Edison, New Jersey Revolutionary War Sites
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REVOLUTIONARY WAR SITES IN EDISON, NEW JERSEY

Revolutionary War Sites in Edison
ST. JAMES CHURCH
PISCATAWAYTOWN BURIAL GROUND

St. James Historic Church
Edison, New Jersey
Edison, New Jersey
Edison, New Jersey

St. James Church
Piscatawaytown Burial Ground

2136 Woodbridge Ave.
Map / Directions to the St. James Church
Map / Directions to all Edison Revolutionary War Sites


The St. James Episcopal Church and Piscatawaytown Burial Ground in the Revolutionary War [1]

During the period from December 1776 to June 1777, a large number of British forces occupied Middlesex County in New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Woodbridge and Piscataway (then called Piscatawaytown). This area of what is now Edison was then part of Piscatawaytown.

The British 42nd Regiment, known as the Royal Highland Regiment, occupied Piscatawaytown during this time. St. James Church was used as a barracks and hospital, and troops encamped on the burial ground.

On May 10, 1777, an attack was made by 1500-2000 American forces on the British troops in Piscatawaytown. The attack was unsuccessful, and the Americans retreated.

Between June 20-25, the British troops left Piscatawaytown. These troops, along with all other British forces in Central Jersey, headed for Perth Amboy to be transported to Staten Island. Then on June 26, British commander General Howe reversed course and made a two-pronged attack on American forces in what would become the Battle of the Short Hills. The first major fighting of the Battle of the Short Hills was the Oak Tree Engagement, which was fought about six miles north of the church. (See the Oak Tree Pond Historic Park entry lower on this page.)

The church's cemetery, called the Piscatawaytown Burial Ground, is one of Middlesex County's oldest cemeteries, with known burials dating to 1693. British soldiers are buried in a common grave near the Woodbridge Avenue side of the cemetery. It is believed that the British also buried some American soldiers in the cemetery as well, but the location of the American burials is unknown.


Original Church Building Destroyed by a Tornado in 1835 [2]

The church building which stands here today is not the same structure which was here during the Revolutionary War, although it contains some of the same wood and fixtures as the original church. That original church building, which was built in 1724, was destroyed on June 19, 1835, by a devastating tornado which tore through New Brunswick, Piscataway (including what is now Edison), Perth Amboy and then into Staten Island. The tornado destroyed many buildings and caused a number of deaths and serious injuries.

A newspaper account at the time quoted an eyewitness account of the tornado:

"The first intimation I had of the tornado's approach, was the wind blowing in from both sides of the house in which I was sitting. Immediately the cry of fire was raised — I ran to the corner of the street and perceived in a westerly direction, at about half a mile's distance, a black column moving onward, not very rapidly, which had something [of] the appearance of a smothered fire, and was mistaken for it. I saw what it was and ran into the house and closed all the windows before it reached us. The whole atmosphere was filled with fragments of timber, &c.— in a moment the house opposite was unroofed, as if it had been covered with paper. The house in which I was, being at the edge of the current, escaped uninjured, save that a rafter from the roof of a house about half a mile distant, thirty feet long, struck the edge of the window, tearing away the brick work and demolishing the sash, and passed into the wall of the room."

After being destroyed in the tornado, the church was then rebuilt, using some of the original wood and fixtures. In 1913, the section in the back of the church was added.


OAK TREE POND HISTORIC PARK
Commemorating the Oak Tree Engagement of June 26, 1777, which was part of the Battle of the Short Hills
Oak Tree Pond Historic Park
Oak Tree Pond Historic Park
Oak Tree Pond Historic Park
Oak Tree Pond Historic Park

Oak Tree Pond Historic Park
Oak Tree Rd. and Plainfield Rd.
Map / Directions to Oak Tree Pond Historic Park
Map / Directions to all Edison Revolutionary War Sites

The Oak Tree Engagement
Part of the Battle of the Short Hills

This park commemorates the Oak Tree Engagement of June 26, 1777, which was part of the Battle of the Short Hills. There are several historic plaques in the park explaining the Oak Tree Engagement and other aspects of the area's history and geography. The plaques contain text, photos and maps to tell their story. The plaques are placed at different locations throughout Oak Tree Pond Historic Park, which helps to create a nice balance between informative historic site and public park.

