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Oloff Stephenszen VAN CORTLANDT

Male - 1684

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  • Name Oloff Stephenszen VAN CORTLANDT 
    Born Wijk-bij-Duurstede, Utrecht, Netherlands Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Name Oloff Stevens VAN CORTLANDT 
    Died 4 Apr 1684 
    • (1) Hoffman, William J., "An Armory of American Families of Dutch Descent," in New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, vol. 66 (July 1935), pp. 269, 278:

      OLOFF STEVENS VAN CORTLANDT. He was named after his maternal grandfather, who in turn was named for his grandfather. Oloff is rather an unusual name in the Netherlands and has a strong Scandinavian flavor, although in Amsterdam there has been, since an early date, the St. Olofs chapel and one of the altars of the St. Bavo Church at Haarlem is dedicated to St. Olof. And there were undoubtedly more of such altars in the old Dutch Catholic Churches, for St. Olof is the patron saint of the guild of the seafarers. The name is derived from St. Odulfus, a Scandinavian prince, who died in 865. Variations of the name are Odulf, Olof, Olf, Audulph, etc. The name is listed among the given names of the Netherlands under No. 579 in Nederlandsche Doopnamen by J. J. Graaf.

      Olof Stevens. van Cortlandt became the founder of the family in America. He arrived here in 1638 on the Haring as a soldier in the service of the West India Company. He became a prominent merchant of considerable wealth and a man of importance in the affairs of the Colony, both under Dutch and English rule. The story of his life is fully set forth in a booklet entitled The van Cortlandt Family, by L. Effingham de Forest.

      From the data as published here there is no indication of any connection with the van Twiller family, and yet Jan van Twiner, as early as 1655, refers to Oloff Stevensz. as Oloff neeff, cousin Oloff (Cor. of Jeremias van Rensselaer, p. 20).

      As a matter of interest it may be stated here that the original certificate of denization of Oloff Stevens van Cortlandt, dated 1664, has been preserved among the John Jay Papers, Box 3-15 I, in the New York Historical Society manuscript collection.

      And finally, among the recently published letters written by Marie van Cortlandt, his daughter, who married Jeremias van Rensselaer, is one dated Nov. 12, 1684, written to her brother-in-law Richard van Rensselaer, then in Holland, which reads:

      Godt den heer heeft het soo belieft mijn lieve vader op den 6 April, In sijn gebeden, sijnde, gesont In haest uyt den werelt te halen daer ick bij was. ("It has pleased the Lord to take out of this world suddenly and in my presence on the 5th of April (1684) my dear father, while praying and being in good health.")

      (2) De Forest, Louis Effingham, The Van Cortlandt family, New York, NY: Historical Publishing Society, 1930, pp. 5-8:

      THE VAN CORTLANDT family was one of the most influential and prominent in Colonial New York. In that small group of families interlocked by marriage and interest which largely controlled the Colony, Province and State until the decline of aristocracy in the government of New York the Van Cortlandts played a strong hand. In commercial, political and military fields their importance continued for generations.

      The founder of this family in the small, Dutch town of New Amsterdam was one Oloff Stevense Van Cortlandt. Of his origin many fanciful tales have been told and frequently the story has been printed that he was a descendant of the Dukes of Courland and came to this country as an officer of Dutch troops. Even Burke of the "Peerage" once published this account of the Van Cortlandt origin but it was quietly dropped from later editions of that particular work on the British gentry.

      Little is actually known of the origin of Oloff Stevense. When he arrived in New Netherland, like most of his associates in the settlement, he did not use a surname. The name Oloff is neither Dutch, German nor English. It was probably really Olav, a Norwegian name, and the founder of the Van Cortlandts was probably a Scandinavian and perhaps a Norwegian. Possibly Oloff Stevense came from Courland, or had been there, as that Duchy lay opposite the Swedish Island of Gothland. When he married in New Amsterdam in 1642, he was ,entered as "0loft Stephenszen j.m. Van Wyck, Tot Dúúrstede" which.means that he was a young man, one hitherto unmarried, from Wijk by Duuerstede, which is the name of a place near Utrecht in Holland. However, there are many places in Norway called "Vik" and the name "Cortlandt" is readily translated into Scandinavian as "short land." It has been claimed that the name Van Cortlandt appears at Wijk in 1611.

