Catharine Schuyler (Van Rensselaer) (1734 - 1803) MP

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Rensselaer, Rensselaer, NY, USA
Death: Died in NY, Ny, USA
Occupation: Homemaker, famous for personally burning family's wheat fields to deprive advancing British army in 1777 during Revolutionary War.
Managed by: Clarice Nykorchuck
Last Updated:

About Catharine Schuyler (Van Rensselaer)

Catherine Van Rensselaer was born 1734. She was the eldest daughter of John Van Rensselaer and his wife Engeltie Livingston. Her father was lord of the lower or Claverack Van Rensselaer Manor.

"Kitty" Van Rensselaer grew into a young "lady of great beauty, shape, and gentility." She was a frequent visitor to the Van Rensselaer homes in Albany and down the valley to New York where she was introduced to the sons of New York's most important families. Daughter of a landed aristocrat, this "dark and slender beauty" would be a fitting mate for a number of up-and-coming and appropriate young men.

She had known Albany's Philip Schuyler for several years when they came together in a relationship that culminated in their marriage in September 1755 at the Albany Dutch Church. Approaching her twenty-first birthday, Kitty would give birth to the first of her fifteen children just five months later. At that time, her husband was an officer in the provincial army and she had moved to Albany and into the life of its most prominent native son.

By end of 1761, her family now included four children. These Schuylers had removed from Albany's busiest location to a large and newly built mansion located on a hill south of and overlooking the core city. This would be Catherine Schuyler's lifelong home. For the next forty years, she would be the grand dame of Albany's most regal location where dignitaries from Baron Dieskau to George Washington were frequent visitors.

As Philip Schuyler's business, military, and political careers often took him away from his growing family, Kitty and the children were frequent guests at the Patroon's and at the Schuyler estate at the Flats. She also formed a special relationship with Colonel John Bradstreet, her husband's mentor and their houseguest. Twenty years her senior, their friendship has been the subject of contemporary and historical speculation. Kitty's son was named John Bradstreet Schuyler and both mother and son were left substantial bequests following Colonel Bradstreet's death in 1774.

Reaching her fortieth birthday in 1774, Kitty gave birth to three more children before 1781. Despite the stress occasioned by the War for Independence, the Schuylers spent time at both their Albany and Saratoga estates. After the marriage of John Bradstreet Schuyler in 1787, his parents fell back on their Albany home.

To prevent the harvest from falling into enemy hands during the Revolutionary War, she burned her extensive wheat fields. Her example was an inspiration to other patriots.

Catharine Van Rensselaer Schuyler died in March 1803 at age sixty-nine. Philip Schuyler died in 1804.

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Catharine Schuyler's Timeline

1734
November 4, 1734
Rensselaer, Rensselaer, NY, USA
1755
September 17, 1755
Age 20
Albany, New York, United States
1756
February 20, 1756
Age 21
Albany, Albany, New York, United States
1757
August 9, 1757
Age 22
Albany, Albany, New York, United States
1765
July 12, 1765
Age 30
1773
1773
Age 38
1777
September, 1777
- September, 1777
Age 42
Saratoga, New York

It’s September, 1777. The British army is on the march toward Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler’s farm, outside Saratoga, New York. Everyone is about to leave, but before they do, Mrs. Schuyler decides to torch her fields, preventing the British from harvesting her crop for themselves. She’s the woman in the centre, wearing the straw hat. With one hand, she sets her wheat field on fire.

1803
March 7, 1803
Age 68
NY, Ny, USA
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