An American Family History

First Baptist Church of Piscataway


The Stelton Baptist Church in Edison, New Jersey was formed in the spring of 1689. Until 1875, the church was known as the First Baptist Church of Piscataway. In 1870 portions of Piscataway, New Jersey and Woodbridge, New Jersey were used to form Raritan, New Jersey. The site of the church later became Edison, New Jersey.


A land patent is an exclusive land grant made by the government. The certificate that grants the land rights is also called first-title deed and final certificate. In the United States, all land can be traced back to the original land patent.

The First Baptist Church of Piscataway is in Edison, New Jersey and was formed in 1689.

Planter is an archaic term for a settler. Plantation was a method of colonization where settlers were "planted" abroad. A plantation is also the kind of large farm that was the economical basis of many American Colonies and owners of these farms were also called planters.

New Jersey's first permanent European settlement was in 1660.

Excerpts from History of the First Baptist Church of Piscataway
Stelton, New Jersey, 1889, by Oliver B. Leonard, Esq.

The names of the first pioneers to settle on the Raritan were Hugh Dunn, John Martin, Hopewell Hull and Charles Gillman, with their families. On the 21st of May, 1666, they were granted the right as associates of the Woodbridge patentees, and December 18, following, were deeded by these New England neighbors from Newbury, one-third of their purchase obtained the week before. During the next year there came other members of the Gillman and Hull families, also Robert Dennis and John Smith.

So cheerful were the prospects and complete the liberties established; so peaceful the plantation and so generous the inducements offered, that additional emigration soon followed by friends and neighbors of the original pioneers. Before the year 1670 passed, the settlement of Piscataway had been increased by many new arrivals of associate planters from New England. Among them were Francis Drake, Benajah Dunham, Henry Langstaff and John Martin, with their families, from New Hampshire; John Fitz Randolph, with his brothers, Thomas, Joseph and Benjamin, and sisters Elizabeth and Ruth, with their parents; Geoffry Manning, Nicholas Bonham, Samuel Walker and John Smalley, with their wives and children, from other New England districts, where the intolerance of the established Church order had restricted and restrained the exercise of free conscience and subjected them to many indignities and deprivations.

But the required number of actual settlers had not yet purchased land in Piscataway and made such improvements as were contemplated and specified by the Woodbridge grant of 1666, and the previous charter of 1664 to the Elizabethtown colony. Four years had now intervened without realizing the necessary accessions to the population or the required development of the territory. On the 20th of October, 1670, Governor Carteret made a public proclamation waiving all objections that might be made against the Piscataway settlement "on account of their not having come in exactly according to the time limited." Stimulated by this official concession, renewed efforts were immediately made resulting in the greater improvement of the country and an increase of emigration thither.

By 1675-6 Piscataway had attained a notable prominence in the civil affairs of the province, and that year sent for the first time two deputies to the General Assembly, which had been held but twice before, (during the Spring and Winter of 1668). The few accessions made during the five years succeeding 1676-81 may have been caused by the disputed title of boundaries between Piscataway and Woodbridge, and the division of ownership in the colony and the unsettled condition of proprietorship, which was not definitely determined till 1682.

The following names are then found among the prominent freeholders as recently arrived citizens, whose religious affiliations were with the Baptist people: Vincent Runyon [Runyan], Nicholas Mundy, James Giles, Andrew Wooden, and representatives of the Suttons, Holtons, Daytons, Mollisons, and others.

Up to this period nearly all the planters had come from plantations in New England or Long Island, and been under the influence of instruction tending to Baptist doctrines. Most all of the first original settlers in Piscataway were imbued with religious principles or this denomination, which had been discernible among the earliest adventurers to New England, and been preached by Hauserd Knollys in New Hampshire and taught by Roger Williams in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and advocated by William Wickenden among the towns on Long Island.

By the time the government of East Jersey passed into the hands of the Crown -1702, and a few years thereafter at the distribution of the back lands- local history of Piscataway becomes familiar with the names of the Stelles, Blackfords, Clarksons, Piatts, Coriells, Brokaws, Boices, Bishops, Fords, Merrells, Higgins, Hendricks, Slaters, Fields, Laings, Websters, Pounds, Clarks, Thorns, Lupardus's and others. The Dunns and Dunhams, with the Drakes shortly after them, came to this township from the Piscataqua district in New England.

The roll call given includes the names of most of the men, who with their wives, laid the foundations of society in this locality and established its social, moral and religious character. Piscataway was from the first a plantation of Christians a colony of conscience. The original settlers came here to escape religious persecution elsewhere and establish a permanent home here where they might enjoy the liberty of the gospel and the free exercise of their own spiritual convictions. May their descendants never lower the standard of religious living as set up in those pioneer days, nor manifest an indifference for such conscientious motives as actuated the early forefathers of this community.

Baptist churches were found in early colonial settlements and grew out of the English Separatist movement and the doctrine of John Smyth who rejected infant baptism.
Learn more about the Dunham family.

A freeholder is the owner of a freehold estate which is an interest in land that is not fixed by a specified period of time, but which may last during the lifetime of a person.

New Hampshire was first settled by Europeans in 1623. It was separated from Massachusetts in 1679.

Colonial legislatures granted land to a group of settlers (proprietors) who chose how to divide the land. They had some rights of governance.

The Story of an Old Farm or Life in New Jersey in the Eighteenth Century by Andrew D. Mellick, Jr., The Unionist Gazette,Somerville, New Jersey, 1889: pg. 194.      
... John Martin, Charles Gilman, Hugh Dun and, Hopewell Hull, had removed to New Jersey from Piscataqua, New England, in response to the Concessions and Agreements published in the East by the lords-proprietors, Berkeley and Carteret. They received a grant on the eighteenth of December, 1666, for a large area of territory which now embraces the township of Piscataway. 

