A Clarkson Mosaic - page 7

The Clarkson family has been traced to a family in Nottinghamshire in 1544 with the
same coat of arms as the one in Holcroft house on campus, and to one family in Bradford,
Yorkshire. The American branch of the family traces itself from Rev. David Clarkson, priest in
the Church of England, who married Elizabeth Holcroft of royal descent. After a four-year stay
in America, his son, Matthew, returned to England in 1689 for a royal appointment as Secretary
of the Colony of New York, a position he held until his death in 1702. By his marriage to
Catharina Van Schaick of Albany, he became related to the most prominent families along the
Hudson River, including the Van Rensselaers, Van Cortlands, Schuylers, and Livingstons.
Matthew and his wife died several days apart of yellow fever in 1702, entrusting their
four surviving children, David, Levinus, Matthew, and Anna, to the care of a maternal aunt,
Margrieta Van Schaick, a successful businesswoman who made a fortune in the textile business.
On August 25, 1705, she married Rev. Bernardus Freeman, and they had one daughter, Ann
Margaret, whom David Clarkson (her first cousin) later married on January 25, 1724, when he
was 30 years old.
Educated in England, the three sons of Matthew - Levinus, David and Matthew - became
established as merchants in London, New York, and Amsterdam respectively, by 1718. A
successful trader principally in European and East Indian goods, Matthew, in 1732, purchased
for £156 ($390) one of seven lots on "The Strand," at the southeast corner of Whitehall and Pearl
Streets in New York City, to erect a residence which served as the Clarkson home for four
generations. [That site now is occupied by the Corn Exchange.] He served in the New York
Assembly for five terms, died in office in 1751, and was buried in the Clarkson family vault in
Old Trinity Churchyard. He was survived by three sons: Freeman (1724-70) who never married;
David (1726-82) from whom the Potsdam Clarksons were descended except for David M.; and
Matthew (1733-72) who married Elizabeth Depeyster in 1758.
David M. Clarkson was one of the original purchasers of the town of Potsdam in 1802,
and his son, John Charlton Clarkson, the first Clarkson to live in Potsdam, built Holcroft House.
Another of David M's sons, also named David, began a business in New York trading with
Europe and the Far East, which his son, also named David, took over. In 1751, the younger
David and his father helped found King's College in New York, now known as Columbia
University. In 1754, he and a friend bought a winning lottery ticket from a relative, Thomas
Streatfeild; his share of the winner's purse was £5,000 sterling. This David, son of David M., so
angered the British for his outspoken Whig sentiments, that despite his father's position as
Secretary of the Colony, they ransacked his house, and later, during the Revolutionary War, they
burned it to the ground.
Another of David's sons was Matthew (1758-1825) who became a private in the
American fusileers in 1775 when he was 17 years old. After a disastrous defeat on Long Island,
along with other survivors, Matthew was sent home by a disheartened George Washington.
Surprisingly, however, when he rejoined the American army two years later, he was promoted to
major and served as General Benedict Arnold's aide-de-camp. Near Fort Edward, N.Y., Matthew
was severely wounded when his detachment of 160 men encountered a band of hostile Indians,
but he recovered and was able to rejoin his company late in August 1777. On his nineteenth
birthday on October 17, 1777, Major Matthew Clarkson had the high honor of receiving the
1,2,3,4,5,6 8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,...643
Powered by FlippingBook