Ryer Jacobse was born in February 1652. He was the eldest son of New Netherland pioneers Jacob Janse and Jannetie Segers Schermerhorn. He grew up in Beverwyck and in Schenectady where his father owned property as well.
About 1676, he married Ariaantie Bradt - the widow of Helmer Otten. The union produced a number of children who settled in Schenectady and its hinterland. Although he was identified as an Albany householder in 1679, he settled permanently in Schenectady and expanded on the land he had obtained through his marriage and from his father. He built a fortune in trade - most notably in the shipping of timber for use in ship building. In 1684, he owed back taxes in Albany.
During the 1680s, he emerged as a leader of a faction that vied for power with the original Schenectady patentees. He sought acceptance at the provincial level and leaped over all other Schenectadians when he was appointed to the first New York General Assembly established by Governor Thomas Dongan in 1683. The honor was short-lived as that Assembly met for only a few weeks!
Ryer Schermerhorn became the sole trustee of the Schenectady Patent issued in 1684. He may have held that title until 1714.
In 1689, he sided with the government proposed by the insurgent Jacob Leisler and was appointed a justice. He was elected to the provincial Assembly in 1693, 1694, 1698, 1699, and 1701. during that time, it appears he made his home in Albany where he served as a magistrate.
In June 1697, his house was listed on the Albany census and included his wife and children. His brother, Cornelis, lived next door. Shortly thereafter, he returned to Schenectady and re-established himself in the re-building community.
Ryer Schermerhorn had filed a joint will with his wife in 1678 - an uncharacteristic act for a young man but perhaps prompted by the presence of his wife's children and heirs. He filed new will document in April 1717. It mentioned no Albany property but extensive holdings in Schenectady and its hinterland. He died in February 1719.
Ryer Jacobse Schermerhorn is a legendary figure in the early years of the Schenectady community. Anecdotes and traditions abound in the antiquarian histories! A small part of his life had an Albany-based context. This page strives to focus on his Albany story!
Sources: The life of Ryer Jacobse Schermerhorn is CAP biography number 5490. This profile is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. Tom Burke's Mohawk Frontier is somewhat biographical as it places Ryer in the center of Schenctady's development and subsequent re-birth after 1700.
first posted: 10/10/03