PETER JAY (1704-1783) and his dependent family
PETER JAY(2/4), born in 1704, was the only son and fourth child of Auguste, the first Huguenot Jay and his wife Anna Marie Bayard Jay. At age 18 he was sent to Bristol, England to live with his aunt, Francois Jay Peloquin, where he was educated. Following return to New York, in 1728, he married Mary Van Cortlandt. Mary Van Cortlandt was the daughter of Stephanus Van Cortlandt, one of the wealthiest families in the Province. Peter Jay lived as a successful merchant in New York City before moving in 1745 to the farm he purchased in Rye, NY.
Not much has been written about their family life. Seven children had been born to them before 1745. Two had died at birth. Of the living five, the oldest Eva was emotionally unstable,(but did later marry Henry Munro). The oldest son Augustus probably was autistic with a learning disability. He did not learn to read or write. Their fourth child, James was intelligent and was sent to England for Medical training. The next two children Anna Marie and Peter developed small pox when young which left them both blinded. “Blind Peter” inherited the Rye house on the death of his father, married, and lived there the remainder of his life. So of the five, only one would be able to live independently. This must have been a huge concern for Peter and Mary, and the main reason to move the family out of the city. He purchased land in Rye, New York and moved the family there. Their fourth son, John Jay was born at the time of the move. Two more children would be born. A fifth son, Frederick in 1747 and a daughter, Mary, who died at age 5. Peter Jay on moving to Rye retired from his business life and spent his life in improving the farm. He became a scientific horticulturalist, a heritage that was passed on to his sons.
In 1776 he was not involved with the political changes of the times. Two of his sons were. James and John were very much involved in the revolution and not living at home. Their oldest son, now Sir James, having been knighted for support for Kings College in New York was of the generation that hoped for a return to English rule, and was caught between being a loyalist and a patriot, which lead to great friction with his younger brother. After the revolution he settled in New Jersey and practiced medicine. Of course their younger son John, now a young lawyer, became very involved with the need of the colonies for total separation from England. He became a leader in this movement and was sent to Paris to negotiate a peace with England. He spent the war either in Spain or in France concerned about but well away from the family.
At the time of the Revolutionary War, Rye became “no man’s land”, New York was in British control, and the family were forced to move. This was not easy and their youngest son Frederick became in charge of this. He arranged for them to move to Fishkill, N.Y. to a house owned by Theodorus Van Wyck. This must have been an extraordinarily difficult time. The Rye house had become a comfortable place for all the family with an active farm. Mary was in declining health with very severe arthritis. Eva (who had “hysterics”) had married Henry Munro in 1766 at age 37. He was a loyalist minister who lived in Albany. They had one child, Peter Jay Munro. During the Revolution she moved back to the family with her ten year old, while her loyalist husband had to escape and return to Scotland. Augustus, “Blind” Peter and blind Anna Maria were dependent children that needed care. The farm needed to be moved. There were several slaves and servants as part of the family that they needed for the care they could give. There was property that needed to be moved or protected. And with the revolutionary turmoil, finding transportation for all this was extremely difficult. Fishkill was a good days journey.
Mary died soon after the move in 1777. Then the family was robbed in Fishkill and a second move to safer Poughkeepsie was made. There was also a plan to move them all to Kent where much of their goods had been sent. This never happened. Peter died after the second move in 1783. Both were interred in the vault of Gysbert Schenck, Esq. at Fishkill, and were probably moved to the Rye cemetery in 1804 with the other family from the Family Vault in the orchard of Peter Stuyvesant in the Bowerie.
His concerns about their survival and his financial worries were expressed by father Petter to son John in the following letter written in 1777.
Fish Kill, 29 July, 1777.
I have received your letter of the 21 Inst:—The evacuation of Ticonderoga is very alarming; I wish it may soon be made to appear in a less gloomy light.
Hitherto Fady has not been able to succeed in providing waggons to remove your Books to Kent.—My thoughts have been much imployed of late about removing from hence in case of need, but the more I consider of it the more I am perplexd., for my present state of health admits of my undergoing no fatigue. Besides I conceive my going to Kent will be attended with an immense expence, for there I can hire no Farm to raise necessarys for my numerous Family, but must lodge them in different Houses and buy daily food &c for them, I suppose at the same exorbitant rate that is extorted from the distressed in other parts of the Country; so that unless I can get a Farm in order to raise so much as will in some measure answer the expence of the Necessarys of life, I am very apprehensive it will have too great a tendency to our ruin, for we may long continue in our present distressed situation before a Peace takes place. I am indeed at a loss what steps to take and therefore I could wish you were nearer at hand to consult with you and Fady what to do. Hitherto my present abode appears to me as safe as elsewhere, and it may be most prudent to continue here till we know what rout the Regulars take & their success if any they have; but in the mean time it may be best to remove some of my most valuable things by way of precaution, which we’ll consider of when you come here. If we can purchase another Waggon it shall be done.
Johnny Strang was here about a fortnight or three weeks ago when we was expectg. the Regulars were about coming up the River; he then proposed to send a box or two he has of yours at his Father’s to Salem, and promised to remove them from there in case of need & said he would be very careful of them. Nancy is now unwell & Peggy is very sick with an intermitting fever ever since her return from Albany.
I am yr. affecte. Father
They had left Rye in 1777. Peter died in Poughkeepsie in 1783. Soon after that the family must have returned to Rye. By 1784 the British had left NY and peace had come. “Blind” Peter et al must have come back to Rye.
The Will of Peter Jay shows his concerns and leaves specific funds for the care of EVA, AUGUSTUS, and “blind” PETER and ANNA MARIA.
The will of Peter Jay was written in 1782, a year before his death. Three codiciles were added.
The main will, written 27 and 28 of May 1782, states that he was late of Rye, Westchester County, now of Rombout of Dutchess County, and discusses the disposal of his goods, chattels, and credits. The executers of his estate were Frederick Jay and Egbert Benson
500£ to be given to the executers for maintenance of son Augustus
. 1800£ to be given executers for maintainance of dgt Eva Munro to also include the education and support of her son Peter Jay Munro. The sum was to be given to PJM when he turned 21.
1800£ to be given executures for maintainance and support of blind Anna Marie
Remainder to be divided equally among sons James, Peter, John, Frederick
Farm in Rye given to blind PETER
Choice of Bedford property to JOHN
NYC property, Dockward with store house given to Frederick. This required release of asset by the family. An existing problem was that Henry Munro, back in Scotland would be very reluctant to do this. A penalty was built into the will that if this happened, grandson PJM would get no funds.
Release of debt of the children except for James who needed to pay.
Two negro women could choose a new master. Zilpha and elder Mary.
Peter, John, and Frederick act as executures. Witnessed by three van Wycks
Use Spanish dollars not pounds
Purchase of land in Poughkeepsie to be sold as real estate holding.
Family portraits left to James.
Excuse JJ who is across the seas
Slave Plato to JJ
Slave Mary to any child. Money saved for her upkeep.