This is part two of a series on some of the properties created in the Haddon Tract of Amwell Township, Hunterdon County.
Jacob Peter Sniter and Nicholas Sayn jointly purchased 1300 acres in Amwell Township from Elizabeth Haddon Estaugh in 1748. The two men sold off several lots and then divided the land remaining between them. Part One dealt with Nicholas Sayn/Sine, who acquired the southern half. This article deals with Jacob Peter Sniter who got the northern half.
Note, Dec. 1, 2017: It turns out a part of this article is mistaken, and as soon as I have better information I will update it. In the meantime, I have crossed out some text.
Jacob Peter Sniter
Sniter was the original spelling of Jacob’s surname, but it soon morphed into Snyder. He was born on October 28, 1695 in Dierdorf, Germany. His first recorded appearance in America was his christening, along with his wife Anna Corselius, on April 19, 1715, at the Reformed Church at Port Richmond, New York.1 Their eldest known child, Maria Chatherina, was born in 1722.
Snyder was naturalized in New York on November 8, 1735, and made a freeman there on October 4, 1737. He was identified as a cordwainer (shoemaker). By that time, Jacob’s wife Anna had died. She was buried in the Dutch Reformed Church cemetery in New York in January 1731, only 36 years old. She may have died in childbirth, since the youngest of her four children died about 1730.
Jacob Snyder married his second wife, Elizabeth Catharina Lott, sometime before 1734, when her eldest child William was born and christened in the Dutch Reformed Church of New York. The other children of Jacob and Elizabeth were Catharina, Anna, Johannes, Peter, Elizabeth and Christopher.
Thus it appears that Snyder had been living in New York for many years before purchasing the Amwell property jointly with Nicholas Sine in 1748. In the deed, Snyder and Sine were both described as “of Amwell.” It is impossible to say just when they moved to Amwell, but clearly Jacob Snyder was middle-aged by that time, which seems very late to be starting over with a new home in the wilderness.
And yet, there were a surprising number of people who were willing to go through this ordeal when they were no longer young. Less surprising was the fact that a large number of them died soon after making the move. Snyder died in October 1754, about six years after arriving in Amwell, when he was about 60 years of age.
When Snyder and Sine purchased the 1300 acres, their intention was to make a profit by selling off lots. They appear to have done this almost immediately, and left themselves with a remainder of about 532 acres, which they then divided between them, giving each about 266 acres.
When Snyder died in 1754, he had not yet written a will. I thought perhaps this was because Snyder could not write, but his inventory included two Bibles and some other books, so obviously Snyder was literate. The inventory of his estate, which amounted to £150, was taken by his Amwell neighbors, Francis Besson and Job Robins. The administrator of his estate was his second wife Elizabeth, with her son William Snyder as fellowbondsman.
Subsequent deeds confirm that Snyder died owning a square tract of about 237 acres in the northwest corner of the old Haddon Tract. After his death the property was divided in half with a diagonal line. The division was probably made by Snyder’s administrator Elizabeth when she sold the eastern half of the property to Andrew Bearder on December 15, 1778.2 The other half was sold to Francis Besson, but his deed was not recorded. We only know of the sale because in 1798 Besson bequeathed that land to his son John, which he then conveyed to his son, John Jr. in 1810.3
None of the Snyder children were interested in living on the Snyder tract. Son William moved to Frederick Co., Maryland, bringing his mother Elizabeth with him. Son Peter Snyder married Lenah Young about 1757 and purchased land of his own to the north of the Haddon tract on old Boarshead Road. Son Christopher married sometime around 1765, but died in 1771. I do not know if he had children. As for the daughters, Catharina, Anna and Elizabeth, I have no information about them.
Francis Besson and the western half
Francis Besson married Anna Elizabeth Case sometime around 1745 in Germany. In 1769, Tunis Case of Amwell wrote his will and named his daughter Elizabeth, wife of Francis Pozen, Pozen being a corruption of Besson. They had one child, Anna, who married William Yawger in 1778.
Anna Elizabeth Case Besson died sometime after her father had written his will in 1769, which was well after Francis Besson had come to America. This is a problem, because family tradition states that Besson came with his second wife Elizabeth, daughter of Adam Hummer, bringing along his ten children. It is true that Besson did marry the daughter of Adam Hummer. In 1781, Hummer’s will named his daughter Elizabeth and his son-in-law Francis Besson.4 And in 1788, Francis Besson, as surviving executor of Adam Hummer, dec’d, submitted an account of Hummer’s estate.
