The Minisink Subscribers to the 1795 "Young Mill-Wright & Miller's Guide"

Mark Thomson, Esq. estate inventory

Browsing through Inventories, Volume A, 1803-1808, of the Sussex County, New Jersey Probate records, my attention was immediately drawn to the heading, Printed Books, in the Estate inventory of Mark Thomson, Esq., as sworn to at Newton in 1806.  Thomson (1739-1803), a Colonel of the First Regiment Sussex County New Jersey Militia, a Representative in the fourth and fifth Congresses, 1795 - 1799, and a slave owner, built a mill on the Paulinskill. The settlement on the site would become known thereafter as Marksboro.

Further research into the ninth title listed in the Thomson Inventory led to the University of Pittsburgh's rare 1795 first edition of The Young Mill-wright and Miller's Guide by Oliver Evans.

One of the notable features of this edition is the bound in Subscriber pages at the end of the book, a list of well-to-do patrons who sought "to encourage the work," in the words of the author, through underwriting the cost of publication in return for a discount. Typically this would be the first print run as delivered to the subscribers, subsequent runs would lack these pages further reducing the cost. Many of the subscribers would order multiple copies of the work.

The list of subscribers, a virtual Who's Who of the young Nation, included George Washington, then President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, former Secretary of State, numerous Senators & Representives, but most interestingly, it also included a handful of lesser known men in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Among them were second and third generation millers and mill-wrights whose ancestors had settled in the Minisink Valley.

Isaac Swartswood [Swartwood]

The 1795 Subscribers:  Isaac Swartswood [Swartwood] in present day Pike Co PA; Abraham Van Camp [Campen, Jr.], mill-wright in present day Warren Co. NJ; Jonathan Baker, mill-wright, and Hugh Forsman in present day Monroe Co. PA; James Douglas, Abraham Haver, and Ralph Hunt in Sussex Co. NJ.  Among the author's advertisers for Mill stones & equipment is William Byrnes of New Windsor NY.

Numerous others are residents of neighboring Hunderton (sic) and Summerset (sic) counties in New Jersey, and in present day Northampton Co. PA.  Most, but not all, of the alphabetically listed subscribers are followed by city or county (subject to later boundary change), with states being abbreviated with a single letter.  A number of subscribers have no identifying region so I may not have recognized their surname or variant as resident in Tri-state NJ, NY & PA.

A brilliant inventor and engineer, Oliver Evans would hold the third patent ever issued in the United States. His book would transform milling technology, remain a staple manual for millers, and would be revised and reprinted in fifteen editions through 1860.  James Poupard (1769-1814) the meticulous engraver, also illustrated for the American Philosophical Society's Transactions, including A Chart of the Gulph [Gulf] Stream, with remarks by Benjamin Franklin, 1786.

No less interesting in the Mark Thomson, Esq. estate inventory, on the page following Printed Books and under the headings Slaves for Life and Dutch Servants, were 12 individuals ~ but that is a story for another day.

Pike County Jury List, February Term, 1842

Jeffersonian Republican, Stroudsburg, Pa., 02 Feb. 1842.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress

A Portrait of Moses Chauncey West, circa 1865

As happens in exploring the history of a neighborhood one can be sidetracked by a clue which sends one off in an entirely different direction.  While researching 19th century photographers of the Tri-State NJ NY PA region in the Library of Congress' digital collection, I happened upon an elegant carte de visite portrait, with the penciled notation M. C. West, taken at the Branch's Photograph Gallery, Port Jervis N.Y. from the  William A. Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs. This research would lead in turn to the following brief sketch of the lives of Moses Chauncey West (1833-1914), his wife Emma Martha Myers (1844-1908), and their ancestral West and Myers families in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

"M.C. West" Branch's Photography Gallery


By 1830 the first instance of the surname as a head of household, free African American man, William West, appears in the Pike County, Pennsylvania census records. By 1840 Enos J West  and family are living in Dingman Township, Pike County.  The Margaret "Peggie" West family household in 1850 includes Titus West, age 95, born in New Jersey, Chauncey West, age 17, occupation Miller, and the namesake of Enos J. of 1840, Enos, age 6.

