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Article Number 8 - The Catskill Patent No. 2- Jan Bronck

Originally published in the Catskill Examiner by Henry Brace between the years 1876 and 1879. Article 8 was published on April 29, 1876. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Catskill Examiner located at the Vedder Research Library. Transcribed by Barbara Bartley.

Local Sketches.--No. 8. An Outline Of The History of the Town of Catskill, To The Year 1783. By Henry Brace 

Jan Bronck was born about the year 1652, at Beverwyck, as Albany was then called. His father, Peter, came to New Netherland in 1645, built a tavern near Fort Orange, and --such is the tradition among his descendants--became rich and famous by a beverage which he was wont to brew for his thirsty customers. It was called Bronck’s Flip, and seems to have been a fragrant compound of Barbadoes rum, eggs, spice, and a little water. Peter Bronck afterwards obtained a grant of land at Coxsackie, on the brook which still bears his name. On their ancestral estate, some of his descendants are living to this day.

In January 1675, Jan Bronck bought from Manneentee, “commonly called Schermerhoorn, by the Dutch,” and from Siachemoes, the son of Keesie Wey, “a piece of land* [*What the Dutch called land were the arable plains along the rivers and brooks of New Netherland. The upland and the hill-sides were of no value in their eyes.] lying in Katskill, on the north side of the Kil, named Paskoecq by the Indians, situate under the hill which stands to”--or faces--”the west, with free range for cattle.” This tract lies above and below the stone-bridge at Leeds, on the north and east side of the Catskill. I cannot give the precise boundaries of the purchase, but I believe that it included nearly all the land in the village of Leeds, which now lies between the turnpike-road and the Catskill.

In 1705, this tract was confirmed to Jan Bronck by a patent from the colonial government. Soon after his purchase from the Indians, Bronck built on his estate a log-house, in which he lived until he died. Tradition and recitals in ancient deeds have kept alive the remembrance of the site. The rude dwelling stood on the eastern bank of the Catskill: the precise spot is just behind the brick house in Leeds, in which John Van Vechten has lived for many years.

About 1860, this venerable antiquarian found a relic of Bronck’s house. Noticing a stick of hewn timber, which projected a little above the surface of the ground in his garden, he dug it up and found it to be a sill of yellow pine, about fifteen feet long, and sound of heart, although greatly decayed on the outside. Out of the sound portion, he made a walking-stick and a compass-staff. From the position in which it was found, he had no doubt, he told me, that it was one of the sills of Bronck’s house, and had been preserved for so many years by the resinous nature of the wood and by the dryness of the soil.

In 1689, war between France and England was declared, and for eight years the strife for supremacy on the American continent went on. Albany was kept in a state of alarm, and its mayor and council were constantly calling on the farmers of the county and of Ulster for aid. It was not much that Dirck Teunisse Van Vechten, Francis Salisbury, Jonas Douw and Jan Bronck,--with William Loveridge the only inhabitants of Catskill--could do; but such aid as these men could give, was freely rendered. They often, on occasions of sudden alarm, rode in haste with their servants through the unbroken forest to Fort William, and never with such speed as on the day in February, 1690, when the mounted messenger of the colony came down through the snow to tell the news of the burning of Schenectady. Besides this duty of personal service, they frequently entertained the Ulster yeomen, when these halted for the night on their way northward to the defence [sic] of Albany, and sometimes supplied them with fresh horses and with food for the rest of the journey. When the war was over, Van Vechten, Salisbury, Dauw and Bronck, obtained from the colonial government a remission of their quit-rents, as a recompense for their voluntary and unpaid services.

I know little more of Jan Bronck, and that little throws no light upon his character, except perhaps that it shows that he was a man of good repute. In 1697, he was assessor of taxes for Catskill, and in 1721, was one of the Justices of the Peace of the county. His wife’s name was Kommetje Conyn, and by her he had six sons and two daughters. He died a very old man, between the year 1738 and the year 1742.

The sale to Jan Bronck by the Indians of Old Catskill, was soon followed by the alienation of the rest of their domain. In June, 1678, an agreement to sell was made between them and Marte Gerritse Van Bergen and Silvester Salisbury, the commander at Fort Albany. On the eighth of July, the bargain was consummated, with unusual formality, at the Stadt Huis at Albany, before Robert Livingston, secretary of the district, in the presence of the magistrates of the jurisdiction, and of a motley group of Catskill and Mohican Indians. Maetsapeek, commonly called Mahak-Niminaw, and his six head men, as the representatives of the whole tribe, executed with rude and hieroglyphic signatures, a deed of the five plains and of the wood-land for four miles round, the land of Jan Bronck excepted. The price paid by Van Bergen and Salisbury for his noble estate was three hundred guilders in wampum, or about a hundred collars in coin, several hundred ells of the coarse woolen cloth known as duffels, ten blankets, ten fusees, ten axes and ten pairs of stockings.

These shiftless and drunken Indians no longer had a dwelling place. Whither they went or what was their fate is no longer known. They are never spoken of again in any deed or in any other record of the province. There is an indistinct tradition, however, that in the days of our grandfathers, a little band of Indians used to come every summer from their home beyond the Mohawk, and encamp for a few weeks in a chestnut grove on William Salisbury’s farm at Potick. They asserted that their forefathers once owned the lowland near by on the Catskill.

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