Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Workaday Wednesday - Jeremiah Gard and the Iron Men of Morris County, New Jersey

Jeremiah Gard (1717-1783) and his siblings were all born in Stonington, Connecticut, to Joseph Gard (1675 - c. 1726) and his wife Mary Ball (1675 – c. 1724), where they grew up in the First Congregational Church of Stonington, a Puritan church in a Puritan colony. How it came to pass that several members of the family would find their way from Stonington to Morris County, New Jersey, may, in fact, be tied up a bit with colonial theological conflicts. 

Jeremiah’s sister Mary (b. 1697) married a man named David Culver (sometimes spelled Colver), whose family were also members of the First Congregational Church (Am. Gen. 144; History of First Cong. Church 200).  Presumably the couple were married in that church, but the published historical records of the church do not contain a record of their marriage.
First Congregational Church, Stonington, CT

Now, David Culver had a brother named John Culver, Jr., who married a woman named Sarah Long.  These two (John and Sarah) left the Congregational Church and associated themselves with the Rogerenes, a Quaker-like sect which had been outlawed by Puritan Connecticut.   Notes about the actions of the Rogerenes in the community of Stonington, Connecticut, depict them as a rather troublesome folk who would interrupt church meetings by shouting disagreeable things and making themselves a general nuisance.  Be that as it may, being a bit disorderly does not merit the kind of punishment that the Rogerenes would receive—including incarceration and  flogging, men and women alike (Williams 34). 

Though the Rogerenes remained in Connecticut for some time, they left for the Morris County region of New Jersey sometime in the 1730s—some sources saying 1730-32; others, 1734; and still others, 1735 (Colver 60; Pitney 503; Williams 272).  They settled on the east side of Schooley’s Mountain, where they remained for three years before removing to Monmouth County (they eventually returned to Schooley’s Mountain eleven years after that). 

John Culver, Jr., and his wife Sarah were the leaders of this group, which was actually the second wave of Rogerenes to settle in Morris County.  Apparently, there was enough distinction between the groups that the latter-arriving group were, in fact, referred to as “Culverites.”  

Morristown Presbyterian
Now, since the Stonington Gards also made their appearance in Morris County, New Jersey, at about this time, one has to wonder if there was a connection.  Mary Gard Culver was not a Rogerene, and neither she nor her husband joined the movement to New Jersey.  Still, it is possible that through this Culver connection, Jeremiah and his brothers Daniel, William, and Joseph (all of the male children of Joseph Gard) “lit out for the territory,” so to speak, around the same time as the “Culverites.” 

In Morristown, New Jersey, the Gards affiliated themselves with the Morristown Presbyterian Church, which would have been more closely aligned with the theology of the Congregationalist Church than with the Rogerenes, and there is nothing to indicate they were ever part of the Rogerene sect.  Still, it is possible they might have disagreed with the draconian punishments being inflicted on the sect in Stonington, or possibly they were just ready for a change and heard about opportunities in New Jersey. 

From a strictly economic point of view, there was certainly an attraction there to young men willing to work—the ironworks industry.  Here it would be worthwhile to drop back and review what had been going on in the area for about thirty to thirty-five years prior to the arrival of the Gard brothers.

Beginning as early as 1695, first the Dutch and then the English had begun settlements along the Whippany River.  Local historians state the Dutch were soon “making iron from Succasunna iron ore” (Sherman).  

The names Whippany and Succasunna (sometimes rendered as Suceasunna) both derive from Native American words.  The word whippenung, which meant “place of willows,” became associated with the river since the willow trees from which the Indians made their arrows grew along its banks.  The word whippenung had also become the common word for arrow among the Indians of the region (Sherman 25).  The language of the Lenni-Lenape provided the word Succasunna, meaning black rock, a reference to the abundant iron ore in the area.  This ore was readily available on the surface of the ground and “was to be had by simply picking it up.” Archaeological discoveries have shown that the Indians were the first to use the ore, making weapons and other implements needful to them (13-14).

Whippany River of Morris County

By 1710, the forges of Morris County had become well enough established that new settlers arriving from Newark and Elizabethtown would refer to them to as “the old iron works,”  and the first church in the area was built on the banks of the Whippany “100 rods below the forge.”  The first forge on the Whippany was that of John Ford and Judge John Budd.  In 1845, a former resident of the area recalled the forge, saying, “I was born in 1778. I have seen old timbers said to have been a part of the old forge at Whippany. It stood at the west end of the cotton mill dam, between the river and the road.”  The smelting process by which pure iron was extracted from the ore was conducted in a “small and rudely constructed building” on the site (Sherman 12-13).  

