Van Meter Family
Jan Joosten Van Meteren |
Jooste Jans Van Meteren |
Jan or John Van Meter |
Jacob Van Meter
JAN OR JOHN VAN METER (1683-1745)
Jan or "John" Van Meter was born in 1683, the eldest son of Jooste Jans Van Meteren and his wife Sarah Du Bois, apparently at Kingston, Ulster County, New York.1 At some point in his life he Anglicized his given name to John and dropped the "n" from his family name. It's possible that his father may have done the same before his death sometime during the first decade of the eighteenth century.
Presently, we do not know for sure where John Van Meter spent his childhood. Although he was born in New York's Hudson River Valley, his parents may have afterwards removed to Somerset County, New Jersey, where John's grandfather first acquired a tract of land in the year 1695.2
About 1705, according to one source, John (a.k.a. Jan Joosten) Van Meter "is supposed to have married…Sarah Bodine (or Berdine, according to traditions), probably the daughter of Peter or Isaac Bodine, who came to that locality in the trend of settlement up the Raritan Valley to Staten Island, N. Y., where a number of French Huguenots had settled many years before." According to this same source, John (or Jan Joosten) Van Meter and his wife Sarah had three children who were baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church at Somerville, New Jersey: Sara, on 30 October 1706; Johannes, on 28 April 1708; and Maria, on 26 April 1709." Their mother is supposed to have died in 1709.3
In 1710, at the age of twenty-seven, John Van Meter married his cousin Margreit or Margaret Mulliner, who is said to have been the daughter of John's uncle Henderick (or Henry) Mulliner and his wife Catherin or Cathelina Crom Van Meteren (who was the older sister of Jooste Jans Van Meteren).4 Although Henry Mulliner's will, dated January 3, 1712 in Somerset County, New Jersey, names Jooste Jans' three sons -- Isaac, John, and Henry (Hendrick), as administrators of his estate, it does not name Margreit as an heir.5 The only possible explanation, if she was indeed his daughter, was that being recently married, perhaps she had already received her share of the estate as a wedding dowry.
Map of Somerset County, New Jersey, 1701; courtesy Library of Congress.
In 1714 John Van Meter, along with his brother Isaac, mother Sarah Du Bois, and uncle Jacob Du Bois, also bought land in New Jersey -- 3,000 acres located in Salem County. Two years later John and Isaac, along with their mother Sarah, sold their shares to their uncle Jacob. One writer has speculated that John Van Meter and his mother returned to New York at this time while Isaac stayed on in New Jersey. Indeed, it was in Salem County, New Jersey, about 1717, that Isaac Van Meter married Annetje Wynkoop, daughter of Gerritt and Helena Wynkoop of Moreland Township, Pennsylvania.6
It has been written that John Van Meter's son Jacob was born in Somerset County, New Jersey. Thus, we may assume it was there that John and Margreit Van Meter made their home during the early years of their marriage. Together, this couple had at least ten children. They were (but not necessarily in this order): Abraham; Isaac; Jacob (born March 17, 1722/23); Johanes; Sarah (who later married James Davis); Mary (who later married Robert Jones); Rebecca (who later married Thomas Hedges); Elizabeth (who later married Thomas Shepherd); Rachel (who later married a man named Lefarge); and Magdalene.7
John Van Meter made his living, at least for a while, trading with the Delaware Indians in the mountainous regions of western Virginia. On one occasion, his friendship with this tribe nearly cost him his life. A little more than a century later, historian Samuel Kercheval wrote about the incident in his book, History of the Valley of Virginia:
