Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Monday, November 23, 2015

Documenting the Brouwer Mill at Gowanus, Long Island

It is established that Adam Brouwer operated a grist mill at Gowanus Bay on Long Island. His mill has been stated to have been the first mill erected on the western end of Long Island. There is no surviving deed or conveyance showing the purchase of the property by Adam Brouwer, and according to William J. Hoffman in "Brouwer Beginnings" (TAG 23 [1944]: 195), Adam Brouwer together with Isaac de Forest (de Foreest) built and operated the mill on land that was patented on 8 July 1645 to Jan Evertsen Bout. He adds that there was a confirmatory patent in February 1667. Hoffman states, "They were as early as 1661 tenants of Bout, but the latter gave in 1667 'the corn and meadows and place whereon the mill is grounded' to the children of Adam Brouwer. This gift appears to have been given verbally and was probably considered void, for by a recital in the deeds of October 10, 1700, and April 30, 1707, of respectively Pieter Brouwer and Sybrandt Brouwer to Abraham Brouwer and Nicholas Brouwer, it appears that a conveyance had been executed by the heirs of Jan Evertsen Bout and Tunis Nuyse to Adam Brouwer, their ancestor, for the neck of land on which the mill was located." Hoffman also informs us that Adam Brouwer became the sole owner of the mill when he "bought out de Forest's interest for 2,400 glds. payable in grain (i.e. wheat, rye, buckwheat and maize) - the wheat and rye at 4 glds., buckwheat and maize at 2 glds. per skepel. The remaining 400 glds. in wampum." Hoffman adds that in "May 1664, together with other inhabitants of Gowanus, Adam Brouwer petitioned the Governor and Council to have the canal between Red Hook Island and the mainland dredged, which petition was granted." Unfortunately, Hoffman does not provide source citations for some of these statements. Let's see if they can be found.

The patent granted to Jan Eversz Bout can be found in New York Historical Manuscripts: Dutch, Vols. GG, HH & II, Land Papers, pages 31-32. The date here is given as 6 July 1645 (Hoffman wrote 8 July 1645). The patent granted by Willem Kieft, etc. to Jan Eversz Bout is for "a piece of land located at Marchkawick on the kil of Gowanus, maizeland as well as woodland, bordering on the easternmost end of Huych Aertsz and the westernmost end of Gerrit Wolphersz; it extends along the aforesaid Gerrit Wolpfersz' land until in the woods, north east a little northerly 165 rods; in breadth in the woods south east until the land of Huych Aertsz 96 rods; also the aforesaid Huych Aersz' land until the maizeland 55 rods south west and south west by west; further to the marsh south west a little southerly 137 rods; further to the point of beginning laid down along the marsh (with some indentations) in a parallel line; both places, Jan Eversz and Jacob Stoffelsz, amounting to 28 morgens, 271 rods, with the express conditions etc..."

I have not located the confirmatory patent of February 1667. If O'Callaghan had found it in his examination of the manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State in Albany, it would have been recorded in volume 2 of his Calendar. It is not there. It is, however, mentioned in Henry R. Stiles, A History of the City of Brooklyn, Volume 1 (1867) at pages 98-99. He gives the date as February 14th, 1667, but does not provide a source. Stiles also states that "Bout gave the neck to the children of Adam Brouwer, the common ancestor of the Brouwers of this vicinity."

Hoffman (TAG 23:195) states that Adam Brouwer bought out Isaac de Foreest's share of the mill in 1667. Hoffman does not site a specific source. A History of the City of Brooklyn, Vol. 1 (Henry R. Stiles, 1867), page 100, states that Isaac de Foreest and Adam Brouwer jointly owned the mill in 1661 and the later (Adam) bought the interest of the former. Stiles cites "Dr. O'Callaghan's note in Hist. Mag. for Aug., 1862." A record of this transaction, if it survives, has not been found. It is certain that Hoffman used Stiles A History of the City of Brooklyn for his "Brouwer Beginnings" article, for at TAG 23 (1944):196, Hoffman writes, "Adam Brouwer, although a respectable citizen in good circumstances, seems to have been rather fractious and troublesome at times, if we may judge from some items recorded concerning him." These exact words, to a letter, were first written 80 years earlier in 1867 by Henry R. Stiles in A History of the City of Brooklyn, Vol. 1, on page 157, footnote 1.

