Daniel Crommelin's Residence: Gray Court

Recent Discovery of Legal Documents

After the English deposed the Dutch Government in New Netherlands in 1663, they began to purchase land from the natives. Governor Dongan purchased a large tract of land, 18 miles along the west bank of the Hudson River in 1684. Part of that land was later given to Captain John Evans who was responsible for keeping pirates out of New York Harbor and for enforcing the tariff. Capt. Evans actually helped the pirates (and the merchants of New York) and was rewarded by Governor Ben Fletcher with several thousand acres out of the Dongan purchase.

Gov. Fletcher was replaced and Capt. Evans was transferred to another part of the world. After years of legal strife, Queen Anne declared the Evans Patent vacant. The new Governor Cornbury was now free to give it to his friends, and in 1703 he sold a much larger tract to a syndicate of 12 speculators, calling it the Wawayanda Patent. The local surgeon, Dr. Samuel Staats, cried foul and sued.

Wawayanda means "our homes and villages, the place where we live" in Algonkin. 'Wa' (my) is the first person possessive and is made plural by the repetition 'WaWa' (our) while 'ayanda' means 'home', in this case made plural (homes) by being preceded by the plural form.

The new owners also had to purchase the same land from the Indians, which they did in 1703. There were twelve original owners, all friends of the Government. Philip Rockeby sold his undivided right to Daniel Crommelin, John Merritt and Elias Boudinot on the 10th of June, 1704. Then on December 8, 1704 Hendrick Tenyck sold his undivided right to Daniel Crommelin ["Hendrych Tenych to Daniel Crumlyne, sells his 1/12 part in Wawayanda patent"]. Then in 1705 "Maj. John Merritt and w Jane NYC sell to Daniel Crommelin, merch, NYC, 1/12 part".

By 1706 there were only eight original owners, and Daniel Crommelin, who was not an original owner but who owned the full share of Hendrick Ten Eyck and 2/3 of the share of Philip Rockeby.

In 1712, Daniel Crommelin and two other owners made independent settlements on their land. Daniel Crommelin was then made a Justice of the Peace for Orange County. Crommelin brought an Irish stone mason into Orange County, William Bull. William Bull built a tavern and a still-standing house for Daniel Crommelin, finishing the house in 1718. Mr. Harold R. Decker has the deed of sale for that house dated October 19, 1720, and a mortgage dated October 20, 1720 for the same three thousand sixty six acres and all cattle and chattels on the farm called Gray Court, including three slaves.

After long and bitter litigation, the court in 1713 awarded the surgeon, Dr. Samuel Staats, a 13th share of the land patent, which included a stone house and much of what is today the town of Warwick, from the densely-wooded Bearfort mountain range westward to the Drowned Lands surrounding Pine Island which teemed with aquatic life. This made 13 full shares in the Wawayanda Patent. The coveted Wawayanda Patent was vaguely-defined and not accurately surveyed until 1765. Meanwhile most of the Indian population had either been decimated by smallpox and measles epidemics or had fled westward, away from the encroaching farmers and their propensity for enclosing their lands with stone rows.

In Daniel's time, the area in which he chose to settle was a principal route to Trenton, New Jersey from Newburgh, NY. Along the King's Highway (now Route 94) Daniel operated the Gray Court Inn and a residence - stone buildings constructed by Irish mason, William Bull, and Richard Gerard.

According to a document called an "indenture" discovered in 2006, Daniel sold the Gray Court Inn in 1720. All of the chattels (personal possessions) are listed in this large document - a sheepskin with dimensions of 24" x 30". This indenture was prepared to provide various creditors with security for Charles' debts. The document constitutes a mortgage against debts of Charles Crommelin, given by his father Daniel Crommelin as security for those debts. A companion indenture dated the previous day is the deed for Gray Court farm - three thousand sixty six acres and a mansion house. Later documents in the possession of Mr. Decker relate to the execution of the mortgage due to the failure of Charles Crommelin to repay his debt. Some of these have been abstracted but not transcribed.

The deed from Daniel Crommelin's farm

The documents are in excellent condition because they were lawyer's copies stored in the attic of a building in Goshen where William Wickham, Esq., or perhaps his successor, once practiced law. Some appear never to have been opened, with the wax signets intact beside the signatures. At the present time Mr. Decker is looking for a buyer for the entire collection of documents and wishes not to issue copies or images of these documents because the publication rights may be important to a prospective buyer. If that is not the case, as in the case of an institutional buyer, Mr. Decker says he will send us whatever may be of use to us.

Presumeably Daniel continued to live on this mortgaged property for another year or two before relocating to New York where he died five years later in 1725. Perhaps Charles continued to call the property 'home' until he died in 1739, although it is known that he conducted business in Rye, New York after his mining ventures failed and he also travelled extensively overseas in hopes of obtaining additional monies to help pay off his debts.

