Historic Timeline Details

Portions of Harrison’s Neck lying north and west of the Rolfe tract along the Passaic became the property of James Alexander, an East Jersey proprietor who was appointed Surveyor General of the province in 1715. The Elizabethtown Bill of Chancery memorializes James Alexander’s title to lot #121, “6 tracts in Harrison’s Neck” comprising 785.48 acres of land, under the date September 17, 1741, the date of the “return of survey” filed by Alexander for the property. The Morgan map identifies several parcels as the property of James Alexander, one of them a 351-acre parcel (lot #137) abutting the west side of Rolfe’s property at its southern end, which lot a later deed indicates formed part of the fourth tract of the six surveyed in 1741. Alexander retained ownership of much of his Harrison’s Neck property, the subsequent inheritance of his son General William Alexander, Lord Sterling, but sold off some of his holdings there including lot #137.[3]

Nathaniel Rolfe appears to have kept his Harrison’s Neck property until 1747, it no doubt being the 87.25-acre tract adjoining the Passaic River (containing 83-acres after “allowance for highways”) which he sold to Moses Doty on March 31st of that year for 180 pounds. The deed of conveyance describes both men as residents of Somerset County, and historical sources indicate that Doty was living in the vicinity of Basking Ridge as early as the 1730s. Family history notes the birth of a son there in 1730, and records of the local Presbyterian church first mention his name in 1732. That Doty moved to the property acquired from Rolfe is clear from a later newspaper advertisement, which refers to it as “the Plantation on which Mr. Moses Doty formerly lived.”[4] He evidently was a farmer (a later deed calls him a “yeoman”) and expanded his holdings by lease and purchase. He purportedly leased land from James Alexander in 1747 and four years later acquired from him the eastern half of lot #137 (described in the 1751 deed as a 204-acre “Tract of land and meadow …lying upon Pasick [sic] river and dead river”) for 204 pounds, subject to the yearly payment of “an ear of Indian corn,” if demanded. That Doty received 1,200 pounds for his 300-acre farm upon selling it in 1762, more than triple the purchase price for the two lots combined, suggests that he had made considerable improvements to the premises.[5]

The purchaser of Doty’s farm was the Rev. Samuel Kennedy, the Scottish born minister of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. Before acquiring the Doty property in 1762, Rev. Kennedy evidently occupied the parsonage farm belonging to the church. One of the first entries in the church minute book, begun in 1763, notes that the congregation had agreed to take “the parsonage place in its own care, and, instead thereof, pay Mr. Kennedy 20 [pounds] yearly as an addition to his salary.”[6] Kennedy must have moved from the parsonage to his own farm at this time, if he had not done so already. He certainly was residing there by August of the following year when he placed the following advertisement in a New York newspaper:

The Rev. Samuel Kennedy, of Baskinridge [sic], or Bernard’s Town, in the County of Somerset, and Province of New-Jersey, designs to have the learned Languages, and liberal Arts and Sciences, taught under his Inspection, in a School-House now built on his own Plantation; where Persons may be fitted to enter any Class in College; Any convenient Lodgings may be had near the said School-House. N. B. There are Scholars now learning the Latin and Greek Languages in said School.[7]

The exact location of Rev. Kennedy’s schoolhouse is not known.

Born in Scotland in 1720, Samuel Kennedy was educated at the University of Edinburgh before coming to America in the 1740s and settling in New Jersey. He pursued theological studies in New Jersey under the auspices of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, receiving a licensed to preach from the Presbytery in 1748 and ordination as a minister a few years later. Rev. Kennedy became the minister of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church on June 26, 1751 and served the congregation in that capacity until his death on August 31, 1787. An evidently energetic clergyman, he was a well-regarded preacher and concerned himself with the theological controversies attracting the attention of many Presbyterians in the mid-18th century, aligning himself with the “New Lights” who embraced the evangelical and revival movement known as “Great Awakening” in contrast to the more conservative “Old Light” Presbyterians. [8] He also was a practicing physician of some distinction, acquiring a “reputation in the treatment of disease,” and joined the Medical Society of New Jersey in 1768 two years after its founding. The “classical school” which he established and carried on for many years gained local renown. According to an unnamed source quoted by the 1881 county history, Rev. Kennedy “being a highly accomplished scholar and possessing great wisdom and energy as a disciplinarian, his school was extensively patronized, and sent many of its pupils to the College of New Jersey [Princeton].”[9] Samuel Kennedy and his wife, the former Sarah Allen of Philadelphia, reportedly had at least seven children, the eldest of whom Samuel, presumably educated by his father, also became a doctor, settling near what is now Johnsonburg, New Jersey, about 1768.[10]

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