Stories

Judge John Berrien, (1711-1772)

Painting by Charles Willson Peale

Came to Rocky Hill as a surveyor from Long Island in 1735. Then purchased or had Rockingham built. A portion of the house may have been on a tract purchased from John Harrison and obtained by him in 1701 from Indians. He became a merchant. He served as justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey. From 1763 till his death he was one of the trustees of Princeton college, besides holding other responsible public positions. After his second marriage in 1759 the house was enlarged and in that state it was rented and occupied by General Washington from Judge Berrien's widow for his use while peace treaty meetings were underway at Princeton and while composing his Farewell Address to the Army.

John Berrien in earlier years.

On his tombstone in Princeton cemetery is the following inscription: "Sacred to the Memory of the Hon. John Berrien, Esq., one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Judicature of the Province of New Jersey, who died much lamented on the 22nd day of April, A. D., 1772, in the sixty-first year of his age." (see Picture above) He married Margaret, daughter of John Eaton, founder of Eatontown, Monmouth county, New Jersey.

The Judge and second wife Margaret had six children. On April 22, 1772 he invited several close friends, including Richard Stockton (below) to witness his will. After they did so, he jumped into deep part of the Millstone River near his home and drowned. No one knows to this day why he did this, but in these times, it was not uncommon to take one's life if they were found to have a terminal illness.

Richard Stockton