CONTRIBUTED by DAVID VERNOOY BENNETT
Box 201, Wurtsboro, New York
(Continued from THE RECORD, Vol. XC, p. 102)
"In case the gentlemen would like to get hold of the head, it is buried in Schepmoes’ cellar."
Magdalena Dircks was doing the talking. It was in the Court of the Justice and the Overseers at Kingston in March of 1677, nine years after her bout at law with Jan Jansen of Amersfoort. There was now a jury of seven good men and true to do the fact-finding.
At last the long-standing friendship between the Rosecranses and Henry Pawling was at the end. He had charged Magdalena and her son-in-law, Leendert Cool, with slandering him by referring to him as a "knave" in the course of their gossiping. In so doing, "for the vindication of his reputation," he had failed to reckon with the woman’s faculty for discovering the skeleton in his closet — or cellar — and for using bones, or anything else handy, for a weapon when she was cornered. Here she was, offering to reveal the corpus delicti which he had dissected and disposed of five and a half years since.
The build-up of sides for the final showdown had really begun back in 1668, when bad blood between Henry Pawling and Tjerck De Witt was generated by the former’s championing Mattys Blanchan, De Witt’s inveterate enemy. Blanchan sued three lot owners, Harman Rosecrans for one, to recover damages suffered through the impounding of his oxen; and the lot owners made counterclaims for damage done their gardens by the straying beasts, alleging that Blanchan let them run loose continually. De Witt, the official fence examiner, testified that the lot owners’ fences had been up to the mark, and accordingly the court held Blanchan liable for damages, pound fees and court costs.
Blanchan, a Walloon of "advanced age," publicly denounced the Dutchman De Witt in such slanderous terms that he had to face the bench a week later to answer charges. Far from apologizing, he contended that the term "unjust" nicely fitted the man to whom he had applied it, for De Witt had unjustly confiscated a half anker (5 gallons) of brandy some five years before from Louys Dubois, the Walloon’s son-in-law, and in so doing had victimized the real owner of the liquor, the Walloon himself. Moreover, De Witt had written to Governor Nicolls unjust complaints about Blanchan’s mill. And De Witt’s stamp of approval on the fence of "Harman the Portuguese," as the old Walloon styled Harman Rosecrans, was motivated by hatred of Blanchan, not by a sense of justice.
The Dutchman answered the tirade by blaming the mutual dislike on the Walloon. Hadn’t Blanchan told people his mill wouldn’t grind De Witt’s grain if the Dutchman were starving; Didn’t Blanchan’s son-in-law, Jan Thyssen, sneer at De Witt every time he passed him; Yet he, De Witt, had once extinguished a guardhouse fire that would have spread to Blanchan’s mill, notwithstanding the fact that he had to ship grain all the way to Albany because Blanchan wouldn’t grind it for him.
Court minutes were searched and it was ascertained that De Witt’s seizure of the brandy had been an official act, performed during his term as Schepen, after a charge of smuggling had been lodged against Louys Dubois. The magistrates held that reflections on the personal integrity of De Witt were therefore unwarranted, and they adjudged Blanchan guilty of slander, at the same time expressing a disposition to deal leniently with such an old man. Blanchan, however, would not bow to their verdict; he went on arguing that, even if De Witt had been an agent for the magistracy, he had been exceeding his authority, for he, Blanchan, knew positively that no smuggling charge had been made against his son-in-law. Schepen Chambers, to whom he appealed for verification of this point, said he couldn’t recollect just what had occurred in a matter so long out of mind. No, he didn’t remember Stuyvesant's asking him whether he drank any of the "stolen wine." And Schepen Burhans, to whom Blanchan then turned, said the tally sheets for 1663, when he was excise farmer, had been lost in the burning of the village by the Indians. And, to complete the discomfiture of the old Walloon, Roeloff Swartwout, who had been the Schout at the time of the brandy confiscation, came forward "for the vindication of his honor" and stated that De Witt had been doing his duty as a court officer.
In December i668, two months after Blanchan’s conviction of slander, De Witt filed a petition demanding remedial action in the case. It was more than his private concern, he said, for he had been a public servant when he confiscated liquor and when he inspected fences. The court agreed with him. Dismissing Blanchan’s defense as "frivolous," it sentenced him to confess his guilt, beg forgiveness of God and the magistrates, pay a fine of 600 guilders ($240) in light money (grain or sewan) and be banished from Esopus for a year beginning "as soon as the river is navigable." His notice of appeal to the governor was suppressed with a denial pending compliance with the local court’s sentence, and he was placed under arrest.
At this crucial juncture, Henry Pawling threw his weight upon Blanchan’s side of the scales. Pawling was becoming a person of importance in Esopus, and Francis Lovelace, who was taking over the governorship from Richard Nicolls, or somebody close to Lovelace, was looking with favor on Pawling’s rise. Not only did Pawling save the aged Blanchan from ignominious detention by offering his own body as security for the prisoner’s surrender to the constable on demand, but he also stayed action against Blanchan by serving the court with an order from Lovelace before the ice broke up in the Hudson. In Lovelace’s opinion the trespass by Blanchan’s oxen had not been proved.
In the following September (1669), the old Walloon turned the tables on the Dutchman De Witt. A high commission had been appointed by Governor Lovelace to regulate affairs at Esopus, and Pawling, now Captain Pawling, was a member of the commission. In the course of its proceedings it granted Mattys Blanchan a hearing "to make good his petition against Tjerck De Witt." The outcome was a setting aside of Blanchan’s banishment and a reduction of his fine by two thirds. On the other hand, De Witt was given short shrift on a claim for wages by an Indian he had employed; he was directed to pay in full and pay a heavy fine besides.
