Volume 5 • Issue 1 2007 spring Home
A Remarkable Donation: The Black Family Manuscripts
by Division Of Archives and Records Management
black family manuscript
Among the collection's treasures is this 1754 deed from Philo Leeds to Edward Hilliard.
In June 2006, William T. Black Jr. donated an incredible treasure of family papers, printed maps and Burlington County tax and militia records to the New Jersey State Archives. This cache of manuscripts, spanning three centuries, was created, preserved and passed down through the generations of the Black and Newbold families—prominent early settlers of Chesterfield Township and the surrounding area. After carefully sorting this heirloom archive, Mr. Black realized that he had a unique collection that not only provided insight into his ancestors’ lives and business ventures, but also documented the public history of early Burlington County.

Mr. Black contacted the West Jersey Proprietors about the remarkable collection; the Proprietors, in turn, contacted the State Archives on Mr. Black’s behalf. Following meetings in Trenton and at the Black family’s ancient farmstead in Chesterfield, where Archives staff appraised the historical value of the material, Mr. Black resolved to donate the collection to the State. The family knew that gifting the papers in this way would ensure both their long-term preservation and their accessibility to thousands of researchers who use the State Archives each year.

The Black donation includes parchment indentures and estate papers from 1684-1845; business ledgers from 1759-1773; accounts and receipts of Burlington County Tax Collector John Black, 1785-1813; a small collection of county militia papers, 1797-1804; and maps and drawings from as early as 1780. The State Archives normally redirects potential donations of family papers to other repositories. However, in the case of the Black family papers, the collection included many 18th- and early-19th-century public records docketed and retained by John Black, who was County Collector, Loan Office Commissioner, and a general in the county militia. The collection also included many early land-title documents supplementing those recorded for the colonial period. Given the nature of the material and how it relates to records already in the State Archives, accepting the collection was an easy decision. Note, too, that the State Archives holds early records for many counties, including an extensive archive of pre-Civil War records of Burlington County.

State Archives staff members are now arranging and describing the collection, continuing the process begun by Mr. Black. To date, we have completed a detailed inventory of the tax records and maps. Highlights of the collection include heretofore unknown 1788 tax ratables for Chester, Evesham, Mansfield and New Hanover townships; a rare 1773 daybook from Mansfield Township that records the cost for colonial tavern fare such as “oisters” and “milk punch”; and a beautiful copy of Thomas Gordon’s 1828 wall map of New Jersey.

As we complete the cataloging, guides and inventories will be made available to the public in our Manuscript Reading Room and on our website. For more information about the State Archives’ collecting policy, consult:

http://www.njarchives.org/links/collecting-policy.html