Hardscrabble Farm is situated on land that was first purchased from the Lenni Lenapi by the West Jersey Proprietors in 1703. Two German immigrants, Jacob Peter Snyder and Nicholas Sine, were the first settlers on the original 1,300 acre parcel. The stone portion of the house was built in the late 18th century. The farm remained in the Sine family until 1805, when 100 acres, including the house, was purchased by George N. Holcombe, grandson of the first settler of Lambertville, John Britton Holcombe.
George and his brother, Samuel, had served in the cause of the Rebellion. Samuel was a scout for the Colonial Army. George served as 1st Lt in Capt. John Phillips’ Company of 3rd Regiment of the State Militia from Hunterdon County and was promoted to Capt. and then to Major. After the war they returned to farming.
The farm was passed down through the Holcombe family until 1856 when it was purchased by Alexander Higgins, brother-in-law of the last Holcombe to own it. Over the next fifty years, Alexander and his wife, Christiana Lucretia Hope, added a second story to the house and raised seven children there. They also ran a distillery on the farm.
By 1900, all of Alexander’s and Christiana’s children had left the farm. When Alexander died in 1905, his executors sold all of his holdings to various people. The farm and distillery were purchased by Linton Avery Fluck of Flemington who never lived there. Ten years later, Fluck sold the farm to John Britton Yard, who had married Bessie Rowe, a servant in the Fluck household.
John and Bessie Yard worked the farm and raised their two children there. When John died in 1962, he left the farm to their only son, Elmer. Elmer Yard and his wife, Sara (Case), continued to operate the farm and raised three children there. Upon Elmer’s death in 1980, the property was divided between his three children, with his son Richard getting the house and 50 acres.
We purchased the house and ten acres in 2019 and are enthusiastically researching it history and evolution over the centuries. The distillery still stands but needs extensive renovation. There is an old stone ruin with a fireplace behind the house that may have been an earlier home. Time will tell.
Virginia’s career as a theatrical costumer and Shari’s fascination with Civil War history inevitably got us interested in historical costuming and a bit of reenacting. In fact, this is how the farm got its name. Shortly after Ullyses S. Grant and Julia Dent married they settled in their first home on a small farm that they named Hardscrabble.
After a whirlwind tour of eastern Civil War battlefields, we took advantage of New Jersey’s role as the Crossroads of the Revolution to dabble in some 18th century costuming. Here is a sampling of our efforts.
A Texas Farmstead
Our interest in history has a long, well, history. Back in the 70’s, Virginia’s grandparents, Pete and Beth Gifford, recreated a 19th century farmstead near Anna, Texas. The house and barn were built using the hand tools and building methods of the time period, with a few modern conveniences tucked away. Here are a few images.