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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
De Witt

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[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 362-367 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

The ancestor of the De Witt family in America was Tjerck Claessen De Witt, of whom the first mention made is to be found in the "Trouw Boeck," or register of marriages of the Reformed or Collegiate Dutch church of New York City. There it is recorded that on April 24, 1656, "Tjerck Claessen De Witt van Grootholdt en Zunderlandt" (Westphalia) married "Barbara Andriessen van Amsterdam." He was the son of Nicholas De Witt, of Holland, one of the members of a most influential family. It is not known whether other of his relatives actually came over from Holland at the same time that he did; but it is thought probable, as he had a sister, Emmerentje, who married Martinus Hoffman in 1662, at New Amsterdam, and his brother, Jan Claessen De Witt, died, unmarried, at Kingston, New York, in 1699.

Tjerck C. De Witt resided in New York for a short time following his marriage in 1656, where his first child was born; but removed in the spring of the following year to Albany, where he purchased a house and lot. He exchanged this in September, 1660, with Madame de Hutter, for land in Wiltwyck (Kingston), Ulster county, New York, with "possession to be given May 1, 1661." Here he lived until his death, and for two centuries and a half the place remained in the family. He was undoubtedly a man of means, as is shown by the fact that in 1661 he was taxed one hundred and twenty-five guilders (equal to about $50) to help pay for a new church building in Esopus, and in 1662 he owned No. 28 of the "New Lots." His eldest daughter, Taatje, was carried away from him by the Indians, June 7, 1663, during the destruction of Kingston and Hurley, but was rescued. Governor Lovelace deeded to him "a parcel of bush-land, together with a house, lot, orchard, and calves' pasture, lying near Kingston, in Esopus," on June 25, 1672, and Governor Andros, October 8, 1677, deeded to him about fifty acres of woodland west of the town. He was, on February 11, 1679, one of the signers of a renewal of the Nichols treaty with the Esopus Indians. He joined with others, in 1684, petitioning Governor Thomas Dongan that there might he "liberty by charter to this county (Ulster) to choose our owne officers to every towne court by the major vote of the freeholders." The petition greatly offended the authorities, so that the signers were arrested and fined for this display of a desire for free or local self-government. The trustees of Kingston conveyed to him one hundred and eighty-nine acres of land, February 13, 1685, and June 6, 1685, he claimed two hundred and ninety acres lying upon the north side of Rondout Kill, known as Momboccus, which was granted to him by patent May 14, 1694. He was elected a magistrate of Ulster county, March 4, 1689. He died at Kingston, New York, February 17, 1700. By his will, dated March 4, 1698, he left his property to his wife for life, and directed that after her death it be divided between his oldest and youngest sons, in trust, and by them divided into twelve equal shares, to be given to each of his children or their heirs; but to Lucas he devised the one-half of a sloop he had built the year before, and his widow was named executrix.

Tjerck Claessen De Witt married, at New Amsterdam, April 24, 1656, Barbara Andriessen, who died July 6, 1714. Children:

  1. Andries, born in New York City (New Amsterdam) in the early part of 1657 (see forward).
  2. Taatje, born at Albany, New York, about 1659, died previous to 1724; was carried off by Esopus Indians at the burning of Kingston in 1663; but was rescued; married, 1677, Matthys Matthyssen Van Keuren, son, of Matthys Jansen and Margaret (Hendrickse) Van Keuren, who in 1685 was commissioned captain and served against the French on the northern frontier.
  3. Jannetje, baptized February 12, 1662, died in 1744; married Cornelis Swits, born 1651, died 1730, son of Cornelis Claessen and Ariantje (Trommels) Swits.
  4. Klaes, baptized February 17, 1664, died previous to 1698.
  5. Jan, baptized February 14, 1666, died previous to probating of will, April 12, 1715; married Wyntje, daughter of Dr. Roeloff and Ikee (Aaghe) (Roosa) Kiersted.
  6. Geertruy, baptized October 15, 1668; married, March 24, 1688, Hendrick Hendricksen Schoonmaker, baptized May 17, 1665, son of Hendrick Jochemsen and Elsie (Janse) Schoonmaker.
  7. Jacob, married Grietje, daughter of Cornelis C. and Annatje (Cornelissen) Vernooy, and lived at Rochester, Ulster county, New York, where he was one of the trustees of the place.
  8. Rachel, married Cornelis Bogardus, died October 13, 1707, son of Cornelis and Helena (Teller) Bogardus.
  9. Lucas, married, December 22, 1695, Annatje, daughter of Anthony and Jannetje (Hillebrants) Delva; was commander and joint owner with his father of the sloop, "St. Barbara," and died in 1703.
  10. Peek, married (first), at Albany, January 2, 1698, Marytje Janse Vanderberg; married (second), December 21, 1723, Maria Teunis; he was first a resident of New York, subsequently buying land in Dutchess county, September 6, 1698, and in 1715 removed to Ulster county.
  11. Tjerck.
  12. Marritje, married (first), November 3, 1700, Hendrick Hendricksen Kortreght, son of Hendrick Jansen and Catharine Hansen (Weber) Kortreght; married (second), September 6, 1702, Jan Macklin.
  13. Aagje, baptized January 14, 1684; married, August 23, 1712, Jan Pawling, son of Henry and Neeltje (Roosa) Pawling.

