This is an under-researched period for me so far. Most of the information I have gathered pertains to Thorn’s decade in France and his subsequent return to New York. But it’s time that I constructed some kind of timeline, which, at the very least, charts the arrival of their many children. (I will keep the timeline separate and you can find it on the top menu of the home page.)
In the early days Jane Mary and Herman lived with William Jauncey at his home on Wall Street, later on moving into his property on the Upper West side. Jauncey, according to the New Jersey Equity Reports was “possessed of a very large and valuable real and personal estate in England and America.”
It seemed he owned houses on Broadway, Pearl Street, Water Street, New Street, no. 20 and 22 Wall Street, and the jewel in the crown, Elm Park in Bloomingdale, also know as Apthorp Farm and Apthorp Manor.
I will devote an entire blog post to Elm Park in due course, as it has an interesting history. I got to view the original lino-cut drawing of it in the New York Public Library in 2018, which was a real thrill. It’s strange to think of an ancestor owning chunks of Manhattan. This is where the Central Park rumour sprang from. In actual fact, he owned 200 acres adjacent to it on the Upper West Side. I imagine many of us have similar stories about land owned and lost.
In my visits to New York over the last few years, I have begin to visit those places to stand and remember. Mostly the original buildings are gone, but I love to imagine the ghosts of houses (and lives) past.
I mentioned in a previous post that William Jauncey was community minded. So far, I have discovered that he was a supporter of the Free School Society of New York, which saw the beginnings of public school education. The Free School of New York (1809) was for “poor white children of any religious background whose family was unable to afford private, paid education.” Apparently the removal of the word charity from the title helped reduced the stigma.
This school ran along the same lines as the New York African Free School (1787), though they remained segregated. Here is a wonderful quote from the Mayor of the time, DeWitt Clinton (I’ll check if he was related to Bill and get back to you on that! I expect he was):
“The fundamental error of Europe has been to confine the light of knowledge to the wealthy. Here, no privileged orders—no hereditary nobility—no established religion—no royal prerogatives exist, to interpose barriers between the people, and to create distinct classifications in society.”
In addition to that, Jauncey, a Princeton University alumni, was admitted to the New York Chamber of Commerce in 1773. He was a trustee of Grace Church, “appointed to hold title” until it was built, a trustee for the Society for the Promotion of Religion and Learning, on the board of governors of the Society of the New York Hospital and the Society of the Lying In Hospital of New York.
The New York Hospital’s first patients “were suffering from smallpox, syphilis and acute bipolar disorder.” Later on the Bloomingdale extension was built as a dedicated insane asylum.
It seems Jauncey had an interest in the health and education of the people in his city. Or perhaps, it was just the “done thing” for people with power and position. I hope it was the former. He is also mentioned as a grand juror on a criminal case between 1797 and 1801, but I haven’t yet established the nature of the crime.
I am quite curious as to why he so disliked Herman Thorn who from the personal accounts I have read was said to be congenial and charming. Did Jauncey perceive Thorn as an opportunist? Was the match he had arranged for Jane Mary with Colonel Barclay’s son important? Did he lose face over it? The answers to some of these questions will be largely speculation, and this is the point at which the historian meets the storyteller.
I will say though, that irony is a recurrent theme in this larger story, for when Herman’s own daughters were of age, one of them disgraced the family by running away with an insalubrious French Comte. Herman tasted the same bitter pill of a child’s defiance that he had dealt to William Jauncey years before.
But the wild elopement debacle is a whole other story… For now, I am content to build a picture of the family Herman married into and the social landscape of the time.