Killaen van Rensselaer: Designing a New World

A biography by New Netherland scholar Janny Venema of one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company and a leading figure in the establishment of the New Netherland colony Kiliaen van Rensselaer has been published by SUNY Press.

As one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company, he was instrumental in the establishment of the New Netherland colony on the East Coast of North America, becoming one of its first patroons. Although he never actually set foot in the New World, his patroonship, Rensselaerswyck, encompassed much of what is now New York State’s Capital District and survived as a legal entity up until the 1840s.

During the early 1600s, as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands was locked in a war with Spain that would last for eighty years, thousands of immigrants came to Amsterdam and greatly influenced the development of the Republic. Among them was Kiliaen van Rensselaer, a young man from a small eastern town on the war front.

Young Kiliaen quickly became part of the culture of the rapidly developing city, where he was trained as a jeweler and merchant by wealthy relatives. He would work within this family network for the rest of his life, to great success.

In this biography, Venema examines the time in which Kiliaen van Rensselaer lived, his surroundings, the rapidly expanding city of Amsterdam, the great trading companies, the jewelry business, and the people in his network. Along the way, she explores his motivations and the powerful role he played in helping to establish a Dutch presence in the New World.

Janny Venema is Assistant Director of the New Netherland Research Center, which is responsible for translating the official records of the Dutch colony and promoting awareness of the Dutch role in American history. She is the author of Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652–1664, also published by SUNY Press in cooperation with Uitgeverij Verloren.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Rensselaerswijck: Life on the Hudsons East Bank

The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) and the New Netherland Research Center (NNRC) are partnering to present a day of lectures and a tour of a private home to highlight the history of Rensselaerswijck, the colonial estate owned by the van Rensselaer family that was located in what is now mainly the Capital District.

The program will be held on Saturday November 5, 2011. Lectures will take place at the RCHS, 57 Second Street, Troy NY. Cost is $25 for the day, $23 for RCHS and NNRC members. For more information or to make your reservation, call 518-244-6853 or email [email protected] Space is limited for the house tour.

Highlights of the day include an address by Dr. Eric Ruijssenaars and a chance to tour one of the oldest homes in Rensselaer County, Hoogebergh. Dr. Ruijssenaars, the New Netherland Research Center’s first Senior Scholar in Residence, is the founder of Dutch Archives, a historical research firm in Leiden, the Netherlands. Although a specialist in the history of Russia and the Netherlands, he is also a scholar of the Bronte sisters in Brussels and has published two books on the subject. Currently he is researching the life of Abraham Staats. Hoogebergh is a private, family owned property in which eleven generations of the Staats family have lived. The earliest sections of the home date to the 1690s.

SCHEDULE

9:00am &#8211 Coffee and Registration at RCHS, 57 Second Street, Troy NY

9:30 am &#8211 Welcome
Ilene Frank, Executive Director, RCHS & Charly Gehring, Director, NNRC

9:45 am &#8211 Native Americans Along the Hudson
Andy Krievs, Project Director, Hartgen Archeological Associates, Inc.

Through the years, Hartgen Archeological Associates has conducted several excavations that include Native American sites. Mr. Krievs will talk about several sites found along the Hudson River that date back to the Woodland time period and even earlier.

10:30am &#8211 A Dutch Founding Father: Abraham Staats
Dr. Eric Ruijssenaars, Senior Scholar in Residence, NNRC

In 1642, surgeon Abraham Staats and his wife emigrated from Amsterdam to Kiliaen van Rensselaer’s estate, Rensselaerswijck. Staats’s not only treated ailing residents but he also advised the Patroon and served as a magistrate of the court, resolving disputes both inside and outside of court. Well respected, Staats was also something of a diplomat. Entitled to trade in beavers, he learned the Algonquian Indian language and acted as an intermediary between colonists and Native Americans. His commercial interests placed him in contact with New Amsterdam’s leaders, such as Peter Stuyvesant.

11:30am &#8211 Going Dutch: The Influence of Dutch Culture in the Upper Hudson Valley
John Scherer, Historian Emeritus, New York State Museum

New York’s unique Dutch heritage was reflected in its material culture long after the colony was taken by the English in 1664. By that time New York, formerly known as New Netherland had been heavily settled by the Dutch and new settlers continued to arrive from the Netherlands. These early settlers and their descendants attempted to replicate their native land in the new world. This Dutch influence continued to exist in the Upper Hudson Valley well in to the nineteenth century.

1:00pm &#8211 Tour Hoogebergh
Join us for a special tour of Hoogebergh, a private, family owned property that has remained in the Staats family for eleven generations. The stone house was begun in the 1690s or before and lengthened in 1722. Other additions have been made, but the older parts are little changed. Space is limited, book early.

