Sleepy Hollow Families: Belyea/Storm



Haunted Dimensions at:

Sleepy Hollow the most famous haunted town in the World at:

Sleepy Hollow, Westchester County, New York by J. E. Barnes, November 2004 at: 

A Farm on the Philipsburgh Estate

Washington Irving opens his classic ghost story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, written in 1819, with these lines:

    In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, . . . there lies a small market town . . . not far from this village there is a little lap of land among the high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the world.  A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose . . .

    From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name Sleepy Hollow.  A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere.  Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there . . . the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie.  They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and
visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air.  The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.”

    “I mention this peaceful spot with all possible laud, for it is in such little retired Dutch valleys, found here and there embosomed in the great State of New York, that population, manners, and customs remain fixed, while the great torrent of migration and improvement, which is making such incessant changes in other parts of this restless country, sweeps by them unobserved.  Though many years have elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades of Sleepy Hollow, yet I question whether I should not still find the same trees and the same families vegetating in its sheltered bosom.”


Frederick Philipse was a neighbour of Dirck and Maria Storm in Nieuw Amsterdam, and had by this time established the Manor of Philip’s Burgh, where their sons and daughters, and Maria herself, relocated over the course of the decade, and when he departed Tappan in 1703, Old Dirck joined his sons and grandsons, across the Tappan Zee, near Sleepy Hollow. 

The family had again established their membership in the Old Dutch Church at its’ beginning, 1697.  Old Dirck had been instrumental in the development of the first Dutch church at Tappan and he likewise brought his commitment to the new church at Sleepy Hollow.  By the year 1715 the church members at Sleepy Hollow entrusted him with recording the 18-year history of the Old Dutch Church, and “Old Dirck’s Book” became the identifying record of the baptisms and marriages of the congregation. 

Old Dirck died about 1716, having completed the record to that date, which was then carried on by subsequent clerks of the church.

The story of Dirck Storm and his family can be found in “Old Dirck’s Book - A brief account of the life and times of Dirck Storm of Holland, his antecedents, and the family he founded in America in 1662” by R. W. Storm, 1949; the record of family baptisms and marriages is found in “The First Record Book of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, Organized in 1697 and now The First Reformed Church of Tarrytown, N.Y.” published by the Yonkers Historical and Library Association, 1901.

Early in 1677 Dirck, his wife and six children, trekked along the trail into Long Island, to the area overlooking Jamaica Bay that would become Flatbush, near to his farm property.  He became the first school teacher, and resumed his administrative career as Town Clerk, at Flatbush, in 1680, while his sons operated the farms.  The family changed their church membership from the Breukelen Church to the Reformed Dutch Church of Flatbush, where for the next seventeen years, the records contain their baptisms, marriages, and burials.  When the village funding failed to pay the school teacher, Dirck moved his family to their Bedford farm in 1685, where Dirck engaged in farming himself for the first time.

During the so-called ‘Leisler Uprising’, the County of Orange was created across the Hudson River, north of the New Jersey line, requiring a new Secretary.  In 1691, “Old Dirck”, now 61 years old, left his family in Bedford, to conduct the affairs of the new county seat at Tappan, as Secretary, and Clerk of the Sessions Court.  From the west bank of the river, he traveled on foot along the Sparkill stream a mile or two, where he presided in a log courthouse and jail, and along with the Sheriff, was the only government official over an extensive territory. 

After struggling through the first year and a half, during which time the English took over New Amsterdam, and renamed it New York, by early 1665 Dirck Storm had secured a license to operate a tavern, located in the house he rented in Bevergracht, or Beaver Street, which turned out to be no easy task but did allow him to purchase several small lots of property. 

In 1669 he was invited by friends to the village of Breucklen across the East River, where he was the assistant to the Town Clerk and was soon appointed to the position himself; it was more important work in that era than it is even today.   Two years later, he bought an established farm at Bedford on Long Island, spent several years acquiring livestock, and purchased another farm at New Lots, near Flatbush, about 1675. 

