“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”These words, written by Thomas Jefferson, sent a shockwave around the world as Colonial America shrugged off their distant rulers for a leadership of their own control. The idea of an American democracy was in its infancy on July 4, 1776. The people of America had no idea of the uncharted wilderness they were embarking into. Now, 243 years later, the evidence of the conflict that created the United States of America can still be found all around us. However, in Monmouth County, the situation was less of a revolution and more of a civil war. Neighbors and families were split with their loyalties creating terrible conflicts. The base for those loyal to the British (Loyalists) was Sandy Hook and for those in favor of the revolution (Whigs) was Freehold. Caught in the crosshairs of this split was the Seabrook-Wilson House.
|19th Century Painting of the Seabrook-Wilson House|
At the time, this Bay Shore property was owned by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Seabrook, a staunch Whig. From using his boat as a privateering vessel on Sandy Hook Bay, to serving in the New Jersey General Assembly, Lt. Col. Seabrook focused his efforts on defeating the British. This made his house, right across the bay from Sandy Hook, the perfect target for Loyalist revenge. On multiple occasions throughout the war, Loyalists launched raids on his home, once shooting a cannonball at the roof and once stabbing Seabrook’s son, Stephen. Luckily, Stephen Seabrook survived the attack. Other times, Loyalists stole the Seabrook family’s livestock and food. The conflict would continue until the end of the war in 1783. However, like many Monmouth County residents at the time, the Seabrook family's life was turned upside-down.
For those that backed the Loyalists, the defeat of the British meant a troubling choice: return home or leave forever. A mass exodus ensued from the newly established nation. This included many former slaves that saw the British as an escape from bondage. In the end, many of these Loyalists went to Canada, Sierra Leone, and Britain to establish new lives. For those that chose to return, it would take a long time for the wounds of the Revolution to heal. Many homes had been confiscated and others destroyed. Even attacks of revenge occurred occasionally after the end of the Revolution.
Like for the nation, for the Seabrook family the American Revolution was merely the infancy of their story. To learn more about the history of one of the oldest houses in the region, visit Bayshore Waterfront Park on Sundays from 9-11 a.m. (now through October 20) for tours with a Park System Historian. The house is also open on Sundays from 1-4 p.m. for informal, self-guided tours (now through October 27).
|Seabrook-Wilson House Today|