Please Consider a Donation
- Asking for donations is never easy, sadly it's a fact our presence
doesn't come without cost. Because of that we are asking you to become
a contributing member of "Long Island Genealogy" by making a donation
to support it's work. Without your support we can't continue.
can be made by clicking on the Donate Button to the left or sending a
check. For directions on sending a check please follow this link.
From the book "Commodore
Vanderbilt and His Family
Two of the seven children of Jacob and Mary Sprague van der Bilt are
ancestors to the Commodore's children. Eleanor, their oldest child,
married Nathaniel Johnson and had a son Nathaniel II who married
Elizabeth Hand. Their daughter Sophia Johnson married Corneel.
I, another child of Jacob and Mary Sprague van der Bilt, married
Elizabeth Hand's cousin, Phebe Hand, and became the father of
Corneel's first wife, Sophia Johnson, and he were first cousins on the
side, and first cousins once removed on the
Corneel's father, the first to spell the name van Derbilt, was born
twelve years before the start of the Revolutionary War and was reared
in the home of an uncle where he worked for his room and board. He was
still a young man at the end of the War, a war which destroyed
island’s legal records which meant his inheritance had vanished.
He had no land of his own and little to support himself. This
Cornelius, who has been described as thriftless, dull and a laggard,
nevertheless became a successful farmer and a sailor who owned his own
land and operated his own boat. He became known as the founder of the
Staten Island Ferry.
Phebe Hand, his wife, was born in Rahway, New Jersey, was the daughter
of a prosperous sea captain. Captain Samuel Hand, and a Miss Lum. Phebe
was moderately well educated for the time and was of "good blood". When
and Cornelius first met, she was living as
mother's helper in the home of a clergyman at Port Richmond, Staten
They were married on February 5, 1787.
Phebe has been given much credit for her husband's, as well as her
son's, success. Strong of character and body, she was energetic,
reliant, efficient, pious, and greatly loved by her family, especially
by her son, Corneel.
Vanderbilt A Sketch of Grandmother Vanderbilt's Early Life
by her granddaughter, Anna, H.V. Root - written some time between 1885
early life it was my great pleasure to coax my Grandmother
Vanderbilt for stories of her childhood, I can recall the picture of
lady in her old-fashioned rush bottomed chair, looking out at the broad
which then lapped the shore in front of the cottage where I spent so
happy years. I can see it all still as it was the, the sloping
with its trim flowerbeds and trees, and the walnut shading the wide
wreathed in woodbine and honeysuckle.
long summer days, when the air seemed steeped in drowsy
sweetness, while all was under its magic spell, we sat there, my
her knitting and her Bible and I on the step at her feet. Then we
went into the past, and she would tell me about her grandparents, "good
and true"; elders and wardens in their respective churches, and of her
grandmother's (or great-grandmother's) lovers, one the choice of her
parents, the other her own true love. Between them she had a
sorry time, for the one who was approved of by t he parents was
doubtless the better match in a worldly point for even in that far off
time there was an eye for the eligible, and the richer suitor had
friends at court always urging his cause, until the maiden was nigh
distraught between her love for the one and the importuning of the
other. In an evil hour she had said that she would take the first
one who came. The parents, taking advantage of this, sent for
their favorite, and their daughter, tired of resisting, accepted her
fate, thereby meriting the scorn of her descendents who would never
have given in
to any amount of bullying.
of her grandfather Hand that the dear old lady loved to talk,
for she had lived with him, and her eyes took on a tender half asleep
look as if she saw the pleasant country home and was living in those
when the little child took her supper beside toe good old man whose
stilled seemed to linger with her like a benediction. This was
home near Rahway, and the place and beauty of those days of childhood
a vision of paradise stood out in memory, the brighter for the shadows
so soon followed.
old man was taken and went to his rest, believing that his
little grandchild was amply provided for, and that he had secured her
future. But ere long the Revolution changed everything.
Families were broken up and scattered, homes and fortunes lost.
My great-grandmother Hand put the money left her little daughter into
Continental notes. Depreciation soon commenced, in a short time
the notes were worthless and by this want of judgment the child was
left penniless. She, however, was kindly cared for by her dear
friend and pastor, Rev. Elmer to whom she gave the
loving service of a daughter. The horrors of the retreat and of the
through Morristown were vividly stamped on her memory. A Hessian
tried to slip and carry her away.
