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Wolfert Gerritse van Couwenhoven

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Wolfert Gerritses Van Couwenhoven
Seal of New Netherlands
Schepen of New Amsterdam
In office
Commissioner for New Netherlands to the States-General
In office
Personal details
Born1 May 1579

Wolfert Gerritse Van Couwenhoven (1 May 1579 – 1662),[1] also known as Wolphert Gerretse van Kouwenhoven and Wolphert Gerretsen, was an original patentee, director of bouweries (farms), and founder of the New Netherland colony.[2]

His mark.

Along with his wife, Neeltje Janse Jacobdochter, Gerretse was one of the first Europeans to settle on Long Island, a farm he named New Amersfoort.[3] He was a Schepen of New Amsterdam in 1654. He is noted as playing an "active role in laying the foundations of the communities of Manhattan, Albany, Rensselaer, and Brooklyn."[4]

Early life[edit]

Wolfert was born on 1 May 1579 in Amersfoort, Netherlands,[5][unreliable source?] one of three sons of Gerrit Suype Van Kouwenhoven and his wife, Styne Sara Roberts.[6]

Farm description[edit]

A 1638 inventory for the farm named Achtervelt, owned by Wolfert Gerritse and Andries Hudde in what is now Flatlands, Brooklyn, describes the estate, which included a 40 by 18-foot barn:

"...one house surrounded by long, round palisades; the house is 26 feet long, 22 feet wide, 40 feet high with the roof, covered above and all around with boards ... "[7]

The deed for this farm was the first for Long Island, "and one of the very first for land in New York."[8] The deed describes the land as "the westernmost of the flats called Keskateuw belonging to them on the island called Suan Hacky between the bay of the North river and the East River of New Netherland."[8]

The deed is signed by the Dutch colonial governor, Wouter von Twiller, at “Eylandt Manhatans” and reaffirmed on the back in 1658 by Gov. Peter Stuyvesant.[8]

The area purchased was part of a larger area called, Keskateuw, meaning in the Lenape language, "where grass is cut."[8]


Dutch West India Company[edit]

Wolfert ran a baking and clothes bleaching business, when in 1625 he was assigned as one of the first settlers to cultivate farms in the New Netherlands colony by the Dutch West India Company.[5]

Director of Bouweries for Kiliaen van Rensselaer[edit]

In 1630, he returned to the Netherlands, where he entered into a contract with his cousin Kiliaen Van Rensselaer to return to the colony to manage his farms. Wolphert arrived back in the colony aboard the ship "Eendracht",[9] where he proceeded in his duties as director for van Rensselaer's farms in Rensselaerwyck and Fort Orange.[10]

His contract was to run through 1636, but Gerretse requested it cancelled early so he could pursue his own interests. Rensselaer agreed. In 1632, Gerretse was released from his contractual obligations.[9]

New Amersfoort[edit]

Shortly thereafter, he leased a bouwerie in New Amsterdam[10] and managed it until 1636, when he was granted a patent of several hundred acres on Long Island. He called his plantation "Achervelt"; later it served as the founding of the town of New Amersfoort, named after Gerritse's original home.[3] Today the area is known as Flatlands. His plantation was located near the current intersection of King's Highway and Flatbush Avenue.[citation needed]

In 2007 the deed of the granted land in Long Island was sold to a private collector for $156,000 becoming "one of the oldest Dutch documents in private hands". The deed dated 6 June 1636 is written in Dutch and outlines the purchase of the land (3,600-acre) from the Lenape Indians.[8]

Public service[edit]

In 1637, he became a Freeholder in Midwout, and again in 1641.[6] In 1653, he was sent by the colony to the States-General in the Netherlands as a Commissioner. In 1654, Wolphert served as a Schepen of New Amsterdam,[11] and in 1657 was made a Burgher.[12] He served on the citizens council of Eight Men.


