Colonel Joshua Ladd Howell of Fancy Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


The "Fancy Hill" property, for more than two centuries in the possession of the family, was known by this name for many years before Colonel Joshua Ladd Howell built the house which those of the older generation still remember as the old homestead. The house was built in 1805 and was destroyed by fire in 1909.

Prior to its destruction it, as well as most of the property which in former times comprised the plantation, had been sold out of the family, and a few hundred acres of pine woods are all that now remain of what was once a large estate.

Situate on the New Jersey shore of the Delaware, opposite the lower part of Philadelphia, on the bank above Howell's Cove, the house commanded an extensive view of the river. A long, low, brick house with high-ceilinged halls, airy rooms, and carved mantels, it was a fine specimen of the old colonial mansion. Between the house and the river lay the garden and lawn. Many of the shrubs and plants were originally brought from England and planted at "Candor Hall," from whence they were removed to "Fancy Hill;" much of the furniture and many of the ornaments had come from England in the early days. Here Colonel Howell entertained the members of the Gloucester Fox-hunting Club, the officers of the navy whose ships from time to time lay off the cove, and his military friends of the War of 1812. Captain Lawrence, of the ill-fated "Chesapeake," in remembrance of the hospitality enjoyed at Fancy Hill, shortly before his last voyage sent a portrait of himself which still remains in the possession of the family. Tales still told recount the notable gatherings at the colonel's hospitable board; letters still preserved describe events happening throughout the world in those stirring days, told to the master of Fancy Hill by the actors themselves. The hedges of box-wood, the orchards, shaded walks, and old-fashioned gardens had their origin in the formative period of the republic.

In the cove below the house were conducted for many years the fisheries which in former times constituted an important and valuable adjunct to the property. North of the cove were the West Point fisheries, originally the property of the Ladds, but later acquired by Colonel Howell. The fisheries were sold when the property was divided and eventually disposed of, in the latter part of the last century.

The ancestor of the family in America was John Howell, who in 1697 emigrated from Aberistwith, Cardiganshire, Wales, and settled near the centre of Philadelphia. He was accompanied by three children, Jacob, Evan, and Sarah. Like so many of the early settlers in and around Philadelphia, he was a member of the Society of Friends.

Jacob Howell, son of the emigrant, removed to Chester in 1707, where he engaged in the business of tanning. In 1709 he married Sarah, daughter of Randal and Sarah Vernon. The Vernons were members of the Society of Friends, and Randal Vernon was a man of prominence both in the affairs of the society and in provincial matters. Emigrating to this country in 1682, shortly before William Penn, Vernon's name frequently appears among the records, and in 1687 he served as a member of the Provincial Assembly. Jacob Howell was successful in business, and in 1722 was rated as one of the largest tax-payers in Chester. He was treasurer of the Chester County Meeting, a recommended minister of the society, and during years actively employed in its service.

Jacob and Sarah Vernon Howell had a son John, their third child. Born in 1713, he married January 25, 1733, Katharine Ladd, and after his marriage settled in Woodbury, N. J. His wife was the daughter of John Ladd, who with other Friends arrived at Burlington, N.J., in 1678.

John Ladd was one of the Council of Proprietors and assisted William Penn in laying out the city of Philadelphia. Soon after his arrival he built "Candor Hall," a mile northeast of Woodbury, and gradually became the owner of large tracts of land in Gloucester County. A considerable part of his holdings came into the Howell family by marriage and purchase. In view of the connection between the Howell and Carpenter families, it is a curious coincidence that his son Samuel purchased from the widow of Samuel Carpenter, in 1714, 400 acres of land south of Timber Creek and fronting on the Delaware River (including the present hamlet of Westville), and that his grandson sold the West Point Fishery to Colonel Joshua Ladd Howell in 1811. One of Ladd's sons left several hundred acres to his nephew John Ladd Howell, with provision that he should take 1,600 acres more after the death of the testator's widow.

While no attempt has been made to compute the real estate holdings of John Ladd and his sons, they included many thousands of acres, and the family was one of the oldest and best known in that part of the State called West New Jersey.

