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.

George Grant Tennant and Anne Van Syckel

This week in #52Ancestors I took the opportunity to put several people into context, as George Grant Tennant is one of the few Tennant children who lived to adulthood.

AVTAlbum8_GeorgeGTennantGeorge Grant Tennant was the son of Thomas and Hannah Cardiff Tennant, born 1 Feb 1869 in Jersey City.  He was baptized at St. Mark’s Chapel, Jersey City.  George was educated in the public schools, namely Public School No. 1 and later the High School, from which he graduated in 1888.  He graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1891 and was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1892 as an attorney and as a counselor in 1895.  He went into practice with John W. Queen.

Tennant_McBurney_wedding_Jersey_Journal_1893-06-02_3George Tennant married Zora McBurney (1863 or 1869-1895) on 1 June 1893.  She died shortly after the birth of their son Donald McBurney Tennant (5 June 1895-22 January 1896).  Both mother and child are buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

George married again on 12 April 1898 in Jersey City to Anne Van Syckel daughter of Chester and Mary Jane Mount Van Syckel.  Anne Van Syckel was born 23 Aug 1870 in Flemington, New Jersey and baptized in 1883 at Flemington Baptist Church.  She attended Vassar College and graduated in 1893.  We have wonderful photographs of her playing a part in a Greek play, which I have now learned was Antigone.

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Front row: Anne VS Tennant, Anne VS Tompkins, George G. Tennant, Louise Tompkins, Mary TOmpkins is the little girl on the right, Harold and Katharine Tompkins are back row, second and third from the right.

 

VanSyckel_Anne_VassarPlay_The_Inter_Ocean_Sun__May_28__1893_George and Anne Tennant had three children: Katharine Vansyckel Tennant (1899-1972), George Grant Tennant Jr. (1900-1982), and Jean Cardiff Tennant (1905-1990).

George Tennant was a member of the New Jersey House of Assembly from 1900 to 1902.  His candidate bio in the Jersey Journal in 1899 stated that he was one of the most popular young Democrats in the Ninth Ward.  At that time he attended the First Presbyterian Church, where he taught Sunday School.  A year later, when he ran again, the paper was a little less supportive, as an article appearing in the Jersey Journal of 1 November 1900 spent two columns shredding Tennant and everything he had stated in print that year.  He served as the president of the Jersey City Board of Education from 1908 to 1913.

Tennant was a friend of Jersey City Mayor H. Otto Wittpenn and assisted in the nomination of Woodrow Wilson for President in 1912.  In 1913, George Tennant was appointed a Common Pleas judge by Governor James F. Fielder, serving from 1913 to 1918.  Towards the end of his lift he became a member of the Old Bergen Reformed Church and was active in the Everyman’s Bible Class there.  He was also a 32nd degree Mason and a member of the Scottish Rite.

Anne Tennant was active in the Jersey City College Club and was a member of the Odd Volumes Club, a sort of social book club to which many of the Tompkins women also belonged.  George and Anne vacationed in Dorset, Vermont.

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Dorset, VT

Anne died at home (613 Bergen Ave.) on 9 March 1938 and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  George died at Lea Haven, a nursing home in Madison, NJ while recovering from an appendectomy on 3 February 1948 and is also buried in Green-Wood.

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Katharine T. Tompkins and Anne VS Tennant

Elijah Van Syckel

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Kennedy watercolor of 2nd and Market Sts. from the collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

This week in #52Ancestors I follow the trail of Elijah Van Syckel from Hunterdon County, New Jersey to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Elijah Van Syckel was the second child of Aaron (1764-1838) and Catharine Opdyke (1762-1851) Van Syckel.  The majority of his siblings stay in the Hunterdon County area but by the time Elijah turns thirty he is in Philadelphia with an established grocery on N. 2nd St. He married Sarah Belinda Smith (1799-1871) of Doylestown on 22 January 1818.  They had nine children:

  • Amanda G. Van Syckel (1818-1902)
  • Robert S. Van Syckel (1820-1855)
  • Mary S. Van Syckel (1822-1892)
  • James Janeway Van Syckel (1824-1858)
  • Emmett Armstrong Van Syckel (1827-1864)
  • Sarah Van Syckel (1829-1897)
  • Catherine Opdyke Van Syckel (1833-1839)
  • Alfred Van Syckel (1838-1839)
  • Helen Van Syckel (1841-1891)

VanSyckel_Elijah_Retirement_1849Elijah appears to have established his grocery and then expanded it to sell liquor.  He then gave up the grocery business and solely sold wine and liquor.  He appears in city directories and merchant listings fairly continuously from 1818 until 1850.  During the 1830’s he was in business with John Garrison but in 1835 this is dissolved and Elijah continues on alone, eventually adding his sons to the concern.  One curious discovery: in 1824, Elijah was granted relief from the US government because three hundred and fifty-two cases of sugar were destroyed in a fire in 1822, upon which $4217 in duties were due.   Elijah apparently appealed for aid in paying the duties as the sugar had not been insured.

Van Syckel_Elijah_politics_The_National_Gazette_Tue__Oct_9__1827_He also appears to have been active in local politics as he has an unsuccessful bid for election to the Common Council in Philadelphia in 1827.  In 1839 he  is appointed to a committee to examine and report on the state of the Schuylkill Bank.

Elijah retired in 1849 and left the business to his sons.  Several sources noted that the business was worth close to one million dollars at that time.

