Chester Van Syckel

This week in #52Ancestors I am writing about Chester Van Syckel, a well educated and well connected attorney of Flemington, New Jersey.  I fear he may not have been well liked but I hesitate to cast aspersions on my great, great grandfather without actual data to back it up.

Chester Van Syckel was born on 6 June 1838 at Van Syckel’s Corners, a tiny burg in Union township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey.   He was the tenth child of Aaron (Jr., 1793-1874) and Mary Bird (1799-1863) Van Syckel.   An early letter from Chester to his brother Sylvester talks a bit about what life in Van Syckel’s Corners was like:

Lafayette College Pardee HallHe appears to have been sent away to school as a teen, first to Dr. John Vandeveer’s school and then to Lafayette College, both in Easton, Pennsylvania.  A bit of map-stalking will show that Easton is due west of Bethlehem, NJ, where the family was located in the 1850 Census.  Chester also benefited from having a famous and well placed brother: Bennett Van Syckel studied law at Princeton University, graduating in 1846 and he went on to serve as a justice on the NJ Supreme Court from 1869 to 1904.  This may have been what made it possible for Chester Van Syckel to attend Princeton, where he earned a Bachelors degree in 1862.

F._Childs_Lithograph_ca._1860_AC177_Box_1Shortly after graduation, Chester was admitted to the bar as an attorney and five years later in 1867 he was admitted as Counsellor at law.

For two years he was in business with his
brother Bennett, and afterwards was a member of the successive law firms of Bird, Voorhees & Van Syckel and Voorhees & Van Syckel, later practicing alone. He was a special Master in Chancery and a Commissioner of the Supreme Court. His legal opinions were very highly esteemed.  His obituary in the New Jersey Law Journal also mentions his active participation in affairs in Flemington, serving on the village board of trustees.

Chester married Mary Jane (Jane) Mount on 19 December 1865 in Hightstown, New Jersey.  The Mount family was an established Mercer County family but I have no information on how they met or courted.  Possibly, Chester was working for a client or on a case in the area.

Chester and Mary Jane Van Syckel had four children:

  • Mary Van Syckel (1867-1953)
  • Anne Van Syckel (1870-1938)
  • Emmet Van Syckel (1873-1955)
  • Jean “Jennie” Van Syckel (1875-1952)

Chester had settled in Flemington by 1860 and remained there after marriage to raise his family.  In December 1906, he traveled to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for an operation and never recovered his health.  He died on 3 March 1907 and is buried in the family plot in Prospect Hill Cemetery.

VanSyckel_Chester_Gravemarker_1907

You may very well wonder why I might think that such a well respected man might not have been well liked.  There is a family story, one I am not sure I can corroborate with evidence, that makes me think he may have fit the bill of the late Victorian patriarch.  I have been told that one of his daughters tried to harm him at the dining room table one day as a result of her disappointment over a suitor her father turned away.  Other than this story, I have only the census record showing her stay in the state mental hospital in Trenton.  Whatever event put her there happened after 1895 (she is still at home in the 1895 NJ census) and before 1900 when she is in Trenton.  I would like to know more, if only to address the family memory.

Abraham VanWagnen Tompkins

Tompkins_AbrahamVW_portraitThis week in #52ancestors, I successfully resolved the questionable legitimacy of Samuel D. Tompkins by finding the correct marriage date of his parents, Abraham Van Wagnen and Caroline Sleght Brown Tompkins.

Abraham Van Wagnen Tompkins was born on 24 December 1816 in Dutchess County, New York to Michael and Rachel Schryver Tompkins.  I know very little of his early life and schooling.

On 21 February 1838, he married Caroline Sleght Brown (1818-1878), the daughter of John Dusenbury (1788-1875) and Mary Sleght (1785-1856) Brown.  It pays to keep asking the same question of different types of documents: I was able to more accurately pinpoint this marriage date which conflicts by a year and a day with the Velie family bible.  The Poughkeepsie Eagle printed a marriage notice for Abraham and Caroline on 9 March 1838 which made a huge difference in the legitimacy of their first child!

They went on to have nine children in total:

  • Samuel Dusenbury Tompkins (1838-1926)
  • John A. Tompkins (1841-)
  • Jane Ann (Jennie) (1844-1927)
  • Jacob M. (1846-1908?)
  • George Edward (1848-1869)
  • Frederick H. (1850-1897)
  • Mary Haviland (1852-1855)
  • Eugene (1855-1927)
  • James Lennard (1858-1944)

Abraham was a farmer.  Our branch of the family has very little documentation on him and I know of no object that was owned by him in the family holdings.  I did find him in the 1850 Agricultural census (Dutchess County, NY, 19 August 1850) which shows that he owned 100 acres of improved land and 27 acres unimproved.  The cash value of the farm was $7000, with an additional $300 worth of farm equipment.  He owned an unsurprising mixture of livestock and he was growing rye, corn, oats, potatoes, buckwheat and hay.  His dairy herd produced 400 lbs of butter, which was at the low end compared to other farmers in the area.

