Early Dutch Settlers

Traits Of The Three Conover Branches

A Fanciful Explanation of How the First Couvenhoven Got His name

Sheriff Sam Conover Describes the Three Vareties of Conovers

I have sometimes heard the inquiry, what does "Couvenhoven" mean in the Low Dutch language?

This question I cannot answer, although many years ago I heard a gentleman of this family give the following explanation:

He said that in the early settlement of Long Island, a Hollander with a long jaw-breaking name had taken up his residence near Gravesend. His nearest neighbors were English people, who had followed Lady Deborah Moody from Massachusetts Bay. The were unable to understand his Dutch talk any better than he understood their foreign speech. Neither were they able to pronounce his name. Near his house he had erected on four posts an old-fashioned oven. Such ovens were common in Monmouth county fifty years ago and they are still to be found in old-fashioned houses. They had a level brick bottom, some three or four feet wide and eight or ten feet in length. This was arched over with brick. Light, dry fuel, like old fence rails, was placed in the oven and fired. When the wood was burned and the oven thoroughly heated, the bread, pies or other things to be baked, were shoved in with a long-handled iron shovel. The door was then closed until the articles were thoroughly done. This Hollander also owned a cow, which had been brought over from his old sea-home, and was a highly prized animal in those early days. One cold winter's night a pack of hungry wolves approached very close to his dwelling. Their fierce howling frightened the cow, so that she broke out of the shed and ran wildly around the house. Coming in contact with the oven of four posts she kicked over or went over the oven. This incident was talked about by the English neighbors who unable to pronounce his name, described him as the man whose cow kicked over or went over the oven. This was soon abbreviated into "Cow-and-oven" or Cow-n-hoven." This is doubtless a fanciful explanation, like those given by Washington Irving in his Knickerbocker History of New York, of the meaning or origin of Dutch surnames, based on the erroneous idea that Dutch names have a meaning like English words of "idem sonans."

Although this old "Vancouvenhoven" name has been often changed, yet the genuine Conovers retain in a marked degree the physical and mental characteristics of the Batavian and Frisian race from which they spring; that is, where they have not intermarried too often with French, Irish, English or other foreign people.

The real Couvenhoven, whose Dutch blood is unadulterated, is generally a fine looking specimen of a man. Robust and well proportioned in person, square shouldered and deep chested, with ruddy complexion, light blue eyes and sandy hair; bluff in manner, sincere and frank in expression of his opinions, honest in his dealings and grim and tenacious in resolution; trickery deceit and show he detests, and would rather be under estimated than overestimated by other people. He wants the substantial things of this life and not the mere show or appearance of things. That is, he would choose anytime a square meal of pork and potatoes rather than a fine or fashionable suit of broadcloth, with jewelry to match, on an empty stomach. Such are some of the traits of the genuine Couvenhoven, if a true descendent of the first Hollanders of this name, and there ought to be many genuine Conovers in Monmouth. The late Rev. Garrett C. Schenck told the writer that there have been 150 marriages in Monmouth county since 1700 where both the bride and groom were of this name. The three brothers who settled here must have been men of marked individuality, great vigor and force of character. For a century after their settlement, or in 1809, their respective descendants were spoken of as three separate or distinct branches of families.

The late Samuel Conover, who was twice sheriff of Monmouth county, often remarked that there were three kinds of Conovers, and distinguished as the "Lop-Eared" Conovers, the "Big-Foot" Conovers and the "Wide Mouth" or "Weasel" Conovers.

The lop-eared variety were so called because of their protuberant ears, set at right angles with the head. They were noted for their up-to-date farms, substantial buildings and good strong fences. The crops in the rear of their farms were as well cultivated and looked as good as those next to the public highway, for none of them liked "Presbyterian" farming, as they called it. They liked to set a good table with full and plenty on it, and the wayfaring man, if half decent in looks, who happened to come along at meal time, was never denied a seat at their table.

The "Big-Foot" Conovers, although sadly lacking in the standard of beauty which prevails in the Celestial empire, are nevertheless a fine-looking people. Some of the most handsome men and most beautiful women ever raised in Monmouth county can be found among the different generations of the big-foot variety. They, too, liked good big farms, solid and comfortable buildings for man and beast, with well filled barns, well stocked cellars and smokehouses, with true friends and neighbors to gather around the blazing fire and partake of the good cheer of their homes.

The "Wide-Mouth" or "Weasel" Conovers were generally tall and wiry men, polished and polite in manners, smooth and pleasant in speech, and very well groomed in appearance and dress, fond of fast horses and elegant carriages, of fashionable clothing and expensive jewelry. This variety of the Conovers were also very successful in horse trading, in running for office and also occasionally in "bucking the tiger," when led into it by bad company. In fact they were at home in any business which required diplomacy or extra finesse.

How this description given by Sheriff Sam Conover tallies with the real facts the reader can judge for himself. I merely repeat the current gossip without vouching for its accuracy, although I can safely say that so far as successful horse trading and office getting goes, nobody has ever beat the Couvenhovens in Monmouth county unless it is the Hendricksons, the Schencks, the Smocks or the Vanderveers, who are really nine-tenths Conover by blood and intermarriage for some 300 years.

The Schenck Family

Some of the Descendents of These Early Settlers

Jan Schenck, who settled on and owned the farm now owned by Edgar Schenck in Holmdel township, was a VanCouwenhoven on his mother's side. He likewise married an own cousin, Sarah Couwenhoven, who was a sister of the three brothers of this name, who all married Schenck wives and settled in Monmouth county.

