Cornelis Melyn

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Antwerp ancestry

The life of my 8th great grandfather is well documented in a variety of places, although there are occasional contradictions between the different stories. His conflicts with the despotic governor of the New Netherlands, Peter Stuyvesant, make for very interesting reading. We'll present here a few of the articles which we've come across...

The following is from page 221 of the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume 10, published by J. T. White Company, 1900:

MELYN, Cornelis, colonist, statesman and author, was born about 1602, and came to New Amsterdam from Antwerp in 1639,1 accompanied by Joachim Kuyter, another gentleman of education and ability. He returned for his family, and after many adventures and perils from pirates, from shipwreck and the tyranny of corrupt officials, settled on Staten Island, buying lands from the Indians in 1641 and becoming the first patroon by appointment from Holland.

He was twice deprived of his property by colonial governors, and his settlement was twice destroyed by fire and massacre. At a critical period, when president of the "council of eight men," he made peace with the Indians of Long Island, and commenced a vigorous war upon those of the Hudson river. A memorial, forwarded by him to Holland, October, 1644, asking for the recall of Gov. Kiefft, recounts the massacre, the maladministration and decay of the colony, petitions for a system of government like that of the municipalities of Holland, and shows that the Dutch governors wasted their opportunities for empire by making enemies of their Indian neighbors. In 1647 Stuyvesant banished Kuyter for three years and Melyn for seven; in addition the latter was sentenced to forfeit the benefits of the company and to pay a fine of 300 guilders.

On August 17th of that year Kiefft sailed for Holland, carrying with him Melyn and Kuyter, who though the vessel was wrecked on the coast of Wales, escaped to land and found their way to Holland, where the sentences against them were reversed by the states general. In 1650 Melyn returned to New Amsterdam with a mandamus obliging Director Stuyvesant to appear in person or by attorney at the Hague to answer to the charges preferred by Kuyter and himself. Stuyvesant at once renewed his persecutions, confiscating the vessel on which Melyn arrived, with its cargo, and later his property in New Amsterdam, on the east side of Broad street, forcing him to retire to Staten Island and live in a state of siege as it were.

At last he sold his lands to the Dutch India Co. and took the oath of allegiance to the New Haven colony in April, 1657. A perusal of the literature of the Dutch colony shows him to have been an upright, clear-headed patriot of indomitable will and tenacity of purpose. His treatise, "Wholesome Advice to the United New Netherland Provinces", translated by Dr. H. C. Murphy (Vol. III., "Historical Collections of New York"), is esteemed by Prof. Justin Winsor as the production of a statesman and a patriot. A copy of the original work is in the Lenox Library, New York City. He died in 1674,2 probably in New York, leaving a widow (Jannetjen) and five children, whose descendants are in the families of Conklin, Dickinson, Houston, Kingsbury, Leavenworth and Schellinger, to go no further. One son was carried away prisoner with him and perished at the time of the shipwreck.

The following information is from pp 46-47 of my uncle Fayette R. Plumb II's copy of Plumb, Houghton and Allied Families, privately printed in 1946 by Joseph H. Plumb, Haverford, PA. It gives its source as Cornelis Melyn, Patroon, and Some of His Descendants, by Paul Gibson Burton in New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 68, pp 6, 132-134...

Cornelis Melyn, son of Andre and Marie (Gheudinx-Botens) Melyn, of Antwerp, Belgium, and grandson of Lambert Melyn, of the same place, was baptised in the church of St. Walburga, Antwerp, on September 17, 1600, and died, probably in Connecticut, after March, 1662/3. He was a leather-dresser in Amsterdam and came to New Amsterdam, now New York, on the vessel Arms of Norway which sailed for the New Netherlands, after May 12, 1638, for the West India Company. He made many similar voyages, and on reaching home after the second one, applied for the patroonship of Staten Island, which was granted July 3, 1640.

While proceeding to his new home on the Angel Gabriel, the vessel was captured by a frigate from Dunkirk, and he lost everything in the venture. To finance a second expedition he sold a half interest in the patroonship to Godert Van Reede, Lord of Nederhurst. With his family and a party of 41 colonists he sailed in the Oaktree and reached New Amsterdam August 14, 1641. They proceeded to the island and began to build homes and cultivate the ground. The settlement suffered from Indian ravages, and in 1643 he removed to Manhattan Island just before an attack, in which the community was destroyed.

