Mr. Bush is seldom wrong but in this case the headline writer and Mr. Bush were both mistaken about disclosing the location of Tyson’s Mill, but certainly correct about the meagerness of the old records. For my version of this mill’s history, see Tyson’s Mill at Headquarters.
Faded Old Paper Tells Little About Benjamin Tyson’s Mill
But Search by Mr. Bush Discloses Location of the Property
Records Meager on Miller
by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N.J.,
published in the Hunterdon Co. Democrat, November 7, 1935
A faded old paper, the original of a road survey made in 1770, was handed to me by my friend, Isaac L. Kipp three years ago. Since that time much effort has been made to locate that road and the mills mentioned as well as to learn about the life and activities of Benjamin Tyson. My success has not been altogether satisfactory, but many interesting things have been found. The beginning of the road, simply in the middle of the “great Road Leading from Benjamin Tyson’s Mill to John Ringoes,” left much guessing to be done. The following is a careful copy of the interesting old paper:
“To all People to whome these presents come or to whom it may Concern Send Greeting Know ye that we the Subscribers being Legally Elected and Chosen Surveyors of the Highways of the County of Hunterdon at the request of Sundry Substantial Freeholders of the Township of Amwell by their Petition to us Directed Praying to have a road Laid out in said Township Beginning in the Great Road leading from Benjamin Tyson’s Mill to John Ringoes in Amwell &c. Being Met at the time and place appointed and having viewed the Ground and finding upon strict Enquiry that the said Freeholders or parties applying have been every way conformable to an Act of the Assembly of the Province of New Jersey for obtaining a Road & agreeable to their Petition & the before Recited Act we have proceeded to Lay out [a] two Rod Road As follows Viz. Beginning in the Great Road Leading from Benjamin Tyson’s Mill to John Ringoes &c Thence by land of John Odpycke Esq. Philip Yawger and others two Degrees and Thirty Minutes West Fifty-one chains to a white Oak Tree Commonly called Lamberts Corner Thence by Land of Cafner Rake John Fox and John Lake North Four Degrees and fifteen Minutes West Sixty-three chains and Eighty-five Links to John Lakes Corner Thence by Land of said Lake and John Rake North Eight-seven Degrees East Ten chains Thence East Four chains and Seventy-nine Links to a corner Thence North Three Degrees and Thirty Minutes West Eighteen chains and four Links to Samuel Kitchens fence provided all ways and upon Condition never the Less that the party or parties applying for said Road or their successors in interest do hang and keep in good order such gates as may be necessary along or upon said Rakes Land Not exceeding three in Number as by their Agreement &c Thence thru Samuel Kitchens Land Joining to the Line between him and John Rake North three Degrees and thirty Minutes West Nine Chains and Ninety-six Links to a Corner in Samuel Kitchens Meadow Thence North Fifty-six Degrees East three chains and Seventy-five Links to the Middle of the Great Road leading by said Kitchens Mills the said Kitchen at the Same time agreeing for himself and Successors in Interest at his or their Cost to build and keep in Good repair a good bridge over his mill race or Pond and we do hereby Strictly require the overseer or overseers of the Highways of the said Township of Amwell and others Whom it may Concern to pay Due Regard to this our Return Given under our hands this Eighteenth Day of September Anno Dom one thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy. Joakum Griggs.
Old Road Found
We notice that the “Return” fails to say whether north or south in the first course; but the general tendency of the road being north, we may safely assume that north was intended. I have found no road closely coinciding with the old survey, but there is found one doing what that one was evidently meant to do.
The names of landowners mentioned in the survey and other old documents consulted clearly show that the survey began in the road leading from Lambertville to Ringoes by way of Rocktown about four miles southwest from Ringoes, in what is now West Amwell; and that its ending in the road near Samuel Kitchen’s Mill was eastward from Mt. Airy, the mill probably being what was later (1815) known as “Runkle’s Mill.” 1
The map of 1851 shows a mill pond north of the Lambertville-Rocktown road, and a road just west of it, starting about as the old survey must have done, the mill pond being east of this road. This pond is—or was—fed by the head-waters of the Alexauken. The map does not show any mill here; but about three-quarters of a mile north on the same stream we find “A. Larason’s G. Mill.” 2
Deed Mentions Tyson
A deed dated April 29, 1790 made by Thomas Opdyke, Yeoman, and his wife, Anna, says: “Whereas John Opdyke by deed dated August 12, 1725, grant[ed] unto Thomas Opdyke a tract of Land or Plantation, situate in the township of Amwell containing 267 acres, now the said ______ 10 pounds ____ do ___ to Benjamin Tyson a part of said tract containing 107 acres ____ Quarter and 19 Perches . . . Beginning at a black oak tree, corner to David Johnes in Fisher’s Line.” 3
A release bearing the same date as the deed above says:
“Know All Men by these presents that we, Benjamin Tyson and Elizabeth Tyson his wife . . . Hath released unto Thomas Opdycke . . . All manner of Dower . . . whatsoever, which said Elizabeth Tyson now hath in and to the Messuage, Lands &c described as follows, Viz.
“First a certain Mill Plantation & Second a certain Meadow Lot . . . in the aforesaid township and seized upon by John Anderson Esq. late Sheriff of the County of Hunterdon and by William Lowery, Esq. Sheriff as the Lands and Tenements of Benjamin Tyson.”
