By Frank A. Van Wagenen

    Hundreds of people throughout this land and abroad are justly proud of their ancestor, John Halmagh Van Wagoner, as he was known. This book is dedicated to his memory composed, for the greater part, by his blood descendants, with the aid and support of the many wonderful in-laws. The family Coat of Arms as reproduced in this book was originally issued to the Van Wageningen Family and was accepted by your family officers as our own, as nowadays is the prerogative of any family. Therefore you may display the family Coat of Arms with pride.
    The story begins 150 years before John Halmagh’s birth when his third great-grandfather, Gerrit Gerritse, the progenitor of the Van Wagoner-Wagenen, Garretsen -Garrison family arrived in the New World. Almost without exception his direct ancestors arrived during the 17th Century from Europe and settled in New York or New Jersey. One exception was his third great-grandparents on his mother’s paternal line: Conrad Lein and his wife Maria Marga, Palatine refugees from Darmstadt, Germany, who arrived in New York City in 1710 and settled in the Ramapo Valley in Bergen County, New Jersey.
    Another exception may be Mara Matyssen who married Dirck Hagendoorn. Maria Matyssen is thought by some to be the daughter of Hendrick and Catharine Matyssen who were also Palatine refugees from Duerheim, Germany, and who also arrived in New York City in 1710. Hendrick and his family settled in Schoharie which is only 30 miles or so from Albany. Marie and Dirk Hegendoorn are the third great grandparents of John Halmagh’s mother’s maternal line.
    The records of these ancestors are frequently found in many of the Colonial manuscripts, early civil records, and church registers of New York and New Jersey. The immigrant ancestor, Gerrit Gerritse and his wife, Annetje Hermanse, came from Wageningen in the Province of Gelderland, Holland. This is an ancient walled city near Arnheim on the Rhine River. Gerrit brought with them a document, declaring them to be in good standing from the Mayor and City Council of the City Wageningen. We can assume that Gerrit must have been fairly well-to-do and well-educated. Certainly, he was well-regarded by those who knew him as this certificate testifies.
    Gerrit and his family arrived in New Amsterdam (now New York City) on December 23, 1660, on the ship "Faith". Jan Bestevaer was the Captain. The fare was 90 Florins, or about $36.00 then.
    Gerrit and his family settled at Communipaw or Gemonenepa in Bergen County, New Jersey (now New Jersey City in Hudson County). His wife, Annetje, was received as a member of The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Bergen on December 30. 1660.
    On May 12, 1668, Gerrit bought several parcels of land totaling over 60 acres in Bergen and was the original patentee for this property. Gerrit Gerritse was appointed a Schepen on October 16, 1662. A Schepen was a Magistrate, somewhat like a Justice or Alderman. He held other civil posts during his lifetime in Bergen. Gerrit seemed to have been a personal friend of Governor Philip Carteret of New Jersey.
    Gerrit and Annetje had four sons and four daughters and they all married into prominent families in that area, who also happened to be their neighbors in the Village of Bergen. These families were large land owners and the aristocracy, if there was any such classification, in Bergen County. The families were: Post, Marcelis Steynmets, Van Vorst, Van Winkle, Diedricks, Straetmaker, and Van Houten.
    Incidentally, these names all have many different spellings. There has been some confusion about the name of our family, and from the studies of the writer here are the facts that have the approval of the family officers. Gerrit Gerritse, his wife, Annetje Hermanse, and Gerrit, Jr., came from Wageningen, Holland. The name "Van Wagoner" came from the town they immigrated from. In Dutch "Van" means "of" or "from" and is also considered a special distinction when used as a prefix to a family name. In the first Reformed Dutch records the name is listed as "Van Wagenen" with few references to "Van Wagoner." Cornelius, the son of the previously mentioned Johannes, moved to Wanaque, to the west, after inheriting property from his father. He was given a Bible by his minister, Zacharias Sickles, with an introduction to the minister at Pompton as a person in good standing.