Owing to his criticism of the administration of Governor Kieft, Melyn incurred the displeasure of Governor Stuyvesant and with his friend, Kuyter, was banished from the colony. They sailed for Holland on the Princess Amelia, upon which Kieft also sailed. The vessel was wrecked in the Bristol Channel and most of the passengers, including Kieft, were drowned. Melyn and Kuyter were among the few survivors. They appealed to the States General, who sided with them.

Melyn made many more trips to America. His settlement on Staten Island, which had been resumed, was again attacked by the Indians, his son, Cornelis, and twelve or more persons were killed, and the rest taken prisoners, including Melyn himself. They were finally ransomed. He removed to New Haven, where he took the oath of allegiance to England, April 7, 1657. He is last mentioned in New Haven's records in March 1662/3.

Cornelis Melyn married in Amsterdam, Holland, after April 22, 1627, date of the petition for license, Janneken Adriaens.

Children, first 8 baptised in Nieuwe Kirk, Amsterdam, the rest in the Reformed Church, New Amsterdam:

  1. Cornelia
  2. Joannes
  3. Cornelis
  4. Cornelis (again)
  5. Abraham
  6. Mariken or Mary
  7. Isaac
  8. Jacob
  9. Susanna
  10. Merydnlyn [may be the Magdaleen mentioned below]
  11. Isaac (again)

The following is from The History of Elizabeth, N.J. and Hatfield, pp. 82-83, and was among Warren E. Carey's family history papers:

Jacob Melyen [Maullains, Murline, Melleyns, Melyn, Melians] came from New Haven, Ct., but was previously of New Amsterdam. He was the son of the patroon, Cornelius Melyn, whose name is familiar to every student of Dutch American history. The father was born 1602 at Antwerp, Holland, and emigrated in 1639 to New Netherlands. He returned in 1640 for his wife [Janneken] and children and obtained a grant on Staten Island. There he planted a colony in 1641, which was broken up by the Indian war of 1643. Removing to New Amsterdam he took up his residence on Broad, between Stone and Pearl Sts., on the east side. He espoused the popular side in politics, for which he was heavily fined by Gov. Stuyvesant, and banished for seven years. He returned to Holland for redress, was wrecked Sept 27, 1647, and lost one of his sons, barely escaping with his own life.

The Home Government sustained his appeal, but Stuyvesant still persisted in his opposition. After another voyage to Holland, he re-established himself in 1650 on Staten Island, continuing there until the colony was again dispersed by the Indians in the massacre of 1655. He removed to New Haven, Ct., where he and his son, Jacob, took the oath of fidelity April 7, 1657. In 1659, he repaired again to Holland, effected a settlement of his difficulties, relinquished Staten Island to the West India Co., and soon after returned to New Netherlands. He had died in 1674,2 leaving his wife, three sons -- Jacob, Cornelis and Isaac, and three daughters -- Marian (married and residing at New Haven), Susannah and Magdaleen, who were married subsequently to Jacob Schellinger and Jacob Loper, merchants of New York.3

The following is from Compendium of Genealogy, Vol V, pp. 246 and 774, and was copied by Warren Carey:

Cornelis Melyn -- from Holland to New Netherlands, 1638. Went to Holland 1640 for his wife & children and returned to New Amsterdam 1641 with an order granting him nearly the whole of Staten Island.

Planted a colony 1641. Dispersed by Indians 1643. President "Council of Eight" under Dir. Gen. Kieft 1643-47. Removed to New Amsterdam, returned again to Holland when banished by Peter Stuyvesant for espousing popular side in politics; returned to Staten Island 1649. After Indian massacre of 1655 removed to New Haven, Conn. Married at Amsterdam 1627 to Janetje Adriaens (1604-1681).

In early 2006, I was provided a small part of the research papers of Glenna (Gandy) Carlson, which included the following biography of Cornelis Melyn which Glenna compiled. The sketch doesn't necessarily break any new ground, but I felt it was definitely worth including in this page.

CORNELIS/CORNELIUS(1) MELYN, PATROON OF STATEN ISLAND

Cornelis Melyn was the son of Andries/Andre Melyn and Maria Ghuedinx Alias Botens and he was born in Antwerp, Holland. He was Christened at the Church of St. Walburga, Antwerp on 17 September 1600. The Banns for his marriage to Janetje/Janneken Adriaens were published 22 April 1627 in Amsterdam. Their first eight children were baptised in Nieuwe Kirk, Amsterdam, Holland. His application for a marriage license stated that he was a leather dresser by trade and that his parents were deceased. Later he was described as a "Seemtouwer" which means a dresser of the finer and softer leathers.

