Early Dutch Settlers

Ruliff Schenck And His Wife, Sarah Schenck

The Couple Had Twelve Children-Excentricities (sic) of Some of the Members of the Family-Their Descendants to Present times

As has been stated before, Ruliff, the only surviving son of Hendrick Schenck and Catherine Holmes, his wife, married December 22d, 1774, his second cousin, Sarah, daughter of John Schenck, who lived and died on the homestead farm in Pleasant Valley. Ruliff Schenck lived and died on his farm adjacent to Bradevelt station, and was buried in the Schenck-Couwenhoven burying ground. This couple had twelve children. The children were Nellie, born August 24th, 1775, married January 18th, 1795, Thomas Shepard or Shepherd, and who moved to and settled in Ohio; Hendrick, born June 13th, 1777, died single, December 27th, 1812; Mary, born June 15th, 1779, married July 1st, 1798, Elias Conover, died December 17th, 1851. She was buried by her husband and sons in the yard of Brick church. This couple were the parents of three sons, John E. Conover, Hendrick E. Conover and Ruliff E. Conover. The eldest of them, John E., owned and lived on the farm lying west of Marlboro Brick church, formerly the parsonage farm of this church. After his death his son, Daniel P. Conover, owned and occupied it. He was well known to the present generation and died only lately.

Hendrick E. Conover, the second son, who lived the latter part of his life in the town of Freehold, was well known to citizens of that place for his quiet, unobtrusive manners and his irreproachable life and conduct. He owned two of the finest farms in Marlboro township, one of which includes the famous "Topanemus burying ground." He left only one son, John B., a lawyer of this state and at one time chosen freeholder of this township. He was also an elder of the Presbyterian church of Freehold. Ruliff E. Conover, third son of Elias Conover and Mary Schenck, his wife, lived and died on his farm in Marlboro township, now owned and occupied by his son, Holmes R. Conover, who married Ada B. Buckelew, daughter of John Buckalew and his wife, Mary A. Griggs. Ruliff E. Conover had three other sons who are now deceased. One of these sons was Elias R. Conover, who married Mary Ann Wyckoff and left one son, Peter Wyckoff, who still owns the farm where his father lived, adjacent to Holmes R. Conover's farm. The others were John R. Conover, who married Mary Jane VanKirk, and Hendrick R. Conover, who married Anna Gussie VanWickle. The last two sons died childless.

John R. Schenck, the fourth child of Ruliff Schenck and Sarah Schenck, his wife, was born May 13th, 1781, married Margaret, daughter of Roelof P. Schenck and Elizabeth Gordon, his wife; died august 14th, 1858. Because of his stout, broad and barrel-like form he was called "Chunky John Schenck." He was also famous for his original ideas, independent ways, mechanical skill and inflexible resolution. One of his daughters married Hon. William Spader of Matawan, at one time lay judge of the Monmouth county courts, and well and favorably known throughout this county. He left three sons surviving him, John, Daniel and Providence, who lived n the homestead farm he devised to them. None of them married. They were men who thought and acted for themselves without regard to the usages and customs of other people. Strictly honest and truthful in their dealings, they gave employment to many men and made their money out of the soil. They were a great deal better and more useful citizens than many of the people who talked about them behind their backs and anticipated the judgment of heaven on them after they were dead. Some of the people who thus condemned them had beams as big as telephone poles in their eyes compared with the motes in John's, Daniel's and Providence's eyes.

The remaining seven children of Ruliff Schenck and Sarah Schenck, his wife, were Jonathan R. Schenck, who was born December 15th, 1782, and married Sarah Peacock; died January 16th, 1864, leaving one son, Elias, who lived and died on his father's farm in Marlboro township. Many anecdotes are also told of this Jonathan R. Schenck.

Katherine, born November 25th, 1785, married December 16th, 1806, Peter VanKirk; died March 31st, 1871. John VanKirk, who now owns and occupies the farm adjacent to Old Scots' burying ground and who married a daughter of the late John Segoine of Smithburg, is a grandson.

Jacob, born August 12th, 1789, died November 15th, 1790.

Jacob, another son, who was given the same name, was born September 13th, 1793 and died unmarried December 22d, 1859. He bequeathed his farm, which lay between the farms of his two brothers, John R. and Tylee, to the two youngest grandsons of his sister Mary, wife of Elias Conover, Hendrick R. Conover and Holmes R. Conover. Holmes R. gave his half of the farm to his brother Hendrick, who devised it to his widow in fee simple. She now owns it.

Lydia, born June 25th, 1795, married April 4th, 1815, Garret Schenck. They moved to and settled in the state of Ohio.

Anne, born November 26th, 1797, married September 27th, 1814, J. Schuyler Walter, and died May 8th, 1874.

Tylee, born October 27th, 1799, married Eleanora, a daughter of John Schuyler Schenck, and died June 24th, 1854, leaving two daughters surviving him, both of whom married Asher H. Holmes who now occupies the homestead farm in Marlboro township. The house which Tylee Schenck built is still standing and is very pleasantly situated on a knoll, on the west side of the turnpike from Freehold to Matawan. The barns and outbuildings are among the best in the county, and kept cleaner than some people's dwellings. The dwelling house and grounds are particularly noticeable for the neat and orderly condition they always present. John R. Schenck, Jonathan Schenck and Tylee Schenck are all buried in the grave yard of the Brick church. Hendrick Schenck and Jacob Schenck are buried in the old grave yard in Pleasant Valley, where their forefathers are all buried.

