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Matlack's Grave (Part Two)

As the title suggests this is a continuation of the article on William Matlack and his wife, Mary Hancock. John M. Matlock ( recognized the article and had "the rest of the story" and emailed it to me. John formerly of Arkansas, now of Texas, is one of the original contributors to "They Multiplied: The Story of the Matlocks/Medlocks". 

From: Courier-Post (Newspaper), Camden, N. J.: March 11, 1970

Reprinted with permission (

Crossroads In History, Matlack Family Tombs Found, Cherry Hill Sepulcher of N. J. Pioneers.

by Stephen M. O'Keefe.

"Within this inclosure lie the remains of William and Mary Matlack who came to West New Jersey from England, William in 1677 and Mary Hancock in 1681, the first of the name and the ancestors of the family in America. Here also lies the remains of Richard Matlack, a son of William and Mary and part of his children. Also a number of the servants and slaves of the family."

The foregoing from the bygones was chiseled in concrete at a
once-remote woodland sector of what is now Cherry Hill. It stands there
today as an indelible epilogue of another stirring story that Quakers carved in the transformation of South Jersey from jungle to gardens.

The epitaph is a mournful but meager reflection of one of the most
prolific clans that settled here nearly 300 years ago and lived as neighbors of the Lenni Lenape Indian huntsmen. As in some other interlocking events found at the crossroads of history in this area, this is a story of courage in the raw that was a way of life for the fervent Friends who fled from England.

They came across the then strange Atlantic Ocean in late-October winds
293 years in the past. They set foot on strange land, wrapped in big
blankets over heavy wool clothing which scarcely matched the warmth of the strong faith and hope each held.

The dense wilderness along the east bank of the River Delaware was, at
best, a bleak haven far from the troublous environs of London that once was their home. But with all its fearsom density, impenetrable at night, it stood out as the long-sought destination thousands of miles from the
brutality of bigots.

This was the future home in a new world of men, women, and children who yearned to live in peace and pray as they wished. This was the end of their search for serenity. Here there was none of the persecution that was their daily lot in England, where those who refused to kneel to tyranny or doff their hats to tyrants, were thrown in jails. No longer would families be ruptured at the whims of leaders in a state of religion, who laughed loudly in gleeful ridicule as thy jammed prisons with those who quaked in reverence at the mere mention of God.

These Quakers . . . they preferred to be known as the Society of Friends
. . . crossed the Atlantic aboard the SS Kent. The skipper, Gregory Marlow, touched at Sandy Hook and then guided his ship down around Cape May and into the Delaware. There must have been quite a mixture of emotions as the voyagers scanned the shore line. They put in at Racoon Creek in what was later identified as Gloucester County, a focal region in the western division of the Province of New Jersey.

One of the more pompous passengers was Daniel Wills, appointed in
England as a commissioner, or overseer, for West Jersey land. He was the master of William Matlack, which meant the latter was bound to four years of servitude. This assured him of his keep and there was a promise of a 100-acre grant at the completion of the pact.

Captain Barlow found he couldn't navigate further upstream, so it was
necessary for Commissioner Wills and a few picked men to take to small boats for the remainder of the trip. Matlack was one of these and the destination was Chygoe's Island. They reached that point, where the City of Burlington now stands, nearly surrounded by the Assiscunk Creek, named after an Indian chief.

Matlack is recorded as claiming to be the first man to set foot at
Burlington, but other archives indicate some Swedes settled there in 1624, more than 50 years in advance. Perhaps Matlack's boast was in reference to being the first of the Kent passengers to land there.

Matlack's master had three associate commissioners, Thomas Olive, John Penford and Benjamin Scott. It was their task to complete deals with the indians. Satisfactory terms were arranged with the aid of several Swedes, who were interpreters. The transactions involved large tracts extending to Oldman's Creek in Salem County.

