Colonial Times  

The Lenni Lenape
Dutch Settlers

The Lockhart
    Patent

Snedens Landing
    Road

Closter Publick
    Road

Harington Town-
    ship

Colonial Historic
    Sites

          Prior to 1680, what is now Rockleigh was part of the wilderness known as "The Kings Woods."  The western slope of the Palisades was a succession of rolling terraces.  The soil was good, abundantly watered and well timbered.  So beautiful was the green side of the mountain that the Indians believed the Great Spirit raised the Palisades to protect his favorite abode for man.  The woods, abundant with wildlife and clear streams, provided amply for both man and beast. 

          The territory had long been inhabited by the Lenni Lenape Tribe or "original people."  A part of the Delaware Nation, they probably numbered two or three thousand when the Dutch first arrived in the area.  By the middle of the eighteenth century only a few remained, and by the end of the nineteenth century they had disappeared.  Their influence is still with us in the familiar names of Hackensack, Raritan, and Matawan - and in such words as hickory, chipmunk and wigwam.  Lacking even the wheel, they engaged in a primitive agriculture and cultivated corn, beans, squash and tobacco. 

          Although they remained apart, resisting both enslavement and assimilation, they taught the early settlers much about the land.  Through observation the colonists learned the characteristics of unfamiliar plants and animals and methods for hunting, fishing, and cultivating crops.  It was from these Indians that the Dutch acquired their lands...

[50th Anniversary - Borough of Rockleigh, NJ - 1923-1973]

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The First Dutch Settlers

 

Dutch farmers and indentured slaves worked together in the fields

          With some understanding of the land and the people they found here, we can appreciate the vision and opportunity that lay before these Dutch who strove to establish themselves on the west side of the Hudson.

          Jan Pietersen Haring (1633-1683) is thought to have been born in Hoorn Holland and came to Nieu Amsterdam in 1660.  He and Margrietje Cosyns were married in 1662 in the Bowery and settled on a farm in that neighborhood.  On 17 March 1681, under the leadership of Jan Pietersen Haring, a number of  Bowery residents, including  "Huybert Blauvelt and Ariaen Smith," obtained a deed from the Tappan Indians of the Lenni Lenape Tribe for a large tract of land on the west side of the Hudson River.  Together with nine other families Jan Pietersen Harring proposed establishment of a settlement at Tappan and received a patent  (Tappan Patent) first from Governor Carteret of the Province of New Jersey and subsequently from Governor Dongan of the Province of New York on March 24, 1687. The Tappan Patent shareholders included the Haring family (3 shares), Blauvelt family (2 shares),  Smith family (2 shares), De Vries (2 shares), Clas Manuel from the Bowery (2 shares), and five others (1 share each) for a total of 16 shares.

          The Tappan Patent included the current New York towns of Tappan, Orangeburg, Blauvelt, Piermont, Sparkill, Grand View on Hudson, and part of South Nyack as well as the current New Jersey Boroughs of Old Tappan, Northvale, Norwood, West Norwood, and Harrington Park.  Jan Pietersen Haring did not live to settle on the Tappan land, but his wife and family—four boys and three girls—took up his shares and founded the prolific family that would follow.  Margrietje married Daniel DeClark who became the new head of the group of Tappan settlers.  Several of the Haring brothers settled in the southern and western portions of the Tappan patent, so of which would revert to New Jersey nearly a century later. [The Haring Family]

          Rockleigh - Rockland, as it was then called - lay in an adjacent earlier patent granted by the Province of New Jersey to Dr George Lockhart, a London physician, on February 7, 1685 when "the proprietors of the province of the East New Jersey conveyed to Dr Lockhart some thirty-eight hundred acres on the west side of the Hudson River in the County of Bergen." Its northern boundary was the Tappan Creek which had been the agreed upon provincial boundary of east New Jersey and New York. It extended three miles west and two miles south along the Hudson. [Map of Lockhart Patent]  The neighboring Province of New York, however, assumed control of the land in the following year and Lockhart received a confirmatory patent from that government on June 27, 1687, but without mentioning the provincial boundary.  The colonial history of Rockleigh became the history of the Province of New York until 1769 when the boundary line with the Province of New Jersey was in the process of being settled after bitter dispute.  Even today there are conflicting stone markers in the vicinity of the border along Closter  Road and Horne Tooke Road in neighboring Palisades, NY. [Map of Provincial Boundaries

          Dutch rule in New Amsterdam and the environs gave way to the English Crown, but the valley of the Hackensack remained more Dutch than New Amsterdam.  By the 1690's a few dwellings had been built at a landing along the western river bank where an old Indian track wound up to a col in the Palisades ridge then lead westward through wilderness called "Kings Woods" before reaching the Hackensack River valley. A ferry to this riverside settlement had been started circa 1698 by John Dobbs who lived on the east bank of the Hudson River in Westchester. By 1740, Robert Sneden had married Mary Dobbs' (John's daughter), built a house at the western landing, and was conducting with Jeremiah Dobbs, John's son, a ferry business between Sneden's Landing and Dobb's Ferry.

