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Van Valen, James


        Among the lineal descendants of David Van Valen, who came to America from Holland in 1652, followed by his father Johannes Van Valen five years later, is James M. Van Valen, ex-Judge of Bergen County, whom the writer of this sketch knows from personal contact with the people to be regarded as one of the most useful and important citizens of the county.

    For a brief period of time the ancestors of this family in Bergen County lived in New York City, then removed to Harlem where Johannes became one of the original patentees of the Harlem Grants, and the last survivor of them. In course of time his descendants removed to Bergen County, N. J., where they became extensive land owners. Deeds bearing date of 1701 record the purchase of 2600 acres of land by Johannes, Bernardus, Gideon and Rynier Van Valen, from Lancaster Syms, comprising all the Palisade lands from the Jay Line, extending from the Hudson on the east to Overpeck on the west. Bernardus Van Valen was the great-grandfather of James M. He was a member of the militia serving as militiaman, in the Revolutionary War, when he was taken prisoner and confined in the Old Sugar House in New York City. A stone house built by him is still standing near the railroad depot at Closter. He lived to the age of eighty years and died in 1820, leaving five children, James, Andrew, Cornelius, Isaac and Jane. James, the grandfather of James M., was for a time a farmer at Closter, but removed to Clarkstown. Rockland County, N. Y., where he died in August, 1786, at the age of twenty-six years. He left three children, Barney; Sarah, who became the wife of Henry Westervelt; and Cornelius. Cornelius was born at Clarkstown May 21, 1786. He married first Elizabeth Blackledge, and lived for some years in New York City. In 1832 he bought a farm at Englewood, then Hackensack Township, where he lived seven years, when he sold that farm and purchased another at Teaneck, where his wife died soon after.

        Caroline, wife of David Lamberson, and Cornelius were children of this marriage. His second wife was Jane, daughter of Abram Zabriskie of Paramus. Of this marriage there were three children, Eliza, wife of Edward Barr, who died in 1867; James M. and Sarah A., wife of Cornelius D. Schor, of Leonia.

    James M. Van Valen was born at Teaneck, July 21st, 1842. When the War of the Rebellion broke out he left school to enlist in Company I, of the Twenty-second Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers, and served ten months in the Army of the Potomac. Upon his return he engaged in the book trade in New York City until 1868, when he began teaching in Bergen county, continuing in that profession for five years. He taught, among other places, at Paramus Church, New Bridge and Hackensack. Subsequently he entered the law office of Garret Ackerson, and, under his direction, pursued a course of study, being admitted as attorney in 1875, and as a counsellor in 1878. Immediately after his admission to the bar he formed a partnership with Mr. Ackerson. which continued for eleven years, terminating with the death of Mr. Ackerson in December, 1886. In 1887, Governor Robert S. Green appointed Mr. Van Valen Presiding Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Bergen county. At the close of this term he was reappointed for a like term by Governor Werts, his term expiring in April, 1898.

    In 1872, Judge Van Valen, having become interested in the National Guard, organized Company C, Second New Jersey Regiment, and became first lieutenant. He was afterwards made quartermaster of the battalion. Soon after this he was made Inspector of Rifle Practice, with rank of captain, and subsequently was appointed Assistant Inspector General of the State of New Jersey, with the rank of colonel. At his own request he was retired on July 5, 1893, with rank of Brevet Brigadier General, and still holds that commission.

        Judge Van Valen, always interested in educational matters, was chairman of the Board of Education of Hackensack for a period of eighteen years, declining a re-election on account of pressure of business. He is first Vice President of the Bergen County Bar Association, and is Vice President of the Holland Society of New York, of which he has been a member since its organization. He is also a prominent Mason, member of Pioneer Lodge, No. 70, and has been Master of that Order. Judge Van Valen has been signally successful in the various lines in which he has been engaged. As soldier, teacher, lawyer and judge, he has made an enviable reputation, and, as a jurist, his opinions have stood without reversal, except in two cases. Socially, Judge Van Valen stands without a peer.

    He was married in 1874 to Miss Anna Augusta Smith, daughter of Theodore Smith. They have nine children, seven boys and two girls.

James Van Valen, History of Bergen County, New Jersey, 1900