      [Note by compiler: For information on the origin of Oloff Stevense, see Hoffman, William J., "An Armory of American Families of Dutch Descent," in New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, vol. 66 (July 1935), pp. 269 et seq.]

      The name Stevense is obviously a patronymic and Oloff Stevense was certainly the son of a man named Steven (Stephanus, Stephen). There is owned by his descendants a small portrait which has for generations been believed to be the portrait of one Catharine said to have been the mother of Oloff Stevense, and the story is that the son brought the picture to this country with him. This portrait says she died in 1630, but as he wrote to his mother in Europe after that date, the traditional attribution must be incorrect. Certain furniture now owned by the family, notably a table in the Cortlandt Manor House at Croton, was said to have been brought from Holland by Oloff Stevense. It is quite possible that in his later years when wealth had come to him he imported furniture.

      Oloff Stevense did not come to New Netherland as an officer but as a common soldier in the employ of the Dutch West India Company, arriving on the man-of-war Haering, in March, 1638.

      Before the discussion of his beginnings is finished mention must be made of the fact that he used a coat of arms, as is well established by his seals. These arms are illustrated for this article and are thus described: "Argent, the four wings of a windmill conjoined saltirewise sable voided gules between five estoiles placed crosswise of the last." The crest as illustrated is an "estoile gules" but the description of the crest sometimes adds that the star is "between two wings displayed, the dexter argent, the sinister sable". The motto is usually given as "virtus sibi munus". These arms are recognized by the familiar continental authority, Rietstap, but Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer's valuable history of New York suggests that the windmill sails "seem to bear witness to its (the arms) assumption by an ambitious New World brewer."

      [Note by compiler: No evidence has been found that the VAN CORTLANDT family in the Netherlands ever used a coat-of-arms. See Hoffman, William J., "An Armory of American Families of Dutch Descent," in New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, vol. 66 (July 1935), pp. 269, 278.]

      The question of the origin of Oloff Stevense Van Cortlandt remains unsettled and is not of particular importance. He was indubitably a man of considerable parts and he rose in a few years to wealth and influence and started the long record of public service so well continued by his descendants.

      It should be added that Oloff Stevense was a man of some education. He carried on a correspondence with Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, the first Patroon of Rensselaerswyck, who remained in the Netherlands, and Van Rensselaer did small services for him, such as forwarding letters to Van Cortlandt's mother and other correspondents and taking care of the investment of his funds. A letter from Van Rensselaer to Willem Kieft, the Director General of New Netherland, under date of May 12, 1639, seems to suggest that there had been some former connection or business relation between Van Rensselaer and Van Cortlandt, but a missing word in the letter makes its meaning uncertain. Van Rensselaer wrote: "please to greet oloff Stevesz from me, who has been my . . . and is now in your honor's service; give him the enclosed. I should consider it a favor if he were advanced a little."

      Oloff Stevense, who within a few years of his arrival, apparently in 1643, began to add the surname Van Cortlandt, was quickly advanced by Kieft. He was first made an inspector of tobacco and on July 1, 1640, was given the important post of commissary of cargoes.

      The record of his later activities is a long one and can only be summarized. In 1641 he began to buy land of which he later owned many pieces. On September 12, 1641, his request that his salary as commissary be increased to thirty guilders (twelve dollars) a month was granted. In 1643 he was public storekeeper. In 1645 he was one of that small representative body called the Eight Men. In 1649 and 1650 he was one of the later body called the Nine Men and was its presiding officer in 1650. He was reappointed commissary on September 7, 1646, but was out of that post by 1648. He was an Orphan Master and a member of the Orphan Master's Court in 1653, 1657, 1660, and 1661; this court having many of the functions of the present surrogate's court. In 1655 he was elected a burgomaster and served until 1660, and in 1662 and 1663. In 1656 and 1657 he was presiding burgomaster, and also temporarily in 1660. In 1654 and 1674 he was schepen. He sat on the Director General's Council in 1645 and 1660. He was Colonel of the Burghers Corps, the city militia, in 1649. He was appointed in 1654 as administrator of monies raised from the merchants. From 1659 to 1661 and in 1664 he was the city treasurer. He was an elder and deacon of the Dutch Church in 1646 and 1670. He was a commissioner on Indian affairs in 1645, in 1660 he accompanied the Director General on a mission to Esopus, in 1663 he was one of three commissioners to proceed to Hartford to settle the boundary with Connecticut, in 1654 a commissioner to superintend the fortifying of New Amsterdam, in 1654 a commissioner to settle the boundary line of Gravesend and in that same year also on a commission to study the expenses of New Amsterdam, and in 1660 a commissioner to confer with certain Indian sachems. In 1653 he contributed one hundred and fifty florins to the defense fund, no contribution being larger than two hundred florins.