He made several voyages to New Netherlands (New York) between 1638 and 1640. He was granted Patroonship of Staten Island on 3 July 1640, but he did not sail with his family until 17 May 1641, together with colonists on the vessel DEN EYCKENBOOM (The Oak Tree). 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 Cornelis Melyn.

After massive Indian attacks and destruction, the colony on Staten Island was forced to flee. Cornelis still held the title of Patroon, but without a colony he took up residence in New Amsterdam. In 1646 he was cultivating lands that are today the site of Trinity Church on Broadway. By 1647 he was eager to try another colony and returned to Holland to recruit support. On this voyage it is reported that the ship was wrecked and he barely escaped with his life though losing the life of his son, Abraham, on 17 August 1647. He found the support he was seeking and returned to Staten Island in 1650 to establish a new colony. In this venture he incurred the enmity of the powerful Peter Stuyvesant, Director General of Dutch Holdings. It is said that Stuyvesant directed his distaste toward all members of the family. This second colony fared no better than the first and by 1655 had disbanded because of hostile Indians.

By 1656, Cornelis had established a home in New Amsterdam on a site that is today the corner of Broad(way) and Stone streets. The Stuyvesent backers made life uncomfortable. The family sought refuge in New Haven, Connecticut where it is recorded that Cornelius and son Jacob took the "Oath of Fidelity" on April 7, 1657.

Cornelis still retained the legal hold to Staten Island and the Dutch finally bought him out on June 14, 1659 with a payment of 1500 guilders in hand and 1000 guilders in wares and merchandise which he was free to remove. This latter is an unusual practice for the conservative Dutch to permit their payments to be taken or used outside of their realm of trade.

Cornelis and Janneken had 11 children, (1) Cornelia Melyn, (2) Joannes, (3) Cornelis and upon the death of this son the next son was named (4) Cornelis, (5) Abraham, (6) Mariken/Maria/Mary, (7) Isaack, (8) Jacob, (9) Susanna, (10) Magdalen and since the first Isaack had not survived (11) Isaack. Cornelis died in 1663 in New Haven, Fairfield County, Connecticut and his wife and six of the children survived him.

This Report concentrates on the daughter Susanna who became the wife of John(1) Winans in New Haven's Dutch Church on 25 August 1664. This union inaugurates the first Winans of importance to this family tree. Family Group Sheets follow the text.

Articles in the 1936 and 1937 Volumes 67 and 68 of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, are replete with stories and details of the Melyn Family.

This article about Cornelis Melyn's home site appeared in the Sunday real estate section of the New York Times 21 Mar 1920:

TINY CITY CORNER HAS QUEER HISTORY

Broad and Stone Street Parcel Retains Same Dimensions of Early Dutch Days.


MELYN FAMILY HOME SITE


First House Was Erected There In 1657 -- Now Surrounded by Tall Telephone Building.

The sale last week of the 15 by 57 foot parcel at the northwest corner of Pine and William Streets, on which is a substantial eleven-story office building, calls attention to Broad Street's tiniest plot, at the southeast corner of Stone Street, on which is the simple two-story brick structure dating back probably half a century or more. Nearly twenty years ago, when plans were made tor erecting the seven-story Telephone Company Building occupying the remainder of the Broad Street block front between Stone and Pearl Streets, efforts were made to acquire the small corner, which has a frontage on Broad Street of 10.6 feet and 20.3 feet on Stone Street. The owners at that time adopted the policy frequently employed in similar cases of thinking that the prospective builders must have the odd plot at any cost, and accordingly held up the price at a high figure, said to have been $50,000 or more.

The telephone company very sensibly allowed the owners to keep it, and now the tall structure, entirely surrounding the small parcel, with a good frontage on Stone Street, has reduced the possibility of any important improvement to a minimum. In 1904 the plot was sold at foreclosure to Leonard Weill for $16,700, and a short time later he disposed of it for about $20,000 to John E. Thrall. In 1909 Frederick W. Kroehle acquired possession, and last month it was again transferred for about $23,000 to Richard Cohn. Its assessed value is $13,000, of which $12,500 represents land value.

Not only is this one of the smallest parcels of real estate on Manhattan Island, but it also has an interesting history, the most remarkable feature being that for more than two and a half centuries it has retained its original dimensions despite the radical building transformations in the vicinity.

