The Hornbeck Family of Montague

The Hornbeck Family of Montague

IThe Hornbeck Family of Montague

by Benjamin Roberts


I.  The Hornbecks of Kingston


The first Hornbeck and forefather of the Montague Hornbecks in America was Warnaar Hornbeck (circa 1645 - circa 1715), who was originally from the Low Countries.  It is uncertain if he and his forefathers were from Flanders (present-day Belgium) or from the Dutch Republic (the Netherlands). The name Hornbeck (or Hoornbeeck) is found in both and the name probably derives from the combination of Dutch words ‘hoorn’ meaning = horn and ‘beeck’ meaning = stream, thus horn-shaped stream. The records fail us in informing us how Warnaar Hornbeck arrived in America or whether he was born here.


The first record of Warnaar is from 1661 in Ulster County, New York, where his name is found on a list of soldiers at a rendezvous in Marbleton.  He was a farmer and probably married his first wife Anna de Hooges in 1668-1670, with whom he had eight children.  After she died sometime after 1688 he remarried to Grietje Tyssen with whom he had seven children.


Of Warnaar’s offspring, Evert Hornbeck (born 1698), the third son from Grietje, left Kingston and settled in the Minisink area.  Like many young men of his generation, Evert sought arable farmland that was no longer available in the Kingston area, which had become overcrowded after generations of Dutch farmers in the region, who like Warnaar had fathered large families.  Moreover, the town of Kingston had emerged into the third largest city in the state of New York.


By 1713, when the Minisink patent allowed the area along the Delaware River to be settled, ambitious young men who had little chance of inheriting property from their fathers left Kingston and its environs to settle in the Minsink Valley. The old Indian trail, the Old Mine Road, which connected the Hudson River in Kingston and the Delaware River in the Minisink Valley, gave them easy access to the region and allowed for settlers to maintain close connections with Kingston.  


Evert married Eleanor Caudebec (born 1712), the daughter of the French-born Jacques Caudebec (sic) and Margaretta Provoost. The Caudebec family had settled in Deerpark, New York.  Evert Hornbeck and Eleanor Caudebec had at least two sons that we know of:  Joseph Hornbeck (born 1734), and Benjamin Hornbeck (born 1739).  When the brothers grew up, they settled in Montague.  



II.  The First Hornbecks of Montague


On November 30, 1766, Joseph married twenty-year old Blandina Westbrook of Deerpark, New York.  They were married by Rev. Thomas Romeyn who had served the four churches of the Minisink Valley from 1760 until 1772.  The couple settled in the Millville section of Montague where Joseph had a farm and worked as a blacksmith. Sometime prior to the Revolutionary War, Joseph built a stone house on the Old Mine Road that was later used as a tavern. During the Revolution War, soldiers quartered there, and afterwards it became an important stagecoach stop where travellers lodged. The building was known as the ’Old Hornbeck Stone House’ until it was torn down in the early twentieth century.

‘The Old Tavern’ also known as the ‘Old Hornbeck Stone House’.

The couple had four children:  Benjamin, Jacob, Lydia, and Soveryne.  Benjamin Hornbeck, the eldest son (born 1768), married Mary Shimer, the daughter of Jacob Shimer.  Little is known about Jacob Hornbeck who moved across the river to Pennsylvania where he farmed.  Lydia Hornbeck married James Bennet.


The youngest son, Soveryne Hornbeck was probably born in the early 1770s.  The day and circumstances of his death are more certain. Every generation of the Hornbeck-Cole-Roberts family up until the late twentieth century were always reminded of the strong undercurrent of the Delaware River when they wanted to take a swim because their forefather, Soveryne went for a swim on a summer day in 1806 drowned. His death had become one of the first tragedies of fathers in the Hornbeck Family dying young and leaving young children behind.  At the time of his death, Soveryne was in his early thirties and was married to Hannah Dekker. He just had become a father to a second son a year earlier. Both sons, Joseph Soveryne Hornbeck (born Dec. 5, 1802), and John Hornbeck (born Feb. 3, 1805), grew up fatherless.



III.  The Hornbeck Brothers of the 19th Century


Soveryne’s eldest son, Joseph Soveryne Hornbeck (born 1802), became the forefather of the Hornbecks of the Brick House community.  Sometime in the 1820s, he married Elietta Clark (born 1805), who was the daughter of Isaac Clark (1780-1861) and Patience Young (1783-1855).  The Clarks had a farm that later was owned by the Philips Family (where Eugene Philips last resided).  It was one of the first farms on Route 206 entering Montague from Hainesville.  

Joseph Soveryne Hornbeck and Elietta Clark farmed the present-day Pollara farm.  The couple had five children: Isaac (born 1825), Soveryne (born 1827), George Y. (born 1830), William Postie (born 1832), and Hannah Jane (born 1835), who died as an infant.  

