or Dilts Farm, Revisited
This is a return to an article I wrote in 2012 about the family that used to own what is known today as the Sarah Dilts Farm Park. Some wonderful photographs have come my way that have inspired me to take a second look.
In 1995, Delaware Township was considering what to do with the old farmhouse. The farm had been donated to the Township, which planned to make a park there but did not want the headache of maintaining an old house. Since demolition was contemplated, I went to visit the farm and got some photographs of the place. Later, in 2012, I wrote an article on this website about the family that had once lived there.
In response to that article, a Rittenhouse descendant, Karen Cummings Whitehead, got in touch with me. She sent me some wonderful photographs, and gave me permission to share them on this website. That was some time ago. Lately I have been writing about properties in the general area of Sandy Ridge, and since the Park is located not far from there, this seemed like the right time to publish them, along with a new look at the Rittenhouse family.
Here’s a map that shows the relation of Dilts Farm park to the Sandy Ridge area. (Just to make it more interesting, it’s taken from a detail of the 1906 topographical map of Hunterdon County. I have added the names of some roads, and located the Dilts Farm park.)
Let’s start with this beautiful image of the old farmhouse (cropped from the original, as are all the other photographs shared by Karen Whitehead).
As I mentioned in my original Dilts Farm article, the farmstead once had the reputation of being one of the most handsome properties in the township. Here is a photograph I took of the house after being abandoned for some time and not long before it was demolished:
Although the farm and the park are named Dilts, that is only because it was Sarah Dilts who donated the property to the township. She never lived there, and it may have been abandoned ever since its previous owner, her brother Foster G. Dilts, died in 1976. He was the first Dilts to own the farm, starting in 1963.
That is why I have titled this article “The Rittenhouse-Dilts Farm,” because the family of Wilson and Ury Ann Rittenhouse were the ones to make a farmstead here, starting in 1844, and their son Judson carried on the tradition. Karen Whitehead is a descendant of that Rittenhouse family. She wrote:
My grandfather, Edwin Stanley Rittenhouse, was the son of Judson and Martha, and little brother of Miriam, Grace and Emily. I have some old pics from life on this farm from about 1910 (based on the age of my grandfather in the photos). I was always sorry I had never seen it in person and was sad when I heard it had been torn down.
Some time ago I published a Rittenhouse family tree, but because the Rittenhouse family is so extensive, I only listed four generations from the original William Rittenhouse and Catharine Howell. In order to fit the Judson Rittenhouse family into the family tree, I have made an exception and have added the fifth generation (Jonathan Rittenhouse & Delilah Bray’s children), sixth generation (children of Wilson Bray Rittenhouse and wife Ury Ann Ent) and seventh generation (children of Judson Rittenhouse and Martha D. Bodine). (See the updated Rittenhouse Family Tree.)
Our story could begin in 1844 when Wilson Bray Rittenhouse, Judson’s father, bought the property from Cornelius & Sarah Wilson. Or I could go back to the 18th-century owners, as I did in the original article (Dilts Farm). However, in the process of updating my earlier article, I discovered more interesting information about this place’s early history and must save that for another time.
In this article I want to feature the wonderful photos that Karen shared. And to do that, I must focus on Judson Rittenhouse and his family. (There is some repetition here from the original Dilts Farm article, but not very much.)
Judson Rittenhouse & Martha D. Bodine
One picture that Karen did not share with me was this early photograph of Judson Rittenhouse, which I found on Ancestry.com. Judson was born in 1855, the sixth child of Wilson Bray Rittenhouse and Ury Ann Ent. Judging from his appearance in the photo, he was probably in his late 30s-early 40s when it was taken, which would date the photo to the 1890s.
In 1879, Wilson B. Rittenhouse wrote his will, bequeathing “to my youngest son Judson Rittenhouse my homestead on which he now resides to have and to hold the same and to his heirs and assigns for ever,” subject to the annual payment of interest on $3500 to his mother, and on her death to the payment of the principal of $3500 to his siblings. Wilson Bray Rittenhouse died two years later, age 67, and was buried in the cemetery next to the Sandy Ridge Church.
Judson was 26 years old at the time, living with his parents and working as a farmer. On April 2, 1888, Judson’s mother died at the age of 75 and was buried next to her husband. Later that year, on December 26, 1888 when Judson was 33, he married Martha D. Bodine (1867-1943), age 21, daughter of Cornelius W. Bodine and Miriam Chapman Romine.
