George W. (George Washington) Schuyler.

Colonial New York : Philip Schuyler and his family online

. (page 28 of 41)
Online LibraryGeorge W. (George Washington) SchuylerColonial New York : Philip Schuyler and his family → online text (page 28 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


tribunals, and of their publicity, any lawyer who can now
advise or encourage the descendants of Anneke Jans to
waste their money in any proceedings to recover this
property must be considered as playing on the ignorance
of simple people, and as guilty of conscious fraud, and of
an attempt to obtain money under false pretences;

As one of the heirs, I rejoice that the property is in the
possession of a church, which has used and will use its in-



' See New York Reports, vol. Ixxxiii. (Court of Appeals, Sickels), pp.
348-358, Rynear Van Giessen vs. Samuel Bridgford. Also, 18 Hun, 80.



362 NICHOLAS SCHUYLER.

come to build churches and colleges ' for Christian and edu-
cational purposes, and not in the hands of a corporation,
which would use it to swell individual and private fortunes.
It is to be hoped that- it will remain in the hands of the
present owners so long as they use it wisely. I am the
more free to express such a wish, as I personally do not
belong to the Episcopal Church.

Nicholas Schuyler (12) was educated a physician, and
in the first year of the Revolutionary War was on the staff
of the medical director of the Northern Department, Dr.
Stringer. He was afterward appointed surgeon of Colo-
nel Moses Hazen's regiment, with which he served to the
close of the war.

After his marriage to Shinali Simons, member of a
prominent Jewish family of Philadelphia, on August 13,
1782, he returned to his home at Stillwater, and engaged
in the practice of his profession. When the county of
Rensselaer was organized, he was appointed its first clerk,
on February 18, 1791. He then removed to Troy, the
county-seat, and entered upon the duties of his office, al-
though he did not wholly give up the practice of medi-
cine ; he was clerk of the county fifteen consecutive
years. Having no children, he was indifferent to the ac-
quisition of an estate, and cared only to accumulate suffi-
cient to carry himself safely through the journey of life.

For his services in the war, the State assigned to him
four lots of land of five hundred acres each, three of which
were located in Onondaga County and one in Cayuga.
One of the lots was reclaimed by the State as part of the
saline district, but was not replaced by another. He was

' Columbia College was founded on the avails of a lottery, but her gieat
wealth is derived from a liberal slice of the King's Farm, bestowed by Trin-
ity Church, by a deed dated May 15, 1755.



SAMUEL SCHUYLER. '363

not worried, and made no claim. It was evident to the
most short-sighted, that lands situated as were his military
lots would soon become valuable for farming purposes,
as emigration from the Eastern States to the unoccupied
lands of New York was very large ; but he did not see it,
or, if he did, it made little impression on him, for he sold
his lands for a nominal consideration.

His wife inherited a large tract of land lying in one of
the Southern States, which in a few years would have been
a fortune to him, but he never troubled himseff about it,
and it passed out of his possession. Toward the close of
life, having lost his wife and being lonely, he removed,
with his adopted daughter (Henrietta Schuyler (26)),to the
residence of his brother-in-law. Major James Van Rensse-
laer, at Crystal Hill, three miles south of Albany on the
river. There, in congenial society, he passed the last few
years of his life happy and contented.

Samuel Schuyler (13), because he had been a clerk in
the Commissary Department, was called captain by cour-
tesy. He never married, and lived for the most part with
his relatives, now with one, and now with another. For
a few years he was the guest of my father, when I was a
boy. He was very short-sighted, and quite irascible in
temper. His young nephews soon found out his weak-
nesses, and would often provoke him with their practical
jokes and harmless tricks, for which, when caught, their
backs were made to smart ; but as soon as he had vindi-
cated himself the tempest subsided, and he was all kind-
ness and generosity. Politically he was a Democrat, the
only one in his family ; he held to the faith so firmly,
that no amount of argument or ridicule could shake his
hold. Although his sight was very defective, his chief en-
joyment was in reading. The Bible and Edwards' " His-
tory of Redemption " were his favorite books. On bright,



