The following research is excerpted from: Jacquetta M. Haley: Furnishing Report/Rooms 102 & 104/Abraham Staats House, November 2017. A 2017 grant from the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission State/County History Partnership Program [SCHPP] to the Borough of South Bound Brook Historic Preservation Advisory Commission funded this Furnishings Plan.
1738 – 1770
EARLY YEARS: The Staats Come to New Jersey
Introduction, History of the Staats House and Family: Any house that has existed for nearly three hundred years will have undergone numerous changes. The Abraham Staats house certainly falls into this category. As a house its history begins c. 1740. The property itself has a much longer history, starting with the indigenous peoples that lived in modern Somerset County. European settlement of the area came fairly late in the colonial period. The South Bound Brook region was part of Lord Baltimore’s Proprietary Colony of East Jersey, meaning that it was a gift from the Duke of York to Lord Baltimore in 1664. Lord Baltimore’s heir, Cecil Carteret died in 1675 and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Carteret took control of East Jersey as guardian of their children. The establishment of East Jersey was essentially a speculative venture, the Carteret’s making little effort to see it settled.
Lady Carteret sold the Province of East Jersey to the Twelve Proprietors in 1682. The Twelve Proprietors quickly expanded their numbers and in 1685 William Dockwra purchased the tract of land which included the later Staats property. Dockwra held the land for 17 years but again made little effort to see it settled.
In February 1702 he sold 1800 acres of land to Gerardus Beekman, a New York City merchant, and Leffert Peterson for £366. Beekman held his land for 20 years, then in April 1722 conveyed one third of his holdings to his daughter Cornelia Beekman. During Cornelia Beekman’s tenure settlers of Dutch ancestry, largely drawn from Long Island, began to settle on South Bound Brook lands.
In September 1738 Cornelia Beekman Van Dam [Gerard’s daughter] sold 304 acres of land to Peter Staats for £350. Peter was a resident of Long Island. With this purchase we see the beginning of nearly two hundred years of continuous Staats family ownership of the homestead in South Bound Brook, NJ.
At the time Peter Staats purchased lands along the Raritan River, the family had been in the New World for nearly a century. The progeniture of the family is believed to have been Jan Pieterse who settled in Brooklyn, Long Island before 1640, then part of the Dutch colony of New Netherlands. His son Pieter Jansen [b. c. 1640] was the first native born member of the future Staats family. Pieter Jansen’s son, Pieter Pietersen [1663-d. after 1725] was the last member of the family to be born under Dutch rule.
In 1687 residents of the colony of New York were required to take an Oath of Allegiance to the current English colonial government. At this time both Pieter Jansen and Peter Pietersen used the English style surname “Staats.”  Peter Staats, the son of Peter Pietersen and Lysbet Aersen Middagh was baptized in 1690. He married Lummatje Vegte on August 29, 1712. Their children will make the move away from Long Island to settle along the Raritan in the 1730s and 1740s.
After over 100 years of settlement little open land remained around Flatbush. The Dutch practice of partible inheritance, each child being given an equal share rather than the primogeniture practiced by the English, meant that family lands were repeatedly divided into smaller and smaller parcels. This land scarcity encouraged three of Peter’s children, Hendrick Staats (b. c. 1715), John Staats (b. c. 1718) and Geeretie Staats (b. c.1720) to move to undeveloped lands in New Jersey, probably with a financial assist from their father.
Hendrick Staats, Peter Staats’ son, had married Maghtel van Duyn in November 1739. Five months later Hendrick paid Peter 5s. for the 300+ acres acquired from Cornelia Beekman Van Dam in 1738. That property appears to have been undeveloped although Peter Staats had leased it for at least a year prior to his purchase. There is no indication that there was a house on the property at the time Hendrick took possession. The deed does refer to “houses, edifices, buildings” but this is simply 18th century legal boilerplate.
Hendrick Staats Two-Room House: The story of the future Abraham Staats house begins with Hendrick Staats. It is believed that Hendrick built the initial two room house shortly after he and his new wife took possession in 1740. It was a small house, roughly 20’ x 28’ and following Dutch tradition, it was two rooms deep with the front room significantly larger than the back room. A narrow stairway in the back room gave access to the garret, an open storage space. By 1745 Hendrick Staats paid 9s.4d. taxes on his 250-acre Franklin township farm and had a reasonably large herd of 10 cattle. That same year his son was baptized at the Harlingen church and he received his certification as a member in 1746. Hendrick and his family remained on their Franklin farm for the next two decades.
Just as Hendrick had left Long Island to create a new farm in New Jersey, his brother John also moved to Somerset County. John Staats married Femmetje Brokaw of Raritan, NJ in the late 1730s. He left the family home in Flatbush and acquired a 300-acre farm at Sowerland in Hillsborough, NJ about the same time that Hendrick set up his household in Franklin.
