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The Monmouth Patent

On April 8, 1665, English Colonel Richard Nicolls granted “patents” for a triangular tract of land called the “Monmouth Patent,” also called the “Navesink Tract,” to 12 men, mostly Quakers from Long Island.  These are the original settlers of what became known as Monmouth County, New Jersey.

The issuing of the Monmouth Patent came during a period of nearly continuous warfare or strife between England and The Netherlands.  The Dutch had claimed and settled New Netherland based on the explorations of Henry Hudson, who was working for the Dutch West India Company when he first explored the Raritan Bay area in 1609, including the river which is named for him.  The English believed they had a prior claim from the explorations of John Cabot in the 16th century.  From 1610 to 1673, there would be three different Anglo-Dutch wars, and control over the New York-New Jersey region would change hands several times.  

In March of 1664, Charles II of England, Scotland, and Ireland, resolved to annex New Netherland and “bring all his Kingdoms under one form of government, both in church and state, and to install the Anglican government as in old England.”

On August 27, 1664, four English frigates led by Colonel Richard Nicolls sailed into New Amsterdam’s harbor and demanded the surrender of New Amsterdam, the fort at the tip of Manhattan that served as the seat of the New Netherland colony.  The lack of adequate fortification, ammunition, and manpower made New Amsterdam defenseless, and the Dutch West India Company had been indifferent to previous pleas for reinforcement of men and ships against “the continual troubles, threats, encroachments and invasions of the English neighbors.”  New Amsterdam was surrendered to Nicolls on September 8, 1664 and Nicolls assumed the position of deputy-governor of New Netherland.  He instituted a legal system centered on English common law, and issued conditions upon which plantations and land grants would be created.

Both the Dutch and the English used a system of “patents” to grant lands in the new colony to settlers; the royal government would offer a land patent for a specific area, and the recipient would be responsible for negotiating a purchase with representatives of the local tribes, usually the sachem or high chief.

In 1665, no white men lived in what is now Monmouth County.  A group of men from Long Island had visited the Raritan Bay region, and had designs on settling the coastal areas around Sandy Hook.  Before issuing a patent, Governor Nicolls wanted to hear personally from the Lenape chiefs, or sachems, that this was an amenable arrangement, and that they had been paid in full.  And so a group of the would-be patentees and the sachems all came to New York City to meet with the governor.  After receiving receiving the assurances he desired, Governor Nicolls was prepared to grant a patent.  The patentees requested that the legal document that would form the Monmouth Patent include a guarantee of unrestricted religious tolerance for settlers under it. The language read, “…any and all persons, who shall plant and inhabit in any of the land aforesaid that they shall have free liberty of conscience, without any molestation or disturbance whatsoever in their way of worship.”

Nicolls granted the Monmouth Patent, which extended from Sandy Hook to the mouth of the Raritan River, upstream approximately 25 miles, and then southeast to Barnegat Bay.  It was first known as Navesink, likely after a band of the Lenape who inhabited the area, and it was established into the settlements of Middletown and Shrewsbury, and later as Monmouth County. The Patent was recorded in the office of the Recorder of New York, November 8, 1665.  It was the first such legal document recorded in the archives of the State of New Jersey in Trenton as well as County records in Freehold.

The Monmouth Patent was established as one of the first four counties in the proprietary East Jersey colony, along with Bergen, Essex and Middlesex.  It is thought that the Monmouth Tract / County received its name from the Rhode Island Monmouth Society, a group of investors who helped fund thepurchase of the land, or from a suggestion from Colonel Lewis Morris that the county should be named after Monmouthshire in Wales, Great Britain.  Other suggestions include that it was named for James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth (1649–1685), who had many allies among the East Jersey leadership.

The 13 patentees of Monmouth were Richard Lippincott, William Goulding (Golder), Samuel Spicer, Richard Gibbons, Richard Stout, James Grover, John Bowne, John Tilton, Nathaniel Sylvester, William Reape, Walter Clark, Nichols Davis and Obadiah Holmes.

The Dutch recaptured New Netherland in August 1673 with a fleet of 21 ships, then the largest ever seen in America.  Again, surrender was given without a fight.  They installed a new governor and renamed the city New Orange, reflecting the installation of William of Orange as Lord-Lieutenant of Holland in 1672; he became King William III of England in 1689.  Nevertheless, the Dutch Republic was bankrupt after the conclusion of the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672–1674.  In November 1674, the Treaty of Westminster concluded the war and ceded New Netherland to the English.  Monmouth County would be under British rule until the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.

Sources:

Salter, Edwin.  (1890, 1997, 2001).  Salter’s History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties New Jersey.  A facsimile reprint, published 2007.  Heritage Books, Inc., Westminster, Md.  

Smith, Samuel Stelle.  (1983).  Lewis Morris: Anglo-American Statesman.  Humanitarian Press, Inc., Atlantic Highlands, N.J.

Ellis, Franklin.  (1885).  History of Monmouth County, New Jersey, Part I.  Originally published by R.T Peck & Co., Philadelphia, Penn.  Reprinted in 2017 by The Apple Manor Press, Markham, Va.

https://library.princeton.edu/njmaps/background/coastal_charts.html

https://www.njfounders.org/history/monmouth-patent-and-patentees

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