The May 29, 1664 petition by which inhabitants of Gowanus and Manhattans asked for permission "to clean out the kill at the end of Frederick Lubbertsen's land, and near Red Hook, so as to render it navigable to Gowanis and the mill," is cataloged in O'Callaghan's Calendar of New York Historical Manuscripts, volume 1, page 265. O'Callaghan does not list the petitioners, but a transcript of the petition can be found in Stiles, A History of the City of Brooklyn, Vol. 1, page 68. Adam Brouwer, signing with his mark, is among the petitioners.

In "Brouwer Beginnings" (TAG 24:161), Hoffman mentions a deed dated 12 August 1698 by which Nicholas Brouwer and Abraham Brouwer bought, for £270, from "Pieter Brouwer, Matthys Brouwer, William Brouwer, Jacob Brouwer, Adam Brouwer, Barent Van Tilburg (Maria Brouwer), Matthys Cornelisse (Fytie Brouwer), Jesaias Dreax (Aeltje Brouwer), William Nazareth (Helena Brouwer), William Hilton (Anna Brouwer), Thomas Knight (Sara Brouwer) and Pieter Hendricks (Rachel Brouwer), all sons and sons-in-law of Adam Brouwer, Sr., of Gowanus, then deceased...the plot on which the mill stands, also the neck and meadows." Hoffman only cites "N. Y. Record, 9:128" for the source of this deed. This refers to the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, vol. 9, no. 3 (1878), page 128 which is T. G. Bergen's account of Adam Brouwer in his series, "Contributions to the History of the Early Settlers of Kings County, N. Y." Here, Bergen states that this deed, "not recorded, (is) in possession of the heirs of Garret Brower, of Gowanus." I guess it has to be assumed that Bergen actually examined this deed back in 1878. It does not appear to have ever been recorded in either the New York or Kings County records. I would also guess that the Garret Brouwer referred to was the son of Adolph Brouwer (below) who had purchased the mill property from other heirs of his father in 1785. This Garret Brouwer was born ca. 1787 and died in 1865, and Bergen, writing only thirteen years after his death may well have known the family personally. In the same article Bergen mentions a second deed of the same date (12 August 1698) in which Magdalena, the widow of Adam Brouwer, conveyed to her sons Abraham and Nicholas her right on the dwelling house, mill and creeks. Hoffman mentioned this deed in "Brouwer Beginnings" at TAG 23:197 and ambiguously cites "Records of Brooklyn." I have not located a copy of this deed.

The conveyances below can be found online at FamilySearch.org. Digital images are found in their collection titled "New York Land Records, 1630-1975," under Kings (County). It should be noted that what is found here are not images of the original records. What is seen in this collection are copies of the originals made by hand around 1900.

October 10, 1700: Pieter Brower of the Province of East New Jersey conveys to Abram Brower and Nicholas Brower of Broockland in Kings County a certaine neck or hooke of land and meadowes with a certaine corne mill thereon standing...commonly known by the name of the Gowanus Mill Neck. Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 2, pp. 349-350. In this conveyance Pieter is described as the eldest son and heir of Adam Brower, late of Broockland, deceased, the true owner thereof by certaine conveyances from Tunis Nuysen, deceased, and the heirs of Jan Evertse Bout, deceased. It is this mentioned conveyance, Tunis Nuysen and heirs of Jan Evertse Bout to Adam Brouwer, that Hoffman concludes was verbal. I would also imagine that it is the sole source of Stiles statement in A History of the City of Brooklyn, Vol. 1, page 99 (above). If this conveyance had been written down, that copy does not survive. Or, at least it has not yet been found. Pieter Brower signs the deed of October 10, 1700, with his mark.

October 30, 1701: Gerardus Beeckman of Flatbush, and Magdalina his wife, convey to Abram Brower and Nicholas Brower, both of Gowanus, land and buildings in Gowanus. Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 2, pp. 348-349. This conveyance, although dated after the above conveyance, is recorded in the Kings County conveyance records on the pages just before the above conveyance. The property is described as being bounded by (among others) on the east by the land formerly Adam Brower junior's. In the previous recorded conveyance, dated 20 October 1701 (Lib. 2, pp. 346-348) Gerardus Beeckman had purchased this property from Volkert Bries and his wife, Elisabeth.

