Jacob Lansing Van Schoonhoven
Jacob Lansing Van Schoonhoven

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880.

JACOB LANSING VAN SCHOONHOVEN was born in the village of Waterford, Saratoga Co., N. Y., Sept. 12, 1807. The founder of the Van Schoonhoven family in this State came from Holland, and was among the first settlers of New York, and members of this family were also among the original proprietors of the soil on the Hudson, above the Mohawk. "Captain Goosen Gerritse Van Schoonhoven had permission, with Philip Pieterse Schuyler, to buy what is now Waterford of the Indians, to prevent those from Connecticut from buying it." This is no doubt the first purchase of Waterford, and the Schoonhoven mentioned is the first of a long succession of that name north of the Mohawk, extending down to the present time.*

It is recorded, Nov. 23, 1669, that Goosen Gerritse Van Schoonhoven sold lands in Half Moon to Philip Pieter Schuyler. Capt. Goosen Gerritse Van Schoonhoven's first wife was Gertie, daughter of Brandt Peelen Van Nieukerke, and his second wife was Annatie Lievens, whom he married July 2, 1637. He had three sons, Gerrit, Anthony, and Sybrant, and also three daughters, Geertruy, Gerritie, and Margaret.

In 1715, Capt. Jacobus Van Schoonhoven commanded a company, as appears by his muster-roll, the original of which is on file in the office of the Secretary of State at Albany, vol. lx. English manuscript, page 48.

Jacobus Van Schoonhoven, grandfather of the subject of this narrative, was born Feb. 29, 1744, and was a man of prominence prior to and following the Revolution. He was colonel of the 12th Regiment New York Militia, commissioned Oct. 20, 1775. In 1785 his name is attached to a bill of sale as justice of the peace. He was the first supervisor of Half Moon, holding that position in 1788, 1789, 1790, while as yet all this territory was a part of Albany County. He was one of the purchasers of the village plat in 1784, and one of the first trustees. He was also a merchant and dealer in produce. He was a member of the Assembly in 1786 and 1791, judge of the court of common pleas in 1791, and State senator from Half Moon from 1795 to 1805. He died in Waterford, leaving two sons, who came to Troy.

Geert Van Schoonhoven was appointed justice of the peace, June 18, 1772, by the provincial government and re-appointed by the State government, 1795, 1797, 1800, 1802, in 1798 being assistant justice of the court of common pleas. He was school commissioner from 1796 to 1799, was State senator in 1815, and judge of the court of common pleas in 1823.

James Van Schoonhoven, father of J. Lansing Van Schoonhoven, was born in 1781, and practiced law in Waterford with the late John Cramer for about twenty-five years. He was supervisor of Waterford in 1817-18, and was one of the judges of the court of common pleas in 1820. He was one of the founders of the first bank established in Troy, "The Farmer's Bank," situated between Troy and Lansingburgh. He removed to Troy about 1820 to accept the position of cashier of this bank, and subsequently became president, which office he held until the closing of the bank. For many years he was one of the managers of the Troy Savings-Bank, and was president of the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad soon after its completion.

In 1806 he married Alida, daughter of Jacob A. Lansing, whose ancestors were early settlers here, and gave name to "Lansingburgh." His wife died in 1824, at the age of thirty-five, and for his second wife he married Elizabeth, daughter of Jacob Lane. He died at Poughkeepsie, at the residence of his daughter, Sept. 9, 1865.

Of his six children, William, his second son, was a prominent lawyer of Troy for many years. He was one of the founders of the present free-school system and a man of brilliant oratorical ability, and represented the city for several terms in both branches of the Legislature. He was a member of the Constitution Convention of 1846, and a strong advocate of the abolition of what was known as the quarter sales in connection with the anti-renters, and was a man of great influence in the old Whig party. He died in 1855 at the age of forty-five.

Jacob Lansing Van Schoonhoven was the eldest son. He received a good education while in early life, and for one year after he became sixteen was a student at Union College.

Desiring to lead a business instead of a professional life, he left college; was for five years a clerk in wholesale drygoods houses in Albany and Troy. In the latter place he was with H. & G. Vail, - the first house of the kind established in the latter city.

Soon after reaching his majority he became a partner, under the firm name of George Vail & Co. After a few years Mr. Vail retired from the business, and Mr. Van Schoonhoven, with Ebenezer Proudfit, continued the wholesale drygoods trade of Troy, and were leading merchants in this part of the State.

Mr. Van Schoonhoven was principal among the organizers of the Central Bank of Troy in 1853. He was president of the same for twenty years, and still remains a director. He was director and largest stockholder of the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad for many years, and is president of the Linen Thread Company of Mechanicville, Saratoga Co., N. Y. He has always been a supporter of the educational and religious institutions of the city; was for many years connected with the Young Men's Association of Troy, and for one year was its president. He was one of a few who built the Second Street Presbyterian church edifice, and has been for many years an elder of that church.

Mr. Van Schoonhoven is a man of sound judgment, of broad and liberal views. He has always avoided the bickerings of politics and refused to accept office, although he has been interested in all questions of local or national import affecting in any way the rights of the people. He was formerly identified with the Whig party; he was a supporter of the Union during the Rebellion, and has since supported the Republican platform.

Mr. Van Schoonhoven has been married three times. His first wife, Harriet M. Event [Yvonnet], was of French extraction, and died Aug. 1, 1842. His second wife, Mary Jane Haight, died Feb. 19, 1858. For his third wife he married Elizabeth Huntington, daughter of Dr. John Chester, who was among the early presidents of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy. His children are Harriet M., James, Jane Elizabeth (deceased), Francis Y., Mary, William H., Elizabeth L. (deceased), Alida L., and Lansing.

* Pete Witze wrote in 2009:
"While I have not been able to confirm it, I believe that N. B. Sylvester was wrong about Capt. Goosen Gerritse Van Schoonhoven as presented at the Rensselaer Co. biographies site. In Sylvester's History of Saratoga County, he states, "The old Van Schaick, or Half-Moon, patent was originally granted to Captain Gorson Gerritse Van Schaick and Philip Pieterson Schuyler." Pearson, Talcott and Reynolds all have the captain as Goosen Gerritse Van Schaick. I have not been able to find the original record from Nov. 23, 1669, which would obviously shed some light on this. However, there is considerable evidence that the children of Goosen Gerritse and Gertie Brandt Peelen took the name of Van Schaick, and not Van Schoonhoven."

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