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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Records of Samuel Bonnell's Tavern in Middlesex County, New Jersey

From John Bunnell:
Here, from the New Jersey State Archives, are the tavern license petitions for Samuel Bonnell in 1762 and then for Benjamin Ward, for the same property, in 1763.  

According to the Middlesex County Court minutes, Samuel Bonnell first received a license in April of 1761 (taking over for James English), so there should be a petition for that year as well.  However, it is not listed in the New Jersey State Archives index.  

Nonetheless, these two documents are illuminating for a couple of reasons.  

First, they list what must be the local gentlemen serviced by this tavern.  We see some familiar names here.  Benjamin Ward, who would purchase the property in 1763, signed as a petitioner in favor of Samuel Bonnell in 1762. Christopher Hoogeland, a petitioner for Benjamin Ward, ran the local mill and had accounts for Samuel Bonnell, Jacob Wright, and the young William Bonnell in 1763.  

Most interesting is the description on Benjamin Ward's petition that indicate he bought the property where Samuel Bonnell of late lived. 
Also of note is the fact that the tavern is said to have serviced travelers in addition to the locals.  
I welcome any additional analysis or thoughts on these documents.

Samuel Bonill
Samuel Bonnil

To the Honorable Court of Quarter Session to be held at the City of Perth Amboy Aprill the 20th 1762
We the subscribers your Honours Humble Petitioners pray that the Honourable Bench will be pleased to grant License to Samuel Bonill for the keeping a Publick House for retailing strong liquors viz in the house he now lives.
Richard Major
John Hull
John Ely Junior
Wm. Hutchinson Junr.
Daniel South
Joseph South
John Kight
Joseph Wilson
Benjamin Ward
John L Conte


Benjamin Ward

To the Honourable Justices of the Peace of the County of Midlesex in New Jersey at their General Quarters sessions convened in January term Anno Dom. 1763
That wheras Benjamin Ward of Windsor in the above said County of Middlesex Hath made a Legal purchase of the dwelling house in which Samuel Bonnel of late dwelt and kept a lisenced tavern and publick house of entertainment, & the lands appurtenances thereunto belonging scituate & lying in above said Windsor, and in the said house hath been kept a licens tavern for many years past to the comfort and refreshment of travelers and others, Therefore we the subscribers do humbly recommend the above sid Benjamin Ward to be a proper person to keep a tavern & publick house and hereby jumbly desire that he may have a lisence for that purposes
Given under our hands the 7th day of Jan’y Anno Dom 1763
Abel Hankins
Ste’n Warnes
Richard Major
Chris’or Floogeland
John Hose
Jacob Jamson
George Nicholson
John Knight
Ric’d Carnster
Rich’d Francis
John Dye
Mattiaas Mound


Bob Craig, Library chairman Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society adds: The Bonnell/Ward tavern stood on the SW corner of Main and Stockton Streets in downtown Hightstown.  On the site of what was long known as Cunningham's Pharmacy.  The tavern was probably built about 1755 and was the second tavern in the nascent village.


John Bunnell: 
I plotted your described location on goggle maps and can see the present day pharmacy at the corner.  I notice the First Baptist Church is just down the street.  However, their webpage says the church did not move to that location from Cranbury until 1785, so that probably doesn’t do us much good.  Nonetheless, do you know if there are any records available from that church for the pre-revolutionary years?  I’ve looked at the fragmented records for the Cranbury First Presbyterian Church, with no results. The Presbyterian Church was then and now remains up in Cranbury.  Perhaps the First Baptist Church always had more of a connection to Hightstown.


Bob Craig, Library chairman Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society: 
The congregation was founded in Cranbury in 1745, where it continued to worship until 1785 when its new house of worship in Hightstown was completed.  The church minute book from 1745-> survives; the historical society has a photocopy of it.  The church records, however, are weak for the period of the early 1760s, when Bonnell was running his tavern.  The church was without a settled pastor during those years and record-keeping was spotty.


Bette M. Epstein, NJ State Archives: Baptist Churches did not baptize children.
They only baptized adults.
Therefore unlike Presbyterian church records their records would not help in identifying the children of Samuel Bonnell.


John Bunnell: 
Thanks Bette, I would have never known about the baptism procedures.  Even if there are no birth records, I may still peruse the Hightstown First Baptist Church records the next time I am in Trenton, just to see if I can stumble on anything.  It appears the family was a church-going one, as we have tracked the grandkids through at least three churches in Kentucky during the early 1800s, either Baptist or non-denominational (Shawnee Run Baptist Church in Mercer County, Tramels Creek Church in Green County, Little Barren Church in Green County).

We have now narrowed down the search to a very small geographic area.  The best we can tell, the Bonnells were living within about a eight-mile stretch between Penn’s Neck and Hightstown from at least the mid-1740s through 1767.  Are there any other non-published church records for this area?  The Princeton Baptist Church at Penns Neck is optimally placed, but the web-site says it did not open until 1812.

Regarding the tavern license petitions, can you tell us who the petitioners were for James English’s license petitions in 1760 and 1761 and then potentially for John Height in years previous to that?  It almost seems that running this tavern was a responsibility shared between a small number of gentlemen, including, in order (I think), John Height, James English, Samuel Bonnell, and then Benjamin Ward.  It would be interesting if we could trace back the petitioners for this particular tavern.  The first connection we can see is from the April 1757 Middlesex County Court Minutes, when Samuel Bonnell serves as a surety for John Height’s tavern license.  John Height, in turn, was one of the petitioners for Samuel Bonnell’s license in 1762.

Marjorie Gibbs:
I am following this with amazement. I am fascinated by the depth of detail you are uncovering, further fleshing out Samuel Bonnell. Thank you again for all you are doing. I am in the process of rewriting my Bonnell history.


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