The Benjamin Stiles Family of Maple Shade

This report is a compilation of two sources. The first is a set of photos of the Stiles' houses in 1897 taken by T. Chalkley Matlack owned by the Maple Shade Historical Society. The second is the write up written mostly by T. Chalkley Matlack with a few passages written by Dr. Asa Matlack Stackhouse for a Matlack Family genealogical record book. Unless it is stated the quotes are from T. Chalkley Matlack.

This webpage has been expanded upon and made into a book. It is available on

Daughter of Reuben and Elizabeth (Coles) Matlack.
Born, May 21, 1797. Died, Feb. 27, 1876.
Son of Isaac and Rachel (Glover) Stiles.
Born, Sept. 1, 1791. Died, July 9, 1865.
Married Jan. 11, 1816.
(Friends Meeting, Moorestown, N. J.)

Of Aunt Martha I remember but little. Uncle Benny, as Benjamin Stiles was familiarly called, possessed many admirable traits of character. He knew no distinction of rank or wealth in his relations to those around him, but was "Uncle Benny" alike to all, and had a kind, cheerful word for everyone. His words were a perpetual contradiction to his manner. He would assume a stern, grim expression of countenance, as though he would overawe those to whom he spoke, but it was transparent, and the kindliness of his nature would show through. He was pleasant with children, and they loved him. I remember, as a boy, that I felt proud beyond measure when he would speak to me, and I thought him one of the "nicest" men in the world.

During those mortal long hours of solemn silence at Friends Meeting in my boyhood days, when the weariness from sitting still was almost unendurable; when I had chased all the flies away within reach; counted the nails in the front doors, the Friends who were asleep, and those who were not asleep; those who had hats on, and those without; my eyes would rest on the little heart-shaped ornament that Uncle Benny wore on his shirt front on dress occasions. He sat on the end of the first "facing bench," and I had a full view of it, and it helped to while away the time, as I tried to fathom the reason Uncle Benny wore jewelry, while none of the rest of the old Friends did.

(The above quote was written by Dr. Asa Matlack Stackhouse.)

Although I was nearly seven years of age when Uncle Benny died, and seventeen at the time of my Aunt Martha's death, yet I do not remember having ever seen either of them. This seems rather odd as they lived a distance of only two miles from my home, the Stiles, Roberts, and Matlack estates all lying adjacent to each other from early colonial times, the Roberts land lying between the other two. But as a very small child I was kept at home, which may account for my not having seen Uncle Benny, and as in the years following his death, Aunt Martha spent an ample portion of her time with her daughter Mary Parry Haines at Lumberton, N.J., a considerable distance from my father's residence, may in a measure account for my not making her acquaintance.

My sister, Mary T. Smith, recalls a visit she paid as a child, with her parents, to the home of Uncle Benny Stiles. She remembers, however, that her interest during that social visit, was centered in Uncle Benny's well-trained dog which amused her by catching cakes and other morsels of food when tossed to him, which, with childish judgment she considered a most wonderful performance. Also she recollects a pet gray squirrel which she saw there. So we may safely believe that Uncle Benny was fond of pets.

He lived in the old Stiles Homestead where he was born, close to the meadows on the North Branch of Pensauken Creek, a fine view of which appeared from the rear of the dwelling. The farmhouse was approached by a long lane opening to the public road leading from Moorestown to Camden, and was a couple of miles west of the first named village. It was a long, rambling sort of building of two stories, with an attic, similar in all particulars to other old-fashioned colonial farmhouses of New Jersey.

The Old Stiles Homestead.

After the marriage of their son Joseph B. Stiles, Benjamin and Martha Stiles, with their youngest son, then unmarried, changed their residence to another house not far from, the farmhouse located on the public road opposite the toll-gate in what, in later years, was known as Maple Shade, N.J. Between the time of the death of Benjamin Stiles and the marriage of his youngest son, Benjamin J. Stiles, a period of nearly four years, Martha Stiles and her son occupied that house at the forks of the road in Maple Shade, but after Benjamin J. Stiles's marriage took place, Martha considered her daughter Mary's home at Lumberton as hers. Nevertheless she spent much time with her son whose wife was very congenial to her and quite a favorite.

