SP Source #537934
STACEY BEAKES MADE THE BEST OF A BAD BARGAIN.
Like many a purchaser of land unseen, Stacy Beakes probably many times regretted the bargain he had made in 1771 with Benjamin Doughty for about 200 acres of the former Rokeby tract in the Town of Wallkill, Ulster County, which Doughty had inherited from his grandfather, Johathan Whitehead. Stacy, whose great grandparents on the Beakes side had been in Penn's company and owned much of the site of Philadelphia, came to Wallkill from well settled Trenton, which his Stacy ancestors had helped to found. With him was his wife, May Ann Yard, of a family numbered among the benefactors of Princeton. Little did people of those established communities know of the hard, perilous life of the frontier in the decade before the Revolution. But courage in good measure and the American desire to stake out a claim of their own more than balanced the uncertainties of life in Willkill for Stacy and Mary Ann. Probably they were not more disappointed in their land than many another couple who cleared virgin tracts. That fact, however, did not lighten the burden or lessen the stones responsible for most of it.
Stacy, who found he had more rock than farm and, often remarked that he could cross almost any field without touching soil. But he wasted no energy on useless complaint. Though he had been "read out of meeting" for having married the red-haired Presbyterian Mary Ann, he was still a Friend in habit and philosophy, and Friends made the best even of bad bargains. One thing of superior excellence the farm did have, and still has: a spring that maintains temperature of forty-five degrees all year round. Never since the Beakeses came 170 years ago has there been need of ice on that farm.
Stacy put up with the rocks and was thankful for the spring. And eventually he found use and value in the stones. They made fences. Sold by the cartload they went into many of the structures in the growing community of Middletown, a center not even foreshadowed when Stacy came. For awhile during the building period Stacy considered his stone worth more than his land. Nevertheless he raised crops as well as a large family on his rocky acres, and among the crops potatoes served a double purpose, food for the family and an article of trade with the Indians who like to barter at the spring.
Mary Ann died while there was still a house full of small children. Newighbor Rhoda Howell came to care for them. Stacy married Rhoda, and thereby regained the seat in meeting he had forfeited by espousing Mary Ann, for Rhoda was a Friend. The years were hard and long before the Beakes farm became productive and profitable. Stacy's son Joseph, who stayed on the farm, often rested a few hours and then rose with the moon on fair nights, because the days were too short for the work that had to be done. Joseph's eldest daughter, Maria, generally shared his moonlight labor, and by day she often stood between two churns, operating both at the same time.
Meanwhile, Stacy Jr. with a general store and lumber business at the cross roads which became Milddletown's Franklin Square, not only made the place a trading center but persuaded the Government that it rated a Postoffice. Stacy Jr., and his son Henry were Middletown's first two Postmasters. Late 19th Century details dispel the appearance of age, but this was Joseph's house, and it included the smaller house to which Stacy,. Sr. probably moved in his old age from his first cabin on a nearby hill.