(II) Andries, son of Tjerck Claessen and Barbara (Andriessen) De Witt, was born in New Amsterdam (New York City), between 1657 and 1660, and died at Kingston, New York, July 22, 1710. For some years he lived at Marbletown, Ulster county, New York, on a farm given to him by his father; but removed to Kingston previous to 1708. His death is recorded in the family records in this wise: "Captain Andries De Witt departed this life in a sorrowful way; through the breaking of two sleepers (beams) he was pressed down and very much bruised; he spoke a few words and died." He was buried in the church-yard at Kingston. He married, March 7, 1682, Jannetje Egbertsen. She was baptized in New Amsterdam, January 11, 1664, died November 23, 1733, and was the daughter of Egbert Meindertse and Jaepe (Jans) Egbertsen. Children:

  1. Tjerck, baptized January 12, 1683; died at Kingston, August 30, 1762; married (first), January 18, 1708, Anne Pawling, baptized June 19, 1687, daughter of Henry and Neeltje (Roosa) Pawling; married (second), October 17, 1739, Deborah, baptized September 14, 1684, daughter of Egbert Hendricksen and Annatje (Berry) Schoonmaker, widow successively of Jacob Vernooy and Hendrick Vroom.
  2. Jacob, baptized September 28, 1684, died young.
  3. Barbara, baptized August 22, 1686, died young.
  4. Klaes, baptized April 30, 1688, died young.
  5. Barbara (2d), born October 30, 1689; married, March 25, 1715, Johannes Van Leuven; died November 1, 1715.
  6. Jacob, born December 30, 1691; married, May 9, 1731, Hevltje Van Kampen, baptized October 6, 1700, daughter of Jan and Tietje Janse (Decker) Van Kampen.
  7. Maria, born January 21, 1693; married, October 30, 1713, Jan Roosa, Jr., baptized November 6, 1692, son of Jan and Hillegond (Van Buren) Roosa.
  8. Helena, born December 7, 1695; married, June 6, 1719, Jacob Swits, baptized at Albany, June 26, 1695, son of Isaac and Susanna (Groot) Swits.
  9. Andries, born April 1, 1697, died July 2, 1701.
  10. Egbert, born March 18, 1699, see forward.
  11. Johannes, born March 26, 1701; married, June 27, 1724, Mary Brodhead, baptized August 6, 1699, daughter of Charles and Maria (Ten Broeck) Brodhead.
  12. Andries, baptized February 20, 1704, died at Rochester, Ulster county, New York, in 1764; married, December 3, 1731, Bredjen Nottingham, baptized December 23, 1711, daughter of William and Margaret (Rutsen) Nottingham.