In 1837, tragedy struck the family again.  Thirty-five year old Joseph Soveryne died, probably from typhoid fever.  Joseph’s wife, Elietta Clark, was left with four young boys to raise alone.  Four months later she gave birth to a fifth son, Joseph Soveryne Hornbeck (born 1837), who just like his father before him, grew up not knowing his father.  Fortunately, Elietta Clark raised her children with the help of her parents who resided on the nearby farm.  The boys had a strong affinity with their maternal grandparents Clark, and Elietta’s younger brother, Benjamin Clark (born 1817), who was not much older than his nephews.  As the boys reached adulthood, they married and pursued a career in agriculture.  


(The George Y. Hornbeck Farm, later known as Hyckory Hyll or Neldon-Roberts Farm).

The two eldest sons, Issac and Soveryne never married and remained on the family farm. The third son, George Y. married Christian Layton (born 1833), in January 1860, and around the same time bought the farm owned by John H. Nelden, the son of George Nelden {Neldon}. The couple had four daughters: Elietta, Emma, Phoebe, and Josephine.


George Y. Hornbeck and his wife, Christian (Layton) Hornbeck


Phoebe died at the age of three in 1866, but the other three daughters lived to adulthood. Elietta who was named after her paternal grandmother, Elietta Clark, married in 1882 Cyrus D. Case of Port Jervis. Emma Hornbeck married J.W. Johnson of Hainesville, and Josephine married Cory Bell.  


Josephine (Hornbeck) Bell


The fourth son, William Postie Hornbeck married Esther Losey, of Hainesville on March 31, 1863.  They settled on the farm between the Hornbeck Homestead (current Pollara Farm) and the Philips Farm. Today this farm is located directly behind the former Brace’s Machine shop on Route 206.  The couple had four children: Hannah Jane (born 1865), Viola (born 1868), William C. (born 1872), and Nora Belle (born 1879).

The Joseph S. Hornbeck Farm (now the site of the Milford-Montague Bridge Approach)

The fifth (and youngest) son, Joseph Soveryne Hornbeck, married Emma Westbrook in 1870. Joseph S. bought the farm owned by the heirs of Dr. Van Duzen/Van Deusen, next to the Brick House.  The couple had two children:  Bertha (born 1876), and George (born 1885).  

While travelling from the south side of Montague along Route 206 to the Brick House in the late nineteenth century, the four Hornbeck brothers, William Postie, Isaac, George Y., and Joseph S. held adjoining farms. It is unknown how the brothers acquired the properties.  They all married in their thirties/late thirties and thus might have worked elsewhere and saved up enough money to purchase a farm, and/or they helped out each other buy farms. From the family stories, we know that the Hornbeck brothers, their wives, and children were a tight-knit family. They helped with harvesting each other crops and tended each other animals, and cared for their children, who were also educated in the same one-room Brick House School. They remained very close for the rest of their lives.  

As the brothers became older and eventually died, their farms and names disappeared from Montague.  The eldest brother Isaac, who farmed the family homestead died in 1885, and the second eldest Soveryne had already died in 1866. Two years prior to his death in 1902, George Y. Hornbeck retired from farm life and moved to Port Jervis.  The only remaining brother on Route 206, William Postie Hornbeck, sold his farm in 1905 and retired to Port Jervis where he lived with his children until his death in 1916.  



Joseph S. Hornbeck           Emma (Westbrook) Hornbeck

Joseph S. Hornbeck remained in Montague where he had become a successful farmer producing butter.  Since the 1880s, there had been a growing demand for fresh vegetables and dairy products for the New York City market.

At that time, Port Jervis emerged as a railroad hub.  Small family farms of the Minisink Valley could easily transport their farm goods to Port Jervis by horse and wagon where it was transported to New York City.  With eight daily trains to NYC, the milk and butter produced in Montague in the morning were on the dinner table of NYC residents by evening the same day.  

From the 1880s to the 1920s, the demand for fresh dairy products and vegetables only grew as the population of the city rapidly increased primarily due to immigration from Eastern Europe. On Jospeh’s farm, every morning and evening the cows were milked.  Their milk was churned into butter in the basement of the house by a treadmill with a sheep hooked up to it.  After the fat had been separated from the milk and the butter had been churned, the remaining milk (whey) would be eliminated by a pipe that emptied into a trough in the hog barn.

The backside of the Joseph S. Hornbeck Farm  in the early 1890s (pictured: Joseph S. Hornbeck on wagon, standing: daughter Bertha, son George, and wife Emma).

The demand for his butter brought financial prosperity to Joseph S. Hornbeck.  During these years he was able to purchase the farm owned by his deceased brother George Y. Hornbeck, also known as the Nelden Farm, which he purchased in 1903.  He also purchased the Black Farm on the Old Mine Road.  Further, he invested in the real estate market in Port Jervis and Matamoras where he bought several rental houses.  

Bertha (Hornbeck) Cole & Merlin Cole in 1898 (two years before his death).