From the mine at Succasunna (later owned by Captain Peter Dickerson’s family), horses were used to haul the ore in leather bags a distance of twenty miles from the mine to the forge.  Then, after being converted into iron bars, “it was bent to fit the back of a horse, and in the same way transported to Newark and Elizabethtown, and thence by small sailing vessels and rowboats to New York,” a two-day journey (Sherman 14).

Our knowledge of Jeremiah Gard’s association with the forges of Morris County comes from a deposition given in 1852 by eighty-six-year-old Jacob Losey, whose name is strongly associated with the ironworks industry of the area.  Losey was called to the courthouse as an old-timer in hopes that he could recall some details relating to the Gard family in the period shortly before and after the Revolution, this being part of a twenty-year-long struggle of Daniel Gard’s heirs to receive his military pension.  On December 15, Losey stated that before the Revolution, Daniel “was at that time a young and unmarried man and worked in his father’s forge at a place called Ninkey in Morris County.  After the close of the war he returned home with a wife and one or two children and again worked in the family forge” (“Gard or Guard” Image 144) [emphasis mine].

The Ninkey forge was located in the southern portion of Denville township on Den Brook, a tributary of the Rockaway River.  It was one of four forges on that stream, the others being Shongum, Franklin, and Coleraine (earlier called Cold Rain) (Pitney 27). Interestingly, the Ninkey site actually sat on the 3,750 acres in southern Denville township which had been in the possession of William Penn from 1715 to his death in 1718 (Bianco 9).  

According to the Morris County Tourism Bureau, "Between 1730 and 1760, several forges and mills were erected in Denville [township] along the Rockaway River and the Denbrook. A number of communities associated with the forges and mills began to emerge. Ninkey and Franklin in southern Denville developed around the forges there of the same names" ("Denville").

It is not known who built the Ninkey forge, and I have come across no books or manuscripts related to the forges of Morris County that specify Jeremiah Gard’s ownership of the forge.  Without the sworn statement of Jacob Losey, the association of the Gards with the Ninkey forge would, no doubt, have been lost in the mists of history, as they say.

In the mid-1770s, when the tensions between the Crown and the colonies became a full-scale revolution, the mines and forges of Morris County were uniquely poised to assist in the war effort as part of what today we’d call the war industry. 

Speedwell Iron Forge Owned by the Vail Family of Morristown

As the colonists had begun to defy the English king in his prohibition of industrialization in the colonies, ironworks had flourished to such a degree that “beginning in East Jersey, the iron industry. . . eventually led the combined Atlantic colonies to rank third in the world in iron production, a full fifteen percent of the total output” (Kennedy), and by the time of the Revolutionary War, Morris County had become “the principle smelting center of the United States” (Cooney).  During the war, Rockaway township forge men at Hibernia, Mount Hope, and Split Rock played a significant role in producing shovels, axes, cannon, cannon balls, and grapeshot for the Continental Army (“About”).
Dickerson's Tavern

As matters with England deteriorated, many in Morris County rallied to organize regiments.  Peter Dickerson’s tavern in Morristown became a hotbed of the patriot cause, and all involved knew of the vital resource they had nearby in the ironworks industry.  For example, they would have known that Col. Jacob Ford, Jr., was mixing and granulating saltpeter, sulphur, and charcoal into gunpowder (Sherman 122).  Notably, at the second meeting at Dickerson’s tavern, on May 2, 1776, the men voted to purchase 500 pounds of powder and a ton of lead “to be kept in a magazine for the use of the regiment of 300 men soon to be organized” (167).  In addition, the provincial government lent Ford £2,000 to increase production, asking that the loan be repaid in gunpowder, one ton per month (123).

Ford Mansion at Morristown
In October 1779, the Continental Army settled in at Jockey Hollow in Morris township, in which Washington’s capital at Morristown, New Jersey, was located.  During those harsh winter months, which Washington himself described as “intensely cold and freezing,” military supply came in large part from the iron forges in Roxbury and Randolph townships, and it was prosperous mine owner  Col. Jacob Ford, Jr., who gave shelter to Washington and his entourage during that time  (Seidel; “Mining”).  The army remained encamped in the Morristown vicinity until the following summer, and, as an aside, it is interesting to note that the tavern owned by Captain Peter Dickerson was the site of the court-martial of Benedict Arnold on charges of profiteering from military supplies in December of that year.

