Compiled by Gretchen Aleta Van Sant Heyer

November 2000



Dutch names are often long, and clerks and officials may have relied on phonetic interpretations for spelling in cases where the actual individuals were unable to read or write. 


In 1879 after researching the Van Sant line upon a request by George H. Vanzandt, Attorney of Law in Philadelphia and finding different spellings in many instances, Reverend Nicholas Vansant, Jr. addressed this issue in his book, Sunset Memories, with the following: [1]


“Here we must pause to note this medley of names relating to the same persons, as in my correspondent’s letter Vanzandt, in the baptismal record Vanzant, but in the deed of conveyance Vansant.  Do these variations seem strange?  Especially, do they invalidate the historical facts related?  No one is stupid enough to hold this.  These discrepancies in the orthography of proper names, as in hundreds of other things, are constantly occurring.  Talk of various readings in the ancient manuscripts of the Bible!  Other old writings of renown reveal even greater variations; but they are not rejected as spurious on this account, nor must the Bible be thrust aside because of its various readings or its apparent discrepancies.  Was Stophel Vansant a myth because his name was spelled in several different ways?  Not at all, but a veritable man, who lived and moved and had his being at the close of the seventeenth century and beginning of the eighteenth."


He continued by quoting from a letter written to him by the attorney.  “Note particularly from whence he came, which I suppose to be either Xanten, in Germany, where the family became Huguenots, or, previous to that, from Santona on the Bay of Biscay in the north of Spain, where I suppose they were good Catholics. …He imported from Holland the bricks of which his house was built.  …The Vanzandts in the old deeds of Bucks County spell their name as above written.  The family were originally Spaniards and Catholics of Santona (Eugenie’s watering place on the Bay of Biscay in the north of Spain), and I suppose spelled their name either Santon or Santona, that town having been either named after them or they having taken their name from the town.  Near it is also the town of Santander, which is also the name of a province in Spain.  In Holland… in Groningen, is a town called ‘t Zant; in Prussia (Westphalia), just below Wesel, is the town of Xanten; and in Drenthe, Holland, is the town of Zandberg.  I may also say that in Texas is a county named Van Zandt, after a cousin of my father’s, who negotiated or made the treaty for the admission of Texas into the Union.”


The letter continues further: “The Vansants, Santons, or Santonas went up with Alva or Parma into the Netherlands to persecute the Dutch.  They were people of some consequence, who gave name to one province and two towns in Spain, three towns in Holland, and one county in the United States.  Settling in Holland, they married Dutch Huguenot wives, became Huguenots themselves, and as such settled on Staten Island.  Those who prefer the Spanish form spell their name Sant, or Santen, or Santon; those who prefer the Dutch or German, as I always have, take the Dutch form.”


You will note as you read the following that different spellings appear for certain individuals.  Universal education was not common in those times.  As you will also see below, Stoffelszen Harmenszen, the progenitor of this Van Sant line, was not able to write his signature and used a “mark” on official documents.


Generation #1: Stoffelszen Harmenszen


Stoffelszen Harmenszen, his wife Tryntie Clasen and young son Gerret Stoffelszen did arrive in New Netherland about 1651.  In 1687, Gerret, the son, took the oath of allegiance in New Utrecht, which is now known as Brooklyn.  He stated that he had been a resident in the country for 36 years.[2]


A most interesting document has recently been reviewed, which proves conclusively the identity of the parents of Gerret Stoffelszen, and the date of the family’s immigration.  The following abstract, from the records of notary S. Van Nieuwland, Gemeente Archief Amsterdam, is recorded in the “Noord Amerika Chronologie,” available on microfilm at the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Library in New York City:[3]


“1652 April 16.  Abraham de Wijs, merchant in Amsterdam, in the name of Cornelis de Potter, his brother-in-law, who lives in the Manhattans in New Netherland.  He takes into service for him:  Christoffel Harmens and Trijntje Claes, to work there for de Potter.  Also, their son Gerrit Christoffels, 8 years old, shall work with them.  This is for a time period of three years, at 200 carolus guilders per year.  Free board and room.”


Gerret Stoffelszen first used the surname Van Sant (Vansand) when he purchased land in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1698 or 1699.


Three years after the family arrived in New Netherland tragedy struck the family. Gerret Stoffelszen became an orphan, because his birth mother had died in Amsterdam, possibly during his birth.  His father Stoffel Harmenszen was killed on September 15, 1655 during the “Peach War” and four years after arriving in New Amsterdam.[4]


Indian troubles developed in September of 1655, when Governor Stuyvsesant and most of his armed forces were on the Delaware River subduing the Swedes.


