As I wrote in my previous post, the farm just east of the Swallow farm was owned by John Lequear in the 18th century. I was delighted to discover the location of his home farm.
At first, I thought the proposed rail line might pass Lequear’s property, so I did some research on it before realizing that the train would be running further to the north. So now I shall take a break from following the railroad’s route and publish what I’ve learned.
For anyone interested in Hunterdon County history, the name Lequear should ring a bell, thanks to the collection of articles written by John W. Lequear titled Traditions of Hunterdon; Early History and Legends of Hunterdon County, New Jersey, edited and published by D. H. Moreau, who was also publisher of the Hunterdon County Democrat. The book is a collection of Lequear’s articles written in the mid-19th century. They are quirky and undisciplined, and full of interest. Lequear was a devoted Hunterdon historian who lived in Kingwood Township, as did his ancestors. He was also a self-taught surveyor, commissioner of deeds and engineer.
Because of the Kingwood connection, when I first came across the Lequear name in old Amwell township, I was puzzled. The first Lequear I found in Amwell was Hannah or Johanna, who married George Trout in 1757. It was the Trout-Lequear farm that was to be traversed by the railroad, so I discussed that farm in my previous article, Route Not Taken, part six.
However, I am reluctant to move on to the next property owners along the rail line without giving John Lequear and his successors their due, so this is the history of John Lequear’s farm and family. (Speaking of family, I am also publishing today a Lequear Family Tree and a Trout Family Tree.)
Luckily for me, someone (a Lequear descendant, of course) has already done the hard work of researching back to the first immigrant. That researcher was Andrew J. Provost, Jr., who wrote in 1955 a report titled “Lequier, A Very Early Family at Boswick Whose French Name Became Quite Generally Established as Lequier with One Branch Later Adopting the form Luqer.” It is only a typewritten report, nothing fancy, but it met my needs. (Curious that he didn’t mention the Lequear spelling, commonly used in Hunterdon County.)
According to Mr. Provost, Jean L’Esquier was born in Paris about 1635 and emigrated to New Amsterdam (NYC) in 1658. There he met and married a Dutch woman named Rachel Dircks, whose mother was French, enabling her to speak with the French immigrant. Jean & Rachel had a son Jan or John, born about 1666 who, while spending time in Greenwich, CT, met and married Hannah Close. The couple moved to Newtown, Long Island, and had two sons—two sons who seem to have been too restless to remain on Long Island.
Thomas Lequear was born about 1705 and his brother Gerrardus about 1710. About 1730, their uncle Isaac Lequear moved to Hillsborough, NJ. Andrew Provost suspects that nephew Thomas followed him there, and then proceeded west to Kingwood Township where he met and in 1747 married Elizabeth Bray, daughter of Rev. John Bray and Elizabeth Bowne of Middletown, Monmouth County.
Which raises the question, did Thomas meet Elizabeth in Monmouth County or in Kingwood? I was hoping John W. Lequear might have the answer, but he did not consider that question. He wrote about Elizabeth’s brother James Bray, a man of “herculean strength,” and mentioned that her father had purchased 500 acres in Kingwood in 1713 which he sold to his brother James Bray, and then bought 1,000 acres adjacent “and placed his sons and daughters upon it.”
John Bray, Sr. was still living in Middletown when he wrote his will in 1764. He left to daughter Elizabeth Lequear a tract of 200 acres in Kingwood, stating that it was land left from a large tract purchased from Samuel Bickley at the Delaware River, bordering land of his brother James Bray.
Thomas Leqeuar (c.1705-1797) and Elizabeth Bray (c.1726-1814) remained in Kingwood Township, as did their descendants for many generations. When Elizabeth wrote her will in 1801, she left those 200 acres from her father’s estate to her son Thomas Lequear, Jr.
For my purposes, it is Thomas’ brother Gerrardus (c.1710-1755) who is of the most interest. He met his wife, Anna (Anetje) Cortelyou, on Long Island. They married about 1730 and moved to the vicinity of New Brunswick, NJ. In the Dutch Reformed Church located there, Gerrardus and Anetje had their two children christened, in 1738 and 1740.
