The Lefferts Clan

“Pieter Janse, from Drenthe, his wife and four children, aged 15, 13, 9, and ½ years.”

– Passenger list, de Bonte Koe, 1660

On April 15, 1660, the ship de Bonte Koe (the Spotted Cow) set sail for New Amsterdam. Among its passengers were Pieter Janse Hagewout (1621-1661), his wife, and their four children. In 1661, the family settled in Midwout, later called Flatbush. Within a year Pieter Janse Hagewout died, his wife remarried, and his eldest son, seventeen-year-old , began carving out his own destiny in the small frontier town of Midwout.

By the 1680s, Leffert Pieterse (1645-1704) had become one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Midwout – by then renamed Flatbush after the 1664 English takeover of the colony. By his death in 1704, he had amassed land in Kings County, Queens County, Staten Island, and New Jersey. His children went on to establish different “branches” of the Lefferts family: his son Peter Lefferts (1680-1774) inherited the family homestead in Flatbush, while his son Jacobus Lefferts (1686-1768) lived on family land in . Other Leffertses settled as far away as Pennsylvania.

Succeeding generations of Lefferts family members proved just as ambitious as Leffert Pieterse. Members of the family fought in the Continental Army during the American Revolution; built roads and rails connecting Flatbush to Brooklyn and New York; served as local, state, and federal politicians; and wrote pioneering histories of Flatbush, Brooklyn, and beyond.

 

Learn more about members of the Lefferts family

 

According to Dutch tradition, men formed their surnames by adding on the letters “se” – meaning “the son of” – to the name of their father. Because Leffert’s father’s name was named Pieter, his last name became “Pieterse.” In 1680, Leffert Pieterse’s wife Abigail gave birth to their son, Peter Leffertse. It was most likely during Peter’s generation that the surname became Anglicized, and Peter and fellow family members came to adopt the last name “Lefferts” – minus the e.
Bedford Corners was located in present-day Bedford Stuyvesant. The Bedford Turnpike and the Brooklyn and Jamaica Turnpike, two important roads that connected the towns of Brooklyn and Bushwick to the southeastern Kings County towns, intersected there.