Fall Festival – Press Release!

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Good morning!

It has definitely been an busy week here at the Mesier homestead. Preparations for the Fall Festival are swiftly underway and consuming most of my internship hours. It’s going to be an exciting event, and I can’t wait to see how the tour turns out. I’ve been working on a bunch of stories for it, and hopefully they play out as well as they do in imagination! Make sure you buy tickets to reserve a spot for the tour which will be given throughout the day. Tickets are required in advance, and you can purchase them via PayPal here.

(Click the image for more information)

Discovering Mesier Family Descendants

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I have been eagerly awaiting Andrew Hendricks’ reply to my email, the man who Len Tantillo says is a Mesier descendant (and commissioned Tantillo’s Mesier Mill paintings), and this weekend I was happy to receive a call from him! I was at work unfortunately, but as soon as I could I returned the call. We discussed for a long while the family, the mill, and our research.

It was definitely interesting to talk with Hendricks. He is deeply interested in his family’s history, and curious to know about the homestead here at Wappingers. He explained that he’s spent a lot of time researching and ascertaining about the mill in the New Netherland fort, and has even petitioned for the mill to have a place in the 9/11 Memorial (the Mill stood where the South Trade Center Tower was built). His passion and enthusiasm for the history reflects my own, and it’s always exciting to talk with someone who shares so specific an interest.

Andrew Hendricks has also visited the sites in Manhattan and has spent some time at the New Netherland Institute in Albany. He’s been in contact with Jaap Jacobs, and let me know that he will further reach out to Dr. Jacobs in regards to the Mesier project (which is great because we agreed that perhaps he could incite Dr. Jacobs to offer some more attention to the project). Hendricks also agreed to mail me his proposal for the 9/11 Memorial which includes the research he has done so I can add it to my own Mesier documents, which will be extremely helpful. So thank you, Andrew Hendricks! I expect that we will remain in close contact throughout the project.

Connecting with Len Tantillo, an Local Artist

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Hello again, dear followers of the Mesier Family history!

Lately I’ve been working on the homestead’s tour for the Fall Festival which is fast approaching. That project has been coming along well and I think we’ll have a pretty interesting tour for the public come October 18th. I can’t give too many details here, so you’ll just have to come by the homestead and see for yourself!

As for the Mesiers, I’ve been eager to share that I have been in contact with Len Tantillo to ask him about his research regarding his painting “Mesier Mill, c. 1695,” which is this particular painting:

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Isn’t it beautiful? The Mill, as depicted, is interesting in itself with its great Dutch-style character. I love it; seeing the painting provokes me further to unearth the story behind it and it’s apparent relevance to the Mesier family.

When Len Tantillo got back to me, I was very excited. The mill has had much of my attention regarding the project and I’m desperate to learn more about it. He was very helpful and shared lots of information – particularly a extremely intriguing connection! He told me that he was commissioned to paint the mill by a man named Andrew Hendricks, a descendant of the Mesier Family. I was surprised at this information – we haven’t been in contact with any descendants of the Mesiers besides the Reese family. Immediately I wanted to connect with  Hendricks, who provided the research he’s personally done in order for Tantillo to accurately depict the mill. Tantillo was kind enough to share Hendrick’s contact information, and I emailed him immediately.

Speaking with Tantillo was amazing. His work is absolutely beautiful, and at the homestead we feel so lucky (shocked, astonished, amazed!) that this wonderful painting of the Mesier Mill by such a talented artist exists. Tantillo was happy to know about the Mesier Homestead as well, and offered to sell us prints for the museum, at a discounted price, of his works that depict the Mill nestled on the bluff. Everyone here is eager to have prints of the paintings for the homestead – so thank you, Len Tantillo!

Len Tantillo’s Mesier Mill, c. 1695 is currently on display at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York. There the painting, along with 24 other original works, are on display in the exhibit titled A Moment Past: L. F. Tantillo Paints New York History until December 30th. The exhibit catalog is available for purchase online through Amazon.

Len Tantillo also has work displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a “permanent presentation of Dutch Architecture in Colonial America.”

Read Len Tantillo’s short biography here.

Thank you for reading!

9/23/14 – Adriance Library

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It’s been an exciting week!

Before I start, I just want to say that little Adriance Library in Poughkeepsie is so beautiful with its neoclassical architecture and design! I loved it there.

4389735523_7ddae54fe9 Adriance Memorial Library Poughkeepsie, NY

I journeyed over to the Adriance Library in Poughkeepsie because Professor Roper mentioned to me that they held some special collections pertaining to Dutchess’ local history. Unfortunately, though, their collections focuses primarily on Poughkeepsie’s history and the librarian at circulation told me nothing on the Mesiers/Reeses came up in the catalog. I would have been interested in taking a look anyway, but the woman told me I had to make an appointment with the archivist in order to see the records. But all was not lost! Adriance library has a great little room with local genealogy records, including some genealogy books from New York City (New Amsterdam/Netherland). I didn’t uncover much about our Mesiers, but a little! I took pictures of everything I found which mentioned the Mesiers. Ironically (in the “local” genealogy room), I found more mentioning the original Peter Mesier than anyone else.