I have not found a record of Gerrardus purchasing land in Amwell, but he must have. He was living there when he wrote his will on March 11, 1755. George Trout was present in the same neighborhood at that time. Lequear named his wife Ann and children John, Hannah, Mary and Joseph, all of them still under age. Unfortunately, the abstract in Colonial Documents of NJ, Abstracts of Wills, says nothing about what was left to the widow and children, so it tells us nothing about what property Gerrardus owned.
His executors were his wife and John Williamson. An inventory of his estate was taken on March 31st by Ichabod Leigh and Garret Schenck, so Lequear must have died between those dates. The estate totaled £271.13.3, which for that time was a respectable amount.
A brief word about Johannes Williamson: He was an immigrant from Holland arriving in the Ringoes area sometime before 1731. That year he bought 180 acres northeast of Ringoes by Dutch Lane and Back Brook Road, where he built first a log cabin, and later a larger house and a mill. The house came to be designated as “the old Williamson homestead.”1
Williamson married in the early 1740s a woman named Mary, whose family has not been identified. They had seven children, from 1745 to 1759.
John Williamson wrote his will in 1769, leaving property to his wife during her widowhood and to his sons Wilhelmus, John Jacob and Abraham. To his daughters Catharine Whiteneck, Ann Housel and Rebecca Williamson he left his “moveables.” The will was witnessed by John Lequear, son of Gerrardus and Ann.
The Children of Gerrardus and Ann Lequear
It is known that the eldest child, Mary, was married to someone named Young, but as far as I can tell, no one has been able to identify who he was. He died in the late 1750s, and Mary remarried Christopher Fisher (c.1735-1787). But they are not relevant to this story.
The next child was Hannah or Johanna, born 1737. She married George Trout in 1757 and had eleven children. The family lived in the Ringoes area for some time before moving to a farm in what is today Delaware and Raritan Townships in the 1770s. (See Route Not Taken, part 6.)
Hannah Lequear Trout was followed by brothers John and Joseph Lequear. First a word about the fourth child, Joseph Lequear (1754-1804). He died land rich, but family poor, as he never married, never had children. He lived in Amwell township, where he wrote his will on March 20, 1804, leaving his property to a long list of nephews and nieces. There were Hannah’s eleven children plus Mary’s four children by her mystery husband Mr. Young and the three by her second husband Christopher Fisher. After all those bequests, he left the residue (if any) to his brother John. He died on May 4, 1804, only 49 years old.
And finally we come to the Amwell landowner who bordered Nicholas Swallow. John Lequear (1744-1828) was, like his brother, a single man all his life.
His first purchase of real estate was in 1767 when he bought 80 acres in the Nathan Allen tract from George and Anna Thompson bordering Philip Kemple and a parsonage lot.2 I have not located this property, but believe it was somewhere in the “Great Swamp,” the area in Delaware and Raritan Townships known as the Croton Plateau.
The next record for John Lequear is in 1777 when he was fined for refusing to take an oath. Some genealogists have assumed that John must have been a Quaker, since Quakers did not take oaths. However, John’s siblings were christened in the Dutch Reformed Church, so I am not convinced. I suspect he was not very religious as his name does not show up in early church records.
The next appearance of John Lequear is in a deed of 1784 when George and Hannah Trout conveyed to John their rights in four separate lots owned by their father Gerrardus Lequear at the time of his death in 1755. The properties were in the vicinity of Ringoes and bordered other land of John Lequear’s and also that of Abraham and William Williamson (sons of Johannes & Mary Williamson).3
On December 13, 1787, John’s sister Mary became a widow when her husband Christopher Fisher died intestate. The court named Mary and her brother John Lequear as administrators of the estate. This was the first of many many instances in which Lequear acted as administrator or executor of someone’s estate, or as a commissioner to deal with a deceased’s property, or witnessed someone’s deed. He seems to have been the man people would go to. In 1808, his brother-in-law George Trout named him executor of his estate along with George’s son-in-law Martin Johnson.
