History showcases some of the greatest reminders of where we came from. Many people new to the area don’t know the deep history in the area ties back to some of the originating families that chose this area back in the early 1700s. As many know, the area was purchased by John Harrison, agent of King James III of England in 1717, from Chief Nowenoik of the Lenapes, a real estate package of 3,000 acres for $50. We honor those who founded this community on the Ridge.
Six Early Settlers
1720 – James Alexander – Ireland
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.
Harrison must have died, and the property passed through Hollingshead and Eisarick to John Parker (owned the John Parker tavern in Vealtown) and Alexander as early as 1720, for in that year Parker and Alexander sold a portion of the southeast corner of their purchase to Cornelius Brees, of Staten Island. The four proprietors had the lands regularly surveyed in 1727, and laid out into farms of from one hundred and fifty to two hundred acres each. These were drawn by ballot by the four joint owners at the spring term of the Supreme Court for 1728, held at Perth Amboy. The respective proprietors were then left to dispose of their lots on their own terms.
James Alexander, father of William Alexander (Lord Stirling), seems to have drawn what has since been known as the ” Stirling Property.” He was also associated with John Budd, of Philadelphia, in lands which extended north into Morris County. The land was listed as No. 121, James Alexander, Sept. 17, 1741, 786 acres in six tracts In Harrison’s Neck. The second piece was No. 99, to James Alexander, March 28, 1728, 272 acres on east side of North Branch of Dead River. A third plot, No. 142, was bought by James on July 10, 1744 containing 65 acres at Basking Ridge where son William built his Stirling Manor in 1761.
William Alexander, son of James Alexander, was born in New York City in 1726. Stirling led a brilliant military career and received praise from his colleagues as well as his enemies. After his death on Jan. 15, 1783, his wife Lady Stirling received a letter of esteem from General Washington. There are a series of boxes of documented transactions at the New Jersey Historical Society.
1720 – Cornelius Brees (Breese) – Staten Island, NY
About 1720, Cornelius Brees, of Staten Island, bought land land from James Alexander, ” on the east side of the north branch of Dead River, at the southwest corner of the Parker and Alexander’s area. It appears that James Pitney remained in this vicinity and became a freeholder, notwithstanding his first home was sold from under him to Brees since he was one of the trustees to whom the church lot was deeded in 1731. So Pitney was actually a squatter on the land Brees purchased.
Three members of the Brees family gave the ultimate sacrifice during the war. John Brees Sr., John Brees Jr.( b. 8 Nov 1738 ) and Stephen Brees all gave their lives fighting for the new nation and are buried in the Presbyterian cemetery. Cornelius served as a Sergeant in the NJ Frontier Militia in 1757 and 1758. John’s son Timothy (b.1758) Brees married Elizabeth Doty.
1722 – James Pitney – New Brunswick, NJ
James Pitney lived in New Brunswick, NJ prior to 1722, then moved Basking Ridge, NJ. He was a member of the First Company Militia Regiment in 1715. His will was dated April 13, 1750 and lists his wife, Susannah, and son Jonathan. Records indicate the Pitney’s settled in the Liberty Corner section of Bernards Township. James and his wife Susannah had three children: James Pitney, b. 1722, Liberty Corner,Somerset Co. and Benjamin Pitney, b. 1726, Liberty Corner. A third, Shubael Pitney, b. approximately 1731.
1727 (possibly 1717) – John Ayres (Ayers, Eyers) – Newbury, MA
John Ayres 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 township 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).
A document was found dated February 8, 1731 formally recognizing the donation of a “meeting house.” Basking Ridge was the first religious center in the area. It’s been noted that in addition to being a house of prayer, education was key as well and there’s mention of schooling there as early as 1720-1725. John died Oct. 4, 1732 at the age of 69 yet no one knows where he’s buried. His son John Ayers is buried in the BRPC graveyard.
John’s son Obadiah Ayres purchased 153 acres from John Alexander. It’s stated he later leaves for Warren County in Hacketstown sometime before 1753.
1736 – Alexander Kirkpatrick – Scotland
Another family worthy of particular mention was that of Alexander Kirkpatrick (b.1697), who settled at Mine Brook in 1736, on the farm lately owned by Henry Baird. The Kirkpatricks 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. In the spring of 1736 he embarked at Belfast for America, and after a stormy
voyage of thirteen weeks, landed at New Castle,Del. Passing through Philadelphia, they wandered
up through the State of New Jersey (which was then partially settled, till they reached Bound Brook, and
thence went over the mountains to the place which they selected for a habitation. There being no roads in the country, they followed an Indian path through the wilderness.
