Historic Timeline Details

The 1830 census documents the composition of Oliver Stelle’s household towards the end of his life. The census enumerates six members: one white male (aged between 70 and 79); three white females (one aged between 60 and 69, one between 40 and 49, and one between 15 and 19); one free black male and one free black female (both aged between 10 and 23). Oliver must have been the white male in his seventies; the oldest female probably was his second wife Sarah and the middle-aged female his unmarried daughter Christiana, mentioned by name in his will as residing at home. The teenaged girl may have been one of the granddaughters also mentioned in his will or perhaps a servant; the free blacks presumably were former slaves, employed as domestic servant and farm laborer.[29]

Oliver Stelle prospered in Bernards Township. Evidently a successful farmer and investor, he acquired extensive holdings in Bernards Township and vicinity including farmland adjoining his homestead, along with several house lots and a distillery and cider mill. Five of the six Bernards Township tax records surviving for years between 1797 and 1818 give his taxable land as 224 acres, and his 1829 will includes bequests for considerably more than 312 acres of land. Tax and estate records provide additional information about his farm and other assets. Between 1797 and 1818, his livestock assessment included five horses in all but one year and averaged 11.8 head of cattle. In 1818, he was taxed for a “top” wagon and two riding chairs. Stelle’s 1832 estate inventory gives the total value of his personal property as $2,519 including $610 in notes and $84 cash. Livestock worth $1,192 constituted his most valuable asset: 11 horses (7 horses and 4 colts) valued at $580, 24 head of cattle (15 cows, 5 steers, 3 calves and 1 bull) worth $287, 2 “yokes” of oxen valued at $148, 7 pigs and their shoats worth $148, and 28 sheep worth $42. The herd of sheep, along with a mention of “loom and tackling” and a “lot broad cloth,” documents domestic cloth manufacture. [30]

Oliver Stelle’s will and inventory also identify several rooms and features of his house. His 1829 will mentions the “west front room,” the “west back room,” the “middle back room,” and the “entry” and/or “entry chamber,” as well as the kitchen, cellar and well, indicating that his residence had a double-pile first-floor plan with a range of at least three rooms front and back, and thus establishing the configuration of the present house by that time. His inventory names two rooms in the house: the “west chamber” and the “milk room.” The latter, which contained a “lot of crockery,” presumably was a cold storage room, probably located in the cellar. The reference to “old casks and gums [?] in west chamber” suggests that this room was being used for storage. While the “west chamber” may have been either of the west rooms mentioned in the will, it might also have been located on the upper story. [31]

Although the upper stories of the region’s early one-and-one-half-story houses typically were unfinished or partially finished, the presence of a stairwell railing with an apparently late 18th/early 19th-century provenance in the upper hall certainly suggests that upper story was finished, at least in part, as living space during this period. Other features of the house that, based on physical or stylistic evidence, can be dated to c. 1800-1830 include the pilastered, late Federal style mantel in the present living room and brick cooking fireplace and bake oven in the southeast room. Oliver Steele may well have been responsible for remodeling the house and possibly for enlarging it to the east.

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