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The First Farmstead in the Village

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

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The Original Houses series of blogs will share information about each of the houses that were built in the first wave of village development before 1850 as well as tales about the people who lived in them. The series will run chronologically from the oldest farm to the last house built. There will be other blogs of interest posted between the Original Houses blog postings.


About the same time that John Blaw bought his property along Bedens Brook and Michael Blaw was thinking about starting a mill, Peter Nevius bought 291 acres from the estate of Garret Van Horne, an absentee land owner. Some reports say that he bought as many as 700 acres. The purchase occurred around 1740. The Nevius property was bounded on the north by Rock Brook (the stream below the Blawenburg Bridge on Route 601), the Blaw properties on the south, near Hollow Road on the west, and Belle Mead-Blawenburg Road to the east. This property that Nevius and his family farmed for about 70 years, eventually formed the western boundary of the village.


But thAe new residents took a circuitous route to get to Blawenburg, a route largely guided by family migration.


From Holland to Nieuw Amersfoort (Flatlands)

Peter (Pieter by Dutch spelling) was born in 1695 at Flatlands, Long Island. This section of Brooklyn was originally called Nieuw Amersfoort by the Dutch who settled there after emigrating from Amersfoort, Netherlands. His parents were among those who emigrated from their native land to New Amsterdam, the first name of what became New York City. When the British took over New Netherlands in 1664, they renamed many places, including Niew Amersfoort, to give the areas a more British sounding name. Niew Amersfoort became a separate farming town called Flatlands until it was merged with Brooklyn in 1896. This section of Brooklyn still carries the Flatlands name.


Many of the Dutch who ended up in Blawenburg traced their ancestry to Amersfoort, Netherlands.

Credit: Google maps


As a young man, Peter served in the King’s County militia as a member of Captain Ralph Terhunen’s company. A colonial militia was a group of citizens who protected the people in their area. They were akin to today’s police force. Terhunen was a member of the Terhune family, which became prominent in the Somerset County area. Peter earned the rank of Captain in the militia. In 1717, he married Altje Ten Eyck and moved from Flatlands to Marlborough in Monmouth County, NJ along with many other families of Dutch descent. Like so many of the Dutch, he became a farmer, a skill that transferred with him to Blawenburg.


Flatlands, the section of Brooklyn where the original Blawenburg Dutch lived

Credit: Google maps


From Marlborough to Blawenburg

Marlborough had excellent soil called marl that also gave Marlborough its name. This mixture of lime, clay, and silt improved crop production and was an early export from the community. At the time, the English, French, Spanish, and Dutch all laid claim to the area that was also inhabited by the Leni Lenape. In a very confusing act, the Monmouth Patent was granted the right to sell land at the same time that the Lenape were selling parcels. Who owned what and how legal the transactions were became big questions of the day. The big winners in this transaction were not the Lenni Lenape.


Peter and Altje were very busy on their Marlborough farm for at least 20 years. During that time, they produced nine children. Being good Dutch Reformed people, they had their children baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church in Marlborough.


Old Brick Reformed Church in Marlborough, NJ. Built in 1826, this church stands on the ground where the original church for the Reformed Congregation of Freehold and Middletown stood. Many Dutch came to this area from Flatlands in the Province of New York and brought their Dutch Reformed religion with them. The original church was the home church of Peter and Altje Nevius before they migrated to Blawenburg.

Credit: Wikipedia


Around 1737, the Nevius's packed up their family and headed west. The word had spread that there was good farmland available in Montgomery Township and that Dutch families were settling there. In all likelihood, many of the Dutch families followed others who had found new places to farm. In Peter’s case, he and his family came to Montgomery to live close to his older brother, Martinus, who had moved from Marlborough to the Harlingen section of Montgomery Township.

The migration from Flatlands to Marlborough to Blawenburg.

Credit: Google Maps


Their arrival in what became Blawenburg coincided with the arrival of the Blaws, who also came from Marlborough in the late 1730s. (Note that Marlborough was first spelled with “ough” on the end. It was later truncated to Marlboro.) There was little in the area but farmland waiting to be developed. There are conflicting reports about the size of the land Peter purchased in Blawenburg. Some say that he purchased 291 acres while a report in the genealogical work, The Ancestors of Two Sisters, says that he purchased 700 acres, including the land extending from Route 518 to Camp Meeting Road. James Van Zandt built a mansion on the northern part of this land in 1860. Today it serves as the SAVE animal shelter. This land was part of the School for Epileptics (aka Neuro Psychiatric Institute and North Princeton Development Center) for over 100 years. It also housed the NJ Training School for Boys and is now the location of Montgomery High School.


Peter became active in the Montgomery community, serving as chairman of the building committee of the Sourland Reformed Church, later known as the Reformed Dutch Church of Harlingen. While we don't know how prosperous Peter was, we can surmise from his generous gift to help build the church in Harlingen that he had done well with his farming. This success foreshadowed many years of successful farming by the Van Zandt family who owned the farm after the Nevius family.


Sadly, Altje died shortly after their arrival in Blawenburg. Peter lived another 30 years, passing away in 1767. At that time, there were only family cemeteries. Both Peter and Altje are buried in Cherry Valley Country Club on land that was originally owned by Frederick Blaw. We will have more information about this cemetery in a future blog.


Dating in the 1700s Was Local

People didn’t find dates on social media in these early times. They found someone from a local farm, church, or town, had a period of courtship, and got married. Given the mode of transportation – horse or horse and buggy – it was likely that future spouses were found pretty close to home.


A great example of this was the connection between the Blaws and the Nevius families. Peter and Altje Nevius had a daughter named Jenneke. She, of course, lived at the Nevius farm. John Blaw’s son Frederick owned the large adjacent farm to the south of the Nevius farm near Bedens Brook Road and Great Road. Jenneke was married to Jerome Karnow for about ten years, and then he passed away. When Frederick’s first wife, Mary, died at the age of 42, Frederick started his search for a new bride close to home, very close. He found Jenneke, and before long, they were married. Frederick, being a contemporary Dutchman, did what many others did and decided to Anglicanize his name, so he became Frederick Blue and Jenneke became Jane Blue. Frederick’s children with Mary were all Blaws. His children with Jane, had the surname Blue.


As we continue the Blawenburg story, we will see that many, if not most, families in the area were interrelated. The same names keep coming up as the Dutch married the Dutch.


Blawenburg Fact: Many of the Blaws changed their name over the years, keeping the meaning, but not the Blaw name. Like Frederick and Jane, they use the surname Blue.


Next: The Original Houses of Blawenburg: The Nevius/Van Zandt Homestead, Part 2. How the Van Zandts Acquired the Nevius Farm


Sources:

Cortelyou, John Van Zandt. The Ancestors of Two Sisters; records of the ancestors of Helen Robina Cortelyou and Carol Van Zandt Cortelyou. Lincoln, NE, Brown Printing Service, 1954.

Cossairt, Joseph A. Cossart Genealogy. Washington, DD, Bureau of Navigation. www.archive.com.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatlands,_Brooklyn

https://www.picemaps.com/amersfoort-location-on-the-netherlands-map/

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