Tradition holds that a man by the name of John Vanmeter, from New-York, some years previous to the first settlement of the valley, discovered the fine country on the Wappatomaka [Potomac]. This man was a kind of wandering Indian trader, became well-acquainted with the Delawares, and once accompanied a war party who marched to the south for the purpose of invading the Catawbas. The Catawbas, however, anticipated them, met them very near the spot where Pendleton court-house now stands, and encountered and defeated them with immense slaughter. Vanmeter engaged on the side of the Delawares in this battle.8
Another account, related by a Van Meter descendant in 1898, holds that only John Van Meter and two Delaware Indians survived this battle.9
Samuel Kercheval tells us that after John Van Meter "returned to New York, he advised his sons, that if they ever migrated to Virginia, by all means to secure a part of the South Branch [of the Potomac] bottom, and described the lands immediately above what is called "The Trough," as the finest body of land which he had ever discovered in all his travels."10
Although John Van Meter and his sons did in fact later settle in western Virginia, they removed first to Maryland. One writer tells us that on November 3, 1726, Van Meter received a grant of 200 acres of land from Lord Baltimore, "which he located at or near what is now Monacacy Junction, near Frederick, Maryland.11 This statement is corroborated, more or less, by the land records of the Colony of Maryland which show that in 1724 one John Vanmetre acquired a 300 acre tract called "Metre" in Prince George's County, Maryland and that furthermore, on November 8, 1726, he acquired an additional 150 acre tract called "The Meadow" in the same county. Although I haven't been able to ascertain whether these tracts were near the town of Frederick, when John Van Meter later sold this property, the deed included the notation that it was located on the Monacacy River.12
Detail of map of Colonial Maryland showing location of Frederick County; courtesy Library of Congress.
Two of John Van Meter's sons also purchased or were granted property in Prince George's County, Maryland. Two deeds, both dated October 1732, about the time that the boys would have reached their majority, reveal that Isaac Van Meter became the owner of a 200 acre tract called "Isaac's Inheritance," and Johanes Van Meter took possession of a 200 acre tract called "Ripe Meadows."13
It may have been that John Van Meter first began his explorations of the Virginia wilderness while living in nearby Maryland. In all likelihood, he made at least a few of his trips in the company of his brother Isaac and perhaps also his brother Henry.
Whether the story about John Van Meter's close escape from being killed by Indians is fact or fiction, it is certainly true that in 1730 he and his brother Isaac personally visited the Royal Governor of Virginia, William Gooch (see picture, left), at Williamsburg, which was then the capital of the colony. Their purpose: To petition the governor for a grant of land in the vicinity of the south branch of the Potomac. The following is from the original journal of the Governor and Council of Virginia, session 1721-1734:
On reading at this board the petition of John Van Meter setting forth that he is desirous to take up a tract of land in this colony - on the west side of the great Mountains for the settlement of himself and eleven children and also divers of this relations and friends living in the government of New York are also desirous to move with their families and effects to settle in the same place if a sufficient of land may be assigned them for that purpose and praying that ten thousand acres of land lying in the fork of the Sherando River including the places called by the names of Cedar Litch and Stony Lick and running up between the branches of said river to complete the quantity and twenty thousand acres not already taken up by Robert Carter and Mann Page, Esqus. or any other lying in the fork between the river Sherando: and the river Cohonguroota and extending thereto to Operkon and up the south branch thereof - may be assigned for the Habitation of himself his family and friends.
The Governor with the advice of the council is pleased to give leave to the said John Van Meter to take up the said first mentioned tract of ten thousand acres for the settlement of himself and family: That as soon as the petitioner shall bring on the last mentioned tracts twenty families to inhabit; or that this board is satisfied so many are to remove thither: Leave be and it is hereby granted him for surveying the last mentioned tract of twenty-thousand acres within the limits above described in so many several Dividends as the petitioner and his partners shall think fit; and it is further ordered that no person is permitted to enter for or take up any part of the aforesaid Land in the meantime: Provided the said Van Meter and his family and the said twenty other families of his Relations and friends do settle thereon within the space of two years according to his proposal.14
Isaac Van Meter's proposal to the Governor and Council of the Colony of Virginia was similar to his brother's except that it identified Isaac as a resident of "the Province of West Jersey." which he was, apparently, at that time. It also included the comment that "the petitioner has been to view the lands in those parts," which provides us with proof that both Isaac and John had previously explored the terrain, probably together. One curious difference between the two petitions was that Isaac's mentions "divers German families" that he wished to settle on his grant.15
Both petitions were approved on June 17, 1730.16
Within four years after choosing the best lands for themselves and their families, John and Isaac Van Meter sold most of their Virginia property to a New Jersey relative, Jost Hite, who is credited with being the principal colonizer of the upper Shenandoah Valley. Apparently, Hite was for many years also erroneously credited with being the very first pioneer settler in the area and the first white man to cross the Potomac west of the Blue Ridge mountains, distinctions that more rightly belong to John and Isaac Van Meter. In his 1908 book, Shenadoah Valley Pioneers, historian T. K. Cartmell, sought to set the record straight. In doing so, he had this to say about the Van Meter brothers:
These Van Meter grants in themselves prove that they preceded Hite and his colony. Since the best we can do for Hite is, that he started from his last stopping place in Pennsylvania in 1731, and as the grant to Isaac Van Meter recites conclusive proof, the Council sitting at Williamsburg from 1721 to 1734 expressly sets forth in their order dated 17th June 1730, that Isaac the Petitioner had been to view the lands in those parts - "those parts" - are described in the survey made within the two years - as lying along both sides of the Shenandoah - one to John and one to Isaac. And these surveys embrace forty-thousand acres each, and were confirmed to these brothers, May 12th, 1732 (See old files in State Library, Richmond, Virginia). John must have spied out the land about the time of its first discovery by the Spottswood expedition, - for in tracing John from Ulster County, New York to his stop on the Monocacy River in Maryland, the writer finds him in 1727, over in Old Spottsylvania, lending his advice to the German settlers at Germania, - "skilled artisans" who had come in answer to the scheme adopted by the Governor. And it is barely possible that John, in his desire to roam and find new places, was tempted to try the summit of the Blue Mountain lying to the West, and see what was beyond. Tradition tells us that he blazed his way through the dense forests, so as to point his way of return to Germana settlement; and as he and Isaac represented to the Council afterwards, they viewed the lands. They surveyed their lands chiefly from the forks of the Shenandoah (near Front Royal) westward; thus showing that they entered the valley through the gaps of the Blue Ridge at the point, hugging the line forming the northern boundary of the Robt. Carter and Mann Page grant. This settles the question of whether he or Hite was the first white man to visit the country south of the Cohongoroota.17
As to the question of whether Hite had been the white first man to enter the region by crossing the Potomac, Cartmell added:
...[Isaac] Van Meter's grant also embraced land near the Potomac, - and the question naturally arises, how did Van Meter first reach that point - Did he cross the Potomac west of the Blue Ridge in the vicinity of Shepherdstown, and there locate part of his patent? If so, he crossed the Potomac before Hite; thus leaving Hit with a doubt as to whether he is entitled to what he hope to give him, - the credit of being the man who first stood on the South banks of the Potomac River West of the Blue Ridge. And may we not pass this and record it as a fact; for we have this language in the survey of Isaac Van Meter's grant: "Survey extended from the north bank line of the Sherando river northward to the Operkon river then following its flow embracing the land and prairies, forests and streams and their sources lying betwixt thereof - said Operkon and ye said Sherando; Both lines showing monuments for courses and measures." This certainly is the patent referred to in Hite's first deed to settlers; and we may conclude that when the Van Meters entered the valley at the forks of the Shenandoah that Isaac proceeded northward to lay off his patent; and ultimately found himself on the Potomac near the site of Shepherdstown, having "followed the flow of the Operkon river."18
When John Van Meter brought his family from Maryland to live in the upper portion of the Shenandoah Valley about 1731, the area in which they settled, now part of the State of West Virginia, was an unspoiled wilderness. In those days, the Shenandoah Valley, was called the "Great Valley of Virginia."
On August 5, 1741, about ten years after John Van Meter had removed his family to Virginia, he sold his land called "Metere, lying upon Menockecy River…and containing 300 acres" in Prince George's County, Maryland in two tracts (one of 138 acres and one of 162 acres) to Joseph and Thomas Palmer of Westchester County, New York. The total price the Palmer brother paid was £293.19
On the 30th of that same month, John's eighteen-year-old son Jacob Van Meter was married to sixteen-year-old Letitia Strode.20
There is also a record, in the Pennsylvania Gazette, of Isaac Van Meter advertising two tracts of land for sale in February 1743. One, consisting of 400 acres, was located in Salem County, New Jersey, "being about seven miles from Salem." A second 400-acre tract, "near Alloway's Creek" in Salem County, consisted of 100 acres of cleared land, 100 apple trees "good fruit," "good Wheatland, and good Meadow Ground, well-watered and timbered for Fencing." Van Meter also posted a notice in the Gazette "that on Account of Purchase of a certain Tract of Land, scituate on the South Bank of Potomack, bought from James Ross, the Subscriber hereof given Obligation for the Sum of Twenty-Eight Pounds payable in May next; These are to desire that an Assignment of said Obligation may not be taken by any Person, unless they will stand a Suit of Law for the same, he the said Ross not being able to make any Title for said Land."21
Our final record of John Van Meter is his will, signed and dated August 13, 1745, and proven in court in Frederick County, Virginia on September 3, 1745. To his son Abraham, he left 350 acres of land. He also left tracts of land to sons Isaac and Jacob, daughter Sarah (wife of James Davis), daughter Rebecca (wife of Thomas Hedges), daughter Elizabeth (wife of Thomas Shepherd), daughter Magdalene, and grandson John Lefarge (son of John's deceased daughter Rachel). To his grandson Johannes Van Meter (son of John's deceased son Johanes) and granddaughter Joanna Van Meter (daughter of the deceased Johanes), he left £15 to be paid when they reached the age of twenty-one. To daughter Mary, the wife of Robert Jones, he left the 350 acre tract of land where he had been living at the time of his death. Apparently, his wife Margreit was still alive at the time of his death because he also stipulated that after her decease, their daughter Mary was to also have one-third of "moveable estate," meaning perhaps livestock or furniture (or both).22 Unfortunately, we do not know when Margreit Van Meter died nor do we know where she and her husband were buried.
3Samuel Gordon Smyth, ed., A Genealogy of the Duke-Shepherd-Van Metre Family... (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: The New Era Printing Company, 1909), 16.
4I obtained this information from the LDS Family Search website (www.familysearch.org). I believe it is probably true but I have not looked for any supporting evidence.
5William Nelson, ed., Archives of the State of New Jersey, First Series, vol. xxiii, vol. I 1670-1730 (Paterson, New Jersey: The Press Printing and Publishing Company, 1901), 332.
6Genealogies of West Virginia Families (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company for Clearfield Company, 1997), 257-258.
8Samuel Kercheval, History of the Valley of Virginia (Winchester, Virginia: Samuel H. Davis, 1833), 72.
9Genealogies of West Virginia Families, 245.
11T. K. Cartmell, Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants: A History of Frederick County, Virginia (1908; reprinted 1963), 12.
12Peter Wilson Coldham, Settlers of Maryland, 1701-1730 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996), 160 & 230.
14Cartmell, 13. The original, of course, is in the Virginia State Library and Archives.
20I obtained this date from the LDS Family Search website (www.familysearch.org) but printed sources confirm the year and place, if not the actual date. One such source is Howard L. Lecky's The Tenmile Country and Its Pioneer Families (Apollo, Pennsylvania: Closson Press, 1993). This marriage is said to have taken place in Frederick County, Virginia, which was formed out of Orange County in the 1700s, but I have not been able to find a record of it in the Frederick County court records. It may be that the change had not yet taken place. In John Van Meter's deed of sale to the Palmer brothers, dated only a few weeks prior to his son's marriage, he is identified as "John Vanmatre of Orange County, Virginia, yeoman." It may be that the record is in the Orange County courthouse instead.
21The Pennsylvania Gazette, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, issue 740, page 4.
22J. Estelle King, Abstracts of Wills, Inventories and Administration Accounts of Frederick County, Virginia, 1743-1800 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1980), 2.
Van Meter Family
Jan Joosten Van Meteren |
Jooste Jans Van Meteren |
Jan or John Van Meter |
Jacob Van Meter
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