364 ELSIE SCHUYLER.

sunny days of winter he would sit by the hour near a
window, with one of those books before his face and the
other by his side. He had a long nose, which appeared
the longer by the loss of teeth, and, when the light began
to fade, it was used as a pointer to trace the printed lines.
Poor Uncle Sammy ! Often in these latter years I think
of thee ! Thy years, though many, were not fortunate.
Thy life was one of faith, and when thou wast summoned
thou wast ready ! Thou hast gone to thy rest, and art no
longer troubled by wicked boys !

Elsie Schuyler (14) was married to her first husband,
Dr. Bogart, in June, 1783. After a brief pleasure trip, she
returned to her father's at Stillwater, to make her final
preparations for a permanent residence with her husband
in New York. Her mother embraced the opportunity to
visit, with her younger childi'en, some relatives living at a
distance, and she was left alone with the servants to care
for the house. While so employed she received a call
from some distinguished visitors, who sought entertain-
ment for the night. General Washington, in company
with Governor Clinton, left the encampment of the army
at Newburgh about the middle of July, for the purpose of
inspecting the battle-fields of Saratoga and the Mohawk
Valley. At Albany he was joined by General Schuyler,
and on horseback the company proceeded on the journey.
On their arrival at Stillwater, General Schuyler conducted
them to the residence of Harmanus Schuyler to spend the
night. Their visit was unexpected, but Elsie was self-pos-
sessed, and did not allow herself to be disconcerted, and
received them with graceful courtesy ; she was dignified
in inanner, and possessed more than ordinary beauty of
person. She appreciated the honor of having Washington
for her guest, but made no effort at display ; she gave
him the simple and substantial fare of her father's house,



DIRCK SCHUYLER. 365

and lodged him in a clean and comfortable room. After
breakfast the next morning, as her guests were about to
leave, Washington, in his habitually grave and courteous
manner, took her hand and raised it to his lips. It was a
kiss never to be forgotten. Nearly fifty years afterward,
when languishing in her last illness, h'er youngest nephew, .
who had never before seen her, called to pay his respects.
When taking leave, he approached her bedside, and was
about to kiss her on her lips, she held up her hand, and,
said, " Not my lips, George, but my hand, once 'kissed by
Washington." '

DiRCK Schuyler (15) was named for his great-grand-
father, Dirck Ten Broeck. In time the name was changed
to Derick. In the allotment of lands to the Revolutionary
soldiers by the State of New York, he drew two lots of
five hundred acres each, both lying in the present town of
Ithaca, One was sold at a low price ; the other, after April,
181 1, was the homestead of my father. Derick did not
marry, but died a bachelor in the forty-ninth year of his age.

John H. Schuyler (16), the H. standing for Harmanus,
to distinguish him from other Johns, received a fair edu-
cation in the best English schools of Albany, and was
prepared with reference to the mercantile business. On
leaving, school, instead of entering a counting-house, as
was intended, he became the private secretary of John
Barker Church, with whom he spent several years. As a
relative of Mrs. Church, he was received into the family,
and accorded more privileges than were usually granted
to young men of that position. Mr. Church resided in
New York, but his business frequently called him to
Philadelphia and Boston, usually accompanied by his

' Some years since this anecdote appeared in the Magazine of American
History, over the signature of a well-known author, without credit to the
original source. I now reclaim my own.



366 JOHH H. SCHUYLER.

secretary. Schuyler soon became accustomed to the best
English society in the country, and to its usages. Unlike
most young men of Dutch descent in his time, he spoke
English without an accent, and easily passed, when occa-
sion offered, for a genuine Yankee.