[Source: Notes above compiled largely from correspondence between Mr. Harold R. Decker and Govert Deketh & Miff Crommelin, May 2007.]

Daniel Crommelin's house built by William Bull in 1718,
now the residence of Mark and Carol Roe
[Photo courtesy of Clifton Patrick, Town of Chester Historian]

Here are a few extracts from the monograph entitled: WHERE IS CRAIGVILLE? by Helen Predmore [published perhaps 1967, a reprint from Yesteryears Magazine, Scipio Center, N.Y.]

After twenty five years of prosperity the Crommelin family lost leadership in Graycourt affairs. A son, Charles Crommelin, contracted debts which he was unable to liquidate and in 1741 the large estate was sold to satisfy his creditors. The house and nearby lands became the property of Ebenezer Seely who occupied it until 1763 when he divided it into four parts.

Later the Graycourt estate was divided into twelve parcels, and members of the Seely family were owners of all of it for miles around. Ebenezer, Christopher and Samuel Seely and Rulaf Swartout seem to have been located along the Crommelin river at the same time that Daniel Crommelin was active there.

Daniel Crommelin owned 3628 acres of upland and 411 acres of meadow, an estate of more than 4000 acres. Some of this land is still owned by descendants of the Seely family, it has now been in their names for more than two hundred years.

The division made in 1763 by Ebenezer Seely resulted in two of the four parts being purchased by James Nesbit and Elias Ward. The Graycourt House became the home of Josiah Gilbert who maintained it as an inn.

In 1764 one of Mr. Gilbert's guests was a traveling Frenchman who was visiting America..." [P.3]

Hector St. John....
Like his predecessor, Daniel Crommelin,...had considerable means at his disposal... etc.
The estate of Hector St. John, "Pine Hill", near or on Graycourt property, was burned in a Revolutionary War raid. Graycourt House may have had a similar fate for it was razed in 1832. [P.5]

From a transcript provided by Mr. Clifton Patrick, Town of Chester Historian, [ref. Caroline Gaunt's black scrap book] we learn how the Gray Court property was subdivided and sold after 1739:

Creditors took the property and divided it into farms.
The land brought 1695 L [ pounds ]

  • Lot # 1 & 12 Ebenezer Seely 540 ac
  • #2 Christopher & Samuel Seely 242 ac
  • 3 Michael Jackson and Joseph Carpenter 238
  • 4 Reuben Knapp and James Mosher ( Mosier ) 238 ac
  • 5 John Roe and David Benjamin 238 ac
  • 6 John Seaman 238 ac
  • 7 Thomas Allison and Archibald Little 227
  • 8 Ebenezer Seely 412 ac
  • 9 John and Increase Carpenter 288
  • 10 John Drake 340 ac
  • 11 David Mervine ( Maroin ) 285 ac
  • 1739 Christoper Seely bought 400 ac ( the Craigville area ) "

We see Lot #5 sold to John Roe and David Benjamin, and the name "Roe" remains associated with a portion of the Graycourt estate to this day. Roe's Apple Orchards is located at 3278 Route 94, Chester in Orange county (Phone: 845-469-4724). It is a great source of unpasteurized cider in the Hudson Valley of NY and one of the three oldest continuously-operated farms in New York State. The old Crommelin House still stands and is now the residence of Mark and Carol Roe.

According to one source, the Roe farm has been in their family since it was purchased by Mark's great, great uncle in 1827. For some reason the nearby Gray Court Inn was razed in 1832. In 1910, the owner of the house was Hamlet S. Roe. Originally the farm consisted of a few cows and a few apple trees like many of the other farms of that era. Over the years, the farm transitioned from focusing on dairy to being mainly a fruit operation with some poultry, but by the 1950's the farm focused solely on fruit.

In the 1960's, the Roes saw the need to enter the retail market and opened up their farm stand. They began growing a variety of vegetables and added a cider mill to their farm. As the popularity of their store increased, their farm switched from being primarily a wholesale market to a retail market such that their retail business now accounts for approximately 75% of sales on their farm. The other 25% is wholesale in fruit and fresh cider.

Roe's Orchards is based on 240 acres with 60 acres in orchards and about 60 acres in vegetables. The remaining 120 acres are in pasture and hayfields. They try to provide a wide variety of basic produce items and often add other locally grown items such as onions, potatoes, carrots and berries. The farm is owned and operated by Mark, Carol and oldest son Tom Roe. Steven Roe, Mark & Carol's younger son, runs greenhouses on the farm providing bedding plants, hanging baskets and geraniums for sale in the spring months. By August 1st, the stand opens with produce and fruit and stays open through February. Cathy Roe Pietrzak, their daughter, operates a bakery on site specializing in homemade apple pies and donuts.

(Click to enlarge)

Greycourt Rock Shelter is about 3 miles south of Graycourt.
The shelter was reputedly used during revolutionary times as a hideout
for Tory raider Claudius Smith.