Both Pawling and De Witt were close friends of the Rosecranses. The former was so noticeably intimate that in January of 1671 Anna Mattys quoted to Magdalena the opinion of Sarah Roeloffs (daughter of the famous Anneke Jans and mother of Roeloff Kierstede, a local physician) that Magdalena was a whore. Wasn’t it known all over town that "she received the fine clothing she wears of Pawling her lover?" And Anna added that she, too, held the same opinion. For this slander Magdalena brought Anna to book in court. Anna’s excuse, that Magdalena had called her a thief, apparently made the case a stand-off; but there was left in the records an impression of Magdalena as a woman militantly virtuous but fond of finery and personable enough to be suspected, by some other women, of a romantic attachment to a young man.
The grudge between Pawling and De Witt flared up into a fight in September 1671. Pawling’s version, at the investigation of the incident, was that he had gone to cart grain from the Wassemaecker Stuck (Rainmaker Plot, once Stuyvesant’s but now in part reassigned to Pawling, De Witt et al.) and De Witt had shouted at him, "Kill me, as you have done to my pig!" At that Pawling had shouted back, "If you are right, prosecute me according to law!" but De Witt, drawing a knife and approaching, had challenged, "If you are a man, stand firm!" Whereupon he had made a pass which came so close to Pawling’s body that the blade severed his trusses and his breeches dropped about his knees. Pawling’s counter-thrust in self-defense had naturally ensued.
Witnesses substantiated his story, but added a few details. One, unidentified, said De Witt had first asked Pawling to show him the pig Pawling had shot dead the day before; however, Pawling had denied the deed, claiming he hadn’t fired a gun for a year. Also, the witness continued, De Witt had told Pawling he had heard the shooting and he would be revenged on "some Englishman" for the loss. Another witness, Harman Rosecrans, testified that, although he was not so very near at the time, he had heard De Witt cry out, "Kill me, as you did the pig!" Harman was apparently telling as little as possible. But his stepdaughter Marritje, now eighteen years old, added that she too had heard the cry, and also a cry of "Halt, man!" in Pawling’s voice; and she had seen De Witt draw a knife and cut Pawling’s coat, but get a knife stuck into his own ribs instead. Her stepfather, probably wishing to stop her before she said too much, was suddenly reminded to state further that the wounded De Witt had asked him to take him home.
That was it. De Witt, a notoriously irascible Dutchman, had evidently let his grudge mislead him and had met his comeuppance. Even he himself, seriously but not fatally wounded, allowed the record to stand without raising the question as to Pawling’s guilt or innocence in the pig controversy. What, but punishment for slander, would he get if he should accuse Pawling and not be able to prove his accusation; His friends the Rosecranses certainly would not back him. Magdalena assured him, when his wound had healed sufficiently for him to call on her, that his suspicions of Pawling were unjustified, for she knew that Pawling had bought a porker from Evert Pels just before the De Witt porker disappeared.
As it happened, De Witt had hardly left the Rosecrans premises before Magdalena discovered that he was right. Upon going down into her cellar to get bacon, she noticed that the brine in her pork barrel had a reddish hue and ascertained the cause to be the presence of fresh meat — skinned pork. Neighbor Pawling, she concluded, had shot De Witt’s pig after all and, fearing a search of his own house, had carried parts of the carcass over to her house. Off she flew at once to find the culprit. "How could he, an officer of two villages, stoop so low," she asked him. All the answer she got was, "Go away, fool, go away!" But that evening he came to the Rosecrans habitation and removed the unwelcome donation of pork.
Magdalena undoubtedly reported her discovery to her husband. He may or may not have told her that he had known all along that Pawling killed De Witt’s pig — known it from Pawling’s own lips on the very day of the deed. In either case it behooved her to keep her mouth shut about the matter for the time being, for Captain Pawling was a present help in time of trouble and a storm was brewing right then; Harman’s vendetta with Cornelis Wyncoop was coming to a climax.
It had begun in March 1669, when Wyncoop went to law to enforce a contract with Harman and one Jacob Jansen for chopping down trees on the Wyncoop farm at the new village (Hurley). The defendants did not dispute the obligation to fell trees; they disagreed with Wyncoop’s definition of a tree, arguing that the "strivelle" (saplings of a diameter less than that of a man’s leg) were not yet trees. The court’s profound decision is not recorded, but it probably did not favor Harman and his partner, for he spoke slightingly of Wyncoop thereafter. The result was a summons to court in May 1671 for referring to Wyncoop as a rascal and a "dick beesdt" (thick beast).
Heer Isaac Grevenraedt, a New York merchant recently installed in the Kingston schout’s office so that he might keep an eye on river traffic and spot dodgers of the city of New York’s tax on commerce, conducted the prosecution for slander. Dirck Hendricks testified that Harman had spoken of Wyncoop in the alleged terms and had not been provoked by any slanderous words on Wyncoop’s part, Wyncoop having merely said, "I have not yet been banished." Dr. Roeloff Kierstede and Hendrick Albertsen corroborated the testimony. Only Jan Jansen, the man of questionable character who had been Magdalena’s adversary in the stolen linen case, supported Harman’s contention that "thick bear" had been the epithet applied to Wyncoop and that the rejoinder to Wyncoop’s taunt about banishment had been duly qualified, "I hold you for a rascal till you prove it."
"Scandalous words!" cried Schout Grevenraedt. "Insults to an honorable commissary!" It behooved the court, said he, to express its indignation by fining Harman a hundred Rix dollars and compelling him to beg forgiveness with bowed head and to confess humbly that nothing was known "about his (Wyncoop’s) person but what is honorable and virtuous." And, "in the name of his Royal Majesty the Duke of York and the Very Noble Governor Lovelace," the court sentenced Harman to confess that, for all he knew, the said Wyncoop was "honorable" and "laudable" and to pay a fine Of 25 guilders with costs of 22 guilders, I7 stivers.
