Caleb Farley Had Large Acreage in That Section

Poulson Built Fine House 

by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N.J.,
published in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat, January 14, 1932

In this article, Mr. Bush begins with a discussion of the Caleb Farley farm in Headquarters, but strays from the subject of his headline to also discuss a farm just west of Sergeantsville, once owned by the Larew family. My annotations can be found in the footnotes.

I had long been quite sure that Caleb Farley, the Revolutionary soldier, owned and occupied what is now the beautiful “Glen Eppele” at Headquarters. Recent inquiry of a friend who was supposed to know, however, somewhat disturbed my assurance. He held strongly to the opinion that the Poulsons were the first of record at this place and had held it in that name until it was conveyed to Mattie H. Eppele, herself a Poulson. My own knowledge of the Poulson family did not confirm that opinion. And subject to investigation has shown that, although my friend had apparent reason for thinking as he did, the opinion was far from being correct.

By Caleb Farley’s will, dated August 23, 1808 and probated October 26, 1808, we find that he provided for his wife Ann Farley, bequeathed to his father Caleb Farley the income from a small trust fund for the term of his natural life, and made numerous other bequests, all going to collaterals with possibly one or two of no relationship. The executors named were Ann Farley, Jacob Fisher Jr., and Caleb Runk, who were empowered to sell and convey his real estate.

Ann Farley, the widow, renounced the right to participate in the execution of the will, probably because she wanted to buy the farm for herself. Anyhow, in pursuance of the provisions of the will, the property was sold April 1, 1809, Ann Farley being the purchaser. It then contained 108 acres, 2 roods and 9 perches, including the tract later sold to Mrs. Eppele. May 14, 1814, Ann Farley conveyed the same property to Israel Poulson, the old-time preacher, for $6,513.37. That looks like a big price for such a property at that early day. But the good old preacher knew the value of land and had an eye to business. The farm lay in the rich and flourishing hamlet of Headquarters, which had been humming for half a century.1

Long Owned by Poulsons

Israel Poulson held the farm until January 1, 1845, and then conveyed it to his son Daniel. By deed dated March 9, 1899, Charles Poulson, executor of Daniel Poulson, conveyed the same to George O. Poulson. December 23, 1908, George O. Poulson and wife conveyed the property to Mattie H. Eppele, the area of the principal tract then being 59 acres, 2 roods and 9 perches. With this was conveyed a lot containing less than one acre.2

From this beginning, the Eppele holdings have grown apace, and the original has been so much improved that it is now known as one of the finest “show places” in Hunterdon County. But it is not simply a “show place.” It is and has been a practical and productive farm. For years it was noted as the “Eppele Poultry Farm,” glorying in fine birds and profitable ducks, meanwhile producing fine fruits and good crops of grain.

We are told on what seems to be good authority that the first dwelling here was built of stones and clay. Quite probable, for clay was often used instead of mortar in the earliest stone buildings.3 But the same authority thought it was built by John Opdyke, the “builder of mills and mansion houses,” or else another of that family. This is possible, but it is more reasonable to suppose that the first dwelling was built at a still earlier period.

A Substantial House

Who built the substantial old house which is still standing very much improved and good for another century’s service is not known. It was mentioned thirty years ago by one who had an eye for old things, as “among the substantial old stone houses of the hamlet.” Opdyke may have built this one, for “old John” was a builder who took pride in making his work substantial. To me it seems most probable that Caleb Farley, who was himself a mason by trade, expended some of his skill and some of his available funds in building for himself and his Ann a commodious house that would be a credit to the community for many generations.4 

The Caleb Farley house, from the Delaware Twp. Historic Sites Survey, 1983

We have seen that Caleb Farley’s father was also named Caleb. From the records in the office of the Secretary of State, we learn that by deed dated June 13, “in the twenty first year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King George the Second . . . Anno Dom 1748, Caleb Farley of Amwell in the County of Hunterdon and Western Division of the Province of New Jersey, Tanner, in the one part, and Peter Praul of the same place on the other part” conveyed a tract of land to the said Peter Prall with this enlightening preamble to justify the transaction.