(III) Egbert, son of Andries and Jannetje (Egbertsen) De Witt, was born March 18, 1699. He settled at Napahanoch, in the town of Warwarsing, Ulster county, New York. He married, November 4, 1726, Mary Nottingham, born May 19, 1704, daughter of William and Margaret (Rutsen) Nottingham. Children:

  1. Andries, baptized October 15, 1727, see forward.
  2. Jacob Rutsen, baptized April 13, 1729; married, April 15, 1756, Jenneke, daughter of Moses and Margaret (Schoonmaker) Depuy; purchased land on the Navesink river, and was a captain of a militia company during the revolution.
  3. William, born in 1731; married, May 30, 1762, Susanna Chambers.
  4. John E., baptized September 19, 1733; married, October 26, 1765, Catherine Newkirk, baptized February 26, 1738, daughter of Cornelius, Jr., and Neeltje (Du Bois) Newkirk.
  5. Stephen, baptized December 14, 1735; married, December 8, 1770, Wyntje, baptized February 23, 1746, died July 7, 1830, daughter of John and Venni (Nottingham) Brodhead.
  6. Mary, born September 5, 1737, died September 12, 1795; married, February 18, 1765, General James Clinton, born August 9, 1736, died December 22, 1812, son of Charles and Elizabeth (Denniston) Clinton, and had son, DeWitt Clinton, governor of New York state.
  7. Egbert, baptized April 1, 1739.
  8. Thomas, born May 3, 1741, died at Kingston, New York, September 7, 1809; married, February 28, 1782, Elsie, born March 20, 1750, died June 28, 1832, daughter of Jacob and Maria (Hoornbeck) Hasbrouck; during the revolution commissioned as captain in the Third New York Regiment; was promoted to be major; assisted in the defence of Fort Stanwix (Rome, New York) when besieged by Colonel St. Leger, in August, 1777, and accompanied General Sullivan's successful expedition against the Indians.
  9. Benjamin, baptized January 19, 1743.
  10. Reuben, baptized October 20, 1745; married, November 11, 1772, Elizabeth, baptized May 20, 1753, daughter of Moses and Elizabeth (Clearwater) Depuy.

(IV) Andries (2), son of Egbert and Mary (Nottingham) De Witt, was baptized October 15, 1727, died at New Paltz, New York, September 30, 1799. He was a physician of excellent standing in his profession, and practiced in his native country for more than half a century. He married, April 24, 1748, Jannetje Vernooy, baptized March 3, 1728, died February 7, 1795, daughter of Johannes and Jenneke (Louw) Vernooy. Children:

  1. Anna, born April 6, 1749, baptized May 23, 1749, died January 20, 1819; married, April 5, 1778, Hugo Freer, of New Paltz, New York, born July 26, 1749, died October 13, 1808, son of Gerrit and Maria Freer.
  2. Egbert, born October 1, 1750, died March 25, 1816; married Elizabeth Smith, baptized December 18, 1755, daughter of Hendrick and Sarah (Keator) Smith.
  3. Maria, born April 24, 1752.
  4. John A., baptized November 15, 1753, died October 4, 1818; married, April 19, 1776, Rachel Bevier.
  5. Cornelis, baptized July 21, 1755.
  6. Simeon, born December 26, 1756, died December 3, 1834; married (first), October 12, 1789, Elizabeth Lynott, born January 3, 1767, died December 13, 1793; married (second), Janneke (Varick) Hardenberg, born May 18, 1760, died April 10, 1808, daughter of John and Jane (Dey) Varick, and widow of Abraham Hardenberg; married (third), October 29, 1810, Susan Linn, born October 30, 1778, died May 5, 1824, daughter of Rev. William and Rebecca (Blair) Linn.
  7. William, born December 17, 1758.
  8. Janneke, born 1760; married John C. Hardenberg, of Hurley, Ulster county, New York, baptized February 22, 1756, died 1833, son of Charles and Catherine (Smedes) Hardenberg.
  9. Catherine, baptized September 20, 1762, died August 24, 1850; married Nathaniel Bevier, baptized April 17, 1756, son of Johannes and Magdalena (Lefever) Bevier.
  10. Andries A., baptized January 20, 1766, died March 10, 1851.
  11. Sarah, baptized February 2, 1767.
  12. Elizabeth, born June 24, 1769; married, December 22, 1801, Henry Guest.
  13. Levi, born October 7, 1771. 14. Benjamin, born December 26, 1775, died, New York City, September 10, 1819; married, September 27, 1800, Eve, born, Albany, March 27, 1777, died May 21, 1832, daughter of James and Lydia (Van Valkenburg) Bloodgood.

