August and the Melyn family through the eyes of Susanna.

  • Lambrecht Melyn & Perynken Van Hernitem: 6 August 1553
  • Edmund Cooper & Mary Wyne: 14 August 1564
  • John Batchelder & Mary Herrick: 14 August 1673
  • Gov. John Endecott & Elizabeth Cogan: 17 August 1630
  • Resolved Waldron & Rebecca Hendricks Koch: 20 August 1645
  • Titus Hurlburt & Catherine Gavel: 21August 1813
  • William Bull & Sarah Wells: 25 August 1718
  • Jan Winans & Susannah Melyn: 25 August 1664
  • Capt. Johannes Vermilje & Aeltje Waldron: 27 August 1670

This month we celebrate the anniversary of Jan Winans & Susannah Melyn, a couple who lived during the early years of New Amsterdam.  Susannah, sometimes referred to as Sanna, came from an influential family with a turbulent history.  When Susannah was only 4 years old her father was banished from New Netherlands and sent back to the Old World aboard the ship, “The Princess”. Why was Melyn  banished?  He initiated a protest against the prevailing Director-General of New Netherlands regarding treatment of the native Indians.

Director-General Kieft, in his paranoia, had the local natives slaughtered for little cause and, as a result, they retaliated in full.  It became a two year war (1643-1645) known as Kieft’s War or Wappinger War (named after the prevalent opposing tribe). According to S. Beck’s book, “New Netherlands and Stuyvesant”, 1600 natives perished during Kiefts war. The European population of New Netherlands, at the time, was 250. Cornelis Melyn’s property was attacked in 1643 and he had to abandon his land, home, cattle and, in fact, his entire estate because of this war singlehandedly started by Kieft. This was the same year that Susannah was born.

Cornelis Melyn wanted justice. In early 1647 he spearheaded a group of eight men to write up a complaint against Kieft, (by this time his reign as leader was over), and presented it to the Old World powers that be.

On 25 July 1647, Peter Stuyvesant, the new Director-General, feared that this group of eight would eventually turn on him, so he passed judgement on the case with a 300 guilder fine and a seven year banishment for Cornelis Melyn.  Melyn’s collegue, Jochem Pietersen Kuyter, was fined 150 guilders and three years banishment.  They were to return to the Netherlands aboard the “Princess” and their prision “guard” was Kieft, himself, dominating over them on the trip.

How frustrating it must have been for Melyn and Kuyter to be prisioners under the man they accused.  I’m certain there was no kindness spared on them.  However, fate dramatically stepped in.  The “Princess”  went off course and crashed into rocks near Swansea UK. Only 20 people survived (out of 101), including the two prisioners Melyn and Kuyter.  Willem Kieft went down with the ship.  There is speculation that one of Cornelis’s sons, either Joannes (age 18) or Abraham (age 12) may have died on the ship as well.

Melyn returned to New Netherland in March 1649 when Susannah was almost 6 years old. Two years had passed since Susannah had last seen her father and although one could imagine a memorable reunion the truth was that her father was hardly ever home, even before he was forced to leave.

Susannah was the third youngest of 11 children (two died young) and the first to be born in the New World. Her father, also a Patroon of Staten Island, travelled at least 11 times back and forth across the Atlantic to secure the settlement of the new colony. It was Sanna’s mother, Jannetje,  who was left in charge of the family.

It was an uneasy time to live in the new world, especially without the constant help of a marriage partner. In 1655 their son was killed in an attack known as the “Peach War”.  A Dutch farmer shot and killed a Wappinger woman he caught stealing a peach from a tree in his garden.  Her relatives were enraged and formed a search party to find and destroy the farmer.  In their path they burned farms, killed 50 Dutch lives, and took another 50 hostage.  Susannah’s parents lost their 22 year old son Cornelis and a son-in-law, Claes allertsen Paradys.  Another son-in-law, Jacob Schellinger, was one of the 50 hostages. Their 15 year old son, Jacob, “was much wounded, but recovered, not without great difficulty”.  Sanna was only 12 when this massacre tore her family appart. (As a note, her first brother named Cornelis did not live past his third birthday.  The two sons named after their father both had short lives).

When Susannah married Jan Winans she must have been prepared for a life of motherhood, uncertainty, and hard work, but the celebration of their marriage must have been a joyous family event because they shared their wedding day with Sanna’s sister Maria and her new husband Matthias Hatfield. (It was Maria’s first husband, Claes allertsen Paradys, who died in the 1655 massacre).

Together Jan and Sanna had at least 9 children.  Jan was a founding father of Elizabethtown New Jersey and is one of the “80 Associates” connected to the town.  He was a substantial landowner. At his death he owned around 200 acres of property.  He owned many books (a rare commodity), a Gold and Silver Plate and a Coat of Arms.

Susannah’s great grandparents, Lambrecht Melyn & Perynken Van Hernitem, were also married in August (6 August 1553) at the very famous 14th Century, Church of Our Lady, Cathedral in Anterp Belgium.

Published in: on 26 August 2008 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment