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Condits and Cousins

Volume 1 History and Biography

Chapter 3 John Cundict, the First Known Male Ancestor

Both editions of the Condit history begin page 9 with the unqualified and undocumented statement: "John Cunditt is first know in this country in 1678."1 That date of 1678 has been repeated subsequently in many publications, including the prestigious, seven volume, Compendium of American Genealogy, by Frederick Adams Virkus.2

Jotham H. Condit (1378), one of the compilers of the 1885 Condit history, left a series of hand-written notebooks, the first two of which begin with the following entries: "Genealogy of the Condit family taken in part from an abstract furnished Edgar Condit of Delaware Co., Ohio by Silas Condit of Newark, N. J. in the year 1850. And supplemented by me in the year 1880 being the two hundredth (200) year from the first settlement. John Condit the ancestor emigrated (as is believed) from Wales to America in the year 1678 or 1680 with one son Peter and settled in Newark N. J. He married a 2nd wife and had by her a son John who never married. John the ancestor died about the year 1713."3

It should be noted that Jotham specified that the 1880 was the "200th year from the first settlement," although he gave the dates "1678 or 1680" in the next paragraph. What was it that made him choose the year of 1678 in the book that was published in 1885? And why has he not recorded the authority for that specific year in any of his notebooks or published works? That Jotham himself remained unconvinced is shown in the manuscript of a speech delivered in 1899, which began "about the year 1680." The earliest date on which we can be certain that John Cundict was in Newark is January, 1688, which is thirteen months before the date of a deed of February, 1689. Somewhere there may exist a record of John between 1678 and January of 1688 waiting to be discovered.

The deed of 27 February 1689 conveyed to "John Condit" eight acres of upland in the town of Newark, from Richard Hore, "in consideration of thirteen months board and fifty shillings." Those acres adjoined on the south land already in the possession of John Cundict, of which no other record is found.

David Laurence Pierson, well known historian of Newark and the Oranges, on pages 139-143 of his Narratives of Newark,4 published in 1917, included a chapter entitled "Puritan Sympathy Displayed," in which he described in great detail, as though he had been present as a witness, how "John Cunditt" rescued Richard Hore from his heatless home and took him into his own to live, in return for which grateful Richard, after consultation with Deborah, asked John to accept his land. The same tale was published verbatim in Lineal Ancestors of Rhoda (Axtell) Cory, Mother and Captain James Cory (1937), in a chapter of volume II, Part II, the "Condit Lineage" so it probably has been read by many and accepted as virtually an eyewitness account.

Puritan Sympathy Displayed
PURITAN sympathy was of exquisite quality, the Newark settlers ever offering the helping hand in sickness and distress. Prominently was this trait displayed in the case of Richard Hore, who located on an eight acre tract near the Corn Mill, abutting the property of Han3 Albers, the tanner, whose holding extended to the point now known as the Orange Street hill.
John Cunditt became a planter during the first quarter of a century and was assigned a home lot on the Mill Brook plain. He was another neighbor and carried on the trade of weaver quite profitably. In season he tilled his farm and accumulated by economical habits a goodly store for his progeny. A typical Puritan, practising the Christian spirit of helpfulness in his everyday life, devotions were held at his fireside morning, noon and night. Punctually he started out with his family at the sound of the drum for Meeting House service on the Sabbath Day through all weather - driving rainstorm, blistering heat, bitter cold or snow. The spirit of worship was with him always.
Richard had been ill several weeks. The planters living in the northern end of town noticed his languid, inactive appearance as he moved about the dooryard. Indeed he was compelled, in his weakness, before the leaves had fallen from the trees in the autumn of 1688, to remain entire days within doors. Often visited by the townspeople, who administered comfort as best they could from their limited available resources, yet signs of improvement were not evident. Of course the Rev. Abraham Pierson visited the patient and offered solace, but the thought expressed by a good housewife that "Richard was going into a decline," found general confirmation among the people.
Increasing hours of sunlight in January would assist in restoring health if there were any recuperative powers left in the emaciated frame, was a December conjecture, when the temperature was below the freezing point and Richard suffered from the chilly atmosphere.
Firewood and victuals the shut-in had a-plenty, but he was more in need of constant care, of the attention so necessary to restore normal health, if that were possible.
Neighbor Cunditt made his customary call on an early December morning when the window panes were covered with a thick layer of frost. Opening the door cautiously, the visitor felt the chill of a fireless room ; Richard was lying upon his pallet, gazing dreamily at the fireplace, from which the last spark had faded.
Going to his home, where the fire was blazing merrily, a steaming kettle hanging over the hearthstone and good cheer in abundance, the Good Samaritan conferred with his consort. Mistress Deborah Cunditt's mind was in accord with the plan proposed, of assigning Richard a place in their home, whither he was removed and enjoyed a comfortable seat alongside the blazing fire. He was revived in a few hours. No more would he be chilled "to the marrow," he confidently remarked to the master, when at the end of the first day he was "thawed out" and able to partake of a generous portion of venison stew.
The patient was treated as a member of the family. Soon after Candlemas Day, in February, 1689, when the sun was streaming through the south window, and illuminating the space about the sun dial till it glowed as if possessed of life, Richard talked to Mistress Deborah about the end of his life. He did not expect to live many days and desired in some way to reward the master for the kindnesses he had received from him. When all was quiet about the house, after the evening meal and the chores all done, true to his word, Richard asked of the master a word or two about business affairs. In a moment the burden of his mind was spoken. Would he take his land in return for the many kindly acts of the past year?
Pondering a while, Goodman Cunditt said: "Well, if ye want it that way and your mind is squarely made up, I'll take your land and give you fifty shillings for good measure."
The town scrivener prepared the deed on February 27, 1689, and the document, duly signed, contained among other provisions this important clause:
For several good causes and lawful consideration me hereunto moving, but expressly for and in consideration of thirteen months' board and fifty shillings, have granted and sold unto the said John Cunditt eight acres of upland in the town of Newark, and bounded on the north by Hans Albers, on the east by the river, on the south by said Cunditt and on the west by the highway.
(Signed) by his
Richard X Hore, mark.
But the end was not so near as surmised. Soon after the transfer by order of town meeting, this contract was made: Some Propositions between the Town and John Gardner toward an agreement for John Gardner to keep and provide for Richard Hore (viz): that the said John Gardner doth agree with the Town, to take Richard Hore into his House (he coming well clothed with a good Leathern Suit) for Two Shillings and Six Pence a Week, in Money or Pay equivalent; and doth further promise to keep him conveniently clean, and if he live not a Year, the said John Gardner, shall have two Shillings and Six Pence a Week for so long as he doth live, and if he live above a Year, the said John Gardner doth engage to provide him with Cloaths and Victuals, that he suffer not, for the two Shillings and Six Pence a week afs'd, as long as the said Richard shall live and the Town see Cause to continue him there, and free the Town from further Trouble. In Confirmation hereof, John Gardner, on his part, and Edward Ball in Behalf of the Town, have this 20th of Feb'y, 1690, set their Hands.
John Gardner.
Edward Ball.
David Lawrence Pierson, Narratives of Newark, Newark, Pierson Publishing Co., 1917, pages 139-142

Apologetically and reluctantly, but objectively, we point out that the only raw materials that David L. Pierson had to work with were the facts extracted from the recorded deed, and his fertile imagination ability as a spinner of tales; also that David was a great-grandson of Jemima Condit 1173 and Samuel Morris Dodd, and became a charter member of the Condit Family Association (NJ) on 1 August 1906, remaining on the Associations mailing list at least into the late 1920's. It is therefore not surprising that he selected on of his own ancestors, John Cundict, with whom to illustrate "Puritan Sympathy Displayed," also he did not mention that Richard Hore became the first public charge of the Town of Newark on 20 February 1690, but is not mentioned in the town records after 5 February 1692.

Subsequent records of John Cundict's life are few, but their very rarity makes them valuable:

