Home for 295 years, one way to describe the Albertus Van Loon house, 85 North Washington street, Athens, New York. Built before there was a George Washington or Athens New York. The river flowing by was named North River when this door first opened. The Delaware was South River.
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Listed today on Zillow with a increasing value and, incredibly, “built 1725.”
Well cared for…..
…..solid masonry walls with timber additions.
Right on the Hudson River.
Albertus is a Great+ Uncle for Pam. She felt the connection to this place, marveled at the well build masonry and solid windows, absolutely loved the ivy. 85 North Washington was our last stop.
Spiraea bushes in full bloom flanked the Riverside Park along Water Street.
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Well cared for…..
…..as are the urns across the street.
Athens Country Cemetery
Our daughter-in-law and her Mom were a source of post-trip information. “Yan Van Loan” is how Jan Van Loon’s name is pronounced in Dutch, they kindly informed us.
Passage of political control from Dutch to English was decades old when Jan Van Loon acquired his land on the river. By the 19th century the name was anglicized (turned English) on the headstones, spelled as it was pronounced in English. In the 18th century Pam’s ancestors had moved west and south to what became Plymouth, Pennsylvania (Luzerne County). This was before the coal fields, in the 18th century agriculture was the primary industry. Pam’s branch of the Van Loons retained the Dutch spelling and anglicized the pronunciation, as “Van Loon” is pronounced in the English language.
The very old burials were marked with headstones of locally quarried slate, as was common in upstate New York. You can see slate headstones in this video of a Pioneer Cemetery near our home in Ithaca, New York.
In Athens the oldest stones were in the same condition, the lettering and decoration erased by the elements even when the stones are still standing. Some kind people researched the burials and erected a modern, white marble memorial stone with the names and dates of the ancestors named in the records. Jan Van Loon, Maria his wife, or any of Pam’s direct ancestors were not among them.
The Matthias Van Loon of this memorial obelisk was a descendant who remained in what became Athens, New York. The following two photographs are of the base and an overview. Matthias Van Loon’s is on the right.
This Catholic burial is on the very edge of the site, as though pushed off to the side. That is the yard of a private home in the background. I started this post with flowers because there was little evidence of familial devotions on these burials of previous centuries.
Pam eventually caught up to report a breakthrough contact made through casual street interactions (click me for Part 1). She talked to random strangers on 2nd Street hoping to learn more about her ancestor, Jan Van Loon. The breakthrough was a name and phone number of a woman, the daughter of a new acquaintance, and a tip about an old cemetery.
Two people are visible in this first photograph, taken from the south end of Athen’s Riverside Park. Look to the left of the large tree where a artist, under the small white umbrella, is painting while in conversation with a second person. Pam struck up a conversation……
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The artist had an easel and a painting in progress, the subjects were yellow irises, part of a formal garden on the grounds of the mansion. We first took it to be a museum or public building of some sort, but were mistaken. It is a home. In the course of a conversation that touched upon Henry Hudson’s 1608 journey up the river (they knew nothing of Jan Van Loon, or of deeper local history in general), and the work of the second man who was the owner of the mansion. Here is more about the place from the Zillow listing. There was no “for sale” sign in evidence.
Zillow Listing WOW!!
” A freshly renovated home and grounds on the Hudson River, at 12 South Water Street, Athens, New York. Barely visible, to the left of the tree, is an artist, painting large yellow irises while chatting with the owner of the property. Here is what the listing on Zillow has to say, “This majestic 1825 Federal home on the banks of the Hudson River was designed by architect Barnabas Waterman for shipping entrepreneur Anthony Rutgers Livingston. Steeped in history, the house has undergone an extensive – yet sensitive – restoration. Enter into a grand hallway with Double Parlors to the right and a formal DR on the left. Original Federal flourishes abound with acanthus leaf capitals and entablatures, corinthian columns, and intact mantels and moulding. The high ceilings and tall windows provides extraordinary elegance, light and comfort. A thoughtful kitchen renovation and 1/2 Bath for 21st century convenience. Upstairs is a Full Bath and four spacious and airy Bedrooms, the Master with ensuite bath. The walk – out lower level features a family room with fireplace, a full bath and the original kitchen with hearth and beehive oven. A stroll past the box-wood garden leads to a 3-bay Garage with Studio and 1/2 Bath above, perfect for artist, home office or guests. Convenient to Thruway, Catskill, Hudson. 2- hrs NY.”
