First and Last Names Swapped for Inheritance

Petrus Stuyvesant (1612-1672) was the last Dutch Director-General of the colony of New Netherland before it was taken by the English in 1664 and renamed New York.

One of his grandsons, Peter Gerard Stuyvesant, was called the “wealthiest man in New York, after Astor” in the mid-19th century.

But he and his wife, Helen Rutherfurd, had no children.

His sizable estate had to go somewhere upon his death (which happened in 1847 when he drowned at Niagara Falls) so, in his will, he split the bulk of his wealth into thirds: one-third to nephew Hamilton Fish, one-third to nephew Gerard Stuyvesant, and one-third to great-grandnephew Stuyvesant Rutherfurd.

Before 4-year-old Stuyvesant could receive his share of the fortune, though, he had to satisfy a single condition: change his name to Rutherfurd Stuyvesant.

This was done in 1863, “by act of the legislature.”

Thanks in part to his inheritance, Rutherfurd Stuyvesant went on to become a successful New York developer. His biggest achievement was introducing well-off New York City residents to the apartment building circa 1870, “at a time when row houses were the rule for the middle and upper classes.”

Stuyvesant Rutherfurd, Rutherfurd Stuyvesant…it’s a mouthful either way. Which order do you prefer?


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