Of course, at the same time the local resources were a boon to the American cause, there was always the danger that the British would try to seize control of them.  Tories, those who remained loyal to the monarchy, would have been ready enough to inform British spies about the war materiél being produced near their homes.  Still, discovering and seizing the mills would not be an easy task.  

For one thing, nature itself provided some protection.   Just to reach Ford’s powder mill on the Whippany, for example, one had to negotiate a path through an “impenetrable thicket.”  It was never discovered by the British (122). 

Revolutionary War era
powder keg
Trickery was also used.  “Bustling” Benoni Hathaway, a colonel whose family was long involved with the ironworks industry in the region, had charge of Ford’s mill during the war, and if the output of gunpowder was lower than usual, he would have barrels filled with sand and placed about so that spies would think the production was ongoing (123).

The early attempts by the British to seek out and destroy these mills were normally undertaken by small detachments of horsemen.  Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr., and his battalion of Morris County militia successfully foiled their first attempt to use Ford’s own gunpowder to destroy his mill (199).  However in December 1776, the British General Alexander Leslie brought with him a much larger force than usual.  When Ford got wind of the General’s movement, he marched his battalion to Springfield, where he encountered Leslie’s men on the fourteenth.  As Andrew Sherman wrote, “The British commander received so convincing a demonstration of the high quality of Morristown gunpowder, and of the corresponding efficiency of Morris County militia, that he unceremoniously retreated toward Spanktown . . .” (200).

The French government had been watching the movements of the Americans closely, trying to determine the degree to which they should become involved—if at all, and this first battle at Springfield was definitely convincing.  As one writer put it, “When the French Government heard of the battle of Springfield, fought as it was, by militia alone, they made up their minds to assist our struggling forefathers” (200).

Hibernia Mine, Morris County, NJ
Naturally, as more and more men from Morris County joined the militias and the Continental Line, fewer men were available to work the mines and forges.  Therefore, Charles Hoff, manager of the Hibernia mine, wrote Governor William Livingston on July 27, 1777, seeking an exemption from military service for his employees.  He noted that General Washington had once given such an exemption and reinforced his request by quantifying the importance of their work to the war effort, saying, “We made the last year for public service upwards of one hundred and twenty tons of shot of different kinds” (History 51).  The legislature responded on the following October 7 by exempting several Morris County ironworkers (perhaps as many as twenty-five) from military service. 

Still concerned that twenty-five exemptions were not enough, Hoff hit on another idea to bolster the number of iron workers.  Hearing that deserters from King George’s troops—both British and Hessian—were languishing in Philadelphia, Hoff sent a message to Brigadier General William Winds, a Morris County man himself, requesting that men from this pool be allowed to work for him. The bearer of the letter was Charles’s brother, John Hoff, who would “engage as many men as he thinks proper, such as are used to cut wood in the winter season and can assist in the coaling business during the summer season, and a few other tradesmen” (History 51).  He particularly requested men who could speak English, but it is known that Hessians were amongst the men who returned to Morris County with the deserters-turned-Jerseymen as the names of their descendants are well represented in county records in subsequent years.  Apparently enough Hessians were willing enough to become POW mine workers that some were sent to another mine owner, John Jacob Faesch (McGlynn). 
Hessians captured
at Trenton taken to

From Losey’s testimony that Daniel Gard returned to his work in “the family’s forge” after the war, we can conclude that the Gards' forge at Ninkey maintained its production during the war years.  One can only speculate as to whether the men Hoff brought from Philadelphia worked there.  Of the Gard family itself, fifty-nine-year-old Jeremiah and most of his sons, left the area to fight the British.  Jeremiah and Daniel both entered the service as privates in Captain Dickerson’s Company, Daniel being wounded at Staten Island about a year and a half later but continuing in service to the war effort as a Commissary scalesman. 

It is perhaps a bit difficult to imagine the exact duties of a nearly sixty-year-old man on a military campaign, but since recruits were desperately needed, George Washington observed that older men “had been inlisted upon such Terms, that they may be dismissed when other Troops arrive.”  He went on to note that, despite the challenges of recruitment and supply, “there are Materials for a good Army, a great Number of Men, able-bodied, Active, Zealous in the Cause and of unquestionable Courage” (Washington).  This suggests that perhaps Jeremiah was up to the task of serving his country as long as he was needed, but may have been allowed to return to Morris County and continue at his forge in the war industry when a replacement could be found. 

