Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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VAN CORTLANDT, Oloff (or Oliver) Stevense, soldier, born in Wijk, near Utrecht, Holland, in 1600; died in New York, 4 April, 1684. He came to New Netherland as an officer in the set-vice of the West India company, arriving there in the ship "Horing" (The Herring), with Director Kieft, on 28 March, 1638. Of the origin of his family nothing is definitely known. He had a good education, and the offices he subsequently held, his seal with the Van Cortlandt arms, still in the possession of his descendants, as well as articles of Dutch plate bearing the same arms, show that his position was good, and that of a gentleman. He remained only a short time in the military service, having been appointed by Kieft in 1639 "commissary of cargoes," or "customs officer," and in 1643 keeper of the public stores of the West India company, a responsible post under the provisions of the charters of freedoms and exemptions, being the superintendent of the collection of the company's revenue in New Amsterdam, most of which was paid in furs. In 1648 he resigned from this office, was made a freeman of the city, and entered upon the business of a merchant and brewer, in which he was eminently successful, becoming one of the richest men in New Amsterdam. In 1649 he was chosen colonel of the burgher guard, or city train bands, and also appointed one of the "Nine Men," a temporary representative board elected by the citizens. He was previously one of the "Eight Men," a similar body, in 1645. In 1654 he was elected schepen, or alderman, and the next year, 1655, appointed burgomaster, or mayor, of New Amsterdam. This office he filled nearly uninterruptedly till the capture by the English in 1664, at which he was one of the commissioners that were appointed by Director Stuyvesant to negotiate the terms of surrender, and was active in their settlement, the docmnent bearing his signature with those of the other commissioners. He was also engaged in several temporary public matters as a councillor and commissioner during the administration of Stuyvesant, notably in the Connecticut boundary matter in 1663, and the settlement of Captain John Scott's claim to Long Island in 1664. He acted in similar capacities under the first English governors, Nicolls, Lovelace, and Dongan, and was chosen the trustee of Lovelace's estate to settle it in 1673. He married, on 26 February, 1642, Annetje, sister of Govert Loockermans, who came out with Director Van Twiller in 1633, and was so prominent afterward in New Netherland affairs. "Govert Loockermans, after filling some of the highest offices in the colony," says O'Callaghan, "died, worth 520,000 guilders, or $208,000, an immense sum when the period in which he lived is considered." Oloff Stevense Van Cortlandt died on 4 April, 1684, and his wife followed him about a month afterward. They had seven children--five daughters and two sons. The oldest of the latter was Stephanus, and the youngest Jacobus, who, respectively, were the progenitors of all of the name now living. The former founded the oldest branch, the Van Cortlandts of the manor of Cortlandt, the latter the younger branch, the Van Cortlandts of Cortlandt House, Yonkers.--His son, Stephanus, statesman, born in New York, 4 May, 1643; died there, 25 November, 1700, was the first and only lord of the manor, and one of the most eminent men of the province of New York after it became an English colony. Except the governorship, he filled at one time or another every prominent office in that province. When Lieutenant-Governor Nicholson went to England, at the beginning of Jacob' Leisler's insurrection and actual usurpation, to report in person to King William, he committed the government, in his absence, to Stephanus Van Cortlandt and Frederick Philipse. This fact caused Leisler to seek their lives, and forced them to escape from the city of New York to save themselves. Van Cortlandt's career was, perhaps, the most brilliant and varied, in the fifty-seven years it occupied, of any inhabitant of New York in the 17th century. He was a youth of twenty-one when, in 1664, the English capture took place and New Amsterdam became New York. Brought up under the eye of his father, and educated by the Dutch clergymen of New Amsterdam, whose scholarship was vastly higher than it has pleased modern writers to state, and which would compare favorably with that of the clergy of the 19th century, young Van Cortlandt, long before the death of his father in 1684, showed how well he had profited by the example of the one and the learning of the others. He was a merchant by occupation. His first appointment was as a member of the court of assizes, the body instituted under "the Duke's Laws" over which Governor Richard Nicolls presided, and which exercised both judicial and legislative powers. In 1668 he was appointed an ensign in the Kings county regiment, subsequently a captain, and later its colonel. From 1677, when, at the age of thirty-four, he was appointed the first native American mayor of the city of New York, he held that office almost consecutively till his death in 1700. When, by the Duke of York's commission and instructions to Governor Dongan, a governor's council was established in New York, Stephanus Van Cortlandt and Fred-crick Philipse were named by the duke therein as councillors, and with them Dongan was to appoint such others as he deemed fit for the office. Stephanus