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Zabriskie, Abraham Oothout

ABRAHAM OOTHOUT ZABRISKIE belonged to one of the most numerous and eminently conspicuous families of Bergen County.  In Poland the name was “Sobieska,” and Albrect Sobieska was the first of the family in America.

It has been claimed by many of his descendants that royal blood coursed in Albrecht’s veins, because he was a brother of John III., the last king of Poland.  James Sobieska (the king’s father) and his wife, Theophila, had but three children:  Mark, John (the king), and a daughter.  Mark was killed in the battle of Batog, leaving behind no issue; John, the king, had two sons, James and Alexander, both of whom died childless, as did also the king’s sister. 

Albrecht Sobieska (who in America was known as Albert Zabriskie) was a cousin of the king of Poland.  That fact, however, did not make royal blood flow in his veins, for the crown of Poland when attained by King John was not inheritable.  That quality had long since been forcibly taken from it.  None of John’s ancestors had ever worn it, and John was elected to wear it.  Hence, there was no more inheritable quality in it than in the Presidency of the United States.  There was, however, noble blood in Albert’s veins.  His ancestors for two centuries had been Palatine nobles of Poland—famous generals who had fought long and bravely in the cause of their country, distinguished for their virtues in peace and for their courage in war.  Albert’s cousin John, upon his merits alone, not only became king by the voice of the people of his native country, but he had also become one of the greatest warriors of the sixteenth century.  Albert’s father was a soldier, but the son had no taste for the favorite calling of a long line of noble and warlike ancestors.  Born at Zolkiew in Poland, in 1638, he grew up in the shadow of the church and school, receiving a fair education.  His turn of mind was such that his father had early hopes of seeing his son in the pulpit preaching the Reformation.  To that end he sent Albert to a Protestant school in Holland.  The strict rules and Puritan tenents of the institution were not, however, relished by Albert, and he soon ran away.  While roaming about from one city to another, without occupation or funds, he was seized by the government authorities of Prussia and pressed into the army.  Watching his opportunity he escaped to Amsterdam, early in 1662, from which port he sailed to America in the ship “Fox,” reaching New York in August of that year.  For ten years he seems to have wandered among the settlements about New York without any settled purpose in life; but in 1676 we find him at Bergen (Jersey City), where he met, and on December 17 of that year married, Miss Machtelt (Matilda) Van der Linden, daughter of Yost Van der Linden, a young lady then twenty years of age and native of the City of Brussels, Belgium, whose brother, Roloff Van der Linden, was destined later to become, like her husband, one of the largest landowners in Bergen County.  The marriage ceremony was solemnized in the Dutch Reformed Church at Bergen, near what is now “the Five Corners.”

In the year of his marriage (1676) Albert made his first purchase from the Hackensack and Tappan Indians—a tract of 1,067 acres—abutting south on Captain John Berry’s purchase, extending north one and five-eighth miles, and from the Saddle River east to what is known as Sprout Brook.  This tract was known as “Paramus” or “The Point.”  On this he built his family mansion, and spent his life in agricultural pursuits.  Much of it is still occupied by his descendants, who have become numerous in Bergen, Hudson, and Passaic Counties.  It has been said that the Indians captured his eldest son, Jacob, and refused to give him up to this father until he should be taught the Indian language; that the father acquiesced; that the boy mastered the language, and the chief of the tribe then gave the father title to his lands.  This is probably only tradition.  At any rate, the deed recites the consideration to have been wampum (white and black), peltries, clothing, rum, and implements of husbandry.  In 1682 Albert obtained from lady Carteret grants of several tracts of land adjoining his first purchase, principally one of 420 acres on the east and extending to the Hackensack River.  In 1679 the Indians in some way (not stated) became indebted to Albert, and to liquidate such indebtedness the sachems verbally agreed to convey to him 2,000 acres in Rockland County, N. Y.  This agreement was not performed until 1702, when Albert agreed to take lands in New Jersey instead of Rockland County lands.  Accordingly, the sachems of the tribes deeded him 2,100 acres in Bergen County, north of his first purchase, and fronting west on the Saddle River.  Albert’s patents are known as the “Paramus” and “New Paramus” patents.  Altogether Albert must have owned more than 4,000 acres in Bergen County.  Much of this was afterward claimed by Peter Sonmans, whose claims to it were not released until 1731-35, long after the death of Albert.  In his day he was considered a very wealthy man.  He was highly respected, not only for his great liberality, but for his integrity, and above all for his fair dealings with the savages, who esteemed his highly.  He understood their language and frequently acted as their interpreter.  In 1686 he helped to organize the “Church on the Green” at Hackensack, of which he was one of the first members.  He took an active part in civil affairs and was the first Justice of the Peace for Upper Bergen County, to which office he was commissioned by Governor Hamilton in 1682.  He died September 11, 1711, having been one of the most active and enterprising of the pioneer settlers of his county, and his descendants are noted for the same qualities.  His wife survived him, dying in 1725.

His children (of the second generation) were (1) Jacob A., born about April 12, 1679 (married Ann Alberts Terhune), and had ten children; (2) John A.; (3) Joost A., born in 1687 (married November 12, 1712, Christina Casparus Mabie), and had eight children; (4) Christian A., born July 3, 1696 (married May 28, 1714, Lea Hendricks Hopper), and had five children; and (5) Henry, born in 1696 (married Gertrude Hendricks Hopper), and had four children.