The Indians swarmed into New Amsterdam to avenge the slaying of a squaw for stealing peaches.  After hours of harassing the inhabitants, killing several of the watch and wounding the burgher who shot the woman, the warriors crossed over to the Jersey shore and captured or slew most of the Dutch settlers found there.  The next day they moved on to Staten Island and continued to pillage and kill.


The following is recorded in the minutes of the Orphanmasters of New Amsterdam on May 11, 1657:[5]


“Whereas Tryntie Clasen, widow of Stoffel Harmensen, clothworker, perished in the attack of the Indians in 1655, now intends to marry Rut Joosten van Brunt, bachellor, whereas said Stoffel Harmensen has left with Tryntie Clasen a minor son, by his first wife about 12 years old, and whereas the testament of said Stoffel, made before Notary Judicq van der Vin and witnesses at Amsterdam 10 July 1649, and shown to the Orphanmasters of this City, shows that said boy should have one half of his deceased father’s estate, therefore it is deemed necessary, that impartial parties should either by inventory or appraisement of the estate, left by said Stoffel Harmensen, look into and settle the child’s share.  For this purpose the Orphanmasters have requested and commissioned, as they hereby do, Sieur Johannes Nevius and Jacques Cortelyou concientionsly to settle as guardians with said Tryntie Clasen what is coming to said child from the estate of his father, etc. etc. etc. Done etc.”


This record provided clues for a search, which was made in the Amsterdam indexes available through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.  These records revealed the two marriages for Stoffel/Christoffel Harmenszen.  On June 13, 1643, the following marriage intention was recorded in Amsterdam for:[6]


“Christoffel Harmens, from Jever, journeyman clothdresser (droogscheerdersgesel) living on the Hoochstraet, having no parents [living], age 25, and Moederke Gerrits, from Amsterdam, living on the Breestraet, attended by her mother Vroutie Pieters.”


Stoffel and Moederke both signed by mark, possibly signifying that they could not read or write.  They were married in Amsterdam’s Old Church on June 28, 1643.  Jever was a town on the North Sea coast just east of Ostfriesland, a part of the modern German state of Niedersachsen.


No baptismal record has been found for their son Gerrit Stoffelszen.  Based upon all of the records noted above, he was born in 1644.


The register of St. Anthonis Cemetery, Amsterdam, shows the burial on July 17, 1644 of Moedertien Gers leaving one child, and she may have died from complications of childbirth.  The son was named in honor of her father.


On September 9, 1645, Stoffel registered his intention to marry again:  “Christoffel Harmansz from Kleverins, clothdresser, widower of Moeder Gerrits, living on the Moeriaensteegie, and Trijn Claes from Amsterdam age 28 years, living on the same street, assisted by her mother, Giertie Heeren.”[7]


Again both signed by a mark.  Kleverins or Cleverins was a locality near Jever, which cannot be found on modern maps.  A note in the margin of this record states that the groom made a declaration before the Orphan’s Chamber on September 6, which gives further confirmation that he had a child.  Stoffel and Trijntje Claes were married in the Old Church on September 24, 1645.


Claestien, daughter of Christofel Haermsen and Trienten Claes, was baptized in the Nieuwezijds Chapel in Amsterdam on September 16, 1646 with Weijntien Laemmers as sponsor.  This child undoubtedly died young, as there is no record that she arrived in New Amsterdam along with her family in 1651.


Further information in these records recorded the baptisms and parents of both of Stoffel’s wives.  His first wife, Mooder, the daughter of Gerrit Jansz was baptized November 2, 1623 in the Lutheran Church, Amsterdam, sponsored by Ytgen Gerrits.  Her parents’ marriage intention was recorded October 29, 1616:


“Gerrit Janss from Zwol, age 23 years, ropemaker (lijndraeijer), living on the Breestraet ten years, married Vroutje Pieters, from Eemden, age 20 years, having no parents [living], attended by Jan Pieterss her brother, living at the same place.”


Both signed by mark.  Gerrit Jansz and Vroutje Pieters were married November 13, 1616 in the New Church.


Stoffel’s second wife, Trijn, daughter of Claes Pietersz and Giertje Heeren, was baptized on January 20, 1619 at the New Church, Amsterdam with Annetje Gerrits as sponsor.


