Monday, March 30, 2015

Our Quaker Roots #2: STACY POTTS' HOUSE

6th GGUncle, Stacy Potts, 1731-1816 (brother of 6th GGMother, Mary [Potts] Horner) great-grandchildren of 1678 immigrants Thomas Potts, Sr. and Mahlon Stacy and 1682 immigrant William Beakes

Although the original building is long gone, a plaque marks the site where Stacy Potts lived.  The inscription reads:
"On this site stood the dwelling which was the headquarters of  Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall, Hessian Commander mortally wounded in the Battle of Trenton December 26, 1776 in which house he died the following day..." 
As George Washington and his troops were  preparing to cross the icy Delaware River, Colonel Rall was supposedly playing checkers with Stacy Potts.  It was the evening of Christmas Day, 1776.  Early the next morning as Washington's troops advanced toward Trenton, the Hessian leader was poorly advised of their progress too late to mount an effective counterattack.  The ensuing battle was brief.  Rall was critically wounded and, upon his death the following day, his remaining Hessian troops laid down their arms.  It was a small, yet morale-building victory for the Americans. (1)
demolished in 1857
A description of Stacy Potts' house:
"Rall's head-quarters. This is a frame building standing upon Warren Street, opposite Perry, near the corner of Bank Alley. The buildings on the left are also of ante-Revolutionary origin. This house was a tavern at the time*, kept by Stacey Potts, the grandfather of Stacey G. and Joseph C. Potts, Esqrs., of Trenton. In a pane of glass, in the front window on the left of the front door, lower story, may be seen a hole made by a bullet, shot during the battle. Colonel Rall died in the front room in the second story, immediately over this window. It is related that a daughter of Mr. Potts, who was at a neighbor's when the firing commenced, was running toward her father's house, when a musket-ball struck her comb from her head and slightly injured her scalp."—Lossing, 1851 (2)  *note: the house did not become a tavern until years later

Fast forward eight years when, as stated on the second part of the historic plaque:
"...The dwelling was from November 30, 1784 to January 5, 1785 the official residence of Richard Henry Lee, President of the Continental Congress then in session in Trenton."

