Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/De Peyster, Johannes

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DE PEYSTER, Johannes, merchant, b. in Haarlem, Holland, about 1600; d. in New Amsterdam (now the city of New York) about 1685. The name was originally spelled “Peijster,” “Peister,” or “Pester.” He came of a French Huguenot family that took refuge in the United Provinces about the time of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. He emigrated to this country on account of religious persecution. During the brief period in 1673-'4 in which the Dutch regained possession of New Netherland, he took a prominent part in the conduct of public affairs, and he was one of the last to take the oath of allegiance to the British crown on the final cession of the province to that power. Notwithstanding this, he still continued active in municipal affairs, under English supremacy, at different times serving as alderman and deputy mayor, but refusing the mayoralty on account of his ignorance of English. At the time of his death he was one of the wealthiest citizens of the province. Of his sons (besides Abraham, mentioned below), Johannes filled the mayor's chair; Isaac was a member of the provincial legislature; and Cornelius was the first chamberlain of the city of New York, besides acting in various other public capacities. — Abraham, chief justice, and eldest son of the preceding, b. in New York city, 8 July, 1658; d. there, 10 Aug., 1728. He was a merchant, and amassed much wealth. He was mayor of New York in 1691-'5, and subsequently became chief justice of the province and president of the king's council, in which latter capacity he acted (in 1701) as governor. He was also appointed colonel of the forces of the city and county of New York, and treasurer of the provinces of New York and New Jersey. The mansion erected by him in 1695, which at one time was the headquarters of Washington, remained standing until 1856. It occupied the site now partly covered by the buildings numbered 178 and 180 Pearl street. The bell presented by him to the Middle Dutch church, in Nassau street, a short time before his death, now hangs in the Collegiate church, on Fifth avenue and 29th street, and is in constant use. His eldest son, Abraham, was treasurer of the province from 1721 till 1767. — Arent Schuyler, soldier, grandson of Col. Abraham Schuyler, b. in New York city, 27 June, 1736; d. in Dumfries, Scotland, in November, 1832. He entered the 8th regiment of foot in 1755, served in various parts of North America under his uncle, Col. Peter Schuyler, and commanded at Detroit, Mackinac, and various places in Upper Canada during the American Revolutionary war. The Indian tribes of the northwest were then hostile to the British, but De Peyster, by his tact and the adoption of conciliatory measures, entirely weaned them from the colonists. Having risen to the rank of colonel, and commanded his regiment many years, he retired to Dumfries, where he resided until his death. During the French revolution he had a large share in enlisting and drilling the 1st regiment of Dumfries volunteers, one of the original members of which was Robert Burns, who dedicated to him his poem on “Life,” and with whom he once carried on a poetical controversy in the columns of the Dumfries “Journal.” His nephew, Capt. Arent Schuyler De Peyster, an American navigator, sailed several times around the globe, and, in a passage from the western coast of America to Calcutta, discovered in the South Pacific a group of seventeen islands, which bear his name. — Abraham, soldier, nephew of Arent Schuyler De Peyster, b. in New York city in 1753; d. in St. John, N. B., about 1799. He entered the British service, and rose to be captain in the 4th, or “King's” American regiment, ranking in the loyal militia as colonel. He was originally second in command at the battle of King's Mountain, S. C. (7 Oct., 1780), and succeeded to the command on the death of Maj. Ferguson. Capt. De Peyster had been paid off on the morning of the engagement, and, when he was struck by a bullet, its course was stopped by a doubloon among the coin in his vest-pocket. He was, however, wounded and taken prisoner. At the close of the war in 1783 he was placed on the half-pay list, retired to St. John, N. B., and was one of the grantees of that city. He also acted as treasurer of the province. — Frederick, soldier, brother of the preceding, b. in New York city. While still a minor he commanded a company raised for the protection of his uncle, William Axtell, a member of the council. He was subsequently a captain in the New York (loyalist) volunteers. While he was swimming a river on horseback in South Carolina, a bullet passed through both of his legs and killed the horse. At the storming of Fort Montgomery in 1777, a detachment of his regiment was the first to enter the works. Like his brother Abraham, he settled in St. John, N. B., after the war, and received the grant of a city lot. In 1792 he served as a magistrate in the county of York. He afterward returned to the United States. — James, soldier, brother of the preceding, b. in New York city; d. in battle in Flanders, 18 Aug., 1793. He was captain-lieutenant, or lieutenant commanding the colonel's company, in the 4th, or “King's” American regiment, entering the service when nineteen years of age. In 1786 he was commissioned 1st lieutenant in the Royal artillery, commanded by his brother-in-law, Col. James. At that time he had the reputation of being one of the handsomest men in the British army. He was killed, near Menin, during the campaign in Flanders. The month previous he had a remarkable escape from death at the siege of Valenciennes, being buried alive by the explosion of a mine. — Frederic, Jr., lawyer, son of Frederick, b. in New York city, 11 Nov., 1796; d. in Tivoli, N. Y., 17 Aug., 1882. He was graduated at Columbia in 1816, and admitted to the bar in 1819. In 1820 he had been appointed master in chancery, and held the office until 1837, when his inherited fortune had been so largely increased by judicious investments that he was compelled to resign his office and devote himself to the management of his estate. He was at various periods a trustee of the Bible society, and served on the boards of management of many charitable and educational institutions, besides giving liberally to their support. He was at different times president of the New York historical society, a founder and director of the Home for incurables, and vice-president of the Society for the prevention of cruelty to children, founder of the Soldiers' home erected by the Grand Army of the Republic, and a trustee of the New York society library. In 1867 he received the degree of LL. D. from Columbia, and in 1877 was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal historical society of Great Britain. Several of his addresses have been published in pamphlet-form. — John Watts, son of the preceding, author, b. in New York city, 9 March, 1821. He was educated at Columbia, but was not graduated on account of his health. In 1845 he was elected to the colonelcy of the 111th regiment of New York militia, and, on the military reorganization of the state, he was assigned to the command of the 22d district, and in 1851 was promoted brigadier-general. In 1855 he was appointed adjutant-general, which office he soon resigned, but in April, 1866, was brevetted major-general. Gen. De Peyster assisted in the organization of the present police force of the city of New York, and is the author of a series of reports in favor of a paid fire department, with fire-escapes and steam-engines (1852-'3). He has been a voluminous contributor to periodical literature, besides writing numerous works on military topics. Among the latter are “Life of Field-Marshal Torstenson” (1855); “The Dutch at the North Pole” (1857); “Caurausius, the Dutch Augustus” (1858); “Life of Baron Cohorn” (1860); and “Personal and Military History of Gen. Philip Kearny” (1869). — John Watts, Jr., soldier, son of the preceding, b. in New York, 2 Dec., 1841; d. there 12 April, 1873. In March, 1862, he left the law-school of Columbia college and joined the staff of Gen. Philip Kearny as volunteer aide, participating in the battle of Williamsburg. He for a time commanded a company of New York cavalry, was afterward major of the 1st New York artillery, and still later served on the staff of Gen. Peck. He was then prostrated by fever, and, after a severe illness of several months, returned to the field in the winter of 1863. For his zeal, capacity, and energy, displayed in the Chancellorsville campaign and in the battle of Fredericksburg, he was promoted to be lieutenant-colonel and colonel. He remained with the army until midsummer of the same year, when his increasing weakness compelled him to resign.