Trijn’s parents’ marriage intention was recorded on October 11, 1614.  This marriage was not found in either the Old or New Churches of Amsterdam.  A partially illegible note on the marriage intention appears to indicate that the couple was married on November 14, 1614 by Joannes Stulen, minister at “Goedenss.”


The 1652 notarial record quoted earlier shows that Stoffel Harmenszen, Tryntje Claes and Gerret Stoffelszen came to New Netherland in the employ of Cornelis de Potter.  At that time Potter was with Giliam Wys, a prosperous trader and shipper of goods and merchandise.


Arriving in New Amsterdam that year, de Potter was spoken of in the records as an advocate.  In 1632 he had been a minor official of the East India Company at Batavia and by 1636, as a procureur or agent.  Potter was the stepfather-in-law of Gerret Stoffelszen’s guardian, Joannes Nevius who at the age of 30 in 1657 was a schepen (magistrate) in New Amsterdam.  Nevius who had attended the University of Leyden, was appointed City Secretary of New Amsterdam in 1660.


Gerret’s other guardian, Jacques Cortelyou, Surveyor General in 1657, came in 1652 as a private tutor to the children of Cornelis Van Werkhoven of the West India Company.  Van Werkhoven purchased the Nyack Tract (New Utrecht) from the Indians in 1652, and Jacques managed this property during his employer’s absence in Holland in 1654.  After Van Werkhoven’s death in 1655, Cortelyou became founder of New Utrecht in 1657, representative to the Hempstead Convention in 1665 and a Justice, and Vendue Master.  With such guardians, Gerret Stoffelsz certainly must have received some amount of education.[8]


After Stoffel’s death, Tryntje married Rutger Joosten Van Brunt in 1657.  Van Brunt emigrated from the Netherlands about 1653 and was one of the first settlers in New Utrecht in 1657.  He was a magistrate there in 1661, 1678-81 and 1685.  He obtained a patent for a double lot for 48 morgens in New Utrecht on January 18, 1662 [one morgen equaled approximately two acres].  He was also allotted two half lots in Yellow Hook, New Utrecht, in addition to other land holdings.  Tryntje Claesen was living as late as 1688, when she donated 12 guilders to the church fund.


Generation #2: Gerret Stoffelszen


Gerret was born in 1644, probably in Amsterdam.  He was 62 years old when he died prior to June 20, 1706 in Bensalem Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.


Gerret married Lysbeth Cornelis also known as Lysbeth Gerrits about 1667.[9]  Church records list Lysbeth Gerritse as the mother of the two earlier children baptized in New York during the 1670s, while later children baptized in Flatbush between 1681 and 1689 have Lisbet Cornelis as mother.  However, on September 3, 1693, baptismal records of her first grandchild, Stoffel’s daughter Jannitje, again give her name as Elizabeth Gerritse.  Her surname “Gerrits” was probably for her husband, the “Cornelis” for her father and/or stepfather.


Lysbeth was born about 1650, probably in Middleburg, Zeeland from where she emigrated as a 9-year old child with her mother, Josyntie Verhagen on February 12, 1659 on the ship De Trouw (The Faith).  Her father appears to have been named Cornelis Van Westen.  She was also the stepdaughter of Cornelis Van Oosten, and stepsister of his children, Jacobus and Cornelia.


Gerret and Lysbeth, following the usual Dutch pattern of naming their children, named their first son after his father Stoffel (Christopher), the second son after her (step)father Cornelis, and the next after his grandfather, Harmen.[10] In total this marriage produced ten children.  Stoffel Gerretszen Van Sant being the oldest.


During 1685, Gerret Stoffelszen was a tenant on the farm of his stepmother’s second husband, Rut Joosten Van Brunt, at Yellow Hook, New Utrecht.  He also owned 18 acres at Yellow Hook and was one of the fourteen freeholders of New Utrecht included in the patent from Governor Thomas Dongan on May 13, 1686.


