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The Gilbert Hatfield House: An Obituary

July 4, 2017

2017-07-04 17.03.01 copy

July 4, 2017
Independence Day

 

On Tuesday morning, July 3, 2017, the historic Gilbert Hatfield House at 1649 Hall Avenue in North Castle burnt to the ground. Built sometime before 1774, the house had stood at its present location for almost 250 years, predating the American Revolution we are celebrating today. It was one of the oldest homes in White Plains, and though it had been neglected, its destruction is a loss for our community. I feel a sense of obligation to remember this house and its part in our local history. It was the home of patriot Presbyterians and played a role in the Battle of White Plains.

[Correction: the fire occurred in the midst of my research on the Hatfield House. It seems the real Hatfield House was destroyed not by neglect or suspicious fire but by a real estate developer in 2012. While the family history and history of the house recounted here are sound, please see my next post, “Mistakes and Legacy” for the final images of the actual house.]

Who Was Gilbert Hatfield?
Gilbert Hatfield and his brother Captain Abraham Hatfield were of the third generation of Hatfields born in the British Colony of New York. The family begins with their great-grandfather, Thomas Sr., who had been an English separatist who sailed to Leiden, Holland with other pilgrims, many of whom later made their way to Plymouth Plantation on the Mayflower. Their grandfather, also Thomas, was the first Hatfield to come to New York some time later as a soldier with the Dutch East Indies Company. He became an original landowner in Mamaroneck. Gilbert and Abraham’s father, yet another Thomas, was born in Mamaroneck in 1685.

This third Thomas purchased a farm from his brother (Peter) in 1716 and moved to White Plains where he married Eunice Knapp, a Presbyterian. Together they had three sons: Abraham (b. 1720), Gilbert (b. 1721) and Joshua (b. 1722).

The first son, Abraham, became a Captain in the Westchester Militia in 1758, fighting in the French-Indian War. He remained a civic leader (and probably Captain of the Militia) the rest of his life. On the eve of the Revolution Abraham served as Justice of the Peace and ran a Tory Inn and Tavern on S. Broadway.

The second son, Gilbert, was a farmer and in 1750 owned an estate of 150 acres that had been part of the original purchase. This property included all of what today is Delfino Park (south of Lake Street) and Hatfield Hill (north of Lake Street and east of 287). It was bounded to the north by Hall Avenue up to Mucklestone Rock, and from there straight down to St. Mary’s Lake (now Silver Lake) following roughly the path of the White Plains Heritage Trail.

Of the third son, Joshua, we know little but that he was an executor of Abraham’s will. None of these brothers survived to see the Revolution.

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 9.26.34 PM

Gilbert’s Property ran from Flat Meadow Brook (now 287)
to Mucklestone Rock, and from Lake Street to Hall Avenue

The House on Hatfield Hill: Witness to a Revolution
Gilbert and his wife Tamar Brondage had four sons and eight daughters. When Gilbert died in 1775 he left the property on Hatfield Hill to his son Daniel. Daniel and his younger brother Joshua were both fierce patriots, serving as Privates during the Revolutionary War in the First Regiment, Westchester County. Both were laid to rest in the Burial Ground of the White Plains Presbyterian Church.

Daniel, in turn, left a farm of fifty acres to his youngest son, Gilbert, “on the hills, some distance from Lake Steet.”  This included the family home on Hall Avenue. We cannot be sure when the house was built, but certainly by 1774 because it was the only house on the hill during the Revolutionary War. General William Heath stationed his Continentals on Gilbert’s property and used this home as headquarters and outpost during the skirmished there on Nov. 1, 1776, during the Battle of White Plains. It is said that the soldiers helped Daniel hull his corn, which was used to make breastworks for the Americans.

About 400 feet behind and to the north of the house is Mucklestone Rock, a outcropping of granite ledge named as a landmark in early maps of White Plains (see above). Hall Avenue used to pass above, rather than below, the rock. When approached from that side it appeared to be a flat part of the hillside, but it breaks off suddenly with a sheer perpendicular drop nearly fifty feet to a dark glen below. It is said that during the Revolution Captain Tilton, a British officer, being pursued by American soldiers and unaware of the abrupt ending of the rocky platform, plunged off the cliff into the ravine below and was killed. Because of the Captains’ tragic fate, Mucklestone was sometimes called “Tilton’s Rock.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 9.56.50 PM

In 1928, Daniel’s granddaughter, Anna Jane Fisher Hall, was still living and could recall fond memories of the home. (And the reason the old road is called Hall Avenue?). In 1937 John Rosch, a local historian, published the above photograph of the house with the following description:

Hatfield Hill, west of St. Mary’s Lake (Silver Lake) is sufficiently high to permit a view of Long Island Sound on a clear day; and by night, the illumination of the empire State Building, in New York City, is visible. On this hill, to the north, was located the home of Gilbert Hatfield, in the year 1776. He was the owner of the entire are. This old house still stands on the original spot, amid rural surroundings, although now know as Klugg Farm.

The hand of progress has not quite reached this quiet and secluded spot. The Hill itself, up to the split-ail gateway of the Klugg Farm, has been subdivided into building lots, with fine roads and beautiful residences, all evidence of the period of 1776 gradually but surly disappearing. This ancient homestead was, to the writer’s recollection, the only house on the top of the hill during the late [eighteen] seventies and early eighties.

0473-008nd - Copy

This color photo, undated, was taken by White Plains archivist Renoda Hoffman. And then, just a year before the Nation’s Bicentennial in 1776, Renoda returned and took these next two photos. Note the fire damage.

0473-007-1975sept edit

0473-009-1975sept copy

I had been researching the Gilbert Hatfield House for about a month before it was destroyed. When I started researching the Gilbert Hatfield House, it had been neglected for a long time. A friend told me that during the 1980s it “was used by a young lad who had a fish smoking business there.” The Assistant Fire Chief who responded to the fire said it had been bandoned a long time and boarded up because it was had been used as a party house. I barely recognized it when I first saw it, and refused for a while t believe it was the same house as in the photos above. A realtor’s website listed it as “suitable for destruction upon purchase and unlivable due to water damage.” Well, now it is destroyed.

2017-07-03 11.32.57

still smoking, hours after the early morning blaze

2017-07-04 10.15.25

what appears to be fieldstone foundations for the original two rooms

2017-07-04 10.29.47

I’m not an architectural historian. Could these steps have been laid by Gilbert himself?

A Word of Thanks

I was greatly aided in my research by White Plains Archivist Elaine Massena and City Clerk Anne McPherson. I now have quite an archive of notes, papers, books and maps that piece together the story of the Hatfields of White Plains and of this particular property. See especially The Hatfields of Westchester: a genealogy of the descendants of Thomas Hatfield of New Amsterdam and Mamaroneck, whose sons settled in White Plains, Westchester County, New York (New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1935), by Abraham Hatfield, as well as Volume 49 of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, both available on the Internet Archive

2017-07-04 17.06.08

Daniel Hatfield, perhaps the longest occupant of the property
buried with his brother in the Presbyterian Burying Ground.

The headstone at the top of this post is that of Daniel’s son, Gilbert.
I do not know where Daniel’s father, Gilbert, is buried.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Donna Heyner permalink
    July 4, 2017 9:37 pm

    Gilbert Hatfield
    Birth: 1782
    Death: Jun. 10, 1845

    Burial:
    First Presbyterian Church Cemetery
    White Plains
    Westchester County
    New York, USA
    Plot: Section A

    Edit Virtual Cemetery info [?]

    Created by: DC
    Record added: Oct 19, 2014
    Find A Grave Memorial# 137457815

    • July 5, 2017 12:23 am

      This is the son of Daniel, whose stone appears at the top of my post.

  2. Donna Heyner permalink
    July 4, 2017 9:38 pm

    Gilbert Hatfield
    Birth: Mar. 26, 1746
    White Plains
    Westchester County
    New York, USA
    Death: Dec. 24, 1852
    Westchester County
    New York, USA

    From the Biographical History of Westchester County, he and his wife had four children, Tamna Ann, Arthur, John and Martha A. Burial records indicate that Arthur is buried in Sparta but no dates are recorded.

    Family links:
    Spouse:
    Martha Williams Hatfield (1776 – 1849)

    Children:
    Martha A Hatfield Tompkins (____ – 1855)*
    Hannah Hatfield (1806 – 1826)*
    Arthur Hatfield (1814 – 1885)*

    *Calculated relationship

    Inscription:
    Age 76 yrs 9 mos

    Burial:
    Sparta Cemetery
    Ossining
    Westchester County
    New York, USA

    Edit Virtual Cemetery info [?]

