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Van Eps Historical Facts and Trivia


Jan Dirkse Van Eps became a property owner in Schenectady, NY on April 29, 1664. He and his stepfather, Cornelis Van Ness, aquired Philip Hendrickse Brouwer's estate (Farm #2) at auction after his death for 1287 guilders. This estate included a village lot with house and garden, 42 acres of farm land on the bouwland, Mr. Brouwer's brewing equipment, as well as 3 horses, one cow, two heifers and five sows.(1)(2)


In 1672, a tract of land was granted to Sander Leederse Glen, Jan Dirkse Van Eps and Swear Teunis Van Velsen by the Mohawk Indians to help expand the rapidly growing and cramped Schenectady area. This Indian title was later confirmed by Governor Dongan in 1684 and Jan Van Eps was named as one of the five trustees of this Dongan Patent. This tract of land encompassed much of the present day city of Schenectady, as well as the towns of Rotterdam and Glenville, NY.(1)(2)(3)


For many years, residents of Schenectady argued with the leaders of Albany over their rights to trade with the Mohawks and other tribes. In fear of competition from the new town, Albany officials insisted that Schenectady must remain a farming community and that if the Schenectadians were caught trading, they would be punished appropriately. In 1678 Sheriff Richard Petty searched Jan Dirkse Van Eps' house and found beaver skins hidden in one of the rooms. Jan was fined for his trade goods and ordered to appear at court in Albany. When he went to answer to the charges, Jan explained to the judge that he had 2 serious house fires over the past winter and that buy selling the furs, he was trying to recoup his "great losses". The judge took pity on Jan and allowed him to "retain the merchandise long enough to dispose of it at Albany". Jan also was one of the 5 magistrates in Schenectady at the time which also probably worked in his favor. (2)


During the Schenectady Massacre in February 1690, Jan Dirkse and at least one other child (a son) were slain. Jan Baptist Van Eps, his eldest son, was taken as a prisoner and held captive at an Indian villiage in Canada for 2-3 years. In February 1693, Jan Baptist was taken along as a guide by his captors on a raid of the nearby Mohawk Village which may have become a second raid of Schenectady and Albany (4). When near Schenectady, during the night, Jan was able to sneak away from camp and hurry to Schenectady to warn the inhabitants of the impending attack. Word was then sent to Fort Orange and a strong force was sent out to protect Schenectady and it's allies. Local legend states that Jan appeared in full Indian attire and war paint at the Glen's house in Scotia. It is said that Helena, Johannes Sanderse Glen's oldest daughter, was quite intrigued by this unusual visitor. This must be true because Jan became her husband six years later.

Colonial documents state: "1692/3 Feb. 8, Wed. about 2 o'clock afternoon we had the alarm from Schenectady that the French and their Indians had taken the Maqas castles; soon after we had the news that a young man named Jan Baptist Van Eps (taken at Schenectady 3 years ago) was run over from the French, as they were to attack the first castle of the Mohogs, and came to Schenectady, who related that the French were 350 Christian and 200 Indians."

In the book "From New York to Montreal", author Benjamin Clapp Butler states:

The French commander, in his notes, ascribes the failure of this attempted raid to the escape of Jan Baptist.

"The force consisted of six hundred and twenty-five men, including two hundred Indians. They left Montreal in the month of January, and came through Lake Champlain and Lake George. Their provisions were packed in sledges drawn by dogs. Bear skins were their couch and their protection the dense pines which lined the shores of the lakes. Passing near Schenectada, a prisoner named Van Epps, who had been captured two years before, escaped, and gave the information to his friends in town. They at once sent an express to Major Peter Schuyler, at Albany, who with a strong force, came up to the rescue and support of their dusky allies." (4)


During his captivity, Jan Baptist learned the Indian language and customs and because of this, he was often employed as an interpreter and embassador of the Five Nations. Jan Baptist Van Eps was granted the upper half of the "5 small islands at Niskayuna" in 1701 at a conference of the Five Nations at Albany for "taking much pains in interpreting". Laurens Claes Van der Volgen, also an interpreter, was granted the lower half of these islands. (1)


Did you know that there was once a Van Eps Island? In "A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times; Being Contributions Toward a History of the Lower Mohawk Valley", author Jonathan Pearson writes:

"This small island lies north of Varken's island from which it is separated by a bayou nearly filled up.

Jan Baptist Van Eps was given this land by the Mohawks.

A portion of this island was devised in 1800 by John Baptist Van Eps to his son John, after his wife's decease;another portion-an undivided sixth part-was conveyed in 1808 by Tobias H. Ten Eyck to Cornelis Vrooman." (1)


The lane leading to Jan Baptist's corn mill on the Coehorne Creek was where Jay Street is today. (1)


According to Glenville, NY Historian Percy M. Van Epps (1859-1951), the surname Van Eps was originally derived from the surname Van Epen. Epen is a tiny village in the Limburg Province of the Netherlands which borders Belgium and Germany. (5)

Since writing this I have been told that their is a town actually called Epse, near Deventer in Gelderland province, Netherlands where the Van Eps' actually came from. Researcher Kees Leseman has shown some pretty convincing evidence.

Which theory is right? You be the judge.


In the mid-to-late 1800's, it was a common custom for some branches of the Van Eps family to add an extra "P" to their last name, while some branches retained the one "P" version. (5)


Did you know that there is a house in Glenville where 7 generations of the Van Eps Family once lived? When Johannes Van Eps, son of Jan Baptist Van Eps ("The Interpreter") and Helena Glen, wed Neeltje, daughter of Karel Hansen Toll in 1721, he was given the western half of the seventh flat at Hoffmans, NY. The home that he built stayed in the family up until the twentieth century.(5) The occupants of this home are as follows:

Johannes Van Eps, b. 1700, m. Neeltje Toll

Jan Baptist Van Eps, b. 1731, m. Annatje Vedder

Albert Van Eps, b. 1788, m. Anna Swart

Peter Van Vranken Van Eps, b. 1825, m. Mary A. Davenport

David Augustus Van Epps, b. 1854, m. Anna Van Loan

Roger Houghton Van Epps, b. 1912


Sources:

1. Pearson, Jonathan, A. M.and Others, "A history of the Schenectady patent in the dutch and English times; being contributions toward a history of the lower Mohawk valley", Ed. by J. W. MacMurray, J. Munsell's Sons, Albany, NY, 1883.

2. Burke, Thomas E., "Mohawk Frontier: The Dutch Community of Schenectady, NY, 1661-1710", Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1991.

3. Sanders, John, "Early Settlers of Schenectady, New York and
its First Settlers", Van Benthuysen Publishing, Albany, NY, 1879

4. Butler, Benjamin Clapp, "From New York to Montreal", American News Co., NY, 1873

5. Van Epps, Percy M., "The Van Epps Papers: A Collection of the Reports of Percy M. Van Epps on the History of the Town of Glenville", Henrietta Van der Veer, ed., 3rd ed., pub. by Town Board of Glenville, NY, 1998.