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The Fairchild Farm of New Vernon

By Leslie Potashner

Originally published in The Review in April 2016, Volume 34, Number 1.

The Joseph Fairchild House built about 1750. The photograph is from 2015. The house has since been expanded and restored.

The area known as New Vernon was established on land owned by John Lindsley, Jr. He was the grandson of Francis Lindsley, one of the original settlers of Newark in 1666. John purchased the land about New Vernon from John Alford, who had the land surveyed in 1715.

Caleb Fairchild was from New Haven Colony. He was the son of Zachariah Fairchild and Hannah Beach. Caleb married Ann Sherwood, the widow of David Trowbridge. Their son, David Trowbridge, Jr., settled in Rockaway. Caleb arrived in New Jersey as early as 1730, as he was witness to a quitclaim deed from Jotham Clark to John Lindsley. He was later witness to documents for many of the New Vernon settlers, and on a list of possible jurors which read in part, "Jacob ford Breed most part in this place, John Lindsley Junr Long since of N:Ark, Caleb ffairchild -- of Connecticot Colleny ... Zachariah ffairchild -- of Connecticot Collony ... Robert Goble -- from South Carolina ... David Trowbridge -- of New England."

Caleb and his brother, Zachariah, Jr., probably followed their uncle, Benjamin Beach, to Morris County from Connecticut. Benjamin settled in Newark in 1714, then in Hanover in 1717. In 1718, the Hanover Presbyterian Church was organized. Caleb and Ann were members. In the 1730s, the church needed to be rebuilt. The membership was split between rebuilding it in Hanover or in Morristown, where many members lived. The congregation cast lots to decide; and Hanover won. Despite this decision, the Morristown people, including Caleb, left to build their own church, the First Presbyterian Church of Morristown.

Caleb held many jobs including miller, coroner and High Sheriff. He and his wife had nine children: Samuel, Hezekiah, Sarah, Matthew, Joseph, Gershom, Ebenezer, Mehetibel and Ezra.

About 1750, son Joseph, a carpenter and farmer, built the small part of the house still standing at 26 Lee's Hill Road that was the center of the Fairchild Farm. He married Abigail Goble and had six children: Phebe, who married Abraham Talmadge; Abner, who married Theodosia Conger; Peter, who had four wives; Charity, who married Stephen Ogden; Mehitabel, who married David Wood; and Unis, who married Jabez Cook. Joseph and Abigail donated funds to and were probably members of the First Baptist Church, which was founded by her father, Robert Goble. Joseph's brother, Ebenezer, married Salome Goble, Abigail's sister, and later settled in North Carolina.

The Revolution struck Morristown hard, and the Fairchild family was no exception. Abner was a captain in the Morris County Eastern Battalion. Peter served as a Minuteman and in the State Troops. Abner died before the Revolutionary War Pension Act of 1818, so there is no first-person account of his service. However, the Eastern Battalion is known to have covered Washington's retreat through New Jersey after the Battle of Long Island.

Peter's pension application gives insight to this battle, which was a major loss for Washington. Peter stated, "That he enlisted in the army of the United States in the State Troops of New Jersey in June or July 1776, with Captain Sylvanus Seely, for the term of five months and served in the 1st or 2nd regiment of the New Jersey line, under the following named officers: Ephraim Martin - Colonel, John Munson - Lieutenant Colonel, Lord Stirling - Commanding in Chief, as he believes. Was mustered at Morristown, in less than a week after his enlistment. Marched to Chatham, & then to New York City, where the Company remained for a month or five weeks. Thence crossed over to Long Island & mustered to Flatbush, when he, with his company & regiment was personally engaged in the battle of Long Island, after which, they retreated toward the City & crossed over from the Island to the City - from thence - marched to Port Washington, up the North River, where they encamped for about six weeks, & from thence marched to the White Plains, & up the river which crossed at Kings Ferry or Tappan, after this battle of White Plains, in which our applicant was engaged. Then retreated across this Jersey, with the main army under General Washington to New Brunswick, where we remained till the five months expired then verbally discharged, & returned home to Morristown. We all received a bounty for our enlistment in this five month service, of some five or six or eight dollar (uncertain which) & which was paid to us the first day when we were enrolled or mustered." The Battle of Long Island was the largest battle of the Revolution and the first after the Declaration of Independence. Peter served as a Minuteman during the rest of the war, including the Battles of First and Second Springfield. Family tradition states that George Washington was a visitor to the house.

Photograph of the Fairchild Farm circa 1975.

In 1777, a smallpox epidemic broke out. The Morristown Presbyterian Church was used as a hospital, and the church lost 273 members to disease that year. The epidemic took the lives of Caleb and Ann, and their son Ezra. It was thought they were buried in the Whippany Burying Ground, but may have been buried in a private cemetery on the farm.

After the war, Peter established a farm in Washington Valley, located at the corner of Route 124 and Kahdena Road, and is now part of Foster Fields. Abner Fairchild married Theodosia Conger, whose parents owned the tavern at the corner of Sand Spring and Blue Mill Roads. In 1787, Abner built his own house on the farm, located at 24 Lee's Hill Road. They had seven chlidren: Ephraim, who married Gertrude "Gitty" Oliver; Anna, who married Samuel Youngs, Enoch, who married Elizabeth Eddy; Barton, who married Elizabeth Smith; Susan, who married Agur Lindsley; Phebe, who married Andrew Corker, and Sally. Joseph died in 1808 and may be buried in the small cemetery on the farm, which was last shown on a 1910 map. Contemporaneously, his father-in-law, Robert Goble, had a small cemetery on his farm at Sand Spring and Route 124, but the exact location is also lost to history.

Enoch moved to Ohio on a perilous trip, writing to his family, "We have had bad luck since we started from New Vernon. Before we got to Easton, we lost the horse we got of Samuel Youngs. Tow days after we got here we lost another, but all the horses is nothing to the loss of [son] Emmet who died August 12. He was poisoned by eating of this henbane [nightshade]. He was taken Friday towards night and died a Saturday about one o'clock."

Abner died a few months later, leaving the Fairchild Farm to his remaining sons, Ephraim and Barton. Barton served in the War of 1812, after which he moved to Ohio, leaving the farm solely to Ephraim. Ephraim and Gitty had three children: John Oliver, who married Elizabeth Stevens; Catherine Price; and Sarah, who married Theodore Smith. John established his own farm on what is now Bayne Park. He was also one of the founding members of the New Vernon Methodist Church, along with his cousin, Abner Lindsley. They also established the New Vernon Cemetery. Ephraim died in 1870. Gitty continued to live at the farm with her daughter Sarah and her family. Susan and Theodore had no children together. Theodore's Children from his first marriage sold the farm out of the family.

Postcard dating from 1907 of the old New Vernon Methodist Church which no longer exists.

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