The Colonies’ First and New Jersey’s Only Indian Reservation

On August 29 in 1758 New Jersey established the first American Indian Reservation in Shamong Township, New Jersey. This was the colonies’ first attempt at creating a reservation for Native Americans. The community of Delaware Indians did not last very long. The remnants of the tribe were eventually removed to Western reservations and reservation’s church was utilized by white residents until it burned down in 1802.

Brotherton Indian Reservation

The tract of land in Shamong Township long known as the Indian Reservation, and later as Edgepillock, also as the Brotherton tract, contained at one time, three thousand two hundred and eighty-four acres of land, and is located a little northwest from the centre of the township, covering what is now the village of Indian Mills, on Bread and Cheese Run.

This was one of the celebrated John Brainard’s missionary fields, where he preached for several years to this remnant of the Delawares. He also made this his home, his dwelling-house standing about eight rods south of the saw-mill lately owned by Godfrey Hancock, on a rising piece of ground, and until within a few years the site was marked by a depression in the ground, formerly the cellar. Near where the house stood is a fine spring.

When the Brotherton tribe, as they were called, occupied this locality they had a small sawmill on the site of M.S. Thompson’s mill, about eighty rods northeast from Brainard’s house. Their burying-ground was about forty rods northwest from the dwelling, near where stood their church. After the last remnant of the tribe had been removed to some Western reservation, the church was occupied by the whites until 1802, when it was destroyed by fire.

For nearly a century the native Indians had been on the most friendly terms with their white neighbors, or until about 1756, when some little dissatisfaction arose, and commissioners were appointed by the then existing Legislature to treat with the Indians, and an act was passed March 31, 1757, to provide for some of the matters complained of, and a conference had with the Indians, a list of the lands obtained, and also a release of all other lands in the State was given by the Indians, and Tom Stare and others appointed as their attorneys. Another conference was held at Crosswicks on Aug. 9, 1758, and a fixed price agreed upon for the lands.

A part of the price due to the remnant of the tribe of Delawares was to be paid them in lands whereon they could settle. An act of the Legislature was passed Aug. 12, 1758, which authorized the commission to purchase from the Indians their title to the lands in this State, and to purchase for the Delawares a tract of land whereon they could settle. And by the eighth section of said act it was enacted that “the lands to be purchased for the Indians as aforesaid shall not hereafter be subject to any tax, any law, usage, or customs to the contrary thereof in anywise notwithstanding.”

In pursuance of the above agreement with the Indians, and of the above act of the Legislature, the commissioners purchased the above-named reservation for the Delaware Indians to reside upon, by deed from Benjamin Springer to the Governor and commissioners, in trust for the Indians, dated Aug. 29, 1758.

Map of the Indian Lands at Edgepillock, alias Brotherton

Map of the Indian Lands at Edgepillock, alias Brotherton

The accompanying map shows the tract with its numerous subdivisions, names of occupants, number of acres, and number of lots as surveyed subsequent to the removal of the remnant of the tribe.


Title: History Of Burlington And Mercer Counties, New Jersey, With Biographical Sketches Of Many Of Their Pioneers And Prominent Men
Collection: American County Histories

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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