Cornelis Cuyler was born in 1697 and baptized in the New York City Dutch church. He was the eldest surviving son of the twelve children born to Albany mainstays Johannes Cuyler and his wife, Elsie Ten Broeck Cuyler. In 1736, he was left only his birthright in the will of his father.
Cornelis followed family enterprise in the fur trade - often requiring him to travel into the Indian country during the decades of peace following Queen Anne's War. Frequent absences brought him success but delayed settling down and starting a family until he was almost thirty.
In December 1726, he married Albany native and mayor's daughter Catharina Schuyler. Between 1727 and 1747, their eleven children were baptized in the Albany Dutch church where both parents were pewholders and frequent baptism sponsors.
Success in trade, advantageous marriages, and a willingness to conform to community standards brought the Cuylers acceptance in eighteenth century Albany. Cornelis began to take his place by serving as a constable in the second ward in 1717. In 1724, he was asked to swear not to trade with the French and subsequently was sent into the Mohawk country and to Canada to represent Albany's interests.
Following his marriage, he purchased land above his father's Pearl Street home and built his own house south of what became Steuben Street. During the 1730s and 40s, that location, four lots above Chapel, would have been one of the westernmost homes in the core city. He was elected and served as alderman for the second ward from 1729 to 1735. During and after his time on the city council, he was an active member of the Albany Commissioners of Indian Affairs.
By the 1740s, Cornelis was the head of the Albany Cuyler family and had risen to the top echelon of early Albany society. His parents both were the children of Albany mayors and his recently deceased father was mayor of Albany in 1725. In 1742, Cornelis Cuyler was appointed mayor of Albany and served until 1746.
After his time at city hall, fifty-year-old Cornelis now focused on establishing his four able sons in business and in appointive and salaried offices. Those initiatives and his ongoing role in Indian diplomacy brought him into frequent contact with William Johnson as both client and adversary.
Cornelis Cuyler's remaining years brought recognition of his long and diversified career. His wife died in 1758. In March 1765, sixty-eight-year-old Cornelis was sick. He wrote his will on March 12 - leaving his house, storehouse, and estate to seven surviving children. He died on March 14 and was buried from the the Albany Dutch church.
The Cuylers and Ten Eycks stood out among the post-New Netherland newcomers to Albany. their interest and ability in the Indian fur trade brought them to the highest levels of the Albany community economy at a time when most other elite families had transitioned into landholding and agricultural development.
first posted: 12/31/01; last revised 3/1/04