After some years af such employment, he returned to
Stillwater, and, without experience or training, engaged
in mercantile pursuits. For a time he prospered, but his
want of commercial knowledge was a serious hindrance
to his ultimate success. He finally gave up the shop,
and engaged in farming. Fortune was not propitious,
and in the spring of 1811 he removed, with all his fam-
ily, to the present town of Ithaca, N. Y. He settled on
Lot No. 57, containing five hundred acres, and situated
two and a half miles west from the village. It was one
of the military lots assigned to his brother Derick. The
country was new and sparsely settled ; it was almost a
wilderness. For the want of good roads, and the facili-
ties of travel, it was farther removed from the old set-
tlements on the Hudson than are Dakota and Wyoming
at the present time. The family, so far removed from
their old friends, died out of their remembrance, except of ■
those nearly related. We have seen how Philip, the great-
grandfather of John H. Schuyler, was supposed to have
left no posterity. So now, the line was again believed to
have become extinct. Mrs. Cochrane, the youngest daugh-
ter of General Schuyler, writing to a friend from Oswego,
on November 12, 1845, said : "I remember Mr. Harmanus
Schuyler, a distant relative, who had been sheriff of Al-
bany County many years before I saw him, and that is"
fifty years ago ; not one of his children, and he had many
survive." She was mistaken, poor lady, for John, the
fourth son, was still living, surrounded by eight living
sons and three daughters, with numerous grandchildren.



THE FORT FAMILY. 367

As Harmanus Schuyler (10) was the only one of his
brothers to continue the direct line, so was John the only
one of his six sons to hand down the name and pedigree
of his branch of the Schuyler family. There seems little
danger now that it will be reduced to such extremities.
As a farmer John was a failure. He'had been accustomed
all his life, up to his removal to Ithaca, to the unpaid labor
of slaves ; he never afterward could adapt himself to cir-
cumstances, and earn his bread by the sweat of his brow.
In a few years the title to his farm was questioned by a
land speculator, who had bought the soldier's right from
an agent whose power of attorney had been revoked, with
a full knowledge of the fact. But he got his fraudulent
title on record first, and by this means succeeded in his
suit of ejectment. Several years afterward the case was
again taken into the courts by Schuyler's son Philip (30),
and the former verdict reversed. The farm came back
into the family, and its original occupant spent his last
years on the homestead. John H. Schuyler married suc-
cessively Hendrika and Annatje Fort.

The Fort Family.

The first trustworthy information relating to the ances-
tor of the Forts is found in a deed for a farm at Canasta-
sione, situated on the north bank of the Mohawk in the
southeast corner of the present town of. Clifton Park,
Saratoga County. It is dated June 10, 1684, and was given
by the administrators of Teunis Wielemse Boots, deceased,
to Jean Forte, alias Liberie, " for all the land and real es-
tate which the said Boots possessed in his lifetime at that
place, together with house, barn, stacks, orchard, and lots,
which said land has now been inhabited by the said Lib-
erte for three years, being satisfied with it, as if he owned



368 JEAN FORT.

it hitherto."' Why the alias I am unable to explain. He
was a Frenchman, and may have fled from the military
despotism of Canada, and, having gained his liberty, he
may have adopted the word as one of his names. It vs^as
one of the royal ordinances for the government of Canada,
that Protestants should not be permitted to live on its soil.
When any, in their ignorance of the law, found their way
thither, they were required to conform to the established
Catholic religion, or leave the country. Some did con-
form for the time being, to avoid greater evils, but em-
braced a favorable opportunity to remove to other parts.
Before 1700 there were several such men in Albany and its
vicinity. Usually they married in the families of the com-
munity, and became prosperous citizens.

