There may be no better introduction to Van Campen Place than the 1895 sketch by John Stearns Minard, co-author of The Sketches of Border Adventures, In The Life and Times of Major Moses Van Campen, A Surviving Soldier of the Revolution, 2nd Edition. The sketch and accompanying photo of the original handwritten article are presented with permission of the Allegany Historical Society.
Historic Homes and Places
Western New York
By John S. Minard
The Home of Major Moses Van Campen
Historic in more than one sense, is the stately old residence so well shown at the head of this article. Erected in 1808, it is certain that is was the first brick dwelling put up in the County of Allegany, and it is believed antedates all others of its kind in Wyoming, Livingston, and Cattaraugus Counties. It was built by Major Moses Van Campen, who coming from the Northumberland district in Pennsylvania, settled in Almond in 1796, and removed to Angelica four or five years after, the late Judge Philip Church having made arrangements, to employ his services in the subdivision of his tract of 100,000, which he was about to open up for sale and settlement.
Angelica had been selected as the site for the village. It was centrally located as for the tract, and pleasantly situated, on what has come to be called Angelica Creek. It was also beautifully laid out, notwithstanding it was in the midst of a forest of large extent, and a few buildings, mostly of logs however, were already put up when the Major improved a tract of modest pretensions, which would answer to shelter his family and his self, while erecting the more imposing and enduring structure of brick which preceded by two years the occupation of the famous stone mansion house of Judge Church of Belvidere.
This Van Campen House, Burr House, Barnum Place, as it has successively been called and now owned by Mr. William Y. Lytle, is situated about one mile east of the Court House in Angelica, on a farm of some two hundred and fifty acres which the Major purchased at an early day, displaying the best of judgement in it selection, as in a few years, it turned out to be upon the route adopted for the Lake Erie Turnpike, that historic old thoroughfare being laid along the creek bottom, conveniently near, and directly in front of it.
Good materials for brick was found in a bank only a few rods to the rear, and more good build stone was quarried only a short distance away. The house was built in the most solid and enduring manner. Its walls were laid upon a foundation so deep and solid, which today after a lapse of eighty-six years, no cracks are exhibited, remaining precisely as it was originally placed. The building was indeed characteristic of the man. Wood was plenty, stoves and furnaces things of the future, and so fireplace of ample size and good construction was depended upon to heat the house, some six or seven in number, the one in the kitchen having also the regulation brick oven of the day.
The wood work was done in superior manner, the doors swinging as truly upon their hinges today, as any house of modern construction, which speaks well for the joiners of 1808. The floor timbers are of ample dimensions, and heavily treading the floor gives one a very good idea of the solid character of the whole structure, and when it is considered that the first planing machine was brought out a good many years thereafter, it is quite apparent that a great amount of hard hand work was involved in its construction. The lock upon the heavy front door is massive, and the key of a size as pretentious as that of the Bastile of Paris, turns just a nicely as when first used.
The division of the house into rooms, is the same now as when built, but the exterior has been modernized by the addition of a tasty front veranda, and the substitution of a new cornice for the old one which, while serving the purpose, was certainly not very elaborate or ornate in detail. The small lighted window sash, have also been replaced with those with large glass, and the general outside appearance very much improved.
Within the walls of this old structure, a number of the early boards of Supervisors use to hold their sessions, and resolutions for the appropriation of [illegible] money so meager in amount and so direly needed, would excite the curiosity to say the least, of the young people of today, while accounts were audited for wolf and panther scalps, aggregating in the ten years over sixteen thousand dollars!
During the later years of Major Van Campen’s life, it became the custom on occasions which failed to command his attendance, to form in procession in the public square, and with drums beating, fifes shrieking and colors flying, march out to his residence pay their respects, and receive his acknowledgement coupled perhaps, with some words of encouragement or advice, spiced it might be if the occasion seemed to call for it, with some short applicable story or anecdote.
Peter Post, an older residence of Belvidere tells of his beating the drum on the occasion of the draft during the war of 1812-14; and I think it was at this old house that the draft was made.
It was in this house, that the old Indian warrior John Mohawk on a certain occasion visited Major Van Campen. He was urged thereto by Horatio Jones the interpreter, who meeting him (Mohawk) one day suggested the propriety of his so doing. Mohawk at first said, “Van Campen would not want to see me.” Jones said, “Van Campen is a warrior. It is peace now – he will be glad to see you.” Finally, the old chief yielded to his persuasions and soon after went to see him. It was warm weather and just at dusk, Van Campen was ill and confined to his bed, when Mohawk with some one who had accompanied him from the village, arrived at the house their errand was made known. A daughter of Van Campen answered the call, and went and told her father there was an Indian there, whom she thought from his appearance, was John Mohawk, who wanted to see him.
The Major said, “Tell him to come in.” Said the daughter, “Are you not afraid?” “No,” said he, “Tell him to come in.” Mohawk then came in. Van Campen then said, “Are you John Mohawk?” Mohawk said, “Yes.” Then Van Campen said, “Come here.” The Indian came to the bed. Van Campen placed his hand on his neck, and running it down under the clothing very plainly felt the scar made by the hatchet, and said, “Yes, you are John Mohawk, that’s my mark.” (1)
Some time after this, Mohawk came to Van Campen after some corn. George Lockhart, who had recently married one of the Van Campen girls was present. He knew all about the hatchet affair, but from curiosity to know how Mohawk would take it, upon observing the scar, innocently asked him how he came by it. Mohawk answered, “Yankee done it. Yankee done it. Peace Now!” and said no more about it.
Horatio Jones the long ago captive with the Indians, whose strategic maneuvers at the Pigeon Woods in the Spring of 1782, saved Van Campen’s life, afterward for many years the renowned interpreter, was yet spared to spend the evening of this days as the “Sweet Briar,” on his extensive farm near Geneseo.
These two old patriots, had for years been in the habit of paying each other a visit at least once a year, and these occasions had come to be regarded as important in the calendar of yearly events. They were greatly enjoyed by themselves and others would somehow so time their work or business, as to listen to their legends, hear them recount their exploits, their hair-breadth escapes, their varied experiences with the Indians, and other reminiscences of the Revolutionary period, and feel that they were richly rewarded for the time thus spent.
It was in this memorable old building that many of these visits were enjoyed, and it was here where, upon the 15th day of October, 1849, he breathed his last breadth and his spirit departed to be forever at rest with his Maker.
(1) It will be remembered by those who have read the “Life of Van Campen,” that John Mohawk was the Indian to whom it was said that on a certain occasion Van Campen “lent his hatchet,” in other words, struck him with the intention of killing, but missing his head hit him in the shoulder inflicting a horrid wound.
This collection includes the following photos:
- Photo from "Sketches of Border Adventures" by Hubbard & Minard, 1893.
- Photo by MosesVanCampen.com
- The National Register of Historic Places designation, Van Campen Place, Angelica, NY. Photo by D.C. Hopkins for MosesVanCampen.com
- The Barn at Van Campen Place, Angelica, NY. Photo by D.C. Hopkins for MosesVanCampen.com