COLLVER (Culver), JABEZ, settler and Presbyterian minister; b. 19 June 1731 in Groton, Conn., second son of John Collver and Freelove Lamb; m. Anna – and they had 13 children; d. 29 Dec. 1818 in Windham Township, Upper Canada.
Jabez Collver’s ancestors settled in Connecticut in the 17th century. Many of them became Rogerenes, a religious sect persecuted by the Connecticut colonists; his grandfather therefore took his entire family to New Jersey shortly after Jabez Collver’s birth. There his father, a shoemaker, died in 1733. The family settled near Schooley’s Mountain, Morris County, where Jabez presumably received his scant education. He experienced “spiritual manifestations” and in 1760 was ordained “according to the Cambridge Presbyterian order,” which combined elements of the Congregational and Presbyterian doctrines. He moved north to Sussex County, buying land there in 1774, and was pastor of the Beemer (Congregational) Meeting-House at Wantage for many years.
Some sources state that Collver served as a chaplain in the Continental Army during the American revolution, but in 1794 he claimed that he had been imprisoned and had lost considerable property because of his loyalty, and in 1798 he petitioned, though unsuccessfully, for loyalist status. During or before 1788 he moved to Chemung Township, N.Y., where he and his family acquired 1,200 acres. He was the first resident minister in the area, but “did not preach much,” spending most of his time farming and speculating in land. He conveyed all his property to his sons in 1791, and moved down the Susquehanna River to Wysox, Pa.
In 1792, encouraged by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe’s proclamation of 7 February “to such as are desirous to settle” in Upper Canada, Collver came to the province and received “such private encouragement” from Simcoe “in person” that he “ventured to remove . . . into the Province.” In the spring of 1794 Collver, aged 62, immigrated with his wife, some of his family, and his livestock. Eventually seven sons, one daughter, and a number of grandchildren and cousins came to Upper Canada. Collver petitioned for land on 11 June 1794 and three days later received a grant of 1,000 acres, which he patented on 12 March 1797. Most of the land was in Windham Township, Norfolk County, where he lived; his relatives were also given land, much of it in the same county. In his petition he stressed his loyalty, the size of his family, and his meeting with Simcoe, but did not mention his ordination.
There was apparently some doubt about his status as a minister. The Marriage Act of 1798 permitted ministers “of the Church of Scotland, or Lutherans, or Calvinists” to perform marriages if they were licensed by the Court of Quarter Sessions for their district [see Elijah Bentley]. When Collver applied for his licence on 12 April 1800, his credentials were at first accepted, but at the next session, on 8 July, Chairman Samuel Ryerse protested and the application was refused. Collver brought forward seven members of his congregation, including three sons and a cousin, but was again refused. He was finally licensed on 13 March 1804. He had, however, been performing marriages illegally since at least 1795.
For almost 25 years Collver worked as a farmer and minister in Norfolk County. He was the second resident Presbyterian minister in Upper Canada and throughout his ministry the only one living west of the Niagara peninsula. He was a typical backwoods preacher, visiting the isolated clearings in a home-made cart. He did not attend the first meeting of the Presbytery of the Canadas in 1818, probably because of age and distance, but possibly because his lack of “academical education” did not merit an invitation. Collver was also a typical immigrant of the Simcoe period, a so-called late loyalist. He spent his entire life along the fringe of settlement in America, moving often in search of land.
In his old age Collver wrote a lengthy manuscript account of his religious experiences; by 1906 it was no longer extant. After the death of his son Nathan in 1792 he was responsible for publishing A very remarkable account of the vision of Nathan Culver, which went into many editions.
AO, RG 1, A-I-6: 609–10, 2223–24. Donly Museum, Norfolk Hist. Soc. coll., Thomas Welch papers, 1013–14; Miscellaneous papers, 4806–9. MTL, D. W. Smith papers. PAC, RG 1, L3, 89: C1/12. [Nathan Culver], A very remarkable account of the vision of Nathan Culver, late of Newtown (New-York) . . . (Windsor, Vt., 1793; 5th ed., Boston, 1795; Portsmouth, N.H., 1796), repr. under title The remarkable vision of Nathan Collver . . . (Cobourg, [Ont.], 1846). H. S. McCollum, “Some old Presbyterian documents,” Canada Presbyterian (Toronto), 7 Feb. 1879: 226–27. “Minutes of the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the London District . . . ,” AO Report, 1933. [Thomas Proctor], “Narrative of the journey of Col. Thomas Proctor, to the Indians of the north-west, 1791,” Pennsylvania archives . . . , ed. Samuel Hazard et al. (9 ser. in 119 vols., Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., 1852–1935), 2nd ser., 4: 470. U.C., Statutes, 1798, c.4. “U.C. land book D,” AO Report, 1931: 174. Sources in Collver-Culver genealogy, ed. William Yeager (Simcoe, 1976). T. F. Chambers, The early Germans of New Jersey: their history, churches and genealogies ([Dover, N.J., 1895]; repr. Baltimore, Md., 1969), 297–99. W. J. Dey, “An historical sketch of St. Paul’s Church, Simcoe, 1793–1906,” W. J. Dey and Elsie Little, St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Simcoe, Ontario, 160th anniversary, 1793–1953 ([Simcoe?, 1953]): 1–21. William Gregg, History of the Presbyterian Church in the dominion of Canada . . . (Toronto, 1885; 2nd ed., 1905). History of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey, with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers, comp. J. P. Snell et al. (Philadelphia, 1881), 297. E. A. Owen, Pioneer sketches of Long Point settlement . . . (Toronto, 1898; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972). H. B. Peirce and D. H. Hurd, History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins and Schuyler counties, New York; with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (Philadelphia, 1879), 238. W. H. Wood, “Additions and corrections to the Colver-Culver genealogy,” ed. D. L. Jacobus, American Genealogist (New Haven, Conn.), 31 (1955): 129–54.