Sarah Hancock Sinnickson Full Biography
I was born about 1748 in a house built about 1734 by my grandparents, William and Sarah Hancock. My ancestor, English shoemaker William Hancock, purchased our property in 1675 from John Fenwick, the English Quaker lawyer who established a settlement called “Fenwick’s Colony” and founded the town of Salem. To help develop the area, Fenwick built a bridge, later known as Hancock’s Bridge, across the Alloways Creek in 1708. The bridge gave our settlement its name and improved the important road connecting Salem and Greenwich. When my grandparents built their brick house they included their initials WHS (W for William, H for Hancock, and S for Sarah) and the building date of 1734 in the ornamental brickwork on the western end of the two and a half story house.
My grandfather was active in the colonial government, serving as a justice of the peace and a member of the colonial legislature. My father carried on this tradition and served in the legislature and as Judge of the Salem County Court. On July 4, 1769 I married Thomas Sinnickson, who was also active in politics. When the Revolution broke out, Thomas became an active Patriot and in June 1776 he was muster master at Gloucester for men enlisting for the defense of New York in Colonel Newcomb’s regiment of General Heard’s brigade of New Jersey state troops. He also served as paymaster for Heard’s Brigade. While the men Thomas mustered into Heard’s Brigade were fighting in and around New York City, he served as a militia captain in Colonel John Holmes’ Second Battalion of Salem County militia serving with the Flying Camp in New Jersey. In 1777 he was elected to the New Jersey State Assembly, where he served on several committees, including one that dealt with property of Loyalists. His brother Andrew also served in the legislature and was a captain in the First Salem County militia regiment. Later, Thomas was elected on December 12, 1778 to serve as a Custom House officer; as Naval Officer for the western district.
In March 1778 a British force invaded our county on a foraging mission for the army occupying Philadelphia. These troops foraged in the area of the three bridges over Alloways Creek; Thompson’s being the upper one, Quintin’s in the middle, and Hancock’s being the lower one. The British troops, guided by local Loyalists who knew the area and the people well were assigned to attack various houses in our settlement the night of March 21 just before daybreak. Some of the soldiers were stationed at our house in Salem that night. My father’s large house along with his cluster of store houses and several other dwellings nearby were targeted by the British who learned that some of our militiamen were staying there. Although my father was a pacifist Quaker who did not take part in the war, British Captain Dunlop led his troops to the rear of my father’s house believing that rebel officers were staying there. A second group of light infantry entered the front door at the same time Dunlop entered the back. There were only about twenty or thirty militiamen present because most of the militiamen had left the evening before. Once in the house, the soldiers attempted to kill everyone present by bayoneting them and four of the men murdered in this massacre were non-combatant Quakers, including my father. As is often the case in tragedies of this nature, the accounts of where and how men were killed or wounded frequently got confused. When British soldiers stationed at our house in Salem first told me about the massacre they said everyone in the house was dead so I was sure my father had been murdered. Frantic with grief and rage I loudly reproached the British officers using such unsparing language that they threatened to hang me. Defying them, I continued to speak against them. I soon learned that my father was alive, although suffering from ten bayonet wounds he had received even though his arm was crippled and he was in bed. British Major Simcoe, who led a force of Loyalists, ordered my father and another Quaker non-combatant, Joseph Thompson, taken to a nearby house where a British surgeon was assigned to attend them. My father died several days later from his wounds.
After the war Thomas and I continued to live in Salem and Thomas continued in public service. He served in the first United States Congress that met in New York City and then served again from 1796 to 1798. For many years he was a judge and county treasurer. Thomas died in 1817 at 72 years of age and I lived a few years longer. Today my father’s house is a museum in Salem County and there are nearby markers commemorating the massacre that took place there.
Simcoe, John Graves, A Journal of the Operations of the Queen’s Rangers, Eyewitness Accounts of the American Revolution, New York: New York Times, 1968. Reprint of the 1844 edition published under the title: Simcoe’s Military Journal.
Cushing, Thomas and Charles E. Sheppard, History of the Counties of Gloucester, Salem, and Cumberland, New Jersey, with Biographical Sketches of Their Prominent Citizens, Philadelphia: Everts & Preck, 1883, pp28-33.
Also see: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/historic/hancockhouse/hancockhouse-index.htm and visit the Hancock House, now a New Jersey State Historic Site
For more on the structure of the Hancock House see:
Historic American Buildings Survey, Hancock House, Locust Island Road & Main Street, Hancocks Bridge, Salem County, NJ http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/hh/item/nj0757/
For the military and public service of Thomas Sinnickson and his brother Andrew see:
Minutes of the Provincial Congress and Council of Safety, page 550
Minutes and proceedings of the Council and General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey, in joint-meeting, from August 30, 1776 to October 29, 1799, page 30
Votes and proceedings of the General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey
Journal of the proceedings of the Legislative-Council of the State of New-Jersey
Revolutionary War Pension Files S6252 for James Tomlin and W4703 for John Inskeep also mention Thomas Sinnickson as muster master