Rockleigh Historic District
The Rockleigh Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
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 inter-marriages and an occasional additional settlers and stabilized by the mid-19th century. The mobility of today's society seems to have eliminated the family community in all but the most rural and desolate regions of America. A family in New Jersey seldom lives in one spot for more than a decade, consequently, the intimacy of an area such as Rockleigh will probably never exist in the county again. Even Rockleigh has suffered from this unstable modern life, with most of its original inhabitants having disappeared. But while the structures remain and the histories continue to be written Rockleigh presents an insight into a former way of life which no longer exists in the 20th century.
The earliest farmhouses in the Rockleigh Historic District are typically Dutch, particularly the 18th century structures. These 1-1/2 story gambrel roofed red sandstone dwellings are indigenous to the Hudson Valley and Northeast New Jersey region. Rockleigh has four good examples of this 18th century-early 19th century Dutch style of architecture. While all but the John A. Haring House (5 Piermont Road) have been significantly altered, they still present a visual exterior impression of the Dutch style and have various original 18th century details and hardware as well as later Federal and Greek Revival elements indicating continuous usage and development of the houses.
Perhaps the most significant structure in the Rockleigh Historic District, however, is the small Dutch form barn which was built in 1806. It is of the traditional three-bay Dutch barn plan with wagon doors on both gable ends which open up to a wooden threshing floor flanked by storage and animal aisles originally entered from the outside by doors at the corner of the gable end. The flooring is wood. The barn is 36 x 40 feet and framed in four bents. The only unusual feature of this Dutch barn is the height of the eaves (12' 10"). Generally, the eaves are barely the height of a man. As only a few of these barns still exist in New Jersey, particularly in this condition, the immediate association of this barn with the nearby John A. Haring House (1805) makes this farm an unparalleled document of a Dutch farm complex.
The Borough of Rockleigh, situated in Northeast Bergen County, New Jersey, was once part of a patent granted to Dr. George Lockhart. On February 1, 1685, "the proprietors of the province of East New Jersey conveyed to Lockhart some thirty-eight hundred acres on the west side of the Hudson River in the County of Bergen." The neighboring Province of New York, however, assumed control of the land and Lockhart received a confirmatory patent from that government on June 27, 1687. The colonial history of Rockleigh, therefore became the history of New York until 1769 when the boundary line with New Jersey was settled after long and bitter dispute. During the Revolutionary War the area remained steeped in conflict between patriot and Tory.
George Lockhart never settled the tract. It was sold and title went through several hands until acquired by Henry Ludlow in 1725. Ludlow conveyed a small part of the tract (some 200 acres) to Abraham A. Haring (1709-1791), a great-grandson of Jan Pieterse Haring, a Dutch immigrant, who became one of the Tappan Patentees of 1681. Borough records indicate that Haring built a sandstone dwelling for himself on Rockleigh Road, the house being known as the Abraham D. Haring House (c.1740, 7 Rockleigh Road; Haring-Corning House). His purchase of this tract of land, however, was not for himself, but for his son Abraham A. Haring (1734-c.1780). The younger Haring built a Dutch style sandstone dwelling around 1758 on Piermont Road. The house is known as the Abraham A. Haring House (c.1758, 9 Piermont Road). Young Haring was also a captain in the local-militia during the Revolutionary War and was captured by the British. He died in a British prison in 1780. In 1785, his widow, Margrietje Blauvelt Haring married a neighbor, one John Riker. The elder Haring (1709-1791) drew his will in 1786 and devised the property to his grandsons — David, Abraham and John, the sons of the late Captain Haring. The dwelling remained in the Haring family until 1805, when it was sold to Moses Taylor. Taylor became a prominent member of the community. The house remained in the Taylor family until 1902.
John A. Haring (1780-1854) was the youngest son of Captain Haring. He inherited the southern portion of his grandfather's lands. On the property just south of his fathers house stood a small one-room sandstone kitchen built about the time of the Revolutionary War. He married Bridget Ferdon in 1804 and in 1805 began building a larger homestead adjacent to the old kitchen. Constructed in the Dutch Colonial style of architecture, the new dwelling faced in a southerly direction. In 1806 he erected a small Dutch style barn. Haring was a farmer and lived a long and peaceful life on his lands. In 1813 he was assessed for one hundred and two acres, two horses and six cattle. A later inventory indicates he grew grain and potatoes and raised cows, sheep, swine and fowl. He died on February 22, 1854, leaving the house and lands to his son Nicholas. The house and barn are located on the west side of Piermont Road and remained in family until 1969. The homestead is known as the John A. Haring House and Barn (5 Piermont Road).
