Margarita Douw was born in 1729. She was the daughter of Petrus and Anna Van Rensselaer Douw of Rensselaerswyck. She grew up in a large family of nine children mostly at the family's country seat called Wolvenhook.
Although these Douws resided across the Hudson, the family was among Albany's most affluent with Margarita's brother, Volckert, becoming mayor of the city in 1761. Past her twenty-third birthday, Margarita returned to Albany to stay when she wed Dr. Henry Van Dyck in 1752. The marriage produced six children where were baptized at the nearby Dutch church where both parents were pewholders.
Margarita's home was across from the church on Court Street from where her husband carried on his medical practice that counted the large Douw family as mainstay patients.
The Revolutionary War changed her life as her husband was a Tory who was arrested and banished from Albany. She tried several times to visit her husband behind enemy lines but was turned away. Van Dyck returned home after the war but never regained his pre-war prominence.
Henry Van Dyck died in 1786. Twelve years earlier, Margarita had been named heir and executor of his estate. In 1788, she was identified as the head of her first ward home with her only son living with her. In 1790, her landmark home was attended by three slaves. She was gone too by 1800 and Petrus had taken his family to Schenectady.
first posted: 6/5/02