Van Rensselaer Manor Papers

Van Rensselaer Family Succession

Killiaen van Rensselaer, the first patroon, died in 1643 never having seen his vast domain in New Netherland.  The patroonship eventually passed to his son Jerimias (1632-1674), who distinguished himself in trade and commerce as well as in facilitating a fairly smooth transition from Dutch to English rule.  Upon his death in 1675, the estate was managed primarily by his widow Maria van Rensselaer. 

In 1704 the Van Rensselaers partitioned the manor into two parts with the "lower manor" called Claverack going to Albany trader Hendrick van Rensselaer, who then passed the estate on to his son in 1740.  

Maria van Rensselaer’s great-grandson, Stephen van Rensselaer II (1742-1769), inherited the manor at age five when his father Stephen van Rensselaer died in 1747.  During his short tenure as patroon, he expanded the tenant base and made a number of improvements to the property.  On his death in 1769, the estate passed to his son, five-year-old Stephen III, and was administered by kinsman Abraham Ten Broeck until the young patroon came of age in 1784.

Since the Van Rensselaers almost never sold any land outright, they found it difficult to attract settlers to their lands.  As late as 1767, a map prepared by John R. Bleeker under the direction of Stephen Van Rensselaer II (1742-1769) shows the location of 270 families that resided on the manor, which comprised at least 750,000 acres of land covering much of present-day Albany and Rensselaer counties.

The birth of the United States of America and the War of Independence did not diminish the land holdings of the Van Rensselaers and other manorial estates whose lords had joined the cause of the American patriots.  In 1785, Stephen van Rensselaer III (1764-1839) assumed full rights as the patroon and lord of the manor of Rensselaerswijck.  He became known for his philanthropic endeavors, such as establishing the institution of higher education now known as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1824.

Last Updated: December 6, 2010