When they came to a spring of water at the side of what has since been called ” Mine Brook,” there
they settled down, built a log house and went to work. The spot was well chosen, about two miles west of the present site of Basking Ridge. It embraced the southern slope of Round Mountain, in a well timbered region, with unfailing springs of pure water, the rich meadow-land through which Mine Brook runs. Alexander Kirkpatrick died on June 3, 1758. He is buried at the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church Cemetery
Henry Alward III – Woodbridge, NJ (First Generation American)
Henry Alward III was born on March 29, 1697 in Woodbridge, New Jersey. His father Henry was from Scotland and settled in Woodbridge. Henry III settled between Liberty Corner and Basking Ridge, near saw and grist mill once owned by Matthias Woodward (not Woodard as others quote). While historic documents mention Bullion’s Tavern (William Annin Hotel, Liberty Corner Hotel, Post Office, and currently a Exxon) we’ve narrowed it down that Woodward’s Mill was actually near Grist Mill Park and Road in Basking Ridge along Harrison’s Brook. So the plot thickens as to where Henry 3rd actually resided.
He was first married to Sara (Compton) Alward in 1715. After her death, he later married Anne Ford in 1721. We’re still looking for his original homestead area.
It gets confusing but this is the first of many Henry’s in the lineage, so it’s often confusing to follow. The Henry in Liberty Corner had eight children in all: David, John, Henry IV, Samuel, Benjamin, Sarah, Mary, Mercy, and Henry V. and William.
Henry Alward IV married Mary Cox and had eight children. Henry’s fourth son, Samuel, married Caty King, sister of John King, of Liberty Corner. Benjamin, the third son, married Sarah Ayers (Ayres), daughter of Elisha Ayers, and sister of Maj. John Ayers (Ayres), of Basking Ridge. William married Elizabeth, daughter of William Cross, and moved to New York. Henry III died in Basking Ridge in 1732 and is buried in the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Cemetery. in all there are twelve Alward’s buried in the churchyard.
1717 – The Meeting House That Became a Church
In Baskingridge, some Scotch Presbyterian families, who had settled there were worshipping in a log meeting house which they had erected a year or two previously.” The church can make a case for having been founded in 1716, but settled on 1717. The Basking Ridge congregation was recognized by the first Presbytery in the U.S located in Philadelphia in 1729.
The Trustees of the Presbyterian Congregation included James Pitney, Henry Rolfe (Newbury, MA) Mordecai McKeene, George Pack, Samuel Rolfe (Henry’s son), Daniel Morris, Thomas Riggs, and Obadiah Ayres (John’s son). That log cabin structure lasted until 1747 when a better structure was built. The Ayres lived in the area for over 100 years. The deed was not recorded until 1763.
Building on John Ayrer’s donation, in 1728 John Budd of Philadelphia donated 100 acres to the Basking Ridge congregation (he was from Phia). for the continued use of the”meeting house”.
The Presbyterian congregation of New Brunswick was later founded in 1738 and Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church became a part. John Cross was the first Moderator. The congregation believes John Cross is buried adjacent to the church but his grave has not been found. There are 35 of Cross’s descendants buried here. He had one son Robert (who had 11 children/8 sons and 3 daughters) and two daughters.
In 1750 a classical school, designed to prepare young men for college, was established in Basking Ridge by Dr. Samuel Kennedy, fourth pastor of the Presbyterian Church, and later run by his successor, Dr. Robert Finley.
1732 the Secret is Out
In 1732 the area started to take hold. The names are honored as many have street names across the town including Conkling, Alward, McCollum, Dayton, Doty, Boylan, Heath, Hall, Lindsey, Rickey, Lewis, Anderson, Whitaker and Hand families landed in the Basking Ridge. William Annin landed in Liberty Corner and built his stone home about 1760.
Abraham Southard migrated to Basking Ridge in 1735 migrating with his eight children from Hempstead, Long Island. His son Henry Southard was born in 1747 in Basking Ridge and lived 95 years. He had thirteen children. His son Samuel became a United States Senator.
As they say – the rest is history.
Interesting Cemetery Statistics
- 876 people are buried in Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church (BRPC) cemetery.
- The graveyard is one of the best-preserved in the County. The deed for it bears date Feb. 8, 1731. The oldest gravestone there is Henry Haines, who died June 9, 1736, but there must have been earlier interments.
- 208 families are buried in the graveyard.
- 26 families (13% of the total families) take up 50% of the plots at BRPC.
- Oldest – Sarah Hodge ,107 years old (b, Apr,1742 d.Oct.16, 1849)
- Highest number of an age buried in the cemetery – 30 were 1 year old. #2-21 were 67 years old.
