John C. DEBEVOISE Farmhouse
Ridgewood Farmhouse Was Once Center Of Legal Battle Over Woman’s Rights

The following is from the Ridgewood Times

"This photograph was taken on March 17, 1940 of the Knights of Columbus 
clubhouse located at Fresh Pond Road and Catalpa Avenue in Ridgewood. 
It was the Silver Jubilee Year (1915-1940) of the Knights of Columbus 
Council #1814. 
The clubhouse was demolished in 1974 and replaced by a senior center.

"In this photograph, there is a Roman Catholic bishop, members of the 
Knights of Columbus, members of the Fife, Drum and Bugle Band of the 
Knights of Columbus Ridgewood Council #1814. 
Proud members of the Knights of Columbus Council #1814 are pictured outside 
their Ridgewood clubhouse, located at Fresh Pond Road and Catalpa Avenue, 
in this 1940 photo. Also there are two Boy Scouts holding the flags.

Old Timer’s Note-
This is an excellent photograph, and we appreciate Mr. Adamic sharing it with 
our readers. The clubhouse is the former 
John C. DEBEVOISE farmhouse, which was built in 1846 and stood on the 
southwest corner of the intersection facing Fresh Pond Road. He had a 
25-acre farm with the farmhouse on the eastern end and then extending 
westward with Catalpa Avenue as the northern boundary and the farm ending 
where Catalpa Avenue subsequently intersected with Myrtle Avenue.
John DEBEVOISE married a neighbor, Mary Jane Way, in 1848. Her father, 
Samuel Way, owned two farms on the east side of Fresh Pond Road, with 
one farm in Middle Village and the other in Maspeth. When they got married, 
she was 19 years old and he was 32.

The DEBEVOISE Family has an interesting history. John C. DEBEVOISE was the 
seventh generation of the family in America. The first to arrive was 
Carol DEBEVOISE and his family, in 1659. They came from Leiden in Holland. 
They settled in Brooklyn and he became the school master. He was paid 25 
Dutch quilders a year, plus furnished a house, rent free, for his use. He 
eventually also became the village clerk.

The family originally came from the village of Beauvais, which was 40 
miles north of Paris in France. There was a dispute among French royalty 
with some favoring the Roman Catholic religion and others being Protestants. 
The DEBEVOISE family was Huguenot and Protestant. On St. Bartholomew’s Day 
in 1572 a massacre of Huguenots was started in Paris and eventually spread 
to the provinces in France. Reportedly, an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 
Huguenots were killed. The DEBEVOISE family fled to Leiden in Holland and 
then as noted in 1659 came to America.

In 1702, the first member of the DEBEVOISE family who moved from Brooklyn 
to Queens was Carol DEBEVOISE, who was named after his grandfather and was 
the third generation of the family in America. He purchased a 60-acre farm 
on the southwest corner of what is today Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan 
Avenue and extended westward. This area was called 'Fresh Ponds.' As time 
passed, other members of the DEBEVOISE family acquired farms in Fresh Ponds.
Mary Jane and John DEBEVOISE had no children and when he died in 1897, in 
his will he left Mary Jane the farmhouse and nine acres of the farm extending 
westward from Fresh Pond Road. He left his two nephews about 14 acres and 
John Boam 3/4 of an acre. Until the law was changed in 1932 in New York State, 
widows had "dower rights" on their husband’s real estate with this practice 
being derived from the English Common Law. Regardless of what was stated in 
the will, a widow was entitled to her "dower rights," which were calculated 
by determining the annual income on the real estate, dividing it by 1/3 and 
multiplying it by the widow’s life expectancy as determined by the mortality 
tables. Leasing farm land was a common practice and it was therefore simple 
to determine the annual income. For some reason, Mary Jane, who was granted 
nine acres and the farmhouse of the 25-acre farm, felt this was less than 
her dower rights and she filed a protest with the Surrogates Court. After 
meeting with her two nephews, the matter was resolved and the land was 
conveyed as per the will.

In 1906, Kathryn Grace, a real estate investor, acquired the John C. DEBEVOISE 
farm from Mary Jane and the two nephews and subsequently the land was resold 
to Paul Stier and other builders who constructed houses. 

Mary Jane DEBEVOISE moved to Brooklyn, where she died in 1910.

The farmhouse and its site was acquired by the Knights of Columbus 
Ridgewood Council in 1915. Besides using the building for their own meetings, 
they covered expenses by renting meeting rooms to other organizations. 
In 1916, the Jefferson Democratic Club rented a meeting room. By 1922, the 
Third District Magistrates Court were holding their proceedings there. As 
per the sign in the photograph, in 1940, the Catholic War Veterans Glen-Ridge 
Post was holding meetings there.
The building was demolished in 1974 and a senior center erected on the site. 
I believe a portion of the old farmhouse was retained when the senior center 
was erected. Possibly the present staff at the senior center can comment on this.

Ridgewood Times Archives