January 2011

"Three Centuries on the Hudson River"


"Three Centuries on the Hudson River" is a book about Hoogebergh, a 1696 family homestead in upstate New York, and the eleven generations of the Staats family who have lived there.

The field-stone house was built on land deeded by Killaen Van Rensselaer to Joachim Staats whose father, Abraham Staats (born 1617, died 1694), came to America from the Netherlands in 1624. It is located on the east bank of the Hudson River about five miles south of Albany, New York and has a commanding five-mile view of the river.

The book tells both the history of this Dutch-American house and of the Staats family. It starts off with a foreword written by Shirley Dunn, a Rensselaer County historian, and then describes the early history of the house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The book is a worthwhile read for those interested in the history of an iconic Dutch-American house in the upper Hudson Valley. The family anecdotes, mostly from the 20th century, are often funny and give a fascinating insight in growing up along the Hudson river.

William Staats

The book is written by William Staats, a 9th generation Hoogebergh inhabitant. He is professor emeritus from accounting and computer studies at Hudson Valley Community College. Mr. Staats provided us with a copy of his book. When asked why he waited until age 77 to write it, he replied: "because I was coerced by my niece who reasoned that something should be in print about this remarkable Dutch heritage".

Mr. Staats, the father of seven and the grandfather of fifteen, still drives the 1931 Model A Ford roadster which his mother bought as a used car in 1937, and clearly enjoys writing about his childhood and the Hoogebergh homestead.

“It took me about 10 months to write the book, and about as much time was spent by my capable editor and formatter, Edith Leet. Most of the research was done by my now-deceased sister-in-law, Connie, who did so much genealogy work. The anecdotes were from pure memory.”

History of Hoogebergh

After the chapters on the early history of the house, which includes anecdotes of a daytime stop over by General George Washington and a bullet marks from an incident hundreds of years ago that are still visible, the book describes the experiences of recent generations of inhabitants. In the 19th century the family built a huge ice house on the property, which was demolished 50 years later when the ice house business disappeared due to electrical refrigeration.

The ninth generation made it through the Great Depression in spite of the death of their father who left behind a courageous widow with seven young children and no social security or insurance. Only the generosity of an unmarried uncle and their maiden aunt, who opened the doors of their cramped rented row house in Rensselaer, saved the family from foster care. The Hoogebergh house served as an important weekend refuge for the family. Staats: “We didn't have much money, but we had a lot of fun!”

In 2009 a filming crew from the Netherlands visited the house, and the Dutch ambassador to the United States came over for a dinner evening at the homestead. In the late 20th century ownership of the house was transferred to a family foundation, with family members holding shares, securing the homestead for future generations.

"Three Centuries on the Hudson River. One family, one Dutch house."
Author: W.L. Staats
ISBN 978-0-578-06243-3
124 pages, paperback

Dutch-American Bert Blyleven in Hall of Fame


Netherlands-born baseball player Bert Blyleven was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame today. Blyleven was born Rik Aalbert Blijleven in Zeist, the Netherlands, and he becomes the first Dutch-American to be inducted to the Hall of Fame.

Blyleven pitched in 22 seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and California Angels and compiled a 287-250 record with a 3.31 ERA, 242 complete games, 60 shutouts and 3,701 strikeouts in 4,969 1/3 innings. Often considered to have the toughest curveball of his time, Blyleven threw two different types, the "roundhouse" and the "overhand drop", according to the Hall of Fame press release. "He gripped both like a fastball and used a balanced, full follow-through to get movement".

In 1996 he became commentator for Minnesota Twins. Blyleven was a pitching coach for the Netherlands in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

According to a biography by Professor Pegels, an expert on Dutch-Americans, Blyleven is a unique player: "Bert Blyleven was and still is the only native Dutchman to have made a successful career, as measured by quality of play, in American professional baseball".

Byleven and his colleague Roberto Alomar will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 24 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with executive Pat Gillick.