In 2009, I wrote several articles concerning the Rake Cemetery in Sandbrook. They were published in the Delaware Township newsletter known as the Post, which is no longer being published. There is a website for the Post where its articles are archived, but it is very hard to use, and some links just don’t work. So, I’ve decided to revise and republish those articles here.
One of the most well-concealed cemeteries in the township is located on a hill south of the village of Sandbrook. It is usually identified as the Rake Cemetery (rather than Burying Ground), perhaps because it seems to contain a fairly large number of unrelated families. I have been trying to determine what makes a cemetery different from a burying ground or graveyard. Readers of my other posts may have noticed that I have not been too strict about which term I use, and after some cursory study of the subject on the internet, I am not much wiser than when I started. Generally speaking, burying grounds tend to refer to family plots on private property while cemeteries accommodate many different families in a more public setting. A graveyard seems to refer to any kind of burial place, but originally meant a yard adjacent to a church.
The various names of those buried here seem to suggest a fairly large group of unrelated people. But on closer inspection, it turns out that they were related to each other. Perhaps we should go back to calling it Rake Family Burying Ground.
The name Rake is justified, not because there are many Rakes buried here (there are only three surviving Rake gravestones), but because it lies right in the center of a large farm owned by John Rake in the 18th century. More about him later.
Back in the 19th century, when lumbering had cleared nearly every tree from the fields and hedgerows, the Rake Cemetery was probably completely open and exposed, which is characteristic of a public cemetery. With the trees gone, there would have been a beautiful view toward the Sourland Mountains. Today, the cemetery is well-concealed by the trees growing not only around it, but in it. Gravestones are not easy to find.
There were 44 stones in 1922 when Frank Yasunas was the owner and Hiram Deats made an inventory. There are probably many fewer now. Deats wrote that the Yasunas farm bordered Barton Williamson and William T. Sergeant. It was located on Block 25 lot 6.
According to Egbert T. Bush, in his article “Sand Brook Had a Tavern Nearby,” published in 1931, the graveyard was located on the John Davis farm, which had previously been owned by John Hart, and before that, by James Goodfellow. Oddly enough, he called it the Lake Burying Ground, probably because he found some stones for the Lake family, and the Lake farm was nearby. But the cemetery was definitely on old John Rake’s farm, so Rake Cemetery it shall remain.
Let us first examine the known owners of the cemetery, and after that, a history of the people buried there. As it happens, none of the owners were buried in the Rake Cemetery, with the exception of some relatives of the first owners, John and Else Rake.
The Rake Family
John Rake was not a German immigrant, as has long been thought. He was born about 1740, and appeared in Amwell as early as 1761, when Johannes Rake, as he was then known, witnessed the will of Jacob Houshel. (The fact that he wrote his name as Johannes has led researchers, including me, to think he was German, but see Geoff Raike’s comment below for new findings.)
Rake had probably purchased his large farm by that time, but there is no recorded deed for it. But a later survey of the farm when it was divided shows us that it was located mostly in the southern end of the old Haddon tract, and partly in a tract of 156 acres sold in 1714 to Richard Fenimore, a Quaker bricklayer living in Burlington County. Fenimore did a lot of buying and selling of real estate, but I do not have a record of who he sold his 156 acres to.
John Rake wrote his will on April 24, 1805, and it was recorded on May 12th of that year. It is more than likely that he was buried in the cemetery next to his first wife, who probably died around 1785. She was also probably the first to be buried here. Their gravestones have vanished.
John Rake’s first wife’s name is not known, but their first child, John Rake, Jr. was born May 22, 1768, according to the family bible, and died on March 4, 1826. The Bible did not say where he was buried, and his stone does not appear in the Rake cemetery. John Jr.’s wife Euphemia or Ufamy was born June 6, 1769 and died August 31, 1846. Her burial place is also not known. (To keep tract of these members of the Rake family, consult the Rake Family Tree.)
The second child of John Rake, Sr. was Henry Rake, born about 1770, married, had two children, and moved to Pennsylvania. The third child, Elizabeth, remained a spinster. She bought and sold parts of her parents’ estate after their deaths, and eventually moved to Doylestown, where she died in 1834.
The fourth child, William, remained in Delaware Township. He was born on June 13, 1776 and died on April 1, 1850. On January 12, 1800, he married Lydia or Lidda Larew, the daughter of Moses Larew and Urania Thatcher. She was born on July 1, 1769 and died in 1802, probably not long after her only child, Jonathan H. Rake, was born. She was buried in the Rake Cemetery, but there is no record of husband William being buried there.
I did not get a good picture of Lydia Larew Rake’s gravestone, but I did get what appears to be her footstone, which is interesting because it reads “L x R,” or Larew plus Rake, an interesting way to acknowledge the two families.