These are the records that mention our first Peter Mesier. They are mostly in reference to the court of Fort William Henry (New Amsterdam) ordering Peter among many others to destroy their homes and relocate. This was because new fortifications were being built and these properties were in the way.

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I also found a record of a Peter “Johnson” Messier petitioning to build a windmill (hm!) with a man named Jasper Nessepat. The reason I think this is Peter Mesier is because the Dutch pronunciation of Jansen very closely resembles the name Johnson (pronounce Jansen like this: y AH n s uh n). An English transcriber could have easily taken Johnson from Jansen and recorded the name as familiar to him, especially as Johnson was an popular English surname. I want to run this by someone who could help me validate this idea. If it is our Peter, then this may be an important clue because 1) It refers to a windmill (maybe the future Mesier Mill?) and 2) we have an association. Associations are important. Understanding the people that Peter networked with gives us an idea of what kind of positions Peter himself held and what he did; some more clues about his life in the fort. Here’s that:

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Then I found a very interesting record of Peter Mesier Jr. (who bought the homestead). This was intriguing to find because it mentions Peter’s ownership of a “sloop.” There is a lot to be said about this new information, but I want to discuss it with Professor Roper before I lay it out here. And the record:

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Thank you for reading – and sorry for delays! I never stop trying to find new information on the Mesiers, and something new seems to come up every day. But, alas! It’s midterm/exam/paper season!

Jaap Jacobs & Context

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Hello, hello!

Everything’s been moving along pretty well! It seems like every day I find more clues that complicate the Mesier’s story a little further (contradictions, misinformation, etc.). This keeps the research alive – and it definitely reminds me to be cautious of “absolutes.” Everything’s simply a clue towards a bigger picture, and in the end, when it comes to history, the bigger picture is mostly speculation. That’s not to say that the historian’s speculation is just a guess; it’s important to make these judgments in the most educated respect possible (to the point where we can say we are reasonably sure it may have happened this way).

This week I met with Doctor Jaap Jacobs, the leading historian on the colony of New Netherland. I could not have been more happy to have his time, and I could not thank Professor Roper enough for arranging it. Jacob’s has written many books, articles, etc., on the political, economic, and social climate of the New Netherland colony and, this goes without saying, has thoroughly researched the topic. So, you can imagine how eager I was to ask him some questions about our Peter Jansen Mesier!

The first thing I wanted to know was, given the resources I’ve gathered about Peter’s mill, how sure could we be that the mill was in fact built by him, and if the mill we’re speaking of is the one depicted on numerous maps/drawings of the bluff.  It was amazing to see how Jacobs went about answering this question. First we started with the genealogy. Peter J. Mesier was born in Europe sometime around 1640. The mill was built in either 1661 or 1662, making Peter only around twenty years old. This already raises the question: would a twenty year old really have the means to erect a mill, immediately upon settling in the colony (which he did in 1660)? It’s not impossible that he did, but given the stock of Europeans that came to New Netherlands, it’s not likely that he similarly came with much money. It was a “fresh start” for most.

Jacobs has his own private database that he’s assembled from doing his own research in the Netherlands, which was fascinating. Further, he has documents that I’m not able to find online, or, to my knowledge, anywhere in New York. (This was very upsetting, because as it turns out, Jacobs was able to find a few curious documents pertaining to Peter Mesier – but he did put notes on the documents that I would be interested in, and said when he gets back to the archives he would scan them!).  Thus, the next step Jacobs took was to search his database for any documents mentioning Peter Mesier. He found that around 1669 Peter petitioned for an inheritance from a distant relative, suggesting Peter might have been in want/need of money. Another record from early 1670s reveal that at that time, Peter was back in Amsterdam.

I was taken aback by this new information. Jacobs didn’t seem too surprised by this, and explained why Peter would have left for Amsterdam around 1670 and be back at the settlement (our records show) by 1673. He said this would suggest that Peter was a solider, and likely came to the colony on duty and was recalled back to Amsterdam around 1670. This would make sense because 1650s began the tension between England and the Dutch Republic which would, in 1652, result in the Anglo-Dutch Wars (domestically and in the colony). Thus we can imagine Peter being sent to New Netherlands in 1660 and then called back to Netherlands at the end of the decade to defend the country at home. The wars didn’t end, but we can speculate that Peter’s service ended and he, having witnessed all the opportunities that New York offered (and weren’t available to him back home), decided to return to the colony like many soldiers did.

Our one question about the mill led to all of this – and still did not resolve the question of the mill. That’s just how it works sometimes. When it comes to the mill, Jacobs suggested that it’s possible Peter may have bought the mill from someone at a later period (likely after his return from the Netherlands). We still want to know for sure, so I’m going to follow the next lead, which is getting in contact with L. F. Tantillo, the local artist who painted those two first paints I share on my first blog post. Jaap Jacobs is familiar with Tantillo and his work, and let me know that Tantillo is very thorough with his research and is involved with the New Netherland Institute in Albany.

