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William Garrisons of Salem and Cumberland Counties, New Jersey

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Garrison families arrived in southern New Jersey from New York by 1700. Generally poor documentation makes it difficult to disambiguate the many Garrisons with the same given name, who were often unrelated. This page is an attempt to distinguish and identify the different William Garrisons who lived in Salem and Cumberland Counties in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The eldest known William Garrison was deeded land on 9 February 1737/8. Nothing else seems to be known of him -- no man of a similar name is shown in the index of the calendar of New Jersey wills and administrations for the years 1670-1750. Perhaps he was the namesake for one or more of those who were to come.

Disambiguating the Williams

There were at least four William Garrisons born in Salem or Cumberland Counties between the mid 1730s and 1750.

1. William Garrison, possibly son of Joshua, b. before 1738. This William married Catherine Nieukirk in 1758,[1] while both bride and groom were resident in Salem County. They had at least two children:

  • Sarah b. ca. 1759, m. Isaac Van Meter
  • probably Joshua b. ca. 1763, m. Barsheba Van Meter

Wiliam's sister Sarah married William Morgan. The will of William Morgan of Woolwich in Gloucester County was dated and proved in 1775 and names:[2]

  • wife Sarah, given land at Salem
  • "negro" Quosh, to be leased land per an agreement in the hands of John Nelson
  • sons William, Joshua, Benjamin, and Jacob
  • daughters Sarah and Elizabeth
  • son Joshua and states that he had land in Salem County.

Executors were his wife Sarah and "William Garrison, my brother." An account was made in 1784 by Sarah Connoly, late Morgan, and William Garrison, in which they had sold a grist mill to Sawtell Elwell.

A notice in the Pennsylvania Gazette of 29 April 1795, page 3, says

All persons having demands against the estate of William Garrison of Pittsgrove, in the county of Salem, deceased, are desired to make them known to the subscribers, by the first day of July next; and all who are indebted to said estate are required to make payment of their respective debts, to Jerediah Dubois, accounting administrator, by the above time.
Joshua Garrison
Jerediah Dubois, administrators.

An inventory for a William Garrison was presented for probate in Salem County by Jerediah DuBois and was admitted in the September term of 1796.[3] One entry of interest records 40 pounds paid out, to "William Morgan for Elizabeth Morgan's legacy in the Hands of William Garrison decd." This proves this William Garrison was the executor of the will of William Morgan mentioned above. Elizabeth Morgan was born around 1775 shortly before she was named in her father's will, and the 1796 account indicates that William was still holding property on behalf of Elizabeth.

A 1783 record of the New Jersey Supreme Court names William Garrison the father-in-law of Isaac Vanmeter and uncle of Isaac's apprentice Jacob Morgan,[4] confirming that this is the same William who administrated the estate of William Morgan. It also provides the proof that Isaac Van Meter's wife Sarah was Sarah Garrison, daughter of William. Isaac and Sarah named their first two children William and Catherine, providing onomastic support to the notion that Sarah's parents were William Garrison and Catherine Nieukirk.

On 18 May 1786, William Garrison of Pittsgrove, Salem County granted to his son Joshua Garrison a tract of 5000 acres on the waters of Hughs's River in Harrison County, Virginia, which he himself had obtained from John Young by conveyance just five days prior.[5] Then 3 July 1794, William Garrison and Catherine his wife of Piles Grove sold land that William had purchased from Abdon Abit Jr. on 4 May 1759. This proves William was born no later than 1738.

The above evidence all correlates and paints a picture of the life of William Garrison. What it does not do is identify William's parents. The assignment of him as son of Joshua and Sarah Garrison is tenuous, made mostly on an onomastic basis: William's sister was Sarah, and both William and Sarah named sons Joshua. Joshua and Sarah recorded baptisms of children Elizabeth in 1742 and David in 1746 at the Pittsgrove Presbyterian Church. They were founding members of the church in 1741. Several other families had seemingly already found other ways to baptize their children before 1741, so those older children do not appear on extant registers. It would seem the same is true of Joshua and Sarah.

2. William Garrison, son of Jacob, b. say 1735. He was named in his father's 1750 will. Of the fifteen children named in the will, the final seven were said to be underage, and William was listed third among those. The estimated birth year assumes the children were listed in birth order with a spacing of 2.5 years between consecutive children. If we assume also that the eldest of the underage children was about 20 in 1750, then since William appeared two children later we arive at his estimated birth year of 1735.

This William cannot be the same man who married Catherine Nieukirk, because as demonstrated above, that William had a sister Sarah who married William Morgan. Sarah Morgan had a daughter Elizabeth Morgan in about 1775, the year her husband died. To have a child in 1775, Sarah was almost certainly born after 1730. If her brother William were the son of Jacob, then Sarah should have been among his seven children who were underage when he wrote his will in 1750. Instead, she was listed four children earlier in the list, and called "Sarah Reves." So Sarah, daughter of Jacob, was too old to be the sister of the William who married Catherine Nieukirk and whose sister Sarah married William Morgan.

