One of the Oldest Houses in New York

This image is from Wikipedia page, see source below.

For my last research post of this year, I though I would share this interesting bit of New York state history that I found in my online travels.

As I have hit a pretty sturdy brick wall researching Gertrude Cain’s Irish ancestry, I have moved on to trying to flesh out Gert’s non-Irish side. And over time I have found some pretty interesting history I have been able to share in this regard. So here is another interesting story, it’s about Jan Van Loon (pronounced ‘van loan’) and his house. I plan on telling you more about Jan himself next year, for now we will stick with his house.

Jan Van Loon arrived in New York in 1675. He was a blacksmith who spoke French, and was Catholic. In 1685 he purchased a very large tract of land consisting of thousands of acres, (this property now encompasses Athens and parts of Catskill and Coxsackie). In 1688, as the earliest European settler in the area, Jan decided to name the settlement he started Looneburgh. Or, later settlers named the property in his honor. The story is told both ways. The patent is still known by that name.

Apparently, when Jan built his house for his family in 1706, he built it to last.* According to wikipedia it is now known as one of the oldest extant buildings still standing in the state of New York. Although, if you do a search of a list of the oldest buildings in New York it is about 31 down from the top. But still, that is pretty darned old. The house is located in Athens, the exact address is 39 South Washington Street, on what is also New York State Rt. 385.

In 1932  an historic marker was placed outside the house, as you can see in the image above, which reads:

JAN VAN LOON HOUSE BUILT 1706 BY JAN VAN LOON CHIEF HOLDER LOONEBURGH PAT. 1688. ATHENS VILLAGE FIRST CALLED LOONEBURGH

New York State Education Department

Jan’s place on the family tree is Gert’s 5th great grandfather, on her mother’s side. Gert actually descends from Jan twice, as her great-great grand mother Lena/Helena Van Loon is the daughter of Van Loon cousins.


*Although, technically, only one wall of the original 1706 structure remains unchanged.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Van_Loon_House

An August Wedding…

I recently found this wonderful newspaper article about my great grandparents wedding day on August 28, 1897. It would have been even better if they had provided a picture, but no such luck. And as my great grandfather was a railroad station agent and postmaster, the venue was quite appropriate to the occasion.

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Victor Hugo John and Gertrude Cain.

wedding

Now that sounds like a very fun wedding.

Jeremiah and Hannah Smith pioneers…

For the most part, when you are researching your ancestors, you don’t very often find much information about their personality or character. Sometimes it can be sussed out from certain types of court or probate records, or land deeds that have special dispensations, or if you are lucky a historical biography is found for them.

In the case of my Michigan Smiths it was a couple of newspaper articles in the paper that shined a sliver of light on their lives. The church history in the article below doesn’t actually say much about Jeremiah or Hannah Smith’s personality per se, but it does tell me about certain aspects of their lives that I would otherwise have to guess at, for example – their faith was important to them.

Jeremiah was born in 1790 in the state of New York. He was the descendant of German ‘Schmidt’ ancestors who emigrated to America in 1709 and Palantine Germans. The family was never well to do, so Jeremiah and his wife Hannah (Houghtaling) had to work hard to feed and cloth their family. At one time Jeremiah, unable to pay his bills, spent a few months in debtors prison when the family was living in Cayuga County, New York. Possibly in an attempt to avoid their debts, or just to try to make a better life for themselves, the Smiths packed up their trunks and headed to Michigan in the early 1840s. Their eldest son, Michael, had moved out there a year of so earlier.

The family seemed to be able to make a better go of it in their new home in Berrien County, Michigan. By 1844 they were meeting in a small log school about one mile west of Coloma, with other pioneers from the area, as the Mount Hope Methodist Society. Both Jeremiah and Hannah are mentioned as members of this first meeting in local historical records.

newspaper_smithjeremiah_MIhistchurch

In the article below we find a fun little tidbit out about Jeremiah – when the local school in the 1990s celebrated Pioneer Day, Jeremiah Smith appeared as a trapper and teller of ‘tall tales’. Just those two words bring to mind all kinds of images and possibilities to the kind of life the family might have had.

newspaper_smithjerimiah.png

Maybe a descendant, still living in the area, has passed this story of our grandfather down to each successive generation, or an old-timer remembered his grandfather talking about old man Smith and his crazy stories. I so would have loved to have been able to hear those tall tales.

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Gertrude Cain John, sitting on the far right, Jeremiah and Hannah Smith’s great grand-daughter, at a deer hunting camp up in northern Wisconsin. She must have had some of that trapper blood.

I am always excited to find articles like these as they help to better visualize Jeremiah and Hannah’s, (and other ancestor’s) lives. They become more than just names on a page with birth and death dates. Something that is easy to forget in the data gathering of ancestors to ones family tree.