Monday, February 1, 2016

Amanuensis Monday: Myndert Frederickse and Hercules

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

This week I look at records concerning my 8th great grandfather, Myndert Frederickse(n), and his slave, Hercules. I discussed these records several years ago, but haven't posted the transcriptions.

Source: Albany Chronicles: A History of the City Arranged Chronologically, from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time; Illustrated with Many Historical Pictures of Rarity and Reproductions of the Robert C. Pruyn Collection of the Mayors of Albany, Owned by the Albany Institute and Historical and Art Society. J. B. Lyon Company, printers, 1906 - Albany (N.Y.), p. 112.


Mayor Pieter Schuyler and Common Council hold first session, among the minutes recorded appearing the following transaction: “The court of (the) mayor and aldermen having considered ye case of ye negroe of Myndert Frederikse called Hercules, who hath stole a chest of wampum belonging to ye poor of ye Lutheran parich out of ye house of his master, where he went in at night throw ye window, all which he confesseth, and considering how evil consequence it is and how bad example it is for ye negers, the court have ordered ye sd neger Hercules to be whipt throw ye towne att ye cart tale by ye hands of ye hangman forthwith, for an example to oyrs, and his master to pay ye costs.”

Source: Bi-centennial History of Albany: History of the County of Albany, N.Y., from 1609 to 1886, Volume 2, WW Munsell & Company, 1886, p. 463.

The Mayor’s Court, as it was called, possessed the powers and duties of a Court of Probate of Wills, and those now held by Surrogates. They also decided the time and place of holding elections. The first meeting, or Court, of the Mayor and Aldermen was held at City Hall in Albany, August 31, 1686. It was both a Court of Justice and a meeting of the Mayor and Aldermen for the transaction of municipal business.

Among the legal cases was one of a negro, Hercules, charged by Myndert Frederickse with stealing wampum out of his house, belonging to the churchwarden of the Lutheran Church. The negro, having confessed the theft, was sentenced “to be whipped through ye town at ye carte tale by ye hangman, for an example to others.” His master was ordered to pay the costs.

Source: The Manual of the First Lutheran Church in the City of Albany, First Lutheran Church (Albany, N.Y.)., Samuel P. Sprecher, Thomas Spencer Lloyd, J. Munsell, 1871 - Albany (N.Y.) - p. 102.

Among the early records of the common council we find the following curious entry:
Att a Court of Mayor and Aldermen held for ye Citty of Albany, ye 17th day of August, 1686. Present Peter Schuyler, Jan Jans Bleeker, Johannes Wandel, Dirck Wessels, Adrian Gerritse, Levinus Van Schaik. Hercules, ye negro of Myndert Frederickse being brought before ye Court by warrant of ye Mayr to answer ye fellonious taking out of his master’s house a small chest wherein some bags of wampum was contained, belonging to ye Poor of ye Lutheran Church, and being examined doth confess ye fact yt upon Thursday night last he came to his master’s house, and finding ye window of ye chamber open, went in and stole away ye small chest wherein ye money of ye poor of ye Lutheran Church was kept, and broke ye chest open without ye gate, at ye water side with an axe. Ordered, yt ys sd Negro be committed and secured in ye Common Goale till ye next Court of Sessions, when he is to be brought to his tryall. – Albany Records, III, 4.
Source: Swan of Albany: a history of the oldest congregation of the Lutheran Church in America, Henry Hardy Heins, First Lutheran Church, 1976 - pp 34-35.

It had been hoped by many in both congregations that the new pastor would be able to make it to Albany in time to minister to the venerable Myndert Frederickse in his last illness. He was the sole remaining elder of the Albany congregation, and we have encountered him already in the 1680 accounts of the courtroom scene and the church deed. Old Myndert was a blacksmith from Oldenburg, widely celebrated up and down the river for his craftsmanship, and in addition to his regular business he had been given the post of armorer at Fort Frederick. His home and shop in Albany were on the approximate site of the present office building at 41 State Street. He had an assistant named Hercules, who was once hailed into court (1686) on a charge of stealing the Lutheran Church’s poor box, containing some bags of wampum, from the elder’s home and breaking into it with an axe.

But unfortunately, events conspired to keep Pastor Falckner in New York City until mid-spring…They reached Albany too late, and found that the old blacksmith was dead. Among the treasured possessions in his will, the loyal old churchman had specifically mentioned, “my church book with the silver chain and clasps.”


1) The 1871 transcription appears to be an attempt at a faithful transcription of the original court record, down to spelling and abbreviations. The case appears to have been noted in several historical collections because the verdict of the trial was announced at the first meeting of The Mayor's Court on August 31, 1686. However, it appears the case had been previously discussed and sent to trial at a meeting on August 17th, of a court under a different name. Albany was officially chartered as a municipality on July 22, 1686. [source]

2) When I last discussed this, I hadn't found a copy of Swan of Albany, but only had access to snippets of a preview from Google Books. I found a copy not too long after. This isn't the only section of the book with information on Myndert and I will share some other selections later. I assume the amount of text I will quote will be minimal enough to not crossover fair-use guidelines.

3) Swan of Albany uses the word 'assistant' to describe Hercules at Myndert's death. Is that a euphemism or does it indicate my ancestor ultimately freed his slave? I have seen a transcription of Myndert's will, and Hercules isn't mentioned in it. Even if he were to be freed upon Myndert's death, I think that would be stated in the will, suggesting it may well have happened prior.

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