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Our progenitor, our ancestor, the man from whom we all descend?

  • Johannes Monerius Montanus "Xanto", Dutch university student?
  • Jehan Mousnier de la Montagne, Walloon explorer?
  • Jean de La Montagne, French Huguenot minister of the Gospel?
  • Johannes La Montagne, physician of New Amsterdam?
  • J. LaMontagne, signer of treaties with Indian tribes?
  • Dr. Johannes Mousnier de la Montagne, founder of an American family?

Jean Mousnier de la Montagne was a Protestant from France. He was born about 1595 and he lived most of his life in exile from France. That much is certain. No one knows where he was born nor where he was living before 1619. No one knows who his parents were nor what the double-barreled name denotes. Does it imply an aristocratic1 origin? It may literally have meant "the miller from the mountain."

He may have been a native of Saintonge in west-central France, as Riker2 believed, or he may have come from another mountainous area of France. No records have been found in Saintonge3 to support Riker's belief, and all of our ancestor's associations in Holland were with Walloons4, French Huguenots from northern France5. There is a village named Santes near Lille, which has been suggested6 as a more likely place of his origin than Saintes in Saintonge.

He first appears on record7 in the Netherlands on 19 November 1619 when he registered as a student of medicine at the University of Leyden, signing his name in Latin as Johannes Monerius Montanus, a native of "Xanto"8. He was twenty-four years old9 and was boarding with the family of Robert Botack, a shoemaker on the Voldersgraft10. He next appears as a signer11 of the round-robin petition of the Huguenot heads of family in Leyden, addressed in July 1621 to the British Ambassador at the Hague, asking for permission to establish a Huguenot colony in Virginia. Permission was not granted to the Huguenots for that colony and so Jehan Mousnier de la Montagne12 accompanied Jesse DeForest to the Amazon River and the coast of Guiana in 1623, one of a party of eleven Huguenot men on board the Pigeon looking for a site to establish a Huguenot colony. He returned to Leyden on the Black Eagle late in 1625, bringing with him the news of the death of Jesse DeForest, the so-called Journal of Jesse DeForest13, and the maps of the exploration party.

He is named as a boarder in the home of the widow of Jesse DeForest in 1626 and again that same year as a medical student at the University of Leyden14. On 12 December 1626, he married Rachel, daughter of Jesse DeForest and his wife Marie Du Cloux, in the Walloon Church in Leyden15. He was then thirty-one years old; she about seventeen. There is no baptismal record for Rachel DeForest, but her parents were living at Moncornet in Thierache, in the French province of Picardy, between 1607 and 1615. They returned to Sedan to baptize Elizabeth in 1607 and David in 1608, but there is a break in the records of the Huguenot Church of Sedan between 1609 and 1617. For that reason, it is assumed16 that Rachel was also born at Moncornet and baptized at Sedan, probably in 1609, but the record has since been lost.

On 26 July 1629, Jean Mousnier de la Montagne left with his young bride on the Fortuyn for the island of Tobago17, a Dutch possession in the Windward Islands, northeast of Guiana. His wife returned to Leyden in 1631, supposedly enfeebled by the climate of this Caribbean Island. Her husband probably returned in 163318 and appears on the register of University of Leyden a third time in 1636.

In Haag's Dictionnaire des familles protestantes de France, there is an entry for Jean de La Montagne, minister of the Gospel, who translated into French from English six religious tracts, published in France between 1633 and 165519. The fifth tract, Pensées chrestiennes sur nostre devoir envers Dieu, envers nos prochains et envers nous-mesmes includes some information about the translator. In the introduction, he states that he was born in 1590 but he doesn't say where. However, the first of these tracts was published in Sedan, which suggests that Jean de La Montagne might have originated from that area. Is this "our" Jean Mousnier de la Montagne? Perhaps. We know that our Dr. Johannes was gifted in languages, writing letters and reports in Latin, French, Dutch, and English, and evidently speaking some Indian languages. As a Protestant, he was interested in church doctrine, and as a university student, he would have studied theology.

On 25 September 1636, Dr. J. de la Montagne sailed for America a third time, this time with his wife and three children, Jesse (aged 7), Jan Jr. (aged 4), and Rachel (aged 2), on the ship Rensselaerswyck20, owned jointly by the patroon Kiliaen Van Rensselaer and by his wife's uncle, Gerard DeForest. The DeForest group on the ship consisted of the DE LA MONTAGNE family, as well as Rachel's brothers Henry and Isaac DeForest. Another child, Marie, was born to Rachel DeForest at sea, before the ship reached New Amsterdam on 5 March 1637.

In the New Netherlands, Jean Mousnier de la Montagne was generally referred to as Jan or Johannes LA MONTAGNE. His excellent education and high natural abilities enabled him to take an important place in the community in New Amsterdam. On Manhattan Island, he immediately set up business as a physician and a chandler. Henry DeForest died soon after arrival in the New World, and Dr. La Montagne was forced to take charge of the establishment of the DeForest tobacco plantation21 in mid-Manhattan. Eventually La Montagne assumed the proprietorship of the property, living on it with his family and producing a profitable crop of tobacco. The farm, called Vredendahl, included much of the upper half of what is now Central Park. He was driven off the land by the Indians and lived thereafter near the fort at New Amsterdam. He was the official surgeon of New Amsterdam, First Councillor for both Directors Kieft and Stuyvesant (1638-1656), commander of the troops on Manhattan Island (1640-1656), and a member of several peace commissions with the Indians.