- 35 Revolutionary War soldiers are buried in the graveyard.
- List of surnames with the most family members buried at the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church graveyard:
John Ayers (Ayres)
Nathaniel Ayers (Ayres)
John Brees Sr.
John Brees Jr.
| John Parker|
Jonathan Whitaker Sr.
Jonathan Whitaker Jr.
82 Streets Were Named After Basking Ridge Residents
|ACKEN RD||Named for the Acken family of Liberty Corner, landowners and shopkeepers|
|ALEXANDRIA WAY||Named for William Alexander, Lord Stirling (1726-1783)|
|ALLEN RD, CR (652)||Allen Road is named for Josiah Allen (1843-1906) of Liberty Corner, descendent of Ethan Allen, American soldier and patriot, 18th Century. The Farm was later purchased from the Josiah Allen estate by John W. Richardt, his wife and three sons in 1928.|
|ALLEN ST||Named for W. J. Allen who owned much land in Basking Ridge Village in mid-19th Century|
|AMBAR PL||Named for settlers in the area, early 20th Century|
|ANNIN RD||Named for the John Annin family (Johnstons of Annandale, Scotland). Their 1,000 acres in 1722 were called Annin’s Corner and later renamed Liberty Corner|
|BALDWIN CT||Named for an old family of Liberty Corner, 19th Century|
|BERNARD DR||Named for Sir Francis Bernards, provincial Governor of New Jersey 1758-1760|
|BRADFORD LN||Named for William Bradford, pilgrim settler and second governor of Plymouth Colony (1590-1657)|
|CARSWELL CT||Named for the Carswell family, active in township community affairs since the 20th Century|
|CHAPIN LN||Named for original estate of Chapin-Earhart family|
|CHILDS RD||Named for William Childs, who moved the barn to the Old Mill Inn site and Samuel Childs, benefactor to the Bernards Township Library in the 1900’s|
|CODDINGTON CT||Named for early settlers in the West Millington area of the township|
|COLLYER LN||Named for John Collyer family, large land owners on south maple Avenue, 19th Century|
|CONKLING ST||Named for the Conkling family, 19th Century settlers in Bernards|
|COOPER CT||Named for early settlers in the township|
|CULBERSON RD||Named for the Culberson family, landowners for more than 150 years. The street runs through their property|
|DAYTON ST||Named for William L. Dayton (1807-1864), U.S. Senator, Vice Presidential candidate and Ambassador to France|
|DECKER ST||Named for early settlers in the township. Carl G. Decker sold to Wheeler Corporation in 1939 this tract known as the Bernards Plateau.|
|DOGGETT CT||Named after the President of the High Meadow Hunt Club|
|DOUGLAS RD||Named for the Douglas family who settled this area in 1765|
|DRYDEN RD||Named for John Dryden (1631-1700) English poet, dramatist and critic|
|E ALLEN ST||Named for W. J. Allen who owned much land in Basking Ridge Village in mid-19th Century|
|E CRAIG ST||Named for Daniel D. Craig, banker and storekeeper, 19th Century|
|E LEWIS ST||Named for the Edward Lewis family who arrived in the mid 18th Century and contributed to many township activities since 1730’s|
|ELLIS DR||Named for Monroe F. Ellis, for whom Monroe Place was also named in 1900’s|
|EVERSON PL||Named for original family on property before development in late 1900’s|
|FORBES CT||Named for Dr. John Forbes, local physician, c1900’s|
|GOLTRA DR||Named for James P. Goltra (1792-1871), farmer, judge and builder of the Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church|
|GOVERNOR DR||Named for Sir Francis Bernards (1712-1779), NJ Provincial Governor, 1758-1760|
|GRANVILLE WAY||Named for John Carteret, The Earl of Granville, (1690-1763) British statesman and orator|
|HAAS RD||Named for John V. Haas, farmer and owner of Sunnyside Farm in West Millington area|
|HADLEY CT||Named for Henry K. Hadley (1871-1937) U.S. composer and conductor|
|HARRISON BROOK DR||Named for John Harrison, agent of the King of England, who bought 3000 acres of land for $50 from the Lenai Lenape Indians in 1717|
|HARTLEY LN||Named for David Hartley (1705-1757), English physician and philosopher|
|HENRY ST||Named for Parmenus C. Henry, owner of P.C. Henry’s General Store and other properties in the area, 19th Century|
|HOPKINSON CT||Named for Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791) N.J. signer of the Declaration of Independence, 1776|
|IRVING PL||Named for Isaac L. Irving family of Liberty Corner—former mortician, wheelwright and blacksmith, 19th Century|
|JOHNSTON CIR||Named for Johnston family who left Annandale, Scotland and arrived in 1722 in area known today as Liberty Corner|
|KEATS RD||Named for John Keats (1795-1921) English poet|
|KINNAN WAY||Named for Mary Lewis Kinnan (1764-1848) captive of the Indians, rescued and returned to Basking Ridge, 1794|
|KNOLLCROFT RD||Named for estate of Walter Reynolds, most of property now occupied by U.S. Veterans Medical Center, Lyons|
|LAYTON RD||Named for Peter Layton of Liberty Corner, former mortician, wheelwright and blacksmith, 19th Century|
|LEWIS ST||Named for the Edward Lewis family who arrived in the mid 18th Century and contributed to many township activities since 1730’s|
|LORD STIRLING RD||Named for Lord Stirling, William Alexander (1726-1783), major general in the continental Army whose estate “Stirling Manor” was built here in 1762|
|LURLINE DR||Named for Lurline Eberkardt, accidentally shot while hunting|
|LYONS PL||Named for David Lyons family here in lat 18tuh Century. Family owner land where Lyons Railroad Station is located and had encouraged Bernards to bring first railroad to area in 1872.|
|LYONS RD||Named for David Lyons family here in the late 18th Century. Family owned land where Lyons Railroad Station is located and had encouraged Bernards to bring first railroad to area in 1872.|
|MARTINSVILLE RD, CR (525)||Named for a thoroughfare in the Township which terminates in Martinsville (Bridgewater). Named for prominent Martin family|
|MEEKER RD||Named for the Meeker family which had large land holdings since the mid 19th Century|
|MILITO WAY||Named for the Milito family who occupied land and have lived there since the late 1800’s|
|MONROE PL||Named for Monroe F. Ellis for whom Ellis Drive was also named in 1900’s|
|MORRISON ST||Named for early settlers in the Township|
|N ALWARD AVE||Named for the Alward Family who settled on land here in 1732|
|N VOORHEES DR||Named for Dr. Amadee Voorhees, country doctor in the mid-19th Century|
|OAKLEY ST||Named for an early family which settled in the area|
|OSBORNE PL||Named for J.H. Osborne’s sawmill and pond|
|PADDOCK CT||Named for the paddock area of Coppergate Horse Stables|
|PENNINGTON ST||Named for Dr. William Pennington, country physician|
|PITNEY CT||Named for James Pitney, first recorded settler in this area, early 18th Century|
|QUINCY RD||Named for Eliza Susan Morton Quincy (1764-1850), who wrote her recollections of Basking Ridge during and after the American Revolution. Her father was John Morton, who funded the Basking Ridge Army Hospital in 1779.|
|RADEL PL||Named for a 19th Century farming family|
|RIGGS CT||The Riggs family settled in the area in the early 1800’s|
|RUNYON DR||Named for early settlers in the West Millington area|
|S ALWARD AVE||Named for the Alward Family who settled on land here in 1732|
|SCOTSMANS WAY||Named in honor of the Annin family, known as Johnston in Scotland. Settled Liberty Corner area in 1722|
|SOUTHARD PL||Named for the Southards, Father Henry (1747-1842), US Representative; Sen. Samuel L. (1787-1842), US Senator, NJ Governor, Secretary of the Navy|
|SPENCER RD||Named for Austin P. Spencer, lost at sea in the North Atlantic while piloting a bomber on submarine duty, 1943|
|SUTRO PL||Named for the Sutro family which owned property on South Finley Avenue. Son Frederick (1879-1964) was executive director of NJ Park Commission|
|THOMPSON WAY||Named for Harold Thomson, former mayor and township committee member 1948 -1956|
|TURNER ST||Named for Kenneth A. Turner Sr., Bernards Township Engineer, 1932-1957|
|TYSLEY ST||Named for early settlers in the Township. Tysley Avenue is in Bernardsville|
|VAIL TERR||Named for Daniel Vail (1735-1793), large land owner & distant cousins of Alfred Vail, who with Samuel F. B. Morse invented the telegraph @Speedwell, Morristown, 1844|
|VAN DORN RD||Named for Ferdinand Van Dorn (1807-1902), who owned and operated the flour/grist mill in Franklin Corners|
|VANDERVEER DR||Named for Dr. James Vanderveer (1838-1913), country doctor|
|VOORHEES DR||Named for Dr. Amadee Voorhees, country doctor in the mid-19th Century|
|W CRAIG ST||Named for Daniel D. Craig, banker and storekeeper, 19th Century|
|W HENRY ST||Named for Parmenus C. Henry, owner of P.C. Henry’s General Store and other properties in the area, 19th Century|
|WHITENACK RD||Named for the Whitenack family which settled here in the mid-18th Century and were large landowners|
|WOLF LN||Named for Lyla Wolf Florio’s maiden name, property owner|
|WOODWARD LN||Named for Woodward family which supplied grain and material to the Revolutionary War troops at Jockey Hollow|
32 Streets were named after the Revolutionary War Events
|BEACON CREST DR||Named for location of Revolutionary Ware beacon, designed by Lord Stirling|
|BULLION DR||Named for Bullion’s Tavern located in Liberty Corner during the American Revolution|
|CANNON CT||Named for mounted gun used in the Revolutionary War|
|COLONIAL DR||Named for a person who supported America’s fight during the Revolutionary War|
|CONCORD LN||Named for the second battle of the American Revolution, Concord, MA, April 19, 1775|
|FIFE LN||Named for a type of flute used in military musical groups|
|FLINTLOCK CT||Named for a firearm used in the American Revolution|
|GREEN MOUNTAIN DR||Named for the Green Mountain Boys, soldiers form Vermont, organized by Ethan Allen in 1775|
|HALE CT||Named for Nathan Hale (1755-1776), American soldier hanged as a spy by the British during the American Revolution|
|HANCOCK CT||Named for John Hancock (1737-1793) first signer of the Declaration of Independence, 1776|
|HARCOURT LN||Named for Col. William Harcourt, arresting British officer of General Charles Lee at the Widow White’s Tavern, Basking Ridge, 12/13/76|
|HESSIAN DR||Named for a mercenary used by England during the American Revolution|
|HONEYMAN RD||Named for John Honeyman (1727-1822) who was a spy for George Washington prior to the Battle of Trenton, 1776|
|HUNTINGTON RD||Named for Samuel Huntington (1731-1797) American Revolution political leader|
|KNOX CT||Named for General Henry Knox (1750-1806) of Washington’s staff in the American Revolution|
|LAFAYETTE LN||Named for Marquis deLafayette, friend of General George Washington (1757-1834) French general and statesman|
|LEE PL||Named for General Charles Lee (1731-1782) arrested by the British in Basking Ridge, December 13, 1776|
|LEXINGTON RD||Named for the first battle of the American Revolution at Lexington, 1775|
|MINUTEMAN CT||Named for an American militia man just before and after the Revolutionary War, who was ready for instant military service|
|MT PROSPECT RD||Named for very old geographic area from Revolutionary War times|
|MUSKET DR||Named for a large heavy caliber handgun used in the Revolutionary War|
|PAINE CT||Named for Thomas Paine (1737-1809), patriot and writer, the “Conscience of the American Revolution”|
|PRESCOTT CT||Named for William Prescott (1726-1795), U.S. soldier, played vital part in Battle of Bunker Hill, 1775. “Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes” – famous order given in Battle|
|PRINCETON CT||Named for the Battle of Princeton, American Revolutionary War, 1777|
|QUINCY RD||Named for Eliza Susan Morton Quincy (1764-1850), who wrote her recollections of Basking Ridge during and after the American Revolution|
|REVERE DR||Named for Paul Revere (1735-1818), American patriot and silversmith, famous for his night horseback ride, April 18, 1775|
|RICKEY LN||Named for Col. Israel Rickey (1744-1821), a valuable officer in the Revolutionary War|
|SENTINEL DR||Named for a soldier stationed as a guard to challenge all comers and prevent a surprise attack|
|STIRLING LN||Named for Lord Stirling, William Alexander (1726-1783), American Revolutionary War major general|
|SULLIVAN DR||Named for General John Sullivan (1740-1795), Revolutionary War leader|
|WAYNE TERR||Named for General “Mad Anthony” Wayne (1745-1796), American Revolutionary War leader|
- Did you know that Morristown was originally named West Hanover? True
- Did you know Tewksbury was originally New Germantown? True
- Basking Ridge became a local hamlet of King George II’s 1760 Charter recognizing Governor Sir Francis Bernards township officially.
- History of worship in Basking Ridge
- Timeline highlights in Basking Ridge
- Street Name History – Bernards Township
- Need help researching your family?
- Take a walking tour of Basking Ridge
- Need help researching your family?
- 1912 catalog of Basking Ridge Presbyterian Churchyard by Antoinette Quinby, founder and first President of the Woman’s Branch of the New Jersey Historical Society. It was later performed as well by local resident Nettie Allen who captured the stones’ epitaphs.
- Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge – a historical disclosure.