Father: David Bishop - b: 26/Aug/1660 - d: ~1683
- m: 24/Mar/1679(1680)
Mother: Mary Alger - d: 28/Apr/1693 - bur: St. James Ch. yard - Piscataway Twp., Middlesex Co.
Spouse: Hezekiah Bonham,
m: 1700/1701 - Middlesex Co., East Jersey Prov.
Child-1: Hezekiah, Jr.
The identity or even the very existence of a second wife of Hezekiah Bonham, Sr., remains an enigma that may never be completely resolved. Within this context, Mr. Howard E. Bonham, as a result of his recent extensive research of the colonial Bonham family, has presented a reasonably convincing argument, although entirely based on circumstantial evidence, that she should be identified as Mary Bishop, daughter of David and Mary Alger Bishop (who, according to Monnette, were married on March 24, 1679 (1680 N. S.) at her father's house at Woodbridge by Justice James Bollen). Even so, it cannot be said that this presumption is in any way proven, but rather is merely plausible. Perhaps, the only objective evidence at all for such a hypothesis is a tombstone inscription, "Mary Bonham d May 3, 1734, age 51", found in the 1970's on a grave marker that became exposed in the foundation of a late eighteenth century house located in Princeton Township near Princeton, New Jersey. Accordingly, one might wonder why a grave marker would ever be removed from a cemetery and incorporated intentionally into a house foundation as apparently this one was. Indeed, this is a practice that would be neither acceptable nor understood in the present day; however, it has been explained satisfactorily by Donald Baird of Princeton University in a letter he wrote to Joseph J. Felcome, Librarian of the Historical Society of Princeton, in response to a request for information regarding this tombstone and cited by Mr. Bonham in his book.1 In his letter, Mr. Baird explained that in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, Quakers (or Friends) came to believe that inscribed tombstones were indicative of personal vanity and, consequently, they broke them off or removed them entirely from their cemeteries to be put to more prosaic and practical uses. He further surmised that Mary Bonham's tombstone must have come from Stony Brook burying ground, i.e., Stony Brook Friends Cemetery, which lies adjacent to the house for which the stone now serves as part of the foundation. Moreover, this house remains a familiar Princeton landmark, known locally as the "Schoolmaster's House" and was built in two parts, the older, western half in 1781 and the newer, eastern half ten to twenty years later. Of course, the Bonhams were not Quakers and one might wonder why Mary Bonham would have been buried in this cemetery. The reason is probably a simple matter of proximity since the cemetery lies near the intersection of Quaker Road and the Princeton Pike (Mercer Road) between a mile and two miles southeast of the location of the original Bonham farm. Moreover, it does not seem that the Quakers were at all exclusive in this regard and allowed many non-members to buried in their cemetery. In particular, according to a list of more than two hundred burials in Stony Brook Friends Cemetery between 1800 and 1925 over a hundred of them were non-Quakers. (Of course, this list does not include earlier burials precisely for the reasons noted above.) Furthermore, the Bonhams were Baptists, who were as Quakers, nonconformists to the established Anglican Church, hence, it would not have been unnatural for the Bonham children to have buried their mother, Mary, in a nearby Quaker cemetery. Concomitantly, upon consideration of her age as fifty-one in 1734, it seems likely that Mary Bonham was, indeed, the second wife of Hezekiah Bonham, Sr., and, hence, she was probably born in 1682 or 1683 in East Jersey.Source Notes and Citations:
Clearly, the tombstone inscription unambiguously attests to the existence of Mary Bonham in Hunterdon County; however, her identification as Mary Bishop seems to have been motivated by a process of elimination in which Mr. Bonham eliminated all other possibilities. Accordingly, the most important document establishing her identity is the will of Charles Gillman made January 18, 1691 (1692 N. S.), in Piscataway Township in Middlesex County, Province of East Jersey, in which he mentioned a step-daughter, Mary Bishop; wife, Mary; and mother-in-law, Susannah Aleger (Alger).2 Furthermore, according to H. E. Bonham's research, David Bishop appears to have died no later than 1684, after which his widow married Charles Gillman.3 After her second husband's death, Mary Alger Bishop Gillman then married Benjamin Jones in 1692. She died the following year, thus, leaving her daughter, Mary, by then probably eleven or twelve years old, without any living parents. Subsequently, in November of 1695, Mary Bishop petitioned for her uncle, Jonathan Bishop, of Woodbridge, to be made her guardian. Mr. Bonham also observed that Edward Slater, brother-in-law of Hezekiah Bonham, Sr., was witness to the will of Charles Gillman as well as an appraiser of his estate and, perhaps, most important of all, he was one of the overseers of the two executors, viz., the widow and a minor son, who had no legal standing under English common law since they were not free males above twenty-one years of age. Obviously, such a role would have been given only to a close relative or a trusted friend and neighbor. In addition, H. E. Bonham cites a deed made between Hezekiah and Mary Dunn Bonham and Edward Jones on October 9, 1697, which apparently conveyed "two lots in Piscataway" from the former to the latter. Edward Jones can be identified as a son of Benjamin Jones, third husband of Mary Alger Bishop Gillman Jones, and thus, a step-brother of Mary Bishop. Nevertheless, there was no mention of a marriage between Hezekiah Bonham, Sr., and Mary Bishop in these or any other East Jersey civil records, but those cited do serve to establish that Mary Bishop was of the correct age to have been the Mary Bonham specified by the tombstone, that the families undoubtedly were acquainted and lived contemporaneously in reasonably close proximity in Middlesex County, and that Mary was unmarried in the years immediately prior to 1700. In addition, no collateral records have been found that support an alternative hypothesis in conflict with the one proposed. Therefore, it does seem quite possible, even probable, that Mary Bishop and Mary Bonham were one and the same person, but this presumption still awaits a definitive confirmation.
1. Howard Eugene Bonham and Jean Allin, Bonham and Related Family Lines, Bonham Book(s), 5104 Bridlington Ln., Raleigh, NC, 27612, printed by Genie Plus, Bradenton, FL, 1996: pgs. 116-7.
Letter from Donald Baird to Joseph J. Felcome:
January 6, 1978
Let me try to supply some background information on the tombstone of Mary Bonham, died 1734. The stone was discovered not by me, but by William P. Starr, Jr., who was chairman of Princeton Monthly Meeting's Budget and Property Committee in the early 1970's. The story I got was that in the course of checking the property for necessary repairs, a thin coating of cement fell away from the house foundation, revealing the tombstone. In labelling the photograph I assumed that the Schoolmaster's House is too well-known a landmark to need a street address. At any rate, it's 470 Quaker Road - the white house with the red barn on the east side of Quaker Road just south of the Branch Turnpike (Mercer Road). You will find it listed as No. 14 in Constance Greiff's book, Princeton Architecture.
As shown in Connie's illustration, the house faces southward and has two doors: one in the original, western half of the house, which was built in 1781; the other in the right half, which was built perhaps in the 1790's (Connie may be able to give you a more precise dating). Mary Bonham's tombstone forms part of the foundation of the eastern half of the house. It can be seen immediately to the right of the concrete doorstep of the eastern door.
The use of a tombstone in a house foundation reflects one of the little oddities of Quaker history. During the last Quarter of the 18th century the conviction grew among Friends that inscribed grave markers smacked too much of worldly vanity to be conscionable. Accordingly, existing tombstones were either broken off, leaving only a stump in the ground, or grubbed up entirely and the stone put to other uses. This policy accounts for the lack of inscribed tombstones in the earlier easterly portion of Stony Brook burying ground, which lies adjacent to the Schoolmaster's House and from which Mary Bonham's stone must have been taken.