Illustration: The Hudson River Valley c 1635.

Rensselaer County Historical Appoints Board Members

The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) has announced the appointment of Pegeen Jensen and Frank Sarratori to the Board of Trustees. “The addition of these two new board members strengthens the board in two ways. First, as an elementary school teacher, Mrs. Jensen improves our connection to the classroom. Second, Mr. Sarratori with his legal and financial knowledge brings fiscal expertise to the board. RCHS will benefit from their experiences and opinions” Ilene Frank, Executive Director, said in a prepared statement.

Pegeen Jensen is a first grade teacher at Saddlewood Elementary in the South Colonie District, where she is also involved in organizing the school’s Math Olympiad. Mrs. Jensen is a lifelong resident of Melrose, NY and currently lives there with her husband and two daughters. Mrs. Jensen is a graduate of Hoosic Valley High School and SUNY Potsdam.

Frank Sarratori is the Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Pioneer Bank, where he has worked since 2004. Mr. Sarratori is from Tonawanda, NY and currently lives in Troy. He holds degrees from State University of New York at Albany and the Albany Law School of Union University.

The Rensselaer County Historical Society and Museum is a not-for-profit educational organization established in 1927 to connect local history and heritage with contemporary life. RCHS owns two 19th century townhouse buildings, the National Register listed Hart-Cluett House and its Carriage House, servicing as a historic house museum and the adjacent Carr Building housing a research library, galleries, and meeting spaces. RCHS is located at 57 Second Street, Troy NY 12180.

Keeping Up With the Schuylers Dramatic Tours

Historic Cherry Hill and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site present to the public, “Keeping Up With the Schuylers,” a dramatic house tour of both historic sites. It is part of the special series: Got Class? Status and Power in Early America presented by Historic Cherry Hill and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site and funded by the New York Council for the Humanities.

The dramatic tour begins at Historic Cherry Hill in the year 1787. The public will meet the 18th century Van Rensselaer family inhabitants of the Cherry Hill home. The tour continues at Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site where visitors will find the Schuyler Mansion household preparing for the approaching nuptials of General Schuyler’s son, John Bradstreet Schuyler to Catherine Van Rensselaer.

This unique dramatic tour will explore the subtleties of class within Albany’s 18th century elite. The public will be able to compare the households of two of Albany’s prominent citizens and determine for themselves what it meant to be a gentleman in the founding era of the United States. Dramatic tours will be offered to the public on Thursday October 20th at 3:00pm and 5:00pm and on Saturday, October 22nd at 9:30am, 12:00pm and 2:30pm.

The dramatic tour is a ticketed event. The cost of tickets is $12.00 per person. To purchase tickets for this event please call Historic Cherry Hill at 518-434-4791 or email [email protected]

Historic Cherry Hill, located at 523 ? South Pearl Street in Albany, NY, is a non-profit historic house museum built in 1787 and was lived in continuously by five generations of the same family until the death of the last family member in 1963. The museum is currently undergoing a large restoration project and offers a Behind-the-Scenes Restoration tour from April through December, on Wednesday afternoons at 1, 2 and 3pm and Saturday afternoons at 2 and 3pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and college students and $2 for children between the ages of 12 and 18. An Architecture Hunt for Families is also offered on Saturdays between 1 and 2pm at the admission price of $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 6-11. Visit Historic Cherry Hill’s website at www.historiccherryhill.org for more information.

Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, located at 32 Catherine Street in Albany, NY, was once the home of Philip J. Schuyler, the renowned Revolutionary War General, US Senator and business entrepreneur. He and his wife Catharine Van Rensselaer descended from affluent and powerful Dutch families. Together they raised eight children in this home. Throughout the Schuyler family occupancy from 1763-1804, the mansion was the site of military strategizing, political hobnobbing, elegant social affairs, and an active family life. Guided tours are available mid-May through October 31st, and are offered on the hour, Wednesday through Sunday, 11:00am to 4:00pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and college students. Children under 12 are free. Visit www.schuylerfriends.org for more information about Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site.

Illustration: Schuyler Mansion.

Book: The Vandercook Family of Renssealer County

A new book illuminates the life of Michael S. Vandercook, a prominent figure in the early history of Rensselaer County, New York. A Fine Commanding Presence: The Life and Legacy of Maj. Michael S. Vandercook (1774-1852) of Pittstown, Rensselaer County, New York by Vandercook’s great-great-great- grandson, Ronald D. Bachman features more than 400 pages, an in-depth bibliography and extensive genealogy and index.