There may have been other reasons why Jean Fort
adopted the alias. It was not uncommon in those days to
have two surnames, or for members of the same family to
take different names. He may have come to this country
through Holland, as did many of his countrymen and men
of otlier nationalities. His name is variously written in
the documents, not by himself, as Le Fort, La Fort, de
Fort, but never without the alias Liberty. He or his fam-

' A singular, and in some respects an amusing, mistake has been made as
to the first American ancestor of the Forts. Professor Pearson, in his
Genealogy of the First Settlers of Albany, introduces Jan Fort Orangien,
who married Marie Grande, in New Amsterdam, November 24, 1641, as
the first of the family, of whom Jan Fort, alias Liberte, is supposed to
be a son. A gentleman of New York, whose family had intermarried with
the Forts, prepared a genealogical chart, on which Jari Fort Orangien ap-
pears as the first ancestor of that kindred family. Had these authors been
better acquainted with the provincial records, Jan Fort Orangien would
not have occupied the position assigned him. He was a native African,
and after serving the West India Company faithfully for nineteen years,
was manumitted, with others, on February 25, 1644, by Director Kief t. He
probably had served the Company at Fort Orange (Albany) long enough to
get his name. The Forts are not a mixed race ; they have a very fair com-
plexion.



JEAN FORT. 369

ily may have been in the province prior to the date named
in the deed for the farm. Jean de Frote (Forte ?) joined
the Dutch Church in New York, on October 7, 1663, after
which the name does not again appear in the church rec-
ords or elsewhere. Jacob (one of the most usual names
in the Fort family) Le Fort was one of the creditors of
Joshua Green, in New Amsterdam, in August, 1668. Noth-
ing more is known of him. Marcus Lafort applied for
letters of naturalization in May, 1693. It is not known
whether they were granted, or what became of 'tiim. Bar-
tholomew La Fourt, an alien, had his goods seized by the
collector of customs, in 1701. Whether he procured the
release of his property, and remained in the country, or
returned to the place whence he came, is not known.

The wife of Jean Fort was Margriet Rinckhout, but the
date and place of their marriage are unknown. The
brothers Daniel and Jan Rinckhout were in Albany about
1653. Daniel died in 1662, at the age of thirt}'-tvvo years,
and in his will left his house and all other property to his
brother Jan, except twenty-five guilders to a brother in
Pomeren, Holland. He could not have had a family, or
he would have mentioned them in the will. Jan Rinck-
hout, a baker by trade, had a family of two children at
least — a daughter Gertrude, married to Simon Groot, of
Schenectady ; and a son Juriaen, residing in New York in
1703. Jan Rinckhout bought a farm at Schenectady, and
in 1670 his wife let his bakery in Albany to Antony Lespi^
nard, the ancestor of the New York Lispenards. Rinck-
hout became a recluse, living and dying alone in a hut on
his farm. Jean Fort's wife may have been Jan Rinckhout's
daughter, and yet, by comparing the dates, she was quite
as likely to have been his sister, and married to Fort in
Holland.

Jean Fort, alias Libert^, made his will on November 3,-
Vol. II.— 24



370. JEAN FORT.

1706, in which he names his children— Anna, Johannes,
Abraham, Nicolas, Jacob, Mary, Daniel, and Isak. The
last was baptized in the church at Albany on September 3,
1699. The will was proved on Octobler 3, 1707.

The settlement at Canastagione, on the north bank of the
Mohawk River, was somewhat distant from another of the
same name on the south side, now Niskayuna. It was
made by seven farmers — Jean Fort, Jean Rosie, another
Frenchman, often employed as an interpreter on the mis-
sions to Canada ; Dirck Arentse Bratt, two brothers Jan
and Reynier Quackenboss, and the brothers Gerrit Ryckse
and Maas Ryckse Van Vranken. The farms were located
on the interval along the river, each having about the
same frontage ; behind was an unbroken forest. The near-
est neighbors were across the river, some three miles dis-
tant, and at Half Moon, on the same side, about five miles
below. The settlers chose the wilderness, where they
could hold their lands in fee, rather than settle on the
manor of Rensselaerwyck under long or perpetual leases.