He purchased two additional half lots there from Dionys Theunissen (Denys) on February 1, 1691/2, which he sold on July 31, 1695 to Dirck Van Zutphen.  He was serving as a magistrate of New Utrecht in 1691, and he was on the assessment rolls there in 1683 and 1693.  In a village as small as New Utrecht (only 39 men in 1698), the names of Stoffel and Harmen were not in common use, so references to him and his family are easily identified.[11]


Gerret was not in the King’s County census of 1698, because by that time he had moved to Bensalem Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  Here he purchased 150 acres on the “River Neshaminah” from Joseph Growden on February 10, 1698/9, recorded on October 20, 1699 as “Garret Vansand.”  This land was part of a 5,000-acre grant from William Penn to Growden on October 24 and 25, 1681.  Gerret’s son Cornelius also bought 150 acres, which adjoined his father’s on the same date.  They each paid twenty-eight Pounds and fifteen Shillings.[12]


He died intestate, probably in Bensalem, prior to June 20, 1706 when his older sons, Stophell, Cornelius, Harman, Albert and Johannes Vansand, all of Bucks County, yoemen, and Jezina and Garret Vansand, younger children of “Garret Vansand deceased,” conveyed their interest in their father’s 150 acres to their brothers Jacobus  and George Vansand, for one hundred and fifty Pounds current silver money.  This deed was recorded on July 26, 1706.[13]


Gen. #3: Stoffel Gerretszen Van Sant


Stoffel, also known as Christoffel and Christopher, was the eldest son of Gerret and Lysbeth and was born probably about 1668 in New Utrecht, Long Island.  He died at the approximate age of 81 years between June 24 and August 31, 1749, as a resident of Middletown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.


Stoffel was married twice.  His first marriage about 1692 to Annetje Jans produced four children.  His second marriage about 1705 to Rachel Cresson produced nine children.  Stoffel (Christopher) Van Sant was the fourth child from the first marriage to Annetje Jans.[14]


Stoffel left New Utrecht before the 1698 census was taken and moved across the Narrows to Staten Island.  On May 22, 1699 and identified as Christopher Garretson of Staten Island, husbandman, he purchased from Josiah Marlet and Jane his wife 78 acres on the south side of the island at the New Dorp, for 120 Pounds. 


Stoffel Van Sent and Rachael his wife of Staten Island sold on May 2, 1706 this land to Aries Janson for 300 Pounds, as well as,  another 78 acres in the same place, which he had purchased on March 5, 1702.


He was elected Supervisor of the South Division of Richmond County in 1703 and 1705.  He registered his cattle mark on April 4, 1705.

He was not listed in the 1706 census of Staten Island, as he had settled back into Bucks County by May 23, 1706, when he purchased 300 acres of land in Middletown from Henry Paulus. 


Stoffel and his wife were original members of the “Sammeny” Church at Bensalem, Bucks County, where he was Senior Deacon in 1710 and Elder in 1730.  He served as a Justice for Bucks County from 1715 through 1727.  He was also elected to the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly in 1710, 1712, 1713 and 1719.[15]


The identification of the first wife of Stoffel Gerritse, as Annetje Jans, was made by analyzing the baptismal records of the Brooklyn Dutch Church.  Although Davis in his History of Bucks County calls her Annetje Stoffels, that surname was apparently derived from her husband, and it was not her own patronymic.[16]


One of the sponsors at the baptism of her first child, Jannitje, was “Lourens Jansens,” Annetje’s brother.  The other sponsor being Stoffel’s mother, Elizabeth Gerritse.  In 1695, one of the sponsors was “Hendrickje Jacobse” [Jacobs], the wife of Laurens Janszen, and the other sponsor being Stoffel’s father, Gerrit Stoffelse. 


On April 26, 1696, Jannitje, the daughter of Laurens Janse and Hendrikje Jacobse, was baptized and the witnesses were Stoffel Gerritje and Annetje Jans.  These families choice of each other as baptismal sponsors suggests a very close relationship.  The most likely explanation being that Stoffel’s wife was Annetje Jans and that she was the sister of Laurens Janszen.


Annetje died, probably on Staten Island, sometime after the birth of her fourth child, Stoffel, in 1701.[17]  Stoffel’s second wife Rachel appears in Pennsylvania records as Corson or Curson.  However, she can be identified as Rachel Cresson from baptismal records of her children.


Stoffel made his will in Middletown on June 24, 1759, and it was proved on August 21, 1749. [18] The Executors were his son John and his son-in-law Lewis Rue.  Bequests were made to son John, to son James and his children, to daughters Sina, Rachel and Olshe Rue, to the children of daughter Elizabeth and to grandson William Renberry.  No wife was mentioned.


Generation #4: Stoffel/Christopher Vansant


He was the son of Stoffel and Annetje Van Sant and was born on Staten Island and baptized there on October 22, 1701.  The sponsors were Jacob Corssen and his wife.  He died at the age of 55 years on January 28, 1756 and is buried in the Center Cemetery in Hartford (now East Hartford), Connecticut. 


