We are halfway through the year 2020 and midway through the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge, which is why this most recent writing prompt, Middle, seems quite appropriate.
Middle? Hmm…What “middle” should I write about? Should I write about Middlekauft cousins or Middleton kin, none of whom are direct ancestors? Perhaps I should feature towns and counties in which our ancestors resided whose names contain “middle”, like Middletown or Middlesex? After much deliberation, I decided to highlight the Middle Colonies and a few ancestors who were some of its earliest settlers.
The Middle Colonies were the Province of New York (parts of New York and Vermont), the Province of New Jersey, the Province of Pennsylvania (only a portion of modern-day Pennsylvania), and the Delaware Colony (also called the Lower Counties on Delaware).
- Dubbed the “breadbasket colonies” because of their abundant crops, especially wheat, the Middle Colonies also mined and manufactured iron ore products which were then exported to England.
- All of the Middle Colonies elected their own legislature and had a governor, governor’s court, and judicial system. While most of the Middle Colonies operated under a Proprietary Government, land grants by the English monarch to select individuals, New York began as a Royal Colony, ruled directly by the Crown.
- The Middle Colonies were not dominated by a single religion. As a result, Quakers, Catholics, Lutherans, Mennonites, and others looking for religious freedom immigrated to these four colonies.
Unlike the other Middle Colonies, the earliest European settlers of New York were not English; they were Dutch. Fort Nassau, the first Dutch military outpost in North America, was founded along the Hudson River in 1614/15 (near modern-day Albany.) In 1624, the first Dutch settlers arrived in New Netherland. Some went to Fort Orange, which had replaced Fort Nassau. Others landed at Noten Eylandt (modern-day Governors Island), before putting down roots in Nieuw (New) Amsterdam (modern-day Manhattan). In 1625, New Amsterdam was designated as the capital of the province.
Around the same time, in June 1625, Wolphert Gerritse Van Couwenhoven and Neeltje Jacobsdochter (my 11th and two-times 12th great-grandparents) and their children, including Gerret Wolfersen Van Couwenhoven (my 10th and two-times 11th great-grandfather), emigrated to New Amsterdam. Wolphert Gerritse Van Couwenhoven was one of five farm managers contracted by the Dutch West India Company. An original patentee, director of bouweries (farms), founder of the first European settlement on Long Island (Nieuw Amersfoort), and schepen (municipal officer) of New Amsterdam, Wolphert Gerritse Van Couwenhoven helped lay the foundations of the communities of Albany, Flatlands (Brooklyn), New Amsterdam, and Rensselaer.
Five years later, in 1630, Roelof Martense Schenck (my 9th great-grandfather) emigrated to the New World. He was thrice-married. His first wife was Neeltje Gerretse Van Couwenhoven (daughter of Gerret Wolfersen Van Couwenhoven, my 10th and 11th great-grandfather). His second wife was Annetje Pieterse Wyckoff (my 9th great-grandmother), daughter of Pieter Claesen Wyckoff and Grietje Cornelis Van Ness. Pieter Claesen Wyckoff came to America in 1637 at the age of 13 as an indentured servant, eventually working his way up to landowner and justice of the peace. Grietje Cornelis Van Ness immigrated to New Netherlands in 1641 with her parents Cornelius Hendrick Van Ness and Mayken Van Den Burchgraeff.
Circa 1635, Jan Pieterszen immigrated to Flatbush, New Netherland. By 1638, Jan was a tobacco planter, owning property on the North River.
In 1640, Theunis Thomaszen Quick and his wife Belijtgen Jacobusse VanUlechtenstyn (my spouse’s 11th great-grandparents) immigrated from the Netherlands to New Amsterdam. He was a mason by trade.
In 1642, Jurian Westvaal (my spouse’s 11th great-grandfather) and his wife Marretje Jansen were some of the first settlers of Esopus (in Ulster County, New York). Their children, including daughter Ryjmerick (Westvaal) Quick (my spouse’s 10th great-grandmother), helped found the town of Minisink in Ulster County.
In 1644, Jan Broersen Decker (my spouse’s two-times 10th great-grandfather) was originally from Demark but was working in the West Indies when he decided to leave the Caribbean for New Netherlands, eventually ending up in Ulster County where helped establish the towns of Esopus and Kingston.
Arriving in the New World in 1646 was Jacob Luursen Van Kuykendall and Styntie Douwes (my spouse’s 10th great-parents). The couple settled in Fort Orange.
Circa 1652/53, Aert Pieterson Tach (my spouse’s 10th great-grandfather) arrived in New Netherland as an indentured servant to Adriaen Van der Donk. By 1660, Aert had worked off his indenture and had married 15-year-old Annetje Aerjans. In 1662, the couple settled in Wiltwyck, where Aert began accumulated debts. Meanwhile, tensions between the local Native Americans and the Dutch settlers were escalating; the indigenous people attacked on 7 June 1663. The Tach’s home was burnt to the ground, and Aert Pieterson Tach disappeared. Although some historians assumed that he had been killed or captured, it turns out that he had abandoned his very pregnant wife and young child, leaving her homeless and deeply in debt. On 16 August 1663, two months after he left, daughter Grietje Aartz Tach (my spouse’s 9th great-grandmother) was born. In 1664, Aert Pieterson Tach was back in Holland, “married” to another woman. Annetje petitioned for a divorce, which was granted on 21 August 1664.
About 1657, Jan Cornelius Tuenisen (my spouse’s 11th great-grandfather), a carpenter from Westbroek, Netherlands, arrived in Fort Orange with his wife and family, including son Anthony Jansen Westbroek (my spouse’s 10th great-grandfather).
Finally, circa 1664, Jentie Jeppes and Tietske Gerrits (my 10th great-grandparents) and his four-year-old son Evert Janssen Van Wicklen (my 9th great-grandfather) immigrated to New Amsterdam from Wijckel, Friesland, Netherlands.
Soon after the Jeppes’ family’s arrival, New Netherland was wrested from Dutch control. On 27 August 1664, four English frigates sailed into New Amsterdam’s harbor, demanding New Netherland’s surrender. Because the West India Company had been indifferent to previous pleas for reinforcement of men and ships against the continual threats, encroachments, and invasions by English neighbors and Native populations, New Netherland had inadequate fortifications, ammunition, and manpower. Consequently, New Amsterdam was defenseless, and England seized control of the colony with no bloodshed.