Valentines in the Catskills

The theme for week 6 is ‘valentine’. I vaguely remembered seeing the name Valentine when working on our family histories. It turns out my husband has a paternal 8th great-granduncle named Valentine Felter KELDER that will work perfectly for this week’s ’52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks’ theme. My husband is related to Valentine through his paternal DEWITT line which is interesting because the DEWITT name unexpectedly (at least, unexpectedly for me) entered into Valentine’s story. The line of ascent is my husband’s great grandmother Lucille DEWITT WILLIAMS CULLOM to her father Milo, to Milo’s father Frances, to Frances’ father Richard, to Richard’s father John, to John’s father Peter, to Peter’s mother Maria KELLER DEWITT, to Maria’s father Jacob KELDER, and to Jacob’s parents Franz KELDER and Anna Barbara ADAM KELDER who are also the parents of Valentine Felter KELDER. Valentine apparently went by the name Felter, at least later in life. In this post though, I will refer to him as Valentine. His grandson who was his namesake also went by Felter and will be referenced later in the post.

Valentine Felter KELDER was born in 1720 in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, New York. Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, New York is located on the banks of the Hudson River. Dutchess County was only about 37 years old when Valentine was born there. Dutchess County was named for Mary of Modena, Duchess of York. (Wikipedia) Before being settled by the Dutch, this area of New York was home to the Native American Wappinger people – “an Eastern Algonquian-speaking tribe from New York and Connecticut”. (Wikipedia) The town of Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, New York got it’s name both from Rhineland in Germany and also from a local man of influence named Wilhelmus BEEKMAN. Once the Dutch settled in the area, the next wave to inhabit the location were Germans from about 1715-1730. From 1730-1775 it was mostly New Englanders who settled in the area. The KELDER family were among the Germans who settled in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, New York but they were early immigrants, arriving in New York City in 1710. The KELDERs came from Germany- some say Hesse-Darmstadt and some say Darmstadt-Dieburg. I don’t know enough about German geography to say one way or the other nor do I have the documents to prove either argument. I do suspect though, based on the devotion of the family to the Dutch Reformed Church, that a few generations before Franz KELDER the family was probably living in the Netherlands. The surname KELDER is of Dutch origin and comes from the Middle Dutch word ‘kelder’ which means ‘cellar’. KELDER is considered an occupational surname stemming from the occupation of ‘keepers of the cellar’ or a ‘waiter in a cellar’, particularly in a wine cellar. KELLER (the surname of later generations of the family) is a related name to KELDER. (Ancestry)

Images from Wikipedia showing the exterior and interior of the Old Dutch Church.

How the KELDERs Ended Up in Rochester, Ulster County, New York

In 1731 Valentine’s father, Franz, was granted 300 acres of land by the trustees of Rochester, Ulster County, New York and the family moved there and established themselves. The land was located “northwest of the Kings Highway extending to the Marbletown line”. (Town of Rochester Historic Farmstead Inventory. Marbletown is in Ulster County, New York.)

According to a variety of descriptions I found online, it appears that Franz KELDER’s 300 acres fell between the two black arrows. One description stated the property was bounded on one side by the Marbletown town line and on the other by the Rochester town line. All the property lies within Ulster County in New York and is at the edge of the Catskill Mountains.

Franz’s “homestead was located on Whitfield Road where the stone house on the Accord Speedway stands today”.

I believe this may be Franz KELDER’s stone house near Accord Speedway. There is another stone house nearby but it is slightly further from the speedway. Based on descriptions, I believe this one to be Franz KELDER’s home. Franz was Valentine and Jacob KELDER’s father.

According to the farmstead inventory, Franz also “operated a mill there”. (Town of Rochester Historic Farmstead Inventory) We know this was a sawmill because the sawmill was given to Joseph KELDER (Franz’ grandson and Valentine’s son) in Valentine’s 1796 will. (See below.) Franz’ heirs inherited pieces of the property. The property now known as Arrowhead Farm became the property of Valentine and Christine KELDER. The property is now considered a Rochester “Historic Farmstead” and is part of the KELDER-RIDER-DEWITT Farm. The official Historic Farmstead Inventory describes the whole of the property (including Arrowhead Farm) as “a distinctive example of an 18th-century farmstead”. (Town of Rochester Historic Farmstead Inventory)

Valentine and Christine SCHMIDT KELDER

In 1741 in Ulster County, New York, Valentine married Christine SCHMIDT. Valentine and Christine had 9 known children together- 7 boys and 2 girls. Just as a side note, Valentine’s father-in-law was Valentine SCHMIDT. Valentine KELDER also had at least one grandson named after him. Generations of the KELDER/KELLER/KELLAR family were members of the Dutch Reformed Church. My husband’s 8th great grandparents, Jacob and Barbara (HEIN) KELDER, along with Jacob’s brother Valentine and Valentine’s wife Christine, (and many other family members) were members of the Dutch Reformed Church in the various places they lived over the years in Ulster County, New York.

