Pieter Bronck a sailor from Jonkoping Sweden and Hilletje Jans from Quakebrugge Holland posted their marriage banns at Ridderstraat, Holland in 1645. Both were 28 years of age and about to embark on a new life in the prosperous Dutch Colonie of New Netherland. By 1653 the couple had settled at Beverwyck a fur trading village on the western shore of the Hudson River present day Albany, N.Y.
At Beverwyck Pieter and Hilletje became tavern keepers and brewers. This was an excellent choice of occupation at this time when beer was a staple in everyone’s daily diet. But the vicissitudes of frontier economy and what appears to be Pieter’s own contentious personality resulted in a less than stable income stream for his family. By the early 1660’s Pieter and Hilletje were considering another move. Pieter purchased a small tract of land approximately 20 miles south of Beverwyck, near the present village of Coxsackie from the native Mohigans. Though Pieter and his descendents would retain close ties with Beverwyck, the family left to settle their land at Coxsackie in 1663.
Here on a small hillock adjacent to a stream they began the construction of a typical rural European style dwelling. Built of local rubble stone the one room 20’ x 20’ structure had both garret and cellar for storage. Pieter, Hilletje, and their young son Jan carried on all daily activities in the single first floor room. It is likely that Pieter dabbled in the fur trade at the Coxsackie site but certainly by the time of his death in 1669 the practice of subsistence agriculture would have had been firmly established.
In 1738 Pieter’s grandson Leendert and his wife Anna de Wandelear built a handsome Dutch brick dwelling adjacent to Pieter’s old stone house. Pieter and Hilletje’s descendents were now established grain farmers and despite Pieter’s Swedish roots considered themselves to be
culturally Dutch. By the time the American War for Independence came around the Bronck family had already farmed their land at Coxsackie for 113 years. The farm was now in the hands of Pieter’s great grandson, Jan Leendert and his son Leendert (Leonard). Both men were active in the effort to secure American independence pledging the family’s wealth and considerable prestige to the cause.
For 276 years seven generations of Pieter’s descendents would pass the family dwellings and the accompanying farm directly from father to child. The last family owner willed the Bronck farm to the Greene County Historical Society in 1939. The site has been open to the public as a museum since that time. Because of the stewardship of the Bronck family and the Greene County Historical Society descendents are still able to enter Pieter’s door and walk Pieter‘s
floor 350 years after he built them. The Bronck Museum complex consists of the dwellings of 1663 and 1738, a kitchen dependency, a Northern European side-aisle barn, a thirteen-sided hay barn and several Victorian agricultural buildings.
The Museum is open from Memorial Day weekend to October 15th, Wen-Fri. 12-4, Saturday 10-4, Sun 1-4, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day 10-4. To receive a copy of Notes From Home a newsletter for Bronck descendents call (518) 731-6490 or send a self addressed stamped envelope to Bronck Museum, 90 County Route 42, Coxsackie, N.Y. 12051.