Delving back into old Dutch annals, it is found that this parcel was given to the family of Cornelis Melyn by the city authorities in 1657 in partial compensation for the condemnation of the former Melyn house, which had stood since about 1643 at what was then the foot of Broad Street, just below Stone Street, with the rear yard extending to the river, then slightly beyond Pearl Street. That property was taken by the city to extend Broad Street. About the same time Stone Street, east of Broad Street, was straightened and the small plot at the southeast corner was given to the Melyns. What is known as the second Melyn house was built there and, despite its small size, the family resided there for many years, and Jannetje, the widow of Cornelis Melyn, who died in 1684, was probably living there then. The house then reverted to the eldest son, Jacob Melyn, who went to Boston in 1697, selling it to a New York merchant for 360.

Cornelis Melyn, the original owner and builder of the earlier house at the foot of Broad Street, was one of the most energetic characters in old New Amsterdam days. He held many offices of importance, and was a large landholder, but, incurring the displeasure of Governor Stuyvesant, was in danger of imprisonment, and suffered the confiscation of his large holdings on the north side of Pearl Street, east of Broad Street, extending to the City Tavern at Coenties Slip. He went to Holland to explain the cause of his troubles and the city mismanagement, and was upheld by the States General, but that made very little difference with the irascible Peter Stuyvesant, who was the supreme "boss" of the town, and Cornelis Melyn spent most of his latter years in New Haven. He owned at one time a big manorial estate on Staten Island of several hundred acres, but it was overrun by the Indians in 1655, and a few years later he disposed of it.

In April 2007, cousin Michael Koseruba photographed a mural at the Staten Island Borough Hall by Frederick Charles Stahr which depicts Cornelis Melyn and the Dutch settlers trading with the Indians. The caption below is taken from a plaque describing the mural. For information on the paintings at Borough Hall, please visit the Staten Island Borough Historian's official website.

"Cornelius Melyn Trades with the Indians"
Cornelius Melyn Trades With the Indians

The patroon system, set up by the Dutch West India Company to bolster settlement and trading in the New World, ultimately failed to produce any permanent colonies on Staten Island. Although the natives were generally friendly and eager to trade, bloody conflicts and massacres were more often than not the result of each new settlement attempt.

Cornelius Melyn, the third patroon, founded a settlement on Staten Island in 1641, after signing a peace treaty with the natives. With orders to set up a distillery and a tannery for the processing of goat leather, his colony of about 40 settlers was built near what is now Fort Wadsworth. In 1643, natives attacked and destroyed the settlement. Seven years later he made another attempt to set up a colony, which grew to include 16 farms and prospered for five years before it, too, was destroyed during an uprising called the "Peach War."

In interpreting this deceptively simple scene, Stahr provides many visual nuances as a "compare and contrast" exercise for the viewer: the "Old World" (the Dutch), versus the "New" (the natives). Observe the racial grouping of the figures: the careful articulation of the costume details, from hats to loincloths: the placement of the weapons and the manner in which they are handled; the vertical arrangement of Melyn's and the native's hands as they barter; the downward gaze of the seated native who is about to put his hands into the open box of beaded goods; and the curious symbolism of green-leaved branches above the natives while autumnal-hued leaves are over the Dutch colonists huddled behind Melyn.

Staten Island Borough Hall
Staten Island Borough Hall


In 2008, Richard Baskas, a fellow Melyn descendant, published Cornelius Melyn, 3rd Patroon of Staten Island, New York His Children and Some Descendants. The book is available from Xlibris. It is a complete rewrite of an earlier book by Richard.


Among Cornelis and Janneken Melyn's numerous descendants are two recent presidents of the United States. Cornelis arrived in New Amsterdam about the same time as, and was undoubtedly well acquainted with, the ancestors of two other presidents.


1 Melyn didn't arrive in New Amsterdam from Antwerp. He left that city as a young man to live and work in Amsterdam. According to a list of his known voyages, his first voyage to the New World was aboard Het Wapen van Noorwegen (The Arms of Norway), which departed Texel, a West Frisian island, after 12 May 1638.
2 The date of Cornelis Melyn's death is unknown. There is no record of his death anywhere, but his name ceases to appear in the records of the New Haven colony after 1663 and is not mentioned in the records of the marriages of his two daughters in New Haven August 25, 1664.
3 This paragraph is unclear. According to my other sources, Cornelia married Jacob Loper 30 Jun 1647 and Jacob Schellinger (Uncle Fay's ancestor) 7 Apr 1653, while Susannah married John Winans. Mary married Claes Pardee and Matthias Hatfield. Jacob Loper's name appears in some places as Jacob Soper. He may have been Swedish.
This page was last updated 5 Jun 2012.