A descendant of some of the earliest Dutch settlers in the Hudson Valley, Vandercook was born on the eve of the Revolution and lived to see the emergence of the regional divisions that led to the Civil War. He spent his entire life in Pittstown, where he was a merchant, farmer, militia officer, county sheriff, justice of the peace, and father of twelve children by three wives.


During his relatively long life, he crossed paths with such luminaries as Daniel Tompkins,
Henry Dearborn, Henry K. and Solomon Van Rensselaer, Joseph Bloomfield, Herman Knickerbocker, Eliphalet Nott. His second father-in-law was General Gilbert Eddy. On five occasions the Council of Appointment in Albany awarded Maj. Vandercook civil positions in addition to several military promotions. Governor Tompkins repeatedly picked him for special assignments in the militia, including inspector of a detached brigade deployed to the northern front immediately following the declaration of war in 1812. Later that same year, Maj. Vandercook was selected as one of New York’s 29 presidential electors.

He had a remarkable life but more than his share of tragedy. The final third of the book traces the descendancy of the twelve Vandercook children, all but one of whom left New York to seek their fortunes in the West. Many of them enjoyed success in journalism and politics.

The price, including shipping, is $22.50. To purchase the book, contact the author at [email protected]

Hudson River Ramble Features Rensselaer Co History

The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) is offering five special programs as part of the Twelfth Annual Hudson River Valley Ramble in September. The Ramble is sponsored by the Hudson River National Heritage Area, Hudson River Valley Greenway, the New York State Department of Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. On the weekends of September 10-11, 17-18 and 24-25, 2011, more 180 events will be hosted from Saratoga in the Capital Region to New York City.

For more information about the programs at RCHS, call: 518-244-6846 or email [email protected] You can also visit RCHS’s website at www.rchsonline.org Programs presented by RCHS include:

Walk in the Footsteps of Uncle Sam

Saturday, September 10, 2011

10:30am – Noon

$7 / $5 for seniors & students / FREE for RCHS members

50 years ago, Troy was designated by Congress as the Home of Uncle Sam. Join us on this 1.5 hour walking tour of sites in downtown Troy associated with Samuel Wilson, the “real” Uncle Sam. Included is a visit to the exhibit at the RCHS museum, which includes artifacts from Samuel Wilson’s life and images of our national symbol. Tour leaves from the Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market.

A Federal Townhouse is Born

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2:00pm – 3:00pm

$5 / FREE for RCHS members

From its completion in 1827, the house at 59 Second Street was recognized as something unique for Troy. Referred to as the “marble house in Second Street,” this elegant townhouse was once the most valuable property in the city. This 1 hour tour focuses on the Hart family, who constructed the home for their growing family. Come explore this wonderfully preserved example of federal architecture. Tour leaves from RCHS, 57 Second Street, Troy NY.

History Walk – Amazing Architecture

Saturday, September 17, 2011

10:30am – 11:30am

$5 / FREE for RCHS members

Stroll downtown Troy and you’ll find a rich built environment. This 1 hour walking tour showcases Troy’s architectural gems and range of styles. Tour leaves from the Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market.

History Walk – History Underfoot and Overhead

Saturday, September 24, 2011

10:30am – 11:30am

$5 / FREE for RCHS members

Families with kids ages 5 and up will enjoy this interactive walk through Troy’s past. You’ll come away saying “I never knew that about Troy!” Tour leaves from the Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market.

A New Era for the Marble House

Saturday, September 24, 2011

2:00pm – 3:00pm

$5 / FREE for RCHS members

What happens to a house when new owners arrive? The Cluett family took possession of 59 Second Street in the 1890s. They renovated, made additions, and used the home differently than the original owners. Investigate with us the changes that occurred as a new family began to call the Marble House home. Tour leaves from RCHS, 57 Second Street, Troy NY.

The Ramble aims to bring people outside to enjoy our distinct cultural heritage and the natural resources of the Hudson Valley during the Northeast’s most beautiful time of the year. Nearly 200 environmental, land conservancy, trail and historic preservation organizations, New York State historic sites and parks, as well as the National Park Service participate by offering events, and many are free of charge and family friendly. Guided hikes, cycling and kayaking tours, historic site walks, festivals and river explorations are an example of some of the types of events that will be available for every ability level.

For a complete listing of events, visit www.hudsonrivervalleyramble.com. The Ramble brochure is one of the most comprehensive regional recreational guides and can be used as a reference throughout the year. Copies of the program guide can be found in the August issue of Chronogram magazine or at various tourist destinations throughout the Hudson Valley. Program guides may also be downloaded from the website.

