United States Congressman, Farmer, Businessman, and Author
Past and modern notable people in Chemung County
have often been written about. One person to elude attention locally is James Sloan, a United States Congressman. Bruce Bendler examined the political career of James Sloan in Gloucester County,
New Jersey in a well written paper entitled “James Sloan – Renegade or True Republican.” This article will only briefly discuss the political career of James Sloan and explore the life after politics and residency in Chemung
County and that of his family.
James Sloan was born October 10, 1748 in Newton Township,
Gloucester County, New Jersey into a Quaker household. He was fourteen when his father died in 1763 and his mother was appointed administrator of the estate. James married at the age of twenty-one on April 19, 1770 at Haddonfield, Camden County, New Jersey, nineteen year old Rachel Clement born March 12, 1751, also in Newtown Township. Rachel would prove to be an able spouse, through his political career, his tenure at the nation’s capital, and her departure to what must have seemed the frontier of civilization. She also would become the mother of their nine children. It is evident that Rachel had acquired an education which was not always an affordable opportunity for females in the 1700’s, which would probably prove to be an asset to her husband’s political ambitions.
James and Rachel resided in Gloucester Township
and Newtown Townships,
Gloucester County, New Jersey.Quakers, they were granted a certificate from Haddonfield to Philadelphia
in 1796; but disowned in 1801 for “disunity.” After their departure from the Quaker Church
they seemed to have had no real affiliation with any known denomination for many years, though James wrote about religious convictions and views in various settings.
James Sloan on December 15, 1800 presided over a meeting in Gloucester County, New Jersey
attacking the Federalist Party. He had not yet been appointed to Congress. He wrote a lengthy letter dated January 30, 1801 to Thomas Jefferson. At meetings in August 1801 and March 1802 he was president of the Democratic Association of Gloucester County. He represented New Jersey in Congress from 1803 to 1809 as a Jeffersonian Democrat. During that time another letter to Thomas Jefferson was dated October 18, 1807 and in the letter he hoped that a son of his living in Cincinnati might be considered for the position of land office register and that he might be able to speak to Thomas Jefferson about the position when in Washington within a few days. These letters, a letter to James Madison, and several letters between family and friends while in Chemung County have survived to give some insight into his life.
After his departure from Congress James Sloan continued to be active both locally and nationally in politics while in New Jersey and served as a delegate from Gloucester
County in 1812. During this time he purchased a large tract of land in the Seeley Creek Valley in what is now Southport, a portion of lot 100 that had been surveyed on November 3, 1788 consisting of 2,553 acres and assigned to Nathaniel Seeley, Jr., James Seeley, Adam Seeley, Abner Hetfield, and Samuel Edsall (Hetfield and Edsall had married sisters of the three Seeley brothers).
What prompted this purchase we are not informed nor is it known if it was purchased on speculation or if James Sloan or some member of the family had visited the area at an earlier date. It was not “wild” land and had been settled on some twenty years earlier by members of the Seeley and other families and some of it was under cultivation. Wealthy Philadelphian, William Bingham had purchased extensive tracts of land only a few miles away in nearby Bradford and Tioga Counties, Pennsylvania. Bingham and Sloan were probably acquainted as Bingham served in the United States Senate from 1795 to 1801, but it is unknown if this possible acquaintance had any decision on the land purchase.
In 1813, Sloan addressed the residents of Gloucester
in “The Hypocrite Unmasked,” which was a response to a political attack during the prior year’s campaign. The address is mixed with politics, biblical references, and discussions of war (War of 1812). Financial losses resulted in the sale of the Sloan property in New Jersey
to pay off debts which were sold on November 13, 1813 to Thomas Astley of Philadelphia. One month later, on December 20, 1813 there was an article of agreement between John Rogers of the City of Philadelphia and James Sloan of the Township of Newton, County of Gloucester, State of New Jersey in which Sloan by deed conveyed unto Rogers all his landed property in the State of New York, notes endorsed by Rogers and guaranteed, and the money advanced to Joseph Burr “who is keeping store on said property in State of New York.” Joseph Burr was the son-in-law of James and Rachel Sloan, having married their daughter Mary who had died in 1801. Evidently, the property reverted to the Sloan’s as the following newspaper advertisement appeared in several issues of the Geneva Gazette -
Will be sold, at private sale, that valuable property belonging to James Sloan, of New-Jersey, situate on Seely Creek, about 3 1-2 miles from Newtown. It contains about 1000 acres, 150 of which is under improvement, the remainder excellent timber (Geneva Gazette, January 18, February 8, March 2, April 5, 1815).
The Sloan’s seemed to have been unsuccessful in this second attempt at selling the property and had perhaps already removed to the Seeley Creek Valley as a letter dated January 2, 1815 from John Thomas of Northumberland, Pennsylvania to James Sloan, Sloansville, Tioga County (Chemung County had not yet been formed), State of New York is among several letters of the Sloan family papers at the Chemung County Historical Society. The letter addresses Sloan as “friend” and discusses at some length humanitarian issues. Sloansville was used in other letters for several years.