The Harings are traditionally associated with Tappan, New York and the surrounding New Jersey area. They were prominent in the leadership of the community and gave their name to the area in 1775. It was then called Harrington Township.
Nicholas J. Haring (1814-1896) was the only son of John A. Haring. As his father aged, Nicholas then managed the farm. He married Eliza Haring, who was also a great-grandchild of Captain Abraham A. Haring. The couple raised a large family — five boys and five girls and eventually inherited the farm and lands when John died. Nicholas involved himself with improvements in the old house, adding additional bedchambers in both garrets for his growing family. Nicholas involved himself also with improvements within the community, for on "April 10, 1857 along with nine other local land owners he applied to Bergen County for a re-alignment of a part of Piermont Road. On June 2, 1857 the route was surveyed and the length of the improvement involved about one and one half miles with the beginning near the present Norwood-Closter line. The artery ran northward past Nicholas Haring's house and ended close to the northeast corner of Moses Taylor's barn. From this point at Taylor's barn the existing road was extended to the New York border by October 4, 1859. The extension was first named Carterette Road." (Piermont Road 1859)
Nicholas Haring appears to have been generous with his family. Three of his children settled within the immediate area of the home. They were Maria Haring (1837-1887), Jacob Haring (1839-1914) and Andrew Haring (1846-1926). When Jacob married Caroline Christie about 1859, Nicholas gave the young couple a small two-room dwelling that was built at c.1820 and stood on Haring lands on the southeast side of Rockleigh Road (4 Rockleigh Road). Jacob and Caroline began their married life by driving to the little house with a horse and wagon, one cow tied to the back of the wagon and a steeple clock that was their wedding present. The steeple clock still stands on the livingroom mantle today. Jacob eventually enlarged the dwelling and ran a dairy farm for many years. This house has always been in the Haring family and is so today . The house is known as the Jacob Haring House.
Maria Haring married a neighbor, Moses Taylor Sneden. Sneden built a dwelling just north of his wife's father's home in 1860. The house being known as the Moses Taylor Sneden House (8 Piermont Road).
Andrew Haring (1846-1926) was to eventually inherit his father's house and land in 1896. When Andrew married Martha Jones, Nicholas added a clapboard wing to the south side of the house for the couple. The dwelling remained in the Haring family until 1969, thus ending 164 years and four generations of Haring family ownership.
At the time of the Revolutionary War, from 1780 to the conclusion of hostilities in 1783, Washington's Blockhouse at Snedens Landing was garrisoned by a company of Continental soldiers. Both historic Rockleigh and Piermont Roads were used by the troops going to and from the Landing. Rockleigh Road at this time was called Snedens Landing Road. On May 14, 1781, fifteen enemy vessels and a number of flat boats appeared in the Hudson River. Washington and his aides concerned that an attack was about to be made on the landing and dispatched 200 men to support the post and cover the countryside in the area. A portion of the troops sent encamped in an area that lies on the south side of present-day Willow Avenue. The area is known as the Site of Washington Troop Encampment 1781. It was later referred to as "Snedens Fields."
Since the early 1700's, the Sneden family was traditionally associated with a Hudson River area commonly called Snedens Landing, now Palisades, New York. Segments of the family operated a ferry business with Jeremiah Dobbs, who resided on the other side of the river. Shortly after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence the family came under suspicion and attack for refusing to sign the General Association Articles that had been put forth to declare allegiance to the cause of liberty. Named in a resolution approved by the Committee for Safety at a meeting held in Clark's Town (Clarkstown), on July 29, 1776, were Dennis Sneden, James Sneden, William Sneden and Samuel Sneden. All suffered the consequences of being named Tories.
At the same time, however, Mary "Mollie" Sneden transported segments of the Continental Army across the River. Family members who resided near the landing were referred to as "Snedens of the river," while those who lived in the upper regions of the area were called "Snedens of the field."
Samuel Sneden, who supported the Tory cause in 1776 (while his neighbor Captain Abraham A. Haring commanded a local company for the cause of liberty) was a "field" Sneden.
