Barn Preservation Society
to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns
SPRING 2003, Vol. 16, Issue 1
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
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
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.
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
Dutch Barn Preservation Society
The Mabee Farm Historic Site
1080 Main St. (Rt. 5S)
Junction, NY 12150
Phone: (518) 887-5073
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