Crosswicks at the Crossroads – Take a drive back into history on Crosswicks 250th anniversary

Burlington driving tour: History of a cannonball – Visiting Crosswicks 250th celebration

The History of the Cannonball in Crosswicks, Burlington Quarter (Friends) Quakers, and the Revolutionary War. This tour is part of a larger tour organized for Burlington County.

In the late 17th century, during the Revolutionary period. New Jersey proved a strange and unconquerable affliction to the mighty British Empire. Yet, in its heart, many towns and communities of peaceful nonviolent Quakers suffered. There are many good examples, Trenton is perhaps the most famous. Yet, a Quaker settlement Crosswicks endured numerous occupations. Come! Visit lands, ports, roads and farms with us.

The Crosswicks Meetinghouse bore witness to at least one skirmish during the American Revolution. As you stand here today, it’s important to remember the rich history that unfolded in this very place. Sloping terrain at the town’s entrance, played host to British troops in June 1778, shortly after their evacuation of Philadelphia. During this occupation, the Bunting family’s residence, located near the J.P. Bunting Mansion behind was selected as the headquarters for Sir Henry Clinton, British commander. Legend has it that during his stay here, Sir Henry had a bit too much to drink one fateful night. Startled by a nightmare, he fled the house in a panic, running down the hill and into a nearby stream. Mrs. Bunting, the lady of the house, kindly calmed and cleaned the shaken General before returning him to his bed. Was this early Quaker satire?

Crosswicks meeting house, constructed in 1773, played a significant role during the American Revolution. On December 29, 1776, it served as the command post for American Colonel Silas Newcomb just before his troops engaged in the second Battle of Trenton. Fast forward to June 1778, when Sir Henry Clinton occupied the Bunting family’s residence, and the meeting house became a focal point for the 17,000 troops under British control. It was during this occupation that a skirmish erupted between American units and British forces attempting to destroy a bridge over Crosswicks Creek. This is the moment when a cannonball struck and became lodged in the north wall of the meeting house, a relic that still remains to this day.

Photograph by Journal of the American Revolution

Turn onto Chesterfield Road and follow it for 2.4 miles until you reach the first stop sign at the intersection in Chesterfield.

Chesterfield, once known as Recklesstown in the time of the American Revolution, derived its name from its founder, Joseph Reckless. The tavern to your left, now the Chesterfield Inn, served as the Recklesstown Tavern in the mid-18th century. It was a hub for heated town meetings during Revolutionary War days. Has anything changed?

Turn right onto Bordentown Rd. (Rte. 528) and continue for 1.5 miles until you reach the intersection with the Old York Road.

Paralleling the road, are the remnants of a Lenape trail known as the “Burlington Path.”

This is the area where the Taylor family homestead, or Brookdale Farm, once stood.
In 1778, following evacuation of Philadelphia, a marauding British army marched along Burlington Path, wreaking havoc. Burning or plundering much indiscriminate ruin followed with what lay in its path. In an effort to spare her home, Ann Newbold Taylor, the lady of Brookdale Farm, concealed her true feelings, greeted several British officers with a smile, and graciously invited them in for tea.

Women were a social force in colonial New Jersey. As individuals, women Friends helped to fashion a multicultural society consistent with Quaker beliefs in religious liberty and pacifism by maintaining amicable relations with the Lenape Indians and non-Quaker European settlers. However, until much later, Friends failed to acknowledge an inconsistency of exploiting enslaved African Americans with our Quaker ideals of peace. As leaders of Salem, Burlington, Chesterfield, and Newton (later Haddonfield) monthly meetings, Quaker women also helped to shape West New Jersey society by strengthening rules of discipline. Many women strove to prevent children and other Friends from marrying non-Quakers and adopting ‘outward vanities’.

Continue your journey on Bordentown Rd. (Rte. 528) for 2.3 miles until you reach the jughandle at Rte. 130. Follow the jughandle to the left, towards Bordentown, and cross Rte. 130 to Butts Ave. Follow Butts Ave. to the stop sign at Crosswicks St. Turn left onto Crosswicks St. and follow it until it ends at Farnsworth Ave. proceed one block until you reach the intersection with Church St.

The Thomas Paine House, located on the left just past the Farnsworth Church intersection, became the residence of the passionate pamphleteer in 1783.

Paine’s influential work “Common Sense,” published in early 1776, began with famous words, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” His writings and unwavering spirit provided solace and inspiration to countless patriots in the early days of the Revolution.

Each building holds significant ties to our area’s Revolutionary War history. The red-brick Francis Hopkinson House on the right was the home of one of New Jersey’s five signers of the Declaration of Independence. Though it was occupied by enemy forces on several occasions, it was spared from destruction by a scholarly Hessian officer who admired Hopkinson’s library.

Facing the Hopkinson House, stands the Patience Lovell Wright House, home to the renowned American sculptor. Patience Wright’s talents eventually led her to England and the court of King George III, where she reportedly gathered information beneficial to the American Cause during the Revolution.

Next to the Wright House, was a residence of Col. Joseph Borden (the house built upon foundations of Borden’s home) which was set ablaze by the British in May 1778.
Across Borden House stood Hoagland’s Tavern, a focal point for the 2,000 Hessians and Scotsmen quartered in Bordentown under Col. Kurt von Donop in December 1776. Had these troops not been lured southward, just prior to Washington’s attack on Trenton, they might have joined forces with the 1,500 Hessians stationed in Trenton, potentially altering the course of the battle in Washington’s favor.

At the foot of this bluff stood the bustling Bordentown wharf. In a daring attempt to damage a portion of the British fleet stationed in Philadelphia during the winter of 1777-78, several floating explosive devices, wooden kegs filled with gunpowder, were launched from this very point. Though the effort did not achieve military success, it gave rise to a symbol of American ingenuity and spirit.

In Francis Hopkinson’s poem “The Battle of the Kegs,” he humorously noted:
“The kegs, ’tis said, tho’ strongly made, of rebel stayes and hoops, sir Could not oppose their powerful foes, The.Conque’ring British Troops, sir:”

These kegs, despite their failure on the battlefield, embody American resourcefulness and resilience and provide an early glimpse of American humor.

This is Crosswicks at the Crossroads, Burlington Quarter (Friends) Quakers and the Revolutionary war. Take a drive back into history on Crosswicks 250th anniversary.

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