Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pieter Stoutenburg the Man

Every family has stories about its ancestors. One side of my family is no exception to this. Several of my ancestors were in North America at the earliest part of the European settlement. Today, I am writing a post on my blog about just one of the family stories.

The story is that rich Pieter Stoutenburg was the first treasurer of New Amsterdam or the treasurer of the Dutch Colony. Other stories exist that he was treasurer when the British took control of New Amsterdam and that he had done such a good job that the British authorities retained him as treasurer.

I found this story repeated in books written in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Many of these books were written on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of a county, state or community and often included genealogies of the pioneer families. Then I found the same language repeated in genealogical and biographical magazines. Now, it's repeated in family trees posted on the Internet.

There is often some element of truth in most family legends. It's like the game of telephone. Each time the story is repeated it has little changes. The Pieter Stoutenburg story is no exception. Pieter Stoutenburg did at one time serve as a treasurer.

Some history :

Pieter Stoutenburg was born in 1613 in the Netherlands, probably in Utrecht Province based on his surname as there is a Stoutenburg in that province. I have not found any record of his arrival in New Amsterdam but he was married in 1649 to Aefje van Tienhoven in New Amsterdam. Tienhoven is a town in Utrecht Province as well.

The records in which he is mentioned don't record his name as Pieter van Stoutenburg. That did surprise me as the only other person in New Netherland at the time that Pieter was there is Jacobus van Stoutenburg. Jacobus lived near current day Albany and eventually went back to the Netherlands.

 Now back to the story:

New Netherland was established more like a corporate holding than a colony. The Dutch West India Company appointed members and employees to management roles in New Netherland. It wasn’t until Pieter Stuyvesant arrived that the Company assigned a resident of New Amsterdam to serve as a local treasurer on the Company’s behalf. Wilhelmus Hendrickse Beekman held that position until the defeat of the Dutch colony in September of 1664.

The British established a colonial government in New York and appointed a mayor of New York City. The mayor appointed a city clerk who served the role of treasurer of the city. Thomas Willit was the first city clerk in New York City. He served from 1665 to 1668 when Cornelis Steenwyck was appointed. Cornelis occupied that position until 1671. Thomas Delavall and Matthias Nicoll also served as city clerk in 1671. John Lawrence was city clerk in 1672.

The Dutch briefly regained control the colony between 1673 and 1674. The function doesn’t seem to exist in 1673. Sometime in 1674, Johannes Van Bugh, as Burgomaster/Mayor, served as treasurer of City of New Orange/New York City. New Orange was the name that the Dutch then gave to the city in honor of the Dutch House of Orange. That name didn't last long and the British again called the city New York.

In 1676, the British established the position, “The Treasurer of the City.” Pieter Stoutenburg was the first to be appointed to that position. He was succeeded by Willem Bogardus in 1679. So this is probably where the story that he was the first treasurer of New Amsterdam arose.

Since Pieter Stoutenburg was in his early 60’s when he was appointed Treasurer of the City of New York, it hardly makes sense that he was the first treasurer of New Amsterdam let alone the treasurer of the colony.

So what about the rich Pieter Stoutenburg?

Pieter had small burghers rights. The wealthiest residents or people in the highest positions within the Company had great burghers rights. Property taxes were based on ranking of each property as 1st class to 3rd class. Owners of 1st class property paying the most and those whose property is classified at 3rd class paying the least. Pieter’s property on the various tax rolls was classified at 3rd class.
Given the tax records, I am not sure that I would call him rich. However, he certainly was a man of means and standing within the community. He served as orphan master protecting orphan rights, as guardian to his sister-in-law’s orphans, as elder in the church, and other roles.
To me, he sounded like a person who cared about the well-being of children, his community and his civic involvement. Those mean more to me.

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