Historic Timeline Details

The agricultural schedule of the 1870 census indicates that the farm remained a diversified operation. Sheep raising had been abandoned since 1850 and the dairy herd had grown by roughly 25%. While no cheese was being made, the farm’s production of butter had increased from 600 to 900 pounds. The census describes the farm as consisting of 120 acre of improved land and 10 acres of woodland, valued at $12,000, Runyon evidently having enlarged his land holdings since acquiring the property. The farm equipment was worth $345. Farm wages “during the year” were $300 including “board.” His livestock valued at $1,200 included 2 horses, 2 mules, 13 milk cows, 4 other head of cattle, and 3 swine. Farm production included 150 bushels of wheat, 500 bushels of corn, 750 bushels of oats, 60 bushels of Irish potatoes, 8 bushels of clover seed, 40 tons of hay and 900 pounds of butter. The value of slaughtered animals was estimated at $325, and the figure given for the “estimated value of all farm products” is $2,620.[47]

The agricultural schedule of the 1880 census documents an increase in the size of the dairy herd by one third since 1870, among other changes. Butter evidently was no longer made on the farm; milk instead was sent to a creamery. Chickens and egg production were mentioned for the first time. With only thirty bearing trees, the orchard was much reduced in size. In 1880 the Runyon farm, valued at $10,000, contained 120 acres of improved land, 25 acres of “meadows, permanent pastures, orchards [and] vineyards” and 5 acres of unimproved land other than woodland. Runyon’s farm equipment was worth $500 and his livestock $1,200. The 1879 cost of farm labor hired for 52 weeks was $500; and $60 was spent on fertilizer in that year. His livestock in 1880 included 7 horses, 2 mules, 20 milk cows, 2 other head of cattle, 3 pigs and 30 poultry. In 1879, 18 “calves dropped,” 12 calves were purchased, 12 were sold living, and 1 was slaughtered. In that year, the farm had 52 acres of grasslands of which 40 acres were mown producing 60 tons of hay, as well as a one-acre orchard with 30 bearing apple trees. Other farm production in 1879 included 300 bushels of wheat from 10 acres, 700 bushels of corn from 16 acres, 350 bushels of oats from 12 acres, 30 bushels of rye from 2 acres and 40 bushels of Irish potatoes from one half acre. In 1879, the farm produced 7,300 gallons of “milk sold or sent to butter and cheese factories” and 300 eggs; the total estimated value of the farm’s 1879 production was $2,000.[48]

A prosperous and successful farmer, Isaac Runyon had the means to improve his property, and he probably was responsible for the Victorian cross gables and contemporary alterations to the house. Something of the physical character of house during his ownership, if not its furnishings, can be learned from the cursory inventory of personal property made upon his death in 1892, which identifies twelve rooms or areas in the house:

Sitting-room contents/ Hatrack in hall/ Parlor and contents/ Room back of parlor/ Bed-room back of sitting-room/ Stair carpet, table in hall and contents of small bed-room up-stairs/ Contents of cellar/ Dining room and contents/ Store-room and contents/ Attic and contents/ room back of kitchen/ kitchen and contents.[49]

The inventory indicates that the upper story contained at least one bedroom by this time, as well as an attic and possibly a hallway. However, the number of rooms and their configuration cannot be construed definitively; one of them might have been the storeroom mentioned. One can safely assume that the parlor, sitting room and two rooms to their rear occupied the western half of the first story. For the east half of the first story two arrangements can be considered: (1) kitchen occupying the southeast room with cooking fireplace and bake oven, the “room back of kitchen” to its rear, dining room immediately to its west occupying the east end of the present living room, and the hall with hat rack the entry at the foot of the stairs; the store room could either occupy the east-end shed appendage or be located on the upper story. (2) hall with hat rack occupying the east end of the present living room, dining room the southeast room with cooking fireplace; and the kitchen and the “room back of kitchen” located in the east-end shed appendage; this scenario leaves the northeast room (the modern kitchen) unaccounted. The only furnishings identified are stair carpeting and a table and hat rack in the hall or halls.

The “granary” is only other building mentioned, presumably the extant wagon house, in whose upper-story feed bins the wheat, oats and shelled corn listed in the inventory undoubtedly were stored.

As inventoried, the total value of Isaac Runyon’s personal property was $5,465.48, including $3,695,80 in cash, notes, interest and book accounts, which comprised the bulk of his assets. Livestock worth $663 constituted only about 12% of his assets: 5 horses valued at $250, 14 cows, 1 heifer and a bull worth $400, 4 turkeys worth $5 and “about 50 fowl” worth $8. The inventory included $390 in harvested crops: 100 bushels of wheat worth $100, 250 bushels of oats valued at $90, 200 bushels of shelled corn worth $100, and 8 tons of hay worth $100, as well as $8 worth of smoke meat. It also listed a carriage and “phaeton” as well as various other wagons, sheds, and farm equipment.