    In the Bergen (Jersey City) Church the name was written "Cornelius Van Wagonaer". Few of this generation were literate. They had little time for education; food and clothing were their prime objectives. For the greater part Cornelius, his brother Halmagh (our direct ancestor) and their families were listed in the Pompton Plains, New Jersey, records as "Van Wagoner". In any event either name is correct and should not, at this time, be changed because of the confusion that could be added to the family records.
    In 1862 David Van Wagoner, the eldest son of John Halmagh, visited New Jersey and concluded that his name should be changed to "Van Wagenen". He then changed his name, but his brothers, sisters, and cousins retained the spelling of "Van Wagoner".
    Gerrit and Annetje were members of The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church and were financial supporters of it. All their children were christened and married in it, and all of them were buried by the ministers of this church.
    They continued to reside in the Communipaw section of Bergen until their deaths. Annetje died on September 7, 1696, and Gerrit died on April 6, 1703. Gerrit thus lived a little over 42 years in the New World. He immigrated when he was approximately 30 years of age, and so was in his 73rd year at death.
    By 1725 Gerrit’s last grandchild was born, giving them a total of 35 grandsons and 23 granddaughters. Eight of the grandsons were named Gerrit and seven of the granddaughters were named Annetje in honor of their grandparents. This followed the Dutch custom of naming children after their grandparents and uncles and aunts. One son of Gerrit and Annetje, Hermanus, had only one child, a son, or Annetje would surely have had eight granddaughters named Annetje. They now have twelve or so generations of descendants, and their progeny number in the hundreds of thousands.
    John Halmagh’s direct line was through Gerrit’s youngest son, Johannes, who was born on January 11, 1678, and was then taken by his parents to be christened in The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of New York. It was through Johannes’ marriage that we get the family name of "Halmagh" that has been passed down to John Halmagh. Johannes married Catelyntje Helmighse Van Houten on October 17, 1703. Their eldest son was named Helmigh (Halmagh) as it is written in the Dutch records, to honor his grandfather, Helmigh Cornelise Van Houten. The Dutch custom named the first four children after the grandparents, if the sex was right. If a child should die who had a name that was to honor his relatives, that name would be given to the next child born of the same sex. Sometimes three or four children in a family would all have the same name, the older ones dying young, until one was healthy enough to carry on the special family name.
    Johannes was an active member of The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in Bergen, and his five sons and two daughters were christened there, except for his youngest son, Johannis. Johannis was taken to be christened in the New York Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, as was his father. Six of the children lived to marry in the Dutch Church and had their children christened there. Johannis, the youngest son of Johannes, married his first cousin, Neesje Van Wagenen, the daughter of his father’s oldest brother, Gerrit Gerritse Jr., and Neesje Pieterse Marcelis. The oldest son, Helmigh, married Marritje Corneliuse Blinkerhoff (Later became Brinerhoff), the daughter of Cornelius and Aegie Hartmanse Vreeland.
    Helmigh bought 625 acres of land from his father-in-law that was situated on the Wanaques River on the side of the Hill called Wanaque on April 12, 1740. His Father Johannes bought an additional amount just below his property from Jacobus and Angenietje Blinkerhoff. Jacobus was the brother of Cornelius. The original sheepskin deed covering this transaction is still in the family, and is in the possession of John Mervyn Smith, 81 South 600 East, Provo, Utah.
    Johannes, husband of Catelyntje Helmighse Van Houten, made out his will in which he refers to himself as Johannes Gerritse Van Wagene of the Town of Bergen in the province of New Jersey, yeoman (farmer). It is dated July 24, 1752 and was probated on November 8, 1759. He leaves the property that he purchased in Wanaque to his son Cornelius. (His eldest son, Helmigh, was deceased by this time, but Helmigh’s oldest son, John was left two pounds in New York currency by his grandfather in recognition of the birthright of his deceased father). The other two living sons, Jacob and Johannis, also inherited property. Jacob received property, but the will didn’t indicate where it was located. Jacob lived to a great age, dying at age 94 years and 10 months. He was buried in the North Schraalenburgh Cemetery. Johannis and wife Neesje received the property in the Town of Bergen from his father, Johannes.
