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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Brett

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[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 557-559 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

The family name of Brett is thought to be a contraction from Breton, a Briton; "brette," French, a long sword; "brat" and "bretyn," in Welsh, signify an urchin. The Brett Arms. Shield: Argent, a lion rampant between nine crosses crosslet fitchee gules. Crest: A lion passant gules upon a cap of maintenance. Motto: Perseverantia vincit — Perseverance conquers.

The descent is traced from the progenitor of the family in America, Roger Brett, who was born in the seventeenth century, and resided in Fishkill, New York.

Francis Rombout came to New Amsterdam, as New York was then called, in 1664. He was of French extraction, and at that time was about twenty-five years of age. He had intended to return to his home, but through some seeming misfortune he was compelled to remain in this country, and as he grew up laid the foundation for business resulting in his becoming a rich fur trader and owner of enormous estates, which were situated along the Hudson river not far north of New York City. Francis Rombout, in a partnership with Stephanus Van Cortlandt and Jacobus Kip, who married the widow of Gulian Verplanck later on, obtained a patent from the Duke of York in 1665, covering the whole territory lying between the Fishkill and Wappinger creeks, and running eastward on lines parallel with these creeks "four hours going in the woods," to use the quaint but not definite language of their patent. This distance was estimated at sixteen miles, which was a rather liberal allowance. By partition of the property among the original owners, Francis Rombout took a large share. It comprised the lower or southern portion, and covered an area of more than ten thousand acres. On February 8, 1682, a license was given by Thomas Dongan, governor of the Province of New York, to Francis Rombout, to acquire a tract of land from the Wappinger tribe of Indians. With him in this transaction was associated Gulian Verplanck. In August of the following summer, all the right of the Indians in the large tract was bought by Rombout and Verplanck, and this land was afterwards known as the Rombout Patent.

Francis Rombout held a great many positions of dignity and responsibility, both during the Dutch and English colonial periods. He became a citizen of New Amsterdam in 1664 and the mayor of New York in 1679. One finds his name appearing frequently in the annals of the colony, especially after the conquest of New Amsterdam by the British, in the reign of Charles II., 1664, when the name was changed to New York. He filled with honor the offices of schepen, 1674; alderman, 1673-78 inclusive; mayor, 1686-87, and commissioner in admiralty. He was of French extraction, and it is said that he came to New Amsterdam as supercargo. He later married Helena Teller Van Ballen, a widow and the daughter of William Teller. In his mercantile life, he associated himself in the main with Gulian Verplanck, forming with him a partnership which continued for many years. He died in 1691, leaving one child, a daughter named Catharyna, born in 1684.

(I) Roger Brett, progenitor of the family in America, married Catharyna Rombout, and removed with her from New York to the Fishkills, where he erected the historical mansion in a beautiful grove at Fishkill Landing in 1709, and she remained there until her death, in 1764. After the death of her husband, she was commonly styled "Madame Brett" by her friends. She was sixteen years of age when she married Roger Brett, and soon thereafter, or about 1706, the patent, which has subsequently been known as the Rombout Patent, was partitioned in three portions, namely, to the Van Courtlandt family was allotted substantially all the land lying along both banks of what was called Wappinger Creek; the middle portion fell to the heirs of Gulian Verplanck, and the lower, or part along the Fish Kill, to Roger Brett and his wife. In New York they had lived on her father's property, which consisted of a large house and spacious grounds on lower Broadway, not distant from the present site of Trinity Church. The site of the home latterly occupied in Dutchess county in later years became known as Matteawan, New York. Roger Brett was a lieutenant in the British navy, and on familiar terms of friendship with the Colonial governor, Lord Cornbury, who was a cousin of Queen Anne, to whom he is said to have borne a close likeness, a matter regarding which he was known to be proud. He was drowned in 1716, and his wife survived him many years, dying in 1764. Children:

  1. Francis, see forward;
  2. Robert; Rivery.

(II) Francis, son of Lieutenant Roger and Catharyna (Rombout) Brett, was (probably) born on the homestead in Fishkill, Dutchess county, New York. He married Margaret Van Wyck. Children:

  1. Cornelius, married Rachel Valentine;
  2. Rombout, married Sarah Somendyke;
  3. George, see forward;
  4. Dorus, married Polly Wilse;
  5. Phoebe, married Thomas Arden;
  6. Hannah, married Henry Schenck;
  7. Margaret, married Peter A. Schenck;
  8. Catherine, died unmarried.

(III) General George, son of Francis and Margaret (Van Wyck) Brett, was born in 1751. He was an officer in the revolutionary war, serving in the regiment of James Swartwout from October 10, 1777, to October 26, 1777, in the Poughkeepsie precinct of Dutchess county. He died October 15, 1833. He married Marie Cooper, born in 1754, died in 1838. Children:

  1. Deborah, died August 1, 1854;
  2. Margaret, born in 1778, died December 8, 1860;
  3. Francis G., see forward;
  4. Sarah (or Sally), married Robert Willett.

