Dutch Barn Preservation Society

Dedicated to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns

NEWSLETTER FALL 1996 Vol. 9, Issue 2

More About Marte Gerritsen Van Bergen by Shirley Dunn

The barn built at Leeds, New York about 1680 by Marte Gerritsen Van Bergen was featured in the Dutch Barn Preservation Society Newsletter (Spring, 1995). More information about the builder, Marte Gerritsen Van Bergen, may be of interest to readers.

The article assumed, as have several other published works, that Marte Gerritsen was the man who came to New Netherland in the 1630s. Further research suggests, however, that it is more likely that Marte Gerritsen Van Bergen came about 1660. The earlier Marte Gerritsen was a different man. The two similar names have led to confusion, therefore, about the life of the later Marte Gerritsen Van Bergen.

Briefly, the Marte Gerritsen Van Bergen who built the Dutch barn at Leeds came as a young man to be an aide and house servant to Jeremias Van Rensselaer, Director of the Colony of Rensselaerswyck, about 1660. Marte Gerritsen was from Bergen, in Norway. His duties for Jeremias Van Rensselaer were "to look after things, to dun the farmers, pay the laborers, hand out supplies, etc." (1) After two and a half years with Van Rensselaer, Marte Gerritsen Van Bergen married Jannetje Van Vechten, young widow of Seger Cornelissen, and took over her farm.

The location on Castle Island, one mile south of Albany, was one of the best in the Colony of Rensselaerswyck. This farm Van Bergen rented from the Van Rensselaers for almost thirty years. Van Bergen gradually became a landlord himself, by acquiring land outside of Rensselaerswyck at Coxsackie and Leeds (near Catskill); he also became a public figure, serving as a magistrate on the Albany court and in other Capacities.

After his first wife's death, he married Neeltje Mynderts in January, 1686. He was probably in his forties when he and Neeltje began the family described previously in the Newsletter. Had he been the man who came in the 1630s, he would have been very old at the time. Marte Gerritsen died in 1696, leaving his widow to manage his large estate. After the death of Neeltje, two of their sons, Gerrit and Martin, divided the Leeds farm and settled near the old Dutch barn about 1729. Pegging Marte Gerritsen's arrival in Rensselaerswyck at 1660 makes it more plausible that his sons were of a reasonable age to come to Leeds around 1729.

1. Van Laer, A.J.F., "Settlers of Rensselaerswyck," The Dutch Settlers Society Yearbook (1929-1930) 5:22-24.

Trustees Visit Getman Barn Near Fort Plain

On September 15 the Dutch Barn Preservation Society Trustee held their monthly trustees' meeting in the Dutch barn of Eleanor and Florence Getman, on Stone Arabia Road, near Fort Plain, Montgomery County. The barn has been preserved through efforts of the Getman family for four generations and is a notable landmark on their farm.

The Getman barn was chosen for the 1996 Dutch Barn Preservation Society barn repair grant of $500, given by the Society in April. In addition to the business meeting, members and guests measured and studied the barn and inspected repairs made in the structure.

The Dutch Barn Preservation Society barn repair grant will be offered again next year. Applications will be available January 1, 1997; the deadline for submission will be March 1 .

Photo of the Getman barn by Ev Rau, June 1996.

A Dutch Hay Barrack in the Year 1633

With much admiration I have read the story of the erection of a six pole hay barrack near the Wemp barn, in the Newsletter, fall 1995, on which so many members of our society have assisted from July 1991 till November 1995.

Seeing the photograph of the completed hay barrack I remember a painting, that belongs to the museum Mauritshuis at the Hague, and was painted by Pieter Post in the year 1633. The painting shows a hay barrack behind a farmhouse in the dunes between Leiden and Haarlem. Because it is difficult to reproduce such a dark painting in the Newsletter, I have made a pen-drawing of it.

The poles of the American hay barrack are of oak, straight and chamfered, but the poles of the Dutch one are of pine, only barked and very crooked. Probably these poles are made of trees, grown in the dunes and crooked by the heavy winds in this coastal area. There were no large forests in the Low Countries and therefore the long masts of the 17th century sailing vessels always were imported from Scandinavia, but mostly from Germany. They came, bundled on a raft, floating down the river Rhine to our country. These masts were very long, to 60 feet, and very straight because in Germany the wind is half as heavy as at our coast.

It is a pity that only a small part of the back front of the farmhouse is visible. I have tried to reconstruct the plan of the farmhouse. As usual the farmer lived with his family in the front of the building. The small door you see on the drawing gives access to the cow house; and the large door to the threshing floor, where during the winter the wagons are placed. During the summer these are put under the hay barrack. Naturally there was a horse stable for one or two horses and during the night the sheep were locked inside the farmhouse or in a special sheepfold.

In Holland the farmhouses and hay barracks are always covered with reed and not with straw, except the top of the hay barracks. Reed that grows in the many ditches in our country, have stiff stalks, which could not bend. Therefore one would use the more flexible straw to make the top watertight.

The painter Pieter Post (1608-1669) became about 1635 assistant to the architect Jacob van Campen, who introduced him in the field of architecture. Later on he became appointed to chief-architect of the Stadholders Frederik Hendrik and Willem II. In the town of the Hague, where his painting in the former palace of Mauritshuis is exhibited, he has designed the palace Noordeinde, the palais Ten Bosch, and the meeting room for the First Chambre of the Senate. Don't forget to see them, when you are in Holland.


Schipper is a Dutch architect known for restoration of historic frame buildings. He has been a Dutch Barn Preservation Society member for several years.

The Dutch Barn Preservation Society

c/o The Mabee Farm Historic Site
1080 Main St. (Rt. 5S)
Rotterdam Junction, NY 12150

Site Phone: (518) 887-5073



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