NameTjerck Claasen De Witt
Birthabt Mar 1620, Groothalt en Zunderlandt (East Friesland), Netherlands
Death17 Feb 1700, Kingston, Ulster Co, New York
Misc. Notes
He probably emigrated from near Esens in Ostfriesland (northern coast of Germany) in the early or mid-1650s. (See related page of discussion on his origins.) He married Barbara Andriessen in Manhattan on April 24, 1656. Apparently, though, they never baptized any children there. (Some say Tjerck and Barbara baptized their first son, Andries, in New York, and lived there until spring 1657, but no record exists of Andries’ baptism in Manhattan. When Andries posts wedding banns in Kingston, on March 4, 1682, he’s listed as born in New York.)

We know that as early as February 1656 Tjerck was in court in Albany (Fort Orange) for fighting and for keeping company with Lutherans; we also know he lived there after he was married. (On June 25, 1657, he declares in court there that he’s made a payment in relation to the sale of a stallion.) It seems likely that Tjerck and Barbara baptized their first children in Albany. Marriage and baptism records from Albany before 1683 have been lost.

On November 20, 1658, Tjerck arranged to lease his house in Beverwyck (Albany) to Arent Isacksz from May 1, 1659, to May 1, 1660. In September 1660 he traded his Albany property with a Madame de Hutter (or Madame Johanna De Laldt and her husband, Hon. Jeronimus Ebbink?), in exchange for land in Wiltwyck (Kingston), “possession to be given May 1, 1661” (or for two pieces of land in the Esopus?).

In 1661 Tjerck was taxed for the erection of a church in Hurley, not far from Kingston. By September 1661 Tjerck had already appeared in court in Wiltwyck (this time as a plaintiff; he won his case). On February 12, 1662, Tjerck and Barbara baptized a daughter, Jannetjen, in the Kingston Dutch Reform Church (they already had Andries and another daughter, Taatje, born in 1659). By 1662 they owned No. 28 of the “New Lots” at Kingston. On May 28, 1663, Tjerck also bought a lot in Beverwyck from Harman Tomassen, though he doesn’t seem to have moved there (it sounds like it was very near the property he’d traded away in 1660). On June 7, 1663, Kingston and Hurley were almost entirely destroyed by the Indians; Tjerck fought valiantly in their defense, and his daughter Taatje was kidnapped, along with three other children. She was soon rescued.

Between then and 1668, Tjerck and Barbara baptized three more children in Kingston, where they apparently continued to live in town. In September 1664 the British took control of New Amsterdam and renamed it after the Duke of York; Colonel Richard Nicolls took over as Governor. In 1667 Tjerck opposed the British occupation of Kingston and “refused to keep Christmas on the day according to the English observation, but according to the Dutch.” (The Dutch used the old Julian calendar, which was about two weeks off from the modern Gregorian calendar used by the British.) For his recalcitrance he was beaten. In 1668 (?) Tjerck refused to sign the oath of allegiance administered by the British, though a “John” DeWitt (perhaps his brother Jan?) and Andries DeWitt (probably Tjerck’s 10-year-old son) did sign it.

On January 24, 1669-70 (or on April 8, 1669?), the new British Governor, Colonel Francis Lovelace, issued a permit to Tjerck to let him “erect a house and barne with convenient outhouses for his cattle upon his own land at Esopus, lying betwixt Hurley and Kingston,” noting that Tjerck previously had permission from Governor Nicolls to do this and on that promise had provided all the materials to get started. This land was on the Kingston-Hurley road; the house still stands today, with a beautiful view of the valley of the Esopus Creek.

On June 25, 1672, Governor Lovelace officially deeded Tjerck the “parcel of bush land, together with a house, lot, orchard and calves’ pasture, lying near Kingston in Esopus.” The deed was a confirmation of Tjerck’s title to the land, now that he had built on it. New Amsterdam was recaptured by the Dutch on August 7, 1673, but in February 1674 the Dutch agreed to give the colony back, and on October 11, 1674, Captain Antony Colve officially handed over control to the new English Governor, Major Edmond Andros. On October 8, 1677, Governor Andros deeded Tjerck a piece of woodland, containing about fifty acres, at Kingston in Esopus, “to the west of the towne.” He had other property too.

Tjerck and Barbara had six other children whose baptisms were not recorded in Manhattan or Kingston. It seems likely they were baptized in Hurley, in the church he had helped pay to build—not too far from the house and farm he built around 1670. Their last daughter, Aefje, was baptized in Kingston on January 14, 1684.

BIRTH: 1620, Arootholdt, Zunderlandt, Holland

De Witt is one of the very few Dutch-American names which were illustrious in the Fatherland. The grand pensionary, John DeWitt, administered the government of Holland from 1652-1672. He and his brother, Cornelius, who also held an important positions in civil and military life, were killed by a mob at The Hague after years of faithful services to their country. Tjerk was their kinsman. He came to this country from Zunderland, Holland previous to April 24, 1656, when he married Barbara Andriese in New Amsterdam. He was settled at Beverwyck, where he owned a house and lot, which he exchanged with Madame de Hutter for 2 parcels of land in Esopus, containing 140 acres on Sept. 1, 1660. In 1661 he was still possessed of a portion of his patrimonial estate in Holland, from which he received rents. Tjerk was the ancestor of several prominent Americans. Among his descendents were the Hon. Simeon De Witt, surveyor-general of the State of N.Y. 1784-1835. Tjerk seems to have disposed of all his property in Albany, and taken up residence in Esopus in 1660. He was there in the Indian War of 1663 and bought one of Goosen Gerrit's horses from the soldiers at the beat of a drum. Little is known of his character, but it is fair to infer from what little is known of him that he was a true republican. It is related of him that in 1663 at Esopus he resisted what he believed to be some unjust and oppresive requirements on the part of the military officers, and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned. * page 298 : Natives of Dordrecht, one of the oldest burgher towns of Holland, the "Geslachten von Dondrecht" in the Royal Library at the Hague gives the descent of the De Witt Family in an unbroken line from the year 1295 to Sept. 8, 1639. Some of the name - which was variously spelled Die Witte, De Witte, De With, De Wit, de Witt and finally De Witt, served under William the Silent, and were zealous supporters of the revolted provinces against Spanish oppression. The family emigration to the colony of Nieu Amsterdam began about 1639. THe first of the name to penetrate the wild regions that lay along the shores of the Hudson were two brothers, Andries and Tjerk Claus de Witt, who left their native land about the year 1648 and settled on the banks of the Twaalskill, now Roundout Creek, within the limits of the present city of Kingston. Machackemack (Deerpark), Orange Co., NY by Worden RDC, page 204 : The marriage was recorded in the "Trouw Book" of the Collegiate Dutch Church of New York. Tjerk removed from New York to Albany in 1657, Kingston 1661, was a large landowner in Ulster County and prominent in public affairs. * From The History of Ulster County, New York by N. Sylvester Marbletown (page186) : Arian Gerretsen Van Vliet, Tjerck Classen Dewitt, Thomas Quick, Jan Oosterhout, ventured further into the wilderness, and took grants in the vicinity of the Rochester church.
Birth1630, Van Amderstan, Holland
Death6 Jul 1714, Kingston, Ulster Co, New York
Marriage24 Apr 1656, New Amsterdam (New York City), NY
Children Andries (1657-1710)
Last Modified 15 Jul 2007Created 4 Sep 2012 using Reunion for Macintosh