The mill property is described as “Beginning in the middle of the road corner to Covenhoven in Welshes Line . . . Containing 26 acres. The Meadow Lot Beginning at a Stone Corner to James Johnes & Containing 6 acres, 1 Quarter and 19 Perches.”4
Tyson Owned Several Tracts
We find Tyson owning several tracts of land, including rather broad areas. With some of these he appears to have prospered; but the foregoing statements show that he became unfortunately entangled with the mill property and the meadow. Benjamin Tyson died intestate. His wife Elizabeth, having renounced her right to administer and asked for the appointment of Jacob Holcombe, Letters of Administration were granted to him May 6, 1807. The inventory was of small amount, but there were important tracts of land still lying in Tyson’s name. At the October Term 1807, the Orphan’s Court ordered “Jacob Holcombe, Administrator of the estate, to make sale of the Real Estate of said Intestate, or so much thereof as may pay his debts &c. If it be found that the real estate of said Intestate is more than sufficient to pay . . . then he sell the Part of said real Estate that adjoins to Caleb Farley, David Johnes and others. Present: Benjamin Egbert, Paul H. M. Prevost, Richard Opdyke, Luther Opdyke, John Wilson, Peter Risler, Esquire, Judges.”
Here are well-remembered names of men then prominent in the affairs of Hunterdon County. But with all due respect for them and their ability, we may well congratulate ourselves upon the less cumbersome and more efficient Orphan’s Court of today.
In accordance with the foregoing Order of the Court, Jacob Holcombe, Administrator, conveyed 94 acres of the farm designated to Nathaniel Higgins, for $2,984. This proved to be ample as his final account shows: “Receipts $3,348.53, disbursements $2,583.60, balance $764.93.”
The designation by the Court as to the “Part thereof” to be sold is partly explained by an unsigned paper found in the files of Tyson’s estate: “Mary Vanlecker, granddaughter of Benjamin Tyson, Decd, wishes the Administrator to Sell so much of the land as will pay said Tyson’s debts and that the Court will Direct him to begin at the East side of the farm which joins Caleb Farley, Peter Fisher and David Johnes and to run as much of said Farm to the West as will discharge said debts.” 5
This granddaughter is the only descendant mentioned in the files. Her name is hard to decipher. “Mary” is right, but “Van Lecker” may be slightly at fault. Her name is not found elsewhere; nor has anything been found to show the death of Elizabeth Tyson, or the beneficiaries of her estate. It appears safe to assume that, at the time of Benjamin Tyson’s death, Mary Vanlecker was his only living descendant. 6
Thus we do pass along, and thus are we forgotten. Every generation is so busy with its own affairs—its struggles and achievements, its successes and failures, its pleasures and sorrows—that it has little disposition to spend time for reliable records of those lately gone or those just passing away. It may be better so. But, when one looks back a century or more, only to find painful blanks, it does appear that all might be better off and more content if all had taken greater care to make things clear for those who were to follow.
I second that thought. But then, I’m sure the Tysons could not have imagined that 200 years later there would be people who were interested in their lives.
- This was not the route at all, and I am surprised that Mr. Bush was so mistaken. He did not realize that Tyson’s Mill was located at Headquarters, and was once known as Opdycke’s Mill. The road described is Sand Brook-Headquarters Road. It begins not in the Lambertville-Ringoes Road, but in “the Great Road Leading from Benjamin Tyson’s Mill to John Ringoes” which is County Route 604 at Headquarters. And Kitchen’s Mill was located in Sand Brook. ↩
- The mill pond is actually on the property of Headquarters Farm, as can be seen in the old photograph published in “Tyson’s Mill.” The “head-waters” that fed this pond came from the Third Neshanic, not the Alexauken. Bush wrote that he could not find the mill pond on the map of 1851; the explanation is that it wasn’t where Bush was looking. ↩
- When I originally published this article, I had taken it from a microfilm version in which parts were illegible. However, by checking the deed that Mr. Bush was referring to (Book 1 p. 403) I can state that Thomas and Anna Opdycke conveyed to Benjamin Tyson for £410 a tract of 107 + acres, being part of the 267 acres conveyed to Thomas Opdycke by John Opdycke in 1775. The 107 acres was bordered by David Jones, Fisher’s line, & Covenhoven’s line, and was a farm on Lambertville-Headquarters Road south of Headquarters where Benjamin and Elizabeth Tyson spent their last days. ↩
- This deed (Book 1 p.405) failed to state how Elizabeth Tyson had a dower right in the mill lot. In fact, I have not been able to identify who she had been married to before marrying Tyson. We do know that Tyson owned the mill as early as 1770 by the road return cited above. That road was the Sandbrook-Headquarters Road, which began “in the road from Benjamin Tyson’s Mill to John Ringoes’.” ↩
- This farm is located on Block 43 lot 19 on Lambertville-Headquarters Road in Delaware Township. It is part of the farm that was conveyed to Benjamin Tyson by Thomas Opdycke in 1790. ↩
- Like Mr. Bush, I too have been unable to pin down the identity of this granddaughter, as well as Benjamin Tyson’s wife Elizabeth. ↩