John H. Wendell was born in 1752. He was a younger son of Albany residents Harmanus and Catharina Van Vechten Wendell. Losing his mother in 1756, he grew up in a comfortable third ward home where he learned business while being groomed for the law. In 1769, he was identified as the son and heir of Harmanus Wendell in his father's will.
John H. Wendell was admitted to the New York bar in September 1773. However, a budding legal career was suspended by the outbreak of war. He served in the Albany militia. In 1776, he was commissioned a captain in the first New York Regiment of the Continental Line. As a company commander and adjutant, he participated in the Battle of Monmouth, served at Saratoga, and on the Clinton-Sullivan expedition of 1779. Wendell served until April 1781 when he resigned his commission. Later, he maintained his militia command. He was a prominent participant in public events and later was known as "General!"
Wendell was thirty-two years old in 1784 when he married a much younger Catherine Van Benthuysen. By 1804, ten of their children were baptized in the Albany Dutch church where both parents were members and where he was a church officer.
He brought his bride and their children to his family home at what became 315 North Market Street. His household appearing on the census in 1790 included two slaves. Although he owned slaves until 1820, records show that he had freed at least six individuals by 1821.In 1797, he was elected to the first of three terms in the New York State Assembly. During the 1800s, this Albany attorney also served as Albany County Surrogate, county treasurer, justice of the peace, alderman, and notary.
Wendell lost his wife in January 1817. In 1831, he was granted a pension for service in the Revolution by the United States Congress. He suffered a stroke on July 7, 1832 and died three days later at the age of eighty. He dressed in Revolutionary War-era clothing and was known as the "last of the cocked hats." He lived under the same roof his entire life. His will passed probate a month after his death.
first posted: 10/25/02; revised 10/20/06