Article taken from De Colve IV – 1999: From Staten Island

familie kolff

A paper by Cornelius G. Kolff (CBCE, XVw) of Staten Island (written 1938)

A paper by Cornelius G. Kolff (CBCE, XVw) of Staten Island in collaboration with scholars of the Middelharnis High School, Staten Island, September 2, 1938, included the following dedication: “This book is dedicated to the memory of my dearly beloved American mother, Mary Amalie Kolff [née Fliedler, Ed.], widow of my father Cornelius G. Kolff, born Rotterdam, Holland, in 1831, died Staten Island 1860”. From ‘The Niagara Frontier and Middelharnis Over Flakkee [Overflakkee, Ed.] Holland’ Story of two great grandfathers Eli Hart of the Niagara Frontier and Adrianus Quirinus Kolff of Middelharnis.


After my father’s death, my widowed mother moved to a cottage which her father owned on the Richmond Turnpike at Tompkinsville, Staten Island. It was located at the foot of a hill in a park which contained a number of cottages and through which a winding road, shaded by cedar trees, led to the top of a hill. From here a wonderful view was had of New York Bay. My mother told me a great deal about my father and of Holland and the Dutch people. One day when she took me to the top of the hill, she pointed out where New York City was and about where Bond Street was, the place where I was born. The most prominent structure of New York City at that time was the steeple of Trinity Church, which stood out far above the surrounding houses. In the bay and the river you could see the masts of sailing vessels sticking high into the air. Ofcourse there was no Brooklyn Bridge, no Statue of Liberty, no Ellis Island, but I was shown the Jersey Highlands and Monmouth County hills… Down on the waters of the bay were many ships arriving from and departing for all parts of the world. Somehow or other, my thoughts turned to Holland and looking up inquiringly at my mother, I asked her, “mother, where is my father’s land, where is Holland…?”

She pointed in the direction of Sandy Hook and said to me, “there, beyond that point is Holland.” I looked hard but could not see anything and told her so. She asked me what Holland looked alike and all I could say was that I thought it had a red roof with a windmill on it. I even dreamed about it and pictured Holland with its red roofed houses and its dikes and windmills.

Finally when I was about six years old my mother told me that I was to have a new father and that he would take me to Holland, and I was happy. No Dutch mother could have done more to make her son love Holland than my little American mother, who firmly implanted in my heart a love for Holland which lasted to this day. Eventually I was able to visit Holland many times during my boyhood and later.


It is a peculiar sensation for a native born American in his 78th year to find himself in a small fishing village or town in South Holland and to sit in the same chair, at the same desk in the office and building owned and occupied by his paternal great grandfather from 1768 to 1826.

As the American visitor’s eyes rested on the peaceful scene of a Dutch business office containing much of the same furniture which had been in daily use for many decades if not for centuries or more, his imagination could picture the man who had worked here and had solved the problems of business arising daily during the French Revolution which, with its new theories shook the foundation of the old order of things.
When the great Corsican conqueror pressed the heels of the French soldiers hard upon the necks of the subjugated nations of Europe, including the people of Holland. All these events had transpired during the lifetime of the very man who sat in the very chair in which his American descendant was sitting…

Napoleontic Times

Adrianus Quirinus Kolff (CB, XIIf) of Middelharnis passed through trying and turbulent days during the French Revolution and the Napoleontic Period. That Adrianus Quirinus Kolff was a man whose administrative and commercial instincts were strongly developed cannot be questioned, and it is an established fact that he trained the members of his family, particularly the men, along principles and lines which were successful in making them men of recognized ability when they left the small fishing village of Middelharnis and moved to the large commercial centers carrying with them that wisdom, experience and knowledge of human beings and business affairs which are more easily acquired in a small town than in a large city. Many of them went to Rotterdam and there established family units of their own. Most of them followed the advice of there forfathers to settle within the familiar sound of harbour noises.

From Middelharnis to Rotterdam

Middelharnis on the island of Over Flakkee, apparently was the center for the fishing industry of South Holland and there were many ships of different kinds whose home port was Middelharnis, plying the waters of the North Sea. The industry was reported to be quite an extensive and profitable one and the fish brought into Middelharnis were sold at auction and were distributed by boats over the networks of canals to the many populous cities of Holland.

Rotterdam, easily accessible by water, had growing business relations with Middelharnis, and these commercial relations often were merged into matrimonial connections, so that pretty soon we read about marriages between the residents of Rotterdam and those of Over Flakkee.
The first one to move from Middelharnis to Rotterdam was Gualtherus Kolff (CBA, XIIIe), who establised himself there as a merchant, maintaining important trade relations with Middelharnis through his son Adrianus Quirinus. Apparently the members of the Kolff family combined commercial instincts with administrative sagacity, because while promoting their business interests, they also served their community as public officials of various kinds.

The office of Town Clerk, a not unimportant one, for many generations was held by members of the family, with credit to the community and themselves.”

Cornelius G. Kolff of Staten Island