Unknown - portrait of Phebe Debevoise Ryerson

Many collectors are reluctant to acquire cracked miniatures because it is very hard and expensive to achieve an invisible repair. That is understandable if perfection is one's objective, but if instead one is interested in history, condition is not quite as important. Except for rare instances, only one version of a miniature exists and thus if an opportunity is passed up to acquire a damaged miniature, the opportunity is lost for ever. Obviously, damaged miniatures cost less and thus, the fun of historical research can be enjoyed and shared without great expense.

This miniature portrait is a case in point. Although damaged with cracks at either side, the sitter is identified as "Phebe de Bevoise Ryerson, wife of Jacob Ryerson, grandmother of W Ryerson Kissman". She seems to have been born at Wallabout, c1756 as the third of five daughters of George Debevoise and Elizabeth Vanderbilt. Jacob Ryerson was born c1754, also at Wallabout.

This collection already contains a Ryerson miniature, one of David Ryerson by Nathaniel Rogers as showing here. Hence I thought it would be interesting to see if Phebe was related to him! Nathaniel Rogers - portrait of David Ryerson...
But preliminary research has not yet disclosed a relationship.

Within half an hour of starting my research, I discovered a beautiful image of a stained glass window, gifted by a member of the same family as recorded below! The miniature of Phebe being the mother of the donor of the window, which can be seen in the Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn New York. The window is said to be commissioned by George Kissam’s wife, Ms. Phebe Ryerson Kissam, who, it has been conjectured, was the model for the window.

Initially, I had hoped to be able to show a picture of the window, which depicts The Samaritan Woman: Meeting at the Well by Tiffany Studios but when I sought approval to show it, but permission was declined, hence anyone interested to see the window is therefore directed to

[For another miniature in the collection associated with an early church, see John Shubael Bell... The Old North Church in Boston was very helpful to me in researching this early miniature portrait, as Shubael Bell gifted a famous bust of George Washington to the Church.]

Phebe was descended from Carel de Beauvoise, a highly respectable and well educated French Protestant, who came from Leyden, in Holland. He was of a family whose name and origin were probably derived from the ancient city of Beauvais, on the river Therin, to the northwest of Paris; but there is reason to suppose that he himself was a native of Leyden. He arrived at New Amsterdam in the ship "Otter" on February 17th 1659, accompanied by his wife, Sophia Van Lodensteyn, and three children born to them in Leyden and aged eight, six and three years respectively. His literary merits and acquaintance with the Dutch language soon acquired for him the situation of a teacher, and in 1661 he became "chorister, reader and schoolmaster" for the people of Brooklyn, at a salary of twenty-five guilders and free house rent. He afterwards served as public secretary or town clerk, which office he held till 1669. His children were Jacobus first; Gertrude, who Married Jacob W Van Boerum; Catharine, who married Jacob Hendrickse Haste; and Cornelia, who married Gerrit G. Dorland.

Jacobus Debevoise, only son of Carel, was born at Leyden. In early manhood he embraced religion and joined the church at Brooklyn of which he was afterward a deacon. He married, June 12th 1678 Maria daughter of Joost Carelsz, and died in the early part of the next century, his widow surviving him. they had sons Carel second born 1680; Joost born 1683; Jacobus born 1686; and Johannes, born 1689. Jacobus married in 1715, Sarah, daughter of Joris Remsen, and died on his farm at Bedford, aged about four score. His children were Jacobus (who died in 1751, and whose only daughter, Engeltie, married Isaac Degraw of Brooklyn) and George, who was born in 1720, married Sarah Betts October 18th 1746, and inherited all his father' s estate at Bedford. Joost married in 1707, Mary daughter of Joris Remsen; remained a farmer in Brooklyn, and died a few years before the Revolution, in advanced age. He had issue: Jacobus; Phebe, who married John Johnson; Mary, who also married; Anna who married Johannes W.Wycoff; Elizabeth, who married Peter Cowenhoven, and Sophia, who married Albert Nostrand. Jacobus inherited his father's farm at the Wallabout; married in 1736 Maria Garretson, and died prior to the American War. His children were: George; Samuel, who died without issue; Ida, who married Ferdinand Suydam; Mary, who married Garret Van Duyn. George last named married Elizabeth, daughter of Jeremiah Vanderbuilt, and died at the Wallabout in or prior to 1784. Issue Maria, who married Captain Jackson; Catharine, who married John Van Alst; Phebe, who married Jacob Ryerson; Sara, who Married Jeromus Ryerson and John Cozine; and Ida, who married in succession two persons of the same name, Francis Titus.