“Whereas John Way of Newtown, the County of Queens on the Island of Nassau in the Province of New York, by deed of Indenture . . . dated the sixteenth day of February, Anno Dom 1725 convey unto Eden Marselison and John Vanvorst a tract of land situate in Amwell aforesaid, containing 700 acres who being thus seized thereof did agree to make Partition and Division of same . . . and accordingly proceeded to Deed to each other in acknowledgement for their respective shares; . . . And

“Whereas the said John Vanvorst did sell and convey by deed the fifth day of December Anno Dom. 1732 unto John Wimmer 130 acres from his share of the said 700 acres, being situate and bounded as follows Viz. Beginning at a hickory tree of the above Eden Marselison’s land, now Johannes Johnson’s standing in Denis Lake’s line. . . . containing the above quantity of land,

“And Whereas the said Johannes Wimmer did September 6, 1742 sell the said land unto Caleb Farley party to these presents, in consideration of 210 pounds lawful money of the Province of New Jersey aforesaid,” &c.”5

We cannot be sure whether or not this conveyance included the later Farley farm at Headquarters, but there is good reason for believing that it did, and that it came back into the name of Farley by means that cannot be traced at this late day. Caleb Farley, the soldier, was not born until 15 years after the conveyance to Peter Praul. Whether or not the grantor above mentioned was the father of Caleb the soldier, cannot now be ascertained. It seems more likely that he was the grandfather, for we have seen that the soldier’s father, Caleb Farley, was still living in 1808, and was a beneficiary under his son’s will bearing that date—66 years after the date of transaction. That he was the same man is possible, but hardly probable, considering the nature of the transaction and all of the known circumstances.6

The Van Dolah Tract

This Eden Marselison, grantee in the 700-acre conveyance, was the owner of the Van Dolah farm at Sandy Ridge in 1725. In that year he rented it to Hendrick Van Dolah, and conveyed it to him in 1738. Since the distance between the Van Dolah farm and the Eppele farm is only about one mile, it is probable that both were included in that 700-acre tract conveyed to Marselison and Van Vorst.7

Caleb Farley, the soldier, held other lands. One such property gave me no little trouble to locate. It seemed to be, yet not to be, one that I knew quite well. A part of the lines coincide so nicely that it appeared they must be the same; others varied widely. Any person who tries to prove or disprove such things knows very well how suddenly he may come to the end of his chain. In the old days too many people were careless about recording their deeds, and it is still more aggravating to find that many writers of deeds did not bother to give any recital. However, by working it both ways, the satisfactory result was finally obtained. A brief description may be made as follows:

By deed dated May 1, 1797, Caleb Farley and Ann his wife conveyed to Cornelius Lake a tract of land,

“Beginning at a stone for a corner, now corner to Amos Thatcher’s land, at the road from Skunktown to Opdyke’s Mills, thence along said road South 84 degrees West 7 chains and 34 links to a stone, thence along the same North five degrees West, 13 chains and 59 links to a stone, thence along the same road South 84 degrees West 22 chains and 50 links to a stone . . . containing 84 acres” &c.”8

“Skunktown” Mentioned

From the last point above quoted, the lines did not agree. It may appear to some that the point of beginning, “at a stone at the road from Skunktown to Opdyke’s Mills” should be sufficient to prove the location of the farm. But it was not conclusive. In those days Skunktown was a definite place but the term Opdyke’s Mills was not. “Old John Opdyke” had mills west of Skunktown, mills southeast of Skunktown and still other mills in various directions from that place.9

The old recital says: “Being part of the 129 acres of land which James Larew purchased of and from David Newburn May 8, 1744, and David Larew did purchase from James Larew March 4, 1767, and the said David Larew died intestate or not leaving a will, his Eldest son, Thomas Larew, being his true heir at law, did by deed bearing date of the third day of May 1796 sell and convey to the said Caleb Farley.” Here we have evidence that the old English law of primogeniture by which the eldest son was heir to all of his father’s real estate, still held good in the Colony at that time.

By will of Cornelius Lake, the property was devised to Mary Moore, wife of Isaiah Moore. By deed dated April 1, 1892, the heirs of Mary Moore conveyed the same property to Mary E. Reading. December 7, 1903, the same was conveyed by Jacob Dilts, Sheriff, to Isaac Smith who still owns and occupies it.10 This interesting old farm, the ownership of which can thus be traced by unbroken line back almost 188 years, lies westward from the Sergeantsville Grange property, with only one field of the William H. Cole farm between.

Never Occupied Place

It is evident that Caleb Farley never occupied the Sergeantsville farm. In his conveyance to Cornelius Lake, we find the phrase, “now in his possession,” showing that Cornelius Lake was then the occupant. Farley held the farm only one year, probably with Lake as tenant, and then sold it to him as we have seen. No doubt being an active man, he bought this property on speculation. We notice that he sold it for 675 pounds, seemingly a good price for that time. We have nothing to show what it cost him, but we may be assured that he made it pay.

In those days, rural speculation was largely in real estate. There was no such thing as “playing the stock market,” or if there was anything akin to “Wall Street,” it was still in the harmless stage of infancy and all unknown in rural communities. Fortunes were made slowly and lost rarely—never made or lost “over night.” But, in spite of slow processes and “unscientific methods,” the proportion of relatively prosperous men seems to have been larger, and their prosperity more substantial than can be claimed for our age of bigger and better things.

Caleb Farley and his wife sleep side by side in the Barber Burying Ground at Dilts’ Corner. His tombstone is thus inscribed: “Caleb Farley, Who departed this Life October the 6th, A. D. 1808. Aged 81 years, 3 months and 3 days.” His wife Ann survived him until 1851 and died at the age of 84 years.11

A tradition—which has become almost historic—says that Caleb Farley celebrated his 21st birthday in the midst of bloody bullets and confusion on the battlefield of Monmouth, June 28, 1778. Careful calculation shows him to have become 21 years of age on that day. It is not likely that Caleb Farley ever forgot what happened upon his attainment of his majority.12

  1. The price comes to about $60 an acre, which is indeed a very good price for the time. $40 an acre was more usual. Farley’s wife Ann or Anna was the daughter of Jacob Fisher and Sarah Hoppock. Jacob Fisher Jr. was her brother. Ann was 56 years old when she sold the farm. She lived to the age of at least 81, but where she was living after selling the farm I cannot say. She had no children to move in with. 

    By the way, I have eight Caleb Farleys in my database—a very popular name in this family. The Caleb that Bush is writing about was born on June 28, 1757 to Caleb Farley Sr. and Catharine Gray.

    Rev. Israel Poulson was pastor of the German Baptist Church known as the Dunkards. He owned another farm on Sand Brook-Headquarters Road, from which he donated a small lot for a church building in 1811. Once he moved to the Caleb Farley farm, he remained there for the rest of his long life.

  2. That small extra lot might have been the location of the Opdycke Burying Ground. I have not seen this deed, but am surprised no mention was made of its being a cemetery.

    Beer’s Atlas of 1873 mistakenly shows the Glen Eppele farm owned by “J.C.,” which stood for John Carrell, who owned the old mill property across the road. The Atlas also shows the corner where the White Hall Tavern stood being owned by Daniel Poulson. The old tavern was probably still habitable during Daniel Poulson’s tenure, so it is unclear which house he was living in. Daniel Poulson (1813-1890) married Lucy Emley Opdycke (1813-1898) in 1842, daughter of George Opdycke and Amy Reading. Daniel and Lucy had nine children. Their granddaughter, Mattie Poulson, married Frank Julius Eppele in 1889. The Eppeles were instrumental in saving the old Sergeantsville Hotel for the use of the Township as a municipal building. But that’s another story.

