In 1695 a young Quaker arrived in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The rest is history.
Although I was an only child, I grew up with 13 aunts and uncles on my Father's side of the family. We were proud of our Webster name. My cousins and I were told that one of our ancestors swam the English Channel to get to America and that we were related to Daniel Webster, the famous statesman. Each and every one of us would repeat this to our classmates and teachers throughout our school days. There was even a family history book that made reference to our relative Daniel Webster. You can imagine our shock when 30 some years later we found out that this was not true; apparently these stories were passed down from generation to generation; but the facts were not there to prove it. I, myself, passed the stories down to my children. Today, I only wish that my grandparents, aunts, and uncles could have known the real story because it is quite amazing.
My older cousin Joanne became interested in genealogy and spent years researching, interviewing, and traveling, to collect information about the family. She recently printed a history book, complete with pictures. Finally the myths were put to rest. I credit Joanne for completing this huge project, something I was unable to do; although I had already found many of these same stories in the Quaker records after several years of internet research of my own.
My seven times Great Grandfather, William Webster, probably came to America from England or Scotland with other Quakers who were looking to find a place to practice their religion without persecution. Thanks to the great records the Quakers kept, Williams history and those of his family were not left to wonder about, but were recorded in those records.
In 1695, William arrived in Perth, Amboy, New Jersey. It is believed that the land had been set aside for them by King James II who wanted to be rid of them in his own country. William first shows up in the records here: The Town of Woodbridge, New Jersey, voted to pay Rev. Samuel Shepard, the town minister, L50 per year or its equivalent in agricultural products. The meeting was held October 1, 1695. William stood up and said that he objected to the payment and he would not pay anything toward the maintenance of said minister. An associate of William, Captain John Bishop, also stood up and said he would free Webster from the payment and pay Webster's share as long as he lived. Other Quakers objected to the payment but did not refuse to pay and they continued as long as 1702, perhaps longer.
We know that William was married to Mary but have never been able to find out her last name. William and Mary had nine children. Each of these children and their ancestors have been well documented up until the present day. William died in New Jersey in 1715.
There is a book written by William Dudley (The Story of the Friends in Plainfield). This book references The Websters as being instrumental in opening the Road to Rahway in 1763. This road would later be known as Peace Street and then Watchung Avenue. It's not impossible to think that my ancestors knew of, or perhaps even encountered, George Washington during his lifetime. General Washington approached a member of the Joseph Vail farm and asked them to take him to a hill (now known as Washington Rock) where he could observe the enemy camp below. Jonah Vail was married to Rachel Webster who was a 3rd cousin, 5 times removed.
The Quakers were peaceful people and did not fight, so they ran into conflict with the soldiers. My seven times 1st cousin, Grace Webster Shotwell and her husband John, were fined a good portion of their household goods for refusing to bear arms.
During the Revolutionary War, Samuel Kester refused to take an oath of allegiance and therefore was fined some of his animals. Samuel was married to my 5 times great aunt, Susanna Webster.
In 1758, during the French and Indian War, Hugh Webster was taken before Captain Benjamin Stiles who demanded that he go into service himself or furnish a substitute. He refused and they took him to a nearby camp; the camp was deserted and he was abandoned to find his own way home.
On May 24, 1760, Quaker Abner Hampton had his team and wagon seized when he refused to drive them for the soldiers. It was later returned to him by a friend. One of the subjects broached at a Quaker Meeting was why the soldiers were camped near their meeting house and who invited them there. Abner Hampton and John Webster were appointed to go and find out. At the next meeting they reported that the soldiers were indeed camped there but were not causing any trouble or disrupting the meetings.
William Jr. was born in 1692. He married Susannah Cowperthwaite and they settled on a large farm on the south side of Cedar Brook. The couple had eleven children. The home was well maintained and still stands today. The farm was sold in 1858 and is now called the Martine House but the Cedarbrook Farm 1717 sign is still there.
Quakers were against slavery and some time after 1750 my 4 times 1st cousin, Erastus D. Webster, had a homestead in Orchard Park, Erie County, New York right across from Webster Corners. This was used as an underground railroad. The home is presently the site of the American Legion.
With such a large family there is a vat of stories waiting to be written; some sad, some happy. It is my hope that future generations will keep updated the records that my cousin Joanne worked so hard to put together. I wouldn't have guessed that my relatives were Quakers but I am proud to say that I came from such honorable people who were not afraid to stand up for their beliefs.
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