Obituary of John Van Zandt - 1858

April 28, 1858

John Van Zandt died, aged 91. He was a native of Albany, and in his boyhood heard the firing of cannon at Saratoga from the walls of Fort Frederick in State Street.

He was a trusty clerk in the store of James Caldwell for a number of years. In 1804 he entered the Bank of Albany as a clerk; in 1814 he became cashier which office he held until 1838, when he resigned with a competency, but continued in the directory of the bank till his death.

From newspaper notices we gather the following facts in relation to his personal history. Mr. Van Zandt was born in 1767, and his retentive memory brought down to this day reminiscences of the revolutionary age, and of the troubled times that proceeded it that was full of interest. He was one of the old Holland race through his father and grandfather were both born in Albany whose language and customs prevailed his long after the revolutionary era, and are only now becoming extinct. His father, John Van Zandt, resided on the East Side of Union Street Hudson street Park. His mother, Mary Brooks was [from a] highly respectable English family, well known in this city.

In youth, Mr. Van Zandt was for a short time in a banking house in New York, before the first bank was incorporated. While there he often saw Washington and his associates. After this (in the year of Shay's war) James Caldwell put him and another young man, Mr. Mynderse, in charge of a country retail store, at Bennington, VT. At that time, Troy was scarcely a village, and the way to Bennington was mostly through an unbroken forest. While residing at Bennington, he became acquainted with and married Mehetabel Jones, of Williamstown, Mass., a most estimable lady, and again became a resident of Albany. With her he enjoyed domestic happiness and tranquillity, in an innocent degree, till by her death they were separated, when he was about 74 years of age. To these habits of life, and being strictly temperate, he always attributed his good health and contented, happy old age not continuous of having harmed any man in life.

He retained, till a great age, and accurate memory of the events of his early life. He well remembered hearing the signal gun fired from the top of the old Schuyler mansion, when the Indians came in the night came in the rear way, through the corn field and garden, entering the back door and surprising General Schuyler and a few friends who were spending the evening with him. The signal gun rallied the people and frightened the Indians, causing them to make their retreat with but little booty.

He was walking on the ramparts of Fort Frederick (which reared its defense in State Street, just south of St., Peter's church) at the very time of the battle of Saratoga, and heard the noise of the cannonade. He asked a soldier, who was with him, if this could be so, and the soldier confirmed it, as they were at a height where the strong north-east wind, then blowing, could bear the sound uninterrupted. He remembered also the surrender of Burgoyne and the marching of the captured Hessians through Albany, and was a witness of the most memorable journey ever made into the old war worn city of Albany. He was a boy engaged at play on the wharf, which one of the few that existed was built at the foot of the present State Street. The boys were told that a company of horsemen were coming down Market Street, and that one of them was General Schuyler. He ran up to the street to see the group. There rode a company of gentlemen on horseback, in an easy, familiar, companionable way, one of whom were Philip Schuyler, and another John Burgoyne.

He saw the Indians gathered in State Street above the Old Dutch church, to receive their annuity, and exhibiting their dances, and meeting in a desultory council, to the edification of the Albanians. They were seated for the purpose of enumeration on the sidewalk, and the line extended from the church to the present locality of Pearl Street, and it was a policy greatly wondered at by the multitude, that the distribution was made per capita, the little strapped up papoose receiving as much as the old war chief who probably, could have entertained the Albanians with curious statistics concerning the scalps of many of their ancestors. He recollected that from the wagons pressed into the service, as they engaged in transporting ammunition, which had been landed from the sloops at King's wharf, the cannon balls dropped into the wretched roadway, and men engaged under imperilment did not pause to gather up their work. He repeatedly saw men execution in Albany, under the decision and direction of the committee of safety, for being Tories or cowboys, or highway robbers; and for the lighter offence the whipping post was resorted to.

He had the habits of the race. Integrity, resoluteness, economy, aversion to change and to show, and strong local attachment. Tranquil, unambiguous, devoid of care, he prolonged his life, without disease, his faculties unclouded, until the few last days of his life.


Very colorful profile printed in Annals of Albany volume 10, pp. 412-14, in a recurring feature entitled "Notes from the Newspapers." Paragraphing supplied. The name of the obituary's compiler is unknown.

"John:" Probably meant Jacobus Van Zandt who married Maria Brooks in 1758 and had a son John in 1767.

Transformed by JP

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first posted: 8/20/02