Stoffel/Christopher married Hannah Risley, daughter of John and Mary (Arnold) Risley of Hartford in January 1725/6.  During the same month Hannah joined the (East) Hartford Church on January 2, 1725.  This marriage produced eight children with John being the first born.


“Stoffels Vananst” bought land in Hartford on March 2, 1743 from John Hills for which a deed is recorded.  Samuel Hills quitclaimed to Stoffels Van Sant, and the deed was recorded on January 13, 1747.[19]


The will of Hannah Vansant, widow of (East) Hartford dated January 23, 1763 was proved on July 4, 1789.  She bequeathed her estate to her son Christopher Vansant.  He was to pay legacies to her other children, Anne Vansant, Mabel wife of Lot Loveland, Mary wife of Matthew Cadwell, Sarah wife of Daniel Ritter and the heirs of her daughter Hannah Cole, Deceased.  The witnesses were John Wells, Richard Risley and Samuel Wells.  The Town of East Hartford was set off from Hartford in 1783.


Generation #5: Capt. John Van Sant


John or Capt. John, as commonly known, was a carpenter and shipbuilder and the eldest son of Stoffel/Christopher Vansant. Capt. John was baptized in the Hartford Church on January 7, 1727/8.  He died in 1820 at the age of 94 in Port Republic, New Jersey.[20]


In 1751, he married Martha (last name unknown) who was born about 1730, presumably in Connecticut.  He was admitted to the Portland (East Middletown) Church on December 1, 1751, probably later in the year of his marriage.[21]  Their first three children were baptized in that church.


About 1760, the family moved to New Jersey, where Captain John Vansant purchased from Richard Westcoat, thirty acres of land on the Forks of the Mullica River in Washington Township, Burlington County.  This property included the “old fields at the Burnt House, sholes and shipyard.”  The original deed has not been found, but the date and location are described in a deed of sale of the property from John’s son Nicholas to Samuel P. Richards dated May 1, 1869, recorded June 18, 1869 (Burlington Co. NJ Deeds, Y-8:121-23).[22]


On October 15, 1768, John Vansant and Martha Vansant of Egg Harbour, Burlington County in the Western Division of the Province of New Jersey, had sold to John Loveland of Middletown, Hartford County, Connecticut, mariner, their land and buildings in Chatham, Hartford County.  This deed was acknowledged by John and Martha Vansant on March 9, 1774, indicating that she was still living at that time (East Hampton, Middlesex Co., CT. Deeds, 2:410).[23]


There is no record of the death of Martha.  However, she was still alive in 1774.  After his wife died, Captain John is supposed to have married a Polly Bowen in 1775, but this is undocumented. 


According to Samuel R. Van Sant in a letter dated August 29, 1932, John married yet a third time to a Rebecca (Simpkins?), a widow, in 1787.  This marriage produced one son on November 9, 1788 who shall be referred to as Reverend Nicholas Van Sant, Sr. Confirmation of Nicholas as John’s son is confirmed by both his Bible and in a deed dated May 1, 1869, wherein Nicholas, sold the land at “The Forks” for one dollar to Samuel P. Richards.  In the deed Nicholas is referred to as “his only child and heir at law…” [24]


However, other children are associated with the second and third wife.  Since this particular Van Sant line moves through Reverend Nicholas Van Sant, Sr., I will leave the puzzle of other suggested children to the researchers.


Capt. John moved to “the Forks” prior to the American Revolutionary War.  He purchased the afore mentioned land in 1760, and he took up an occupation, which would characterize his family for at least four generations: shipbuilding.


When the Revolution broke out, Capt. John Van Sant either converted one of his vessels for use as a privateer or built an entirely new one for that purpose.  Though he seems to have engaged in active service, his shipyard continued to build privateering vessels for other owners during the war, as well.  A record of the fitting out of the privateer galley Alligator, owned by Joseph Ball of Batsto, is in the possession of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


In his book, John Pearce states that the Van Sant family remembered Capt. John in later life bemoaning the fact that he was paid for his efforts in “Continentals,” which were paper/bonds  issued by the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War.  These bonds were worthless by the end of the war.  Many financial backers of this money, including Thomas Jefferson, were financially devastated.  The phrase “Not worth a Continental” has remained a common phrase throughout the nineteenth century.