Revolutionary War era Conestoga wagon
Ephraim, 40, died of dysentery on November 21, 1776 (his mother dying the same day of the same disease), and he appears not to have been in military service before that.  Daniel, 19, who has already been mentioned, served as a wagoner in the New Jersey line.  Gershom, age 40, was a minuteman in the eastern regiment of the New Jersey militia and a continental paymaster in New Jersey until 1783.  Jeremiah the Younger, 32, was a private in the militia from Westmorland County, Pennsylvania, where he resided at the time.   John, 34, and Jacob, 26, both served in the New Jersey militia, John as a wagon master and Jacob as a captain in the western battalion. Persons under the age of eighteen were excluded from service, which explains why Jeremiah’s youngest son, Timothy, 14, remained at home, but Alexander, only 15, somehow managed to bypass the age-limit and served as a private in the militia as well. 

That leaves Jeremiah’s sons Cornelius, then 27, and Moses, 38, still on the home front during the war, probably protecting the women and children and perhaps keeping the Ninkey contribution to the war effort going.

The war ended in February 1783.  Losey states that Daniel returned to his work in “the family’s forge” when he went back to Morris County after his discharge on June 5, 1783.  A month and a half later, on July 19, his father, Jeremiah Gard, died.

Three years later, the Gard brothers became part of the great westward expansion of the post-war period.  At that time, Gershom, David, and Alexander Gard (three of Jeremiah’s sons) sold the Ninkey forge to Judge John Cleves Symmes (“Gard or Guard” Im. 183).  Then, when Symmes went west to manage the area in the Miami Basin that goes by his name (the Symmes Purchase), the three Gard brothers went westward to Ohio with him.  According to a history of Morris County written in 1882, Ninkey was owned by Abraham and John Kinney in 1796 and sold to Caleb Russel in 1799, eventually being rebuilt several times (History of Morris County, 42).

Though three of the Gard brothers went west, one brother, Daniel, remained in Morris County and continued to work as a forge man at what was called the “Valley forge” in the Berkshire Valley, later known as Baker’s forge (“Gard or Guard” Im. 190). 

It was at that forge on January 1, 1806, that Daniel Gard suffered a terrible blow to his right arm which resulted in the amputation of the arm near the shoulder (“Gard or Guard” Im. 121), ending his career as a forge man.  However, that did not end the involvement of the Gard family with the iron industry of Morris County.  The U. S. Census records of 1850 show that Daniel’s son Jeremiah Gard (b. 1801) was not only a miner in Morris County, but may have been a supervisor at some level, based on the fact that named at the same “residence” in Randolph township were not only his own family, but thirty men identified as miners.

Through marriage, the Gards became associated with other owners of mines and forges.  Below is a list of the marriages among the various folks who are known to have been involved in the ironworks of Morris County:

·        Jeremiah Gard (b. 1717) owned Ninkey forge.

·        Jeremiah’s son Gershom Gard (b. 1735) married Phebe Huntington, sister of mine owner Deacon John Huntington.  They resided at Ninkey.

o   Gershom’s daughter Jemima Gard (b. 1769) married Peter Keen, son of mine owner Captain James Keen.

·        Jeremiah’s son Alexander Gard (b. 1761) married Hannah Keen (b. 1765), the daughter of mine owner Captain James Keen.

·        Jeremiah’s son Daniel Gard (b. 1755) worked at Ninkey Forge and Berkshire Valley Forge.

o   Daniel’s daughter Rebecca Gard (b. 1746) married Nathan Hathaway, nephew of mine owner Jonathan Hathaway and cousin of “bustling” Benoni Hathaway.

An Iron Forge, Joseph Wright, 1772
The many stories associated with the mines and forges of Morris County put a human face on the men who labored in the iron industry to help build this nation before it even was a nation—Captain Peter Dickerson’s foresight in linking the forges to the war effort; Jacob Ford’s defeat of General Leslie and, later, his ton of gunpowder per month; Charles Hoff’s  initiative in recruiting Hessian deserters to help the American war effort in his forge; Benoni Hathaway’s sand trick; and Daniel Gard's crippling injury in a forge on New Year’s Day, 1806.  The great American poet Walt Whitman knew their story, as indicated in his poem “A Song of Occupations” (1855):

Iron-works, forge-fires in the mountains, or by the river-banks—men around feeling the melt with huge crowbars—lumps of ore, the due combining of ore, limestone, coal—the blast-furnace and the puddling-furnace, the loup-lump at the bottom of the melt at last—the rolling-mill, the stumpy bars of pig-iron, the strong, clean-shaped T-rail for railroads.