It is not known exactly where Samuel Sneden (c. 1760-unknown) resided at the time, but it is known that he built a sandstone homestead around 1790 on the west side of Rockleigh Road (21 Rockleigh Road); the house being known as the Samuel Sneden House (Conklin-Sneden Homestead). The dwelling was built in the Dutch Colonial style of architecture and sheltered his descendants for several generations. Sneden was both farmer and carpenter and well settled by the time his son Jacob was born on November 27, 1796.
Jacob Sneden (1796-1862) resided and inherited his fathers house. He became a schoolteacher and taught in the first school established in Palisades, New York. At the age of 30, he married Cornelia Ann Rudd, age 21, on September 26, 1827. A daughter, Elizabeth Rudd Sneden, was born to the couple on August 11, 1828.
Elizabeth Rudd Sneden (1828-1880) was 19 years old when she married Abraham Riker on October 13, 1848. Abraham was a descendant of John Riker who owned a dwelling and lands on the east side of Rockleigh Road in 1752. The house is known as the Riker-Mabie-Concklin-Sneden House c.1752 (14 Rockleigh Road; Roaring Brook Farm). (John Riker was to marry Margrietje Blauvelt Haring in 1785, widow of Captain Haring).
The dwelling is similar in architecture to the earlier Matthias Smock House c.1718-21 in Middlesex County. In 1770 the dwelling and lands passed to Peter and Sarah Mabie and remained in the Mabie family until 1797. The record of ownership shows Jacob Concklin and his descendants in possession of the old farm until 1891. At that time the farm passed to the Sneden family and has remained so since 1891.
Johan Hendrick Gesner (1681-1745) at age 29 years immigrated with his wife Anna Elizabeth and infant daughter Margaret on the English ship Lyon, arriving in New York in June 1710. German in origin, the family eventually settled in the vicinity of Tappan village.
Johan Gesner was a miller by profession and operated a mill on the Hackensack River. He lived a pious life and adhered to the Lutheran faith. In his will drawn on October 30, 1745, he devised all his property except one Negro woman to his wife Elizabeth and provided that at her death the property should go to his son John Henry Gesner (1724-1811). The Negro woman was left to his daughter Margaret, wife of Jacob Valentine of Yonkers, New York. The will was proved on July 16, 1748.
John Henry Gesner (1724-1811) learned his father's profession and became a miller. He, like his father, was a man of comfortable means. In 1744 he married Famitcha Brower (1723-1788), daughter of Adolphus Brower and Jannette Ferdon. John and Famitcha began and ended their married life in a house built on Piermont Road, a mile and a half southeast of Tappan village and close to the New Jersey-New York state line, in what is present-day Rockleigh, New Jersey. The house was located at a hundred yards southeast from the James Gowdey House (42 Piermont Road) c.1862. (Mary E. Gowdey, wife of James was related to the Gesner family). All that remains of the life lived there is the Old Gesner Burying Grounds c.1788.
Gesner (1724-1811) at the time of the Revolutionary War was regarded as a citizen of Orangetown. Several of his sons belonged to a militia company known as the Kings Orange Rangers that had been raised mainly in Orange County, New York, by Lieutenant John Bayard in 1776. John and his wife Famitcha chose to remain neutral at this time. They like the Snedens refused to sign the Association Articles, suffering the same consequences of being named Tories.
When the family came under attack, Gesner fearing for the lives of his sons Jacob (1751-unknown), Isaac (1753-unknown), and the twins Henry and Abraham (1756-unknown) urged them to leave Harrington Township. New York was now in the possession of the British and he felt they would be safe there. All of them had been threatened with the prospect of being taken to New England and being put into dungeons. They left Snedens Landing in a open pettiauger belonging to Dennis Sneden. New York gave them safe harbor, but they would never return to the old farm again.
The Revolution ended and the home was broken up. The twins, Henry and Baraham settled in Nova Scotia. Jacob was lost at sea. Isaac settled in New York. In the winter of 1788 Famitcha died. From a few remaining letters of John Henry Gesner, his remaining years were long days of sadness. He was laid to rest beside Famitcha in the family burying grounds to the side of the old house in 1811.
A Village in Harrington Township
By the turn of the 18th century the Bergen countryside was developing into rolling farmlands and small villages. One such village was present day Rockleigh and the Rockleigh Historic District. By the first quarter of the 19th century the village was an established farming community. It was typical of its times. The descendants of the early settlers were joined by others who brought with them a needed trade or profession that helped make the village self-sufficient. The marching of troops on Rockleigh Road was now only a tale told to children. A Haring daughter would marry a Sneden son; their children in turn choosing a Concklin or Taylor descendant, and so the village remained and expanded.
