Friday, February 1, 2013

Capt. John Richards

   John Richards was a resident of New Barbados Neck, New Jersey, currently the town of Kearney.  His attachment to the Loyalists cause prompted him to move from New Jersey to British-occupied New York City while his family remained in New Bardanos Neck.  Hearing of the sickness in his family, Richards obtained a British pass to go beyond enemy lines to visit his home.
   Loyalists and Revolutionary newspapers offered very different versions of Richards's encounter with two armed men, near the
Three Pigeons Tavern in Bergen Township, New Jersey.  
   The February 2 issue of Loyalist New York City newspaper The New-York Gazette; and The Weekly Mercury reported, “On Thursday Afternoon [January 29, 1778], on his Way to gratify an ardent Desire to see his Family, who were ill of the Small-pox, Mr. JOHN RICHARDS, of New-Barbados Neck, was taken by two armed Men, and on the Road between that and the three Pigeons, was shot dead by one of them, as he was preventing the other from robbing him of his Watch.”
   The New-York Gazette eulogized Richards, “He was a Man universally known, and as universally beloved; warmly attached to his Friends, humane and candid to his Enemies, benevolent and hospitable to all Men, and has now fallen a Sacrifice to his unsuspecting and generous Temper, for when warned of the Danger of his intended Visit, his Answer was, ‘that his Countrymen, even if they should take him, would never injure him.’”
   The Gazette was not above reproving the deceased for trusting his fellow-Americans, especially those Americans in rebellion: “Mistaken Man, to trust to the Generosity of those, who have involved their Country in Ruin.” 
   The Gazette reported that the “Monsters” who perpetrated the murder were “Brower and Le Sheair, the former Shot him dead.” 
   Historian Adrian Coulter Leiby wrote that John Richards probably long enjoyed the trust of his New Jersey neighbors, who apparently elected him to several county offices in the years before the Revolutionary War.  His neighbor's estimation of John Richards changed after the Declaration of Independence.  On July 13, 1776, New Jersey authorities in Trenton obliged Richards to give his parole, requiring him to pledge that he would not give supplies or information to British forces.  
   Paul H. Smith reports that Abraham Brower and John Lazier were members of Major John Goetshius’s battalion of New Jersey militia.  Leiby referred to the battalion as Major Goetschius’s Bergen County Rangers.  The pro-Revolutionary newspaper The New-Jersey Gazette (Burlington) gave a different account of the incident on February 11, 1778:

   On the 29th ult. [that is, January 29] Major Goetschius, who commands a party of rangers in   Bergen county, had dispatched John Leshier and Abraham Brower, to of his men, to reconnoiter the enemy’s picket at Paulus-Hook.  As they lay in ambush at Prior’s mill, within sight of the enemy’s centry, they were passed by John Richard[s] with a Negro man belonging to himself, and another to Cornelius Van Vorst, upon a Waggon.  John Richard had a pass from Col. Turnbull to go to Bergen.  Maj. Goetchius’s men thought it their Duty to carry Mr. Richard and the two negroes to their commanding officer for examination.  Upon the road, about six miles from the place where they were taken, Mr. Richard and his negro took hold of Leshier’s musket, (they being in the waggon, and Brower at a little distance on horseback) with design, as Leshier thought, to kill him.  Upon this he called to Brower to come to his assistance.  As Brower came up, the negro took hold of Leshier, and Richard turned to seize Brower—but Brower, to prevent him, shot him dead on the spot, and the negroes were carried to Maj. Goetchius’s.

   Leiby suggested that Brower and Lazier had much in common with "other [New] Jersey Dutchmen who tried to work their farms...and to carry on as soldiers at the same time, men with no expectation or desire of bringing themselves to public notice."  Leiby believed both men adhered to a branch of the Dutch Reformed Church that included a majority of New York and New Jersey's Dutch Calvinist, a branch that was generally supportive of American Cause.    
   For more information, please consult  Paul H. Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, 26 vols. (Washington: Library of Congress, 1976-2000), vol. 11: page 386 and 386note1; and
Adrian Coulter Leiby, The Revolutionary War in the Hackensack Valley: The Jersey Dutch and the Neutral Ground, 1775-1783 (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992 [1962]), pages 20, 144 and 147note47.
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