[Genealogy Home Page] [Contents page] [Next Chapter]

1782 - 1864


Random notes on the Hunns and Philip Freneau.

     Major Thomas Hunn was the father-in-law of Judge Corn-
elius P. Vanderhoff who was the father of our Mary Vander-
hoff.  It was this Major Hunn who, in 1781, was courtmar-
tialled "for cowardice and unofficerlike behaviour."  He
was acquitted of the first charge but was unanimously
found guilty of the last and was forthwith cashiered out
of the Army.  The fact that he was Mary's grandfather ac-
counts for the presence of his and his wife Catherine's
stones in the Nicholas M. Disbrow plot at Mt. Pleasant.
     The Major had a brother, John S., who married Philip
Freneau's sister Margaret.
     As to Philip Freneau, although he was known in my boy-
hood as "The Poet of the American Revolution" and the per-
son after whom the town of Freneau is named, from what I
have read of his stuff he was a versifier rather than a
poet.  He was also a pamphleteer of a particularly nasty
type who, under the aegis of Thomas Jefferson, hounded
Washington to such an extent that our 1st President once
called him "the lowest scoundrel unhanged."  His own
townsfolk had none too high an opinion of him either.
     As a child I once asked my grandmother about the man
and she told me that her mother had told her that Mr.
Freneau was a drunken sot.  "He died during a snow storm
in a muddy ditch into which he had fallen as he staggered
home in the darkness from the tavern where he had been
drinking with his low companions."
     Years later this version was confirmed by the follow-
ing from the Monmouth Inquirer of Freehold under date of
19th December, 1832.
     "Mr. Freneau was in the village and started, toward
evening, to go home, a distance of about two miles.  In
attempting to cut across a bog meadow he appears to have
got lost and mired in where his corpse was discovered
yesterday morning in a ditch."

     Sic transit glorius mundi.

                                   J.W.S.  3/15/(19)71

NICHOLAS MORGAN DISBROW Nicholas Morgan Disbrow was born at Matchaponix, October 8th, 1782. I know as little of his early life as I do of all his predecessors although my grandmother, Louisa Lane Disbrow remembered him as he was in his last years and we do get a picture of him when he visited his son Dr. Stephen from his niece Phoebe; they were both much impressed by him and thought of him as a personage. Oth- ers so speak of him and the picture facing this page does nothing to gainsay this impression. In this charcoal drawing, the only picture I have seen, it is obvious that he got impatient with his flowing bow tie and gave it a hard jerk, thus ruining the fit of his collar for all posterity through the ages to see, the collar which old black Candas had so carefully ironed, no doubt. I'll bet Nicholas heard from Mary about that collar for years afterward - and I, of course, can't blame her. But his fame rests not upon himself alone; it would appear that at least some small part of this glory is from the reflected light of his brilliant marriage to Mary, the daughter of a certain Cornelius P. Van DerHoef and Phoebe Hunn (she was the sister of the Major Hunn who was cashiered from the Continental Army for certain goings on unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman). The old Van Derhoef mansion still stands in Freehold on the delta formed by the intersection of Broadway and the Colt's Neck Road, although this relic has today so far slip- ped from grace as to be little more than a public drink- ing place known as the Elks Club. In any event the Van Derhoefs did not consider the marriage a step up for Mary; and Phoebe Disbrow, only surviving grandchild of Nicholas said, in 1945, that Mary was not above reminding him of it. "But then, she went on when Nicholas would say - `We Disbrows never were much account,' Mary would break in indignantly - `Why Fa- 65b
NICHOLAS MORGAN DISBROW ther, stop talking that way - you know the Disbrows are a very fine family.'" Be all this as it may, his early life is shrouded in the same annoying fog that has drifted in so thickly about his ancestors. Family legend has it that he was the first official Post Master of Middletown Point. Then too, since the eldest son Stephen was born in Brooklyn in 1812, it follows that some of his early manhood was spent there af- ter his marriage to Mary; just how long is uncertain ex- cept that they returned to Middletown Point when Stephen was still a young boy, probably shortly after the Thorne incident. After his return from the great city (although, come to think of it, Brooklyn was little more than a big vil- lage then) we know he was master of a sloop which may, in the early days have been the Thorne of black market memo- ry. In one of his letters he speaks of moving to Brook- lyn as though it would be no violent uprooting or novel- ty. And, when Mary says in 1848 - "Farther has got his house paid for once more," it certainly gives us a hint that the first sixty years of his life had been no un- broken climb to ease and affluence. The rest of the par- agraph further suggests that he was, at that advanced age, actively engaged in the building business. By the time of Mary's last letter in '48, he was the proprietor of a stage-coach line and was obviously, from what she says, driving one of the coaches himself. Moth- er remembers these ancient vehicles in which she remem- bers playing house as they lay stored, dusty and negelect- ed, in a shed back of the shop which Kitt later mentions in her letter. They were gaudily painted like circus wagons with stirring scenes whose subjects now escape her, splendid to the child's eye in vivid color in the central panel on each side. She says these stages plied between 66
NICHOLAS MORGAN DISBROW Middletown Point and Keyport. These magnificent equipages were drawn by six horses - no wonder Mary wanted a man to "help Farther with the work." Let not these references to letters and strange names confuse you. You will find them all at the back of this volume in the Dr. Stephen Disbrow Appendix. Read them. They will bring back to life momentarily all these people dead so long ago. They were a big family, even for those days, for the marriage of Nicholas and Mary was blessed with eleven children, nine of whom survived to adulthood. Dr. Stephen Morgan Andrew Jackson John Nicholas Peter C. Edwin Clarence William Wallace Mary Delia Ann Catherine ("Kitt") Many of these names, people like you and I, speak for themselves in these revealing letters to their older brother Stephen. And it is here that she whom you child- ren have always known as "Ma" first comes into the pict- ure. My mother remembers all these names as living per- sons; through her the gap is bridged between people born over a century ago, people who knew these veterans of the Revolution, and ourselves. These were her grand-aunts and uncles, very real individuals to her. Not long ago another bridge appeared, quite startling- ly and unexpectedly, an almost unbelievable coincidence. In the Asbury Park Press of October 24th 1955 was a small item which said, in part - "Capt. Nicholas Morgan Disbrow Conover of English- town will celebrate his 100th birthday tomorrow. A retired sea-captain and descendent of the Van Coenhoven family who were among the original settlers of 67