      He was an active participant in the closing days of the Dutch administration as he served as one of the three commissioners appointed September 5, 1664, to arrange the terms of surrender. The commissioners reported September 7th, and the terms were ratified the following day. Oloff Stevense Van Cortlandt continued to have influence under the English. He was an alderman in the first municipal government, appointed June 12, 1665, and was continued as alderman in 1667, 1670, and 1672. In 1674 he was on a tax commission and in 1667 was Deputy Mayor.

      As early as May 16, 1689, Oloff Stevense was rated the fourth richest man in New York. Frederick Philipse was first with eighty thousand florins, Cornelius Steenwyck had fifty thousand, Nicholas de Meyer also fifty, and Oloff Stevense Van Cortlandt had forty-five thousand florins. These were considerable fortunes, and in this sudden rise to wealth Oloff Stevense had occasional temporary difficulties. His disposition to take the offensive helped to protect him.

      On January 25, 1646, Oloff Stevense Van Cortlandt sued Domine Bogardus for slander. It seems that the Fiscal (State's Attorney) had been giving a pleasant dinner party at which Van Cortlandt was present with his wife, as well as the Director General and other leading citizens. The clergyman arrived quite drunk and started to make scandalous remarks about his deacons, "abusing among the rest, deacon Oloff Stevensen, as a thief." Domine Bogardus was specific enough to say that Van Cortlandt had threatened the directors of the West India Company and had enriched himself with the company's property. Van Cortlandt promptly sued his minister and pressed the case vigorously for months. Bogardus refused to submit to arbitrators but finally Van Cortlandt forced their appointment. The Council then took the pointed action of requesting Bogardus to yield his pulpit to another clergyman on the following Sunday. The same day this request was made Bogardus yielded and came to peace with Van Cortlandt.

      As President of the Nine Men in 1650, Oloff Stevense Van Cortlandt did not hesitate to oppose the Director General, Peter Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant turned the Nine Men out of church and had the special pews allotted to them torn up. Van Cortlandt protested and Stuyvesant flatly charged him with making one hundred thousand guilders out of his office of commissary on a salary of thirty guilders a month. But this trouble also blew over and later Stuyvesant placed Van Cortlandt on important commissions.

      Van Cortlandt's city residence was on the present Stone Street, then called Brewer's Street. He also had a farm on the North River above Canal Street, as well as other lands. In 1656 he erected a brewery from which he made large profits. That same year he was accused of smuggling. The "farmer of the burghers' excise," a tax collector, reported to the court that Oloff Stevense would not permit him to inspect his cellar and had tried to frighten him off with reminders of Van Cortlandt's official positions. Several other good citizens, such as William Beekman and Pieter Van Couwenhoven, were brought up on similar charges of smuggling beer. The others did not protest greatly and were fined but Van Cortlandt claimed the tax collector was insolent to him and insisted he be punished. Instead, Oloff Stevense was fined one hundred and thirty-three florins. Even then. he fought the case up to the Director General, before he paid.

      Oloff Stevense Van Cortlandt, who died April 4, 1684, married Anneken (Ann) Loockermans in the Dutch Church in New Amsterdam, on February 26, 1642.
      She was a maiden from Turnhout, in Holland, and was the sister of Govert Loockermans, who came to New Netherland in a humble capacity and rose to some distinction there. This couple had the following children:

      1. Stephanus, who was born May 7th, and on May 10th, 1643, baptized in the Dutch Church, New Amsterdam. He will be discussed further.