    Helmigh and his wife, Marritje Blinkerhoff, had seven children: five daughters, which included a set of twins, and two sons, before Helmigh’s early death at the age of 39. Marritje lived for 56 years after the death of her husband. She died at the age of 85 years, and was buried in the Old Graveyard at Dundee Lake on the Alyea property.
    Helmigh and Marritje’s youngest son, Joannes Van Wagene (as it appears in the Schrallenburgh Dutch Church register) was christened on April 27, 1747. He went by the name of John H. Van Waggener, and did not marry until he was almost 40 years old. He married Johanna (Anny, as she was called) Van Dervoort, who was only 18. The date of marriage was September 18, 1786. The family tradition is that John H. was living with his sister Catherine and his aged mother, Marritje, and the pretty Van Devoort girl was hired to help care for them, one of whom was blind. Anny’s father David Van Dervoort, had lost most of his money because of money exchanges after the Revolutionary War. He had moved to New Jersey from Newtown, Long Island. Anny’s mother was Breechje Remsen (or Bridget in English).
    John H. and Anny had three children before John H.’s early death in 1797. They were Anna, Helmig (Halmagh), and Bridget. Anny was appointed legal guardian for the children, but since she was only 30 when John H. died, she remarried in 1799 to Francis McCarty and had eight children by him.
    Anna, the oldest daughter, married John Smellegar in 1803 and the County Court then appointed him the legal guardian for Bridget who was under the age of 14. Halmagh was over the age of 14 and was thus allowed by the Court to choose his own guardian. He chose his brother-in-law, John Smellegar. Bridget married Abraham Baldwin on November 25, 1815. They are supposed to have moved to San Francisco and to have built a hotel there.
    Halmagh J. (or I. As it most often appears in the records, as the Dutch alphabet did not have a letter J) married Mary Van Houten, his third cousin once removed. In the will of John Pieterse Van Houten, Mary’s father, he refers to her as "Polly, the wife of Halmagh I. Van Wagoner." Polly’s mother was Annetje Roome. Polly’s grandfather, Pieter Adrianse Van Houten, was the grandson of Pieter Helmighse, who was the brother of Catlyntje Helmighse Van Houten, who married Johannes Gerritse Van Wagene—the youngest son of the immigrants, Gerrit Gerritse and Annetje Hermanse, and Halmagh I.’s great-grandfather; thus making two direct lines going through Gerrit Gerritse and his wife Annetje Hermanse, and two lines going through Helmigh Cornelise Van Houten and his wife, Jannetje Pieterse Marselise for John Halmagh.
    Halmagh I. and Polly were married on December 22, 1810, at Horseneck, Bergen County, by Reverend John Duryee. Horseneck has since been changed to Fairfield, a more euphonious name.
    Halmagh and Polly had five children that we know of who were all born at Wanaque, Pompton Township, Bergen County. Pompton Township became part of Passaic County in 1837. The children were: John Halmagh born on September 1, 1811, and taken to Pompton Plains, Morris County, where he was christened at the Reformed Dutch Church on January 12, 1812. The second son, Henry or Henry R. was born about 1813. The R. may stand for Roome, the maiden name of his maternal grandmother. Some of the children may have been taken to the Reformed Dutch Church at Ponds (now Oakland, Bergen County) which is closer than Pompton Plains in Morris County, but unfortunately, 150 years of the Ponds Reformed Dutch Church records were destroyed by fire, so we do not have all the pertinent information about Halmagh and Polly’s family. (F.A.V.W. believes that Henry married Charlotte Benson and died in New Jersey when he was about 27 years old. L.S.S. found a marriage record for Henry R. Van Wagoner to Rachel Baker on September 8, 1840, and she believes that this Henry is the son of Halmagh and Polly, with the explanation that Henry could have married Charlotte Benson before or after this marriage. However, no record of the Benson marriage was found in any existing records.)
    The last three children of Halmagh and Polly were daughters: Hannah, born April 4, 1815, and christened at the Pompton Plains Reformed Dutch Church. Hannah married on April 4, 1833, James H. Smith, and that family arrived in Salt Lake Valley with the Saints in 1847.