    Created by: Jeanne Sutherland
    Record added: Feb 07, 2015
    Find A Grave Memorial# 142309521

  3. Donna Heyner permalink
    July 4, 2017 9:39 pm

    Gilbert Hatfield
    Birth: Jan. 21, 1746
    Death: Oct. 6, 1829

    Family links:
    Parents:
    Abraham Hatfield (1720 – 1775)

    Spouses:
    Levina Purdy Hatfield (1765 – 1848)
    Anna Hart Hatfield (1749 – 1808)*

    Children:
    John Hatfield (1762 – 1843)*

    Sibling:
    Gilbert Hatfield (1746 – 1829)
    Joseph Hatfield (1766 – 1837)*

    *Calculated relationship

    Note: Originally buried in the Hatfield burial ground, South Broadway, White Plains. Reinterred 1963.

    Burial:
    White Plains Rural Cemetery
    White Plains
    Westchester County
    New York, USA

    Edit Virtual Cemetery info [?]

    Created by: Robert Hoch
    Record added: Jul 07, 2015
    Find A Grave Memorial# 148805594

    • July 5, 2017 12:22 am

      Hi Donna. Thanks for the info. From my notes:

      Gilbert Hatfield (son of Thomas) mortgaged a parcel of land to his brother Abraham in 1749, and in 1773 Abraham deeded these fifty acres “for love and affection” to his own oldest son, whom he liked to call Gilbert Jr.

      Gilbert Jr. was born January 1, 1746 and died on October 6, 1829 at the age of 84. He was a White Plains resident all his life. Gilbert married Anna Hart and lived with her in town near the corner of what is now Lexington and Maple. Together they had an infant son who did not survive. Gilbert served as Master of the Highways in 1776, and later as town assessor and Overseer of Highways. When his wife died in 1808, he married Lavinia Purdy. Gilbert was a vestryman in Christ’s Church, Rye, and a founding member of Grace Church when it was founded in 1826. The Episcopal Church in White Plains has always stood on Hatfield land. Gilbert and Anna, along with their infant son, were buried in the Old Grace Church Cemetery, now in White Plains Rural Cemetery.

      According The McDonald Papers, Gilbert was a celebrated wrestler and fighter. He was once set upon by four Hessians in a lonely place with the intent to rob him. Hatfield beat the four insensible. Gilbert fought as a patriot in the Battle of White Plains, defending Purdy Hill, it is said, with his sabre (which has been passed down through the family).

      This Gilbert is thus the nephew, and the uncle, of the Gilbert’s who were father and son of Daniel. Whew!

  4. Paul permalink
    July 5, 2017 12:33 pm

    Wonderful history but I don’t think the house at the intersection of Buckhout, Hall and the Road to Kensico (Herratige Trail) was the Hatfield house. I have lived down the street from that house for 45 years. We moved here in ’72. I remember the nice woman who lived there who painted the road warning signs when Hall was a very narrow stone lined passage. The subsequent owner made extensive modifications but even back then the house didn’t bear any resemblance to the color photos presented. Most notably, it never had a large stone porch. If you look at the surrounding geography in the photo background it doesn’t match either. The house that did match that description, and called the Hatfield House (rightly or wrongly) when we arrived in the neighborhood, was a house where 990 Hall would be if it were still there. The house was modified but closely resembled the photos — especially the stone porch. Nearby is a high hill where, in my youth from our roof you can still see a great distance south. In an era when there were few trees it would have been quite possible to see the sound. That house, by the way, was torn down by a developer about 4 years ago.

    BTW Not that the house isn’t historic. The previous owner boasted that it was an inn in the early 19th century which seems reasonable given its location at the intersection but I have no documentation other than folk stories.

    • July 5, 2017 2:42 pm

      Thank you Paul. Would you be willing to have me over and take a walk and show me around? Not all things add up with the house, but the nearby cliff was most telling for me.

  5. July 6, 2017 5:53 pm

    Great read and sad news to hear about the senseless destruction of another property in the area. I agree with Paul’s post above that the house on 1649 Hall Avenue and the Gilbert Hatfield house are not one in the same.

    As I’m unable to post photos within my reply here,

    photos of 1649 Hall Ave taken a few weeks ago can be seen here:
    https://www.facebook.com/BuckoutRD/

    and additional photographs of the property taken within the past year can be seen at http://www.BuckoutRoad.com.

    The house at 1649 Hall Ave and the geography of the landscape as Paul noted in no way shape or form resemble that of the Hatfield home which was down further on Hall Ave. Not sure how or why the White Plains archivist would make such a hasty error.

