Waterloo Village cabin has significance to Kearny Man

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:48

Tours to be given during last Canal Heritage Day on Oct. 22, By Veronica MacDonald Ditko BYRAM — A small and ordinary cabin sits at Waterloo Village in Byram. The dark wood and caulking show its 230 years. What’s more surprising though is the Rutan family, who built the cabin all those years ago, now has tens of thousands of descendants in the United States. Kearny resident Norm Rutan, 78, said his daughter once joked the Rutan family bred like rabbits. “Well, yes, they did,” he laughed. He should know. Rutan has spent countless hours since 1993 tracing his family’s lineage since he discovered the internet. He is descended from farmer Abraham Rutan who built the cabin in Frankford (now Branchville) in the late 1790s for his second wife, Suzanne. The cabin was moved to Waterloo Village in 1980. “Suzanne was actually [Abraham’s] widowed sister-in-law with three children,” said the Canal Society’s Diane M. Cece. Like the Brady Bunch, they brought five children together through marriage and had five more, said Cece. Rutan keeps track of each person he’s located in the family tree. Together with friend and researcher Jim Keegan, a retired IRS agent on Long Island, they have printed three books on the Rutan family genealogy. The original American Rutans were Huguenots who emigrated from France in 1650. Rutan descendants in Morris County acquired property in Frankford, on the outskirts of what was Beemersville, and swapped tracts among themselves. The cabin was built somewhere between 1774 and 1790. The Rutans lived there up until 1883. Tracing the family history can be a bit fuzzy, as everyone used the same names over and over. Rutan has traced his family back to the original Rutan in France named Daniel, a mayor and drapery business owner, in 1540. The former Kearny police department detective admits he likes to solve things. He said his curiosity was always peaked because his father was tight-lipped. “My father never talked about his family,” said Rutan, who said he never knew why people called his dad “Dutch.” “He always said 'You don’t need to know that right now.’” This fatherly silence has prolonged the mystery of one relative, his aunt Effie, whom Rutan can’t find through records after her marriage to a Thomas Murphy in the mid-1920s in Newark. His genealogy skills have led him to volunteering with the Passaic County Historical Society’s library at Lambert Castle in Paterson, as well as On Eternal Patrol, a group that finds the family members of the 3500 men lost at sea in submarines during World War II. The Rutan cabin is known for being one of only two structures in the nation with a cantilevered porch. Rutan visited Waterloo some years ago after his wife Therese saw an article about a Rutan cabin. “I took my youngest daughter and people were there in period dress,” he said. “It was nice.” When he told the tour guide he was a Rutan, she jokingly told him to get out of her cabin. “What’s amazing to me is that 10 kids were raised there,” he said. The two-room cabin was heated by just one fire. It was actually a hearth fire that led to the death of Abraham Rutan’s first wife. “When she bent over to do cooking, her long hair fell forward into the fire, catching on fire, and she could not be saved,” explained Cece who is one of the re-enactors at Waterloo Village. “That's why mop caps are worn around cooking fires.” Oct. 22 is the last time Waterloo will be open for the public this year during its Canal Heritage Days where volunteers walk around in 19th-century garb and give tours of the various historic buildings, including the Rutan Cabin. Guests can also take a short ride on the Morris Canal, listen to 19th century music, purchase food, and play vintage games.