In 1703 Jean Fort sent a petition to the governor for
some of the wild land back of his farm, but was not suc-
cessful. Thr^e years later the seven farmers joined in an
arrangement to procure what Fort had individually sought
in vain. They entered into an agreement with Colonel
Peter Schuyler to procure for them a patent from the gov-
ernment for a tract of land one mile in depth lying back
of their farms, for which they stipulated to pay him
;^5o on delivery of the patent. The instrument was
signed by the several parties except Fort, whose wife
signed her own name, " Margret ye wife of Jan Fort Lib-
ert?." The paper is still preserved uncancelled by one of
the descendants of Schuyler. The patent was granted on
April 20, 1708, and the next year the parties released to
each Other one-seventh of the whole.



THE FORT GENEALOGY. 371

The settlement, being on the borders of civilization, was
not safe from the incursions of unfriendly Indians, and of
their savage allies, the Canadian French. Gradually the
Rosies, the Bratts, and the Quackenbosses withdrew to
safer localities. The Forts and Van Vrankens tenaciously
retained possession of their paternal acres. It is shown
by a map of Albany and vicinity, published in 1851, that
these families still maintained their ground, and were nu-
merous in the country for miles around. The Forts early
established a ferry across the river and opened a road di-
rect to Albany. The ferry is known to-day as Fort's Ferry.

The homestead was not large enough to accommodate
the six sons of the original proprietor. Two of them,
Abraham and Isak, bought farms in Schaghticoke, and
Jacob settled in Half Moon, on the borders of Stillwater.
He paid for his farm ;^8o, and a yearly quit-rent to An-,
thony Van Schaick of a " half skippel of wheat and six-
pence currency."



GENEALOGICAL TABLE OF THE FORT FAMILY.

I. JEAN FORT, alias Liberie, and Margriet Rinckhout.

2. Annatje.

3. Johannes, m. Rebecca Van Antwerpen.

4. Abraham, m. Anna Barber Clute.

5. Nicholas, m. Maritje Van Antwerpen.

6. Jacob, d. May 17, 1760.

m. I, January 14, 1726, Sara de Wandelier,
m. 2, Maritje Oosterhout.

7. Mary, m. Johannes Vedder.

8. Daniel, m. Gerritje Van den Bergh.

9. Isak, m. I, Jacotnyna (Joaii) Viele,

m. 2, Sara Viele.

6. JACOB FORT and Sara de Wandelier.

10. Elizabeth, b. March 5, 1727.

m. Jacob J. Van Woert.

11. Johannes, b. October 22, 1728, d. s. p.



372 THE FORT GENEALOGY.

12. Abraham, bp. February 3, 1731.

m. I, November 18, 1752, Sara Van Woert, d. No-
vember 22, 1754.

m. 2, July I, 1758, Eva Bennewe, d. September 4,
1799.

13. Margaret, bp. March 24, 1734.

14. Harman, bp. January 8, 1737.

m. September 6, 1760, Rebecca Van Woert.

15. Leendert, bp. ^uly 6, 1744, d. s. p.

12. ABRAHAM FORT and Sara Van Woert.

16. Margaret, b. November 16, 1753, d. July 2, 1757.

17. A Daughter, b. November 18, 1754, obt.

12. ABRAHAM FORT and Eva Bennewe.

18. Saartje (Sara), b. December 18, 1759.

m. Wynajit Van der Bergh.

19. Jacob, b. May 22, 1763, d. October 20, 1839.

m. September 7, 1783, Anna Vrooman,

20. Annatje, b. June 30, 1767.

m. June 4, 1787, Peter Van Ness.

19. JACOB FORT and Anna Vrooman.

21. Jenny, b. December 21, 1784, obt.

22. Jane, b. January 18, 1797.

m, Henty P. Van Rensselaer, of Claverack.

23. Abraham, b. January 2, 1799.

m. Abby Rogers, d. s. p. in Virginia.

24. Eveline, b. April 22, 1801.

m. Douv) Van Vechten.

