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Biography of John B. Decker, Sussex Co., New Jersey

This biography of John B. Decker was published in the "History of Sussex and Warren Counties, New Jersey" by James P. Snell, 1881, pages 305-306.

Peter Decker appears to have descended from Jan Gerritson Decker (grandson).

John B. Decker

The first white man to enter the precincts of what is now Wantage township, in Sussex County, was Peter Decker, a Hollander by descent, who left the Neversink settlement about the year 1740, and, passing over the Kittatinny or Blue Mountain, pursued his search after suitable land upon which to effect a permanent settlement.  His choice fell upon the present site of the village of Deckertown, where, amid tall forest-trees, murmuring brooks, and the solemn silence of a vast solitude, he erected the first dwelling built by a white man in that section.  Here he passed his days engaged in clearing up land and tilling the soil, enduring the trials and privations of pioneer life.  He was the great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch.

Josiah, son of Peter Decker, was also an early resident of Wantage township.  He lived at the "Clove," and operated the first grist-mill at that point, besides engaging in farming to a considerable extent.  To himself and wife, Sarah, were born five children - namely, Bowdewine, Abraham, William, Fametje, and Margaret.  The sons lived and died in Wantage.  Fametje became the wife of Ephraim Kilpatrick, grandfather of Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, and Margaret married Seth Wickham.

Bowdewin Decker was one of the strong men of Wantage township in early times.  He was born Feb. 25, 1763, and grew up on his father's farm, his schooling advantages being but meagre in those days.  He was a great reader, however, and a teacher in one of the early district schools of his locality.  In 1787 he located near the present residence of his son, John B. Decker, where he erected a stone house, which he occupied for some years.  In 1805 he built the main portion of the present dwelling of John B. Decker, where he continued to live until his death, in 1857, in his ninety-fourth year.  Besides being a thrifty and successful farmer, owning over four hundred acres of land, he engaged extensively in other business.  For many years he kept a store near his residence, where he carried on mercantile pursuits; he had a tan-yard, a distillery, an extensive potash-works, and was generally identified with the growth and development of his section.  A man of good judgment and strong sense, the adviser of many people, of sterling integrity, generous and public-spirited, he was for many years one of the leading men of Wantage.  He was a supporter of the Clove Presbyterian Church, and at one time bought the church edifice at public sale, and presented it clear to the congregation.  He was an Old-Line Whig, but never an aspirant for office.  His first wife, whom he married on May 31, 1787, was Naomi, daughter of Richard Westbrook, of Wantage, and a representative of one of the strong pioneer families of the section.  She was born June 14, 1772, and died April 29, 1825.  Her children were Richard, born Aug. 15, 1788; Josiah, born April 15, 1792; Mary, born Aug. 30, 1790; Hannah, born Feb. 5, 1794; Sarah, born Oct. 10, 1796; Frederick, born May 16, 1802; and John B., the only one surviving, born Nov. 16, 1803.  Bowdewine Decker married for a second wife, on June 8, 1826, Rebecca Van Sickle, born May 1, 1768; died Sept. 11, 1845.

John B. Decker was born on the paternal farm, on the date indicated above, and is one of the oldest and most highly esteemed citizens of the township.  His earlier years were passed upon his father's farm, but his labors were mostly directed to the tanning business.  In 1824 he took up his residence at his father's mill, and continued to co-operate with his father in the management of his affairs.  In 1845 he removed to the family homestead, and worked the farm, and a few years later it was deeded to him by his father.  Here he has continued to reside since, the property now, however, belonging to his son-in-law, Jacob Swartwout.

Mr. Decker has devoted his entire life to agricultural operations, and has long been a representative farmer in Wantage township.  He has owned a large estate, some of which is still preserved to him, but, though of good business qualifications and of excellent judgment, he has lost no less than eighty thousand dollars during his life by indorsements for friends, and because of his generous heart and liberal spirit.  He now owns the mill at the Clove, a farm of one hundred and fifty acres near by, one hundred acres in Montague township, a small farm in Pennsylvania, and houses and lots in Coleville and Deckertown.  He has paid particular attention to the raising of fine stock, particularly horses.  The celebrated trotting mare "Goldsmith Maid" was foaled on his farm in 1857, and sold by him, in 1863, for three hundred and fifty dollars to John H. Decker and Thomas Bingham, of Newburg, N.Y.

Mr. Decker has now reached the mature age of seventy-eight years, and is well preserved, and in full possession of all his faculties.  He is a man of strict integrity, possesses the confidence of many friends, and is a contributor to the Clove Presbyterian Church.  A Republican in politics, he has never been an aspirant after place.  He has been twice married.  His first wife was Sarah, daughter of William and Elizabeth Decker, to whom he was united on April 24, 1824, and who bore him the following children, - viz., Wlliam (deceased); Naomia E. (deceased); Elizabeth (deceased), wife of Jansen H. Beemer; Mary (deceased); Bowdewine (deceased); Daniel W., who died from disease contracted in the army in the late Rebellion; and Emma R., wife of Judson J. Wickham, of Craigville, Orange Co., N.Y.  Mr. Decker's second wife was Charity M. Kilpatrick, whom he married on March 20, 1855.  She was born May 12, 1824, and died March 15, 1868, leaving one child, Lillie, wife of Jacob Swartwout, of Wantage township.


July 12, 2002