Van Rensselaer (family)


Van Rensselaer (family), American family of Dutch descent, whose members played an important part in the history of New York State from the early 17th century to the mid-19th century. The Van Rensselaers` influence stemmed from their ownership of a huge tract of land called Rensselaerswyck, which was centered on both sides of the Hudson River and comprised the present-day New York counties of Albany, Columbia, and Rensselaer.

The founder of the Van Rensselaer presence

The founder of the Van Rensselaer presence in North America was Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, who never visited his overseas domain. Born in Hasselt, The Netherlands, Kiliaen Van Rensselaer lived from 1595 to 1644. After being apprenticed to a relative who was a jeweler and diamond merchant in Amsterdam, he became a member of the Amsterdam Chamber of the Dutch West India Company, a trading company established in 1621. The company controlled New Netherland, a Dutch land grant in North America in the present-day states of New York and New Jersey.

Kiliaen Van Rensselaer was one of a group

Kiliaen Van Rensselaer was one of a group that favored the establishment of agricultural colonies. This group pushed through the Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions of 1629 that established the patroon system, under which a proprietor received a land grant with manorial privileges. Van Rensselaer and two partners staked out claims in New Netherland and purchased land from the Native Americans, securing some 133,500 hectares (330,000 acres). His son, Jeremias Van Rensselaer, was born in Amsterdam and was the first patroon to live in the colony, dying there in 1674.

The fourth patroon was also named Kiliaen.

The fourth patroon was also named Kiliaen. Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, who was born and died at Rensselaerswyck, lived from 1663 to 1719. During his lifetime the English, who had taken over New Netherland in 1621, granted the basic land patent. Legally the patroonship became the Manor of Rensselaer

Stephen Van Rensselaer

Stephen Van Rensselaer, who lived from 1764 to 1839, was the eighth patroon. He had considerable influence on his era, actively participating in philanthropic, political, military, educational, and agricultural interests. A Federalist, he served in the New York state legislature and was lieutenant governor of New York from 1795 to 1801 and a United States congressman from 1822 to 1829. In the War of 1812, Van Rensselaer was major general of the state militia during the unsuccessful Battle of Queenston Heights in Ontario, Canada.

Van Rensselaer was a member of the first


Van Rensselaer was a member of the first New York State canal commission and urged the construction of the Erie Canal. He served on the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York from 1820 until his death and also gave funds to open the Rensselaer School, now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York.

At Stephen Van Rensselaer`s death in

At Stephen Van Rensselaer`s death in 1839, two sons by separate wivesStephen IV and Williaminherited his estate, but neither son was qualified to manage it. The heirs attempted to collect about $500,000 in delinquent rents and dues from the tenants on the estate, a step that worked great hardship on the tenants. When Stephen rejected their request for rent reductions, riots broke out among the tenants. The uprising grew into a full-fledged revolt, known as the Antirent War, that spread throughout eastern New York. In 1846 the state of New York amended its constitution, resulting in the end of the long-term leasehold system. Stephen and William agreed to sell their rights, and in the 1850s speculators purchased the remaining leases from the Van Rensselaers.

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