Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh Sr. (1736-1790)


Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh Sr. (1736-1790)
Given Name
Jacob Rutsen
Family Name
Birth Date
22 February 1736
Death Date
30 October 1790
Biographical Description
Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (1736-1790) was the first president of Queen's College (later Rutgers). He was one of the chief founders responsible for establishing the college in 1766 and was active in the college's affairs for two decades before he was appointed its first president by the trustees in 1786. Hardenbergh Hall, a dormitory located on George Street on the College Avenue campus, was named for him in 1956.

Hardenbergh was a Dutch Reformed minister who came from a prominent slaveholding family in Ulster County, New York, and took over the churches in the Raritan Valley after his mentor Johannes Frelinghuysen passed away. His parsonage was located in present-day Somerville (now the Old Dutch Parsonage historic house).

Slaveholding was an ordinary part of life for the Dutch landowners in New York and New Jersey in this era, and the Rev. Hardenbergh was used to exploiting enslaved labor in his home. His wife, the widow Dina Van Bergh, also inherited three slaves from her first marriage.

Unfortunately we do not know the names of the enslaved individuals who labored in Hardenbergh's parsonage in New Jersey. However, we do know that among the many Black people enslaved by Hardenbergh's family in Ulster County was a girl named Isabella Baumfree who would grow up to become a famous abolitionist and women's rights advocate. Isabella's enslaver was president Hardenbergh's brother Johannes Hardenbergh Jr. After Isabella escaped to freedom and became a preacher, she adopted the name Sojourner Truth. President Hardenbergh never met Sojourner Truth as she was born about seven years after his death, but he was likely well acquainted with her parents James and Betsey Baumfree who served the Hardenbergh family for decades.

The following is a description of the house (with slave quarters) where Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh grew up. The house was originally built by his great-grandfather Jacob Rutsen in 1700. This description is from the book The Hardenbergh Family: A Genealogical Compilation by Myrtle Hardenbergh Miller (New York: American Historical Co., 1958), page 58:

"a stone building sixty-two by twenty-five feet in dimensions. The main house had numerous rooms, fireplaces, and had handsome panelled woodwork and recesses for beds enclosed by panelled doors. At the southwest end and opening into the house were the slave quarters of stone fifteen by eighteen feet, on the same end in the cellar was a cell in which delinquent slaves were confined."

This house was originally called Rosendale (giving its name to the town of Rosendale in Ulster County, NY). After Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh's grandparents Johannes Hardenbergh (1670-1745) and Catherine (nee Rutsen) moved into the house, it came to be known as Hardenbergh Hall.
Place of Origin
Rosendale, NY
Rutgers University
Relationship to Rutgers
President (1786-1790)
Trustee (Founding 1766-1790)
Secretary of the Board of Trustees (to 1782)
Namesake (Hardenbergh Hall named for him in 1956)
Spouse of
Dina Van Bergh

Linked resources

Items with "Creator: Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh Sr. (1736-1790)"
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Letter from Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh to his father Col. Johannes Hardenbergh Document
Items with "Enslaver of Primary Event Participant: Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh Sr. (1736-1790)"
Title Class
1777, Unnamed Black man [Hardenbergh], Mention Event
Items with "Author: Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh Sr. (1736-1790)"
Title Class
1777, Unnamed Black man [Hardenbergh], Mention Event
Items with "Parent of: Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh Sr. (1736-1790)"
Title Class
Johannes Hardenbergh (1706-1786) Agent
Items with "Sibling of: Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh Sr. (1736-1790)"
Title Class
Johannes Hardenbergh Jr. (1729-1799) Agent