Joseph Ellis

c. 1730 – 1796

I was a sheriff faced with difficult responsibilities in my county.

I was born around 1730 in a family of prosperous Quaker farmers in Gloucester County, in what is now Cherry Hill Township in Camden County. I served during the French and Indian War, which was against Quaker pacifist beliefs, so I was expelled from the Society of Friends. I was a leader in the protests of the acts of Parliament, but I hoped for reconciliation and served in both the Royal and Patriot governments. But by 1776 I was a strong supporter of independence and became colonel of the Second Gloucester militia regiment.

I was also county sheriff from August 1776 to October 1779. I always tried to be fair and understanding. For example, in one case two Quakers had been jailed for treason against the rebellion – they had merely read a letter on peace sent from some Friends in Philadelphia – I made their jail cell more comfortable, and when they refused to pay a fine, I gave my word that it had been paid, and they went free.

When the British occupied Philadelphia in 1777, I spent eight months busily defending against British incursions into New Jersey, and collecting supplies badly needed by the army. Many people got mad at me when I fined men who refused to show up for militia duty, stopped the illegal shipping of farm produce to Philadelphia, and made farmers move their livestock away from the Delaware to get away from British foragers.

During the winter encampment at Valley Forge in 1778, the British light infantry attacked Haddonfield, and we escaped them by just ten minutes. After they left, we clashed with some remaining Loyalists. And then, as the British retreated north, we had to keep an eye on them while finding recruits for our army.

I served several terms in the New Jersey Assembly, and in the Legislative Assembly after the war. I was also a judge and a Major-General of militia, up until 1794, and died in 1796.


Learn More
Image Joseph Ellis

Related People