The name of Rycklaver Farm seems to have originated from the name of the first owners, named Ryke, and their chief crop, which was clover. In the 1940’s a hunting dog on the farm was named Ryke; he disappeared without a trace one night, but some say they can still hear him howling in the nearby woods at night.
The greatest number of people who immigrated to America in the 1600’s were Dutch, finding places to live in New Amsterdam (New York) and along the coast. As their numbers grew, they moved inland, especially into what is now New Jersey. The first ownership documents which have survived noted that Joorst Scaamp sold the land now known as Rycklaver Farm to Ryke Suydam in 1728. It consisted of 158 acres, at a price of 403 pounds, 16 schillings, six pence. Additional acreage was added in 1730 to make a total of approximately 170 acres. The size of the farm was thereafter unchanged until after 1951, when several small parcels were sold.
The earliest home on Rycklaver Farm is now in ruins, located next to a spring, just South of the barn. It probably served as the family’s home through the 1700’s, but during the 1800’s the Main House was gradually developed and can be seen today. The nearby Carriage House and windmill were built in approximately 1910. Horses, sleighs, tractors and even a Stanley Steamer car were kept in the Carriage House at various times. The windmill powered a pump to bring up all the water needed for the farm. Time and wind have damaged the windmill, but there are plans to improve it.
The owner during much of the 1800’s was Peter A. Voorhees. He was well known in the community and in the Six-Mile Run Dutch Reform Church, and also served as the Sheriff (mayor) for the area. During that time the major crops on Rycklaver Farm consisted primarily of hay and an apple orchard. From the early 1930’s until 1951, when it was owned by Boyd Fullerton, the focus of the farm was on its dairy activities, and a herd of prize-winning Guernsey cows became a major producer of milk and cream, especially during the war years of WWII. In more recent years the farm has mainly produced hay and corn.
Trucks and tractors came into use early in the 1900’s, but during World War II gas rationing limited their use, and horses were used for planting, cutting and raking. The horses earned their names: One was white and one was black and they were named Lightening and Dynamite.
The crops and the people of Rycklaver Farm have been a reflection of the changing face of America over the past several hundred years. Native American Indians are known to have used nearby trails to trade with other tribes, followed over the years by the Dutch and then by others who lived and worked in the area. George Washington and his army moved through this area on several occasions during the Revolutionary War.
Hay was harvested by hand in America from the earliest days of its settlement until gasoline motors and machines became available in the 1900’s. Boyd Fullerton and his neighbors on the Suydam farm in 1940 were the first in the area to use a machine which cut, raked and bailed the hay in one operation, called a Combine. They also worked closely with Rutgers College, which has had a strong agricultural science commitment since its inception.
The farm remained in the hands of the family for more than 200 years, from 1728 until 1951. At the present time it continues to operate as a farm under the terms of the NJ Preserved Farmland program.
We hope that you have enjoyed this short history of Rycklaver Farm which has been home to so many people and has seen so much history over the past several hundred years.
Peter Van Doren Barrett, MD