    The second daughter, Ann, was born March 24, 1817, and married John Havens. She was divorced from him, later marrying Henry Nebeker. The last daughter, Sarah, was born July 11, 1822, and married John Fairbanks. All of the daughters and their husbands joined the Church and emigrated to Nauvoo, and then on to Utah with the Mormon Pioneers.
    About 18 months later, on December 21, 1841, John Halmagh married Clarissa Tappen, daughter of Sarah Drew and George Tappen who lived at Ringwood, a community nearby in Pompton Township. They were married in Pompton by a Dutch Reform minister named Doolittle. Clarissa born John Halmagh ten children: Ephraim, John, Ann, William, Cynthis, Clarissa, Henry, Ester, George, and Walter. The last six children were born in Utah.
    The Van Wagoner family first heard of the Mormons at a meeting in Meads Basin near Pompton. From Nettie Fairbanks Yates’ history (she was a descendant of John Halmagh’s sister Sarah and her husband, we get this story: "John Halmagh was apprenticed out for seven years to learn the carpenter and wheelright trades. It was about this time that the Mormon missionaries came to New Jersey. John, a young man, went to their meetings out of curiosity and bought a book of Mormon and obtained other Mormon literature. He would read parts of it aloud to the family when his father was not home. The father had said that he could see nothing in religion. One day Sarah said, ‘I’m afraid that John is going to join the Mormons.’ ‘Oh, I don’t think so," said the mother. John’s book was kept in a certain drawer and in spare moments, members of the family would get John’s book and read it. Then they would talk about the things they had read. This led them to attend the meetings so they could learn more.
    "Finally they decided that it was all true and they wanted to be baptized. None of them had said anything to Father Halmagh about it. One morning he said to them, ‘What is this that you are all so busy about? You seem to have a secret.’ His wife said, ‘You see, Halmagh, I have been going to tell you, but it seems that I just haven’t had the opportunity, and you are so opposed to religion. I meant to tell you before we went. You see, we have all decided to join the Mormons, if you don’t object.’ Halmagh answered Polly, ‘Well, so you have been keeping me in the dark. You see, I have been reading John’s book, too. So if you will get my things ready, I will go with you to be baptized’ ".
    They were baptized by Elder John Leach on April 13, 1844, but it was reported that they were converted through the preaching of Parley P. Pratt.
    Halmagh I. and Polly sold their property in Wanaque to Peter Vandervoort, a relative of Halmagh’s mother, for $3,000 on November 14, 1845. Family tradition is that they gave $500 to the Church to help the emigration of the Saints to Nauvoo.
    When the Saints were forced to leave Nauvoo, John Halmagh and his family, his parents and his sisters’ families (five different families) traveled West with the Orson Hyde Company to Winter Quarters near the present city of Omaha, Nebraska.
    The first hard winter in 1846-1847 after the Saints had been driven out of Nauvoo was spent in Winter Quarters. An epidemic of cholera took over 600 lives. Halmagh I. and wife Mary were among those who died. It is significant to note that their second great-grandson, Avard Fairbanks, was called on by the Church to use his great talent to create a monument to honor these saints and the thousands of others who had lost their lives crossing the Plains. This inspired monument stands at Pioneer Cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska. Halmagh John Van Wagoner and his wife Mary Van Houten Van Wagoner have their names inscribed there in bronze along with many other valiant pioneers. A picture of this monument is found on page 19.
    John Halmagh and his family stayed in Iowa for several years after the death of his parents. He built a grist mill at Honey Creek, Iowa. He and his family crossed the Plains with Captain David Woods’ Company and arrived in Salt Lake Valley on September 20, 1852. He had married Eliza Smith who died in N.J.
    While living in Salt Lake John Halmagh was employed in making furniture for President Brigham Young and other church members. He helped build both the Lion and Beehive Houses, as well as Eagle Gate—all famous Salt Lake historical landmarks. John Halmagh was a specialist in making decorative cornices on homes.