Loyalist Grandmother

Annie (Storm)(Yerxa)Belyea, wife of Hendrick Belyea,

of Sleepy Hollow, New York & Greenwich Parish, New Brunswick

The movie I caught on a television channel the other night was “Sleepy Hollow” with Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, and it reminded me that my Loyalist grandparents, Hendrick Belyea and Engeltje (Angelica) Storm, were from the area of Sleepy Hollow, New York, and that both families were members of the historic Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow.  Said to be the oldest remaining church building in the colony that was New York, and now standing for 312 years, it was built in 1697 or before, at the behest of Frederick Flypse (Philipse), holder of the land patent for the 52,000 acres that became known as Philipsburgh Manor.

The estate of Philipsburgh extended along the east bank of the Hudson River from Yonkers to the Croton River.  The historic Philipse Manor, or Philipse Castle, was the primary residence of Frederick Philipse and his family at Sleepy Hollow, a little north of Tarrytown, and just a stone’s throw from the Old Dutch Church and its burial ground.

Philipse’s Castle in Sleepy Hollow

The Old Dutch Church and Burial Ground

Hendrick/Henry Belyea, the Loyalist, was a son of Jan Bolje/Bulyea and Helena Williamse of the Courtlandt Manor, a deacon of the Sleepy Hollow Church.  His grandfather may have been Louis Boulier, the Immigrant Ancestor of this name, who as a Huguenot refugee, arrived in New York in the early 1690s, and after a few years on Long Island, perhaps in the Dutch enclave of Breukelen (Brooklyn), and at the Dutch enclave of Hackensack, New Jersey, removed up the Hudson River to the area of Sleepy Hollow before 1706.  It is difficult to pinpoint the movements of early settlers as they used the services of traveling clergymen who performed a baptism or marriage in one location and later recorded it in another.  One begins to see in the Church records how the spelling of the Boulier name was transformed over a very short time, due to the translation from French to Dutch to English, coupled with irregular spelling habits of the Dutch and English record keepers, and the general disregard in that era for conformity in spelling.

The origins of Hendrick Belyea the Loyalist have been documented in the New England Historic Genealogical Register of 1969 in Belyea Family of New Brunswick NEHGR 1969.pdf by Dr. Harold Cayhill Belyea of Cumberland, Rhode Island, (click on the underlined title to open the document), and in the sketch of Henry Belyea in “Loyalists All”, New Brunswick Branch of the United Empire Loyalists Association, 1985. 

In the research of my Loyalist ancestors however, I have become as curious about my loyal grandmothers as my loyal grandfathers, and this holds true for Engeltje/Angelica (Storm) (Jerckse/Yerxa) Belyea, called Annie, my Loyalist Grandmother through her son Robert Belyea, Hannah (Belyea) Flewelling, Harriet Caroline (Flewelling) Wetmore, to my Great Grandfather Adino Paddock Wetmore of Clifton Royal, New Brunswick, and to my Grandmother Hazel Marguerite (Wetmore) Flewwelling.

In the Ernest Mott Papers, documenting the Mott, Belyea, and Flewelling families, is found this anecdote from a descendant, written 12 June 1883: “There is a little romance connected with this common ancestor Henry Bulyea, which I will tell you.  Henry and Annie Storm were engaged to be married, when trouble occurred to break off the match, and Annie married Mr. Yerxa, and Henry married Deborah Carpenter.  When death untied both these knots, Henry and Annie returned to their first love.”

The Records of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow indicate that Engeltje Storm was baptized there 20 July 1730, and that as the young widow of Abraham Jerckse and mother of John Yerxa, married there for the second time, in March 1755, Hendrick Belyea, widower of Deborah Carpenter, with two sons and two daughters of his own. 

Early Nieuw Amsterdam

The Old Dutch Church

& Burial Ground

Angelica’s Great Grandfather was the Immigrant Ancestor of this surname, Dirck (Deiterick/Dedrick/Derick) Storm, known to colonial history as “Old Dirck”.  This venerable patriarch, born at Leyden, Holland, in 1630, ten years after the departure of the Pilgrims from that place, was of Viking origin, his forefathers being from the town of Delft in the Province of Brabant, first mentioned there in 1390; he was the fifth generation to bear the name Dirck Storm.  In 1655 he married Maria van Monfoort, in the village of Der Bosch, where he was working with his uncles. 

