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Record Group:
Hunterdon County
Clerk's Office
Manumissions of Slaves, 1788-1836
Accession #:
1977.013, 2005.008
Series #:
Guide Date:
9/1993 (JK)
0.25 c.f. [57 files]


Content Note | Contents (with images) | Name Indexes

Legislative History

The earliest reference to manumission of slaves in the colonial laws of New Jersey was in "An Act for Regulating of Slaves," passed 11 March 1713/14 (New Jersey Archives, Third Series II:136-140). This legislation explicitly discouraged the freeing of slaves and required that the manumitting slaveowner enter into a £200 security with the crown and guarantee £20 annual support for the freed man for life. Further, the law made void the manumission of any slave freed by an owner's last will and testament if the executor of the estate refused to post the £200 bond. In 1769, this was reiterated in "An Act for laying a Duty on the Purchasers of Slaves imported into this Colony," which again required that at the time of manumission the slaveowner post a £200 bond with the crown to cover any legal charges that might be brought against the freed slave, or to fund the slave's public support if necessary (New Jersey Archives, Third Series IV:510-512). Failure to file the bond resulted in the manumission becoming legally void.

It was not until after the Revolutionary War that New Jersey passed legislation providing for regular manumission of slaves. This was in "An Act to prevent the Importation of Slaves into the State of New Jersey, and to authorize the Manumission of them under certain Restrictions, and to prevent the Abuse of Slaves," passed 2 March 1786 (P.L. 1786, chap. 119, p. 239). The law--considered a great victory for the abolitionist movement--allowed for the freeing of any slave between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-five with the stipulation that he or she be brought before two overseers of the poor for the township of the slaveowner's residence and two justices of the peace of that county, and be determined by them to be of sound mind and capable of obtaining his or her own support. The law also prescribed the form of manumission certificate (to be recorded by the county clerk).

Legislation in 1798 repealing the 1786 law raised the upper age for legal manumission to forty years, and also required the signatures of two witnesses on the manumission deed (P.L. 1798, chap. 727, p. 364). Six years later, in 1804, the State Legislature passed "An act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery" (P.L. 1804, chap. 103, p. 251). This monumental law required the registration of births of slaves' children born after 4 July 1804 and declared such children to be "free," but bound as servants to the owners of their mothers for a period of twenty-five years for males and twenty-one years for females. No provision was made for slaves born before 4 July 1804.

"An act for the gradual abolition of Slavery, and other purposes respecting Slaves," passed by the Legislature on 24 February 1820, repealed the earlier slavery laws but essentially continued the procedure for manumission then in effect (P.L. 1820, p. 74).  It is of interest to note that, in 1824, the Legislature passed a resolution in favor of establishing a foreign colony to allow for the "entire emancipation of the slaves in our country" (P.L. 1824, p. 191).
Slavery was at least nominally ended in New Jersey on 18 April 1846 by an “An Act to Abolish Slavery” (Revision of 1846, Title XI, chap. 6, p. 382-390).  Under this legislation, the status of a slave was converted to that of apprentice, “… bound to service to his or her present owner, and his or her executors or administrators …” until formally released.  Children born to such apprentices could be bound out as servants also, once they reached the age of six. So, while an apprentice could not be sold, exported or taken out of state, he or she remained in the service of his or her master until discharged in writing, and could still be easily separated from family.

Individuals continued to be categorized as slaves on the 1850 and 1860 New Jersey federal censuses. The forced “apprenticeship” of former slaves was not outlawed until the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted 6 December 1865 after ratification by the sufficient number of states.  New Jersey had rejected the amendment on 16 March 1865, later ratifying it on 23 January 1866.

Content Note

This series includes original manumission papers filed by Hunterdon County slaveowners (with overseers of the poor and justices of the peace) as early as 1788. The documents are among those originally copied into two manumission/slave birth books now (1993) held by the Hunterdon County Historical Society in Flemington. Abstracts of the recorded manumissions were published in Some Records of Old Hunterdon County, 1701-1838 by Phyllis B. D'Autrechy (Trenton: 1979), pp. 147-157, 173-196, 201-204. Well over 500 acts of manumission during the period 1787-1856 are recorded in the Hunterdon County manumission books, while original papers for only 56 are included here.

