Part #7 of 12
Their Island, Homes, Cemetery and Early Genealogy in Queens County, NY by permission of its author, an 11th generation Abraham Rijcken vanLent descendant, Edgar Alan Nutt.
The quaint Dutch farmhouse on a one acre lot in Jackson Heights . . . is the oldest in Queens County and one of the oldest, if not the very oldest, private homes that remain in New York City, and it is known by various names reflecting several of the families that have owned it over the years.
Members of the Lent family owned it and the farm that went with it for about seventy years, the Rapelye family for close to a hundred years, and a Riker estate for almost twenty years in the last century, and the three families were interrelated.
Accordingly, the house has been called the Lent house or homestead, the Rapelye house, the Lent- Rapelye house, as well as the Riker homestead. It however does not appear that any [named] Rikers actually lived in the old house.
Attaching the Riker name to it . . . may have originated in the last century from either or both the Riker ownership, more recent than that of the other two families, and the nearby Riker cemetery which is filled overwhelmingly with Rikers and their close relatives.
An additional basis for the house being called the Riker homestead is an unfortunate confusion with the nearby Riker mansion, also called the Riker homestead, which was discussed [in Part 5]. In contrast with that mansion, the presently-discussed house is a simple farmhouse.
Coincidentally two stories exist which indirectly connect the homestead with the Riker progenitor, Abraham Rycken.
Hendrick Harmensen received a deed dated September 5, 1645, and is said to have settled a bouwerie just easterly of the homestead and in the area now occupied by the LaGuardia Airport.
Contrary to the date of the deed, it is claimed that he may have died in connection with the 1643 Indian massacre in which he was felled by a tomahawk which he himself had forged for his erstwhile Indian friends. Aside from the proximity of the two properties, Harmensen’s daughter, Grietie or Margaret, married Abraham.
The other story is more substantial. Abraham after his 1630 arrival in New Amsterdam had settled there in the area of Prince Straat and the Heeren Gracht or Broadway, and a neighbor was Harck Siboutsen.
In about 1650 Siboutsen removed to the Armen Bouwerie which the corporation of the Dutch Church in New Amsterdam had acquired and operated for the relief of the poor, and on February 26, 1654, he obtained a ground brief for property within that Poor Farm, followed on July 2, 1654, by a patent for it.
In doing so he had followed Abraham who on February 26 of the same year had obtained a deed to land on which the Riker mansion, or its antecedent, was built.
The Siboutsen land was immediately to the west of Abraham’s property. Not only were the two men thus twice neighbors, but Abraham’s eldest son Ryck, who took the Lent surname, married the Siboutsen daughter Catrina, while his daughter Mary married a Siboutsen son, Sibout H. Krankheyt.
It has been maintained that Harck Siboutsen, or Krankheyt as he was also known as, in 1654 or 1656 built a primitive house of one or possibly two rooms that was later incorporated into the homestead. This date, if correct, is the basis for the claim for the homestead’s being the oldest, still-existent, private home in the city of New York . . . .
Harck died between 1681 and 1684 and left his farm to Jacobus, his youngest son. Jacobus and his wife had no children and when he died on February 18, 1729, his will provided that his heir with regard to the homestead farm was his nephew Abraham Lent.
The Siboutsens or Krankheyts had owned it for seventy-five years, as long as subsequently either the Lents or the Rikers and almost as long as the Rapelyes, but in terms of the title of the house both of their names have been forgotten or ignored.
Abraham Lent had been living in Westchester, but in 1729 upon the death his uncle he returned to Newtown and claimed his inheritance. For seventeen years he and his wife, Anna Catrina Meyer lived on the homestead farm, and with six or seven of their ten children still minors in 1729 it is likely that the small house that Harck Siboutsen had built was soon enlarged.
In fact in the house as it is at present two rooms used as the parlor and the library are claimed to have been added to the original house in 1729, if so no doubt Abraham was responsible in order to provide space for his large family.
