Atlantic Township Biographical Sketches

By Franklin Ellis
Philadelphia, R.T. Peck & Co., 1885

  • Thomas G. Haight
  • The Family of Schenck
  • Isaac G. Smock
  • James. J. Taylor

  • THOMAS G. HAIGHT, son of William Haight, was born November 10, 1790, on what is called the Morrisdown farm, half a mile east of Colt's Neck, where he resided until he was about thirty-eight years of age. He prepared for college in New Brunswick, under the Rev. Mr. Croes (afterwards Bishop Croes), and graduated at the College of New Jersey, Princeton, 1812. He was married to Miss Van Marter, March 8, 1824. In 1828 he settled at Colt's Neck, where he resided until his death. After he graduated, he read law for some time in Philadelphia, but never pursued the study to take license. He devoted himself chiefly to agriculture, and was one of the most scientific and successful farmers in the county. He had eight children, -- three daughters and five sons.

    The intelligence and worth of Mr. Haight early drew the attention of his fellow-citizens to him as a suitable man to represent the county in the Legislature; and though reluctant to leave his home and his farm, he was prevailed upon to be a candidate, and was elected to the Assembly in 1831, where he soon became a leading member. He served in that body six years, and in 1837, during the stormy and exciting time of Mr. Van Buren's administration, he was elected Speaker of the House, in which office he acquitted himself with great credit, and in a manner highly acceptable to all parties. He was one of the members from Monmouth County of that memorable convention which met in Trenton, May 14, 1844, and formed the present Constitution of the State. He was often solicited to become a candidate for Congress, but his domestic habits and his love for home led hime to refuse all such solicitations. He was one of the three founders of the Young Ladies' Seminary at Freehold, Judge John Hull and the Rev. D. V. McLean being the others. About a year before the death of Mr. Haight, he, with Mr. McLean, prepared and published an address to the people of Monmouth County on the subject of erecting a monument in commemoration of the battle of Monmouth.

    The death of Mr. Haight occurred on the 1st of September, 1847, when he was nearly fifty-seven years of age. At the time of his decease the attention of his fellow-citizens was strongly turned to him as a candidate for Governor at the succeeding election; and had he lived, there is scarcely a doubt but that he would have been selected. He was beloved by all parties, and known throughout the whole State of New Jersey as an upright, clear-headed, honest man.

    It was in private life that the character of Mr. Haight shone most conspicuously. He was very domestic in his habits, peculiarly fond of his family, and entirely unambitious of public stations or public honors. His intelligence and probity gave him great influence in the community in which he lived, in advising and settling the business affairs of his neighbors who had fewer advantages than himself. To such neighborly acts he freely devoted much of his time, without fee or reward; and this, with his frank and courteous manner, greatly endeared him to all who knew him.

    THE FAMILY OF SCHENCK. -- The Schencks of Monmouth County are descended from Roelof Schenck Van Nydeck, who, with his brother Jan, emigrated to this country from Holland in 1650. The particular place from whence they came was probable Doesberg, in the province of Guelderland, where, it appears, their father was born. He was a sone of Martin and a grandson of General Peter Schenck and his wife, Joanna Van Scharpenseel, and General Peter was a brother of the celebrated General and Sir Martin Schenck, with whom his brother fought and was one of the most successful, daring and enterprising commanders in Holland in the time of the war of the revolution there. Tracing them back, they were descended from four Dericks in succession,and them from two Heinrichs, or Henrys, in succession, going back to 1346, and who were lords of the manorial estates of Afferden, Wachtendonk and Blyenbeck, Afferden and Blyenbeck lying on the Maas River, above the town of Gennep, and Wachtendonk on the Nioss River, above the town of Gelden. Passing back one or two nknown generations, they were descended from Ludolphus, Wilhelmus and Christianus, going back to 1225, and then through Christianus, a second son in the family of Schencks, the barons of Tautenberg, going back to 330. The descendants of Christianus were known as the Schencks Van Nydeck, so called from the town of Neideggen, lying on the river Roer, some eighteen miles east of Aix-la-Chapelle, where no doubt Christianus had an estate or residence.

    Roelof Schenck Van Nydeck, the emigrant to this country, married, first, in 1660, Neeltje, daughter of Garret Van Couwenhoven; married, second, in 1675, Annetje Wyckoff; and married, third, November 30, 1688, Catharine Cregin, of New York, widow of Stoffen Hoagland. He settled at Flatlands, where, in 1661, he obtained a patent for forty-six acres of land, and subsequently purchased lands until he must have owned some three hundred acres and the one-half of the mill occupied by his brother John. At one assessment for taxation his ratables were the next highest in the town, and at another subsequently taken they were the highest. He was among the first enrolled as a member of the church of Flatlands, and no doubt among its principal supporters. When a bill was procured for the church, his subscription was the highest on the list. He was appointed by Governor Leisler captain of cavalry in Kings County, and at several different times held the office of justice of the peace and once that of schepen, or judge, and in general in public affairs was among the leading men in the colony.

    Roelof had three sons -- Martin, John and Garret -- and seven daughters. Martin was left the homestead at Flatlands, and his descendants have principally remained on Long Island. John and Garret emigrated in 1696 or 1698 to Monmouth County, and together with Cornelius Couwenhoven, who married their sister Margaret, settled in Pleasant Valley on a five hundred acre tract of land purchased of John Bowne, merchant of Middletown.

    Garret Schenck was born October 27, 1671 and died September 5, 1745. Married, about 1693, Neeltje, daughter of Koert Voorhees. He resided on the farm now occupied by Theodore Rapelyea, and built the spacious old mansion still standing there in good order. He acquired a large property and in different parts of the country, among which, in company with John Couwenhoven, the grandfather of the present John Conover, was a six thousand acre tract of land at Penn's Neck purchased of John Penn. Then the First Reformed Church of Freehold was organized, in 1709, he was one of the two first deacons, and from 1721 to 1727 he was a member of the Provincial Assembly of New Jersey. He had five sons -- Roelof, Koert, Garret, Jan and Albert -- and five daughters.

    The second Garret Schenck was born August 30, 1712, but did not live to see old age, as he deceased at the age of forty-five, August 20, 1757. Married, in 1737, Jane, daughter of William Couwenhoven of Long Island. He remained on his father's homestead in Pleasant Valley; had three sons -- William, John and Garret -- and seven daughters.

    John, son of the second Garret, was born August 28, 1745, and died on his eighty-ninth birth-day, in 1834; married, July 31, 1767, Maria, daughter of Tunis De Nise and Francinke Hendrickson. He settled on the farm in Pleasant Valley adjoining his father, now occupied by his grandson, David Schenck, and also for a time carried on the business of a fuller and then a saw-mill. While yet a young married man, and surrounded by a large family of young children, the War of the Revolution came on and he ardently embraced the patriotic cause, and as occasion called for, took up arms and at times engaged actively in the fight. He became captain of militia, and was a bold and enterprising office and possessed of influence. It is said that soon after the beginning of the was he war approached by a Loyalist and asked what he would take to embrace the royal cause. He answered, "The whole of Europe cannot buy me; give me liberty." Such was the value of his example and influence, and so obnoxious was he to the enemy, that his sister Anna, living on Long Island and in the midst of the foe, overheard some British officers talking about offering fifty guineas for the head of Captain John Schenck, dead or alive. She procured a pair of silver-mounted pistols, and sent them to him with the message, "John, don't you be taken alive." These pistols are carefully preserved at his old homestead, and may be seen there at the present day. His life was sought after and insecure, and sometimes for safety he passed his nights in concealment, at one time in a hay-stack in the field. This was discovered; but made aware of the discovery by some friends, the next night he went elsewhere. The enemy came, surrounded the stack and set it on fire; but he was out of their way. For a while, at least, he was in the main army, but was principally engaged in contests with the enemy about the vicinity of his home. At one time he drove off with his company a party of Refugees who had come over from Staten Island and landed on the East Point, and, having gone up in the country, collected a lot of cattle and driven them down to the shore, were engaged in trying to ship their plunder on their boats. They were attacked, the captain going on ahead and swinging his hat and calling to his men to come on. He himself shot one man down by the name of Lawrence, having struck him in the forehead with a bullet. At another time he was at the Highlands with his company, and a company of the enemy being there, he urged his superior officer, who was also there, to make the attack, but he was afraid and refused. The captain then assumed the responsibility, attacked the party, captured them and brought off most of them at least prisoners of war. When, in the month of June, 1781, the party of fifteen hundred invaded the county, they came up as far as Pleasant Valley and some firing occurred, and they engaged in plundering. A detachment went over to the residence of Captain John Kiming to burn his buildings. A skirmish took place and they were driven back. During the firing the mother, with her three-weeks old babe -- her De Lafayette -- retired to the cellar to get out of the way of the bullets. A grenadier was killed on the occasion and buried down in the orchard, where his grave was afterwards regarded as a ghost-like place by the boys. The captain himself was struck by two bullets fired by a Hessian, whom he pursued and captured.