This series is arranged chronologically. The items have been listed below using the following format: name of slaveowner: name of slave (age if recorded), other identifying information if included, location, date [remarks]. To aid in research, three name indexes have been added following the contents list.



Item No.


Daniel Agnew: Francis Berryen and Betty, his wife, Maidenhead Twp., 22 April 1788.
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Mary Bryant with Abraham Hunt, fellowbondsman: Flora, Trenton Twp./New York, 3 August 1791.
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Mary Bryant with Abraham Hunt, fellowbondsman: Peter, lately purchased from Nathan Beakes, Trenton Twp./New York, 3 August 1791.
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Moore Furman: two Negro children (a boy born in 1788 and a girl born in 1784), bound to James Little, to be manumitted at the ages of 25 and 21 respectively, [Trenton Twp.]/Sussex Co., 9 August 1791.
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Moore Furman: Hannah and her child Charles, bound to Henry Dussenberry, to be manumitted after a term of 5 years and the age of 25, respectively, [Trenton Twp.]/Sussex Co., 10 April 1792.
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Nathan Beakes: Caesar, Trenton Twp., 30 December 1793 [2 items].

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Daniel Scudder: James Bristol, Trenton Twp., 27 December 1794.
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Capt. Bernard Hanlon with Sarah Hunt and Benjamin Van Cleve, witnesses: Guy (aged not more than 33 or 34), Trenton Twp., 24 June 1795 [3 items].
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Elisabeth Hooten: Sarah, Trenton Twp., 15 September 1795.
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[Serviah?] Opdykce, widow, Samuel Opdycke, Margaret Warford, Elijah Opdycke, and Rachel Opdycke, heirs of George Opdycke: James Cullen, a mulatto slave, Kingwood Twp., 12 March 1796 [2 items].
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Anne Hart, widow of Rev. Oliver Hart: James (aged 10), bound to Peter Gordon, to be manumitted after a term of 15 years, Hopewell Twp./Trenton Twp., 28 April 1796.
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Anne Hart, widow of Rev. Oliver Hart: Will (aged 14), bound to James Ewing, to be manumitted after a term of 11 years, Hopewell Twp., 29 April 1796.
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Benjamin Smith: Peg, Trenton Twp., 20 June 1796.
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Richard Howell and Aaron Dickinson Woodruff, executors of Robert Lettis Hooper: Richard and Sarah, Trenton Twp., 14 & 29 August 1797 [2 items].
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Lewis Stuart: Tom, Kingwood Twp., 19 May 1802.
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Harry Taylor: Jim, Hopewell Twp., 18 April 1803.
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William E. Green: Phillip (aged about 27), a mulatto slave, Trenton Twp., 14 September 1803.
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Phebe Hutchinson: Flora, bequeathed to her by her brother Joseph Moore, Hopewell Twp./Salisbury Twp., Bucks Co., Pennsylvania, 16 April 1804.
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John Moore, executor of Joseph Moore: Peter, Hopewell Twp., 16 April 1804.
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Moses Hart: Benjamin Primus, Hopewell Twp., 29 September 1804.
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Israel Wilson: Jack (aged about 2[-]), Amwell Twp., 5 November 1804 & 2 September 1808 [2 items].
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Theophilus Moore: Prime, Amwell Twp., 19 March 1805.
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Timothy Howell, dec'd: Thomas [Bowyer?], [no location], 23 October 1805 [receipt only].

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Lorana Allen: Caty Allen (born 22 May 1803), [no location], 18 November 1805.
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George Maxwell, administrator of the estate of John Bryan, Esq.: Charles (aged about 16), bound to Jonathan Hill, to be manumitted after a term of 15 years, Amwell Twp., 24 February 1806.