[50th Anniversary - Borough of Rockleigh, NJ - 1923-1973]

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The Lockhart Patent

 

Snedens Landing Road/Closter Road wind through the Lockhart Patent in this 1745 map

          George Lockhart never settled the Patent that bore his name on the western shore of the Hudson.  Title passed to his half-brother, Col. William Mettitt, whose heirs sold it in 1703 to John Corbett, an English sea Captain, who at his death in 1717 devised the land to his only child, Mary (b.1705, m.1725), wife of Henry Ludlow (1701-1783), a Manhattan Merchant. Henry & Mary Ludlow conveyed portions of the former Lockhart tract (some 200 acres of then Tappan lands) to William Ferdon, John Ferdon, Hendrick Gesner, Matthew Conklin and Abraham A. Haring (1709-1791), the latter a grandson of the Tappan Patentee Jan Pietersen Haring of the Bowery, New Amsterdam.*  The Haring farmlands were separated by Closter Publick Road (south Piermont Road) and Snedens Landing Road (Rockleigh Road). Ludlow subdivided some of the lands along Snedens Landing Road to the east of the Haring holdings into 12-15 acre lots.  As the settlements expanded, land was cleared and the Jersey Dutch settlers laid the foundations for their stone farmhouses. Gradually the countryside became dotted with homesteads, mills and inns. 

*Winthrop S. Gillman: Story of the Ferry. Palisades Free Library, Palisades, NY

          Three distinct hamlets evolved within this region originally known as "Rockland" within the Lockhart Patent: Snedens Landing on the Hudson River, Palisades on the high flatland of the palisades plateau, and the valley farming hamlet called the Rockland area of post Revolutionary War Harrington Township that extended west along Snedens Landing Road, then south along Closter Publick Road.  Snedens Landing was the center of riparian activity for the two centuries that began in the late 1600's.  Palisades became the commercial and spiritual hub of the area. Rockland was the western farm area that comprises present day Rockleigh Borough.  [Map of Lockhart Patent

          Frugal Dutch farmers, with the aid of indentured servants and a few slaves, built their fortunes and left their large land holdings to their descendants.  So it was with non-Dutch families who settled this fertile western side of the Palisades generally knows as "Rockland" or "The Closters".  

John Ryken Homestead -c.1744In 1744 John Ryken of Dutch descent and a farmer from Newtown, NY, settled in "the Closters" - actually was the first settler in the "Rocklands" - building the Ryker-Mabie-Conklin-Sneden House on the east side of Snedens Landing Road on land purchased from Henry Ludlow.

About 1746, Abraham A. Haring, Sr., acquired from Henry Ludlow 200 acres of Lockhart Patent in "Closter" (now Rockleigh) for future family needs.

Conklin-Sneden House In 1748 Jacob Conklin (Sr) of English descent acquired from Henry Ludlow a tract of "upland and fresh meadow" on both sides of Sneden Landing Road  in the area known as Rocklands (at that time considered to be in the Tappan Town, Province of New York). circa 1740 the Conklin-Sneden House with his bride and established both farm and family on the west side of Sneden Landing Road.

In 1749,  John Henry Gesner of Swiss-German descent purchased property from Henry Ludlow settled on the west side of Sneden Landing Road just north of Jacob Conklin. Only a cellar depression remains of the Gesner homestead.

 

 

Capt. Abraham A. A. Haring House - c.1758Abraham A. A. Haring (Jr) of Dutch descent built in 1758 a fine manor house on land purchased about 1746 by Abraham Abramse Haring, his father, at the bend where Snedens Landing Road became Closter Public Road.  Strong of purpose and endeavor, he produced a variety of crops for family and market.  He would not survive the roll of the British drums that echoed in his valley.  His house stands as the Capt. Abraham A. A. Haring House, but his lands were divided and passed on to his heirs.  

John A. Haring House - 1828John A. Haring,  son of Abraham Abramse, built the sandstone John A. Haring House  (recently called the Heslin House) and Dutch barn in 1805.

 

Abraham D. Haring House [Haring-Corning House] - 1823Abraham David Haring, a grandson of Abraham A.A. Haring and son of David A. Haring,  appears to have built in 1828 the sandstone and Flemish brick Abraham D. Haring House  (known until recently as Rose Haven). The much older south wing is likely the structure that appears on a 1780 map drawn by George Washington's mapmaker, Robert Erskine. 