On May 20, 1796, John Jewell, Sr. of Amwell wrote his will, ordering his executors to sell his homestead plantation of 175 acres, purchased in part from John and James Stevenson and from Henry Dils, along with a half-acre lot from Henry Lawshe. This farm of 170 acres was located near Route 31 and was sold by his executors in 1804 to Benjamin Johnson for $6,504.20. John Lequear witnessed the deed.4
John W. Lequear, in his Traditions of Hunterdon, wrote that John Jewell’s son had sold his farm to David Bellis, when in fact his executors, not his son, had sold it to Benjamin Johnson. John Jewell had one son, John Jr., and I could not find any record of his sale of his father’s homestead farm. I am surprised and puzzled by John W. Lequear missing this and wish I could ask him about it.
John Jewell, Sr. owned another farm of 183+ acres bordering land of Paul “Khul” [Kuhl], the Great Road, John “Oller” [Aller], John “Lee” [Leigh], George Trout, William Merrill, and Nicholas Swallow. It wasn’t until April 30, 1809 that his executors sold the property; the buyer was John Lequear, who paid $7063.71 for it.5 Excepted out was a public schoolhouse built on the property with a 99-year lease.6
Will of John Lequear
John Lequear of Amwell wrote his own last will & testament on January 14, 1826 when he was 82 years old. He named as executors, John Young, son of Jacob P. Young, John Moore, son of Henry Moore, dec’d, and Peter Young, also son of Jacob P. Young. Jacob P. Young was the husband of Rebecca Trout, John Lequear’s niece. John Moore was the husband of Hannah Trout, another niece. Which goes to show how connected both John and Joseph Lequear were with their sister’s children. His will, like his brother’s, was a lengthy one, with many bequests to those nephews and nieces.
He ordered his executors to “sell my farm that I bought from the executors of John Jewel in Amwell.” He excepted from that order “a lot being part of said farm on the southwest side of the road from Pittstown to Trenton and that my said executors to sell except as above.” I do not know what happened to that lot, which would have been at the corner of Route 579 and Hampton Corner Road.
He ordered that the residue of profits from these sales be divided into 18 equal parts. I will share this simply because it’s of use to genealogists: 2 shares to Peter Young; 1 share to John Young; 3 shares to George, Jeremiah & Elizabeth Young, 1 to each; to Hannah Clark and Sarah Heed (daughters of niece Anna Johnson, dec’d) one share between them; to nieces Sarah Hill, Mary Schenck, Catharine Huffman, Hannah Moore, Elizabeth Rockafellar, Rachel Besson, Lucretia Prall, Mary Hortman and Anne Case, 9 shares, one to each; to sons of Daniel Griggs dec’d, being the grandson, sons of my sister Mary Young dec’d, named John, Christopher, Joakim and Samuel Griggs, 1 share divided between them; to nephews George, Jeremiah and Asher Trout, 1 share equally divided (the sd Jeremiah & Asher being sons of my dec’d nephew John Trout).
On January 14, 1829, the executors of John Lequear’s estate advertised in the Hunterdon Gazette the real estate for sale:
“Sale of Real Estate–In pursuance of the last Will and Testament of John Lequear, dec’d, WILL BE SOLD, AT PUBLIC VENDUE, On Monday the 9th day of February next, on the premises, The Plantation whereon John Moore now lives, situate in the township of Amwell, county of Hunterdon, within three miles of Flemington, and three of Ringoes. The FARM, containing about 120 acres of excellent land, 40 of which is first rate woodland – with a good dwelling-house, barn, waggon-house and smoke-house; a never failing stream of water running through the farm, and a lasting spring near the door; there is an apple orchard, with a variety of other fruit trees. This farm is situated on the public road leading from Pittstown to Trenton; there is also a road leading from the aforesaid road through the farm to Flemington, adjoining lands of William Kuhl, Nicholas Swallow, Wm Bishop, Samuel Higgins and others. On the same day, two cleared Lots, one containing about 14, and the other about 20 acres more or less, adjoining the aforesaid farm, and on one of the said roads. On the same day, seven Lots of Woodland, from 3 to 5 acres each, of a good quality of timber, all adjoining the aforesaid roads. Any person wishing to view said premises previous to sale, will be shown the same by John Moore, living thereon, or John Young and Peter Young, near Ringoes. Vendue to begin at 10 o’clock – Conditions made known by John Young, John Moore, Peter Young, Ex’ors.”
