Was Elizabeth Haddon New Jersey’s First Female Brewer?

Brewing was one of many tasks Haddonfield's founding resident was responsible for in the 1700s.

The Elizabeth Haddon Estaugh Brew House. Photo courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia

Here are some stories that have been told about early New Jersey colonial Elizabeth Haddon: she crossed an ocean, from London to the New World, on an errand for her dad; the town of Haddonfield was named for her; she proposed to her husband, not vice versa; and she was one of New Jersey’s, if not the country’s, first female brewers.

“Her story is remarkable,” says Doug Rauschenberger, president of the Historical Society of Haddonfield. “She came over to settle her father’s land as a very young woman.” That would be in 1701, when Elizabeth Haddon was about 21 and crossed the Atlantic from England to claim her father’s land in the New World, though he never left England.

As for her proposing to her husband, John Estaugh, a Quaker preacher from England she met in New Jersey? “That’s very much legendary,” says Rauschenberger, albeit a legend propagated by big names in history like abolitionist author Lydia Maria Child and, later, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “We have a little correspondence from collateral descendants of hers, and that family was a little annoyed at this, basically saying ‘Never would have happened.’” Another legend to bust: Haddonfield wasn’t named for her, it was named by her.

What about being the “first female brewer” title? Well, yes and no. The first recorded commercial female brewer in the Colonies was Mary Lisle, who inherited her father’s Philadelphia brewpub in 1734. But there is reason to believe that just across the river in South Jersey, Haddon was running a more-than-average homebrew operation.

Among our evidence: Haddon’s sizeable “brew house,” which is exactly what it sounds like—a house set apart from living quarters built along with her house in 1713 and dedicated entirely to brewing. Even without football teams to root for, New Jersey area colonials drank beer on the regular. According to Allison Schell of the National Women’s History Museum, “beer was consumed more than water at this time, and one needed to have a steady supply of the beverage on hand.” Today, your average homebrewer is closer to a “42-year-old married man with a college education,” but Haddon would have been among the many colonial housewives doing the brewing. “Brewing was one of the many tasks on their long list of daily duties,” says Schell.

The reason we think Haddon brewed more than the typical colonial housewife is the same reason the town was named for her, the same reason she came here in the first place, and it all comes back to Quakers. “The goal was to establish a community for Quakers to freely worship,” says Rauschenberger (Haddon’s father provided funds to build the Quaker Meeting House in 1721, “the only place of worship in Haddonfield [for] almost 100 years” following). And while her Quaker missionary husband was often away doing his part, Haddon would stay home. “As forward-thinking and broad-minded as she was, we also believe she was very much a homebody,” says Rauschenberger, who confirms Haddon would have largely done her part as hostess.

“The house was very much a stop for other Quakers passing through,” he says. According to a 1909 address to the Annual Meeting of Friends Historical Society of Philadelphia, “no doubt [Haddon Hall] was well stocked with liquid refreshments…in the heyday of its reputation as a sort of half-way house between Burlington and Salem Yearly Meetings and Philadelphia.” And in case you’re wondering why religious gatherings would call for beer, a 1906 report on “The Progress of the Temperance Cause Among Friends” notes “the use of alcoholic liquors among Friends at the time was general. Beer, wine and rum were common beverages and were considered essential for the preservation of health.” Quakers—healthy Quakers, anyway—drank. And in Haddonfield, anyway, they likely drank a lot of Haddon’s home brew. “It was never a commercial operation,” says Rauschenberger. But “she was certainly overseeing household operations.”

You can even go see where it was all done. Haddon’s main house, “New Haddonfield Plantation,” was destroyed in a fire in 1842, but her brew house is still standing in Haddonfield.

The Elizabeth Haddon Estaugh Brew House is open to the public at 201 Wood Lane in Haddonfield. Call 856-429-7375 for more information on visiting.

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