I love history, so it’s probably no surprise that I also love digging into my ancestry. When I’m able to connect a family member to a historic event, it makes history come alive. While researching my dad’s line, I came across such a connection. My great-grandfather’s great-great-grandfather was a Colonel in the American Revolutionary War.

Sunday, April 23, 1775, Joab Houghton, Sr. was worshiping in the Hopewell Baptist Meeting-house when he received the first information of Concord and Lexington, and of the retreat of the British to Boston with such heavy loss. His great-grandson gives the following eloquent description of the way he treated the tidings:

“Stilling the breathless messenger he sat quietly through the services, and when they were ended, he mounted the *great stone block in front of the meeting-house and beckoned to the people to stop. Men and women paused to hear, curious to know what so unusual a sequel to the service of the day could mean. At the first words a silence, stern as death, fell over all. The Sabbath quiet of the hour and of the place was deepened into a terrible solemnity. He told them all the story of the cowardly murder at Lexington by the royal troops; the heroic vengeance following hard upon it; the retreat of Percy; the gathering of the children of the Pilgrims round the beleaguered hills of Boston; then pausing, and looking over the silent throng, he said slowly: `Men of New Jersey, the red coats are murdering our brethren of New England! Who follows me to Boston?’ and every man of that audience stepped out into line, and answered `I!’ There was not a coward or a traitor in old Hopewell Baptist Meeting-house that day.”

A memorial to Col. Houghton and the events of April 23, 1775 erected July 4th, 1896 by the people of Hopewell.

Mr. Houghton was chosen leader of a party of volunteers who later left for Boston, the scene of the war. October 19, 1776, he was made a captain, and March 15, 1777, Lieutenant Colonel. Colonel Houghton was afterwards a member of the first Legislature of the State in 1784 and 1787, and also of the Baptist Church.

(Baptists and the American Revolution, Cathcart; 1876 rev. 1976)

I’m proud to be connected to such a great man who inspired and led men to fight for our independence. However, I’m equally as proud to be connected to my ancestors who took advantage of the opportunity to immigrate to this country. Whether famous or unknown, my ancestors helped to weave the fabric of our nation as officers and soldiers, teachers, preachers and farmers.

If you wonder what role your ancestors may have played in the development of this great nation, is offering free access to search 65 million records from the 13 original colonies, plus other patriot record through July 8.

Happy Independence Day!

*Just across the street in front of the church edifice, there stood a mounting block, consisting of a large stone six feet long, four feet wide, set on stone mason work three feet high, used especially by ladies in dismounting and mounting their horses as they came to or left church. The top of the stone was reached by steps.