Sketches of the Mayors of New York From 1665 to 1834 Part II

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Cornelius Steenwyck: Mayor in 1668-69-70-82-83.

This individual, some account of whom we have given in a former number of the Manual, among the Dutch magistrates, and whom we believe to have been the most influential citizen among the commonalty of his day, held several public offices after the accession of the English.

Although a Dutchman, such was the confidence in his integrity held by the English, that soon after the capture of the place by the English, (viz., in 1671,) he was appointed by Lord Lovelace, during his temporary absence in Virginia, the Governor pro tem. of the province. Mr. Steenwyck Spoke English tolerably well, but still with a notable Dutch accent. Those who have observed the present structure of English sentences by the descendants of the ancient Dutch, many of whom still people the counties of Ulster and Albany, and use the Dutch language in their families, and the English in their intercourse with strangers, will recognize the peculiarity of Mr. Steenwyck's speech on the occasion of a meeting of the inhabitants, called by the English Governor, soon after the taking of the place, (1665) to learn the state of feeling among the citizens with regard to repairing the fortifications.

Many of the people said the place was strong enough; others that they could not work until they had their arms restored to them, and others gave different excuses, while some were willing to contribute. Mr. Steenwyck said: "As the Governor has been pleased to put the Honorable Mayor and Aldermen for to look to the best of the town and the inhabitants of t'same, what they shall think fit and necessary for the best thereof, he being but ordered shall always be found a willing and faithful subject."

Mr. Steenwyck was a general merchant, or storekeeper, on the south-=east corner of the present Bridge and Whitehall streets. he was a charitable and religious man; one of the principal supporters of the Dutch Church, to which he gave, at his death, the manor of Fordham for the maintenance of the ministers. He was the second in point of wealth in the province of New York, his property having been all acquired in his trade of merchant, and by the most scrupulous dealings.

His wife was Margaretta De Riemer, her mother originally named Greveraat, resided in this city. The latter was a worthy woman, and as Steenwyck himself was in early life without relatives in this country, his own respectable character was no doubt in some measure due to the counsels of his mother-in-law. The widow De Riemer afterward married Domine Samuel Drissius, one of the preachers of the Dutch Church. She survived the Domine, who died in 1689. Afterward she went by the common appellation of Mother Drissius until her death. She had no children by the Domine; but left several by her former husband.

It may be a matter of interest to know something of the domestic establishment of a prominent man in those early times. The property of Cornelius Steenwyck, on the corner of Bridge and Stone streets, consisted of an excellent stone house, occupied in part for his store and in part for his dwelling, it was worth from 4 to 5,000 dollars. Attached was a kitchen of two stories, and cellar. In the main house, connected with his kitchen, was the dwelling room, furnished with twelve rush leather chairs, two velvet chairs with fine silver lace, one cupboard of French nutwood, one round table, one square table, one cabinet, thirteen pictures, a large looking glass, a bedstead, containing two beds and the necessary linen, five alabaster images, a piece of tapestry work for cushions, a flowered tabby chimney cloth, a pair of flowered tabby window curtains (curtain calico,) a dressing box, a carpet.

In the "fore room" was a marble table with wooden frame, a table of wood, eleven pictures, seven Russia leather chairs, a carpet used for crumb cloth, three muslin curtains and a clock. The rest of the house was occupied by his merchandize.

Steenwyck died in 1684. His widow afterward married Domine Henricus Selinus, the Dutch preacher.

In the time of his mayoralty, the city contained from 2 to 3,000 inhabitants.

Matthias Nicoll: Mayor in 1672

This gentleman was descended of an ancient and honorable family at Islippe, Northamptonshire, England, and was, by profession, a lawyer. His father was a clergyman of the Episcopalian Church. It is said that he came to this country in the year 1660, but he does not appear to have taken an active interest in public affairs until after the capture of the country by the English, when he was appointed Secretary of the Province, and was the first who held that office under the English. He was also appointed to preside with the Justices of the different ridings in the Court of Sessions. In 1672, he was appointed by the Governor to the office of Mayor, which he held for one year. In 1683 he was appointed one of the Judges of the Supreme Court, in which capacity he officiated for the last time in Queens county September 12, 1687. He died at his residence, on Cow Neck, Long Island, December 22, 1687, where he and his wife, Abigail, are buried.

Mr. Nicoll is described as a man of strict integrity and high abilities. He purchased large tracts of land on Long Island. His son, William, commonly called the "Patentee," was born in England, in 1637, and was educated to the bar. He became a prominent man in this country, and held several distinguished offices in the province. The descendants of the family are numerous on Long Island. In the time of the mayoralty of Matthias Nicoll, the city contained about 2,500 inhabitants.

John Lawrence, Mayor in 1673, 1691.

John Lawrence was an Englishman by birth, and one of three brothers who settled in this city, while it yet was under the domination of the Dutch. He was one of the six patentees of the town of Hempstead; and also, with others, received a grant of the present town of Flushing from Governor Kieft. He appears to have engaged in trade here about the year 1656, at which time he could not speak the Dutch language. he traded, as was customary, with several merchants of that day, along the coasts and rivers, where settlements had been established; but his principal transactions were up the North river, with Albany and Esopus, and with the New England settlements, on the Sound, and upon Long island. His vessel, a small ship, was called the "Adventure." Mr. Lawrence established his residence in this city, on a street then called Hoogh street, his dwelling and store occupying the same premises, and facing the water on the present line of Pearl street, north side, between Hanover and Wall streets. No houses then occupied the opposite side of the street, which was the water line, and sided with planks, to prevent the washing of the road. The next above him, towards Wall street, was then one of the principal taverns in the city, kept by Annekin, widow of Daniel Litschoe.

Mr. Lawrence was called upon to take part in the government of the city and province soon after the capture by the English, and afterward was one of the principal official characters of his day. His wealth was considerable, principally invested in landed property.

Mr. Lawrence died in the year 1699, then over eighty years of age. By his wife, Susannah, who survived him, he had three sons and three daughters; Joseph, who died before him, leaving a daughter; John, who married Sarah, widow of Thomas Willett, first mayor of New York and died without issue; Thomas, who died unmarried; Susannah, who married Gabriel Minvielle, once mayor of New York; Martha, who married Thomas Snawsell; and Mary, who married William Whittingham. There are therefore no lineal descendants of Mr. Lawrence, bearing his name.

In the time of his mayoralty, the city contained about 3,000 inhabitants.


Website: The History
Article Name: Sketches of the Mayors of New York From 1665 to 1834.Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My Collection of Books: Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York by D.T. Valentine 1853
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