If other tombstones were used in the foundation there is no way of identifying them, short of tearing down the house. Discovery of Mary Bonham's was due entirely to the fortuitous circumstance of its having been set on edge and with the inscription facing outward.
My original reading of the stone was 'AGED 5 years,' but upon re-examination of the photograph I can make out 'AGED 51' as an alternative reading of that line, the '1' having the same form as it does in '1734' but nearly obliterated by weathering ..."
back to bio.
2a. William Nelson (ed), New Jersey Archives - First Series (alt. title Calendar of New Jersey Wills. Vol. I: 1670-1730), New Jersey Historical Society, Trenton, NJ, The Press Printing and Pub. Co., Paterson, NJ, 1901: Vol. 23, pg. 187.
Jan. 18, 1691 (1692 N. S.). "Gilman, Gillman, Charles, of Piscataway, yeoman; will of. Wife Mary, wife's mother Susannah Aleger, wife's daughter Mary Bishop (under 21 and unmarried). Sons---Charles Gillman, Joseph Gillman (under age), cousin Charles Gillman. Real and personal property. Executors---the wife and son Charles with Hopewell Hull and Edward Slater as overseers. Witnesses---Edward Slater, Thomas Fitzrandolph, Jeffery Manning and Hopewell Hull. Proved March 1, 1691-2."
Jan. 26, 1691 (1692 N. S.). "Inventory of the personal estate (£251.17.10, incl. a negro slave £25, Judah Sutton's time £3, Thomas Veale's time---); made by Edward Slater, Hopewell Hull and Benia: Hull."
Aug. 17, 1692. "Bond of Marie, late widow of Chas. Gilman, now wife of Benjamin Jones of Piscataway, as executrix with her eldest son Charles of said Gilman's estate." Edward Slater fellow bondsman."
Jul. 26, 1695. "Bond of Edward Slater of Piscataway as administrator of estate. John Worth of Woodbridge fellow bondsman."
b. ibid.: pg. 39.
Jan. 7, 1683 (1684 N. S.). "Bishop, David, of Middlesex Co. (?). Inventory of the personal estate of , £60.16.10, made by Sam'll Moore and Mathew Moore, at the request of John Bishop, senior, and Thomas Alger.".
Mar. 10, 1683 (1684 N. S.). "Bishop, David, of Woodbridge. Administration on the estate of granted to his widow Mary."
Nov. 18, 1695. "Mary, daughter of David Bishop, dec'd, makes application for the appointment of her uncle, Jonathan Bishop, of Woodbridge, Middlesex Co., as her guardian; granted by And. Hamilton."
Nov. 18, 1695. "Order of Gov'r Hamilton to the Secretary of the Province, to make out letters of guardianship to Jonathan Bishop of Woodbridge, whose niece Mary, daughter of David Bishop, has chosen him as her guardian."
Dec. 4, 1695. "Bishop, David, of Woodbridge. Bond of Jonathan Bishop, of Woodbridge, as guardian of Marie Bishop, daughter of. Samuel Dennis, fellow bondsman."
back to bio.
3. William Nelson (ed), New Jersey Archives - First Series (alt. title Calendar of Records in the Office of the Secretary of State, 1664-1703. Part I: East Jersey Records. Part II: West Jersey Records), New Jersey Historical Society, Trenton, NJ, The Press Printing and Pub. Co., Paterson, NJ, 1899: Vol. 21, pg. 56.
Mar. 10, 1683 (1684 N. S.). "Do. Do. on the estate of David Bishop of Woodbridge, granted to his widow Martha (sic - Mary)."
back to bio.
4. Orra Eugene Monnette, First Settlers of ye Plantations of Piscataway and Woodbridge, olde East New Jersey, 1664-1714, a period of fifty years, The Leroy Carman Press, Los Angeles, CA, 1930-35: Part 4, pg. 333.
5. India van Voorhees Penney, "Stony Brook Friends Cemetery List", unpublished. (Mercer County NJGenWeb Archives, 2003.)
Return to Index