Abraham Staats, John’s third son, grew up on the Sowerland farm. When he married Margaret Du Bois, also of Hillsborough, late in 1770, he would need land of his own to support his new family.
1770 – 1822 ABRAHAM & MARGARET STAATS:
A Dutch-American Family and an American Revolution
For unknown reasons Hendrick Staats sold his Bound Brook farm to his younger brother John on April 5, 1769. John Staats paid Hendrick and Maghtel £1,450 for the 272-acre farm. A year and a half later, on November 8, 1770, Abraham Staats married Margaret Du Bois. John Staats gave Hendrick’s farm to Abraham and Margaret shortly after their marriage and they began making significant changes to their new home. It should be noted that while Abraham and Margaret lived and worked Hendrick’s farm, actual ownership remained with John Staats. Abraham could not claim to be a freeholder of the Town of Franklin until he became the actual owner, something that would not occur until John’s death in 1781.
Abraham and Margaret enlarged their new home, turning Hendrick’s two room house into a four-room house with a stair hall on the west and living spaces to the east. They slightly decreased the size of the two original rooms and installed corner fireplaces in each of the east rooms. For the first time both the front and back living spaces on the east side had heat. The original stair leading to the garret was removed from the back room and installed in the new stair hall. The small space behind the stair hall probably became a fourth room.
The transformation of Hendrick’s 1740s house went beyond adding new spaces. Abraham and Margaret removed the original fireplace replacing it with two corner fireplaces on the east side, so that both the front and back rooms had heat. Georgian style paneling embellished the new fireplaces. A stylish Georgian corner cupboard was installed in the southeast corner of the front room. The two new rooms on the west side remained unheated. The earlier stairway in the back room of Hendrick’s house disappeared and a new stairway to the garret runs up the east wall of the stair hall. At this point, the kitchen wing remained a separate structure.
General Von Steuben’s Headquarters
The American Revolution Comes to Stay ~ Gen. Von Steuben: This is the house that was raided twice by British troops during the war, once in 1777 and again in 1781. Although Abraham did not enlist in the American forces, he supported the drive for independence. He did not sign Lord Howe’s November 1776 offer of a full pardon for those who would swear allegiance to the Crown.
On April 13, 1777 British forces raided Somerset County and removed a cow, 5 calves, 10 articles of clothing, a pewter teapot and a coffee pot from the Staats homestead. They were valued at £22.5s. A second raid in 1781 by the Queen’s Rangers led the family to bury their china and silver under the barn floor along with the china of a New Brunswick merchant. After the war the merchant presented Mrs. Staats with two china figurines as a mark of his appreciation.
This is the house that Major General Baron Von Steuben and his staff occupied from March 26, 1779 to June 19, 1779. While it is possible that Abraham, Margaret and their three daughters remained in the house during the Major General’s tenure, it is equally possible that they stayed in another location near at hand. Jane Staats Doty was a child of six and recounted her recollections of Major General Von Steuben in 1848:
Three sisters survive, one of whom (Mrs. Jane Doty), nearly eighty years of age, who resided there during the Revolution, has a clear recollection of many events connected with Baron Steuben’s occupancy of the house. Although she was then a child eight or ten years old [she was six], she remembers the dignity of his appearance, the urbanity of his manners, for which he was noted, and the elegance and richness of the ornaments with which he was adorned. She spoke of a brilliant medal that hung by a ribbon upon his breast. Mrs. Doty recollected two visits made to the baron by Washington and his lady, one to dine and the other to take tea with him. On the latter occasion several ladies were present. She also remembers an entertainment given by the baron to the American officers and their ladies, on which occasion the table was spread in a grove nearby.
After the War: The Staats family continued to grow during the post war years. The family of five present during Baron Von Steuben’s occupancy grew to a family of eight by 1791. In addition to daughters Jane (b. 1773), Phebe (b. 1775), and Catherine (1778-1779) Abraham and Margaret added five more children, Margaret (b. 1781), Mary Smith (b. 1784), Sarah (b. 1787), Magdalene (1789-1790) and finally Isaac in 1791. In addition to family members there would have been an unknown number of slaves and seasonal farm workers who lived on the homestead property. Family tradition says the slaves lived in the above the kitchen but it is equally possible that they had a space in the garret of the main building.
Abraham’s position and prestige in Bound Brook and wider Somerset County grew as his family grew. During the 1770s, both prior to the war and during the war, his status as a non-freeholder limited his availability for public office. It wasn’t until his father, John’s, death in October 1781 that Abraham inherited fee ownership of his farm and the status of freeholder. Prior to this he had taken a census of the Eastern Precinct in 1775 and became one of two “managers” of the bridge across the Raritan at Bound Brook in the spring of 1781. As a manger he and Jacobus Veerdine were to “Put the Said Bridge in Good Repair and from Time to Time keep her in Repair and lay the accounts of expenditures Before this Board for Allowance and Settlement.” Both were positions of trust but not government positions.
