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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Pruyn

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[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 144-148 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.]

[* This narrative is from a record prepared by John V. L. Pruyn, Jr., published in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record.]

(VI) David Pruyn, fifth child of Lieutenant Casparus (q. v.) and Catherine (Groesbeck) Pruyn, was born in Albany, New York, August 24, 1771, died January 20, 1843. At the time of the division of the Great or Collegiate Consistory of the Dutch Church of Albany in November, 1815, David Pruyn was deacon. The Second Reformed Church then separated from the mother organization and he went with the Second Church. He was during his subsequent years a deacon and elder of that congregation, and at his death presiding elder. He was married, by Rev. John Bassett, February 27, 1794, to Huybertie Yates Lansing, born July 26, 1773, died September 2, 1855, daughter of Christopher and Sarah (Van Schaick) Lansing, of Albany. She was granddaughter of John Van Schaick and his wife, Alida Bogart, and great-granddaughter of Jacob Bogart and Catalyna, daughter of Peter Davidse Schuyler and his wife, Alida Van Slichtenhorst. This line again relates the Pruyns with the ancient Schuyler family. "Mrs. David Pruyn (Huybertie Lansing) was most eminent in all works of charity and piety. She was mainly instrumental in establishing Sunday schools in Albany, going to New York in 1815 to consult with Dr. Bethune, the so-called founder of the American system of Sunday schools. In June, 1816, with Mrs. Christian Miller, she opened a Sunday school for girls in Albany, and to her the church was indebted for very much abundant and profitable service. Though rather delicate in physique, she was incessant in her visitation of the sick and poor. She was an energetic organizer and leader of the Female Bible, Dorcas and Tract societies of Albany, The Woman's Prayer Meeting (still a feature of the church services) had its origin in her suggestion. Religion seemed woven into the texture of her being, enveloping her as an atmosphere, the heart life of her existence." Children of David and Huybertie (Lansing) Pruyn:

  1. Christopher Lansing, died in infancy;
  2. Sarah, born August 5, 1796, died in infancy;
  3. Lansing, born December 12, 1797, died aged two years;
  4. Catherine, born December 1, 1800, died in infancy;
  5. Alida, born September 2, 1801, died in infancy;
  6. John Van Schaick, twin of Alida, died in infancy;
  7. Catherine, born February 14, 1803, died April 6, 1885;
  8. Lansing, born September 30, 1805, died November 15, 1877; married, June 30, 1834, Anna Mary Saltus and had children; he was a leading merchant and citizen of Albany;
  9. Casparus, born April 2, 1809, died in infancy;
  10. John Van Schaick Lansing, see forward.

(VII) John Van Schaick Lansing, LL.D., (known as John V. L. Pruyn), youngest child of David and Huybertie (Lansing) Pruyn, was born in Albany, New York, June 22, 1811, died at Clifton Springs, New York, November 21, 1877. He had a most brilliant and useful career in both public and professional life, being skilled in the law. He was state senator, a member of congress, and chancellor of the University of the State of New York. As the foregoing pages show he was of the best Dutch ancestry. His maternal grandfather, Christopher Lansing, was quartermaster of General Schuyler's regiment in the revolutionary war, and a man of high character. On the maternal side he descended from the Van Schaicks, Yates, Bogarts, Van Slichtenhorsts, Verplancks and Schuylers. On the paternal side he also descended from the Bogarts, Verplancks and Schuylers, as well as from the Groesbecks and Van der Poels. His great-grandmother, Huybertie Yates, mother of Christopher Lansing, was sister of Hon. Abraham Yates, mayor of Albany from 1790 to 1796, whose fidelity to the principles of Jefferson procured for him the name of "the Democrat," and who wrote the famous political articles signed the "Rough Hewer." A direct though somewhat remote ancestor was Brant Arentse Van Slichtenhorst, of Nykerk, in Gelderland, who was appointed in 1646 during the minority of the young patroon, director of the Colonie of Rensselaerwyck, president of the court of justice, and general superintendent, with full powers to manage the Van Rensselaer estate. John V. L. Pruyn's character was moulded by his most excellent mother, and one of the beautiful features of his life was his devotion to her. He received his early education in private schools, and entered the Albany Academy in 1824, where he completed a full course of study. The noted Theodoric Romeyn Beck, M.D., LL.D., was principal of the academy during the years he spent there. Immediately after leaving the academy he entered the law office of James King, at that time one of Albany's most eminent lawyers, later a regent of the University of New York, and who in 1839 became chancellor. Mr. Pruyn became his private and confidential clerk and remained as such several months after being admitted to the bar. He was admitted as attorney in the supreme court of New York and a solicitor in the court of chancery, January 13, 1822. This latter court admitted him a counsellor May Z1, 1833, and the supreme court January 17, 1835. While still a young lawyer he was counsel for some of the parties to the famous "James Will Case," which gave him both reputation and experience. In 1833 he formed a law partnership with Henry H. Martin, who had been a fellow student in the office of Mr. King. The firm name was Pruyn & Martin. On May 27, 1833, he was appointed by Governor Marcy an examiner in chancery, and February 10, 1836, a master in chancery. Three days later Chancellor Walworth designated him as injunction master for the third circuit, all highly responsible positions, which showed how he had gained the confidence and respect of those in authority. February 21, 1848, he was admitted to practice in the United States supreme court at Washington, and April 9, 1856, to practice before the United States court of claims. In 1853 he had practically withdrawn from the practice of his profession, politics and corporation service taking his entire time. In 1851 he became a director of the Albany City Bank and subsequently vice-president. In 1851 he formed a law partnership with John H. Reynolds (Mr. Martin, his former partner, having been appointed cashier of the Albany City Bank), one of the most brilliant lawyers of the day. The partnership continued until 1853, when Mr. Pruyn's railroad relations became so important that he could not longer give the law his personal attention.