    • July 6, 2017 7:09 pm

      Thanks for this comment Erik. You are right; I was wrong in identifying 1649 at the Hatfield House. (And the error was mine, not the archivist’s. She got me the old photos). I had been looking for the house, or remains of the house, for about a month, piecing together clues from old maps, photos and narratives. While the footprint of the house didn’t square up, the four photos were all I had to go no, and the fire damage in the last ones allowed me to believe the house was simply hastily boarded up. Another misleading clue was Kluge Farm. In the 1890s, KLuff farm ran right up to 1649. By 1930, though, Klugg farm was much diminished and had moved down the road. The disappearance of Mucklestone Rock from local memory was the third issue for me).

      Paul and Mary have helped me identify where the Hatfield house really was, and I will be posting about that soon. The history of the family and date house stands, but it looks like the real Hatfield house was torn down about 2012. It still needed/needs an obituary.

      I was not really ready to write about this, or finished with my research, but the fire led me to put the post together and capture the moment.

      Do you have any idea, Erik, why 1649 was rumored to have been build in the 1770s? Tat doesn’t square with John Rosch’s comment that Hatfields was the only home on the hill in the 1880s.

      • July 6, 2017 9:00 pm

        Ah wish we connected sooner. On my site http://www.BuckoutRoad.com , under Photos, there’s a section of historic maps which show both the Hatfield property and Klug farm which you mentioned. Additionally Gilbert’s brother Abraham Hatfield, the militia captain, owned a house & inn on (what’s now) Maple Ave in White Plains. The Hatfield, Brundage, Purdy, and Buckhout families are all connected via marriage.

        Regarding the namesake of Hall Avenue, it was named after Aaron Hall whom owned approximately 100 acres of property in the area. It became “Hall Avenue” after his passing in 1929. He was married to Anna Fischer Hall.

        Regarding 1649 Hall Ave, as per the realtor’s listing, the house was constructed in 1774:
        https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1649-Hall-Ave-White-Plains-NY-10604/33070883_zpid/

      • July 6, 2017 9:15 pm

        Erik. Let’s connect now. And I want to check out your book. As I understand it, Anna Fischer Hall was the (great?) granddaughter of Daniel Hatfield. I’d love to share the other maps I found. Most confusing was having two different locations for Kluge Farm 40 years apart. I saw the same zillow listing, which also contributed to my confusion. I wonder if they have confused 1649 with the actual Hatfield House.

  6. July 6, 2017 5:58 pm

    Interesting article. I had searched for Gilbert’s house when researching my book but could not find it. I also found the 1649 Hall Ave house online but because the house was not in White Plains, I could not use Assessors Office to verify its date. I could not match the house with the pictures that were online and riding in that area, I could not see the house from road. I also tried online Google map as well but could not see house. I did find a website on Buckout Rd and the pictures shown of outside of house look very different from Hoffman’s. Eric Pleska has a website, FB page and book on Buckout Rd. He does not identify the house as Hatfields so I have left him a message.—– Did you see outside of house before it burned? Where did you get the pictures of burned down structure? How did you conclude that 1649 Hall Ave was Hatfield’s. I have been searching for the Chatterton House and some others that I left out of my book because I could not verify accurately or photograph.

    • July 6, 2017 7:13 pm

      Thanks for this comment Sandra. I’ve really enjoyed your book. I got it not long after moving to White Plains. You are right; I was wrong in identifying 1649 at the Hatfield House. I had been looking for the house, or remains of the house, for about a month, piecing together clues from old maps, photos and narratives. While the footprint of the house didn’t square up, the four photos were all I had to go on, and the fire damage in the last ones allowed me to believe the house was simply hastily boarded up. Another misleading clue was Kluge Farm. In the 1890s, Klugg farm ran right up to 1649. By 1930, though, Klugg farm was much diminished and had moved down the road. The disappearance of Mucklestone Rock from local memory was the third issue for me).

      Some other neighbors have helped me identify where the Hatfield house really was, and I will be posting about that soon. The history of the family and date house stands, but it looks like the real Hatfield house was torn down about 2012. It still needed/needs an obituary.

      I was not really ready to write about this, or finished with my research, but the fire led me to put the post together and capture the moment.

      Yes, I’d seen the house before it was burned. I took the photos of the burnt house myself. A friend who knew I was researching called me when the fire department was still there.

      As someone new to the area, tel me about the Chatterton House.

  7. July 6, 2017 10:40 pm

    Would def love to see other older maps of the area. I believe Anna Hall was the great granddaughter of Daniel.

    NY Times article about Hatfield Tavern, not sure if you’ve seen or not:
    http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9405EED71531E033A2575BC2A9669D94659ED7CF

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  1. The Gilbert Hatfield House Part II: Mistakes and Legacy | revgeary

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