    On April 17, 1856, John Halmagh married Nancy Elizabeth Young in the Lion House. Elizabeth was the daughter of Alfred Douglas and Anna Martin Chappel Young. She was born on April 6, 1839, in Henry County, Tennessee. They had seven children: John Alfred, Elizabeth Ann, Parley Pratt, Mary Evelyn, Frank Douglas, Estella Jane, and Lilly Maud.
    In 1861 John Halmagh moved Clarissa and her family to Midway. Here he built the first grist mill in Wasatch County. He hauled the granite from American Fork, using two yokes of oxen. He used a hammer and chisel to carve the mill wheel to make it round. This same mill wheel is now on the top of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers’ Monument in Midway. Clarissa Tappen was his second wife.
    John Halmagh maintained a home in Provo with Elizabeth Young and their children. He spent six months a year with Clarissa’s family in Midway, and six months with Elizabeth’s in Provo. There was good harmony between the two families.
    John Halmagh Van Wagoner was a carpenter, cabinet maker, wheelwright, millwright, skilled mechanic, as well as a musician. He was a great friend of the Indians and always got along well with them. He was the father of 19 children and his posterity now numbers over 1000. He was a kind and good father, a faithful friend and neighbor. He was a member of the High Priest Quorum and died faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on June 29, 1886, at Provo, Utah where he is buried.


  1. Year Book of The Holland Society of New York, 1896, p. 17 and Documentary History of New York, Vol. 3, p. 55.

  2. Year Book of The Holland Society of New York, 1915, p. 58, no. 630.
  3. Winfield, Charles H., Land Titles, p. 120.
  4. History of the County of Bergen, New Jersey, p. 82.
  5. Year Book of The Holland Society of New York, 1915, p. 58, No. 630; p. 60, No.669.
  6. Ibid., p. 29, N. 141 and p. 31, No. 180.
  7. Year Book of The Holland Society of New York, 1913, p. 24, No. 50, and Collections of New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, Vol. II, Baptisms of New York Dutch Church, Vol. I, 1630-1730, p. 131.
  8. Year Book of The Holland Society of New York, 1914, p. 70, No. 149.
  9. Ibid., p. 78, No. 245.
  10. Ibid., p. 76, No. 217.
  11. "Burial records of the North Schraalenburgh Dutch Church," Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey, Vol. 35, p. 94.
  12. Year Book of the Holland Society of New York, 1915, p. 40, No. 313.
  13. Ackerman, H.S. and A.J. Goff, Thirty-Seven Cemeteries in Northern New Jersey, p. 58.
  14. Collections of the Holland Society of New York, Schraalenburgh Church Records, Vol. I, Part II, p.99.
  15. New Jersey Archives, First Series, Vol. 22, p. 417.
  16. Pompton Plains Reformed Dutch Church Baptism Records, p. 67, and a personal visit August, 1961, to see original records by L.S.S.
  17. Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey, Vol. 8, p. 21.
  18. Original will of John Pieterse Van Houten at State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey, No. 3653B, probated October 2, 1814, and also in abstract in New Jersey Archives, First Series, Vol. 41, p. 398.
  19. Westervelt, Mrs. Frances A., Bergen County Marriages, p. 149.
  20. Pompton Plains Reformed Dutch Church Baptism Records, p. 111, and personal visit to see original records in August, 1961, by L.S.S.
  21. MSS of Marriages of Passaic County, copied by Mrs. Mattie M. Bowman at the Library of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society, 122 E. 58 St., New York City.
  22. Pompton Plains Reformed Dutch Church Baptism Records, p. 119.
  23. Miss Lucile Smith, 1001 Bradshawe Place, Monterey Park, California 91754.
  24. Westervelt, Mrs. Frances A., Bergen County Marriages, p. 66.
  25. Mrs. Loree Van Wagoner Orullian, 2696 Glenmare Street, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  26. MSS of Marriages of Passaic County, copied by Mrs. Mattie M. Bowman.
  27. Provo First Ward Records, p. 46 (Call No. 6442, pt. 26 of Genealogical Society, 107 South Main St., Salt Lake City, Utah).
  28. Ibid.
  29. Immigration Card index, 1847-1868, F 38335 Genealogical Society, 107 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, Utah

Next Page     Contents