In 1835 he was chosen counsel and a director of the Mohawk & Hudson Railway, the first railway successfully operated in America. In 1853 steps were taken to amalgamate the various railway corporations (about ten in number) between Albany and Buffalo into one corporate body. Mr. Pruyn in person concluded the proceedings and drew up the "consolidation agreement," in some respects the most important business document ever drawn in the state. The new corporation was the New York Central railroad, and he was chosen secretary, treasurer and general counsel. He continued in this capacity and also a director of the road until 1866, when the Corning management was voted out by the Vanderbilts. He had now acquired a comfortable competence and henceforth devoted himself to other and more congenial pursuits. He was deeply interested in political science, though not in the vulgar sense a politician. He was a Democrat of the "Old School." When the civil war broke out he at once took sides with the north, and did all a conscientious citizen should do to honor and defend the constitution. At the fall election of 1861 he was elected state senator. He accepted the nomination upon the express condition that neither he or any of his friends should be called upon to contribute a single dollar to control the vote of any elector. At the close of one of the sessions of the legislature, he gave the salary of a year to the poor of Albany. At about this time a law was passed at the instance of James A. Bell, Mr. Pruyn and a few others, for the building of the new state capitol. By the laws of 1865 a commission was created for this purpose, Mr. Pruyn being one of the commissioners, and continuing as such until 1870, when the board was reorganized, largely, it is said, in the interests of the friends of the New York City political ring headed by "Boss Tweed." Mr. Pruyn not being in harmony with this element of his party was dropped from the commission. A great deal that was meritorious in the original plans of the Capitol was due to the efforts of Mr. Pruyn and the Hon. Hamilton Harris, an associate member of the commission. These two worked side by side, and had their wishes been more closely followed the defects in the building would have been fewer and much money saved the state. Mr. Pruyn was particularly well-informed on light and ventilation, and to his energy is due the central court of the building. This he had to fight for, with the assistance of Mr. Harris, as well as for other necessary features of the building. From 1865 to 1870 these two men worked to the best of their ability for the interests of the state and should be exempt from the severe criticism to which the Capitol commission is subjected. The first stone of the new building was laid on July 7, 1869, by Mr. Pruyn in the presence of Governor Hoffman, the state official and a few friends. A feature of the decoration of the famous "staircase" is a head of Mr. Pruyn carved in stone.

He was a representative in congress from the Albany district twice; first in the thirty-eighth congress (1863-65), elected as successor to Erastus Corning, resigned, and again in the fortieth congress (1867-69). He served upon the important committees on ways and means, claims, Pacific railroads, joint library and foreign affairs. In the thirty-eighth congress his most noted speeches were made, in opposition to the confiscation act, against the currency bill and upon the abolition of slavery. In the fortieth congress his principal speeches were on the treaty-making power, under the Alaska treaty with Russia, on reconstruction, on diplomatic appropriation, the resumption of specie payments and against the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. In his congress he was chosen a regent of the Smithsonian Institute in conjunction with the Hon. Luke P. Poland and James A. Garfield, then a member of congress from Ohio, later to die by the assassin's bullet while President of the United States. Mr. Pruyn was in many respects the most efficient representative that Albany has ever sent to Washington. He was possessed of most remarkable executive ability, while his extensive knowledge and elevated views of public affairs gave him weight and position. Although not rated an orator, he was an effective speaker. "His style of language and manner was simple, vigorous and correct, while his reasoning was sound and just." Although eminently fitted for public life, he will be best remembered for his work in the more congenial fields of philanthropy and education. In 1831 he was elected a member of the Albany Institute, which he served in all capacities including the office of president, which he filled capably from 1857 until his death. The Albany Institute, although not organized until May, 1824, is in reality one of the oldest literary and scientific societies in the state, being the combination of the "Albany Lyceum of Natural History" (founded in 1823) and the "Society for the Promotion of Useful Arts," which was founded in 1804 as the legitimate successor of the "Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures," organized in the city of New York (then the state capital) in 1791. In the cause of education Mr. Pruyn did a noble work. On May 4, 1844, at the age of thirty-three, he was appointed by the legislature a regent of the University of the State of New York, and on January 9, 1862, was elected chancellor to succeed Hon. Gerrit Yates Lansing, LL.D., deceased. He was a regent for over thirty years, fifteen of which he was chancellor, the highest educational office of the state.

The University of the State of New York was established by the legislature, first in 1784, but substantially as it now exists in 1787. Alexander Hamilton was one of the committee who drew up the act of 1787. The University, like those of Oxford and Cambridge, is one of supervision and visitation rather than one of instruction. There are twenty-three regents, the presiding officer of the board being the chancellor, who is the head of the university, which includes under the visitation of the regents twenty-three literary colleges, twenty medical colleges, schools of science, three law schools, and about two hundred and forty academies and academical departments of Union schools. The regents also have the care of the state library and the State Museum of Natural History. When he became chancellor Mr. Pruyn threw his whole soul into the work. The cause of higher education was not in its most flourishing condition, but he gave it a quickening impulse. The University convocation was organized, the system of preliminary and higher academic examination was instituted and a broad foundation laid for greater usefulness. At Hamilton College he founded the Pruyn medal for the best oration in the senior class, relating to the duties of the educated citizen to the state. He was president of the board of trustees of St. Stephen's College at Annandale, an institution founded by Mr. and Mrs. John Bard for training young men, chiefly for the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal church. As a member of the "Association for the Codification of the Law of Nations," he offered at the Hague meeting in 1875 resolutions of thanks for courtesies received, speaking in English, French and finally in Dutch, the language of his ancestors, for which he was loudly applauded. In 1876 the board of commissioners of state survey was organized and he was chosen president. This was really the last public position to which he was called. In 1871 he was appointed by President Grant a member of the centennial commission, but resigned before 1876.

He was a corresponding member of the New York Historical Society, an honorary member of the Wisconsin Historical Society, a resident member of the American Geographical and Statistical Society, a life member of the Young Men's Association of Albany, a member of the Literary Fund Society of London, of the Union and Century clubs of New York, and of other societies. He received the degree of Master of Arts in 1835 from Rutgers College and in 1845 from Union College, and that of LL.D. in 1852 from the University of Rochester. During the latter years of his life he gave nearly all his time to public service, and that too without compensation, although entitled by law to the reimbursement of his expenses he steadily declined to take it. His religious life was remarkably happy. Originally an officer of the Second Reformed Dutch Church, in which he had been reared, the latter half of his religious life was given almost wholly to the Protestant Episcopal church, of which he became a communicant. He was a vestryman of St. Peter's Church, Albany, early known as "Queen Anne's Chapel in the Wilderness." His views were essentially broad. He was a warm admirer of Dean Stanley and a personal friend of Bishop Doane, to whom he suggested the form of prayer now in use in the diocese of Albany for the government and state legislature, and for a collect for the new year. Despite his love for the Episcopal church, he never lost sight of his early religious training, but made it his custom to annually take part in the New Year services of the Dutch church. He was a man of cultivated taste, had traveled extensively, and had a large circle of friends abroad as well as at home. His pre-eminent characteristic was justice. He was always gentle and never spoke ill of any one. "He had not an enemy in the world" was true of him. He led a life of personal purity and integrity, unsullied by even a rumor to the contrary. After his death on November 21, 1877, resolutions of sympathy were passed by the bodies with which he had been connected and by many others upon which he had no claim. His funeral took place on the afternoon of Friday, November 23, 1877, from St. Peter's Church, Albany, in the presence of the governor, the state officials, regents of the university, and a large assemblage of friends. The flags upon the public buildings were at half mast, and many of the public offices closed during the funeral services. He is buried in the Albany cemetery, beneath the shadow of a simple granite cross, suitably inscribed.

