JOHN VAN METER AND THE FIRST LAND GRANT IN THE VALLEY OF VIRGINIA
By Thomas Forsythe Nelson
In August 1662, there arrived at New Amsterdam (now New York) as passengers on the good ship Fox. Jan Joosten, with his wife and five children, from the Thielerwaert, near Arnhem, in the Province of Gelderland, Netherlands, who settled with other Hollanders at Wyldwick (now Kingston, Ulster County, N. Y.). A year later "Jan Joosten, woman, and two children" were carried off by the hostile Indians of that vicinity, and the record says he was only rescued after prompt and vigorous pursuit by his neighbors. Jan Joosten, immediately after his arrival, became identified with public affairs. He took the oath of allegiance as an inhabitant in 1664, and was soon after appointed "schoeten". He then became a deacon of the church, and settled finally, by the purchase in 1671 of a home lot, in Marbletown, where he was a magistrate in 1673.
The documentary records of Ulster County and of the Dutch church at Kingston contain frequent reference to him and to his son, Joost Jansen, who was born at the town of Meteren, in the Nether-lands, and who signed his name Joost Janse Van Meteren from and after his maturity, at about which time it became customary to adopt surnames.
Jan Joosten, b. in the Netherlands, d.1705, perhaps in Ulster County, N. Y. His wife and the mother of his children is not now known, being no doubt the "woman and two children" captured by the Indians, and of whose rescue there is no certain record, except as to Jan Joosten himself. His name is found in the records between 1672 and 1683 in connection with that of Maycken Hendrickse, who was, perhaps, his second wife. He had issue, who arrived at maturity, viz:
(Following is hard to read)
(1)Joost, Adrienne, who died c. 1698, and by his will Jan Joosten Tutor and (unreadable line) b. c1660 at Meteren, in the Netherlands, married Sara Du Bois.
Joost Adrienne, b. in the Netherlands and perhaps, the eldest child of Jan Joosten, since he d. 1683, leaving his children, the same no doubt that Jan Joosten and his wife had stood sponsor for at baptism, viz., Jannete je in 1672, Willem in 1678, and Hendrick in 1681.
Joost Janse Van Meteren, b. c1660 at the village of Meteren, a short distance southwest of Bureu. Brought to America by his father Jan Joosten, he grew to manhood at Marbletown, Ulster County, N. Y. He died c1700-1705. He married, 12 Dec. 1682, Sara Du Bois, b. 14 Sept. (hard to read 1664?), daughter of Louis Du Bois and Catharine Blanshan, his wife. They were married at Kingston, and the record says "he of Marbletown and she of Niew Paltz". They had issue, whose dates of birth are given in the records of the Dutch Church at Kingston, viz: (1) Jan b. 14 Oct., 1683, m. Margaret----(2) Rebecca, b. 26 April 1686, became the wife of Cornelius Eltinge; (3) Lysbeth, b. 3 March, 1689: (4) Isaac, b. 1692 m. first Catherine---, the widow Mulinaer; m. second, Hannah Wyncoop; (5) Hendrick, b. 1 Sept, 1695, who it is said was married three times, his third wife being Mary Fetters by whom he had ten children.
John or Jan. Van Meter is the only one in this third generation to whom attention is to be directed at this time. He was b. 14 Oct., 1683 at Marbletown, near Kingston, Ulster County, N. Y. , the son of Joost Janse Van Meteren and Sara Du Bois, his wife. He married c.1704, Margaret---, of whom no search has thus far produced even a suggestion as to the identity of her family or where they resided. She was yet living when John Van Meter’s will was drawn 13 August 1745 (probated 3 Sept. 1745, at Winchester, Va.). They had issue (1) Johann (?) b. c1705, m. Rebecca Powelson, and died before 1745, the date of his fathers will, which provides for his two children, John and a sister Joanna; (2) Rachel, b.1707, d. -----, the wife of -------Leforge, before the date of her fathers will, leaving a son, John; (3) Isaac, b. c1709 m. Alice -------; (4) Rebecca, b. 1711, d. the wife of Solomon Hedges; (5) Henry, b. c1713; (6) Elizabeth, b. 1715 became the wife of Thomas Shepherd, of Shepherdstown, and d. sometime in 1792-1793; (7) Abraham, b. c1717, m. Rebecca------; (8) Sarah, b. c.1719, and became the wife of James Davis; (9) Mary, b. c1721, married Robert Jones; (10) Jacob, b. 1723, m. Lettice Strode; (11) Magdalene, b. c1725, and became the wife of Robert Pewsey.