In 1804, William Rake married his wife’s sister, Anna Larew, born about 1786. She was christened in the Locktown Christian Church in 1830 when she was 44. It probably took some coaxing on her part, but seven years later, her husband William was also christened in the Locktown Christian Church. But as far as I know, neither of them are buried in the Locktown Christian Church cemetery nor in the Rake Cemetery.1
The fifth child of John Rake, Sr. was Solomon Rake, born about 1778. He married Catherine Kitchen in 1801, and seems to have left Hunterdon County.
These were the five children that John Rake appears to have had with a first wife, whose name is not known.
Following the death of John Rake’s first wife, probably around 1785, he married a second time to a woman named Elsa, who bore him three children, Jacob, Philip and Franklin. Jacob Rake, born about 1788, lived along Route 523 south of Sand Brook. He wrote his will in 1817 and died in 1821. I do not know where he was buried. His wife was Hannah Thatcher, whom he married in 1808. She was the daughter of Jonas Thatcher, sr. and Sarah Lake. I have no information as to when Hannah Rake died. They had four children, one of whom, Philip Rake, was born on November 19, 1815 and died February 19, 1865. He was buried in the Rake Cemetery, but appears never to have married.
Two of Philip Rake’s brothers, William and Thatcher Rake, are mysteries to me. A third brother, David Rake, married Ury Mason in 1832, and in 1842 bought the “Skunktown tavern” from Isaiah H. Moore. He sold it to George W. Gaddis the same year, and may have left Hunterdon County after that.
Rake Family Members in the Cemetery
Caroline Rake, 1834
Caroline Rake was probably the 4-year-old daughter of Jonathan Hunter Rake and Adeline Godown, and granddaughter of William Rake and Lydia Larew.
Lydia Rake was probably the daughter of Moses Larew (1740-1797) and Urenia Thatcher (1741-c1815) who married William Rake (1776-1850), the son of John Rake (c1740-1805) of Sand Brook in 1800. This means that she was quite young when she married. Her son Jonathan H. Rake was born on 7 Feb 1802, so it is likely she probably died from childbirth.
Philip Rake Jr. died 19 Feb 1865 age 49-3-0.
Philip Rake was the son of Jacob Rake (c1788-1817) and Hannah Thatcher, who appears to have remained unmarried. He was living with Jacob F. Buchanan in the 1850 census for Delaware Twp. Philip was a grandson of John Rake Sr. of Sand Brook.
Sale of the Rake farm and cemetery
According to his will, dated April 24, 1805, John Rake left his house to his widow, and ordered his executors to sell the property after her decease. The executors were his sons Jacob and Philip Rake. Elsa Rake did not die until September 23, 1823, but before that, on April 1, 1815, she quit claimed her rights in the 124-acre farm to John Rake’s executors.2
The executors then proceeded to divide the farm into four separate parcels. One tract of 60.5 acres was sold to George Holcombe.3 Another one, of 32 acres was sold to Cornelius Hoppock.4 The cemetery was on George Holcombe’s property, but the deed stated “reserving & excepting the Burying Ground and necessary privileges.” It did not say to whom the cemetery was reserved. This becomes a problem when the question of cemetery maintenance comes up when families of those buried there are long gone.
What is wonderful about the manuscript deed is that included with it is a survey of the Rake properties, which found its way into the Hunterdon Co. Historical Society Archives.5 Here is the survey—it is a beauty! The property sold to George Holcombe is outlined in red.
The dotted line indicates Route 523. The point where the creek crosses that road is the location of Sandbrook village. The cemetery is on the edge of the Holcombe lot at the point where another creek crosses its southwest border.
George Holcombe had mortgaged the 60.5 acres to Philip Rake, but failed to meet his payments, so Rake got it back at a sheriff’s sale in 1819, when he paid $1,240.6 Philip Rake then sold it to William Sergeant on May 9, 1834 for $1700.7 In both deeds, the cemetery was excepted, along with “necessary privileges.”
William Sergeant had previously acquired another lot from the old John Rake farm. This was the 32 acres sold to Cornelius Hoppock in 1815. Hoppock and wife Rachel sold it to Wm Sergeant on August 14, 1830 for $900. It was on the Hoppock lot that Sergeant built his handsome stone house.8
Philip Rake was a litigious fellow, but all his lawsuits never seemed to do him much good. He also bought and sold a good deal of property, but by 1850, when he was 60 years old, he was a mere laborer, living by himself. Shortly after the census was taken, he went out to Rock Island, Illinois, where he died in 1854.
