November 1 is the 250th anniversary of Stephen Van Rensselaer’s birthday. Fifth in direct descent from Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, the first Patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer III (1764-1839) inherited a vast landed estate in Rensselaer and Albany counties at age 5.
He graduated from Harvard and spent time in state government and as a member of the U.S. Congress (1822-29). His chief services to the state, however, were economic and educational. Van Rensselaer was a member of the Erie Canal commissions and president of the state’s first board of agriculture. He was a lenient landlord for 3,000 tenants. He was founder and supporter of a wide variety of social, educational, business, and governmental institutions.
In 1824 it was his vision and support that enabled Amos Eaton to establish the Rensselaer School “for the purpose of instructing persons, who may choose to apply themselves, in the application of science to the common purposes of life.”
Van Rensselaer died on January 26, 1839 at the age of 74. He is buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery.