Hartshorne Fitz Randolph was an important 18th century leader in Mendham Township. He lived in a turbulent time of political unrest. Political boundaries were shifted as New Jersey sought to rationalize local government. Hartshorne was a Quaker, a man of peace in a time of revolution. He was dedicated to freedom of all people, including slaves.

He is rarely thought of or mentioned today in Mendham Township or Randolph Township. His homestead was located in the northern part of Mendham Township, which became Mine Hill long after his death. This homestead was destroyed by fire in the late 19th century.

Hartshorne was a member of one of the founding families of our country, if you discount the indigenous native population. The Randolph family had numerous famous ancestors, including Charlemagne and Rollo (Ganger Rolf), the Viking who founded Normandy. Hartshorne was named for his maternal grandfather, Richard Hartshorne, who was an early proprietor and Freeholder of East Jersey.

Mendham Township was created on March 29, 1749, from portions of Hanover Township, Morris Township and Roxbury Township. The new Township was approximately fifty square miles. It included present day: Mendham Township, Mendham Borough, Randolph Township, Mine Hill, Dover and Victory Gardens, along with parts of Chester Township and Wharton Borough.

The local government was a committee of Freeholders elected by the residents. The leader of the committee was called a moderator, who was selected from and by the other freeholders. Early Mendham Township was lightly settled with only a few hundred residents, mostly living in the southern (present day Mendham Borough, Ralston, and Brookside) and northern (present-day Dover) parts of the Township.

Hartshorne’s Grandfather, Edward Fitz Randolph, arrived from England with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630 and settled in Scituate, Massachusetts. Edward met and married Elizabeth Blossom. As Quakers he and his family were persecuted by the Puritan majority in the Bay Colony over the finer points of religious observance. This led Edward to eventually move his family to East Jersey. The proprietors of Jersey needed settlers and offered greater religious freedom, including for Quakers.

Hartshorne was his great grandson. He was born in Woodbridge, NJ on March 8th, 1723. He attended the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting of Quakers. He grew up in a Colony that cherished freedom of religion, while ignoring the evil of slavery. However, many viewed the institution of slavery as an economic necessity and of course a benefit to themselves. His family along with most Quakers saw it differently. Hartshorne grew up on a community of family and friends who despised slavery and wanted to end it.

He married Ruth Dennis at Piscataway on August 16th, 1746. He was twenty-three at the time, while Ruth was nineteen. After a few years they moved to Mendham Township in the 1750’s. Hartshorne purchased at a Sherrif’s sale the approximately 500-acre John Jackson farm in 1753 on Jackson Brook. This settled a debt owed by John Jackson to his brother’s estate. Jackson’s forge was acquired by Josiah Beman at the same sale. Hartshorne farmed the land for the next sixty years.

The exact location of the Jackson forge and the farm are not known. Hartshorne’s home burned to the ground in the late 19th Century. However, it was in the area of Jackson Brook, to the East of the Dickerson Mines, to the west of present day Hedden Park, and probably along present-day Randolph Avenue.

Hartshorne locations

They raised a family of twelve children on the farm. Three died at a young age, which was typical in the 18th century. Ruth died in 1770. He never married again.

The family worshiped in private homes reporting to the Woodbridge Monthly Meeting for five years. Finally, the Woodbridge Meeting permitted Fitz Randolph and his neighbors to found a sanctioned local meeting in 1758 for those in Hardwick and Mendham Township. The Quakers built a meeting house and burial ground in Mendham Township, which remains the oldest, continuously active meeting house in the United States. Today, it is located on Quaker Church Road in Randolph Township.

Friends Meeting House

Friends Meeting House, Mendham Township 1758, before Randolph separated in 1806

Owing to his faith and honesty he was respected by his neighbors in the Township. They recognized his leadership ability, electing him to office in 1757. He remained a Freeholder in Mendham Township and a Moderator over the next 20 years.

Mendham Township was divided ideologically by slave holding and non-slave holding families. Many Quakers in East Jersey had slaves to work their plantations, but by the mid 1770’s no Quakers in Mendham Township owned slaves. Hartshorne wanted to end all slavery. He would work for that cause with likeminded supporters later in life.

Hartshorne was opposed to the American Revolution on moral grounds. He never believed in violence of any kind. During the French and Indian War he refused to serve in the militia and was later fined 3 Pounds by Coronel Jacob Ford.

In 1777 he was compelled by the Morristown Counsel of Safety to swear allegiance to New Jersey and its laws. Had he refused he would have been punished, fined as his cousin had been or even jailed. In the same year he stepped down after 20 years from leadership as a Freeholder as well as the Township tax assessor. To keep that position, he would have had to confiscate goods of fellow residents for the war effort. Hartshorne focused on his family and on his faith, keeping a low profile until the war ended. However, his son Phineas did join the Morris County Militia. General Washington, aware that supplies had been previously stolen, offered the Quakers and other farmers the choice of either selling to his starving troops at Jockey Hollow or have the supplies taken. The Continental Congress supported him in this.

During the Revolutionary War, many families fled from East Jersey due to raging battles and skirmishes with the British to the relative safety of Mendham Township. The Township, along with the rest of Northwest New Jersey, was protected by the Watchung Mountains (once called the Blue Hills). These refugee residents mostly settled in the Northern half of the Township. They were probably Quakers and, like Hartshorne, wanted to live at peace in a time of war and were opposed to slavery.

Following the Revolution, Hartshorne was again elected by the residents as a Freeholder and continued to serve with distinction in his community. In 1793 he founded the New Jersey Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery with a number of other Quakers, including Isaac Hance and Henry Moore. These members protested slavery in non-violent ways, such as refusing to purchase anything made with slave labor. A protracted struggle continued over the next few years.

At the dawn of the new century the anti-slavery movement gained popularity in the Northern States. New Jersey was the largest northern slave state with a strong difference of opinion between pro and anti-slavery people. The anti-slavery proponents held a convention in 1801. As a result, legislation was drafted for the Eventual Emancipation of Slaves in New Jersey in 1804. Hartshorne was one of the leaders who pushed this legislation.

His passion, along with other abolitionists, to free all slaves started the movement. Hartshorne did not live to see it completed. Abolitionists like Hartshorne hoped for a peaceful solution, but the evil of slavery had to be ripped out by the root. This root ran very deep. While the New Jersey legislature outlawed all slavery in 1846, it was not fully ended in New Jersey until after the Civil War and the 13th Amendment. New Jersey was the last state to ratify it. Only then were the last thirteen slaves freed in New Jersey. Even then slavery morphed into other forms of servitude, which took over another hundred years of violence, protest, speeches, marches, and more legislation. For some a national guilt still resonates today.

In 1805 Mendham Township was separated into two townships. The Quakers made up a large majority in the Northern part of Mendham Township versus the other Protestant sects which dominated the Southern half. By this time, the Quakers either opposed slavery or had followed the guidance of their meetings and freed their slaves. In contrast, slavery still existing in the Southern part of the Township.

The economies of the two parts were split between the activities on the northern and southern borders of the Township, basically the Dover, Mine Hill area versus Mendham, Waterstreet, and Ralston. The northern residents petitioned to separate. This was approved. According to State Records, “a committee established agreeable to an act of the Assembly for setting off and making the Township of Randolph passed at Trenton on the 13th day of November 1805.” Owing to Hartshorne’s years of leadership, general popularity, and being a significant Quaker, the new Township was named in his honor.

He drew his will in March of 1805, mentioning his children and their siblings. He still owned over 400 acres of his farm. Hartshorne passed away at his home in 1806. He was buried on the local Meeting House grounds. Owing to his wish, there is no exact marker to show where he is buried.

Sam Tolley – July 2023

References:
Unfaltering Trust: How Pilgrim Edward Fitz Randolph Jr. and His Descendants Helped Build America, 2019, Roy Ziegler

New Jersey Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery records 1793-1809, Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Archives,
https://archives.tricolib.brynmawr.edu/resources/hcmc-975-09-018

A History of Randolph Township – Randoph Historical Society

Manuscript Group 159 Randolph Township, New Jersey -The New Jersey Historical Society

History of Morris County, New Jersey, 1739-1882

Ancestry.com

Wikipedia