made Elizabeth French, who married Cornelius Van Horne in 1718, the young, swearing, mistress whom Gronniosaw wanted to save from hell. Her father, wealthy New York merchant Phillip French, had owned a property of 2754 acres on the Raritan River in Somerset County, which was split between his two surviving daughters in 1722, when Elizabeth’s sister Anna got married to Joseph Reade.

Map that was part of the 1722 deed dividing Philip French’s property on the Raritan River. Annotated reproduction from “New Insights Into Old Places,” Somerset County Historical Quarterly, 1982.

The above map that accompanied the deed shows how Philip French’s property, which bordered the estate of the prosperous Dutch farmer Michael van Veghten in the west, was divided between the two sisters and their husbands. All buildings are circled in red, including the homes of Van Veghten and of Cornelius Van Horn and Elisabeth French, known as “Kells Hall.” The home of Joseph Reade and Anna French on the eastern side was purchased by Cornelius Van Horne’s son Philip in 1750, known as “Phil’s Hill,” presently the Van Horne House. In addition, the map shows the Dutch church on Michael Van Veghten’s property, close to the bridge that he built at the location of the present-day Van Veghten bridge. Known as the Raritan church, it was one of the four Dutch churches where itinerant pastor Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen preached.

The Van Horne plantation

Georeferenced 1722 map of the divided estate of Phillip French on the Raritan River, listed as about 22 miles NW from Perth Amboy.

In a list of members of the Council of New Jersey, Van Horne, who served on the council from 1727 to 1740, is described as dwelling about 22 miles northwest from (Perth) Amboy. In 1774 the estate was described as containing about 1400 acres of land, with a large brick dwelling house (Kell’s Hall), orchards, a grist mill, a smelting house, barns, stables and various outhouses. How many enslaved laborers worked on the plantation we do not know, because Cornelius’s will is only known as an abstract.

Runaway ad in The American Weekly Mercury, September 19, 1724 about enslaved servant Tom

When Cornelius Van Horne and his wife Elisabeth were assigned their half of the estate in 1722–with the Raritan church at walking distance from their home–Gronniosaw was about seventeen years old. We do not know when he was purchased by Van Horne and how long he worked for the family before he was bought by Frelinghuysen, sometime in the 1720s. But Gronniosaw, who served in the house and not in the fields, may very well have known Tom, the tall Black man with the “grave look,” who according to the above ad that Cornelius van Horne placed in September 1724 ran away from the plantation that month.

Emotionally attached to the Frelinghuysen family, however, Gronniosaw would make very different choices, as will be seen in our following blog post “Updates about Ukawsaw Gronniosaw. Part 2: Frelinghuysen’s convert.”

With thanks to retired librarian, poet, and professional genealogist Sharon Olson, for verifying this Cornelius Van Horne is the young merchant who purchased Gronniosaw (possibly through his father Jan) and  sold Gronniosaw to Frelinghuysen. Sharon is the author of ‘The Early Sandford Family in New Jersey Revisited,’ a series of nine articles in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey. (2016-2019)

Further Reading

Cooper, Nathalie F. “New Insights Into Old Places, “Kells Hall,” “Phills Hall,” and the Janeway and Broughton Store.” Somerset County Historical Quarterly 1882-1982 commemorative issue, (1982): 3-12

Hanley, Ryan. “Calvinism, Proslavery and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw.” Slavery & Abolition 36, no. 1 (2015): 360-381.

Matthews, Christopher, The Black Freedom Struggle in Northern New Jersey, 1613-1860, an illustrated essay in six parts

 

New and Notable: Recent New Jersey Acquisitions

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These items have been or will soon be added to the Sinclair New Jersey Collection in Special Collections and University Archives. 

A selection of fine press books:

Anderson, John. The Words of the Masters, Reflections on the Fine Art of Type Design. (Maple Shade, NJ: The Pickering Press, 1982). Wood engravings by John DePol.