If their arrival was in 1814 after the sale of their lands in New Jersey, James would have been about sixty-five years of age, Rachel about sixty-three years of age, and their daughter Rachel, who accompanied them, about twenty-one. Besides his defeat in politics and financial hardships, did other factors induce an aged couple with an unmarried daughter to remove far from family and friends and leave behind four adult married sons and numerous grandchildren in New Jersey? The culture and society of Philadelphia and nearby New Jersey was quite advanced compared to the rural atmosphere of their new home a few miles from the fledgling village of Newtown
(now Elmira). Furthermore, Chemung County was not known to have been settled by any families from southern New Jersey
making the move seemingly even more unlikely, but move they did.
They established their residence in the area of what is now Pennsylvania Avenue and Mountain View Drive. Besides daughter Rachel, of their other eight children, two had died in childhood. Their daughter Mary, the wife of Joseph Burr, as previously stated had died in 1801, only fourteen days after the birth of her second child. Sons, Joseph, Samuel, William and probably also John were all married, with their own children in their households, and remained in New Jersey. Their remaining daughter Ruth, had married John Brown, and they had evidently removed to the Seeley Creek Valley perhaps to oversee the Sloan property and there Ruth died in 1812, at age 35, having evidently preceded her parents to the region. She had a daughter Ann and perhaps this young motherless grandchild also favored in the Sloan’s choice of a new home.
There are several memorandums of agreements between tenant farmers on a portion of the property and operators of a grist mill and saw mill on the property, indicating the Sloan’s derived some of their income from these arrangements.
James and family were enumerated in 1820 in Southport, the family consisting of James, Rachel, daughter Rachel, and a young girl of age ten and under age sixteen. Only the head of household was identified at that date. The young girl was possibly some assistance in the household or it was perhaps their granddaughter Ann, the daughter of their deceased daughter Ruth. They were enumerated in the 1825 state census with two males and three females in the household. In January 1827, James made a trip to Albany and addressed a letter to “My Dear Wife” and mentions his meeting with the Governor and further mention of trying to sell the property, reserving a portion upon which they would live.
About fourteen years after their arrival, Rachel died on July 25 1828 aged 77 years and 4 months (age inscribed on marker). James was enumerated in Southport in 1830 with one male of age five and under age ten (born 1821-25), one male of age ten and under age fifteen (born 1816-20), one male of age forty and under age fifty (born 1781-90), one male of age eighty and under age ninety (born 1741-50), one female of age ten and under age fifteen (born 1816-20), and one female of age thirty and under age forty (born 1791-1800). Who the several members in the household were besides James and daughter Rachel is unknown. James died September 7, 1831 aged 82 years and 10 months (age inscribed on marker).
DIED: James Sloan, on the 8th inst., in the 83rd year, member of Congress from New Jersey
(Elmira Gazette, Elmira, New York, September 10, 1831).
Elmira, at the residence of Mr.
Partridge, on the 7th September, James Sloan, Esq., formerly a member of Congress from New Jersey, in the 83d year of his age. From his early life he had been attached to the order of friends, called Quakers. For some years back he had warmly espoused the cause of liberal Christianity, and zealously advocated the doctrines of the unlimitable goodness of God and universal salvation of man. Though advanced in life, he would occasionally hold public lectures to inculcate those doctrines, and their practical utility. In 1820 he published a pamphlet of 28 pp. 8vo. Entitled “Priestcraft Unmasked” being a brief expose of the principal popular doctrines, their pernicious practical tendency, and the influence they give to an ambitious clergy. Long abstentious and regular in his living, but few men of his age enjoyed as much vigour and health of body and mind. He resided about four miles distant from Elmira, yet he was quite a regular attendant on the Universalist meetings of that place, traveling on foot. The day of his death he was down to attend on a funeral, as he did the day previous, at Southport, and after dining as heartily as usual, and walking to the above named place, he expired suddenly when engaged in earnest conversation with some of his old and intimate friends. A long and useful life – a happy and glorious death: “Let me die the death of righteous, and let my last end be like his.” A. P. (Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, Vol II. No 42, Utica, N.Y., Saturday, October 15, 1831).
James and Rachel Sloan are buried in the small cemetery at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Mountain View Drive in Southport where their daughter Ruth Brown had been buried. For many years there was no evidence of this small cemetery. In 1979, then Town of Southport Historian Nelda Holton and the author of this article asked the property owner permission to unearth the markers from beneath several inches of sod where they had been laid in a row many years earlier so that we could accurately transcribe them.
The Sloan markers are very simple with no creative epitaphs or other words of mention.
In recent years the small cemetery has been beautifully maintained.
