Hans Hansen Bergen

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Hans Hansen Bergen (c. 1610–1654) was one of the earliest settlers of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, and one of the few from Scandinavia. He was a native of Bergen, Norway. Hans Hansen Bergen was a shipwright who served as overseer of an early tobacco plantation on Manhattan Island,[1] before eventually removing to Brooklyn's Wallabout Bay, where he was one of the earliest settlers and founded a prominent Brooklyn clan.


Hans Hansen Bergen emigrated to New Netherland in 1633 in a company with the Director-General of New Netherland, Wouter Van Twiller, and Bergen was initially known in early New Amsterdam records by various names, but chiefly Hans Hansen Noorman and Hans Hansen Boer.[2][3]

Bergen was married to Sarah Rapelje, the first female child of European parentage born in the colony of New Netherland[4] and whose chair is preserved in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.[5] Following Bergen's death in 1654, his widow remarried Teunis Gysbert Bogart.[6][7][8][9]

Along with his father-in-law, Joris Jansen Rapelje, Bergen acquired and managed several pieces of property. In 1647, Bergen received a patent for 400 acres (1.6 km2) in the Wallabout Bay area of present-day Brooklyn.[10] Rapelje was a substantial property owner, as well as one of the Council of Twelve Men. Following his land grant, Hans Hansen Bergen moved to the area on western Long Island now located within the borough of Brooklyn, where he made his living as a farmer. Apparently illiterate, Bergen signed his name to official documents with a simple 'H'.[11] Following Bergen's death, in 1662 two of his sons settled at what is today's Bedford, Brooklyn, near their Rapelje grandfather.[12]

Bergen is a place name which today appears frequently in Brooklyn. The neighborhood of Bergen Beach carries Bergen's name[13] as do two New York City Subway stations at Smith Street and at Flatbush Avenue. Descendants of Hans Hansen Bergen owned the land that became Bergen Beach, which they subsequently sold to entrepreneur Percy Williams, who developed it into a summer resort.[14] Some also believe that Bergen County, New Jersey as well as Bergen Township take their names from this early Norwegian settler,[15] although the evidence is inconclusive.[16][17][18]


The descendants of Hans Hansen Bergen continued to reside in Brooklyn and Kings County, New York for centuries, and owned extensive tracts of land across Brooklyn.[19] As late as the mid-19th century, Bergen family members grew up in Brooklyn speaking Dutch.[20] Several family members – including John Teunis Bergen and Teunis Garret Bergen – represented the area in the United States Congress, as well as owning the forerunner of The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper.[21]

Other descendants include John G. Bergen, the police commissioner of the New York City Police Department during the New York Draft Riots of 1863, and DeWitt Clinton, Mayor of New York City, Governor of New York State and United States Senator from New York. Bergen's descendants married into other early New Amsterdam families, including the Vanderbilts, the Voorhees, the Wyckoffs, the Cortelyous, the Denyses, the Suydams, the Vanderveers, Bensons among others.[22] Among Bergen's present-day descendants is the American political figure Howard Dean.[23]

An early history of the family of Hans Hansen Bergen and his descendants was written by Teunis Garret Bergen in 1866.[24][25]



  1. ^ Evjen, John O. (1916). Scandinavian Immigrants in New York, 1630–1674. K. C. Holter Publishing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1916.
  2. ^ Evjen, John O. (1916). Scandinavian Immigrants in New York, 1630–1674. K. C. Holter Publishing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1916.
  3. ^ Bergen was also sometimes referred to in early records as Hans Noorman, Hans Hanszen, Hans Hanszen Noorman, Hans Hanszen de Noorman, Hans Hanszen Van Bergen in Norweegan or simply Hans Hansen.[1]
  4. ^ 14 Generations: New Yorkers Since 1624, the Rapaljes Are On a Mission to Keep Their History Alive, Steve Wick, Newsday, March 28, 2009 Archived November 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Joseph Hoagland: Dutch Pioneer in Sullivan County, ancestry.com
  6. ^ Evjen, John O. (1916). Scandinavian Immigrants in New York, 1630–1674. K. C. Holter Publishing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1916.
  7. ^ Bergen, Teunis G. (1876). The Bergen Family – or the descendants of Hans Hansen Bergen. J. Munsell, Albany, New York.
  8. ^ Shorto, Russell (2004). The Island at the Center of the World, The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America Doubleday. New York
  9. ^ Sarah Rapelje, Hans Hansen Bergen's wife, became the ancestor with her second husband Teunis Gysbert Bogart of the actor Humphrey Bogart, who also descended from Hans Hansen Bergen as well. [2]
  10. ^ Notable Anniversaries In Brooklyn History (New York Daily News. June 4th 1997)
  11. ^ Register in Alphabetical Order, of The Early Settlers of Kings County, Long Island, N. Y., Teunis Garret Bergen, S. W. Green's Sons, New York, 1881
  12. ^ A History of the City of Brooklyn and Kings County, Stephen M. Ostrander, Alexander Black, The Brooklyn Eagle, Brooklyn, 1894
  13. ^ Forgotten New York: Bergen Beach and Georgetown
  14. ^ "Bergen Beach, District History and Addresses, Congressman Anthony Weiner, weiner.house.gov". Archived from the original on 2009-03-25. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
  15. ^ Princeton, Sixty Three, Princeton University Class of 1863, Published for the Class, 1904
  16. ^ Stiles, Henry Reed (1869). A History of the City of Brooklyn . Reprinted by Heritage Books.
  17. ^ Westervelt, Frances A. (1923). History of Bergen County, New Jersey, 1630–1923. Lewis Historical Pub. Co. New York.
  18. ^ In his 1916 book Scandinavian Immigrants in New York, author John Oluf Evjen rejected the idea that Bergen County, New Jersey, had been named for Hans Hansen Bergen. "Hans Hansen had no property on the west of the Hudson where Bergen lay. Bergen in New Jersey was founded after his death."[3] But the records of Princeton University, formerly the College of New Jersey, mention the Bergen family "after whom Bergen County in New Jersey is named."[4]
  19. ^ The Bergen Family, Margaret Hubbard Bergen, 1898
  20. ^ Brooklyn by Name, Leonard Benardo, Jennifer Weiss, New York University Press, New York, 2006
  21. ^ Brooklyn By Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges, and More Got Their Names (Leonard Benardo and Jennifer Weiss, published by NYU Press, 2006 ISBN 0-8147-9946-9
  22. ^ Catalogue of Genealogical and Historical Library of the Colonial Dames of the State of New York, Published by the Society, New York, 1912
  23. ^ Ancestry of Governor Howard Dean, Compiled by William Addams Reitwiesener, wargs.com
  24. ^ Teunis G. Bergen first published his authoritative history of the family in 1866, and later updated it a decade later in 1876. With its small printings, the book became sought after by early genealogists and collectors. [5]
  25. ^ Bergen, Teunis G. (1876). The Bergen Family; Or: The Descendants of Hans Hansen Bergen, One of the Early Settlers of New York and Brooklyn, L. I. J. Munsell. p. 264.