Following John’s death in October 1781, Abraham took on increasingly more important and visible positions in Somerset County. From late 1781 through 1786 he served as one of three adjusters for claims of property lost in Somerset County during the war. In 1787 he and Joseph Annen were Commissioners of Loans for Somerset County, a position that he held until 1792. By June 1789 he was one of the elected freeholders attending meetings of the “two Justices and the Chosen freeholders of Hillsborough, Bridgewater, and the Eastern Precinct.” He represented the Eastern Precinct. He continued to serve as a chosen freeholder until May 1794.
Abraham attained his highest office in May 1792 when he was selected to be the Collector for Somerset County. He replaced Jacque Voorheis who had served as County Collector since before the war. Voorheis had died earlier in 1792. In 1798 Abraham was required to pay security of $3,000 for the post of Collector. This marks the transition from payments in pounds, shillings, and pence to payments in the newly created dollars. Abraham continued to provide security of $3,000 to $5,000 each year for the remainder of his tenure as Collector. He was re-elected Collector until his death in May 1821.
Abraham and Margaret Staats c. 1800 Expansion: The four-room home where Abraham and Margaret began married life seemed increasingly cramped, physically and socially. By 1800 the family numbered two adults and six children, four daughters in their mid-teens and twenties as well as two younger children. In addition, Abraham owned an unknown number of slaves, but presumably one or two at this point. To accommodate a growing household it is likely that all the first floor rooms, except for the stair hall, contained beds. Some of the children may have slept in the garret. The small house also failed to properly represent the growing social and economic position of the Staats in post war Somerset County. The addition of two new first floor rooms, a large parlor in the front and a bedroom in the rear gave the Staats family a home that more accurately reflected their enhanced position in the community. It allowed the family to more clearly delineate public/living spaces, the two front rooms, from private spaces in the back and on the second floor. The new front room had a smaller, federal style fireplace with pilasters and an oval shaped frieze, typical of the period 1790-1815. Once again, the back room was unheated.
The 1821 Inventory: Abraham Staats’ 1821 inventory provides the clearest picture of the house at the time of his death. It identifies the seven rooms of the first floor. Hendrick’s original front room, the largest room in the house, is the “dwelling room,” comparable to our living room or family room. This would have been the room in which the family carried out most day to day activities. The smaller room behind is a bedroom, containing the second most elaborate bed, bedding and bed curtains, valued at $30. The stair hall is referred to as the Entry.
The new front room is the Parlor, a formal room meant for entertaining and display. The room behind the parlor is another bedroom, this one with the most elaborate bed, bedding and bed curtains in the house, valued at $50. The room behind the Entry is identified as a bedroom although there is no bed in the space at the time of Abraham’s death. The Kitchen is dealt with following a tour through the upstairs and cellar of the main house, indicating that entry into the kitchen was from the outside, rather than through the house itself. The inventory also lists four additional beds/bedsteads upstairs. These are far less valuable than the two showpiece beds on the first floor.
Even though Margaret and Abraham successfully increased the size of their Bound Brook home, installing more fashionable interiors, they undoubtedly anticipated the size of the household to diminish over time. They could expect their daughters to leave the house and set up their own households. They would have planned to set up a new farm and household for Isaac when he married, just as John Staats provided Abraham with a farm upon his marriage in 1770. As it turned out however, few of the children left to set up new homes, and of those that did, most returned.
The Staats’ Children Grow Up: As was fitting, the first to leave the family home was Jane, the eldest. On December 21, 1808, at the age of 35, she became the third wife of Joseph Doty. A year and a half later she gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. The marriage however, was short-lived. Joseph Doty died in 1811, leaving several minor children by his second wife in addition to Elizabeth. In his will Joseph returned Jane’s original dowry: $250 and “all the clothes & beds & bedding she brought also the china ware she brought,” plus the additional sum of $500 and a cow, in lieu of her right of dower. He set aside $800 for Elizabeth, the interest of which was to provide “maintainance [sic] until she arrives to the age of eighteen years then to receive six hundred dollars.” He designated Jane as Elizabeth’s guardian. This inheritance meant that Jane and Elizabeth Doty could maintain an independent household. Jane eventually returned to the Bound Brook homestead, but this doesn’t occur until after 1830. She does not appear to be in residence on the 1830 census. Her daughter Elizabeth married Benjamin Bonney in 1829 and she may have been living with them at this point. She had returned to the family homestead by 1840.
