The JAY Farm in Rye: Property History


??-1661. This was uninhabited Indian native land belonging to the Shenoroke Indian tribe.

1661-1745 The land was originally purchased from the indian tribe by John Budd. John Budd had immigrated to New Haven from England and was one of the early settlers in what became Rye. He purchased considerable amounts of land from the Indians, including the Manursing area and Rye Neck. He also purchased most of what is White Plains and Harrison today. It was his grandson, also John Budd, that inherited what was known as Budd Neck Patent that he sold to Peter Jay in 1745.

1745. The property was purchase by PAJ. He was a successful New York merchant and had married Mary Van Cortland. He wanted to move from the health dangers in the City. Two of his children, Peter and Anna Marie who were 10 and 8 had caught small pox and had been blinded by it. His oldest son Augustus who was 15 had a learning disorder and was probably intellectually impaired. His oldest daughter Eve was 17 and had “hysterics”. James, age 13 was a normal son! After he purchased the land, he built a farm house which was called the Locusts named for three locusts standing on the side of the house and they moved to Rye in 1745, the year John was born.

1745-1778. Their third son John was born in 1745, the year of their move and spent his boyhood life on the farm. A fourth son, Frederick was born in 1747 and the youngest child Mary was born in 1749 and died four years later. The Property was managed as a farm and the open field from the rear of the house toward the sound was mowed each year. This is the oldest continuously mowed field in the State of New York.

In 1750 at the age of 18 James was sent to Bristol with his Peloquin relatives and was educated. He graduated from Univ of Edinburg Medical School in 1760 and returned to Rye. He was knighted in 1763 for raising money for Kings College Medical School.

In 1764, John, graduated from Kings College and then Kings College Law School and passed the New York bar in 1768. He married Sarah Livingston, the daughter of William Livingston, the Governor of New Jersey in 1774 at age 28. During the Revolution he was assigned to first Spain and then Paris as a representative of our new country.

In 1766 Eve married Peter Munro, a Scotch minister living and preaching in Albany. In 1778 he was forced to return to Scotland and EVA with her son Peter Jay Munro returned to live with the family about 1780.

In 1773 Frederick (Faddy) married Polly Barclay worked and lived in New York as a trader. He became responsible for the welfare of the family during the Revolution.

1778-1784. REVOLUTIONARY WAR : JJ and SLJ were in Spain and France. Their son PAJ lived with his grandparents in New Jersey. Rye was no mans land during the Revolution. Peter and the family were forced to move for their safety. Faddy arranged for them to move to Fishkill. The Rye House was occupied and damaged by British troops. Mother Mary Van Courtlandt died in Fishkill in 1776 and was buried in a vault there. The family was robbed and they moved to Poughkeepsie. Peter died in 1784 in Poughkeepsie and was buried in the same vault as his wife. The House and property were willed to Blind Peter.

1785-1813. House and property were managed by Blind Peter. Living in the house were his new wife Mary Duyckinick, (married in 1789) , her sister Euphane, sister “blind”Anna Marika who died in 1791, brother Augustus who died in 1801 and his sister Eve Jay Munro who had returned from Albany with her small child Peter Jay Munro in 1780. Both Anna Marika and Augustus were buried in the family vault in the Stuyvesant orchard in the Bowerie.

1780-1801. John held a number of posts in the emerging federal government and as a strong Federalist was very supportive of the revision of the Constitution allowing more Federal power. In 1789 his last position, he was elected Governor of New York. He and Sarah moved to Albany. As Governor he supported a bill for the manumission of slavery in New York.

1801. JJ retired and lived in the house he had built on his mothers Van Cortland property in Bedford NY. Sarah Livingston Jay was in declining health and died a year after they moved. She was buried in the Family Plot in the Bowerie.

1804: The decision to start a family cemetery on the Rye property was made. John, while no longer living there was still very interested and involved with the family and what was happening in Rye. One of the factors that made the start of a cemetery on the family property was in 1810 realignment of the streets in New York was to occur. This made the Orchard were the family was buried tenth street. A move of the family plot became necessary. Also the death of the infant son of Maria Jay Banyer, Goldsboro Banyer and the same year of his father resulted in their burial in the East Meadow and the start of the Jay Cemetery. This was to be available for all related to JJ father Peter Jay. Then in 1807 the remains of family members that included his wife were removed from the Family Vault in the meadow in the Bowerie and were buried in a plot in the new Jay Cemetery in Rye.