      2. Maria (Mary), who was born July 30, 1645, according to the family account, but baptized June 23, 1645, according to the Dutch Church Record. She died January 29, 1689. According to the Dutch Church record, she married Jeremias Van Rensselaer on April 27, 1662, but he wrote his mother that he had married on July 12th of that year. He was born in 1632/3 and died October 12, 1674. He was a son of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, the first Patroon of Rensselaerswyck and was himself the third director, fourth patroon, and second lord of the manor.

      3. John, who was born October 11, 1648, and baptized in the Dutch Church, New Amsterdam, on October 25, 1648. He died unmarried.

      4. Sophia, who was born May 31, 1651, and baptized as "Fytie" in the Dutch Church, New Amsterdam, on June 4, 1651. On May 6, 1671, in the Dutch Church, New York, she married Andries Teller, born in Albany, a son of Willem Teller.

      5. Catharine, who was born October 25, 1652, and baptized January 5, 1653, in the Dutch Church, New Amsterdam. On October 10, 1675, the banns were published for her marriage to John Dervall and they were married the following November 3rd, in the Dutch Church, New York. He was an Englishman and a merchant and they lived on Brug Straet (Bridge Street) until his death in 1683 or 1689. His widow married, secondly, November 30, 1692, in the New York Dutch Church, Frederick Philipse, the first Lord of Philipse Manor, who was then a widower. On November 25, 1692, Philipse and Catharine signed a prenuptial agreement.

      6. Cornelia, who was born November 21, .1655, and baptized in the New Amsterdam Dutch Church on November 28th. On July 12, 1682, in the New York Dutch Church, she married Brandt Schuyler, a son of Philip Pieterse Schuyler.

      7. Jacobus, who was born July 7, 1658, and baptized the same day. He will be later mentioned.


      Baptisms at the Reformed Dutch Church of New Amsterdam (1639-1730)
      Manually Entered by Theodore Brassard

      [Note: The baptisms are laid out in order as follows: The date of the baptism; the parents; the child; and the witnesses. Note the separation of each item by semicolons.]

      [Olof Stephenszen VAND COURTLAND and, in several instances, his wife, Anneken, were present at the following baptisms of their children.]

      BAPTISMS OF 1643 . . .

      10 May; Olof Stephenszen Van Courtlant; Stephanus; Govert Loockermans, Marritje Thymens. . . .

      BAPTISMS OF 1645 . . .

      23 Jul; Olof Stephenszen van Courtlant; Marritie; de Hr. Willem Kieft-gouvneur, Hester Jans. . . .

      BAPTISMS OF 1648 . . .

      25 Oct; Olof Stephenszen Van Courtlant; Johannes; Jillis Verbrugge, Jacob Van Couwenhooven, Roelof Janszen, Pieter Loockermans, Sytie Stehens. . . .

      BAPTISMS OF 1651 . . .

      4 Jun; Olof Stephenszen Van Courtlant; Fytie; Marritie Loockermans. . . .

      BAPTISMS OF 1653 . . .

      5 Jan[;] Olof Stephenszen Van Courtlant; Catharina; Jan Gilliszen Van Brug, Elsje Van der Veen. . . .

      BAPTISMS OF 1655 . . .

      28 Nov; Olof Stephenszen Van Courtlt., Annetje Loockermans; Cornelia; Pieter Van Veen, Marritje Loockermans. . . .

      BAPTISMS OF 1658 . . .

      7 Jul; Olof Stephenszen Van Courtlt., Anneken Loockermans; Jacobus; Pieter Corn. Van der Veen, Johan Van Brug, Cornelia Lubberts
    Person ID I11327  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 21 Apr 2021 

    Father Steven Cornelissen VAN CORTLANDT,   d. Bef 21 Mar 1652 
    Mother Fijchgen OLOFFS,   d. Aft 21 Mar 1652 
    Married Feb 1609 
    Family ID F5230  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Anneken LOOCKERMANS,   b. Abt 1621, Turnhout, Antwerpen, Belgium Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married 26 Feb 1642  Reformed Dutch Church, New Amsterdam, New Netherland [now New York City, New York County, NY] Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Jacobus VAN CORTLANDT,   b. 7 Jul 1658, New Amsterdam, New Netherland [now New York City, New York County, NY] Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Bef 30 Sep 1740, New York City, New York County, NY Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age < 82 years)
    Last Modified 21 Apr 2021 
    Family ID F5231  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart