Melyn articles:
Apr 1936
Jul 1936
Jan 1937
Apr 1937
Jul 1937
Oct 1937

Paul Gibson Burton's articles on Cornelis Melyn in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record continue in pages 3-17 of the Jan 1937 issue. This article picks up the story of Cornelis' life in 1626.



In the article The Antwerp Ancestry of Cornelis Melyn (RECORD 67:157-164, 246-255) there was set forth the ancestry of Cornelis Melyn and a detailed account of his life up to the time when at the age of eighteen he left Antwerp to travel in foreign lands. Mention was also made of his return to Antwerp in September 1626, to attend to certain formalities in the settlement of his father's estate.

The present article takes up his life from this point, with the aim of presenting in detail only personal and hitherto unpublished facts. His public career has been so adequately dealt with by many competent historians that it will be treated herein only in a summary way. References and explanatory notes will be found at the end of this installment; also a partial bibliography of such printed works as contain extended or important references to his public life. This bibliography also lists some general historical works that will give the reader a proper background.

Following the account of Cornelis Melyn, there will be given as complete genealogical data of three generations of his descendants, in both male and female lines, as have been found available. The search of the records is believed to have been thorough, taking in portions of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia. In a number of cases statements will be found to differ from previously published accounts. For these statements the compiler accepts full responsibility.

Uniform spelling has been used for proper names except in the case of direct quotations.

On the 22nd of April 1627, Cornelis Melyn and Janneken Adriaens, both residing in the City of Amsterdam, appeared before the committee of the Schepens, or Aldermen, of the City who had charge of the issuance of marriage licenses, to apply for a certificate authorizing the proclamation of their banns of marriage. A photograph of the certificate issued to them as entered in one of the Registers of Marriages of the City, and now in the Gemeente Archief, is reproduced opposite page four.1 The individual certificates are not dated, but the date was written across the page at the beginning of each day's entries. In the present case the date ("Den 22 Aprill, 1627") was written across the top of the page where the certificate appears. It will be noticed that the portion of the certificate setting forth the general requirements is in printed form, while the clerk wrote in the particulars relating to the applicants.

Following is an English translation of the certificate, the italics indicating the words which correspond to the Dutch words that are written into the original certificate.


Appeared as before Cornelis Melyn from Antwerp, aged 25 years, having no parents, leather dresser, living in the Elant Street, assisted by Geraert Lodewijsz (and] Jannetie Arienss from Myert, aged 23 years, having no parents, living on the Lindegracht, assisted by Engel Thomas.

Requesting their three Sunday banns, in order to solemnize thereafter the aforesaid marriage, and to consummate it, provided however no lawful impediment thereto be disclosed. And inasmuch as they declared in truth that they were free persons, and were not related to each other in blood in such a way as to prevent a Christian marriage, their banns have been allowed to them.


Several matters in connection with the certificate deserve a word of comment or explanation.

The words "as before", the first written words in the body of the certificate, refer to a previous certificate in the Register, in which the names of the members of the committee of Schepens are entered. Thereafter, so long as the same Schepens were in attendance, the words "as before" are used.

The Dutch word "van" (here translated "from") preceding the name of a place, when used in such a certificate (other than as a part of a surname), almost invariably designates the place of birth.

It will be noted that the age of Cornelis Melyn is given as "25 years" whereas on the basis of his baptismal date of 17 September 1600, he was at least 26 years and 7 months old at the time of the issuance of this certificate. It is quite probable that, since 25 years was according to Dutch law the age at which a man attained his full majority, the clerk was merely indicating that Melyn was of legal age to marry without the consent of his guardians. That Melyn knew his correct age is evident from a declaration signed by him 29 June 1644, in which he gives his age as "44 years."2

When Melyn left Antwerp he was a tailor's apprenitice, but in this certificate he appears as a "Seemtouwer" (which means a dresser of the finer and softer leathers) showing that he had changed his occupation.

It will be seen that the birthplace of Janneken Adriaens is given in the certificate as Myert, a place not positively identified, but which probably is the community now named Hooge en Lage Mierde (Upper and Lower Mierde) which was formerly called Myerdt and is situated in what is known as Kempen Land in the Province of North Brabant, Netherlands, about 14 miles in a generally westerly direction from Eindhoven, and about two miles from the present Belgian frontier. Attempts to associate Janneken Adriaens with Upper and Lower Mierde have been unsuccessful because there are no vital records available for the desired period.

The term "free persons" in the certificate means that the applicants were unattached, that is, free of existing matrimonial ties.

Through the courtesy of the New York Historical Society facsimiles of the signatures of Cornelis Melyn to a document dated 30 January 1659, and of his wife Janneken Melyn to a Power of Attorney dated 6 April 1656 are shown below. It is interesting to note the comparatively little change between these

signatures and those of the same persons as affixed to their betrothal certificate some thirty years before.3

Except for the baptism of several of the children of Cornelis Melyn in the Nieuwe Kerk at Amsterdam, the records of which will be given in full later, nothing further is known of him until he appears as supercargo of the West India Company's ship Het Wapen van Noorwegen (The Arms of Norway) which sailed from the Texel for New Netherland soon after 12 May 1638.1 The vessel arrived in New Netherland on 4 August 1638, and ten days later started for Newfoundland, where were caught some 12,000 codfish, which together with the ship, Melyn sold in France. As a native of bilingual Antwerp, he was doubtless familiar with the French language.4