Capt. John’s ship was burned at the Battle of Chestnut Neck.  The American privateers had been attacking the British supply ships off of the coast of New Jersey, escaping with supplies and racing back into the safety of the Mullica River.  From there, they would take the bounty up to “The Forks” area from which it was transported up to Valley Forge and other American encampments. 


Needless to say, the British were unhappy with the situation.  On September 30, 1778, they mounted an attack at Chestnut Neck for the purposes of “wiping out that nest of rebel pirates”  and advancing up the Mullica River to destroy both the Batso Iron Works (where cannon balls and canon were being manufactured)  and the military storehouses at “The Forks.”  Not one rebel was killed or captured, and within six weeks time, the privateers were as active as usual.[25]


After some time following the birth of Nicholas and at the age of 65, Capt. John and Rebecca moved in 1791 to Bass River (New Gretna) New Jersey and set up another shipyard.  This shipyard was in operation until 1815.[26]


There is no record of the types of ships built at this shipyard, however, it is reasonable to assume they were similar to those built earlier at “The Forks”, which were small in comparison to today’s ships.  A large ship built during those times seldom exceeded 100 feet in length, and the average was more like 50 feet.  Shallow draft craft for hauling bog iron to Batsto Furnace and scows for hauling hay were possibly built at this shipyard.[27]


Generation #6: Rev. Nicholas Van Sant, Sr.


He was born on November 9, 1788 in Pleasant Mills, New Jersey.  He died at the age of  91 in Lower Bank, New Jersey.


On December 23, 1808, Simon Lukas joined Nicholas Van Sant and Mercy Davis in marriage.  Her mother was known as the daughter of Patriot Richard Wescoat of Pleasant Mills.  Mercy was born on March 13, 1789 and died on January 8, 1880 in Lower Bank.  The newlyweds set up housekeeping in Bass River, where Nicholas worked in his father’s shipyard.[28]


It states in the family bible that Mercy had “sought the Lord” at the age of eighteen in 1807 and united with the Methodist church at Pleasant Mills under the care of the Rev. Joseph Toten. Nicholas Van Sant was converted about the same time.”


During the War of 1812 with Great Britain, Nicholas enlisted and served at Cape May Point, New Jersey, though it seems that he really wasn’t in any real action.  He was listed as a pensioner of that war, however.


Nicholas worked at his father’s Bass River shipyard until 1815, when at the age of 89 years, his father could no longer work.  Then he, Mercy, the children and Capt. John  moved to Port Republic.  During 1816 and after the birth of their fourth son, the family moved to Absecon, New Jersey, where he found work in a shipyard.  The family remained in Absecon for about 10 years before returning to Port Republic, where Nicholas built his own busy and successful shipyard.[29]


Although it was not the first shipyard, it was always considered the “Homestead” by most of the family.  Possibly, because seven sons of Nicholas, Sr. learned the shipbuilding art here before they became Methodist ministers.


Nicholas and Mercy had eleven children, eight of whom were sons.  Their second son, Joel was the only son who did not become a Methodist minister.  This Joel was the beginning of six consecutive generations of Joels in this line of the Van Sant family.  He will be referred to as Joel I.[30]


Nicholas, Sr. lived and worked here for eighteen years before moving to Lower Bank about 1843, where he became a local Methodist preacher.  He and Mercy are buried in the old Lower Bank cemetery.[31]


Generation #7: Joel Van Sant I


Joel I was born on November 22, 1811 in Wrangleboro (Port Republic), New Jersey.  He died just shy of his 84th birthday on November 5, 1895 in Lower Bank, New Jersey.[32]


He married Catherine Wilson on January 23, 1832.  Catherine’s ancestor William Brewster,  the religious leader, was a passenger on the first voyage of the Mayflower to Plymouth, Massachusetts.  This marriage produced eight children, and Joel II was the fourth child.


Joel I either worked at a shipyard in Manahawkin, New Jersey or he operated a shipyard there. Records show that his daughter, Madaline or Adaline, was born there in 1852 and another daughter, Catherine, in 1855.


When his daughter Lydia was married on September 11, 1857, records show that Joel Van Sant, a ship’s carpenter and father of the bride was at that time a resident of Manahawkin.


Family records say that Joel I started the shipyard at Green Bank – Lower Bank.  An exact date is not known.  However, Lillie, the oldest daughter of Joel II, in a letter to her sister, Emma Van Sant Moore, says, “Grandfather, Joel I, was the first one there (Green Bank).  He started the shipyard up by the bridge.  The boys went up there, first one and then the other, until they all were there.”


