Frans (Francis) ROMBOUTS (1631-1691)

Dutch mayor of New York

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Frans Rombouts was born on June 22 at 1631 in Hasselt (Belgium) as the second son of Jan Rombouts, who was a taxreceiver for the Archdeacon of Liege, and Johanna Haenen. His brother Laurent, born on March 1st 1623, studied in 1641 the  University of Leuven and became a notary at Hasselt. When he was three years old his father died, his mother when he was seventeen.At the age of seventeen Frans became an orphan.
 

After the death of his mother he left for Amsterdam, a very rich city at that time,where he started as a clerk for a merchant. In 1654 he was sent on a trademission to Nieuw(New)-Amsterdam in America.

He stayed there for two years and than went back in order to give - with the presence of a Rotterdam notary- proxy to his brother, who still lived in Hasselt, to sell their parental house. Thereafter he left again for Nieuw-Amsterdam.  Nieuw-Amsterdam was first called Novi Belgii and founded in 1624 by Belgian people. Many Dutch people migrated there and the name was changed into Nieuw-Amsterdam.(t English conquered  Nieuw-Amsterdam and changed the name into New York.

Frans Rombouts started with his partner Guliam Verplanck,also a Flamish,a furtrade with the Indians.Fast Rombouts became very rich and he bought his first stone house at Nieuw-Amsterdam, in the Heerestraat, now Broadway in Manhattan.

After two childless marriages he married Helena Teller, for both their third marriage. Helena had out of previous marriages allready seven children and from this marriage another three were born, two boys and one girl.The boys died young but the girl Catharina, born on 5 september 1687, survived. In 1674 the rich merchant Rombouts became "alderman".He stayed this untill 1679 and than became mayor of New York. Meanwhile he had also been "inspector of white and brown bread". Quality inspector of bread.

NewYork2.JPG (30018 bytes)In 1685 he received together with his partnerVerplanck 85000 acres ( = ± 212500 hectares ) of King James II of England. Rombouts had to be recognised first by the Indians as the owner of the territory.A legend tells Rombouts brought twenty different heads of tribes together and told them to sign a document entitling him to as much land as one could see.Because they were between woods and hills the Indians agreed and signed. Than the cunning Rombouts climbed the highest hill and so obtained a much larger area.

In 1686 and 1687 again he became alderman on recommendation of  governer Dongan,who found him a very good candidate for this vacancy.

In 1690  lieutenant-governer Leisler appointed him as member of the "Board of Admiralty" that had to sell the ships conquered from the French.

Frans Rombouts died in 1691.

Catharina Rombouts married when she was sixteen , Roger Brett, an English officer of the Royal Navy , who lived in New York. They got four children, of which numerous descendants live in the United States of America now. When Helena died in 1707, the newly weds decided to go and live on the land of Frans Rombouts and to farm on it .They rented out the house that was build by her father and Roger built a wooden cabin on her land. In 1709 they built a stone house and a watermill that became wellknown in the region.

Roger Brett died very young.During a storm he went overboard and drowned in the Hudson when he came back from New York with fresh supplies on his way to their estate.

Catharina didnot remarry and stayed with her children at the estate to farm it further.She became the first land-divisionist in America.She was honoured as a barones and built on her land the first Dutch Reformed Church in which she later was burried.

She died in 1764 at the age of 77 and became a legend in America.The original house remained in the family untill 1954. Than it became a museum with the name "Madam BRETT Homestead". It can still be visited at Beacon, New York.

Robin Poelmans

 

Drawing by

Dré Mathijs

Source: Hasseltse Portretten p.34-36

Het Belang van Limburg

 
Rombouts Avenue New York

Rombouts avenue NY

 

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