The tradition of Besson’s arrival with wife Elizabeth Hummer and ten children is repeated in Snell’s History of Hunterdon and Lequear’s Traditions of Hunterdon. I can only account for three of those children, the ones named in Besson’s will: Anna, John and Catharine.
The tradition also says that the Bessons came to New Jersey with a group of other Germans and settled on a tract about four miles from Flemington, “near where Mr. Peartree lives.” That is the right distance to the Snyder tract and surrounding area. Peartree was a corruption of Bearder. (Some of these corruptions of German names are so colorful, I wonder why they weren’t adopted.)
Francis Besson owned more land than just the half of Snyder’s 237 acres. He also owned property in what became Raritan Township, and that is where he lived and where son John was born. As noted above, Francis Besson made the inventory of Jacob Snyder in 1754, so he was already a well-established resident of the area by then. In 1780 he was taxed on 300 acres. According to a letter written to Hiram Deats in 1945 by William W. Besson, Francis Besson’s home
“was built prior to 1750 by my great great great grandfather, Francis Besson, father of John Besson the Revolutionary War Soldier who was born in 1750 in that house. My father’s cousin (E. V. S. Besson of Hoboken, NJ) wrote to my father (William Wickham Besson) in June 1910 that he had been there and that the old house was still standing at that time. The property at that time (1910) belonged to the Flemington Water Company that utilized the springs on the place, the water of which was piped down to Flemington.”
Besson’s deeds to this land are missing, and I have not attempted to locate exactly where he lived. However, a clue can be found in Snell’s History of Hunterdon (p. 334) concerning the Flemington Water Co. He wrote that the original source of water came from the farm of Robert Thatcher, who owned the place when Snell was writing (1881). His farm was probably on Plum Brook Road, which runs from Route 579 to Route 12. The Cornell Map of 1851 shows an “A. Besson” living on that road, most likely Besson’s grandson Agesilaus, who probably lived on the original farm.
Francis Besson wrote his will on August 11, 1794 when he was about 74 years old. (His name in the will was written as “Pysong,” which hints at how the name was pronounced.) He left the profits of his real and personal estate to his wife Elizabeth during her widowhood, cash bequests to daughters Anna Yawger and Catherine Mires, and real estate to his son John, who had taken on management of his father’s properties, probably for the previous 10 years.
Daughter Anna Yawger did not live on the Besson property; she and husband William moved to Lebanon Township. Daughter Catharine married Peter Mires, probably the son of Sebastian ‘Bost’ or ‘Boston’ Myers. According to the will, daughter Catharine and husband Peter Mires were “lately living in Maryland.”
Besson named his “dear neighbor” Andrew Bearder executor of his estate along with son John Besson, but Bearder declined. He certainly was not too old to take on this task, being about 50 years old, so the reason he declined is a mystery. In any case, the will was recorded on August 9, 1798.
John Besson was born on April 17, 1750 in Amwell Township.5 Although he lived well north of the village of Headquarters, he managed to make the acquaintance of a very prominent family there—John Opdycke, Esq. and wife Margaret Green, and especially their daughter Margaret Opdycke, their 7th child. Besson married her in 1772. The couple had nine children, from 1773 to 1793, and remained married for almost 50 years.
In 1775, Besson volunteered to serve in the Amwell militia, and on April 1st was elected an Ensign in the 3rd regiment, company of David Johnes. Besson probably made several trips to the old White Hall Tavern in the village of Headquarters, as that was Johnes’ recruiting station and the location for training his volunteers. He probably combined those trips with visits to his in-laws, the Opdyckes. Besson also served under Capt. John Phillips.6
In 1780, while the war was still on, John Besson was taxed on 160 acres. At the same time, his father Francis was taxed on 300 acres. John was taxed on the same 160 acres in 1786. As far as I know, he did not yet have title to that property. My theory is that he was in possession of it while his father was alive, but did not become the legal owner until after Francis Besson’s death, sometime before June 1798. Part of that 160 acres was a tract of 118.5 acres which was half of the 237 acres once owned by Jacob Snyder. Francis Besson probably bought his half of that tract about the same time as Andrew Bearder did in 1778.
