They came for the beaver, he stayed for the corn

Pam’s Ancestors Jan and Maria Van Loon

June 2018 I shed a 53 year old habit of working for a living for new habits in retirement. Instead of waking at 5 am to work for someone else, my routine became to wake at 5 am for personal projects. From June into September 2018 my morning time was spent researching and documenting family history, also known as genealogy: my own and Pam’s.

It was fitting Pam and I spent the last days of that year (June 2018 through May 2019) harvesting our newly acquired knowledge on the ground, a 3 hour drive from our home, to the site of Pam’s earliest ancestor in the New World, at that time Colonial America. Our visit will be book-ended by another this September to Burlington, New Jersey, on the eastern short of the Delaware river, founded by my earliest ancestor, also in Colonial America and 4 hours from our present day home.

A river setting is a link between our ancestors and the two rivers associated in a number of ways. In driving to Athens, New York, a village on the west bank of the Hudson River 31 miles from the state capital, Albany. Our route from Ithaca to Athens included route 23 that passes through the Catskill Mountain, Delaware County, village of Stamford. The headwaters of the west branch of the Delaware River passes through Stamford.

Founded as Loonenberg, named after the first settler Jan Van Loon. Today, Athens is a lovely destination, a historic village on the Hudson River. The rear of the Jan Van Loon house is in the background.

Henry Hudson and the crew of the Half Moon were the first recorded Europeans to visit both the Delaware and Hudson rivers. The Half Moon dropped anchor in Delaware Bay late August, 1609. They reached the estuary of the Hudson (then called the North or the Mauritius). The goal of Hudson was a route to China. Luring him up was the flow and width of the river, Hudson suspected this land was a island, behind which lay the route to the Orient. He navigated up the river for ten days, passing the future site of Athens.

Historical signage with house. One wall remains of the original house, this is a loving restoration on the original site.

Beaver!!

Hudson was in the employ of the Dutch East India Company and it was the Dutch who laid claim to the length of the Hudson for the purpose of trade. In summary, when Swedish/Finnish colonists on the Delaware proved successful in shipping huge numbers of beaver pelts and tobacco the Dutch took control of the Delaware under force of arms in the interest of controlling this trade.

The Dutch, AKA the Dutch East/West India Companies, had little interest in establishing colonies. Instead huge areas of land, “patents”, were granted to individuals with the underlying goal of providing a flow of shippable goods. It remained as such for many years, until 1664 when England, under the king Charles II, took control of New Amsterdam and, by extension, trade flowing on the Hudson River.

Overview of the Jan Van Loon House, 39 South Washington Street, Athens New York from the Athens Veterans Memorial Park with view of the Hudson River and the lighthouse. Phlox are in bloom!!

Stayed for the Corn

Jan Van Loon (pronounced Van Loan) comes into the picture with a 1676 marriage to Maria in New Amsterdam. When Jan acquired a major interest in the 1688 Loonenburg patent the land was just opening to European settlers and their tenancy was less than secure. Threatened by incursions of Native Americans and animosities between the French and English. They had eight children who reached adulthood, the house of one of them, Albertus, is one of the oldest continually inhabited residences in New York State.

Athens, New York is the present day name of this town on the Hudson River first settled by Pam’s ancestor in the 17th Century. Pam is pointing to the modern window restoration (aluminum double-hung), the roof is cedar shingle (I believe).

Tradition has it Jan Van Loon acquired the land through a payment of 50 beaver pelts and provided services as a blacksmith, though that had to be after a number of years of residence, since he was a first settler. Pam and I are learning more about those early years, but we know Jan and Maria’s interest in the land was not trade. It was to live peacefully and prosper which they, somehow, did to the benefit of all the people around them.

Detail of the modern restoration of the east foundation wall, Jan Van Loon house, Athens, New York, at the juncture of the field stone/brick joint. The front of the house is to the right.

The lighthouse as viewed from the Jan Van Loon House site. Build 1874, the lighthouse was not part of the environment of Jan and Maria Van Loon.

Click me for the first post in this series, “Around and About Athens, New York, Part 1.”

Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Around and About Athens, New York, part 4 Finale

295 year old Zillow listing

Real Estate

Home for 295 years, one way to describe the Albertus Van Loon house, 85 North Washington street, Athens, New York. Built before there was a George Washington or Athens New York. The river flowing by was named North River when this door first opened. The Delaware was South River.

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Listed today on Zillow with a increasing value and, incredibly, “built 1725.”

Well cared for…..

…..solid masonry walls with timber additions.

Right on the Hudson River.

Details

Albertus is a Great+ Uncle for Pam. She felt the connection to this place, marveled at the well build masonry and solid windows, absolutely loved the ivy. 85 North Washington was our last stop.

Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Around and About Athens, New York, part 3

Blossoms, headstones and the passage from Dutch to English

Blossoms

Spiraea bushes in full bloom flanked the Riverside Park along Water Street.

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Well cared for…..

…..as are the urns across the street.

Athens Country Cemetery

Our daughter-in-law and her Mom were a source of post-trip information. “Yan Van Loan” is how Jan Van Loon’s name is pronounced in Dutch, they kindly informed us.

Passage of political control from Dutch to English was decades old when Jan Van Loon acquired his land on the river. By the 19th century the name was anglicized (turned English) on the headstones, spelled as it was pronounced in English. In the 18th century Pam’s ancestors had moved west and south to what became Plymouth, Pennsylvania (Luzerne County). This was before the coal fields, in the 18th century agriculture was the primary industry. Pam’s branch of the Van Loons retained the Dutch spelling and anglicized the pronunciation, as “Van Loon” is pronounced in the English language.

The very old burials were marked with headstones of locally quarried slate, as was common in upstate New York. You can see slate headstones in this video of a Pioneer Cemetery near our home in Ithaca, New York.

In Athens the oldest stones were in the same condition, the lettering and decoration erased by the elements even when the stones are still standing. Some kind people researched the burials and erected a modern, white marble memorial stone with the names and dates of the ancestors named in the records. Jan Van Loon, Maria his wife, or any of Pam’s direct ancestors were not among them.

The Matthias Van Loon of this memorial obelisk was a descendant who remained in what became Athens, New York. The following two photographs are of the base and an overview. Matthias Van Loon’s is on the right.

This Catholic burial is on the very edge of the site, as though pushed off to the side. That is the yard of a private home in the background. I started this post with flowers because there was little evidence of familial devotions on these burials of previous centuries.

Click Me for “Around and About Athens, New York, part 4”

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Around and About Athens, New York, part 2

Real Estate and Ancestors

Pam eventually caught up to report a breakthrough contact made through casual street interactions. She talked to random strangers on 2nd Street hoping to learn more about her ancestor, Jan Van Loon. The breakthrough was a name and phone number of a woman, the daughter of a new acquaintance, and a tip about an old cemetery.

Two people are visible in this first photograph, taken from the south end of Athen’s Riverside Park. Look to the left of the large tree where a artist, under the small white umbrella, is painting while in conversation with a second person. Pam struck up a conversation……

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“For Sale: 1825 Federal Home on the Hudson River”

The artist had an easel and a painting in progress, the subjects were yellow irises, part of a formal garden on the grounds of the mansion. We first took it to be a museum or public building of some sort, but were mistaken. It is a home. In the course of a conversation that touched upon Henry Hudson’s 1608 journey up the river (they knew nothing of Jan Van Loon, or of deeper local history in general), and the work of the second man who was the owner of the mansion. Here is more about the place from the Zillow listing. There was no “for sale” sign in evidence.

From the portion of the 12 South Water Street garden on the road. We chatted with the house owners and an artist as he painted these yellow iris blooms.
The Zillow Listing…WOW
” A freshly renovated home and grounds on the Hudson River, at 12 South Water Street, Athens, New York. Barely visible, to the left of the tree, is an artist, painting large yellow irises while chatting with the owner of the property. Here is what the listing on Zillow has to say, “This majestic 1825 Federal home on the banks of the Hudson River was designed by architect Barnabas Waterman for shipping entrepreneur Anthony Rutgers Livingston. Steeped in history, the house has undergone an extensive – yet sensitive – restoration. Enter into a grand hallway with Double Parlors to the right and a formal DR on the left. Original Federal flourishes abound with acanthus leaf capitals and entablatures, Corinthian columns, and intact mantels and molding. The high ceilings and tall windows provide extraordinary elegance, light and comfort. A thoughtful kitchen renovation and 1/2 Bath for 21st century convenience. Upstairs is a Full Bath and four spacious and airy Bedrooms, the Master with ensuite bath. The walk – out lower level features a family room with fireplace, a full bath and the original kitchen with hearth and beehive oven. A stroll past the box-wood garden leads to a 3-bay Garage with Studio and 1/2 Bath above, perfect for artist, home office or guests. Convenient to Thruway, Catskill, Hudson. 2- hrs NY.”