(V) General Simeon, son of Dr. Andries (2) and Jannetje (Vernooy) De Witt, was born at Warwarsing, Ulster county, New York, December 26, 1756, died at Ithaca, New York, December 3, 1834. The baptismal record shows that he was baptized on the day following his birth, into the faith of the Reformed Protestant Dutch church. Young De Witt, after receiving such an English education as a scattered agricultural population afforded, was placed for classical instruction with Rev. Dr. Romeyn, of Schenectady, an intimate friend of his father. He was thus prepared for college, and was sent to Queen's (afterwards Rutgers) College, under Rev. Dr. Hardenbergh, graduating in 1776, the only one in the class. It was impossible to follow the course in quietude, for those were stirring times of revolutionary conflict. The battle of Long Island was followed by the evacuation of New York City, and the American forces were not permitted to retreat across the Hudson river unmolested, for General Howe pursued them to New Brunswick, burned Princeton, and then marched on to Trenton. De Witt continued his studies at home, passing much time in the family of his uncle, General James Clinton, of the revolutionary army, and the father of De Witt Clinton, afterwards governor of New York, with whom he was a great favorite. This intimacy kindled a patriotism which resulted in De Witt's achieving prominence throughout his long career.

The news of General Burgoyne's contemplated excursion by way of Canada into the United States aroused both old and young. A battalion was organized in Ulster county under General Gates, to join the American army, and with this De Witt marched as a volunteer adjutant. On arriving at the seat of war, the men were incorporated into a regiment already existing and being thus deprived of his temporary command, he fell into the ranks as a private, and in this capacity was present at the battles which decided the fate of Burgoyne, as well as being present at the surrender of the British following the battle of Bemis' Heights, October, 1777. The service being ended for which he and his companions had volunteered, he returned to his father's house, where he pursued his mathematical studies in connection with the practical business of surveying. Not many months had elapsed before General Washington, in a letter to General James Clinton, inquired whether he knew of any person who was qualified to act as geographer; in other words, to be a topographical engineer for the army. De Witt was immediately recommended, and was appointed in 1778 to be assistant to Colonel Robert Erskine, then geographer-in-chief. He performed his duties so admirably that when his superior died in 1780, De Witt was appointed head of the department, which commission was signed September 8, 1780, by Thomas McKean, president of congress, and took effect on December 4. He was ordered, December 16, 1780, by General Washington to go to headquarters at New Windsor, and continued attached to the main army until the end of the campaign. He was constantly employed in the survey along the route of the army to Yorktown, and was present both at its siege and surrender, thus having witnessed the two important surrenders, of Burgoyne and Cornwallis. The maps made by him were tendered to Washington with the suggestion that if printed by the government they would be of great value to the public; but although Washington advocated De Witt's idea, congress deemed the country too low in funds to attempt the undertaking. He was appointed surveyor-general on May 13, 1784, and he held the position for more than fifty years. He established, with James Clinton, the boundary between New York and Pennsylvania, completing the survey in the years 1786-87, in satisfactory manner. In 1786 the state legislature had requested him to prepare a map of New York, which he finished and published in 1802, being a most creditable effort on his part, and an index at this day of what the state was at that time.

In 1796 General Washington, without General De Witt's knowledge or solicitation, nominated him to the senate of the United States as surveyor-general, and the appointment was cordially ratified, but he was obliged from force of circumstances to decline. The following is the official record:

General De Witt considered this as the most gratifying event in his whole career, especially as he had gained, as shown by numerous private letters, the fullest confidence and friendship of George Washington. In 1798 he was elected a regent of the University, to succeed Hon. Lewis Morris, deceased, which office he held until his death, and for many years was senior member of the board. In 1817 he was elected vice-chancellor, and in 1829, chancellor of the University. He was a charter member of the Society of the Cincinnati, of which General Washington was president.

On the inception of the canal policy in New York, Mr. De Witt was officially directed to cause surveys to be made of all streams and rivers between the Hudson and Lake Erie, and for several years he was associated as one of the board of canal commissioners. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the oldest in the United States, joining in 1790, on the recommendation of Rittenhouse, to which he made one communication, published in the 6th volume, "Observations on the Eclipse of the Sun." He was president of the Lancaster school's board, Albany, and succeeded Chancellor Livingston as president of the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures, incorporated by him and others in 1793 in New York state, before which he read two scientific papers, "On a Plan for a Meteorological Chart," and "Establishment of a Meridian Line in the City of Albany." His writings on drawing and perspective were published in a volume entitled The Element of Perspective, 1813. In his annual address he introduced the novel idea of the rotation of crops. To the Transactions of the Albany Institute he contributed a table of variations of the magnetic needle; observations on the function of the moon, deduced from the eclipse of 1806, and a description of a new form of rain gauge. In Silliman's Journal he discussed the theory of meteors, and altogether he was thoroughly conversant with many important fields of science, but particularly agriculture and meteorology, ever exhibiting a most cultured mind, and a desire to advance the people's interest.

General Simeon De Witt married (first), October 12, 1789, Elizabeth Lynott, born January 3, 1767, died December 13, 1793; married (second), Janneke (Jane) Varick Hardenberg, born May 18, 1760, died April 10, 1808, daughter of John and Jane (Dey) Varick, and widow of Abraham Hardenberg; married (third), October 29, 1810, Susan Linn, born October 30, 1778, died May 5, 1824, daughter of Rev. William and Rebecca (Blair) Linn. The third wife of General De Witt, Susan (Linn) De Witt, wrote a novel, Justina, and also a poem entitled "The Pleasures of Religion."

General De Witt's second wife was a sister of Colonel Richard Varick, and with excellent reason the descendants are proud of the relationship. He was a noted revolutionary officer and recorder and mayor of New York. The latter office he occupied for twelve years, the longest term of service on record since the revolution. Colonel Varick was born of Dutch parentage, at Hackensack, New Jersey, in 1752, the common American ancestor of the family being Rev. Adolphus Van Vork, minister of the Reformed Dutch church at Jamaica, Long Island, who died in 1694. Colonel Varick was educated at King's, now Columbia, College, and embraced the profession of law. At the beginning of the revolution he tendered his services, and was appointed military secretary of General Philip Schuyler, then commanding the Army of the North. Congress appointed him deputy commissary-general in February, 1776, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and he was present as such at the memorable battles of Stillwater and Saratoga, fought in September and October, 1777. After the surrender of Burgoyne, he was stationed at West Point as inspector-general, and then became Washington's recording secretary until the close of the war. To him Washington wrote from Mount Vernon, January 1, 1784, a letter cherished by his relatives living at Albany, which, in part, is as follows: "I pray you will be persuaded that I shall take a pleasure in asserting on every occasion the sense I entertain of the fidelity, skill and indefatigable industry manifested by you in the performance of your public duties." In the possession of the Varick family is a small pair of silver spurs. As George, the young son of Governor Clinton, was one day riding down Broadway, in the city of New York, he was stopped by President Washington, who buckled these spurs on his boots with his own hands. Colonel Varick participated prominently in the formation of the Society of the Cincinnati, of which Washington was the first president, and he was elected president of the New York branch of that society, July 9, 1806. He served in the assembly in 1787-88, and in both years was chosen speaker. He was made attorney general, May 14, 1789, and was a reviser of the New York laws in 1778-89. The town of Varick was named in his honor, by act of legislature passed February 6, 1830. He died July 30, 1831.

Children of General Simeon and Jane (Varick) De Witt:

  1. Richard Varick, born February 6. 1800, see forward.
  2. George Washington, born February 17, 1801, died August 2, 1814.
  3. Susan Linn, born September 3, 1811; married, in 1835, Levi Hubbell.
  4. Cornelia Lansing, born September 10, 1813, died March 15, 1820.
  5. William Linn, born January 13, 1817, died at Ithaca, New York, October 12, 1903.
  6. Mary Linn, born February 23, 1819, died March 20, 1871.

(VI) Richard Varick, son of General Simeon and Jane (Varick) (Hardenbergh) De Witt, was born at Albany, New York, February 6, 1800, died at Albany, February 7, 1868. He inherited his father's scientific tastes, and was one of the founders of the old Albany Institute, as well as one of its first officers. Before that learned body he frequently displayed his scientific and literary attainments. He graduated at Union College, and after finishing his studies in the office of the late Harmanus Bleecker, afterwards United States Minister at The Hague, was called to the bar. He possessed a large property at Ithaca, New York, and while his natural tastes led him to literary pursuits, his prominent position forced him to a more active life. He established and maintained a line of steamboats on Cayuga lake, in their day considered models of speed and comfort. It was his pleasure to devote much spare time to architectural drawing; he has left behind many drawings of buildings and paintings in both water color and oil of the early types of steamboats, notably that of Fulton's "Clermont." Through his exertions and means, the Ithaca & Oswego railroad was constructed, which was one of the earliest lines in New York state; but unfortunately. in the financial disaster of 1837, he lost much of his property by the forced sale of this road. He was for many years both an elder and superintendent of the Sunday school of the Middle (or Second) Dutch Reformed Church of Albany. He was vice-president of the State Cincinnati Society, and during the absence of Governor Fish in Europe, acting president. His refinement was only one of his many charms, and throughout his whole life he maintained a spotless Christian character.

Richard Varick De Witt married, at Albany, New York, May 18, 1831, Sarah Walsh, born in Albany, December 20, 1805, died there May 5, 1842. Her father was Dudley Walsh, who married, September 24, 1793, Sarah, daughter of John and Magdalena (Douw) Stevenson. Dudley Walsh was born in Dublin, Ireland, 1756, died at Albany, May 24, 1816, and Sarah Stevenson, his wife, was born September 29, 1772, died at Albany, June 22, 1816. John Stevenson died April 24, 1810, and Magdalena Douw, his wife, died December 20, 1817. Children:

  1. Richard Varick, born at Albany, New York (as were all his brothers and sisters), August 30, 1832, see forward.
  2. Catherine Walsh, born November 26, 1833, died at Albany, January 8, 1907.
  3. Dudley Walsh, born October 31, 1835, died at Albany, June 20, 1904.
  4. Sarah Walsh, residing in Albany in 1910.
  5. Justina, born August 9, 1839, died May 8, 1840.
  6. Alice Justina, born February 22, 1841, died April 24, 1869; married, April 27, 1865, Augustus de Peyster, of Boston, Massachusetts.
  7. Infant, born April 13, 1842, died April 14, 1842.

(VII) Richard Varick (2), son of Richard Varick (1) and Sarah (Walsh) De Witt, was born in Albany, New York, August 30, 1832, died, after a brief illness at his home, No. 202 Lancaster street, Albany, August 21, 1901. He was educated at the Albany Academy, and after finishing his education, in 1849. entered the employ of the Albany Insurance Company. In 1854 he was employed in the New York State Bank, which position he held until 1868, when he again entered the insurance field. From 1872 to 1890 he was secretary of the Commerce Insurance Company, of Albany, and was secretary of the Albany Insurance Company from 1890 to 1896, when he resigned to engage in similar business for himself. He was appointed a member of the board of fire commissioners, September 8, 1887, and was for a long period the secretary of that board, serving with distinction until the board was legislated out of office in 1900. No man in Albany was more widely or more favorably known. His commercial career was most highly honorable, and he was noted for his geniality and humor. For seventeen years Mr. De Witt was a valued trustee of the Madison Avenue Dutch Reformed Church; at one time a director of the Albany Exchange Savings Bank; trustee of the Albany Medical College; member of the standing committee of the Society of the Cincinnati of State of New York, and president of the Albany branch of the Fire Insurance Agents' Association of New York State, and was a charter member of the Albany Academy Alumni Association. In his younger days he was fond of athletic sports and participated in rowing and baseball contests. He was well known as a clever writer on miscellaneous and historical matters, contributing most entertaining articles to the local and metropolitan press. He was wise in counsel, of excellent judgment, and ever exerted himself for the welfare of others and for the benefit of the public good. When he died Mayor Blessing, of Albany, ordered the flags to be lowered upon the City Hall and on all houses of the fire department. He was buried in the family plat with his ancestors in the Albany Rural Cemetery. A handsome memorial was dedicated September 25, 1910, in the Madison Avenue Reformed (Dutch) Church, in his memory and that of his family, by his only surviving sister.

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