The Hudson River Valley Ramble is presented by the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and Greenway, in partnership with the NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, and over 180 organizations hosting Ramble events throughout the Hudson River Valley. The 2011 Ramble is sponsored by the NY-NJ Trail Conference and the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Turkeybush Fund.

A Driving Tour of Historic Hudson Dam Sites

A guided driving tour of historic dam sites on the Hudson River, organized by the Chapman Historical Museum, will take place on Saturday, August 13, from 9 am to 1 pm. The tour, which will be lead by Jeanne Williams, will include stops in Schuylerville, Mechanicville, Cohoes and Troy. Participants will learn about Victory Mills, the Mechanicville hydroelectric dam built in 1898, the great falls at Cohoes and the Burden Iron Works on the Poestenkill.

Jeanne Williams, who also is Director of the Feeder Canal Alliance, was a consultant for the Chapman Historical Museum’s summer 2011 exhibit, Harnessing the Hudson, a history of the development of hydro power on the upper Hudson River. For each site she will share background information and historic photos collected in the course of her research for the project.

Participants will gather at the Cooper’s Cave parking area in South Glens Falls at 8:30 and start the tour promptly at 9 am. Participants are expected to provide their own vehicles- carpooling is encouraged. A brochure with driving directions and other necessary information will be supplied. A bag lunch is recommended, but should people wish to eat out at the conclusion of the tour, a list of suggested restaurants in Troy will be provided.

For reservations or more information, call the Chapman Historical Museum at (518) 793-2826.

Photo: The Federal Dam at Troy, the first obstruction to shipping on the Hudson River. Photo courtesy The Center for Land Use Interpretation.

Upcoming Events at Rensselaer County Historical Society

The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) has announced their August schedule of events. RCHS was established in 1927 to connect local history and heritage with contemporary life. RCHS is the largest collecting institution in Rensselaer County. The organization owns two 19th century townhouse buildings, the National Register listed Hart-Cluett House and its Carriage House, servicing as a historic house museum and the adjacent Carr Building housing a research library, galleries, and meeting spaces.

RCHS is located at 57 Second Street, Troy NY 12180. Reservations can be made by calling 518-244-6853 or email [email protected]

2nd Saturday House Tour – Highlighting Galusha’s Furniture
Saturday, August 13, 2011
2:00pm
$10 per person
Elijah Galusha’s high-style furniture distinguishes him as the preeminent cabinetmaker of Troy, N.Y., from the late 1820&#8242-s through 1870. His furniture can be found in museum collections across the country. RCHS has several examples of his work including a suite of furniture for the Hart-Cluett House’s parlor. This tour will focus on his construction and decoration techniques and highlight the many pieces that exist in the collection.

Mornings at the Museum – Let’s Make Butter
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
10:00am
$5 per child, adults free
Bring your pre-schooler to our monthly program where we introduce children to the museum through storytime, exploring an item from the collection and participating in a hands-on activity. August’s theme is butter and children will be have a chance to make their own fresh butter.

Hidden History – Knickerbocker Mansion
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
4:30pm
$15 per person, $12 for RCHS members
The Knickerbocker Mansion located in Schaghticoke was built by Johannes Knickerbaccker III around 1780. The house was lived in by generations of the Knickerbocker family but fell into disrepair in the 20th century. A dedicated group of volunteers began restoration and after decades of work the building has been almost completely restored. Join RCHS staff and Knickerbocker Historical Society members as we get a special tour of one of Rensselaer County’s oldest buildings.

The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) offers walking tours of historic downtown Troy on Saturday mornings this September. Tours depart from and return to the Market Table at the Troy Farmer’s Market at 10:30 am. Each week brings a different theme for the tours, which are led by RCHS staff and frequently incorporate historic photographs and readings from letters and diaries.

September’s History Walks are part of the Hudson River Ramble. The Hudson River Valley Ramble celebrates the trails, the river and the historic and cultural resources of the Hudson River Valley Greenway and National Heritage Area. For more information about the Ramble visit www.hudsonrivervalleyramble.com

Cost: $5 per person/ RCHS members free. Reservations can be made by calling 518-244-6853 or email [email protected] . For more information, visit www.rchsonline.org

Saturday, September 10 – Uncle Sam’s Life in Troy
10:30am &#8211 Noon
50 years ago Troy was designated by Congress as the Home of Uncle Sam. Join us on this 1.5 hour walking tour of sites in downtown Troy associated with Samuel Wilson, the &#8220real&#8221 Uncle Sam. Included is a visit to the exhibit at the RCHS museum, which includes artifacts from Samuel Wilson’s life and images of our national symbol. Tour is not recommended for children under 10. Total distance covered is about 1.5 miles

Saturday, September 17 – Amazing Architecture
10:30am – 11:30am
Stroll downtown Troy and you’ll find a rich built environment. This 1 hour walking tour showcases Troy’s architectural gems and range of styles. Tour is not recommended for children under 10. Total distance covered is about 1 mile.

