Sunday, January 24, 2016

Robert Campbell's Newark Fence

Robert Campbell was the grandfather of Joel (b ~1735), the namesake of this blogsite.

In 1714, Robert lived in Newark, New Jersey and was responsible for maintaining a section of the fence that kept grazing animals out of the town center.

Newark was founded in 1666. The homes were laid out along a main street (Broad Street) that ran almost directly south from the Training Place ("C") and Market Place ("E").

1668 Map of Newark.  Note that "North" is approximately to the right.  The Ks denote paths leading to the meadow and J denotes the Common Fence.
To the East of the town, was a meadow and bog known as the "Neck." A fence divided the town from this grazing area. The Neck (meadow) had natural borders on the north, east, and south. Those being the Passaic River, Newark Bay, and Bound Creek.

Historic Map of Newark showing streets of 1916 but also boundaries from 1666.  The Bound Creek is not visible today.  The Neck, which contained the bogs and meadows, is the area denoted as "Incorporated in 1836."
The earliest description of the common fence appears in the Newark Town Records of October 30, 1666.  “Item, it is fully consented unto and agreed upon, that the Range of Home Lotts butting and rearing upon the Wet Swamp, called the Cedar Swamp, between the Neck and the Town; that all and every of those Home Lotts butting upon the Neck or Common Line, that they shall make and maintain from time to time, at their own proper Charge, the whole fence or Fences at the Rears of their Lotts, and not Expect an Easment, from the Neck Lands being but a Common Burden with all Home Lotts, and the condition upon which those Lotts were given out.”

The Common Fence, the responsibility for its maintenance and inspection, and the penalties for failing to maintain it, were common topics at the town meetings.  The enumeration of responsibilities for surveyors, regulators, viewers, pounders, and maintainers provides researchers with some of the best lists of town residents and their relevant properties.

Fence line responsibilities were tabulated at the May 7, 1668, February 6, 1677, and October 19, 1681 town meetings.  These tables contained each town member's name and the length of fence in his care. The measurement was in rods.  In the 1681 entry, the rod pole was given to be 16 feet 9 inches long.

The fence was a large topic of conversation at the town meeting of April 28, 1714.  The table of fence maintainers included "Robert Camell."  Robert Campbell, grandfather of Joel, was known to be a resident of Newark, and owned several parcels to the west of the town center.

The list was titled “The Names of ye Persons Concerned in ye Sd Common Line, with their Proportion of fence annexed to their Names Successively, beginning at ye bound Creek and Thence Runing Northwardly to ye Main River.”

Partial list of fence assignments from Newark Town Meeting of April 28, 1714,  p.127 of Records, Town of Newark 1666-1835, The New Jersey Historical Society, Newark.
The incidents of sheep, cattle, and horses wandering into the "Home Lott" area must have been increasing.  Whereas earlier fence discussions described a fence that encircled the town, this discussion focused on a fence that proceeded from the Bound Creek directly north to the "Main River" by the town (Passaic River).

The minutes of the meeting specified “That all ye Common Line fence Shall be Deemed & Esteemed Sufficient, when it is made and Maintained According to ye Act of General Assemblely, & not otherwise, Excepting from ye Bound Creek to ye Bridge by ye Two mile brook Landing, and John Bradburys by ye Main River: which Shall be made So as to Secure ye Neck & Then it Shall be accounted Sufficient, & not otherwise.”

Robert Campbell was assigned a very short section of fence, 10 links (about 7 feet).  Of the 74 assignments, only four were shorter.  The longest assignment went to George Day of 561 feet, the average being about 60 feet.  Did Robert own property abutting the fence, or was this just an arbitrary assignment?

Summing all of the assignments, gives a fence that is 66 chains and 60 links in length,  or 0.83 miles. However, from the 1916 historical map, the shortest distance between the Passaic River and Bound Creek is about 2.2 miles.   This discrepancy is most likely due to a relocation of Bound Creek between 1714 and 1916.

If one assumes that the distances from the Passaic River are correct, then Robert Campbell's fence was about 2600 feet south of the river or centered at the current intersection of McCarter Highway and Green Street.  [Latitude/Longitude  40.73079, -74.16864]  That also places the "Two Mile Brook" a few feet south of that point.   Could this be the stream shown in the lower part of the 1668 Map?

Modern Newark Street Map showing estimated location of Robert Campbell's fence assignment based on distance from main river using measurements from April 28, 1714 records.
There are many uncertainties in this analysis.  Bound Creek and Two Mile  Brook disappeared long ago.  The Neck is no longer a marsh and has been expanded into Newark Bay with fill.  Broad Street still exists, but any sign of the fence is gone.  The neighborhood is nothing like the "Home Lotts" of 1714.  It is hard to imagine the homes and fence of 1714 when walking the sidewalk of today's Broad Street.