This theory seems to be confirmed by a road survey that was recorded in 1779.7 The road began “near the widow Heath,” who was living in today’s Locktown, and ran east between the lands of Christopher “Lawbrocher” (Lawbacher) and John Rockafeller to Plum Brook, then “up the creek upon lands of John Besson’s,” then still east across Besson’s land and land of Andrew Partree (Bearder), then to lands of John Bohanon (Buchanan) and William Barns until it meets with the “grate” road from Quakertown to Trenton (Route 579), “near William Barns his barn.” This is one of the earliest recorded road surveys in Delaware Township.
John Besson’s Home
John Besson had a sawmill on Plum Brook. (See map above.) It is hard to imagine such a thing today, as the brook is very shallow. But in the 18th century, all the brooks in the county carried far more water than they do now. Not far from the sawmill, Besson built his house. You cannot see it today because it was surrounded by and incorporated into a much larger house in the 1820s or 30s. I suspect that later builder was Besson’s son-on-law, Andrew Bearder, who married Besson’s daughter Mary in 1814.
When John Besson was 60 years old in 1810, he conveyed some of his property to his sons and son-in-law. The 118.5-acre farm went to his son John, Jr. for which he paid $2,528.8 Other farms were conveyed to son Samuel Besson and son-in-law John Hughes, husband of Besson’s daughter Margaret.9 The deed to John Hughes noted that John Besson was “seized in his own proper right of a good sure and absolute estate of inheritance in fee simple,” suggesting that his father bequeathed it to him. (There was no recital stating exactly how the property came into John Besson’s possession.)
John Besson, Jr. was born on February 2, 1773.10 In 1795 he married Rachel Trout, daughter of Besson’s neighbors George Trout and Hannah or Johanna Lequear. John and Rachel Besson had 14 children.
John Besson, Sr. had also acquired a farm in Alexandria Township, and in 1815 he sold it to son John Jr. and bought back from him the 118.5 acres in Amwell.11 In both cases, the consideration was only $1. The next year, on November 1, 1816, John Besson Sr. sold a lot of 42 acres adjacent to the original 118.5 acres to Rachel’s brother George Trout.12 Finally, in 1825, John Besson, Sr. sold the 118.5 acres to his son-in-law Andrew Bearder for $720.13 (More about Andrew Bearder, Jr. below.)
On August 10, 1833, the court awarded a pension to John Besson for his military service during the Revolution. The funds were first sent to his grandson Joseph Besson (son of Franklin, 1776-1815) on December 12, 1835, and the next year to James N. Reading, a Flemington attorney.14 By that time Besson was 85 years old, and the small amount he received was probably barely enough to support him.
Margaret Opdycke Besson died on March 3, 1820, age 69. She was buried in her family’s cemetery south of Headquarters. John Besson, Sr. died on July 24, 1842, at the impressive age of 92, and was buried next to his wife in the Opdycke Burying Ground. An obituary was published for him in the Hunterdon Democrat on July 27, 1842:
“DIED, at his residence in the township of Raritan, in this county, on the 25th inst., Mr. John Besson, a soldier of the Revolution, in the 93d [sic] year of his age. The deceased was born in the year 1750, in the county of Hunterdon, and continued to reside in it, up to the time of his death.”
As the obituary stated, Besson died in Raritan Twp., most likely, given his advanced age, with his son Agesilaus Besson who lived on the original Besson farm on Plum Brook Road. Agesilaus happened to be married to Elizabeth Hummer, granddaughter of Adam Hummer the immigrant, and therefore Besson’s first cousin once removed.
Like the other settlers on the Haddon Tract (Snyder, Sine and Besson), Andrew Bearder, Sr. was a German immigrant to America. He came as an indentured servant when he was 13 years old, about 1754. According to A. J. Burkett,15 he was apprenticed (i.e., sold as an indentured servant) to a Barton Bellows (or Bellowsfelt).16 Eventually he bought his freedom, and when he was about 25 years old, he married the widow Margaret Wambaugh.