Early Illustration of Nieuw Amsterdam

Old Dirck Storm grew up in a family of cloth merchants in which he also worked, until business declined due to political changes between England and Holland, and the growing preference for plain cloth in dressing that attended the protestant movement.  Out of work, his uncle secured for Dirck, the job of Town Clerk in a nearby town, and thus he entered upon a new career path.  However, times were lean and the family was growing, and protestants such as they were not well-treated in Brabant, while they were hearing that the West India Company’s colony at Nieuw Amsterdam was showing signs of increased prosperity, and so, like thousands of families unhappily having to forsake the Old Country, they took passage together with the Ackerman family, on the ship ‘De Vos’, the Fox, departing 31 August 1662.   Their fourth child, daughter  Maria, was born at sea.

Artists’ Views of Old Nieuw Amsterdam

The East River Landing for the Ferry to Bruekelen

Early 18th Century New York

The Philipse Manor House at Yonkers

View of the Philipse Manor House about 1745

Angelica’s father, Jan Storm, was baptized in the Old Dutch Church in 1706, fifth child of Old Dirck’s eldest son Gregoris and his wife Engeltje Van Dyck; he married there, 11 June 1726, Rachel de Reviere, daughter of Abraham de Reviere and his second wife Weyntje Krancheyt (Cronkite).  Abraham de Reviere was the first bridegroom to walk down the aisle of the then new Dutch Church at Sleepy Hollow, 30 October 1698.

Perhaps one of the most famous haunted towns in the world, Sleepy Hollow village, 25 miles north of New York, dates back to the 1640s, it’s name derived from the name given by the Dutch settlers: Slapershaven, or Sleeper’s Haven, which for most of its existence was part of North Tarrytown and was not actually renamed Sleepy Hollow until 1996.  It was a place of astonishing tales of ghosts and goblins, of haunted field and brooks and bridges.

There are several alleged hauntings throughout the town, among them the famous headless horseman, the Hessian soldier, whose legend is based in truth, buried in the Old Dutch Burial Ground, which contains graves dating back as far as 1650, among them, Eleanor Van Tassel Brush, Irving’s model for ‘Katrina’, Samuel Youngs, the real ‘Ichabod’, and Abraham Martling, ‘Brom Bones’.

Patriot’s Park is a small park between the towns of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown at the approximate location of the capture of the traitor Major Andre, Irving’s model for the headless Hessian soldier, believed to haunt the park.  Sparta Cemetery, not far from Sleepy Hollow along Route 9 in Scarborough, boasts unexplained voices and m
ists late at night.

Legend has it that the famous pirate Captain Kidd once landed at Sleepy Hollow in search of a place to hide his treasure, and his bride, from an enemy;  plans failed however, and his bride was taken to the village of Leeds, where she was incarcerated, and later executed; her ghost is said to be drawn by horses through the streets of Sleepy Hollow at midnight, while treasure hunters still believe in Kidd’s elusive cache.

Captain Kidd at New York about 1700


Such is the legacy of the Dutch wives of Sleepy Hollow, who brought their folklore from the Low Countries generations before, originating in the mythologies of their Norse and Celtic origins.  They believed in such supernatural beings as elves, moss maidens, and tree spirits from medieval times, and held the oak tree, and wooded groves, to be sacred, and possessing medicinal powers. 

It is felt that the spell of the past hangs over the area today, explains one writer, who surveyed the valley’s history recently, citing evidence that Irving’s Dutch storytellers were not just imagining things.  “There is hardly an outcropping, island, stretch of road, mansion (whether mouldering or studiously maintained), or hedgerow, that does not have a long reputation for being invigorously haunted.”  Besides the headless Hessian soldier of Irving’s story, Fishkill to the north, has a headless horseman of its own, the town of Leeds has a silent phantom on a black mare, perhaps the ghost of Captain Kidd’s bride; the town of Lloyd has a 200-year old grey lady haunting it’s lake, along with the spectral fiddler of Dutchess County, and the giant phantom pig of the Old Albany Post Road.

