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Joshua Huddy, Innkeeper

On October 27, 1778, Huddy married Catherine Applegate Hart, the widow of Levy Hart, a Jewish tavern keeper in Colts Neck who had died in 1775.  Although Protestants, Catherine Applegate and her sister Hannah both married prosperous Jews in Monmouth County.  Catherine married Levy Hart (died 1775), whose inn at Colts Neck (pictured above) may explain why “Jewstown” appears on a British Revolutionary War map of Monmouth County.  Huddy’s second marriage in 1778 to the widow Catherine secured him financial stability, as she was the heir to Levi Hart’s estate, including the inn that was near today’s Colt’s Neck Inn at the intersection of Routes 34 and 537.  In all likelihood, Huddy moved into Catherine’s house; he also operated the inn when he was not busy fighting the British.  

Soon after his marriage, Huddy had to defend himself in a lawsuit (Van Brunt vs. Huddy, 1779) alleging that he had cast Catherine’s children out of his house and sold her possessions without her permission.  

This unusual lawsuit reveals a strange episode in the domestic life of Joshua Huddy.  Huddy’s second wife, Catherine Hart (née Applegate), was a widow who inherited a popular tavern in Colts Neck upon the death of her first husband, the Jewish entrepreneur Levy Hart.  As a result, when Catherine married Huddy in 1778, she was almost certainly far wealthier than her new spouse, whose checkered financial history included the foreclosure and public auction of his 300-acre Salem plantation as well as a stint in jail as an insolvent debtor.  He ran afoul of the law again in 1778, pleading guilty to assault and paying a £10 fine.  Apparently having cause to suspect that Huddy’s irregular behavior extended to his family life, Monmouth County Sheriff Nicholas Van Brunt, operating either in his official capacity or as a Colts Neck neighbor, induced Huddy to enter into a bond with two conditions.  First, Huddy could not sell off any of Catherine’s personal possessions without her consent; second, he had to allow Catherine’s three children from her first marriage to continue to live with him and their mother.  If Huddy simply satisfied these conditions, he would not have to pay anything; otherwise, he would be liable for a staggering £15,000, far beyond the reach of a man of such meager means.

According to Van Brunt’s allegations in this case, Huddy promptly violated both conditions, selling Catherine’s property and casting her children onto the street – “by means of threats or blows.” But Huddy apparently disputed the very existence of the bond and refused to pay anything.  The final outcome of the case is unknown, but it suggests that Huddy’s heroic reputation might not have matched his private behavior.

Huddy also was brought into Monmouth County court for assault in 1778 and for appropriating a horse carriage in 1781.

In 1780, he sued Elizabeth Pritchard for almost 2,000 pounds for illegal British goods he claimed she owed him.  

Life in Revolution-era New Jersey could be hard, but it also offered unique opportunities for enterprising – and unscrupulous – individuals.  With the British army and its Loyalist allies firmly ensconced in New York even after the war’s official end, some New Jersey merchants found great profit in trade with the enemy, a practice as illegal as it was lucrative.  To combat this treasonous commerce, the New Jersey legislature declared that anyone who seized illegal goods and brought them before a justice of the peace would be entitled to their full market value.  In this case, “full market value” amounted to a painstakingly enumerated 1,980 pounds, seven shillings, and eleven pence, which Joshua Huddy claimed Elizabeth Pritchard owed him for British goods she was supposed to forfeit.  The princely sum at stake shows that patriotic duty was not the only motive for military service: access to illicit Loyalist property was a valuable perk.

It is unknown if Huddy ever got the money he demanded; Pritchard apparently refused to pay because her appeal of the original forfeiture ruling was still pending in the New Jersey Supreme Court.  Notably, however, a similar case involving seized Loyalist property ended with the Court declaring part of the law unconstitutional, setting an important precedent that the U.S. Supreme Court later followed by enshrining judicial review in Marbury v. Madison.

Source:

Saretzky, Gary D. (2004).  THE JOSHUA HUDDY ERA: Documents of the American Revolution. Catalog of the Exhibition at Monmouth County Library Headquarters, Manalapan, N.J.  October, 2004; Revised November 2004.  Produced by the Monmouth County Archives.  Available: http://visitmonmouth.com/archives

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