NICHOLAS MORGAN DISBROW Monmouth County, Capt. Conover was born October 5th 1855 .... He went to sea when 16. He is believed to be the youngest ever to obtain a pilot's license in Perth Amboy. His first ship was the George Washington, a tiller ship." Eloise Disbrow wrote to her daughter, a Mrs. Pettie, part of whose reply is of direct interest - "Nicholas Morgan Disbrow and Mary Vanderhoef had 11 children. The two oldest were Mary Vanderhoef and Ste- phen Morgan. Mary married John Denyse, a Justice of the Peace of Matawan, and had 6 children. Thamiroo, the old- est of these, married Garret William Conover and had 5 children, all boys. The second oldest is my father, Nich- olas Morgan Disbrow Conover." Actually you will see, if you glance at the map op- posite, that the Conovers lived on Church Street just a- round the corner from N.M. Disbrow on Wycoff. What an odd coincidence that I should have found, only a few days before the item appeared in the Press, this map of Middle- town Point (shortly to become Matawan), a map dated 1855 the very year of the boy's birth. So, in his still living namesake, young Lt. Nich Mor- gan in his blue regimentals with their red facings still lingers on after nearly 200 years. I wonder is anyone else who read that item saw Susanna's kid brother standing straight and slim, his hair clubbed back in a queue, his sword and his golden epaulettes, there in the shadows be- hind this old, old man. We get glimpses of how things were with Nicholas and Mary from letters to Stephen in the 30's and 40's - Dr. S.M. Disbrow M.T.point Dr Sir: Sunday Morning July 30 1837. I send by Charles to you a boy by the name of Jas. Robison. He is a frend's boy; his parents is dead. He has been to Jackson & Wm. W. D. And has been on board of 68
NICHOLAS MORGAN DISBROW the boat With Wm. They don't want him & I have Sent him down to you. I Think he will suit you; at Any Rate Take & Try him & if he suits, you Can have him Bound, He is one of those york (New York) Lads & you Will have to be Strict With him & make him mind. Dont Allow him To Stroll about among the Neighbors & if he Dont mind Cor- rect him once & that Will Settle it. If you Dont Want him, send him back. We are all Middling well & Will Come & see you As Soon As possible, I am now busy in my hay & every Day Counts in my affairs you must all Come & se us As soon As you Can, in haste N.M. Disbrow. M.T.point Doctr. S.M. Disbrow May 3: 1842. Dr. Sir: Wm., Delia Ann, & Catherine Calls to make you a Short Visit & I wish you to Let me have that fiery Nag of yours to Drive against the Iron Grey. The 2 old Horses I am going to turn out on the Roundabout on Black Grass. Of course will Not have but 1 horse to use. If you can Anyhow Spare your horse, send him Down by Wm. & I will take good care of him & if he suits I will buy him or Trade him for you, agreeable to your direction, if it's your Request. I dont expect to Use the old horses Any more. As soon as I get them in order I am going to part with them & must buy if I can get one At a fare price. If Judge Little is home, I want to get some pre- empts agreeable to the list Wm. has got. If he is Not home I Want you to get some other Magestrate in your Neighborhood to grant them & send them up by Wm. Yours in haste N.M. Disbrow. Poor Doc Steve; he must have found his father a bit of a handful at times. Mary's letters were very differ- ent. But there is till one more of N.M.'s to come Doctr. S.M.Disbrow M.T.point Near the Howell Works Monday Monmouth County April 21, '45 New Jersey 69
NICHOLAS MORGAN DISBROW Dear Sir Since I Rec'd yours I have seen Arrosmith several Times & Conversed with him frankly on the Subject & have seen his farther and talked with him. They talked favor- able. But my own Opinion is, I think they will Not take hold but that Reg. may - he is getting a little practice in Keyport which encourages him. Your Mother and Delia Ann has returned from N. York & I spent a Week there. All well As Usual. Times tolerable Fare & No Reason to Complain. You will know your own Business best of Course. I dont pretend to Advise but, if I was a going to Advise, I think you had Better Take Up with the offer as I under- stand it from Mrs. Lefferts. One thing more. I remain in my Little Cottage til next Spring & then in all probability may Move, if living, to Brooklyn. Nothing more in particular on File. If you cant come & see us, Let us know about Matters & Things etc. Yours, with Respects & Sentiments to Family etc. N.M. Disbrow Mary, as I said before, writes in a very different vein. Doctr. S.M.Disbrow Middletown Point Squancum February the 27 1848 Near Howell Works My dear Son I have been anxiously expecting a letter from you concerning Annah as I want to come and make a visit before Farther begins building and repairing, for then I dont expect to get from home all summer. I have not been from home but once since last fall when I came from New York where I went to take leave of your aunt Eliza whom I never expect to see again; and I had scarcely got over that when I had to see Brother Sam consigned to the grave. So you see there is nothing for us to toil for, there seems to be a gloom hanging over me. Why it is, I dont know for Farther has got our house paid for once more so I hope now to live and die here. Delia and Charles (Fardon) have been home all winter. They are going to housekeeping I expect in April. She has been the last week making a visit to his Farther. I expect she will be home tomorrow. Kitt and me have had a hard time this winter, for old Can- das has been lame with her foot she scalded last August when I was from home and she puttered with it and now it 70
NICHOLAS MORGAN DISBROW looks like a fever sore & I dont think it will ever get well. So I shall come and see you as soon as I hear from you if the roads are not too bad when the moonlight nights come. I have not seen Jackson since last New Years Day. How is it that as I grow older my children comes so sel- dom to see me? When, of course, I am near being parted from them forever. John's wife has a young son. They call it after William. I believe I have wrote all the news that I can com- mit to paper but I have much to say when I see you - which I hope will be before long now. Give my love to Annah and tell her to make haste and get smart as I want to see her very much. Give my love to the girls. Tell them when I do come I hope to see two nice girls doing all they can to help their mother. It is getting dark, so I must finish. With love to all, this from your affectionate mother. Mary Disbrow. Doctor S.M. Disbrow, Near the Gravel Work, Middletown Point Squancum. August the 24th, 1848. Dear Son: I have waited in vain to get a letter from you. I have been in hopes that you would come down to see the Odd Fellows and then I could talk to you a little about getting me a little girl to bring up as Candas is now so infirm and I am not able to do all the errants and little chores about the house such as ssetting tables and many other services. I wish you would look around and get me one 9 or 10 years old - you know what will suit me. You must tell Annah I thought she would have wrote to me before now. If she would get in the way of writ- ing, shw would not feel so lonely when you are away. Kitt has gone to Jackson's to make a visit. Jackson was here yesterday. I wish you would take a ride down to see us as it would cheer us up in our old days to see our children. Come and see us some time. Delia has come down here to- day to help me iron. She is well; all the family around me are well, that us, my children's. I am in a hurry as Father is in a hurry to start. Dont fail to look for me a girl. I will do well by her 71
NICHOLAS MORGAN DISBROW in every way. Father has come and I must finish. With my love to Annah and the girls and the same to yourself this from your Mother Mary Disbrow. Doctr. Disbrow Middletown Point Near the Howell Works, October 14 1851 Monmouth, N.J. My Dear Son: I take my pen to ask after Annah but I hope by this time she is quite well as Delia says she thought she was better when she left there. I wish you would write and let us know how she is and when she thinks to go to the Citty so that we can fix our concerns here a- bout Delia coming to keep house, for Kitt has started for New York today and I dont want to be cleaning house when you want her to come there; so lett me know as near the time as you can. Write this week for, if she is not able to go next week, I should like to clean house before it gets very cold. And now Farther wants me to say to you he should like you to get some old man such as you have to help him this winter to take care of his horses and cut wood and make the fires as he wants to keep Clarence to school this winter as he has a good chance for him in the spring so if you can get him an old man for the wages you give, send him down immediately as help is scarce here and Farther has it hard to go out with the Stage and when he comes home, wet and cold, to have to take care of the horses for the boys both go away in the morn and it is so far they dont come back untill night so if you can get one for him do so and send him down. I will be willing to wash and mend for him if I can see that farther has not to work so hard. I am in a hurry give my love to Annah and recieve the same yourself from your affectionate mother Mary Disbrow. Our Nicholas was 69 when Mary wrote this letter; act- ually he had thirteen years left in which to struggle on. Doctor Stephen's daughter Phoebe knew him in his last days, but that was long ago; she was in her nineties when I talked to her and she too is gone now. She said she re- 72
NICHOLAS MORGAN DISBROW membered only two things about the old man. She recalls him standing before the fire-place in her father's house, warming first his hands and then his back. Perhaps it was just after one of those long drives down from Middle- town Point to Squankum to which Mary referred so beauti- fully - "So I shall come and see you...if the roads are not too bad when moonlight nights come." Another picture she gives us is - "he was sitting in a chair holding his cane. The children evidently were making too much noise and he pounded his cane on the floor for silence. We scuttled out of the room" so Eloise relayed it to me. She remembers Mary's funeral better. "Kitt fainted during the services and one of her nieces callously remarked - `Oh, she does that all the time.'" Old Nicholas died the 22nd February 1864, aged 81 years, 4 months, and 14 days, and Mary followed him on August 17th of that same year. They are buried in the old Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, now overgrown with years of neglect. And there, with her family, lies old black Candas too (Well-done, thou good and faithful servant!) with an impressive red stone obelisk to mark the Disbrow plot. Let us now pass on to his third son, our immediate ancestor John Nicholas Disbrow 73

[Genealogy Home Page] [Contents Page] [Next Chapter] [Top of page]
Last updated September 14, 1995.

Todd L. Sherman (genealogy at alachuaskywarn dot org)
© Copyright 1995/1996/1997 by Todd L. Sherman. All Rights Reserved.