April 8, 1829 appears to have been a busy day for Lequear’s executors. They signed five separate deeds disposing of Lequear’s property. The one we are concerned with was the conveyance to David Bellis of Amwell (mentioned above) of a tract of 137.11 acres known as Lots 1 & 2 in a map of division, for which Bellis paid $4,798.85.7 The property bordered Lots 3-6 in the division, the road, a brook, land of William Kuhl, Asher Kuhl, land late Peter Aller, Samuel Higgins, George Trout, Lots 9 & 10, land of Hannah Young, Lot 7, and the road leading [from] the Pittstown & Trenton Rd. to the Flemington & Trenton Rd, in other words, the road from Route 579 to Route 31, now known as Hampton Corner Road.
John Lequear was buried in the Amwell Ridge Cemetery at Larison’s Corner near Ringoes. It is thought that his brother Joseph is also buried there, as well as their father Gerrardus, although their graves have not been located by contributors to Find-a-Grave. The only other known Lequear burial there is for Anne Lequear, but her dates have been obliterated from her gravestone. She was most likely John and Joseph’s mother.
As a consequence of John and Joseph Lequear being life-long bachelors, the Lequear name in Amwell was obliterated, and only carried on in Kingwood Township.
The Bellis Family
Like the Lequear family, the Bellis family is also frequently associated with Kingwood Township. However, their association with old Amwell Township was much stronger, beginning with the Dutch immigrant Johann Adam Bellis of Copper Hill and his wife Catharine Colsch. Hammond’s Map G shows Adam Bellis owning a large tract of land on either side of old Route 31.8
There was another Bellis immigrant beside Johann Adam. He was Barnet Bellis (c.1730-c.1810) who married Mary Fisher (c.1735-bef. 1810), daughter of Johannes Peter Fisher and Anna Maria Young, German immigrants who also settled in Amwell. Some of Barnet and Mary’s descendants settled in Kingwood and Alexandria Townships. It would be interesting to know if Barnet and Johann Adam were related.
David Bellis & Eleanor Schenck
David Bellis, the new owner of the John Lequear farm, was born October 12, 1778, which makes him a contemporary of Nicholas Swallow and Mary Bower. Bellis was the son of William Bellis and Mary Housel of Amwell, and grandson of immigrants Adam & Catharine Bellis. His grandparents on his mother’s side were German immigrants, Mathias & Matalaina Housel.
Thus, David Bellis had deep roots in the area before he married his wife Eleanor Schenck (1782-1835) around 1805. She was the daughter of Ruloff Garretse Schenck and Catherine Emmons who lived closer to Ringoes. David and Eleanor Bellis had seven children from 1807 to 1824. When her youngest child was only eleven years old, Eleanor died on March 18, 1835 at the age of 53 and was buried in the Amwell Ridge Cemetery. Following her death, David Bellis married on January 13, 1841, Elizabeth Bellis, presumably a cousin. I have not figured out who her family was. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Jacob Kirkpatrick, minister of the Presbyterian Church in Ringoes.
The first property purchased by David Bellis was sold to him by the Trustees of the German Reformed Church of Amwell on January 3, 1810. It was identified as the parsonage lot of 52.5 acres & 23 perches, and bordered Benjamin Johnson, John Aller, Elijah Carman and Jacob Rockafellar. It was located on Hampton Corner Road, on the east side of Johanna Farms Road, and it cost Bellis $2,632.18, which was quite a bit of money in 1818.9 There was no recital, but the sale was mentioned in The History of East Amwell, which is where I learned that the church’s trustees purchased the lot in 1767 from Abraham Kise.