Aunt Martha Stiles was partially fond of flowers, the old-fashioned varieties, phlox, hollyhocks, weigela, blooming shrubbery, and especially of roses, of which she once had dozens of varieties in her garden, and she could call them all by name This interesting incident was told to me by Anna W. Stiles, widow of Martha's youngest son. when Anna's son, T. Wilson Stiles, was very small, still wearing dresses, he, being also fond of flowers like his grandmother, one day gathered in his little dress, which he held up like an apron, all the unopened tulip and hyacinth buds that he could find in the garden, and, elated with his floral possession, presented them to his mother, asking her to "see his beautiful flowers." Anna reproved him for spoiling the future prospect of the flower beds, but Aunt Martha kindly said, "Don't scold him, he'll know better next year." Her life mission was infused with gentleness, and the memory of her which was left to later generations is one that is pleasant to the thought. Martha Stiles died in the home of Mary P. Haines at Lumberton, N.J., during the mid-winter of 1876, when nearly seventy-nine years of age. She and Benjamin were both buried in the Friends Burial Ground at Moorestown.

The following interesting reminiscence of Benjamin Stiles is related by his grandson, Jacob W. Stiles, of Moorestown, N.J.

"Moorestown, N. J.,
March 2nd, 1927. 
Benjamin and Martha Stiles owned a farm on the west (meaning the north) branch of the Pensauken Creek which they sold to Isaac Stiles, their son, June 30, 1857. I was born on this farm February 17, 1858. I remember well both Grandfather and Grandmother Stiles as they lived several years after this. Benjamin Stiles was a man weighing about 160 pounds, and was, perhaps, five feet and six inches tall, of a happy disposition; and his wife, Martha, was very fond of roses and flowers, raising and caring for many varieties when along in years. She spent many happy hours among her bushes and plants. Grandfather Stiles had a habit of calling horses "critters", and Isaac had two horses, one a sorrel and the other a bay, and Grandfather always liked the sorrel "critter" until one time he borrowed the sorrel "critter" to take Grandmother to visit their daughter Mary Haines near Lumberton. All went well until after crossing the bridge at Hainesport when the horse took fright at something by the roadside, shied the road, and upset the carriage, and threw them both out and left them by the side of the road and finished the journey alone at the home to which they were going. Benjamin and Martha were not hurt very much, and the horse being well known at the Haines farm, they were soon found and well taken care of. But Benjamin never did like "that sorrel critter" after that. J. W. Stiles."

The oldest son, Isaac-

Isaac Stiles, son of Benjamin and Martha (Matlack) Stiles, who was given his grandfather's name, was born in the old Stiles Homestead that had been in the possession of his father's family from generation to generation since colonial days. Isaac married Eleanor B. Wilkins, Dec. 7, 1842, and had eight children, all of whom grew to maturity but one daughter, Gertrude, who died in infancy.

In 1857 Isaac purchased of his father a farm on the Fork Landing Road, adjoining the Homestead farm in what is now (1928) called Maple Shade. To it he moved and passed the remainder of his life, all of which I was informed by his son Jacob was spent in the neighborhood of his birthplace. The farmhouse in which Isaac last lived is in a very dilapidated condition in 1928, as well as considerably altered from what it appeared in his time.

I was not acquainted with Isaac Stiles and his wife, but I have been told that in their early boyhood days Isaac and my father, Asa Matlack Jr., were very intimate and companionable. Of him his daughter Mary Eleanor Evans, says- "I remember my father as a jovial man. He was fond of hunting and killing game, and enjoyed playing games with children."

The middle son, Joseph-

Joseph B. Stiles was a farmer. At the time of his first marriage, his father and mother left the Stiles Homestead and farm in his charge and took up their residence in a house at the junction of the Fellowship Turnpike Road with the main road from Moorestown to Camden. The farm ultimately became Joseph's property. Lydia Burrough, Joseph's first wife, died four days after the birth of her daughter Anner, less than a year from the day of her marriage. The little baby was cared for by the grandparents, Benjamin and Martha Stiles, until Joseph's second marriage with Hannah B. Hollinshead, a woman who proved both a good wife and a kind mother to the step-daughter as well as to her own children, sharing her love and cheerfulness with all of them alike.