Mr. Pruyn married (first) October 22, 1840, in Albany, Harriet Corning Turner, born June 18, 1822, second daughter of Thomas and Mary Ruggles (Weld) Turner, of Troy, New York. She was a lineal descendant of the Rev. Thomas Weld, who emigrated from England in 1632 and became pastor of the First Congregational Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts. This is the same Weld family as the Welds of Wiltshire and Lulworth Castle, Dorsetshire, England. Mrs. Pruyn died March 22, 1859. In St. Peter's Church a beautiful memorial window is dedicated to her memory and that of an infant daughter. By this marriage were born five children, two only of whom arrived at maturity, both sons, three daughters dying in infancy.

  1. Erastus Corning, born August 22, 1841; passed several years under the tuition of the Rev. Mr. Calthrop at Bridgeport, Connecticut, and subsequently a student at Princeton University and at Trinity College, Cambridge, England; he was appointed consular agent of the United States at Caracas by Hon. William H. Seward, secretary of state, and was the acting minister of our government there during the Venezuelan revolution of 1868. He received special commendation from the state department for his services at that time. In 1871 he went to Teneriffe, one of the Canary Islands, where he died at Orotava, February, 1881. He married at Orotava, Teneriffe, May 4, 1872, Maria de los Dolores, only daughter of Augustin Velasquez, of the Island of Las Palmas: There was no issue.
  2. Mary Weld, born August 6, 1843, died September 8, 1844.
  3. Harriet Corning, born August 12, 1845, died March 24, 1847.
  4. Harriet Catherine, born August 13, 1849, died February 25, 1858.
  5. John Van Schaick Lansing, see forward.

Mr. Pruyn married (second) September 7, 1865, at St. Peter's Church, Albany, by the Rt. Rev. Horatio Potter, D.D., LL.D., D.C.I., Oxon, Bishop of New York, Anna Fenn Parker, born at Delhi, New York, March 26, 1840, eldest daughter of Hon. Amasa J. Parker and his wife, Harriet Langdon (Roberts) Parker, of Albany (see Parker VII). Two children were born of this marriage:

  1. Harriet Langdon, born January 31, 1868, at Washington, D. C., married William Gorham Rice and their son, William Gorham Rice, Jr., was born December 30, 1892.
  2. Huybertie Lansing, born in Albany, New York, April 8, 1873, married Charles Summer Hamlin, of Boston; their daughter, Anna, was born October 26, 1900.

Mrs. John V. L. (Anna F. Parker) Pruyn, spent the greater part of her life in Albany. She was a woman of vigorous mental powers, of broad culture and of extended travel. She was deeply interested in Albany affairs where her house was a centre of wide hospitality. Generous by nature, she gave liberally of her means both to public and private charities. The Pruyn public library in Albany was a gift from Mrs. Pruyn and her family in memory of her husband. She died at her summer home in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, October 7, 1909. Her two daughters, Mrs. William Gorham Rice, of Albany, and Mrs. Charles S. Hamlin, of Boston, survive her.

(VIII) John Van Schaick Lansing, son of John Van Schaick Lansing and Harriet Corning (Turner) Pruyn, was born in Albany, New York, March 14, 1859, died in New York City, September 24, 1904. He graduated at St. John's School, Sing Sing, New York, in June, 1876, at Union College, Schenectady, New York, in June, 1880, where he received the degree of A.B. He entered the law office of Hon. Amasa J. Parker where he read law. He graduated from the Albany Law School, May 25, 1882. At the general term he passed the examination and was admitted attorney and counsellor, May 27, 1882. He removed to New York City, where he married and died. He was trustee of the Albany City Homeopathic Hospital for 1881, and was elected a director of the Albany City National Bank in 1880. He was a cultured man of refined tastes and deep learning. He was a member of the Albany Institute and of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. He was a useful member of this society and prepared for publication in their Record a comprehensive history of the Pruyn and collateral families, from which much of the matter herein contained was compiled. He married, June 11, 1895, in Grace Church, New York City, Cornelia Van Rensselaer, daughter of John Langdon Erving. Their children were:

  1. John Van Schaick Lansing (3), born in Florence, Italy, June 6, 1896, died in Albany, New York, May 17, 1897.
  2. Erving, born in Albany, October 26, 1897.
  3. Hendrick, born in New York, December 29, 1900.

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