Within twenty years settlers from New England and the old country augmented the nucleus of population formed by the Piscataway families to about four hundred. Among the persons to whom land was allotted previous to 1690 are to be found the following names:
Nicholas Bonham, 122 acres;
Benjamin Clarke, 275 acres;
George Drake, 424 acres;
Hugh Dunn, 138 acres;
Benajah Dunham, 103½ acres;
Edmund Dunham, 100 acres;
John Fitz Randolph, 225 acres;
Rehoboth Gannett, 224 acres;
Charles Gilman, 340 acres;
Hopewell Hull, 284 acres;
Benjamin Hull, innkeeper, 498 acres;
John Langstaff, 300 acres,
John Martin, 334 acres;
Jeffery Maning, 195 acres;
John Mollison, 100 acres;
Nicholas Mundaye, 101½ acres;
Vincent Rongnion, 154½ acres;
John Smalley, 118½ acres;
Edward Slater, 464 acres.

History of Middlesex County, New Jersey, Lewis Historical Pub. Co., John P. Wall and Harold E. Pickersgill (eds), Chicago, Illinois, and New York, New York, 1921: Vol. 2,  pgs. 444-6.

The pioneer settlers were the Stelles, Martins, Campbells, Bonhams, Dunns, Dunhams, Edgars, Comptons, Tappens, Thornells, Hamptons, Ackens, Laings, Kellys, Ayres, Freemans, Bloomfields, Paynes, Robins, Mundays, Carmens, Rowlands, Laforges and others.

The village of Piscatawaytown ... is the earliest settlement, dating back to 1668, and described as three miles from New Brunswick, one mile from the Raritan river and on the turnpike road from that city to Woodbridge, and contains an Episcopal church, a Baptist chapel, a store and some twelve dwellings. It was an old Indian village, and was once the seat of justice for Middlesex and Somerset counties, the courts being held alternatively at that place and at Woodbridge. Stelton, about four miles from New Brunswick, was settled by the Stelles in 1668. 

Bonhamtown, five miles northeast from New Brunswick, was named for Nicholas Bonham, who was one of the first settlers, having become a freeholder in 1682, and so recorded as owner of lands by allotment. During the Revolution five British regiments were stationed at Bonhamtown, and robbed and harried the residents for a considerable period, burning the houses and barns, and committing other outrages.  The people were very loyal to the patriot cause.

Piscataway Township in New Jersey was first settled in 1666 by Quakers and Baptists who had left the Puritan colony in New Hampshire.

The indigenous population in the United States before the arrival of Europeans included many distinct tribes and languages

Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey by John W. Barber and Henry Howe, S. Tuttle, Pub., New York, NY, 1844; pg. 323.

The earliest authenic history of this township is gathered from the public records, which state that a large tract on the east side of the Raritan river, which comprises the towns of Piscataway, Elizabeth, &c., was purchased from the Indians in 1663. The purchasers were John Bailey, Daniel Denton, Luke Watson, and others, who obtained a patent in 1664 from Gov. Nichols, who acted under the Duke of York. The names of the first settlers on record are,
the Gillmans in 1663;
the Blackshaws, Drakes, Hands, and Hendricks, in 1677;
the Dotys and Wolfs, in 1678;
the Smalleys, Hulls, and Trotters, in 1679,
the Hansworths, Martins, and Higgins,
in 1680; the Dunhams, Laflowers, and Fitz Randolphs,
in 1681; the Suttons, Brindleys, Bounds, and Fords, in 1682;
the Davises and Slaughters,
in 1683; the Pregmores,
in 1684; the Grubs and Adamses,
in 1685; the Chandlers and Smiths,
in 1687; the Mortons, Molesons, and McDaniels, in 1689.

It is supposed that most of these persons were Baptists.The tradition is, however, that there were but six professed Baptists, viz: Hugh Dunn, who was an exhorter, John Drake, afterward their pastor, Nicholas Bonham, John Smalley, Edmond Dunham, afterward minister of the Seventh-day Baptists, and John Fitz Randolph. The above persons were constituted a Baptist church in the spring of 1689, by the assistance of the Rev. Thomas Killingsworth, who was then pastor at Middletown and Cohansey churches.

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) was between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the 13 colonies which became the newly formed United States.




The constitution of Piscataway Church dates back to the period of our Colonial history when New Jersey was under the proprietary form of government, to the very year that William and Mary of Orange came to the throne of the mother country. 

The records of the Church, from the time of its constitution till 1781, a period of nearly one hundred years, were either lost or willfully destroyed during the Revolutionary War. The names of Drake, Stelle, Smalley, Runyon, Martin, Dunham, FitzRandolph, Sutton and Smith were prominent on the register of the Piscataway Church. 

Of these early settlers tradition will allow only six to have been professed Baptists, namely: Hugh Dunn, John Drake, Nicholas Bonham, John Smalley, Edmund Dunham, and John [Fitz]Randolph. 

These persons were constituted a Gospel Church in the spring of 1689, by Thomas Killingsworth, who came to this country soon after his ordination in England, and became the first pastor of the Cohansey Church, which was constituted the following year (1690).  (Note: The History of the Philadelphia Association says this church was planted in 1686.)  The name of no female appears among the constituent members either of this Church or of the Middletown and Cohansey Churches.  Of the six constituent members, three were exhorters or lay-preachers, namely: John Drake, Hugh Dunn, and Edmund Dunham.  (Robert Webb, Church and Family History Research Assistance for Primitive Baptist Churches in the State of New Jersey, www.carthage.lib.il.us/community/churches/primbap/NewJersey.html, 2005.)



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©Roberta Tuller 2023
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