There is some reason to believe that the Van Sants had two shipyards at different times located at Green Bank.  Lilly’s letter is hard to follow as it was written at an advanced age.  Her letter continues, “We moved to Green Bank (from Tuckerton).  Then they started the shipyard down at the lower part of the bank, and we moved up there.”


Generation #8: Joel Van Sant II


Joel II was born on March 19, 1841 in Port Republic, New Jersey.  He died at 73 years of age on May 8, 1914 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.


He married Hannah Emma Rockhill on April 12, 1863 in Lower Bank, New Jersey.  This marriage produced eight children, and Joel Frank Van Sant III was the eighth child.[33]


During the Civil War, Joel helped to construct gunboats for the United States Navy in Tuckerton.  He was “held in arms” at the commencement of the battle at Gettysburg, but he and his fellow “soldiers” never made it past Philadelphia.  By the time they reached that city, they received word that General Lee had been defeated.  As they were no longer needed, they were sent back home to New Jersey.[34]


Based upon the birth dates of Joel II’s children who were born at Green Bank, his shipyard was started sometime before 1875 and was in operation until at least 1884.[35]


There is no record of the size or types of boats built at these yards.  However, as Joel II built several small pleasure boats after moving to Hammonton in about 1884-85 this might indicate the beginning of the transition period where the Van Sants started to make pleasure craft other than the workboats they had formerly built.[36]


Research to date has not disclosed that the Van Sants ever had shipyards at Lower Bank.  Most of the Van Sant experience in Lower Bank was of a religious nature, which has been well documented in Sunset Memories by Reverend Nicholas Van Sant, Jr.


About 1885, Joel II and his brother Edward established the first Van Sant shipyard that was located in Atlantic City.[37]


The Van Sants apparently moved from town to town, setting up shipyards as they went.  Perhaps they simply found the best timber available, set up a yard nearby, built a few ships, and moved on.  At Green Bank, they built at least three large ships during the 1870s: The L.A. Seiver, the Lillie Falkinburg and the Harvey W. Anderson, all three-masted schooners over a hundred feet long.


Joel II’s son, Captain Joel F. Van Sant III, indicates in his writings that “The Lillie Falkinburg was named for my mother’s twin sister, who was married to Captain William Henry Falkinburg, who perhaps had a master’s share in the schooner, possibly a 16th or a 32nd.  It was customary in those days to sell shares in a schooner before she was built.  They all made money in those days and lived well, but the crash while Grant was president ruined a great number of people.  I do not think my father ever recovered enough to keep even with an increasing family.  With less earning power and the long period of low wages and business stagnation, his spirit must have been broken.”[38]


Generation #9: Joel Frank Van Sant III


Joel III was born on July 16, 1885 in Hammonton, New Jersey.  He died at the age of 82 on November 30, 1967 in Daytona Beach, Florida.


He married Mary Bunting Mathis on May 19, 1910.  She died on October 12, 1949 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Joel III and Mary’s marriage produced four children.  Joel Nicholas IV was their first born.[39]


Mary was a descendent of the Great John Mathis who was a major landowner in Coastal New Jersey prior to the American Revolution.  He also had other business interests.  During the Revolutionary years, he purchased many Continental notes to help finance the Revolution.  He, along with many others, never received a cent back from the Continental Congress following the Revolution.  However, he did retain his valuable land.


Joel III had an interesting life, mostly upon the sea.  He was the “Father of the Moth Boat,” a small sailing vessel, which he designed in 1929 to supply entertainment to his children.  Moth Boat competitive regattas were very popular in New Jersey and North Carolina during the 1930s and until World War II intervened. 


He ran away to sea as a young man, became a master mariner and established himself as an excellent seaman.  You will read about his life in the following section.


Generation #10: Joel Nicholas Van Sant IV


Joel IV was born on June 20, 1911 in Tuckerton, New Jersey.  He died at the age of 86 on December 31, 1997 in Rancho Mirage, California.


He married Mary Foy on October 10, 1936 in Panguitch, Utah.  This marriage produced two living children, Joel Mathis Van Sant V was the third child.[40]


Joel IV did not follow in the footsteps of those shipbuilders before him.  During the depths of the Depression in 1929, his father was fortunate enough to have a good job.  Joel IV went westward in a convertible car to college in New Mexico, where there were only 25 miles of paved roads in the whole state. 


