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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Didja Know? Kinnelon History

From Cornie Hubner's series titled "Didja Know?" comes the following article titled History about Kinnelon and Smoke Rise, NJ.

No one has ever dared to question the historicity of the seventeenth Century Queen Anne grant that gave over 5,000 acres of what is now Kinnelon and a part of Butler to the Mead family. Equally unquestioned is Mr. F.S. Kinney's purchase of 2,400 acres of what is now part of Smoke Rise from Hubbard Stickle, that had been advertised in the March 1883 New York Tribune, until the discovery of a large scale unpublished map. Prepared in 1920 by Newell Harrison, a local surveyor, from County records and maps from the office of Rome and Lamscha, it shows the date of the purchase of 45 parcels, from 10 to 600 acres, from 1885 & 1920. As there is no record of a Stickle transaction, I must retract its mention in our May 1, 1987 column, trusting this will avoid the historical [hysterical] catastrophe it might initiate.

Hubbard Stickle was a descendant of an early settler who emigrated from Germany, a few years before the Revolution. By 1815 the family was among the great land owners with holdings that covered Rockaway Valley up to the border of Charlotteburg and included Split Rock. Most of the land was sold, so that in 1853 only 800 acres remained including Stickle Pond [Lake Kinnelon] that Hubbard had built to provide water for his ill fated iron forge, when purchased by Kinney, none of the property was owned by Stickle. Instead, the records show that the area that included the Pond had two owners, Benjamin F. Howell with 485, 208 and 63 acre plots [Book 11, Page 135] and Isaac Katz with 126, 51 and 25 acre plots [Book 11, Page 108] which were deeded to Kinney on March 12, 1885.

The map from which these data were taken, proves that contrary to previous accounts and belief, there never was a single tract of 2,400 acres. A random selection from the map would require the combination of the largest owners, such as Howell 755 acres, Katz 202, Ryerson 1,175 and one of the Dixon family tracts. Only the first two bear the March '85 recording dates and that doesn't add up to 2,400. Most of the balance of the 4,833 acres that made up the fiefdom was acquired by 1890 as owners disposed of their remote, craggy, non-productive property, for cash.

After over 100 years, the story of the original transaction, inconsequential as it is, cannot be dismissed, without searching for a plausible explanation. One such has Hubbard borrowing heavily for his iron forge using his land as collateral and going bankrupt when the unexpected move of the industry to the West, sounded the death knell for the small New Jersey operator. In desperate need of cash, put up the balance of his property, joined with the others and as an experienced salesman, turned dormant assets, into cash "as Realtor sans Commission." Equally as plausible is that the County records were wrong. "Whatever," as Archie would conclude - the sale triggered the movement of many isolate holdings by the grateful owners.

Among these was Martin J. Ryerson, a descendant of 1695 settlers and a progenitor of what today is the industrial tycoon. He was a member of the group that built the Hamburg Turnpike that ran from Acquanock [Passaic/Clifton] via Paterson and Bloomingdale for the daily coach trip to Sussex. [This is now Rte. 23 from where it joins it at Smith's Mill.] A major owner of the Ringwood mines he built the forge in Bloomingdale, Saw Mill, several stores, homes for his workers and operated a large farm with the last known slaves in the area. A member of the 1842 assembly, 1848 senate and a freeholder from '50 to '53 he is credited with having brought the railroad to Bloomingdale where he resided "in style." A story is told of his entertaining Horace Greeley with a ride in his coach drawn by four white donkeys raised on his farm.

Benjamin Howell was another prominent descendant of a 1776 Justice of Peace among the 45, who sold all or part of their land. From the smallest plot of 10 acres, isolated in a large tract, to sections of over 500 acres, they had been owned by ancestors of many still residing in the area. Among the family names were Decker, Noble, Kincaid, Richter, Miller, Federicks, Cutler, Jenkins, Blethina [must be listed as an intruder], five Dixons and Cobb.

In 1788 Cobb's grandfather Lemuel purchased 4,365 acres west of Smoke Rise [possibly including part of Green Pond] for 5 LBS per 100 acres or $0.25 per acre, on the Sheriff sale of a judgement against Lord Stirling. The 506 acre tower area was part of the Ryerson holdings bought November '85 [Book Q, Page 354] for $2.00 per acre. In 1952 on one of his infrequent visits, Warren the older son of Francis, Kinnelon's first Mayor, [it was said that he and his brother Morris were named after the Jersey Counties], was amazed to learn that lots in that area were being sold for $20,000. This tract with one of Cobb's pieces forms part of our Western border along which an extension of Echo Lake Road ran into Timberbrook Road and branched off on the bordering Split Rock road that ended at the Rockaway Valley Road near the Aircraft Radio plant. Farms were located in what is now the reservoir and along the one horse [engine] Wharton and Northern R.R. that wandered thru the Valley.

The main road from Butler to Boonton entered by the East Gate road to follow Robins Lane and exit near the Estates of Kinnelon development at the old South Gate. Ricker Road, running parallel to Condit Park Road, entered Club area at the end of what is now Cherry Tree Terrace, then Smoke Rise Road for access to the largest working farm of Henry D. Ricker. The Rickers raised cows and sheep for marketing. Their neighbors the Millers and Van Ordens along Brookvale and Cherry Tree Lane and the Welzels and Fredericks along Gravel and Green Hill Roads, operated smaller self-sustaining farms.

Title to property was acquired thru "proprietors" who "issued individual purchase warrants to locate land subject to the Indian right of possession" which, at least in New Jersey, was always obtained by purchasing from them. In 1695, thousands of acres, not covered by "royal grants" were bought from Onagepouck and Sajapogh, Sachems of the Minisinks for a variety of small hardware items, utensils and some dress goods.

The seventeenth Century Queen Anne Grant may never have been questioned because of the Eighteenth Century King George III grant, to the same Mead Family, many of whose descendants are still prominent area residents.



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