In the absence of definite records there is some doubt as to the details of Melyn's next two voyages. In the spring of 1639, Jochem Pietersen Kuyter, a native of Ditmarsen, who in later years was to be the political ally of Melyn, sailed from Hoorn in the Brant van Troyen (Fire of Troy) with his wife, children and a large cargo of livestock, to found a plantation in New Netherland. He arrived there in July, 1639, and obtained from Kieft a tract of land about 400 acres in extent, on the northern end of Manhattan Island adjacent to the Harlem River. This tract Kuyter named Zegendal (Valley of Blessing), but it was generally known by the more prosaic name of Jochem Pietersen's Flat. From a letter written by Kuyter and Melyn to Stuyvesant under date of 22 July 1647, and from a reference in the famous mandamus of 28 April 1648, it is evident that the voyage was the joint venture of Kuyter and Melyn, and it is probable that Melyn came to New Netherland either in the Fire of Troy, or in the Company's vessel, Den Harinck (The Herring), which came over about the same time. It seems certain that Melyn had no interest in Zegendal. Whether he intended to join Kuyter in his plantation venture but changed his plans after he arrived in New Netherland, or whether he had already determined to apply for a Patroonship, and came over on this voyage merely to look the ground over thoroughly before he should make his application for a definite territory, may never be known. Doubtless the beautiful Staten Island with its fields of Indian corn and its wooded headland rising so boldly toward the sea had attracted his attention on his earlier voyage, and had aroused in him an ambition to possess it.5

Apparently what he observed during his six weeks' stay in New Netherland, together with what he had learned of the success of van Rensselaer's colony, made him satisfied to proceed with his own colonizing scheme, for on his return to Holland he applied for the Patroonship of Staten Island, and it was granted him 3 July 1640. Soon after this, probably about 1 August 1640, he set out, possibly in the Engel Gabriel (Angel Gabriel). But the vessel was captured by a Dunkirk frigate on 13 August 1640, and Melyn lost everything.

He promptly decided to make another attempt at colonization and on 18 February 1641 he applied to the West India Company for a renewal, or confirmation, of his Patroonsbip, which was granted 25 February 1641. In order to finance this expedition, Melyn on 16 May 1641 sold a half interest in his Staten Island project to Godert (or Godard) van Reede, Lord of Nederhorst, a member of a prominent and influential family and a Deputy in the States General. He thus obtained not only financial assistance, but a powerful protector. This agreement was evidently the formal conclusion of previous negotiations, for on the next day, 17 May 1641, the vessel Den Eyckenboom (The Oak Tree) sailed from Holland with a new party of colonists. Cornelis Melyn, his wife and children were on board, as was also Adriaen van der Donck, engaged for service by van Rensselaer. Van der Donck, like Kuyter, was destined to be a political ally of Melyn and a fellow victim of Stuyvesant's persecution.6

The vessel arrived in New Netherland 14 August 1641 and soon after Melyn and his party of 41 persons were hard at work on Staten Island, where they "immediately began to build houses, to plough land, and to do everything conducive to establishing a good colony, begrudging neither money nor labor." On 19 June 1642 Melyn received from Kieft his formal patent for "the entire Staten Island" excepting only a farm which Kieft had granted to David Pietersen de Vries before the West India Company had allotted the Island to Melyn.7

No trace of either settlement has been left. They were located somewhere along the Narrows, Melyn's most probably near Fort Wadsworth.8

Due to the continual ravages of the Indians, the work of colonization proceeded with the greatest difficulty. In the disastrous Indian war of 1643, Staten Island was one of the last of the outlying places to feel the mass attacks of the Indians. On 24 October 1643, when Long Island, and even Manhattan Island "north of the Fresh Water" (about the present Duane Street) were practically laid waste, "Staten Island, where Cornelis Melyn settled, is unattacked as yet, but stands hourly expecting an assault." This came not long after, but the Melyn family had taken flight to Manhattan, and so escaped. Conditions there were not much better. On 3 November 1643, in a letter to the States General, the citizens said: "Almost every place is abandoned. We, wretched people, must skulk with wives and little ones that still survive, in poverty together, in and around the fort at the Manhattans where we are not safe, even for an hour."9

About the year 1820, Mrs. Janet Livingston Montgomery (at that time about 75 years old), the widow of General Richard Montgomery, and a great granddaughter of Cornelia Melyn, eldest daughter of the Patroon, composed an account of family reminiscences and traditions. She wrote the following of Cornelia Melyn: "She was daughter to a gentleman who had a patent for all Staten Island. There he lived, surrounded by his tenants and friends. At the age of nine years" [an error, she was fifteen in 1643] "she was so impressed by a dream that the place was in flames, that by constant tears and entreaty to be taken to New York, she at length prevailed on her parents to take her there; and when they would have persuaded her to return, nothing would prevail. She stayed, and a few days after every person was murdered and every house burned. This was done by the Indians, the cause of which was a young squaw longed for some peaches in a farmer's garden, she took them and the brute of a farmer fired and killed her. This was called the Peach War."

Cornelis Melyn's own statement reads: "I was obliged to flee for the sake of saving my life, and to sojourn with wife and children at the Menatans till the year 1647." The tradition seems rather improbable.10

The exposed and unprotected condition of Staten Island making it too dangerous to reside there, Cornelis Melyn decided to obtain a permanent home in "The City" and during 1644 he purchased three adjoining pieces of property near the intersection of the present Broad and Pearl Streets, the latter being at that time "the shore of the East River." One of these contained a house, which he doubtless made his home.

This property was bounded north and south respectively by the present Stone and Pearl Streets and extended easterly from Broad Street in the direction of Coenties Alley, taking in considerably more than half of the present block. Melyn sold some of this property from time to time, one piece being sold to his friend and ally, Kuyter, who was also in trouble with the Indians at his plantation on the Harlem River. On 22 April 1651, at which time Stuyvesant had caused Melyn to be arrested on trumped up charges, the former confiscated about two-thirds of Melyn's property, which he caused to be divided into four lots and sold to various persons, one of whom was his Secretary, Cornelis van Tienhoven.11

When Melyn in 1659 made his agreement with the West India Company in regard to his Staten Island property, the Company agreed to make restitution to him of the money which had been realized from the sale of these lots, "or so much thereof as yet may be found to remain with the said Company." It would appear from the records that no such money was ever found. In fact, the Company at that time had become practically bankrupt.12