Elijah Van Syckel died on 11 February 1855 and was buried four days later in Laurel Hill Cemetery.VanSyckel_burials_LaurelHillCemetery_crop

Aaron Van Syckel

This week in #52ancestors I travel back six generations, which I am incredibly lucky to be able to identify, to Aaron Van Syckel, seventh son of Reinier Van Syckel.  Again this is one of my Dutch ancestors but this line settled in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.
Aaron Van Syckel was born on 8 July 1764 to Reinier (1723-1803) and Maake “Mercy Longstreet” Langstraat (d. 1815) Van Syckel.  Aaron’s generation appears to have been the one that started transitioning from the original “Van Sickelen” to the current “Van Syckel.”  Of course, there are many variations currently, Van Sickel, Van Sickle, Vansickle, etc., but this branch seems to have settled on the “yckel” spelling.
Aaron married Catharine Opducke or Opdyke (1762-1851) in 1785 and the couple had eight children:
  • John Van Syckel (1786-1864)
  • Elijah Van Syckel (1788-1855)
  • Daniel Van Syckel (1790-1861)
  • Aaron Van Syckel (1793-1874)
  • Mercy Van Syckel (1796-1850)
  • William Van Syckel (1798-1859)
  • Alice Van Syckel (1803-1871)
  • Fanny Van Syckel (1805-1884)
van-syckels-tavern2-1Aaron Van Syckel inherited a sizable estate from his father totaling 240 acres, which he built into quite an empire.  In 1800, he purchased a tavern owned by David Reynolds in Bethlehem township, which he made his home.  There was also a store nearby which he ran with his son Aaron Jr. as well as a post office.  The tavern is listed on both state and National Historic Registers and I remember as a child going to see the buildings at Van Syckel’s corner.
Aaron Van Syckel was active in local political affairs.  The History of Hunterdon County notes that in addition to serving as a presidential elector in 1821, he was also elected to the General Assembly (1808-1814) and stood as Sheriff on several occasions (1803 and 1835).  On 11 November 1803, as sheriff he was responsible for carrying out the execution by hanging of Brom, an African American slave accused of murdering another slave.
Bethlehem Presbyterian Church markerAaron Van Syckel was a member of the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church and helped that congregation erect a stone church in 1830.  It is no longer standing but there is a marker noting the construction and, of course, the cemetery is still there.
Aaron Van Syckel died on 28 November 1838, and is buried in the cemetery at Bethlehem.  His will gives a clue as to the extensive holdings he acquired over his life.

Emmet Van Syckel

VanSyckel_Emmet_grave_ProspectHillCemeteryEmmet Van Syckel was my very first lesson in “never assume people stay in one place.”  Emmet was the third of four children of Chester (1838-1907) and Mary Jane Mount (1844-1917) Van Syckel and the only boy.  His father was a prominent Flemington, NJ lawyer and he is mentioned in his father’s obituary in the New Jersey Law Journal (v. 30, 1907): “Emmet, who is engaged in the general merchandise business in the State of Washington.”
Emmet lead me a merry chase because he did not remove from New Jersey to Washington, nothing so simple.  Emmet was born 1 June 1873 in Flemington and appears with the family in 1880.  In 1887 he is baptized at the Flemington Baptist Church.  In 1900, he is nowhere to be found in New Jersey.  Luckily, he is not a Smith.  After much searching, I ran him to ground in Diamondville, Uinta County, Wyoming, where he is employed as a clerk in a clothing store.  I then found a newspaper article from October 1903 that said he had recently come from Pueblo, Colorado to work for the Washoe Company of Montana.  However, on 3 May 1906, he accepts the position as postmaster of Finley, Benton County, Washington and he holds this position through 13 January 1908.  I next found him in Idaho, where he is employed as a general merchandise salesman at a store in Buhl, in Twin Falls County.

I know he goes back to visit his family in the east because the Flemington newspapers also cover his comings and goings from 1903 to 1916.

Emmet next appears in Detroit, Michigan where he fills out a draft card on 12 September 1918 and appears in the census.  And here he stays for at least twenty years, so the Census tells me. His sister Mary Van Syckel visits him in Detroit in 1925, where according to city directories, he is running a grocery store.
Louise Tompkins remembers that she and her sisters received a small legacy from him when he died, but she was not sure where he was living at the time.  I eventually tracked him down to Tampa, Florida and wonder if this is where he retired.

The little family of five is buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Flemington with a small marker for each person.  The family name marker is not so small and sedate and appears to have been placed long after Chester died in 1907.

Chester Van Syckel Dilley

This week my #52Ancestors post takes me deep into a side line of the Van Syckel family.  The Van Syckels test my genealogical mettle every time I try to organize them and they have taught me more about not following a straight line of succession than any other group.

In trying to get a handle on my great great grandfather Chester Van Syckel, I ended up researching all of his siblings, as many seemed to name a child after him.  Interestingly enough, he seems to have been a bit of a tartar and so this “honor” fascinates me.  This brings me to Chester Van Syckel Dilley.  Chester was the only child of Samuel (1827-1852) and Mercy Van Syckel Dilley (1820-1875). He was born on 25 March 1847, and raised in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.  On 20 September 1873, he married Anna Besson Thatcher (1845-1925) and they proceeded to have five children: Mary Chester Dilley (1874-1946), Sylvester Van Syckel Dilley (1876-1950), Robert Thatcher Dilley (1877-1958), Samuel C. Dilley (1879-1880) and Joseph V. Dilley (1881-1933).

Dilley_ChesterV_obituary_The_Courier_News_Sat__Mar_29__1913_Chester appears to have suffered a heart attack on 26 March 1913 and died at home.  He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Clinton.  There is no will, and he was a relatively young man.  In 1915, the New Jersey state census puts his widow Anna living with her daughter’s family in North Readington.  Later this family will move to Elizabeth and Anna goes with them.  It is possible that the farm was sold, as the sons do not appear to have followed their father’s occupation.

Happy Birthday, Chester Van Syckel Dilley!

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