John and Katharine Ladd Howell had a son, John Ladd Howell, born March 15, 1739, who was apprenticed to his uncle Joshua Howell, a merchant in Philadelphia. In April, 1760, he was one of "His Majesty's justices of the peace in West New Jersey." At the opening of the Revolution he had become a merchant of prominence in Philadelphia, and at various times during the war he was commissary of purchases for the Continental Army. In 1776 he was directed by the Committee of Safety to inspect the powder-mills which supplied the Revolutionary forces, and in 1778 and 1779 under direction of the Board of War was engaged in collecting and forwarding supplies. In 1779 he apparently acted as aide-de-camp to General Ellis with the rank of colonel, and in 1780 was judge advocate in various courts-martial. He was with the army on numerous occasions; on the march of Colonel St. Clair towards Canada (as far as Albany), at Dover, Middletown, Head of Elk, Sassafras River, Valley Forge, and Philadelphia. In 1780 he established his residence at Candor Hall, where he lived till the time of his death in 1785. His wife, Frances Paschall, of Darby, was the daughter of Dr. John Paschall and Frances Hodges, the former being descended from Thomas Paschall, who came from Bristol, England, in 1681-1682, bringing with him a grant of 500 acres of land, which he located on Cobb's Creek near what is now Paschallville, and who, in 1691, was one of the twelve members of the Council of Philadelphia.

John Ladd and Frances Paschall Howell had a son, Joshua Ladd Howell, born in Philadelphia in 1762. As above stated, the family moved to "Candor Hall" about 1780, and from then till his father's death in 1785 he assisted the latter in the management of his large estate. In 1786 he married Anna Blackwood, daughter of Samuel Blackwood and Abigail Clement. Samuel Blackwood was the son of John Blackwood, who emigrated from Scotland in the early part of 1700 and established mills at the head of Timber Creek in Gloucester County, N. J., later acquiring various properties, including the tract near where the town of Blackwood now stands. Samuel Blackwood was sheriff of Gloucester County in 1767, surrogate in 1758 and 1767, and justice of the peace in 1772. Through Abigail Clement the family is descended from the families of Clement, Harrison, Huddleston, and other well-known lines. In 1793 Joshua Ladd Howell cleared out what is now known as Howell's Cove, on the east bank of the Delaware below Philadelphia, and started the Howell's Cove fishery. In 1805 he built the place at Fancy Hill and in 1811 purchased the West Point fishery just above Fancy Hill. In addition to the farms at "Candor Hall" and "Fancy Hill," the farms at Westville, Eagle Point, and elsewhere, he took up large tracts on the Maurice River. His business affairs, together with his interests in political, military, and social matters, fully occupied his time. He was a strong Federalist and took an active part in politics. His military career covered the period from 1793 to 1818, during which time he held various commands, being colonel of the Second Regiment, Gloucester Brigade, of New Jersey Militia, at the time of his death. In the War of 1812 he was on duty at Cape May and other points in his State. He was a member of the Gloucester Fox-hunting Club, founded in 1766, one of the earliest organizations of its kind in the country. Anna Blackwood, Colonel Howell's wife, has left an interesting account of her recollections of the Revolution. She was a child at the time, but clearly remembered the Hessians' passing through Haddonfield to attack Fort Mercer, led by Count Donop; she remembered also Lafayette, who was stationed at Haddonfield with Morgan's Rifle Corps, and Count Pulaski. British and Hessians on several occasions quartered in her mother's home, told her of the war, and on the evacuation of Philadelphia, when the British forces halted at Haddonfield for two days, she saw Clinton, Cornwallis, and Erskine. She particularly remembered a Scotch colonel who was at that time quartered at her home, and who allowed her to play with his accoutrements and made much of her.

Richard Washington Howell, one of the children of Colonel Howell and Anna Blackwood, was born at "Candor Hall" in 1799, and married Mary T. Carpenter, daughter of Edward Carpenter of Carpenter's Landing, in 1830. After his marriage Mr. Howell moved to Camden and engaged in the practice of law. He was warden of St. Paul's Church, president of the Common Council of Camden during the years 1851, 1852, and 1853, and an eminent member of his profession. He died in 1859. His wife, through whom the families of Carpenter and Howell became connected, survived him for many years. With the passing of their generation "Fancy Hill" and other properties in New Jersey were divided and sold.


Source: "Samuel Carpenter and His Descendants" by Edward Carpenter. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1912, pp. 95-97.

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