New Jersey and living with a married sister on Staten
Island, she met my grandfather. He was a very handsome man, and I
think that with all of her strong good sense and sound judgment,
she must have had some sentiment to fall in love at first sight, for
she said to herself, “he will be my husband. She spoke the truth
and Cornelius Vanderbilt never could have done a wisher thing than when
he placed his happiness in her keeping; he was naturally extravagant,
but to her he owned whatever
of success attended him. Her shrewdness and caution made side
suggestions, and her prudent thrift helped him to own a fine farm on
the shores of the bay and a ferry to the city. His experience was
similar to hers, his parents dying when he was a child, those who had
the guardianship of his
property either lost it, or he was cheated out of his own. On the
to Richmond I remember a beautiful old-fashioned cottage called “the
and Crown” which had belonged to the family.
have said, my grandfather was considered very handsome, and I can
just remember a very stern, dignified-looking person, of whom I stood
awe. He had severe notions of propriety, especially at the table,
where if any undue levity occurred, the unlucky trifler was sent away
disgrace. Indeed I have heard my aunt say that they did not wait
that but that she and her friend, Miss Judith Aymar, from the city,
a fit of nervous laughter imminent rose hastily and left the room by
doors, trying to control themselves. Each would open the door,
back at the other and retire in a new burst. The caution and
ability came from the Hand and not the Vanderbilt side, for although my
grandfather’s property was lost in the war, he had not the ability to
it. He was fond of his farm, loved horses and was a superb
A sale of the stock occurred after his death, and the high-spirited
he used to ride was in the inventory. The day of the sale he was
dead in his stall; it seemed as if the poor fellow had some dim idea of
case and he died rather than being sold.
of horses descended not only to the Commodore and Captain
Jacob Vanderbilt, but also to the present generation.
dark days of the Revolution, Grandma saw little of her
family. Her brother, a mere boy was at Bunker Hill, I have heard;
I do not know
it for a fact. Captain Hand, of the Long Island Hands, was in the
battle of Long Island, and the family was in the cause of
liberty. It was, therefore, a great grief to his daughter that
Obadiah Hand continued loyal to the King, and it was supposed that he
entered the British Army. News of his death was brought to his
wife, our great-great-grandmother by some one who declared that he had
seen him buried, and after some years,
she married a clergyman who died some four years later. She then
stayed with her children---by turns.
time, my grandmother was living on Staten Island and had
married, the country had adjusted itself to its new conditions and
peaceful occupations took the place of arms. Communication with
distant localities however, were slow and seldom; it was, therefore, a
matter of much surprise when
a stranger made his appearance and inquired for my
great-grandmother. He was directed to Mrs. Vanderbilt. He
told her that he had come
from Nova Scotia and had brought a message from her father, who was, he
declared still alive and anxious to find his wife and daughters and
them to come to him in care of the messenger, who would return at a
period. My grandmother replied with indignation that she would
to nothing nor allow her mother to do so either. So the stranger
saying he would call on his return.
happened that her mother soon after this came to pay her a visit
but nothing was said to her about the stranger. Upon leaving, as
the custom of those days mounted on a pillion for the jaunt, as she
a neighboring house a woman came out and stopped her, asking if she had
been told any news. Finding she had not, and concluding it was
her duty to
do so, she related the whole story, whereupon the old lady returned to
daughter, and Grandma said she never forgot the look she gave her as
stood in the door and said, “Oh Phoebe, and you knew it and could let
go away without telling me a word.” Expostulations were in vain,
spite of years and absence, and notwithstanding the later matrimonial
the first love was there and she declared she would go through fire and
to meet him, and go she did, when the messenger returned. It was
light matter in those days when a long perilous journey was a terrible
She was met on the shore by her first husband, and there she was
to him a second time before entering his home. Let’s hope that
late constancy was rewarded. I believe some of the descendants
living still, and have large possessions there.
instance of the disruption of families in those days, Grandma
used to tell of the time when, as a young girl, she was walking on
Broadway and saw a young stranger whose face attracted her.
Turning to look again she found him glancing back, and presently he
wheeled about and coming to her asked if her name was not Phoebe
Hand. It was her only brother---and that accidental meeting was
the first since infancy. Then he went
when she was sitting with her daughters (some of them
married) in the family room of the Old Homestead, a traveler entered,
some commonplace remark, asked if he could have lodging. My aunts
did not dream of his being allowed to stay, but seeing their mother’s
look of interest and fearing that she might be persuaded, they signaled
to her to refuse. Paying no attention to them, she, to their
gave him permission, then he told his name and it turned out to be her
brother from Alabama. There must have been a vein of romance in
rotund relative, for he had purposely disguised himself in poor clothes
to see if he would be recognized. Blood will tell, however
notwithstanding the change in appearance. He had a prosperous
plantation in Alabama where he had a large family, one of whom was Mrs.
Robert L. Crawford, a granddaughter who was the mother of the late
Commodore Vanderbilt’s second wife.
