An unusual family

Steward 1
The John Steward family of Goshen, New York. Harriet Le Roy Steward (later Stuyvesant) stands in the doorway; her brother Campbell, my great-grandfather, stands behind the toy cannon.

It is always a nice surprise to open a book and find a reference to a family member, especially a family member about whom one knows little. This recently happened to me as I was reading Robert Winthrop Kean’s memoir, Fourscore Years, published privately in 1974. The book’s subtitle, “My First Twenty-four,” indicates that this volume covers the beginning of the author’s life; an earlier book, Dear Marraine, concerns his service during the First World War.

Winthrop Kean’s mother was Katharine Taylor Winthrop (1866–1943). Her “most intimate girlhood friend,” Katie Stuyvesant, was my grandfather’s first cousin. Born Catharine Elizabeth Steward Stuyvesant (1865–1924) and named for her maternal grandmother, Cousin Katie has always been a bit of a blank in my family. In talking about his mother’s background and friends, Kean’s memoir clears up some (but not all) of the mystery about Katie and her siblings.

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Mrs. Campbell Patrick White and her descendants. The family members in red type shared a house at 13 West Twenty-first Street in New York. Click on the image to expand it.

“Across Ocean Avenue [in Elberon, New Jersey] from my Grandmother Winthrop’s house … lived the Stuyvesant family,” Mr. Kean writes. Katie Stuyvesant, who was one of Kitty Winthrop’s bridesmaids in 1888,[1] “had been very delicate in her youth, and was practically a recluse. Some even thought she was slightly feeble-minded. But I used to go with my mother to see her a couple of times a year, and she had a good brain, though she was always wrapped from head to toe to keep out drafts.”[2]

Some background: Katie’s parents Augustus Van Horne Stuyvesant (1838–1918) and Harriet Le Roy Steward (1842–1872) had married in 1864; Katie was born the following year. In 1870, Harriet gave birth to a son, named for his father, and in 1871 to a daughter named Anne; she then died in 1872, at the age of 30. Katie was sickly, as was baby Van Horne, and with Harriet Stuyvesant’s death the family must have worried endlessly about a similar fate for her children.

Mr. Kean continues: “It was an unusual family. Robert Stuyvesant [sic], the father, was a quite gay elderly gentleman who spent much of his time in New York looking after his real estate interests.[3] He had been a widower for very many years.[4] Taking care of the house, even when my mother was little girl, were his wife’s two sisters – the Misses White.” This is not quite correct: the Misses White, three in number, were Mrs. Stuyvesant’s aunts, the sisters of her mother Mrs. John Steward.[5] “Also living there was Mr. Banyard. Mr. Banyard was a brother of the Misses White. Some rich relative had died and left his money to him, on the condition that he would change his name to Banyard to carry on the family name. He did so, but then he never married.[6]

“Katie had a younger brother Van Horn Stuyvesant [sic].[7] He had a high squeaky voice[8] and was very shy, almost as much of a recluse as Katie. There was a younger sister, Annie,[9] who was much more normal but she also never married. Their only pleasure outside of occasionally driving around in their carriage, was for Annie and her brother (whom we called Vanny), to go down to the Beach Club and hold on to the rope in the surf. Katie was too delicate ever to do so. None of them married, and Van Horn was the last survivor. When he died, some twenty years ago, he was the last direct male descendant of Peter Stuyvesant born with the Stuyvesant name.”[10]

It’s a sad story. Somehow, the marriage of the elder Van Horne and Harriet, begun with such promise, became a catalogue of illness and blighted prospects. In a Kean–Winthrop bridal party photo, one can see that Katie was as handsome as her sister Annie: with money and good looks, why did none of the Stuyvesant children marry? Why was going to the Beach Club and holding the rope line into the sea the high point of their summers?

Notes

[1] She provided the same service for my great-grandmother, Margaret Atherton Beeckman (1861–1951), when she married Katie’s uncle Campbell Steward (1852–1936) in 1885. The friendship between the Stuyvesants, Stewards, and Winthrops – formed at Elberon – explains Mrs. Robert Winthrop’s wedding present to my great-grandparents.