1813: in 1813 “Blind” Peter died and was buried in the Jay Cemetery. The House after Peter Jay death was inherited by his brother John Jay. John Jay during this time allowed Peters widow Mary to continue to live there with her sister Euphane until her death which was in 1827. John Jay at this time had retired to the Bedford house and he gave the house and property to his oldest son Peter Augustus Jay.

1823: Sir James Jay died. After the Revolutionary War he had returned to live and practice Medicine in New Jersey. He did not marry but lived with Anne Erwin. His Loyalist standing had separated him from his brother. He was buried next to “Blind” Peter in the Jay Cemetery.

1829: John Jay dies in Bedford and is buried in the Jay Cemetery. The inscription on his tomb was written by PAJ and focuses on the many government roles that he achieved.

1827-1841. Peter Augustus Jay ownership and changes. Because of the damages that had happened with the British Occupation, the original house was torn down and the present Greek Revival house was built on the same site by PAJ. PAJ was a lawyer in NYC and used the Rye house and property a a summer home. His wife Mary Rutherford Clarkson died just when the new house was completed in 1838.

1841-1891 The house and property was inherited by PAJ oldest son, John Clarkson Jay, who used it during his life. He had married Laura Prime and they moved to the new house his father had built in 1841. Their seven children were brought up there. During this time the property was still an active farm. many changes to the property were made. The widow of Rev Peter Augustus Jay, Emile Post moved back with her four children in 1875. Also Their unmarried daughter Cornelia Jay grew up there. She Kept a diary of life on the estate. Also a sketch book.

1861-1865 CIVIL WAR. Lincoln presidency. Freedom of slaves, a project that had been strongly supported by JJ, PJM, PAJ, William Jay, JCJ. They were all active in the Manumission Society.

1891-1904. After the death of JCJ the house was used as a summer residence by his children and then rented. JCJ, II , Cornelia Jay who died in 1904. Alice Jay. ?others? The decision by the children to sell the property was made in 1900. There was also unhappiness among the children at the life style of JCJ. Much of his papers were destroyed.

1904: Property was purchased by architect Henry Ives Cobb. John Jay Realty Company with plans to restore the house and add additional houses of 5 to40 acres each. First development challenge. Further development of the property was planned including housing on Hen Island.

1905. The Jay Cemetery property was incorporated and kept separate from the sale of the property. The original trustees were John Clarkson Jay II, treasurer, Banyer Clarkson president, and John Jay, secretary. John Clarkson Jay III soon took over his fathers position and was treasurer from 1909 until 1940 as one of the second group of trustees.

1905-1910 House and property were bought and lived in by Warner Van Norden and his wife Grace Talcott and while development was planned it did not occur. In 1907 two new buildings were added. The carriage house which is still in use and the Zebra House where his several Zebras were kept. During this time they added a Butlers pantry, billiard room, and two paneled rooms from Europe. They also improved the outside gardens. A garden was developed in memory of his wife and used in fresh air summer programs.

1911. Possibly at the urging of neighbor John E Parsons the property was bought and maintained by Edgar Palmer. The land had been divided into potential building sites and Mr Palmer was able to arrange for purchase of them all. This began a period of relative tranquility for the house and property. He had married Zilph Hayes and they had one daughter, Zilph Palmer who after her fathers death in 1935, inherited the property and lived there with her husband Walter Devereau. During this time much of the outside was improved. A formal garden was installed. Also the rose arbor was maintained.

1935-1967 Devereaux ownership. The house and property was maintained.

In 1948 under the leadership of Mary Rutherfurd Jay, who was acting as President of the Cemetery during World War II. the Jay Cemetery was enlarged to the maximum size allowed by the State of New York. An agreement was worked out between Zelph Devereaux and Mary Rutherford Jay. Mary Rutherfurd Jay was very active with the cemetery. She wrote a history of the Jay Cemetery which was published and distributed to family members and also a large genealogy map of our ancestors.

1960-1967: The Devereaux decided to end their ownership of the house and property about 1960. A careful plan was worked out in 1967 To maintain the property and prevent development. The lower 120 acres became the Marshlands Nature Center under ownership and management of the County of Westchester, a side area was zoned for housing to help the City of Rye with property taxes, and they gave to the United Methodist Center the house and surrounding property of 23 acres to continue to use and maintain.