Their daughter Rachel Sloan born December 25, 1792 had accompanied her parents to Chemung
County. Letters between her and her nieces and nephews in New Jersey have survived. That she was an educated woman there is no doubt. She evidently resided in the family home after the death of her father and would marry four years later on March 17, 1836 at the age of forty-three to Silas Billings as his fourth wife. His first three wives had all died young, each leaving young children. Upon their marriage Rachel removed to Knoxville, Pennsylvania
to the Billings
family home and undertook the care of his eight children, the youngest not yet two years of age. Rachel and Silas had probably known each other when he had operated a linseed oil and wool carding mill on Seeley Creek in Southport from 1820 to 1822 before he removed to Knoxville. The marriage provided Rachel with considerable comforts of wealth. Silas owned vast tracts of timber land in the Cowanesque
Valley, owned a pearl ashery, distillery, store, linseed oil mill, grist mill and tannery and several saw mills at different periods. In 1840 they removed to Elmira where they resided the remainder of their lives. In the 1850 census enumeration their real estate wealth was $200,000.00, a considerable amount for that period of time. They were married for seventeen years when Silas died August 28, 1853. In the 1857 Elmira City
directory, Rachel was residing at their residence, related to be a brick mansion, on the north side of Water Street near Main Street, stepson Silas residing with her. She evidently affectively undertook her role as stepmother from records that have survived and in the settlement of her estate, the division was amongst her seven living step children, all or most of whom seemed to have had a close relationship with her and considered her their mother. Rachel died October 18, 1858 and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery with Silas.
1. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 32, 1 June 1800 – 16 February 1801, ed. Barbara B. Oberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005, pp. 520–524.
2. An Address, Delivered at a Meeting of the Democratic Association of the County
of Gloucester, Trenton, 1801.
3. An Oration, Delivered at a Meeting of the Democratic Association, of the County of Gloucester, Trenton, 1802..
4. Constitution of the Democratic Association of the County of Gloucester, in the State of New Jersey, to Watch Over and Defend the Liberty of the People on the True Principles of Democracy, Trenton, 1803.
5. Charles Lanman, Biographical Annals of the Civil Government of the United States, During its First Century, Washington, 1876, p. 388.
6. Bruce Bendler, James Sloan: Renegade or True Republican?” New Jersey History, 125, 2010, pp. 1–19.
7. George R. Prowell. The History of Camden County, New Jersey,Philadelphia, 1886, pp. 179–80, 650.
8.Article of Agreement between John Rogers of City of Philadelphia and James Sloan of Newton, County of Gloucester, New Jersey, 1813, Chemung County Historical Society.
9.Receipt acknowledgement of James W. Sloan, signed by Lebbeus Tubbs, Sloansville, 1813, Chemung County Historical Society.
10.Promissory note from James W. Sloan of Sloansville, Tioga County, New York to Jacob Smith, 1813, Chemung County Historical Society.
11.Letter to James Sloan of Sloansville, Tioga County, New York from John Thomas of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, 1815, Chemung County Historical Society.
12.Promissory note to pay Joseph Beaman by James Sloan and John Brown, 1815, Chemung County Historical Society.
13.Letter from Timothy Owen to James Sloan, 1815, Chemung County Historical Society.
14.Letter from Mary Clement of Haddonfield, New Jersey
to Aunt Rachel Sloan, 1818, Chemung
County Historical Society.
15.Letter from James Stowell of Marlborough, New Jersey
to James Sloan, Esq., of Elmira, 1821, Chemung County Historical Society.
16.Second letter from James Stowell to James Sloan, Esq., of Sloansville, Elmira
Township, 1821, Chemung County Historical Society.
17.Article of agreement between James Sloan and tenant John B. Cook, 1821, Chemung County Historical Society.
18.Letter to James Sloan from his son Joseph Sloan, 1823, Chemung County Historical Society.
19.Article of agreement between James Sloan and tenant James Howe, 1825, Chemung County Historical Society.
20.Article of agreement between James Sloan and tenant Isaac Baker, Jr., 1825, Chemung County Historical Society.
21.Letter from N. F. Beck to James Sloan, Esq., of Sloansville, 1826, regarding Governor Clinton and State Legislature, Chemung County Historical Society.
22.Letter from James Sloan while in Albany, New York
to his wife Rachel Sloan, January 21, 1827, Chemung County Historical Society
23.Memorandum of agreement between Hiram Grover to James Sloan, 1828, Chemung County Historical Society.
24.Memorandum of agreement between William Rice to James Sloan for use of house and land, 1828, Chemung County Historical Society.
25.Loan agreement between James Sloan and John Striker for the use of a house, gristmill and timerland in the town of Southport, 1829. Chemung County Historical Society.
26.Letter to James Madison from James Sloan of Southport, 1829.
27. Elmira Gazette,
Elmira, New York, September 10, 1831.
28.Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, Vol II. No 42, Utica, N.Y., Saturday, October 15, 1831.
29.Letter from niece Rachel Sloan of Mt. Holly, New Jersey to Rachel Billings at Knoxville,
Pa., 1837, Chemung County Historical Society.
30.Letter from Susanna Smith and Elizabeth West of Burlington, New Jersey to Rachel Billings at Knoxville, Pennsylvania, 1838, Chemung County Historical Society.
31.Dual letter from M. B. Sloan and sister Rachel to Aunt Rachel Billings at Knoxville, Pa., 1838, Chemung County Historical Society.
32. Elmira Republican, Elmira,
New York, August 30, 1853.
33.Tioga Eagle, Wellsboro,
Pennsylvania, September 1, 1853.
34.Estate of Rachel Billings, Chemung County Surrogate’s Office, Elmira, New York.