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Deeply Rooted

We honor our parents by carrying their best forward and laying the rest down.

- Bruce Springsteen

If you live around the Freehold area, you’ve seen the truck many times, no doubt. Taylor and Taylor Landscaping has been serving Monmouth County for decades, headed up by the congenial - and very direct - George Taylor. A graduate of Freehold High School himself, George is a familiar sight on the grounds of MCHA. He’s recognizable at a distance in his jeans and T-shirt, sporting a low gray ponytail under either a baseball cap or Indiana Jones-style fedora, depending on his mood. In the warmer months, you have a good chance of looking out the window and seeing him on the riding mower or simply puttering around, bending down to inspect some landscaping interest. If you happen to catch his eye, he’s always ready with a wave and an easy smile, already walking over to catch up on the latest news around town.

He has passed his congeniality down to his son, Thomas, whose name is typically said conversationally as one word around MCHA: “Tomtaylor.” In recent years, Tom has been actively helping MCHA with our buildings and grounds. Always busy working in the area, he magically appears whenever a helping hand is needed, and his expertise has earned him a spot on our Board of Trustees. Tom is quiet but friendly, honest, and hard working. He’s also incredibly smart, but manages to be unassuming. It seems that everyone you run into around here considers Tom their friend, and his reputation is the same no matter who you ask: Tom’s a great guy.

After checking in on the property at Marlpit Hall in Middletown, Tom half-jokingly wondered if his family was related to the Taylors who once lived there. Edward Taylor the 1st emigrated from England in the late 1600s and in 1771, his grandson Edward (1712-1783) purchased what is now known as Marlpit Hall. This c. 1756 structure is presently owned and operated by MCHA as one of our historic house museums. Edward became a wealthy landowner, relying on slavery to maintain his home and livelihood. The story of those who were enslaved at this residence is told in MCHA's powerful new exhibit Beneath the Floorboards: Whispers of the Enslaved at Marlpit Hall. As a Patriot-turned-Loyalist during the Revolution, Edward was described multiple times as “dangerous” by the New Jersey Council of Safety. He found himself under house arrest in 1777 for acting as a spy for the British, though he claimed to be as “innocent as an unborn child.”

The descendant Taylors remained at Marlpit Hall, which eventually began to fall into disrepair. In 1853, the family built a large Italianate residence directly beside Marlpit Hall. They called this residence Orchard Home, owing perhaps to the placement on the property within its many apple trees. By this point, the Taylors had manumitted all of the African Americans under their legal ownership; New Jersey was the last northern state to officially abolish the atrocity years later in January of 1866. To their credit, the Taylors were several decades in advance of that mandate. Elizabeth Van Cleaf, born into slavery in Marlpit Hall, stayed on as a servant to the family after her manumission. Opportunities to support oneself were exceptionally limited for African Americans at this tumultuous time, particularly those who had lived a life in bondage and suddenly found themselves free. She knew no other home or way of life, nor was it likely she could forge a new one above her current station. Marlpit Hall, still next door, remained within the family and descended down the Taylor line until the last direct descendant, Mary Holmes Taylor III (b. 1850), died in 1930.

Returning to Edward the 1st (1650-1710), he had many children, and they had many children, and long story short, well, there are just Taylors everywhere! Being a common name, not all Taylors are direct from Edward’s line. Beginning with George’s paternal line of Taylors, his great-grandfather and great-uncles were of the group of master weavers recruited from England in the late 1800s by the Karagheusian brothers to launch the world-renowned rug mill in Freehold. This mill produced beautiful handcrafted carpets for the likes of Radio City Music Hall, the United States Supreme Court, Spencer Tracy, and Jean Harlow. Even FDR’s personal train car was laid with a Karagheusian carpet. You know the factory, whether you realize it or not...A&M Karagheusian was referenced by Springsteen in My Hometown as the “textile mill across the railroad tracks.” The closure of this factory due to the inability to compete with more industrialized, cheaper manufacturers resulted in a sad economic downturn for many families in the small town, signaling hard times ahead. Having these ancestors already makes George and Tom living history in Freehold.

However, ancestors arriving from England in the late 1800s meant they couldn’t be of Edward the 1st’s line, who had already been here for 200 years. George’s maternal line, Probasco, is an old Monmouth name as well. Back and back it went, with solid documentation. They have another historic gem in their ancestor, Thomas Thomson, who owned the stone house where British General Sir Henry Clinton stopped before moving on to the larger and more refined Covenhoven House before the 1778 Battle of Monmouth.

And then suddenly - stunningly - Joseph Taylor, son of Edward Taylor the 1st and uncle of Edward Taylor of Marlpit Hall, appeared at the top of the line. Joseph Taylor’s family settled in Freehold, to make things more uncanny. Our acclaimed genealogist, Gail Hahn, confirmed that George and Tom descend directly from Edward Taylor the 1st through his son Joseph Taylor of Freehold, where George and Tom have built their lives.

History and ancestry have never failed to fascinate us at MCHA, and we have been amazed by the many researchers who come to us to trace their lineage back to the Revolution and beyond. These ancestors live on in the wills, tax records, court proceedings, account ledgers, correspondence and newspapers. They leave clues, stories, and often mysteries in their wake. Thankfully, there were no dreaded “brick walls” in the Taylor genealogy. George and Tom, father and son, have been taking care of Freehold for decades. Until recently, we had no idea how deep their actual roots went, but it is not surprising given how they fit so naturally into this place.

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