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Schermerhorn Genealogy and Family Chronicles:
Chapter III: Descendants of Simon Jacobse Schermerhorn (Part 1 of 2)

Go back to: part 4 of Chapter 2 | ahead to: part 2 of Chapter 3

[This information is from pp. 149-161 of Schermerhorn Genealogy and Family Chronicles by Richard Schermerhorn, Jr. (New York: Tobias A. Wright, Publisher, 1914).]

The New York City Branch

Simon Schermerhorn, the founder of the New York City branch of the family, was not the only one of the brothers to take an interest in sea-faring life. His brothers Jacob and Cornelius were both masters of vessels plying on the Hudson between New York and Albany as early as 1684. Descendants of the brother Jacob conducted an extensive shipping business from Schodack, Rensselaer Co., N. Y., and became wealthy and influential. But the family of Simon Schermerhorn were the only ones who followed the shipping business consistently and to a late day. Their importance in this field of commerce is well expressed in a paragraph from the New York Evening Post, July 13, 1901, as follows:

"From the earliest time they perceived the maritime importance of New York. They realized that the possession of the Hudson, the Sound, the Kills, and Newark Bay involved a mine of inexhaustible wealth to Manhattan Island. They were advocates of the Erie and Champlain Canal, the Morris and Essex, the Delaware and Raritan and of the harbor improvements which have been going on for more than a century. They took part in the development of coastwise and river navigation, and laid the foundations for many mercantile enterprises between New York and the coast cities of the Atlantic. It was this clear, statesmanlike view which enabled them to take advantage of opportunities unperceived by others, and to accumulate that wealth which is usually the reward of intelligence and determined effort. The name Schermerhorn bears the same relation to the coastwise shipping of New York that the names of Astor, Low and Grinnell do to its huge ocean traffic."

Perhaps the most well-defined characteristic of the Schermerhorn family as a whole is that of conservativeness and reserve. This trait has been developed to a marked degree in Simon Schermerhorn's descendants. They have never sought public office and have been satisfied to live quietly within their own families, content with the field of action in which their own private business excluded all else. The Evening Post says of this: "This reserve has not been that of selfish isolation, but has, on the contrary, been accompanied by an ideally democratic conduct. They have looked after the welfare of their neighbors and fellow citizens and have in every generation increased the prosperity of the community."

Though they did not serve actively in the Revolution, as many of their up-state cousins did, nevertheless, they were loyal patriots and helped the Colonial cause in many ways. This would take effect in their supplying transportation to the soldiers, the forwarding of arms and provisions and the carrying of dispatches back and forth, all of this developing naturally through the facilities they could offer in water transportation. Subsequently, however, the military interests of the family became marked and in the War of 1812 and the Civil War, this branch of the Schermerhorn family was well represented. Almost since the organization of the 7th Regiment of New York there have been Schermerhorns intimately identified with it, and in state military affairs the family is frequently recognized when military appointments are made.

Columbia University and the name Schermerhorn have always been closely allied. Nearly all the boys of the family have been graduated from Columbia, and as early as 1793, the name appears on the graduate roll. Up to a few years ago, there had been a Schermerhorn among the Trustees of Columbia for over half a century. Many large contributions to the College were made by members of the family and Schermerhorn Hall will remain for many years as a memorial of the family's interest.

To quote the Evening Post again: "The women of this race have been noted for their social graces. Nearly all married well and enjoyed long and happy wedded lives. In every generation they have been at the very head of New York Society. They have been women of deep religious sentiments and have been identified with church work in all its forms. They have written their name indelibly upon the pages of philanthropy in the history of the metropolis."

Thus Simon Schermerhorn's descendants have left a record that is well worthy of being lived up to by all of the Schermerhorn name. The fact that Schermerhorns are found as well honored in the Metropolis of America as in the town and country places of the family's early settlement, bears a significance which needs no comment.

Second Generation


SYMON, son of (1) Jacob Janse Schermerhorn and Jannetie Egmont; b. 1658; d. 1696, in New York City; m. about 1683 WILLEMPIE VIELE; dau. of Arnout Cornelise Viele.