Isaac was the next to leave the house. He married Martha A. Ross, presumably sometime in 1811-1812. Their daughter, Margaret, was born February 17, 1813. He appears on the 1815 Somerset County tax list on the same page as his father, but in a separate household. Abraham had provided the young family with a small farm near the homestead farm. Isaac, Maria and their young daughter maintained this separate household until the deaths of Abraham Staats in 1821 and Margaret DuBois Staats in 1822.
1822 – 1870 A NEW GENERATION:
The Staats Siblings’ Households
These restrictions came into play following the deaths of Abraham and Margaret DuBois. In accordance with Abraham Staats’ will, dated August 20, 1819, Margaret DuBois Staats had a life interest in the entire estate following Abraham’s death on May 4, 1821. She died less than a year later in April 1822. Upon her death the Bound Brook house and property was divided between Isaac and his sisters. Isaac received half of the farm and all farm buildings and a half interest in the house.
The remaining unmarried daughters, Phebe and Mary Smith, and Sarah Staats Bayles [as long as she remained separated from her husband William Bayles] received a life interest in the other half of the house and 1/3 use of the other buildings, garden and orchard. The house and farm buildings, etc. were on Isaac’s half of the farm. All the sisters, including Jane Staats Doty, received an equal share in the other half of the farmlands, and the remainder of Abraham’s personal estate. Phebe and Mary Smith Staats each received an additional bequest of $300. The married daughters, Jane and Sarah, would have received a comparable amount as part of their dowries when they married.
While Isaac did not inherit any of the furnishings, Abraham compensated him with the bequest of “my Negro boy Frank” [valued at $125] who still had 11 years to serve before he would be legally manumitted, a long musket [$5.00] and turnpike stock valued at $200.
Isaac Staats 1820s Expansion-Creating a Second Household: Isaac Staats is generally credited with the final major expansion of the family homestead. In 1823 Isaac and his sisters formally split the farmlands. Isaac’s half of the farm included the homestead lot. Once the land was legally divided Isaac took some of his inheritance and expanded the old homestead, essentially creating two separate households. It is possible that the sisters contributed money toward the construction of the East Addition. It would have been to their benefit to have the original house clearly under their control while Isaac and his family claimed the newly constructed East Addition.
The new wing included a first floor with a fashionable entry hall, one large room at the front of the house and one or two smaller back rooms which may have served as a kitchen or other work space. The large front room had a fireplace. The second floor contained the stair hall, a small bedroom and the large heated front bedroom.
Bursting at the Seams: By 1830 the enlarged homestead was packed with people. The federal census shows two separate households, each with ten people. Isaac Staats, wife Martha and daughter Margaret lived in the east addition along with an unidentified white female, age 10-14, and six African-Americans. These included two free “colored” males under 10, possibly Jack Staats and Dick Staats, one free colored male age 24-35, one free colored female under 10, possibly Betty Staats, and a free colored female age 10-23, plus one male slave age 24-35. The slave was probably either Simon who would be manumitted by Isaac in March 1834, or Caesar, manumitted in March 1831. Testimony given during litigation between Isaac Staats and Reuben Freeman and Margaret Staats Freeman in the 1840s and 1850s identified Jack Staats, and Betty Staats as siblings. Their mother, Jane Staats had undoubtedly been a Staats family slave.
The original homestead was equally crowded. Phebe Staats’ household included herself, her sisters, Sarah Staats Bayles, Mary Smith Staats, and Sarah’s daughter Margaret Ann Bayles, plus one unidentified white male between the ages of 20 and 29. He was probably a farm laborer. In total 5 white persons. There were five African-Americans, one free colored male under 10, one free colored female under 10, and three slaves, one male 55-99 and two females, 24-35. One of these slaves may have been Jane Staats and the other could have been Sarah Ann, a slave bequeathed to Phebe Staats by her sister Margaret in 1822.
During the 1830s significant changes affected both households. In 1834 Margaret Staats, daughter of Isaac and Martha, married Reuben Freeman and they set up their own household on a small farm given to them by Isaac. Then, on November 6, 1838 Isaac’s wife, Martha A. Ross Staats died. Now only Isaac and his household servants, all free African-Americans, occupied his half of the house. At this point it appears that Isaac’s daughter Margaret Staats Freeman, her husband Reuben and their growing family moved back into the eastern portion of the homestead.
During the same period the population of the sisters’ household experienced equal upheaval. In 1836 Margaret Ann Bayles, Sarah’s daughter, married Dr. George Bayles and presumably moved out of the sisters’ household. George Bayles died in 1839 and Margaret Ann moved back into her childhood home. By the end of the decade Jane Doty also had moved back to the family homestead.
Isaac Staats Second Expansion, c. 1835-1840: It is during the midst of these changes that Isaac further expanded his East Addition, possibly using funds he acquired selling a section of land to the east of the house. He sold 28 acres of land to the Delaware and Raritan Canal Company for $1,903.50 on December 10, 1834. It is generally assumed that he used at least part of this money to increase his living space by enlarging the two back rooms and replacing the original lean-to roofline with a full second story, creating additional bedrooms and storage on the second floor and garret. He also installed a single-story addition to the northeast corner. This probably served as the kitchen for Isaac’s family.
The expansion facilitated the introduction of the Reuben Freeman growing family following Martha’s death in late 1838. Although the size of Isaac’s household remained the same, the makeup changed significantly. In 1840 Isaac’s household once again numbered ten people. In addition to Isaac (41), the free white members of the household included Reuben Freeman (33), Isaac S. Freeman (5), Mary Freeman (infant), Margaret Staats Freeman (26) and one other unknown female (20-29). The servant population, all free African-Americans, remained much more stable. There was one unidentified boy, under 10, two young men between 20-23 [Jack Staats and Dick Staats] and one young woman between 10-23 [Betty Staats].
Conflict and Change: The changes in the sister’s household were more dramatic, instead of the ten-person household of 1830, there were now 14 people living in the older part of the homestead. For the first time since the early 1800s all the surviving sisters were in residence: Jane Doty (67), Phebe Staats (65), Mary Smith Staats (56) and Sarah Staats Bayles (53). An unidentified free white male (20-29), probably lived in as farmer, and there were two unidentified young white children, a boy and a girl, both under the age of 5. They may have been the farmer’s children. As in Isaac’s household, the servants were all African-American, in this case 2 free males, age 10-23 and two free females, age 10-23. The Staats sisters also had two female slaves, one 24-35, and one 55-99.
This many people in the same house is almost guaranteed to create conflict and conflict erupted during the 1840s. The two households appear to have gotten along reasonably well as long as Martha Ross Staats, Isaac’s first wife, was alive. Following her death in 1838, conditions at the house deteriorated. The Freeman’s moved into Isaac’s half of the homestead shortly after Martha’s death. Isaac and Reuben did not get along, a situation that apparently worsened in November 1840 when Isaac married for a second time, Maria A. Mathews.
Maria was not welcomed into the family. She came from a much lower social strata than the Staats. Rumors suggested that their first child, Abraham Staats, was not in fact Isaac’s son. In September 1842 Isaac signed his share of the homestead and farm over to his daughter, Margaret Freeman. Reputedly this was done to protect the farm from Maria. Three years later Isaac Staats brought suit against Reuben and Margaret Freeman to nullify the 1842 agreement. Isaac claimed he was incapacitated due to continual drunkenness. The courts originally found for Isaac however it set off eight years of appeals that ultimately ended with upholding the original transaction.
The Family Goes to Court: Testimony at the hearings made it clear that none of the sisters approved of this marriage and that they were unwilling to even associate with Maria. Jane Doty stated: “Isaac never introduced her to us, and she never came to see me, and I did not go to see her; I was never acquainted with her; her reputation was bad; I never heard of her before she came there to live.” Sarah’s testimony showed great acrimony: “I have heard her often use profane language, swearing much; I have never heard such swearing as I have heard from her; she used awful language; she threatened to shoot me; said she was determined to shoot me.”
Conflict between Sarah and her brother was exacerbated by the fact that Isaac was a trustee under both Abraham’s and Margaret Staats’ wills. As such he and fellow trustee. J. W. Frelinghuysen controlled Sarah’s inheritance. Sarah feared that Isaac would use her funds for his own interests. This conflict came to a head in September 1846 following the death of Frelinghuysen. Now Isaac had complete control over Sarah’s inheritance. Sarah brought suit against Isaac, on the grounds of incompetence due to chronic drunkenness, and requested the courts to name a new trustee. The courts ruled in Sarah’s favor and a new trustee was named. The fact that one of Isaac’s drinking buddies happened to be William Bayles, Sarah’s estranged husband, probably made things worse. Abraham and Margaret had put the restrictions on Sarah’s inheritance specifically to protect her from William Bayles.
As a result of the battles of the 1840s Isaac Staats moved his family out of the homestead. In 1850 Isaac (38), Maria (34), Abraham (9) and Isaac (3) still lived in Franklin but probably in a rented house. He claimed to own no real estate.
Margaret and Reuben Freeman and their growing family occupied Isaac’s half of the homestead while the sisters remained in their half of the house. By 1850 the Freemans included Reuben (41), Margaret (37), their five children Isaac S. (15), Mary Smith (10), Martha A. (8), William D. (6), and Phebe (3), as well as two Irish farm hands, John Riley (19) and John Kirkpatrick (25) and an African-American servant, Jude [Judy] Staats (27). Reuben claimed real estate valued at $13,000.
