Beasley / Beselie
particular region on the west bank of the Hudson, called the "Kings Woods"
and later known as "The Rockland
Neighborhood" was originally controlled by the Lenne Lenape
tribe of the Delaware Nation, overseen by George Lockhart (1665),
patentee under the Lockhart Patent. This patent was originally
secured through the Province of New Jersey, but within three years had
to be re-confirmed by the Province of New York because of jurisdictional
change. The location of the state border was disputed fiercely by
1750 the Bergen countryside westward from the
Hudson River was developing into rolling farmlands and small villages.
The earliest settlers were Dutch patentees
from New York City
and German farmers from the Rhine Palatinate (Ryker, Gesner,
who sought to distance themselves from oppressive
English rule in the Province of New York. In addition, there were
English farmers (Conklin)
from the manorial holdings on the east bank of the Hudson River. The beginnings of a farming community developed at
Rockland along the road to Snedens Landing, named for the English Sneden
family of boatmen and farmers. Toward the
end of the 18th century, the community and its families were to be torn
first by a new boundary line and then by a Revolutionary War.
1769, a boundary settlement between the Provinces of New York and New
Jersey split "The Rockland Neighborhood", leaving Snedens Landing in New
York and a the greater part of the "Rockland Neighborhood" on the
New Jersey side of the boundary within Bergen County, but without a
local government. Establishment of Harrington Township in 1775 solved the
problem, but what had been the Rockland Neighborhood, was referred to as
"Old Closter". During this uncertain period, family records were filed in Hackensack,
NJ, Tappan, NY, New City, NY, and Closter, NJ.
balls flew. Snedens Landing Road had become a strategic military artery
and the landing was protected by a Block House fort. Washington's army
camped in Henry Gesner's apple orchard and patrols ranged north and
south along the palisaded west bank of the Hudson River. Neighbors
literally found themselves on opposite sides of a deadly fence. Some
families were split with sons supporting opposing sides. Loyalist
raiding parties roamed the area, pillaging scare food and carrying away
suspected enemies. At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, several
loyalist sons of the original Gesner, Sneden, and Beasley settlers
evacuated to Nova Scotia. Some made new lives in Canada; others returned
to their roots in "The Rocklands" established themselves as respected
farmers or shipbuilders and married into other former loyalist families.
By the first quarter of the 19th
century the farming community was typical
of the times and destined to become present-day Rockleigh Borough. The descendents of the earliest Dutch settlers
by others, largely of English descent (Corning,
and Taylor), Huguenot descent (Mabie, DuBois,
and occasionally Old Jersey Dutch (Cooper, Van
Wickel, Sloat, Happel).
Each brought with them a needed trade or
profession that helped make the village self-sufficient. The distant
troops marching on Sneden Landing Road was now but a tale told to children.
daughter would marry a Conklin son; their children in turn choosing a
Haring or Cooper descendant, and so the village remained and expanded.
Each family left a rich legacy so apparent today.
European tradition of naming firstborn sons
after their father was brought to this country by these early families.
Obviously, this makes tracking of genealogies rather difficult and
sometimes impossible without established records.
Dutch families were also divided within fractions of the Dutch Reformed
Church. Some held fidelity to the original Dutch Reformed Church in Hackensack, others
retained allegiance to the Tappan Dutch Reformed Church, while others opted for
the Dutch Reformed Church that was formed and built by a break-away group in
Schraalenberg, NJ. Then, too, there is evidence that later generations lost
close ties with the church and life events were not recorded. Records of the same family are separated and
even become tenuous.
early settlers who settled in the area that was to become
Rockleigh Borough left behind in the public record, in genealogies, and in their dwellings
that to this day provide comfortable homes, a rich and lasting legacy that is testimony to their way of life.