In 1646, the West India Company decided, after much deliberation, to recall Kieft, and to replace him by Peter Stuyvesant. Although the resolution of the States General, passed 28 July 1646, authorizing Stuyvesant's commission as Director General stated that he was "very urgent to depart" it must have been at least six months later when he left Holland, as he did not arrive in New Netherland until it May 1647. On that date, accompanied by many of the inhabitants of the town, he proceeded to the Fort, where Kieft was waiting to turn over the government to him. At this meeting Kieft thanked the citizens for their fidelity and attachment to him and asked their formal endorsement of his administration. Not only was this endorsement not forthcoming, but some of the citizens, among them Melyn and Kuyter, outspokenly denounced his administration. Melyn and Kuyter in the name of the citizens then brought charges against Kieft and asked for an investigation of certain phases of his administration. Stuyvesant seems to have realized that if such an action were then countenanced, the like might be taken at some time in the future against himself. Moreover he was an autocrat both by nature and by military training. He therefore refused to consider any request for an investigation of Kieft's administration.13

Kieft, seeing that Stuyvesant was entirely on his side, now turned the tables on Melyn and Kuyter, and on 18 June 1647, brought criminal charges of lese-majesty against them. He averred that Melyn and Kuyter did not represent the citizens, and that they had coerced others into joining in these charges, which he termed seditious. To Kieft's charges Melyn and Kuyter sent a masterly reply, dated 22 June 1647, in which they not only refused to retract anything that had been written, or to apologize for anything they had done, but demanded the fullest investigation of the case. They then proceeded to discuss the charges point by point and to bring forth facts to support their position. One cannot read this reply, with its many quotations from classical authors, without obtaining the impression that it was the work of an extremely well educated man, almost certainly Adriaen van der Donck, former student at Leiden University, the friend and ally of Melyn and Kuyter.14

But the prejudged case was soon decided and on 25 July 1647 Melyn and Kuyter were found guilty of the crime charged. Melyn was sentenced to banishment for seven years, and to pay a fine of 300 guilders, while Kuyter was ordered banished for three years and fined 150 guilders. Stuyvesant argued at some length for the imposition of the death penalty on Melyn, but his usually subservient Council would not follow him so far. When Melyn asked for a stay of sentence, until he could appeal to the States General, Stuyvesant is said to have thundered: "If I knew, Molyn, that you would divulge our sentence, or bring it before Their High Mightinesses, I would cause you to be hanged immediately on the highest tree in New Netherland."15

Melyn and Kuyter nevertheless at once prepared to appeal from Stuyvesant's sentence to the States General at the Hague. On 16 August 1647, the Princess Amelia sailed from New Netherland, having on board Kieft and other prominent citizens, among whom were Melyn and Kuyter, at present in disgrace. Kieft had demanded that they be sent to Holland as "pestilent and seditious persons" and by the decree of Stuyvesant and his Council they had been ordered to depart by the first ship. The vessel, navigated by mistake into the Bristol Channel, was wrecked on 27 September 1647, and broken to pieces. Of about 100 persons on board, 81 perished, among them Kieft. Melyn and Kuyter caused the sea in the vicinity of the wreck to be dragged, and salvaged a box containing some of their more important papers, with which they proceeded to Holland, arriving there late in October 1647.

They arrived at an auspicious time, for Godert van Reede, Lord of Nederhorst, Melyn's partner, was then at the height of his fame and influence as his province's ambassador to the peace congress at Munster, where in 1648 was signed the Peace of Westphalia closing the Thirty Years War.16 As soon as possible Melyn and Kuyter presented their case to the States General, who, on 28 April 1648, issued their mandamus or writ of supersedeas granting Melyn and Kuyter an appeal from the sentence pronounced by Stuyvesant and his Council, with a stay of all proceedings against them. Stuyvesant was also commanded to appear in person, or by attorney, to sustain the judgment pronounced by him. Under Dutch law, such an order could be served only by a duly qualified deputy, but since no such person was available, an endorsement, dated 6 May 1648, was made on the mandamus, permitting service to be made on Stuyvesant by any person whom Melyn and Kuyter, or either of them, might appoint. Melyn and Kuyter also obtained from the States General a passport dated 6 May 1648, and one from the Stadtholder, William II, Prince of Orange.17

It was decided that Kuyter should remain in Holland, to be on guard there, while Melyn, armed with the various documents mentioned, prepared to return to New Netherland. On 25 June 1648, the Lord of Nederhorst, Melyn's friend and patron, died at Utrecht. Whether Melyn was there at the time is not known, but he was in Holland as late as 22 May 1648. Melyn arrived in New Netherland 1 January 1649 and the next day handed to Stuyvesant certain of the papers he had brought with him from Holland, including a letter from the States General, advising Stuyvesant of their decision to grant Melyn and Kuyter an appeal from the sentence imposed on them by Stuyvesant, and instructing him to allow them full liberty and freedom of action pending the hearing of the appeal. The safe conduct from William of Orange was also given to Stuyvesant, and the Council passed a resolution "in obedience to orders from the States General and the Prince of Orange" permitting Melyn to reside in New Netherland.18

It would seem from the records that Melyn did not have the mandamus served on Stuyvesant at this time, but withheld it until there might be an opportunity to present it with the proper dramatic effect. This occurred on Monday, 8 March 1649, "when the entire population of the Manhattans and the adjacent villages" was assembled in the Church to transact some public business of importance. Melyn appeared at this meeting and demanded that Their High Mightinesses' Letter and the mandamus be read and explained to the people. In the midst of considerable excitement, Melyn handed the mandamus to Arnoldus van Hardenbergh to be read aloud. Stuyvesant in a rage snatched the mandamus from van Hardenbergh's hands, and in the confusion the seal was torn off. Melyn then offered Stuyvesant a copy of the mandamus, whereupon the latter was induced by some of the bystanders to return the original, which was read, including of course the summons commanding Stuyvesant to enter appearance without delay at the Hague to defend the judgment. Stuyvesant replied: "I honor the States General, and their commission and will obey their commands, and will send an agent to maintain the judgment as it was well and legally pronounced." Melyn demanded a written reply, but this neither Stuyvesant nor his Secretary would give.19