When he died in 1908, his daughter Bertha (Hornbeck) Cole continued to run the family farm. Bertha was the young widow of Merlin Cole (1872-1900) who had died at the age of 27 from TB. The couple only had one child, Mabel Cole who was born 1899. After Merlin’s death, Bertha sold her husband’s farm and returned home. There she raised Mabel, together with the help of her parents. When Joseph S. died, she managed the farm just as her father had done, milked cows, churned butter, and delivered butter to Port Jervis, as well as taking care of her elderly mother and younger brother George who suffered from epilepsy.  

In 1921, Bertha’s daughter, Mabel, met Stanley B. Roberts (born 1895), on the bank of the Delaware River.  Stanley, who was the state dairy specialist, was in the area to test the milk of farmers in Montague.  In October of that year the couple married in the corner of the double parlor of her mother’s house – now standing on Rubin Hill Road.  After their honeymoon at Stanley’s parents in Utica, New York, they moved to New Brunswick where Stanley was employed at Rutgers University.  

Stanley Roberts & Mabel (Cole) Roberts in 1921.

Mabel became homesick for her mother and Montague, and within less than a year, they were in Montague again.  Bertha offered them the George Y. Hornbeck farm, the farm that her father had bought when George died in 1902.  Stanley started out with six of the best pure-bred Holstein Frisian calves he could buy, and within two years they were producing milk.  Because each registered Holstein breeder required a farm name, they chose to name their farm Hyckory Hyll after the numerous hickory trees on the knoll behind the house.  

Besides producing milk for the creamery in Branchville, in 1935 they started a summer camp. Each summer more than 40 children from the city attended camp. In the 1930s, parents living in the urban areas were becoming more concerned that their children lacked knowledge about country life.

(Hyckory Hyll Farm in 1947)

 They wanted their children to know that milk came from a cow and not a bottle.  Small summer camps for city kids sprouted up all over of the Delaware Valley, Poconos and Catskills.  Those who attended Hyckory Hyll Camp for example, were each given their own cow and calf to care for.  Children learned how to milk a cow, tend vegetables in the garden, and learned about nature from taking walks through the woods.  Besides that, the days were spent doing creative activities in the recreational hall, playing tennis on the court in the orchard, or taking field trips to the copper mines on the Old Mine Road.

Mabel (Cole) Roberts preparing one of many meals.

In running the camp, Mabel was responsible for feeding the children and staff three times a day. The meals were prepared in the old stone kitchen and adjoining back-kitchen of the farmhouse, and served in the large dining room and main kitchen of the house.  The vegetables needed for each meal were grown in three large gardens around the house.  The children slept in three cabins that were built in the farm orchard.  Besides the children there was a staff of instructors, a nurse, and the manager, Mary Anna Gibson, who slept in the house.

One of the cabins in the orchard where the camp children slept.

The last summer camp held was in 1941.  After America’s entry in the Second World War, gasoline, sugar, coffee, and butter were rationed, and it became more difficult to run a summer camp.  Besides room and board to guests during the summer, the farm focused on producing as much milk as possible for the war effort.


IV.  The Last Hornbeck of Montague

Aside from her cousin, Nora Belle Hornbeck (born 1879), who had moved to Port Jervis and lived to the age of 88, Bertha Hornbeck was the last of the Montague Hornbeck’s that farmed.  After she died in February 1944, their farm was incorporated into the Hyckory Hyll Farm, and in 1952, her house was moved across the road after the new approach to the Montague-Milford Bridge required that property.  

(Hobart and Robert Roberts, Summer 1947)

Instead of having the house and buildings knocked down, Stanley Roberts had the T-shaped house (see: photo) split and moved across the road.  The backside of the house, which included the kitchen and the quarters for the hired hands upstairs, was moved to the top of the hill, off of Rubin Hill Road. The main section of the house, which included the double-parlor and dining room downstairs, and the family’s sleeping quarters upstairs, was moved across the road and placed parallel to Rubin Hill Road.  The horse barn, hay barn, and cow barn were also moved across the road.  

In 1953, Stanley Roberts and Mabel Cole’s son, Robert Roberts (born 1923), married Ruth Ann Bathgate (born 1933) and they moved into the house on top of the hill.  In 1956, Stanley and Mabel Roberts moved into the other half of the Joseph S. Hornbeck house on Rubin Hill Road when their youngest son, Hobart Roberts (born 1926), married Astrid Milo (born 1935) and moved to the Hyckory Hyll farmhouse, which was also known as the George Y. Hornbeck Farm.  These two farms remained in the family until 1975 when both were purchased for the Tocks Island Dam Project.

Composed by Benjamin Roberts


Note:   Some of the Hornbeck family photos shown in this article were donated to MARCH by George Bell, grandson of George Y. Hornbeck, and the remainder are from Benjamin Roberts, grandson of Mabel Cole Roberts.