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Jesse Moore: Peter, Hopewell Twp., 7 March 1806.
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William R. Green: Michael Gibbs (aged 27), Trenton Twp., 2 June 1806.
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Moses Quick: Stephen, Hopewell Twp., 6 September 1806 [2 items].
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William Mershon: Cente (aged 33), Maidenhead Twp., 15 October 1806 [2 items].
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William Mershon: Mark (aged 37), Maidenhead Twp., 15 October 1806 [2 items].
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Ingham Waterhouse: Sip, Kingwood Twp., 15 October 1806.
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Daniel V. Buskirk: Thomas (aged 35), Bethlehem Twp., 19 January 1807 [2 items].
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Joseph Titus: Jacob, Hopewell Twp., 25 July 1807.
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Daniel G. Howell: Nero (aged 31), Hopewell Twp., 11 January 1808 [2 items].
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Elisabeth Van Cleve, daughter of Benjamin Van Cleve: Rachel (aged 25), Maidenhead Twp., 25 February 1808 [2 items].
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Margaretta Elizabeth Miller, widow of Jacob Miller: Dick (aged 33), Tewksbury Twp., 3 June 1808.
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Samuel Brearley: Dan (aged 38), Maidenhead Twp., 19 September 1808 [2 items].
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Samuel Brearley: Dinah (aged 27), Maidenhead Twp., 19 September 1808 [2 items].
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John Burroughs: Sam Lee, Hopewell Twp., 14 October 1807.
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Samuel Brearley: Tom (aged 27), Maidenhead Twp., 10 April 1809 [2 items; 1 fragmented].
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Amos Moore: Jack Murford/Murfee (aged 27), Hopewell Twp., 17 April 1809.
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Edmund Burroughs: Prime, [no location], 13 October 1809.

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John H. Ott and David S. Ott, executors of Joseph Ott: Rachal (aged 26), Amwell Twp., 28 September 1821 & 9 February 1848.
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Edward Yard: Samuel (aged 27), Hopewell Twp., 10 October 1827.
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Lewis W. R. Phillips: Nancy or Ann (aged 35), Lawrence Twp., 4 April 1829 [Accession #2005.008; apparently an original certificate retained by the former slave or slaveowner, not recorded in the county manusmission book].
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John Brearley: Charles B. Green (aged 27), Lawrence Twp., 9 October 1830 [photocopy only, 2 items; location of original documents unknown, but recorded in Manumissions Book 2, p. 323-4].
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Garret J. Schenck: Harry (aged 33), Amwell Twp., 14 December 1830.
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Garret J. Schenck: Tom (aged 36), Amwell Twp., 14 December 1830.
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Samuel Dickinson: Henry (aged 29), Trenton, 4 June 1831.
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John Allen Taylor: James, Lebanon Twp./New York City, 27 October 1831.
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Garret J. Schenck: Jane (aged 33), Hopewell Twp., 13 February 1832 [2 items].
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Luther Calvin: Thomas Jefferson (aged 34), Bethlehem Twp., 13 August 1832 [2 items; 1 fragmented].
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John Cowdrick: Betty (aged 38), Kingwood Twp., 18 February 1833.
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Isaac Welling: Thomas, Hopewell Twp., 8 April 1833.
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Elisha Sharp: Samuel (aged 35), Amwell Twp., 26 December 1833.
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Jacob Kirkpatrick: Mary (aged 30), Amwell Twp., 15 October 1834 [fragmented].
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Phineas Martindell: Margaret Nixon (aged 33), Amwell Twp., 9 May 1836.
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Index - Slaves by Surname

Allen, Caty, 24
Green, Charles B., 46
Berryen, Betty, 1
Jefferson, Thomas, 52
Berryen, Francis, 1
Lee, Sam, 39
[Bowyer?], Thomas, 23
Murford/Murfee, Jack, 41
Bristol, James, 7
Nixon, Margaret, 57
Cullen, James, 10
Primus, Benjamin, 20
Gibbs, Michael, 27


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Index - Slaves by Given Name

NOTE: To aid in research, slaveowners' surnames have been included below in brackets in cases where only the given name of the slave was included in the manumission record.