At this point it is worth while to digress for a moment to describe what may be called a "Special Providence" such as occurs perhaps once in a lifetime. Some forty years ago the New York Historical Society received from the late Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant of Philadelphia, a descendant of Joanna (Melyn) Dickinson, the granddaughter of Cornelis Melyn, a bundle of papers which he had found in an old barrel in his grandfather's house. Among these, all of which related to the Melyn family, were the original mandamus on vellum, which Melyn had caused to be served on Stuyvesant some 250 years before, and the seal separated from it. One can easily imagine that this ancient document and seal still show the effects of the rough handling when Stuyvesant snatched them from van Hardenhergh. It is interesting to note in connection with these papers that on the death of Joanna (Melyn) Dickinson there passed away the last of Cornelis Melyn's descendants who had been born a Melyn. The family name became extinct in this country. The New York Historical Society published in its Collections for 1913 (Volume 46) translations of such of these Melyn papers as were in Dutch and transcripts of those written in English. These papers should be read in their entirety by all who are seriously interested in the life of Cornelis Melyn. Perhaps the most interesting of these papers from a biographical viewpoint is the one written in the first person in which he tells the story of his life from his first attempt to found a colony on Staten Island in 1640, until his retreat to New Haven after the Indian massacre of 1655. It is a document of some 2500 words, and begins on page 109.

It was stated above that Melyn arrived in New Netherland 1 January 1649. It would appear that the vessel in which he sailed, and which was possibly De Jonge Prins van Denmark (The Young Prince of Denmark) touched at some points in New England, for Stuyvesant in a letter to the States General dated 10 August 1649, complained bitterly that Melyn "had been running through New England among the English people" showing the documents he had received from the States General, and telling among other things, that he (Melyn) was empowered to send Stuyvesant a prisoner to Holland. If so, Melyn misrepresented the mandamus, for it simply required Stuyvesant to appear on the hearing of the appeal, and was not in any sense a recall. There are in existence letters and affidavits which show that Melyn was in New England as early as November, 1648. While one can hardly believe that Melyn uttered all the bombast that was ascribed to him in these affidavits, it must he admitted that he would have shown superhuman restraint if he had not boasted somewhat of the outcome of his appeal to the States General. However, his calls in New England and reported diatribes were long remembered by Stuyvesant.20

About 10 August 1649, Cornelis van Tienhoven, the Secretary of the Colony, departed for Holland bearing with him Stuyvesant's defence of his judgment. On the next vessel, which sailed two weeks later, went Melyn, carrying with him the papers for the prosecution of the appeal. The vessel in which van Tienhoven sailed took the long route "back of Ireland" to avoid the fate of the Princess, so that it and the vessel carrying Melyn arrived on the same day--4 October 1649. The case was shuttled back and forth between the States General and the West India Company, and was apparently never brought to a hearing. Reading the proceedings of the States General, one can sympathize with the plaint of Melyn, made early in 1650, "that your petitioner hath now groped such a length of time, since the year 1643, in this labyrinth, without any error or fault of his . . . being in the meanwhile obliged to neglect for so long a time his private affairs and family (being burdened with six children) and to encounter to his excessive cost and great injury, all sorts of vexation and trouble in his private affairs, on account of a public matter so entirely just." Melyn greatly missed the support of the deceased Lord of Nederhorst.21

Melyn, however, succeeded in obtaining the support of Baron van der Capellen toe Rijssel in his colonization scheme, and on 4 June 1650 sold him an interest in Staten Island. This agreement recited that the Lord of Nederhorst, who had been the owner of a one-half interest in the project, had agreed shortly before his death in 1648, to a division of the property as a result of which van der Capellen, Nederhorst and Melyn were each to become the owner of a one-third interest, subject to certain conditions.22

This agreement (of 4 June 1650) was merely the formal completion of the transaction, as van der Capellen and others, had on 18 May 1650, purchased a vessel, the Nieuw Nederlandsche Fortuyn (New Netherland's Fortune) and prepared her for a voyage to New Netherland.

One of the venturers was an Isaac Melyn. His relationship to Cornelis has not been determined. It can scarcely be doubted however that Cornelis Melyn was not the only member of the family to forsake Antwerp and return to the Protestant faith in the free Netherlands. Perhaps closely related were Christian and Jan Melyn, witnesses at baptisms of Cornelis Melyn's children in 1637 and 1638 at Amsterdam.

On 9 June 1650, Melyn executed a Power of Attorney at the Hague constituting Johannes Grevinck his general attorney in all his affairs, and his special attorney "together with one or more attorneys, as he shall see fit" in such controversies as Melyn "has or may yet have" with van Tienhoven or with Stuyvesant.23 On 30 June 1650, Melyn received from the States General a safe conduct in the same general terms as the one issued to him and Kuyter in 1648, and soon after 10 August 1650 the New Netherland's Fortune set sail for New Netherland with some 70 colonists, and a large cargo of material and supplies for the new colony on Staten Island. Melyn was a passenger on this vessel, but so far as is known had no direct financial interest in the vessel or her cargo.24

The long voyage of nineteen weeks having practically exhausted the supply of food and water, the Captain was obliged to put into Rhode Island to replenish his supplies. Stuyvesant, who was on the watch for anything which Melyn might do which would get him into the clutches of the law, seized upon this incident as a violation of the Company's regulation forbidding the breaking of bulk en route to New Netherland, and caused legal proceedings to be brought against Melyn as part owner of the ship and cargo. As Melyn could not be found to have any interest in either, the action against him fell through, but new proceedings were begun against the Skipper, and the ship and its cargo were libelled and sold, an action which caused considerable expense to the West India Company, as it was later compelled to make restitution to the powerful van der Capellen and his associates. At the same time Stuyvesant arbitrarily confiscated some of Melyn's real estate on Manhattan Island, as has already been mentioned.25