Well, it’s true the rails came later, but it’s almost hard to imagine how differently things might have turned out on this continent had it not been for the role the mines and forges of Morris County played in the American Revolution.  It may be true that the motto of Morris County originated with the family of royalist Governor Lewis Morris, but it was the iron men of Morris County who made it true: Tandem Vincitur—At last it is conquered!

Works Cited

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The American Genealogist. Whole Number 123. 31.3. 3 July 1955. Cited in http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Person:Joseph_Gard_%284%29. Accessed 18 Jan 2015.

Bianco, Vito. Denville’s Union Hill.  Portsmouth NH: Arcadia, 2003.

Cooney, Patrick L. “History of Rockaway Township, Morris County, New Jersey.” NY-NJ-CT Botany Online.  n.d. Web. 15 Dec 2014. http://nynjctbotany.org/njhltofc/rockawaytwn.html

"Denville." Morris Tourism. Morris County Tourism Board. 2020. Web. 4 Jan. 2021. https://www.morristourism.org/directory/denville/ 

“Gard or Guard, Daniel. Number W-420.  BLW 8340-100. Rev.” U.S. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 [database on-line].  Ancestry.com. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, 2010. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

History of Morris County, New Jersey with Illustrations, and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers, 1739-1882. New York: Munsell, 1882. Internet Archives. 8 Mar. 2010. Web. 15 Dec 2014. http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924028828386/cu31924028828386_djvu.txt

Hoffman, Philip H.  History of the Arnold Tavern, Morristown, New Jersey.  Morristown: Chronicle, 1903.  Internet Archive. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. https://archive.org/details/historyofthearno00hoff  

Kennedy, Michael V. Forging America: Ironworkers, Adventurers, and the Industrious Revolution, by John Bezis-Selfa. EHnet. Economic History Association. May 2004. Web. 15 Dec 2014. http://eh.net/book_reviews/forging-america-ironworkers-adventurers-and-the-industrious-revolution/

McGlynn, Joseph.  “Mount Hope New Jersey Hessians—Leopold Zindle.” AMREV Hessians L Archives. RootsWeb Ancestry.com. 27 Mar 2001. Web. 20 Jan 2015. http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/AMREV-HESSIANS/2001-03/0985747333

 “Mining in Morris County.” New Jersey Collection.  Morris County Library.  Morris County, New Jersey.  16 Jan 2005. Web. 15 Dec 2014. http://www.gti.net/mocolib1/mining.html

Pitney, Henry Cooper.  A History of Morris County, New Jersey: Embracing Upwards of Two Centuries: 1710-1913. New York: Lewis, 1914. 10 Feb. 2012. Web. 19 Jan. 2015. http://books.google.com/books/about/A_History_of_Morris_County_New_Jersey.html?id=xc8wAQAAMAAJ

Pfister, Jude M. The Fords of New Jersey: Power & Family During America's Founding. Charleston: History Press, 2010. Google Books. 1 Dec 2010. Web. 15 Dec 2014. http://books.google.com/books?id=JGQVBAAAQBAJ

Seidel, Maria. “Morristown, New Jersey.”  George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.  2015. Web. 20 Jan 2015.  http://www.mountvernon.org/research-collections/digital-encyclopedia/article/morristown-nj/  

Sherman, Andrew M.  Historic Morristown New Jersey: The Story of Its First Century. Morristown: Howard, 1905. Digital Antiquaria. PDF. 2005. Web. 14 Dec 2014. http://www.digitalantiquaria.com/Pub/PDF/I /HMNJ001A.pdf

Smiddy, Betty Ann.  “A Little Piece of Paradise: College Hill, Ohio.”  2nd ed.  2008. Web. 18 Jan 2015.  http://www.selfcraft.net/hannaford/chbook/ch_intro_ch1-4.pdf

Washington, George.  “General Washington to the President of the Continental Congress, July 10, 1775.”  Library of Congress.  Web. 19 Jan 2015. http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timeline/amrev/contarmy/presone.html

© Eileen Cunningham 2015

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