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:
He 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.
Shortly 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.
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.