(IV) Francis G., son of George and Marie (Cooper) Brett, was born in 1775, probably in Matteawan, Dutchess county, New York, died August 14, 1835. He married, November 19, 1802, Margaret Campbell, born in 1777, died April 9, 1835. Children:

  1. William, born in 1803, died December 27, 1869;
  2. James, born 1805, died January 15, 1872;
  3. Alfred, born April, 1808, died November 6, 1828;
  4. Harriet, born 1809, died August 22, 1871;
  5. Jane Ann, born in 1813, died December 18, 1858;
  6. Harvey;
  7. Edgar, see forward;
  8. Charles.

(V) Rev. Edgar Brett, son of Francis G. and Margaret (Campbell) Brett, was born in Matteawan, New York, in 1815, and resided there a greater portion of his life. His father conducted for years the old Matteawan flouring mill and dwelt in the old yellow house on Mill street, across the creek from the mill, still standing in 1910. Edgar Brett was born in this homestead. On arriving at maturity, he acted as bookkeeper for his father, but later on he removed to Stamford, Connecticut, where he engaged as the superintendent of a cotton mill. Following this he felt called to preach the Gospel, and commenced studying for the ministry. He became first a local preacher, acting faithfully in that capacity and accomplishing a large amount of good Christian work. He acted also as the agent for the Bible Society. He traveled much through the country, delivering lectures and presenting stereopticon views of the Holy Land. Having a competence of his own, in his later years he retired from public activity, and was greatly esteemed by all those who knew him. He married, August 25, 1836, Myra Ann Holslander, born in 1815, died in 1881. He died in 1892. Children:

  1. Edgar Augustus, born June 26, 1840, see forward;
  2. Francis Henry, born August 31, 1842;
  3. married Mary Rogers, October 19, 1870, and in 1910 resided in Matteawan;
  4. Wilbur Fisk, born September 16, 1847, died September 26, 1867.

(VI) Captain Edgar Augustus, son of Rev. Edgar and Myra Ann (Holslander) Brett, was born in Orange county, New York, June 26, 1840, died November 3, 1900, in Albany, New York. He was reared in Fishkill, New York, where he was educated in the public schools. In 1862 he enlisted in the One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, and was appointed commissary sergeant. In 1863 he was commissioned captain in the First Regiment of Engineers, composed of colored men, called the "Corps d' Afrique." Until the close of the war served on detached duty on the staff of General Day, Department of the Gulf, and was for a time provost marshal at Brazos and San Diego, Texas. He participated with his command at the battle of Port Hudson. After receiving an honorable discharge from the army at the close of the war, Captain Brett settled in Albany and held office for two years under Joseph Howland, treasurer of the state of New York. Resigning the office, he formed a connection with the National Commercial Bank of Albany as individual bookkeeper, continuing until 1884, when he retired from active business life. In politics he was a lifelong Republican, but never aspired to or desired public office. He was a member of Louis Benedict Post [Lewis?], Grand Army of the Republic, of Albany, later transferred to George Dawson Post, No. 63, Albany, and of the "Albany Burgess Corps," Albany's famous military and social organization. Both Captain and Mrs. Brett were members of the First Dutch Reformed Church of Albany, and active in the Sunday school; for several years he served as librarian. He married, June 5, 1867, Mary, born June 25, 1840, daughter of John and Saphrona (Jacquin) Charlot. John Jacquin, her grandfather, served in the revolutionary war, enlisting at the age of seventeen for a term of three years. Children:

  1. Mary Louise, born April 19, 1868, died August 2, 1875;
  2. George W., born November 13, 1870, died August 7, 1875;
  3. Charles Porter, see forward;
  4. Arthur Howland, see forward;
  5. Katherine Gaul, born April 20, 1879.

(VII) Charles Porter, eldest surviving son of Captain Edgar Augustus and Mary (Charlot) Brett, was born in Albany, New York, February 8, 1873. He was educated in the city schools, and for the first two years of his business life was with the Harder Knitting Company, of Hudson, New York. Leaving there, he was for the next ten years with the leading dry goods house of John G. G. Myers in Albany. In 1899 he formed a connection with the banking house of Spencer Trask & Company, continuing until the present date (1910) as their managing bookkeeper. He is a Republican, and through the military service of his ancestors gained admission to the Sons of the Revolution. He served five years in Company B, Tenth Battalion, New York National Guard, located at Albany, and is a member of "The Old Guard" of that company; also of the Capital City Benefit Association of Albany. His religious affiliation is with the First Dutch Reformed Church of Albany, of which he was a deacon for two years and for a term of four years treasurer of the Sunday school. He married, August 28, 1895, Grace, daughter of James and Adaline (Rabson) Herrington, and has a daughter, Edna May, born in Albany, April 14, 1900, died August 25, 1900, also one son who died at birth.

(VII) Arthur Howland, youngest son of Captain Augustus and Mary (Charlot) Brett, was born in Albany, October 19, 1875. He was educated in the city schools, specializing in bookkeeping and accounting systems. On leaving school be was for several years employed in the general offices of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad Company in Albany, The Commerce Insurance Company, Richard V. DeWitt Walsh in the insurance and real estate business, and now with the Hygienic Ice & Refrigerating Company of Albany. He is a Republican in politics; a member of the First Dutch Reformed Church; a Master Mason of Mt. Vernon Lodge, Albany; a Knight of Pythias, and member of the Sons of the Revolution. He is unmarried, residing with mother and sister at 148 Elm street.

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