Saturday, January 17, 2009

Didja Know? "Kinnelon" Estate of Francis S. Kinney - Part I

Continuing with Cornie Hubner's Didja Know? series, here follows his article about the "Kinnelon" Estate of Francis S. Kinney Part I which relates to his house and property in what is now Smoke Rise in Kinnelon, NJ. [Note "?" are mine when I couldn't locate a resource online to explain the reference.]

In 1883, Francis S. Kinney became intrigued by an ad in the Real Estate section of The New York Tribune, for 2,400 acres of pristine Jersey forest and lakeland, little realizing the effect it would have on the next forty years of his life. He lost no time taking the N.Y.S.&W. to the end of the line at Bloomingdale, hiring a horse and carriage, and with a guide, reaching the Hubbard Stickle acreage in what was then Meadtown, Pequannock Township, which he bought immediately. Piece by piece he increased his holdings until the many various sized parcels of farm and forest increased the Estate to 5,000 acres - naming it "Kinnelon."

One of the first buys was the acreage around Kitty Ann Mountain, a remote craggy, unproductive forest for which he paid $2.00 per acre. The last 126 acres, the working farm of Henry Ricker, in 1901, [he obtained] for the top price of $25.00 per acre. All in all, one might arrive at an average of less than $10.000 per acre, or a maximum of $50,000 for the entire Estate - a princely fortune when the average household was supported on less than $500 per year.

Because of limitations, the April 1st "Map" could not include out-lying facilities [note: for the map, see Didja Know? Francis S. Kinney's "Cottage" Life]. The ice house on the southern end of the lake was erected in 1892 and served its purpose, with ice harvested each year until replaced by electric refrigeration when it was torn down and the wood pegged frame work re-erected for a barn still standing on Kiel Avenue. Two huge hay barracks at the north end of Long-Meadow Road and a mysterious "Lodge" consisting of three bedrooms, a kitchen and a parlor, the location of which has never been established.

The "Lodge" is recorded with all the other buildings in a meticulous Spencerian hand written inventory dated 1890. This copy book record goes into the minutest details in describing the contents of every structure. Besides furniture and fittings, the number of bed sheets, pillow cases, towels, crockery, etc. in living quarters, to harnesses, whips, rakes and all the tools in barns and work places. The most amazing entry had to do with armaments, sufficient to equip a company of soldiers or hold off a powerful Indian attack.

Actually, the martial equipment was the finest hunting guns consisting of nine revolvers, ten shot guns and six rifles. The bores names like Winchester, Remington, Colt and Parker, with a few of foreign origin designed for the ladies. Local hunters often joined the family and their sports-minded guests in the guarded preserve and the thousands of unspoiled surrounding acres where deer abounded, wild turkeys, grouse and birds of all kinds were plentiful and even an occasional wild cat or bear made its appearance. Raccoon hunting contests, matching the Kinney dogs against the best local breed, were regular fall contests the neighbors felt privileged to enjoy.

The Kinneys had many friends particularly their close neighbors - the Fred Rickers and Willis Deckers. Both had large families, tracing their origin to the earliest settlers. All were privileged to swim, hunt or fish and for the youngsters furnish companionship for the "city kids."

The first Ricker home built before the Civil War was destroyed by fire under suspicious circumstances [it was rumored that one of the family wanted a new home] a few years after the war ended. The new home, now Gaudino's restaurant [? possibly Piccolo's Lotsa Pasta?], faced on Stone House Road, then continuing on Longmeadow and North Road, to the flourishing Henry Ricker, Barney Miller and Van Orden farms as well as the Frederick and Wetzel operations on the branching Gravel Hill side road. The road ended as a public thoroughfare, at the gate when the last farm was purchased in 1901.

Fred Ricker was employed in 1892 to replace a Mrs. Rowe in the cow barn, assisting in the developing of the herd of brown Swiss cattle. He raised a family of five girls and two boys and also assisted in the slaughter house before transferring to the local Rubber Mill, on war work just prior to World War I. His oldest son also spent a short time in Kinney employment.

[This photo was taken off of Orchard Road - the remains of either tenant houses or a shed.]
The Willis Decker residence was the second home to be built on the property that had been in the family since early 1800. He operated a saw mill, opposite the Ricker homestead, powered by the water from Forge Pond until the property was acquired for a summer home by a New York City family. The blue-eyed, brunette beauty of the sophisticated family inadvertently caused an unexpected increase in attendance at Sunday Service when local swains discovered the service, this addition to local pulchritude would attend. Mr. Decker became a close friend of Francis Kinney, sharing his love for nature and great interest in baseball. The Decker family of six girls and three boys offered companionship for the several different ages in the "Cottage." Some of the girls replaced the original imported members of the staff, and like some other local employees, married other workers and settled in the nearby area.

Several families occupied the Gate House, from time to time, since 1885 when it was on of the earliest operating on private estates, in the U.S.A. The men of the house usually performed some other service during the day leaving the heavy hand operated gate to the lady of the house. The gate was attended for 24 hours, with little likelihood of any night time disturbance except when the family entertained or left for occasional outside amusement. The stone walls flanking the building funneled all traffic to the gate.

Past the gate, the road led to the turnoff at Orchard Lane, across the bridge through the apple orchard, passing the tenant houses and Shed No. 2 and No. 3 on its winding way to the South Gate exit on Kiel Avenue approximately where the Estates of Kinnelon is now being developed. Horses of local workers were stabled in the shed and the tenant houses were occupied by families of trainers or craftsmen originally imported to supervise the Estates diversified activities.

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