On the 1850 census Jane Doty (77) is now listed as head of household, probably reflecting her seniority as the oldest resident. She is joined by her three sisters Phebe (74), Mary (65) and Sarah Bayles (62) as well as Margaret Ann LaTourette (34) and two black servants, Rosabell Staats (16) and Jume [Jamie?] Williams (23). Margaret Ann, Sarah’s daughter, had married Cornelius W. LaTourette in August 1845. In 1850 he was off in California, drawn by the excitement and opportunities of the Gold Rush. Margaret had returned to her childhood home while Cornelius went west. [ED. NOTE: Margaret Ann, daughter of Sarah Staats and William Bayles. Her first husband George died in a shotgun accident in 1839, while Margaret Ann was pregnant with their daughter, Georgiana, born that year. Georgiana died in 1843, age 4. Margaret Anne remarried in 1845. Her 2nd husband Cornelius went to California in 1849 to pursue his luck in the Gold Rush. Letters between them during that period reveal the heartbreak of their two young sons, Frederick Beldin, age 3 years, John, 8 months, perishing of illness in 1849, at the homestead, as well as son Charles Olmstead Bayles (born 1837) from her marriage to W. Bayles.] The sisters’ real estate is valued at $10,000.
The interpersonal conflicts of the 1840s were further complicated in the 1850s and 1860s by the complexity of ownership of the homestead and farm. Isaac held fee ownership of the homestead lot including the house. The sisters however had life rights to their portion of the house and farm buildings, they owned equal shares in Abraham and Margaret DuBois Staats’ personal estates, i.e. the furnishings in the house, and they owned equal shares of half of the original Staats farm.
Isaac’s daughter Margaret Ann and Sarah’s daughter Margaret Bayles were both raised in the house. They both returned to the homestead after their marriages and began raising their children in the old family home. By 1853 Margaret and Reuben Freeman held title to Isaac Staats’ share of the house as well as other lands but they moved their family out to Independence, Iowa in 1854. The Freeman’s leased the property back to Isaac and Maria who returned to the homestead to raise their family.
[For more on this family lawsuit, read the fascinating details in: “2009 – Patriots, Tories, Inebriates, and Hussies: The Historical Archaeology of the Abraham Staats House, as a Case Study in Microhistory,” by Prof. Richard Veit & Michael J. Gall]
Shifting Households: Throughout this process the sisters retained their rights to live in the older section of the house, but old age gradually took its toll. Jane Doty died November 18, 1859. According to the Federal Census Mortality Schedules Jane was 86 at the time of her death. Her “profession, occupation, or trade” was “Lady.” Cause of death, “Old Age.” Her primary heirs were her Bonney grandchildren, the children of Elizabeth Doty Bonney and Benjamin Bonney. This included her share of the farm lands she inherited from her father. Eventually the Bonneys would sell their interest in the homestead lot to Reuben Freeman.
The 1860 census reflects the shifting make-up of the homestead residents. In 1850 there had been 17 people living in the homestead. Isaac and his family were living elsewhere. Ten years later the Freemans were out in Iowa. Isaac and Maria moved back into their half of the house, leasing the property from Reuben Freeman. At this point Isaac was 72 and called himself a farmer. He claimed real estate valued at $6,000 and personal property valued at $600. He was joined by Maria Staats (48), sons Abram (20), Isaac (19), George (4) and John (6 months), and daughters Mary (10), and Cornelia (8). The census does not indicate any servants in the household.
For the first time Cornelius LaTourette appears as the head of the sisters’ half of the household. At age 45 he had a “Lumber Manufactory”, real estate valued at $2,500 and personal property valued at $300. This household was multigenerational. Cornelius’ nuclear family consisted of his wife Margaret Ann (44), and their sons Louis B. (5) and Eugene D. (2). The three surviving sisters, Phebe (83), Mary S. (74) and Sarah Bayles (66) are listed as co-owners of the farm, valued at $10,000 and co-owners of personal property valued at $5,000.
For the first time we see Irish help in the household, Bridget McMahon (45), servant, with personal property valued at $400 and Michael Gannan (18) who worked on the farm. A second farm laborer, Jesse Staats (18), also lived in the house. The house remained crowded, a total of 18 people sharing the space, but there doesn’t appear to be the antipathy that wracked the house in the 1840s and early 1850s.
Changing of the Guard: The next decade marked the clear changing of the guard at the Staats house. Mary Smith Staats died January 23, 1863 and Phebe died December 27, 1863. Both left their undivided share in Abraham Staats estate [land, furnishings, livestock, etc.] to the surviving sisters. Upon the death of the final sister, the residue of their estate would go to the nieces, either Margaret Ann Bayles LaTourette or to the heirs of Elizabeth Doty Bonney. Sarah Bayles, the last surviving sister, died February 16, 1870. At 82, she appears to have suffered a stroke. The federal mortality census gives her cause of death as paralysis. Sarah left her entire estate to her daughter Margaret Ann LaTourette. Isaac also died in the late 1860s. At that time he and Maria were living on Warren Street.
