Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thomas French, Early Settler of Burlington County, Progenitor

The following material is from pages 39 to 42 of the Book Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas French who came to America from Nether Heyford, Northamptonshire, England … compiled, written and published by Howard Barclay French, and printed privately in 1909. This book is available as a free full download From Google Books

As will be observed, Thomas French, the progenitor, was the son of Thomas and Sara French. His baptism, in childhood, in 1639, in the Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Nether Heyford, England, is recorded, but when the religious Society of Friends arose he with other members of the family became actively identified therewith, suffering for his faith at different times. Upon one occasion he was sentenced to imprisonment for forty-two months for refusal to pay tithes to the amount of eleven shillings, he being at the time a resident of Upper Norton, Oxfordshire. Five other names of this family appear in Beese's remarkable book, namely, George, Robert, John, William and Moses. Penalty was inflicted upon the latter five times. " He served altogether several years in prison. ' That Thomas ffrench was a man of great force of character, intense religious conviction and earnest, consistent life, is abundantly evident. He shared with his associates trials and hardships and always resented everything bearing the slightest resemblance to injustice or oppression. A glance at the situation in England during the period of persecution will be timely. The most vigorous efforts were made to suppress the Society of Friends. Their meetings were outlawed, their property unjustly taken, through fines and the imposition of tithes, and great numbers were thrown into prison, where they were cruelly treated, hundreds suffering unto death. The sad and shameful story of this era of martyrdom would be quite incredible if the unquestioned record had not been preserved, in a book the like of which the world will never again see.
Joseph Besse, the famous English Quaker controversialist, was born about 1683 and died 1757. He was educated for the Episcopalian ministry, but becoming a convert to the teachings of Fox, refused a church living of four hundred pounds a year and became a vigorous defender of Quakerism. He wrote many religious tracts and books and edited various important works. He completed, in 17 53, his great work, " The Sufferings of the People Called Quakers," from which quotations herewith given are taken. This comprises one of the most remarkable records ever compiled, being faithful transcripts, from original sources, found in the minutes of meetings, court records, petitions, personal letters, memoirs, etc. Its accuracy cannot be questioned and a testimonial to its fidelity to the truth is found in the fact that a century and a half ago the records were destroyed by the British government.

