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Volume 1 History and Biography

Chapter 4, Peter Cundict and Mary Harrison

Poor Peter Cundict, the penultimate known male ancestor! To him all descendants trace their lineage, only to ignore Peter and relate themselves to his father John! That practice was abetted in previous editions of the Condit genealogy book, which was divided into six parts, wherein, for example, Part V was entitled "Descent of Philip Condit … Fifth Grandson of John, the Ancestor." Since John had no known grandchildren excepting Peter's children, it was unkind to bypass Peter in that manner.

The only documentary evidence of Peter's existence is his signature on an agreement in 1701 and two wills, his father's, in which he is mentioned by name, and Peter's own, written on 7 February 1714 and proved on 19 May 1714, between which dates he must have died, only one year after his father. The places and dates of his birth and burial are unknown, and the year of his marriage, 1695, is probably a guess based on the date of birth, on 6 Dec 1696, of his first known child.

How unfortunate it is that no more actually is known about Peter, because his first name may contain a clue that could lead to the discovery of the land of his origin! It was common practice to name a newborn child for a Biblical character, or after a grandparent. The given names of Peter's children follow that practice closely. In either event, Peter Cundict probably was named, directly or indirectly, after Peter, the leader of Twelve Apostles of the new Testament, whose name meant "the rock, or stone." But it may be significant that the name of Peter was in disfavor in England at the time of birth of Peter Cundict, and is found infrequently among English natives at home or in the American colonies. The given name of Peter was much more common among the Dutch, Germans, Scotch Irish, Italians, French, Spanish and Portuguese, under such variant spellings as Pieter, Pietro, Pierre and Pedro. Furthermore, it should be recalled that the Dutch were in control of the Hudson River and area east of the Delaware river prior to March 1664, when the English wrested control without resistance, and General Stuyvesant, whose first name was Peter, surrendered New Amsterdam, now New York City.

The actual signature, Peter Cundict, on that worthy's will could provide a valuable clue to the country of origin of Peter and his father, if it could be determined that Peter learned to write, or at least to sign his name, from his mother or other close relative since the spelling of the surname could then be assumed correct. On the other hand, if indeed John were illiterate, and Peter learned how to sign his name from the same teacher, minister, lawyer or clerk who recorded John's name on some document, then Peter's spelling would mimic that of the scribe, who recorded the name as he thought he heard John pronounce it, spelling it phonetically in the langue that he, the scribe, had learned. Picture, for example, the result if a Scotch scribe wrote down the name of Frenchman, or vise versa. The many ways in which the same surname was recorded could be attributed to such mismatching of nationalities of origin.

Peter's first known child was born in 1696, so it could be assumed that Peter was born between 20 and 30 years earlier, or between 1666 and 1676. If his father actually arrived in Newark in 1678, Peter would have been then between two and twelve years old, and might have learned to sign his name by that time. But the earliest date on which John is definitely known to be in Newark is January 1688, when Peter would be ten years older, greatly increasing our confidence that Peter learned his spelling elsewhere.

Mary Harrison Cundict, Wife of Peter

At least some of Mary Harrison's ancestry can be traced back four generations, or three generations more than can her husband, but that will not be delineated here. In spite of what is known about her ancestry, the dates of her birth and death are not known, and the year of her marriage to Peter Cundict is recorded as 1695 in the Condit family history probably because their first known child, Samuel, is reported to have been born on 6 December 1696. She is described in Peter's will, written on 7 February 1714, as "my dearly beloved wife Mary by Name," and on 19 May 1714 she took the oath as executrix of his will. The year of Mary's birth is given as 1675 in a Harrison genealogy contained in two large envelopes by William Elliott Harrison, born in 1846, a descendant of Mary's Uncle Benjamin, now in the Library of the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark, New Jersey. The records of the Town of Newark on 28 April 1714 refer to "Two Widow Cundicts," so she must have been a recent widow indeed since her husband signed his will on 7 February 1714. No further mention of Mary has been found.

Then (1714) about thirty-nine years old, Mary had seven children, aged from approximately two years to just over seventeen. She and her mother-in-law, Deborah, probably lived on adjoining land, but likely in separate houses, for the house formerly occupied by Deborah and John and his two sons could hardly be expected to accommodate eight more people.

Mary's grandfather was Sgt. Richard Harrison, of Branford, Connecticut, who came to Newark with the original settlers. In August 1670, he and Robert Treat agreed with the Town of Newark to build and operate a corn mill on the Mill Brook, which must have been within view of the Cundict property on the Mill Brook Plain which had the Passaic River for its eastern boundary. In 1683, Richard bought his partner's share, and turned over the ownership and operation of the mill to three of his sons, Joseph, George and Samuel, the eldest, who was Mary's father.

Newark on the Passaic River received its "town patent or charter" in April 1714, although it had been signed by Queen Anne twelve months earlier. Mary's roots were definitely in the original part of the town on the Passaic River, but within a few years after her husband's demise many of her relatives and friends had moved some four miles to the northwest, to the side of the First Mountain, where her father owned a farm, and her late husband may have owned lad also since his will specified "all my Land and Meadow Either in ye Bounds of Newark or Elsewhere." It would be interesting to learn when and to whom the Cundict lands on the Passaic River were sold.

Beginning in 1666, Puritans from Milford and Branford in the Province of Connecticut moved into the Indian lands that became known as Newark, in the Province of New Jersey, for the express purpose of governing their community in strict accordance with their religious principles. Their Fundamental Agreement, signed by Sgt. Richard Harrison and others, specified that only "members of some or other of the Congregational Churches" would have a vote, or be admitted to civil or military office, although others might be accepted in to the community. This principle was followed strictly until about 1680, but in time Presbyterianism became predominant, and in 1717 the provisional pastor of the Newark congregation withdrew from his church, and his successor was seated by the Presbytery. In 1718, the people of the "Mountain Society," adhering to the Congregational basis, formed a separate congregation, many of like mind having moved from "Newark on the Passaic" to "Newark at Mountain," to which the name of "Orange" was not applied until 1796, and which remained a part of the Town of Newark until 1806.

In the previous editions of the Condit family history it was reported that Samuel Cundict, Mary and Peter's oldest child, purchased land of the Indians on the other side of the First Mountain, "about the year 1720." It is possible, however, that some or all of Samuel's land had been purchased by his father and grandfather about 1702 pursuant to the agreement which they signed in 1701 for the "Horseneck Purchase." Both John and Peter Cundict are listed as signing the original agreement, each for the purchase of one lot. Samuel Harrison Jr., Mary's brother, whom her husband had named as one of two overseers of his will, built a home in 1723 at the Mountain on a part of their father's farm. Their father died in 1724. Although no record has been found, it seems probable that Mary moved with her children to the Mountain within a few years after Peter's death. The first burial in the cemetery of the Mountain Society occurred in 1723, but Mary's grave is not identified in that graveyard, which later became known as the "old Orange burying ground." When she died and where she is buried are not known, but she may have been buried near her husband.

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