April 30, 1707: Sybrant Brower of Broockland in Kings County conveys to Abram Brower and Nicholas Brower of the same township. Kings County Comveyances, Lib. 3, pp. 100-101. Sybrant Brower is described as the eldest son and heir of Jacob Brower, deceased. Sybrant is conveying his 14th part share, which belonged to his father during his lifetime, in a certain hook or neck of land and meadow with a certain corn mill thereon standing, called by the name of Gowanus Mill neck. Sybrant Brower signs with his mark.

April 30, 1709: Articles of Agreement between John Blaw of Gowanus of the first part and Abram Brower and Nicholas Brower of Gowanus of the second part. Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 3, pp. 161-162. In the terms of the agreement, Abram and Nicholas Brower state that they will be building a water mill on their land on the mill neck at Gowanus. But to do so they need use of the kill (creek) running between the lands of John Blaw and their own, and the privilege to join a dam to the meadow of John Blaw. The agreement also describes water rights granted to John Blaw. John Blaw and Abram Brower sign with their marks. Nicholas Brower signs his name.

October 12, 1710: Indenture between Abraham Brower of Gowanus, and Cornelia his wife of one part, and Nicholas Brower of the same place of the second part. Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 3, pp. 199-201. The indenture acknowledges that of late the two, Abram Brower and Nicholas Brower, had bought in partnership, sundry lands, meadows, houses, mills, within Brooklyn on a "certain hook or neck of land called Gowanus mill." It mentions the land bought of Col. Gerardus Beeckman formerly possessed by Volkert Bries. The agreement's purpose is to "part the premises aforesaid between them as just and equal as may be...to convey to each other by deed their rights to the aforesaid premises to avoid all controversies and quarrels for the future..." This indenture describes the properties that Nicholas Brower is to have and Abraham Brower and Cornelia Brower sign with their marks. And it is followed by:

October 12, 1710: Indenture between Nicholas Brower of Gowanus and Jonica, his wife of the first part, and Abraham Brower of the same place of the second part. Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 3, pp. 202-204. The preamble to the conveyance is the same as above, and the remainder describes the properties that Abraham Brower is to have. Nicholas Brower signs his name, and Jonica Brower signs with her mark (Jonica is a phonetic spelling of Janneke). In short, the two indentures leave Nicholas Brower with the property known as the "Old Mill," and Abraham Brower with the property known as the "New Mill."

June 20, 1712: Nicholas Brower of Gowanus, and Jonica, his wife, convey to Abraham Brower of the same place, for twelve hundred pounds, the half of the mill property that had been conveyed to Nicholas Brower by the indentures of October 12, 1710. Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 4, pp. 12-14. With this conveyance Abraham Brouwer becomes the sole owner of the mills. This is the last conveyance regarding the Gowanus mill property that involved Nicholas Brouwer. Nicholas was Adam Brouwer's youngest son, and the only son who signs contracts with his signature rather than a mark. Nicholas relocated to Westchester County, apparently to Fordham Manor in the area of that county which is now known as the Bronx. Conveyances in Westchester County involving Nicholas begin in 1714. He also owned property on Manhattan Island, and in 1719 he and his wife, Jannetje Coljer, were members of the New York Reformed Dutch Church. After June 20, 1712, Nicholas Brouwer, and any descendants, no longer have title to the Gowanus mill property.

There is now a 25 year break until the next conveyance involving the Gowanus mill property. During this period it is evident that Abraham Brouwer, now sole owner of the Gowanus property, also owned property on Staten Island. According to Hoffman, the "corner of Abraham Brouwer's land," is mentioned in a Richmond County deed in 1723 (TAG 24:96-97). The property had previously belonged to Daniel Shotwell. About 1732, Abraham married his second wife, Elizabeth Gerritsen, the widow of Nathaniel Britton of Staten Island. And on 5 May 1734 Abraham Brouwer sold his 135 acre farm at "Graniteville" (on Staten Island) to Peter Hagewaut (TAG 24:97). Also in the interim is an agreement dated 20 June 1734 between Abraham Bruwer/Brouwer and Nicholas Van Veghte, written in Dutch, and found in Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 5, p. 78. I do not have a translation of this agreement, but it appears to have something to do with a dam on the creek. (Note: I have not had the opportunity to search for the Staten Island deeds mentioned by Hoffman. I would suggest those interested do so. Staten Island is Richmond County, New York).