I should make note of the fact that Martha Bodine’s family resided on the farm later owned by Granville Dilts, on Route 523 (see Sandy Ridge, part six). And it was the children of Granville Dilts who eventually came to own the Rittenhouse farm.
Addendum, 8/11/2019: Shortly after publishing this article, I was contacted by another Rittenhouse descendant, Richard Emmons, who shared with me this excellent portrait photograph of Martha Bodine Rittenhouse.
By 1900, the Judson Rittenhouse family was well settled, with three of their four children born. As the census of that year shows, Judson, a farmer, was 45 and Martha was 33; their children were Miriam age 10, Grace E. (for Elinor) age 7 and Emily age 3. Judson’s unmarried sister Delilah (“Dillie”) was 47 years old, living near Sandbrook with their sister Rachel B. Rittenhouse 54 who was married to Henry Lawshe Vandolah, 59.
Judson, Delilah and Rachel’s brother, Newton B. Rittenhouse (1844-1912), lived on what is now known as Rittenhouse Road. (See Rittenhouse Road. I published in that article a Google map showing the two roads and Dilts Farm Park.) The road survey for Rittenhouse Road made in 1866 ends at the “pubic road Centre Bridge to Head Quarters,” which is now called Sandy Ridge Road. It did not extend further south, as today’s Buchanan Road was already in existence.
Although Rittenhouse and Buchanan Roads have separate names, they are in fact the same road, Rittenhouse Road being north of the intersection with Sandy Ridge Road, and Buchanan Road being south of it (as can be seen on the map above). Before acquiring the names Rittenhouse and Buchanan Roads, the two were known as “the road from Sergeantsville to Dilts Corner.”1
Newton Rittenhouse married Eleanor Fleming on December 25, 1875, and had a son, William E. Rittenhouse (1876-1962), who served in the Assembly in 1927. I speculated in my article on Rittenhouse Road that the name was attributed to Newton Rittenhouse, but it could have been named for his son the Assemblyman.
Judson and Martha Rittenhouse carried on farming in a way that differed little from the practices of Wilson Bray Rittenhouse, with just a few improvements, as the photos from Karen Whitehead demonstrate. Here is a photo that shows Judson and helpers with a wheat harvester.
The fourth and last child of Judson and Martha Rittenhouse was Karen’s grandfather, Edwin Stanley Rittenhouse, born in 1901. If the young child pictured on the left of the photo is Karen’s grandfather, then it must have been taken about 1904-1905. The three adult males are not identified. One of them must be Judson, and the other two probably hired men to help with the harvest, one of whom may well be Bert Buchanan, who would be in his late teens at the time.
The wheat harvester is most-likely horse-powered. In the early 20th century, horses were still essential farm animals. Here (right) is a photo (cropped from the original) of Judson Rittenhouse with what must have been a prized animal, and here (below) a picture of Judson and his daughters when they traveled together, with their carriage and horses.
I imagine it was about the same time, this family photograph was taken of the four Rittenhouse children. It looks as if the youngest daughter, Emily, is on the left, and the eldest, Miriam on the right, with Grace in the middle, and (obviously) Ed in front. Karen Whitehead wrote that her grandfather, Edward Stanley Rittenhouse, “passed away two years before I was born and I never got to meet him. From the pics of him as a boy, he must have been quite a character.”
In the census of 1910, Judson Rittenhouse was a 55-year-old farmer and his wife Martha was 43. They had been married 22 years and had four children. Perhaps it was about then that the family acquired their first automobile. Could that be Judson sitting in the back seat, with Grace on the left and Miriam on the right?
Here is another photo from Karen Whitehead:
Judging by the lady’s dress, the photo appears to date to the late 19th century, but the photograph is probably more or less contemporary with the other ones, making it early 20th century. Karen wondered if it could be Martha Bodine Rittenhouse, who was born in 1867, and would be in her 40s by 1910.
There is another possibility, though. Martha’s mother, Miriam Chapman Romine Bodine, was born in 1834, and would be 65 years old in 1900. That is, in fact, the year she died. I do wonder if perhaps this photograph was taken in the late 1890s. Karen did not have any portrait photograph of Miriam Bodine’s daughter Martha Bodine Rittenhouse, so we cannot compare facial features. Perhaps sometime such a photograph will turn up.
Bert Buchanan and Miriam Rittenhouse
In the census of 1910, Judson and Martha’s children were Miriam 19, Grace 17, Emily 13 and “E. Stanley,” age 8. Also living with the family was a “hired man,” Bertrand Buchanan, age 23, who was born in West Amwell.
