Historic Timeline Details

Although genealogical sources differ, Ephraim Martin appears to have married three times and had at least four children. His first marriage to Martha (last name unknown) mostly likely took place c. 1756 and produced four sons (Absalom, born c. 1758, Jeremiah, Ephraim, born in September, 1760, in Sussex County, and Squire). Upon Martha’s death about 1767, he evidently married Keziah Carmen who purportedly died in 1788. She must have been the “Mrs. (Col.) Martin,” whose name appears on a list of participants in a statewide effort of patriotic women to promote “a subscription for the relief and encouragement of those brave Men in the Continental Army.”[21] For his third marriage, thought to have occurred c. 1789, Martin wed Catherine Wall Green Stelle, the widow of the Reverend Isaac Stelle, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Piscataway, who had died in 1781. Ephraim Martin belonged to the Mount Bethel Baptist Church, located a few miles south of his Bernards Township farm, and became a deacon of that congregation in 1786. Martin also was a slave owner; his 1778 tax assessment lists one male slave, and his 1805 will provided for the manumission of three females. Martin died on February 26, 1806, evidently having lived in the vicinity of New Brunswick since moving from Bernards Township in the 1790s.[22]

Ephraim Martin evidently sold his Bernard Township farm to brothers Oliver and Samuel Stelle, the stepsons of his wife, the former Catherine Stelle, in 1794. According to family history recounted in 1881 “Oliver Stelle…removed from Piscataway, Middlesex Co., N. J., about 1794, and settled on the farm [the subject property] now owned by Isaac S. Runyon.” Another historian pinpoints his removal from Piscataway to Bernards Township to April, 1794.[23] The two brothers’ acquisition of the Martin farm must have occurred around that time, since they executed a mortgage, proved and recorded on May 19, 1794, for a 269.25-acre tract of land comprising the property to Ephraim Martin for 575 pounds. The assessment listing of Samuel Stelle for 266 acres of land on the August, 1794, Bernards Township tax role offers additional confirmation of the title transfer. The burial of Oliver Stelle’s infant daughter Anna in the nearby Mount Bethel Church cemetery in December, 1794, provides evidence that he had moved from Piscataway by that time.[24]

Within several years Oliver Stelle became the sole owner of the property, which he held until his death in 1832. Family history recounts that “Samuel remained but a few years in the country [Bernards Township],” and Oliver probably acquired his brother’s interest by the time of his removal. In May, 1797, Oliver Stelle and his wife Mary mortgaged a 232-acre tract of land to David Ayers for “200 pounds York money,” the same property that the brothers had acquired from Ephraim Martin minus small lots subdivided from the north and south ends and sold by Oliver to Ephraim’s son Squire. Oliver may have used the money realized from the second mortgage to buy out his brother or possibly to finance improvements. [25] He did not finish paying off the original mortgage until years later. Ephraim Martin’s 1806 estate inventory lists as an asset “Oliver Stelles Bond” valued at $976.07, presumably the balance due on the 1794 mortgage, which was not canceled until three years later.[26]

Born on August 1, 1756, Oliver Stelle was one of nine children of Rev. Isaac and Christiana Stelle. He married Mary Runyon in 1778, and they had at least eleven children: Christiana (1779-1854), Ephraim (1780-54), Isaac (1782-1816), John (1790-1850), Anna (1793-94), Mary (1794-1815) Clarkson (1797/98-1850), Rachel (1800-1818), Sarah, Harriet, and Ruth. Oliver’s wife died on February 22, 1813 at age 54, and sometime before 1823 he remarried, as documented by a deed reference in that year to his wife Sarah.[27] Of his children who survived to adulthood, most married and settled in the Basking Ridge neighborhood. The 1830 census lists John and Clarkson Stelle immediately before and after their father, indicating that they lived in close proximity to him, probably on his farm or on land that he had sold to them. Maintaining the religious affiliation of his forebears, Oliver joined the Mount Bethel Baptist Church, serving the congregation as a trustee and acquiring two pews. A slaveholder, he was taxed for one slave in 1818 and registered slaves “born in his family” in that year and 1820.[28]

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