Symon J. Schermerhorn was born in Albany, N. Y. Whether he removed to Schenectady with his father is not known, but he and his family were certainly residents of Schenectady Village in 1690, for the tale of his famous ride from the latter place to Albany on Feb. 9, 1690, at the time of the Schenectady Massacre, has been repeated to many generations of Schermerhorns. He was the first to bear the news to Albany of the terrible destruction wrought by the French and Indians, when they descended upon Schenectady that winter's night, leaving few alive to tell the tale. Symon Schermerhorn escaped with difficulty, and on a wounded horse, himself shot through the thigh, rode through the cold winter's night, warning the inhabitants as he passed through the outlying settlements and reaching Albany at 5 A. M., more dead than alive. His son John was killed and three of his negroes. His brother Cornelius and his sister Jannetie, who probably lived with him, escaped. The rest of the family, living some distance away from the scene of the destruction, were also unharmed.

A tablet has been placed in Albany in commemoration of Symon Schermerhorn's Ride, and it is placed in the wall of the Railroad Station at what is supposed to be the site of the Old North Gate of the village. Soon after the Schenectady Massacre, Symon removed to New York, and, on Sept. 4, 1691, his wife was admitted to the Reformed Dutch Church of that town. He became master of a vessel navigating the Hudson, and a record shows that on June 23, 1693, he transported soldiers from New York to Albany. He may have been following a vocation connected with his father's former interests at this time, or the business may have been his private venture. His brother Cornelius had been previously a skipper on the Hudson, and continued at this occupation for many years, so the indications are that the trading interests of Jacob Janse Schermerhorn were to some extent kept up by his sons after his death. Symon's descendants followed the shipping business for many generations. His widow married Levinus Winne, June 20, 1699, and becoming a widow a second time, married Johannes Van Hoesen, June 19, 1709. Her father, Arnout Cornelise Viele, was the Indian Interpreter, widely known in those days.

Third Generation


ARNOUT, son of (3) Symon J. Schermerhorn and Willempie Viele; bp. Nov. 7, 1686, in Albany; d. Dec. 2, 1749, in New York City; m. MARYTJE BEEKMAN; bp. June 23, 1692, in New York; dau. of Johannes Beekman and Aeltje Popinja.


How Arnout Schermerhorn and his mother escaped the Schenectady Massacre is not fully known, although an old tradition is authority for the statement that Arnout, who was then a child of four, was wrapped up in a blanket by his father, and cast in a snowdrift, out of the path of danger, after the latter had started on his ride to Albany.

He undoubtedly followed a ship-master's life from early youth in New York, and traded between Boston and New York and probably between Charleston, S. C., and New York, as did his son John. The New York Gazette of Apr. 24, 1727, gives a listing as follows: "Apr. 15, 1727 — Custom House, Boston … Entered Inwards … Schermerhorn from N. York … Outward Bound … Schermerhorn for N. York."

Arnout Schermerhorn traded largely in New York real estate, as is indicated by the city records. On Apr. 21, 1726, Apr. 3, 1729, and Feb. 10, 1730, he obtained by purchase from his father-in-law, Johannes Beekman, three parcels of land, or water lots on the south side of Queen (now Pearl) Street, between Beekman and Fulton Streets, as they have since been opened and extended. Upon a part of this land he built a wharf, which, upon James Lyne's Map of New York in 1728, is laid down as "Schermerhorn's Wharf." Adjoining it on the east appears "Cannon's Wharf." Upon these lands (or upon the upland portions of them) Johannes Beekman, Arnout Schermerhorn and John Cannon had residences or no doubt places of business. Their wharves extended towards, if not over, the present site of Fulton Market. Out of the associations of neighbors probably grew the marriage between children of Schermerhorn and Cannon.

Not long after the date of these purchases, Arnout Schermerhorn seems to have become embarrassed, judging from certain advertisements relating to a proposed (and probably forced) sale of the same property, which appeared in the New York Gazette of March 18, 1733, and the New York Weekly Journal of August 26, 1734. These apparent difficulties may have grown out of his frequent absences in the pursuit of his calling, or of undertakings elsewhere, for on Jan. 21, 1733, he executed (in Charleston, S. C.) a full power of attorney to his wife Mary, in which he is described as "late of the City of New York," but now of Charles Town, in the Province of South Carolina," and on Apr. 21, 1738, he executed a similar power to her in which he is described as "of Charlestown, S. C., Shop-Keeper." The business in which he was there engaged was probably that of Ship Chandler, afterwards maintained in New York by his descendents, continuing intimate relations with Charleston.

Whatever may have been the origin of these difficulties, the result was certainly not the loss of the property since by successive water grants, his descendants acquired, and still hold, lands on each side of Fulton Market, which they could not have so acquired had their ancestor parted with the middle upland.

Fourth Generation


JOHN, son of (103) Arnout Schermerhorn and Maritje Beekman; b. July 8, 1715; bp. in New York; d. Sep. 10, 1768, in New York; m. June 10, 1741, in New York, SARAH CANNON; b. June 1721; d. Dec. 30, 1762; dau. of John Cannon and Mary LeGrand.


Like his father and grandfather, John Schermerhorn followed a sea-faring life, as Master and probably owner of vessels trading between New York and Charleston, S. C., and no doubt he carried on business at both places. He is always described as "Mariner" and "Merchant." The following item is taken from the New York Journal, July 23, 1767:

"For Charles Town, S. Carolina. The sloop, SALLY, John Schermerhorn, Master. For freight or passage apply to the said Master, Jeremiah Brower or Sampson Simon, who have for sale a few casks of choice rice, pitch, hemp and indigo; also a few tons of good hemp."

He was also engaged in fitting out "Letters of Marque" or "Privateers" in the war between England and France. In connection with this there appears a "Petition" dated Feb. 5, 1767, filed among the Colonial Manuscripts, as follows:

"Petition of John Schermerhorn, mariner, and Evert Byvank, merchant, &Company, owners of the sloop FOX, 12 guns, for a commission to John Crew, as Commander of said ship."

Another dated Jan. 4, 1758, reads as follows:

"Petition of John Schermerhorn & Co., merchants of New York, owners of the sloop BELLE ISLE, 14 guns, for a commission to Isaac Sears, as Commander of the said ship."

In the Pennsylvania Journal, issue of Jan. 26, 1758, a news item, headed Phila., Jan. 19, mentions "Capt. Schermerhorne's Store over Cannon's Wharf." Whether this refers to the New York store, or whether it may mean a store in Philadelphia can only be conjectured.

The will of John Schermerhorn was made Sept. 8, 1768, proved, Sept. 29, 1760, and is filed in the Surrogate's office, New York. The following is an abstract of the will:

"John Schermerhorn of New York, mariner. All personal goods, chattels and slaves to be sold by my executors. I leave to my son Arnout, 20 pounds, as being my eldest son. I have already given to my son Arnout, 150 pounds toward advancing in the world and further give him 150 pounds. I leave to my children, Simon, Peter, Abram, Cornelius, Sarah and Catharine, 300 pounds when 21. My executors are to put 300 pounds at interest and the interest to be used for the support of my daughter Mary and her children and after her death it is to go to the children. My executors may sell all my lands when they think best and the reason why I leave the time and manner of selling to them is because I rely upon their Judgment, Prudence and Care. The money is to be divided among all my children and the underaged children are to be supported out of the estate. I make my good friends Jeremiah Brower, Lawrence Kortright and Isaac Sears and Luke Van Ranss, executors."

Fifth Generation


SIMON, son of (104) John Schermerhorn and Sarah Cannon; b. Jan. 17, 1748; bp. in New York; d. Oct. 3, 1818; m. Sept. 9, 1773, JANE BUSSING; b. July 1, 1750; d. Oct. 11, 1826.


Simon Schermerhorn was a part owner of the Brooklyn property, purchased by him and his brother Peter in 1795, but held it only a short time, transferring his share to his brother. Little is known of the activities of this Simon Schermerhorn. He was evidently engaged in the shipping business, as were most members of the family at this period. His attachment to the Colonial cause during the Revolution is apparent, from the following order by General Putnam, Apr. 17, 1776, issued in the Gazette of that date:

"In order that it may be more convenient for the people at the North River, His Excellency, General Putnam, has been pleased to order that a person should be appointed there to give permits to oyster boats, &c., going down; and Mr. Simon Schermerhorn is appointed for that purpose."


PETER, son of (104) John Schermerhorn and Sarah Cannon; b. Oct. 1, 1749; bp. in New York; d. Jan. 28, 1826; m. Sept. 11, 1771, ELIZABETH BUSSING; b. July 24, 1752; d. Jan. 8, 1809; dau. of Abraham Bussing and Elizabeth Mesier.


Peter Schermerhorn adopted the calling of his father and grandfather, for in his marriage certificate (dated in his 22nd year), he is styled "Captain" Schermerhorn. Like his ancestors, he was doubtless commander and owner of vessels trading between New York and Charleston, his relations with the latter city often appearing incidentally.

During the troubles in New York in 1776, after the "Asia fired upon the town" and before the British took possession, he removed with his family to the neighborhood of Hyde Park, Dutchess County, on the Hudson, and there remained until after the peace of 1783, some of his children having been born there. Hyde Park is about six miles north of Poughkeepsie, and about 10 miles south of Rhinebeck. The family bible states that the son Peter was born at Stoutenburgh's. His baptism at Poughkeepsie led to the conclusion that the family lived in the neighborhood of what is now Hyde Park, where a family of Stoutenburghs had large holdings. A Jacobus T. Stoutenburgh was closely connected by marriage with Peter Schermerhorn, the Elder.

The motives of this removal were mostly political, but it is possible that so much of his property as consisted of vessels was, by the same means, saved from seizure. Many, if not all the members of his father's family withdrew from New York at the same time.

After his return to New York, he established himself in business as a ship chandler, admitting 1802, his second son, Peter, and in 1808, his third son Abraham, the styles of the firms' names having been successively "Peter Schermerhorn & Son" and "Peter Schermerhorn & Sons." In 1791, his place of business and his residence were at 71 and 73 Water St., respectively; in 1794, at 220 and 224 Water St., respectively; while in 1799, they were transferred, the former to 243 Water Street and the latter to 68 Broadway and they remained unchanged until his death.

In 1795, he, with his brother, Simon, purchased, probably from the Executors of Jacob Bennet, about 160 acres at Gowanus (Brooklyn), which they made their summer residence. In 1816, having acquired his brother's interest, he conveyed the whole to his son Abraham. A part of it is now comprised in Greenwood Cemetery.

On Jan. 28, 1806, he purchased from Thomas Marston, about 4 1/2 acres on the East River, at the foot of 82nd Street, New York City, which he occupied in summer until his death.

On Jan. 31, 1809, with Mathew Clarkson, Herman LeRoy, Henry Rogers and Guilian Ludlow, he conveyed to the "Rector, &c., of Grace Church" property on the corner of Rector Street and Broadway, upon which the old German Lutheran Church formerly stood and upon which Grace Church had then just been erected, such property having been conveyed to the grantors by the Trustees of said Lutheran Church, in trust, to convey the same to Grace Church as soon as it should have been incorporated.

In 1796 he was elected a Director of the Bank of New York, organized in 1784. He died at his residence No. 68 Broadway, and is buried in the family vault at Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn.


CORNELIUS, son of (104) John Schermerhorn and Sarah Cannon; b. Dec. 10, 1756; d. Mch. 1826; bur. at St. Mark's Ch.; m. REBECCA ROE; b. Nov. 1756; dau. of Azel Roe and Susan Foote.


Cornelius Schermerhorn was a sea captain and was engaged in the general shipping business with his brothers, Peter and Abraham. A newspaper item of Apr. 1, 1786, reads as follows: "For Savannah, the brigantine, Rock-a-hock, Cornelius Schermerhorn, master. For freight apply to Peter Schermerhorn, No. 73 Water St., opposite the Crane Wharf." Cornelius Schermerhorn lived at 39 Beekman St., New York City, from 1794 until 1814. He was a ship-master until about 1812, and then it appears he settled down to the occupation of a merchant, with office at 71 South St.

Cornelius Schermerhorn, Jr., was graduated from Columbia College in 1806 and was an attorney as early as 1811, with offices on Pearl St., near Beekman, New York. He lived with his father. In 1808 he was Ensign of the 4th Regt., N. Y. S. M., N. Y. Co., and in 1809 was Lieut. in the 3rd Regt. In 1811 he was Captain in the same Regiment and in 1812 was Capt. in the 2nd Regt., which served in the war from Sept. to Dec., 1812, being stationed at New Utrecht, L. I. He resigned in 1814 from Captaincy in the 141st N. Y. Regiment. In 1812 he was a member of a military organization called the New York Hussars.

Simon P. Schermerhorn was ensign of the 75th N. Y. Regiment in 1812, was also Lieut. in 1812 and Captain in 1815, resigning in the same year. Simon lived with his father and was a member of the firm of Schermerhorn & Roe, grocers. He died while still a young man.

Edward Schermerhorn was a midshipman in the U. S. Navy. He was lost at sea on the "Hornet," Sept. 10, 1829.

Rebecca Roe was a daughter of the Rev. Azel Roe of Woodbridge, N. J. On account of his zealous efforts in behalf of the Revolutionary cause, in 1778, he was put in the Sugar House Prison, New York City, by the British. He was the great-grandson of John Roe who came to America from Ireland in 1664 and settled in Massachusetts and later on Long Island. Azel Roe was a Trustee of Princeton College for 29 years. Rebecca Roe's maternal grandfather was General Isaac Foote.

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