The story of Rensslaerwick (Kingston) and its patroon Kilean van Rensselaer of Amsterdam by Vicki Moon first published in Our Family News on this site in June 2011

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Rensslaerwick And Killean van Rensselaer By Vicki Moon 01 June 2011

Vicki provides some background information on this difficult appearing name (Rens-sel-lar'-wick), the New Netherlands town on the Hudson River whose patron was Killean van Rensselaer, a wealthy merchant in Amsterdam. Today the town is Kingston, New York, but the name is perserved by the village of Rensselaer on the opposite side of the river. Our ancestor Juriaen Westfall was at one time the servant of Killean van Rensselaer.

Killean Van Rensselaer was one of the first founders of the Dutch east India Company.  He was a patroon (patron) of settlers and laborers of Rensselaer who arrived on the ship De Houttuyn in 1642.  There were 23 passengers on the De Houttuyn. Among them was our ancestor Jurian Westfall. He was a young man from Leyderdorp in Holland. and paid by the Colony for his labor. Van Rensselaer paid his passage and brought Jurian from Holland to work as a farmer on his lands.  There is some controversy about Jurian’s age. Some say he was only 13 When he sailed to America. Others, including myself think he was an adult at least 18 years-old.

In 1644, Michael Jansz took him on as a servant. Two other young male passengers, also paid by the Colony later became servants to Jansz. The other two boys were from Prussia and Switzerland. However, Jurian remained a farm laborer for the Patroon.  Evert Pels, a beer brewer from Germany came on the same ship as Jurian. A few years later Jurian took over from Evert Pels the remainder of a lease of a farm at Papscanee island that ran until 1653. In Sept. 1654, Jurian received a patent for 32 morgens of land at Esopus, an Indian village on the Hudson River, south of Kingston.

The relationship between merchants in Amsterdam and the colony of New Netherlands has no parallel in American history.  Killean Van Rensselaer was a founder of the Dutch East India Company. His father was from Saxony but came to Holland about 1584. It was then that the army of the Duke of Upper Saxony came to Hesseld. Captain Johan Van Rensselaer, from the town of Mijkerk in the province of Gelderland, commanded the army. His twin brother, Hendrick, was also with the Army. Hendrick married Maria Pafraet from Hesseld, the daughter of Johan Pafraet, who with his brother were printers. Hendrick and Maria were Killean's parents. Killean was born in 1586 and baptized at St. Stephanuskerk. Killean’s mother Maria died during the birth of her daughter Maria, who survived. Hendrick died in a battle against Spinola and his brother Johan died in Deventer. After their deaths, relatives cared for Killean and Maria. During this time, Killean lived with his uncle, Wolfert van Byler, who once was a jeweler in London. With capital of 100,000 guilders, Wolfert and his brother Willem took Killean with them when they moved to Amsterdam to join the South Netherlands diamond trade. Killean became the firm's agent to Royal Courts and traveled throughout Europe. In 1614, Killean combined his company with Jan Van Wely, another Amsterdam Jeweler. The Van Wely's were jewelers to the Royal Court. Killean owned 1/8 share of the new company.
Killean married twice; first to Hillegonda van Byler, daughter of Jan van Byler and Hillegonda Egberts. Jan van Byler was Wolfert van Byler’s eldest brother.  After the death of his first wife in 1626, he married Anna van Wely, daughter of Johan van Wely and Leonora Haeckens.

Killean's partner was Jacques L’Hermite who was married to Killean’s sister-in-law Theodora Van Wely. In April 1623, Prince Maurice of Nassau and the Dutch State General commissioned L’Hermite to lead a fleet of eleven ships, known as the Nassau Fleet on its flagship, Amsterdam. The fleet set sail on a voyage of circumnavigation westwards from Amsterdam to the western coast of South America. Their objective was to hunt down Spanish silver ships leaving Peru and to establish a Dutch colony in either Peru or Chile. When L'Hermite returned to Holland, a group of Amsterdam merchants had a plan to open up trade and send settlers to New Netherlands. Among these merchants were Killean and Jan Baptiste Van Rensselaer. It was Killean’s idea to establish a colony of farmers to supply ships from West Indies and Brazil of provisions. Up to this time, New Netherlands was a colony established for the fur trade. Its inhabitants were mainly trappers and fur traders.

Killean established Rensselaerwick in New Netherlands on the Hudson River. He then recruited farmers like Jurian Westfall to go to the New World and establish farms on his lands. Van Rensselaer never set foot in America. He ran his plantations entirely from Amsterdam. When Killean Van Rensselaer died, he was buried in the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. The Oude Kerk (Old Church) is Amsterdam's oldest parish church, consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht. Today, it stands in De Wallen, Amsterdam's main red-light district. The square surrounding the church is the Oudekerksplein. The floor consists entirely of gravestones because. the church was built on a cemetery.  Local citizens continued to be buried on the site within the confines of the church until 1865. There are 2500 graves in the Oude Kerk, in which are buried 10,000 Amsterdam citizens, including Killean Van Rensselaer.

Ronald N. Wall & Vicki Moon
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Modified: 05 September 2017