Philip’s step-brother, the eldest child of John Rake of Sand Brook, was John Rake Jr., born 22 May 1768. His was not an inspiring life. He farmed with his father and was taxed with him on the home plantation in the 1780s. About 1790 he married Euphemia or ‘Ufamy’, who might have been related to the nearby Myers family. In the 1820s, he bought a couple small lots from the Myers, and then in 1826, this item appeared in the Hunterdon Gazette:
Thursday, March 9, 1826, [Editorial, Hunterdon Gazette] On Sunday night last an inquest was held on the body of a man by the name of John Rake, found dead about half a mile from his house, 3 miles from this place, in the direction of Centre Bridge. The verdict of the jury was, that he came to his death by intoxication, and lying upon the wet and cold ground all the preceding night. It appears that he had been to a chopping frolick on Saturday afternoon, where it is believed he drank to excess, and on his way home was so much overcome with the effect of the liquor that he fell down, and was unable to rise again. He was about 60 years of age.
“Frolick” is a wonderful term for an ancient practice. Any kind of work that needed many hands to be accomplished was eligible to be called a frolick. Mowing a wheat field, raising a barn, threshing flax, slaughtering animals. I don’t know what a chopping frolic was. In any case, it was all hard work, so it took some incentives to get people to chip in and help out. One incentive was a good meal provided by the wives. The other was an abundance of home brew. By 1826, the temperance movement was still in its infancy, and the amount of alcohol commonly consumed was a staggering 7 gallons per person per year. John Rake was not the only one who succumbed.
At least he did not leave his wife to raise young children on her own. At the time of his death, Rake’s seven children were 20 years old or older. His eldest child, Joseph, had died in 1816, at the age of 25. The Rake family bible gives the birth dates for all seven children, but the only other death date I know of is daughter Eleanor (born 24 Nov 1799) who married Charles Ewing in 1819 and died in 1870 in Hopewell. The other Rake children probably left Delaware Township.
John Rake Jr. might have been buried in the Rake Cemetery, but his stone is also missing.
The Sergeant Family
No one from the Sergeant family is buried here, even though William Sergeant owned the land where it was located from 1834 to 1865. And none of the subsequent owners were buried here either. There may have been a reason for that. Perhaps by the mid 19th century the cemetery was considered too remote and too inaccessible for a proper funeral.
William Sergeant already owned land nearby before purchasing the lots surveyed to George Holcombe and George Hoppock. Beginning in 1819, he had purchased the farm of John Lake, on the east side of the Sandbrook-Headquarters Road.9 William Sergeant had rights to the Lake farm because he was the son of Charles Sergeant and Mary Lake, making him one of the heirs of John Lake, who died in 1809.
In 1827, William Sergeant married Elizabeth Trimmer (1799-1882), daughter of John G. Trimmer and Mary Opdycke. They had only one child, John Trimmer Sergeant, born in 1828. William Sergeant was a man of substance, and was elected to the state assembly of New Jersey in 1856. From then on he was routinely referred to as Hon. William Sergeant.10
William Sergeant died on August 4, 1865, age 70, and was buried not in the Rake Cemetery, but in the Amwell Ridge (Larison’s Corner) Cemetery. His obituary in the Hunterdon Republican did not add any details. The shock was that his son John T. Sergeant died the following November 26th, when he was only 37. He was a Brigadier General of the Hunterdon Brigade Board, and had moderated the Delaware Township annual meeting that year in April. And yet, there was no obituary for him in the newspapers.11
John T. Sergeant’s widow was Mary Jane LaRoche, whom he married in 1850. They had three children: William T., Ann Elizabeth and Emma G., born 1851-1858. Presumably, Mary J. Sergeant carried on raising her family, since her children were ages 7-15. It was not until 1872 that she married again. Her second husband was none other than James Goodfellow, whom Egbert T. Bush had identified as one of the owners of the Rake Cemetery.
Later Cemetery Owners
In the 1880 census, Elizabeth Sergeant, widow of William, and mother-in-law of Mary Jane LaRoche, was 80 years old, living with Mary J. Goodfellow and her husband James. She died on March 5, 1882, and was buried in Larison’s Corner Cemetery in East Amwell, next to her husband. Her son John T. Sergeant was also buried there. But Mary Jane L. Sergeant Goodfellow was buried in the Lower Amwell Old Yard attached to the German Baptist Church, south of Sandbrook.
In his will of 1858, William Sergeant had left a lot of 35 acres adjoining his homestead farm to wife Elizabeth, and the remainder of his real estate to son John, placing a right of dower on the homestead farm. John T. Sergeant had no will, suggesting his death was sudden and accidental. Administration of his estate was given to his wife Mary J., and to Acker Moore and Cyrus Risler.