The will of William's father seems to be the only known record known to name this William. We note that in 1791, Lewis Owen, administrator of the estate of William Garrison, presented to the probate court in Salem County that William Garrison's assets were not enough to cover his burial expenses and requested to be able to sell land to cover the remainder.[6] This William cannot be placed as any of the others mentioned here. Either William, son of Jacob, was this man who died in 1791 or else there was an additional man who should be added to the present list of William Garrisons.

3. William Garrison b. ca. 1742, reportedly the son of Garret Garrison. A transcription of his gravestone at the Presbyterian Church in Deerfield, Cumberland County says he died 9 October 1785 ae 43 years.[7]

He married Elizabeth Garrison, probably the daughter of John and Jemima Garrison, apparently as her second husband -- she was called Elizabeth Powell in the record.[8] At the time, the bride was resident in Cumberland County and the groom in Salem County. After William's death, Elizabeth married a third time to _____ Stratton. She was reportedly born 5 May 1744, which exactly matches her gravestone inscription: 29 July 1805 in her 62nd year.[7]

William Garrison Pittsgrove, Salem County left a will dated 1 October 1785, inventory presented 19 October 1785, naming:[9]

  • eldest son John, second son Powell, and third son William
  • daughters Naomi, Elizabeth, Ruth, "Statute", and Jemima

The executors of his will were "wife, Elizabeth, and friend William Garrison, brother of said wife." It is this latter sentence, taken literally, that shows Elizabeth's maiden name was Garrison, and not Powell as most online trees would have it.

John Garrison of Deerfield, Cumberland County died in 1783. His wife Jemima made her will within the following weeks, naming her son William and daughters Elizabeth Garrison, Phebe Thompson, Jemima Smith, and Rachel Maul. It seems some have interepreted this to mean that Elizabeth never married, but instead it should be seen as providing further support to the notion that their daughter Elizabeth had married William Garrison. She had a brother William, which also fits with William Garrison naming William Garrison, brother of his wife, as one of the executors of his will. It might be strange that William and Elizabeth Garrison named a son Powell if that was only the surname of her former husband, but for instance if he had died an honorable death, they might have given his name to a son in remembrance.

The will of Elizabeth Stratton of Bridgetown is dated 14 September 1804 and was proved 8 August 1805.[10] It names:

  • sons John Garrison and Powell Garrison
  • daughter Elizabeth Bowen
  • granddaughter [Alviva?] Bowen
  • daughters Ruth Nixon, Stativa Garrison, and Jemima Bacon
  • enslaved girl Flora, to be manumitted and set free when 25

Executors were William Garrison and Jeremiah Nixon.

4. William Garrison b. ca. 1747, son of John and Jemima Garrison (brother-in-law of William #3 above). A gravestone at the Deerfield Presbyterian Church is engraved with the name William Garrison, Esq., stating he died 3 May 1819 aged 71 years.[7] He married three times:

  1. to Ruth Davis, daughter of Arthur and Elizabeth (Preston) Davis. She died 15 December 1797, ae 47 years.[7]
  2. to Phebe Leake, probably the daughter of Nathan and Hannah (Fithian) Leake. She died 12 May 1799, ae 36 years, 7 months, 25 days.[7]
  3. on 29 July 1799, to Ruth Leake, probably the daughter of Nathan and Hannah (Fithian) Leake and sister of William's second wife. She died 16 April 1823, ae 47 years.[7]

The will of William Garrison was dated 1 January 1817 with a codicil dated 14 October 1818, and was proved 22 May 1819.[11] It mentions:

  • sons Abijah, Charles, Edmund F., George W. (a minor), and youngest sons Amos F., and William
  • wife Ruth
  • daughters and grandchildren, unnamed

The codicil notes that son William had since died and redistributed the bequests as a result.


  1. Documents Relating Colonial History New Jersey: Vol. 22, Page 153
  2. Documents Relating Colonial History New Jersey: Vol. 34, Page 357
  3. Salem County, New Jersey, "Docket Files, 1748-1804, 1824-1845", digital images on Family Search (film #1293124), image 1 and image 2.
  4. "Supreme Court Case Files, 1704-1844", database, New Jersey Department of State, search page -> "Last Name" = garrison, "First Name" = william, "Year Span" = 1783 "to" 1783. This brings up a single index entry for case #39125, in which abstracted in the name field it has "William Garrison (Father-in-law of Isaac Vanmeter and Uncle of Joshua Morgan) (Deponent)."
  5. Salem County, New Jersey, Deeds vol. A pages 37-8
  6. Salem County, New Jersey, Divisions of Land Vol. A page 69
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Typsecript of transcribed gravestone inscriptions for Deerfield Presbyterian Cemetery by Mary R. C. Clayton, dated Oct 1914. Online transcription by Jane Devlin.
  8. Documents Relating Colonial History New Jersey: Vol. 22, Page 153
  9. Documents Relating Colonial History New Jersey: Vol. 35, Pages 158-9
  10. Documents Relating Colonial History New Jersey: Vol. 39, Page 432
  11. Cumberland County, Wills vol. B pages 38-45

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