His will was executed September 7th, A. D. 1746, proved June 3d, 1753, and is now on record in the office of the secretary of state at Trenton, in book F of wills. The introduction of this will is in quaint form and is as follows;

    In the name of God Amen:

    The seventh day of September in the seventh year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second by the Grace of God over Great Britain King, etc. Annoq Dotani one thousand seven hundred and and forty-six, I, John Schenck, Sen. of Middletown in the County of Monmouth, and Eastern division of the Provitee of New Jersey, yeoman being in health of body and of sound and perfect mind and memory, thanks be given to God; therefore calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to Die, do make and ordain this my last will and Testament. That is to say I give and recommend my soul unto the hands of God that gave it, and my Body I recommend to the Earth to be buried in Christian like and decent manner at the discretion of my Executors, hereafter mentioned, nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God; and as touching these worldly things and Estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me in this life, I give, Devise and Dispose of the same in manner and form following. Viz: Imprimis I will and positively Order that all my Debts and Funeral charges be paid and fully discharged in convenient time after my Decease by my Executors hereafter mentioned.

The will gives to his wife, as long as she may live, the use of the entire estate, and at her death the personal property was distributed among his children, while his son John received the farm.

Jan Schenck and his wife were buried in the old Schenck and Couvenhoven burying ground, which lies at the corner of the farms of Edgar Schenck, Theodore R. Thorne and Henry Conover, about half a mile from Holmdel village and near the turnpike in Keyport. This graveyard has lately been cleared up and put in order by Mrs. Lydia Hendrickson Schenck Conover, daughter of the late Daniel P. Schenck and widow of Dr. Charles A. Conover of Marlboro. It was a very creditable work, for which she deserves commendation. She had also devoted much time and labor to tracing up an accurate record of the descendants of Jan Schenck from church records, inscriptions on old tombstones and private family papers scattered through many farmhouses in Holmdel and the adjacent townships. She had thus completed a genealogy which can be depended on for accuracy. I am indebted to her for nearly all the dates of births, deaths and marriages contained in this paper. She has accomplished a work which will be more appreciated in the future than though she had erected a costly monument over their graves. She has honored the memory of a virtuous, hardy and industrious race of men and women , who laid the foundation of the solid respectability and prosperity which their descendants have so long enjoyed in Monmouth county and elsewhere in the United States where they have settled.

Some of the descendants of the two Schenck brothers who settled here over two centuries since, like General Robert C. Schenck of Ohio, Admiral Findlay Schenck and others, have left names famous all over our country for ability and patriotism.

Jan Schenck by his wife, Sarah Couwenhoven, had the following children:


    Roelof, born February 21st, 1692, married Geesie, daughter of Sheriff or Capt. Daniel Hendrickson; died January 19th, 1766.
    Sarah, born 1696, Married May 16th, 1721, Johannes Voorhees of New Brunswick. Second husband, Hendrick Voorhees of Freehold township.
    Aitje, bapized May 25th, 1705, married Chrystjan VanDooren, died 1861.
    Rachel, born February 19th, 1709, is said to have married a Boone of Kentucky.
    Maria, born August 8th, 1712, married Jacob VanDooren and died October 31st, 1756.
    Leah, born December 24th, 1714, married December 17th, 1735, Peter Couwenhoven and died March 12th, 1769.
    William, baptized April 13th, 1718, died young.
    Jannetje, baptized April 12, 1719, married Bernardus Verbryke, who is said to have settled at Neshaminy, Pa.
    John, born June 27th, 1722, married June 28th, 1750, Nellie Bennett; died December 24th, 1808.
    Antje, born _____ married Arie VanDooren.
    Peter, born _____ married Jannetje Hendrickson.

John, to whom the father devised all his real estate, lived and died on the homestead farm in Pleasant Valley.

John Schanck , by his wife, Nellie Bennett, who was born November 29th, 1728, and died June 1st, 1810, had the following children, all born on the farm in Pleasant Valley:


    John Schanck, born June 19th, 1752; moved to Ohio and settled there.
    Chrineyonce, born September 18th, 1753, died young.
    William, born March 30th, 1755; moved to Ohio and settled there.
    Ida, born February 1st, 1757.
    Sarah, born February 13th, 1759, married Ruliff, her own cousin, son of Hendrick Schanck and Catherine Holmes, December 22d, 1774; died April 13th, 1844.
    Chrineyonce, born December 29th, 1760, married November 20th, 1793, Margaret Polhemus; died March 15th, 1840.
    Peter, or Ogburn, born May 27th, 1763, married Anna Ogden.
    Nellie, born January 13th, 1765, married October 26th, 1785, Joseph H. Holmes, died June 5th, 1838.
    Annie, born November 15th, 1766, married December 28th, 1786, Denvse Hendrickson.
    Mary, born January 23rd, 1769, died May 12th, 1772.
    Daniel, born April 1st, 1771, married October 13th, 1793, Catherine Smock, died August 9th, 1845.
    Mary, born April 19th, 1775, married John O. Stilwell, March 25th, 1806, died September 29th, 1864. G. C. B.

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, March 23, 1898

More Early Dutch Settlers

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 1 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 3 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 4 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 5 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 6 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 7 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 8 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 9 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 10 Red Bank Register

  • Early Dutch Settlers Part 11 Red Bank Register

  • 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 2 Red Bank Register