These lovely old houses still stand on Piermont Road and Rockleigh Road. [The Haring Family]

[50th Anniversary - Borough of Rockleigh, NJ - 1923-1973]

 

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Snedens Landing Road

(Rockleigh Road)
Lower Sneden Landing Road looking North past Conklin-Sneden House Lower Rockleigh looking south
Snedens Landing Road and Conklin-Sneden House Early 20th Century Rockleigh Road

          The settlement patterns of the Dutch culture in Colonial America contrasted from their English counterparts in that the Dutch and their progenitors tended to be farmers and reluctant to settle in clusters forming villages and towns.  The persistence of the agricultural Dutch along Snedens Landings Road (Rockleigh Road) has preserved this rural atmosphere which is reminiscent of the tradition of 18th and 19th century farm regions. [Map of Lockhart Patent

          Today this old artery still winds through Rockleigh, NJ, and Palisades, NY, to Snedens Landing on the Hudson.  From 1780 to the conclusion of hostilities in 1783, Washington's Blockhouse was garrisoned by a company of Continental soldiers.  It was down this same old road that Martha Washington was driven in the dead of night to be with her husband.

[50th Anniversary - Borough of Rockleigh, NJ - 1923-1973]

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Closter Publick Road
(Piermont Road - South)

 

Late 19th Century  Piermont Road at Bridge over Roaring Brook
Looking North with Abraham A. Haring House in the left distance 

          This colonial roadway  connected the farms in the area of the Northern Valley known as "The Closters", subsequently Tappan, then Rockland,  then "Old Closter"  with the Hudson River and markets for their produce in growing New York City. Today this old artery still connects Rockleigh to Closter which is has grown beyond Tappan and Snedens Landing to become the center of activity in the Northern Valley. [Map of Harington Township

          The Rockleigh Historic District represents a way of life which appears to have disappeared from the New Jersey culture—an area settled by a small handful of families, enlarged by family intermarriages and occasional additional settlers and stabilized by the mind-19th century.  Rockleigh Borough presents a portal into a former way of life which no longer exists in 20th century New Jersey. 

[50th Anniversary - Borough of Rockleigh, NJ - 1923-1973]

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Rockland,
Harrington Township,
New Jersey

          In 1769 the bitter boundary dispute between the Provinces of New Jersey and  New York was in the process of being settled.  The Province of New York claimed the lands as far south as Closter Village and  extending to the northwest; the Province of New Jersey initially claimed lands as far north as Haverstraw, but later only as far north as the mouth of the Sparkill that included Tappan and extended northwest.  The compromise settlement resulted in a boundary line that placed Snedens Landing and Tappan Village in the Province of New York while the Rockland Neighborhood with former Tappan lands and the Closters in the Province of New Jersey. [Map of Provincial Boundaries*] 

"History of the Reformed Church of Tappan", David D. Cole (New York, 1894), p 134. Budke, Vol. 70, p. 110
"Papers relating to the New York and New Jersey Boundary Controversy" Budke, Vol. 29, p. 72.
"Two Haring Houses at Rockleigh, N.J." Reginald McMahon, mms Bergen County Historical Society, River Edge, NJ
*"How Things Began...in Rockland County and Places Nearby". Wilfred Blanch Talman,
Rockland County Historical Society, 1977.

          With the stroke of a pen, a vast gore of unincorporated territory,  extending from the Hudson westward to include the Hackensack Valley and the Pascack Valley, suddenly lay with in the Province of New Jersey.  Because this area had been part of Tappan, the residents did not have a formal government.  An assembled list of "Possessions in Lockharts Patent" included fourteen families within the New Jersey gore:  John Gissnar [Gesner], Jacob Concklin Jr., Geradus RykerJohn Ryker, Abraham Ryker, and Abraham Abm. Haring Jr., in what is now Rockleigh as well as Johannes Nagel, Tunis Van Houten, Johannis Huybert Blauvelt, Wilhelmus Fordon [Ferdon], John Fordon [Ferdon], Michael Gravenstine, Johannis Martenhagen, and Jacob Valentijn in what is now Norwood and Closter.  In 1774 these and other residents of the area petitioned the Province of New Jersey for a new township; in 1775  Harrington Township became a reality.  The small farming community tucked under the eastern portion of the Province boundary line was then referred to as the "Old Closter" or "Rockland area of Harrington Township."

          Soon after settlement of the provincial boundary dispute, a far more serious and deadly dispute loomed on the horizon - a dispute that would tear the fabric of families and neighbors in the Rockland Neighborhood of Harrington Township and out of which a new nation would emerge.

[50th Anniversary - Borough of Rockleigh, NJ - 1923-1973]

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Colonial Era Historic Sites

         

c. 1725

Snedens Landing Road
(Rockleigh Road)

  c. 1725 Closter Publick Road
(Piermont Road - south)

c. 1750

 "The Rockland Neighborhood"
26 Rockleigh Road 

 

c. 1749

Abraham "D" Haring House 
(Manor House of the Northern Valley)
3 Rockleigh Road

  c. 1752 Roaring Brook Farm
(Ryker-Mabie-Concklin-Sneden House)
Rockleigh Road
c. 1750-1760 John A. Haring House ("Stone Kitchen") 
5 (South) Piermont Road
c. 1758 Capt. Abraham A. A. Haring House
9 (South) Piermont Road
 

Compiled by E. W. April, 2002

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Background Music: "Oh, Kom Er Eens Kijken" [Traditional Dutch folk tune]

 

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