Anderson, Ruthmae. Adventures of Billy Bird. (Maple Shade, NJ: The Pickering Press, 1984.) Wood engravings by John    DePol.

DePol, John. Monroe Causley. (New York: The Typophiles, 1996)

Ellis, Mrs. Havelock. Stories by Mrs. Havelock Ellis. (Free Spirit Press, 1924)

Fraser, James,ed. George Linen 1802-1888: An Exhibition of Portraits (Maple Shade, NJ: The Pickering Press, 1983).   

LeGallienne, Richard. Wood Flower. (Madison, NJ: Brayers Club, 1947)

A Pickering Potpourri. (Maple Shade, NJ: The Pickering Press, 1983)  Illustrations by John Anderson.

Types, Magnificent Embellishers of the Printed Word. (Maple Shade, NJ, The Pickering Press, 1981)

~~~

Bolshevik, No. 1. (Jersey City, NJ: Revolutionary Workers League, May 1976)

New Jersey Books, 1694–1900: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Joseph J. Felcone Collection. (Princeton: Joseph J. Felcone Inc., 2023)

Ahimsa: Worldwide Magazine of Veganism. (Malaga, NJ: American Vegan Society, May/June 1975)

The Loving Brotherhood Newsletter. (Sussex, NJ: TLB, 1977-1978). Seventeen-issue run.

New and Notable: The Dirt Club

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Former Star-Ledger reporter Guy Sterling recently dropped by to donate his collection on Bloomfield’s legendary Dirt Club and share memories of his late friend, colorful owner John “Johnny Dirt” Schroeder. From 1979 to 1991 The Dirt Club hosted a plethora of local and nationally known punk, hardcore, power pop and experimental bands, held events like the Slime Festival on the Passaic, and sponsored compilation albums that included bands that played at the Dirt Club. Among the many New Jersey bands who played the club are The Smithereens, Adrenalin O.D., and Dramarama. National acts who performed there include The Fall, the Modern Lovers, and Wall of Voodoo.     

Guy donated vinyl comps, live recordings on cassette, posters, photos, a scrapbook and more. Among the most unique items in the collection are the club’s famous “dirt bags,” literal bags of dirt that could be purchased at the bar.

We’re thrilled to make a home for the Guy Sterling Collection on the Dirt Club, which complements the New Brunswick Music Scene Archive and the many books, periodicals, and zines we have on music and venues in New Jersey in the Sinclair New Jersey Collection. The collection is currently being processed and in due time will be available to peruse in our reading room.

Sources:

McCall, Tris. “Remembering Johnny Dirt, the down-to-earth king of the Jersey pop underground.” Inside Jersey, September 23, 2011. https://www.nj.com/entertainment/music/2011/09/remembering_johnny_dirt_the_do.html?fbclid=IwAR2g26r1bpkzuty3sYEq4Lr_J2p01Nd6CeOrSnseblon344l6dGwi8-7JG8

The Digitalization of the Adolf and Ann Robison Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts (Part 3)

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by Gary A. Rendsburg
Blanche and Irving Laurie Chair in Jewish History
Department of Jewish Studies

 

see parts 1 and 2 here and here

At this point, it is worth recalling that virtually all of the texts in the Robison Collection always have been known to the Jewish tradition (Bible, etc.) – notwithstanding the occasional appearance of an interesting variant reading in our documents. Hence, their heuristic value lies more in revealing how a remote Jewish community transmitted the sacred texts for centuries in manuscript form – long after the vast majority of Jewish communities transitioned to the printed book (with the exception of the liturgical reading of handwritten Torah scrolls in the synagogue).

There is more, though, from the realm of popular knowledge (for lack of a better term). Almost all of these documents contain the jots and tittles of various users throughout the ages, as illustrated here, the start of MS 17 (dated to the 17th century), which contains the haftarot, or prophetic portions, read in the synagogue each Shabbat.


The liturgical text proper starts about one-third of the way down the left page (fol. 1r). Above that, framed in decorative squiggles, the original scribe wrote, “in the name of the Merciful One, I shall begin to write the haftarot for the entire year, with the help of the divine, beginning with Genesis” – a nice touch.

Near the top of the page, however, a later user of the text has doodled the alphabet and some random letters: can you imagine using a sacred text in such fashion?!?! But such was life in Yemen, with writing materials at a premium.

And then on the right side, which is actually the inside front cover, another later individual, with a less-than-professional hand, has written the blessings to be intoned before and after the recitation of the biblical text.

Below that appears in large letters, once again in a less-than-professional hand, the words “haftarah of Genesis” (on the first line) and “behold my servant, whom I uphold” (on the second line), the opening words of Isaiah 42:1 (though with the penultimate letter incorrectly formed and then the penultimate letter not actually part of the biblical text). One gains the impression that a lad, still in the process of learning how to write Hebrew, has inscribed these two lines.

Finally, at the far bottom of the page, is another set of lines, not part of Jewish liturgy, as far as I can determine – though I will leave for those more expert than I to decipher and explicate these words.

If we return to the actual biblical text on fol. 1r, for those who can read Hebrew and Aramaic, I would point out the following, very technical information. First, note that the Hebrew original is accompanied by the Aramaic translation (known as Targum Jonathan, in this case); and secondly, the vowels which accompany the consonants are the supralinear Babylonian ones (a system distinct from the better known Tiberian sublinear vowel markings). Re the first: note that in Yemenite synagogues, the biblical text was chanted both in Hebrew and in Aramaic translation, so that the reciter of the text could simply read straight through, using a manuscript such as ours. Re the second: the pronunciation of Hebrew amongst the Yemenite Jews is closer to the ancient system employed in Babylonia (than in the land of Israel), hence, their continued use of this less well known vocalization system.

So much to learn from our inspection of a single photograph! Once again, multiply this exercise by the hundreds, nay by the thousands, and one gets an idea of the true value of our precious Robison Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts – now available to the world at-large through the Ktiv website!

Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Sonia Yaco and the staff of SCUA for their ongoing assistance with this project, as well as my former research assistant, Annabelle (Nonnie) Sinoff (class of 2021), who provided all manner of both academic and logistical support throughout this process.

The Digitalization of the Adolf and Ann Robison Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts (Part 2)

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by Gary A. Rendsburg

Blanche and Irving Laurie Chair in Jewish History

Department of Jewish Studies


see part 1 here …

Two-plus years after we began the digital imaging process, we now are able to see the fruits of our labor. A search for ‘Rutgers’ at the Ktiv website yields the requisite number of hits: 63 in total (because some of the documents contain multiple compositions, and thus they have been sub-divided by the Ktiv cataloguers, in order to maximize search capacity). See here for the screen shot indicating the 63 hits, with details about the first two manuscripts (MS 4 and MS 17).

 

 

To illustrate how the Ktiv website works in greater detail, I have elected to use Robison MS 9, with the main catalogue entry seen here:



The Hebrew heading informs the user that this document contains the book of Leviticus – though there is more.

If one clicks on ‘Detailed Information’, one is directed to this screen:


where one learns that the text includes not only the Hebrew original, but also the Aramaic translation (known as Targum Onqelos) and the Judeo-Arabic translation (known as the Tafsir, produced by Sa‘adya Gaon).

If one returns to the main catalogue entry and clicks on the ‘View Manuscript’ link (see two images above), one reaches the digital images themselves, with page after page available for viewing, as exemplified here:


The various options in the bottom left include the zoom feature, which – given the high-resolution images – allows the user to see as much detail as one would like. For example, see here for the screen capture of the four lines in the upper right (= the beginning of folio 1v):


Though in fact one can zoom even further – see here, for example, for the last four words on the first line (recalling that Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic are read from right to left):


Multiply this exercise by the hundreds, nay, by the thousands, and one can gain a sense of how our Hebrew manuscripts housed here in New Brunswick are now available to students, scholars, and researchers around the world.

to be continued …