History of Walker Combs Hartshorne (Oakley) Farm


Oakley Farm HouseThe farmstead started in 1686 as an 8-by-10-foot settlers' cabin on 115-plus acres. As of 1915, the farm consisted of 23 outbuildings and the farmhouse and 86.60 acres of farmland, plus 26 acres of orchards. Outbuildings consisted of 6 chicken houses, 1 corn crib, 1 double corn crib, pig house, cow barn, horse barn, silos, hay scales, well house, woodshed, smokehouse, etc.

In 1750 the first addition was made to the house to make it a 1-and-a-half-story 2-bay farmhouse, consisting of a fieldstone foundation with hand-hewn post and beam construction - some bark is left on roof rafters. Originally the entrance to the 2nd floor was from the rear of the house. The original set of steps from the 1st to the 2nd floor is now used to get to the basement.

In 1830, a second addition was made to the house, and in 1873 the kitchen was moved to the east wing of the house, which was brought from another part of the property (probably the orchard).

Charles Oakley, Jr. purchased the farm in 1911 from Acton Civil Hartshorne. In 1924, further renovations were made to accommodate his son's family. Charles Oakley, Jr. died in 1932 after falling out of the hayloft. The property was then transferred to his daughter Elizabeth Oakley, who continued farming the land until 1972. At that time, Elizabeth leased the land for soybean and corn production and then to a tenant farmer as a sod farm.

Agriculture at Oakley Farm

As of 1981, the farm was one of the oldest working farms in Monmouth County. It started as a subsistence farm in the early 1700s, when family members worked the land. However, according to 1860s records, former owners George Walker and Elijah Combs used slaves to work the farm. Typical crops such as rye, Indian corn, wheat, potatoes, sugar peas, oats, beans, and hay were grown. Also, pork, beef, poultry, and butter were sold. Charles Oakley, Jr. totally mechanized the farm around 1924. Apples and potatoes were taken from the farm and shipped by rail to Wallabout Market, Brooklyn, New York, and sold.

National Register of Historic Places

The farm was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 4, 1990. The National Register is the official list of cultural resources significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering or culture. Listing in the National Register ensures that properties affected by undertakings that are federally executed, licensed, or financially assisted will be subject to review and comment in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. 

People Associated with the Farm

The following is a list of people associated with the farmstead.

1686 to 1701

During the proprietary period of government, the farmstead property was owned by John Barclay, Robert Barclay, John Reid and John Bowne. The proprietors of East New Jersey sold the tract of land (acreage unknown) to John Barclay in 1686. John Barclay then transferred it to Robert Barclay in the same year. John Barclay was a Scot and the receiver-general of quitrents for the proprietary government. Robert Barclay was a Scots Quaker from Edinburgh and one of the 24 proprietors of East New Jersey. He owned an entire propriety plus 5,000 acres and was the Governor of East New Jersey for life. A learned man and leading advocate of the Friends (Quakers), Barclay published a dozen tracts, including the Gamouse Apology. Barclay was the chief architect of Scottish resettlement of East New Jersey. 

Robert Barclay sold the farmstead tract of 500 acres to John Reid in 1699. Robert Barclay and other Scottish proprietors of East New Jersey employed Reid, a Scots Quaker, in 1683 as overseer in charge of a party of emigrants from Scotland. Reid was appointed Surveyor General of the province in 1702 and was a member of the General Assembly in 1703. 

John Reid sold 200 acres of the tract to John Bowne in 1701. John Bowne, son of Captain John Bowne - a patentee and one of the 5 original settlers of the Monmouth patent granted by Governor Nicolls - was a member of the Provincial Assembly, taking part in the Second Assembly in 1704 and the Third Assembly in 1707. Although both John Reid and John Bowne resided in Freehold, it is not likely that either resided on the farmstead tract.

1706 to 1720

John Bowne sold the 200-acre farmstead tract to Richard Clark in 1706. Nothing is known about Clark; he was probably a farmer and most likely resided on the property, as his deed to the following owner mentions a house.