Contrarywise it is also claimed that he built the whole house, or at least the entire main floor, in 1729. No doubt different versions of when and how much of the house was built by whom will continue to appear in various publications.
Abraham died on February 5, 1746, leaving a will that was dated August 18, 1742 and was proved on March 17, 1745/6. The will, as below, is interesting in both what it provides and what it does not provide.
“In the name of God, Amen I, Abraham Lent of Newtown, in Queens County, yeoman, being sick. I leave to my wife Anna Catharina oe2O yearly.
"I leave to my grand son Abraham Lent, son of my son Ryck Lent, deceased, oe3. To my sons, Adolph, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Johanes Lent, each oe25.
"I leave all the rest of my estate to my Sons above named, and to my daughters, Mary, wife of John Rapalye, Elizabeth, wife of Jacob Brinkerhoff, Wyntie, wife of Jeromus Rapalye, and Annake, wife of John Brinkerhoff, and to my grandchildren, the children of my son Ryck Lent, deceased, viz., Abraham, Johanes, Catharine, and Margareta, and my granddaughter Catherine Haring.
"I will and order that all my estate, real and personal, in Westchester County, be sold by my executors.
"My Plantation where I now dwell is to be sold among my children, to the one that shall give the most for it,
"The rest of the children are to give a deed to the purchaser, except the Burying place, which is to remain entire as it now lies for the use of the relations and friends, with free egress and regress to the same. I make my sons Adolph, Abraham, and Isaac, executors."
The will is notable in several respects. Apparently Abraham was sick for the last several years before his death and he survived longer than he expected he would.
He named his middle three sons after the three Hebrew patriarchs. He did not specify how his residual estate was to be divided and thereby made his surviving children and five of his grandchildren all entitled to equal shares.
The reservation of the “Burying place” implies that burials in it had already taken place; this provision is treated below in the Riker Cemetery chapter. Relevant to the consideration of the homestead is the provision that his “Plantation where I now dwell” was to be auctioned off among his children.
Abraham’s sixth son, Jacobus, was the winner of the private vendue and thereby acquired the homestead farm. He owned it for thirty three years during which time it may have been he who was responsible for enlarging the farm house by adding a half story and replacing the original slant roof with a hipped roof plus dormer windows.
Jacobus died on December 13, 1779, leaving two sons, Abraham and Daniel, in addition to his widow and one daughter. Apparently the two sons inherited equal undivided shares of the farm because on May 1, 1789, Abraham Lent and his of wife conveyed to Daniel for Ł1000 “one half of the farm which Jacobus Lent died siezed of the father of said Abm. & Daniel 140 acres,” such that Daniel came to own the entire farm.
Daniel was the last of his family to live on the homestead farm and he died on April 20, 1797; but on April 7, 1797, shortly before his death, he conveyed the entire farm, less the cemetery, to Moses Sherwood for $2600.
A year and a half later, on September 17, 1798, Moses Sherwood and his wife sold the farm, again with the cemetery reservation, to Teunes Tiebout for $2700.
The latter individual kept the farm for seven and a half years before conveying it on February 24, 1806, to Isaac Rapelye, Jr.
In addition to the cemetery reservation, there was “the road or highway leading through Hell Gate Neck and a road to Jacobus Riker & to his heirs & assigns for the purpose of carting out his hay from his salt meadow.”
Isaac Rapelye was born on December 23, 1782, and died on October 20, 1850. Why he was termed “Jr.” in the last deed is not certain; his father was Daniel, however he had an Uncle Isaac and “Jr,” might have been used to differentiate the two close relatives.
While Isaac was neither a Lent nor a Riker he was a cousin of one degree or another to various members of both families, hence his acquisition of the homestead farm was in a sense returning it to the wider family after its having been out of the family for somewhat less than ten years.
Isaac lived there for almost forty-five years before his death on October 20, 1850, and he left four children including his only son, Jacob Polhemus Rapelye. who may have occupied the house and farm for some years. The estate of a Jacob Rapelye was under probate in 1889, and, if this was the same person, he may have occupied the property up to the time of his death.