Note that one of the bordering owners was Benjamin Johnson, the man who bought the homestead farm of John Jewell. That farm is shown on the 1850 map as “Wm H. Johnson.”
John Boss & Lavinia Moore
As mentioned, when David Bellis bought the Lequear farm, he was already in possession of a farm further to the east, on the same road. It appears that Bellis did not occupy the Lequear farm, at least not at first. The 1850 map of Raritan Township shows “J. Boss” located on the north and south side of Hampton Corner Road, and “D. Bellis” at the location of the Parsonage lot.
“J. Boss” was John Boss (1802-1887), son of Peter Boss & Amy Bosenbury. On September 12, 1833, he married Lavinia Moore (1806-1895), the sister of Mary Moore Swallow, wife of William Swallow, and daughter of Jacob Moore & Elizabeth Sine of Sand Brook. By occupying the Lequear-Bellis farm, John & Lavinia Boss had moved next door to the Swallows.
There is no deed recorded for John Boss as a grantee (land purchaser) until 1834 when he bought from the heirs of John Hice a lot of 13.6 acres on Britton Road in Delaware Township. John and Lavinia sold that lot in 1840 to Elijah Wilson, and the same year purchased two lots out of the Lequear property, one from John’s uncle, Jacob Boss, and one from Elijah & Elizabeth Wilson. Then in 1844, John Boss purchased a 10-acre lot from David Bellis, located next to the Parsonage lot, which he sold the next year to Henry S. Moore.
The deeds are confusing, but, as the 1850 map shows, John Boss ended up owning or occupying the lot with the old Lequear farmhouse as well as a lot across the road. John & Lavinia had three children, only one of whom grew to adulthood. Their daughter Mary (1837-1903) married Peter Moore Larue (1835-1908), a Civil War veteran, and son of Isaac Moore Larue and Sarah Carrell. In their later years, the Bosses and Larues shared a household at the lot on the south side of Hampton Corner Road. The 1873 Atlas shows “P. M. Larue” there.
Although the maps showed “J. Boss” at the Lequear house, the property remained in the hands of David Bellis. With two farms in his possession, it is hard to know which one he chose to live in and which one to rent out. Perhaps he lived on the old parsonage lot because by 1862, he had decided to sell the Lequear farm. That may be when John & Lavinia Boss decided to move across the road.
Bellis advertised in the Hunterdon Gazette on September 24, 1862 a private sale for a farm “on the road leading from Copper Hill to the cross road leading to Quakertown or Ringoes.” It was 136 acres, “about 30 Acres of which are new land, of good White oak and Hickory Timber. The land is in a high state of cultivation, and well fenced and watered. The improvements consist of a good House and Buildings of every description.”
Despite the high praise, Bellis failed to find a buyer, which must have been frustrating because by this time, he was ready to give up farming. On December 14, 1864, he advertised the sale of personal property, the sale to be held on the old parsonage farm on January 5th. He offered a farm wagon, one horse wagon, a wood sled, sleigh, one set of double harness, plows, harrows, rakes, plow harness, forks, one hay rake, and one fanning mill. He also had hay for sale, “by the ton, stalks by the bundle.” As it turns out, it was the parsonage lot that Bellis sold first. On April 25, 1865, David and his third wife Rachel Bellis sold that farm to Wilson J. Leigh for $3,000.10
I was charmed to discover that Wilson Leigh had a family connection with this area of Raritan Township. He was born 1831 to Samuel L. Leigh and Ann Case. His grandparents on the Leigh side were Joseph Huff Leigh and Sarah Jewell, daughter of the John Jewell whose farm was purchased by John Lequear. Joseph H. Leigh was the son of John Leigh and Catharine Hoff, who owned the farm that was eventually sold to Samuel M. Higgins (See Route Not Taken, part six), as well as several other properties in the area.
“W. Leigh” can be seen on the Beers Atlas in the right location. However, David Bellis was not shown on the Atlas or on the survey map, nor was he included in the survey by Dr. Isaac S. Cramer, which is a shame. That is probably because he died the year before both the Atlas and the railroad survey were drawn up.