Family Next in Jersey.
The first trace of John Van Metre found outside of Ulster County is when he filled an inventory of the estate of his grandfather, Jan Joosten, June 13, 1706, at Berlington, West Jersey. It is to be presumed that his father, Joost Janse Van Meter, was also deceased some time prior to this date. This estate was then valued at L235. The records do not yet disclose further traces of him until in 1714, when "John Van Meter, Isaac Van Meter, Jacob Du Bois, and Sara Du Bois, his sister the mother of John and Isaac Van Meter" purchased from Daniel Cox 3,000 acres of land on Alloways Creek, at Salem, West Jersey. On the 6th of February 1715, John Van Meter and his mother are back in Kingston, N. Y. at which time they stood sponsor at the baptism of Sara, daughter of Cornelius Eltinge, and Rebecca Van Meter, his wife. This Sara Eltinge later in Frederick County, Maryland, became the wife of John Hite, while a younger sister, Helita (Eleanor) Eltinge, wedded Isaac Hite, his brother.
Secures Maryland Grant.
For the next ten years from this date, or until 1726, the movement and place of residence of John Van Meter are uncertain. Many of his relatives were settled in the vicinity of Lancaster, Pa. His brother Isaac, with his family, had become identified with Salem, West Jersey, and on May 27, 1726, a deed is on record at Trenton "from Sara Du Bois, alias Van Meter, to my dutiful and loving son, Isaac Van Meter, being a part of the tract bought in 1714," Conveying her share of the purchase of the 3000 acre tract. John Van Meter appears in Maryland on Monocacy River, near its confluence with the Potomac, where he secured a grant of 300 acres from Lord Baltimore on the 8th of November 1726. This leads to the conjecture that he was identified with, and perhaps the leading mind in opening up an early line of communication with the German colonists in Fauquier and Orange Counties in Virginia, which followed along the eastern foothills of the "Blew Mountains" crossing the Potomac at or near the point where he had selected his 300 acre grant, thence along the west bank of the Monocacy to a crossing some eight or ten miles north of Frederick, Md., at which point was once located the earliest Dutch church within the domain of Lord Baltimore; thence into Pennsylvania, ending among the Holland Dutch and German settlements ---------unable to read-------portals of the natural gateway to the Indian country in the boundless West, he was in a commanding situation from the viewpoint of a shrewd Indian trader.
Gives up Jersey Tract.
How long prior to this purchase of land from Lord Baltimore he had been located here can now only be conjectured, but from this point of vantage John Van Meter was in 1726 conducting his affairs as an Indian trader, no doubt as is claimed. On 25 March 1730, he disposed of his lands at Salem, in West Jersey, which he had held since 1714, and on the deed is described as John Van Meter, yeoman of Price George County, which at that time covered all of western Maryland. He had interested numerous of his friends and relatives to remove from Ulster County, N. Y. and from Lancaster, Pa. to settle in Maryland among whom was Cornelius Eltinge, who had married his sister Rebecca. During his residence on the Monocacy, and perhaps prior thereto he had explored the great western country lying beyond the forks of the "Potowmack" and he well knew the beautiful and fertile limestone valley which lay between the Shanando and Cohongoroota River as the Potomac was called above Harpers Ferry.
The desire to enter into and to possess this land "flowing with milk and honey" was a natural one. The attitude of Lord Fairfax, who possessed the Northern neck of Virginia, was far from being liberal, and his boundaries were vague and unknown even to himself: Consequently John Van Meter and his brother Isaac who yet resided at Salem, West Jersey, each made their application to Gov. Gooch and the Virginia Council for a grant of land over in this, the unknown valley. Such grants were then being freely given, in conformity with a policy, which had been forced by the attitude of liberality shown to settlers within the domain of Lord Baltimore, and thus encouraged more rapid settlement, which was at that time confined in Virginia, as well as in Maryland, to a narrow strip scarcely fifty miles in width and closely bordering the Chesapeake, the lower Potowmack, Rappahannock, and James rivers.
Granted Virginia Do---.
Action was taken on these ---lications and 40,000 acres were granted to each of them June 17, 1730. In his petition John Van Metre says he wishes this land for himself and his family of eleven children, and for his friends who are of the government of New York. Almost immediately after the recording of the action of the governor and council of Virginia in their journal (see Mss. Journal 179-81 page 363), John Van Meter sold to Joost Heydt, later called Yost Hite, this vast tract of 40,000 acres, to which the action of the Virginia authorities had "given him evidence of the title under certain prescribed conditions as to actual settlement.