One year later, on January 18, 1911, Bert Buchanan married Judson & Martha’s eldest daughter Miriam. Here is a photograph of Miriam probably taken about the time of her marriage.2
In 1917, Bert Buchanan registered for the draft. The registration card, dated June 5, 1917, stated that Bertrand Reading Buchanan was born November 7, 1886 at Linvale, and was farming for “J. Rittenhouse.” He was tall, with a medium build, gray eyes and black hair, and he was married.
Miriam and Bert had one child, a daughter named Martha Rittenhouse Buchanan, born in 1913. Here is a picture from Karen Whitehead that at first I took to be one of Bert and his daughter in the barnyard. But Karen and I agree that this gentleman was not Bert Buchanan, and remains unidentified.
Bert Buchanan’s family
Bertrand Reading Buchanan was born November 7, 1886 to James B. Buchanan (1860-1935) and Elizabeth Jane Dallas (1862-1940). He was the second of seven children. Bert descended from one of the earliest families to settle in old Amwell Township. That being the case, I have published a Buchanan Family Tree, focused on Buchanan residents of Hunterdon County. It took six generations to get from the original Samuel Buchanan to Bertrand R. Buchanan.
His father, James B. Buchanan (the B. probably stood for Butterfoss, his mother’s maiden name), married Elizabeth Jane Dallas on October 14, 1885. She was born in Hopewell Township to Cornelius G. Dallas and Anchor Burd. James Buchanan was not a farmer, unlike most of his family. He bought a small lot in West Amwell in 1887 from William L. Sigafoss, where he probably ran a store. He sold the lot in 1901 to Mary A. Philips of Hopewell.3
In 1898, James B. Buchanan leased the store property of Joseph Carrell in Delaware Township. This was located in the village of Headquarters.4 The census of 1900 counted him in Delaware township, as a merchant who was renting his home. Living with him was wife Lizzie J. 37, and their four children: Bertrand R. 13, Charles J. 11, Edgar G. 7 and Alfred J. age 3. Also in the household was James’ father Alfred James Buchanan (1829-1907), widower, age 71. His mother, Maria Elizabeth Butterfoss Buchanan had died in 1898, age 70.
By 1910, the Buchanan family had moved back to West Amwell, although by that time, Bert Buchanan had moved out and taken up work on the Judson Rittenhouse farm.
Transition from Rittenhouse to Buchanan
The last census record that Judson Rittenhouse appeared in was the 1920 census. At that time, Judson was 64 years old, still farming and his wife Martha was 52. Living with them were their daughter Emily age 23 and son Stanley age 18. Also with them was daughter Miriam 29, her husband Bert Buchanan 32 and daughter Martha, age 6.
Shortly after the census was taken, Judson Rittenhouse died, on April 19, 1920. He was buried in the Sandy Ridge Cemetery.5
The 1930 census somewhat surprised me. It stated that Bertrand Buchanan, age 43, was renting his home (at $33). His wife Miriam was 39 and their daughter Martha was 16. Also living with them was Judson’s widow (and Bert’s mother-in-law), Martha Rittenhouse, age 62.
The census of 1940 seems to suggest that by this time Bert Buchanan had become the owner of the farm. The census of that year showed “Bertrand R. Buchannon” [sic] age 52 the “owner manager” of the farm, living with wife Miriam age 50 and mother-in-law Martha D. Rittenhouse age 73. Also in the household was “lodger” Charley Schmidt, age 65, born in Germany, and working as a farm laborer. (Given the times, with World War II on the horizon, one wonders if Charley was a refugee from the politics in Germany, or if he became unwelcome during the war. But that is another story.) Three years later, Martha D. Bodine Rittenhouse died at the age of 76, on April 7, 1943. She was buried next to her husband.
The 1940 census was a little misleading. It was not until 1944 that the heirs of Judson and Martha Rittenhouse conveyed their rights in the family farm to Bert Buchanan. This was probably because of Martha’s death the year previously. All the heirs conveyed their rights to the farm of 63.26 acres to Mabel Lott of Flemington, who immediately conveyed the farm to Bertrand and Miriam Buchanan of Delaware Township.6
Bert Buchanan carried on with his farming and must have been a person of some standing in his community because the road on which his farm was located was renamed in his honor. This took place in 1967. The road had been surveyed in 1857.
From the Buchanans to the Dilts
As I mentioned earlier, Miriam Rittenhouse Buchanan’s mother Martha was the daughter of Cornelius W. Bodine and Miriam Chapman Romine, who owned the farm later owned by Granville Dilts on Route 523. (See Sandy Ridge, part six for a history of the Granville Dilts farm.)
