Murder on a mountain top
Spouse(s): Susannah Jennings, Mary January (not married)
Family tree: Baltus Roll 1769-1831
Baltusrol Golf Club
The name of this eminent club was derived from that of Baltus Roll, who owned mountainside property in Springfield, N. J., Baltus, born in 1769, was a son of Abraham Roll (1739-1813) who was a brother of Isaac Roll.
In 1831 Baltus, a farmer noted for his thrift, was attacked, tortured and killed by two strangers in an attempt to make him reveal the hiding place of his money. Two suspects were later arrested; one hanged himself in jail; the other was tried but not convicted.
The gravestone of Baltus in the Presbyterian Churchyard in Westfield, N. J., bears the unusual, but true, statement "Murdered." Baltus and his wife were childless. In the 1890's area residents purchased the property and built a golf course on it.
Source: Roll, Edwin D., The Roll Family, One Branch, October 1982, p. 10, LDS Microfiche 6018739.
Gruesome origin of Club's Name.
Golfers who have played over the Baltusrol Club course near Short Hills, N.J., have often asked, "Where did the name of this club come from?" Beyond the fact that the high hill back of the clubhouse had been called Baltusrol Mountain ever since the first inhabitant began to exercise his memory, no further explanation has ever been offered.
During the recent women's championship, however, additional light was thrown upon the mystery, but the real truth sent cold shivers down the spine of more than one hardy girl. The name Baltusrol commemorates the name of a man who was murdered close by the links nearly a century ago, and the distinction of being the only golf club in the United States whose name springs from a tragedy is unique with the popular club near Short Hills.
The name of the murdered man was Baltus Roll. He was a sturdy Dutchman, who early in the century resided in a small cottage on the Orange Mountain, overlooking Westfield, N.J. He owned considerable property in the district, and on March 26, 1803, he transferred a plot of one acre and thirty-two square rods to Silvanus Pierson for $295. This deed was registered by William S. Pennington, who then resided on a farm at Westfield. When the worthy registrar died, this, among others, was found in the barn by the new owner, and by him had been presented to the club.
The property conveyed by the deed adjoins the land on which the present Baltusrol links are situated.
Baltus Roll would in all probability have passed away unnoticed but for the dramatic ending of his life. Hew was known to possess considerable means and was believed to keep his money in the house. Thieves one night lured him into the garden, murdered him, and ransacked the house. His wife escaped. This event has given a tone of romance to the district, which still lingers in the name of the mountain and the golf club.
The old deed which revives the tragedy of the locality bas been handsomely framed and it occupied a conspicuous position in the main room of the clubhouse during the recent tournament. Its most interesting feature is the scrawling signature of the former owner of the land, signed at the end of the deed, "Baltus Roll," while beneath is a cross with the explanatory note that it is the sign of "Susanna Roll, his wife."
The murdered man's cottage is still standing, a short distance beyond the hill where the eighth and eleventh holes are situated.
Source: New York Times, November 17, 1901, p. 14. In a column named "Consuls and Navy Jacks: Odd Bits of Life by the Sea-Going Hobo."
The Ghost of Old Baldy Stalks Again
Tragedy made a traditional figure of Baltus Roll. In life, an easy-going farmer and trader, residing in a little house on a lonely road on the hillside; in death, the hapless victim of a crime by which his name became known on two continents.
Judged by the objects with which his name is identified, he might have been a noted sportsman or patriot or public-spirited country squire. Baltus Roll was the grandson of a Dutch Pioneer, Johannes Roll who settle in the mountains back of Westfield about 1740.
He was murdered on the night of February 22nd, 1831. His wife, who was alone in the house with him at the time, testified at the trial of one of the accused that she and her husband had retired early. about midnight she was awakened by a pounding on the door. When admission was refused the door burst open. "Two men entered; one a large man, the other a small man. They seized Roll, drew him from the bed, slatted him about the room and dragged him to the door."