    Captain John Schenck and Maria Denise had nine sons, -- Garret, Tunis, WIlliam, John, Denise, Daniel, De Lafayette, David and Hendrick, -- all of whom lived to grow up, and all but one to marry; and four daughters, -- one died an infant, the others grew up and married.

    The seventh son was De Lafayette, born May 27, 1781, and died September 11, 1862. Married, December 17, 1805, Eleanor, daughter of Garret Couwenhoven and Anna Schenck. He was named in honor of that devoted friend of this country and of civil liberty, the Marquis De Lafayette, and is said to have been the first American child to bear that name. And when the general was in this country on his visit, and in New York, Captain John was introduced to him, and he then introduced his son as bearing his name, and received his grateful thanks.

    De Lafayette Schenck resided first at Matawan, and carried on for many years quite extensively and successfully the business of tanning and currying, and at the same time cultivated and improved a farm of some sixty acres. He was a man noted for his sound good sense and correct view of things. He paid strict attention to his own business, was upright in all his dealings, and when needed to labor, was never ashamed to work with his own hands. While industrious and careful in promoting his own interest, he was possessed of public spirit, and ready to aid in any worthy cause; especially did he manifest a patriotic spirit in giving for the cause of his country in her hour of need. He was among the first in his native county to engage in laying out and straightening the public road from Freehold to Middletown Point; and when that road was extended to Keyport, and converted first to a plank-road and then to a graveled turnpike, he took and active and leading part. In instituting the Farmers' and Merchants' Bank at Middletown Point, he was largely instrumental in obtaining the charter, freely investing in it of his means; was for a few years its first president, and up to the time of his death was an influential member of the board of directors. He entered heartily into the first enterprise of taking a steamboat from the shores of Monmouth to the city of New York, partaking of its reverses and successes, and, in connection with this, aiding in erecting and arranging the steamboat wharf at Keyport, and keeping his interest in these until within two or three years of his death. He was largely interested in sustaining the large hotel and boarding-house at Keyport and when destroyed by fire, rebuilt it on his own responsibility. In 1830 he removed on the large farm near Holmdel, where he remained until 1855, conducting successfully his farming operations. The last seven years of his life he spent at Keyport, attending to his general business affairs. Although not a professing church member, yet such were his views in regard to moral influences that he never would allow card-playing or even a pack of cards on his premises. For building the parsonage house at Keyport he gave one-third of the cost of it, and was always a helper in sustaining the preaching of the gospel, and among the most regular in attendance on divine services. On his dying bed he expressed to his pastor his belief and trust in Christ as the source of mercy to him.

    De Lafayette Schenck and Eleanor Conover had four sons, -- Garret C., Sidney, Alfred and Lafayette, -- all of whom lived to grow up and marry; and four daughters, that lived to grow up and marry.

    Garret Conover Schenck was born September 14, 1806. Married, first, October, 1834, Sarah Ann, daughter of William Hendrickson and Eleanor Dubois, and eldest sister of Senator Hendrickson; married, second, April 14, 1846, Jane, daughter of Hugh McCormick and Jane Welsh, of Fairfield, N.J. The greater part of his time when a youth was spent in attending the common schools of the vicinity, while, owing to the frequent changes of teachers, the advantages for laying a good foundation for an education were but limited. Hence, when about fourteen years old, he was sent to the classical school at Cranbury, then under the care of Mr. Hanna. There he commenced the study of Latin; but after attending nine months the school was broken up, and he returned home to assist for a year or two in working in the yardr and on the farm. In the spring of 1823 he was sent to the classical school at Lawrenceville, then under the care of the Rev. Dr. L. V. Brown. Three years were spent here in preparing for college, and in the spring of 1826 he was admitted to the sophomore class at its third term in Rutgers College, New Brunswick. At the commencement, in 1827, he was chosen as one of the junior speakers, and in 1828 took part in the commencement exercises, and then graduated. The principal part of the succeeding year was spent in New Haven, in attendance on Professor Silliman's lectures on chemistry, mineralogy and geology, and on the lectures of Dr. Knight on anatomy, physiology and obstetrics. In the autumn of 1829 he was admitted to the Theological Seminary at New Brunswick, and passed the regular course of study in theology, excepting three months spent in assisting the Rev. Dr. Currie in teaching in the grammar school.

