Monday: Map Day!

Mary Turck’s Greene County, NY

As we discussed last Monday, 2021 is the bicentennial of Mary Turck Clark’s birth. So this year I’d like to focus on Mary, her parents and her seven siblings: where they came from, how they got to Wisconsin, and where they went afterwards. Today we’ll start to get our Turck-family bearings with a look at an excellent map of Greene County, New York, an important place in the lives of Mary, her parents, and her extended family.

The Hudson River Dutch-Americans

Mary Turck’s parents and ancestors descended from Dutch-American families that had been in New York since colonial times. For more background and a fine 1829/32 map of the whole state, take a minute to re-read our previous Monday: Map Day!, Peter and Rachael (Gay) Turck’s New York, 1829/32. The initial Dutch immigrants to New Netherland landed on Manhattan Island; it wasn’t long before Dutch settlers headed inland, west and north up the Hudson River. By the time Mary Turck was born in 1821, there had been generations of Dutch-Americans living along the Hudson. The story of Mary’s extended family—the Turck, Gay, Groom, and Van Loon families and their kin—is centered around a handful of Hudson River counties. Some of the boundaries and place names changed over the centuries, but much of the story of Mary Turck’s family will be found in the documents, maps and places of Ulster and Greene counties on the west bank of the river and Dutchess and Columbia counties on the east side.

Burr, David H., Map of the State of New-York and the surrounding country by David H. Burr. Compiled from his large map of the State, 1832.[…] Entered according to Act of Congress Jany. 5th., 1829 by David H. Burr of the State of New York. Engd. by Rawdon, Clark & Co., Albany & Rawdon, Wright & Co., New York [detail]. Credit, David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries, non-commercial use permitted under Creative Commons license. Click image to open larger map in new window.

At Home in Greene County

Mary Turck was born in the town (or the village, it’s not clear) of Athens, Greene County, New York in 1821. Her brother Joseph Robert Turck was also born in Athens, in 1823. Her sister Elizabeth Turck was born in nearby Catskill in 1828. Her mother Rachael (Gay) Turck was born in Coxsackie in 1798. Here’s what Greene county looked like in 1829, just a year after sister Elizabeth’s birth:

Burr, David H., Map of the County of Greene. Published by the Surveyor General, pursuant to an Act of the Legislature. Entered according to an Act of Congress Jany. 5th. 1829 by David H. Burr of the State of New York. Engd. by Rawdon, Clark & Co., Albany & Rawdon, Wright & Co., New York. Credit, David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries, non-commercial use permitted under Creative Commons license. Click image to open larger map in new window.

The map’s key (“Explanations”) is helpful. Towns (sometimes known in other times and places as townships) are the larger divisions of the county. On the map, each town is outlined in color: Catskill in yellow, Athens in green and Coxsackie in pink.

Burr, David H., Map of the County of Greene, 1829 [detail]. Click image to open larger image in new window.

Each of these three towns, Catskill, Athens and Coxsackie, includes a number of settled areas, including villages that share the name of the town. So there are Catskill, Athens and Coxsackie villages and towns. It’s not clear if Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth Turck were born in the villages or the rural parts of the towns.

According to the map, the town of Athens was mostly rural and, presumably, agricultural. But there were flouring mills and manufactories in the town of Catskill, and at least six sawmills in the town of Coxsackie. And while the key lists a symbol for churches, it looks like the mapmakers did not note them on this map. (We know from other sources that there were churches in these towns in the early 1800s.)

Old Names and Patents

You can still see some of the old Dutch patent names on our 1829 map. The “Catskill Patent” covers the towns of Catskill and Athens. And just north and west of the town of Coxsackie, the towns of New Baltimore and Greenville are “Part of the Coeymans Patent. For the moment, I’m not going to go into detail on the history of the Dutch patroonships and patents (but do click the links and “read ahead” if you’re interested). Some of the earliest patroonships were very large; over the decades, most of those were divided into smaller and smaller parcels.

A close look at our map will also give you a good idea of colonial era surveying practice and irregular land parcel shapes. The old metes and bounds method of setting and describing land boundaries is a far cry from the rectangular survey system employed in federal government surveys from 1820 onward.

Loonenburg / Lunenburgh

One name that is not found on this map is Loonenburg (Lunenburgh). This was a Dutch place name, and it was an important part of the history of Greene county—and of Mary Turck’s family. Loonenburg was one of the oldest settlements in the area. It was awarded to Jan Van Loon (pronounced, and sometimes spelled, Van Loan). Loonenburg was renamed Athens when it was incorporated as a village in 1805.

Interestingly, Mary Turck’s maternal great-grandmother was one Rachel Groom (neé Van Loon). I suspect Rachel Van Loon Groom (1748-1795) may be descended from the founder of Loonenburg/Athens, but I have not documented that yet.

The Van Loon (Van Loan) family also plays a part in the early history of Washington County, Wisconsin.. Mary Turck’s first cousin, Rachael Ann Clow (1827-1868), was the first wife of Caspar Van Loan (1827-1915), who may also have been a—distant—cousin of Mary’s. Rachael and Caspar Van Loan were early settlers near Hartford, Washington county, Wisconsin in the 1850s. Other members of the Clow and Van Loan families passed through Washington county during pioneer times, making homes in the towns of Polk and West Bend. I’m still trying to sort out the details and relationships of these families. Let’s just say—for about a decade or so—Mary Turck had several cousins from her first home, Greene County, New York, living not far from her home in Mequon.