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)
Elijah 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.
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.
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)
Aaron 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.
Aaron 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 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.
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).
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.