Remembering New York Dutch Hudson Valley Seeds
by Gloria Waldron Hukle
Recently I visited Papscanee Nature Preserve in Rensselaer County which is located along the Hudson River about four miles south of the cities of Albany and Rensselaer, and not far from Castleton, New York. Today a lovely envirnmental preserve where hikers can freely enjoy the woodland trails, it is a quiet peaceful place, but in Colonial times a breadbasket of thriving farms that supported the New York Rensselaer feudal system that continued into the first half of the l9th century. Lands immediately adjacent to the preserve are still farmed today, and in fact, while I was there I spoke briefly with a young man who was preparing a field for seeding.
I've wanted to visit these ancient grounds ever since I learned (via Dutch church records) that my ancestor, Gysbert Cornelise VandenBergh was buried in his beloved orchard at Papscanee. Although I don't know the location of his orchard, there are still magnificent apple orchards in the general area. Over four hundred years later the anticipated fruits of the field bring to mind remarkable American first families - the Dutch of the New York Hudson Valley.
Gysbert Cornelise VandenBergh from whom I descend is referred to as 'Gysbert Cornelisz Van den Hoogenberch, op den hoogenberch or aen den berch' in the l7th century Dutch Van Rensselaer Bowier Manuscripts because he occupied a farm on a high hill which had many beautiful natural large crystals in the early days of Beaverwyck. He is also sometimes referred to as Gysbert Cornelisz Breukelyn and VandenBerch.
Genealogist will recall that Pieter Waldron, born in Manhattan in l675, a grandson of Resolved Waldron, New Amsterdam, (Manhattan Seeds of the Big Apple), in l698 married fifteen year old Tryntje VandenBergh, a granddaughter of Gysbert - who scholars believe was born about l620.
He appears in the New Netherland records with his brother in the first half of the l7th century. It appears that originally Gysbert leased his farm, but records state that in l662 he purchased a house, barn and fences lying in the Colony of Rensselaerswyck. In the days of the Patroons the farmer could own his buildings but paid a lease-generally with his livestock-for the use of the land. Others who owned properties at Papscanee were Volkert Jansee and Jan Thompse, neighbors of Gysbert and with whom he had his differences, taking them to court for not helping him keep up his fences. Another neighbor was Evert OPels.
Disaster struck the VandenBerghs in their elder years, and we know about it through the pen of Maria Van Rensselaer, at the time the Patroon's widow, who wrote a letter back home to her brother in Holland about a horrific fire that took place bon the VandenBergh farm. Maria wears her sympatic heart on her sleeve as she relates the event and of how Gysbert was badly burned on his face trying to save all the farm animals. The horses and cows got out, but all else burned to the ground, even the pots melted. VandenBergh's wife was also burned while rescuing her blind ninety year old mother. They survived it all, and with the support of Maria Van Rensselaer and help of his neighbors, the farm was rebuilt. He was still living there in l678.
Abraham Staats was a settler in present day Albany, New York, back in l642. Papscanne (known in those times as Paepeknee) later became known as Staats Island when on September 7th, l696, the farm was leased to Samuel Staats, a surgeon. The Waldrons and the Staats cross paths again nearly a hundred years later when in l77l Anna Yates, the daughter of Johannes Yates and Rebecca Waldron Yates (Peter Waldron's granddaughter) married William Staats, an Albany merchant and sloop owner. Anna had grown up on the family farm in Rensselaerswyck (today Rensselaer- East Greenbush, New York)
Although I didn't have a chance to see for myself, during my visit I was told the remains of a Longhouse Trading Post still remain on the preserve. What also endures is the old stone Staats House, still occupied by a member of the Staats family well over three hundred years later. Many of the markers of the Staats still stand in a cemetery behind the house.
And so, amid a squabbling New York Legislature, the soil is turned over, seeds go into the ground, and life goes on in the land cultivated by the ancient Dutch settlers of New York.
by Gloria Waldron Hukle ( www.authorgloriawaldronhukle.com)