Two Sneden Families or One?

Snedens Landing, the section of Palisades closest to the Hudson River, is named after the Sneden family that operated a ferry service across the river from the 1740s to the early 1900s. A 1745 map shows a house labeled “Snedens house the ferry” beside the Hudson River. This was Cheer Hall, built by William Merritt around 1700, and probably rented by Robert Sneden when the map was made. The ferry was originally operated by William Dobbs of Westchester. Robert Sneden married William’s step-sister Maria—called Molly—in 1731. He apparently helped his brother-in-law by taking on the Rockland end of the ferry business in the 1740s. The ferry business must have prospered; in 1752 Robert Sneden purchased Cheer Hall.

Robert Sneden died in 1753. From then on Molly was in charge, helped by her three oldest sons, Abraham, 20; Dennis, 19; and John, 17; she eventually had twelve children. In 1756, Mollie began operating a tavern in her house, as well as continuing to oversee the ferry. She lived to be 101 and was a strong and independent woman.

Robert and Molly’s youngest son, Samuel, was a Tory who left Palisades at the beginning of the Revolutionary War with his wife Mary and son, first for New York City and then in 1773 for Nova Scotia where the family settled in Shelburne, along with many other Tory refugees. According to records of the Shelborne Historical Society, Samuel Sneden was a ship carpenter.

Samuel remained in touch with his family in Palisades. In a letter dated May 23, 1784, Samuel wrote to his mother announcing the birth of a daughter to be called Mary, after his mother and wife, and mentioning his brother Dennis and his second son, “little Sam Sneden, shoemaker.”

In 1795, or a little earlier, a young man named Samuel Sneden arrived in Palisades from Nova Scotia. Common sense suggests that young Samuel Sneden was the son of the Samuel Sneden who had moved to Nova Scotia. He soon married Elisabeth Concklin of Rockleigh, which probably led to the name “The Snedens of the Field.” “The Snedens of the Landing” had been long established by the Hudson River.

When my mother, Alice Haagensen, published her book Palisades and Snedens Landing in 1986, she included genealogies for two Sneden families: the Snedens of the Landing and the Snedens of the Field. The possibility that the Snedens might actually be one family occurred to her, but three of her informants—Elizabeth Fox Finck, Mildred Rippey and Mrs. Adeline Denike Van Blarcom—all told her that “there was no connection between the two branches.” These were influential women in the community, two of them with roots in Palisades going back to the 18th century, and perhaps she gave undue weight to their statements.

Recently, Sneden descendant and genealogist Pat Wardell discovered proof that Samuel Sr. himself also returned to the United States and died here in 1795. The proof is in a receipt signed by his son, Benjamin Sneden, and is printed in Judd, Jacob, editor, Correspondence of the Van Cortlandt Family of Cortlandt Manor 1815-1848. Samuel and his two sons, Benjamin and Samuel, had returned to New York, and were engaged for about 6 months in building a sloop, the Success, in Westchester County, New York. The proof of Samuel Senior’s return to New York is below:

“Received Novr. 14th. 1795. of Philip Van Cortlandt Twenty Five Pounds Infull for 211⁄2 Days work of my Father and 26. Days of my Brother and my Self before the Decease of my Father [£12.18 + £13. Total £25.18.0] Benjamin Sneden”

It would be too much of a coincidence to believe that another Samuel Sneden, a ship’s carpenter with a son also named Samuel and wife named Mary, but no relation to Molly, suddenly appeared in Palisades in 1795.

Thanks to Pat Wardell, we now know that the Snedens of the Landing and the Snedens of the Field were actually one family, but we will probably never know what obscure family quarrel led to the claim that they were two.