Melyn had undoubtedly come back to New Netherland with the intention of actively renewing his earlier attempts to establish a colony on Staten Island, but says Melyn, "the Director began by manifesting his old hatred and partisanship" and for a time it seemed as though the work would have to be abandoned. But Melyn finally got the matter well in hand, and the colony prospered "so that everything began to be abundant on Staten Island, and through God's blessing I again began to recover my losses." But this peacefulness was not for long, for about 22 August 1655, Stuyvesant, who was then engaged in the conquest of the Swedish colony on the Delaware, accused Melyn of acting in behalf of the Swedes, and caused Melyn to be thrown into a dark hole in the prison, and he was not allowed to see or converse with anyone, nor was he given a hearing.26

How long this imprisonment might have continued is conjectural, had it not been that on 16 September 1655, after Melyn had been confined for twenty-five days, there was an uprising of the savages, who set fire to many buildings in Manhattan and the surrounding villages, and murdered many people. Because of the pleading of Melyn's wife and children, Stuyvesant released him, and he at once proceeded to Staten Island to attempt to protect his family and people, houses and goods, from the attacks of the savages, but all to no purpose, for a few days later the greatest disaster of all occurred. The Indians arrived in great numbers, and began to attack the people and set fire to their buildings. The savages finally offered quarter, which Melyn accepted, as there appeared to be no hope otherwise, he having already seen his son (Cornelis), 22 years old, his son-in-law (Claes Allertsen Paradijs, the first husband of Maria Melyn), two nephews (thus far unidentified), and eleven or twelve other persons shot dead, besides many wounded. The remainder of the colony, fifty-one in number, including Melyn himself, his wife, his son (Jacob Melyn) and son-in-law (Jacob Schellinger, the second husband of Cornelia Melyn) were taken into captivity by the Indians, and remained there for thirty-one days, until Melyn had raised a ransom of about 1500 guilders for himself and his family, which, to use his own words, "was to be paid if we did not want to be burnt alive in a fire which for this purpose had been already prepared and was burning." As if to add insult to injury, Stuyvesant on the day after Melyn's release, sent to his lodgings, and claiming that the Indians demanded further ransom, forced him to pay 60 or 70 guilders additional, or else he would be returned to the former prison. It is not surprising that Melyn thought this latter request "somewhat suspicious" and "to have been trumped up in order to at once ruin me."27

As the result of the destruction of his colony by the Indians, combined with the continued persecution by Stuyvesant, Melyn decided "for the time being, to put myself under the protection of the English" and late in 1655 or early in 1656, he left New Netherland, and departed with his family for New Haven. His selection of New Haven was probably not only because it was the nearest large English town, but also because there were at New Haven a number of Dutch merchants, among them Samuel Goodenhousen and William Westerhousen, with whom Melyn was well acquainted, having transacted business with them during his residence in New Netherland.28

On 14 June 1656, the Directors of the West India Company wrote to Stuyvesant, asking him to have a thorough search made for all items relating to Staten Island, and to dispatch them to Amsterdam as soon as possible. They then add: "Look out meanwhile, that Cornelis Melyn, who we understand is now at the North and in negotiation about the [Staten] Island, does not sell or deliver it to a foreign nation, not subject to our jurisdiction; in such a case you must seize it for the Company, as having the best title, and endeavor cautiously to inveigle said Melyn to New Amsterdam, arrest and keep him, and then send him well treated but also well secured, to this country, if the above rumor proves to be true." If this information reached Melyn, as quite possibly it did, it may have hastened his decision to take the oath of allegiance to the English. This oath he and his son Jacob formally took at New Haven on 7 April 1657.29

For the next two years, the correspondence between the Directors and Stuyvesant contains very few references to Melyn or to Staten Island. Then on 13 February 1659, the Directors wrote that Cornelis Melyn "has now arrived here from New England." The West India Company some time before 1655 had decided not to establish any more Patroonships, and possibly they considered this a good opportunity to get rid of Melyn for on 13 June 1659 they entered into an agreement with him for the purchase of his right of Patroonship of Staten Island. The agreement also involved the payment to Melyn for his confiscated real estate and some other matters. Melyn and his two surviving sons, Jacob and Isaac, returned from Holland on De Liefde (The Love) arriving at New Netherland 5 March 1660, and started at once to try to obtain from Stuyvesant the proceeds of Melyn's confiscated property, but with no success. One by one other articles of the agreement were the subject of discussion between Stuyvesant and Melyn, until finally Melyn was summoned to attend a Council meeting on 23 May 1661, the purpose of which was to endeavor to settle all of the articles which were in dispute. The principal point of disagreement was in regard to the sale of Staten Island. It was Melyn's contention that he had agreed to relinquish his rights of Patroonship, but that he was to retain his right to the soil, that is, the title to the land itself. Stuyvesant, on the other hand, stood on the language of the agreement, which limited Melyn to such land as he should have under cultivation, or should be able to cultivate. In brief, he could use the land himself, but could not sell it to others. It is sufficient to say that none of the matters under discussion were settled to Melyn's satisfaction, and he appealed to the West India Company, which upheld Stuyvesant's interpretation of the agreement.30

This appears to be the last attempt of Cornelis Melyn himself to obtain what he believed to be his rights in regard to his Staten Island property. From time to time during two Dutch and two English administrations his heirs presented to the prevailing government petitions in regard to the property, the latest being one to the Earl of Bellomont In 1699. They, however, were never able to establish their case, and Staten Island remained the property of other grantees. In the meantime, the West India Company had purchased on 20 November 1660 from the heirs of van der Capellen "such a portion as the aforesaid Baron van der Capellen pretended to be his property in Staten Island." So ends the story of the Patroonship of Staten Island.31

An entry in the Court Records of New Amsterdam under date of 28 February 1656, and a fragment of an original Power of Attorney from Janneken Melyn to her son-in-law Jacob Schellinger, dated 6 April 1656, among the Melyn papers in the New York Historical Society, seem to indicate the approximate time of the removal of the Melyn family from New Amsterdam to New Haven.32

The earliest reference to Melyn that has been found in the New Haven records is on 11 February I655/6, when "Mr. Mulloine", among others, was assigned one of the "long seats in the middle for the men."

