John Van Syckel (1786-1864)

Rarely do I find a will which so clearly outlines family ties for two generations!  And details the location of the family graveyard on the homestead! This week’s #52ancestors find is a real treasure.

John Van Syckel was born 12 November 1786 in Hunterdon County, NJ. He was the oldest son of Aaron Van Syckel and Catharine Opdyke Van Syckel. On 20 October 1808, he married Rachel Larison (1791-1851). They had four children: Catharine Van Syckel (1809-1890), Keziah Van Syckel (1811-1884), Elijah Van Syckel (1814-1891), and Lucinda Van Syckel (1816-1895).

VanSyckelsCorners
from the Library of Congress: Cornell and Van Derveer, 1851.

He was a farmer with extensive land holdings in and around Bethlehem township. Three of his children settled nearby, and the reason for this appears to be that he loaned them the use of the farms on which they lived.

John Van Syckel died on 21 April 1864 in Hunterdon County, N.J. and is buried in Bethlehem Baptist Cemetery in Pattenburg. His will (dated 1859, with codicils in 1864) is one of the best family tree outlines I have yet to see, showing once again that will records have many uses.

The will starts with the usual legal establishment of who the executors are: “Bennet Van Syckel and Joseph Van Syckel, sons of my brother Aaron.” The will goes on to distribute his land holdings, each time identifying the person and how they are related to him.  This is exceptionally helpful as the names are generously repeated through each sibling line: John Van Syckel my grandson, my son Elijah Van Syckel, my daughter Catharine wife of Adrian Kinney, my daughter Keziah Warn, my son in law Stephen Warn, my  daughter Lucinda wife of Peter S Sigler, my grandchild Hannah Phillips daughter of my daughter Keziah Warn, my grandson John Van Syckel, son of my son Elijah Van Syckel, John V Kinney and H W Kinney children of my son in law Adrian Kinney, Rachel Van Syckel and James Van Syckel children of my son Elijah, Rachel Sigler daughter of my daughter Lucinda, John V Sigler, son of my daughter Lucinda, and Phineas Van Syckel son of my son Elijah.

And then the piece de resistance: “I hereby except and reserve from that portion of my homestead farm devised to my son Elijah’s use all that grave yard in the orchard on said farm wherein my wife Rachel is buried…” Although now many of the family, including Rachel Larison Van Syckel, are buried in the Baptist Cemetery in Pattenburg, clearly there may have been a grave removal project at some time.

VanSyckel_John_HunterdonWill_p42-43_graveyard
John Van Syckel Will, Hunterdon County, 1859, p. 43

A codicil dated 19 March 1864, states that Adrian Kinney has departed this life. Yet another clue to follow up.

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.