Beekman Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Beekman Surname Meaning

Beekman is a Dutch topographical surname describing someone who lived by a stream or creek (beke in Dutch).  The German name from similar roots is Beckman.

Beekman Surname Resources on The Internet

Beekman Surname Ancestry

  • from Holland
  • to America (New York)

Beekmans number some 4,500 in Holland today.  The name is most common in the inland province of Gelderland.  There are a further 2,000 Beeckmans in Belgium, mostly in its Flemish part.

America.  Early Beekmans in America came from Holland, but originated from Cologne in Germany.  In 1647 Wilhelmus Beekman sailed on the Princess Amelia to what was then New Amsterdam with its future Governor Peter Stuyvesant.

New York.  This William Beekman helped to establish an early measure of self-government for the Dutch hamlet of New Amsterdam.  He remained a prominent civic leader, being able to straddle the town’s transition from Dutch to English rule in 1665.

He was to be the progenitor of a very notable New York family.  His Beekman family lines were first based in Manhattan, then extended up the Hudson river to Kingston and to Dutchess county, New York and onward to New Jersey. 

The main lines of descent were from William’s second son Gerardus, the one-time acting Governor for New York.  A seventh generation descendant via a later Gerardus Beekman and his wife Catherine Van Dyke is the cartoonist Garretson Beekman Trudeau, better known as Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury fame.

The Beekmans were prominent early landowners in New York.  William Beekman’s name has been preserved in William Street and Beekman Street in downtown Manhattan. Beekman Place on the East Side derived its name from the merchant James Beekman whose Mount Pleasant mansion, built in 1763, was on that site; while the James William Beekman House is a registered landmark in Oyster Bay, New York. Washington Irving mocked the family name in his 1809 Knickerbocker List.

These Beekmans intermarried with other prominent families in the closely-knit Dutch community of their time. William’s daughter Maria married Nicholas, the son of New Amsterdam Governor Peter Stuyvesant.  Later Beekmans married with the Van Cortlandt and Van Dyke families.  Then there were the marriages between the Beekmans and the Livingstons, their neighbors near Kingston in upstate New York:

  • Cornelia Beekman marrying Gilbert Livingston in 1712  
  • and Henry Beekman marrying Janet Livingston in 1721. 

New York also has the Beeckman spelling that was adopted by an early Dutch settler in the Albany area.  From this line possibly came Gilbert L. Beeckman, a dry goods merchant in Manhattan, and his son Robert who was Governor of Rhode Island from 1915 to 1921.

Elsewhere.  In the early 1700’s Gerardus Beekman had acquired land in New Jersey along the Raritan river and its tributary the Millstone.  Several Beekman lines came from there.

Beekmans from New Jersey moved to Ohio in the years following the Revolutionary War.  The main sightings were in Mifflin township in Pike county.  William Beekman who fought in that war was an early settler in 1801. 

His son Aaron, a farmer, died there in 1890 at the age of ninety six.  “Shortly before his death Aaron shot with a muzzle loader gun one of the last bears ever killed in southern Ohio.” 

The Beekman numbers have grown in Ohio so that they now outnumber, by more than two to one, those in New York state.

Also from New Jersey came Benjamin Beekman who ended up running a jewelry shop in Dundee in northern New York state.  His son Cornelius headed for San Francisco in 1850 at the time of the Gold Rush.  He handled gold as a courier and later became a rich banker in Oregon.

Elbert Beekman from Gelderland in Holland was a much more recent arrival in America, coming with his family to Grand Haven in Michigan in 1871.  His descendants remain mostly in western Michigan.

Beekman Surname Miscellany

Beekman Family Origins.  The Beekman family had German origins.  Cornelius Beekman was a wealthy burgher of Cologne along the Rhine river.  A branch of his family were said to have been Flemish barons.

Cornelius’s son Gerard, born in Cologne in 1558, studied divinity at Frankendael and was conversant in the Latin, French, Italian, and German languages.  After completing his education he travelled extensively through Europe.

He became in time a distinguished Protestant theologian. He was rewarded by King James I of England for his services in translating the Bible to English. The King granted him a Coat of Arms a rivulet running between roses -and a crest of three feathers on a helmet of steel represented in profile.  His family motto was Mens Conscia Recti, meaning “mind conscious of the right.”

Then came the difficult times.  In 1618 the Catholics expelled the Protestants from Cologne and the Protestant churches there were burnt by an infuriated mob.  The Protestants repaired to Mulheim, about three miles south of Cologne, but were again molested.

Gerard himself was forced to flee in order to avoid capture by Spanish troops.  In so doing he had to sacrifice the property he had accumulated at Cologne.  He died a few years later at Emmerich close by the Dutch border in 1625.By this time his son Henry had made his home in the inland Dutch province of Gelderland.  Henry’s son William, by his second wife Mary Baudertius, was the emigrant to America in 1647.

Beekmans by the Water.  The Beekmans had always been large landowners.  It was said that their preference was for a water view from their home estates.  This was true along the Rhine; on the Hudson or East rivers of New York; and on the Raritan or Millstone rivers of New Jersey.

When the Princess of Portugal visited Holland in the 17th century, the Dutch Government received the permission of the Beekman family then residing at Nijmegen in Gelderland to hold a reception in her honor at their waterside home.