There is an interesting assortment of complaints made at a Court held "4th 10 mo. [December] 1656." First, "That the Duchmen lately admitted doe sell things excessive deare" in support of which there was exhibited a knot of small silk buttons, that were priced to sell at 18d a dozen. Second, "That the mault house is not improved, as Mr. Melyn promised it should, to supply the Towne." Third, "That they [the 'Duchmen'] doe not attend the publique meetings on the Lord's day soe duly as they should." About which, "the Court, with Mr. Davenport, the decons and Townsmen were desired to meete this afternoon and speake with them, that so what is offensive may be removed." The result of this meeting is not recorded.

From the Court records for 17th 6 mo. [August] 1657, it is noted that a subscription of ten shillings by Mr. Melyn, apparently for a charitable purpose was the largest amount contributed among four subscriptions recorded. On 2 August 1659, a bill of sale from "Lieftennt Seely to Mr. Murline (of his dwelling house, orchard, etc.)" was ordered to be recorded. This property, about one-half acre in extent, was originally granted to William Wickes, and was located on the north west corner of the present George and State Streets.

At a Court held 10 February 1661/2, it was reported that the committee appointed to seat people in the meeting house had assigned seats to Mr. Melyn and to Mrs. Melyn, in separate sections of the meeting house, as was the custom of the time.

On 8 October 1662, "Mr. Moline and his wife" were in Court to plead for mitigation of a sentence upon their son Jacob. This case, which will be considered later in the biographical sketch of Jacob Melyn, has one interesting side light, namely, that the testimony of Cornelis Melyn and his wife "was interpreted by Mr. Goodenhouse" indicating that their command of English was not sufficient to warrant them testifying in that language.

At the Court of 3 December 1662, it was reported that the grist mill on which the town had depended had been burned and there was considerable discussion as to the advisability of constructing a new mill to be the property of the Town. At the next Court, held 8 December 1662, "Brother Miles declared that he had spoken with Cornelius", probably referring to Cornelis Melyn, about the various problems involved, and after considerable discussion, it was decided not to construct the mill at the expense of the Town, provided it was possible to persuade some of the townsmen to operate it as a private enterprise.

On 3 March 1662/3, Cornelis Melyn was again in Court suing for the recovery of a mare which had been "borrowed" the previous June, but which had never been returned. This is the latest date referring to Cornelis Melyn as being alive that has been found. On 26 December 1663, Jacob Melyn went on a bond as security for the good behavior of his brother Isaac. As "Mr. Samuel van Goodenhouse engaged on the behalfe of Jacob Melijen that this bond shall be performed" it seems probable that Cornelis Melyn was then deceased.33

It is difficult to understand how a man, who for so many years had been mentioned in almost every letter that passed between the West India Company and Stuyvesant, could drop completely out of the picture, and his death never even be casually mentioned, but such seems to be the case. The compiler has searched in vain for a reference to him in unpublished correspondence and documents in the New York Colonial Manuscripts and elsewhere.

The marriage of two of Cornelis Melyn's daughters in New Haven on 25 August 1664, may well mark the breaking up of the Melyn home.

There is in the New Haven land records, an undated deed, by which "Johannah Melyn, widow of New Haven" sold the property which Cornelis Melyn had purchased from Lieutenant Seely (as previously mentioned) to Henry Glover, from which it may be inferred that Cornelis Melyn by an unrecorded will, gave the property to his wife. The deed of the Melyn home property from Johannah Melyn to Henry Glover contains the following interesting clause: "furthermore it is agreed upon that Mr. Goodenhouse shall possess the house till his yeare be up only Goodman Glover is to have the chamber where I lye."

This deed, which as previously mentioned is not dated, was witnessed by "Samuel van Goodenhousen and Jacob Melein" and was placed on record 31 July 1685. On 27 July 1685, Henry Glover placed on record a declaration that several described pieces of property (one being the Melyn home property) had formerly belonged to him, and that by deed of gift he had passed them to his son John Glover at or about the time of his marriage with Johanna Glover, who at the time of the declaration was the wife of William Thompson. The marriage of John Glover and Johanna Glover took place in New Haven on 7 December 1671.34

The sale of the Melyn home property probably marks the final departure of Janneken Melyn from New Haven. Some of her children, with their families, were living in New Haven, possibly as late as 1668, and the events of their lives will be included in their biographical sketches later.

There is little known of Janneken Melyn in the years after her husband's death. Her name appears occasionally in the Records of the New York Dutch Church as a witness at the baptism of some one of her grand children, the last appearance being at the baptism of her grandson Samuel Winans on 2 April 1672. In a petition to Governor Colve, dated "New Orange, 1674, April 12/2" Jacob Melyn mentions "my aged mother" and this is the latest reference to her as being alive that has been found.35 On 3 October 1674, five of her grandchildren (two Melyns, two Winans and one Hatfield) were baptized in the New York Dutch Church, but she was not a witness. A "Request of the Children and Heirs of the late Cornelis Melyn" in regard to the Staten Island property, dated 5 October 1674, was prepared and sent to the authorities at Albany. This petition, of which only a fragment has been preserved is signed (all in the same handwriting) with the names of the five surviving children in the order of their ages. It does not mention Janneken Melyn, as either alive or dead. The conjunction of the five baptisms with the petition mentioned, seems to show that the several families foregathered to sign the petition, and possibly to perform the last services for the aged widow.36

There is an entry in the minute book of the New York Mayor's Court for 23 March 1674/5 in the case of George Davis, Plaintiff vs. Administrators of Anna Molyne, Defendant, which reads: "The Plaintiff declared for 345 Carolus guilders due to his wife from the said Anna Molyne. The Court orders that the attachment continue on the house, and a copy of the declaration be ready for the defendants." It is reasonably certain that this entry refers to the widow of Cornelis Melyn, whose given name of Janneken, Jannetie or Johanna, as variously used, was entered by the Clerk of the Court as "Anna."37

In summarizing Cornelis Melyn's unlucky life it should be pointed out that his failures as a colonizer need not be ascribed entirely to ill fortune and the oppression of Kieft and Stuyvesant. Melyn was combative in disposition, and somewhat tactless in his dealings with the Administration. His undoubted rôle as defender of popular liberties fell to him because his personal interests as Patroon of Staten Island conflicted with the autocratic conception of their prerogatives held by Kieft and Stuyvesant. That ill fortune pursued him is only too plain. When Baron van der Capellen and he named their ship Nieuw Nederlandsche Fortuijn (which might be freely translated "The Luck of New Netherland") it is more than probable that they had in mind that the first attempt at settlement had been frustrated by the Dunkirk privateersman; the second by the Indian War brought on by Kieft's incapacity and the luckless slaying of the Indian in the peach orchard. By the name of their vessel they invoked a better fate. It was not to be.

