Henry Rutgers (October 7, 1745 – February 17, 1830)[1] was a United States Revolutionary War hero and philanthropist from New York City. Rutgers University was named after him, and he donated a bond which placed the college on sound financial footing. He also gave a bell that is still in use.

Henry Rutgers
1828 oil painting of Henry Rutgers
Member of the New York State Assembly from New York County
In office
July 1, 1783 – June 30, 1784
Personal details
BornOctober 7, 1745
New York City, Province of New York, British America
DiedFebruary 17, 1830(1830-02-17) (aged 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Parent(s)Hendrick Rutgers
Catharine DePeyster
RelativesJohannes de Peyster Sr. (great-grandfather)
Johannes de Peyster (maternal grandfather)
Abraham de Peyster (granduncle)
Evert Bancker (granduncle)
Johannes de Peyster III (maternal uncle)
Samuel Provoost (cousin)
Theodore Roosevelt (third cousin twice removed)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (third cousin twice removed)
Alma materColumbia University (BA)
OccupationRevolutionary War hero, philanthropist

Early life edit

Rutgers was born in New York City, in the Province of New York which was then a part of British America. He was the son of New Netherland colonists Hendrick Rutgers and Catharine (née DePeyster) Rutgers.[2]

His maternal grandparents were Johannes de Peyster, the 23rd Mayor of New York City, and Anna (née Bancker) de Peyster, the sister of Evert Bancker, the 3rd and 12th Mayor of Albany, New York.[3] His paternal grandparents were Harmanus Rutgers and Rachel (née Meyers) Rutgers, herself a granddaughter of Claes Martenszen van Rosenvelt, the first Roosevelt to arrive in America.[2] Through his father's sister, he was a first cousin of Samuel Provoost, the first Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.[2] He was a third cousin twice removed of both U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In 1728 Harmanus Rutgers, Jr. purchased a farm near present-day East Broadway and Oliver Streets. Rutgers was a brewer and had a barn on Catherine Street to store the barley he grew. A lane that would later become Cherry Street ran along the southern border. His son Hendrick inherited the property and in 1754 built a new farmhouse farther to the north and nearer the East River. The Rutgers extended their holdings, purchasing water lots. Fill was added to the water on either side at the ends of the larger streets that ran perpendicular to the shore, forming slips or inlets where small boats could dock.[4]

Career edit

Rutgers graduated from King's College (now Columbia University) in 1766.[1] Following his graduation, he promptly became an advocate for independence of the American colonies from Great Britain. He went on to serve as a captain of American forces at the Battle of White Plains, and later as a colonel for the New York militia. During the British occupation of New York, Rutgers withdrew to Albany. During his absence, the British used the family home as an army hospital.[4]

Rutgers continued to play a role in the defense of the young nation after the Revolution, presiding over a meeting held June 24, 1812, to organize American forces in New York in anticipation of a British attack in the ensuing War of 1812.

Politics and public life edit

The bronze bell donated by Henry Rutgers hangs in the cupola of Old Queens

In 1783, Rutgers was elected to the New York State Assembly, where he served in the 7th New York State Legislature.[5] He also served on the New York Board of Education Regents from 1802 to 1826. He was a presidential elector, chosen by the legislature, in 1808, 1816, and 1820.

Rutgers supported the American Colonization Society, arguing against abolitionists that free people of color should be removed from the United States rather than allowed to grow as a population.[6] He was himself a slaveowner, like many of his relatives.[7]

Rutgers continued to expand his holdings, extending his water lots further out into the river. In his later years, Rutgers, a bachelor, devoted much of his fortune to philanthropy. As a landowner with considerable holdings on the island of Manhattan (especially in the vicinity of Chatham Square), he donated land for the use of schools, churches, and charities in the area. Both Henry Street and Rutgers Street in lower Manhattan are named for him, as well as the Rutgers Presbyterian Church[8] (formerly the Collegiate Presbyterian Church) which was also named for Rutgers who donated the parcel of land at the corner of Henry Street and Rutgers Street on which the original church was built in 1798.

Rutgers' most lasting legacy, however, is due to his donations to Queen's College in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which at the time was suffering considerable financial difficulties and temporarily closed.[9] The college had been founded as a seminary for the Reformed Church in America and appealed to Rutgers, a devout member of the church with a reputation for philanthropy, for aid. Rutgers donated a bond valued at $5000 to reopen the faltering school, and subsequently donated a bronze bell that was hung in the cupola of the Old Queens building which housed the college. In gratitude, and hoping the college would be remembered in Rutgers' will, the trustees renamed it Rutgers College on December 5, 1825. (Rutgers left nothing to the college upon his death.) The institution later became Rutgers University, then Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.[10]

Death and legacy edit

Coat of Arms of Henry Rutgers

Rutgers died in 1830 in New York City, at the age of 84. His body was initially buried in the Reformed Church on Nassau Street (the same church in which he was baptized) in Manhattan. However, as cemeteries in Manhattan were redeveloped during the mid-1800s, Rutgers' body was re-interred several times (first moved in 1858 to the Middle Church in Lafayette Place, on the corner of Nassau Street and Cedar Street in Manhattan, and then, in 1865, interred in Green-Wood Cemetery). For many years, no one remembered where his body had been finally buried, although it was long believed that he was buried in a Dutch Reformed churchyard in Belleville, New Jersey. One road running alongside this New Jersey graveyard is now called Rutgers Street (signed as, but not technically part of, Route 7).