14. HARMAN FORT and Rebecca Van Woert.

25. Hendrika, b. June 6, 1761.

m. June 6, 1786, John H. Schuyler.

26. Sara, b. January n, 1763.

m. Dr. Reuben Schuyler, of the Flatts.

27. Jacob, b. July 22, 1764, d. s. p. October 14, 1804.

28. Maritje, b. May 3, 1766, obt.

29. Margreta, b. June 24, 1768, d. y.

30. Annatje, b. March 29, 1770.

m. June 10, 1800, John H. Schuyler.

31. Maritje, b. December 18, 1771, obt.

An old Dutch Bible in good preservation, originally be-
longing to Jacob Fort (6) and now in possession of John
Van Rensselaer, of Cambridge, N. Y., one of his descend-



THE FORT FAMILY. 3/3

ants, contains many valuable records, on which I have
freely drawn in the preceding pedigree. It also contains
a paper written in 1835, by Mrs. Abby Rogers Fort, giv-
ing the genealogy of the Fort family. It states that " the
family was originally French, and the true name Le Forte.
They emigrated to Holland at the time of the persecution
of the Huguenots, and Jacob Le Forte emigrated from
thence to this country about the beginning of the eigh-
teenth century. He had six sons, John, Nicholas, Daniel,
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." The writer had taken some
pains, by correspondence and personal interviews with
members of the family, to get at facts. She did not suc-
ceed in getting the true name of the first American ances-
tor, but she gave the names of his sons correctly. An-
natje Fort (30), when speaking of her family, always said
that the name was Le Fort, of French origin, and that the
family came through Holland to this country.

The Dutch Bible of Harman Fort (14), printed in 1736,
by Pieter and Jacob Kuer, Dordrecht, is now in my pos-
session. It is a thick folio volume bound in boards cov-
ered with tooled leather, and finished with eight brass
corner-pieces and two clasps. Besides the text in two
columns to the page, there are marginal references and
voluminous foot-notes. It contains maps of Asia Minor,
of Egypt, of the countries traversed by the children of
Israel in their forty years' wanderings, of the Holy Land,
of the countries visited by the Apostles in their missionary
tours, and a plan of Jerusalem with the front elevation of
Solomon's Temple. There were originally at least twenty-
two pages of plates, each containing six illustrations, three
by three and a half inches, engraved by D. Jonkman ;
but having passed through many hands, and amused sev-
eral generations of children, it now contains only eleven
plates, or sixty-six distinct pictures, which are quaint and



374 THE FORT FAMILY.

amusing. The family records once within the covers are
sadly mutilated, and many of them lost. When it came to
my hands, a few years since, more than half the leaves were
loose and misplaced, and the title-page to the Old Testa-
ment missing. I put it in the hands of a careful binder,
who restored it to its original condition, preserving all the
old binding. With careful usage it may go down the ages.
From the records in these two old Bibles I have mainly
prepared the Fort pedigree.

It will be noticed that the direct line of Jean Fort's
fourth son, Jacob, is extinct. The last of the name died
in Virginia during the civil war. He was engaged in a
large and profitable business when the war commenced.
Not wishing to lose his all, he remained, but did not join
the rebel ranks. Jacob (27), the only son of Ilarman
Fort, was the first sheriff of Saratoga County, 1791-93.
(The name is erroneously printed Ford in the civil list.)
He died at the age of forty years, and was never married.

In the old French and Indian war of 1744-48, the people
on the borders were exposed to great dangers and ha,rd-
ships. The almost uninterrupted peace of fifty years, since
1697, had made them careless and indifferent as to their
defences. The old fort at Canastagione had rotted down
and disappeared. The French had erected Fort St. Fred-
erick at Crown Point, which gave them command of the
Lakes Champlain and George and of the upper Hudson.
The English, in consequence of the chronic quarrels be-



Online LibraryGeorge W. (George Washington) SchuylerColonial New York : Philip Schuyler and his family → online text (page 28 of 41)