United States Congressman, Farmer, Businessman,
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
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
James and Rachel resided in Gloucester Township
Gloucester County, New Jersey.
Quakers, they were granted
a certificate from Haddonfield to
in 1796; but disowned in 1801 for “disunity.” After their departure from the Quaker
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Address, Delivered at a Meeting of the Democratic Association of the
of Gloucester, Trenton, 1801.
Oration, Delivered at a Meeting of the Democratic Association, of the County of Gloucester,
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,
Charles Lanman, Biographical
Annals of the Civil Government of the United
States, During its First Century, Washington, 1876, p.
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.
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.
Receipt acknowledgement of James W.
Sloan, signed by Lebbeus Tubbs, Sloansville, 1813, Chemung County Historical
Promissory note from James W. Sloan of
Sloansville, Tioga County, New York to Jacob Smith, 1813, Chemung
County Historical Society.
Letter to James Sloan of Sloansville,
Tioga County, New York from John
Thomas of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, 1815, Chemung County Historical
Promissory note to pay Joseph Beaman by
James Sloan and John Brown, 1815, Chemung County Historical Society.
Letter from Timothy Owen to James Sloan,
1815, Chemung County Historical Society.
Letter from Mary Clement of Haddonfield, New Jersey
to Aunt Rachel Sloan, 1818,
County Historical Society.
Letter from James Stowell of Marlborough, New Jersey
to James Sloan, Esq., of Elmira, 1821, Chemung County Historical Society.
Second letter from James Stowell to James
Sloan, Esq., of Sloansville,
Chemung County Historical Society.
Article of agreement between James Sloan
and tenant John B. Cook, 1821, Chemung County Historical Society.
Letter to James Sloan from his son Joseph
Sloan, 1823, Chemung County Historical Society.
Article of agreement between James Sloan
and tenant James Howe, 1825, Chemung County Historical Society.
Article of agreement between James Sloan
and tenant Isaac Baker, Jr., 1825, Chemung County Historical Society.
Letter from N. F. Beck to James Sloan,
Esq., of Sloansville, 1826, regarding Governor Clinton and State
Legislature, Chemung County Historical Society.
Letter from James Sloan while in Albany, New York
to his wife Rachel Sloan, January 21, 1827, Chemung County Historical
Memorandum of agreement between Hiram
Grover to James Sloan, 1828, Chemung County Historical Society.
Memorandum of agreement between William
Rice to James Sloan for use of house and land, 1828, Chemung County
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.
Letter to James Madison from James Sloan
of Southport, 1829.
New York, September 10, 1831.
Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate,
Vol II. No 42, Utica, N.Y.,
Saturday, October 15, 1831.
Letter from niece Rachel Sloan of Mt. Holly, New Jersey to
Rachel Billings at Knoxville,
1837, Chemung County Historical Society.
Letter from Susanna Smith and Elizabeth
West of Burlington, New Jersey to Rachel Billings at Knoxville, Pennsylvania,
1838, Chemung County Historical Society.
Dual letter from M. B. Sloan and sister
Rachel to Aunt Rachel Billings at
1838, Chemung County Historical Society.
New York, August 30, 1853.
Pennsylvania, September 1, 1853.
Estate of Rachel Billings, Chemung
County Surrogate’s Office, Elmira, New York.