In the 1880s the Steinway and Sons piano manufacturing company bought the farm and allowed a descendant of Isaac Rapelye to continue in the house during his lifetime; this descendant may have been Jacob. At any rate the property was still being called the Jacob Rapelye residence as late as in 1899.
Probably after that descendant eventually left the house, whether by death or otherwise, the piano makers leased it to others, but at some point it was sold to the Astoria-Riker Corporation which was a realty firm that despite its name had no connection with the family.
On September 24, 1941, the property was sold by the realty firm to the John L Riker Estate.
John L Riker had died on May 11, 1861, leaving a large estate which remained not settled, and the estate had a family interest in the Riker Cemetery. The purchase of the house and its property provided a residence for Rudolph Durheim so that he could continue as the cemetery caretaker.
Soon however he died and was interred in the cemetery, and in his place the Clyde Forcey family rented the house. Mr. and Mrs. Forcey did much renovation and repair work to the house, as well as cemetery clean-up, until he became ill and died in 1951.
In 1953 while Mrs. Forcey was away the house was set on fire and much damage was done, including the destruction of the roof and the burning out of half the ceilings. Mrs. Forcey restored the house at her expense and continued to rent it until her decease in 1959 whereupon the John L. Riker Estate sold the house and property to the Jack Russell family who lived in the house for some years.
Included in the purchase agreement is a provision requiring the purchaser to care for the cemetery.
Whether this provision was based upon a belief that the cemetery was included as a part of the property despite the 1742 establishment of the cemetery as not being part of the then farmstead, or whether it was thought that separate establishment had been set at nought, is not known.
Subsequently the house was rented by Michael M. Smith and in 1978 was bought by him.
The house, in its current condition, is distinctive with its three dormer widows and with its swooping roof that projects eaves far beyond the walls; however, none of those features is original. One exterior wail is field stone, the others are shingled.
Inside there are now four rooms downstairs and four upstairs. The original house, whether or not it remains a part of what now exists, was a one story, single room, primitive structure. The present center room may be that house built by Harck Siboutsen.
The bedroom and kitchen are the rooms of Abraham Lent’s 1730 house while the other two rooms are 18th century additions. A small entrance room, utilizing the depth of the eaves, was added late in the last century.
The second floor space under the roof may have early been used for storage, or it may have been used as the sleeping quarters for children, but the addition of the dormer windows allowed for the creation of four bedrooms upstairs.
The ravages of time, the additions and alterations made by various occupants, and the damage brought by the fire together with the subsequent repairs, have made substantial changes in this lone Dutch farmhouse in Queens County still remaining a residence.
In 1960 the New York Community Trust placed to the left of the front door a plaque with the following words which, despite the errors as to the dates of its building and of the Rapelye acquisition, are a tribute to the past:
THIS COLONIAL DUTCH FARMHOUSE,
PROBABLY BUILT IN 1729 BY ABRAHAM LENT, GRANDSON OF ABRAHAM RYCKEN,
IS ONE OF THE OLDEST IN NEW YORK
CITY. IN 1797 IT BECAME THE
PROPERTY OF THE RAPELJE FANILY.”
Rikers Island's role in NY correction history warrants our providing material on its "pre-Correction" background that is so bound up with Rikers family history. Bishop Nutt's book serves as an excellent vehicle for doing that. His approach is not exclusively or narrowly genealogical. More than simply tracing lineage, he places his family history in wider chronological and geographic contexts through which his exhaustive research tracked it, thus reflecting much other history -- of the island, county, city and country.
Strictly genealogical citations, notes, and codes in the printed book have been reduced or dropped in these excerpts. This presentation includes a book print copy information page.
NYCHS retains and reserves all rights to images of photos it took during the June 5, 2005 homestead tour and the September 1998 Samuel Perry Center dedication and their captions as well as captions of inserted images not taken from the printed book.