John Van Cooten, eldest son of Hendrik, married Martha Keane Smithers.
Ida Gorsuch wrote in 1893:
He [John] married a London merchant’s daughter (rather to the disgust of his father & his royal mother). She his wife was a “Miss Martha Keane Smithers”. Miss Smithers was considered a great beauty. I never saw my grandmother. She went out to the “West Indies” when Uncle Eugene was a baby and although she returned to England, she refused to return to her husband and children.
Her youngest sister Mrs Hannah Green, the widow of a Col. Green kept house for her. I should say for Grandpapa & the boys & girls. After a while Aunt Maria (fathers eldest sister) joined her mother, and never again returned to her Fathers house. I believe Grandmama had several very handsome brothers & sisters. The brothers were London and Colonial merchants and their offices were in the Minories. Anyway Uncle Henry Smithers were. I believe our grand parents had ten children, but I only knew the following, namely – Uncle Sydney Silicae Van Cooten, Eugene Hampden Van Cooten, Anna Maria Van Cooten, Rosalie Virginia Van Cooten.
And I have since been told that the Van Cooten family were reputed wealthy. I do not know the cause of the loss of property. The reasons have been variously stated by different members of the family (I mean our father’s property). The Smithers branch always blame Grandpapa & our Dad as extravagant etc etc. But I once heard Grandpapa Van Cooten say to my mother that his Father in law (his wife’s father) had led him into much money trouble & difficulty and that the Smithers had made a deal of mischief for him with his father (old Mr Van Cooten). He said “no doubt I may have erred in judgement” but he finished with the following words, “believe me dear Fanny I was more sinned against than sinning”. And I know that my mother always believed him.
In 1885 John Lucius Van Cooten writes:
I often heard my father say the property was worth £100,000 or more & when in London walking with my Uncle Henry from Peckham to his chambers No. 8 London Bridge & his remarking how much he regrets our reverse of circumstances on my account
He must be referring here to Martha’s brother Henry Keene Smithers.
I have found the marriage of John and Martha at St Woolas, Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales on 23 Jul 1808. This register entry says that Martha was ‘of this parish’. I can’t find any Van Cooten events in the Baptism Register for St Woolos 1769-1837 and the Burial Register for St Woolos 1769-1843 transcripts. I had been suspicious that a marriage in Newport was an elopement, as to the best of my knowledge the Smithers were a London family. I have, however, discovered some evidence that indicates that the connection to Newport or Monmouthshire may be substantial. Indexes to ‘The Cambrian’ newspaper published in Wales from 1804 to 1930 are available online. A search for ‘Smithers’ reveals two relevant entries – a marriage notice on 28 January 1809 for Mr H.K. Smithers of London to Miss Pitman of Surrey, and a legal notice on 25 April 1812 involving H.& H.K. Smithers of Newport. A list of Monmouthshire wills includes 26 Keen/Keene wills. Maybe this is where the Keene forename originates.
The 1817 London Post Office directory lists a H. K. Smithers, Auctioneer & Accountant, 1 Castle Court, Birchin Lane. I suspect that this is Martha’s brother. Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide for 1817 lists a H. K. Smithers, Accountant & Merchant at 1 Castle Court – Birchin Lane.
The Times, London, for 15 December, 1835 contains a notice for the Commercial Dock Company signed by H. K. Smithers, Jun., Chief Clerk. I suspect that this is Martha’s nephew. The Times, London, for 13 June 1836 lists the marriage “On the 11th inst., at St Mary’s Newington. Mr Henry Keene Smithers, Jun., to Alice, eldest daughter of Mr. Benjamin Lance.” The 1845 London Post Office directory lists Smithers & Co. merchants at 3 Crescent, Minories, 1 Hammet St. This is also the address recorded for the “Society for relief of Widows & Children of Dissg. Mnstrs, Hen. K. Smithers, sec”. The Commercial Directory listing records “Smithers & Co. merchants & Genl. agts. 3 Crescent, Minories”.
The 1850 Post Office London directory lists “Smithers, Hy. Keene, jun., sec. to Coml. Dock Co, 106 Fenchurch St”. The street directory section lists at 106 Fenchurch St “Commercial Dock Co.’s Office, H. K. Smithers, jun, sec”. Mr. H. K. Smithers is listed as a member of a deputation from the Commercial Dock Company to Lord Stanley of Alderley, in the Times, London for 22 January. 1858.
In the Times, London, for 15 June 1858, the trial of Henry Keene Smithers, embezzlement from his employers, the Commercial Dock Company. Henry Smithers pleaded guilty to three indictments, and was sentenced to six years imprisonment. Henry is described as “45, a gentlemanly looking man”. This implies that he was born in 1813, and thus likely to be the nephew of Martha. A report from the Commercial Dock Company to its shareholders describing its investigation of the Smithers embezzlement is reported in the Times, London, issue of 19 October 1858.
Ida had to have been aware of this sad event, but very tactfully remained silent.