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Property Owners - Cemetery Laid Out - Slaves

Early Property Owners - Van Buskirk Homestead - First Bank of Constable's Hook - First Cemetery Laid Out - Tombstone Inscriptions; Names and Dates - Slaves Bought and Sold - Newspaper Extracts - Early Real Estate Speculation - Captain Kidd's Hill and Buried Treasures.

It appears that Samuel Edsall, who settled at Constable's Hook about 1670, had a neighbor on the Hook a few years later, who rented part of his property. In 1681 Hans Harmense came from New Utrecht, L. I., to Constable's Hook, with his wife, Willemtie Waemaers, widow of Hasmen of Berckeloo, and her children, Jannetie, Reymis, Harmen, Jan and William, besides two children by this marriage, Tryntie (aged nine) and Annetie (aged seven).1 He erected a house, the location of which is not certain, but in all probabilities it stood close to the Kills.

In searching through the genealogies of some of the early families, the author finds that Arie, a son of Symon Jacobse (Van Winkle, who came from Middleburgh, Zealand), was born at Constable's Hook about 1691. This would indicate that this family also lived at the Hook about this time, and were neighbors of the Harmense family.

Hans Harmense was elected to the Assembly in 1692. On February 20, 1695-6,2 he purchased from Edsall (who had re-moved from Constable's Hook about 1690) nearly five hundred acres of land at Constable's Hook, for £562.10.3

His daughter, Tryntie, was married to Pieter Van Boskerck, son of Laurens Andriessen Van Boskerck (founder of the Van Buskirk family who lived on the New York Bay shore near present Greenville station). After the marriage, it is supposed that Pieter built the old stone house that still stands on the southern slope of Van Buskirk's Point, Constable's Hook, and lived there with his wife. On May 24, 1694, Annetie, another daughter of Hans Harmense, was married to Claas Hartman. She died November 26, 1698, leaving one child, Hartman. Hans Harmense died in 1700. One-half of the Hook he willed to his daughter Tryntie and the other half became the property of Annette's son.4

In October, 1736, Pieter's wife died and he buried her in the yard at the rear of the house.5 Through her, he inherited one-half of the Hook, and the other half he purchased. He died in July, 1738, and was buried beside his wife.

The old brown tombstones still stand; the following illustration shows them with their inscriptions as they look at the present time.

The house that Peter is said to have erected was originally built previous to 1700, but additions have since been made to the main building. It is the oldest building now standing in Bayonne, if not in eastern New Jersey. In the old Dutch style, its antiquated architecture is noticeable. A solid foundation of stone masonry rises about five feet above the ground, on which rests a frame and brick superstructure with massive joists and timbers and antique siding of shingles in regular old Dutch colony style. A quaint old fireplace and high mantel, with curious carvings and fancy tile decorations (since removed), alongside of which is an old Spanish closet, have all been features of interest in the interior of this old homestead. A secret underground closet is located in a north room of the house. This was used to conceal persons and effects whenever inquisitive visitors approached the place. British troops were quartered in this house during the Revolution. In the little school-room, children were taught their lessons, and many an unruly boy has jumped out of the window and fled across the graveyard.6

The old garden adjoined the house on the east. At the time of the Revolution a hardy Box of considerable size grew in front of the house.7 There is a story that Mrs. Jonathan Van Buskirk buried a pot of gold under its branches to prevent its falling into the hands of unexpected visitors in the way of marauding parties. This lay concealed so long that the lady quite forgot the exact amount thus deposited in this, the First Bank of Constable's Hook. Years afterwards, in spading up the garden, a Negro brought to the surface a number of golden guineas which had been overlooked when the business of the bank was closed. 8

The old dilapidated shed now adjoining the southwest end of the house stood on the shore at that time. This building, it is said, was used for the purpose of selling slaves, who were brought over in ships which anchored off the mouth of the Kills. The writer cannot vouch for this statement, but at any rate slaves were bought and sold nearby. In the "Post Boy" of August 8, 1757, appeared the following advertisement:

"To Be Sold." At Van Buskirk's, at Kil Van Kull, a Parcel of likely Negro Slaves, Men, Women, Boys and Girls, just arrived from Guinea in the Sloop "Williams," David Griffiths, Commander, Apply to Rice Williams or the said David Griffiths."

The quaint old colony graveyard in the rear of the house was laid out by Peiter's relatives. Here, some of the pioneer settlers were buried. It was a beautiful little spot in those days, with its green grass and flowers and shady trees. It is now in a dilapidated condition. Some of the old tombstones still stand, and the wording is readable; others have been blown down by the storms and are covered with sandy soil. In this cemetery are the ancestors of the Van Buskirks, Latourettes, Vreelands, Garrabrants, Zabriskies, La Granges, Cadmuses and others.