Restored Hudson River Mansion
Barely a half mile apart, a great distance separates the homestead of Jan Van Loon and the 12 South Water Street former mansion of a shipping magnate including 125 years and the American Revolution.
Memorial Day Weekend 2019 Pam and I visited Athens, first settled in the 17th Century by an ancestor through her maternal grandmother. Click me for more about the Van Loons. Jan Van Loon is 10 generations removed from Pam and her siblings and is one of 1024 (512 pairs) of ancestors. Whatever became of the other 1022 people (and all those in between) Pam was there with me that day to enjoy the experience of walking around town and talking about Jan Van Loon’s connection to herself.
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We stopped for a very enjoyable latte at Bonfiglio and Bread on 2nd street. As we ambled south on 2nd street Pam spotted someone to talk to and I proceeded with the goal of the Hudson River, visible at the bottom of the street.
I noticed this architectural specimen and turned to capture this side in a good light and was lucky to capture a young co-admirer of its style with whom I assume is her Mother. Athens, developed as a “National Register Historic Site,” is a charming place to stroll and admire.
Yesterday I did a Red Cross blood donation at an elementary school on Hudson Street here in Ithaca. Henry Hudson, the first European to sail up the river that now bears his name, is memorialized this way across New York State so much so it is unusual to find the “Riverfront Park” named as such.
The city of Hudson, in Columbia County directly across the river named its park “Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.”
“Peace and Quiet“
The Athens Park is a gathering place for the village with a large swath of grass, a short boardwalk, benches and generous shade trees along with river…….
The photograph captions will speak for themselves for the rest of today’s post. Enjoy!!
June 2018 I shed a 53 year old habit of working for a living for new habits in retirement. Instead of waking at 5 am to work for someone else, my routine became to wake at 5 am for personal projects. From June into September 2018 my morning time was spent researching and documenting family history, also known as genealogy: my own and Pam’s.
It was fitting Pam and I spent the last days of that year (June 2018 through May 2019) harvesting our newly acquired knowledge on the ground, a 3 hour drive from our home, to the site of Pam’s earliest ancestor in the New World, at that time Colonial America. Our visit will be book-ended by another this September to Burlington, New Jersey, on the eastern short of the Delaware river, founded by my earliest ancestor, also in Colonial America and 4 hours from our present day home.
A river setting is a link between our ancestors and the two rivers associated in a number of ways. In driving to Athens, New York, a village on the west bank of the Hudson River 31 miles from the state capital, Albany. Our route from Ithaca to Athens included route 23 that passes through the Catskill Mountain, Delaware County, village of Stamford. The headwaters of the west branch of the Delaware River passes through Stamford.
Henry Hudson and the crew of the Half Moon were the first recorded Europeans to visit both the Delaware and Hudson rivers. The Half Moon dropped anchor in Delaware Bay late August, 1609. They reached the estuary of the Hudson (then called the North or the Mauritius). The goal of Hudson was a route to China. Luring him up was the flow and width of the river, Hudson suspected this land was a island, behind which lay the route to the Orient. He navigated up the river for ten days, passing the future site of Athens.
Hudson was in the employ of the Dutch East India Company and it was the Dutch who laid claim to the length of the Hudson for the purpose of trade. In summary, when Swedish/Finnish colonists on the Delaware proved successful in shipping huge numbers of beaver pelts and tobacco the Dutch took control of the Delaware under force of arms in the interest of controlling this trade.
