Dutch Barn Preservation Society

Dedicated to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns

NEWSLETTER SPRING 2003, Vol. 16, Issue 1

THE HISTORY OF LARGER WEMP BARN

BY VINCENT J. SCHAEFER
The following is a paper which first appeared in the 1990 "Dutch Barn Research Miscellany." It is reprinted here to demonstrate the type of research that is sorely needed for so many of our historic barns. It also shows the capable work of Vincent J. Schaefer.

The progenitor of the Wemp family in eastern New York begins with the arrival of Jan Barentse Wemp in Beaverwyck (Albany) about 1643-5. He acquired property north of Albany on the east side of the Hudson River at the mouth of a substantial stream which was subsequently called the Poestenkill. At the time Jan Wemp had an alias-"Poest" I have been recently told that there is a possibility that "Poest" referred to the Netherland town of "Peeste" which may be the place where Jan Wemp emigrated from. It was pronounced "Pest" In any event, Jan Wemp married Maritje Myndertse. They had 6 children the oldest born in 1649 was named Mvndert He married Diewer Wendel. They had two children, the older, Johannes, was captured in 1690 during the Schenectady Massacre and taken as a captive to Canada. During the massacre his father, Mvndert was killed. Jan Wemp was born in 1670.

Apparently Johannese Wemp returned from Canada sometime after 1691 and in 1701 married Catalina Schermerhorn. They had 4 children before she died about 1708.

In 1709 Johannes (Jan) married again this time to Ariaantje Swits. They had 8 children between 1710 and 1726.

In 1711 Jan Wemp, being a Master Builder, was contracted to build Fort Hunter at the mouth of the Schoharie River, west of Amsterdam. From then on he was referred to as "of the Mohocks Country". It is likely he settled on the 540 acres of land he subsequently bought from the Mohawk Iroquois Indians in 1736. It is also quite possible he built the Larger Wemp Barn shortly after his first settling of the region about 1715.

Jan Wemps eldest son Myndert, born in 1701 married Sarah Mills about 1730.

They had 3 children, a girl and 2 boys. The youngest, Andries, was born in 1735. In 1765 he married Helena Bratt. They had four children. He was the grandson of Jan Wemp the barn builder and at the start of the Revolution was apparently living on the original Wemp Grant near Fort Hunter.

At that time a notation from Prof. Jonathan Pearson of Union College and author of "First settlers of Schenectady refers to him as follows-"Andries Wemp of Montgomery County, being an adherent of the King in the Revolutionary War, his property was confiscated."- It is likely that this confiscation occurred after the Sir John Johnsons' British, Tory and Indian Raids of May and October of 1780 when these 1000 raiders swept the Schoharie and middle Mohawk Valleys burning homes, barns and killing the rebels, men, women and children, laying waste to the "Bread Basket of the Revolution." At that time Andries Wemp and his family fled to Canada.

After the War it is said that Andries attempted to recover his property. This request was denied. Meanwhile there is some evidence that the land and buildings including the larger Wemp Barn, which had been spared from burning in 1780 since the owner was a Tory, was acquired by Jillis Fonda a Captain in the Revolution.

When the barn was dismantled in 1990 evidence indicated that it had been moved from its original site. This site quite possibly was on the Mohawk River flats several hundred yards north of its later location. This could have happened to avoid the annual spring freshet when the Schoharie ice breakup would produce ice jams and severe flooding in that region. The date of 1794 was found on the under surface of a sway brace above an anchor beam.

At the same time the carefully carved initials J.F. were found below the anchor beam marked lion the massive post bearing that beam and the purlin plate above.

This possible relationship of the Fondas to the Wemp Barn poses some fascinating questions which should be pursued.

The Fonda family have a record very much like that of the Wemps. The son of the original Fonda, Jillis Douwese Fonda who settled in Beaverwyck in 1654, owned land on the east side of the Hudson River above Albany in 1676. Name was Douw Jillis. He and his wife Rebecca had four children. Their second son born in 1684 was named Jillis. He married Rachel Winne in 1695 and moved to Schenectady in 1700. They had eight children, 4 boys and 4 girls. The eldest, Douw, married Martje Vrooman, daughter of Adam Vrooman, pioneer settler of the Schoharie Valley near Middleburg. After marriage they settled in Caughnawaga (Fonda) in 1751 where they built a large limestone house. Douw was slain by Sir John Johnsons troops during the May 1780 raid.

His brother Abraham, married Maria Mebie in 1746. They had 3 children. Maria died in 1753. He then married Susanna Glen in 1755. They had 6 children. Their eldest son, born in 1759 married Hedricus Veeder in 1783. His name was Jillis Fonda. They had seven children. During the Revolution he became a Captain and was, I believe, the owner of the Wemp property after it had been confiscated.

At the present day two descendants of the Fonda family are well known. They are Henry Fonda and his daughter Jane.


Resurrection

Saved from ruin, the Spencer Barn (below) now stands majestically across a field near Ancram, Columbia County, NY. It is clearly visible from Simmonds Road and Wiltsie Bridge Road. The foregoing pictures show the rebuilding of the Dunkle Barn (Fort Plain) that took place in the fall of 2001. A crew of Amish carpenters who build replacement parts, too rotten to salvage, and a 60-foot crane were important factors in the rebuilding. One is reminded that John Fitchen, in his book, The New World Dutch Barn, calculated that original Dutch Barns could have been erected by two men, except for the heavy framework, which was a community project and required a yoke of oxen.

Photos by Amelia and Robert Andersen

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