John A. Zabriskie, of the second generation, was born at Hackensack about 1682.  He married (1) September 20, 1706, Elizabeth Claes Romeyn, who was born in 1683 at Graves End, L. I., and died near Hackensack, N. J., in 1712.  He (2) married against December 6, 1712, Margaretta Johns Durie.  He succeeded to the ownership of part of his father’s lands.  In 1720 he bought of Samuel Des Marest (2) a large farm at what is now Hawroth, N. J., some of which, until very recently, was owned by the descendants of his eldest son Albert.  It extended from the Schraalenburgh road west to the Hackensack River.  Some of his lands were claimed by Peter Sonmans, but were released to Zabriskie about 1761, by Hans Spier, agent of Sonmans.

John Zabriskie (2) was a farmer, but was active in township and church matters.  He died in 1766.  His second wife survived him.  His children of the third generation were four by his first wife and nine by his second wife, to wit:  Albert, Matilda, Nicholas, Christina, Elizabeth, John, Jacob, Elizabeth, Peter, Joost, Rachel, Cornelius, and Christian.

Of the above named thirteen children Jacob J. Zabriskie, of the third generation, born near Hackensack, July 27, 1718, married, in 1743, Sarah Varrick, a descendant of an old aristocratic family of New York.  Their issue of the fourth generation was a son, John L. Zabriskie, baptized February 27, 1752.  He died April 24, 1782.  He married December 7, 1775, Lena Lansing, of Albany, N. Y., where she was born October 5, 1750.  She died April 26, 1826.

John L. Zabriskie’s widow, after his death, married (2) November 14, 1786, General Abraham Oothout.  John L. Zabriskie (4) had issue one son, John Lansing Zabriskie (5), who married Sarah Barrea.  He was a prominent clergyman at Greenbush, N. Y., and had issue two children of the sixth generation:  John Barrea Zabriskie (a prominent physician at Flatbush, L. I.) and Abraham Oothout Zabriskie (the subject of this sketch). 

Abraham Oothout Zabriskie, LL.D., of Hackensack and Jersey City, was born in Greenbush, N. Y., June 10, 1807, and when four years old went with his parents to Millstone, N. J.  He received an academic education and matriculated at Nassau Hall, Princeton, in 1823, becoming a member of the junior class when only sixteen.  He was graduated from that institution in 1825, read law with James S. Green, of Princeton, and was admitted as an attorney in November, 1828, and as a counselor in 1831.  He practiced in Newark two years and in Hackensack nineteen years, and in 1838 was appointed Surrogate of Bergen County and was re-appointed in 1843, serving in all ten years.  He not only learned how to frame statements of execution and administration, but acquired a full knowledge of ecclesiastical law as pertaining to estates of descendants, and also evinced a method and accuracy that distinguished his life.

In 1842 he was appointed Prosecutor of the Pleas of Bergen County and became master of the principles of criminal law.  Later he often acted as counsel in criminal and civil cases, and in cases involving land titles.  He became familiar with the duties of a practical surveyor and also with the proprietary history of New Jersey, and understood every patent in the old “Field Book of Bergen County,” and the common lands assigned to each patent.  He was regarded as a formidable adversary in all case involving title to land, and was for several years Supreme Court Reporter to 1855.  In 1844 he removed to Jersey City, and in 1850 he was elected State Senator and served three years. 

He was a member of the committee of citizens which framed the charter of Jersey City, passed March 18, 1851; was the author of the “Long Dock Charter” of 1856; and from 1856 to 1866 was a Director of the New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company.  In 1859 he was appointed by Governor Newell Chancellor of New Jersey, but the Senate refused to confirm him, and the State, during that memorable struggle, was without a Chancellor for a year.  In 1866 he was nominated by Governor Ward and confirmed by the Senate as Chancellor, and began his official duties May 1, 1866.  He performed the duties of that office with a promptness and ability that have never been surpassed by any of his successors.  He took a prominent part in the great railroad war as opposed to the monopoly, and for an expression used in a public speech earned the sobriquet of “Captain of the Pick-axe Guard.”  He was an eminent jurist, an able and learned lawyer, a sagacious business man, and officially connected with several corporate enterprises.  He traveled extensively, and while on a trip to the Pacific slope died at Truckee, California, June 27, 1873.

He married (1) April 7, 1836, Sarah Augusta Pell, born September 9, 1810, died April 3, 1845.  He married (2) January 2, 1848, Julia M. Halsey.  His children of the seventh generation were Abraham, Lansing, Sarah A., and Augustus.  Of these, Abraham (8) was commissioned Adjutant of the Ninth New Jersey Volunteers, October 18, 1861, promoted to Major February 10, 1862, to Lieutenant Colonel December, 1862, and subsequently to Colonel.  He died May 24, 1864, of wounds received in the battle of Drury’s Bluff, Va.  Sarah A. (8) is the wife of Franz Ernst de Bille, a native of Denmark, who is at present Danish Minister to England.

Lansing Zabriskie (8), now deceased, was a prominent lawyer in Jersey City, as is also his brother Augustus, at the present time.  Augustus and Sarah have children of the ninth generation.

Source: Genealogical History of Hudson and Bergen Counties, New Jersey, Editor, Cornelius Burnham Harvey, The New Jersey Genealogical Publishing Company, 1900, page 49-53