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Article Number 4 - The Van Vechten Patent No. 2 -  Jan Jansen Van Bremen, Van Vechten Family and Dutch Naming Conventions

Originally published in the Catskill Examiner by Henry Brace between the years 1876 and 1879. Article 4 was published on October 5, 1878. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Catskill Examiner located at the Vedder Research Library. Transcribed by Barbara Bartley.

Saturday, Feb. 12, 1876. Local Sketches. -- No. 4. An Outline of The History of the Town of Catskill, To the Year 1783. By Henry Brace. 

At the close of my last article, I wrote that one of the colonists of the Patroon was JAN JANSEN VAN BREMEN. So far as I know, of all the men who were sent down from Rensselaer’s Wyck, he was the only one who obtained a lease of land on the Catskill. This lease is dated January 14, 1650. It conveyed to VAN BREMEN, for a term of six years, at a yearly rent of sundry skipples of wheat, “the land where the squaw”--PEWASCK--”who is chief of Katskil, lives.” The lessee agreed to build a house, barn and barrack on the farm, that is, agreed to furnish stone, timber, and reeds for thatch, for these structures, to dig the cellar of the house, and to feed the carpenters, the masons, the thatchers and the other laborers, while the work was going on. The Patroon engaged to pay the wages of the workmen, and to furnish boards, nails, and stone for the chimney, and the hinges, straps and other iron-work, for the house. HANS VOS, it was provided, should help VAN BREMEN for fourteen days. This was the first house built on the north side of the Catskill.

A room with a fire-place was to be reserved for the use of the Director of Rensselaer’s Wyck and his family, or for whomsoever should “fill his Honor’s place.”

VAN BREMEN also agreed, on every Lord’s Day or Holiday to read to his Christian neighbors the Holy Gospel, and, according to the custom of the Reformed Church, to sing one or more Psalms before and after prayers. He especially covenanted, under penalty of forfeiture of his lease, to live in peace “with the Indians and his Christian neighbors.” I should infer, from this clause, that VAN BREMEN had a quick temper; an inference which is supported by a complaint that was lodged against him before the magistrates of Fort Orange, for swearing at EVERT PELS. Justice, however, requires that I should state, in vindication of the criminal, that, although the record shows that he was very angry, his profanity went no further than a declaration that “the devil might draw the fodder in a cart--he would not.”

The year after VAN BREMEN built his house, he was visited by GERRIT VAN SLECTENHORST, the son of the Director of Rensselaer’s Wyck. A daughter of one of the farmers on the Catskill had found a stone which looked like a piece of silver ore, and young VAN SLECTENHORST was sent down to explore the hills in the neighborhood for the precious metal. Soon after his arrival at the Patroon’s Bowery, as VAN BREMEN’S farm was called, a storm of rain began, which lasted a day and a night. In three hours the Catskill rose thirty feet. The new farm-house was swept away; the barn, too, and the barrack; and the horses and the cattle would have been drowned, but for the exertions of VAN SLECTENHORST, “who”, the chronicle declares, “was a capital swimmer.”

The house thus destroyed had probably been built on the low lands, or, at any rate, nearer the Catskill than the VAN VECHTEN house now stands. A new house was immediately built, and VAN BREMEN lived in it for the next fifteen or eighteen years.

In 1653, after the title of the Patroon to the lands on the Catskill had been declared void,  VAN BREMEN obtained a patent for his farm, that is to say, for the alluvial plain on the Catskill, just below its junction with the Caterskill. Six years later, he added to his estate, by buying twelve acres of arable land from JAN ANDRIESSEN, the Irishman. This parcel lies on the Catskill, east of the VAN VECHTEN house, and was once known as the Streeke, that is, “the Strip.” About the year 1667, VAN BREMEN sold both tracts to ELDERT GERBERTSEN CRUYFF, and, with the record of this sale, further mention of the man ceases.

CRUYFF was a person of note in his day, and I purpose writing the few remembered facts and traditions of his life when I reach the history of the settlement of the south bank of the Catskill. He kept possession of his purchase from VAN BREMEN until the year 1675, when he transferred it to STEPHANUS VAN CORTLANDT, one of the Directors of Rensselaer’s Wyck. VAN CORTLANDT, on the 20th day of October, 1681, sold the land to Dirk Teunisse Van Vechten. The price he paid was four hundred guilders in beaver-skins, and two hundred and fifty-six guilders in the Patroon’s money, namely, “in wheat, at 10 guilders the mudde.” Lest this exact statement of the cost of Van Vechten’s purchase be complained of as wholly unintelligible, I venture to explain that what he really paid was between two hundred and fifty and three hundred dollars.

The father of Dirk Teunisse was Teunis Dirkse, who in 1638, in the ship “The Arms of Norway” came to New Netherland with his wife, child, and two servants. He seems to have become a tenant of the Patroon, and lived in the town which is now called Greenbush. In 1663 he is mentioned in the Dutch Records as an “old inhabitant” of the colony. He died in 1700, leaving three sons, Dirk Teunisse, Cornelis, and Gerrit, and one daughter, Pieterje.

The name of the father, I say, was Teunis Dirkse, that is to say, Teunis the son of Dirk or Dederick. I repeat the name, because it is an illustration of the manner of designating persons which once obtained in Holland. Until about the year 1700, what we now call surnames were well nigh unknown among the burghers and yeomen of the Dutch Provinces. A boy received in baptism a Christian name, as Peter; when he grew up, in order to distinguish him from other Peters in the neighborhood, he was called by the name of his father, to which the word son was annexed, as John’s son. Thus, the son of him whom we would now call Dirk Van Vechten was christened as Teunis, and was afterwards known as Teunis Dirksen, or with the common omission of the final letter of the patronymic, as Teunis Dirkse. But, as a more particular designation was found necessary, a man came to be further distinguished as of or from a certain place. Teunis Dirkse, therefore, became Teunis Dirkse Van Vechten, that is, of or from the Vecht, a river near Amsterdam, or of or from Vechta, a village in the province of Oldenbugh.

Other families, of Dutch lineage, derive their surnames from a like source. The Van Orden’s--the name was once spelled Van Noorden--probably came from Noorden, a village in East Fiesland; the Van Loans from Loenen, a town in Guilderland; the Van Valkenburgs from Valkenburg, a village west of Leyden; the Van Gelders from Guelderland, a well known province in Holland.

The Burgher Book, of Bremen, throws a good deal of light upon the origin and growth of family names, among the Dutch and Low German people. The book is a record of the men, who, since the year 1200, have become citizens of that ancient city. In the thirteenth century, no surnames appear. The burgher is enrolled as Henry, Rudolph or Peter. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, either the occupation of the new citizen is usually added, as Alexander Shoemaker, or John Tailor, or he is described by a trait or personal peculiarity, as William Wise or Godfrey Little. The affix of son, however, does not appear. But in many instances, during the later centuries, the birth-place of the enrolled burgher is given, as, for example, Rotger de Wildeshusen, or Roger of Wildeshusen. The Latin preposition ‘de’ naturally became the Dutch preposition ‘van.’

But I cannot find that the father ever took the name of Van Vechten. In his life-time, the designation was probably unnecessary. But the son is always described as Van Vechten, although in a mortgage, which, after his purchase of Van Bremen’s farm, he gave to Van Cortlandt, he signs his name as Dirk Teunisse.

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