Isaac Runyon died intestate on February 9, 1892, at age 73, of bronchitis and “La Grippe” after a two-week illness, leaving his daughter Rachel Codington as his only heir, his wife having died some years earlier. Rachel, who had married William R. Coddington at the Millington Baptist Church in 1883, lived with her husband in Plainfield, New Jersey, where he practiced law. William Rueben Codington, the son of George W. and Jane Codington, grew up a neighbor of the Runyons, and his family descended from early settlers of the neighborhood. In addition to his law practice, he played a role in political and business affairs at the local and state level, including the directorship of several companies, twenty-five years as attorney for Union County, and two terms in the state assembly in the 1890s.[50]

While Codington acquired considerable property in the Millington neighborhood during the early 20th century, including large portions of Oliver Stelle’s original holdings, he and his wife evidently continued to live in Plainfield until sometime in the 1920s, when they made the farm inherited from her father their principal residence. Until then, the farm probably was tenanted. Codington established a dairy operation at his Bernards Township property (which he named River-Edge Farm) and took a special interest in the raising and breeding of Guernsey cattle.[51] Physical evidence indicates that the main dairy barn and several other sheds and improvements can be dated c.1920-1940, and it seems likely that this work mostly occurred in the 1920s in conjunction with his making the farm his primary residence. The house also was updated around this time by Codington in the Colonial Revival style, as evidence by such embellishments as the quadrant gable windows and the classically detailed screen porch overlooking the river which was later replaced by the existing east gable-end appendage. He may also have been responsible for rebuilding the living room fireplace from its original corner configuration, perhaps concurrently enlarging the room by the removal of partitions.

William R. Codington died on January 22, 1935 aged 81, after suffering a heart attack at his Bernards Township home. He willed his entire estate, after specific bequest to family members and employees, in trust for his wife, Rachel, for life, and thereafter to their two children, Martha and Albert. Rachel also received “all the household furniture and personal property contained at my residence at River-Edge Farm”[52]

The inventory made shortly after his death gives the total value of his personal property as $105,261.02, the major portion of which consisted of notes, bonds, mortgages, stacks and cash. The farm equipment at River-Edge Farm (including a milk delivery truck) was valued at $749. Listed livestock consisted of 28 pedigree-registered cows at “Rive-Edge Dairy” worth $2,975, as well as three old horses valued at $225. The inventory also gives limited information about the house, indicating that electricity and plumbing had been installed by that time. The listing of two lots of fireplace implements suggests that the fireplaces were being used. The set of wicker porch furniture probably graced the screened porch; a mix of braided and oriental rugs covered the floors. A “maid’s bureau, old” was valued at 50 cents; a “mahogany bureau, antique,” $10.[53]

Rachel Codington died on November 12, 1936, less than two years after her husband, leaving all of her property to her two children. Her personal property, valued at $12,030.61 in her estate inventory, included $8,640.86 in cash, mortgage, interest and uncollected debts, notes, interest and book accounts, jewelry worth $499, a wrist watch worth $18, a 1929 Cadillac valued at $50 and the household goods inherited from her husband worth $140. The inventory provides considerable information about the house at River-Edge Farm and its furnishings. Eight rooms are named: telephone room, living room, dining room, kitchen, hall, north bedroom, south bedroom and southwest bedroom. The living room, dining room and kitchen mentioned presumably are the present ones, and the telephone room must have been one of the two rooms to the north of the living room. The hall might have included the east end of the present living room, judging from the number of furnishings it contained, or the listing may refer to both the lower and upper stair halls. The three bedrooms identified probably were upstairs. The inclusion of items such as a brass kettle and brass candlestick in the telephone room, an “old churn, painted wood” in the dining room, and an “old cradle” and an “old stand” in the hall suggest the presence and appreciation of antiques, possibly passed down through the family.[54]

Upon the death of Rachel Codington, in accordance with the terms of her husband’s will, River-Edge Farm (along with other real estate) passed to their two children, Martha C. Dascombe and Albert I. Codington. In 1942, Martha conveyed her half interest in the family homestead and three other tracts to her brother.[55] The property passed from the ownership of Oliver Stelle’s descendants in the following year when Albert I. Codington, sold it to the Arlington Investment Corporation of Kearny, New Jersey. Arlington developed the Sun and Crest Roads neighborhoods but in 1945 sold the remaining property on the east side of the King George Road to Gerald L. Pearson, a scientist at Bell Laboratories, and his wife Mildred, who made it their residence. Fifteen years later, the Pearsons conveyed a 36.7-acre tract including the farmstead, along with an adjoining 7.1-acre lot, to George and Ingrid Geier, who lived there until the 1990s. While operating his marine-maintenance company in Brooklyn, Mr. Geier continued limited farming on the Basking Ridge property, first haying the fields and later growing Christmas trees. Alterations made by the Geiers include replacing the Codington’s screened porch with the family room appendage in 1961-62, removing the plaster ceiling in the living room, adding the bookcases to left of the fireplace, adding vinyl siding to the exterior of the house in 1989, and installing recycled ship planking as flooring in the main barn.[56]

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