  1. A deed of land from Richard Laurence to "John Condict, weaver," dated 24 March 1691, provided John with nineteen additional acres on the Passaic River at Newark.5
  2. In a deed dated 29 June 1695, "John Condict of Newark, weaver," parted with ten acres of land on the Passaic River to William Brant.6
  3. On 26 June 1696, "Letters of administration on the estate of Samuel Potter, senior, of Newark, dec'd intestate, (were) granted to John Condit of the same place and wife Deborah.7
  4. On 3 September 1701, "John Cundict" was one of 101 signers on an agreement to purchase lots in a tract proposed to be bought of the Indian owners by a committee of seven of the signatories. The tract lay beyond the ridge of the First Mountain, which was the northwestern boundary of Newark.8
  5. In 1712, "John Conduit" wove 31 yards of woolen cloth for Rev. John Pruden, obviously a "user of the cloth," for ?1, 3s, 6d. this suggests that John was active as a weaver only a year before his death. This information was obtained indirectly from the diary of Rev. Pruden, who was the second pastor of the Newark church, from 1692 to 1699, and may have held services for "the Mountain Society" on the slope of First Mountain before that society organized its church about 1718.9 A "Mr. John Pruden" signed the agreement mentioned in the previous paragraph.10 Several descendants of Rev. Pruden subsequently married descendants of John Cundict.
  6. John Cundict signed his will, with his mark as described in other documents, on 15 March 1710. He died probably early in 1713, inasmuch as his will was probated on 20 May 1713.11

It would be very interesting to locate the documents concerning the actual settlement of John's estate. The inventory of his personal estate survived as an original document but that did not name his heirs. In his will, he made provision for his widow, forgave Peter's debts and gave him furniture, and gave a Bible to each of his six grandchildren, since Isaac the seventh grandchild had not yet been born. The lion's share of his estate he devised to his son John, or in the event of that son's death before reaching his majority, to his then youngest grandson, Philip, who was not quite one year old. Because there is no further record of the son named John, it has been assumed that he died a minor, and thus did not inherit his father's property. In that event, did Philip actually inherit most of his grandfather's estate, or was that will contested? It would be nice to know.

In John's will is the enigmatic item: "My will and Desire is yt my Loving Friends and brothers Benjamin Lyon and Matthew Williams would oversee and take care yt this my will be fulfilled." A literal interpretation of the term "brothers" has led to conflicting assumptions by genealogists of other families. In the "Lyon Memorial," published in 1907, its editors report, on page 84 of Volume II, that Benjamin Lyon, Esq., son of Henry, married Bethia Condit, sister of John Condit, and then quote that passage from John's will as supporting evidence; however, the historians of the Condit family have not recognized that John had a sister, Bethia, or indeed, any brother of sister in this country, if at all. The History of the Lindley-Lindsly-Linsley Families in America, published in 1930, connects the Lindsley family very neatly with all three of the foregoing families by suggesting that the three daughters of Francis Lindsley, Deborah, Ruth, and Bethia, married, respectively, John Condit, Matthew Williams, and Benjamin Lyon. The author, John M. Lindly, quoted the above item from the will of John Condit as his justification for that suggestion, and his carefully documented arguments are very convincing.

It is interesting and somewhat amusing to observe that Jotham H. Condit, in his notebook of 1882, recognized at least part of those two traditions of the Lyon and Lindsley families, but commented that they were not substantiated, and he did not mention them in the Condit genealogy book published in 1885. He did initiate and print some unsubstantiated "traditions" of his own about John and Deborah Cundict, and about their granddaughter, Mary, without even suggesting the sources of information that led him to make those assumptions, and to publish them.

Another tradition is that of the Williams family, that Matthew Williams, father of the Matthew mentioned in John Cundict's will, married a Condict. Only if she were John's mother would John and the younger Matthew become brothers, or, more accurately, half-brothers. According to one account, she was "the daughter of a wealthy English gentleman named Condict," whereas another reports that she was "Elizabeth Conant (Condit/Condict) of Scotland," the first of two wives of the elder Matthew Williams, while the second wife, Susannah Cole, was the mother of the younger Matthew.12 If either of those traditions were correct, then John and Matthew would not be even half-brothers. Let us turn our attention next to John's known wife, Deborah.

Deborah Cundict, consort and Relict of John

No evidence has been presented to support the assertion that Deborah was not the first, but the second wife of John, the Ancestor. Although the age of their son, John, is unknown, it can be calculated roughly that he was somewhere between fifteen and forty-four years younger than his brother or half-brother, Peter. That calculation lends support to the theory that Deborah was a second and younger wife of John rather than the mother of Peter. In that event, Deborah would not be a biological ancestress of the modern Condit family, but the step-mother of Peter.

