Gysbert Fonda was born in 1720. He was the eldest son of Albany residents Claas and Anna Marselis Fonda. Probably due to the late marriage age of his parents, his family was on the smaller size and Claes Fonda was a man of moderate means.
Growing up in Albany's second ward, he learned the ins and outs of the fur trade and then followed his father in business and in community service. Appointed firemaster in 1747, he was elected assistant alderman for the second ward four times - first in 1761.
In October 1753, Gysbert would have been in his thirty-third year when he married skipper's daughter Elsie Douw. Over the next two decades, the marriage produced seven children who were baptized in the Albany Dutch church where both parents were pewholders and baptism sponsors.
These Fondas settled into "a good house" on Pearl Street. In 1759, he was one of the managers of the city lottery. Gysbert prospered in business - by the 1760s he was counted among the wealthiest Albanians. In 1763, his name was included on a list of Albany freeholders.
By the 1770s, his business network stretched from New York to the north and west. The journal of the provincial treasurer's trip up the Hudson in the summer of 1774 details some of Fonda's activities and associates.
In 1766, he had stood with his neighbors in opposition to the Stamp Act. However, ten years later, this cautious merchant was identified by the same cityfolk as then opposed to the American cause. He initially refused to sign the non Importation association and was ordered disarmed. In May 1778, he did join in a community-based petition for the release of an adolescent horse thief. Later in 1778, he refused to swear allegiance to the United States and was threatened with deportation to the British in New York. With much to lose, Fonda then took the oath! Those reservations aside, Gysbert Fonda survived the war and even was granted a bounty right in conjunction with the Albany regiment of the county militia.
The end of the war found him back to business, supporting his church, petitioning the city government, and standing with other Albanians in opposition to the proposed Federal Constitution. However, his recovery would be short-lived as Gysbert Fonda died in August 1788. He had lived sixty-eight years. On September 8, he was buried in the Dutch Church cemetery plot. Later, his remains were moved to Albany Rural Cemetery where his grave is today!
first posted: 12/30/02; last revised 9/14/12