|CAMPBELL-CHRISTIE HOUSE |
Researched and Written by Kevin Wright
Behind the house, BCHS has recreated an out-kitchen with bake oven and open hearth cooking.
Willem Campbell, an Irish immigrant, married Elizabeth De Marest of Schraalenburgh in July 1736. They resided on 33 acres of improved land near the Old Bridge in Hackensack Township (their dwelling standing northeast of the intersection of Henley Avenue and River Road in New Milford), providing for a family of six sons and three daughters: David, Thomas, Christopher, James, Samuel, Jacob, Jenny (Demarest), Nancy (Westervelt) and Elizabeth (Westervelt). The Campbell-Christie House was built by Jacob Campbell, a mason, about the time of his marriage to Altche Westervelt in April 1774. In 1776, their sons David, Jacob, John and Samuel Campbell were listed as privates in Bergen Militia. Damages suffered by William Campbell from 1776 to September 1778 were appraised at the substantial sum of £400..9s.1d. Jacob Campbell was first listed in the List of Ratables for Hackensack Township in February 1780 as owner of three acres whereon he kept a tavern. William Campbell died in October 1793 and, to fulfill the terms of his last will and testament, Jacob sold out his property lying near Old Bridge the following spring. He sold the tavern-house and lot on the south side of the road to Abraham Brower in May 1794. At that time, the former residence of William Campbell, bounded west and south by the public roads, was sold to Doctor Beekman Van Buren.
The List of Ratables for July/August 1794 indicates that the House & Lott formerly belonging to Jacob Campbell was then occupied by John Brower, Jr., a blacksmith who operated a shop near this tavern stand at the intersection of the roads leading to Schraalenburgh Church and to New Bridge.
John Christie and Helena Banta, both of Schraalenburgh, were married at the Schraalenburgh Reformed Church on January 28, 1791. On March 11, 1795, Abraham Brower, of Hackensack Precinct, and his wife, Mariah, sold the six-acre lot at the intersection of River Road and the road leading to Schraalenburgh Church (now Henley Avenue) to John Cristea, Blacksmith, of New Barbadoes Precinct for £250. The sale included "all and singular the premises (blacksmith shop excepted)." John Christie operated both the tavern and blacksmith shop at this busy crossroads, for a road survey, dated November 14, 1796, mentions "the Tavern of John Christie" at this location.
John D. Christie's son Samuel married Elizabeth Vervalen at North Schraalenburgh Church on April 2, 1812. Daughter Sophia married David Van Horn at North Schraalenburgh Church on March 30, 1816. Daughter Effie Christie mar Color ried Albert Romeyn at North Schraalenburgh Church on March 27, 1817. Christina Christie of Schraalenburgh married Henry Demarest of New York at Tappan on February 16, 1828.
By his last will and testament, probated August 1, 1836, John D. Christie provided his widow "as much house room and privileges as she may want in and about my present premises where I now live and also $150 out of my personal estate." He bequeathed "all of my lot of land together with the Improvements thereon whereon I now live lying on the east side of the road containing about twelve acres always excepting the privileges herein before granted unto my beloved wife Lena" to his son John.
The Homestead farm of John J. Christie, deceased, encompassing 25 acres at River Edge, was offered at public sale on January 14, 1891, by his executors: Samuel Christie of New York, Jacob B. Christie of River Edge and Daniel J. Christie of New York. It was only five minutes' walk from the railroad station and about two and a half miles above Hackensack. The Christie farm included 500-feet river frontage with deep water and 1,600-feet frontage on the road and therefore was suitable for business purposes. The house was "of antique design, built of stone," situated on the corner of two public roads with a fine view of the river and countryside.
Jacob Brinkerhoff Christie married Elizabeth Van Houten, both of Old Bridge, on February 5, 1861. He was manager of the Comfort Coal & Lumber Company. Their children were Aletta, born July 6, 1862; John Walter, born May 6, 1865, George, born June 29, 1866; Alice M., born September 5, 1872; and Carlton Howard, born February 9, 1876. Jacob Brinkerhoff Christie died at Ridgefield Park on March 11, 1911.
J. Walter Christie, born in the house on May 6, 1865, achieved fame as a mechanical genius and inventor. (NOTE: The house was originally located in New Milford, NJ, it was moved to River Edge, NJ, about 1.2 miles to the south in 1977 onto BCHS land, when threatened with demolition) At sixteen years of age, he worked on pioneer submarines and developed turret tracks and gun mounts for battleships. In May 1904, he entered a car, built himself, into a race in Germany, boasting that he could reach speeds upwards of 90 miles per hour. In August 1905, he equalled the world’s record for gasoline cars on a circular track at Morris Park, doing a mile in 51.15 seconds. As measured by the same timekeepers, he also went a mile in 49 seconds, driving his car only in the stretches and coasting around the turns. He held the American speed record for cars on a straightaway and hoped to challenge the world record. He raced in the Vanderbilt Cup 1906 race, see link here for video of race. His racing career ended on September 9, 1907, when he was nearly killed in ta car crash at Pittsburgh, while travelling 70 miles per hour. He was hospitalized with a broken wrist, a sprained back, a lacerated head and abdomenal injuries.
During his three years on the speedway, J. Walter Christie built and raced cars against Louis Chevrolet, Henry Ford and Barney Oldfield. He beat Oldfield in a fifty-mile race and held the world speed record. He went on to invent automotive front-wheel drive, many units of which were produced in 1913 and 1914 for fire trucks. He is best known as the “father of the modern tank,” having developed the design in 1930 for high-speed tanks that moved optionally on wheels or track. J. Walter Christie died at Falls Church, Virginia, on January 11, 1944.
For more history and photos, see this link.