Apparently my grandfather was a genius at photographing children. In both of these photographs you see the joy in each person for the other. #52ancestors #52familyphotographs
Jean Van Syckel was born on 28 July 1875, probably in Flemington, New Jersey, to Chester and Mary Jane Mount Van Syckel. She was the youngest of their four children and the Flemington, She never married but the Flemington, Jersey City and Detroit, Michigan newspapers tracked her visits with her brother and sister. Louise Tompkins tells stories about the house and garden at 182 S. Main St. where she “vacationed” as a child. Mary and Jean kept a large garden and small orchard in the back yard of that house. Mary succumbed to dementia on Christmas day in 1952.
This week of #52ancestors I want to give a face to a woman around whom there are many stories and #52familyphotographs gives me that opportunity.
Mary Van Syckel was born on 1 February 1867 to Chester and Mary Jane Mount Van Syckel. The family story says that she fell in love with a man whom her father would not allow her to marry. He then married her best friend (the height of perfidy) and she she attempted to stab her father to death. She does appear to have had a mental break, as in 1900 she is at the state hospital in Trenton, NJ. Her hospital records are very sad and bewildering as the staff describe her as quite insane (babbling, harming herself and them, unable to function in anyway) until one day her father comes to talk to her. After the visit she gets dressed and comes down to the dining room for mealtime and proceeds to act quite restored to her senses. Her parents come for her and the hospital staff agree to send her home. An astonishing recovery. I wonder what he said.
Mary was artistic and is rumored to have attended the Arts Student League in New York. Still working on documenting that. But she did make things. My cousin Susie grew up in a house where the rag rugs in the bathrooms were made by Mary. And my Aunt Louise tells stories about the way Mary and her sister put up all sorts of fruit and vegetables from their garden in Flemington, NJ.
Mary lived her entire life (minus the brief stay in Trenton) in Flemington, NJ. She died on 18 January 1953 at a nursing home in Chatham and is buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery up at the top of the hill in Flemington.
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:
Courtesy the Hunterdon County Historical Society
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.
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.
George 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.
George 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.