More than 200 of the Kent passengers settled temporarily in the Racoon Creek area, but most of them gradually made their way to the Burlington region. This phase of settlement was adventuresome and marked by difficulties which took a heavy toll among the Pilgrams. But Matlack labored dutifully and by 1681 became free from the bond with Wills and was given title to 100 acres.

Another event in 1681 was to help shape Matlack's destiny, although he
was not aware of it at the time. This was the arrival from England of
Timothy Hancock and his sister, Mary, who was about 15 years of age. They had managed to get passage from their home in Brayles, southern
Warwickshire. When they landed at Burlington they had little worldly goods. But, like the settlers already established, they were gripped by hope and a radiant outlook toward the future.

They Hancocks were a humble pair and the community readily accepted them, providing employment and shelter for both. A year later, Mary let several suitors know that she was "spoken for". Her heart favored William Matlack. Her brother gave profound consideration to Matlock's suit and consented. The Quaker wedding ceremony was a joyous event in the community. Matlack was 34 and Mary was 16 at the time.

The Matlacks made their home on a tract between two branches of
Pennsauken Creek, then spelled Penisauken, in which was then the Township of Chester, across the Burlington County line. This is now identified as the Maple Shade area. This, then, became the seat of one of the largest families in the early history of South Jersey. Mary gave William six sons and one daughter. All were married in due time, four of them going to the alter twice.

"The Matlack family was remarkable prolific (there must be a line left
out there)....genealogy would lead to and any attempt to follow the endless collaterals be attempted with much doubt and uncertaincy." This was the expression of John Clement, Haddonfield historian who did much to pass on tracings which otherwise might have been lost to the present. His sketches of the first immigrant settlers in Newton Township of old Gloucester County holds a vast store of dates in the Camden County Histroical Library at Park Boulevard and Euclid Avenue. It was printed in 1877.

In 1684, about three years after his sister became Mrs. Matlack, Timothy Hancock took as his bride Rachel Firman. They settled on a tract adjoning the Matlack homestead. Hancock's spread also was reckoned to be 100 acres. In later years there were some questions
raised over boundary lines and it is possible that land owned by Matlack and Hancock extended at one time into Pennsauken.. Old surveys were made and remade over the years and on occasion legislative action and agreements became necessary to validate certain lines.

It was understood that an attempt was made to list by sounds some of the Indian words but this has not been found in Camden, Burlington, or
Glouchester Counties.

Clearings made in the woods here-a-bouts proved fertile and there was
marked progress and more settlers came and erected more homes, stables, barns, pens and shelters for fowl. Matlack and Hancock hit on the idea of setting up a Friends Meeting. With the consent of the Burlington Friends, this was established in Hancock's home in 1685. There, on what the Quakers called "first day" the neighbors met to meditate and pray as they wished andto discuss the needs and problems of members. Later, on alternate "first days" Meetings were held in the home of John Kay, on the north branch of Cooper's Creek for the convenience of Friends in Pennsauken and Evesham township.

There were many marriages solemnized at these Meetings which continued untill about 1707. At least some of the Matlack children were principals in those rituals. As these added other names to the community rolls, Matlack deciced to acquire more land. As the family grew up and spread out so did the Matlack estate.

John Matlack married Hannah Horner and later had a second wife Mary Lee. The second son, George, also married twice, to Mary Foster and Mary Hancock. Mary Matlack became the bride of Jonathan Haines and her second husband was Daniel Morgan. William Matlack married Ann Antrim. His younger brother Richard took Rebecca Haines as his bride in 1721 and his second wife was Mary Cole. Rebecca Haines also was the name of Joseph Matlack's bride, but some essential identification here seems to be lacking.

Timothy Matlack married Mary Haines in 1720 and his sister Jane became the bride of a man named Irvin. The last listed marriage of the Matlack children united a daughter, Sarah and Charles Haines.

Without precise records or information, one historian estimates that
William and Mary Matlack were the grandparents of about 40 grandchildren.

