Early Dutch Settlers

The Conovers, Schencks, Vanderveers and Smocks

A Monmouth County Family With an Enviable History-A Tri-Centennial Celebration of the Families Suggested

Roelof Martense Schenck was born at Amersfoort, Province of Utrecht, Holland, in 1619, and came to New Amsterdam with his brother Jan and sister Annetje in 1650. In 1660 he married Neeltje, daughter of Gerritt Wolphertse Van Couvenhoven, who was a son of Wolfert Garretson VanCouwenhoven, who came from Amersfoort aforesaid to America in 1630 with the Dutch emigrants who settled Rensselaerwick, near what in now Albany, in the state of new York. Soon after his marriage to Neeltje Conover (as the name is now spelled) he settled permanently at Flatlands, Long Island, where his wife had been born.

His will was made September 4th, 1704, proved August 3d, 1705, and is recorded in Book 7, page 209, in the surrogate's office of the county of New York. This will, with other information concerning him and many of his descendants, is published in a book compiled by Capt. A. D. Schenck, U. S. A., published in 1883, and entitled "Ancestry and Descendants of Rev. William Schenck."

The will of his son Garrett, who settled in Monmouth county, N. J., is also published in this work; it was executed January 12, 1739, proved October 7th, 1745, and is now on record in the office of the secretary of state of New Jersey.

Roelof Martense Schenck devised all his real estate to his eldest son, Martin, who married June 20th, 1686, Susanna Abrahamse Brinkerhoff. He bequeaths to his two youngest sons, Garret and Jan, and to his six living daughters, Jonica, Maryke, Margaretta, Neeltje, Mayke and Sara, and the two children of his deceased daughter, Annetje, sixty and a half pounds each, and makes these legacies chargeable upon the real estate devised to his eldest son.

His two sons, Garret and Jan, settled in Monmouth county about 1695. Their names appear in our court and other public records soon after this date. They and their wives were among the first communicants of the Marlboro Dutch church, as it is now called. Garret Schenck married Neeltje Coerten VanVoorhees at Flatlands, L.I., and died September 5th, 1745, on the farm known as the Rappleyea farm at Pleasant Valley, in Holmdel township, now occupied by Theodore R. Thorn.

He names in his will five sons, Roelof, who married Eugentje VanDorn; Koert, who married Mary Peterse VanCouwenhoven, and who died on his farm near the present village of Marlboro in 1771; Garret, who married Jannetje Williamse VanCouwenhoven and died on the homestead farm in Pleasant Valley February 14th, 1792; John, who married for his first wife Ann Couwenhoven, and died February 13th, 1775, Albert, who married first Caty Conover, second, Agnes Van Brunt, and died May 21st, 1786.

Mary, one of Garret Schenck's daughters, married Hendrick Smock and died in 1747, leaving six sons and two daughters surviving her.

Altje, another daughter, married Tunis VanDerveer and had six sons and three daughters.

A third daughter married for her first husband Hendrick Hendrickson and for her second Elias Golden.

The Smocks and Vanderveers, now so numerous in Monmouth county, are principally descended from these sons of the above-named Schenck sisters.

Jan Schenck, the brother of Garret, was born at Flatlands, L. I., February 10th, 1670, married there in 1691 his cousin, Sarah Couwenhoven, who was born at the same place January 6th, 1675. He died January 30th, 1753, on the farm now owned by Edgar Schenck, son of the late Hon. George Schenck, in Pleasant Valley. His wife died January 31st, 1761. Three of Garret and Jan Schenck's half-sisters married the three VanCouwenhoven brothers, who were the first settlers of this name in Monmouth county, viz:

First. Cornelius Williamse VanCouwenhoven, born at Flatlands, L. I., November 29th, 1672, married Margaretta Schenck there September 8th, 1700, and died May 16th, 1736, on his farm adjacent to the farms of Garret and Jan Schenck in Pleasant Valley. On pages 82 and 821/2 of the old town book of Middletown township is the record of their cattle marks as follows:


    "June ye 24, 1696,then Garret Schenck, Cornelius Couwenhoven and Peter Wicoff gave their ear marks to be recorded.
    "Garret Schenck, his ear marks, a fork on top of left ear and a piece cut aslope of the upper or foreside of the right ear, making the ear both shorter and narrower. Recorded to his son.
    "Cornelius Couwenhoven, his mark is a fork on the right ear and a small cut in on the underside of the left ear. Recorded to his son.
    " Peter Wicoff, his ear mark is a hole through the right ear and a piece cut aslope off the upper or foreside of the left ear, making the ear both shorter and narrower.
    "April 25, 1698, John Schenck, his ear mark is a crape of the top of the near ear and a half-penny on each side of same ear."