As you will read about in his story, he experienced  many interesting adventures in the undeveloped American West. 


American Men & Women of Science

12th Edition

Physical and Biological Sciences/Volume 6, ST-Z

Copyright 1973 by Xerox Corporation

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 6-7326


VAN SANT, Joel N, b. Tuckerton, N.J. June 20, 11; m .36; c .2. MINING ENGINEERING, PHYSICAL SCIENCE.  B.S, N.Mex. Inst. Mining & Technol, 33, Mining Eng, 71.  Asst. mining engr, St. Louis Rocky Mt. & Pac. Co, 43-47 safety engr, 47-49, mining engr, 49-53, chief engr. & asst. mgr. 53; mining engr, N.Mex. Bur. Mines & Mineral Resources, 53; region III, div.  mineral resources, U.S. BUR. MINES, 53-56, proj. leader, 56-61, proj. coord, 61-64, chief phys. sci. admin, area V, mineral resource off, Colo, 64-68, chief, Pittsburgh Off. Mineral Resources, Pa, 68-70, LIAISON OFF, N.Mex, 70- Expert clay consult, U.S. Bur. Reclamation, 58, expert coal witness, 59; head staff spec. task force study fed. coal mine safety act, U.S. Secy. Interior, 63.  Am. Inst. Mining, Metall. & Petrol. Eng.  Mining methods and costs; refractory clay and selenium resources; mine roof control and production. 


Generation #11: Joel Mathis Van Sant V


Joel V was born on October 19, 1949 in Raton, New Mexico.


He married Pamela Kae Smith on July 21, 1984 in Kennewick, Washington.  This marriage produced two children, Joel Brandyn Van Sant VI being the first born.[41]


In 2000, his story has yet to be written.


Generation #12: Joel Brandyn Van Sant VI


Joel Brandyn was born October 29, 1985 in Santa Monica, California.[42]


In this year of 2000, his story has just begun.



[1] Rev. Nicholas Vansant, Sunset Memories, Eaton & Mains, New York. 1896. P. 16.

[2] Barbara Barth, The Ancestry of Capt. John Van Sant (Somers Point, New Jersey).  The Atlantic County Historical Society Yearbook with Historical and Genealogical Journal.  Volume 13. Number 4.  October 1999. P. 161.

[3] Ibid. Barth, p. 161

[4] Ibid. Barth. P. 164.

[5] Ibid. Barth, p. 161.

[6] Ibid. Barth, p. 162

[7] Ibid. Barth, p. 162.

[8] Ibid. Barth. P. 163

[9]  Ibid. Barth. P. 164.

[10] Ibid. Barth. P. 165.

[11] Ibid. Barth. P. 165.

[12] Ibid. Barth. P. 165.

[13] Ibid. Barth. P. 165.

[14] Ibid. Barth. P. 167.

[15] Ibid. Barth. P. 167.

[16] Ibid. Barth. P. 167.

[17] Ibid. Barth. P. 168.

[18] Ibid. Barth. P. 169.

[19] Ibid. Barth. P. 170.

[20] Family Records.

[21] Ibid. Barth. P. 171.

[22] Ibid. Barth. P. 171.

[23] Ibid. Barth. P. 171.

[24] John E. Pearce, Heart of the Pines.  Published by the Batsto Citizens Committee, Inc., 4110 Nesco Road, Hammonton, New Jersey 08037-3814, Year 2000. P. 426.

[25] Joel Nicholas Van Sant IV, Van Sant Shipyards, Revised in 2000. P. 1.

[26] Ibid. Van Sant Shipyards. P. 5.

[27] Ibid. Van Sant Shipyards. P. 1.

[28] Ibid. Pearce. P. 427

[29] Ibid. Pearce. P. 427.

[30] Nicholas and Mercy’s Family Bible

[31] Ibid. Van Sant Shipyards. P. 20.

[32] Ibid. Van Sant Shipyards. P. 12.

[33] Ibid. Family records.

[34] Ibid. Pearce. P. 205.

[35] Ibid. Van Sant Shipyards. P. 16.

[36] Ibid. Van Sant Shipyards. P. 16.

[37] Ibid. Van Sant Shipyards. P. 26.

[38] Ibid. Van Sant Shipyards. P. 14.

[39] Ibid. Family Records.

[40] Ibid. Family Records.

[41] Ibid. Family Records.

[42] Ibid. Family Records.