From the History of Ulster County, New York

Photocopy with no title page or publisher information attached. This excerpt is from pages 252 and 253 of the book.

The running title at the top of the pages says “History of Ulster County, New York” on one side and “Town of Wawarsing” on the other. The New York Public Library online catalog lists The History of Ulster County, New York; ed. by Alphonso T. Clearwater, published in Kingston, N.Y., by W.J. Van Deusen, 1907. The NYPL also has a complete name index for this book, published in 1983. Another contender, also at the NYPL, is Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester’s History of Ulster County, New York, with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers, published in Philadelphia, 1880.

Much of the account here is tangled, referring to real things but confusing them. Credit where credit is due: It shows the earnest and diligent attempts of an amateur genealogist to get the story straight. Clearly a fair amount of research has been done here. But many of its conclusions are suspect at best; also, more than a few facts cited are simply wrong.


Egbert Dewitt came to Wawarsing not long after the Beviers. His homestead was the place owned by the late Averill H. Hungerford. He was a grandson of Tjerck Classen De Witt, who came from Holland in 1650, and soon after settled at Kingston. [text omitted]

The valuable Dewitt family history, which affords ample materials for a volume, can only be briefly indicated in this summary of early settlement. Mr. John T. Dewitt, of Ellenville, writes with reference to it as follows:

“My brother-in-law, Jacob Heermance, now deceased, had the will of Tjerck Claessen Dewitt, from Holland, and a family tree. Mr. Heermance’s mother was a Dewitt. In collecting information intended for publication, I found in an old Bible, at Ithaca, of Dr. Mandeville, who was the first minister of that place, considerable historical information about the family of Reuben Dewitt, one of the grandsons of Tjerck Classen Dewitt. [text omitted] I have a cousin, daughter of Dr. Luke Dewitt, who has gathered many valuable facts. She is a sister of Dr. Byron Dewitt, of Oswego, and expected to publish a family history with Mr. Heermance.”

Miss Ann R. Dewitt, alluded to at the close of the preceding quotation, contributes also the following:

“[text omitted] Grootholt, in Sunderlant, was the last residence in Europe of the Dewitt family. The Sunderlant was the most southerly of the three natural divisions of the old Duchy of Westphalia, and is described as ‘consisting of hills and vales, and having fine woods and meadows, suited for grazing and the dairy.’ In these respects it was distinguished from the other two divisions, which were more productive of the cereals. Grootholt (Anglice, Great Wood), doubtless so called from the original character of the country, is the same ‘Grootenhout’ mentioned in Kok’s ‘Vanderlandsche Woordenboeck’ as a neighborhood in the land of Overmaas under the jurisdiction of Beek. It is situated a little east of the river Rhine, between the Lippe and the Imster, not far from the manufacturing town of Essens. In Grootholt or Grootenhout was born Tjerck Claeszen De Witt, the son, as his name implies, of Claes De Witt. He was the first, or among the first, of his family who came to America. The earliest information we possess of him is contained in the ‘Trouw Boeck,’ or register of marriages of the Reformed Dutch Church in the city of New York, where we find the record of his marriage, on the 24th day of April, A.D. 1656, to Barbara Andrieszen, Von Amsterdam. He resided in New Amsterdam until after the birth of his eldest son, Andries, when he established his domicile at Wiltwyck. He remained at Wiltwyck during the residue of his life, and died the 17th day of February, 1700. There is no certain information to which of the De Witt families in Holland Tjerck Claeszen belonged, but it is conjectured that he was one of three brothers, Jan, who settled in Long Island or New Jersey, and the third (name unknown), who settled in Massachusetts, and from whom the Dwights descended. These three were probably the sons or grandsons of Jan De Witt, captain of the ship ‘Little Fox,’*
* See colonial history.
who, with 18 others, masters and owners of vessels, were chartered as a company by the States-General of Holland in 1614. Jan was a navigator, and some of the others were burgomasters. Tjerck Claeszen De Witt was also a navigator, and owned a sloop of 50 feet keel. In Jan De Witt’s family we find the names belonging to Tjerck Claeszen De Witt’s family and vice versâ: naming after relatives was the custom. The above reasons sustain the theory that Tjerck Claeszen De Witt was the son or grandson of Jan De Witt, a member of the first West India Company trading with New Netherlands. Tjerck Claeszen was both a trader and a farmer, and a person of some rank among the original settlers. He left the city of New Amsterdam and settled at Wiltwyck in the year 1657, with a few others. The place was fortified, and he helped defend the village at the time of the Indian attack, in 1663. His daughter was taken captive (Jannetje), recovered, and afterwards married Cornelius Switz, whose father was murdered by the Indians. Tjerck Claeszen De Witt was one of the magistrates. In 1669 he obtained liberty to erect a house and barn on his land outside of Wiltwyck (Lovelace being Governor). In 1689 he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the British crown, as did many others, because the British authorities had not fulfilled their treaty stipulations on the country being surrendered to them, and he did not acknowledge that power during his lifetime. By his will, dated 4th March, 1698, he provided for the following children: 1, Andries (the eldest son); 2, Tjerck (the youngest son); 3, Jan; 4, Jacob; 5, Lucas; 6, Beek; 7, Tjaatje; 8, Jannetje; 9, Gertruy; 10, Rachel; 11, Marrietje; 12, Aaghie. Barbara Andrieszen, the widow of Tjerck Claeszen Dewitt, died on the 6th day of July, 1714.