September 3, 1737: Abraham Brower of Brooklyn, yeoman, to his son Jurian Brower, miller, of the same place. Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 5, pp. 138-139. Abraham conveys part of his mill property to his son Jurian Brower.

September 3, 1737: Abraham Brower of Brooklyn, yeoman, to his son Abraham Brower, Junr., of the same place, miller. Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 5, pp. 140-141. Abraham conveys part of his mill property to his son Abraham Brower. Abraham Brouwer (senior) did not leave a will. This conveyance, along with the one above, executed on the same day, is evidence of Abraham dividing his property between his two sons during his lifetime. In addition to the two sons, Abraham Brouwer had four daughters (Elizabeth, Magdalena, Marytje and Jannetje). There is no surviving record of Abraham Brouwer's death. On 18 February 1739, Abraham Brouwer and Elizabeth his wife, were witnesses for the baptism of Abraham, son of Abraham Brouwer, Jr. and Sara (Kimber) at New Utrecht. This is the last mention of the senior Abraham Brouwer.

There is now a 48 year break until the next conveyance involving the Gowanus mill property. During this period the property is owned by brothers Abraham and Jeury (Jurian or Jeremiah) Brouwer. Both are married. Abraham to Sarah Kimber, and Jeury twice, first to Elizabeth Hilton (a cousin) and second to Charity Stillwell. Both had large families. Abraham had eight children and Jeury had eleven children. Abraham and Jeury are grandsons of the progenitor, Adam Brouwer. During this period there are agreements made between the Brouwers and their immediate neighbors at Gowanus involving water rights. According to Hoffman, on 24 August 1751 Isaac Sebring and Catharina his wife made an agreement to dig a ditch from Gowanus Bay to the East River, under certain restrictions, with, among others, Jury Brower and Abraham Brower, witnessed by William Brower (TAG 24:99, Hoffman does not state the source but we do find mention of this in Stiles, History of the City of Brooklyn, Vol. 1, p. 69). There is an agreement dated 20 September 1754 between Jury Blauw and Abram Brower (of one part) and Nicholas Veghte (of the other part) involving use of the "ditch or creek" at Gowanus (Kings Co. Lib. 6, pp. 13 and page 16) and a second between Nicholas Veghte and Abram Brower dated 14 May 1757 (Lib. 6, pp. 13-14). At Lib. 6, page 17, is a deed unrelated to the Gowanus mill property in which Thomas Stillwell of New York City, sells to Jurry Brower of Brookland, a woodlot in Flatbush. Another deed unrelated to the mill property is dated 29 March 1760, and is found in Lib. 6, page 311. In this conveyance, Jurrey Brower of Gowanus sells to Abraham Brower and William Brower, "sons of said Jurrey Brower," some land in the Township of Brooklyn.

As stated, in the years between 1737 and 1755/56, the Gowanus mill property was owned by the brothers Abraham Brouwer and Jeury Brouwer. On 29 September 1755, Abraham Brouwer wrote his will. It was proved on 26 February 1756 [New York Co. Wills, Lib. 19, pp. 423-425 (old 375)]. Abraham's two sons, Abraham and Jury, the later underage, were left "my whole estate in Brookland or elsewhere." Jeury Brouwer (brother of the elder Abraham) wrote his will on 18 September 1754, but it was not proved until 4 February 1784 [New York Co. Wills, Lib. 36, pp. 272-274 (old 228)]. Jeury Brouwer had four sons, Abraham, Jeury (Jeremiah), Willem and Adolph (Adolphus), but only three (Abraham, Willem and Adolph) are left property in Gowanus. The son Jeury (Jeremiah) was left two hundred pounds. The son Jeury/Jeremiah Brouwer was a shipping merchant of New York City but wrote his will at New Barbadoes, Bergen County, New Jersey on 28 April 1776. It was proved 16 May 1776. With the death of Abraham Brouwer in late 1755 or early 1756, ownership of the Gowanus mill properties was in the hands of Abraham's brother Jeury Brouwer, and Abraham's two sons, Abraham and Jeury Brouwer. It is not certain when the elder Jeury Brouwer died, but I imagine that it was closer to the date is will was proved (4 Feb. 1784) than to the date it was written (18 Sept. 1754). The fact that New York City/County and Kings County were both under British occupation from August 1776 and for the duration of the Revolutionary War, which ended by treaty of 3 Sept. 1783 (ratified 14 Jan 1784) might account for a delay in probating estates for persons who died during those years. Perhaps Jeury Brouwer died sometime during the Revolutionary War years.