Following is a literal copy of references to Thomas ffrench in " Sufferings of the People Called Quakers " : "Thomas French, of Upper Norton, was imprisoned, in 1657, at suit of William Thomas, a lawyer and renter of Tithes, and for a demand of but eleven shillings for Tithes suffered two and forty months imprisonment." Vol. I, p. 564. "Thomas French was taken from meeting at Banbury, in 1662, and committed to prison." Vol. I, p. 568. "Thomas French, 1666, taken at meeting at honse of Elizabeth White, at Coggs, near Whitney, committed to House of Correction for one month." Vol. I. p. 571.
Two pages of this extraordinary book are reproduced, one reciting instances of persecution, including imprisonment of Thomas French, and the other a most impressive petition to King Charles II, 1680. Some four score prisoners for conscience sake in Northampton jail, " who patiently suffer for worshipping the Living God in Spirit and Truth," in mid-summer, 1666, issued a warning and appeal, referring to the ravages of the plague and their view of the cause thereof. From this curious paper, headed " Truth the strongest habitation for all the People of God," we quote :
"There is some of thy Rulers so desperately wicked in this County of Northampton, that commit sin even with greediness at this time, as tho there were no other way to stay God's Judgments, but by provoking him more and more with their sins in persecuting, sentencing and imprisoning of the Lord's People, having lately imprisoned fifty-eight persons called Quakers, both men and women, some of the latter with little infants and shutting them all up together in the common Goal in close roomes, in the very heat of the last month, and still they continue, the number of 82 altogether. We who at« sufferers in this Goal of Northampton, for the truth of the Lord, do spread these lines before the Nation, that so, if it be not too late, the Nation may see what is the cause of God's Judgments, lying so heavy upon this land and people, and may see who hath been the Troublers of England."
From a lecture on " The Baptists and Quakers in Northamptonshire, 1650- 1700," by the Rev. J. Jackson Goadby, delivered in College Street Chapel, Northampton, Oct. 24, 1882, we quote the following remarkable statement P 45 SIXTY THOUSAND VICTIMS OF PERSECUTION
“Quakers were put in the stocks for the crime of preaching ; seized by soldiers as they were quietly going to their meetings; committed for blasphemy; or when in the open fields where they had met for worship; or as vagrants; as Sabbath breakers; as men who refused to take an oath; and as seditions men. They were pounced upon suddenly when assembled for worship, and carried off to prison ; crammed into crowded and reeking holes, the doors being fastened down for twelve hours every night, and refused all intercourse with their friends; and in some cases they were brutally treated both by jailors, by the jailors' wives, and by the prisoners. Men and women were seized at their meetings, carried off in carts to some ale-house, locked up in a room all night, whilst their captors indulged in ribald songs and tippling, and then hurried off the next morning to prison. " “Numbers of the imprisoned Friends, like their leaders in this county, Whitehead and Dewsbury, sent oat epistles from the Northampton jail, detailing their own suffering*. Whitehead was the Quaker minister who always took his night cap with him when he went to meeting, because it was almost certain he would have to spend that night in prison. Some of the Quakers, it must be confessed, carried plain-speaking to the verge of rudeness. But this free speech is, after all, no justification of the brutal treatment received by the Friends at the hands of magistrates, and is, least of all, any palliation of the horrible fact that many hundreds of Quakers died of their harsh usage in the jails of England, and some scores in the common jail of Northampton. The Friends preserved their hold on the nation until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when they numbered 70,000.” "
If the record of other religious bodies is not so full of faithful martyrs to the truth and conscience as that of the Quakers, it is not because they were any the less brutally treated, or any the less numerous. Jeremy White made a careful collection of the names of persons who suffered for their nonconformity during the reign of Charles II. Sixty thousand persons were included in this terrible list, and five thousand died of their sufferings. When James II. wished to gain possession of this dark calendar, that he might use it in his quarrel with the English State Church, and even offered 5,000 guineas for it, Jeremy White chose rather to burn the list than see it turned to such a purpose. Many of these sixty thousand brave men and women are unknown to fame, like the poor Hollanders of the days of Henry VIII.; but their deeds and their heroism have not perished. We see it to-day in the larger and more settled liberty which every Englishman possesses. They also paid part of that great sum by which our forefathers bought our freedom."
Page 48

Thomas French was among the first to take a practical interest in the colonization of Friends in America. With William Penn, Gauen Laurie, Thomas Ollive, Daniel Wills, Edward Byllynge and about one hundred and fifty others, he signed the famous " Concessions and Agreements," at London, in 1676, which provided for the settlement of New Jersey. It is evident from records that he made a preliminary prospecting visit to this country, to locate his land and select a home site. He has left an account of the coming of himself and family, three years after the arrival of the pioneer colonists. He sailed from London, in the ship Rent, Gregory Marlowe, master — the same vessel which brought the first company of settlers in 1677 to Burlington — about the 1st of August, 1680, with his wife and nine children, four sons and five daughters, the oldest child being sixteen, while the youngest was not yet four years of age. -He settled upon a tract of 600 acres of desirable land, located along the banks of the Rancocas, about four miles from Burlington. Throughout the remainder of his life he held an influential place in the colony and prospered in business. He was commissioner of highways 1684-5. At his death, in 1699, he was possessed of some 1,200 acres of improved land and also his proprietary share of unsurveyed lands, approximately, 2,000 acres. During nearly twenty years residence as a leading citizen of Burlington County, Thomas French trained all his children in ways of sobriety, industry, and religion, they in turn founding families in whom traits of strong character were noted. Each performed his and her share in the prosperous and happy development of colonial life.