Later, the large man came to the stairs and told her to remain in her room, but when he went out she followed. She saw two men tying Baltus. The snow was very deep, but they threw him in a puddle of icy water. He twice called to her. After that, "he did not make any noise and I thought he was dead." She slipped out of the door and wandered aimlessly into the woods through the snow.
It rained all night and she was exhausted when morning came. Returning to the house, she saw Baltus lying in a snowbank, bound hand and foot, and lifeless. She did not go in for fear the murderers were still there, but went to the home oa a neighbor, Jesse Cahoon. When he heard her story, he summoned Brook Sayre (her husband's cousin) and Joseph Cain, who lived down the road. They thought Mrs. Roll had lost her mind, but returned with her to the house.
It was as she had said. Inside was great confusion. The news spread throughout the country. It was the crime of the century. The metropolitan dailies gave full details. Suspicion at once settled upon Peter B. Davis and Lycidias Baldwin, ne'er-do-wells, who had been seen frequently in the locality. Davis was known to be desperately in need of cash and to have sought an accomplice to go with him to a place where they could "get a thousand dollars." Roll was supposed to have kept a considerable sum of money hidden somewhere in his house.
When Baldwin heard that the police had arrested Davis, he fled to Morristown and committed suicide in a room at the tavern. Davis was tried at a special session of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, in Newark, before Chief Justice Ewing. Although the evidence pointed strongly to his guilt, he was acquitted, because some of the most damaging testimony ws ruled out as "illegal." During the trial, however, he admitted forgery and was afterwards arraigned before court on four indictments, to three of which he plead guilty. He was sentenced to eight years on each count, and died in prison.
Today, the name of Baltus Roll is legend in the hills of his birth. An historic roadway and an internationally known golf course bear his name. Recently a writer of mystery tales re-enacted the scenes of his taking-off.
A stone in the old burial ground memorializes the tragedy: "Ye friends that weep around my grave, compose your minds to rest, prepare with me for sudden death, and live forever blest." And, like the headless rider of Sleepy Hollow, "the ghost of old baldy" stalks the slopes of the little village on the hill top, and tired mothers warn their children to be off to bed before the white moon comes up and eerie shadows creep through the silent wood.
The home of Baltus Roll, on the mountain road which bears his name, as it stood at the time of his murder, 1831. It has since been remodeled. A part of it, at least, was build probably by Johannes Roll, Dutch settler. The residence of Mrs. A.G. Bachelder.
Source: The Ghost of Old Baldy' Stalks Again. 1831. Reprinted in Hoffman, Robert V., The Olde Towne 1700-1894. Brochure. Westfield, N. J., 1937, p. 17.
Old Resident Here To See Celebration.
Mrs. Mary J. Roll, 89 Years Old Pronounces It Finest, Finest Thing Ever Seen.
One of the visitors to this town to see the 200th Anniversary Celebration last Tuesday and who is still visiting relatives here was Mrs. Mary J. Roll, who is 89 years old.
Mrs. Roll was married in this town on November 17th, 1850, at the old Jonathan Cory house to Henry B. Roll by the Rev. Mr. Edgar who was then the pastor of the Presbyterian church. Mr. and Mrs. Roll went to housekeeping in the old Charles Clark house next to his store and which was located on Jerusalem road. This house belonged to the present Charles Clark's father.
Mrs. Roll's husband's father, Henry Baltus, was murdered when her husband was ten years old and the old house in which the tragedy occurred is still standing at Baltusrol. Mrs. Roll has for the past eight years been making her home in Trenton and came here alone to visit her daughter, Mrs. W. Irving Carpenter, who lives on Central avenue.
Mrs. Roll says at the time she was married Broad street was nothing but woods. When asked by a Standard representative what she thought of the celebration she said that it was the finest thing she had ever seen. Besides Mrs. Carpenter, she has another daughter, Mrs. Mary O'Niell, who lives in Plainfield. She has nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren. She expects to go back to Trenton in time to vote on Election Day.
Source: The Standard, Westfield, New Jersey, Friday, October 22, 1920.