    In April, 1832, he was licensed by the Classis of New Brunswick to preach the gospel. His health having been somewhat impaired by application to study, a situation as pastor of a church was not then sought, and the principal part of the summer was spent in occasionally preaching in different places, and traveling and visiting friends in Central New York and out West as far as Ohio and Kentucky. In the winter of 1833 he was sent by the Board of Domestic Missions to preach as a missionary in the recently organized church of Marshallville; here he continued for six months. In the autumn he was sent by the Classis to preach as a supply for a few weeks in the then vacant church of Walpack. A call to become their paster was soon after made out and accepted, and in February, 1834, he removed there and commenced his work. He was required to preach at four different places in the congregation, distant from each other, and lying on both sides of the river Delaware. It was a laborious charge, attended with discouragements, and sometimes danger in crossing the river. He continued here but one year, when circumstances contrained him to resign this charge.

    In the autumn of 1834 he received and accepted a call to the church of Clover Hill. There he labored among a divided and unsettled people for a year and a half, when it was thought best to make a change. He was then invited to preach as a candidate in the then vacant church of Pompton Plains, the old mother Reformed Church in that section of the country. A call from here was soon made out and accepted, and in July, 1837, he removed there, and in due time was installed there as their pastor. Here for fifteen and a half years, in this large and substantial congregation, and among a plain, but refined and kind-hearted people, he labored with encouraging success. In the course of time, and from various causes, a few became disaffected with their pastor, and it was thought best quietly to leave them. He gave up his call, not knowing where to go or how his family might be situated. No opening in the church for him as a settled pastor has since presented itself, and in the Providence of God and in a singular way his lot has been cast on a farm for his livelihood, and to engage more or less in the business or the world, although, until old age has brought on its infirmities, he has for several years preached in a destitute neighborhood, and been every few weeks called to supply a vacant pulpit.

    In 1866 he was chosen a member of the board of trustees of Rutgers College, and for several years was chairman of the board's committee on the college farm. After the death of his father, in 1842, and in his place, he was chosen a director of the bank at Matawan, and served for some twenty years. For some fourteen years he has held the office of president of the Freehold and Keyport Plank-Road Company. For about eighteen years he has held the office -- an unprofitable one, it is true -- of secretary and treasurer of a mining company in Nevada, and was for a while a trustee of one in the State of Colorado.

    In the mean while, in 1869, with Mrs. Schenck he traveled as far as Monterey, on the Pacific coast, visiting on the way Salt Lake City, San Francisco, one of the big tree groves and the Yosemite Valley; and two years after with a cousin, traveled as far as Central Nevada. At another time he traveled as far as seventy-two miles west of Vicksburg, and on the way spent a day in the great cave of Kentucky. Much time, traveling and expense for the past fifty years has been given to preparing a history of the settlement and settlers of Pompton, and also to gathering the materials and arranging the facts for a genealogical history of the old Dutch families of Monmouth County.