The section of New Jersey in which Thomas French located was a notable place in pioneer days. An old map, reproduced, shows the names of early settlers, two of the most conspicuous being Thomas Ollive, who served as proprietary Governor and member of the Council and who was eminent also as a Quaker preacher, and Dr. Daniel Wills, whose land joined that upon which the Friends' meeting house was built. Many fine old mansions marked the neighborhood, and some of these, over one hundred years old, remain. It is an interesting fact that part of the original plantation of Thomas French is to-day owned and occupied by his descendants. Large tracts were [P 49] sold early in the eighteenth century by Charles French, his son, to whom the homestead lands were willed by his father. In 1714, Charles French conveyed 250 acres to his brother-in-law, Nicholas Buzby, part of this descending to the latter's son, John Buzby, who devised the same, in 1754, to his son John, who, in 1763, sold it to John Smith, of Burlington. .The deed stated that the estate was thereafter to be known as " Strawberry Hill." It is supposed the great mansion, still standing, in an excellent state of preservation, was built by John Smith, about 1765 (see illustration). The place was leased soon after to Gov. William Franklin, as a summer home and purchased by him in 1770 for two thousand pounds. It then became known as " Franklin Park," containing a fine collection of deer and other high-class game. A great moat was constructed, the remains of which are still visible, to keep off poachers.

The Governor was removed from office, on account of his loyalty to the King, in 1776, and taken prisoner to Connecticut. Later he returned to New York, where his wife had died meanwhile, being buried under the chancel of St. Paul's historic church, Broadway. A beautiful tablet was erected by her husband, some years later. Gov. Franklin retained ownership of the Rancocas estate, without confiscation, until 1785, when he sold it to his son, William Temple Franklin, then living in Paris and who later became noted as the literary legatee of his grandfather, Benjamin Franklin. He sold the property, in 1790, to Robert Morris, the patriot financier of the Revolution, who held it until 1794, when William Bell, a rich Philadelphia merchant, became the purchaser, with a great amount of other land in West Jersey owned by Morris. Soon after Bell's death, in 1816, the property was sold to Joseph Churchman, who in 1822, conveyed "Franklin Park" to Mayberry McVaugh. A two-story brick dormitory was built adjoining the mansion, and a boarding school for boys set up, which became quite a famous institution of its kind. In March, 1843, Hudson Buzby [410] bought this historic property; and in 1862, his son Richard Buzby [894] became the owner through purchase. In 1889, Richard Buzby's son, Thomas T. Buzby [1689] bought the farm, about 100 acres of choice land, and the mansion, being the present occupant. Thus an important part of the original tract, cut out of the wilderness two hundred and twenty-eight years ago, and having a most interesting history, is again in possession of worthy descendants of the pioneer, Thomas French.

Page 52 The family Bible of Thomas French, printed in 1630, and brought by him to this country in 1680, is still in existence and in a fair state of preservation, although showing the effects of time. It has always remained within the family. Accompanying illustrations are almost full size.
The record presented and transcribed is in the handwriting of the progenitor, evidently having been set down at different times, under varying circumstances and influences, throughout a period covering over thirty years, the last entry being made a little while after the death of the long-time companion who had borne him thirteen children. Some of the lines have faded and a few words are quite illegible. The most striking characteristic to be noted is the ever present spirit of humility, gratitude for manifold mercies and earnest desire for continued Divine guidance and protection.
Thomas ffrench and Jane his wife, and Jane and Rachel his children. Jane was born about a fortnight before Saint James [in the Church Calendar July 25th] in the year 1662.
Rachel was born March the 24, 1663.
Rachel was born March the 24, 1664. She alone was ris.

In the year 1673 was a very stormy year for the waters did sore break out of their bounds and was a very wet season, such wet May day, after which floods that flooded the meadows when they were ready to mow and drove away in many stacks and bindings of hay, and we had a summer like onto winter for cold and wet for the general year.

I and my wife and nine children through the great mercy of God came into this country and landed at Burlington, the 23 of the 7 month 1680. Thomas ffrench.

The Lord in heaven have mercy upon me.
Thomas ffrench his book. God give him grace in — — —

Then was I in great sorrow and tribulation. The Lord deliver me out of them all.
I Thomas ffrench was married to my wife Jane, Jane 12, 1660. December the first about ten at night my son Richard was born, 1665. The Lord give him grace that he may continually walk before Him.
I Thomas ffrench was baptized November the 3, 1639.
My son Thomas was born in 1667 between 8 and nine o'clock at night.
1671 my son Charles was born, the 20 day of March between 11 and 12 at night.