Jacob Moore, who was a cobbler by trade, come to the village about 1810-23. He established a shop and dwelling on the east side of Rockleigh Road just south of the state line (36 Rockleigh Road); the house being known as the Jacob Moore House (Van Wickel-Moore House). Moore farmed his lands and raised turkeys and other fowl. We know from his neighbor, Nicholas Gesner, who kept a detailed diary, that Moore became a source of irritation to his neighbors. Complaints were often made to him about his flock of turkeys that wandered about in neighbors corn fields, causing great damage to the crops. Moore was known to be a man of comfortable means, however, he had a reputation of being eccentric. It was claimed by those who knew him that "he goes to bed with his rooster on the bed post."
Jacob Moores' immediate neighbor was Albert Cooper. Cooper was a blacksmith and built a dwelling on the west side of Rockleigh Road in 1827, directly across from the Moore house; this house being known as the Albert Cooper House (35 Rockleigh Road). He opened his shop and forge just north of his dwelling. Cooper was known to his friends and neighbors as "Obb." Although, there is no record of his birth, he was known as an able blacksmith as "everybody in town took their horses and oxen to be shoed by Obb Cooper." The forge became a place for local news and conversation.
Around 1823-33 Joseph DuBois (1803-1882) and his wife Elizabeth Concklin (1801-1882) established their home and farm on the west side of Rockleigh Road, just south of the Moore and Cooper farms. The house being known as the Joseph DuBois House (31 Rockleigh Road). By 1858 the DuBois farmlands extended west from Rockleigh Road and past the proposed new extension of Piermont Road. When the new road was opened in 1859, DuBois was one of the land owners who received compensation as the extension cut through his west fields. The farm remained in the DuBois family until 1893.
To the northwest of the DuBois home was a Concklin farm. The Concklin family, established by Jacob Concklin, Esq. (1718-1787) and his wife Hester Barhyte (1720-1783) was a large and prolific family that resided at two locations on Rockleigh Road. The dwelling to the north of the DuBois home was the John Gesner Concklin (1796-unknown) house. The other Concklin residence is known as the Riker-Mabie-Concklin-Sneden House (Roaring Brook Farm). Jacob Concklin, Jr., and his descendants were in possession of this dwelling from 1797-1891. DuBois' wife, Elizabeth, was a descendant of the Concklin family.
The Concklin family from c.1860-1885 operated a cider mill. The mill was located to the rear of the John Gesner Concklin house. Neighbors with large orchards brought their apples to be processed into cider or apple brandy. A horse was used to run a tread mill and grind the apples. The cider was stored in a stone vault that was located on the south side of the mill. The mill was in operation until that last quarter of the 19th century. The house remained standing until the early 1950's. The area is known as the Site of Concklins' Cider Mill c.1860-1885.
Around 1850-61 Jenkins Sloat came to the farm village. Sloat came from New York City. He purchased the old Abraham "D" Haring House and opened a saw mill on the south side of Rockleigh Road on the Sparkill Brook. The processing at the saw mill was a simple operation and lumber was only rough-cut for floorboards, construction and siding. The saw mill was in operation for approximately 15-20 years. Its water-wheels stopped and the saw mill closed in the last quarter of the 19th century. All that remains of it is its location recorded on a 1861 map and the ruins of a stone walled embankment on the brook. The area is known as the Ruins and Site of Sloat's Saw Mill c.1850-1861.
In 1853 John Gesner Concklin's daughter, Mary Elizabeth (1832-1935) married James W. Gowdey (c.1830-unknown). It is not known where the couple spent the first nine years of their marriage. It is known, however, that James W. Gowdey built a house on Piermont Road in 1862. The house is located on the east side of north Piermont Road near the New Jersey state line, and known as the James Gowdey House. The couple raised a large family — five boys and five girls. Mary Elizabeth Gowdey lived to be 103 years old. Her daughters Emma Ellen and Leah inherited the farm in c.1935. The house and land remained in the Gowdey family until c.1965. The house stands on the old Gesner farm which includes the Gesner Burying Grounds c.1788.