Augustus Dilts & Ellen Ann Allen
David Bellis was remarkable for the fact that he was 93 years old when he died. (See postscript at end of article.) One of his children was Margaret Kuhl Bellis (1813-1859) who married Jacob Dilts (1813-1902), son of Paul Kuhl Dilts and Sarah Sharp. Jacob and Margaret moved to Hillsborough Township where their five children were born before Margaret died in 1859 at the age of 46. Their oldest child was Augustus Dilts (1838-1922). He married Ellen Ann Allen (1842-1929) in 1861, daughter of Cornelius Nevius Allan and Elizabeth Gano of Somerset County. Their two daughters, Margaret and Lydia were both born in Raritan Township, because in 1865, Augustus Dilts of Raritan Township bought a lot of 11+ acres there from Runkle & Ellen Rea.
When he died, David Bellis still owned part of the old Lequear farm. He and Elizabeth probably spent their last years there, in company with their grandson Augustus Dilts. My reason for thinking so is that on April 2, 1873, the heirs and executors of David Bellis dec’d, being his sons John William, Garret S. and David S. Bellis, sold the homestead farm, being a tract of 137.03 acres, to Augustus Dilts for $10,277.25.11 The deed stated that the farm bordered land of William Swallow and heirs of Nicholas Swallow. Intriguing to me was the description of the road that passed by the property—today’s Hampton Corner Road. In the deed it was called “the road from Copper Hill to Sergeantsville.”
Road names in the 19th century were almost always what I call ‘from-here-to-there-names,’ but getting there was sometimes circuitous. Today, a road in Raritan Township that ends at Route 579 cannot be considered a road to Sergeantsville, but back in the days of horses and buggies, one would travel north on Route 579 and turn left onto Britton Road which would take one into Sand Brook and to Route 523 (known as the road from Flemington to Centre Bridge) which would then go straight to Sergeantsville.
Augustus and Ellen Dilts remained on the farm until 1896, when they sold it to Sarah E. Quick, wife of Peter J. Quick of Hillsborough Township, for $8,000. Sarah was the sister of Augustus Dilts. In 1909, her sons Jacob D. and Frederick A. Quick sold the property to Louis Staats Zabriskie, who remained there for many years.
After publishing, I came across an item pertaining to Mr. Bellis in Hubert G. Schmidt’s Rural Hunterdon (p.141), one of my favorite books about Hunterdon County:
“The American Farrier, printed in Philadelphia in 1832, was evidently a stand-by of David Bellis of Copper Hill, in whose library a copy was found. . . . Mr. Bellis bought other books on the subject [of healing ailments with herbs], and cut out clippings from newspapers and magazines.” (Schmidt did not explain how he learned these habits of Mr. Bellis.)
There is one more subject to cover before returning to the saga of the railroad that wasn’t built, and that is a farm shown on the maps as “Township Farm.” Therein lies another story.
- See James P. Snell, History of Hunterdon County, pp. 367-8; as History of East Amwell, pp. 49-52,182; and John W. Lequear, Traditions of Hunterdon County, p. 149. ↩
- H.C. Deed 5 p.352. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 14 p. 381. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 11 p. 267. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 15 p. 513. ↩
- I do not know what school that was. By 1850 when the Raritan Township map was published, the school had vanished, long before the 99-year lease ran out. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 46 p. 164. I have a list of Divisions recorded in the Hunterdon County Clerk’s office, but Lequear’s is not included. ↩
- The early Bellis settlers are described in Lequear’s Traditions of Hunterdon, pages 148-149. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 16 p. 391. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 131 p.638. I have not found a record of David Bellis and wife Rachel. She was living in his household when the 1860 census was taken, but that census does not identify relationships. There is a marriage record for David Bellis and Elizabeth Bellis dated January 31, 1841, but that Elizabeth is missing from the 1850 census. Presumably, David and Rachel married sometime in the 1850s. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 153 p. 244. ↩