As the Bernards Township Historian I’ve learned so much about so many of the families that founded Bernards Township. I’ve presented this list to the Bernards Township Committee for consideration. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to drop us a note.
Robert Terry – Terry Lane – 1941-1945.
Tuskegee Airmen Flight Instructor
Captain Robert Terry was a flight instructor from Basking Ridge for the Tuskegee Airmen from 1941 to 1945. Terr, who was 30 at the time, taught young Afro-Americans to fly fighter Curtiss P- 40 Warhawks, Bell P- 39 Airacobras and P-51 Mustang fighter planes who served America well during the European campaign in North Africa and Italy. He also trained other pilots to escort B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers, using P-47 and P-51 airplanes at the USAAF bases around Tuskegee, Alabama.
“My father was in the air more than he was on the ground,” said Terry’s son Qaaim Saalik (Robert Terry Jr. changed his name along with his Muslim faith). Many local residents wrote us stating that Terry’s skill as a pilot won him an exemption from prejudice in Bernards. It was a different story when Terry applied to major airlines for work as a commercial pilot. In each instance, he was turned down. He never landed a commercial pilot job at a major airline.
John Morton – 1779 Hospital – The Rebel Banker
As wealthy merchant, Morton became known as the “Rebel Banker” for loaning large sums of money to the rebel cause. In 1775, Morton liquidated most of his capital to loan the Revolutionary War effort. After the capture of New York City by the British, John and Maria Sophia Morton were forced to flee with their large family (six kids) to Elizabethtown, New Jersey, then they remained several weeks in a house in Springfield with five other families, who were also fugitives. Not feeling safe, they decided to go beyond the “Long Hill” and settled on Basking Ridge in 1776 where they called for their belongings from New York City.
Elias Boudinot – 1771 Basking Ridge Resident
Boudinot was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress and was elected President of the Continental Congress in 1783. He purchased a little over 100 acres of land in Basking Ridge in 1771 and 1772 from Edward Lewis, but would remain in Elizabeth for a while longer. Boudinot served on New Jersey’s first Committee on Correspondence, formed in 1774, tasked with contacting the legislatures of each colony so that they could join Virginia and offer concerted opposition toward British encroachments. In August 1775, Boudinot secretly rounded up and sent to General George Washington desperately-needed supplies of gunpowder. A year later he served as an aide-de-camp to Brigadier General William Livingston, who became the state’s first governor elected under the new state constitution. In 1777, Boudinot was commissioned Commissary General of Prisoners by the Continental Congress. He lived in Basking Ridge while serving as president of the Continental Congress from 1782-83. He sold the house in 1785.
Alexander Kirkpatrick – Founding land owner- Bernards Township
Alexander Kirkpatrick (b.1697), who settled at Mine Brook in 1736, on the farm lately owned by Henry Baird. The Kirkpatrick’s belonged to a noble family in Scotland. Alexander, the ancestor of the family in this country, was born at Watties Neach, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. He removed with his family to Belfast, Ireland, after the birth of his son David, about the year 1725.
John Ayers – One of earliest settlers – Bernards Township
John Ayers came from Woodbridge, New Jersey and was born on March 02, 1663 in Newbury, MA. Son of Obadiah Ayres and Hannah Ayres (Pike), husband of Mary Ayers and Ruth Ayres He had seven sons; John, Thomas, Obadiah, Nathaniel, Benjamin, Moses, and Aaron. He moved to Basking Ridge the same year Harrison bought the land from the Indian Chief Nowenwalk. John Ayres, who settled on the Millstone, in 1717, is mentioned as having lands in the east part of the Basking Ridge in 1727. John Ayres is noted for donating 1 ½ acres which included the land on which a log meeting house stood in 1730 but it was said that the meeting house had probably been there since at least 1725 (the BRPC states 1717).
James Alexander – 1720 – Original Landowner- Bernards Township
James Alexander, father of William Alexander (Lord Stirling) was a large landowner and had to deal with “squatters” on his land. James Pitney was noted as being on James’ land when he first arrived in the area. Research shows Cornelius Brees from Staten Island, bought land in 1720 from James Alexander on the East side of the Dead River which had been occupied by James Pitney. John Ayres son Obadiah also bought land from Alexander.