[2] Robert Winthrop Kean, Fourscore Years: My First Twenty-four (Privately printed, 1974), 140–41.

[3] He later lived apart from his wife’s family and their children, so I suspect Mr. Kean’s observation is meant to encompass other (non-marital) interests.

[4] He outlived his wife by 45 years.

[5] Catharine Elizabeth White (1818–1867) married John Steward in 1841. Her unmarried sisters were Ann White (1820–1914), Mary Martha White (1822–1903), and Cornelia Le Roy White (1825–1911).

[6] This is Goldsborough Banyer (1817–1904), born John Campbell White, the eldest child of Campbell Patrick White (1787–1859) and Harriet Banyer Le Roy (1797–1885). Harriet was the granddaughter of Goldsbrow Banyar (1724?–1815), whose fortune passed through the Le Roy family (Harriet’s brother Goldsborough Banyer Le Roy, later Goldsborough Le Roy Banyer) and the White family; my great-grandfather, in line to inherit with a name change, escaped that fate. My grandfather’s version of this story can be found here.

[7] Augustus Van Horne Stuyvesant Jr. (1870–1953).

[8] From a cleft palate. My father recalls meeting Cousin Van Horne at his house on East Seventy-ninth Street; he says that poor Van Horne, who wore a walrus mustache, was almost incomprehensible.

[9] Anne White Stuyvesant (1871–1938).

[10] Kean, Fourscore Years, 141.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

9 thoughts on “An unusual family

  1. Mr. Steward, It’s interesting to learn for the first time about Robert Winthrop Kean’s memoirs, I’m related to him once, his wife twice. In Robert’s case the connection is interesting in that it’s through a family unlikely to have a genealogy published since the only known children were sisters, no sons,

    Belitie Platenburg/Plettenburg=Jan Myndertsen
    Jannetje Meynderts=Barent Waldron
    Belitie Waldron=Isaac Delamater
    Abraham Delamater=Maria Vandewater
    Catherine Delamater=John Wilson
    Catherine Ann Wilson=Moses Taylor
    Katharine Wilson Taylor=Robert Winthrop
    Katharine Taylor Winthrop=Hamilton Fish Kean
    Robert Winthrop Kean=Elizabeth Stuyvesant Howard

    Belitie Platenburg/Plettenburg’s sister,

    Griete Platenburg/Plettenburg=Willem Vander Schure
    Elena Vander Schure=Albert Stevense Van Voorhees
    Petrus Albertse Van Voorhees=Geesjen Romeyn
    Daniel Van Voorhees=Marya Tallman
    Jeremiah Vorhis=Aaltie Montfort

    At that point this branch of the family moved to Conewago, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and finally Warren County, Ohio. In the next generation my great-great-great-grandmother was the first in my line of descent to marry someone who wasn’t a member of the “New Netherland family” to paraphrase Gary Boyd Roberts’s references to the “New England Family. My surname “entered the mix” when their daughter married someone about whose ancestry I know very little (father, not mother).

    A long time ago you mentioned you were working on a New Netherland family, I hope it’s the one I assume it is but I’ll order a copy even if I’ve guessed wrong.

    Marc Hoover

  2. Thanks for filling in some date gaps in my own family tree. Do you have further information on the Kean family? Julia Ursin Niemcewicz Kean is my 2nd great grandmother and I’ve been trying to find out about her grandfather John Kean, John’s half sister Jane Grove Corvaisier, and their mother Jane Watson Kean Grove.

    1. I’m not “up-to-speed” on all the details about this but I was “under the impression” that when “every book in the universe” was being digitized in the middle of the last decade that “everything” published “around 70” years ago “or so” would be completely available (on-line). Now, many books that fall within that time frame and used to be “completely available” aren’t anymore, but there’s this: https://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&q=niemcewicz+kean (published 87 years ago, “now” available in “snippet view” only but perhaps it’s available at either a local library or one you’ll have a chance to visit elsewhere).

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