On August 22, 1776 British troops landed at Gravesend, just south of Gowanus. On August 27, 1776 the Battle of Brooklyn, more often referred to as the Battle of Long Island, began. During the battle it was ordered that the Brouwer's mill and stores were to be burned so as not to fall into the hands of the British. Brouwer family members evacuated Long Island and spent the years of the Revolutionary War in various locations including Bergen County, New Jersey and Dutchess County, New York. For example, Jeury Brouwer's son William Brouwer (next deed below) wrote his will at Rumbout in Dutchess County on 4 September 1782. It was proved in New York on 12 June 1786 (It can be found in Albany Wills, AB 139, and in New York County Wills, Lib. 39, pp. 140-141 [old 123]).

British Map from 1776 showing routes and battle sites (Wikimedia commons)


November 10, 1785: Adolphus Brower, of Brooklyn, one of the sons of Jeremiah Brower of the same place yeoman deceased and Altie his wife of the first part and Abraham Brower, Jeremiah Brower and Antie his wife William Brower and Mattya Brower widow and relict of William Brower deceassed of the second part and the said Mattya Brower and William Brower Garret Brower and Abraham Hogeland executors of the last will and Testament of William Brower formerly of Brooklyn aforesaid and there after of Rumbout Precinct in Dutchess County yeoman and now deceased of the third part.  Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 6, pp. 343-352. [Note: the conveyance is interrupted after page 344, by pages 344A-344F which are abstracts of sales of forfeited estates unrelated to the Brower property. The Brower conveyance resumes after page 344F at page 345]. In this deed, Adolphus Brower is purchasing from his brother Abraham, and from the widow and children of his brother Willem, the right to the property formerly owned by Jeremiah (Jeury) Brower, and in accordance with his will (of 18 Sept. 1754). Adolph also acquired all the mill work and mill stones, and timbers that had been collected for the construction of a new mill, as well as other property that had been owned by his father. The selling heirs retained water rights including the right to harvest oysters. Adolph Brouwer then re-built, or built a new mill. And that mill he sold in 1798.

March 4, 1798: Adolph Brower of Brooklyn, miller, and his wife Altie convey to John C. Freeke of the city and county of New York. Kings County Conveyances, Lib. 7, pp. 188-190. Adolph received £4800 for the mill property called "Mill Hook," formerly part of the estate of Jeremiah Brower. The heirs of Jeremiah Brower retained some water rights including the right to harvest oysters. Adolph signed as "Dolphus Brower." I would note that in many modern day accounts about the Battle of Brooklyn, the mill at Gowanus is often called "Freeke's Mill." John Freeke did not own the property until 1798, and the mill he purchased was one that had been built by Adolph Brower. The mill that was burned on August 27, 1776 should correctly be called, "Brouwer's Mill."

In 1818, the widow of Abraham Brouwer and the children of Jeury Brouwer (Abraham and Jeury being the two sons of Abraham Brouwer mentioned in his 1755 will who now were themselves both deceased), petitioned United States Congress asking for compensation for losses incurred during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776. I have not procured a copy of the petition and testimony myself, however, Lilly Martin did so back in 2007 and she provided me with a transcript which has been made available online. The petitioners here are described as "Mary Brower, widow of Abraham Brower, deceased, and Lawrence Brower, George Brower, Sarah Vechter (Vechten is meant), Charity Tidemon, Benjamin Van Cleve and Anna his wife, John Shannon and Rebecca his wife, heirs of Jeremiah Brower, deceased." Among those testifying on behalf of the petitioners was Adolph Brower (above). The request for compensation was denied.

Conveyances regarding that part of the Gowanus mill property that later belonged to the widow and children of the Abraham Brouwer, deceased, in the 1818 petition have not been found. If they exist they may well be found in Kings County conveyance books post 1800. I have not had the opportunity to search these.

The combination of large families and the repetition of given names, specifically Abraham and Jeury (Jurian, Jeremiah) can cause some confusion when it comes to identifying just who is who in all of the above. As an aid here is a descendant chart of the descendants of the first Abraham Brouwer (Adam's son). The individuals who are variously highlighted on the chart are those mentioned above.

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