Speedwell

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
14,419
4,541
Pines; Bamber area
I'm sure such accidental (invasive) propagation occurred, Bob, but the area we now know as Speedwell was not surveyed until 1760 and likely few if any people lived there or nearby prior to that time. So, how quickly could Veronica spread in the preceding 80 years from some distance or in the subsequent 15-20 years after settlers did arrive there?

Jerseyman, what I'm saying is that Veronica could have arrived simultaneously with the very first arrivals. It could have been a seed caught in a wagon wheel, or caught in the hoof of a mule, or some such, and just happened to take to the location.

If you are saying that it is impossible because the surveyors called it Speedwell on the first day, and that it had nothing to do with the plant, I'm fine with that too.
 

stiltzkin

Explorer
Feb 8, 2022
495
717
Medford
Ben:

The Winterthur Museum holds a small collection of Randolph papers because of his work as a fine furniture maker. I believe the Historical Society of Pennsylvania also holds one or two items from Randolph in their manuscripts, but Winterthur holds the better collection, particularly as it relates to Speedwell. There are deeds and surveys available elsewhere, if someone knows how to identify them and what repository holds them. It is, no doubt, a paper chase, but I am up to the challenge and I hope to add many of the missing pieces to my file in the near future, allowing me write the correct account of Speedwell.

Best regards,
Jerseyman

If it's alright to resurrect this thread: I read this post some time ago, and thought that this lead sounded interesting enough to plan a future visit to Winterthur at some point. Yesterday I visited the estate (which is very beautiful, by the way) and also made an appointment with the library. They had the box of Benjamin Randolph papers waiting for me when I arrived. I double checked with the librarian that non-flash photography of the collection is OK.

The main item of note here is Randolph's receipt-book, for approximately the years 1763 - 1778. This is a beautiful object and was really a treat to check out. I am sure it's not as special to someone who handles antiquarian books all the time, but to me it was, especially considering who it belonged to.

A7509506.jpg

There is some excellent penmanship in some entries, while others are more hastily scrawled.
A7509508.jpg

The book is pretty light on detail on what the monies were actually for - most of the time it does not say. I paged through the entire thing looking for references to Speedwell or Speed Mills. I did not find that, exactly, but here are a few entries that I thought to be at least of some interest, along with my best attempt at reading the text, which is probably not very good.
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Recv'd 23 August 1774 of Benj. Randolph four pounds for all the Band of Musick yesterday Day Downe the River in the Bordentown boat with ye Company Ladies & Gentleman

£4,, 0, 0 Charles Berg
Sounds like a merry little river cruise.

Getting closer, here is a familiar location.
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Recv'd 29 Nov 1775 of Benjamin Randolph twelve pounds which promise to pay to his Brother Daniel Randolph at Wading River New Jersey

£12,, 0, 0 for Peter Andrews

This is the only possible reference to Speedwell I could find in the book: the very last entry, written on the back cover. I don't know for sure, but the date seems to be about right for it. From what I understand of the timeline of events (mostly from reading Heart of the Pines), Benjamin bought the property in 1760 with two partners, and he and his brother Daniel built a sawmill there. Daniel ran the sawmill until about 1777, when he moved to Freehold at the outbreak of the Revolution. By 1778 and the time of this entry, Benjamin would have probably been scrambling to sell his cabinetmaking business in Philadelphia due to the turmoil there. His wife also died that year. Soon after this, he would try unsuccessfully to sell the property several times.
A7509511.jpg

Recv'd 16 March 1778 of Benjamin Randolph two Hundred & fifty pounds in part the consideration money for the Sawmill & Lands &c.

£250,, 0, 0 Daniel Randolph

So this seems to be some settled debts between brothers in relation to the mill. £250 in 1778 seems to equate to about $50,000 in today's money.

Besides the receipt book, there are also some photocopied pages in the collection of an account book (a different volume) which appear to have come from the New York Public Library. At least one of those entries mentions Speedwell, by this point in operation as an iron furnace:

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Mr. Levi Hollingsworth Pleas to Pay the Bearer John King the sum of Twenty Eight Pound and change to Mr. Benjamin Randolph [...] from your Very Humble Servant
February 7th, 1785 - [...] for Speedwell Furnace
Maybe someone else can fill in the gaps there.

So while unfortunately this visit did not provide any additional information on the etymology of Speedwell, which is what I would ultimately like to find, this was still quite interesting, and I think there are definitely more documents to look at. The New York Public Library holds the original account book, and it seems like the Historical Society of Pennsylvania has more papers as well. I am not actually sure I have seen everything there is to see at Winterthur, either. I think they have a few more relevant items on microfilm that I did not view while I was there. I plan to return in the future anyway; I would like to do a guided tour of the mansion which allows access to additional floors. Some of Randolph's chairs and a card table are somewhere in the museum.

Probably at this point this is all old news to Jerseyman :)
 
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