The old homestead of the Stiles Family that had passed from generation to generation from colonial times, was situated considerably back from the public road a couple of miles westward of Moorestown. I recollect one visit my father and mother made to Joseph and his family in that house while I was a schoolboy in the Friends' School at Fifteenth and Race Streets, Philadelphia, therefore occurring sometime between the years 1872 and 1877. I remember well walking from the railroad depot, at that time called "Stiles' Station," to the antique farmhouse near the North Branch of Pensauken Creek, where I met my parents and enjoyed the good supper, as all boys naturally do, which Hannah prepared for her guests. They were all strangers to me then, but they were not strangers afterwards, and I had the pleasure of being in their home many times to enjoy their cordial hospitality. Many traces of old fashion and much of decay showed plainly in the house and buildings, while their inconvenient retirement from the public road taken altogether, led Joseph and Hannah in the latter part of the seventies, to build a new house nearer the turnpike road and more in keeping with modern notions. Accordingly a handsome brick dwelling was erected on a prominent site near the railroad crossing and only a short distance from the public road.

In that house much of the remainder of Joseph's life was spent, and, though the debt he had contracted in the building of the dwelling was not liquidated in his lifetime, it was more than covered a few years later when his son Benjamin sold the farm in 1912 to an improvement association. There were a few years during which Joseph, Hannah, and his daughter Anner, lived apart from the family of his son Benjamin, during which time their home was in Maple Shade in a house that had been constructed out of the timbers of the barn in which Joseph's younger brother, Benjamin J. Stiles, had committed suicide. Joseph, however, returned to the brick house where he died Jan. 7, 1910. He was buried in Colestown Cemetery, close to his brother Isaac Stiles and other members of the family.

The Stiles Barn made into a House.

The youngest son, Benjamin J.-

During the winter of '51 or '52 William Dunn Rogers, now of Moorestown, N.J., taught school at Chester Brick School House. It was the first of my going to school. Benjamin J. Stiles attended school that winter also, he being one of the "oldsters." In those days corporal punishment was dealt out liberally for infraction of school rules. William's favorite plan of punishment was to require the culprit to stand erect, toeing a mark on the floor; then to bend over and touch the head of a small nail a few inches in front of his feet. As the pantaloons would tighten up and the coat tails slip forward, William would apply the hickory with considerable energy. Ben Stiles was a good-hearted good-natured fellow, full of fun, and had an unbounded capacity for blundering into mischief. William interviewed him every few days, and it was laughable in the extreme to see Ben watch the rod as he felt for the nail, and the marvelous celerity with which he assumed an upright position as the blow fell. Poor fellow! The fun-loving disposition wore away in after life, and without any assignable cause he found relief from the world's cares with his own hand.

(The above quote was written by Dr. Asa Matlack Stackhouse.)

Benjamin J. Stiles was a farmer, who, after his brother Joseph's marriage, lived with his parents in a house situated at the junction of the Fellowship and Moorestown Turnpike Roads. The "J" in his name was simply a letter for distinction, a sort of abbreviation for Junior, and he was almost habitually known as "Ben J" and called so. He was in his thirty-first year when he married Anna W. Wilson, younger than he by ten years, daughter of Thomas Wilson who lived a near neighbor to the Stiles family. He took his wife to his home where they lived for a little over four years, when suddenly he shocked and astonished his family and his friends by committing suicide by hanging himself in his barn.

I do not remember Ben J personally, but I recollect one of the circumstances attending his death, how, when he was buried in Colestown Cemetery, due precautions were taken to prevent his grave being robbed of his body. However, my sister, Mary T. Smith, does not call to mind any such circumstance, so I may be mistaken. I was but a boy at the time and may have heard some express an opinion which I understood as actual fact.

Ben J's widow, Anna W. Stiles, left the farm at Maple Shade, returning to her father's home, which, somewhere near that time in the seventies, was changed to another residence at Moorestown, N.J. In that house now numbered 301 West Main Street, she is living in 1928.