Melyn in his bold dealings with Kieft and Stuyvesant evidently had great faith in his powerful alliances in the Fatherland. A tradesman, born of a trades family in Antwerp of much higher than average standing, he sought and obtained the protection of Godert van Reede, Lord of Nederhorst, and of Hendrik van der Capellen toe Rijssel, both of the old land owning nobility. This was a type of association that had become common in the development of the great trading cities of Europe. The noble sought the thrill and the profits of foreign ventures. The burgher coveted the Patroonship of vast areas, surpassing far in size the "heerschafts" of the Netherlands, with the dignified rights of "the higher and lower jurisdictions" proffered by the Freedoms and Exemptions of the Dutch West India Company. There may be significance, also, in the fact that Jacob Reepmaker de Jonge, an outstanding merchant of Amsterdam and high in the affairs of the West India Company, had been a sponsor at the baptism of Melyn's son Cornelis in 1633.

At bottom the political struggle in New Netherland during the ten years from the Peach War of 1643 to the issuance of the charter of New Amsterdam in 1653 was a demand of the growing community for the same liberal rights enjoyed by the burghers of the Dutch cities. Any such contest takes more definite form when it acquires a protagonist. Such Melyn and Kuyter became when they were prosecuted for lese-majesty. It should be remembered how often democratic movements have sprung from dictators in trouble being obliged to call in representatives of the people for aid, and then persecuting the leaders of the people for daring to criticize.

Always in such cases the dictator denounces the criticism as false and malicious, and if that were enough to justify prosecution the voice of the people might as well be stilled. Melyn, Kuyter and van der Donck may have exaggerated Kieft's and Stuyvesant's offenses. In the interest of popular rights this country more than any other developed the modern conception that freedom of comment, even unjust criticism, on the acts of persons in authority is a better doctrine than the ancient law of lese-majesty. In this development Cornelis Melyn played his not inconsiderable part.

 1.CORNELIS MELYN, son of Andries Melyn and Maria Ghuedinx-Botens, bap. in the Church of Saint Walburga, Antwerp, 17 Sept. 1600; m. banns 22 April 1627 at Amsterdam, JANNEKEN ADRIAENS; d. 1663-1668.
Children of Cornelis Melyn and Janneken Adriaens, the first eight baptized in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam.
+2.i.Cornelia2 Melyn, bap. 27 Feb. 1628 (D. T. & B. No. 40, fol. 220); wit: Heyltje de Raet; m. (1) banns 30 June 1647, Jacob Loper; m. (2) banns 7 April 1653 Jacob Schellinger; d. 25 Feb. 1716/7.
 3.ii.Joannes2 Melyn, bap. 17 April 1629 by Ds. Baldius (D. T. & B. No. 41, fol. 10); wit: Janneken de Vijl. It is stated in the Breeden Raedt that Cornelis Melyn lost a son in the wreck of the Princess on 27 September 1647. While no such statement is made in any of Cornelis Melyn's papers, there is no reason to doubt that he did have a son on the Princess, and if so it would seem probable that it would have been his oldest son, Joannes, who was possibly being taken back to Holland to be educated there. The only other son not accounted for is Abraham (No. 6) who was six years younger than Joannes.
 4.iii.Cornelis2 Melyn, bap. 6 Sept. 1630 by Ds. Silvius (D. T. & B. No. 41, fol. 48); wit: Maria van Essen; d. before 11 Oct. 1633 as another Cornelis was baptized on that date.
 5.iv.Cornelis2 Melyn, bap. 11 Oct. 1633 (D. T. & B. No. 41, fol. 138 vo.); wit: Jacob Reepmaker de Jonge; d. in the Staten Island massacre of September, 1655. Nothing further is known of him other than a casual reference in the Court Records of New Amsterdam under date of 10 February 1653.
 6.v.Abraham2 Melyn, bap. 27 May 1635 by Ds. Clasonius (D. T. & B. No. 41, fol. 191); wit: Fransoijs de Wael. Nothing is known of him, unless he may have been the son who was lost in the Princess. (See Joannes No. 3 above.) Melyn, bap. 29 March 1637 by Ds. Trelcatius (D. T. & B. No. 42, fol. 8 vo.); wit:Christian Melijn; m. (1) banns 18 June 1655 Claes Allertsen Paradijs; m. (2) 26 Aug. 1664 Matthias Hitfield; d. 1694-1699.
 8.vii.Isaack2 Melyn, bap. 21 Nov. 1638 (D. T. & B. No. 42, fol. 56 vo.); wit: Jan Melijn; d. before 22 July 1646, as another Isaac was baptized on that date.
+9.viii.Jacob2 Melyn, bap. 17 April 1640 by Ds. Somerus (D. T. & B. No. 42, fol. 95); wit: Nelletje Dircx; m. 1662 Hannah Hubbard; d. 13 Dec. 1706.

The following children were baptized in the New York Dutch Reformed Church. Page references are omitted, as the printed volume of baptisms is thoroughly indexed.