Misplaced by history for over 140 years, Rutgers' final grave was rediscovered in October 2007[11][12] by Civil War research volunteers sifting through burial records of the historical Green-Wood Cemetery. In 1865, Rutgers' body had been finally buried in an unmarked grave (he is interred in Lot 10776, Sec. 28, in an underground vault) within the Dutch Reformed Church's plot at Green-Wood Cemetery[13][14] in Brooklyn.

The Green-Wood Historic Fund and members of the Rutgers Community honored Rutgers' memory on Flag Day, June 14, 2008, by unveiling a bronze marker at his gravesite. Elsewhere in Green-Wood Cemetery lies the grave of Mabel Smith Douglass, founder and first dean of the New Jersey College for Women (renamed Douglass College in her honor). Douglass College is part of Rutgers University's New Brunswick campus.

References edit

  1. ^ a b Piserchia, Susan M. "Edmund B. Shotwell: Manuscript Notes on the Life of Henry Rutgers, 1946-1962". Rutgers University. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Reynolds, Cuyler (1911). Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs: A Record of Achievements of the People of the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys in New York State, Included Within the Present Counties of Albany, Rensselaer, Washington, Saratoga, Montgomery, Fulton, Schenectady, Columbia and Greene. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. Retrieved 5 December 2016. de peyster douw.
  3. ^ Bielinski, Stefan. "Evert Bancker". exhibitions.nysm.nysed.gov. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  4. ^ a b Meade, Elizabeth D., "Rutgers Slip", AKRF, Inc., May 2009
  5. ^ Hough, A.M. M.D., Franklin B. (1858). The New York Civil List: Containing the names and origin of the civil divisions, and the names and dates of election or appointment of the principal state and county officers from the Revolution to the present time. Albany: Weed, Parsons and Co. Publishers. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  6. ^ White, Deborah Gray. "The Findings". Scarlet and Black Project. Rutgers University. Retrieved 9 October 2020. Through their leadership of the state and regional boards of the American Colonization Society (ACS), men like John Henry Livingston (Rutgers president, 1810-1824), the Reverend Philip Milledoler (Rutgers president, 1824-1840), Henry Rutgers (trustee after whom the college is named), and Theodore Frelinghuysen, Rutgers' seventh president, were among the most ardent anti-abolitionists in the Mid-Atlantic.
  7. ^ Amditis, Joe (28 May 2019). "Slavery & Academia: A Troubled History of Rutgers University". Muckgers. Rutgers University. Retrieved 9 October 2020. Henry Rutgers himself owned slaves, as did the rest of his family. In fact, after the 1741 slave revolt in New York City, a member of Henry's family "had three of his slaves convicted of conspiracy — one was hanged, one burned, and one transported," according to an article in the university archives. The article goes on to explain what happened to "John Hughson, the white man who allegedly incited the slaves," who was executed and hung on public display "on the shoreline of the Rutgers [family] property." In his 1823 will, Henry Rutgers wrote, "It is my desire and will that my Negro wench slave named Hannah being superannuated, be supported out of my Estate." Henry Rutgers "had a strong voice," his great grand-niece, Mary recalled. "His orders to his negroes across the East River," she continued, "could be heard by them."
  8. ^ [1] Archived August 20, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Henry Rutgers (1745-1830)". www.nyhistory.org. New-York Historical Society. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Henry Rutgers [1745-1830]". New Netherland Institute. New Netherland Institute. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  11. ^ Source: contemporaneous personal correspondence with the Civil War research volunteers (including Mark & Stephanie Carey, two Rutgers alumni) who discovered Rutgers' re-interment record while searching for Civil War veteran and casualty burial records. They notified the Cemetery historian, who worked with Rutgers historians and the Veterans' Administration to ensure that Rutgers' burial place was properly marked and recorded.
  12. ^ Mosca, Alexandra Kathryn (2008). Green-Wood Cemetery. Arcadia Publishing. p. 114. ISBN 9781439642351. Rutgers died in 1830 and years later in 1865 his body was moved from a Manhattan churchyard to Green-Wood. For decades his grave marker did not bear his name. But in 2008, a stone with him name was placed.
  13. ^ "Green-Wood Cemetery "The Arch" newsletter" (PDF). 2008. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  14. ^ Fowler, David J. "Benevolent Patriot: Henry Rutgers, 1745-1830". Retrieved November 6, 2016.

External links edit