A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

David Lyell: Early Matawan Goldsmith, Politician

David Lyell, who was born in England in 1670 and worked as a goldsmith in London, bought into the East Jersey province as a proprietor in 1697. He arranged for a lot at the corner of Water and Gordon Streets in Perth Amboy, the capital of the province at the time, and in early 1699 set off for America with his wife Katherine Lorraine, daughter of Sir Thomas Lorraine of Kirkharle. They arrived through New York that spring and Lyell was declared a freeman of Perth Amboy in August 1699.

Lyell would have landed in troubled times soon enough. For when Queen Anne took power in England in 1702, she joined East and West Jersey under a unified council. Chapter XI The Union of the Jerseys in New Jersey as a Colony and as a State, by Francis Bazley Lee, suggests in 1902 high prose that Queen Anne made a huge mistake in choosing the colonial governor.

The governmental change, so auspiciously instituted, was threatened with dire disaster through the stupid personality of the appointing power and the weakness and cupidity of the appointee, Queen Anne was but ill advised, and this, combined with her willfulness, led to the selection of Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, whose manifold faults, in charity, may be charged to degeneracy.

Lord Cornbury was removed in 1708.

The Lyells lived periodically in their home in Perth Amboy but maintained permanent residence in New York City. He owned extensive properties in New Brunswick, Barnegat, Crosswicks, Wickatunk, et al.

Being a Scotch Quaker, Lyell attended services at the Topanemus Meeting House in Marlboro whenever he was at his New Jersey home. His association with this group troubled the Crown, though, causing his nomination to the New Jersey Council to be blocked when proposed by Governor Robert Hunter in 1711 and 1715. He was finally seated on the Council in 1716, at which point the Lyells relocated to his 300 acre plantation in Middletown Point. He continued to reside at Middletown Point and serve as Councillor until his death in 1725.

Lyell would have been one of the first two goldsmiths to settle and labor in New Jersey. Regretably, none of his work has survived. For further information, see Silversmiths of New Jersey (1700-1825) by Carl M Williams (Philadelphia: George S MacManus Co, 1949), pp 63-67, available at Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library (974.9 Wi).

Lyell was buried under a fine armorial tombstone at Topanemus Burial Ground in nearby Marlboro. Despite a crack across it, the ironstone tomb cover, created by a man known to researchers only as Old Elizabethtown Carver I, is held up by experts as one of the finest examples of American stone carving from the early 18th century. It was recovered from under jungle-like overgrowth and nearly a foot of dirt at the Topanemus Farm and relocated to St Peter's Episcopal Church in Freehold for preservation.

Lyell's widow is mentioned on pg 29 of New Aberdeen, or the Scotch Settlement of Monmouth County, New Jersey, by James Steen.

Lyell's son, Captain David Lyell, Jr, commanded his father's sloop The Monmouth out of Perth Amboy. His father's business took him to New England ports as well as Antigua and other foreign destinations.


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