Van Cortlandt's name was continued in each of the commissions of all the succeeding governors down to and including Bellomont's in 1697, and he continued in the office till his death in 1700. Early in this latter year he was appointed chief justice, but he only filled the office till his demise in November of the same year. He had many years before been appointed judge of the common pleas in Kings county, and later, in 1693, a justice of the supreme court of the province. In 1686 Dongan made him commissioner of the revenue, and on 10 November, 1687, he was appointed by the king's auditor-general in England, William Blathwayt, deputy auditor in New York, his accounts being regularly transmitted to England and approved. He was appointed also deputy secretary of New York, and personally administered the office, the secretary always residing in England, after the British custom. He was prominent in all the treaties and conferences with the Indians as a member of the council, and was noted for his influence with them. Ills letters and despatches to Governor Edmund Andros, and to the different boards and officers in England that were charged with the care of the colonies and the management of their affairs, remain to show his capacity, clear-headedness, and courage. Equally esteemed arid confided in by the governments of James as duke and king, and by William and Mary, in the troublous times in which he lived, and sustained by all the governors, even though, as in Bellomont's case, they did not like him personally, no greater proof could be adduced of his ability, skill, and integrity. His estate was erected into the lordship and manor of Cortlandt by patent of William III., bearing date 17 June, 1697. The Van Cortlandt manor-house, which is shown in the accompanying illustration, is one of the old west edifices that remain on the borders of Hudson river. It stands on the northern shore of Croton bay, and was built both as a country residence anal as a fort, the walls being of reddish freestone, nearly three feet in thickness, pierced with loop-holes for musketry. It was built originally as a fortified trading-house by Stephanus, and added to by the successive owners. In it were entertained some of the most notable persons in the history of the state, beginning with the early colonial governors. George Whitefield preached to the tenants of the manor from its veranda, while Benjamin Franklin rested there on his return from his Canadian mission in 17'76. Washington, Rochambeau, Lafayette, and Lauzun were among its guests, and Colonel Henry B. Livingston had his quarters there while watching the "Vulture" at the time of Arnold's treason. Here, too, were entertained eminent Methodist preachers in the early days of that church, including Bishop Asbury and Freeborn Garretson. --Philip, third son of Stephanus, merchant, born in New York city, 9 August, 1688; died there, 21 August, 1746, Was a man of good abilities, and possessed of great decision of character. He was a merchant in New Amsterdam, and, like his father, took an active part in public affairs. In June, 1729, he was recommended to the king for appointment as a councillor of the province by Governor Montgomerie in place of Lewis Morris, Jr. The appointment was made, 3 February, 1780, he took his seat in April of the same year, and continued in the council until his death, when he was succeeded by Edward Holland through the recommendation of Governor George Clinton. He was a member of the commission on the part of New York in the ease of the colony of Connecticut and the Mohegan Indians. His wife was Catharine, daughter of Abraham de Peyster, to whom he was married in 1710. He left six surviving children--five sons and one daughter, Catharine, who was killed by the bursting of a cannon on the Battery while watching the firing of a salute in honor of the king's birthday, 4 June, 1788, in her thirteenth year. By the death of his elder brothers (Johannes, who left only a daughter, Gertrude, the wife of Philip Verplanck, and Oloff, or Oliver, who died a bachelor) Philip became the third head of the Van Cortlandt family. His five sons were Stephen, Abraham, Philip, John, and Pierre.--STEPHEN, the eldest, who succeeded his father as the head of the family, was born 26 October, 1710, married, in 1738, Mary Walton Ricketts, and died, 17 October, 1756, leaving two sons, Philip and William Ricketts Van Cortlandt.--PHILIP the elder, the fourth head of the family, born 10 November, 1739, preferring a military life, entered the British army, in which he served many years, dying on 1 May, 1814. He is buried in Hailsham church, where a mural monument is erected to his memory. He married, on 2 August, 1762, Catharine, daughter of Jacob Ogden, of New Jersey. They had the large number of twenty-three children (several being twins), of whom twelve lived to grow up, five being sons and seven daughters. The for-met all became officers in the British regular army. --Pierre, first lieutenant-governor of the state of New York, youngest son of Philip, the third son of Stephanus, born in Cortlandt manor, 10 January, 1721 ; died in New York, 1 May, 1814. In consequence of the deaths in early manhood of his brothers Abraham, Philip, and John, unmarried, and of the death, in 1756, of his eldest brother, Stephen, and the absence in the army of his nephew, Philip, Stephen's eldest son, Pierre became early and closely identified with the affairs of the manor and the interests of his relatives therein. Marrying