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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Van Alstyne

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[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 46-50 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 Van Alstyne is derived from the Dutch, and signifies from the old or high stone; doubtless those who first bore the name dwelt upon the top of a rocky eminence, or near to some boulder which for years had been a prominent landmark among all the families of that neighborhood. The early records show that it was also spelled Van Aelsteyn, Van Aalsteyn, Van Alstyn, Van Alstein and Van Alstine; but in 1900, these forms were reduced to Van Alstine, Van Alstyne and Alstyn, one family having eliminated the Dutch prefix.

It is claimed with reason, following the preserved records in Holland, that the family may be traced back to the year 936, at the crowning of Otho. The family name first appears under the name of Ralsko, which it abandoned in order to take that of Wartemberg, which it bore for several centuries. Jean Ralsko, who died in Flanders in 1236, had built there the Chateau de Waldstein, the name of which he took to distinguish himself from his brother, who bore that of Wartemberg. The family has been traced under the name of Balstein in Spain, Vallenstein in France, Halsteyn in Flanders and Van Alstein in Holland. From Waldstein, the name changed to Wallenstein, Walstein, Valstein and finally became Van Alstein. Those who located in Flanders were loyal to the church of Rome, and those living in Holland allied themselves to the Reformation of Martin Luther, and displayed, the courage of the convictions. Those who came to America have particularly demonstrated their courage of independent thought and action, and were well represented in the war of American independence as well as in the civil war. Invariably they have been men of middle ground, neither acquiring vast riches nor suffering poverty, freed both from the worries of life and the cares of wealth. In the same measure they have been prominent in politics and religion, as well as the professions.

(I) The progenitor of the family in America was Jan Martense Van Alstyne, son Marten Van Alstyne, of Holland. There is record of his being in New Amsterdam (New York City), as early as 1646, where one finds an entry on the date December 11, 1646, being a bill of sale, Thomas Hall and Jan Peterson to Hendrick Jansen and Jan Martense, of a yacht. It is not known just he long he remained in that place; but he is recorded, in 1657, as owning a lot in Albany on the east side of Broadway and north of Columbia street, which he held as late as 1693, and in the meantime had become patentee of two tracts of land in Ulster county. He likewise purchased a large tract of land "behind" Kinderhook, New York, not many miles from Albany. This became the real home of the family, and the locality was then given the name because in the Dutch it signified "Children's Point," thought to have been bestowed because of the great number of Indian children who ran out on the point of land the better to observe Hudson pass in his "Half Moon," or else because the Indians living there had an unusual number of children in their families. The first proprietor resided there until his death, about 1698, and the land continued for more than two centuries in the possession of the descendants of his son, Abraham, to whom he conveyed the farm in 1695, conditioned on his paying the other heirs certain sums of money as provided explicitly. He married Dirckje Harmense, a woman endowed with all the characteristics necessary to make her a fitting helpmate for a pioneer husband. Children: Marten; Abraham; Lambert, see forward; Isaac, and possibly others.

(II) Lambert Janse, son of Jan Martense and Dirckje (Harmense) Van Alstyne, emigrated to this country in 1665, and settled in Kings county, but no record has been found of his birth. About 1684 he came into possession of a tract of land lying on the east side of Kinderhook creek, and adjoining the lands of his father. This he acquired by purchase of the patent, or lease, from the heirs of Peter Van Alen. He held it until his death, which occurred October 13, 1703. About 1682 he married Jannetje, daughter of Thomas and Marritje Abrahamse (Vosburgh) Mingael, she and her husband being first cousins, once removed, as her father and her husband were first cousins. There is no record of her birth; but she was doubtless much younger than he, for following his demise, she married, February 2, 1713, Jochem Lambertse Van Valkenburgh and had five sons. As all their children excepting the first born were baptized in Kinderhook, it is safe to believe that the eldest was born in Kings county, New York, and all the others after his removal, about 1684, in Kinderhook. Children:

  1. Catharine, born about 1683, married Bartholomeus Van Valkenburgh;
  2. Marritje, baptized December 27, 1685;
  3. Thomas, baptized August 22, 1688, see forward;
  4. Johannes, baptized August 11, 1691;
  5. Dirckje, baptized May 26, 1695, married Peter Vosburgh;
  6. Antje, baptized January 16, 1698, died young;
  7. Annetje, baptized July 28, 1700; Pieter, baptized August 9, 1702.