In 1796, Valentine wrote his will. It says he was in good health and of sound mind at the time so I’m not certain what prompted him to write the will other than for that time period, he was past what was considered an average lifespan. Wills are always interesting to look at in detail and I’d like to take a look at Valentine’s. In the research I’ve found, there is always a daughter listed as the first child of Valentine and Christine and her name was Mareitje. She isn’t mentioned in his will so perhaps she died prior to him passing away. I don’t know for sure since I haven’t found any information about her. It’s possible she wasn’t his child since in his will he refers to Joseph as his firstborn. As the recognized firstborn, Joseph received his father’s “fowling piece”. A fowling piece is a specific gun used for shooting birds and other small animals.

This is a fancy example of a fowling piece found at

Joseph also received the farm and woodland near Rochester, Ulster County, New York where he was then residing plus the house, barn, outhouses, sawmill, streams and “appurtenances” that went along with that property.

Many researchers list a son named Isaac that was supposedly the second-born son but he was not mentioned in Valentine’s will nor have I found information about him.

Valentine’s next child, Elizabeth KELDER CRISPELL received the bed and bedding that belonged to her deceased mother Christine plus 10 pounds of lawful New York currency.

The next of Valentine’s children was Petrus but he had already died a few years prior to Valentine. Valentine left his 2 daughters and Jenny (Petrus’ widow and the mother of his girls) a piece of land known as “Callepriest” (I’m not sure this is the name of it- the handwriting was very difficult to read). This was a piece of land Valentine had bought from Jacob DEWITT and consisted of 40 acres near Rochester, Ulster County, New York. The land was situated between Marbletown, Ulster County, New York and Rochester, Ulster County, New York. Petrus’ two daughters were also to receive one milk cow each to be procured by their uncles- Joseph and William- and delivered to the girls immediately upon Valentine’s death.

The next child was Johannes Smith KELDER. Valentine left his son Johannes a farm and the lot of land where Johannes was then residing near Rochester, Ulster County, New York. Johannes was named the administrator of Valentine’s will. Johannes’ son Hendrick was given Valentine’s “negro man farmer”. Valentine indicated that after his debts were paid and the funeral was paid for and after everyone received their property, whatever remained of Valentine’s estate was to go to Johannes.

Next in line was Valentine’s son William. The way Valentine spoke of William and what he was leaving to William leads me to believe that he didn’t expect William to live much longer and, in fact, William did die about the same time Valentine did (about 1810). Nonetheless prior to his passing, Valentine left William the right to go freely in and out of land given to Jenny and to Joseph and to bring his oxen, horses, hays (?), and wagons in and out to cut and carry away firewood and timber for Williams own use. To Williams’ sons, Felter KELDER, Jr. and Petrus KELDER, Valentine left the farm where their father William was then living and they would receive it as Tenants in Common. Legally, this meant that Felter, Jr. and Petrus owned the property together and both had equal rights to the property. Neither could claim sole ownership of any particular piece of the property and when one of them died, their portion was passed to the deceased’s estate and not to the remaining ‘tenant in common’. Additionally, each was free to give or sell their portion of the property to someone else. There are other intricacies to tenancy in common but that’s the basic premise. (Legal Dictionary)

Many researchers list two remaining children – Henricus and Abraham- as being children of Valentine but he doesn’t name them in his will and I’ve found no information about them.

Valentine Felter KELDER’s mark- “FK”- on his will.

The People Who Helped Build Ulster County, New York

KELDERs and DEWITTs were influential in Ulster County, New York, and their properties have been well-preserved overall. If you’re interested in the KELDER, RIDER, or DEWITT families or their allied families, I highly recommend looking at the Town of Rochester Historic Farmstead Inventory papers I’ve linked to in this blog post. They are a goldmine! The papers give not only a history of the property but a genealogy and history of some of the families. I’ll link them here so you can find them easily:

The Arrowhead Farm & Domino Farm properties contain Whitfield Cemetery and Kelder Cemetery where many KELDER-DEWITT family members are buried. Domino Farm is the last operating dairy farm in Rochester, Ulster County, New York. Sadly, none of the original, complete buildings exist on these two farms but there are remnants of an early Dutch barn that survive inside of what was the hay barn in 2010. Many of the late 1800’s buildings do still exist and some are still in use such as the wagon house, granary, and a second hay barn. One photograph attached to the Domino Farm inventory indicates there is one building on that property that may have been in existence when Valentine KELDER died. It’s #5- Barn I.

Buildings located on “Domino Farm” section of the KELDER-RIDER-DEWITT Farm. Photo from the farmstead inventory.


KELDER-RIDER-DEWITT Barn I. The original barn was built about 1810. Sections of the original 1810 barn exist within this newer barn. Photo from the farmstead inventory.
KELDER-RIDER-DEWITT Barn I, different angle – from farmstead inventory.

Diagram of original 1810 Barn I:

Diagram of original 1810 Barn I.

The only building on the Arrowhead Farm section of the property that was identified as being old enough to have been in existence when Valentine was alive is the stone homestead which was built around 1760. See photo below.

1760 stone homestead on the Arrowhead Farm section of the KELDER-RIDER-DEWITT property – photo from farmstead inventory.

There is so much more to be said about the KELDER family but I’ll leave it at this for now. I’ve got a “future trip wish list” already started for the Catskills. One day we’ll get there. I hope that you’re using your “pandemic time” in a way that gives you hope for the future- like planning a trip you’d like to take one day. Today I’m wishing you hope and a bright and beautiful future.

Until next week,

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog

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