1720 to 1801

During this period, the farm was owned by George Walker and his descendants. His son, George Walker, Jr., Inherited the property in 1748. Little is known of either Walker, except that the son served in the Revolutionary War in Captain Waddell's 1st Regiment Company. Captain George Walker, Jr., died intestate in 1794, leaving Aaron Forman Walker, the administrator of the estate, which was sold in 1801 to Elijah Combs.

1801 to 1832

During this period, Elijah Combs actively farmed the property, which consisted of 289.90 acres. A man of some means, Combs was probably responsible for developing the farm to its present appearance. His 1831 probate inventory accurately describes the farmhouse as it was at that time.

1832 to 1842

The farmstead was sold by the Commissioners of Monmouth County for the estate of Elijah Combs to Rulif R. Schanck. The total acreage at the time was 226.45 acres. Schanck proceeded to sell off some of the acreage. By the time he sold the farm to Richard S. Hartshorne, Jr. in 1842, the tract was reduced to 143.23 acres. It remained this size until the Route 33 By-pass was built through the northern edge of the farm. This reduced its size to 115.34 acres.

1842 to 1911

The farmstead was sold by Rulif R. Schanck in 1842 to Richard S. Harsthorne, Jr., a New York businessman engaged in the selling of oil under the name Van Vorhees and Hartshorne. A native of Matawan, where he was born January 6, 1814, and a descendant of Richard Hartshorne, one of the original Monmouth patentees, Hartshorne bought the Freehold property in the spring of 1842. He moved in with his family and took up commercial farming. He remained there with his family until April 1, 1871, when he moved to Freehold, still carrying on his farming business. Around July 1, 1872, while stowing away hay in the barn, he slipped and fell 20 feet to the floor, receiving substantial injuries, from which he died on July 29, 1872. His son, Acton Civil Hartshorne, a prominent member of the Monmouth bar, bought the farm from the estate of his father in 1873.

Acton Civil Hartshorne was born October 12, 1843, on the homestead farm. From 1859 to 1866, he was employed by Holmes W. Murphy, Esq., Clerk of Monmouth County, as a copyist, acting as deputy clerk and attending chiefly to searching and preparing abstracts of title. In 1866, Hartshorne entered the office of the Honorable Governor Joel Parker, where he served a regular clerkship as student-at-law, and, at the February term of 1870, was admitted to practice in the courts of the State of New Jersey as an attorney-at-law and solicitor in chancery; in 1876 Hartshorne was admitted as counselor-at-law. On May 1, 1875, he formed a law partnership with the Honorable Chilion Robbins, former judge of the court of common pleas of Monmouth County, under the name Robbins and Hartshorne. Hartshorne also served as special master and examiner of the court of chancery and that of Supreme Court commissioner. He married Georgie E. Bibb, granddaughter of Governor and U.S. Senator Bibb of Alabama. Hartshorne attended the World's Exposition in Vienna as a Commissioner from New Jersey appointed by the Governor, under an act of the legislature. Due to his prominence as a public figure, Hartshorne maintained an office and home in Freehold and leased the farmstead to tenant farmers. In 1911, Hartshorne sold the farm to Charles Oakley, Jr., a general-purpose farmer from East Williston, Long Island, NY.

Title to the Property

The following is the chain of title to the property now called Oakley Farmstead.

  • 1686 - Proprietors of East Jersey to John Barclay (East Jersey deed b40, 42).
  • 1686 - John Barclay to Robert Barclay (East Jersey deed b41, 43)
  • 1699 - Robert Barclay to John Reid (East Jersey deed g223)
  • 1700 - John Reid to John Bowne (Monmouth County deed d159)
  • 1706 - John Bowne to Richard Clark (Monmouth County deed f34)
  • 1720 - Richard Clark to George Walker (Monmouth County deed g67 - Richard Clark's house was on this property also)
  • 1729 - Richard Clark's house to George Walker (Monmouth County deed h39)
  • 1748 - George Walker, Sr. to George Walker, Jr. (New Jersey will 01599)
  • 1794 - George Walker, Jr. to Aaron Forman Walker, Administrator (Monmouth County will liver 33, p.425)
  • 1801 - Aaron Forman Walker et al. to Elijah Combs (Monmouth County deed n118).