Formal Garden

Restored Hudson River Mansion

Barely a half mile apart, a great distance separates the homestead of Jan Van Loon and the 12 South Water Street former mansion of a shipping magnate including 125 years and the American Revolution.

Stylized Acanthus Leaves grace these Corinthian Capitals

Click Me for “Around and About Athens, New York, part 3

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Around and About Athens, New York, part 1

Enjoyments of Athens, New York

Memorial Day Weekend 2019 Pam and I visited Athens, first settled in the 17th Century by an ancestor through her maternal grandmother. Click me for more about the Van Loons. Jan Van Loon is 10 generations removed from Pam and her siblings and is one of 1024 (512 pairs) of ancestors. Whatever became of the other 1022 people (and all those in between) Pam was there with me that day to enjoy the experience of walking around town and talking about Jan Van Loon’s connection to herself.

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Founded as Loonenberg, named after the first settler Jan Van Loon. today,Athens is a lovely destination, a historic village on the Hudson River.

We stopped for a very enjoyable latte at Bonfiglio and Bread on 2nd street. As we ambled south on 2nd street Pam spotted someone to talk to and I proceeded with the goal of the Hudson River, visible at the bottom of the street.

I noticed this architectural specimen and turned to capture this side in a good light and was lucky to capture a young co-admirer of its style with whom I assume is her Mother. Athens, developed as a “National Register Historic Site,” is a charming place to stroll and admire.

Southeast view on 2nd Street between Water and Washington streets. Athens, New York

Hudson Riverfront

Yesterday I did a Red Cross blood donation at an elementary school on Hudson Street here in Ithaca. Henry Hudson, the first European to sail up the river that now bears his name, is memorialized this way across New York State so much so it is unusual to find the “Riverfront Park” named as such.

The city of Hudson, in Columbia County directly across the river named its park “Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.”

Looking east toward the entrance of the Riverfront Park, Athens, New York. Found at the east end of 2nd Street.

Peace and Quiet

The Athens Park is a gathering place for the village with a large swath of grass, a short boardwalk, benches and generous shade trees along with river…….

The photograph captions will speak for themselves for the rest of today’s post. Enjoy!!

A sole reader enjoys the solitude and view across the Hudson. A large mid-stream island, Middle Ground Flats, provides a swath of green instead of a view of the city Hudson.

…and a dock.

The map shows a dotted line between this dock in the Athens Riverside Park and the Henry Hudson Riverside park of the city of Hudson. Barely visible in front of the wooded hills is the Hudson-Athens lighthouse.
A pleasure craft motoring south on the Hudson River passes in front of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse. On the eastern shore is a line of freight cars. Amtrack uses this line for service between New York City, Albany and beyond. We have enjoyed this Hudson River view from the train and highly recommend that trip.
Built 1874, the Hudson-Athens lighthouse guides traffics around the island named “Middle Ground Flats.”

Click me for more photography on Getty IStock.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Pinelands Connections X

Finding Grandfather’s Final Resting Place

When I was a young adult Mom told me Grandfather Wills was buried in the Bronx. James Edward Wills died when my father was very young and they were poor, living in tenements on the upper West Side of Manhattan April 1916.. Looking through Dad’s papers after both he and Mom were gone, I found the grave receipt: “Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, Westchester, New York.” James Wills, born April 1877, the youngest of six children of George Wills and Margaret McCambridge, who were 43 and 38, their place of residence two years later cited in the 1880 Federal Census as Shamong, New Jersey. Today, Shamong Township is part of New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve. Atsion, the Iron Furnace town where James’ Grandmother Ann McCambridge (nee Milley) worked as a cook, is in Shamong Township.

