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Judge Henry Wynkoop.


    A brief sketch of one of the prominent men of Bucks County, a hundred years ago.

    To the editor of the Intelligencer; June 1883.

    It has been suggested that a history of the old families of the county might form an attractive book, each written in a familiar style by one of its own members, whatever they choose to have published. As a specimen allow me to give a brief one of the late Judge Henry Wynkoop, of Northampton Township. He left a manuscript of his ancestry, which I will copy: "Early in the seventeenth century Cornelius C. Wynkoop emigrated from Utrecht, Dutch Netherlands, to Manhadoes, New York, and soon afterwards settled in Vertunga, (Albany) New York.
    He died at Esopus, near Kingston, leaving four sons, Everardus, Johannes, Gerardus and Benjamin. In 1717 the third son, Gerardus, (anglicized Garret) settled with his family in Moreland (then Philadelphia County), Pa., where he died, leaving five sons: Cornelius, Garrett, Nicholas, Henry and Philip, and three daughters.
    Some of the branches are still in Moreland, some settled in New Jersey, and some in Virginia. Nicholas third son of Garrett, it would seem left Moreland and settled on a large farm in Northampton Township, Bucks county, about 1744, where he spent the remainder of his life, and where he died August 3rd, 1759, aged 54. He left a daughter and a son. The daughter married Dominie Du Bois, long the pastor of the Low Dutch church at Addisville. Henry, the Judge, was born March 2nd, 1737, and was married September 10th, 1761, to Susannah Wanshaer, only daughter of John Wanshaer, of Essex County, New Jersey." It seems that Henry was prepared to enter Princeton college, but some untold circumstance prevented him. He was much interested in the cultivation of his farm, one of the finest in the country, and planted a large orchard of the Virginia crab apples, which made the finest of cider, and was sold in Philadelphia immediately from the press, at forty dollars a hogshead. It was supposed that the recipient in the city sold it for champagne. His colored man mentioned to some one that he was afraid his master was going to fail, he saw so much cider put into the cellar and never saw any taken out. He was not aware that it passed through a process of fining and decanting and finally disposed of, greatly to his master's advantage in champagne bottles. The farm was planted with a variety of fruit. Two long lanes leading from the building to roads on either side were lined with a variety of the finest cherries, and his son also planted a number of pear trees of twenty-seven varieties, beside a great variety of other fruit. Mr. Wynkoop was of course deeply interested in the Revolutionary War, and was a great sufferer by it. He somehow got the title of Major, but it is not thought he joined the army. Being a man of intelligence and strict integrity he exerted an influence for good in the community. He became acquainted with General Washington and corresponded with him. When the army passed through the lower part of the county on its way to winter quarters at Valley Forge, there lay in its line of march a woolen factory, near Newtown where the soldiers found a quantity of ready dressed cloth, and did not scruple to apply it to their own use, and thus carried it away with them. The owner not being sufficiently interested in the good cause to make the sacrifice, began to look around to see how he could recover his lost property, or its value in money, and finally concluded to apply to his neighbor, Henry Wynkoop, for advice and assistance. He, in the kindness of his heart, although it was cold winter weather and the roads were nothing but railroad and turnpike, consented to take a journey to headquarters to see if anything could be done for his friend and neighbor. On his arriving and making his errand known, the General scanning his very ample vesture, facetiously observed to him "Why, Mr. Wynkoop, I don't think you stand in very great need of cloth." Being a spare man he not only put on an overcoat, but in cold winter weather another one over this. Whether he succeeded in his mission is not known.

    The country at that time was infested with a set of men called refugees, a part of whose vile business it was to assist the British army in kidnapping prominent citizens, and conveying them as prisoners to headquarters. Mr. Wynkoop being from home at one time, his family were greatly alarmed in the dead of night by a squad of soldiers, conducted it is supposed, by one of the miscreants, breaking into the house. Mrs. Wynkoop, whose bedroom adjoined that into which the entrance was made, was so overcome by the shock that she never recovered from it, dying soon afterward, a victim, as the epitaph in the churchyard at Addisville says, to the troublous times of the country. After the battle of Trenton, Mr. Wynkoop went to find out whether he could assist in any way. General Washington requested him to take home two wounded officers; a Lieutenant Wilmot, an English officer, and Lieutenant Monroe, afterwards President, who required careful nursing. The family found Wilmot a pleasant inmate, but the children did not like Monroe. They thought him a proud Virginian. Both officers expressed their obligations for the kindness received and the President, in his tour through the States, when approaching the country, expressed a desire to see some of the family to whom he felt under obligation. Many of the Hessian prisoners were quartered in Newtown (perhaps by the advice of Wynkoop) where they were so well treated that it was common to hear them say, "Very good rebels;" "Very good rebels." Some of them never left the country. One family by the name of Richards settled in Lower Wakefield and the writer went to school with his boys in the year 1810. After the war was over and Washington had returned to his beloved Mount Vernon and engaged in farming, he wrote to his friend Wynkoop, requesting him to send him a Bucks County plow, which he had heard extolled. The article was procured and sent and gave much satisfaction. One of Mr. Wynkoop's daughters, a very pretty child, was one of the little girls who strewed the flowers before General Washington, as he passed over the Assanpink Bridge in Trenton, on his way to New York to assume the first Presidency, when they sang the noted stanzas: --

Welcome, might chief once more,
Welcome to this grateful shore,
Now no mercenary foe,
Aims again the fatal blow,
Aims at thee the fatal blows.

Virgins fair and matrons grave,
Then the conquering arms did save,
Build for him triumphal bowers,
Strew, ye fair, his path with flowers,
Strew your hero's path with flowers.

    It was said that the scene was so touching that a tear was seen in the good man's eyes.

    Mr. Wynkoop was a member of Congress, when it sat in New York. At a dinner party at the President's the conversation turned upon a suitable title for the President. "His Highness" was mentioned. It was observed that this would answer very well as to the stature of the present incumbent, or to Mr. Wynkoop, the former being six foot two inches and the latter six feet four inches; but it might not apply in all cases. Mr. Hamilton remarked that they all had to look up to Mr. Wynkoop, and he courteously replied that he always felt mortified when he looked down upon Mr. Hamilton, a man every one was disposed to revere and look up to.

    Mr. Wynkoop was appointed and acted as associate judge till the seat of justice was removed from Newtown. It would seem that the court at that time was not entirely dependent upon the president judge, as there was found among his papers, and published some time ago in one of the county papers, the copy of a charge made by himself to the Grand Jury. He greatly enjoyed the 4th of July having his children and grandchildren home to a sumptuous dinner, and a variety of amusements.

    After living through those eventful times which "tried mens' souls" and suffering his full share of those trials, he closed his life, March 25th, 1816, in the same house in which he was born and had lived all his life, having just entered his eightieth year. He left what was considered in those days, when millionaires are much fewer than now, a competent fortune. His farm, which he named Vredensburg, he left to his youngest and only living son, apparently with the expectation that it would descend to future generations, but an overruling Providence saw proper that the next lineal descendent, a promising youth, should be cut off, just as he was reaching manhood.

{John Beatty.)


Spruance Library
Bucks County Historical Society
84 South Pine Street
Doylestown, PA 18901

Collection of the Joseph Henry Beatty Family
MSS 445
Folder 135

Created May 2, 1999; Revised September 6, 2002
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