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Political Powerhouses, Burlington NJ

...From the Royal Governor to America’s first President...


Wm. Penn signatureWilliam Penn owned large tracts of Burlington, where he first was attracted to lands along the Delaware, and agreed to the “Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors, Freeholders, and Inhabitants of the Province of West Jersey in America”, a seminal common law constitution housed in the Surveyor General’s Office W. Broad Street (15 on map), which laid down many existing institutions adopted by the state and even incorporated into the U.S. Constitution 100 years later. Among these innovations were civil and religious liberty; a separate executive and legislative power; an elected Assembly to choose a Governor; freedom of speech; no deprivation without due process of law. In their own words, the Proprietors

“...lay a foundation for after ages to understand their liberty as men and Christians, that they may not be brought into bondage but by their own consent, for we put the power in the people.”

Thomas Ollive arrived on the ship Kent in 1677, and resided at what is now known as Alcazar, 406 High Street (14 on map). He was a founder of the City, and acting Governor of West Jersey in the absence of Gov. Samuel Jenings.

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Cheif Ockanickon Grave MarkerAmong eight Native American chiefs who amicably sold the land to the Quakers Oct. 10, 1677 was one highly esteemed for his nobility and integrity. To the rear of the Meetinghouse (341 High St., 12 on map) under a huge sycamore is a plaque and stone marking the grave of Chief Ockanickon, Chief of the Mantas tribe of the Lenape, and an early Native American friend of the settlers. A boulder near the tree bears his mark, and a metal plate with his last words: “Be plain and fair to all, both Indian and Christian, as I have been.”

Dr. Daniel Coxe, the greatest proprietor of West Jersey, was Governor 1687-1690. His son, Col. Daniel Coxe, arrived in 1701 as Commander of the Crown’s Forces in West Jersey, then Associate Justice of the Supreme Court 1734, member of the Assembly, and member, Governor’s Council. The Col. made his home on the Green Bank.

Thomas Gardiner, the father, was Surveyor General of West Jersey. Thomas Gardiner, the son, became Treasurer of West Jersey, and first Speaker of the Assembly of East and West Jersey in 1702, lived at 228 High Street (6 on map). Very powerful in building West Jersey, the Quakers had many admirable qualities, though imagination in naming of sons was not chief among them.

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Ben FranklinBenjamin Franklin, author, inventor, statesman, first passed through Burlington in 1726. Tradition holds the Revell House (213 Wood St., 27 on map) to be the home where a young Ben Franklin was sold gingerbread and given supper by a friendly Burlington woman on his way to Philadelphia. Ben writes in his Autobiography,

“... the next morning reach’d Burlington, but had the mortification to find that the regular boats were gone a little before my coming, and no other expected to go before Tuesday, this being Saturday; wherefore I returned to an old woman in the town, of whom I had bought gingerbread to eat on the water, and ask’d her advice. She invited me to lodge at her house till a passage by water should offer; and being tired with my foot travelling, I accepted the invitation. She understanding I was a printer, would have had me stay at that town and follow my business, being ignorant of the stock necessary to begin with. She was very hospitable, gave me a dinner of ox-cheek with great good will, accepting only a pot of ale in return; and I thought myself fixed till Tuesday should come. However, walking in the evening by the side of the river, a boat came by, which I found was going towards Philadelphia, with several people in her. They took me in, and, as there was no wind, we row’d all the way;...”

Gingerbread at Revell HouseThus, the Revell House is sometimes called the Gingerbread House. The Wood Street Fair is sponsored annually by the Colonial Burlington Foundation the first Saturday after Labor Day, for the upkeep of this historic home. Ben later returned to use America’s first copperplate press and print New Jersey’s first Colonial paper currency, at Isaac Collins’ print shop which once stood at 206 High Street (3 on map).

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R E V O L U T I O N A R Y  P E R I O D

Riverbank HousesDuring the Revolution, in stark contrast to, and defiance of, his father, William Franklin was Royal Governor and the most intractable of Tory Royalists, until his arrest. The riverfront residential area (202 Riverbank) is called Green Bank, as was his estate, on a site now occupied by the V.F.W.

Richard Smith, Esq. (Alcazar, 406 High St., 14 on map) was a principled Quaker who resigned as member of the Continental Congress when war with Great Britain became imminent.

Kinsey HouseSimilarly, lawyer James Kinsey (Kinsey House, 38 W. Broad St., 16 on map) was elected to the N.J. General Assembly in 1772, and stirred opposition to Royal Gov. William Franklin, only to resign appointment to Continental Congress with his Quaker refusal to swear an oath.