    ISAAC G. SMOCK. -- Hendrick Malysen Smock emigrated to America in 1654, having married Geerje Hermans, who died in 1708. He settled in New Utrecht, purchased land in 1665, took the oath of allegiance in 1687 and was a magistrate from 1669 to 1689. His children were, Matthias, Johannis, Marritje, Lecudert, Sarah, Martyntje and Rebecca. Johannis, who removed to Monmouth County, married Catharine Barents, about 1672, and had children, -- Hendrick, Barnes, Matje, Anna and Femmeke. Hendrick Smock was born in 1698, and died on the 30th of May, 1747. He married, in 1721, Mary Schenck, and had eight children, among whom was John, born in 1727, who married, in 1757, Elizabeth Conover, and had twelve children, of whom George, born November 24, 1754, married, in 1779, as his first wife, Sarah Conover, and on November 27, 1794, as his second wife, Margaret Van Deventer. By the first union were children, - John, Aaron, Hendrick, Peter, George, Mary and an infant. The children of the second marriage were Jacob, Garret, Sarah, Elizabeth, Jane, Letty Ann, Isaac G. and Eleanor. Isaac G., of this number, was born on the 7th of November, 1809, in Somerset County, N.J., where he remained until nine years of age. The family then removed to Marlboro' township, Monmouth County, but soon disposed of the property there owned, and made a second purchase of the land now in possession of the subject of this biogragphy, and within one mile of the original Smock tract. Isaac G., after limited opportunities of education, devoted his energies to labor on the farm, which, on the death of his father, in 1836, came to him by inheritance and purchase. Here he has since been engaged in the congenial and healthful pursuits of the agriculturist, though the burden and responsibility has, in later years, been left to others. Mr. Smock was, on the 23d of December, 1841, married to Ellen, daughter of John Conover and Ann, his wife. Their children are John C., assistant State geologist for New Jersey, and Margaretta V. D., deceased. Mr. Smock is a member of the Monmouth County Agricultural Society, and identified as director with the Monmouth Plank-Road Company. A Democrat in his political associations, he has never accepted office other than that connected with the township. The cause of religion has ever found in him a zealous friend and the Holmdel Reformed Dutch Church a liberal supporter. In this church, of which both he and Mrs. Smock are members, he has filled the offices of elder and deacon.

    JAMES J. TAYLOR. -- The Taylor family repesented by the subject of this biographical sketch is of English extraction, the grandfather of the latter having been George Taylor, a farmer in Atlantic township, who married a lady of Scotch descent, whose children were John G., James G., George, Edward, Elizabeth, Hannah, Rachel and Eleanor. John G., a native of Atlantic township, married Elizabeth Conover, daughter of Tunis Conover, of Raritan township, to whom were born children, -- James J., Mary (Mrs. Cornelius Hendrickson), William and two sons, John and Conover, who died in infancy. Mr. Taylor was twice married after the demise of his first wife, and had by these marriages twelve children. His son James J. was born on the 20th of January, 1810, at the home of his paternal grandfather, in Atlantic township. His father, who pursued for years his trade of cooper, also rented farms in various parts of Monmouth County. His son received but meagre advantages of education, and at the early age of nine years learned to follow the plow, continuing to assist his father in this healthful occupation until twenty-one years of age, and also rendering his services useful in a grist-mill owned by him. On attaining his majority he removed to a farm in Atlantic township owned by an uncle, of which he was for four years the tenant. He was, on the 18th of December, 1833, married to Lucy Ann, daughter of William and Lydia Morford, of Middletown township, whose birth occurred June 24, 1809. Their children are Mary, born July 4, 1835, widow of Henry D. Ely, who has six children; Conover T., a farmer, born July 5, 1837, married to Eleanor Morford, who has two children; James M., whose birth occurred March 13, 1839, deceased; Emma C., born July 2, 1841, wife of James H. Leonard, who had two children; James M., born September 15, 1843, professor of mathematics in Madison University, Hamilton, N.Y., married to Hattie Frost, who has one child; Joseph W., a miller near Englishtown, born December 4, 1848, married to Annie English, who has three children. The grand-children are Rebecca, Howard, Thomas, Emma, Achsah and Henry, children of Mrs. Mary Ely; Ada and Lilah, children of Conover T. Taylor; Mary and Albert, children of Mrs. Emma C. Leonard; Jamie, Florence and William H., children of James M. Taylor; Harry, Amy and Bertha, children of Joseph W.; and Flore, daughter of John G. Taylor. Mr. Taylor, in connection with his brother, inherited the farm he at present owns, which he made his home in 1835 and has to the present time continued to reside upon. He is a member and has manifested much interest in the operations of the Monmouth County Agricultural Society. A Republican in politics, he has neither sought nor held office, and finds the excitements of public life not in accord with his tastes. His character as a citizen has caused his services to be often sought as executor and administrator, and these responsibilities have ever been filled with the most scrupulous integrity. He is a member of the Baptist Church of Holmdel, in which he has been for forty-eight years a deacon. Mr. and Mrs. Taylor celebrated in 1883 the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage, on which occasion their bridesmaid and groomsman were present to offer their congratulations with other friends. The sentiment of the following poem, written by a member of the family, was re-echoed by all present:

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