Judging by a later deed, it seems that Mary Jane Sergeant Goodfellow retained ownership of the property that included the cemetery. She died on November 11, 1904. It was not until 1906 that her estate conveyed title to her husband James Goodfellow.12
James Goodfellow, born May 1844, was the son of John & Sarah Goodfellow, who came to Lambertville from Wilmington, Delaware. In 1862, James Goodfellow was enlisted as a private in the Union Army, and was discharged after nine months. In the 1870 Delaware Census, Goodfellow was 26 years old, working on the farm of Wm. E. Carcoff [corruption of Carkhuff?], who lived next to the widow Elizabeth Sergeant, age 70. Also listed were Goodfellow’s wife Mercena 28 and one-year old daughter Emmaetta. In 1880, Goodfellow, now 36, was living with his second wife Mary J. Goodfellow, age 49, and step-daughters, Emma & Lizzie Sergeant, ages 21 and 24.
What happened to James Goodfellow after his wife’s estate conveyed her real estate to him is hard to say. None of the obvious sources have information on his death and burial. He appears to have sold off the Sandbrook farm in pieces. In 1908 and 1910 he sold parcels to John W. Pegg,13, another parcel to John C. Hart in 191014, and finally a piece to Anderson Bray et als.15 I have not consulted these deeds, but I’m sure they would have an interesting story to tell. The one to John C. Hart would be of particular interest.
John C. Hart
As mentioned above, James Goodfellow sold part of his farm to John C. Hart in 1910. Hart was listed in the Delaware Twp. census for that year as a 55-year old farmer, living with wife Allie B., age 53. He was born in 1855 to Hiram Hart and Ann Elizabeth Case of Raritan Township. Allie, born in 1857, was the daughter of Lorenzo D. Brewer and Hannah Rittenhouse of Delaware Township.
Hart was middle-aged when he came to live in Delaware Township. By that time he and wife Allie had been married 33 years, and their children had left home. And by 1920, the Harts had moved to Raritan Township, having sold property to Earl T. Bogart in 1917 (319-646) and Hiram M. Holcombe in 1919 (328-164).
I have not pursued the deeds for these later owners. The man who followed John C. Hart was supposedly John Davis, but there was no deed listed in which Hart conveyed land to Davis.
The John Davis who owned the Rake Cemetery when Mr. Bush wrote his article in 1931 was a 40-year-old farmer in the 1930 census for Delaware Township. He was born in Lithuania about 1890. His wife Mildred was also born in Lithuania, and was 38 in the 1930 census. Listed with John and Mildred were their children Vincent 9, Ellen 7, Mildred 4, George W. 3 and John one month old, all born in New Jersey. One can only imagine what Davis’ original surname was. Remember from my previous article on the Sutton farm, the original name of John Mason, also from Lithuania, was Meczionis.
These families represented the wave of emigrants who made their way to the New Jersey countryside in the early 20th century. Joseph Yasunas and wife Estanza came from Lithuania, and their children were also born in New Jersey. Their son Frank would later come to own the property. There were others from Lithuania, Estonia, and Czechoslovakia (like the Waisempackers). A whole study could be done on these families. But I must move on.
There is a Mary Davis buried in the Rake Cemetery, who died in 1825. This is no more than an interesting coincidence, since John Davis who was born in Lithuania arrived 100 years after Mary’s death.
John Davis of Sandbrook died on November 25, 1973 and was buried in the cemetery attached to the German Baptist Church in Sandbrook, with the inscription on his gravestone: “Beloved Husband and Pop.” His grave was next to his wife Emily Davis, who was born June 5, 1888 and died on June 8, 1932. This raises the question—what happened to Mildred, who was 38 in 1930, and therefore born about 1892? I find myself ending this article with a question I cannot answer.
Part Two will discuss the people who were buried in the Rake Cemetery.
- See Historic Hunterdon Churches for Sale. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 24 p. 151. ↩
- Block 25 Lot 6 & 54, Deed Book 24 p.390. ↩
- Block 25 Lot 7, Deed Book 24 p.154. ↩
- See HCHS Ms. Collection 5, Box 3, file 57, deed from Philip & Jacob Rake to Geo. Holcombe, 1815, 16×13.5 inches. ↩
- Dd 30-280. ↩
- Deed 58-127. ↩
- Regrettably, that house burned to the ground in 2011. See Going, Going, Gone. ↩
- There were several deeds recorded in which Sergeant gradually acquired the rights to the Lake farm from his descendants; see Book 29 p. 636, 1819; Book 40 pp. 454 &455, 1826. ↩
- I got this from the NJ Legislative Manual, but The Hunterdon Gazette only reported on Rittenhouse defeating Brokaw, and the Hunterdon Republican and Hunterdon Democrat say nothing about it. ↩
- I have not seen his death certificate; presumably it would give a cause of death. ↩
- H. C. Deed Book 278 p.335. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 289 p 384 and Book 297 p. 214. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 294 p. 644. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 314 p. 117. ↩