More from Bob Craig of the Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society (written to George Farris):
I do need to go further on some points, however. You are right that few Windsor Township records exist. In fact, the only ones that I've been able to find in very, very extensive searching are the minutes of the annual meetings for 1761, 1762, 1763, and 1764, and 1772, 1773, and 1774. These, themselves, were not originals, but rather contemporary manuscript copies submitted to the Middlesex County court. I have found no Windsor Township minutes for other years. The township appointed only two constables each year, and of the fourteen names in those seven years, only one, John Updike Jr., was represented more than once.
It is possible that Bonnell may have been incidentally identified in one or another surviving Middlesex County record, but given the clear pattern among surviving records, I would ask you to identify the earlier documents that list Bonnell as a constable. When he was named a constable in 1762, he did not succeed himself.
(for other reasons, I would also ask that you let me know what documents or other sources identify him as a blacksmith.) The tavern that he occupied and ran stood across the road (Main Street) from a blacksmith shop.
Hoagland's gristmill was actually on the north side of Rocky Brook, not the south side (several secondary sources have gotten this point wrong, but the original manuscript sources are very clear on this point. Even so, you are right that the tavern and the mill were only a few hundred feet apart.
Some other questions for you.
Do you know when Samuel Bonnell first appeared in Windsor, and was it in the Penns Neck area? When did he first appear in the Hightstown area?
The movement of Hightstown-area families to Loudoun County, VA is something that the Society has not carefully studied, but we are aware of members of several families who made that move between 1760 and 1775. One of them was Richard Major, the blacksmith who operated the blacksmith shop across from Bonnell's tavern, who left Hightstown ca.1766, and one of John Hight's sons, Thomas Hight, who left for Virginia prob. in 1770. There were others.
From George Farris to Bob Craig:
Most of the references to Samuel Bonnell as a Constable are within the context of several court documents over a period of many years, not in documents addressing his appointments as constable. Some of the court documents show both Samuel and Samuel, Jr. as being blacksmiths.
Regarding the location of the mill, thanks for the correction. I had misinterpreted the reference to it being on the southeasterly side of the road at Rocky Brook when he bought it from James English, Jr. in 1758.
We have copies of a few pages from Loudoun VA tax lists for 1768 - 1771 - but only the pages listing Samuel and William Bonnell. However, fortunately, the 1770 list was not sorted alphabetically so it's possible to see who lived near each other. There are no Majors or Hights showing up on the page with the Bonnells. However there are a Daniel and William Hutchinson. Were these a part of the Hutchinson clan from that area?
From Bob Craig:
One further clarification, if you will permit me. The constable was a local office, appointed by the township at the annual meeting on the second Tuesday in March. Tavern licenses were issued by the county court of special quarter sessions of the peace during court sessions that were held quarterly, in January, April, July, and October. So the use of the word "simultaneously" would seem to be slightly amiss. Does the court minute in January 1763 specifically address whether Bonnell yielded his tavern license and his position as constable at the same time? (if so, that would further strengthen the circumstantial evidence of a link between those positions.)
The constables worked closely with the justices of the peace, and delivered writs, arrested charged persons, and so forth. This would help explain their names appearing in the county court minutes.
From John Bunnell to Bob Craig;
You are correct that “simultaneously” was my interpretation. There is no direct link between the change in tavern proprietorship and change in constable appointment in the Minute Books for the Court of Common Pleas. They just appear to happen coincidentally. Of note, Samuel Bonnell appeared to become less diligent with his constabulary duties in the 1760s, as he was fined several times for “default,” which seems to mean that he did not appear in the quarterly court session when the constables were called. So, either his mounting debts, poor health, or a combination of the two may have led to an inability to carry out his public duties, thus necessitating the change in appointment to Benjamin Ward.
A correction to me email before. The three tavern licenses I described were split between the January and April 1761 terms of the court. (I mixed up the pages, serves me right for trying to do this in a hurry last night…) Here is the corrected description:
Regarding the Taverns, Samuel Bonnell is first connected with a tavern in April 1757, when he performs as a surety for John Height’s application for a tavern license. Regarding the tavern that Samuel Bonnell eventually ran, the previous proprietor, James English (a fellow constable) received his last license in January 1761 for the “the house where he now lives in Windsor.” Three months later (April 1761), proprietorship shifts to Samuel Bonnell, for the house “where James English lately kept tavern in Windsor” (John Silver and John Smith suretys). Several entries above that in the Minute Book, John Hight, for whom Samuel Bonnell previously served as surety, is granted another license for “the house where he lives in Windsor,” with the same two individuals, John Smith and John Silver, acting as suretys. In April 1762, Samuel Bonnell’s tavern license is renewed, but he also serves as the surety, along with James Brooks, for John Smith’s tavern “at Cattail Brook in the South west part of the County.” In January 1763, as has been mentioned, Benjamin Ward is awarded a tavern license “in the house where Samuel Bonnell lately lived in Windsor.” Benjamin Ward also assumed Samuel Bonnell’s constabulary position in March 1763.
Your question below regarding sources is key. I followed your footsteps exactly, finding the appointment of officers documents from 1761 forward in the loose papers of the Middlesex Court of Common Pleas kept in the State Archives in Trenton. That is where we were stuck until two weeks ago, frustrated that the officer selection documents for Windsor do not exist prior to this date. The ground-breaking new source is the Minute Books from the Middlesex Court of Common Pleas just now available to the public after the archival work at Rutgers. These books record the officer appointment results for Windsor each April session, not only confirming the information we already have, but now providing the officer information for previous years. I only copied the ones that applied to me, but I have the officer lists for 1736 (John Clarke, Constable), 1756 (Samuel Bonnel and William Mounteer, constables), 1758 (it says to continue the same officers as the previous year), and 1760 (Samuel Bonnel and James English, constables). Officer listings for 1757 and 1759 may be there as well, I may have just missed them.
This brings up a point where we could certainly use help from our new friends in New Jersey. We’ve discovered that navigating the Byzantine world of New Jersey documents is tremendously difficult. Just to take the Middlesex Court documents as an example. The Court of Common Pleas Minute Books are at Rutgers (only now available to the public via microfilm), the Court of the Oyer and Terminer Minute Books (debtors court) are at Princeton (may not be available to the public), the loose papers (writs, etc) emanating from both of these courts are what we have been sifting through at the State Archives at Trenton (only being indexed for the earlier years). It absolutely baffles me why all these documents that were produced by the same organization (the County Court at Perth Amboy with the same Justices, Sheriffs, and Constables throughout) should be spread amongst these disparate agencies. We will certainly need your help and advice to answer questions such as: how do we get access to the Oyer and Terminer Minute Books? What else is available in the Special collections at Rutgers and Princeton for which we are not smart enough to ask? What other records exist for local governments, churches, etc, that may supplement what we are finding at the larger establishments?
We have been working this remotely (I live in Colorado, George lives in Tennessee, John Grady lives in Houston, etc.), so we have wasted much of our very limited on-site research time by not having a good understanding of the available documentation and the potential value of each source. We would greatly value your input to make us more productive in the future.