This article (here somewhat updated) was originally written in 1995 for the Township Committee, back when it was trying to decide what to do with the old farmhouse. Sarah Dilts had left the farm she inherited to the township and it had been turned into a true community park. But the house was a dilemma. How to use it and maintain it? At one point the township committee considered moving the police department there. But that was not feasible, and eventually the house and other structures were taken down. Here is how it looked before that happened.
The Sarah Dilts farm located on Buchanan Road should perhaps be known as the Rittenhouse Farm, for Sarah Dilts did not live there; it was the families who preceded her that built up the farm and made a showplace of it. Many years ago, it was well-known as one of the most handsome properties in the Township.
Note, 8/3/2019: The next two paragraphs are incorrect. I recently discovered that Isaac Larew did not own the property that became Dilts Farm Park. This matter will be treated in a future article, Dilts Farm Revisited, part two.
Originally, the farm was part of the land acquired by John Vanvorst in 1737. About 1740, Vanvorst sold 150 acres out of the original 185 acres to Nathaniel Leonard. Leonard then sold the 150 acres to John Mullen about 1745. In 1747, a neighbor, John Mullen bequeathed a lot of 20 acres to his daughters. They sold the 20 acres to Isaac Larew in 1768. Somehow Larew also came into possession of the 150-acre farm. In 1771, Larew became uncomfortable about the state of affairs in New Jersey and sold the 150 acres and the 20-acre lot to Abraham Deremer. There is a family tradition that Larew was paid in Continental paper, and that after the Revolution, when he returned to New Jersey, his paper money was worthless. One descendant wrote that Larew burned his money. (There’s just one small problem–they weren’t issuing Continental paper in 1771.) Deremer seems to have allowed Isaac Larew to live on his old farm after his return for he was taxed on 150 acres in 1780. He died intestate and penniless in 1785.
Abraham Deremer held onto the Larew farm for many years although it was only a part of his holdings. His own homestead property was located nearby on Lambertville-Headquarters Road. Abraham Deremer wrote his will on January 29, 1791 and divided his homestead farm, bequeathing the western portion, which included the Dilts farm, to his daughter Jane and her husband John Wilson during their lives, and then to their son Abraham Deremer Wilson. Jane and John Wilson also did not live on this farm. Capt. John Wilson was a Revolutionary war vetern. He wrote his will in 1821 when he was 67 years old, leaving his own farm (not the Dilts farm) to his 3 sons (Abraham, William and Cornelius) to be equally divided between them.
On June 11, 1828, Abraham Deremer Wilson, living in Shawangunk, Ulster County, New York, and his wife Julia Ann sold the farm he had inherited, amounting to 174 acres, to his brothers William and Cornelius Wilson for $4,698. Ten years later, in 1838, Cornelius and Willliam Wilson divided the property, and the portion consisting of the Dilts farm went to Cornelius.
Cornelius Wilson married Sarah Huffman about 1823. They had a daughter Leah about 1832. It is hard to say whether Cornelius and his family resided on this farm or not, since he also owned property near the Prallsville mill.
In 1844 Cornelius Wilson sold the farm, consisting of 63 acres to Wilson B. Rittenhouse. Wilson B. Rittenhouse was born in 1813 to Jonathan Rittenhouse and Delilah Bray, daughter of Gen. Daniel Bray of Revolutionary War fame. Wilson Rittenhouse married Rachel Lambert on September 26, 1837. She died less than ten years later. On April 24, 1842, Rittenhouse married his second wife, Ury Ann Ent.
It was probably Wilson B. Rittenhouse who built the farmhouse that stood on the property until the late 1990s. Later on an addition was built to take advantage of the slope, allowing ground level entrance to the basement. The hip-roofed front porch and the bay window are also later additions. There were many outbuildings on the property suitable for an active farm, including a wagon house and barn, poultry house, livestock feeder and an out-kitchen. Wilson Rittenhouse was counted in the 1870 Census as a farmer, age 57 with property worth $14,000. Living with him was his wife Ury A. 56, father-in-law William Ent 70, who was still working on the farm, and children: Amy 21, Cornelius 19, Deliah 17, and Judson 15.
Wilson B. Rittenhouse wrote his will on April 28, 1879; it was recorded in 1881, leaving the farm on Buchanan Road to his son, Judson Rittenhouse. Judson Rittenhouse and his wife Martha D. Bodine had four children. In the census of 1910, Judson Rittenhouse was a 55-year-old farmer, his wife Martha was 43. They had been married 22 years and had 4 children. Also living with them was a hired man, Bertrand Buchanan, age 23, who was born in West Amwell.
One of the children of Judson and Martha Rittenhouse was Miriam, born in April 1890. When she grew up, she married the hired man, Bert Buchanan. Bert and Miriam had a daughter, Martha, who married Stanley Emmons.
Judson Rittenhouse died around 1920. In 1944, following the death of Martha Rittenhouse, Miriam’s mother, Bert and Martha Buchanan bought the farm from the other heirs of Judson and Martha Rittenhouse. Buchanan Road was named for this family. The road had been surveyed back in 1857, but about 100 years later, it was named for the Buchanans.
In 1963, Miriam and Bert Buchanan, now in their 70s, sold the farm to Foster C. Dilts. The farm may have taken on its name, the Dilts Farm, during Foster Dilts’ tenure. He died in 1976, leaving the farm to his father Granville Dilts of Raritan Township and his sister Sarah C. Dilts. Granville Dilts conveyed his share in the farm to Sarah in 1978. The next year, Sarah Dilts wrote her will, bequeathing the farm to Delaware Township.
In the original version of this essay, I had mistakenly written that Wilson Rittenhouse’s wife was Eliza Reading.
Aug. 7, 2015: Wilson B. Rittenhouse did not write his will in 1881.
May 15, 2018: Miriam Rittenhouse was the eldest child of Judson and Martha Rittenhouse, not the fourth, as was written. Her siblings were Grace, born 1892, married to Leon Niece, Emily, born 1896, married to Richard Gulick, and Edwin Stanley, born 1901, married to Deborah Trout.
August 17, 2019: I made several corrections in order to correct my original mistake, in which I stated that Isaac Larew owned this property in 1768. He did not.