Joseph Harrison



Joseph Harrison was a soldier and officer who fought in the American Revolution. He is buried in the Old Burying Ground at Caldwell NJ. We are familiar with his service as he has an exhaustive pension file prepared in 1834, with many witnesses testifying to his service.

Joseph was born December 31, 1747, in Orange, NJ – formerly part of Newark. His birth was recorded in a family Bible. He lived in Livingston during and after the war as a farmer, but was a member of First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell and apparently very well known to the clergy and other members in town.

Joseph married Rhoda Freeman in 1770. They had 8 children together over the next 21 years.

In April 1776, he was a private in Captain Samuel Pierson’s militia. He was sent to Colonel Philip Van Courtland’s Regiment where he kept guard and worked on fortifications in Flatbush for his month’s service. He served with Joseph Pierson. He served several monthly tours of duty in the summer of 1776 at Hackensack and Second River (Belleville) and Elizabethtown.

In November, he served again under Sergeant Timothy Gould and Captain Abraham Speers at Aquackanock, and as the British marched through New Jersey. In January, in the aftermath of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, he again was called and served at Connecticut Farms, Springfield, and New Brunswick. They were involved in a skirmish around New Brunswick and took about 70 prisoners. His unit was split and again skirmished with British light horse. He is remembered for shooting a black horse. In March 1777, he served for a month in Belleville. September found him on guard in Newark at Old Ferry Neck when the British invaded Elizabethtown and marched north. He was billeted at the widow Howell’s. There was another skirmish at Belleville around September 15 and Samuel Crane (not the one buried in OBG) from his company was killed.

In March 1778, Harrison served under Sgt Timothy Gould at Belleville, again serving with Joseph Pierson. The Passaic River must have been used frequently by British Traders as there are several reports of goods and men being captured in Belleville.

September 1778 found him in Connecticut Farms (now Union), tenting in an orchard when they were surprised by a British foraging party. February 1779, he was in Belleville serving at the Gaslands . His corn planting in May was interrupted for a month of building fortifications in Elizabethtown. He served in Newark in September and then a cold December in Belleville, again helping to capture British food supplies.

1780 found Joseph in Aquackanock after the snows. He was billeted at Abram VanRiper’s with Joseph Pierson. On May 17th, 1780, he was appointed an officer, an Ensign, in Capt Jonathan Condit’s Company of Militia and Commissioned, being sworn in by the Essex County Clerk – remember Aquackanock was in Essex County. In June, 1780, he was posted to Springfield. General Knyphausen’s Hessians were in Elizabethtown. He was not involved directly in the Battle of Springfield, but guarded prisoners and returned to Elizabethtown as the British marched west.

Following the birth of Jared on September 5, 1780, he was called to Elizabethtown where there seem to have been artillery skirmishes. Late November, after the Fall harvest, found him at Newark , billeted at David Crane’s as a guard. It was reported that traders and Refugees (English raiders) made Newark a dangerous place. He served again at Newark in January. His April 1781 call up found him in Aquackanock with Joseph Pierson and Josiah Gould. They captured food supplies on the Hackensack River.

He was having a home built when he was called up in August to Elizabeth Town. In December, he kept guard at a trial of Loyalists and at Bound Creek and Old Ferry.

In April 1782, the north had quieted after Cornwallis’s surrender, but he was still called for a month at Elizabeth Town.

Harrison and his family lived on what is now Becker Farm Road in Roseland. His wife, Rhoda passed away in 1791, at age 40, shortly after the birth of her son Jared. She was laid to rest in the Old Burying Ground in Caldwell.

In 1792, he married Phebe Tompkins and they had 4 children. After her death in 1807, he married Mary Kirk, who survived him. His will left his sons Jared and Harvey to care for her, and left his other sons the land on which they and their families had been living. Harrison passed away on March 1, 1837 at the age of 89. His third wife, Mary, died on August 25, 1840 and is also buried with him in the Old Burying Ground. She was 77.