From Covenhoven to Green Flash and Back
Before they arrived in Blawenburg in 1753, the Covenhovens lived with many others of Dutch descent in the Freehold/Middletown area of Monmouth County. In Blog #3, we noted how the Dutch migrated to Monmouth County when the British took over New Amsterdam (New York) in 1664. At a time when communication was mainly by word-of-mouth and land was plentiful, it took a special person with good communication skills and an understanding of what land was available to broker sales. Nicholas Lake was the right man for the job.
Lake, who lived in New Brunswick, was in a great location between Monmouth and Somerset Counties. He undoubtedly had many land deals going, but one of them was in what would become Blawenburg and its surrounding area. It was originally the Van Horne Patent. John Van Horne was a wealthy man from New York who purchased a vast tract that represented the southern third of Montgomery Township. He shared the 6,799 acres with his brothers Abraham and Garret.
Note the Van Horne Patent. Lots 2 and 3 were given to Abraham Van Horne, while lots 5 and 6 were given to Garret. The land on which the Covenhoven Plantation was developed was owned by Abraham. Upon John’s death in 1735, the remaining land in the patent and other properties around the region were given to Abraham, Garret, and another son, James.
Credit: Patent map drawn by Ursula Brecknell
In 1753, Abraham Van Horne decided to dispose of the property that he had inherited. Enter Nicholas Lake, who brought the tract to the attention of John Covenhoven and his wife, Catherine. They bought 222 acres of farmland in the southeastern section of the Van Horne Patent. Their neighbors to the east, the Joost Duryea family, bought land from Van Horne and built their house in the same year. Today, the Duryea house is known as Washington Well Farm. To the west, was the Nevius farm and to the southwest was Michael Blaw’s mill and the farm of his brother, Frederick. These properties were most likely brokered by Lake as well.
Just as the Nevius/Van Zandt farmstead defined the western boundary of Blawenburg, the Dutch farmstead developed by the Covenhovens and Stouts defined the eastern boundary. It originally occupied land on both the north and south sides of Route 518 from Great Road to an area east of Mountain View Road. In other words, most of what we think of as Blawenburg today. The farm still operates as the Greenflash Farm on the southern side of Route 518 along Mountain View Road and it is being refurbished as an organic farm with special attention to its historic past.
What makes the original plantation so significant is that its owners had an entrepreneurial vision that led to the development of many buildings in the village. A store, tavern, blacksmith and wheelwright shop, a church and its parsonage, and several houses all emerged as the Covenhoven/Stout family sold off parcels of land.
John Covenhoven’s gravestone is in Blaw/Nevius Cemetery, which is within Cherry Valley Country Club. The stone says: In memory of John Covenhoven who departed this life on April 8, 1767, aged 44 years, 3 months and 10 days. Next to it is a broken monument in the same style as John’s, but the inscription is difficult to read. It has the initials JC and d. 1777. It is believed to be the grave of Catherine Covenhoven.
Understanding the transfer of ownership among the Covenhoven, Stouts, and Griggs helps us realize how the village developed.
People/Event What Happened?
John and Catherine Covenhoven Bought and operated the original plantation
in 1753. The farm was on both sides of Blawenburg Road (Rt. 518).
John Covenhoven (died 1767) The farmstead was willed to their son, David.
Catherine Voorhees Covenhoven
David Covenhoven Operated the farm and willed it to his daughter Suzanne
Suzanne married James Lake (1794), They continued operating the farm.
and they had a daughter, Catherine
(1796). A few years later, she married
John Stout, Esq.
Catherine married William Mershon Griggs bought 100 acres on both sides of Griggs, Esq. (1812) Route 518 from his mother-in-law, Suzanne, in 1817.
Georgetown-Franklin Turnpike was The turnpike brought new traffic from
chartered in 1816 and constructed Georgetown (Lambertville) through
between 1820 -22. See Blog 4, Getting Blawenburg and provided an impetus
to and from Blawenburg – Old Roads. for new businesses. This became a
major road between New York and Philadelphia.
Griggs divided his acquisition into Catherine and William Griggs built the
building lots and began selling off first Blawenburg house that was not parcels. associated with a farm in 1818. It served
as home, stagecoach stop, and tavern.
It has been owned by the Hartshorne family since the 1960s.
Most of the original village was built Following its initial build-out, very few
between 1830 – 1845. buildings were constructed for the next
A wrinkled photo of the Upper Strode Farm (now Greenflash Farm) from the 1960s
Beyond the Covenhovens
The Covenhoven Farm eventually was sold outside the family and at one point had a dubious reputation. At some point during the 1930s, the original Covenhoven house, which was then known as the Green Flash Boarding House, burned down, and it is the only one of the original properties in Blawenburg that is not standing. We’ll share the story of the Green Flash in our next blog.
In 1934, George Gallup, famous for developing the Gallup Poll, purchased an adjacent farm, the original Peter Stryker Farm along Great Road. His sons, George and Alec, purchased the Covenhoven farm and built houses near Bedens Brook on Mountain View Road. It operated as Upper Strode Farm. Don Terhune, who grew up in Blawenburg and worked for the Gallups as a teenager, remembers that there were two barns on the southern part of the property. One was an English-style barn dating to the 1850s with a dairy barn attached. He had to go there twice a day to milk cows. The barn also had two horses and a heavily fortified section where two rambunctious bulls were kept. A second Dutch barn from the 1700s was recently refurbished. A third barn is pictured below.
One of the newer barns on the Greenflash Farm sits on the northern tier of the property along Mountain View Road. It is believed to date back to the early part of the 20th century.
The Greenflash Farm
Today, the property is called Greenflash Farm, and it is being restored as an organic farm by Wendy Golden and Steven Back. The mission statement on its web site says:
“Greenflash Farm harvests and provides our community with only the highest quality meat, vegetables, fruit, and flowers. As the current stewards of this land, we are dedicated to regenerative farming practices that do not exploit the area’s natural resources and, ultimately, aim to leave this land in a better state than we received it. As we tend to the soil and contemplate the future, we remain mindful of the Piedmont plateau’s rich farming history and the local traditions of Montgomery Township.”
An original Covenhoven barn from the 1700s has been restored recently on Greenflash Farm. Its Dutch style has been maintained inside and out, although it was elevated when it was moved to its present location from the northern part of property years ago.
In a recent interview, Steven Back revealed how they enact their mission in the work they have done to restore the farm. They have tried to remain faithful to the period in which the farm was built, using original materials wherever possible. For example, the barn renovation (above) is in keeping with the original style and materials of the period in which they were built. The same will be true of the forthcoming restoration of the old carriage house on the northern part of the property.
A movable feast. Organic Road Island Reds and Plymouth chickens produce many eggs in the portable chicken coop with a movable electric fence.
The Back/Golden team employs the same philosophy by restoring the fields to be certified organic. Two of the fields are currently certified, and they expect the final field to be certified in March. They use no chemicals on the fields or with the animals they raise – chickens, lambs, and hogs. Instead, they let the animals do much of the field restoration work by moving them around the fields in contained areas with portable electronic fencing to let them fertilize the ground before they plant new crops. The owners' belief in being stewards of the land is coming to fruition as they regenerate the farm.
A good sign of things to come on the Greenflash Farm
The farm has a Farm Share program that provides meat, eggs, vegetables and flowers to shareholders. More information about this organic food cooperative as well as many pictures of the farm can be found at Greenflash Farm or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/greenflashfarm/.
The Covenhoven/Stout Plantation has had an incredibly long run of continuous farming. It is the only farm in Blawenburg today, and with its careful restoration, it looks like it will be viable for a long time to come.
1. Like many other immigrants, many of the Covenhovens anglicized their name. Many chose Conover as their new name in America, and today we are more likely to know someone named Conover than Covenhoven. The old name is memorialized in the development on the north side of Route 518 where Wild Azalea Lane and Schoolhouse Corner Road intersect with Covenhoven Road.
2. The access road to the Covenhoven farm from Blawenburg Road (Rt. 518) was extended over time to Cherry Valley Road and eventually was named Mountain View Road.
Blog 14. What Ever Happened at the Green Flash Boarding House?
It was prohibition, and just before dinner on Saturday, March 29, 1930 something deadly happened! Find out more in the next blog.
Baker, Walter C. Family Burying Grounds, Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey. The Van Harlingen Historical Society, Inc. 2nd Edition, 2008.
Brecknell, Ursula C. Montgomery Township, An Historic Community, 1702…, Van Harlingen Historical Society, 2006.
Discussion with Dr. Steven Back, Owner of Greenflash Farm
Greenflash Farm web site: http://www.greenflashfarm.com
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, April 22, 1988
Recollections of Don Terhune
Covenhoven grave. FindaGrave Blaw-Nevius Cemetery
Greenflash Farm Instagram
Steven Back, 1960 Upper Strode Farm