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Part Two:

Early History of The City of Gloucester City: Hugg's Tavern and The Marriage of Betsy Ross

originally published 1964

Hugg’s Tavern

This relic of Colonial days was recently demolished to make room for a public park on the river front at Gloucester City (New Jersey). It vied in olden times with the Indian King at Haddonfield as a public meeting place but was the center of more happenings because Gloucester was the county seat until 1786. The Gloucester Fox Hunting Club kept its hounds in Gloucester, and Hugg’s Tavern was its principal rendezvous.

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Within its substantial brick walls important banquets, conferences and meetings took place. The Committee on Observation and Correspondence met there, and when the British and Hessians under ord Cornwallis occupied Gloucester its spacious rooms were used by military officers. This was offset from a patriotic standpoint a couple of years later, when the confiscated real estate of some of the tories was sold there at public auction by the Commissioners of Forfeited Estates, John Sparks and Samuel Kaign.

Year after year Hugg’s Tavern seems to have been the best known place of its kind in Old Gloucester County and strenuous efforts, which amounted to nothing, were made to prevent its destruction. One of its fireplaces and one of its “Holy Cross” doors were removed to the Gloucester County Historical Society building in Woodbury, where the fireplace was installed in its basement.

The Gloucester-Philadelphia ferry was only a short distance from the tavern and the ancient stages of stage coach days made it a stopping place, not only because of the ferry, but also because it afforded splendid entertainment for travelers.

The Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Judges, Justices, Juries and Attorneys, as well as citizens of political inclinations, made it their meeting place before and after the Revolution.

The remains of the 64-gun British ship “Augusta” was stranded on the river front within a stone’s-throw, when an attempt was made to remove it up the Schuylkill River for exhibition purposes at the Centennial. At the present time the remnants of her ribs and keel are still visible, almost in front of the two old trees where the West Jersey Proprietors have held their annual meetings since 1688.

From the very earliest settlement the Hugg Family was one of the most prominent, and at the time of the Revolution the descendants of John Hugg (the first one of the family) were known far and wide as patriots and outstanding men of Old Gloucester County.

The rarest building in Gloucester City is gone and no doubt its location, in the futures, will be as hard to find as the site of the Fort Nassau. “Non est.” The half-tone engraving above will however show what is looked like when ruthlessly destroyed in the spring time of the year 1929.

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Woodcut of Hugg's Fox Hunting Club

click image to enlarge 

Marriage License of “Betsy” Ross

The first of the three marriages of the charming and energetic Elizabeth Griscom of a well-known Quaker family of early southern New Jersey attracted no particular attention on November 4, 1773 beyond her disownment by her own Quaker meeting in Philadelphia. As the decades have passed, Betsy Ross has become one of the famous women of America as the maker of the first American flag.

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Elizabeth Haddon, Ann cooper Whitall and Ann Blackwood Howell were other heroines of our temperamental local history. All were pious Quakeresses.

According to history and tradition Elizabeth Haddon told John Estaugh at “Teatown” on the old Salem road near Mantua Creek that she had a strong regard for him.

Ann Cooper Whitall heard the Hessian cannon balls and grape shot crash the brick wall of her home at Red Bank battlefield.

Ann Blackwood Howell was a social queen and left her impress on the annals of the New Jersey shore of the Delaware River. Her home near the river was named Fancy Hill. As the widow of Col. Joshua Ladd Howell she owned shad fisheries that permitted her to educate her fine family of sons and daughters. One of her record books showing the entire catch of shad and the prices obtained for the year 1815, is still preserved.

William Franklin, Governor of New Jersey, was the son of Benjamin Franklin. He received one pound and five shilling for the license of Betsy Ross. John Ross was the son of the assistant rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Philadelphia. William Hugg, Jr., the proprietor of Hugg’s Tavern, was a good friend of John Ross and agreed to help him.

In order to obtain a marriage license in New Jersey at that time it was necessary for two people to become surety on a bond conditioned that the bride was twenty-one years of age and not under any disability. One or both had to pledge a definite sum of money that this was true. William Hugg, Jr., did just that for his friend.

  James Bowman, Justice of the Peace who performed the marriage in the tavern at Gloucestertown received ten shillings and there was a charge of eight shillings for recording. The total cost of the ceremony according to the computation on the back of the license was two pounds, three shillings, New Jersey currency, or approximately five Spanish dollars or pieces of eight.

It reads as follows:

By His Excellency WILLIAM FRANKLIN, ESQ., Captain-General and Governor in Chief in and over His Majasty’s Province of New Jersey and Territories theron depending in America, etc.

To any Protestant Minister, or Justice of the Peace.

Whereas there is a mutual Purpose of Marriage between John Ross of the City of Philadelphia of the one Party, and Elizabeth Griscom of the same place of the other Party, of which they have desired by License, and have given Bond, upon Condition that neither of them have any lawful Let or Impediment, Pre-Contract, Affinity or Consanguinity, to hinder their being joined in the Holy Bands of Matrimony. These are therefore to authorize and impower you to join the said John Ross and Elizabeth Griscom in the Holy Bands of Matrimony, and then to pronounce them Man and Wife.

Given under my Hand and the Prerogative Seal, at Burlington, the fourth Day of November in the four-teenth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord GEORGE the Third, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, Annoque Domini, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Three.

Entered in the Registry of the Prerogative office. James Bowman.

Written on the other side

Seal and Signature of William Franklin.

John Ross and Elizabeth Griscom were married the 4 Day of November 1773.


source: The History of Gloucester City, NJ 1664-1964 New Jersey Tercentenary


RELATED: Gloucester City History