Saturday, September 24 – History Under Foot and Overhead
10:30am – 11:30am
Families with kids ages 5 and up will enjoy this interactive walk through Troy’s past. Tour encourages children to look at tops of buildings and bottom of stairs to find architectural details often overlooked. You’ll come away saying &#8220I never knew that about Troy!&#8221

New-York Historical Aquires Lansing Papers

At an auction held in May at Sotheby’s the Chairman of the New-York Historical Society, Roger Hertog, purchased the Constitutional Convention notebooks of John Lansing, Jr., a New York delegate to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention. Mr. Hertog has announced that he will donate the exceptionally rare documents to the Library of the Historical Society.

The New-York Historical Society plans to digitize the Lansing papers in their original format to share with scholars everywhere. The documents will also be displayed in an exhibit when the Historical Society’s galleries re-open in November 2011.

“With this magnificent gift, Roger Hertog has secured the New-York Historical Society’s place of privilege as one of the most important repositories in the world for scholarship and teaching around constitutional history,” said Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the Historical Society. “Together with the notes on the Convention written by South Carolinian Pierce Butler—part of the Gilder Lehrman Collection on deposit at the Historical Society—and other extraordinary original resources of both Gilder Lehrman and Historical Society collections, Lansing’s Constitutional Convention Notebooks establish our institution as a principal site for understanding that the Constitution was a product of compromise, negotiation and brilliant thinking, an accomplishment nearly without parallel in modern history.”

“If you love American history, ask yourself how often (if ever) you get the chance to see a first-hand account of one of the most important events in that history,” Roger Hertog stated. “John Lansing’s notebooks from the Constitutional Convention are a rare such account: an eye-witness report of what went into the creation of the U.S. Constitution.”

John Lansing, Jr. (1754-1829) was born in Albany, took up the legal profession and served as a New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention. His detailed notes of the Convention join those of Rufus King, which are already in the Historical Society’s collection, and enrich our knowledge of the debates and compromises that helped forge the foundational document of the United States. Lansing was also a major figure in the New York State ratification convention in 1788 in Poughkeepsie, where his insistence that the new Constitution be enlarged by a Bill of Rights helped to secure the protections that citizens enjoy today.

The delegates’ vow of secrecy, which banned the taking of notes for publication, limited the amount of material created documenting the Convention proceedings. Although notes by a number of other delegates, including James Madison, survive, Lansing’s are among the purest and most detailed, providing a unique and unedited first-hand account of the period of Lansing’s attendance at the Convention.

“Reading through the Lansing notebooks is a thrilling experience,” Jean Ashton, Executive Vice President of the New-York Historical Society and Director of the Library Division said in a prepared statement. “Lansing recorded speeches and discussions, assigning names and identifying positions, as the delegates participated in the give-and-take of debate. Lansing became distressed that the meeting was seeking to establish an entirely new government rather than simply amending the Articles of Confederation, as charged. Lansing and his fellow New Yorker Richard Yates left the Convention early, but not before he had participated actively and created this illuminating and highly significant record.”

Illustration: Engraving of John Lansing (1754–1829) from the New-York Historical Society Library, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, Gift of Albert Rosenthal.

New Troy Genealogy Database Goes Online

The Troy New York Daily Whig for the years 1834 to 1838 is the sixth set of newspapers recently added to the Troy Irish Genealogy Website. There are 821 reported deaths and 1,749 names on the reported marriages during this period. These records will be of great interest to genealogy researchers since the information in this data base predates the 1880 New York State law requiring the reporting of death and marriage records.

You can view these records by going to the Troy Irish Genealogy website (click on PROJECTS then THE TROY NEWSPAPER PROJECT). These records, like most of the TIGS data series, cover the general population in the area and are NOT restricted to Irish surnames.

While 492 of the marriage records showed no indication of residence, those records where the residence was reported are of interest as they show numerous cities and towns throughout New York State as well as other states and even foreign countries.

At the time of the 1840 census, Troy was the fourth wealthiest city in the USA on a per capita basis. This may account for the numerous individuals from across the United States coming to Troy to be married.

Two other transcription projects are currently being completed by the Troy Irish Genealogy Society. Over 28,000 death and marriage records reported in 40 years of the Troy Daily Whig for the years 1839 to 1878 will be added to the TIGS website in the next few months along with over 4,000 records of interment in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Troy.