Margaret was also a German immigrant. Her first husband, one Shafer, apparently died at sea by falling off the ship, so Margaret arrived in America about 1750 as a widow with three children, John, Peter and William Shafer. About 1755, she married George Henry Wambaugh and had four children with him: Henry, Elizabeth, Mary and Anthony Wambaugh. George Wambaugh died in Amwell in 1763, leaving Margaret with seven orphaned children. His will, dated July 3, 1763, gave her £100, his house and barns. Wambaugh’s 212 acres went to his three children, Henry, Elizabeth and Mary, who were minors when their father died. The Shafer children had probably left home by 1763; Wambaugh made no mention of them in his will.
Andrew Bearder and the widow Margaret Wambaugh married about 1766 and remained on the Wambaugh farm until Bearder bought the 118.5-acre property from Jacob Snyder’s estate on December 15, 1778.17
Andrew Bearder’s house
As far as is known at present, there is no house on the Bearder property that might have been occupied by Jacob Snyder in the 1740s, nor is there one that dates to 1778 when Bearder purchased it. However, there is a house that was built in the late 18th century, probably around 1790. Its first floor had a wide side hall and two large rooms, each with a large corner fireplace. There steps leading down to the cellar that ran along the south side of the house, which is very odd, and an open second floor under the roof.
There are other odd characteristics about the house’s construction that Marilyn Cummings was able to study due to the fact that the present owner removed all of the plaster walls making the skeleton entirely visible. For instance, the house was built on the south side of the road, which means the front door would be on the north side of the house, at a time when most houses faced south.
The date of 1790 is arrived at from the nails found in the original hand-hewn timbers. They had wrought heads and cut shanks, a style of nail that did not come into use until about 1790.
Andrew Bearder was about 50 years old in 1790. His wife Margaret was nearly 20 years older than he was, and their children were all adults. There is a possibility that their youngest son Jacob was living with them after the house was constructed. He had married Elizabeth Trimmer about 1788, and their daughter Margaret was born in 1789.
Andrew Bearder was trusted by his neighbors. He often shows up in the records as a witness to deeds, an executor of estates, a maker of inventories, etc. A. J. Burkett also noted that “A number of papers are extant which show him to have been an excellent pens-man for his day.” In 1809 Bearder was made one of the trustees of newly named “Amwell Dutch Reformed Church.”18 He also bought and sold a fair amount of real estate during his life.
Andrew Bearder died on October 15, 1829 “at an advanced age,” according to his obituary.19 He was probably around 88 years old. He had survived his wife Margaret by 29 years, probably spending his later years with his son Jacob’s family. Bearder died intestate; his administrator was his son Jacob. On November 30, 1829, Holcombe Dilts and Henry L. Hoppock tallied his inventory which was very modest, the sort of list one would expect for an elderly widower. It consisted of one clock $15, one bed $15, Andirons, Shovel & tongs $2, two platters, stand and looking glass $2, one Stove $5, books & book case $4, one chist $2, one desk & its contents $50, one pot and cittle $1.50, one windmill $5, and one Brass cittel 50 cents, which the appraisers totalled at $105, but only adds up to $102. The windmill is a little surprising.
Andrew and Margaret Bearder are buried in the Amwell Ridge (Larison’s) Cemetery at Ringoes.
Andrew and George T. Bearder.
Andrew Bearder, Jr., grandson of Andrew Bearder, Sr., was born March 19, 1794, the second child of Deacon Jacob Bearder & Elizabeth Trimmer. On February 10, 1814, he married Mary Besson, daughter of John Besson and Margaret Opdycke, and sister of John Besson, Jr., mentioned above. They had seven children from 1814 to 1831, two of whom probably died young.
On January 10, 1825, Andrew Bearder, Jr. bought the 118.5 acres owned by his father-in-law John Besson, for $720.20 At that time, the farm bordered the other 118.5 acres belonging to Andrew’s father, Jacob Bearder. But it is not at all clear that Andrew and wife moved onto the property. He almost immediately sold off some small lots, and in 1839 sold the remaining 91.2 acres to Jonathan Rake21 At that time, Andrew and Mary were living in Raritan Township.
Andrew Bearder’s younger brother, George Trimmer Bearder, was born on July 24, 1803, and in 1825 married Mary Hann, daughter of William Hann and Mary Case. They had three children, one of whom died as an infant. George T. Bearder and his family were residing at his grandfather’s house on Locktown-Flemington Road from about that time. But Bearder did not own it outright until after the death of his father Jacob in 1838.
