Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kinnelon Estate of Francis S. Kinney - Part V

Didja Know?Here follows Part V of the "Kinnelon" Estate of Francis S. Kinney -- in what is now Smoke Rise in Kinnelon, NJ -- as described in Cornie Hubner's Didja Know? series.


There once were several prosperous farms in the area beginning at the intersection of Gravel Hill and Green Hill roads and extending along the Pequannock River to the border of Charlotteburg. These farms were bought by Mr. Kinney in the 1880s at reportedly a much higher cost than the Kitty Ann area ($2.00 per acre) and added to the adjoining 2,400 acre Stickle purchase of 1883. These fertile fields yielded a fruitful life for the descendants of the German workers who cleared and cultivated the land while still employed at the nearby forge. Now completely covered by a third and fourth growth timber, with some century-old giants that withstood many forest fires, it is difficult to picture it as the verdant "bloomingdale" described in the early stories of the Queen Anne Grant. Nature soon recovered the hard won fields but met defeat in one area aptly called the Gravel Pit. These several acres contained a superior sand and gravel deposit and twenty or more gravestones marking the resting places of the earliest settlers. Apparently no consideration was given to re-interment and the monuments, inscriptions obliterated, disappeared.

The level tract was ideal for the baseball field that the Kinney boys built for the semi-pro team, made up of employees, neighbors and occasional imported Pros. It maintained a schedule with neighboring towns that provided the weeks highlight Saturday afternoon entertainment open to all, it was supported by fans who would match any of today's "Mets Fervor" devotee, even to contributing an expected dime when "the Hat" was occasionally passed. As late as 1939, the sand and gravel was available to the neighbors. Many foundations, walks and curbs were built with the concrete containing "calcified connective tissue" mistakenly identified as animal vertebrae. Every trace of the abandoned cemetery was destroyed by the removal of thousands of yards of gravel used in the solid foundation of the roads we now enjoy.

The forgotten graveyard reminisces an old "Farmer's Wife's Tale" of a "Pack Peddler" one of the itinerant merchants on whom the small settlements and farmers relied. Mostly immigrants or refugees, with only a smattering of English, they brought their store to the door, on their backs. Heavily laden with clothing for the family, kitchen utensils, tools and even gifts and jewelry their visits were expected and welcomed. As they prospered they had wagons and often established stores that still flourish in neighboring towns. One who failed to make his expected appearance was the attractive young jewelry vendor. Last seen nearby, he vanished, murdered it was said, for his stock and the rumored involvement with the farmer's daughter, in whose barn he regularly spent the night. Skeptically accepted by a few many attribute the foul deed variously to a jealous local swain or a vagrant who deposited the remains in a deep well (some more gruesome minded said, in portions in several wells) along the river.

The placid rural life rapidly made way for the promising 20th Century with the upsurge of employment in the nearby Rubber and Powder Mills, that offered a sixty hour "cash pay" week to all willing hands. Employment reached its peak before World War I, with imported staff and highly skilled craftsmen. Mr. Kinney must have had a premonition of the current TV commercial extolling the Frenchmen's, second best proclivity. He went to France for a chauffeur/mechanic who arrived with a multi-cylinder purring monster at a time when we were making sputtering fragile converted carriages of questionable performance.

There is no record of the first car that arrived early in the 1900s, but a chain driven high powered auto, vaguely recalled as a Simple [ed. or possibly the Simplex?], arrived about 1910. A short time later the locomobile of many cylinders, a sleek long body with tires on the running boards on each side gave a preview of cars to come. It had a roomy enclosed cabin with an open cockpit for the formally attired chauffeur. It wasn't scientifically designed to reduce wind resistance though its flowing gracious lines would have been indistinguishable from the prestigious cars of the 70s, except for a tarpaulin cover that was attached, in rain and snow, for the chauffeur's comfort.

The Lord of the Manor was now a full time resident warmly welcomed as a public spirited neighbor and a beneficent patron of the Arts in the country. The Red Cross, Hospital, Churches and needy families received contributions and assistance from the craftsmen in his employ. Products of the farm, dairy and slaughter house were delivered to deserving neighbors often by the boys who were deeply involved in political and athletic activities. They were remembered for emergency service with their fast moving cars, to Doctors and Hospitals when horse and wagon transportation could have been fatal.

Warren and Morris began to develop diverse interests very early -- one to animal husbandry and the other to the land and what it grows -- the personification of Flora and Fauna. These qualities were productive in the management of the Estate which they gradually assumed. Mr. Kinney, failing in health, took up his residence in his New York apartment, maintaining contact through the daily delivery of fresh farm and greenhouse products and the early morning catch of finny residents of Lake Kinnelon. Warren supervised and directed the breeding and care of farm animals, especially the herd of cows and became interested in politics. Morris devoted his attentions to the forest and fields with special attention to the greenhouse while encouraging and fostering local athletics particularly baseball.

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