Franklin B. Van Valkenburgh


SUNDAY JAN. 16, 1898

My Dear Children:

I have often regretted that I had not, in my youthful days learned more than I ever did in regard to the lives of my ancestors, and especially in regard to the lives of my own parents, and so, imagining that the time might come when it will be a pleasure to some of you to hear the story of my life, I have decided to begin, and hereafter as opportunity offers to commit to writing an account of some of the occurrences which it may afford you pleasure to read after I have passed away.

This I do, not because there is anything extraordinary to be written; for my life has been a very common-place one, but because I can now see that the story of even the most common place life of one of my ancestors lived in and among the times and surroundings in which they all lived would be of great and absorbing interest to me; I say my life has been a very common-place one; I wish to add that, because of the character of my honored and revered parents, and of your beloved mother; it has been on the whole, an uncommonly happy one, for which fact I trust I am duly thankful.

Where shall I begin? Let us say with my Great Grand Parents on my Father's side of the house, for that is as far back as the memory of man extends in that direction.

All that I can learn about my GREAT GRAND FATHER is that his name was JACOB VAN VALKENBURGH, and that he came to America from HOLLAND, with a Brother named BARTHOLOMEW, in the year 1746, and settled at CLAVERACK In the State of N. York. He had one son, whom he named Bartholomew Jacob, for his brother and himself; and two daughters.

His son, Bartholomew Jacob, was born May 25th 1753, and was twice married, was "Leftenant" in Lieutenant Colonel Cornelius Van Duyck's Company in the 1st Batallion of the New York forces, commanded by Col. Goose Van Schaick, during the Revolutionary War; being commissioned November 21st 1776, and was personally acquainted with Washington and Lafayette. I have heard my father stale that on the occasion of the visit of Lafayette to this country in 1825 they met and that Lafayette, on being told who father was, laid his hand upon his head and said "So this is the son of my dear old friend and comrade, Major Van ?"

My GRAND MOTHER, Catherine Pruyn was born in 1765, and married to Bartholomew Jacob Van Valkenburgh in 1790. Grand Father died at Auburn N.Y. in 1831, after which she removed to Prattsburgh N.Y. where she died in 1854. They had ten children, of whom my father was the third.

This page was removed from the Bible in the early 1800's and sent to the U. S. Government Pension Office in Washington, D. C. to aid in obtaining a pension for Catherine Pruyn Van Valkenburgh, due her on account of her husband's service in the Revolutionary War. It was returned from the Pension Office to Faith Van Valkenburgh Vilas in 1928.


My Father JACOB VAN VALKENBURGH was born at Kinderhook in the State of New York on the 28th day of May, 1795, and was * a school mate and life long friend of Benjamin Franklin Butler, once Attorney General of the United States, for whom I was named; and of GERRIT SMITH, the noted philanthropist and abolitionist, for whom my twin brother was named, and of Martin Van Buren, sometime President of the United States. Father was drafted as a private soldier, during the war of 1812, and had proceeded to Albany to join the army when notice of the declaration of PEACE was received and the company to which he belonged was disbanded. I have heard him say that the question whether the war was closed on account of the coming of his company, was discussed at the time, in the ranks, and they thought it fair to claim that that was the reason peace was declared?

Father was Judge of the Court of Common Pleas; Member of the Legislature; Member of the Constitutional Convention, and Brigadier General of Militia in the State of New York; and after his removal in 1847 to the State of Michigan, he was a Member of two Constitutional Conventions in that state and was Judge of the Probate Court of Oakland County, where he practiced law for many years. He was always prominent in social, political, temperance and church circles wherever he lived, and was an exceedingly genial and companionable man, beloved by all who knew him; He died at his home near Jacksonville in the state of Florida on the third day of March 1879, and is buried at St. Nicholas, near that city.

My Mother was a direct descendant -- from MATTHEW GILBERT, who was one of the original colonists of "The New Haven Colony" in Connecticut; He was a man of note, one of "The Seven Pillars of the Church, " and was buried in the Common at New Haven. Thousands of visitors to that historical spot, myself included, have been shown a plain stone, marking a grave behind the Middle Church State House, one of three left in the Old Church Yard when all the others were removed and the State House built, and have been told that it marked the last resting place of Michael Goffe, one of the Regicide Judges. Dr. Bacon, in his famous "Historical Discourses" says that stone was erected to mark the grave of our ancestor, and that the letters M. G. stand for Mathew Gilbert, our ancestor, who came to America from England in 1635, and elected Deputy Governor in 1661, and died in 1679.

My Mothers baptismal name was POLLY BETHIA HIGGINS, although she always wrote it MARY Bethia, and I never knew until after her death that it was POLLY.

Mother died at Racine in Wisconsin on the 10th day of May 1871, and is buried in FOREST HOME CEMETARY Milwaukee.


ABIGAIL GILBERT Feb. 12, 1768 - Sept. 17, 1832 Daughter of Deacon James Gilbert of New Haven, Conn. Maiden Great-Aunt of the Author From a miniature in possession of the Editor

*As entered in records of the Van Valkenburgh Bible brought from "Holland 1746---------

1795 Thursday 9 'clock P. M. Was born Unto them a son Baptised May 28 By Parson Laubaugh at Kinderhook Name. JACOB, No witness.

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