+10.ix.Susanna2 Melyn, bap. 14 June 1643; wit: Cornelia Melyn, Lijntje Jochems; m. 25 Aug. 1664 John Winans; d. 1687-1693.
 11.x.Magdalen2 Melyn, bap. 3 March 1645; wit: Lijntje Jochems. Nothing further known.
+12.xi.Isaac2 Melyn, bap. 22 July 1646: wit: Hendrick Coop, Lijntje Jochems; m. (1) date not known, Dorothea Samson; m. (2) 5 Oct. 1679 Temperance Loveridge; d. 18 May 1693.


Following is a partial bihliography of printed works that may be consulted by those readers who desire further information regarding Cornelis Melyn. Unless otherwise indicated they are indexed.

* In collaboration with Alfred LeRoy Becker.
  1. The committee of the Schepens usually consisted of two persons. They performed for the civil authority practically the same function that is now performed by a marriage license bureau, namely, ascertaining whether there was any lawful impediment to the marriage. Lack of parental consent to the marriage of persons under legal age might be such an impediment. The particular register in this case is a book about 12 3/4 inches high by about 8 1/4 inches wide. There are three forms on each page. The present designation of this book is "D. T. & B. No. 432" and the page reference is 75 verso. The initials "D. T. & B." stand for "Doop-, Trouw-, en Begravenisboeken," Dutch words which translated are: "Baptismal, Marriage and Burial Records." This designation, however, is a modern one for the entire series of registers which are now in the Gemeente Archief, or Community Archives. This particular volume, for want of a better term, can best be designated as a "Register of Marriage Intentions."
  2. The declaration of Cornelis Melyn to which reference is here made is in New York Colonial Manuscripts, 2:113. The date of 29 July 1644, which is given in the Cal. Dutch Mss., page 28, is incorrect.
  3. Melyn Papers, 108-109, 123-125.
  4. For Melyn's early voyages, see van Rensselaer Bowier Mss. (indexed). For date of arrival, see Cal. Dutch Mss., page 3.
  5. Narr. New Neth. 205, where, however, month is incorrectly given as June; Cal. Dutch Mss. 124; N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:207, 250; Riker's Harlem (Revised) 133-135.
  6. N. Y. Col. Docs. 13:200-201; Van Rensselaer Bowier Mss. (indexed): Melyn Papers 98-129.
  7. Melyn Papers 98-99 (Note that date is given as 6 May, old style, that is, 16 May, new style); Melyn Papers 109-110, 129-130.
  8. See Leng and Davis, Staten Island and Its People, Volume 1, Chapter 3, and authorities there cited.
  9. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:139-140, 190-191.
  10. Dutchess County Historical Society Year Book for 1930, pages 59-60; Melyn Papers 110.
  11. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:528-529; Stokes, Iconography of Manhattan Island (indexed).
  12. Melyn Papers 117.
  13. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:175-178, 14:83.
  14. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:203-209.
  15. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:213-214, 348-349; Narr. New Neth. 342. Those who may be interested in the legal phase of Melyn's trial should read: A Case of Laesae Majestatis in New Amsterdam in 1647, by Amasa A. Redfield, printed in the Report of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the New York State Bar Association.
  16. N. Y. Col. Docs. 14:82-83; Breeden Raedt 267-268.
  17. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:250-253, 351-352.
  18. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:249-250, 352; Cal. Dutch Mss. 121; Breeden Raedt 270; Historisch Genootschap, Kroniek 25:487.
  19. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:352-353; Breeden Raedt 270-271; Melyn Papers 102-106.
  20. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:321; Breeden Raedt 270; Cal. Dutch Mss. 45, 121; 3 Series Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. 9:227.
  21. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:348-349, 14:117-122; Breeden Raedt 273.
  22. Leng and Davis, Staten Island and Its People. Facsimile of agreement and English translation, Volume 1, pages 96-99.
  23. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:528, 14:194; Mss. of Power of Attorney in possession of compiler.
  24. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:407-409. Attention is called to the fact that the statement in RECORD 59:62 that this vessel sailed on 30 June 1650 is an error. Among the New York Colonial Mss. (Cal. Dutch Mss. 275) is a copy of a bond of the Commander, dated 10 August 1650, that he would sail direct to the Manhattans. See also N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:449, where there is a letter from the Selectmen of New Amsterdam, dated 22 December 1650, in which they say: "Cornelis Melyn arrived here on the 19th instant, having been nineteen weeks at sea, and in great peril."
  25. N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:449; Melyn Papers 111-112.
  26. Melyn Papers 112-114.
  27. Melyn Papers 113-115. The names of the members of the Melyn family involved have been determined from other sources, and will be considered at greater length in connection with their biographical sketches. For letter of Janneken Melyn, asking that her husband be removed to a more comfortable place "on account of his sore leg," see Cal. Dutch Mss, 151.
  28. Melyn Papers 115.
  29. N. Y. Cal. Docs. 14:352; Records of the Colony and Plantation of New Haven, 1:140.
  30. N. Y. Col. Docs. 14:333, 427-434, 440; Melyn Papers 116-132.
  31. Melyn Papers 136-138; O'Callaghan 2:576-577.
  32. Rec. New Amst. 2:48; Melyn Papers 108-109.
  33. Town Records of New Haven, Vols. 1 and 2. As these are thoroughly indexed, volume and page references are omitted.
  34. Original Records of the Town of New Haven, 1:288; New Haven Vital Records (printed), page 31.
  35. For petition of Jacob Melyn, see Melyn Papers, pages 132-134.
  36. Cal. Eng. Mss., page 27.
  37. The record book of the Mayor's Court of New York from which this entry was taken is in one of the attic rooms of the Hall of Records. It is designated on the inside of the front cover: "Vol. 2d. Mayor's Court, Nov. 13, 1674-Sept. 21, 1675." It is neither paged nor indexed.
(To be continued)

1 Mr. Burton's article includes a chart depicting Cornelis Melyn's voyages to and from New Netherland which would be difficult to reproduce here. For a similar chart, which may be more up-to-date, we suggest you visit Diana Gale Matthiesen's Melyn genealogy site.
2 These are Mr. Burton's footnotes, which are keyed to blue superscripts in his text.
This page was last updated 12 Jul 2010.