Portals to the Past

The following is a continuation of the Narrative of Garrit Storm, an ancestor of the Hoffman family of New York. Garrit Storm was an entrepreneur in Dutch Colonial New York City. He was a merchant accountant and eventually made his money in speculating in New York City real estate.

ADDITIONAL  particulars in relation to my wife's family.


My wife's father, Issac Gouverneur, was married in the Island of St. Eustatius on the 15th June, 1777, to Elizabeth Pickman, the daughter and only child of Mrs. Stevenson by her first husband. She was the mother of my wife. The marriage proved unfortunate. Mrs. Gouverneur was unfaithful to her husband and had a child by Mr. Cadette. This caused a separation, which was succeded by a divorce. Young Cadette, the issue of this connection, made a claim in after years upon Mr. Gouverneur's estate, on the ground that the decree of the Chancellor was not given until after his birth; that he consequently was born in lawful wedlock, and entitled to an equal share with the other children: Mr. Gouverneur having died suddenly and intestate. Mr. Gilbert Robertson and myself agreed to buy him off, and paid him in our relative proportions the reasonable sum of $1,000 to give up his claim. A release was drawn up and executed by him, and is recorded in the Register's Office.


My wife's mother lived many years after the death of Mrs. Stevenson, who left her an annuity of $250. per annum for her support. She finally became insane, and died in the Lunatic Asylum at Bloomingdale. She is buried in my vault in the Marble Cemetery.


Mr. Gouverneur after the divorce married Alida Gouverneur, who in personal appearance surpassed nearly all the females of her time. She had three children by Mr. G. , Viz: Isaac, Adelaide and Juliana Matilda. Isaac was sent to England and placed in a London Counting House to learn business: returning from Ascot races he was seized with a vilent cold by riding on the top of a Stage Coach in a drissling rain. A fever set in which carried him off at the early age  of twenty.


Adelaide married Mr. Brinton of Philadelphia, a very promising young lawyer of the place. They came on soon after their marriage to visit their friends here: They dined with me some time in the month of July, went back to Philadelphia: and in six weeks both were in their graves. This happened, I think, in the year 1825. The marriage visit here, and their sudden deaths, created a great sensation, and was considered very remarkable. Both were 27 years old. Adelaid when quite young, in sliding down the circular stairs of her father's large house in Hanover Square, fell from the third story to the bottom: and strange to say, was scarcely injured.


Juliana married Francis P. Wharton, also of Philadelphia, where she now resides: having a family of seven children, fast growing up into man and womanhood.


Mr. Gouverneur was long at the head of the great house of Gouverneur & Kemble: which were among the first to engage largely, and, as it proved, profitably, in the China trade. My wife lived with, and was brought up by, her grandmother, Mrs. Stevenson. When her fther visited her, he never failed to say if she was in want of anything to tell him, and she should have every wish gratified: adding-- as to money, it did rain but poured upon him. She, however, never had occasion to profit by his kind offers: being the idol of her grandmother who was always extremely liberal to her.


The house of Gouverneur & Kemble in the course of their business received a conssignment of an East India Cargo from the Isle of France, owned by a Frenchman of the name  of Leguin. He bought a suit against them: which after going through all the Courts, was finally decided against them in the Court of Errors: by which they lost the sume of  $120, 000. Mr. Gouverneur was in Albany watching the result of the suit. He took a severe cold and died there almost immediately after the decision of his cause. This was in the winter of 1800. His death took  place on the last day of February of that year.


After the death of Mr. Gouverneur his widow married Gilbert Robertson, a Scotch gentlemen largely engaged in business, in which he failed. He was then appointed British Consul for New York: which office he held for several years. Lord Castlereagh displaced him, and appointed Mr. Buchanan, an Irishman, to the situation. Buchanan had been serviceable to Lord C. in Irish politics, and when he came into power, rewarded him with the lucrative post of Consul. Mr. Robertson had his friends too: and they succeeded in getting him the Consulate for Philadelphia. This will explain how the two daughters of Mrs. Robertson married there. Both Mr. and Mrs. Robertson died in Philadelphia.


Mr. Robertson lived very fashionable and expensively: yet to the surprise of everybody, left at his death the clever sum of $70,000, which he bequesthed to Mrs. Wharton for life: to go afterward to her children. My wife lost between Four and Five thousand dollars by his failure: being her proportion of rents he had received from her father's estate.


Mr. Cornelius Stevenson, the second husband of my wife's grandmother, went to the Island of St. Eustatius before the Revolutionary War: where he engaged largely in business. Being a Dutch Colony, it was held to be neutral: and attracted the trade of nearly every flag. At length it was attacked and captured by Admiral Lord Rodney, who, contrary to the usages of War, carried off the property and merchandise of the inhabitants. Mr. Stevenson was a great sufferer by this prodeeding, and joined the people in a remonstrance to the British Government: who never heeded it, and refused to call the Admiral to account.


During the prosperity of the Island, houses and warehouses commanded the most extravagant rents: such as were elsewhere unknown. Complete  desolation followed its capture: and the wharves and stores which belonged to Mr. Stevenson, once of so much value, were some years after his decease sold  by his nephew William Stevenson, for the inconsiderable sum of Seven hundred and fifty dollars. 


After the breaking up of St. Eustatius, Mr. Stevenson removed to the Island of St. Croix. He was accompanied by Mrs. Stevenson, Mrs. Gouverneur and her daughter Susan, afterwards my wife. He had become a man of handsome property, and lived there happy in  the midst of agreeable society: surrounded by intimate and valued friends. His household was made up of black servants owned  by him: who administered to his every want, and every wish. Among them was a man cook, by the name of Jeptha, who came with him to America. This Jeptha was the most respectable black man I have known. He outlived both Mr.  and Mrs. Stevenson: and I paid him, with pleasure, for many years a legacy of Fifty dollars per annum: left to him by the latter in her will.


Mr. Stevenson always expressed his regret tht he had returned to this country, where everything was so different from what he had enjoyed in the West Indies. He was one of a large family of Brothers and Sisters: most of them in inferior stations of life: They came, however, to share the half of his estate, from his neglecting to make a will. He was superstitious man, and singularly enough, first a brother died, then a sister, afterwards another brother followed. At this particular time he had commenced making his will, and had proceeded so far with it as to make a devise in it of Eight thousand dollars to my wife, intending to give the remainder of his estate to his favorite nephew William Stevenson, but, on learning the death of another sister, he took up thje opinion his turn would come next: and he from thenceforth refused to finish it. He died as he feared he would, the next in succession. This will explain how his estate descended as it did. The half of it being divided among his heirs at law: the other half went over to his wife.


Mr. Stevenson was the most methodical man of his day: he comm-itted every transaction, however small, to writing: he copied with his own hand all his letters of business or pleasure, and entered the most trifling amounts in his book of household expense: even giving a quarter of a dollar to a beggar: whose applications he made a point of never refusing: always giving that amount to each applicant. He was a most gentlemanly man in his appearance, always well dresed and pleasing in his manners: His likeness to General Washington was so great, notwithstanding his difference in height, that he was often bowed to in the street with the most profound respect. Although I had never seen General Washington, I recognized immediately the strong like-ness he bore to the prints of him.


                   The Narrative addressed to my daughter Louisa ends here.




                                For S.V. Hoffman and Robert J. Livingston



                 I have made my will, and as you already know, have devised, with the exception of some legacies, my estate to your respective wifes, each one-half.


                From the nature and character of the property, I should think it would be advisable, that it be held jointly in common: certainly the Real Estate.


Among other matter contained in the preceeding narrative will be found a remark, that from the nature of the estate, and for its better: management: it would perhaps be necessary for at least one of you to reside in this city, adding, that I hoped you would not on that account dispose of your beautiful places: It did not then occur to me how wretchedly such places are usually managed in the absence of their owners, and what has caused you so much time, trouble and expense to bring into such high cultivation and beauty, would soon fall away from the high reputation they so deservedly enjoy. I never had the happiness to own a farm, although it has always been my wish to won and occupy one. I hope you will be able to manage matters so, that you will be able to continue to occupy them.


I am induced to think, that should even both of your families remove to this city, it would still be necessary to employ some discreet and active agent to manage the property, which is very much diversified, and subject to all the chances attendant upon the movements of this most active city.


If you think it adviseable to adopt this opinion, you might continue to occupy your places by selecting an agent to manage for you: It would be advisable to avoid selecting any one already encumbered with, the management of large and different estates and trusteeships. It it were my own case, I should prefer to give a liberal compensation, in the shape of yearly salary, to one who could be induced to give the whole or nearly his whole time to it.


I had a short and inconclusive conversation with Mr. Hoffman on this subject, in which my views were only partially disclosed. I named Mr. Seaman to him: he has all the capabilities, perserverance and industry necessary, united with good judgement. His services could be obtained on very reasonable terms.


His character for integrity could be easily ascertained.


There are many others, however, of known ability and fitness. Among them, I would especially place Peter A. Jackson, Agent for John Othout and Genl. Fleming, if these  two employments did not already occupy all his time. The foregoing remarks are made by me, not with any view of dictating a course for you to adopt: they are intended as suggestions, leaving you to consult your own wishes, and adopt such course as in your judement you shall proper.


The foregoing remarks can do no injury, they may be of service.


                                                                                                                 Garrit Storm



New York, March 6th, 1948  ( Note: I believe this date was an error and should read 1848).




Continuation___________Containing further particulars of my wife's family.


My wife's father, as already stated, was the late Mr. Gouverneur.


He had two brothers, Nicholas and Samuel, the former died in 1902, leaving six children-- three sons, and three daughters. Isaac was killed in a duel by William Homer Maxwell. Nicholas the eldest and Samuel the youngest, after inheriting their patrimony, lost the whole by ruinous speculations.


Of the daughters---one married Robert Tillotson, who spent almost the whole of her fortune previous to her death, which happened many years ago, leaving behind her six children; almost in a state of destitution.


Louisa, another daughter, married Johnson Verplanck, who lived long enough to dissapate the greater part of her property, and then died a confirmed drunkard. She remains a widow, having two children, a son and a daughter, the latter lame.


Maria married Thomas Cadwallader of Philadelphia, where she now resides, having a family of five children, all promising well. Her's is the only portion of her father's large estate that remains entire, owing to the excellent management of herself and husband. They are highly esteemed and respected, ranking among the first families in Philadelphia. If any of my grand-children should at any time go to Philadelphia, I hope they will be instructed to make the acquaintance of both Mrs. Cadwallader and Mrs. Wharton, one the cousin, the other half sister to my wife.


Samuel Governeur, the youngest brother of my wife's father, after involving the House by endorsements for Samuel G. Ogden, retired to the Highlands and with his family occupied the place of his father-in-law Capt. Phillips, opposite West Point, until his death, which happened about two years ago, leaving a widow and five children, Viz: three sons and two daughters, one of whom is the present Mrs. William Moore, the other daughter remains single. The sons are all unmarried.


My wife's father had several sisters.


Captain Thomas Bibby, who belonged to the British Army under General Burgoyne, married one of them at the age of Fifty, and lived to have fourteen children by her: most of them are living. All, however, with the exception of Gouverneur, who married a rich wife, and the Doctor, Edward, are poor and needy.


Another sister married Lewis Ogden, the father of Isaac G. Ofden, Mrs. Gobert, Mrs. Hammerkin and Mrs. Southmayd. The family have always been, and still are, in decayed circumstances.


One sister married Peter Kemble, almost an old man when she married him. He, however, was wealthy. They lived splendidly and entertained in the first style for many years, when the fortune of the House of Gouverneur & Kemble were nearly overturned by their endorsements for Samuel G. Ogden, amounting to $250,000.


It proved too much for the high mind of Mrs. Kemble, and she became partially deranged, which was soon succeeded by death. Mrs. Kemble was considered the most splendid woman of her day.


Mr. Kemble survived his wife, and at his death left the wreck of his fortune, about $125,000. to his five children, now all living except Mrs. Jas. K. Pauling.


The last sister married the Rev. Uzal Ogden of Newark, N.J. Samuel G. Ogden was the fruit of this connection, and the furitful source of the great losses sustained by the Gouverneur family. Among the rest, he obtained from Murgatroyd $10,000 belonging to Mrs. Stevenson's estate, not a cent of which was ever got. The money was spent in his famous Miranda expedition, undertaken in the year 1805 against South America, which ended so disastrously, and which was wound up by the hanging of ten Americans, selected from the prisoners by the Spanish authorities. All this is history, it is faithfully true, and therefore interesting to my descendants, for whom I have prepared these particulars, and of which they know so little.


Among the associates of the middle and latter periods of my life, stands foremost the late John Blackburn Miller. MOre than forty years ago he married Margaret, the only daughter of William Ellison of New Windsor, Orange County. Of the Ellisons there were three brothers, all extremely wealthy, vix: William, Thomas, and John. The two latter died bachelors, and left their estates to their brother William. The latter at his death left a small portion to his daughter, Miller's wife, and the rest of his large estate to his only son, Thomas. This estate consisted at his death of $170,000 in money, with a real estate in New York, bringin in $20,000 per annum. Thomas, after leading a life of intemperence, died and left nine orphan children, who were brought up by his eldest daughter, Mrs. Delancey. At the time of his death, the whole of the money had been spent, together with the revenue derived from the city property, leaving the estate in debt $100,000. This was, by good management, cleared off, and when the estate finally came to be divided among his children, they all became independent: are respectably married, and prosperous and happy in their different families.