The family were among the few early residents of Wallabout and we can see from the list below, that Phebe Debevoise and Jacob Ryerson were close neighbors. The section of the city surrounding the Wallabout is now thickly built up. During the Revolutionary War there were but thirteen persons dwelling on the shores of the Wallabout Creek, on the south side:
Joseph KEESE
Wosterand FOXCRAFT
John RYERSON and

On the east side of the creek were :
Abraham REMSEN
William REMSEN
William CARSHAW and

An early description is; "At that time there was a foot path about where Flushing avenue runs in front of the Marine Hospital and a foot bridge across Wallabout Creek. Up to the beginning of the present century the stages from Flushing to Brooklyn used to come by way of Jamaica, but in 1802, William Prince, of Flushing procured the incorporation of the Flushing Bridge and Road Company, by which route the distance between the two towns was shortened about four miles. Seeing the practicability of lessening the distance to Brooklyn Ferry about three miles more, Mr Prince, in the year 1805 procured, the incorporation of the Wallabout and Brooklyn Toll Bridge Company. The road was laid out from the Cripplebush road to the easterly side of the Wallabout Mill Pond, over which a bridge was built to Sands street in Brooklyn. This bridge was originally designed to be 1,400 feet long and 21 feet broad; but Furman says in his MSS, in 1823, that it was only 768 feet in length, the remaining part being made into solid causeway."

The link to the Kissam name comes via the daughter of Phebe Debevoise Ryerson, also named Phoebe Ryerson, who was born July 9, 1817 and died Sept. 29, 1900. She was married first, Nov. 20, 1838, to William P Wells, of Brooklyn, who died April 22, 1846 with no issue. Phoebe Ryerson then being a widow, was married on May 4, 1854, to George Kissam, a merchant, born Sept. 10, 1810 at Brooklyn; he died Dec. 16, 1889. The two children of George and Phoebe (Ryerson) Kissam were:
I. Phoebe Ryerson Kissam, d. in infancy, Feb. 18, 1856.
II. William Ryerson Kissam, b. Dec. 20, 1860 who was married on June 3, 1884 to Eleanor Mansfield Berry, of New York. The resultant children of William and Eleanor Ryerson Kissam being:
i. George Ryerson Kissam, b. Mar. 24, 1885.
ii. Kenneth Berry Kissam, b. July 17, 1886.
iii. Harold Hunter Kissam, b. Oct. 6, 1887.
iv. Reginald Britton Kissam, b. April 30, 1889.
v. Douglas Gunn Kissam, b. May 1, 1893.

William Ryerson Kissam was later a member of The Saint Nicholas Society of Nassau Island

Although the connection has not been confirmed, it perhaps seems a descendant was;
Hunter Ryerson Kissam, Senior, 82, beloved husband, father and grandfather, passed away Saturday, August 14, 2004. Hunter was originally from Port Washington, Long Island. He raised his family in Westfield, New Jersey, and retired to North Palm Beach, Florida. Hunter was a WWII veteran with the 104th Infantry Division Timberwolves. He landed at Normandy Beach and survived 22 consecutive months of combat. He was awarded numerous medals including the Bronze Star. More recently, he was a charter member and served on the board of the Old Port Yacht Club. Hunter is survived by his wife of 57 years, Joy Shepherd, his children; Paige Jagusak of Port Murray, New Jersey, Hunter Kissam, Jr. of North Grafton, Massachusetts and Carol Glennon of Tewksbury, New Jersey; and by his 7 beautiful grandchildren, Jennifer Kissam McNamara, Matthew Jagusak, Shep Glennon, Rosemary Glennon, Patrick Glennon, Ben Kissam and Hunter Kissam III.

Research is ongoing, and will be added if new information emerges. 1389

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