That may explain why Bert and Miriam Buchanan decided to sell their farm in 1963 to Foster Granville Dilts, the son of Granville Dilts (1898-1983) and Hannah Best Barrick (1902-1972). Hannah was the daughter of Joseph Barrick and Keziah Arnwine, and the sister of Foster A. Barrick, who died in 1907 at the age of 18. Foster G. Dilts was born much later, in 1933, but clearly Hannah had not forgotten her brother, even though she was only five years old when he died.
I suspect that Foster Dilts did not turn out to resemble Hannah’s brother. He was not an easy person to know, as Bill Hartman related to me back in 2012. He wrote:
My wife and I bought the 5.6-acre property on the down hill side – Eastern, of the Dilts’ Farm in 1970, . . . and moved in [in] 1971. I met Foster and bought, probably, the worst hay we every got for our 2 horses. . . . Foster was not a good farmer and much of his top soil came down onto our land! We had words one day, since I was taking stones from the property line and he got bent out of shape, saying that they were his. He died shortly thereafter, probably from a heart attack. He was not a friendly person! . . . I don’t think he ever lifted one stone and put it on the fence line, I’ll now thank the Rittenhouses and/or Buchanans for the stones.
Foster G. Dilts never married. Judging from Hartman’s description, that is not surprising. He was only 43 when he died of a heart attack in 1976. The farm reverted to his father and sister. By that time Granville Dilts was a widower, as his wife Hannah Barrick Dilts had died in 1972.
Sarah Dilts, like her brother, did not marry. She was a schoolteacher, and remained at home with her father. The old Rittenhouse farmhouse was left empty, as one can see from its deteriorated condition in 1995.
Granville Dilts died in 1983, age 85. But like her brother, Sarah Dilts died relatively young, at the age of 54, in 1985. Another former Delaware Township resident, D. E. Steward, wrote a poem about her.7
White bertha on her plaid dress
Her wire rimmed glasses hair tied back
Patient and pedantic and didactic
A teacher listening to the teacher
Head cocked but not hearing the ocean
She was five grades ahead of us
In our one-room school we were all
Simultaneously teachers and the taught
But she had the mien and memory for it
She always knew and cared about the rote
Was unsure about what she didn’t know
Alone this spring the last of her family
She died listening ready to correct
It was probably as a schoolteacher that Sarah Dilts decided that her home town needed a large park for the benefit of the township’s children. When she wrote her will, she bequeathed the old Rittenhouse farm to the township. On August 1, 1985, Frances Barrick Verity,8 executor of the last will & testament of Sarah Dilts deceased of Delaware Twp., conveyed to the Township of Delaware, the farm of 62.57 acres.9
There is much more to be said about this property. I had originally thought to include a summary of its early history, going back to the 18th century, in this post. But in the process of research I discovered that I had made a serious mistake in my first version of this farm’s history.
- Dilts Corner was named for Robert Dilts (1800-1887), who owned a farm at the northwest corner of the intersection of Lambertville-Headquarters Road and Sandy Ridge-Mt. Airy Road as early as 1824. He was the Freeholder representing Delaware Township in 1849. The name Dilts Corner came into use as early as 1858. (H.C. Road Book, Vol. 4 p.127.) ↩
- Found on Ancestry.com, a family tree shared by “richardemmons2.” I do wonder if perhaps, judging from the style of dress, this might have been Miriam’s mother Martha Bodine Rittenhouse. ↩
- H.C. Deeds Book 216 p. 194, Book 260 p. 205. ↩
- Hunterdon Republican, Feb. 2, 1898. ↩
- I was unable to get to the Surrogate’s Court to check on Judson Rittenhouse’s estate. When I do, I will update this article. ↩
- H.C. Deeds Book 443 pp. 92, 94. Mabel Lott was 63 years old by then, unmarried. She was the daughter of Edward G. Lott, a Flemington barber. I do not know how she might have been connected with the Rittenhouse family. ↩
- “Sarah” by D. E. Steward in Nerve Cowboy, No 9, Spring 2000, Austin. ↩
- Frances Louise Barrick (1922-2000), wife of Harold L. Verity, was the daughter of Arthur Preston Barrick and Jennie Louise Stenebaugh. She was the niece of Hannah Best Barrick (1902-1972), wife of Granville Dilts, which made her a first cousin of Sarah Dilts. ↩
- H.C. Deed Book 937 p.129. ↩