John Jacob VanSickle was born July 12, 1851 , the son of Benjamin P. and Rachel Hedgling Van Sickle. He attended school here in Sandyston where he eventually became a teacher here in his hometown and assisted his father on their family farm. He became a merchant at Bevans, NJ where he prospered for six years. During the next eleven years of his life, John went West where he dealt in hay and grain sales on a large scale. John then returned to Sandyston, where he purchased large sections of property and became the owner of several excellent productive farms. He became involved in the mercantile business here in Layton, and built this building that we are holding our ceremony at today, as well as the two buildings located next door. John served as a Freeholder for Sandyston Township, but his ambitions took him to Newton, where he served on township committees and became owner of the Park Block area of Newton. John also was the owner of 500 acres of property outside of Layton which he sold to the Flatbrook Valley Club in 1905.
''A Look Back''
" A biographical sketch honoring his love of local history and the legacy he left behind."
John cared deeply about the history of Sussex County and became a major benefactor in many historic events. One of his most important accomplishments was his work in connection to the “Hill Museum” in Newton which was built to house the Sussex County Historical Society. John, a founding member of the Sussex County Historical Society, was also responsible for the placement of nine historic markers in the Minisink area, which he donated. The nine monuments included the county's first parsonage, the first two churches, four forts one monument marking those killed in the Battle of Coneshaugh and the site of John Cleves Symmes' mansion. John B. Layton is credited with bringing mail delivery to Layton in 1861. At that time Layton was known as Centerville. A post office already existed with this name, so the name “Laytons” was assigned, which was later changed to Layton, dropping the (s). For quite a period of time mail carried the name “Laytons”. The Layton Post Office has been housed over the years in both of the Layton General Stores that were located in Layton. The building next to today’s post office was known as “ McKeeby’s General Store and Post Office which was owned by Frank McKeeby. In later years this building was known as the “Shay’s Store”. The first general store that was built in Layton is situated just up the street at the blinking light. This store dates back to the early times of the miners traveling along the Old Mine Road in the early 1800's. Many people will relate to this store as the store which was owned by Lester T. Smith. This was the first home of the Layton Post Office. Prior to the opening of this building the Layton Post Office had been housed directly across the street.
From the Collection of Patte Haggerty Frato
In the early 1900's the Delaware Valley Grange was established and meetings were held in the basement of the home of Mr. Dayton DePue. His home still stands today across the street. In 1906 this building was sold to the Delaware Valley Grange for $675.00. This building housed the “Grange” for many years. The “Grange” was an organization established primarily for farmers after the close of the “Civil War” to help people get their lives back to some normalcy. It later opened it’s membership to anyone that was interested in agriculture. This organization had a very close relation between Church and local organizations. And many events were held in this building, from local church dinners and events to school functions and graduations. In later years the “Grange” dissolved and building became the “ Sandyston Township Municipal Building”.
In 2004 the new Sandyston Township Municipal Building opened in Hainesville, NJ. This present building’s future became somewhat uncertain. What would happen to this place and all the history connected to it? Would Sandyston Township be able to keep this building that was so much a part of Layton, it’s people, and it’s history? So many people had been a part of this building’s past.
In 2007, work began on the former Sandyston Township Municipal Building in Layton to convert this building into the new home for the Layton Post Office. The move was only a short distance as the post office had been housed in a much smaller building located across the street from its present location. This beautiful old building received a facelift, including new windows, siding, handicapped accessible entrance and the inside was refurbished to resemble the many United States Post Offices in the area. Sandyston Township currently has a 20 year lease with the United States Postal Service.
Layton is a treasure trove of history. It is indeed a credit to the efforts of the United States Postal Service and the Sandyston Township Committee to work together and create a modern facility in a historic building that keeps the “hometown” feel of Layton. A picture perfect presentation of an up to date facility with the feel and character of yesterday. John J. VanSickle would be pleased. John J. VanSickle died in 1931 and is buried in the Bevans (Old Dutch) Churchyard located just outside of Layton. How pleased he would be to know that his love of history is shared today, in a world that moves at such a rapid pace. We can’t move into the future without taking care of our past.
Sandyston Township Historian
President, Sandyston Township Historical Society
The American Flag proudly displayed at the Layton Post Office, 122 Route 560, Layton, NJ