Another child, Willem, was born in 1641 but in 1643 Rachel died. Four years later Johannes de la Montagne wedded Agniete Gillis Ten Waert on 18 August 1647 at New Amsterdam. The marriage record22 showed that both of them had been previously widowed. Agniete, daughter of Gillis or Jellis Jochems Ten Waert and his wife Beicken Schuts, was baptized in Amsterdam on 1 December 1611. She had married Elias Provoost at Amsterdam on 17 May 163323. Elias died in July 1636 and Agniete then married Arendt Corssens Stam in Amsterdam on 26 January 1638. Agniete and her son, Johannes Provoost, came to the New Netherlands with her second husband. After Arendt Corssens Stam drowned at sea, Agniete married for a third time. Agniete had children by all three husbands, but only Johannes Provoost, born in Amsterdam in 1636, lived past infancy.

Johannes de la Montagne was appointed Vice-Director of the entire colony in 1656, with special responsibility for Fort Orange (Albany) and the settlement of Beverwyck. At Albany, Dr. La Montagne was the chief administrator for a large area, including all the Dutch and Huguenot settlements along the Hudson Valley, from 1656 to 1664. His stepson, Johannes Provoost, acted as his clerk at Fort Orange. With the English take-over of the colony in 1664, Dr. La Montagne drops out of official records. As an official of the Dutch West Indies Company, he had to relinquish his position as Vice-Director. He did sign a loyalty oath to the new British government and Riker believed24 that he accompanied Peter Stuyvesant back to Holland in 1665 to defend the surrender of the colony. Whether he died abroad in Holland, as Riker claimed25, or whether he stayed in the now-British colony of New York as a private citizen is not known. The few records available show him in Albany with his second wife and her son Johannes Provoost in 1665 and 1666. It seems most likely that he stayed in Albany until his death in 1670 and that he was buried in the churchyard of the original Albany Reformed Dutch Church.

When Willem de La Montagne took over the care of his sister's orphaned children in 1673, the Wiltwyck Court records refer to Dr. La Montagne as being deceased. It is believed that he died in 1670 since his son Jean/Jan dropped the use of Jr. that year. It is not known when his second wife died, although she almost certainly was buried at Albany, too. There is no extant grave marker for Dr. La Montagne, nor for either of his wives.

Generational Summary

1. JEAN MOUSNIER1 DE LA MONTAGNE was born 1595 in France, and died 1670 in perhaps Claverack, New York. He married (1) RACHEL DEFOREST 12 December 1626 in Leyden, Netherlands, daughter of JESSE DEFOREST and MARIE DUCLOUX. She was born about 1609 in Moncornet, Picardy, France, and died 1643 in New Amsterdam, New Netherlands. He married (2) AGNIETIE GILLIS TEN WAERT 18 August 1647 in New York City Reformed Dutch Church. She was the daughter of JELLIS or GILLIS JOCHEMS TEN WAERT and BEICKEN SCHUTS, born in Holland and baptized at Amsterdam on 1 December 1611, and died in Claverack, New York, after 1670.

   i. JOLANT DELAMONTAGNE, b. 1627; bp. 24 February 1627 at the Pieterskerk in Leyden, Netherlands26; d. 7 November 1635, Leyden, Netherlands27.
   ii. JESSE DELAMONTAGNE, bp. 6 May 1629 at the Walloon Church of Leyden, Netherlands28; d. after 164729, New Amsterdam, New Netherlands.
   iii. JAN MOUSNIER DE LA MONTAGNE, JR., b. 1632, Leyden, Netherlands; bp. 24 April 1633 at the Walloon Church of Leyden, Netherlands30; d. 1672, New Harlem, New York.
   iv. RACHEL DELAMONTAGNE, b. 1634, Leyden, Netherlands; d. 4 October 1664, Wiltwyck, Ulster County, New York; m. GYSBERT VAN IMBROCH, 1657, probably at Fort Orange.
   v. MARIE DELAMONTAGNE, b. 26 January 163731, aboard the ship Rensselaerswyck off the island of Madeira; m. JACOB HENDRICKSZEN KIP, 8 March 1654, New York Reformed Dutch Church.
   vi. WILLEM DE LA MONTAGNE, b. 1641, New Amsterdam, New Netherlands; bp. 22 April 1641 NYRDC32; d. about 1690, Mombaccus, Ulster County, New York; m. ELEANORA DE HOOGES, May 1673, Kingston, Ulster County, New York.

   vii. GILLIS DE LA MONTAGNE, b. 1650 New York City; bp. 18 September 165033 NYRDC; died young.
   viii. JESSE DE LA MONTAGNE, b. 1653 New York City; bp. 6 April 165334 NYRDC; died young.

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