Jan 01

Schooner sailing to New World

It is not known exactly when or why Jellis and family immigrated to America, other than the obvious desire for freedom and opportunity. There is no known record of the family on published ship passenger lists. A best guess, based on available information indicates they probably sailed on either the BONTE KOE or the PRINS WILLEM, each arriving in New Amsterdam in June-September 1651.

Fort Orange (Albany) Settlement

Albany, New York

According to “A Career Woman in 17th Century New York,” when Jellis arrived in Fort Orange (now Albany) in 1651, “he was accompanied by his wife, Hester Jans, and three children, a son Douwe, aged about eleven years, and daughters Geertien and Sara, aged about nine and seven years, respectively.”

The Fonda Family was one of eighty-two distinct family groups representing the settler population of Albany at the end of the so-called Dutch period (1624-1686). Already, these urban dwellers were beginning to distinguish themselves from the farmers and husbandmen of the surrounding countryside. These families represented the largest number of New Netherlands family names in the city during its first two centuries of life. From this core group, a number of families left the Albany community, establishing new settlements at Schenectady, Kinderhook, Catskill, Schaghticoke, Hoosick, Saratoga, and beyond. Some became tenants of the Rensselaerwyck Patroon (cooperative). Others left the region entirely. Still others literally “died out” in the Albany setting. Those who remained formed the core population of what became the city of Albany in 1686.


Fonda Farm House, 1859

Fonda, New York

Before the American Revolution, a Dutch village named Fonda had succeeded the Indian hamlet of Caughnawaga, along the Mohawk River, about 30 miles west of Albany. It extended from the rambling hills which comprise the Mohawk Valley, at the foot of which stood the church and parsonage, down to the river. Douw Jellis Fonda (1700-1780), father of the branch of the Fonda family so prominent in this neighborhood from the mid-1700’s to the present, is considered the founder of this village, which now bears his name.

Douw lived a long and prosperous life as a farmer and merchant. He was killed during a raid by the British Army, aided by the Mohawk Indians, on May 22, 1780; he was 79 yrs. old. His house was plundered and burned; and his sons, John and Adam, were taken as prisoners to Canada. Douw had been a close personal friend of the British constable, Sir William Johnson, and had always been on good terms with the Indians, but his life was taken as “heartlessly” as though he were an active enemy. His legacy remained through his abundant offspring, which included 6 children and 30 grandchildren.

After the war Adam returned and built a house which is still standing in the village of Fonda. Older brother Jellis became a judge in Tryon County and was serving in the Legislature when he died. Adam’s son Henry who served as a captain in the War of 1812 had twin sons called Henry Douw and Douw Henry. Douw Henry, the father of Albert Fonda whose son is the present owner, built the farm home between 1842-50. Now on this farm is the ninth generation of the family in America; the seventh on these historic acres. (Century Farms of New York State – 1947).

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