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Beekman, Henry (02 January 1688–03 January 1776), New York landowner and provincial assemblyman, was born in Kingston, New York, the son of Henry Beekman, a landowner and provincial assemblyman, and Johanna Lopers. Beekman was not a self-made man. His Dutch ancestors were prominent locally in the turmoil associated with the Protestant Reformation and the Dutch struggle for independence from Spain. His immigrant grandfather, William Beekman, was an administrative subordinate to the governor of New Netherland. His father was a militia leader from Ulster County whose work in preparing for possible attacks by the French during King William’s War (1689–1697), plus a small gratuity to the governor, won him land grants later branded “as large as a middling county of England.” These Dutchess County land grants (Rhinebeck Patent, 21,766 acres; Beekman Patent, 84,000 acres) became the basis for the younger Henry Beekman’s career....

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Heathcote, Caleb (06 March 1666–01 March 1721), merchant, manor lord, and Anglican activist, was born in Derbyshire, England, the son of Gilbert Heathcote, a trader in hides and iron who served as mayor of Chesterfield, England, and Anne Dickens. While living in England Heathcote became a merchant specializing in trade with New York, where he settled in 1692 after the woman to whom he was betrothed fell in love with his brother Samuel and married him instead....

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Livingston, Robert (13 December 1654–01 October 1728), colonial merchant, landowner, and politician, was born in Ancrum, Scotland, the son of the Reverend John Livingstone, a minister of the Church of Scotland, and Janet Fleeming. Livingston’s father faced the threat of prosecution as a noted Presbyterian minister in a Scottish church that was moving strongly toward Episcopacy in the aftermath of the Restoration of Charles II, and in 1663 the family fled Scotland for the Protestant haven at Rotterdam. The city of Rotterdam had a large community of Scottish merchants in the seventeenth century, and at a young age Livingston began to engage in commerce, possibly under the tutelage of two brothers-in-law who were active traders in that city....

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Livingston, Robert Robert ( August 1718–09 December 1775), landowner, attorney, and politician, was born in New York, the only son and heir of Robert Livingston and Margaret Howarden. His father, a younger son of manor lord Robert Livingston, was given a portion of land, called “Clermont,” at the southern end of Livingston Manor. In 1742 Livingston married Margaret Beekman, the heir of Colonel ...

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Penn, William (14 October 1644–30 July 1718), founder of Pennsylvania and eminent English Quaker, was born in London, England, the son of Sir William Penn, an admiral, and Margaret Jasper Vanderschuren, the daughter of a Rotterdam merchant. Penn was educated at Chigwell Free Grammar School, Essex, and Christ Church College, Oxford, where he studied from 1660 until 1662, when he was expelled for openly criticizing the Church of England. In an effort to prevent him from becoming a dissenter and to prepare him for the life of a gentleman, his father sent him to tour the Continent. In France the younger Penn studied Huguenot theology at L’Académie Protestante de Saumur. He returned to England in 1664 a more sophisticated man and the next year entered legal study at Lincoln’s Inn. He then assisted his father in business and military affairs. These activities required attendance at court, where he made acquaintances that would later prove useful, especially his friendship with Charles II’s brother, James, duke of York....

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William Penn. Print, c. 1897. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106735).

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Van Cortlandt, Pierre (10 January 1721–01 May 1814), statesman and landowner, was born in New York City, the son of prominent merchant and office holder Philip Van Cortlandt and Catharine De Peyster. He was one of six children and the fifth son. On 28 May 1748 he married his second cousin Joanna Livingston, the daughter of Gilbert Livingston and Cornelia Beekman, and the couple lived at first in New York City. Following the birth of the first of their eight children, they moved in 1750 to Cortlandt Manor, Pierre having recently inherited the manor house near Croton, New York, from his father along with land along the Hudson and Croton rivers....

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van Rensselaer, Kiliaen (24 August 1663–16 September 1719), colonial manor lord and public official, was born near Beverwyck (now Albany, N.Y.) in the private colony of Rensselaerswyck (Rensselaerswijck) in New Netherland, the son of Jeremias Van Rensselaer, the colony’s director, and Maria Van Cortlandt Van Rensselaer...

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Van Rensselaer, Stephen (01 November 1764–26 January 1839), patroon, congressman, and founder of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was born in New York City, the son of Stephen Van Rensselaer and Catherine Livingston. Born into one of New York’s wealthiest families, he was the eighth and last patroon of a vast estate in Rensselaer and Albany counties. With rights that were a legacy of the Dutch patroon system, he was to receive rents and tithes perpetually from his tenants. He received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1782. The next year he married Margaret Schuyler, daughter of General ...