Chauncey West, born in PA, US Census 1850, Pike Co PA

By 1850 in Milford Township, two West children, females Cordelia, age 14, and Harriet, age 10, are living in the households of the Widow Cornelia DeWitt and Edwin Eldred, Esq. respectively. Chauncey's future wife, Emma Martha Myers is found, age 9, in the household of  Sarah Scuremon, age 78, a free African American woman living in Frankfort Township Sussex NJ.

Two heads of household Harry and Henry West also appear in the Sussex Co NJ census records of 1840, and in 1850, Prince West, age 37, is residing in Sandyston and Harry, age 61, in Walpack townships NJ.

Prince West, US Census 1850, Sandyston Township NJ.

Harry West, US Census 1850, Walpack Township, NJ

By 1860, both Chauncey and Emma are living in the village of Newton, Sussex Co, NJ, Chauncey working as a miller, Emma as a servant.  In November of that year they would be married.

US Census NJ 1860 ~ Village of Newton, Northrup household, MC West, Mulatto, Miller, $400.

US Census NJ 1860 ~ Village of Newton, Nelden household, Emma Myers, Black, Servant.

To the Clerk of Sussex Co. N.J.
"I hereby certify that Moses Chauncey West of the Township of Newton, and Emma Myers of the Township of Frankford, were by me united in Marriage on the 29th day of November, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty." ~ GW Lloyd, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Frankford N. J.

New Jersey Marriages, Moses Chauncey West & Emma Myers, 29 Nov 1860.

The family settled briefly in Minisink village, Orange Co NY in 1865, moved to Wantage in NJ by 1870, before finally settling in Middletown NY before 1880.

Chancey West family, US Census, 1880, Middletown, Orange Co NY
The Pike County Press would report a visit from Chauncey to his brother Linford, who served in Co A, 41st Regiment during the Civil War.  Linford joined the Delaware Chapter of the G.A.R in 1884.
Pike County Press., January 17, 1896, p 1.

Respected Colored Resident Passes Away at Advanced Age
"Moses Chauncey West died suddenly at the home of his son, Edgar A., of East Rutherford, N. J., on Friday. October 10, 1914, at 3 p. m. in the 81st year of his age, having been born on March 4, 1833, at Milford, Pike County, Pa. He was the son of Enos J. and his wife Margaret Santica [?] West, his mother having attained the age of 95 years at her death, which occurred in the year 1895. The deceased was a respected colored citizen of this city, having been a resident thereof for over 40 years, 29 of which he was employed as a grist miller at the Houston mill. Having obtained a liberal education at the Milford Academy, in which village he grow to manhood, it enabled him to transact business pertaining to his calling. In 1860 the deceased was married to Emma M. Myers, daughter of William Myers, of Branchville, N. J., who departed this life in 1908. He is survived by three children: Edgar A., of East Rutherford, N. J.; Mrs. Harriet A. [Turner] Warner [2nd marriage] and Mrs. Bernetta W.[West] Reynolds, and four grandchildren Bessie L. Westfall, Kenneth C. Hallock, Alma [d.1937] and Chauncey [West] Reynolds [1905-1985], all of this city; also by two sisters, Miss Helen A. West, of Milford, Pa. and Mrs. William Franklin, of Port Jervis. Mr. West was a Republican in politics and had the honor of being nominated by the Prohibition party for the important office of Assessor for the city of Middletown, and at one time was elected delegate to the Republican convention of this city. Funeral services will be held at his late home, 82 Sprague this city, on Sunday, October 11, at 2 p. m. Brother J. J. Harris, of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, will have charge of the services." ~ Middletown Daily Times Press, October 10, 1914, p 8.

Neoclassical Tombstone Art, 1823 - 1838


Two extraordinary tombstones stand in the old Quicktown burying ground in Westfall Township PA.  Weathered grey with the years, the larger rectangular slab of  polished bluestone illustrates the difficulty of carving this dense material.

The engraving is in shallow relief with the design, a series of geometric lines, dividing the face into four sections of neoclassical elements. The first bears a double branched weeping willow - one branch cascades over a coffin, the other over a heart centered in an urn.  A double diamond pattern borders the second section's round medallion,  columns the third, and a leafy vine border fills the last.  

