John Van Rensselaer
by
Stefan Bielinski


Johannes Van Rensselaer was born in January 1708. He was the son of Hendrick and Catharina Van Brugh Van Rensselaer of Albany and the lower Manor.

He married Engeltie Livingston at the Albany Dutch church in January 1734. The marriage produced six children before her death in 1747. He then may have married Gertrude Van Cortlandt.

These Van Rensselaers lived at Crailo in a landmark house built by his father and inherited by John in 1740. About 1762, he added a wing and remodelled the property. On the death of his father, he became proprietor or lord of the lower or "Claverack" manor of Rensselaerswyck. During the mid 1760s, his Greenbush holdings alone were about three times as valuable as any others in the entire east Manor. He owned a house and ground in the city of Albany. He also owned shares in tracts of land outside the manor.

During the third quarter of the eighteenth century. the Lower Manor was encroached on by New Englanders with Massachusetts titles to Van Rensselaer's lands. John fought them in the courts and the prolonged battle took its toll on the aging manor lord. He also called on the Albany sheriff to evict the squatters - an initiative that led to bloodshed. Throughout that time, he was a colonel in the Albany County militia.

"Weak in body," John Van Rensselaer filed his will in July 1782. It devised an extensive estate to his children and grandchildren. He died at Crailo in February 1783. He had lived seventy-five years. His son was future New York State Lieutenant Governor Jeremiah Van Rensselaer His only surviving daughter married General Philip Schuyler.

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notes

the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of John Van Rensselaer is CAP biography number 5127. This profile is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. See his affidavit from 1755 printed in DHNY, vol 3, pp. 466-67. Sung Bok Kim has cast John's career as that of a somewhat passive plantation proprietor. See Land Lord and Tenant in Colonial New York: Manorial Society. 1664-1775 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1978), pp. 156-57.

Without children, not identified by name in his will, and missing from Van Cortlandt family trees, we have had difficulty defining the life of a second wife!




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first posted: 9/20/03