Uncle Dave's book

Sunday, October 26, 2014

52 Ancestors # 44: William Rockefeller, Revolutionary Soldier

     William Rockefeller was the grandson of Johann Peter Rockefeller who came to New York in 1710 with the German Palatines. They lived in what was called East Camp along the Hudson River which later became Germantown, New York. William was born in 1750 in Copper Hill, Huntingdon, New Jersey, the son of Johann Peter Rockefeller (Jr.) and Mary Bellis.

     According to the Rockefeller Association, the Rockefeller family name was originally French, Roquefeuille (roughly translated as Chateau leaf).  They escaped from the Hugenot (French Protestant) persecution in France by going to Germany. In Germany they changed the name to Rockefeller. Per the Rockefeller Association publication this was perhaps because the French name was hard for the Germans to pronounce. They settled in the town of Rockenfeld (now known as Reckenfeld), so perhaps they simply took the name of the town. That name means "rock field", The name probably was Rockenfelder, meaning someone from Rockenfeld. In America you see it spelled Rockenfeller, Rockenfellow as well as the current spelling.

     William married Christina Rockefeller on 3 Jun 1772 in Germantown, New York, when he was 22 years old. They were distant cousins, his third great grandfather and her fourth great grandfather was the same man, Goddard Rockefeller of Rockenfeld, Germany. William and Christina had 12 children, the fifth child and second was Hannah who married Henry Avery and was our ancestress. Their 7th child and fifth son was Godfrey Rockefeller who's grandson was John D. Rockefeller of oil baron fame.

     William fought in the Revolutionary War.  He fought in the 4th New York Regiment, Livingston's Regiment, under his father-in-law's father's command, Diel Rockefeller. A number of other family members also fought in the War. William would have fought at Fort Schuyler in the Mohawk Valley as part of his service.

     William lived in Germantown until 1783 when his son, William Diel is recorded as born in Livingston. William is counted in the 1790 Census as living in Germantown but recorded as having died in Livingston in 1793.  These towns were both incorporated in 1788, being cut out of the Livingston Manor. So perhaps his house was on the border of the two.

     It was a matter of family legend that my grandfather, Lucas Kells, was a "42nd" cousin to the Rockefellers. So I was happy to find that there is indeed a connection. John D. Rockefeller actually was Luke's 2nd cousin once removed and was my second cousin 3Xs removed. Around 1967 my father, John Peterson, went to work for Winthrop Rockefeller, John D.'s grandson. Winthrop and I were second cousins 5Xs removed. We used to joke with my Dad about it but we never brought it up, especially since at the time it was just a family story!

     So there is our Rockefeller connection and another Revolutionary War soldier in the family!


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