(III) Thomas, son of Lambert Janse and Jannetje Mingael Van Alstyne, was baptized in Kinderhook, New York, August 22, 1688. On the death of his father in 1703, he came into possession of the homestead lying along Kinderhook creek, adjacent to the farm of his grandfather, the pioneer settler. He was a member of the Dutch church of Muitzeskill where were baptized most of his offspring, although one of them, Maria, was baptized in Albany. In 1752 he bought a tract of land in the district of Claverack, described in the records kept at Hudson, New York, as lying between the Claverack and Kinderhook creeks. His will, dated November 15, 1760 and on file in Albany, devises the farm occupied by William, and his big gun to that son, provided that he pay off the debt on it amounting to one hundred pounds, and divided his property among five children after providing for the support of his wife during life, and to Peter his bouwery or whole farm, with all belongings thereto, provided that he pay his brother, Lambert, four hundred pounds in current money within six years of the testator's death. He died in August, 1765, at Kinderhook. He married, December 12, 1718, Maria Van Alen. She was baptized June 21, 1695, and was the daughter of William and Marritje (Van Patten) Van Alen. Children:

  1. Jannetje, baptized March 6, 1720, died young;
  2. William, baptized December 10, 1721, see forward;
  3. Lambert, baptized October 4, 1724, married (first) Alida Conyn, married (second) Aletteka Osterhout;
  4. Maria, baptized September 10, 1727, died young;
  5. Catharine, baptized January 17, 1731, married Petrus Hoffman;
  6. Maria, baptized November 18, 1733, married Dr. Johannes Patterson;
  7. Pieter, baptized May 16, 1736, married Marritje Conyn.

(IV) William, son of Thomas and Maria (Van Alen) Van Alstyne, was baptized in Muitzeskill, December 10, 1721. In 1752 he and his wife were members of the Dutch church of Kinderhook. He probably settled upon the farm which had just come into possession of his father by purchase of the patent from John Van Rensselaer, and which was bequeathed to him outright on his father's death, situate between Kinderhook and Claverack creeks. One or two records are of interest. On May 1, 1772, he leased a house, shop and a fulling mill, with dam and two acres, to Thomas Avery, and as much wood as he required for burning. In August, 1791, he bought a farm in Hillsdale from John Collier. A document bearing date October 19, 1793, deeds a negro boy named Tom to his son, Lawrence. July 12, 1799, he sold to the same son the farm he had bought of Nicholas and Philip Hoffman a few years before. He was commissioned a captain in Colonel Jeremiah Hogeboom's regiment, which served in the revolutionary war; his commission, signed by Governor Cadwalader Colden, preserved by the Holland Society, bears date April 4, 1770. He died May 22, 1802, and his tombstone was found a century later on the farm which he had bought from the Hoffmans. He married (first) in 1744, Christina Van Alen, who was baptized June 16, 1723, daughter of Stephanus and Mary (Muller) Van Alen, by whom he had five children; married (second) September 17, 1762, Catharine Knickerbocker, who was baptized October 19, 1731, daughter of Lawrence and Catharine (Van Horne) Knickerbocker, by whom he had four children. Children:

  1. Maria, baptized March 23, 1745, married Richard Esselstyn;
  2. Hilletje, baptized January 25, 1746, died young;
  3. Jannetje, baptized February 29, 1749, married William Winne, Jr.;
  4. Albertina, born in 1754, married John DeForest;
  5. Thomas, born February 18, 1765, see forward;
  6. Lawrence, born June 22, 1767, married Mary Murdock;
  7. William, born January 31, 1770, married Maria Vosburgh;
  8. Mary, born January 6, 1773, married John Leggett.