Harman and Magdalena were desperately staving off the old schout’s attempts to collect this money in the fall of 1671 when their friends Pawling and De Witt were battling each other. The result of the latest attempt was more grist for the court’s mill on January 16th, 1672. Although other business was on the docket, the opening of the session was delayed till Harman and Magdalena appeared with their attorney, Pawling, so grave an affront had Schout Grevenraedt suffered. As soon as the couple were facing the bench, the schout hurled his charges: Harman had called him, the court’s officer, a "buck" and a "rascal" and had threatened bodily harm to him. Such conduct he said, could not be tolerated in a place "where justice is supreme."
Harman answered with an exhibition of conduct even more intolerable. Thundering that he had been given good reason for his actions, he strode fiercely up to Grevenraedt, grasped the handle of the sword which served as a schout’s badge of office, and dared the sword wearer to meet him in a duel outside.
When order was restored, the schout turned his fulminations on the Rosecrans of the weaker sex. Magdalena, he charged, had offered to break his head for him, right in the presence of another official, George Hall.
"Nonsense," scoffed the lady; she had passed some remark about heads, but it was merely that she had "been standing in the presence of grayer heads," and it was made only after this particular grayhead had cast the slur that he "could show what kind of woman she was by documents in his house."
Her alert attorney, Pawling, took the cue. A schout, he said, "had no business to tax her with the same, because she had served her sentence." And, to dramatize his contempt for Grevenraedt, he mockingly drew the old Schout’s sword for him and asked him what his orders were. Justice Chambers adjourned the disrupted proceedings.
Captain Pawling had pressing duties as "Officer for Redress of Indian Injuries" at that time. Minisink emissaries had been reported to be in the Wawarsing area plotting with the remnant of the Esopus tribe. The captain must have taken Harman along on his mission, for in that same month, January 1672, Harman and young Hendrick Beeckman, the former schout’s son, made a joint purchase from four Esopus sachems of a tract of land at Mombaccus (Accord, in Rochester township), which was on the Minisink trail running up the Rondout Valley. The tract was called "Easineh" (Stony Place) by the Indians. It embraced the Pieter Kill, a tributary of the Rondout Kill, and had possibilities as a mill site. The acquisition of it was probably the first bite into territory beyond Marbletown in the advance of settlers up the Rondout Valley.
Upon Harman’s return to Kingston, he found out that Justice Chambers had put teeth in the judgment against him by issuing a writ of execution and attaching a penalty of sixty guilders for violations. Harman betook himself to court to protest that he had tendered payment of the original amount to the schout and the schout had refused to accept it. How so; why, he had offered to return to Grevenraedt stuff worth that much bought at Grevenraedt’s store. This artful dodge the Justice would not countenance; he ruled that the judgment must be satisfied with legal tender. The best he could do, said he, was to cut the penalty down to half.
Months later, however, the schout was still waiting for the money. Possibly the case was being referred to Governor Lovelace, for his records reveal a report to him by a confidential agent that Rosecrans and Pawling had been making a "show" of the Kingston schout. If so, Lovelace was preoccupied with affairs of much greater importance: resumption of the war between England and Holland was in the wind, and arrangements for the defense of New York had to be made. Harman’s name appears on the list of July 19th, 1672 as a subscriber of six schepels of wheat to the governor’s fund for repair of fortifications.
Schout Grevenraedt’s insinuations about Magdalena’s past were naturally echoed by mean people. Jan Pietersen, a fellow arrested at various times for such offenses as beating his wife, drawing a knife during a quarrel, and singing ribald songs on the Sabbath, added injury to insult when he met Magdalena out riding with her six-year-old daughter Annatje. She was goaded into action at his hectoring and expressed her resentment by throwing something at him. Summoned to court for slander and assault, Pietersen admitted he had said, "If I am a rascal, you are a whore," but not till she had called him a rascal; and that he had "kicked her under her behind," but not till after she "flew in his face." But Gommerdt Paulesen, who had been crossing the dam where Magdalena was standing beside her carriage at the time of the incident, testified that he had heard Pietersen ask her, "Why does not your daughter ride along?" The little daughter interrupted the witness with a correction: Pietersen’s question had been, "You also have daughters, why don’t they also drive about?" Anyhow, the witness went on, Pietersen had said to Magdalena, "I haven’t been sent away with a ticket," and it had been after this remark that Magdalena threw something at Pietersen. The magistrates fined Pietersen six schepels of wheat "because he has behaved disorderly on the public street."
Corporal Rosecrans was undoubtedly among the hundred and fifty militiamen ordered to New York from outlying posts in the spring of 1673 when a Dutch fleet was rumored to be sailing northward from the West Indies, and ordered back to their posts when Governor Lovelace decided that the rumor was just "one of Manning’s ‘larrums" (Manning was the Fort James commandant). The Kingston men had hardly reached home before a new rumor was circulated: twenty-one Dutch ships had entered New York harbor. Evert Pels, dispatched to New York in his yacht by the magistrates for a look around, found that the rumor was an understatement of fact: the Dutch had captured Fort James and New York was Nieuw Nederlandt again.
