Jessica Kross, The Evolution of an American Town: Newtown, New York 1642–1775
Overall, between 1665 and 1691 Newtown averages 1.8 specific ad hoc tasks per year.
Townsmen’s reliance on ad hoc committees shows clearly their attitudes toward power and authority. By only vesting authority in temporary bodies townsmen were saying that power resided in the town, not in certain men or in particular offices. Even then, townsmen might put aside a committee’s recommendation, which suggests a critical intelligence rather than blind deference. Newtowners refused the first draft of Joseph Sackett's patent in 1686 and appointed four others to help him write another.
For some townsmen, the Leislerian controversy lingered a bit longer. Samuel Edsall had been an active Leislerian and member of the council. He was tried and acquitted by the same Court of Oyer and Terminer that sentenced Leisler and his son-in-law, Jacob Milbourne, to death. Joseph Sackett, fearing that he would be prosecuted for his role in collecting Lleisler’s tax, asked to be relieved from this responsibility.
The life of the man who served the town the longest shows many of the trends developing in Newtown. Joseph Sackett held seven offices for a total of forty-eight years. Sackett was born in Connecticut in 1656 and probably came to Newtown with his maternal grandfather, William Blomfield. By 1689, he had married Elizabeth Betts. She died in 1702, and he married a woman named Anne. By 1711, Sackett was married again to the widow Mercy Whitehead Betts, his former sister-in-law. By his three wives he had at least eleven children, ten of whom survived childhood. He was first a congregationalist but became a Presbyterian when the Newtown church changed denominations. He died in 1719.
[1. Riker and Weygant record that Joseph was born in Springfield, Mass.]
[2. Marriage date would have been before 1678 when their first child Simon was born.]
Joseph Sackett also actively engaged in Newtown’s domestic land market. He exchanged seven pieces of land to consolidate his holdings and engaged in a total of fifty-nine land transactions, the most of anyone in town. Some of these lands were also gifts from his childless uncle, Daniel Blomfield. He styled himself a yeoman or a planter. In 1710 he listed himself as a gentleman. Sackett’s will shows him to be comfortably off, leaving legacies totaling more than £50 and the time due from an indentured servant. No slaves are mentioned. Sackett’s trust in the future and his perception of the limitations of the present were revealed in the lands he bought beyond Newtown in New Jersey. These holdings were bequeathed to his eight married children and the daughter of his deceased daughter. Joseph Jr. as the oldest son, received a double share. The rest shared equally.
[3. His first-born son Simon had died the previous year.]
Joseph Sackett began his office holding career in 1682 with an ad hoc position. He went on to serve twenty-three times in that capacity. In 1687 his fellow townsmen elected him assessor and collector. In 1700 he was a fence viewer, highway surveyor, and supervisor. In 1706 he was chosen a trustee. Sackett held many offices, sometimes concurrently, as befits a member of a small-scale society. He also represented Newtown to the outside through some of his ad hoc tasks such as settling a minister and agitating about the town bounds. As a supervisor he met with the other town supervisors on the Queens County board.
The surplus goods that farms provided utilized family, free, and unfree labor. Free labor was probably available in Newtown on a part-time basis. Unfree laborers were available when the owners wanted them. Only one will notes an indentured servant, a Hugh McCarty, whose time was left to John Sackett by his father Joseph. McCarty must have left town sometime later, because he does not appear again in the surviving records.
It seems that Burroughs was a small-scale trader, buying and selling local stock and country goods. He sold three cattle and a steer to Tunis Titus, a calf and a sheep to Joseph Sackett.
Finally, there are changes in the titles that people used to describe themselves. The justices, by virtue of their office, were styled “Esquire.” But some in Newtown were calling themselves ”Gentlemen.” William Hallett first used this designation in 1688, in a deed of gift to his son Samuel. In the following years Joseph Sackett Sr., Richard Betts Jr., Samuel Moore, John Hunt, Joris Brinkerhoff, and Richard and John Alsop would also identify themselves as gentlemen. The inventories accord this title to William Hallet Jr. and Edward Hunt.
In 1723, Joseph Sackett prosecuted Hannah Strickland for slandering his wife. Justice James Hazard and freeholder Jacob Reeder heard the case. Hannah acknowledged her guilt, but whether in public or privately to Justice Hazard and Jacob Reeder is unclear.
[4. This would be Joseph Sackett Jr. (Weygant #23).]
Some Newtowners had other outside economic activities. These included loans and land speculations. In 1735 John Burroughs received £5 for his part in the New Cornwall mines. Closer to home were loans and mortgages. Bonds first appeared in the 1692-1722 inventories, and they continued in wills and family papers. Wealthy John Sackett left behind bonds of £34 and £100, while William Gilmore, styled a laborer in his will, left an estate of “goods, bonds, or money.
[5. Presumably Joseph's son John (Weygant #27).]
At least one of the widows, Ann Fish, who granted a £200 mortgage to William Sackett Jr. was relict of one of the wealthiest men in Newtown. Possibly, monies were invested, not by her, but in her name. Moreover William Sackett Jr. was most likely her son-in-law.
[6. William W. Sackett 1765-1833 (Weygant #314), son of William Sackett (W #97) & Sarah Fish.]
Hendrick Lodt, William Parcell, John Burroughs Sr., John Burroughs Jr., and Joseph Sackett also left lands in New Jersey. William Case had lands in Delaware and what is now Martha’s Vineyard. Other areas in which Newtowners invested were Westchester and Orange Counties. At his death in 1755, Joseph Sackett, another wealthy Newtowner, left lands in Goshen and the Wayawanda Patent in Orange County, as well as in New Jersey. Nathaniel Fish, who died in 1769, gave his executors permission to sell lands and meadows that included property in Wayawanda and Minisink in Orange and Ulster Counties. Sackett, Fish, and perhaps a few others were in the forefront of New York’s speculative land market if they were buying Orange and Ulster County tracts. As entrepreneurs, they had extended their credit and their connections beyond the town’s boundaries and into the heart of provincial politics.
[7. Joseph Sackett Jr. (Weygant #23). Following refs. are also to Joseph Jr.]
Those who were born, married, or died in Newtown often appeared at some point in the church records. These records are better by the mid-eighteenth century because the churches themselves were better organized. The Presbyterian church remained Newtown’s largest throughout the colonial period. At first it was run entirely by the minister, but in 1724 Reverend Samuel Pumroy nominated Content Titus, James Renne, and Samuel Coe as elders. Initially their task was to speak to those who were lax about attending worship services. As the record notes,
"Upon observation by Mr. Pumroy of the delinquency of several members of this church-as to attending upon the Public worship of God-and complaint being made thereof by him, it is ordered that Content Titus discourse with Widow Severance touching her sons neglect, and with Ephraim Morse for his neglect also that James Renne discourse with Joseph Morrell for his neglect in that Point. Also that Samuel Coe discourse with Thomas Pettit for his neglect and that James Renne do discourse with Joseph Sackett, Esq. for his rare attending.”
Newtown shared its minister with other churches in the parish, but in 1733 local Anglicans decided to build their own church and asked the town for permission to use part of the town lot. Townsmen granted this request in true ecumenical spirit, “in consideration of said request and good intention being willing the worship of God should be promoted.” This document was then signed by ninety persons, Dutch and English, dissenter and Episcopal, thereby reaffirming again the value of religion over denomination. In 1735 the Anglicans began building, and they finished in 1740 with the parceling out of pew seats. Some of the wealthiest families in town belonged - Justice James Alsop, Justice Joseph Sackett, and a host of Halletts and Moores.
Jessica Kross, The Evolution of an American Town: Newtown, New York 1642–1775, Temple University Press, Philadelphia (1983). (Researched by Illyce MacDonald).