If the shrewdness of John Van Metre and the cupidity of Lord Fairfax as displayed in the land transactions of that day, were to be exercised in a similar way in these days of land frauds and congressional investigation, they would perhaps both discover that conditions are somewhat changed, and furthermore, would have to face charges much graver than those looked upon as right and proper at that time.
Had "Inside Knowledge".
It was generally known to all that the domain claimed by Lord Fairfax covered all the land lying between the rivers Rappahannock and the Potomac, and bounded perhaps by a line drawn from the head waters of the one to those of the other. At the date of this grant to John Van Meter it was also generally supposed, and by Lord Fairfax himself, no doubt, that the Potomac river headed on the eastern side of the summit of the "blew Mountains", and that a line drawn from the headwaters of the Rappahannock to those of the Potomac would follow closely the summit of the range. John Van Meter knew better than this; he knew what the others did not then know, that the Potomac broke through the mountain barrier at what is now Harpers Ferry, and that the land which he coveted and proposed to claim under his grant from Gov. Gooch was also already covered, or at least, would be claimed under a broad construction of the grant held by Lord Fairfax; consequently a title to this land would be much easier to defend and establish, if vested in an innocent third-party purchaser; hence his sale en-bloc to Joost Hite. The Hite family was later if not at this time, connected by bonds of relationship with the Van Meter family. It is claimed that Joost Hite married Anna Maria Du Bois, a daughter of Louis Du Bois, of Kingston, N Y.
Relationship Is Obscure.
This if true would bring John Van Meter and Joost Hite into the relationship of nephew and uncle, as it is fully established that John Van Meter’s mother was Sara Du Bois, daughter of Louis Du Bois and Catherine Blanshan, his wife. The will of Louis Du Bois does not show however that he had a daughter Anna Marie, and comparing the ages of the two would suggest that the re__unable to read line.___….Be that as it may, Joost Hite was influenced into the purchase, and he at once proceeded to carry out the conditions of the grant with respect to actual settlement, and we find further that John Van Meter became one of the settlers and repurchased from Joost Hite such portions as he desired for himself and his family "of eleven children". An examination of these several tracts will show, even today, that John Van Meter was an excellent judge of land. These tracts were soon after, perhaps as early as 1730 (the year of the original grant), occupied by him and retained until his death, in 1745, when they passed into the possession of his children by deed of gift and bequest.
As the settlement of the valley proceeded, title was vested in the contract purchaser, by the patent direct from the Colony of Virginia to the settler, and in due time the true conditions respecting the headwaters of the Potomac came to knowledge of Lord Fairfax.
Fairfax’s Great Holdings.
He set about having a survey made, in 1736-7, to determine their actual extent. The magnitude of the Fairfax grant, or, as claimed by him, is shown under the several constructions placed upon the wording of the original grant, and is set forth in the report of the "proceedings of the Commissioners to lay out the bounds of the Fairfax claim." This was made August 10, 1737, and is as follows:
"If it shall be thought just to bound Lord Fairfax’s claims by a line drawn from the fork of the Rappahannock to the fork of the Potomac, his territory will then contain at least 1,476,000 acres of land. If the line be drawn from the head of Hedgman River to the fork of the Potomac, his lordship will then possess 2,033,000 acres. In case his boundary shall be allowed to run from the head of Hedgman River to the head spring of Cohongorooton, then his grant will contain 3,872,000 acres. But if his lordship be allowed to extend his boundary from the head of Conway River to the head spring of Cohongorooton, including the great and little fork of the Rappahannock, he will then have at least 5,232,000 acres."
Settler’s Patents Affirmed.
The shrewdness of John Van Meter’s sale to Joost Hite is made apparent by referring to the "Spotswood Letters" Vol. 1, page 153, as follows: "The conflicting rights of the Northern Neck patents with those claimed by Joost Hite and others have been the cause of innumerable lawsuits, which crowded the records of the State courts to a period advanced into the nineteenth century". Suits were commenced in 1736 by Lord Fairfax, who then sought to recover the several tracts patented under this Van Meter grant, setting forth his priority of title thereto direct from the crown. In most cases, after years in the courts, these titles were finally vested and confirmed in those who had acquired patents from the colony of Virginia through Joost Hite under his purchase from John Van Meter, notwithstanding the fact that Lord Fairfax’s claim under its broadest construction was finally confirmed to him by the King in 1745.
These grants of land to John and Isaac Van Meter, in 1730, were the first in the Valley of Virginia.
The article above is an article from the Washington Herald, dated October 27, 1907.
Sent to me by Greg Cox