NY-Dutchess-County-New-York-1897-Map-Rand-McNally-Poughkeepsie
1897 Dutchess County atlas

In the 1860 federal census, Abraham had $10,000 worth of real estate and $1300 in property, which could show an improvement in his circumstances.  His eight surviving children are living in the household and they employ a woman named Mary Purdy, an African American domestic servant.  Also living in the house is a Catharine Sleight, aged 66, but I am not sure of her relationship to Caroline.  She is possibly an aunt, as her mother had a sister named Catharine.

Abraham died 7 January 1869, which is too early to get included in the 1870 mortality schedule.  It would have been nice to know who was living where at that point.  I await with bated breath the digitization of the Guardianship records for Dutchess County for 1869-1870, as these may answer some questions. As nearly as I can piece together, the children are scattered among the family, with one going here and another going there.  That is a puzzle for another day.

Tompkins_AbrahamVW_gravemarkerAbraham was buried 10 January 1869 at Freedom Plains Cemetery.  Caroline Brown Tompkins appears in the 1870 census to reside in the state asylum in Oneida and is still there in 1875.  She dies 1878 and is buried beside her husband.

Thomas Hiram Mount

This week in #52ancestors I got to explore guardianship records when an ancestor died intestate leaving minor children.  Thomas Hiram Mount was born on 11 April 1812 in East Windsor, Mercer County, NJ.  He was one of four children of Hiram (1786-1847) and Margaret Allen (1790-1865) Mount.

Mount_Thomas_H_house_

He lived in a house purchased by his father in 1834 (online information incorrectly names his father as Ejirain) on One Mile Road in East Windsor where he brought his wife Catherine Fisher when he married her 14 January 1835.  She was known as Kate.  They had twelve children, nine of whom survived them:

  • Rebecca Ely Mount (1836-1898)
  • Mary Elizabeth Mount (1838-1849)
  • Margaret A. Mount (1840-1900)
  • John Mount (1842-1871)
  • Mary Jane Mount (1844-1917)
  • Hiram Mount (1846-1920)
  • William Mount (1848-1923)
  • Addison Mount (1850-1851)
  • Susan Matilda Mount (1852-1918)
  • Thomas Addison Mount (1855-1935)
  • Catharine Fisher Mount (1859-1929)
  • George C. Mount (1861-1911)

Thomas operated a brickyard and kiln, Thomas H. Mount and Company, at “Buzzard’s Point,” the intersection of Dutch Neck Road and Stockton Street.

On the last Census taken before Thomas’s death, the household consisted of Thomas and Catharine, son Hiram (age 23), son William (age 21), son Addison (age 15), daughter Matilda (age 17), daughter Catharine (age 11), and son George (age 8).  There are also two female servants, Anna Dutchess and Dina Laning.

Kate Fisher died on 9 July 1872 and is buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hightstown, New Jersey.  When Thomas died shortly thereafter (8 September 1876), he did not leave a will.  His son Hiram returned to New Jersey from Ohio and with his sister Rebecca E. Applegate and brother in law Vincent Van Nest, applied for letters of administration.  There are a few confusing pieces here as various documents seem to mix the identify of Thomas’s sister Rebecca with that of his daughter Rebecca.  Rebecca Mount (1814-1892) married and Abijah Ely and then married George Cox.  Thomas named his daughter Rebecca Ely Mount, after his sister.  That Rebecca married Enoch Applegate.  Both seem to be entered into various records as Rebecca Ely Mount, which is most confusing.

Mount_Thomas_H_Inventory_1876_BookF_p392-3_crop

Hiram requests a complete inventory of his father’s farm and holdings.  One intriguing bit is the “heap of mail” at the depot, making it sound as though no one made it into town to pick up the mail for some time before Thomas’s death. This is entirely possible as he died of a fever and the household may have been focused on nursing him.

Mount_ThomasH_death_1876

Although there is nothing in the estate record to point to a guardianship, there were two minor children:

  • Catharine Fisher Mount. She is assigned to Rebecca Mount Cox in the guardianship record but by 1880 is living with Rebecca Ely Mount, married to Enoch Applegate
  • George C. Mount.  His guardian of record is Hiram Mount, and he goes to live in Bethel Township, Miami County, Ohio with Hiram and Lucy Chamberlain Mount.

Thomas Hiram Mount buried next to his wife at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hightstown, NJ.  Three of his children appear to have moved west to Ohio (Hiram, Thomas Addison and George), the remainder stayed closer to home, most dying in Mercer County.