Gerretse died in 1662. [citation needed]

Marriage and children[edit]

A member of the Dutch Reformed Church, on 17 January 1605, he married Neeltje Janse Jacobsdochter in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

They had three sons:

  1. Gerrit Wolfertsen Couwenhoven (1610–1648), a Representative at the Council of Eight in 1643[13]
  2. Jacob Wolphertse Suype Van Kouwenhoven (1612–1670), assistant to Gov. Woulter Van Twiller, Representative at the Board of Nine in 1647, 1649–1650,[13] sat on the Court of Arbitrators between 1649 and 1650, Delegate of New Netherlands to the Hague in Holland[13][14]
  3. Pieter van Kouwenhoven (1614–1699), one of the first magistrates of New Netherlands, member of the Schepens Court 1653–1654, 1658–1659, 1661 and 1663, delegate from New Amsterdam to the Convention of 1653, Lieutenant in the Esopus War, signer of the peace treaty 1664 with the Esopus Indians[13]

His granddaughter, Marretje Gerretse, daughter of Gerret, married Coert van Voorhees.[15]


Later variations on surname[edit]

Some descendants of Wolfert anglicized the surname "Van Kouwenhoven" to "Kouwenhoven," "Kownover," "Conover," as well as "Crownover," with Dennis Conover (born 1764) being the first descendant (4th great grandson) to use "Conover" as his surname.[16]

The progenitor of the Vanderbilt family, Jan Aertszoon (1620–1705), also known as Jan Aertson, a Dutch farmer from the village of De Bilt in Utrecht, Netherlands, emigrated to the Dutch colony of New Netherland as an indentured servant to the Van Kouwenhoven family in 1650.[17]

Notable descendants[edit]



  1. ^ "The Van Kouwenhoven-Conover Family," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, by Lincoln C. Cocheu, as published in Hoff, Henry B. (1987). Genealogies of Long Island Families. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, Inc. pp. 505–510. ISBN 0806311673.
  2. ^ "A century of banking in New York", p. 82; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Scannell New Jersey's First Citizens", p. 99; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  4. ^ "Wolfert Gerritsen Van Couwenhoven and the Founding of New York," Journal of Long Island History 15:5–22, by Morton Wagman, 1979.
  5. ^ a b c "Keeping Up With The Joneses", Jones NY History; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  6. ^ a b "First Record Book", Society of the Daughters of Holland Dames, p. 103; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  7. ^ Cohen, David Steven (1992). The Dutch-American farm. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0814714544. OCLC 24538653.
  8. ^ a b c d e Kilgannon, Corey (1 November 2007). "Dutch Deed Fetches More Than a Handful of Beads". New York Times, City Room Blogs. Retrieved 20 January 2023.
  9. ^ a b "Manhattan 1624–1639", p. 5; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  10. ^ a b "Conover Family", p. 7; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  11. ^ "Hollanders who helped build America". Bernard Hubertus Maria Vlekke, Henry Beets. American Biographical Company, 1942. p. 196
  12. ^ "Leaves From The Tree", p. 336; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  13. ^ a b c d "Courts and Lawyers of New York: A History, 1609–1925". Alden Chester, E. Melvin Williams. The Lawbook Exchange, 2005. p. 235.
  14. ^ "The Bronx in the frontier era", p. 46; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  15. ^ "Family tree". vanvoorhees.org. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  16. ^ Rhinebeck Lutheran Church Records, Rhinebeck, NJ and Tombstone Records of Cazenovia Cemetery, NY
  17. ^ MacDowell, Dorothy Kelly (1989). Commodore Vanderbilt and his family: a biographical account of the Descendants of Cornelius and Sophia Johnson Vanderbilt. University of Wisconsin.
  18. ^ "Descendants of Wolphert Gerretse Van Kouwenhoven", p. 292; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  19. ^ "Descendants of Wolphert Gerretse Van Kouwenhoven", p. 417; retrieved 26 July 2012.
  20. ^ "Descendants of Wolphert Gerretse Van Kouwenhoven", p. 1280; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  21. ^ a b c "Descendants of Wolphert Gerretse Van Kouwenhoven", p. 1005; retrieved 25 October 2009.
  22. ^ "Ancestry of Howard Dean". wargs.com.
  23. ^ Van Deventer, Christobelle (1943). The Van Deventer Family. Columbia, MO: E.W. Stephens Co.
  24. ^ "Ancestry of Lance Armstrong". wargs.com.

External links[edit]

Media related to Wolfert Gerritse van Couwenhoven at Wikimedia Commons