Pompton’s “Little Yellow House”

 

Bulletin of the Passaic County Historical Society,  September 1952

One traveling through Pompton from Paterson on the Hamburg road toward Wanaque can hardly fail to notice a monument at the cross roads.  This memorial, built of native field stones and surmounted with a battered ventilator from the battle ship Maine, bears a tablet and marks the site of a Little Yellow House at the Cross Roads.  This small dwelling was built long before the Revolution.  During the war, it was the home of Casparus Schuyler, grandson of the pioneer of Pompton, Arent Schuyler.

The elder Schuyler settled in Pompton about 1700 and during the war, lived to the northward, on the Cannon Ball Road near the Ramapo Valley.

Casparus Schuyler’s house was very unpretentious having a southerly frontage on the Paterson road of only thirty feet and extending to a depth of twenty-four feet.  On the easterly end stood the kitchen, a one-story and attic affair.  The main part of the building was two stories in height in front and had a long, sloping roof which almost reached the ground at the rear.  A covered veranda extended across the entire front of the building.

Through its double Dutch doors, General Washington entered on July 11 or 12, 1777.  The General was en route to the Highlands of the Hudson but very inclement weather necessitated a delay of from two to three days.  According to the biographer of Robert Erskine, the late A. J. Heusser, General Washington met Robert Erskine here at the cross roads while waiting for the weather and the roads to be more conducive to traveling.

george2There seems to be practically no doubt that it was here in the little cottage home of Casparus Schuyler that the General and Mr. Erskine, a resident of Ringwood, talked over the matter of map-making for the army.  Mr. Erskine, being a skilled topographer and happy to render every service in my power, says Mr. Erskine in a letter to Washington, to your Excellency, and to the cause in which the rights of humanity are so deeply interested, was tentatively offered the position of map-maker for the Army of America, subject to Congressional action.

Because of the great urgency of this type of work, General Washington, on 19 July 1777 recommended to the Congress that an office of Geographer and Surveyor-General for the army be established and also recommended that Robert Erskine be commissioned for that command.  The Congress acted promptly and on 28 July the Commander-in-Chief, writing from Flemington, N.J., apprised Robert Erskine of his commission.

In the summer of 1780, the house was operated as a tavern by a Mr. Curtis and his two beautiful sisters.  During the winter of that year the Marquis de Chastellux stopped there for the night, being en route from Philadelphia to New England.  It is this gentleman, who writing of his travels in America, tells us more about the place than any local historian of the day.  The Marquis, besides describing the house, tells of a large barn on the property and a garden where corn could be raised on some three acres of space.

The noted Frenchman records the beauty of the sisters and their literary tastes as well as the find furnishings.  However, says he, the cellar was not as well stored as the library…..neither wine, cyder, not rum was to be had, for there was none.

The New York Brigade under the command of Col. Phillip Van Cortlandt was in winter quarters at Pompton in 1781-82.  The Colonel had his headquarters in this house during his stay in the Pompton area and he was host to the General and Mrs. Washington who arrived at the tavern headquarters on Thursday, March 28, 1782, and remained there until Sunday morning following, when they set out for Newburgh.

Upon the arrival of the General, he had an escort of an officer, a sergeant and twelve dragoons.  Col. Van Cortlant furnished the General and his lady an additional escort through to Ringwood.

This little house at the cross roads in Pompton was removed in 1890 to permit a change in the roads.  Having been very advantageously located during the early days when there was great activity in Old Pompton, its great usefulness as a meeting place merits memory.