Saturday, April 17, 2010

Winans and Melyns- New Jersey's first

There have been some who think that John1 was either a son, or nephew, of Jan Wijnants, a famous Dutch landscape painter, but there is no proof of this.

Although the exact date of John1's death is not found, there is the record that he made a will, dated the 14th day of Feb., 1687. This will was presented for probate the 16th day of Jan., 1694. In the will the name "John" is used, but he signed: "Jan Winans".

The wedding of John1 and Susanna was a double wedding, with Maria [Melyn] Paradys, a widowed sister of Susanna, being married to Matthias Hatfield.

There are various family traditions, or legends, of why John left his native home. A legend is an unauthenticated story, usually passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. One legend is: because of an avaricious relative plotting his death in order to gain his inheritance. Another is that he and a brother fled to escape arrest for rioting. This is the only known mention of a brother.

Another legend, perhaps even less likely, is that the Winans family descended from King Chanute of England and Denmark. Coincidentally, King Chanute considered himself to be omnipotent, had himself carried, on his throne, to the sea shore and placed near the water, and when the tide came in he commanded the sea to recede. His "omnipotence" did not hold, and he nearly drowned before his servants could get him to safety.

There are other legends and traditions. These are only a few, none of which are authenticated.

Cornelis Melyn, father of Susanna, a scion of an old and prestigious family of Antwerp, in the Netherlands, was born about 1602. In 1639, he sailed to New Amsterdam. He was attracted to Staten Island, upon which only one or two grants had been made. In 1640 he applied to the West India Company for a grant for the rest of the Island. The grant was favorably entertained. About 1641 he brought his family to the New World. His family, at that time, consisted of his wife, a daughter and two sons. Cornelis Melyn was an important man in the settlement of New Amsterdam. He was Patroon of Staten Island from 1639 to 1659. In 1646, he cultivated the site of the present Trinity Church of New York. There is a report that the Raican Indians sold Staten Island three times, and that Cornelis Melyn was the third customer, in 1644. See New Amsterdam and Its People, by J. H. Innes, published by Scribners, New York, 1901, for an interesting and more detailed account of the Melyn family.

Some say the name "Winans" has a meaning of "Battle Bold". Others say the name indicates owners of vineyards, and thus makers of wine. Both are contradicted.

It is unknown how John Winans spelled his name in his native European home. It is said that his signature is found as both "Winans" and "Winants", and perhaps, as "Wynants" and "Wynantz". His will, dated February 14, 1687/8, is signed "Jan Einans". Of course "Jan" is Dutch for "John". In the records of his time, and even later, there are found many


corruptions of the spelling of the name, undoubtedly the result of the thinking of various secretaries, notaries, preachers, ministers, and other scribes. Rev. Edwin F. Hatfield, D.D., in his 1868 History of New Jersey, including "Early History of Union County", mentioned: "Waynes, Winans, Wynes, Winnons, Wynons, Wynens, Wynans, and Wynnings, as spellings. Various records reveal other spellings. Incidentally, it is said that William Shakespeare spelled his name in sixteen different ways.

Near the time of his marriage, John became quite active as one of the "80 Associates" who acquired land from the Indians, and founded and settled Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in 1664-5. Records show him as an efficient, important and able man of the town during its first thirty years, also of the First Presbyterian Church. This is an indication of a superior education in his youth.

Elizabethtown might well be called "The Cradle of the American Winans Family".

The History of Elizabeth, New Jersey, by Rev. Edwin F. Hatfield, 1868, treats with the first century of the city and relates much interesting and valuable information of the town and its citizens.

Rev. Hatfield mentions nine men by the name of "Winans" (sometimes the spelling is varied) but the most prominent is that of John. However, the last mention, under the date of 1694, was perhaps of a son of John1, whom we ordinarily designate as John 2nd2. This designation is used because John1 had two sons named John.

The founders of Elizabethtown received a warrant from the newly appointed Governor, Richard Nicholls, and acquired title to the land by purchase from the Indians. This was very soon after the British took over the control of the area from the Dutch.

In the early years of the town a church building was erected. It was most often referred to as the "Meeting House" and sometimes as the "Town House". Doctor Hatfield remarks that "The Puritans did not believe in consecrated places, and so had no scruples in respect to the transaction of secular business in their meeting-houses". Thus, the building was used for many purposes. Records of the founding of the church, or any details such as the cost or size or shape of the building are lacking.

However, it is known that: "The lot on which the house was built included the present burying-ground of the First Presbyterian Church, and contained about eight acres". This building was replaced, in 1724, by a new church, fifty-eight feet in length and forty-two feet in width. It should be noted that the Church was not Presbyterian until 1717. Previous to that time it was "Independent", the New England form of worship at that time. (Revolutionary History of Elizabeth, New Jersey, by Sesqui-Centennial Committee. July 4, 1926)

On the night of Jan. 25, 1780, the town was ravaged by British troops and refugees, guided by three Elizabethtown Tories, having crossed on the ice from Staten Island. They


"plundered many of the inhabitants, burned the Court House and the Meeting House". A new church building was begun in 1784 and completed in 1786 on the same spot.

It is presumed that John1 Winans and his wife Susanna were buried in the Church Burying Ground which was adjacent to the original Church building, but the early records of burials were lost. There have been some three or four church buildings on the site, each larger than its predecessor. John and Susanna most assuredly were buried there. However, among the thousands of grave markers, none are found there for either. The man whose where-abouts as a youth are so unknown would appear thus after death.

The solution is believed to be: that, in accordance with an old world custom, they probably were buried beneath the church floor, or very near the walls, of the first church building. The succeeding buildings, all larger, and on the same site, would actually destroy the trace of some of the earlier graves. In some of the later buildings there were tomb stones from the built-over graves placed in the building walls.

A book, entitled Inscriptions on Tombstones and Monuments in the Burying Grounds of the First Presbyterian Church and St. Johns Church, at Elizabeth, New Jersey, by Wm. Ogden Wheeler and Edmund D. Halsey, dated 1892, lists 2032 graves in the first Presbyterian Church Yard, and 293 graves in the St. Johns Church Yard. Probably all, or nearly all, of the earliest inhabitants of the town were buried in these Church Yards, especially in the First Presbyterian.

In the First Presbyterian Church Yard are found the graves of 104 Winans, and two spelled "Winance". Evidently the "ce" on these two "Winance" inscriptions was an error of the stone cutter. While there is no evidence found of John1 Winans, or of his wives, being buried there, it is a near certainty that all of the Winans buried there were descendants of John1 Winans, the co-founder of Elizabethtown.

After the death of Susanna, John1 married (2nd), in about 1693, Ann Robertson, (or Robinson), daughter of Doctor Robertson, a wealthy land owner. No further information has been obtained concerning this 2nd wife, Ann.

The large inventory of the Estate of John1 Winans lists many household utensils, books, live-stock, much Silver and Gold - in all a value of 271 pounds, 15 shillings, 8 pence.

John Winans was a weaver, a trade which was much in demand at the time. He owned 200 acres of land.

(Ref.: Above family data of John1 and Susanna [Melyn] Winans, excerpted from an article by Paul Gibson Burton, in the April, 18371 issue of The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record)

read the rest of John Winans Bio here:

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