Second. Albert Williamse VanCouvenhoven, born at Flatlands, L. I. December 7th, 1676, married Neeltje Schenck there about 1701 and died on Monmouth county July 7th, 1751.

Third. Jacob Williamse VanCouwenhoven, born at Flatlands, L. I., January 29th, 1679, married Sarah Schenck there November 12th, 1795 and died at Middletown, Monmouth county, December 1st, 1744.

Thus a very close relationship, both by blood and intermarriage, existed between the two Schenck brothers and the three Conover brothers who first settled here, and who are the ancestors of all who now bear those names in Monmouth county.

The name Van Couwenhoven, as the Dutch language yielded very slowly but surely to the English tongue, underwent several changes both in spelling and pronunciation. Our early court and church records show some of these changes. The "Van" was dropped and name spelled Couwenhoven or Kowenhoven. Then Cowenhoven, next Covenhoven or Covenoven, and finally Conover.

This family has been in America nearly three centuries. As the original progenitor came here in 1630, another generation, or 32 years from present date, will complete this period since the Conover tree was first planted in the new world. Very few families in the United States of Netherland blood can show such an ancient lineage, about which there can be no doubt. Neither can any family show greater fidelity in their obedience to the scriptural injunction "to multiply in the land." If all the male and female descendants of Wolphert Garritson VanCouwenhoven now in the United States could be gathered together in one place it would be a mighty multitude.

Neither is any of this name known who has been convicted of any infamous crime. Their family history is remarkably free from all dishonorable stains. While none of them have achieved fame as authors, ministers, presidents, generals or millionaires, yet on the other hand they have generally occupied respectable positions, led useful lives, and been good citizens. That is, the Conovers are not found at either extreme of the social scale, but on the safe middle ground. During the stormy days of the Revolution, I do not know of a single Conover, Smock, Schenck or Vanderveer in Monmouth county who was a Tory. On the contrary, so far as I can learn, they were all sturdy, uncompromizing patriots. Many of them, like Captain Jacob Covenhoven, Colonel Barnes Smock, Captains John and William Schenck and Tunis Vanderveer, did yoeman service in council and in battle for their country. During the late war of the rebellion the records of our state show that over fifty Schencks and over seventy Conovers served in the New Jersey regiments. I therefore can sincerely say that I do not know of any family of Dutch descent who have a better right to celebrate the year 1930, the tri-centennial of their residence in America (now only 32 years off), than the Conovers and their kinsmen among the Smocks, the Schencks and the Vanderveers. They can then sing with gusto and truth the following verses and no one can question their right to do so, or the propriety of such a tricentennial jubilee.


    Ye sturdy Dutchmen, now arise,
      Stand up in a row,
    For singing of the ancient times.
      We're going for to go;
    When this fair land on every hand,
      Was peopled by the Dutch,
    And all the rest, however blest,
      They did not count for much.


    Of centennial celebrations,
      We've had some two or more;
    These upstarts of an hundred years,
      But one find in their score,
    And though they boast a mighty host,
      "Four Hundred," brave and fair;
    We quietly look in history's book
      And fail to find them there.

    CHORUS


    I am a Van, of a Van, of a Van, of a Van,
      Of a Van of a 'way back line;
    On every rugged feature
      Ancestral glories shine,
    And all our band in kinship stand,
      With all that's old and fine.
    I'm a Van, of a Van, of a Van, of a Van,
      Of a Van of a 'way back line.

G. C. B.

  Freehold, N. J., March 10th, 1898

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, March 16, 1898

More Early Dutch Settlers

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  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 8 Red Bank Register

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  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 12 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 13 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 14 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 15 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 1 Red Bank Register