John Colden


John Colden was born in May 1729. Perhaps, he was perhaps the third son among the eight surviving children of Dr. Cadwallader Colden and Alice Christie Colden. His Scots-Irish father was a physician, botanist, surveyor, acting royal governor, and among the most outstanding personages to inhabit colonial New York. John's formative years were spent in New York City and at the family's upriver estate called Colden[g]ham.

All of Cadwallader Colden's adult children followed their father's career paths but as individual pieces of the elder Colden's substantial career mosaic. In November 1748, John was appointed storekeeper to the garrison in New York. Due to his father's agency, in February 1749 he was commissioned Clerk of the City and County of Albany to replace the recently deceased Philip Livingston. In March 1749, he carried a letter from his father informing William Johnson of the appointment and asking Johnson to mentor young John. In early June, John wrote to his father apprising him of the situation in Albany. In July 1749, his father ordered law books and other volumes from England his son had requested for his library. The elder Colden also sought out guidance for his son in the clerk's office. While in Albany, John would stay in the home of Dr. Jacob Roseboom. Colden was re-appointed Albany clerk in April of 1750 and promptly certified the "Indian deed" for lands submitted by John H. Lydius.

Over the course of his short adult life, John was in frequent contact with his famous father. Those extensive letters in 1748-50 shed light on the Albany scene and involve his interactions with local officials and attorneys - particularly his difficulties with Edward Collins. Although John Colden's Albany tenure lasted less than two years, his correspondence reveals a closer connection on a number of levels between Albany and New York than has been previously understood.

Without much warning, John Colden died at Albany on August 21, 1750. He had lived just twenty-one years. In the months that followed, his father would rely on James Stevenson (who had served as deputy clerk in the past) and Dr. Roseboom to assist in settling John's Albany affairs.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of John Colden has no CAP biography number. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.

Until recently, Cadwallader Colden (1688-1776) had no modern, critical biography. Over his long career, he was an important influence on the Albany scene in a number of ways. Begin with: Seymour I. Schwartz, Cadwallader Colden: A Biography (2013). For more on the elder Colden, see his Wikipedia entry; Famous Americans for an antiquarian past; also the DNB entry. In his Albany context, he is chiefly remembered for his criticism of Albany's motives.

first posted 4/10/15; last revised 8/15/15