On page 10 of the Condit genealogy book it is written "There is also reason for the belief that Deborah had a daughter by a former husband, named Mary, who married Captain John Morris, who died October 22, 1749, aged 83 years; she died December 10, 1761, aged 84 years, and her grave is in the Orange burying ground." Some have interpreted that involved sentence to mean that Deborah died on 10 December 1761, but the headstone bore the inscription "Mary, wife of Capt. John Morris, died Dec. 10, 1761, aged 84."13 The date of death and place of burial of Deborah remain unknown.

From the foregoing it can be calculated that Mary Morris was born in 1677, which is believed to be before Deborah married John Cundict. Thus, it is not impossible that Mary was a daughter of Deborah by a former marriage, although no reason was given for such a belief. Since Deborah Lindsley was born in 165614, it also would not be impossible for her to have been the mother of Mary Morris and of the younger John Cundict. In the 1882 notebook of Jotham H. Condit are recorded the children of Francis Lindsley, including, in ink, the entry "Deborah 1656 born in Branford," followed by the entry in pencil "perhaps wife of John Condit."15

Outside of the will of John Cundict, the only mention of Deborah by name is found on 26 Jun 1696, when letters of administration on the estate of Samuel Potter were granted to "John ConditÂ… and wife Deborah.16" In the records of the Town of Newark, under the date 28 April 1714, various citizens are named and assigned responsibility for maintaining specific sections of the common fence. "Two Widow Cundits" were given responsibility for 30 links, approximately 20 feet, and must have been the widows of John and Peter Cundict. No other record of Deborah is found, and it is not known whether she remarried, although that seems unlikely, nor whether she died and was buried in Newark, or accompanied one of her grandchildren to the vicinity of what later was known as Orange, in Essex County, or Morristown, in Morris County, New Jersey.

1Condit, Jothm H(alsey) (1378) and Eben(ezer) (6311 9), Genealogical Record of the Condit Family, Descendants of John Cunditt, 1678 to 1885, Newark, N.J., Ward and Tichenor, 1885, page 9.
2Virkus, Frederick Adams, Compendium of American Genealogy, reprint, Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968.
3Condit, Jotham H(alsey) (1378), Genealogy of the Condit Family, Hand-written in a cardboard-covered composition book containing 40 pages, of which 13 are blank, page 1.
4Pierson, David Lawrence Narratives of Newark, Newark, N. J., Pierson Publishing Co., 1917.
5Condit, Jotham H(alsey) (1378), Genealogical Record of Ancestors of Orange Families and Their Connections No. 1, 440 numbered pages in a hardbound ledger book, hand-written in ink containing the genealogies of some forty families.
6Nelson, William, editor, Patents and Deeds and Other Early Records of New Jersey 1664-1703, Press Printing and Publishing Co., Paterson NJ, 1899, reprinted by Genealogyical Publishing Co, Inc, Baltimore, MD, 1976, page 286.
7IBID, page 244.
8Pierson, David LawrenceHistory of the Oranges to 1921, New York, 1922, Volume I, page 50.
9Wickes, Stephen, M.D., History of the Oranges, In Essex County, NJ from 1666 to 1806, Ward and Tichenor, Newark, NJ, 1892, reprinted in 1989 by Heritage books, Inc., Bowie, MD, page 100-101.
10Lockward, Lynn G., A Puritan Heritage: The First Presbyterian Church n Horse-neck, Privately printed byLynn G. Lockward, 1955, page 26
11_____, _____ and Edward I(rving) Condit (1378 1), compiler of this revision, Genealogical Record of the Condit Family, Descendants of John Cunditt, 1678 to 1885, 1916 Revision, Newark, New Jersy, Essex Press, 1916, page 11.
12Williams, Lyle Keith, The Batchelor-Williams Families and Related Lines, Arlington Century Printing, Inc, 1976 page 36.
13Shaw, William H., History of Essex and Hudson counties, New Jersey, 2 vol, Everts and Peck, Philadelphia, PA, 1889, page 775.
14Condit, Jotham H(alsey) (1378), Genealogical Record of Ancestors of Orange Families and Their Connections No. 1, 440 numbered pages in a hardbound ledger book, hand-written in ink containing the genealogies of some forty families, page 383.
15IBID page 386
16Nelson, William, editor, Patents and Deeds and Other Early Records of New Jersey 1664-1703, Press Printing and Publishing Co., Paterson NJ, 1899, reprinted by Genealogyical Publishing Co, Inc, Baltimore, MD, 1976, page 244

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