Saturday, March 13, 2010

An Authentic Life

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Saturday afternoon.  I'm having a quiet one.  We've got some serious wind and rain outdoors, and I am just loving sitting here at the computer...hearing the howling of the wind...the rain pounding against the window pane...and knowing that I don't have to go out in it.  I do feel bad for hubby who just left to visit his son...and for my son who has to prepare a catering job today.  So, here I am...alone...but not lonely.  Loving every minute of it.  That last line sounded kind of selfish, didn't it? 

When I was a young woman just coming into my own in the 60's, I had been under the impression that young ladies of the past were prim and proper. That's what I had always been told, and perhaps many were prim and proper...but each generation has its rebels, the so-called "bad girl" and it seems that many of them found their way into my family line.  Now, I don't like calling them 'bad'.  To me, they were merely women who lived before their time; women who had been born too soon...women who lived an authentic life.  Margaret Stuyvesant was such a woman.

"Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself."--Andre Gide

My 9th Great Uncle was Peter Stuyvesant who was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  He came to America on 27 May 1647 and became acting governor of what was then called New Amsterdam.  It was he who eventually surrended the town and fort to the English.  New Amsterdam then became New York City.  Peter then spent the remainder of his life on his farm which was called "Bouwarie" from which the present Bowery in New York City takes is name.  Now, this tale is not about Peter, but it was such an interesting tale I figured I would share it.

Margaret was Peter's sister; she is my 9th great grandmother. She was a very notable character and as they say very mixed in her marriage relations.  Her husband, Jacob Backer, was quite a wealthy merchant in New York City.  They resided on the East Side near what now is called Broad Street.  In 1660, he traveled to Holland and left his business in the hands of his wife, Margaret.  He returned only occasionally to visit his wife and their children so it makes one wonder what was really up with their marriage. After the English conquest, he returned once to Holland and was never seen or heard from again.  It was reported that he died in the East Indies.

His property had been heavily mortaged and was foreclosed in 1670.  It was then that Balthazar De Hart, a wealthy merchant who lived on Pearl Street, purchased the property at a public sale.  And, as the story goes, he became quite intimate with the widow Backer.  He died in 1672 and having never married, left his entire estate to his three brothers--Daniel, Matthias, and Jacob...having first made a provision for his natural son, Matthias. (mother unknown)...and bequeathed to his Natural Son, my 8th great grandfather, Daniel De Hart, procreated by Margaret Stuyvesant, the house and lot occupied by him, all of which his mother, Margaret, to whom he was engaged, was to have use of until Daniel came of age.

Mrs. Backer then became a resident of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, mainly on account of a settlement she made with the executor of Balthazar's estate as he had acquired considerable land there before his death.  Later, Margaret, purchased about 224 acres of land, then remarried, but, through Dutch law, always kept her maiden name...Stuyvesant.  Rumor has it that all of her children were born out of wedlock. 

One of the greatest risks we can take, one which may also be painful, requires great courage to relate to others from the position of who we really are and not who others want us to be.  Each risk we take, each pain we experience, widens the path to freedom for others to follow and gives us increased confidence in our ability to live an authentic life.  Margaret lived an authentic life.  Although her father was a Reverend, she chose to live her life as a rebel against society's rules. I am sure that more than was she became the brunt of his angry words, but still she chose to live her life as she saw fit.   She was flamboyant and genuine.  She lived courageously and by doing so, encouraged others to be who they genuinely are.  She was a woman who lived before her time.


  1. Fascinating history, both of New York and your family. I always wondered where the name Bowery came from.

  2. love the family history!
    chose to live her life as a rebel against society's rules: a dutch trait perhaps? I know most of Joe's family are like this and many other dutch people as well.. like free spirits. I love it!

    your day sounds brilliant.. and no, you did not sound selfish at all.. I would do the same :)

    [somewhere on my blog is the story of my husbands mother who is of Dutch indonesian ancestry and related the Indonesian Royal family.. His mum, lived in the palace there in the early years and came to Holland later. They come from The Hague in Holland.]

  3. Mary,

    This is so interesting. Your history is very rich in NY heritage. How wonderful..and yes, Margaret was a woman who lived before her time. She lived as she thought was best for her and I'm sure made no excuses. One should admire women of substance.


  4. Great story. Sounds like you have some interesting family history. X.

  5. This is why I love genealogy so much... it makes history that much more interesting. And I was also surprised to find that I'd actually heard of Peter Stuyvesant before! I liked the story about Margaret much more though. =)

  6. Wow! What History you come from! Wow! Wow! Wow! You've been *holding out* on us. :-)