As a result of researching the Van Guilders for over fifteen years, I know that the Van Gilders/Van Guilders from western Massachusetts, upstate New York and Vermont are not Melungeon. The founder of the family was Jan Van Gelder, a Mohican-Wappinger man who married the German Palatine woman Anna Maria Koerner in Kingston, New York, in 1719. They lived in what is now present day Berkshire County on the west bank of the Green River, southwest of Great Barrington. Additionally, a Y-DNA test comparison between Jacob Van Gilder who died 14 July 1846 in Marion County, WV, and a documented descendant of John Van Gilder from upstate New York shows the Y-DNA to be identical and that Jacob was a descendant of the Mohican-Wappinger man John Van Gilder I.In recent years, it has become a catchall term for people of mixed-race ancestry and has been applied to about 200 communities in the eastern U.S. — from New York to Louisiana.Among them were the Montauks, the Mantinecocks, Van Guilders, the Clappers, the Shinnecocks and others in New York. Pennsylvania had the Pools; North Carolina the Lumbees, Waccamaws and Haliwas and South Carolina the Redbones, Buckheads, Yellowhammers, Creels and others. In Louisiana, which somewhat resembled a Latin American nation with its racial mixing, there were Creoles of the Cane River region and the Redbones of western Louisiana, among others.
|A representation of John Van Gilder's signature embroidered in buttons |
on reproduction 18th century matchcoat by blog author.
Awansous a Wappingoe Indian Grandfather to the Complainant on the mother’s side, was possessed of a certain Tract of Land lying on the East side of Hudson’s River, beginning at the mouth of the Fish kills called in the Indian language Nataowawmungh thence running down Hudsons River southerly to Anthony’s Nose called in the same language Wacoghquanuk, and Eastward into the woods as far as the Oblong croping the Peeks kill.Further,
Awansous died leaving behind him two Sons Tawanaut otherwise called John Van Gilder and Sancoolakheekhing, to whom the Body of the Nation solemnly confirmed their Fathers Land according to the Custom of their Nation at a publick Toast & sacrifice [sealing their Grant]. Sancoolakheekhing Died without any Children and on his Death the Nation confirmed the whole of the Lands to John Van Gilder who was Uncle to the Complainant, being his Mothers Brother & he [John Van Gilder] in the year of the Defeat at Ticonderoga hath since given the whole of these Lands to... Danl. NimhamHowever, John Van Gilder was regarded as a member of the Mohican Nation that lived north of the Wappingers. In a letter written to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs William Johnson on December 16, 1756, the chief of the Mohicans stated that he belonged to the Mohican Nation. The Mohicans are a matrilineal people and it seems logical that Van Gilder's mother came from the Catskill band of Mohicans. In October 1768 Richard Moore was interviewed in regard to a property dispute between the patroons Van Rensselaer and Livingston. Moore testified:
He is Sixty one Years of age he has known Joseph Van Gelder he is Christian and baptized by a high Dutch Minister Joseph Van Gelder’s Father’s Children was baptized and he himself That he was Married by a Minister. Joseph Van Gelder lives at Egremont on this side Howsitenack River to the Eastward of Tackannick Mountains he his [sic] known him from a Child he always bears a good Character he would Venture to take his Oath at any time for the truth The General Reputation is that he is a Christian. He believes His father belonged to the Catt’s Kills [band of Mohicans]
In regard to John's wife, in the marriage bann it was stated that Anna Maria, later known as Mary Karner, was born in Germany. Her parents were Jan Nicholas and Anna Magdalena Koerner. They and their family were among the thousands refugees of the wars in the German Palatinate and were among the families sent to New York State to become indentured servants to the patroon Robert Livingston. Mary's brothers Andrew and Lodowick escaped that fate and lived in the Town of Egremont near her and her husband. The Mohicans leased land to Andrew and John deeded some of his land to Lodowick.
John and Mary had several children. The ones documented by land records and John's will are:
Nicholas Van Gelder, born 1720. Married(2) Elizabeth and(3) Mary Welch
Joseph Van Gelder, born July 14, 1722, baptized November 21, 1722 in Dutch Reformed Church, Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, N.Y., baptismal sponsors Joseph and Anna Reichard. Married Mary Holly Winchell, also known as Molly (daughter of David Winchell), May 23, 1748 ).
John Van Gelder Jr., also known as Johannes Van Gelder, Hannes Van Geldern, baptized May 23, 1725 in Linlithgow Reformed Church, Columbia Co., N.Y., baptismal sponsors Johannes Spoor and Maria Singer. John married (1) Catrite Karner, married October 27, 1747, (2) Geetruyd.
Matthew Van Gelder Sr., baptized September 1, 1728 in Kingston, Ulster Co., N.Y., baptismal sponsors Matheus Slegt, Catalyntjen Kip.
Catharine Van Gelder, also known as Catalyntje Van Gelder, Cartrite, Garthiat, who married Hezekiah Winchell Sr., (son of Samuel Winchell Sr. and Hannah Parsons (my ancestors).
Jacob Van Gelder Sr., died before June 12, 1787. He married Mercy (von Sahler, p. 292)Andrew Van Gelder.
Henry Van Gelder, died before May 1758
Magdalena Van Gelder, also known as Martaliner. She married Pelatiah Winchell, son of David Winchell Jr. and Mary and a cousin to Hezekiah Winchell. Pelatiah was found to be living in Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County, N.Y. in 1775.
At least twenty men in the combined Van Gilder and Winchell families served on the Patriot side of the American Revolution. Three are documented to have been with the Green Mountain Boys when Ethan Allen captured Fort Ticonderoga. Twelve served in the Continental Army. One stayed the winter at Valley Forge. Two died in service.
The Van Gilders and Indian Winchells suffered the fate of many of the Mohican families after the war. They steadily lost their land in Berkshire County. My ancestor Eliakim Winchell was the only grandchild to retain his land. However it was sold to pay debts after his death. Many of his relatives moved to Vermont. Some of their descendants moved to places in Washington County in New York State. The fates of fourteen grandchildren of John and Mary Van Gilder remain undocumented and unknown.