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» John and Cornelia Suffern

John and Cornelia Suffern

Marker for Suffern's TavernCornelia Suffern's father, John, was born in Antrim, northern Ireland, in 1741. His family had originated in France and resettled in Ireland, whey they had become Presbyterians but found their freedom limited by laws that favored the Church of England. John Suffern left Ireland with his brother for America in 1763. They both enlisted in the army of General Edward Braddock, which was to drive the French out of western Pennsylvania. However, John was taken ill with ship fever, and when he arrived in Philadelphia, he was forced to remain in a hospital there. Having missed the ill-fated Braddock expedition, John Suffern worked his way north from Philadelphia. By 1765, he was in Burlington, New Jersey, and in January of the following year, he married Mary Myers of that small city.

John and Mary Suffern eventually made their way to Orange County, New York. For a time, John taught school in Tappan; he then moved his family to Haverstraw and in 1773 saw an opportunity to buy a small piece of land (one acre) near the entrance to the Ramapo Pass and on the King's Highway leading from the Hudson River to Morristown. He built a large house there that became a tavern and inn. The success of Suffern's Tavern enabled John to buy a large portion of the 5,000 acres in the area known as the Prevost Patent, which had been granted by King George III to James Marcus Prevost in 1775. (James Prevost and his wife, Theodosia, had sold much of the property to John De Lancy and Robert Morris, who in turn sold it to John Suffern.) Suffern called the area New Antrim. Today, it is Suffern, New York.

While these transactions were taking place, the North American colonies were moving toward the War of Independence against Great Britain. John Suffern became a protestor. He signed the pledge of the Committee of Safety of Orange County in 1774 and in 1775 enlisted in the Orange County Militia in 1775 and signed a pledge to carry out "whatever measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress." Through the war, he served as the local justice of the peace and as a member of the Committee for Orange County. His tavern was often the headquarters for the officers of the various forces passing through the area or stationed in the Ramapo Pass, including George Washington on several occasions, General George Clinton, and, in the fall of 1777, Colonel Aaron Burr while he commanded Malcolm's Regiment at the pass. In 1781-82, Suffern was elected to the New York State Legislature. According to the Rosencrantz family tradition, they were guests at the wedding of Aaron Burr and Theodosia Bartow Prevost at The Hermitage in July 1782.

Through the 1780s, John Suffern expanded his property holdings by purchasing bounty rights to land from former soldiers and other sellers. He added large property near Elmira, New York, to his extensive holdings in Orange County. He also extended his economic activities by opening a store, running a farm, operating a gristmill and a sawmill, establishing a potash works and a wool factory, building an iron forge, and erecting a rolling mill and nail factory. John was a slaveholder, and he helped to organize the Reformed Church in neighboring Mahwah. In the 1790s, Suffern was a leader in the establishment of Rockland County out of Orange County. He became the postmaster of the first Post Office in the newly formed county at New Antrim; he was also the county judge and a State senator in 1800-1803.

John and his wife, Mary, had twelve children between 1767 and 1790. Cornelia was their fifth child. Some of her brothers and sisters would become prominent in the region: Andrew Suffern, for example, was a lawyer and a judge. Margaret Suffern married Peter Allison; their son later gained renown as General George Allison. John Suffern became a doctor and farmer and operated a rolling mill and nail factory in Garnerville, New York. He was also was elected to the New York State Assembly and sold land in Haverstraw to a socialist community in 1824.

Mary Suffern died in 1816. John, then 70, married Elizabeth Bertholf, the widow of the Revolutionary War Major James Bogert. John died in 1836, at age 95.

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