This article appeared in a series of articles pertaining to the early history of twenty two families of Westchester County, New York. They were published during the summer and fall of 1951 as part of a special feature in the Westchester Group Newspapers and Affiliates. The author was Maureen McKernan. The article on Hays family was the 18th of the series.
When a historian turns his attention to the Hays families who descend from Jechiel Hays and his six sons, the notes, letters and Ledgers written by David Hays of Bedford, Jechiel's youngest son, will prove a treasure trove.
Now in the possession of David's great-great-greanddaughter, Mrs. Irving Lachenbruch of Pleasantville, the former Mable Hays, are historic documents to delight historians as they read what David recorded in his fine, clear hand, of his life as a storekeeper and farmer at Bedford, as a soldier with Braddock during the French and Indian Wars, of his service in Washington's Army for which he refused pay, and of his work to provide food for Washington's troops at Peekskill.
Many priceless Hays records were collected by David's grandson, the late Daniel P. Hays, noted New York attorney, whose sister, Rachel, is the mother of Arthur Hays Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times.
Records in Old Box
Other documents were discovered by Mr. Lachenbruch in a brass bound box in the corncrib of David's farmhouse which stood until 1937 on Broadway, in Pleasantville Old Village, at the head of Bedford Road.
Jechiel Hays came from Holland where the name had been spelled "de Haas." About 1700, with his wife and his children, his livestock and his farming equipment, he sailed for the New World in his own ship and settled in New Rochelle.
Jechiel's six sons were Jacob, Solomon, Isaac, Judah and Abraham, and David who was born in New Rochelle in 1732 and is most closely related to Westchester history.
Opened Country Store
When David was about twenty he opened a country store at Oblong (now Wingdale, Putnam County) then went to Bedford where he opened a store and farmed before 1771. He fought with Braddock in the French and Indian War and during the Revolution was both soldier and purveyor of foods for Washington's Army. He refused any pay as a soldier. He was driving cattle to the American troops at Peekskill when Tarleton's Tory raiders burned his house in Bedford in July, 1779. His wife was ill in bed at the time and her youngest son, Benjamin Etting Hays, was a baby in arms.
David died in 1814 on the 170-acre farm which his sons, Benjamin and Michael, had bought from the Commissioners of Forfeiture in 1785. The farmhouse which stood at "Clark's Corners" on Broadway at the head of Bedford Road in Pleasantville Old Village, was not torn down until 1937. Michael also owned a farm at Nanahagan in South Pleasantville and he was elected first assessor of Mount Pleasant in 1788. The notification of his selection, written by Town Clerk Daniel Miller, notes that refusal to hold the office to which Michael had been elected, would call for a fin of 25 pounds.
Benjamin Etting Hays, who died at eighty, was always a farmer and his kindness, to the struggling little Methodist Church in Pleasantville earned him the title "the best Christian in Mount Pleasant," although he, like most of the Hays line, remained steadfast to the Jewish faith of his fathers.
Recalls Family Parties
Benjamin established the tradition for hospitality for which the Hays homestead is still recalled tenderly by such old Westchester residents as Mrs. Samuel C. Steinhardt of New Rochelle, who often attended the big family parties when Hayses and their most distant connections gathered together on festal days.
Jacob, David's older brother, lived in Rye from 1721 to 1734, where he operated an iron mine on Hog Pen Ridge with Titus Beekman. Later he moved to New York where he was Schocht of the Congregation Shearith Israel. He was a founder of the first Jewish cemetery in Chatham Square, where so many Hayses are buried. His son Jacob was first constable of New York County, and his picture hangs in the Governor's Room in old City Hall.
Judah, David's older brother, was born in New Rochelle in 1702, became a wealthy merchant in New York, bought Thomas Purdy's house in Rye in 1743 as a Summer home, rented Peter Jay's town house for a Winter residence and rode in a sedan chair. He disinherited his daughter, Rachel, for marrying out of the faith to a brother of Governor Conklin, an early Governor of the state.
Hays' sons and daughters married into the pre-Revolutionary Jewish families of de Solla, Seixias, Mordaci and Cardoza. Judge Benjamin Cardoza and the late Daniel P. Hays, the famous lawyer who was Benjamin Etting Hays' son, were cousins.
Though there are many descendants of Jechiel Hays living in Westchester and many more in New York City, the only two direct descendants of David who still live on his original farm in Pleasantville are Mable Hays Lachenbruch and Joseph J. Corns Jr. (son of Florence Hays), who follows in the legal footsteps of his famous grandfather, Daniel P. Hays, the lawyer.
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