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House of Abraham Van Campen

Houses in Sussex and Warren Counties

Old Mine Road, Calno, Pahaquarry Township, Warren County

Extracted from "Pre-Revolutionary Dutch Houses and Families in Northern N.J. and Southern N.Y.," by Rosalie Fellows Bailey, 1968; pages 545-548 and 579.

Plate 169

This house was built by Abraham Van Campen far from any settlement in the wilds north of the Delaware Water Gap.  To reach civilization he had to make a long and arduous journey over the Old Mine Road northwards along the Delaware River to the present Port Jervis and then strike inland northeastward to Esopus on the Hudson River.

Abraham's grandfather Gerrit Jansen Van Campen emigrated to New Amsterdam, where he was a soldier at the time of his marriage Jan. 17, 1659, to Macktelt Stoffels, widow of Anthony Lodewyck.  They settled at Esopus.  Their son John Van Campen, bap. April 18, 1661, at Kingston, married there July 23, 1687, Tietje Jans Decker, and survived most of their eleven children.  They were living at Shawangunk when two of their children were born in 1694 and 1696, and by 1703 had settle in Marbletown Township, Ulster County, where they were living as late as 1728.  He removed to New Jersey and died in Somerset County in 1745 shortly after making his will (in which he does not mention his son Abraham).  Of his sons, John, Gerrit and Abraham settled along the Delaware River.

Col. Abraham Van Campen, bap. Oct. 9, 1698, at Kingston, was the first and most prominent settler of the river region, now Pahaquarry Township.  This land was included in the Indian's release of 1713 to the West Jersey Proprietors.  On March 8, 1732, Abraham bought from the heirs of George Hutcheson, one of the Proprietors, a tract called Pahaqualin, consisting of 1666 acres with a stretch of seven miles along the Delaware River, for 735.  This tract was the upper half of the present township; it could not have been his first purchase, as he was said to have had a survey made for him in 1712 and to have settled here about 1725.  John Reading, Jr., surveyed the country as far as the Minisink lands in May of 1715 and recorded no white settlers at this time, but the valley was thickly settled for over thirty miles north of the Water Gap by 1730, according to the surveyors Scull and Lukens.  Abraham Van Campen at one time owned more than 3000 acres, of which he sold a great deal, leaving 1600 acres to his sons.  Richard Smith of Burlington rowed down the Delaware River in a canoe with Indian guides in 1769, and recorded that "we had a glimpse of the late Col. Van Camp's place below Walpack; he has a good share of even land and a range of swelling hills proper for sheep pasture, as much of all this country would be if it was cultivated."  On the map of the Delaware River Survey in 1769 by Dennis are shown Van Camp's House and Grist Mills on a stream.

Abraham's home was the headquarters of the settlers in the Delaware River valley during the Indian wars; a fort was built nearby for a garrison of 250 men, and the officers were fed at his table.  He was a Colonel of the West Jersey troops in the French and Indian War of 1755-58, and ordered by Gov. Belcher to have his regiment ready to march into Pennsylvania and repel the Indians before they had the opportunity to march into New Jersey.  The Indians stood in great dread of him.  As Justice of the Peace he performed any marriages in this section.  He was a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and by far the most prominent man in the Delaware River region.

Abraham was married twice, first to Susanna Depue, bap. Jan. 9, 1698 at Kingston, still living in 1754, a daughter of Moses De Puis and Marretje Wynkoop and sister of Nicholas and Benjamin Depue who were the first settlers of Smithfield on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River.  On Oct. 29, 1761 he married secondly Rachel Van Aker widow (probably spouse of Isaac Van Aken), by whom he had no issue.  He died in May, 1767, having made his will the year previous as a resident of Walpack in Sussex County (Walpack Township at this time included the whole region along the river south to the Delaware Water Gap).  Abraham and Susanna's three daughters were:  Maria, b.l 1732, wife of John Depui, Catherine wife of Benjamin Depui, and Susanna wife of Thomas Romine.  Of their four surviving sons, John, b. 1726, and Benjamin, b. 1728, settled on the opposite side of the river at Smithfield on tracts willed them by their father, and the other two, Abraham, b. 1736, and Moses, b. 1743, lived on their father's homestead.  Moses Van Campen (1743-1819) was a Major:  he was captured one night in 1777 by three Indians, who planned to take him to the headquarters of the Susquehanna and murder him by a lingering torture, but he was able to burst his fetters asunder, kill two of the Indians with a tomahawk and put the third to flight.  Moses married Sarah Westfaal but had no children and willed all his property to his nephew Abraham III, son of Abraham, Jr., after the decease of his wife Sarah.

Abraham Van Campen, Jr., bap. Feb. 22, 1736, at Kingston, d. May, 1811, married first about 1752 to his cousin Maria, daughter of Moses Depue, and secondly Elizabeth Schoonmaker.  Only two of his children matured:  Abraham by the first marriage, b. July 12, 1770, d. Nov. 28, 1848, married Sarah Cape and had six children; James by the second marriage, b. Nov. 17, 1781, d. 1826, married Cecelia Decker and had eight children.  Abraham Van Campen, Sr., had made no mention of the homestead in his will of 1766, but by deed of Nov. 26, 1766 he conveyed it to his son Abraham, Jr., who in his will of Feb. 23, 1808 bequeathed the home in which he lived to his son James.  It was at the home of James Van Campen that a town meeting was held March 14, 1825 to establish the civil organization of Pahaquarry Township.

In the first half of the nineteenth century the place passed into the Ribble family:  to Wiliam Ribble, then to his son George, then to the latter's son William R. Ribble.  The latter's widow, Cecelia Van Campen Ribble, a descendent of the original owner, died in May 1932 leaving no children, and the house was sold at auction July 8, 1932 to the present owner, Mrs. Julia Orthwein of New York City.

The house is built of red sandstone, until recently covered by the usual lime and sand wash.  Since it was purchased in 1932, it has been covered with a heavy concrete mixture and the roof newly shingled with short red shingles; the photograph shows it in its present condition.  Modern gable and porch prevent its unusual length from being satisfactorily emphasized in a photograph.  The low ceilings and small size of the windows are both characteristic of the early period.  The slave quarters were in the south basement.

Van Campen Brook, on which stood the family mills, has been renamed Milbrook Brook, and meanders southward from the present sleepy hamlet of Milbrook along the Old Mine Road until it empties in the Delaware River.  The house stands near the south bank of the brook, on the east side of the Old Mine Road.  It is in Pahaquarry Township, in a hamlet called Calno, two miles south of Milbrook and five miles north of Shawnee.

Plate 169

This house was built in the wilderness about 1725 by Abraham Van Campen, who became a large landowner and the most prominent man in this region along the Delaware River.  A pioneer house, it yet reflects the station of the builder in its great length.  It is built of red sandstone, covered until recently with a lime and sand wash now replaced by a heavy concrete mixture.  Notice the very small windows used in the early frontier houses for better protection against the Indians.  The porch and dormers are later alterations.  The house was the home of the Van Campen family for a century and then of the Ribble family for another hundred years.

July 5, 2002