The Dutch, AKA the Dutch East/West India Companies, had little interest in establishing colonies. Instead huge areas of land, “patents”, were granted to individuals with the underlying goal of providing a flow of shippable goods. It remained as such for many years, until 1664 when England, under the king Charles II, took control of New Amsterdam and, by extension, trade flowing on the Hudson River.
“Stayed for the Corn“
Jan Van Loon (pronounced Van Loan) comes into the picture with a 1676 marriage to Maria in New Amsterdam. When Jan acquired a major interest in the 1688 Loonenburg patent the land was just opening to European settlers and their tenancy was less than secure. Threatened by incursions of Native Americans and animosities between the French and English. They had eight children who reached adulthood, the house of one of them, Albertus, is one of the oldest continually inhabited residences in New York State.
Tradition has it Jan Van Loon acquired the land through a payment of 50 beaver pelts and provided services as a blacksmith, though that had to be after a number of years of residence, since he was a first settler. Pam and I are learning more about those early years, but we know Jan and Maria’s interest in the land was not trade. It was to live peacefully and prosper which they, somehow, did to the benefit of all the people around them.
An excerpt from an interview by Diane Frances Wills of our father Thomas Francis Wills for a seventh-grade assignment about 1971. I did some editing to correct the date based on historical records and my father’s military records (Michael Stephen Wills).
Thomas enlisted for
the navy one day after his 24th birthday, September 25, 1939 and
served 6 years and a few weeks until October 7, 1945 having experienced the
Battle of the Atlantic (American Defense Medal) and liberation of the Philippines
(WWII Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Theater, Philippine
Liberation Ribbon). Here is his
description of an incident from that time:
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1 Year, 6 months after my enlistment in New York City, March 1941, on the USS Upshur two days out of Boston on its run to Reykjavik, Iceland delivering mail and supplies to the marines stationed to prevent the Germans from establishing a base. Steaming north we got word there was a gale blowing in our path. We all became apprehensive. I asked Bill Rogers, the radioman, about the approaching storm. “Say, Bill, I see by the weather report we’re heading info some rough weather. How long do you think it will last?”
“Yeah, according to the latest weather report it is a regular Northeaster and we can expect a couple days of rough winds and high waves, also very cold weather. We’ll have to secure everything topside so it won’t blow or be washed overboard. We can also expect very little in the way of normal meals except for maybe coffee and sandwiches.” On such a small ship the cooks can’t prepare meals in such weather.
As we approached the storm zone the sea got rough and the wind started blowing. Soon we were well into a horrible storm. The sky got dark and gloomy, full of dark bold clouds. The ocean rough, choppy and black. The rain started coming down sharp and harsh, cold and icy. The rain cut through your body like piercing arrows, it chilled your bones.
Sometimes I thought the ship was going to sink, the waves and the wind were so strong. The bow would go bluntly into the water. The ship listed sideways, seeming to almost rolling over. The waves carried our ship up, then go out from underneath sending us crashing down. This happened over and over, endlessly.
I was on duty in the radio shack and had to walk the whole length of the ship from my sleeping quarters. Many times, I almost went overboard, the wind was so strong. I could lay on my stomach but it did not help because I could still slide through the railings. I would freeze to death in five minutes in that water. I hope I never had to go through that again, seems like yesterday. All we had to wear was a sailor suit, not too warm. I’d just get all soaked.
My shipmates and I, a five-foot eight-inch boy of 25 with dark brown hair, had to be calm and keep doing our normal scheduled duties, because we learned you can’t get panicky or else you will put your whole ship out of order.
The storm went on until the end of night. I thought the storm would never end. It felt as if it lasted a week. At that time no other ships sailed with us, so there was no possibility of help. Nobody fell over the side or was drowned.
After that, a German U-Boat launched a torpedo at us and missed. We searched, tried to sink them without success.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills