History of the Surrogate
The term “Surrogate” means one who takes the place of another. The Surrogate in each New Jersey County is actually taking the place of the governor, who in 1710 received from the Archbishop of London the authority as the Archbishop’s “Ordinary” or Surrogate General to probate wills, issue marriage licenses and perform those functions which at that time were in the province of the Church.
The British Governor of the colony of New Jersey had the responsibility for probating all wills and establishing the administration of all estates in the colony. In 1683 and 1698, statutes were enacted which required wills and letters of administration to be entered in the colony’s public register.
By the year 1693, the Governor of the colony of New Jersey had appointed the first “Surrogate” for East New Jersey as the Governor’s appointed deputy. In 1713, wills were required to be proved and entered in one book of records and registered. The Morris County Surrogate’s Office currently stores and maintains wills dating back to 1804.
When East and West New Jersey were combined in 1720, the Governor appointed the first Surrogate covering the entire colony of New Jersey. From 1720 through 1767, the colony was serviced by a number of Deputy Surrogates appointed by the Surrogate.
That power, eventually distributed by the governor, then the governor of the Crown Colony of New Jersey, and subsequently the Governor of the State of New Jersey to his Surrogates, was recognized by subsequent New Jersey Legislatures in statues which codified the powers and duties of the Surrogates, and by the Constitutions which fixed their terms.
In 1822, when the laws in New Jersey were amended, the state legislature was granted the power to appoint the County Surrogate. However, in 1844, the New Jersey Constitution prescribed that the Surrogate was to be an elected, independent constitutional officer in the county, no longer regarded as deputy of the Governor or the appointee of the legislature. The Constitution of 1844 provided that the Surrogate was to be elected for a five-year term by the people of that county. And so, for over 170 years, the people of Morris County have elected their own County Surrogate.
Surrogates of Morris County
- Uzal Ogden, 1746 - 1752
- Jerimiah C. Russell, 1753 - 1767
- Richard Kemble, 1768 - C. 1781
- Abraham Ogden, 1768 – C.1781
- Joseph Lewis, C. 1781 - 1785
- Jabez Campfield, 1785 - 1803
- John McCarter, 1803 - 1807
- David Thompson, 1807 - 1822
- David Thompson, Jr., 1822 - 1826
- James C. Canfield, 1826
- Jacob Wilson, 1827 – 1832
- William N. Wood, 1833 – 1847
- Jeremiah M. DeCamp, 1847 – 1852
- Frederick Dellicker, 1852 - 1861
- E. Willis, 1872 - 1877
- Charles A. Gillen, 1877 - 1882
- William H. McDavit, 1883 - 1888
- David S. Crater, 1888 - 1893
- George Pierson, 1895 - 1898
- David Young, 1898 – 1913
- Augustus H. Bartley, 1913 - 1919
- William H. Thompson, 1919 - 1946
- Harry R. Shupe, 1947 - 1951
- Frank P. Rowe, 1952 - 1958
- H. Lloyd Williams, 1958 - 1964
- R. Sar Mischiara, 1965 - 1975
- James V. Costanzo, 1976 - 1980
- Eugene F. Doyle, 1981 - 1993
- John Pecoraro, 1994 – 2019
- Heather J. Darling, 2020 – Present