It is certain that Magdalena got down the river to New Orange, as New York City was renamed, to exult over the change of rule, for her tenth child, Dirck, named for her father, was baptized there in April 1674 under the sponsorship of her brother Volckert Dircksen, an official of the new Dutch regime, and her sister Annatje Dircks. Harman availed himself of the Dutch ascendancy at Swanenburg, Kingston’s new name, to request reimbursement by the court for expenses he had incurred in attending an English Court of Sessions, citing his success in recovering 24 of the 82 guilders from the New Dorp authorities. In another appearance before the Swanenburg court, he was aiding an Englishman by offering his person as security for the presence of one David Bishop when required at a later date.
The Rosecranses registered their resentment over the Dutch abandonment of the New Netherland territory in the Westminster treaty with the English in 1674. Willem Montagne, who was collecting money due the departed Dutch Lord Governor Colve, complained in January 1675 that "when he came to remind her (Magdalena) of the debt contracted at the vendue for the Lord Governor Colve on account of a cow she had bought, she hit him with her fist on his chest and said she did not intend to pay." Harman backed her up in court, saying he wouldn’t put up the money. But he added, with a discretion born of experience, "until further orders"; and justice Chambers, once more in the saddle, promptly furnished the further orders, with court costs tacked on.
Yet, hardly four months afterwards, Harman laid himself open to another of the reversals so likely in legal controversy by accusing his neighbor, Jacob Govertsen, of defamation of character. The "difficulty," Harman explained, had stemmed from a quarrel between Govertsen and another neighbor, Jan Lootman, over a load of manure which he, Harman, had carted from Hendrick Schoonmaker’s place and which he had promised to Lootman. While digging in his garden, he heard an exchange of angry talk, from which he learned that the manure was already spread over Govertsen’s land. Then the wives of the rival claimants joined them: "I shall have the manure removed from Harman Hendrix’s, he has given it to me," said Jannetje Hillebrants, Lootman’s vrouwtje; "I have spread it all over the garden," returned Gertruy Jansens, the Govertsen helpmate.
Feeling called upon to intervene, Harman went to the scene and asked Govertsen’s wife why she had taken somebody else’s property, and then gave her to understand that she would have to gather the manure together again and put it back where it had come from. The woman, laughing scornfully at the idea of her doing any such thing, provoked him into threatening "If I were near you, I’d kick your behind." Thereupon, her husband called out, "What does that whoremonger say there?" So, he, Harman, ran up to the husband, seized him by the shoulder and let him know that he, the "old rascal," would have to prove that Harman Hendrix was that kind of a man. While the scuffling was going on, Govertsen’s wife closed in and "beat a hole in his (Harman’s) head" with a stick of wood.
Harman’s woeful tale resulted in a summons of the two couples to the next session. After hearing the Govertsen rendition, which must be inferred from the court’s decision, Sheriff George Hall proposed a fine Of 300 guilders for each party for abuse of the other. Justice Chambers delivered a dissertation upon the beauty of neighborliness and pointed it with penalties. The unneighborliness in this case had been about evenly divided, but still Harman had been "the originator of the quarrel, he coming on Jacob Govert’s lot with a stick and beating him on his own ground, which is an affair of evil consequences." Therefore, Harman was fined one hundred guilders and Govertsen’s wife twenty guilders. The manure was evidently left lying where she had flung it.
But Harman was forging ahead in spite of such setbacks. In July 1676, he was able to add to his landholdings "a certain small island" in the Great (Esopus) Kill which had formerly been "possessed by Juffer De Laet" and was now Suveryn Ten Houdt’s. It was probably the same island that Harman had asked the court to confirm to him in February 1667, claiming that Stuyvesant had granted it to him and producing two witnesses — one of them Stuyvesant’s bouwmeester, Juriaen Westphal — but the court had set aside the petition, holding that Stuyvesant, then on a mission to Holland, would be available sooner or later to give the answer. Stuyvesant returned to this country and lived till just before the recapture of New York by the Dutch in 1673; it is not likely that Harman neglected to appeal to him or that the appeal did any good. Harman paid Ten Houdt four hundred cans of merchantable rum for the island, "the whole to be delivered free at Kingston in the later part of November," and in due course Ten Houdt signed a quitclaim, "having been satisfied for the same from the first to the last penny." Then, Harman, as an owner of land on the far side of the Great Kill, became a party to the agreement for construction of a high bridge over the stream, with the cost shared proportionately to acreage served, allowances made for labor furnished, and fines levied for failure to close the bridge gate.
Meanwhile, Harman, familiar with the practice that gave rise to the term "Indian-giving," was carefully renewing each year, at some cost of presents to sachems, his Indian title to the land at Mombaccus, fifteen miles up the Rondout Kill, which he and young Beeckman had bought in January 1672. A tract of "an island in Rondout river, containing 73 acres, commonly called by the Indians ‘Assincke Island,’" and an adjoining tract containing 16-1/2 acres were "laid out for Henry Bateman [Beeckman] and Herman Hendricks by Ro: Ryder, surveyor," under date of December 28th, 1676, according to the Calendar of New York State Land Papers. It was probably his share of this tract that Harman had rented out in December of 1672, for a two-year period at two hundred schepels of wheat for the first year and 223 for the second, to Jacob Jansen (Stoutenburg), his partner in the Wyncoop tree-chopping three winters before. Land bordering upon Harman’s newly surveyed "Assincke" (Easineh) tract was purchased in March of 1677 by Leendert Cool, who had been married in 1672 to Harman’s stepdaughter Marritje. The family group was beginning to turn toward this area on the frontier.
If Magdalena had been capable of keeping to herself indefinitely all that she knew about such an inviting subject of gossip as the murder of De Witt’s pig in September 1671, she would not have been the Magdalena that the records have led us to envisage. Her son-in-law Leendert Cool had been Pawling’s hired man at the time of the foul deed, and sooner or later she compared notes with him. In the course of gossip over the years, the two let some tattler hear their opinion of Captain Pawling. The captain, more sensitive to aspersions since his marriage a half year since to a daughter of the spitfire Roosa, set the law in motion in March 1677, charging Magdalena and Leendert with slander.