The impending deaths of Abraham and Margaret Staats children in the 1860s provided an opportunity to bring the ownership of the homestead back to a single individual. The resolution of the legal action between Isaac Staats and Reuben and Margaret Freeman in 1853, gave ownership of the house and lot to the Freemans, however they had no interest in living in New Jersey.
Jane Staats Doty’s grandchildren, the Bonneys, apparently had little attachment to the property and relinquished their interest in the property to the Freemans. On April 26, 1869 Reuben Freeman sold the thirteen-acre homestead lot with the house to Cornelius LaTourette for $5,225. The deed specified Sarah Bayles’ continued life interest in the house.
1870 – 1935
FINAL YEARS OF THE STAATS HOMESTEAD: The LaTourettes Era
In 1860 eighteen people made up two separate households living in the family homestead. By 1870 only eight people lived in the house. The LaTourettes, Cornelius (50), Margaret Ann (50) and their two sons, Louis (16), and Eugene (12) lived in half of the house. Cornelius now engaged in farming, claimed real estate valued at $15,000 and personal property valued at $5,000. They leased the other half to Henry Hageman (56) a farmer with personal property valued at $200, his wife Lemma (54), and Ann Quick (32) and Edward Quick (10). Ann may have been the Hageman’s widowed daughter.
The LaTourettes, made some alterations to the Staats homestead during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The 18th century kitchen originally had a door in the center front as well as one on the west end, by the fireplace. Eugene and Florence removed the door on the front of the kitchen.
A porch along the front of the East Addition could have been added by Isaac Staats, or it may have been an added by Cornelius LaTourette. Porches were common additions to mid-19th century farmhouses, making its origins problematic. The LaTourettes obviously utilized the space, adding an awning and chairs, visible in Photograph 4. One other major change altered the configuration of the back room of Abraham and Margaret Dubois Staats 1770s house. Either Cornelius or Eugene installed a large bay window in the north wall and are generally credited with the removal of the west wall which separated the room back of the Dwelling Room from the Room back of the Entry Hall. The result was one long, narrow room. The LaTourettes would use the enlarged space as their dining room.
The 1880 household was small: Cornelius (64), Margaret Ann (62), and Eugene D. LaTourette (22), joined by 21-year-old Nathaniel Crook, a black farm laborer from New York. Cornelius identified himself as a farmer while Eugene called himself a dairyman. Eugene subsequently married Florence DeCamp in 1882. For several years the younger generation did not live in the South Bound Brook house while Cornelius and Margaret Ann LaTourette remained in the homestead. They probably made the various changes to the house between c. 1880 and c. 1890 to help prepare it for the return of the next generation of Staats family descendants. The 1890 federal census was destroyed by fire so we can’t tell for sure who was in the house. An 1890 guidebook provides a detailed description of the house at that time and indicates that descendants of Abraham Staats remained in residence.
Family tradition states that Eugene and Florence joined Cornelius and Margaret Ann at the South Bound Brook house in 1892. They lived in New York during the early years of their marriage. The 1900 census shows both of their children born in New York rather than New Jersey. At that time the LaTourette household included 11 people, an extended family of six and five African Americans. Eugene and Florence LaTourette and their two children, Josephine (12) and Eugene (2) now lived with Cornelius (85) and Margaret Ann (84). Cornelius again called himself a farmer while Eugene now worked as an insurance adjuster. The household included two black servants, Evelyn Thompson (45) and Lily Woolfork (25) both from Virginia, and their children, Emily Thompson (8), Gregory Woolfork (5), and Douglas Woolfork (4).
The 20th Century Household: Two years later Cornelius died, August 3, 1902 and Margaret Ann died March 23, 1906. The home¬stead once again became a nuclear family home. Over the next three decades the house population expanded and contracted as children left the house, then returned with their own families. In 1910 the LaTourette household numbered seven, five family members and a married couple acting as servants. Eugene, now 52, continued his work as an insurance adjuster, now working for Firelon. Florence (49), Josephine (22) and Eugene (12) were joined by Olivia DeCamp (78), Florence’s mother. Elizabeth Waller (39) worked as a “maid for Private Family.” Her husband James Waller (38), worked as “Hired Man for Private Family.” Elizabeth and James were newlyweds and came from Virginia. This is the first time that the house servants are identified as white.
In 1920 the LaTourette household had shrunk down to three, Eugene (62) still working as an insurance adjuster, Florence (59), and Eugene Jr. (22). Eugene Jr. had yet to select a possible career and indicated he had “no occupation.”
