Notable Men of the Borough of Queens Part II

John Alsop King (Elder son of Rufus King)

The eldest son of Rufus King, John Alsop, was born in New York in 1788. During his father's residence in England as ambassador of the United States he was placed first in an English school and later in a famous institution of learning at Paris. He thus received a very fine education, both in the classics and in modern sciences and languages. After his return from Europe he studied law, and took a commission as a lieutenant of Hussars when the War of 1812 broke out. The Kings were opposed to the war but held that there remained but one duty for American citizens after hostilities had commenced, namely, to sustain the country. Upon the return of peace he resigned his commission and removed to a farm at Jamaica near to the homestead of his father. John A. King was not wealthy, and he spent the next ten years of his life in agricultural pursuits, rising early and doing all the work that the farm required, as sowing, plowing, reaping, mending fences and repairing buildings. In this way he was enabled to live in comfort. He was also a great hunter and loved to go after the game at that time abundant on. Long Island, when the work was done. A lover of fine cattle and of good horses, he attended most of the races at the Union course, a few miles from his home, and was for many years the president of the Jockey Club. Mr. King had sufficient time, however, to take a deep interest in the affairs of the state, as it indeed befitted a man of his breeding and education, and he was repeatedly elected to the Assembly, where he, with many of his friends of the Federal party, opposed the ambitious plans of Governor Clinton, assisting him, however, with great energy in the efforts to bring about the construction of the Erie Canal. After the adoption of the new Constitution he was elected to the Federal Senate in 1824, but resigned his seat in order to accompany his father to England as secretary to the legation, when the latter was sent to England by John Quincy Adams.

After the father had been compelled to return, the son remained for some time as charge d'affaires. When his father died, he bought from his brother the fine old mansion at Jamaica, where he continued to reside until his death. He was again elected to the Assembly and later to Congress where he earnestly and persistently opposed the passage of the compromise measures molded by Henry Clay, and the fugitive slave law, for John A. King was as uncompromising an opponent of slavery as his father had been. As a delegate to the national convention of 1856 he was instrumental in bringing about the nomination of General Fremont, and he was chairman of the Whig convention of New York, at Syracuse, which fused with the Republican convention and thus brought about a union between the Whigs and the independent Democrats, and formed the Republican party. He was the logical candidate of the new party for the office of governor of the state, was nominated and elected. With characteristic courage and determination he said, in his first message, that he understood his election to mean that the people of the state of New York had declared as "their deliberate and irreversible decree that so far as the state of New York is concerned there shall be henceforth no extension of slavery in the territories of the United States," and he added : "This conclusion I must unreservedly adopt, and am prepared to abide by it at all times, under all circumstances, and in every emergency." After his term as governor, during which he discharged his duties with sagacity and firmness, Mr. King retired to his farm and devoted the rest of his life to peaceful pursuits. He took great interest in the workings of the Queens County Agricultural Society, and was one of the founders and afterward president of the New York State Agricultural Society. His death was characteristic of the man. Although in his eightieth year and in feeble health, he could not resist the urgent request to address the young men of Jamaica on Independence Day in 1867. While exhorting his audience never to waver in their support of the country and the flag around which they had rallied, he was seized with sudden faintness and sank into the arms of a friend behind him. He was carried to his house where he lingered for a few days and died three days later peacefully and surrounded by his family.

The de Beauvois Family

Another family that has given to Queens a good many useful and prominent citizens came from France. The de Beauvois, or as the name was written later on, the Debevoises, were French Protestants or Huguenots, and had fled to the city of Leyden in the Netherlands when the persecutions of the Protestants began in France. From there the founder of the family in America, Carel de Beauvois, came to New Amsterdam in 1659, accompanied by his wife and three children. He had received a superior education and soon found employment as teacher. In 1661 he became "chorister, reader and schoolmaster" at a salary of twenty-five guilders and free house rent. Later on he served as public secretary or town clerk. Of his descendants many have held high public office, and intermarried with most of the old families who were among the first settlers of the locality.

The Alsop Family

The Alsop family was also among the early settlers. Richard Alsop, the first of the name to locate here, came at the request of his uncle, one Thomas Wandell, who was said to have left England because he had become involved in a quarrel with Oliver Cromwell, though this report is doubtful, for it is known that Wandell was living at Mespat Kills in 1648, or before Charles I was put to death. He had secured a considerable tract of land by patents and purchase which he left to his nephew, Richard Alsop. The family he founded became extinct in 1837 when the last of the name died without issue.

Captain Richard Bettes

One of the most important personages in the early history of Newtown was Captain Richard Betts whose services are mentioned on nearly every page of the records for almost fifty years. He took a prominent part in the revolution of 1663, for he was a bitter opponent of Governor Stuyvesant and administered a severe blow to him by purchasing from the Indians the land the settlers at Newtown had planted, and for which Stuyvesant refused to give them patents. After the conquest of New Netherland by the English Betts was a member of the first provincial assembly which met at Hempstead. In 1678 he was appointed high sheriff of the county of Yorkshire upon Long Island. For a long series of years the captain was a magistrate, and more than once a member of the High Court of Assize, then the supreme power in the province. He became an extensive landholder at the English Kills and lived in a house that for centuries after his death was known as the old Betts house. It is told of him that in his one hundredth year he dug his own grave within sight of his bedroom window.

The Moore Family

The Moore family of Newtown is descended from the Rev. John Moore, of whose origin little is known though he is supposed to have been an Englishman. He was the first minister of the town, and an Independent. He was never authorized to administer the sacraments but he preached to the people of Newtown until he died in 1657. He had been instrumental in bringing about the purchase of the lands, on which the first comers had settled, from the Indians, and thirty years after his death the town gave eighty acres to his children in recognition of his services. The Moore house on the shell road is well preserved and perfectly habitable after the lapse of over two centuries. The massive hall door composed of two sections of south oak, with its enormous hinges and bolts and the ponderous brass knocker, has been admired by many thousands.

Jonathan Fish

Jonathan Fish, who joined the settlement of Middleburg or Newtown in 1659, was the progenitor of the Fish family of Newtown. His grandson, also named Jonathan, built the famous "Corner House" at the corner of the present Grand Street and Hoffmann Boulevard. He died in 1723, and his son Samuel kept the old house as an inn. It became famous during the French war when many of the unfortunate farmers of Nova Scotia, who had been driven from home on account of their loyalty, found refuge here. The
inn also was a meeting place for the French officers who were paroled in the custody of the families living in the neighborhood. Samuel's grandson Nicholas entered the American Army at the outbreak of the Revolution as major, and retired at the end of the war with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He participated in the battle of Long Island, was wounded at Monmouth, and took part in the operations which ended with the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, as well as in the siege of Yorktown. His wife was a daughter of Petrus Stuyvesant, and one of their children was Hamilton Fish, formerly governor of the state of New York, United States senator, and secretary of state under President Grant. The old corner house reached its greatest importance during the Revolutionary War. From the day in August, 1776, when General Howe dismounted in front of its door and took up quarters there, until another day in September, 1783, when a regiment of Hessian Hussars passed the building on its last march through the village of Newtown on its way to the ship that was to take it back to Europe, the famous inn was never without a full complement of English soldiers as guests.


Website: The History
Article Name: Notable Men of the Borough of Queens Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Illustrated History of the Borough of Queens, New York City; by George Von Skal; Compiled By F.T. Smiley Publishing Co., New York City 1908
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