At first, Magdalena sought to excuse her allusions to Pawling as a "knave" by claiming that he had spoken of her as a "thief" and had "caused discord between herself and her husband." When he denied that he had ever in his life been guilty of defamation of her character, she submitted declarations by two persons that they had overheard him saying to her, "You lie, you and your husband or your son have stolen it."
The court, now Anglicized to the degree of having a fact-finding jury to assist the Justice and Overseers, was not minded to let insult offset insult and to dismiss the complaint; the declarations had not mentioned what the stolen "it" was. The prying magistrates wanted to know the underlying factors, and they plied questions till Magdalena cried out that no credence was ever given to testimony on her side but anything to the contrary was accepted as gospel truth. Well, so be it! She went on. Henry Pawling was a pig stealer. And she "agreed to prove it."
Her first witness was Robert Bickerstaff, constable of Marbletown. He related how Pawling had come to his house and told of shooting a "hespan" (the Indian name for a raccoon) and had asked him to go along with Leendert Cool to bring in the dead animal. The constable remembered saying to Cool, after one look at the carcass covered with brushwood, "If this is a hespan, then the devil may fetch Pawling." And he had not forgotten his reluctance to help Cool load the carcass upon the cart for transportation to Pawling’s gate: under the Duke’s Laws, an accessory to a theft might get his ears cropped. Pawling entered a denial that he had sent Cool to fetch the carcass, but Cool contradicted him, arguing that, "whereas he was in Pawling’s employ, the same forced him to fetch the same."
Then old Tjerck De Witt took the stand and placed on record his conversation with Magdalena in which, just after his knife duel with Pawling, she had disputed his belief that Pawling was the killer of his pig. Next, Harman Rosecrans testified that Pawling had admitted the pig killing to him on the very day of its occurrence; and that the fight between Pawling and De Witt on the following day had grown out of a quarrel begun with De Witt’s demand, "Where is my sow you have shot; Here is the place where it has lain." Finally, Magdalena contributed an account of her foiling of Pawling’s scheme to rid himself of the corpus delicti, concluding with the dramatic invitation to the gentlemen of the jury to visit the cellar of Schepmoes’ house, formerly Pawling’s, and inspect the sow’s bones.
Supervised by Magdalena and vrouwtje Schepmoes, court officers dug into the designated cellar bottom and unearthed several small bones identified as the head bones of a pig. Vrouwtje Schepmoes, conducted to court, reported that other such bones had worked to the surface at the spot from which these were disinterred. Captain Pawling took exception to the admission of the evidence on the grounds that Magdalena and her son-in-law had become accessories after the fact by failing for so long a time to notify authorities. Sheriff Hall adopted Pawling’s line of reasoning and proposed severe punishment of Magdalena and Leendert, whom he had now taken into custody by order of justice Chambers, "because," said the Sheriff, "they tax Pawling with having shot a pig on the wassemaecker’s land and Cool has fetched the same to the house."
The decision of the court was not quite so one-sided, although its logic is hardly a pattern for modern jurists. It was: "The same has been hidden a long time, but if the same had been revealed in time it would have been more criminal, but now it is an affair of hatred and envy, because Maddalena Dircks has declared to Tjerck Claessen (De Witt) that Pawling was not guilty in the case. Therefore, it is ordered that Henry Pawling and Maddalena Dircks shall each pay 200 guilders and Leendert Cool 100 guilders in behalf of our sovereign the King."
To old Tjerck De Witt at least, maugre the crocodile tears he may have shed for his friends the Rosecranses, the outcome of the case must have been gratifying. Little did the old mortal know that thirty years later his grandson and namesake, Captain Tjerck De Witt, would be leading to the altar Anna Pawling, a daughter of Colonel Henry Pawling and one of the heirs to the 10,000-acre Pawling’s Purchase and the 4,000-acre grant to Pawling’s widow.
After the disastrous conflict with their old friend Pawling, Harman and Magdalena Rosecrans did not figure as principals in any litigation of consequence. The saving in fines and costs undoubtedly played a part in the improvement of their financial status, of which traces appear in the records. Also, some legacy may have been received from the estate of Magdalena’s father, who died in 1675 or 1676: the name of Dirck Volckertsen is carried on the Boswyck (Bushwick) assessment-roll of August 18th, 1675, as owner of one of the larger farms in the "five Dutch towns of Long Island," but not on the roll of September 23rd, 1676. Anyhow, Harman was among the buyers at the auction in January 1678 of chattels of his deceased adversary Cornelis Wyncoop, making the high bids of 13 guilders for a table and twenty guilders, 13 stivers for a sow. He bought from Harmon Hekam "the savage" in March 1679 his "land, house, lot, stack and barn" at Marbletown, together with the "sowing of 11-1/2 schepels of wheat and 3 schepels of rye," the whole for 600 schepels of wheat or the equivalent, payable in four annual installments.
A glimpse at Harman’s timber-cutting business is afforded by an item in an inventory made in February 1680 in connection with the transfer of ownership of an uncompleted house from Thomas De Laval to Hendrick Ten Eyck, brother-in-law of Wessel Tenbroeck (original owner of the State House at Kingston). "To the contract of Harmon Hendrix, 24 guilders; Harmon is obliged to cut and cart 5 beams, 3 woempties, 16 inches thick, 10 inches wide and 24 feet long." Associated with Harman Hendrix, "to cart the wood and stone necessary for making the cellar," was Jochem Hendrix, the eldest son of Hendrick Jochemsen Schoonmaker, another sometime adversary. And a ray of light on Harman’s farming operations is cast by a court action brought against him in January i681 by a hired hand, Evert Price, a former English soldier, to collect for a day’s plowing, with Harman counter-claiming for bread baked and property damaged.
In the winter of 1683-1684, Magdalena did indulge in one more notable appearance in the Kingston court, though only as a witness for her old friend Aeltje Claes (Van Sleghtenhorst), for whom she had obstructed justice twenty years before while Swartwout was schout. Aeltje was again in desperate straits in a struggle with the magistracy. The hateful minions of the law had just thrown out her suits against Thomas Harmensen and Jan Keller for damages suffered because the one had not begun work as per agreement and the other had quit work contrary to agreement; the one claimed that materials had not been furnished and the other that he had been discharged. Her present suit was for the recovery of six schepels of wheat which, as she alleged, had been promised to her for surrendering a gun to Constable Fisher.
According to her story, a deputy constable named Ward had called at her home two or three times and demanded a gun which she had refused to give up, since Ward could not produce a court order. Then, one day as she was passing Constable Fisher’s door, the constable himself had haled her, saying, "Here is a warrant," and she had delivered the gun to him, but only after obtaining his promise of compensation for damages to her garden by the Indian to whom the gun belonged. And now, said she, the constable has twice accused her of unlawfully withholding the gun from the savage, and her answer was that such a falsifier as Fisher was not fit to sit on the King’s bench.
The constable admitted the truth of her story except for any promise of compensation; a warrant had finally been issued and was used to get possession of the gun, he said. So, the Court ruled that Aeltje had failed to prove her case and was therefore liable for costs. That wasn’t all. For having accused the constable of being "not worthy to occupy the bench," she would have to "give security to enter suit against the Constable."
Flying into a rage, the old woman promptly added Overseer De Meyer to her category of unfit officials, and she cited three particulars in which he had erred during the proceedings. Firstly, when the constable, being a party to the case, had been about to stand aside, De Meyer said, "Sit down, Fisher!" and, his command having gone unheeded, he repeated it, "I say, sit down!" and, still not obeyed, he commanded for a third time, "I tell you to sit down!" causing Fisher to take a place on the bench improperly, since an interested party had no right to be a judge. Secondly, De Meyer, while acting as a judge, rose and stated, "I have myself said that you have taken the savage’s gun," obliging her in sorrow to tell a judge, "You lie." Thirdly, De Meyer "falsely lied" again when he said, "The bed of carrots is not bigger than a bedstead," for as a matter of fact the carrot bed was a thirty-footer.
Aeltje then opened fire on Overseer De Meyer’s associates on the bench — justice Chambers and Overseers De Witt, Tenbroeck and Whittaker — giving them to understand that she "did not esteem any of them." It was beyond comprehension, said she, that judges could be so blind that they could not see that she wouldn’t have surrendered the gun unless the constable had promised her compensation. To the question, "Are you willing to swear to that?" gotten in edgeways by Tenbroeck, she replied that she wouldn’t swear how much had been promised her, but she could swear that it had been enough to cover damages to her garden, payable before the gun was turned over to anybody but herself.
Harking back to her unsuccessful suit against the workmen, Aeltje blasted the whole body of magistrates for its judgment in that case and ended up by singling out De Meyer. "Aeltje Sleghtenhorst," the court minutes report, "says that if she had the power she would tear the heart out of Meyer’s body and cut it in four pieces and throw in every corner of the world one piece as an example for other judges, so that they shall pay more regard to their oath than does this Meyer."
Overseer De Meyer naturally entered fresh charges and the court ordered Aeltje held in bail of twenty pounds sterling for trial at a later date. The trial did not take place for three months. During that interval Aeltje’s husband died and the court blocked her efforts to collect 47 guilders owed him by Moses Du Puy, ruling that letters of administration must be presented before it could act.
Aeltje’s first move, when the case came up, was to protest the bail bond on the grounds that Constable Fisher had coerced her into signing it; and she had the respected Hendrick Ten Eyck there to bear witness that she had objected to signing but Fisher had been drunk and dangerous. (Fisher was the English soldier who murdered a Dutchman in 1667 but was acquitted by order of Governor Nicolls.) Harman Rosecrans testified in corroboration that he had heard Ten Eyck say to Fisher at the time, "You drunken fool, you always come when you are full." Nevertheless, the court decided that its constable had not been proved unfit for duty and he had properly executed its decree.
So, making her last stand, Aeltje called upon Magdalena Rosecrans to establish her right to the Indian’s gun. Magdalena’s testimony, as recorded, was that: "Aeltje Sleghtenhorst met her on the road and complained that her garden had been so badly ruined by somebody but she knew not by whom. Thereupon, she [Magdalena] entered her [own?] garden and found a drunken savage sitting in a tub with clothes and busy throwing the linen about. Magdalena asked him what he was doing there. He said he was looking for a shirt that he had lost. She asked him, the savage, by which way he had entered. He said, through Beeckman’s garden. She fetched the savage — broght syde wilt. Aeltje Sleghtenhorst said, ‘Could the savage have opened the garden?’ They entered the garden with the savage. The savage admitted he had opened the garden on account whereof the damage had been done — waer de schaedenoor was gekoomen. Said Aeltje Sleghtenhorst, she wanted to be indemnified for the damage, which was interpreted by Madalena Dirx. The savage asked how much damages she wanted. She answered, ‘six schepels of wheat.’ Then the savage said, ‘it is too much.’ And the savage said, ‘keep my gun till I have finished my work and when I shall have finished my work I shall pay you damages.’ And she was not to give the gun to anybody."
The testimony shows that Magdalena spoke the Indian’s language well enough to make herself understood — with her French mother, Norwegian father, and English friends, she must have had a smattering of at least three more languages for use when the prevailing Dutch tongue was not understood — but the testimony did not alter the court’s opinion that Aeltje had been guilty of pretending damage to her garden and falsely claiming the Indian’s gun. For so doing, a fine of twenty guilders was imposed. That minor issue thus decided, the question of Aeltje’s strictures on the magistracy recurred; and the result as recorded by the secretary (with the vagarious spelling corrected) was as follows: "Whereas the plaintiff hath charged the constable and overseers of the court of Kingston that they would not do her right in an action of 7 guilders, and by balance of the account the defendant (in that action) doth appear to be no more but 3 guilders 4 stivers indebted, which debt the constable promised to be paid immediately as by evidence doth appear, therefore we find for the defendants and that the plaintiff shall pay to the defendants the sum of 30 guilders for wrongfully accusing of the court. The court approves the verdict of the jury, the plaintiff to pay all the charges."
On July 16th, 1684, Harman Hendrix Rosecrans, "husbandman of Kingston in the county of Ulster," gave a mortgage on his house and lot there to John De Laval, a merchant of New York, to assure payment to him of 100-1/2 schepels of winter wheat before the last of the next January, Indian corn to be acceptable at 3 guilders per schepel in lieu of half the wheat. The item is significant not only of Harman’s trading activities but also his gravitation toward his Mombaccus (Rochester township) property. His eight living children, ranging from twenty-five to ten years in age, were a great capital asset on a frontier farm with its self-sustaining economy, Dame Nature supplying free of charge all the education deemed necessary. His married stepdaughter lived on adjoining land. Other neighbors were making Mombaccus a community. In fact, the tide of settlement was flowing even farther up the Rondout Valley. In January 1683, a group of nine Kingston men — Wessel Tenbroeck, Henry Beeckman, Dirck Schepmoes, Jacob Rutgers, Jacob Aertsen (Van Wagenen), Jan Joosten, Thomas Garton, William De Meyer and Nicholas De Meyer — took the first step toward establishing a community at "Wawaresinck" by filing a petition for a grant of the land there.
Rumblings of the demand for representation of the people were beginning to be heard in the land. By decree of October 17th, 1683, Governor Dongan created a General Assembly for the Province of New York. In due course the Sheriff of Ulster County, Lieutenant George Hall, transmitted to the several towns thereof — Kingston, Fox Hall, Hurley, Marbletown, and New Paltz — the Governor’s instructions for the selection of four men from each town to meet at Kingston in November to choose two delegates to the Assembly, which was to meet in New York. This Assembly was purely an advisory body in the appointment of Overseers for the town courts. The General Court had the final say, and the members of the Court were all appointed by the Governor. So were the County’s Justices of the Peace.
A group of freeholders, Harman Rosecrans among them, petitioned the Governor on January 26th, 1685, for the right "to choice our owne officers to every towne court by the major vote of the freeholders," so that the petty cases might be decided in the local court, inasmuch as small farmers were involved and costs of higher courts were too burdensome for such persons. The petition was considered to be an affront to his Majesty’s government, and the signers were summoned to a Court of Oyer and Terminer sitting in Kingston in June 1686 to stand trial for "tumultuously and seditiously endeavoring and wholly intending" to subvert and destroy the laws, customs, and usages of the province by sealing and bringing in proposals contrary to the peace of their lord the King. All of the culprits except the principal one, Justice Chambers, pleaded guilty and paid fines of from 2 to 5 pounds, with costs of 4 pounds and 4 shillings each. The stiff-necked old justice stood upon "his county" and faced a jury, but he was convicted and sentenced to pay fifty pounds. Governor Dongan, having scored his point, found it politic to make amends to the county’s leading English citizen by granting him, three months later, a patent on three hundred more acres of the county and creating Foxhall Manor for him.
"Herman Henderiexson" was still carried on the roll of active militia for 1686-1687, among the foot soldiers of Captain Thomas Person’s Company. His eldest son, "Alexander Roosenkrans," was now serving in Lieutenant Wessel Tenbroeck’s Company of mounted men. And both the old "Harrama Hendricks" and the young "Sander Roosenkranc" were included in the list of adult males who — jubilantly no doubt — took the oath of allegiance on September 1st, 1689, to the new King and Queen of England, the Dutch William of Orange and the English Mary Stuart. James II, the former Duke of York who had ruled New York, had been ousted.
Magdalena Dircks lost her sturdy husband on, or not long after, June 25th, 1692, when "sick in body" he made his will; Doctor Roeloff Kierstede and son-in-law Humphrey Davenport witnessed his signature. Harman bequeathed his entire estate to his "well-beloved wife Maddaleen," stipulating that half of it must be divided among their children if she should marry again. His stepdaughter, Mary Cornelisz (Cool), might be considered one of their children. His eldest son, Alexander, was to have fifty schepels of wheat added to his share.
The durable Magdalena survived him by thirty-three years or more. In 1697, she and her son Alexander as executors deeded a plot of Mombaccus land to Moses Du Puy, Alexander’s future father-in-law. In 1699, she filed a petition for confirmation of land grants made to her deceased husband during his lifetime. In a year unspecified but apparently later than I703, she and Marinus Van Aken applied for a warrant of survey for a piece of land on the south side of Rondout Kill in Rochester township. In I703, she made her seventh and last recorded appearance as witness at a Kingston Church baptism, that of her daughter Christina Kortright’s first child. But she must have been still alive in January I726, when her unmarried daughter Sara, making her will, devised her property to her "dear mother Magdalena Rosenkrans" as tenant for life.
Now, to garnish the factual with a sprig of family tradition, let me record a conversation I had a few years ago with a Rosecrans who was custodian of Sam’s Point, a peak near Ellenville, New York. I ventured a "guess" that his family had lived in that locality "from way back," and he nodded that I was right. "As far back as when Sam jumped from the cliff to escape from the Indians?" I asked. "Yes," the man replied, "they say that the first Mrs. Rosecrans, when she was very old, had a big bunch on her neck and, knowing how Indians dreaded physical deformities, she used to rush out at any Indians prowling about the place and shoo them away by pulling out the bunch." That sounded like the Magdalena of the records, ancestress of a host of America’s fighting men, including Colonel John Rosenkrans of Revolutionary War fame and William S. Rosecrans, a famous Civil War general.
Here follows a brief outline of the early generations of the Vigne Family to which Magdalena Dircks belonged.
Guleyn(1) Vigne died in 1632. He married, as her first husband, Ariaentje Cuvilje who died in 1655. Both were Walloons from Valenciennes, France, and their family was one of the first to be established in New Netherland. Ariaentje married (2nd), Jan Jansen Damen of Bunick who died in 1651. She and Guleyn had four children:
i. Maria(2) married (1st), Jan Roos of Haarlem and (2nd), Abraham Isaacsen Verplanck of Edam. She had ten children, one by her first husband and nine by the second:
(a) Gerrit Jansen(3) Roos born — ; married (1st), Aeltje Lamberts and (2nd), Tryntje Arents in 1659.
(b) Abigail(3) Verplanck born — ; married Adriaen Van Laer.
(c) Guleyn(3) Verplanck born in 1637; married Hendrickje Wessels in 1668.
(d) Catalyna(3) Verplanck born — ; married David Pictersen Schuyler in 1657.
(e) Isaac(3) Verplanck born in 1641; died young.
(f) Susanna(3) Verplanck born in 1642; married Marten Van Waert in 1660.
(g) Jacomyntje(3) Verplanck born in 1644; died young.
(h) Ariaentje(3) Verplanck born in 1646; married Melgert Wynantsen Van der Poel in 1660.
(i) Hillegond(3) Verplanck born in 1648; married David Ackerman.
(j) Isaac(3) Verplanck born in 1651; married Abigel Uyten Bogaardt.
ii. Christina(2) married Dirck Volckertsen the Norwegian and had seven children who took the name of Dircksen:
(a) Sara(3) Dircksen born —
(b) Grietje(3) Dircksen born — ; married (1st) Jan Harmensen Schut from Lubeck in 1649; (2nd) Jan Nagelfrom Limburg in 1652; and (3rd), Barent Gerritsen from Swol in 1658.
(c) Magdalena(3) Dircksen born —; married (1st) Cornelis Hendricksen from Dort, in 1652, and (2nd) Harmen Hendricksen Rosecrans from Bergen in 1657.
(d) Rachel(3) Dircksen born — ; married Jan Escuyer from Paris in 1663.
(e) Volckert(3) Dircksen born in 1643; married Annetje Phillips.
(f) Ariaentje(3) Dircksen born in 1650.
(g) Jannetje(3) Dircksen born in 1653.
iii. Jan(2) born in 1614; married Emmentje Goosens Van der Sluys and died in 1689. They had no children.
iv. Rachel(2) born — ; died in 1663. She married Cornelis Van Tienhoven of Utrecht (who died in 1658) and had the following children:
(a) Lucas(3) Van Tienhoven born in 1649; married Tryntje Bordings.
(b) Cornelis(3) Van Tienhoven born in 1653; died young.
(c) Johannes(3) Van Tienhoven born in 1655.
(d) Jannetje(3) Van Tienhoven born in 1657.
The material in the preceding articles has been based largely on the translated but unpublished hand-written Court minutes of Esopus, Wiltwyck, and Swanenburg on file in the Office of the Ulster County Clerk in Kingston, New York. In addition, the following standard references were used:
Anjou, Gustave. Ulster County, New York, Probate Records, 2 vols.
Fernow, Berthold. Calendar of Wills on File and Recorded in the Offices of the Court of Appeals of the County Clerk at Albany and of the Secretary of State, 1626-1836; Documents relating to the History and Settlements of the Towns along the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers; Documents relating to the History of the Dutch and Swedish Settlements on the Delaware River; The Minutes of the Orphanmasters of New Amsterdam, 1655 to 1663, 2 vols.; The Records of New Amsterdam from 1653 to 1674, 7 vols.
Hastings, Hugh. Ecclesiastical Records of the State of New York, 7 vols. Hoes, Roswell, R., Baptismal and Marriage Registers of the Old Dutch Church at Kingston, Ulster County, New York.
O’Callaghan, E. B. Calendar of Historical Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, New York, 1630-1776, 2 vols.; The Documentary History of the State of New York, 4 vols.; Documents relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, 11 vols.
Van Laer, Arnold J. F. Court Minutes of Albany, Rensselaerwyck, and Schenectady, 1668-1685, 3 vols.; Court Minutes of Fort Orange and Beverwyck, 1652-1660, 2 vols.
Abstracts of Wills on File in the Surrogate’s Office, City of New York, 1665-1800. New-York Historical Society Collections, I7 vols.
Baptisms of the Reformed Dutch Church of New York, 1639-1800. New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Collections, 2 vols.
Calendar of New York Colonial Manuscripts indorsed Land Papers, 1643-1803.
This page was last updated on
February 26, 2007
Copyright © 1997 - 2002 by James P. Rosenkrans, IV. All rights reserved.