unnamed boy {Furman/Little}, 4
Margaret Nixon, 57
unnamed girl {Furman/Little}, 4
Mark {Mershon}, 30
Ann {Phillips}, 45
Mary {Kirkpatrick}, 56
Benjamin Primus {Hart}, 20
Michael Gibbs, 27
Betty Berryen, 1
Nancy {Phillips}, 45
Betty {Cowdrick}, 53
Nero {Howell}, 34
Caesar {Beakes}, 6
Peg {Smith}, 13
Caty Allen, 24
Peter {Bryant}, 3
Cente {Mershon}, 29
Peter {Moore}, 19
Charles {Bryan/Hill}, 25
Peter {Moore}, 26
Charles {Furman/Dussenbery}, 5
Phillip {Green}, 17
Charles B. Green, 46
Prime {Burroughs}, 42
Dan {Brearley}, 37
Prime {Moore}, 22
Dick {Miller}, 36
Rachal {Ott}, 43
Dinah {Brearley}, 38
Rachel {Van Cleve}, 35
Flora {Bryant}, 2
Richard {Hooper}, 14
Flora {Moore/Hutchinson}, 18
Sam Lee, 39
Francis Berryen, 1
Samuel {Sharp}, 55
Guy {Hanlon}, 8
Samuel {Yard}, 44
Hannah {Furman/Dussenberry}, 5
Sarah {Hooper}, 14
Harry {Schenck}, 47
Sarah {Hooten}, 9
Henry {Dickinson}, 49
Sip {Waterhouse}, 31
Jack Murford/Murfee, 41
Stephen {Quick}, 28
Jack {Wilson}, 21
Thomas [Bowyer?], 23
Jacob {Titus}, 33
Thomas {Buskirk}, 32
James Bristol, 7
Thomas {Welling}, 54
James Cullen, 10
Thomas Jefferson {Calvin}, 52
James {Hart/Gordon}, 11
Tom {Brearley}, 40
James {Taylor}, 50
Tom {Schenck}, 48
Jane {Schenck}, 51
Tom {Stuart}, 15
Jim {Taylor}, 16
Will {Hart/Ewing}, 12


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Index - Slaveowners/Fellowbondsmen/Witnesses

NOTE: To aid in research, slaveowners' surnames have been included below in brackets in cases where only the given name of the slave was included in the manumission record.

Agnew, Daniel, 1
Maxwell, George, 25
Allen, Lorana, 24
Mershon, William, 29, 30
Beakes, Nathan, 3, 6
Miller, Jacob, 36
Brearley, John, 46
Miller, Margaretta Elizabeth, 36
Brearley, Samuel, 37, 38, 40
Moore, Amos, 41
Bryan, John, 25
Moore, Jesse, 26
Bryant, Mary, 2, 3
Moore, John, 19
Burroughs, Edmund, 42
Moore, Joseph, 18, 19
Burroughs, John, 39
Moore, Theophilus, 22
Buskirk, Daniel V., 32
Opdycke, Elijah, 10
Calvin, Luther, 52
Opdycke, George, 10
Cowdrick, John, 53
Opdycke, Rachel, 10
Dickinson, Samuel, 49
Opdycke, Samuel, 10
Dussenbery, Henry, 5
Opdycke, [Serviah?], 10
Ewing, James, 12
Ott, Davis S., 43
Furman, Moore, 4, 5
Ott, John H., 43
Gordon, Peter, 11
Ott, Joseph, 43
Green, William E., 17
Phillips, Lewis W.R., 45
Green, William R., 27
Quick, Moses, 28
Hanlon, Bernard, 8
Schenck, Garret J., 47, 48, 51
Hart, Anne, 11, 12
Scudder, Daniel, 7
Hart, Moses, 20
Sharp, Elisha, 55
Hart, Oliver, 11, 12
Smith, Benjamin, 13
Hill, Jonathan, 25
Stuart, Lewis, 15
Hooper, Robert Lettis, 14
Taylor, Harry, 16
Hooten, Elizabeth, 9
Taylor, John Allen, 50
Howell, Daniel G., 34
Titus, Joseph, 33
Howell, Richard, 14
V[an] Buskirk, Daniel, 32
Howell, Timothy, 23
Van Cleve, Benjamin, 8, 35
Hunt, Abraham, 2, 3
Van Cleve, Elizabeth, 35
Hunt, Sarah, 8
Warford, Margaret, 10
Hutchinson, Phebe, 18
Waterhouse, Ingham, 31
Kirkpatrick, Jacob, 56
Welling, Isaac, 54
Little, James, 4
Wilson, Israel, 21
Martindell, Phineas, 57
Woodruff, Aaron Dickinson, 14
Yard, Edward, 44


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