Steven Butler's Family History Website



Van Meter Family
Jan Joosten Van Meteren | Jooste Jans Van Meteren | Jan or John Van Meter | Jacob Van Meter


In a book of West Virginia genealogies, I found two articles about the Van Meter family that were rambling and confusing. A piece written for a collection of Kentucky family histories by Amelia Rogers, a Van Meter descendant, was better organized. From Ms. Rogers, I learned that the first of our Dutch ancestors to come to America were the family of Jan Joosten (pronounced Yahn Yosten) Van Meteren, a native of the town of Thierlewoodt, in the province of Gelderland, which lies about fifty miles slightly southeast of Amsterdam. With Jan Joost Van Meteren came his wife, Macyke (whose maiden name was Hendricksen or Hendrygksen), and their five children, who ranged in age from two to fifteen. The oldest, apparently, was Geertje, who may have been Jan Joost's daughter by a previous marriage. The youngest was a son, Gysbert. Another boy, Jooste Jans, seems to have been only a year older than his little brother. The other two children were girls named Cathrin and Lysbeth.

New Amsterdam

Ms. Rogers tells us that the Van Meteren family arrived at New Amsterdam (later re-named New York) on either April 12 or September 12, 1662, aboard the ship Vos (Dutch for "Fox"). Except for the date of arrival, which is given as August 31, 1662, a book of ships' passenger lists for this period confirms most of this information. We also learn that the captain of D'Vos (its correct name) was Jacob Jansz Hüys and that in addition to the Van Meteren family, there were at least forty-eight other people on board what was surely, by today's standards, a tiny vessel. Most were adults and all were either from France, the Netherlands, or parts of what is now Germany. In addition to the Van Meterens, there were only five other families, one of which lacked a father. Including the Van Meteren children, there were seventeen young people aboard under the age of eighteen. At least two of the men were farm-hands. There was also a mason, two carpenters, and a baker. Unfortunately, only a few of the passenger's occupations were revealed and Jan Joosten Van Meteren was not one of these.

When the family of Jan Joosten Van Meteren (the "en" was later dropped from the surname) arrived in 1662, New Netherlands boasted a population of nearly ten thousand people, fifteen hundred of whom lived in New Amsterdam.

Dutch StockadeInstead of settling in New Amsterdam, the Van Meteren family continued up the Hudson River, where they took up residence in or near the village of Wildwyck. Thanks to early court records, we know that they and their belongings were carried up the Hudson River in a yacht belonging to the Governor-General, Petrus or Pieter Stuyvesant (who later successfully sued Jan Joosten for non-payment of his family's fare). This place is now the town of Kingston, in Ulster County, New York. About a mile from Wildwyck, there was a second town, then called Nieuw Dorp, later Hurley. These settlements, both of which were protected by tall, wooden palisades or stockades were on the very edge of the Catskill Mountains, in what was then a heavily-wooded wilderness inhabited only by wild animals and tribes of Native Americans, many of whom were hostile. Several Huguenot (French Protestant) or Walloon families also lived in the area. Among them were the family of Louis and Catherine Du Bois, who had a young daughter named Sarah. I am descended from this family as well. (See biographical sketch about Louis Du Bois.)

One modern-day writer, describing the citizens of Wildyck in the town's earliest days of settlement, has left us with a not very flattering view of the way our Dutch ancestors lived:

Most of them could neither read nor write. They were a wild, uncouth, rough, and most of the time, a drunken crowd. They lived in small log huts, thatched with straw. They wore rough clothes, and in the winter dressed in skins. They were afraid of neither man, God, nor the Devil. They were laying deep the foundation of the Empire State.

Another writer had this to say about the Dutch women:

The costume of the wife of a typical settler usually consisted of a single garment, reaching from neck to ankles. In the summer time she went bareheaded and barefooted. She was rough, coarse, ignorant, uncultivated. She helped her husband to build their log hut, to plant his grain, and to gather his crops. If the Indians appeared in her husband's absence, she grasped the rifle, gathered her children about her, and with a dauntless courage defended them even unto death. This may not be a romantic presentation of the forefathers and foremothers of the State, but it bears the mark of truth and shows us a stalwart race strong to hold their own in the struggle for existence and the establishment of a permanent community.

Whether the Van Meteren family were like those Dutch settler described in the preceding paragraphs is left for us to guess. We do know that Jan Joosten was not illiterate. (Court records show that he purchased some books from the estate of a deceased neighbor.) We also know that he and his family had only a few months to become accustomed to their new surroundings when a terrible thing happened. In her article, Ms. Rogers describes it:

[On] the 7th of June 1663, …the Minnisink Indians made an attack on the village [of Wildwyck] and its vicinity raiding and burning the settlement of Hurley and Kingston and carrying away women and children in captivity. Among the latter were Jan's wife and children, Jooste Jans being one of them as well as Catherine du Bois, the wife of Louis du Bois, and their daughter Sarah; whom Jooste Jans Van Meteren later married. These were taken to the fastnesses of the Catskill Mountains and remained in captivity for months, but were rescued on the eve of torture by du Bois and Captain Martin Kreiger's company of Manhattan soldiers; the trainband finally rounded up the Indians and defeated them on September 3, 1663. In connection with this tragic experience the following statement is quoted: "About ten weeks after the capture of the women and children, the Indians decided to celebrate their own escape from pursuit by burning some of their victims and the ones selected were Catherine du Bois, and her baby Sara. A cubical pile of logs was arranged and the mother and child placed thereon; when the Indians were about to apply the torch, Catherine began to sing the 137th Psalm as a death chant. The Indians withheld the fire and gave her respite while they listened; when she had finished they demanded more, and before she had finished the last one her husband and the Dutch soldiers from New Amsterdam arrived and surrounded the savages, killed and captured some, and otherwise inflicted terrible punishment upon them, and released the prisoners."

The psalm that Catherine Du Bois allegedly sang as the Indians prepared to burn her and her child to death goes like this, in part:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we captives sat down, yes, we wept when we earnestly remembered Zion the city of our God imprinted on our hearts.

On the willow trees in the midst of Babylon we hung our harps.

For there they who led us captive required of us a song with words, and our tormentors and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying: Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

I shudder to think how close Catherine came to being killed on that hot summer day more than three hundred years ago. If she had, of course, none of us would be here today to read this story and to remember her.

Two things should be pointed out regarding the above story. First, Sarah Du Bois was not among the captives. She was not born until the following year (1664). An official account of the event shows that Catharine Du Bois was abducted with her two youngest sons only. Also, we cannot be sure about the accuracy of the story regarding Catherine's singing. There is probably some truth to it but in all likelihood, it is one of those stories that grow embellished with each telling. Another version of the story has all the captives singing the psalm, not just Catherine.

On September 8, 1664, four English warships belonging to James, the Duke of York, brother of the recently-restored King Charles II of England, sailed into the harbor of New Amsterdam and took the city without firing a shot. By September 25, the English reached the Esopus and a small contingent of soldiers were left there to guard the settlers against Indian attacks. Thus our Dutch and French Huguenot ancestors suddenly found themselves under English rule. Apparently, the change of governments had little effect on their daily lives. The Dutch and French people of the Hudson River Valley were left, more or less, to follow the same customs and traditions that they always had followed. The only noteworthy changes made by the English were to rename the colony "New York" and to require its adult male inhabitants to pledge their fealty to the new rulers. Wildwyck was eventually re-named Kingston. Although there seems to have been little or no resistance to the new rulers, the people of Wildwyck/Kingston did not always get along very well with the English soldiers who garrisoned their town. In February 1667 there was a brief "mutiny" against the English troops at Wildwyck/Kingston but fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the incident was soon forgotten.

In October 1664, Jan Joosten Van Meteren was one of the inhabitants of Ulster County who signed an oath of allegiance to the English crown. From this time forward, he appears to have done well for himself and his family, becoming a landowner and a man of standing in his community. In 1666, he was elected a schepen, or commissary, of the local magistrate's court, Wildwyck's one and only local governing body.

On September 18, 1669, at a special court held in the Esopus "by vertue of a Commission from his Honor the Governour to Regulate the Affayres of that Village and the Villages adjacent," Jan Joosten petitioned "about the exchange of a Lott" but "it lyeing not properly before" the court, "it was thrown out." A few days later, however, he was granted one of three lots that were "vacant by the death of the persons to whom they were promised." Jan Joosten, along with other residents of Hurley, later "remitted" some of their land (Jan Joosten gave up 8 acres), to "the Inhabitants of Marbletown, there being not land enough to…satisfy them according to the Grants given them by the Authority of the Governour."

On "Easter Eve," 1669, "John Joeston" of Marbletown, "Husbandman" (i.e, farmer) received the following land grant:

Whereas John Joeston of Marbletown Husbandman hath putt in his Clayme or Pretence to two parcells of Land containing fourty foure Acres and 150 Rod, by vertue of a Bill of Sale formerly granted to him from Thom. Hall and Nicholas Valett deceased, whose Patent could not be produc'd by reason 'twas then (as hee alledged) in the Office of Records at New Yorke; The Commissioners have therefore upon serious and mature deliberation thought fitt to lay out the quantity of Land aforesaid upon the second great piece adjoyning to the Bounds of Hurley.

In 1670, Jan Joosten (and possibly also his son Jooste Jans) served as one of eight ordinary militiaman from Marbletown, in the company commanded by Captain Henry Pawling. On April 5th, they, along with soldiers from Hurley (including Jan Joosten's brother-in-law, Anthony Crispel) were ordered to rendezvous at Marbleton, for the purpose of having "all the Lawes relateing to Military Affaires…read before them." Afterward, they "Marched…with Flying Colours to the Towne of Hurley, and there…[were] dismissed."

On April 8th of that same year, it was ordered by commissioners appointed by the royal governor "that Jon Joesten and his Son shall be recommended to the Governour for the Grant of 2 Lotts of Land lyeing upon the 3rd great styck - No. 23. 24."

On March 30, 1671 Jan Joosten purchased 30 acres of land (one lot) in Marbletown, receiving a deed from Governor Lovelace. On October 11th of that same year, he received a deed of confirmation from the Governor, for either the same lot or an additional lot.

Two years later, on October 6, 1673, Jan Joosten was elected one of four magistrates from Hurley and Marbletown. His father-in-law, Louis Du Bois, or his brother-in-law Louis Jr., was also selected for one of these posts. Their job was "to supervise the merging of the village of Nieu-Drop into those of Hurley and Marbletown." The other magistrates, Ms. Rogers tells us, were Jan Broerson, our French Huguenot ancestor Louis Du Bois, and Roelof Hendricksen. She also reports that "notwithstanding the change of government, Jan was continued in that civil office until the return of Dutch supremacy, in 1675, when Governor Colve reappointed him to serve for another term." He was afterward appointed a justice-of-the-peace for Esopus and in early October 1682 "was present at the Court of Azzizes in New York."

Eventually, the English regained their hold on the Dutch settlements in America. When that happened, Rogers writes, "the inhabitants were again required to swear allegiance to their new overlords, so it is recorded that Jan Joosten once more performed this act of fealty 1st September 1689."

Rogers tells us that by the time the English returned to power, Jan Joosten Van Meteren had increased his land holdings in Ulster County, "the Wassamaker's land, for instance, and possibly other parcels," and at this point embarked upon a phase in his life whereby he became "a patroon, or landed proprietor" in what is now the state of New Jersey.

In 1695, Jan Joosten Van Meteren, together with his son-in-law Jan Hamel (who had married Jan's daughter Geertje), purchased 500 acres of land in Somerset County, New Jersey. It was located at Lassa Point on the Delaware River, opposite the town of Burlington. Five years later, on his own, Jans Joosten Van Meteren obtained four parcels of land in Somerset County from Governor Andrew Hamilton, whom he personally visited on September 13, 1700 at Perth (present-day Piscataway) to receive his grant. This property was located "on the South Branch of the Raritan River." In all, his plantation totaled 1,835 acres. In her article, Ms. Rogers tells us that it "consisted of broad and fertile meadows on the Raritan; and the locality was already partially seated by groups of Dutch and Scotch people from the Kill-Van-Kull and Perth, with a few French from Staten Island, who had come into this region about fifteen or twenty years before." It appears, she concludes, that these were "the extent of his purchases."

The first will of Jans Jooste Van Meteren, dated December 16, 1681, named his wife Macyke as his primary heir, with their property, following her decease, to go to their children. Jooste Jans, being the eldest son, was to have the largest share of his parent's estate, including three-fourths of the land at Marbletown, New York. Gysbert would have the remaining one-quarter. Daughter Geertje was to have the property at Wassamker's land. The children of Lysbeth, who was already dead by this time, were to receive gifts of money. For some unknown reason, daughter Cathrin is not mentioned at all. Ms. Rogers speculates it was because she was married and had already "received her portion and so disappears from consideration in the distribution of his property."

An inventory of the estate of Jan Joosten Van Meteren, dated June 13, 1706, can be found in the archives of the State of New Jersey. It tells us only that when he died he had a little more than £235 worth of personal property, including six Negro slaves - a man, a woman, and four children, all worth £145.

Van Meter Family
Jan Joosten Van Meteren | Jooste Jans Van Meteren | Jan or John Van Meter | Jacob Van Meter

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