The center medallion is highly unusual for it is totally blank - no name or date of death are inscribed on this tombstone, no epitaph graces the section below the medallion or initials on the matching foot stone. The smaller and less decorative neighboring stone gives no hint for it, too, lacks an inscription honoring the deceased.  

Thomas Wheeler, 1836, Rural Valley Cemetery

Only a few examples of the work of this anonymous stone cutter have been identified in the burying grounds and cemeteries we have visited thus far in the Minisink region.  These include the two blank tombstones at Quicktown in Pike Co. PA, those for Thomas and Hiriam Wheeler in Rural  Valley Cemetery in Cuddebackville NY, and for Naomi and Ezekiel Gumaer at one of the old Peenpack settlement burying grounds, the recently dedicated  Gumaer Cemetery, near Godeffroy NY.   

Bluestone is readily available in the region, extremely dense and difficult to carve but durable and impervious to water. One or more of the neoclassical funerary motifs typical of the colonial and post colonial period are found on each of these tombstones including architectural columns, a weeping willow, a coffin, an ashes urn & heart, rosettes, pinwheels and an hourglass.

Willow, double diamond and coffin for Thomas Wheeler

Hiriam Wheeler, 1837, Rural Valley Cemetery

Columns, willow and urn for Hiriam Wheeler

Another telling detail on the Gumaer & Wheeler tombstones is the calligraphy of  the word Died, where the upper and lower case letters, D & d, are elegantly joined - Gumaers below the word, the Wheelers above. The distinctive script of the abbreviation AE and the numerals 7 & 2  are matched carvings on these stones separated by over a decade in dates.  While difficult to read in the morning light prevailing during our excursion to the Gumaer Cemetery, Ezekiel Gumaer's 1823 tombstone bears a weeping willow over an hourglass and the epitaph, My Glass is Run.

Naomi Gumaer, 1827, Gumaer Cemetery

Thomas Wheeler, Rural Valley Cemetery

Hiriam Wheeler, Rural Valley Cemetery
Ezekiel Gumaer, 1823, Gumaer Cemetery

Three more quite ornate and larger bluestone tablets are found at the Old Westbrookville, aka Clarks, Burying Ground:  Elisha Reeve, 1838, Mary M Griffin, 1839 and Lemuel Clapp, 1848.  Of these only the Reeve stone shares duplicate decorative elements of weeping willow and urn with the Wheeler and Gumaer examples. While the Reeve tombstone is from the same workshop it was, without doubt, inscribed by another carver, perhaps an apprentice or another local stone carver.  (Note the Find A Grave contributor of the Griffin and Clapp photos has chalked the stones without regard to the long term damage this incurs.)

Elisha Reeve, 1838, Clarks Burying Ground (w/ chalk residue)

A 1935 map of the burying ground by H. W. Olsen plots 16 graves and locates the burying ground at that time on the property of Madame Pierce [sic] with the "sexton" listed as the Misses Westbrook. The earliest inscribed marker is that of Cornelius Cox, d. 1826, age 31. The 1933 tombstone survey by the Pike County Daughters of the Union Chapter lists a now missing marker for Leah, wife of Lodewick Dewitt, d. 1859, age 52, and four Jennings and VanInwegen children. 

The PA Land Records Warrantee map for Westfall Township list this tract of 133 acres, which includes the lower portion of present day Cummings Hill Creek, as warranted to Cornelius DeWytt in 1743, surveyed in 1751, and patented as "Petersburg" to Peter Quick in 1787.

The mystery of the blank stones at Quicktown, Westfall, PA remains.  Was this a local carver or were the stones ordered from afar?  Were family funds lacking to complete the work?  Whatever the case generations have passed, an estimated 180 years, and the memory of those buried here is lost forever. 

 Rest in Peace

Bluestone, a form of limestone, is extremely dense, durable and impervious to water.

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extremely dense, durable and impervious to water. Both ma

Read more :
Bluestone, a form of limestone, is extremely dense, durable and impervious to water.

Read more :