(V) Thomas (2), son of William and Catharine (Knickerbocker) Van Alstyne, was born February 18, 1765. In the Columbia county records, under date of May 7, 1795, it is stated that he and his wife, together with other ownership claimants, deeded the farm which was apparently the property of the first Thomas Van Alstyne secured from John Van Rensselaer in 1752, to Thomas Goldthwait. He died September 10, 1838. He married Mabel Butler, born January 3, 1768, died January 10, 1832, daughter of Ezekiel and Mabel (Jones) Butler. Her father displayed so much zeal in the American cause for liberty that the British offered a reward for his head, dead or alive, and it is probable that he died before the close of hostilities because he was privately buried for fear that his body would be disinterred for the sake of the reward. Mabel Butler was a lineal descendant of Colonel John Jones, one of the regicides of Charles the First, whose wife was Henrietta Cromwell, sister of Oliver Cromwell. Children:

  1. William, born November 12, 1791; married Polly Ostrander; died October 12, 1867.
  2. Maria, married February 14, 1815, Martin Barton.
  3. Catharine, married, March 13, 1819, Scovil Martin.
  4. Thomas Butler, born July 27, 1797, see forward.
  5. John Thomas, born September 28, 1800; married, February 8, 1826, Jane Ackerman; died February 10, 1876.
  6. Temperance, born in 1802, died October 29, 1877.
  7. Jane, born March 4, 1805; married, December 27, 1827, Dr. Levi B. Skinner; died December 18, 1886.
  8. Lawrence, born February 16, 1807; married, March 28, 1829, Eliza Van Hoesen; died January 18, 1835;
  9. Sally, married John Van Bramer.
  10. Ezekiel Butler, born November 6, 1811.
  11. Louisa, born November 27, 1813; married, December 14, 1839, Rev. Nicholas Van Alstine; died February 11, 1871.

(VI) Dr. Thomas Butler Van Alstyne, son of Thomas (2) and Mabel (Butler) Van Alstyne, was born in Ghent, Columbia county, New York, July 27, 1797. He was a well-known physician of Richmondville, Schoharie county, New York. Having completed a common school education, he began as a clerk in a general merchandise store in Hudson, but not finding this occupation at all congenial to his tastes, he prepared for the profession of his real choice, that of medicine, commencing his studies under Dr. Samuel White of the same place, then graduated from the Fairfield Medical College in 1818, and, following his advice, located the following year at Richmondville, where he continued to practice for over forty years. He met with considerable success, and became widely known in that section, and although often summoned elsewhere for consultation in critical cases and offered a medical college professorship, he favored his work and declined. He was a forceful advocate of the abolition of slavery and not only practiced but frequently preached abstinence from intoxicants as a beverage. He died October 26, 1867. Dr. Van Alstyne married, August 10, 1820, Eliza Shepard Giles, born October 28, 1799, died May 13, 1877. Children:

  1. Jane Ann, born May 22, 1821; married, October 8, 1839, Rev. Joseph Kingsley Barry; died December 4, 1853.
  2. Thomas W., born December 12, 1822, died April 25, 1825.
  3. Thomas Jefferson, born July 25, 1827, see forward.
  4. Sylvester Memford, born February 28, 1833; married, July 9, 1855, Cynthia E. Whitney; died October 28, 1882.
  5. Fayette Edgar, born June 15, 1837, died September 30, 1905; married, August 19, 1857, Rose M. Markel.
  6. John Lawrence, born October 8, 1840; married, October 8, 1868, Carrie A. Shults.
  7. Mary Eliza, born March 18, 1846; married, November 7, 1873, J. Leslie Multer.

(VII) Hon. Thomas Jefferson Van Alstyne [Portrait with signature: original size (31K) | 4x enlarged (83K)], son of Dr. Thomas Butler and Eliza Shepard (Giles) Van Alstyne, was born in Richmondville, Schoharie county, New York, July 25, 1827, where his father was then a practicing physician. He first studied at the public schools, until, by his natural inclination for serious application and a strong desire for knowledge, he had prepared himself thoroughly for a higher education. At the age of thirteen, while visiting the house of his brother-in-law, a Baptist in Cayuga county, he conceived the purpose of acquiring an education which should fit him to make his own mark in the world, so he entered the Moravia Academy. After that he completed his preparation for college by attending Hartwick Seminary. With six of his companions he matriculated at Hamilton College, from which he was graduated in 1848, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and in 1851 that of Master of Arts. In the college course his class standing was good, and he excelled especially in mathematics. So assiduous was he at this age, on entering upon maturity, that he applied himself at the same time to a course in law, under instruction from Professor Theodore W. Dwight, who subsequently became eminent in the law department of Columbia College. After graduation he entered the law office of Harris & Van Vorst of Albany, then a well-known legal firm of the Capital city. By diligent attention to the business of this office, he was enabled, with his knowledge of the principles of law which he had previously acquired, to pass a most satisfactory examination before the close of the year, the examining committee for the court consisting of Hon. John H. Reynolds, Hon. John K. Porter and Orlando Meads. He was admitted on March 6, 1848, and continued his studies in the same law office until the year 1850, when he opened his own office, continuing to practice alone until 1853, when he formed a partnership with Matthew McMahon, which association continued through four years. In 1858 Mr. Van Alstyne formed a partnership with Mr. Winfield Scott Hevenor, of Albany, and had its office in the Douw Building, Broadway and State street, until the death of Mr. Van Alstyne.

His political life was notable. He was ever a Democrat of the staunchest kind. He was elected judge of Albany county in 1871, and presided for twelve years. He was elected congressman in 1882, after a hard-fought contest in the political arena, where his forensic powers shone brilliantly and his sturdiness of character combined with a manly positiveness won for him a notable victory. The city was at that time considerably stirred in politics. The mayoralty contest of that period, Swinburne vs. Nolan, will remain in local history as a political battle waged with fearful animosity and an unpleasant degree of venom exhibited on both sides. On taking his seat in the forty-eighth congress, he was appointed a member of the committee on claims, and also on the committee on expenditures of the department of justice. He was credited with being thoroughly attentive to his duties as the public's representative, and his term will be remembered by his constituents as one giving abundant satisfaction to political friends and foes alike, for he arose above his party strife once he was elected. His party renominated him at the end of two years; but the dissension in his party prevented his chance for being elected, and his opponent, Dr. John Swinburne, known as the "Fighting Doctor," with an enormous following among the poor, was chosen. He was nominated for mayor of Albany and elected November 2, 1897, and served from January 1, 1898, to 1900. He had as opponents General Selden E. Marvin, Hon. George H. Stevens, Robert H. Moore and George Du Bois. His vote was 8,172; that of General Marvin, 6,014, and of George H. Stevens, 6,012.

He was a Mason of prominence, associated with the fraternity for many years and when a young man actively concerned in all its affairs, officiating frequently on committees because of the value of the services he could render through able advice. Entered Mount Vernon Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, October 4, 1855; Master Mason, November 19, 1855; master, 1858-61; marshal 1865. He was a prominent member of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, and a life member of the Young Men's Association, in which he had shown great concern, as his interest seemed to center naturally in the welfare of young men of the city. Often he found it a pleasure to converse and consult with them, and in this particular trait his genial character was seen at its very best. He was a member of The Albany Institute and one of the most aggressive in the movement which resulted in the combination of the two bodies forming the Albany Institute and Historical and Art Society. As a trustee he was the most regular of all upon the board in attending meetings and his keen interest was felt decisively. Whenever discussion of important business showed tendency to delay, he was ready before the tabling of a motion with a resolution, in which he forcefully, cogently and sagaciously pointed the solution, thus bringing matters to a direct issue by his terse amendment, uttered in phraseology as one would present salient features of a legal brief.

Judge Van Alstyne was fond of travel, and was wont to bring back with him rare souvenirs of countries visited, and in this way made a collection of rare, old china. Friendly intercourse with him was a source of pleasure, as his intellectuality lent a decided charm and made the moments pass worthily. He was a man of unusually large physique, broad-shouldered, and giving an appearance of unusual strength throughout his bearing. His features bore the stamp of ruddy health; his eyes were ever bright and sparkling as with ready wit actuating his thoughts, and he walked with a firm, elastic step, which was a noticeable characteristic.

Mr. Van Alstyne died at his home, No. 289 State street, in the early morning of October 26, 1903, of heart failure. He had never missed regular attendance at his office until that time and in all sorts of weather might have been seen taking his afternoon recreation in driving about the country roads, a habit which no doubt gave him his large share of health. So soon as Mayor Gaus received intelligence of the death, he ordered that the flags on the City Hall, police stations, schools and fire houses be lowered, and the first to call a meeting for action on his demise was the Philip Livingston Chapter, Sons of the Revolution. The Fort Orange Club, of which he was charter member, lowered its flag, and the Albany Institute and Historical and Art Society held a special meeting that afternoon. The Albany County Bar Association assembled in the supreme court on October 29, President William P. Rudd in the chair, and an address was delivered by Judge D. Cady Herrick, a life-long friend, while the committee prepared resolutions. He said in part: "My acquaintance with him dates back to the time when, after I began the practice of law, I became located in an adjoining office, where I had excellent opportunity to study his remarkable personality, and up to the time of his death our relations were always close and sometimes intimate. Eminence in his profession did not fill the measure of his honorable ambition. He represented his home constituency in the Legislative halls of the Nation, and as the crowning event of his political career, rendered efficient service to his fellow citizens as their chief magistrate. Honest and faithful in the discharge of every trust, public or private; attentive and conscientious in the performance of every duty, official or self-imposed, his integrity was manifest at all times and in all places, and on every occasion. He was strong mentally, strong morally, and strong physically — there was no hypocrisy in his nature and as time rolled on and I grew to understand him better, I liked him more. A peculiarity in his nature which no doubt many of you have observed, when we were assembled here on such sad occasions as this, was the tenderness with which he spoke in memory of those with whom he had had many conflicts in life. In private life, a man of domestic habits, literary tastes and scholarly attainments, a student of books and a lover of nature. In his conversation and public utterances he was frank and candid, adopting the honest and forcible manner of stating plain truths rather than the methods of polite insincerity. He was a good citizen and neighbor, an affectionate husband and parent, and a true friend." Mayor Gaus and the heads of departments of city government assembled previous to the funeral and drew up resolutions.

Judge Van Alstyne married (first), Albany, September 3, 1851, Sarah, born February 29, 1832, died September 25, 1859, daughter of Reuel Clapp, of the Albany firm of Clapp & Townsend, and Sarah (Coon) Clapp, of Dorchester, Massachusetts. Married (second) N. Louisa Peck, of Albany, born July 14, 1842, died November 12, 1884, daughter of Samuel S. and Eliza M. (Collum) Peck. Married (third) February 17, 1886, Laura Louisa, daughter of William and Lydia (Van Derbilt) Wiirdemann, Washington, D. C., the former of whom was a prominent manufacturer of astronomical and mathematical instruments. Children of first wife:

  1. Thomas Butler, born June 3, 1852, married, May 7, 1879, Anna Richards, Washington, D. C., daughter of Lysander and Content (Clapp) Richards.
  2. Charles Edwin, born July 18, 1855, died July 10, 1858.

Child of third wife:

  1. William Thomas born July 28, 1887; educated in Albany Academy and Yale University, graduating in class of 1910, after which he entered Columbia Law School of New York City.

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