The Lord be gracious and merciful unto me which way to ever I go whether it be out of the land or in the land or on the sea, the Lord be merciful unto me. This was wrote in the year 1664.

My wife Jane deceased this life the fifth day of the 8 month 1692.
My youngest child died the 12 of the same [month and year].
end of Bible Record.

P 64 The children of Thomas French

1— THOMAS FRENCH b. October, 1639. Baptized November 3rd, 1639, at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford, England, d. 1699, at Rancocas, N. J.
Married, First, June 12th, 1660, at "Parish Church of Whilton," England, Jane Atkins. She d. 8th mo. 5th, 1692, at Rancocas, N. J.
Married. Second, 7th mo. 25th, 1696, Elizabeth Stanton of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting.

2— SARA FRENCH — Baptized March 17th, 1661, at Church S. S. Peter and Paul. Nether Heyford. Buried April 10th. 1661

3— JANE FRENCH — b. about July llth, 1662. Baptized August 8th, 1662, at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford. Buried April 30th, 1671.

4— RACHEL FRENCH —. b. March 24th, 1664. Baptized April 3rd. 1664. at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford. married First, 1687, Mathew Allen, [whose first wife, the Widow Conrow is the mother of Isaac Conrow]
Rachel married Second, 12th mo. 9th, 1702, Hugh Sharp

5— RICHARD FFRENCH. — b. December Ut. 1665. Baptized December 15th, 1666, at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford. married, First. 7th mo. llth, 1693, Sarah Scattergood.
Married, Second, llth mo. 13th, 1701, Mary King.

6— THOMAS FRENCH, JR. — . b. 1667 . Baptized October 31st. 1667, at Church S. S. Peter and Paul. Nether Heyford. m. First, 10th mo. 3rd. 1696, Mary Allen. m. Second, 8th mo. 9th, 1732, Mary (Pearce) CattelL

7— HANNAH FRENCH — Baptized September 5th, 1669, at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford. m. 8th mo. 30th, 1695. Richard Buzby.

8—CHARLES FRENCH — Born March 20th 1671; Baptized april 2nd, 1671, at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford; Married First (sup.) 1708, Elinor ____; Married second, ___ ___.

9— JOHN FRENCH — Baptized Januray 2nd, 1673, at , at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford; Married first 1701, Ann ___; Married second, 6th month 10th, 1724, Sarah (Mason) Wickward.

10— SARAH FRENCH — Baptized February 23rd, 1674, at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford; Married 2nd mo. 1st, 1695. Isaac Wood.

11—MARY FRENCH — Baptized February 23rd, 1674, at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford; Married 2nd mo. 1st, 1695. Isaac Wood.

12—JANE FRENCH — Baptized November 19th, 1676, at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford; married 1st mo. 1st, 1697, Daniel Hall.

13— LYDIA FRENCH —born (sp) 1682, Married (sup) .1708, David Arold.

14— An Infant —died 8th month 12th, 1692

Jane Atkins wife of Thomas French died 8th month 5th , 1692. [So the infant who died young, died 7 days after the Mother died.]

Thomas French Married second 7th mo. 25th, 1696, Elizabeth Stanton.

15—Rebecca French — born 6th mo. 8th, 1697, Married 2nd mo. 3rd, 1729, Robert Murfin.

Thomas French, in accordance with the custom of his family for generations, and that of nearly all Protestant Englishmen of his time, had his children baptized in the Church of England, notwithstanding his early sympathy and unity with the Society of Friends. The obligation thus assumed, as to religious care and training of his children, was faithfully kept, the family Bible being an impressive witness in this respect. The following is taken from the parish records of the Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford, England, concerning the marriage of Thomas French and Jane Atkins. " Note. March 8 1663 The said Jane ffrench p'senting unto me John Bedford parson of Heiford A Consigned Certificate of the said Thomas ffrench jun & Jane Atkins both of Heiford parish Testifying that they the said Thomas & Jane were married in the p’ish Church of Whilton June 12 1660 by M' Richard Morris then Minister there : Returning her Certificate of marriage backe again into her own custody, I thus entered the Record of the said marriage at her request, into this my Heiford parish Register." ... Thomas French and Jane his wife were buried in a private burial lot, sixteen and one half feet square, on the homestead plantation, Rancocas, N. J., and this reservation was mentioned in deeds and observed for many years. Its exact location is now unknown.