The house in which John R. Schenck lived was planned and built by him and is yet standing. It has probably been talked about and excited more curiosity, than any other dwelling house ever erected in this county. The stairway was constructed from a solid oak log and the whole house put together in the most durable and solid manner. A great fence, some twelve feet high surrounded the house. The palings were fastened with bolts and screws. He had three sons, John, Daniel and Providence. The boys had no names at first, and when they were born they were named "No. 1 Schenck," "No. 2 Schenck" and " No. 3 Schenck." It was some years before the sons had regular names. Daniel always wore gloves, winter and summer, to keep his hands soft, and on this account he was called "Soft-Hand Dan." He died only a short time ago. Whole volumes could be written about the eccentricities of the family.

While John R. Schenck never meddled in other people's business, neither did he permit anyone to interfere with him. He strongly objected to anyone shooting or killing birds, rabbits or other game on his premises. He insisted that life was as dear to them as to the hunters who killed them.

A German from New York city, not knowing his character, came one day on his farm with dog and gun. Mr. Schenck, hearing a report of the gun, went to him and told him to go off, as he allowed no shooting on his farm. The German refused to go, whereupon he was told that if he shot a single bird or rabbit on that farm he would be shot. This threat was greeted with a laugh of derision and to show his utter contempt, he proceeded at once to shoot and kill a robin. Hardly had the report of his gun died away when Mr. Schenck fired a load of shot in his legs. As he fell Mr. Schenck said: "Now you know how a bird feels and if you ever shoot another bird on these premises I will shoot higher." The wound was not serious, but after this the wild game was not molested on that farm.

The lightning struck and burned his barns for two successive years. He then built small barns in different fields all over his farm. When the next thunder shower came over he stood in his doorway and shaking his clenched hand at the sky exclaimed: "Strike away, you can't hit more than two this time!: Some of his superstitious neighbors talked a great deal about this incident and accused him of defying high heaven, and forthwith adjudged him to be a very wicked man. Mr. Schenck was a man of strong, rugged sense and knew that electricity, like the winds and frost, was an element of nature, and when he thought he had circumvented their destructive forces he naturally exulted over it. He was remarkably skillful and ingenious in the use of tools and it is also said that he succeeded in inventing "a perpetual motion machine." This perpetual motion machine was still in his old house eleven years ago, and may be there yet. The talent for using tools seems a natural gift with the Schencks, as much so as singing or music is a talent with a Smock, and physics or medicine is with a Vanderveer.

Very few Smocks but are natural singers or musicians, or as was said by another many years ago:

    "A hardy Smock who cannot sing
    Is rare as a bird without a wing;
    A brass bell that will not ring.

Among the stories told of his brother, Jonathan R. Schenck, is the following: He had a tombstone made and put up with the inscriptions all complete except the date of his death. He selected a quiet spot on his farm for its location. He would often go out and look at it. One day a neighbor came along and asked why he had put up a tombstone before he was dead. "For begad you see," Mr. Schenck is said to have replied "when I die my boys may get at loggerheads and then the rascally lawyers will get them into law, and use up all my property, and so you see poor old Jonathan won't get any tombstone at all at all you, you see, for begad, unless I put it up myself and so make sure of it."

The third surviving son of Jan Schenck and Sarah Couwenhoven, his wife, as heretofore stated, was Peter. By his first wife, Jannetje VanNostrand of Van Ostrandt, he had the following children:

    Williamtje, baptized August 29th, 1731.
    Jan, baptized June 10th, 1733.
    Williamtje, baptized April 6th, 1735, married Elbert Williamson.
    Sara, baptized July 17th, 1737.
    Peter, baptized February 24th, 1740.
    Mary, baptized April 25th, 1742.

I think this son Peter was the justice of the peace whose name appears frequently in our court records. I am not however sure of this.

By his second wife, Jannetje Hendrickson, (maiden name), widow of Roelof Jacobse Couwenhoven, whom he married in 1747, he had the following children:

    Roelof P., baptized January 22, 1749, married Elizabeth Gordon.
    Jannetje, baptized July 28th, 1751, married John Walter, December 5th, 1769.
    Leah, batized (sic) November 19th, 1755.
    Francyntje, baptized March 7th, 1762.
    Antje, baptized September 30th, 1753, married Garrett Conover.

Jan, son of Roelof Schenck (Black Roelof), and Geesie Hendrickson, his wife, married November 26th, 1740, Jacominkey, daughter of Cornelius Couwenhoven and Margaretta Schenck, his wife. He died June 27th, 1749, before his father. Their children were:

    Roelof, baptized September 19, 1742.
    Cornelius, baptized October 12th, 1744.
    Sara, baptized September 21st, 1746.
    Geesie, baptized October 23d, 1748.

G. C. B.

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, April 20, 1898

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