One of the realty transactions made by William Matlack was the 1,000
acres he purchased in Waterford and Gloucester townships, then embraced in the boundary of old Gloucester County. He acquired this area from Richard Heritage. The land was on both sides of the south branch of Cooper's Creek and extended around the old White Horse Tavern, familiar to many along the White Horse Pike.

John Matlack was in his early twenties when he purchased 200 acres in
Waterford Township from Francis Collins. His marriage to Hannah Horner took place three years later, in 1708. Part of this estate later was acquired by John Wilkins. One house built by these early settlers withstood the rigors of 150 years of living.

William Matlack gave his son George half of the land he had bought from Heritage, in Waterford Township. This then became the home of George and the former Mary Foster. It was located on the Berlin-Haddonfield road adjoining the section now known as Glendale. George erected a sawmill along the Cooper Creek, replacing a wornout Hilliard's Mill that had existed there previously.

Another deal by William Matlack involved 200 acres from John Estaugh as attorney for John Haddon. Richard Matlack was given this tract, in 1721, the year he married Rebecca Haines.

This site has been alternately set down on maps of Waterford, Delaware
and Cherry Hill townships. It is here that the family graves are located.

The first of the Matlacks gave another son, Timothy, the remainder of
the ground he bought from Heritage. This transfer took place in 1714 and Timothy built a home there and married Mary Haines six years later. Timothy and his wife left the farm in 1726 and set up a store in Haddonfield. The farm later was the property of Ephraim Tomlinson, long prominent in banking at Camden.

A son Timothy who was given his father's name was born in Haddonfield in 1730. He moved to Philadelphia as a youth and figured in public life there. Although a Quaker, reared in a philosophy that cultivated a strong aversion to war, the second Timothy took up arms in the Revolutionary War and was given a commission as a colonel. This caused the Society of Friends to "disown" him. He then became associated with Benjamin Franklin and others in formation of an organization in Philadelphia. This was called "Free Quakers".

The second Timothy also served as secretary of the Continental Congress and he was recognized as an outstanding leader in the struggle to sever the colonies from English rule. His portrait was hung in Independence Hall. The date of his death was given as 1829, in which year he would have been 99. He was buried in the Free Quaker cemetery on South Fifth Street, in Philadelphia.

Mary Matlack died Nov. 20, 1728. William's death is believed to have
been 1738, his 90th year.

Among many other descendants of William Matlack was Asa, well-known in the Moorestown section. He was a family historian and many of the clan were indebted to him for keeping a record of marriages and offspring.

The 1500 Matlack acres remained in the family for about 60 years.
Extending on both sides of the Moorestown and Woodbury road, the land is far too high in value to be purchased by a worker in modern agriculture. William Todd was listed as the owner of the Cherry Hill section of the estate in 1779. It later was acquired by Richard M. Cooper and occupied by his heirs. It also was identified for a time as the Cooper Estate. Richard Cooper was a lineal descendant of William Cooper, first settler of Camden.

Other more recent owners over the years were J. Wessly Goldthorp, whose estate once estimated as 21000 acres, and Harold D. and Morris A. Sarshik, builders who purchased the land about 14 years ago. Goldthorp devoted care and attention to the Matlack graveyard over a long period. This work now is being done by boy and girl scouts who alternate each year pruning the growth and keeping orderly the crushed stone path extending from the open gateway to the headstone.

The last resting place of the pioneers is hardly accessible on foot in
wet weather, but attaches of the Sarshik firm have taken relatives to the
scene in a jeep. One member of the clan came here from Connecticut several years ago to pay tribute to the family.

Some residents near the new Brett Hart School never were aware of the
existence of the graves. Mrs. Edmund C. Steirman, 1832 Lark Lane, who moved here with her family last September, discovered the site while on a stroll with her son. Her inquiries among neighbors drew forth no information. Her call to the Courier-Post prompted the research which produced this review.

Present location of the gravesite is between two houses (533 and 537) on
Balsam Rd. in the Eagle Oaks residential development in the Woodcrest
section of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

End of article