Finding and researching the grave receipt is what began my adventures in genealogy. What was, in 1916, Westchester is now the Schuylerville section of Bronx county, a borough of New York City. Saint Raymond’s Parish, still going strong, acquired more consecrated land for burials with now an “Old” and “New” cemetery separated by the confluence of interstates 95, 295, 678 including the approaches to the Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges, the superstructures of which are visible from the “Old” cemetery.

Having sorted out these details, I approach my cousin Mary at the October 2021 engagement party of my niece where we made arrangements to find Grandfather Wills’ final resting place the following month. On Wednesday, November 10th, Mary’s husband Peter drove us over the George Washington Bridge, through the incredible traffic of the Cross Bronx Expressway (a funny name for this moving parking lot, bumper to bumper trucks), to Schuylerville. We navigated to the “Google Maps” push pin I placed next to Section 7. Google Maps even has street views of the cemetery, in retrospect the view of Section 7, Ranges 35 – 51, includes grandfather’s grave.

We worked together, walking the rows, reading headstone inscriptions, on the expectation of finding Grandfather’s name without success. Peter and I took to counting the rows to find number 41, with success. With less success counting the headstones and spaces (unmarked graves) to find number 82. At the same time, Pam and Mary searched. I used the “Find A Grave” website to look up headstones in section 7, row 41 and found the only location provided was “Section 7.” I also called the cemetery office where they were most helpful. There is NO record of James Wills.

Then, Pam noticed some headstones inscribed with the exact location, Section, Range (Row) and Grave.  This was the key.  Here are the headstone references that pinpointed Grandfather Wills’ final, unmarked, resting place.  

In the following photograph I am on the right with wife Pam. Cousin Mary next to her husband Peter on the right, Mary is standing on grave 82.

James Edward Wills unmarked grave, Section 7, Range (Row) 41, Grave 82, Old Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, Balcom Avenue, Schuylerville, Bronx, New York. Wednesday, November 10, 2021. Here we are facing south / southeast into Section 7, James Wills’ unmarked grave is to the left and just behind Nevins headstone (Row 40, Grave 83).

Pinelands Connections IX

What is a Collier?

Here my exploration of Wharton State Forest, Pitch Pine Forest III, branches to the genealogical exploration of this landscape as my sister, Theresa and I, proceed along the humped, pitted sand road Goodwater through the wilderness to emerge in Batsto Village, a recreation of lives that touched my great great grandparents, James and Ann McCambridge among them. Ann saved money earned as a cook for Atsion furnace, the historical site at the start of the road to Quaker Bridge. Her husband James worked as a collier, supplying fuel for the iron furnaces at Atsion and Batsto, among other enterprises. During our Batsto Village visit we found these reproductions of charcoal clamps.

Since earliest times charcoal was used for cooking and heating. It was the best heat source for metal furnaces. Entire deforested regions are attributed to the demand for charcoal. Thomas Jefferson experimented with charcoal clamp designs, modifying air flow from the base.

James and Ann lived on the land that provided a livelihood, enough to support themselves and nine (9) children. From September 7, 1850 is the US Census for this family of my second great grandparents. Great Grandmother Margaret was 11 years. James is listed as a Collier, the value of Real Estate owned was 6,000 (a fortune for the time).

Like is wife Ann, James had a savings account…..

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pitch Pine Forest III

Road to Batsto

Leaving the jeep on the west side of Quaker Bridge, I walked over to inspect the structure and poke around the other side, carrying a Canon 5d Mark IV (camera body) / EF 70 – 300 mm f/4-5.6 L IMS (lens), shooting as I walked. My sister Theresa and Maxie, a little white dog, lagged behind taking in the surroundings. Here they are, in shadow, on the west side.

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My work on the east side was shared in previous posts, “Pinelands Connections VIII,” I and II “Around Quaker Bridge,” and I and II “Pitch Pine Forest,” work interrupted by the sound of an approaching engine, a Humvee came into view. I waved my arm up and down, a sign to slow down, pulling alongside the driver looked up with dead eyes, no element of recognition of a fellow human, as I explained my sister was on the bridge. A stink of unfamiliar hydrocarbons, diesel fuel?, rose through the heat as they pulled forward with no acknowledgement of my request. Thankfully they slowed down as Theresa, Max in her arms, said, “hi.”

Multiple roads converge from all directions on Quaker Bridge, using GoogleMaps (surprising these unimproved, “jeep” sand roads were listed) I chose Goodwater Road as a route to Batsto Village, on the southern side of Wharton State Forest. The 6.1 mile road follows the east bank of Mullica River at a distance, a very rough passage through ancient Pitch Pine forest. Here are photographs of the enormous capacity of the pines to regrow after fire. Note a thick seeding growth among the mature pine trunks, lower portions fire blackened.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Proleek, Grandfather McArdle’s home

Romance of Ruins

In three, so far, postings on the cottage ruins at Loughan an Lochan (Loughan Bay) we explored a former community above the Irish Sea with a view of Scotland.  For the third posting I shared some research on the last cottage people of that site with the intent of additional postings.

I wondered, “What motivates you to do this?” and remembered my mother’s Canadian passport in which, for place of birth “Proleek, Ireland” was written and my request to our cousin, John Mills, who invited us to stay with them after my mother passed away, June, 2013, the request being to visit the site of great grandfather James McCardle’s home, where grandfather Peter McCardle was raised, information since discovered from the Irish census.

On the morning of Sunday, May 25, John took us from mass on a tour of sites related to the family.  One of these was the site of the McCardle home, Proleek Townland.

Peter McArdle Former Home
The ruins of the former home of Peter McArdle are on a corner of unnamed streets in Proleek, County Louth. This is a view of the southwest side.

There site is an anonymous corner on a unnamed street with no outlet.  The street ends close to the Proleek Dolmen, an ancient passage tomb, after passing farms and fields.

Peter McArdle Former Home
The interior of the property. I see no evidence of great grandfather James McArdle’s home, It has returned to the earth.

The 1901 Irish Census provides these details from 116 years ago:

  • The walls were stone, brick or concrete
  • The roof of thatch, wood or another perishable material.
  • Two rooms, with three windows facing the road.
  • Out buildings listed were:
    • cow house.
    • piggery.

Today, the site is another person’s property, it was not possible to explore further than when the camera lens reached when I leaned as far a possible into the brush.  No sign of standing walls.

Southeast view from McArdle former home
Across the road from the McArdle Plot is this ditch (stone wall) and a home. In the far distance, just visible across the plain, rising from it, is an unnamed land mark, a rounded hill 350 feet tall of the neighboring townland of Bellurgan.

Modern homes surround the corner, solid and prosperous.

View to the west from McArdle Former Home
The site is surrounded by homes on the west and south, farmland on the east and west.

For this posting I collected the following images from Google Earth.  The site is marked with a pushpin, “McCardle Home.”  A “Proleek Dolmen” pushpin marks the passage tomb.

McArdleHomeProleekCountyLouthOverview

A closer view suggests, if we trespassed and poked around, some remains of the structure were concealed by the trees and brush.

McArdleHomeProleekCountyLouth

Between May 2014 and this image, from 2015, the center of the plot was gouged out.  The area corresponds to the corresponds to the remains indicated in the 2013 image.  From this we can understand were the structures stood in relation to the road.

Using the polygon ruler tool the size of the site is 413 feet in circumference, 9,619 square feet, and the gouge, indicating the ruins, is 1,368 square feet.

McArdleHomeProleekCountyLouthToday

But for John and Betty Mills, their kind invitation to stay and John’s guidance that day, the “Proleek” notation on my mother’s Canadian passport would still be a mystery today.

John Mills passed away the next year, September 26, 2015.  Here are Hawthorne Blossoms from the corner of the former McCardle home in memory.

Here is some follow-up to my story in the posting “A Visit to Proleek Dolmen.”

Hawthorne Blossoms
Blooming Hawthorne on the former McArdle Home

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Around Quaker Bridge III

Poking Around

Multiple trails lead from where Quaker Bridge crosses the Mullica River. These are from a handheld Canon 5d Mark IV with the Canon EF 70 – 300 mm f/4.0-5.6 ISM lens.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved