In 1660, a young man named Antoine Crispell, along with his wife Maria Blanchard and father-in-law, set sail on The Gilded Otter. They were Huguenots escaping religious persecution in France. The young couple had recently married in Mannheim, Germany, and left for America from there.
Upon their arrival in what was then New Amsterdam, they headed up the Hudson River to the areas now known as Hurley and Kingston, New York. There they made their new home.
It is documented that Antoine’s wife and infant daughter were captured by Native Americans in 1663. Some historians speculate that it was during the search for the captives that a nearby area was first identified as desirable farmland.
Antoine and his family had been settled for nearly 16 years, with their now-teenaged daughter and four other children, when another group of Huguenots arrived from Europe and decided to locate in the rich farmland south of Hurley/Kingston. And so, a few years later, “the oldest street in America with its original stone houses” got its start in a place called New Paltz.
In Hurley and Kingston today, you will find stone houses that predate those in New Paltz. Two in Hurley were originally Crispell houses. Other familiar Huguenot and Dutch names are there, too, including Bevier, DuBois and Elting. These first homes were small because taxes were high. But life was good, and food and wine were plentiful. These early settlers traveled by boat to Albany to sell grain and to buy clothing and various household items.
Antoine and, later, his sons and daughters, did quite well-farming, milling and acquiring land. One property that Antoine bought, lived in, and later willed to daughter Jannetje, is now a charming restaurant and tavern in Kingston. The Hoffman House is so called because Jannetje married Nicholas Hoffman. The couple raised nine children in the house, including a daughter who married into another early immigrant family. This accounts for the Crispell connection with the Roosevelts.
Antoine and Maria are buried beneath the Old Dutch Church in Kingston. Plaques in the church and adjoining cemetery provide details. Many other early-generation Huguenots are interred in Hurley in the Burial Grounds just off Hurley Street near their homes and property.
The Crispells stayed pretty close to home for the first few generations, but in the late 1700s, several left the Kingston area. Matthew moved to the Caroline Valley near Ithaca in central New York, now home to a large branch of the family. Thomas went south to Wyoming County in northeastern Pennsylvania, where another large family group remains. Both branches have annual reunions. There are also enough Crispells in the Michigan area to have begun reunions there as well.
The Crispell Family Association has recently established contact with some of our most distant cousins-Crespels in France. Members of recent Huguenot Historical Society tours to Europe have been greeted by some of these relatives.