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Monmouth County Tories

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

January 19.—The Tory freebooters, who have their haunts and caves in the pines, and have been for some time past a terror to the inhabitants of Monmouth county, in the Jerseys, have, during the course of the present week, met with a very eminent disaster. On Tuesday evening last, Captain Benjamin Dennis, who lately killed the infamous robber Fagan, with a party of his militia, went in pursuit of three of the most noted of the Pine Banditti, and was so fortunate as to fall in with them and kill them on the spot. Their names are Stephen Bourke, alias Emmans, Stephen West, and Ezekiel Williams. Yesterday they were brought up to Monmouth Court House, and two of them, it is said, will be hanged in chains. This signal piece of service was effected through the instrumentality of one John Van Kirk, who was prevailed upon to associate with them on purpose to discover their practices, and to lead them into our hands. He conducted himself with so much address that the robbers, and especially the three above named, who were the leading villains, looked upon him as one of their body, kept him constantly with them, and intrusted him with all their designs.

Van Kirk, at proper seasons, gave intelligence of their movements to Captain Dennis, who conducted himself accordingly. They were on the eve of setting off for New York, to make sale of their plunder, when Van Kirk informed Captain Dennis of the time of their intended departure, (which was to have been on Tuesday night last,) and of the course they would take to their boat; in consequence of which, and agreeable to the directions of Van Kirk, the captain and a small party of his militia planted themselves at Rock Pond, near the seashore, and shot Bourke, West, and Williams. We were in hopes at first of keeping Van Kirk under the rose, but the secret is out, and of course he must fly the county, for the Tories are so highly exasperated against him, that death will certainly be his fate if he does not speedily leave Monmouth. The Whigs are soliciting contributions in his favor, and, from present appearances, we have no doubt that they will present him with a very handsome sum. The destruction of the British fleet could not diffuse more universal joy through the inhabitants of Monmouth, than has the death of the above egregious villains. A certain John Gilbertson, of the same group of villains, was killed about three weeks ago, by a party of the militia, near Tom’s River.1


1 New Jersey Gazette, February 3.