Jacob Bearder’s will of 1833 had bequeathed to his three sons, Andrew, George and Jacob, all his real estate. This included the farm on which Andrew Bearder, Sr. lived. Andrew, Jr. conveyed his rights in this farm to brothers George and Jacob. Then those two brothers released their rights in the remaining farms to each other. The result was that Andrew owned the farm originally belonging to John Besson, George owned the grandfather’s farm, and Jacob owned a farm of nearly equal size just east.22
George T. Bearder was a good farmer. According to Egbert T. Bush, in 1873 Bearder was an old man
who’s home farm was on the south side of the road [Locktown-Flemington Road] running westward below the Boarshead. His large tract of fine timber was a favorite place for holding picnics, harvest homes and outdoor meetings.”23
Bearder died on Nov. 7, 1881, age 78. His wife Mary survived him, dying on May 30, 1896. The couple was buried in the Amwell Ridge Cemetery. Bearder’s obituary was published in the Hunterdon County Democrat on Nov. 22, 1881.
“Local Department We publish today among our death notices the demise of a good man, George T. Bearder, of Delaware township. He rounded out 78 years, and after reaching manhood from first to last commanded the respect of his friends and neighbors.”
As a result of the death of George Bearder, his son William R. Bearder came into possession of the farm. He was born on December 25, 1825 and was married about 1856 to a woman named Elizabeth (surname not known by me). They had no children. The couple joined with the Christian Church in Locktown, and eventually were buried in the cemetery attached to the church. Egbert Bush wrote of William:
“William R. Bearder, a commissioner of deeds and fine insurance man, owned and occupied the farm [of his father] for many years thereafter.”
William R. Bearder’s wife Elizabeth died on October 8, 1902, age 66. Bearder himself died seven years later, on May 30, 1909 at the age of 83. His obituary:
“His long life of usefulness and honor was mostly spent upon the farm where his earthly career was closed. So many are the years that this good man has gone in and out among his neighbors, cheering all with this sunny smile and kind word, that memory of him will live long.”24
The presence of such a well-respected family came to an end on the Locktown-Flemington Road in the early 20th century, having been there since the Revolution. However, there is one more member of the family to narrate, and that is the father of Andrew, George and Jacob: Jacob Bearder, Sr. and wife Elizabeth Trimmer. Their farm was also part of the Haddon Tract.
Correction: I had originally thought the Bearder house dated to the mid-18th century, but a careful study of the interior by Marilyn Cummings showed that the house was built later, closer to 1790. I have revised my conclusions accordingly.
Correction: I had originally written Thatchers Hill Road when I meant to say Plum Brook Road.
- Henry Z. Jones, More Palatine Families, pp. 244-46. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 9 p. 38. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 16 p. 623. ↩
- Henry Z. Jones , More Palatine Families, pp. 128-9, 137. ↩
- Birth date from Besson’s pension application. ↩
- Pension No. S832, issued Aug. 10, 1833. ↩
- Hunterdon Co. Road Returns, Book 1 p. 101. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 16 p. 623, dated May 12, 1810. ↩
- H. C. Deeds, Book 16 pp. 485, 488. ↩
- Date from gravestone. ↩
- H.C. Deeds Book 23, pp. 500, 503. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 27 p. 115. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 38 p. 177. ↩
- Pension Application S832. ↩
- Hunterdon County Democrat, c.1945, “Harmony School House, Historical Sketch” by A. J. Burkett, 1898, 1930. ↩
- The will of Philip Young, recorded in 1775, identified Barnet Bellowsfelt as “my wife’s son.” ↩
- Recital, H.C. Deed Book 9 p. 38. ↩
- This became the United First Church at Larison’s Corner in East Amwell. ↩
- H. C. Democrat, Oct. 21, 1829. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 38, p. 177. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 70 p. 398. ↩
- These transactions are recorded in H. C. Deeds, Book 72 pp. 107, 109, 112. ↩
- from “Boarshead Tavern One of the Earliest to be Established.” Nov. 14, 1929. ↩
- The source of this obituary has escaped me. It might have been the Hunterdon Co. Democrat, or perhaps a Lambertville paper. ↩