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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Samuel Bonnell (1), Samuel Bonnell (2) and Edward Bonnell in Middlesex County, New Jersey

John Bunnell's latest report on the Samuel Bonnell sorting:

As George (Farris) stated, the documentation seems to indicate that Samuel Bonnell was a Constable of Windsor from at least 1744 until 1762.  There are significant gaps in the Middlesex Court records during this period, but Samuel seems to be there whenever the records exist for his adult life.  A newly produced microfilm in the New Jersey State Archives (courtesy of recent archival work by Rutgers University) shows the a fairly complete set of Minute Books for Middlesex County through 1736.  The only mention of the Bonnells I’ve found in this time is for the father of the individual we are investigating here (also called Samuel Bonnell (1)), who is mentioned in a series of actions involving an adultery case that eventually leads to his conviction and an assessment of a fine in 1715.  Of note, Samuel Bonnell (2) is not a constable of Windsor in 1736 (the last year before the record gap), as that position is occupied by John Clarke.  George and I assess that the adultery case probably led the family to relocate to Somerset County during that period, thus explaining several of the court documents that emanate from that county during this time.

There is a gap in the Middlesex County Minute Books from 1737-1754, denying us the ability to do the year-by-year tracing that we can do earlier and later.  Nonetheless, the items we have found in the loose papers indicate that Samuel Bonnell (2) returned to Middlesex County and assumed the position of the Constable of Windsor during this time.  The first mention of this we’ve found so far is from 1744.  This is actually a fairly entertaining case where Samuel was ordered to legal action against an individual who was a law officer in another jurisdiction (New Brunswick).  Samuel, in turn, was arrested as he attempted to execute this order, leading to an argument between the officials in the two townships.  The next case, also from the free court papers, is in March 1755, when Samuel is deposed to deliver a letter from the court to William Walker concerning a land dispute.

Once the Middlesex Court Minute Books pick up again in 1755, Samuel is consistently noted performing constabulary duties.  The annotations are there for the Court Terms of October 1755, April 1756, July 1756, July 1757, April 1758 (by implication), January 1759, April 1759, April 1760, October 1760, April 1762, and October 1762

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.  January 1761 seems to be the big transition point for the Windsor Township Taverns, with licenses simultaneously issued for James English (“in the house where he now lives in Windsor,” John Hight and Vincent Dye his recognizance, Timothy Frazee and David Stewart his suretys), John Hight (“in the house where he lives in Windsor,” John Smith and John Silver suretys), and  Samuel Bonnel (“in the house where James English lately kept tavern in Windsor,” John Silver and John Smith 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” and simultaneously assumed his role as constable.

I know I need to scan and transcribe these more recent discoveries and get them out to everyone.  (I’m a single point of failure here…)

I think I have mostly exhausted the resources in the NJ State Archives, so George is on the right track to look for data sources beyond Trenton.  The archivist at Trenton recommended I contact the administrator for the Rutgers Special Collections.  I sent the email but not yet received a response.  I did sort through the fragmented annotations (marriages and births) for the Cranberry Presbyterian Church (just north of Hightstown) located in the State Archives, but did not get any hits within these clearly incomplete listings.

Bob Craig of the Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society added:

Thanks for all of this information.  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.

BTW, there is a reference to an Edward Bonnel having been a blacksmith in Somerset County in 1740.  Is this part of the story also?

Another interesting pattern in the tavern license material is the frequency with which tavern keepers served as sureties for one another.  

I'm not sure what to make of this tidbit, but when Bonnell was first licensed, his sureties, Silver and Smith, were not from the Hightstown area, but rather from the area now encompassed within Robbinsville Township.  Likewise, when Smith was licensed in 1762, his tavern was at "Cattail" (New Sharon on the Old York Road), but a year later Bonnell reciprocated for Smith.  It turns out that Smith died not long afterward, so neither man was a local tavern keeper very long.

George Farris on Edward Bonnell:

I don't think Edward Bonnell has been identified among the related Bonnell lines of NJ.  Yes, we've seen the article about him breaking out of goal in 1740 in Somerset. There was later an Edward in Monmouth Co. - and several other Edwards over the years.  Charlie Bunnell is the keeper of the Bonnell/Bunnell database and I will let him comment if he knows more about this Edward.  He wasn't part of the Samuel Bonnell family as far as I know.

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