About 1970 an Advisory Board was established by the Westchester Parka Department to advise the use of the lower Marshlands Park area. The Jay Cemetery was represented by its president, John Du Bois. The goal was to maintain the property in its natural state. Also common use of the entrance road off the Post Road was negotiated.

1967-1983. Methodist Church Ownership. Start of the decline to maintain the PAJ house and up keep of the property. Methodist had growing financial problems. Unable to maintain the house they decided to put it up for sale. There were no buyers. Diane Milstein saw its value as a site for high priced houses made a bid and then delayed this. There was almost a sale to Hare Kirishners. It ended with sale to Milatein associates for 1.2 million There was little maintenance or changes to the house or property during this period. The Marshlands area was well managed by the County and became an increasingly popular place for people to walk with nature. The threat of housing on the upper land became an increasing threat in terms of its impact on the lower land. Karen Kennedy recognized the historic importance of the area and was able to get Federal Historic Landmark approval for the Jay House and property, the Jay Cemetery, the next door Parsons House and property and the house and property owned by the City of Rye. The sale of the upper house and property became an increasing concern to several groups. This included The Friends of the Marshlands, the local SOAR group, and others.

1983-1992 Milstein era. The development threat and its impacts on the area continued. There was the rise of the Jay Coalition. This started with concerned people meeting together. The Jay Cemetery acting through its President John Du Bois and his wife Sharon helped organize and support this. A group that included Sharon Du Bois, DeeDee Paschal from the Jay family, Rhoda Kornreich and Kitty Arreste from SOAR (Save our residential environment) Catherine Crane and others from Friends of the Marshlands grew in strength. The Demands for Condemnation of the property grew. Attempts at comprise were not effective. Battle lines were drawn. City, County, State and Federal approval were needed to block the development. There was need for a single strategy. Strength of the Coalition was its VERY tough woman negotiators. This was vs a VERY tough Developer. After delay after delay victory with purchase of the house and surrounding 22acres for 11.2 million by the State of New York occurred in 1992. The Jay Heritage Center was real. During this time the property and house were without any management and continued destruction was occurring. The house was broken into and vandalized. Overgrowth of all the gardens and orchard area. Death of trees, etc. Not only the main house was in very poor condition also all the out buildings were in disrepair. Zebra house and the large carriage house were in poor repair. The lower property under the management of the County continued to be used and maintained for the wildlife. The Jay Cemetery Board were active in their support to maintain the Marshlands wildlife area and supportive of the goals of the Jay Coalition.

1992-2000:. Development of the Jay Heritage Center as owner of the PAJ House and other buildings. The First project was to repair and restore the PAJ house, the Carriage House and the Zebra Barn. Need for fund raising and planning to restore the house and carriage barn. A group that included Rhoda Kornriech, Kitty Arreste, Dee Dee Pashal and others were able to accomplish this. Fund raising for restoration of the houses was begun.

2000-2012 The next stage was developing programs and uses for the property. The need to show the impact of not only the Jay family, but the Van Norden’s who built the carriage house and the Zebra barn, and the long ownership of the Palmer/Devereaux’s and his boating connections. The project needed new leadership. The role of Director of the Jay Heritage Center was assumed by Suzanne Clary. She showed wonderful leadership and enthusiasm in developing projects and raising funds and interest to maintain the House and Property. The original terms of the agreement gave the Jay Heritage Center control of the House and Carriage House, but the surrounding 20 acres was under county control. This became a growing problem that under Suzanne Clary leadership was resolved by negotiations completed in 2012 with an agreement giving the Jay Heritage Center control over the management of its surrounding 22acres. Development of programs continued during this period. The Marshlands continued as a nature Center. Alison Beale, the long term director retired and was replaced by Scott Williamson. The Jay Cemetery continued to be managed by a new group of trustees. Theo Budnick became president in 2000. Dr John Du Bois retired from his role as President at that time when he and his wife moved as Medical Missionaries to Panama. Sybil Baldwin retired as Secretary in 2010. Nicholas Bruen who was Treasurer for many years and helped build the cemetery financial security died in 2011 and was buried in the Cemetery. Huston Huffman assumed the role of treasurer and Trustee.

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