This article originally appeared in the Allentown Messenger dated August 5, 1965 reports on the recognition that Abraham Lincoln’s ancestors once resided in Upper Freehold.
The frequently repeated historical error that President Abraham Lincoln came from “poor and lowly stock” and that nothing is known of his background save his “backwoods parentage” will be dispelled this week when the State of New Jersey erects one of its official roadside historical markers in Monmouth County honoring Lincoln’s distinguished New Jersey ancestors.
The State’s official blue and gold metal marker, authorized during the recent New Jersey Tercentennial Celebration, will be erected in Imlaystown, in the southwestern sector of Monmouth County, where Lincoln’s forefathers owned and operated a plantation of 1,600 acres, including a grist mill, an ironworks, and a saw mill, among other industries. The new marker will read:
“Salter’s Mill, Richard Salter owned this Mill and an Ironworks, son-in-law, Mordecai Lincoln was great-great-grandfather of a Lincoln.”
The marker, which will be erected by the State Department of Conservation and Economic Development, is the result of five years’ effort by J. Owen Grundy of Jersey City, Secretary of the Historical Society of Hudson County and great-great-great-great-grandson of Richard Salter, large landowner and prominent figure in colonial times. A lawyer, Salter and his brother-in-law, Captain John Bowne of Middletown, were leaders in the struggles of the landowners against the quit-claim tax assessments of the Lords Proprietors, which resulted in uprisings of the people, forming some of the stormiest chapters in New Jersey history. Salter and Bowne served in the Provincial Legislature and held other public offices before the American Revolution. It was Salter’s daughter, Hannah, who married Mordecai Lincoln, who with his brother, Abraham, blacksmiths from New England, were brought to New Jersey to operate Salter’s colonial ironworks at Imlaystown [the State’s second, after Tinton Falls]. Their son, who became known as “Virginia John,” was the father of Abraham, whose son Thomas Lincoln became the father of the “The Great Emancipator.”
The grist mill at Imlaystown is built on the foundation of Salter’s original mills, built in the 1600’s. The adjacent mill pond is still there. Nearby are evidences of the site of Salter’s ironwork [just past Imlaystown on the south-side of Rt. 526]. Some distance away at Fillmore [or Cream Ridge], N. J., is an ancient ironstone and frame structure, now an automobile repair shop, which is said to have been a Lincoln blacksmith shop in the colonial era [this tradition is likely related to President Lincoln’s barber, Peter Benjamin, who resided and died in the loft above]. Also, in the vicinity is Covell Hill [or Robbins] burying ground, about two miles from Clarksburg, on the road which leads to Allentown, N. J. Here an ancient headstone reads: “Deborah Lincoln, Aged 3 Y, 4 M., May 15, 1720.” The child was born to Mordecai and his wife, Hannah Salter Lincoln, a few years before they migrated to Berks County, Pa., in the trek westward, which eventually brought Lincoln’s parents to Harlan County, Kentucky, where the future President was born February 12, 1809.
Mr. Grundy, a historian and genealogist has made an extensive study of family history, and has been active in numerous efforts to mark historic sites and preserve scenic and historical landmarks. In his library at 54 Park Street, Jersey City, he proudly displays a photograph of the famous G. P. A. Healy oil portrait of President Lincoln, which the Lincoln family presented to the White House. It is inscribed: “Abraham Lincoln, with the compliments of his granddaughter to her cousin, J. Owen Grundy, Jessie Lincoln Randolph, Washington, D. C., November, 1927.” Nearby hangs a framed original deed to lands in Upper Freehold Township, where the new marker will be erected, signed by Richard Salter, and bearing the wax seal. It is dated November 17, 1717. Mr. Grundy also cherishes a personal letter from Mrs. Randolph, President Lincoln’s granddaughter and the daughter of Robert Todd Lincoln, who was Garfield’s Secretary of War and later Ambassador to England. The letter to Mr. Grundy says: “I love to dig out genealogies and am glad to say that as yet I have not had the sad experience our family tree that Will Rogers seems to have had from his remark on the stage in New York that he once paid a man to look up his genealogy and had been forced to pay him ever since to hide it.”
In Imlaystown, William R. Meirs of “Windrush” Farm, Cream Ridge, cooperated with the State in selecting the site of the marker, while Walter Golden, present owner of the mills, gave permission for its erection.