Johannes Abeel
Stefan Bielinski

Johannes Abeel was born in Albany in 1667 - the eldest son of builder/trader Stoffel Janse and Neeltje Croon Abeel. Losing his father at age thirteen, the boy became a man bartering for furs with Native hunters - an ambition that took him into the wilderness but also downriver to New York where three of his sisters had married into prominent business families.

By the mid 1680s, he was administering his father's extensive estate. Young Johannes prospered in the carrying trade to New York while tending to family enterprises in Albany. By the end of the decade, he had settled more in Albany . After the death of his mother, he took over the family home on Market Street - raising a family there following his marriage to Catalina Schuyler in 1694.

By that time, Johannes Abeel already had entered public life. He was elected assistant (1688) and then alderman (1691-93 and again in 1700 ) for Albany's third ward. In 1694, this prominent merchant was appointed mayor of Albany and served for a year. He would hold the mayor's office again from 1709 to 1710. In the meantime, he was elected to represent Albany in the New York General Assembly in 1695, 1701, and 1702; was appointed judge of the Albany county court in 1702; one of the masters of the provincial chancery (equity) court in 1705; and also recorder (deputy mayor) of Albany in 1702.

The nature of his personal and public business made Johannes Abeel a citizen of New York City perhaps as much as of his native Albany. A year after serving as Albany's mayor, he sought and received the distinction of a "freeman" of New York City. From Manhattan, he exported skins to London and received consignments of rum, rice, dry goods, and other supplies - some of which were supplied to garrison soldiers in Albany and on the frontier. By 1699, he was back in Albany but in trouble there for trading without the freedom of that city. But a year later, he was elected to the Albany city council and to other offices until his death early in 1711.

However, his overall status qualified him to take part in a number of land patenting initiatives including the Westenhook Patent (1705).

Like his father, Johannes was a mainstay of the Albany Reformed Church - serving as deacon and witnessing more than two dozen Albany baptisms. In 1704, his friend, Dominie Johannes Lydius, composed a poem on the occasion of Abeel's 37th birthday. In June 1710, he filed a will. It left everything to his wife and then equally to their children.

In 1836, workers making improvements North of the Second Dutch Reformed Church on Beaver Street dug up a number of old gravestones. According to a newspaper report, one marker read: "Here lies the body of John Abeel who departed this life ye 28 day of Jan'y. 1711, and in the 44 year of his age." However, that relic was thrown out and never found.

Anniversary Ode
by Johannes Lydius

(on the birthday of my lord and friend, Johan Abeel, which occurred on March 23, 1704)

Live long, my lord and friend;
your birthday is today, The joyful time of year!
May heaven grant, I pray, Old Nestor's goodly years
to crown your life and bless; Your know how to unite
grave worth and joyousness, Your face has smiles for us;
your inner worth, in truth, Commands respect and quells
the silliness of youth.
Wisdom and grace shine forth,
and anyone on seeing Knows upright piety
is your essential being.
God keep us together; you are my truest friend;
God bind us as one hand;
I'll hold to't till the end.

Poem translated from a Dutch language manuscript in the collection of the Long Island Historical Society when it appeared in an article by Kenneth Scott entitled "Johannes Lydius's Birthday Ode to Johannes Abeel," as published in De Halve Maen 38:3 (October 1963).

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