The first President of the United States was Elias Boudinot. Elias Boudinot (Boudinot House 207 W. Broad St., 22 on map) was President of the Continental Congress when America gained its independence in 1783. Bearing that rank, he signed the Treaty of Paris; thus he was cited in the press and elsewhere as the first President of the United States. He was the Chief Executive of America when Trenton was the capital, from November 1, 1781 until January 12, 1784. Boudinot was a Congressman, Supreme court lawyer, Director of the United States Mint, and founder of the American Bible Society. He was also a trustee of what is now Princeton University, founding the Natural History chair. He fought against slavery, for the rights of the American Indians, and for religious tolerance. His son-in-law was George Washington’s second Attorney General: William Bradford. Elias and William are buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard (W. Broad St., 18, 19 on map).

Judge Edward Shippen made his summer residence at 202 Riverbank (29 on map). His daughter Peggy Shippen married famous traitor Benedict Arnold.

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C I R C A  1 8 1 2

Capn. James LawrenceIn the War of 1812, Captain James Lawrence became the naval war hero. As commander of the 48-gun frigate U.S.S. Chesapeake off Boston Harbor, on June 13, 1813 he accepted the challenge of Captain Phillip B. V. Broke aboard H.M.S. Shannon. Battle was joined, and in 15 minutes it became apparent that Lawrence’s rookie sailors lacked considerable experience. After taking a terrible battering at the hands of some of the best-trained sailors in the British Navy, the Chesapeake was boarded and Captain Lawrence, who had been mortally wounded, shouted to his men,

“Tell the men to fire faster and not to give up the ship; fight her till she sinks!”.

This he urged again and again in various forms, until all his valiant officers had been killed or wounded, to a man, and his ship captured. He died four days later. His words moved a group of women who sewed them onto a flag, paraphrased as,

“Don’t Give Up the Ship”,

Navy Motto Flagand presented it to Commander Oliver H. Perry of the U.S.S. Lawrence, a ship named for James. Those colors flew during Perry’s Battle of Lake Erie rout of an entire squadron of British ships, and was made the motto of the U.S. Navy. There have been six American vessels commissioned in Capt. Lawrence’s honor. The motto flies among the flags of the Riverfront Promenade, where High Street terminates near the Delaware River. See artifacts inside the Lawrence House at 459 High Street (38 on map), part of the Burlington County Historical Society complex.

Joseph McIlvaine (McIlvaine House 100-102 W. Broad St., 17 on map) was U.S. Senator in 1820.

Garrett D. Wall held the rare distinction of declining the joint Legislature’s appointment to the office of Governor of New Jersey in 1829, but served a term in the U.S. Senate, as did his son, James W. Wall, Mayor of Burlington 1851. They made their home at what is now Temple B’nai Israel 1801, 212 High St. (4 on map).

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C I V I L  W A R  P E R I O D

During the Civil War, Dr. John Howard Pugh (214 High St., built 1716, Pugh occupied 1857, 5 on map) served without compensation at the U.S. General Hospital in Beverly, and after the War, served in the House of Representatives, resumed medical practice, and in turns was president of Mechanics’ National Bank of Burlington and member, state Board of Education.

Presidential hopeful Abraham Lincoln came to Burlington on at least several occasions as the Republican party candidate made his local campaign headquarters in the Blue Anchor Inn (est. 1750, SW corner of High & Broad Sts., 13 on map). Apparently the proximity of the train station made it the perfect “whistle stop”, plus the bar presented a good place to “wet your whistle”.

Grant HouseGeneral and later President Ulysses S. Grant safely ensconced his wife and children at 309 Wood Street (23 on map) during the Civil War, returning for several visits before the Battles of Vicksburg and Wilderness amid much acclaim. April 14, 1865 Grant declined Abraham Lincoln’s invitation to attend Ford Theatre, in order to go home to Burlington. Grant was intercepted at midnight by a telegram in Philadelphia announcing Lincoln was shot. That night Gen’l. Grant escorted his wife home to Burlington, yet made a special 6:00 AM train departing Philadelphia for Washington.

General Edward B. Grubb (Grubb Estate, 46 Riverbank, 28 on map) survived the Civil War to be made Ambassador to Spain. Read more about his career in Military Masters.

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A powerful past... and it’s our present to you. Welcome to the City of Burlington.

Read on, for more famous Burlington People to Meet:
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Undying Legends



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