For details and background about the overall Battle of the Short Hills,
see the Battle of the Short Hills Monument entry on the Scotch Plains page.

The first fighting of the Battle of the Short Hills began about four miles east of here, and then proceeded to this area, where the Oak Tree Engagement occurred. One of the plaques in the park explains this fighting in the context of the modern roads in this area: [3]

"The first skirmish of the day came before sunrise west of Woodbridge as Cornwallis' division fell against American pickets near present-day Green Street and Route 1. As the pickets retreated, the sound of firing alerted the American camp, which sent out Brigadier General Thomas Conway's Pennsylvania Brigade of about 700 men to support the pickets. Conway's Brigade (actually led by New Jersey Brigadier General William Maxwell) clashed with the British on the high ground near Oak Tree Road and Wood Avenue but was pushed back due to overwhelming enemy numbers. Following this, Cornwallis continued westerly on Oak Tree Road.

"The Oak Tree Engagement began approximately 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. by the road junction near this marker and continued between New Dover Road and Woodland Avenue. Here, an American detachment under the command of Colonel Charles Armand, known as Ottendorf's Corps attempted to defend against the British onslaught. Armand lost 32 men out of 80 but heroically saved an American cannon while slowing the British advance."

From here the fighting moved north through the site of what is now the Plainfield Country Club on Woodland Avenue in Edison, and then further north into Scotch Plains. [4]


 

Mary Pierson Williams Gravesite
Site of The Reuben Ayers House

One of the plaques in the park marks the site of the Reuben Ayers House, which stood here at the time of the Oak Tree Engagement.

Reuben Ayers served in the militia in the Revolutionary War. He owned the house and nine acres of farmland surrounding it. British and Hessian troops looted the house on the day of the Oak Tree Engagement, and they burned down the barn. The house itself survived the fighting, and in fact lasted almost another two centuries, until it was demolished in 1968. [5]

Edison  New Jersey in the Revolutionary War

Next to Oak Tree Pond Historic Park there is a TD Bank with a photo mural inside commemorating the Oak Tree Engagement. It depicts a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors.

Edison NJ in the Revolutionary War

Source Notes:

1. ^  Information for this section was drawn from:

Historic plaque in front of the church, placed by the Edison Historic Preservation Commission, dedicated September 11, 2004

Walter R. Stochel Jr., Piscatawaytown Burial Ground (Metuchen-Edison Historical Society, Edison Greenways, 2004)
Available as a PDF on The Metuchen-Edison Historical Society website here

New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, May 19, 1777, reprinted in:
William S. Stryker, editor, Archives of the State of New Jersey, Second Series, Vol. I (Documents Relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey) (Trenton: John L. Murphy Publishing Company, 1901) pages 377-379
Available to be read at the Internet Archive here

The Pennsylvania Journal, May 21, 1777, reprinted in:
William S. Stryker, editor, Archives of the State of New Jersey, Second Series, Vol. I (Documents Relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey) (Trenton: John L. Murphy Publishing Company, 1901) page 383
Available to be read at the Internet Archive here

2. ^  Details about the tornado, and the quoted eyewitness account, were drawn from an 1835 article titled "Dreadful Tornado", which appeared in The New York Gazette on June 23, 1835 (four days after the tornado).
The article was then reprinted on June 27, 1835, in the Niles' Weekly Register, and can be found in the collection:
H. Niles, Editor, Niles' Weekly Register, From March, 1835, to September, 1835 - Vol. XLVIU. or, Volume XII - Fourth Series (Baltimore: H. Niles, 1835) pages 292-293
Available to be read at Google Books here

3. ^ "The Oak Tree Engagement and the Battle of the Short Hills" historic plaque in the park

4. ^ Kathy Chang, "Historians Shed Light on Site of 1777 Battle / Artifacts Found on Edison Land Being Nominated for National Registry," The Sentinel, Edison, Metuchen, December 1, 2010

5. ^ "The Reuben Ayers House" historic plaque in the park

Website Researched, Written, Photographed and Designed by Al Frazza
This website, its text and photographs are © 2009 -2016 Al Frazza. All rights reserved.