In 1930 the household once again grew to seven. Eugene, now 72, claimed his real estate was valued at $15,000 and had retired. He was a widower. Eugene Jr. (34), now called DuBois LaTourette, remained single and worked as a retail merchant in a feed store. Daughter Josephine Cramer (42) had returned to the family homestead with her children Eugenie (12), and Tunis (11). There is no sign of a Mr. Cramer. She didn’t refer to herself as a widow so presumably Mr. Cramer is currently living somewhere else. Two young African-Americans, both from Virginia, worked for the LaTourettes. Minni Holly (24) gave her occupation as servant while her husband Rufus Holly (23) was the chauffeur.
An Old New Jersey Dutch Dwelling Up for Sale: On May 2, 1932 Eugene married for a second time. The marriage to Helen Craven Cook (62) took place in Philadelphia. It was also her second marriage. Three months later the first advertisement for the sale of the South Bound Brook house appeared in The Magazine Antiques:
This photograph appeared in the advertisement and represents the final appearance of the house while it remained in the hands of the descendants of Abraham and Margaret DuBois Staats.
An Old New Jersey Dutch Dwelling in South Bound Brook[.] Built prior to 1700[.] Now for the first time offered for sale. The original deed to the land upon which this ancient home now stands still hangs in the hallway. The living room retains its original great open fireplace and capacious corner cupboard. The old Dutch kitchen, containing its original implements, is complete in its entirety.The house was the headquarters of General Baron von Steuben when the Revolutionary army was camped on the mountainside to the north of Bound Brook.
Among the furnishings are chairs, desks and table that accommodated the pre-Revolutionary ancestors of the present owner. Eighteenth-century porcelains repose in the cupboards that they have occupied for more than a century.
The house, its contents, its outlying buildings and 15 acres of land bordering on a picturesque waterway are for sale to someone who wishes an historic home in a beautiful environment.
– Eugene Du Bois La Tourette
Financial strains exacerbated by the on-going depression apparently led to Eugene’s decision to sell the family property. The offer to the sell the house includes the family furnishings, underscoring the severe strain Eugene and Helen LaTourette were under at that time. Photograph 4 appears in the advertisement. It represents the final appearance of the house while it remained in the hands of the descendants of Abraham and Margaret DuBois Staats.
1935 – Present
TRANSFORMATION: A Private Home Becomes a Museum
It took three years to sell the house. Eugene and Helen LaTourette sold the homestead and 15-acre lot to Richard and Jean Riddell on August 12, 1935. The Riddells may not have purchased the property as their home. Instead John Riddell, a self-professed Americana hobbyist “spared neither money, time nor effort to retain the genuine Colonial features and picturesqueness in restoring and modernizing the house…. The result is that today, this house is authentic Colonial in line, atmosphere and detail, in beautiful condition and thoroughly modern in comfort and appointments.” He bought the property as a fixer-upper and sold it once it had been restored to its authentic colonial appearance.
Creating that “authentic” colonial appearance required the removal of mid and late 19th century additions, in particular the porch along the East Addition and the portico in front of the 18th century entry hall. The Riddells also removed the large shed dormers installed in the 1880s. The shed dormer over the Kitchen Wing and the dormer over the c. 1800 addition had been added by the LaTourettes in the 1880s at the same time they replaced the earlier dormers over the 1770s house. The Riddells replaced all the dormers with smaller, simple gable dormers. Extensive upgrades to the interiors accompanied the work on the exterior. “At the time of the restoration, all rooms were plastered over steel lath, modern bathroom and kitchen fixtures and brass plumbing were installed, wiring was replaced and new Colonial-type electric fixtures installed, and new wood drains with copper leaders replaced the old drain.” As the c. 1938 sales brochure put it: “Thus the residence combines the finest construction features of old and the present time and there is no outlay required for improvements, which is unusual in houses of this age.”
Once the Riddells completed their home renovations the Historic American Building Survey [HABS] added the Abraham Staats house to its selection of historically significant structures in the United States. The Survey included measured drawings, photographs and a brief history of the site and its significance.
The Riddells placed the Staats house on the market with an asking price of $40,000, unfurnished. Prentiss and Amy Bassette purchased the house in 1938. The Bassettes in turn sold the house to Charles and Lucia Hollister in 1946. The Hollisters sold the house to Walter and Josephine Bielicky in 1957. In 1999 Walter Bielicky, now a widower, sold the homestead to the Borough of South Bound Brook, retaining a life estate in the property. Following his death in 2002 the Borough began work to convert the historic home into a museum, under the stewardship of the South Bound Brook Historic Preservation Advisory Commission and the Friends of Abraham Staats House, Inc.