Since this is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it seemed like a good time to document some disturbing things I have found while researching my family tree.
For several months I have been reading Concerning the Van Bunschoten or Van Benschoten family in America: a genealogy and brief history, and some time ago I first noticed (with shock and horror) the word “slave”. None of these were my direct ancestors, but rather distant cousins many generations removed (obviously). But regardless of how there is a connection, having any connection to slave ownership is shameful.
I have been pondering, for some time,how to document this sad chapter in my family’s history. For now, I will just list what I have found so far. Each bullet item, below, represents a single cousin. Note that I have, for the most part, quoted the aforementioned book directly, which was written in in 1907 and was quoting yet earlier sources, so any offensive language is not mine.
On page 31, in 1758, there is a mention of “He had just returned from the fields with his negro slaves where he had been superintending the work” and “… the family and the negro slaves who had gathered in the room.”
On page 39, sometime before 1815, “the Domine had a privileged old slave as a gardener” and “The Domine sent a negro in chase who followed the fugitive creditor several miles and at last succeeded in making payment in full.”
On page 77, in 1783 a will gives to each of of his two daughters ownership of “a Negro Woman which she has now in possession” (there were two daughters and two slaves).
On page 100, the author says “And doubtless he had slaves as had his New Hackensack cousins; I come on no record of the fact, however, beyond this entry in the Poughkeepsie church records: “Baptised Nov. 4, 1796, Mary, child of Bet, slave of Elias Van Bunschoten; Sponsor, Catalyntje Light, wife of Elias Van Bunschoten.” Mrs. McRorie, Elias’ only living grandchild, remembers hearing that her “Grandmother Catalyntje was a ‘fine lady’ — that she never did any work except embroidery and needle-work, slaves doing all the household labor “.
On page 120, late 1700’s, a daughter is given “a slave woman called Elsie Deyon.”
On page 133, early 1800’s, there is mention of slave women Dinah and her daughters, and Judy and her daughter Alta.
On page 195, around 1800: “She also tells of an “old black Mary ” and her daughter “Sill” or “Cill ” who lived at her grandfather’s — the former a slave until emancipation.”
On page 199, in the mid 1600s a relative “settled at Harlem, opened an “ordinary ” or tavern, established a ferry and provided boats for transportation “of which his lusty negro Mathys was put in charge.”
On page 214, around 1778, I found this disturbing story: “A negro boy belonging to the family having been impudent was punished by his master. Resenting the correction the negro at night put a coal in the hay-mow and the barns, barracks and all out-buildings were burned to the ground, and the contents including grain, fodder, cattle and horses entirely consumed. It is said that Jacob was reluctant to believe that the negro had done the deed until the latter, who was at work on the wood-pile the following day, taking an opportunity as he thought started to run away. He was pursued, caught, and confessing the crime turned over to the authorities and, paying the then penalty for incendiarism, was burnt at the stake in the broad part of Market street, Poughkeepsie — a horrible spectacle witnessed by a great concourse of people. It is told that when the flames were mounting about him the negro time and again cried out: “Oh! Massa’s poor horses! Oh! Massa’s poor, poor horses!”
On page 657, there is a church warehouse record: “Aug. 4, 1714. Owes for two pounds of (obscure) delivered to his negro,”
On page 664, in 1785, the following is listed in a will: “my Negro Wench, Jin, and my Negro Boy Named Ben”
To end on a better note I found these two passages:
On page 279, a cousin living in the mid 1800’s “It is said that during the days of the “Underground rail-road” he aided the cause of human freedom. On one occasion it is known that he saved negroes from capture by hiding them until their pursuers were gone and then getting them out of the port of Huron for Canada.”
A man who married into the family in 1851 (p 278): “Francis Barrie was of pronounced individuality. By nature he was a non-comformist and he became a reformer along many lines. Early an Abolitionist, he was a part of the ” underground “ system which passed escaping slaves on to Canada. He was an Adventist and a vegetarian, and used his voice and pen for the furtherance of many causes.”