I Being intended if the Lord will to goe for Old England not knowing whether I shell ever returne sgaine to my ffamily doe make. & ordaine this my last will & Testamt Revokeing all other Wills and promises whatsoever In manner & forme following. I give onto my wife Elizabeth after my decease if shee be the longer liver the House & Plantation where now I live with four Hundred Acres of Land belonging to it with Twenty Acres of Meadow as it is surveyed and Recorded In the place next below the Land of John Test Together with the пи of all my Stock & Household goods with the Corne growing upon the ground To have & to hold the same dnreing her natural! life without Impeachment of Wast. I give unto my Sonne Charles ffrench Two hundred Acres of land lyeing next John Hudsons with the ffour or ffive Acres of Clear land at Creek with ye Little Meadow lyeing by it to him and his Heirs forever allowing my wife Elizabeth Egresse & Regresse to Trancport any goods or Hay : I live onto my Sonne Châties ffrench after the Decease of me & my wife to him & his Heires forever Provided that hee pay that which I shall appoint him to pay all the Plantation where now I live together with the dwelling house Barnes & other Outhouses Gardens Orchards Arrable Land & Clear land Together with four Hundred Acres of Land belonging to the Plantation aforesaid also Twenty Acres of Meadow Together with two hundred Acres of land belonging to the Meadow Also Six Hundred Acres of Land more which shall or may fall to me In my Third takeing up my Will is that my sonne Charles ffrench shall pay out of the Lands and Plantation aforesaid unto the rest of his Brothers & Sisters as followeth, I give unto my Daughter Rachell Allen to her & her Heires Twenty pounds. I give unto my Daughter Hannah Busby to her & her Heires Twenty pounds. I give unto my Daughter Sarah Wood to her & herselfe alone as she shall have need of it her Husband shall not have noe part or share in it to her & her Heires Twenty Pounds. I give unto my Daughter Mary Busby to her & her Heirs twenty pounds. I give unto my Daughter Jane Hall to her & her Heires Twenty pounds. I give unto my Daughter Lydia French Twenty pounds. I give unto my sonne Thomas ffrench Six Shillings. I give unto my sonne John French Six Shillings. I give unto ' my Sonne Richard French Six Shillings. I give unto my sonne Richard French all the Reversion of my Eighth part of a Propriety and that Lott at Burlington upon which Richard Bassnett hath built Houses upon to him & his Heires forever. I give unto my Sonne Charles ffrench all my Yard Land in the ppish of neather Heyford to him & his Heires forever In old England. My Will is that my Sonne Charles ffrench shall pay all my Debts and Thirty pounds to my youngest Daughter Rebecca ffrench out of (p 77) the Yard Land aforesaid if Rebecca shall live to the Age of Eighteen yeares and if Rebecca shall happen to die before shee come to the Age of Eighteen yeares then the Thirty pounds shall be paid onto & amongst my Five younger Daughters to Hannah Busby & Sarah Wood Mary Busby Jane Hall & Lydia ffrench my Will is that after the decease of me & my Wife that my Goods shall be divided amongst all my Daughters mentioned in my Will. And also my Will is that if I & my Wife Elizabeth shall happen to die before my youngest Daughter Rebecca is brought up that then my Sonne Charles ffrench shall bring her up or else to allow her Five pounds a year untill shee come to the Age of Ten yeares for & towards the bringing of her up.
In Witness hereof I have hereunto sett my hand & Seale the Third day of the fourth month called June [1698] Seal Sealed & delivered in ye p'sence of John Paine, Tho : Eves, John Hollinshead junr The above written is a true Coppy of the Originall will or Codecill of Thomas ffrench abovenamed, being with the same Originall Examined this Third Day of May Anno Dom 1699 As witnefse hereunto my hand & seale of Office Tho: Revell, Secry & Reg'red August 8th ,1675, , at Church S. S. Peter and Paul, Nether Heyford; Married 8th mo. 30th , 1695, Nicholas Busby.

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