Friday, January 18, 2013

Elizabeth Haddon: a 21st century woman in colonial New Jersey

"There were reports of crossbills and redpolls at Elizabeth Haddon School in Haddonfield." Little did Ivan know that that innocent sentence would bring up a history lesson about a truly kick-butt woman in New Jersey history.

You might be familiar with Haddonfield (we visited last year to see the Hadrosaurus), the delightfully historic looking community in Camden County, but Elizabeth Haddon, maybe not so much.

Born in England in 1680, Elizabeth came to West Jersey at the tender age of 20. Depending on the source, she was either propelled there by her own desire to make a life in the New World, or was sent there by her father, who'd bought 500 acres of land by Cooper's Creek for reasons unknown. She was the older of two daughters, with no brothers, so if her father was inclined to send a family member to watch over his property, Elizabeth would have been his choice.

In either case, her determination served her well. Within a year, Elizabeth had started a community on the land and erected a house for herself. Comparatively well off, she entertained other Quakers who passed through on their way to Friends meetings in other parts of the region. One of these was a missionary named John Estaugh, whom she'd met several years earlier in England. It seems that she'd taken a liking to Estaugh, and he to her, enough that some have suspected he was a factor in her willingness to make such an adventurous move.

Being a man of the cloth, Estaugh lacked the financial resources the Haddons possessed, and some have surmised that he was cautious in his courting as a result. Elizabeth, however, refused to stand on tradition and proposed marriage, which he accepted. They were married in the fall of 1702, less than two years after she'd arrived.

Together, they managed the Haddon property, which grew over time through Elizabeth's father's continued purchases. He gave the newlyweds the deed to an acre of land for the construction of a Quaker meetinghouse that drew more settlers and assured the community's success. The Estaughs built later built a handsome brick house but had no children of their own, instead adopting her sister's son, Ebenezer Hopkins, to inherit their estate. Elizabeth died at the age of 82, outliving her husband by 20 years.

The town is named for Elizabeth's father (since he was the legal owner, it was Haddon's field), even though she was the driving force in its settlement. Given that the school is named in her honor, I have no doubt that the children of the community become quite aware that today's women aren't the first to make a broad and lasting impact on the world.

As for the birds, well, the crossbills and redpolls were no-shows, but we got something just as good. Perched in a backyard tree high above the rooflines was a handsome adult Cooper's hawk. He might have been the reason behind the dearth of other birds, or maybe not, but if we couldn't find the chase birds, he was a good consolation prize. Birding completed for this location, it was time to see if the Indian King Tavern was open.

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