Beekman Family Lines

  • Wilhelmus Beekman (1623-1717) the immigrant to America in 1647, deputy and acting mayor of New York in 1680-83, m. Catalina de Boogh.
  • – Maria Beekman (1650-1695) m. Nicholas Stuyvesant, son of Governor Peter Stuyvesant
  • – Henry Beekman (1652-1716) sheriff of Kingston NY, m. Johanna Lopers
  • — Cornelia Beekman (b. 1686) m. Gilbert Livingston
  • — Colonel Henry Beekman (1688-1775) m. (1) Janet Livingston and (2) Gertrude Van Cortlandt
  • — Margaret Beekman (1724-1800) m. Judge Robert R. Livingston
  • – Colonel Gerardus Beekman (1653-1723) physician and one-time acting governor for New York.  He also held estates in Long Island and New Jersey, m. Magdaleena Abeel
  • Christopher Beekman  (1681-1724) m. Maria de Lanoy
  • — Gerardus Beekman (1707-1778) m. Catherine Van Dyke
  • — Christopher Beekman (1715-1764) New York merchant who died of smallpox, m. Sarah Cox
  • —- William Beekman (1755-1834) Ohio pioneer, m. Sarah Furman
  • Dr. William Beekman (1684-1770), m. Catharine de Lanoy
  • — James Beekman (1732-1807) New York merchant/owner of the Mount Pleasant mansion, m. Jannete Ketteltas
  • —- Gerard Beekman (1774-1833) m. Catherine Saunders
  • —– James W. Beekman (1815-1877), New York politician and arts patron, m. Abien Milledoler
  • – Johannes Beekman (1656-1751) forebear of a Beekman line in Kingston, m. Aeltje Popinga.

Beekman in Dutchess County, New York.  The name Beekman became attached to the area in 1697 when Henry Beekman, a large landowner from Kingston, obtained a grant from the British crown for what was to be named the Beekman Patent.  The area was described as being broken and hilly upland and containing some of the finest farming land in the county.

The village of Rheinbeck along the Hudson river lay in Dutchess county adjacent to the Beekman Patent.  The village had gotten its name from the Rhine river, where many of the early settled had originated, and from the Beekman family who had encouraged their movement there.

In 1713 the village had a mill, a church, a blacksmith shop, and William Traphagen’s tavern.  This tavern was renamed as the Beekman Arms in 1766 and is described as America’s oldest inn.  Many famous men have stayed there, from George Washington to F.D. Roosevelt.

Washington Irving’s Take on Beekman.  Washington Irving in his 1809 Knickerbocker List had this humorous take on the Beekman name:

“This great dignitary was called Mynhor Beekman who derived his surname, as did Ovidius Nase of yore, from the lordly dimensions of his nose, which projected from the centre of his countenance like the beak of a parrot.

He was a great progenitor of the tribe of Beekmans, one of the most ancient and honorable families of the province, the members of which do gratefully commemorate the origin of their dignity, not as your noble families in England would do, by having a glowing proboscis emblazoned on their escutchcon, but by one and all wearing a right goodly nose stuck in the very middle of their faces.”

Gilbert and Robert L. Beeckman.  Gilbert Livingston Beeckman made his living as a successful dry goods merchant at 48 Broadway in Manhattan during the 1850’s and 1860’s.  However, he was ruined by the Wall Street crash of 1873 and died just one year later at the young age of 49.

His widow Margaret retired with their family to Newport, Rhode Island to be near the summer home of the wealthy Louis Lorillard who had married her eldest daughter Katharine.  Louis probably helped with their family finances. However, Margaret’s other three daughters – Helen, Daisy and Martha – had to wait some time before they could be married, Helen and Daisy in 1886 and Martha as late as 1914.

The youngest child Robert was just eight when his father died in 1874.   Eight years later he left school in Newport to be a stockbroker in New York.  By 1887 he had become one of the youngest ever members of the New York Exchange.  He later was a member of the board of directors for several corporations, including a number in Newport, Rhode Island.

Beeckman’s first political office was as a Rhode Island state representative in the General Assembly of Newport from 1902 to 1912.  He was a state Senator from 1912 to 1914.  He was elected the Governor of Rhode Island in 1914 and held that post for three terms until 1921.   He married twice but had no children of his own.

Beekman Pioneers in Ohio.  Mary Beekman Pillars was 78 when she was one of the “Old Folks Interviewed” in Pike county, Ohio in 1873.  She was the daughter of William Beekman, an early settler in the county

Her father and brothers had come out to Pike county in the spring of 1801, cleared the land, and put in a crop.  hey then went back to Kentucky and in November following brought the whole family out.  They had to grind their corn in a hand mill and pound homily on a block.

When the family first settled, the wild beasts, such as bears, wolves, and painters, were so numerous that they could not raise either sheep or hogs and had to depend upon fish, bear, and deer meat and other game for subsistence.  Snakes were numerous and venomous.  Her mother was bitten by a copperhead and came near to losing her life when she (Mary) was about ten years old.

Mary herself remained at home until 1816. She was 21 years of age then when she married Josiah Pillars.

Beekman Names

  • Wilhelmus Beekman who came to New York in 1647 was the progenitor of the Beekmans in America.
  • Robert L. Beeckman was Governor of Rhode Island from 1915 to 1921.

Beekman Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in Ohio)
  • 700 elsewhere (most numerous in South Africa)

Beekman and Like Surnames

These are Dutch-originated names, Dutch surnames that found their way in the 17th century to New York and to South Africa.  Here are some of the Dutch surnames that you can check out.

BeekmanHendricksKnickerbockerVan Buren

Written by Colin Shelley

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