Dirck Wessels may have been born in Europe in 1638. He probably came to New Netherland with his father, Wessel Wesselse, a West India Company employee. During the 1650s, he was growing up in Beverwyck and serving trader Pieter Van Allen. Before long, he was shipping out furs on his own behalf. Able to engage native American hunters on their own turf, by the early 1660s this young man had come of age.
He married Christina Van Buren - an orphaned farmer's daughter who had been raised on Papskanee Island. This new Albany couple set up their home in a State Street house purchased from the estate of Anneke Jans. The first of their thirteen children was born about 1664. Those baptisms began a life-long association with the Albany Dutch church where Dirck Wesselse was a deacon as early as 1673 and a benefactor and elder for many years after.
By the 1670s, Dirck Wesselse had entered public life - serving as an Albany constable, overseer, and juror. He was entrusted with a share of the community registry - acting as a clerk and notary. This successful businessman also was a frequent petitioner and plaintiff before an Albany court that was called on to decide on an expanding range of issues. In 1676, he was appointed one of the court magistrates. Over the next three decades Dirck Wesselse would hold almost every elective and appointive office on the local level. Official records show him to be among each body's most consistent members.
During the mid-1670s, his budding career received an added boost from an association with newcomer Robert Livingston - who shared some of his clerical and business opportunities with this willing and able Albany insider. Livingston included him in a number of land petitions that provided Dirck Wesselse with substantial acreage in the upriver region of New York.
By the 1680s, Dirck Wesselse had emerged as one of the foremost Albany leaders. In 1683, he was chosen to represent Albany County in a provincial assembly called by Governor Thomas Dongan. Although that body was short-lived, in 1686, he was appointed an alderman under the new city charter. Shortly thereafter, he was called on to replace Isaac Swinton as recorder or deputy mayor. He served as recorder until 1696, when he was appointed mayor of Albany.
Dirck Wesselse stood with other established Albanians to resist the self-imposed leadership of Jacob Leisler during the politically uncertain years of 1689 to 1691. With mayor Pieter Schuyler pre-occupied with military matters, deputy mayor Wesselse held fast to Albany's charter against the claims of Leisler's lieutenant who claimed that it and all enactments of the now-deposed James II were illegal and void.
Over the next half decade, Dirck Wesselse served in the Albany municipal government as recorder, justice, and Indian Commissioner, and, from 1696 to 1698, as mayor of Albany. In 1691, he was chosen to represent Albany County in the provincial Assembly - which was reinstituted after New York became a royal province. He was re-elected annually and served until 1696. Following a four-year break, in 1701, Dirck Wesselse again was elected to the Assembly. But this time he was disqualified and refused admittance because he no longer resided in Albany. Although he still maintained a substantial home and held other property in the city, by that time he had relocated to his country estate on the Roeloff Jansen Kil. Although his ouster was politically motivated, it ended the public career of the sixty-three-year-old pioneer. After 1701, Dirck Wesselse is best characterized as a country landholder.
During the 1690s, he had purchased 1800 acres on the Roeloff Jansen Kil from Robert Livingston. Livingston's willingness to share some of the best land in the heart of the Livingston estate with Dirck Wesselse testifiies to the closeness of their relationship. In 1695, Wesselse built a country home or bouwerie on the property. He continued to improve that property and, with his large family, retired there by the early decades of the eighteenth century. By that time, sons Wessel and then Johannes had reached maturity and could take over his more demanding Albany-based enterprises.
Calling himself "late of Albany, but now of the Manor of Livingston," Dirck Wesselse made his will early in 1715. It named his wife and eleven surviving children in detailing the disposition of his large and diffused estate. This city father died on his bouwerie on September 18, 1717 at the age of eighty.
The life of Dirck Wesselse Ten Broeck is CAP biography number 32. Although he was the patriarch of the Albany Ten Broeck family, he was most often referred to as "Dirck Wesselse." Two resources deserve special mention in preparing biographies of Dirck Wesselse and his family. They are The Ten Broeck Genealogy: Being the Records and Annals of Dirck Wesselse Ten Broeck of Albany and his Family, compiled by Emma Ten Broeck Runk (New York, 1897). Runk's monumental antiquarian work provides many currently irretrievable facts including his birth date of December 12, 1638 - reportedly taken from a family bible. However, in 1716, Dirck Wesselse received a naturalization certificate from the royal government - indicating that he had not been born within the British Empire or in New Netherland. See also, Stefan Bielinski, "Becoming American: A Essay on Leadership in an Early American Community," a biography of Dirck Wesselse in the form of a Master's Thesis in History at the State University of New York at Albany in 1986. His mother's name is still unknown. Perhaps it was Elsie - the name given his first daughter.
Papskanee/Papsknee/Papscanee Island: A long, narrow island located along the east bank of the Hudson about six miles south of Albany and just north of the "Schodack Islands." Reputedly named for a Native American chief, it was purchased from them by the Van Rensselaers and was part of the manor of Rensselaerswyck. Its flood plain made the island a desirable agricultural location. A number of early Albany families had farms on the island. This link connects to material on the nineteenth century. Information on the island today appears online. However, the most useful historical statement on the subject has been produced by Paul R. Huey.
Dirck Wesselse was an active trader in Albany lots during the 1670s and 80s. His more lasting Albany holdings included a headquarters house on State Street, another house located nearby, lots on the hill near the Schenectady gate, and pastureland south of the stockade.
first posted: 12/4/00; last revised 8/12/12