This visit of their uncle Hand was lengthened by his being thrown out
a wagon and a broken leg kept him here a long time. He died in
where there are still a number of his descendants.
and Mrs. Hasbrouck, Grandmother’s sisters, lived in
Kingston, New York. Only one sister was in Nova Scotia. One
of her sisters, a Mrs. Swaim, a handsome woman entertained George
Washington when he was crossing the Island. Another sister, who
had been sent to Bethlehem, finally became a sister there. The
ruler must have been severe at
that time and the head of the Moravian order had despotic ways.
one proposed marriage for her but, without being told the name of her
she was asked for her decision and declined, only to find out
that it was for whom she did care.
sister, Mrs. Johnson, was a favorite everywhere. I fancy
she had made an unfortunate marriage and was quite poor in her old age,
she was always bright, and my aunts used to say that even when she was
aged her visits were hailed with delight. She would come for a
and stay six months. Dear old Aunt Nellie. My mother was
for her---Eleanor being in the family record for seven
She lived by the water side while a British warship was in the bay and
sailor Duke, afterwards William IV, a lively middy onboard came often
shore to see her. He said she looked like his mother and he used
call her Mammy. She had a little boy to whom he took a fancy and
his mother to let him take the child to England and adopt him. It
a boyish notion and she could only gratify it by naming the child after
her royal friend. From what I have heard, he was very different
from his mother, It is a pity he did not go, for the Duke would
have looked after his world’s prospects and he might as well have been
a good for nothing Lord, as he was good for nothing else. It is
said that he was all Johnson though his mother was a Vanderbilt.
to our own times, of the children of Cornelius and Phoebe
Hand Vanderbilt, two died in infancy and the only one now living is
Capt. Jacob, who sitting behind his spirited horses, is still a well
known figure on
Staten Island. He has wonderful vitality and is as genial and
as ever, always cordial, generous and frank with a certain old-time
courtesy. May he long continue the head of the family.
is too well remembered to need more than mention.
His life will probably be written later by someone capable of
describing him as his great genius deserves.
mother, her derived his most salient points, self reliance,
caution, keen perception, wonderful executive ability and
determination. His great personal beauty, commanding presence and
high bearing were his father’s. I have heard that there was a
portrait of Grandfather painted by his friend Jarvis, the old-time
artist but he must have kept it for himself.
Mrs. Simonson (Aunt Polly) the eldest sister, was much beloved for her
gracious manners and ready hospitality. Aunt Charlotte DeForest
the next in age, was also noted for the same hospitality as well as for
strong character and thrift. Eleanor, my mother, who died in
was called the beautiful Mrs. Van Duzer, and was long remembered for
piety and charitableness. Her life was a benediction and she
in my memory, a vision of all that was lovely and pure. The
and verses she wrote for me I have always prized. Mrs. Barton, my
Aunt Jane and Aunt Phoebe had the characteristic integrity, geniality
native nobility of their mother, the same fearless courage for the
the same sympathy and courtesy due to rich and poor alike. These
stood to me in my mother’s place, as I always lived with Grandma except
my school life in Bridgeport, at Miss Ward’s School. You will
the old cottage where I was married by the Rev. Dr. Moore, who also
my mother; and one of my precious memories is that of the dear old lady
after the ceremony, and lifting her hand in blessing on my head.
nearer to her than her other grandchildren, belonging more
nearly to her, I had opportunity to hear these old-time tales, for
which no one else seemed to care and which I have tried to
perpetuate. I can only regret that I did not do more to stimulate
her recollection on other points, but I was then too young to think of
dates or side issues, except as they appealed to my fancy on the
romantic side, There is enough, however, to
show the sterling traits (forgotten in these days of living for gain),
constancy, independence, and deep piety which made “her word as good as
her hand” she has handed down from her ancestry and it is an
no money can purchase and no title surpass. May our children be
of the high bequest.
written this little family history solely for my sons, as I wish
them to know something of their mother’s people; its only merit is its
perfect truth, as well as possible from my grandmother’s life.
What names there are, are, I believe correct. I only wish there
were more. Her grandfathers (or tow of them were of course Hand
and Lum) of this latter I know nothing. The name of the Nova
Scotia relatives is, or was,
|The files contained on this
site have been researched and
donated for public use by the visitors of Long Island Genealogy and its
expanding family. They are not to be reproduced for commercial purposes
but are freely offered for your personal use. Please verify all
information and use it as a guide in your personal research not as an
end goal. Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy
and reliability of the information on the Long Island Genealogy Website
we are all subject to human error, therefore researchers should,
whenever possible, check the original source of any information.
Thank You for Visiting and
please come back soon!