The Washerwoman’s Genes

May 22, 2006

Mrs. J. Burger

Filed under: Story — by WWG @ 4:16 pm

I have just acquired some reproductions of maps of Port Ewen, Stone Ridge and Marbletown drawn in 1875. Coincidentally, I had just attended a meeting of the Main Line Genealogists, where I heard a presentation by a Philadelphia-area archivist about old maps, including cadastral, which show land ownership.

I took out my magnifying glass—even with it, some of the writing is too small to make out easily—and began with the Sleightsburg map where Jeannette lived in the last census before her death in 1884. I looked in the area we visited, high on the bluff across from Rondout, the enclave of four streets, without luck. Then I followed the road down into the village of Port Ewen, and there, along the “Turnpike” was a row of small properties, each with a small house marked. “Mrs. J. Burger” says the legend crossing two adjacent parcels. The washerwoman lived here.

At a scale of 50 feet to the inch, one property is tiny; showing as 1/8- by slightly less than 3/16-inch, the land was probably a 50’ x 75’ plot, a size somewhat smaller than my father owned when I was growing up. The house demarcated on this plot is L-shaped: its longer sides appear to be about 25’ x 25’. Next to this parcel, to the south, is a longer one, 5/16 x nearly 1/ 8-inch, a plot of about 125’ x 50’. Much of her name is across this piece, so it seems she may have owned both. To the rear of the shorter property is another parcel, stretching across the back of hers and the parcel to the north, and ending at a property line—and possibly a street or alley—of a huge parcel owned by I. Sleight. The owner of this back land may be “E. McMahon, who owns the plot just to the north of Mrs. B. The McMahon house seems to front on the property-line of the Sleight land, leading me to think this may be a street or alley, and perhaps the McMahon place of business, a shop or whatever.

There is another small structure, a shed perhaps, adjacent to Mrs. B’s longer property but on the Sleight land, perhaps an out-building used by those in residence along that road. There do not appear to be any buildings on the large piece of the Sleight property, although there is a house owned by Wm. Sleight about 300 feet up the road at the northwest corner of the land and adjacent to the many parcels of land in the village of Sleightsburg. The small plot adjacent to Wm. Sleight’s is owned by Isaac B. This is a name I have seen in the censuses, but I cannot say I know of any relation to my B’s.

Comparing this map with current ones, it is difficult to tell if the road in front of Mrs. B’s house, running down from Sleight’s ferry into Port Ewen, is the same road as today’s North Broadway. There are currently no strips of little houses along this road where Mrs. B’s house would be. My third cousin once-removed—whose grandfather B. lived in Esopus and raised her mother there—said she was told the family house “went under the Turnpike” (that would be the new Route 9w that comes across the Rondont on an expansion span and in Port Ewen merges with Broadway). It is possible the current “North Broadway” is a new road build to the east of the original Turnpike, if the old road was overpaved by the new one. Googing up satellite pictures, there doesn’t seem to be a strip of houses or yards in the area where I think the house should be; there are just a couple of large houses with very large above-ground pools. I have no way of knowing at this point whether the old Mrs. B. property went down to the grandson of Elisha James, but I suppose it’s possible. Or, Elisha’s descendents bought other land, perhaps to the east of Mrs. B’s, and it was paved over.

And of course, the accuracy of the old map is always a question. I would like to find others done in years before and after 1875, and perhaps by other makers. Seeking them will be on my list when I get to spend some time in Esopus.


The houses toward the lower left include Jeannette’s property. The unlabeled road running roughly N-S is what was then called the Turnpike.

From this map it seems that Esopus, which was a vortex of Burgers earlier in the century, was the place they left behind by 1875. Jeannette was to die within a decade.


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