It is said that the spirits of women long dead haunt the hallways of local estates, or their remains, including Estherwood, Wilderstein, Beechwood, and the ‘Octagon House’.  The small Bannerman’s Island, with a striking castle ruin, has had the reputation of being haunted for over 400 years, while a ghost train carrying the corpse of Abraham Lincoln has been reported along the Hudson’s eastern shore regularly since 1865.

It is observed that in both the Churchyard and the vast 85-acre Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the spell of the past, and of timelessness, is unusually potent.  “A drowsy, supernatural influence, seems to hang over the combined space, the effect strengthened by the twisting lanes and ornate statuary, the rise and fall of the land, the views of the Hudson River and the lower Catskills in the distance, ancient mausoleums and more ancient trees.”  One is constantly impressed by “the Romantic-style design of the cemetery, which resembles nothing so much as the background of a late Gainsborough painting, and the breathless silence that hangs over everything.”

Our colonial, and later Loyalist, Grandmothers, Angelica one of them, moved constantly through this enchanted landscape, and marked the milestones of their lives in this exquisite little church.  Her mother died when Angelica was just 14, and being the second eldest, she helped with the care of the younger children until her father married again in 1744, one Mary, perhaps of the van Wort family.

Meanwhile her aunts, Maritje (Storm) Jerckse, Aeltje (Storm) Banken, Elizabeth Storm, Sophia (de Reviere) Orser, and Janet (de Reviere) Buys, and her many cousins, shared in the life of the family, and the time spent spinning linen, and swapping the tales of the neighborhood spirits. 

Near Marlboro on the other shore, a phantom Dutch sloop has been seen navigating the river during the full moon; the nearby Dunderberg Mountain overlooking Stony Point, is the reputed dwelling of a thunderstorm goblin that manifests itself to sailors on the river.  To the ghosts of Revolutionary soldiers from both sides of the conflict are added Indian spirits, and the centuries-old curses of their forebears.

Map of Loyalist Land Grants in Greenwich Parish on the west side of the River St. John showing grants of Henry and Abraham Belyea.

Late 19th Century Photograph of the Lower Long Reach of the St. John River and Belyea’s Point

The St. John River near Caton’s Island

Since the 18th Century, the neighbourhood has been home to “every kind of prophet, seer, mystic, eccentric, crackpot inventor, freebooter, wayward millionaire, visionary, utopian idealist, and all-American dreamer”.  From 1982 to 1995, the lower valley hosted an array of spectacular UFO sightings, reportedly seen by an estimated 7,000 people.

The Old Dutch Church is an antiquarian’s dream, now a National Historic Landmark, and with its Churchyard, is as magnificent and evocative today as they were in Irving’s time, and by American standards, each was already old then, and a look at 19th century Currier & Ives prints, as seen here, shows how little has changed.

It may well have been within Angelica’s Storm or Van Tassel, Van Wort or Orser families, who still lived around Sleepy Hollow after the Revolution, that Washington Irving was introduced to their phantasmagoria.

The Revolution rendered communities and families, and led to the eventual exile of the Bulyeas, Yerxas, Van Tassels, Van Worts, and others from Philipsburgh and Courtlandt Manors, and other communities served by the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow.

It is a certainty that Annie and her womenfolk in loyalty, did not leave their storytelling and their tales of ghosts and forest dwellers behind them in Sleepy Hollow, but instead, wove the enriching thread of myths and legends that grew and thrived in the New Brunswick culture, and have come down to us in the numerous tales of local ghosts and other unexplained phenomena.

Henry Belyea was already 63 years of age, and Annie 53, when they arrived on the desolate shores of the River St. John, where they joined their sons and grandsons on lands granted by the Crown for loyalty in the Revolution, and lived out their days in Greenwich Parish, Kings County, on the northern shore of the Long Reach, ‘behind’ Caton’s Island.

Their descendants were also found at Oak Point, and at the lower end of the Reach, by the middle of the 19th century, in the areas of Woodman’s Point and Belyea’s Point.  Annie raised thirteen children of the name Belyea, her own children and her step-children, as well as John Yerxa, her firstborn, and left 13 grandchildren of the Yerxa name, and 91 Belyeas, 66 from her own children, some of whom she had outlived by the time of her death in 1804, two years after Henry’s death, and they are said to be buried together by the old St. Peter’s Church, now the churchyard of St. James at Westfield.