The Traphagen Family – Jersey Dutch Settlers – 1740s

The property that was to belong to The Hermitage was on the southwestern edge of the Ramapo Tract.  The first settlers in the general area of The Hermitage were the Hopper, Bogert, Ackerman, Oldes and Terhune families of Dutch ancestry.  A small settlement would be called Hopperstown (Ho-Ho-Kus).  Just to its south, the Paramus Dutch Reform Church was built in 1735.  There was a rudimentary road that had previously been a Native American path that ran from Hackensack through Paramus and Hopperstown north to the Clove above Suffern through which ran the Ramapo River.

The first individual owner of record of The Hermitage property was Johannes Traphagen. There is not concise documentation on when he first settled there. The first mention of his name is found in a 1743 report to the Proprietor’s by its surveyor John Forman when he wrote about land located between Hopper’s and “John Traphangle’s mill.” In 1744 Forman wrote that John Traphangle had 100 acres near Hopper and Oldes. In the following year the Proprietor’s records have Johannes Traphagen and his heirs as owning 102.79 acres.

Traphagen was born in Esopus, New York, one of ten children. His family, in all probability, was descended from settlers in New Amsterdam. He married Marrieti Laroe in Paramus in 1734. She was born in Rempoch (Ramapo) and baptized in 1719 in the Hackensack Dutch Reformed Church. Her father was Henry Laroe (1685-app1766) and her mother was Marrieti Smidt who was from Tappan. The Laroes were French Huguenots. The origins of the Traphagens is unknown. They may have been of French Huguenot or Dutch ancestry.

Johannes and Marrieti, as the first settlers on the what would become The Hermitage property, faced the challenges of being pioneers that needed to fashion a home and a supporting farm out of the forest wilderness that they had acquired. They needed to engage in the strenuous work of felling trees in order to have materials to build a shelter and for fuel for cooking and heating. They had to clear land of trees and rocks so they could engage in farming for their food supply. Afterwards, additional crops allowed for some trade so they could acquire nails, tools and other things that they could not make themselves. Before the land produced, and even afterward, food was also obtained by hunting, fishing and gathering. There were still a few Native Americans in the area as well as the forces of nature with which they had to contend. In 1757, there was a major flood in the area. But the Traphagens did succeed in building a home, a producing farm and a family. They altered the environment and began to establish for the area a new type of social and economic life.

Before 1760 Johannes Traphagen’s eldest son Henry had married Claaritje Hopper at the Paramus Church. She was the daughter of Jan Hopper and Rachel Terhune of Hopperstown. When Johannes died in 1760, Henry petitioned the Proprietors for his half share of his father’s 100 acres with the other half to go to the other children of Johannes.

The Lane Family – English lawyer and Land Speculator – 1760

However, one, Henry Lane, also claimed what would become The Hermitage acres. He was an attorney and an agent for the West Jersey Society. He may have been related to Thomas Lane, one of the members of the Committee of the West Jersey Society. Thomas’s grandfather was Sir Thomas Lane, Knight and Alderman of London. Henry Lane appears to have been an affluent land developer and had a house in New York City. Around 1760 he acquired the property of Johannes Traphagen. Lane apparently purchased the land from an intermediary who it was claimed had purchased it from Traphagen. In all these dealing there were disputed title claims.

The Lane’s Build a New House that Would later Be called The Hermitage – 1760

Henry Lane and his wife Elizabeth quickly improved their 105 acre Bergen County property with a new stone dwelling house in addition to a small barn, a gristmill, a sawmill, a young orchard, and cleared arable land. It is not known if the Lane’s built an entirely new house and made the Traphagen residence an outbuilding or if they incorporated that former house into the new home. It is believed that the new Lane house is the one which will become, within the next decade, The Hermitage. The Lanes brought a new ethnic and social dimension to the Hopperstown area. They were a family of English background amongst primarily Jersey Dutch neighbors and they brought a more well-to-do, professional way of life into a farming community not long removed from frontier conditions.

According to the records of the Paramus Reformed Church, the Lanes had their son William Henry baptized there on August 1, 1762. They also had a daughter Greesle Lena. The records also show that Henry Lane made out his will on December 27, 1762, apparently a death-bed will. It was proved on January 29, 1763. By February, his wife had decided to put up for sale both the Bergen County and the New York City properties. Elizabeth Lane, Executrix, placed a for sale advertisement in the February 28, 1763 issue of The New York Gazett:

A choice Plantation at Ancocus Brook, (or a Place called Peramos) in the county of Bergen, and Eastern Division of the Province of New Jersey; containing about 105 acres of good arable land, part of which is cleared, the remainder well wooded; there is on the same a good new Stone Dwelling House 40 foot front, and 23 foot back, the front is all of hewn stone, a Cellar under the Whole, and a Well of good Water before the Door; the Walls are near two Foot thick, and good Sash Windows to the House; there is also a good Kitchen 23 Foot one Way, and 20 Foot the other Way, and a good Fire-place therein; The House contains four Fire-places and is two Story high, is pleasantly situated between two Main Roads, and has an entry through the House into the Kitchen, all very beautifully contrived: There is also on the said Tract a small Barn, a good Gristmill, and a good Sawmill, all in good Order, and has not wanted for Water in the driest times; there is likewise a thriving young Orchard on the same, >tis as publick and pleasant a Place as is in the Country fit for Merchant’s business, a Tavern, or any other business. Also a Dwelling House and Lot of Ground in the City of New York…Any Person inclined to Purchase the Whole or either of the said Premises or to hire the same, may apply to Elizabeth Lane, at the House of Mr. William Rousby, near the Oswego Market, and agree upon reasonable Terms. An indisputable title will be given.

The Proprietors warned people not to buy the land so advertised, because they still held title to it. Nevertheless, Elizabeth Lane again advertised the property in 1766.