Joanna, a daughter of Gilbert Livingston, he naturally leaned to the political side of his wife's family in the party contests anterior to the opening of the American Revolution. He was the representative of the manor in the colonial assembly from 1768 till 1775, and, unlike his nephew, Philip, the head of the family, took the American side in the Revolutionary war. He was a member of the Provincial convention, the council of safety, and the Provincial congress, and, upon the organization of the state government in 1777, was chosen lieutenant-governor of New York and served in that office till 1795, when he declined a re-election, the long period of eighteen years. In 1777 he was president of the convention at Kingston which framed the first constitution of the state of New York. He left two sons, General Philip and General Pierre. He was an admirable presiding officer, gentle but firm, strict but impartial, and commanded the respect and esteem of senators of all parties.-Philip, soldier, born in Cortlandt manor, 1 September, 1749; died there, 5 November, 1831, was the eldest son of Lieutenant-Governor Pierre Van Cortlandt, and was educated at Coldenham academy and graduated at King's (now Columbia)college in 1758. He became a surveyor. In June, 1775, he was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of the 4th battalion, New York infantry, and on 30 November, 1776, by Washington, colonel of the 2d New York regiment, in place of Colonel Ritzema, who had joined the British. He was present at the surrender of Burgoyne, and in 1779 he was engaged with General John Sullivan in the Indian campaign in western New York. In 1781 he took part in the Virginia campaign, and witnessed the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. His highest rank in actual service was colonel, but after the disbandment of the army at the peace, congress gave him the rank of brigadier-general. He was subsequently a member of the New York assembly and senate, and one of the commissioners of forfeitures for the southern district of New York. He sat in congress for the Westchester district from 1793 till 1809. He was for many years treasurer of the state Society of the Cincinnati, and accompanied Lafayette on his travels through the United States during his visit in 1824. He lies buried in the family cemetery near the Cortlandt manorhouse at Croton, second son of Lieutenant-Governor Pierre, born in Cortlandt manor, 29 August, 1762; died there in July, 1848, was a leading man in Westchester county, its representative in congress in 1811-'12, and major-general of the militia, one of his aides being James Fenimore Cooper. He was graduated at Rutgers college in 1783, and in 1843 was given the degree of LL. D. by that institution. He studied law with Alexander Hamilton, but did not practise long, giving his attention to politics and to his estate. He was a presidential elector for Jefferson in 1800 and for General William H. Harrison in 1840, and a candidate on the defeated Henry Clay ticket in 1844. From 1833 till his death he was president of the Westchester county bank. He married first, in 1801, Catharine, daughter of Governor George Clinton and widow of Captain John Taylor, of the British army, and secondly, in 1813, Ann, daughter of John Stevenson and Magdalen Douw, of Albany, by whom he had one child, Colonel Pierre Van Cortlandt (1815-'84).--Jacobus, merchant, born in New York, 7 July, 1658; died there in 1739, was the younger of the two sons of Oloff, first above named, and ancestor of the Yonkers branch. His estate at Yonkers, continuously held by his descendants to this day, has been purehased by the city of New York for its new " Van Cortlandt park" of about 800 acres. He was one of the most eminent men of his time and one of the aldermen of the city. He sat in the first assembly of William and Mary in 1691, for New York city, and also in the two succeeding assemblies. He again sat for the city from 1702 till 1709, and frown 1710 till 1715. In 1719 he was mayor of the city of New York. He was a large land-holder in Westchester county, notably in the town of Bedford, where a large part of his property came by descent and wills of relatives to his grandson (through his daughter Mary), Chief-Justice John Jay, who built thereon the residence in which he died, and which now belongs to the latter's grandson, John Jay. (See illustration.) Jacobus Van Cortlandt was an officer and member of the Dutch church. He married Eve Philipse, the step-daughter of the first Colonel Frederick Philipse, whose wife, by birth Margaret Hardenbrook, was the widow of Peter Rudolph de Vries, by whom she had one daughter, who, after her mother's marriage to Frederick Philipse, was adopted by him and called by his name. His only son by this marriage, Frederick (1698-1749), who married, in 1724, Frances Jay, was the father of James, and Augustus, of Yonkers. The latter (1728-1824) was for many years prior to the Revolution clerk of the common council of New York city, and to his unflinching loyalty to his trust, as well as to his king, is due the preservation of the ancient city records of New York, for of his own motion and on his own responsibility, in 1775, he placed them in chests, in a vault built at his own expense, in his own garden, "made," as he informed the Provincial congress, "For that purpose of stone and brick, well arched, and exceedingly dry," and kept them till after the peace of 1783.
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