Article Number 11 - The Catskill Patent No. 5- 
The Van Bergen Family and Early Settlement of the Patent

Originally published in the Catskill Examiner by Henry Brace between the years 1876 and 1879. Article 11 was published on  September 2, 1876. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Catskill Examiner located at the Vedder Research Library. Transcribed by Barbara Bartley.


Local Sketches.--No. 11. An Outline of The History of the Town of Catskill To The Year 1783. By Henry Brace. 

Until the year 1800, what is now the village of Catskill was called Het Strand by the Dutch, that is to say, The Landing. Catskill, or afterwards Old Catskill, was the name of the region around Leeds, and included the alluvial plains beyond the Creek, and the houses of the Salisburys and the Van Bergens and their neighbors. The Dutch Church was also there; and the Church, the fertility of the land and the wealth of its occupants, made Old Catskill the centre of all the country round about, as it was the centre of the Patent.

The settlement of the domain was slow. In 1783, within the Patent, but without the irregular line which now divides the town of Catskill from the towns of Cairo and Athens, were a few dwellings. So early as 1758, a saw-mill had been built by the Van Bergens on the Shingle Kill, perhaps near the Forge, but more probably further up the Kill. Godfrey Brandow was living east of the Catskill and of the village of Cairo. The father of Hansje Rouse was clearing a farm in the dense forest of pines, which lay on the east side of the road leading from Old Catskill to Coxsackie. I do not know whether Strope, who was killed in his cabin by the Mohawks during the War of the Revolution, lived within the Patent, or on the lands west of the Round Top,* [*The Indian name of this beautiful mountain is Wa-wei-an-tep-akook, of which Round Top is a nearly literal translation.] which Marte Gerritse Van Bergen bought in 1737 from the Indian Nockaweine. Other than by these inhabitants the region within the Patent, but without the township, was wholly unoccupied. Within the Patent and the township, however, there were in 1783 about twenty houses. The history of these or of some of these, I shall now attempt to give. I begin with the two houses of the Van Bergens.

The first building at Old Catskill, and the first within the Patent, was erected by Marte Gerritse Van Bergen, about the year 1680. It was a barn of considerable size, being more than fifty feet square, and stood near the spot where Henry Vedder’s barn now stands. It may have been on the very spot, for it appears to be a well founded tradition, that portions of the oaken frame of the first barn are also portions of the second. The records make no mention of a house in the neighborhood at this time, but the probability is that one was built at the same time with the barn.

Marte Gerritse Van Bergen, the patentee, never lived at Old Catskill. His elder sons, Gerrit and Martin, were brought up on their father’s estate near Fort Albany, and made their home here only after they had become men. In 1721, they, their brother Petrus, and Francis Salisbury and his son Silvester, divided a portion of the Patent among themselves. The Van Bergens took the northern part of the plain, called Potick, at the base of Potick Mountain; the southern half of the other plain, which lies beyond the stone bridge at Leeds; and a strip of land on the west bank of the Catskill and the Katerskill, and between these rivers and the High Hill, as far south as Quat-a-wich-na-ack, a fall on the Katerskill, near the bridge on the road to High Falls. The Salisburys took the southern portion of Potick and the northern portion of the plain beyond the stone bridge, as far as the Valje-kilje.† [†This word means “Little Fall Brook,” and the streamlet empties into the Catskill near Wolcott’s Mills.)

In January, 1726, nearly five years after this deed of partition was executed, Petrus Van Bergen conveyed to his two brothers all his interest in the Catskill Patent, in exchange for their interest in the Coxsackie Patent. On the latter patent he lived the remainder of his life, and it is from him that the Van Bergens of Coxsackie have descended.

The deed of the Van Bergens and Salisburys of 1721 makes mention of the “dwelling-house of Gerrit Van Bergen.” But the house which is now known as having once been his, was not built until 1729, as the following inscription, rudely cut in a stone which is built into the eastern wall, bears witness:

Ao. 1729.
July 4.
M. G. V. B.

This house is now occupied by Henry Vedder, but has undergone a good deal of alteration. It was built of brick--no other ancient house in the town is of that material--was one story high, and its roof of steep pitch was covered with large concave tiles of red earthenware. These were taken off about 1836. It is said that the bricks and roof tiles of this house were imported from Holland, but as similar building material was made in Albany, so early as 1657, the tradition is at least doubtful.

Toward the close of a midsummer’s day, when the shadows lie long upon the grass, the landscape from the edge of the terrace, in front of this ancient dwelling, is of singular beauty. Green meadows, once the maize-land of the chieftains Maetsapeek and Manneeutee, occupy the foreground and the middle ground. Beyond, on the banks of the Catskill, stand elms and great plane trees, and above them appears the white spire of the Dutch Church and the belfries of the mills. In the back-ground, at the left-hand, is Potick Mountain, its steep sides covered with woods and its lovely outline projected motionless against the blue sky.

Gerrit Van Bergen, yeoman, as he is described in deeds of indenture and in his will, died at the close of the year 1758, leaving two sons, Marten Gerritsen and William, three daughters, Deborah, the wife of John Persen, Neltje, the wife of David Abeel, Jr., and Ann, the wife of her cousin Wilhelmus Van Bergen. The homestead was devised to Marten Gerritsen, who, being an unthrifty man, fell into debt, and was obliged, in 1771, to sell the estate to John Leendertse Bronck, of Coxsackie. He, three years afterward, conveyed it to Aaront Vedder, of Schoharie. An important portion of the Van Bergen domain thus passed permanently out of the possession of the family.

At this place, Aaront Vedder lived during the Revolution, and until his death, about the year 1800. His lands were divided in 1803 between his sons John and Hermon. John was the father of Henry Vedder, who now lives in the house of Gerrit Van Bergen. Hermon was the father of Alexander Vedder.

Many of my readers will remember the quaint house which stood on the left side of the road between Leeds and Katerskill, three quarters of a mile from the stone bridge at the former place. It was torn down in 1862, and on its site was built a brick house of two stories.

This ancient house was built in 1729, as the iron figures fastened to the outer wall over the eastern door, bore witness. It was one story high, of gray stone, and had a roof of red tile, which, until they were removed, were as sound and as bright in color as on the day when they were taken from the kiln. The internal arrangement of the house did not differ from other houses of its kind. But over the chimney-shelf, in the northeastern room, was an oak or pine board about two feet broad, upon which a rude and unknown painter, a hundred and twenty-five years ago, had painted a picture of the house, with its barns and smithy on one side and the Dutch Church on the other.

Martin Van Bergen, the second son of Marte Gerritse, the patentee, was the builder of this house. He died about the year 1770, leaving one son surviving him, Peter, a grandson Martin, and three daughters, Catharina, Neeltje, the wife of Henry Oothoudt, and Anna Maria, the wife of Domine Johannes Schuneman. Martin became the owner, by devise, of the homestead, but how long he remained the owner, I have not been able to determine. At least as early as 1810, the estate was in the possession of Caspar Van Hoesen.


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