The Jan. 10, 1865 edition of the State Gazette newspaper printed a description of the house providing details of Stacy Potts' property at the time of Lee's occupancy:
"The house is two stories high, spacious and elegant, having three rooms with fireplaces. besides a large dining room with two fireplaces on the lower floor, five rooms on the second floor, a large and convenient kitchen, a cellar under the whole, a pump at the door, a convenient lot with a stream of water running through it and an excellent garden -a stable sufficient to contain eight horses, with room for hay to keep them, may he had with it."  (3) 
This description is significant because, as the official residence of the presiding officer of the Continental Congress, Potts was required to see that his house was appropriately accommodating for such an important member of the first national government of the United States.   Richard Henry Lee of the Virginia House of Burgesses, was elected the sixth President of Congress under the Articles of Confederation on November 30, 1784 at the French Arms Tavern in Trenton, New Jersey. By January, Congress had moved to New York City where Lee served out the remainder of his year in office.  (George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and victor of that first Battle of Trenton, became the first President of the United States four years later.)
The text of the lease agreement between Potts and the government was printed in another newspaper article (4) as follows:
This INDENTURE, made this twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four, by and between Stacy Potts, of Trenton, in the county of Hunterdon, and State of New Jersey, of the one part, and Moore Furman and James Ewing, Esquires, and Conrad Kotts, all of Trenton aforesaid, for and on behalf of the State of New Jersey of the other part, WITNESSETH that the said Stacy Potts for and in consideration of the rents and covenants herein reserved and contained, to be paid and performed by the said Moore Furman, James Ewing and Conrad Kotts, or by the President of the Congress of the United States of America, for the time being, or any of them HATH demised, granted and to farm let, and by these presents doth devise, grant and to farm let unto them, the said Moore Furman, James Ewing and Conrad Kotts, for the use of the said President of the Congress of the United States, the dwelling house wherein the said Stacy Potts now lives, with the lott of land and garden adjoining thereunto and also the hay house, nearly full of very good hay, with the stables on each side thereof, together with a ten-plate stove belonging to the front part of the said house, the outside of the said house to be well painted at the expense of the said Stacy Potts. To HAVE and to hold the said dwelling house, garden and stables from the thirtieth day of October next, for and during the fall term of one year fully to be compleat and ended, reserving the use of the road as it now goes to the tanyard, and so much of the lott as Samuel Phillips may have occasion for, adjoin his shop. And the said Moore Furman, James Ewing and Conrad Kotts doth covenant, promise and agree to and with the said Stacy Potts, his heirs and assigns, by these presents, that they will paint the inside of the said house and paper as much thereof as may be necessary, and make all such repairs, alterations and amendments to the premises as may be useful and convenient for the said President and his family to be well accommodated, without any trouble or expense to him, the said Stacy Potts, his heirs or assigns. And, also, that they, the said Moore Furman, James Ewing and Conrad Kotts, or the Treassurer of this State, or of the United States, shall pay unto the said Stacy Potts, his heirs or assigns, the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds, in current gold or silver money, in the following manner, that is to say: the sum of fifty pounds on the first day of November next, and the like sum of fifty pounds on the first day of May next, and the remaining fifty pounds at the expiration of the said term, when they, the said Morre Furman, James Ewing and Conrad Kotts engage to surrender and deliver up the said house, lott, garden and stable, with all and every of the appurtenances in good order and repair, unto him the said Stacy Potts, his heirs or assigns; but if any of the alterations made for the accommodation of the said President and his family should not be convenient for the said Stacy Potts, his heirs or assigns, then they the said Moore Furman, James Ewing and Conrad Kotts, shall put that part of the premises into the like condition as they are at this time, without any expense to the said Stacy Potts, his heirs or assigns.
IN WITNESS whereof, the parties aforesaid, hath to these presents interchangeably, set their hands and seals the day above written  Signed and delivered in the presence of JNO. SINGER, JOHN ROZELL. MOORE FURMAN.() JAS. EWING. () CONRAD KOTTS, ()
On the back of the lease is the following endorsement:
Rec’d Feb. 15, 1785, of Moore Furman, Esq., the sum of twenty-five Pounds, being one quarter’s rent for the within Premises to the first day of this month, and they not having made use of the within mentioned Stable or Hay, but suffering the same to remain in my possession, are hereby discharged from the payment of the first payment of fifty Pounds within mentioned. “STACY POTTS.”
The President of Congress occupied the Stacy Potts house during most of the time Congress was in session in this city, residing there only thirty-seven days. 
Richard Henry Lee
Note:   Only a decade earlier, delegate Lee made the important historical motion to the First Continental Congress to declare Independence from Great Britain which includes the following: “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right out to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” The resulting document, The Declaration of Independence, includes his signature. 
(Lee Portrait: Ann Fletcher 1927 version of original by Charles Willson Peale 1784)
 (1) image credit: engraving by Benson J. Lossing, 1850, depicting the dying Rall reclining, his servant, Stacy Potts & wife, Generals Washington and Green, based on original by Flagg
(2) Benson John Lossing, ed. Harper's Encyclopedia of United States History (vol. 9) New York, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1912 
(4) newspaper source unknown; 1884 article entitled 
"CONGRESS IN TRENTON. WHERE THE PRESIDENT LIVED HERE. Stacy Potts’ residence used by the President One Hundred Years Ago---The Lease of the House—Receipts for Rent."; document supplied for publication by William H Potts, Stacy Potts' grandson.

The Trenton Historical Society has excellent online records of original documents showing Stacy Potts' numerous official transactions as a businessman.  A transcribed portion of a 1769 letter he wrote details his connection with his namesake and great grandfather, Mahlon Stacy.  The letter also provides other family history:

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