Following are the inscriptions on the stones over the remains of some of the very early inhabitants:

Here lies the Body of
Johannas La Grange
who deceased May
the 6th A. D. 1748
In the 84th Year of his
Age.
Here Lies ye Body of
Melye, wife of John
Lagrange who Died
February ye (?9) 1754
Aged about 40 years.
To
the Memory of
William Brambos
who
died the i8th of March
1797
Aged 66 Years 6 Months
& 8 Days.
To
the Memory of
Eleanor
the Wife of
Edward Nicoll
who died
October 7th 1802
aged 58 Years.
"Here Lyes a Blooming Youth
who lived in Love and died
in Truth."
In Memory of
Elias Burger
he died
at Bergen Point
on the 28th Oct 1826
Aged 61 years.

Others bear the following names and dates of death: Jacobus V. Boskerk, January 1, 1767; James Van Buskirk, January 6, 1774; Angle Brambos, September 15, 1798; Catherine Garrabrants, July 5, 1805; Catherine Van Boskerck, November 2, 1819; Eliza Cubberly, August 9, 1819; Cornelius Simonson, April 11, 1839; Elizabeth Miller, June 3, 1839; Sarah Anderson, December 11, 1839.

It might be of interest to quote here an item which appeared in the "Weekly Post Boy" of December 11, 1752, as follows:

March 25 was the beginning of the new year, according to the old style.* In 1752 the present style of beginning the year January 1 was adopted.

"Last Saturday a whale forty-five feet long ran ashore at Van Buskirk's Point (a part of Constable's Hook) at the entrance of the Kills from the Bay; which, being discovered by people from Staten Island, a number of them went off and killed him, and may now be seen at Mr. John Watson's at the ferry house on Staten Island."

The following advertisement should be quoted also:

"Run away some Time in August last, from Abraham Van Buskirk, of Bergen County in New Jersey, a Negro Man named Jack, aged about 25 years, middlsiz'd, and not very black, pretty thick Lips, speaks very slow, and talks both English and Dutch, and 'tis supposed he has a false Pass: Had on a grey homespun Linsey Wolsey Coat, red Linsey Wolsey Jacket, a Tow Shirt and a Linnen Shirt, and has two or three Pair of Breeches with him, white Woolen Stockings, and a leather Hat.

"Whoever takes up said Negro, and secures him so that his Master may have him again, shall have Three Pounds Reward, and all reasonable Charges, paid by "Abraham Van Buskirk."

The N. Y. "Gazette" Revived in the "Weekly Post Boy," October 30, 1752.

The Hook was a finely cultivated district, and was owned and occupied by five or six generations of the Van Buskirk family, who had extensive farms there. The place was known as Van Buskirks for a number of years.

"The beauty and convenience of location at one time excited the cupidity of speculators to an effort to make it a site for a large and enterprising city. The New Brighton Company about 1837-8 undertook to reclaim the meadows and make them eligible for building lots. A suburban city was to grow up in a very short time, and in the end to rival in a successful way her metropolitan neighbor across the Bay. The Navy Yard was to be once located on the shores of the Kills, and the stockholders of the company were confident of pocketing fabulous dividends. Large sums of money were expended, but after a brief period the company found their property mortgaged for near $400,000 and all improvements stopped. Litigation followed, and in the end the property was sold for only $70,000 to satisfy the creditors."10

A sea wall of masonry and its accompanying levee extended from the old copper works as far as "Captain Kidd's Hill." A dangerous place, known as "The False Kill," was then removed. The construction of this sea wall stopped the overflow of the meadows at high tide.

Captain Kidd's Hill was named after the celebrated pirate. Captain Kidd. Stories of hidden treasures buried in the hill have been told. In fact, "pots of gold have often been earnestly sought after," and during the construction of the sea wall were reported as found.11


1. New Jersey Historical Society.
2. New Jersey Archives. First Series, Vol. XXI.
3. Winfield's Land Titles.
4. New Jersey Historical Society.
5. Afterward converted into a cemetery.
6. The Standard Oil Company are now the owners of Van Buskirk's Point. Since writing the above, the old historic homestead has been torn down to make way for immense oil tanks.
7. This and another close by grew to be immense trees some five feet in diameter, and remained there until blown down a few years ago.
8.This story appeared in the "Hudson County Times" of June 13, 1873.
9. Date invisible.
10. Quoted from the "Hudson County Times" of June 20, 1873.
11. The author has his doubts as to any truth in this tale, which years ago was repeatedly recited to groups of wondering children by some loquacious darkey.


Source: First History of Bayonne, New Jersey, by Royden Page Whitcomb, Published by R. P. Whitcomb, 24 East 37TH Street, Bayonne, N. J., 1904.

 

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