If you want to know more about Jaap Jacobs and his work, you can follow this link: http://st-andrews.academia.edu/JaapJacobs

Goodbye for now!

Journey to The Archives and Special Collections at Marist College

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I’ve been looking forward to today for two weeks!

Two weeks ago I contacted John Ardsely, the Special Collections and Archives specialist at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. This past June Beth and another WHS volunteer spent time there going through the archive and had a flash drive made with digital scans of documents pertaining to the homestead. We are having some technical difficulties accessing the information that was originally put on the flash drive, so I decided to take a trip there myself to see what Marist holds in their collections.

If you don’t take it upon yourself to visit an archive, you are missing out. There is nothing more interesting than carefully pulling papers and books from boxes and unearthing the mysteries they contain. The musty smell, the still quiet, and the stark cold all add to the ethereal-like experience of being so intimate with history.

Thus, I spent over five hours there looking through box after box of original indentures, correspondence, deeds and agreements that date as far back as the 1750s. I found an abundance of information on our Mesier Family, but the best part was reading letters written in their own hand and stamped with their personal seals.

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From the indentures it is pretty clear that the Mesiers had a good amount of wealth. They ran businesses, owned flour mills, and rented/mortgaged/leased their properties in Wappingers. Also they apparently hired/owned anywhere from 7-15 servants/slaves at various points of time – this is something we are extremely interested in and I want to find more information on this aspect of the home’s history. We already knew that the Mesiers had slaves/servants for the slave quarters and separate staircase leading to it are very much preserved and seems to represent its original condition.  Here are pictures of the room:
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Isn’t that intriguing?

My two favorite findings from the archives are Joanna Mesier’s poetry notebook and Maria Mesier’s short history of the family, Old Homestead. Joanna’s poetry notebook is fantastically intact. It was an awesome experience to hold and read her poems written in her own hand, especially since Joanna seems to be an dearly loved and respected member of the Mesier family (according to Henry Suydam’s account of the Mesier family history – he knew her personally). Her portrait hangs in the parlor, and surprisingly, though we have her’s, we do not have a portrait of her husband, Mathew Mesier. Here is one of the poems written in the notebook:

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The Deserted Village

Sweet Auburn! Loveliest village of the plain

Where health and plenty cheered the laboring swain

Where smiling spring its earliest ___ paid

And parting summers lingering blossoms delayed

Dear lovely ____ of innocence and ease

Seats of my youth, when any spark could please

Have often have I ____ over thy green

When humble happenings ______ each scene

How often have I focused on every charm

That sheltered cob, the cultivated farm

[This poem is not Joanna’s own, but copy work of the first 10 lines of Oliver Goldsmith’s “The Deserted Village.” (thank you, Professor Higgins, who realized this!)]

Finally, I could not have been more happy to find Maria’s short written history of her family. This may be the most important bit of information I found at Marist, because the short book is a secondary source written by someone who would have been directly familiar with the Mesier Family. Maria Mesier was one of the daughters of Mathew and Joanna. She was born in 1808 and died just before the homestead was given to the town in 1890. What Maria’s account does is give us a personal sense of who the Mesiers were as she describes their characters and personal lives. I really love this piece; I’m so thankful that it’s been preserved and kept. Here it is! Behold such valuable, wonderful information on our dear Mesiers (thank you, Maria!):

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Thanks John Ardsley and the Archives/Special collections staff for pulling the boxes for me! I found lots of invaluable information that surely will help complete my Mesier research. I’m sure I’ll be making more visits in the near furture.

Hope you all enjoyed!

9/09/14 – Next in Line, Peter Mesier!

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Good evening!

So, as promised, next in line we have Peter Mesier, Peter J. Mesier and Maritje Mesier’s son. Peter J. Mesier had two sons, Peter and Abraham. The Peter Mesier that we are now speaking of was the father of Peter Mesier, who came to Wappingers and purchased the homestead in 1776 (I’ll write much more about this particular Mesier in the following post).

This second Peter in the Mesier Lineage was born in New York around 1696 (or 1698 – I’m working on confirming this) and died there in 1770. In 1721 he married Jenneke Wessels and two sons, Peter and Abraham (AGAIN – did they want  us to be confused?!), and a daughter named Catherine. I’m disappointed that I haven’t found much information about his life, and I’m hesitant to share without a source to cite, but we generally know that he was a wealthy merchant in the city. His son, Peter, carried out the legacy of the 15 homes and residences they owned there until 1776 (this we are certain of).

Copies of both portraits of Peter Mesier and his wife, Jenneke, hang in the great hall and are seen upon entering the homestead. The originals are in possession of the Reese family, direct descendants of the Mesiers. It was an exponential cost to have these portraits painted in the Mesier’s time – so we can gather from this idea alone that they were likely a wealthy family (aside from the fact that we know Peter Mesier ran and owned many properties in the city). I want to gather some more information to share, and I’m sure I’ll find some, but for now I believe this is as much as I could say about Peter Mesier.

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