The second half of the 19th century brought little growth to the area. Only three new homes were built during this period of time. As in all rural areas, a certain timelessness will prevail...but the past and present invariably mingle and take task of change together.
"By the turn of the century surrounding communities in Harrington Township sought independence from old ties and "Boroughs" were formed with local governments of their own. One example of the times was Northvale. Organized as a borough in 1916, the town consisted of present-day Northvale and East Northvale (Rockleigh which lay beyond Horse Hill and Ludlow Ditch. Separated by this natural barrier the two communities developed independently of each other. The East Northvale lands were part of the Lockhart Patent while Northvale proper came out of the Tappan Patent. The total population of the area at the time was 827."
On April 12, 1923 East Northvale sought its is own independence and became Rockleigh, New Jersey. While Northvale chose to grow into a modern-day community, Rockleigh chose to remain rural. Today (1975), after fifty-five years of "growth," Rockleigh is still rural in character, having a population of 130.
New Jersey Archives (Calendar of Records), Vol. XXI (pp. 8, 92).
George H. Budke Collection, Vol. 69. (pp. 2, 39, 41). New York Public Library.
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Durie, Howard I. Haring Genealogical Notes. Johnson Library, Hackensack.
Rogers, Emma Winner. Journal of A Countrywoman, (pp. 18, 20, 59). New York, 1912.
Road Returns: Piermont-Rockleigh Road (1748). Closter Dock Road (1761).
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James Riker affidavit pension application of Paul Powles (W15, 877). Collection of Adrian C. Leiby
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Ackerman, Herbert S. Haring Family. John A. Haring will. (p.59). Ridgewood, 1952.
Wills: Nicholas J. Earing will made August 30, 1880, proved March 25, 18967 Book Y. (p.535). Hackensack.
Deeds: Book 630. (p. 76). Also Book 652. (p. 113). Hackensack.
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Deeds: Book 1504. (pp. 306, 310). Also Book 5366. (p. 239). Hackensack.
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Deeds: Deed of Peter Mabie to Jacob Concklin dated February 24, 1797. Possession of Mrs. Elmira Sneden, Rockleigh, New Jersey.
Sneden Family Bible. Printed 1769 by T. Wright and W. Gill. Printers to the University, Oxford, England. Possession of Mrs. Elmira Sneden, Rockleigh, New Jersey.
Sneden, R. Newton. Sneden Family. Genealogical Notes. Possession of Mrs. Elmira Sneden, Rockleigh, New Jersey.
Sneden, R. Newton. Snedens Landing Snedens. Original manuscript. Possession of Mrs. Elmira Sneden, Rockleigh, New Jersey.
Bailey, Rosalie Fellows. Pre-Revolutionary Houses and Families. New York, 1936. (p.414; plate 117). The Riker-Mabie-Concklin-Sneden House c.1752 (Rockleigh) as compared to earlier Matthias Smock House c.1718-21.
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Map: Rockleigh-Piermont Roads and surrounding area. Original hand-drawn map, c.1800's. Possession of Mr. James L. York, Jr., Rockleigh, New Jersey.
Map: Gesner Burying Grounds and grave locations. Original hand-drawn map. c.1800's. Possession of Mr. James L. York, Jr., Rockleigh, New Jersey.
50th Anniversary Borough of Rockleigh, New Jersey 1923-1973. Booklet. Borough of Rockleigh, 1973.
Oral History supplied by:
Mrs. Gertrude Van Blarcom Hutcheon, Rockleigh Road, Rockleigh, N.J. (Mrs. Hutcheon is the granddaughter of Jacob Haring (1839-1914).
Mrs. Harriet Haring Duke, Lawrence Apts., Piermont, N.Y. (Mrs. Duke is the granddaughter of Nicolas Haring (1814-1896).
Mr. R. Newton Sneden, Rockleigh Rd., Rockleigh, N.J.
Mrs. Elmira Sneden, Rockleigh Rd., Rockleigh, N.J.
Miss Marietta Sneden, Rockleigh Rd., Rockleigh, N.J.
(The above listed individuals are well informed members of the Haring and Sneden families. All have resided in Rockleigh since childhood with the exception of Mrs. Elmira Sneden. They are familiar with other families who have lived here and events surrounding their lives. Their age range is from 59 to 91 years old).
† Cathleen Jane Heslin, Borough Historian, Borough of Rockleigh, Rockleigh Historic District, Bergen County, New Jersey, nomination document, 1975, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.