  3. Bush’s source was probably J. M. Hoppock who made this claim in his article “The Poulson House at Grover,” 8 Jun 1905, Democrat-Advertiser.
  4. I agree with Bush on this point. Caleb Farley was present in Amwell, and probably living on this property by 1786 when he was taxed there. However, a dendrochronology test shows that the building dates to 1806. Since we know Caleb Farley was present at this location for 20 years, it must mean that he had been living in another house on the property, perhaps at the White Hall tavern. But he died in 1808, having only had two years to enjoy his new home.

    Mr. Bush pointed out that he did not write the headlines, which I am glad to know, since the claim that Poulson built the house is incorrect.

  5. Caleb Farley bought the Headquarters farm not from Johannes Wimmer, but from Thomas Opdycke in 1789. Opdycke, of course, inherited it from his father, John Opdycke in 1777. The farm sold by Johannes Wimmer and owned originally by John Way and John Van Vorst was located closer to Sandy Ridge. Peter Prall was the brother-in-law of Caleb Farley Sr., being married to Farley’s sister Sarah.
  6. Bush was on the wrong course about the Wimmer farm being the same as the Headquarters farm. But he has a point about the problem of dates. From research into the Farley family, and with some help from Tim James, I have learned that this Caleb Farley Sr., who sold the Sandy Ridge property, was born April 4, 1709 in Bound Brook, Somerset County. His father George Farley had come to New Jersey from Billerica, Massachusetts and married Feminitie Tunison, daughter of Cornelis Tunison. Caleb Farley Sr. was born soon afterwards. In 1791, he moved to Shamokin, Pennsylvania with some of his children. The date of his death is often given as 1802, which is 6 years before his son left him a bequest in his will. Either the date is wrong, or news traveled very slowly between Amwell and Shamokin. Whatever the case, Caleb Farley Sr. was a very old man when he died.
  7. Once again, Mr. Bush is mistaken. The Opdycke farm was never part of the tract owned by John Way and Eden Marselison. This shows how easy it is to get off on the wrong track when researching ancient property owners–a problem I know only too well. The Van Dolah farm merits its own post, sometime in the future.
  8. This property was just west of the Gilde farm on the southwest side of Sergeantsville. The courses Bush describes here don’t make sense.
  9. The mill to the west was on the Wickecheoke, next to the covered bridge; the mill to the southeast was at Headquarters. Bush is mistaken about Opdycke’s Mills not being a definite place. In fact, the mill run by Samuel Opdycke (son of John Opdycke Sr.) at the Wickecheoke Creek was very definitely a place, and Bush himself writes about it in an article titled “Sergeant’s Mills Once A Prosperous Community.” For the time that Bush is writing about in this article, 1797, John Opdycke had been dead for twenty years, but his son Samuel was a prosperous miller at “Opdycke’s Mills.” Meanwhile, in Headquarters, the other Opdycke mill was then run by George Holcombe, who had purchased it in 1793. So, from this we can be certain that the road described ran west from the center of Sergeantsville. “Skunktown” was the early name for Sergeantsville, another subject for a later post.
  10. Mary Moore was Cornelius Lake’s daughter by his second wife, Lydia Haines. Her husband Isaiah Moore briefly ran the Sergeantsville tavern.
  11. Actually, Caleb Farley’s gravestone states that he was 51 years 3 months and 8 days old when he died, which yields a birthdate of June 28, 1757, which made him 21 years old during the Revolution. On old gravestones, 3s, 5s and 8s can be hard to tell apart.
  12. Caleb Farley and wife Ann Fisher did not have any children. Caleb’s brother George Farley (1740-1784) also fought in the Revolution. He was a merchant of Lambertville, married to Elizabeth Phillips, and managed to have 11 children before he died of smallpox at the age of 44. None of his children seem to have remained in Hunterdon.