“There is not much known concerning the above-named children, except Andries. On March 7, 1682, he married Jannetje, daughter of Gerrett Egbertson, a resident of Esopus, who, though present, escaped and survived the massacre of 1663. Andries settled at Hurley, where he built a stone house, whose remains are still to be seen. He had several children. His seventh child and fourth son, Egbert, was born March 18, 1699, and was settled by his father at Napanoch, on the site lately owned by Averill Hungerford, deceased. Egbert married Maria Nottingham, Nov. 4, 1726. It is said his father, on parting with Egbert after settling him on this tract of land, shed tears for fear he would not be able to get a living in the wilderness. Egbert had ten children. The eldest son, named Andries, married Jennette Vernooy. He had twelve children, among whom were Simeon De Witt, surveyor-general of the State of New York; Benjamin De Witt, M. D., of New York City, and health officer of that port, where he died at his post, having contracted yellow fever, in September, 1819; and John A. De Witt (my grandfather), who built the first house in what is now the village of Ellenville. As above stated, Egbert had ten children. His only daughter, Polly, or Maria, married Gen. James Clinton, the father of De Witt Clinton, Governor of New York. It is said Egbert liked a joke, and when interrogated as to the number of his children, used to answer, ‘I have nine sons, and each son has a sister.’ One of Egbert’s sons, Thomas, was the father of Thomas De Witt, D. D., of New York City, deceased. The Dutch Church of Wawarsing was established in 1745, and in this church Reuben, the youngest of Egbert’s children, was baptized. As the old Dutch settlers were very strict, it is believed the other children were baptized at Kingston or elsewhere.”

Miss De Witt also gives the following additional memoranda:

“[text omitted] Here are items with a few dates not given in the previous notes: Tjerck Claeszen De Witt, born 1620, was married in the City of New Amsterdam to Barbara Andrieszen, who was born in Amsterdam, 24th day of April, 1656. He died in 1700. His will is recorded in the surrogate’s office, city of New York, Liber 7, page 472, bearing date 4th March, 1698. The records of the Dutch Church also give the marriage, on the 6th day of January, 1662, of Jan De Witt Von Coordam to Gooertruyd Wyngaert. This Jan was probably a brother of Tjerck Claeszen De Witt, as the first daughter of Tjerck bears the name of Gertruy, and Tjerck’s third son also bears the name of Jan.”

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