More than twenty years after Ben J's death the house in which he last lived was moved across the field to another site where it was partly remodeled and sold to one of the settlers of the newly planned village of Maple Shade. The barn was also moved a few rods further away and was reconstructed and converted into a double house, quite a nice looking and comfortable one, too, in which for a few years Joseph B. Stiles, his wife and unmarried daughter Anna lived.

I recall pleasantly how I used to frequently stop at the house in going homeward from the railroad station at Maple Shade after my day's work in Philadelphia where I was engaged in teaching school.

Ben, son of Joseph-

Benjamin Stiles, called "Ben" from his boyhood days to the time of his death, by his family and his friends, had his grandfather's name, and became the owner of the old Homestead of the Stiles Family where he, his father, and several generations of his family in the past, were born. In fact Ben was the last owner of the property bearing the name of Stiles, for he sold it to a land improvement company at Maple Shade during 1912, realizing considerable advantage by the transaction.

Hence the land that had been Stiles property from colonial days passed into the possession of strangers to the name and Ben and his family moved from the big brick residence his father had built and located on a farm which he purchased midway between Bordentown and Columbus in Burlington County, N. J. There the remaining years of his life were spent, and there he died after a long and painful illness, October 11, 1922, in his fifty-fourth year. He was buried in Colestown Cemetery.

Ben Stiles was a man who had many friends, and I know of no enemies. He was brusque in manner and enjoyed fun, and the nearest I can recall of criticism is that some of his acquaintances called him "noisy" in alluding to his loudness of voice and grossness of expression. But this characteristic was something of an inheritance from his mother's family, the Hollinsheads, who frequently were rather rough of speech. Anna Wilson Stiles related to me how, when she first came into the family of Stiles she was alarmed by the brusque character of the conversation of some of the individuals. She said that she could never forget the arguments that were always sure to arise when Isaac Stiles talked with Frank Hollinshead, a brother of Joseph B. Stiles's wife. At first she thought they were angry with each other, but, in the sequel, soon found it was manner only, yet, she could never learn to like the manner.

Previously to his removal to the northwestern part of the county, Ben served as a member of the Public School Board for Maple Shade where he made his presence materially good and valuable in looking particularly after the comfort and health of the teachers and pupils in the district school in his own neighborhood. After his death his widow sold the farm and retired to Mount Holly, where, in 1927, she lives in the same home with her daughter Elizabeth at No. 32 Ridgway Street.

Elizabeth, widow of Benjamin Stiles, married a second husband, Walter Eayres Strattan, Feb. 28, 1928. They lived in her home, No. 32 Ridgway Street, where she died Feb. 17, 1934. She was buried in Colestown Cemetery beside her first husband.

The Old Place of the Stiles gone-

Jan, 15, 1928. On this date I took a little walk down the long lane, now called Stiles Avenue, Maple Shade, to see if I could recognize any traces whatever of the ruins or the location of the old homestead of Benjamin and Martha Stiles. This antiquated dwelling had been destroyed by fire early in the beginning of the twentieth century. I do not remember the exact date.

There used to be an abrupt turn to the right in the lane near the house which was to the left of the turn. About sixteen years had passed since I last visited the spot and I found the lane, formerly a passage way between open fields, had changed to a village street with residences, some being very pretty and attractive homes, on either side. No trace whatever could I find of either the turn in the lane or the ruins of the wall which were there the last time I saw the place, not even so much as a depression that might mark where the cellar had been. Even the long stretch of picturesque meadow land sloping towards the winding Pensauken had lost its beauty, being over-run with a tangle of high dead weeds and piles of refuse cast away by the neighboring villagers. But, perhaps, the time being a mid-winter month when all nature appears silent and dead, may have given to or overcharged the rural scene with an undue melancholy which the blooming wild flowers of spring or the warm verdure of summer would have painted with more pleasing thoughts. There was a small building, quite unsightly, not a dwelling but a sort of office, that I presumed might possibly occupy the location of the Stiles Homestead, but I was not at all certain about it. I stayed only a very brief while and then retraced my way back to the public road passing the fine brick house built by Joseph B. Stiles. It, too, was much altered and has been converted into a factory bearing the name of the Pensauken Silk Mill. What changes take place in the passing of a few years! How old memories are hampered with and destroyed by "up to date" improvements.