Peter and John Lefferts

“He was highly respected, of good judgment, fine ability, and held many important trusts, which gained for him the confidence of the whole community.”

– Teunis G. Bergen on John Lefferts, Genealogy of the Lefferts Family, 1878

Peter Lefferts (1753-1791) and his son John (1785-1829) represented the Lefferts family’s growing political power in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Peter Lefferts from bhs_arc.145.x2000.3e_2_a

An account of funeral expenses for Peter Lefferts, 1791

Peter Lefferts was born on the family’s Flatbush homestead in 1753. His father was John Lefferts, grandson of Leffert Pieterse. At a young age, Peter was thrust into the tumult of the American Revolution. In April 1776, he was listed as a first lieutenant in the Flatbush militia. A few months later, on the eve of the British invasion of Long Island, the family’s Flatbush homestead burned down, most likely by American soldiers hoping to destroy any homes or supplies that the British might commandeer. After the war, Peter rebuilt his family home. He also served as a delegate for the 1788 New York Constitutional Convention, where he debated the adoption of the U.S. constitution.

Peter also increased his family’s wealth through his marriage. After his first wife died at a young age, Peter married Femmetie Hegeman, daughter of Evert Hegeman, who owned a significant tract of land adjacent to the Lefferts homestead. Through connections from his marriage, Peter arranged to purchase 100 acres of Hegeman’s land, thus expanding the Lefferts’s Flatbush property.

ARC.145_lefferts_john bio

John Lefferts, early 1800s, at the height of his career

Peter’s son John was born in 1785. John served as county treasurer before running successfully for Congress in 1813. His opponent was none other than his cousin, Judge Leffert Lefferts, of the . Later, John served as a state senator. After his election, he became known as “Senator John,” which distinguished him from the dozens of other John Lefferts’ populating towns across Kings and Queens Counties.

Like his father, John Lefferts married well. His wife, Maria Lott Lefferts, was the daughter of Jacobus Lefferts of the Bedford Lefferts branch. Maria was famous for her beauty; historian Teunis G. Bergen noted that “President Van Buren, when casually passing her residence, called to pay his respects to her … and remarked to a friend of the writer, that she was the finest woman he had ever met with.”

Both father and son died very young. Peter was only thirty-eight when he passed away; Senator John was forty-four. Both of their wives lived well into their seventies.

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One branch of Leffertses lived in Bedford Corners, located in present-day Bedford Stuyvesant. The Bedford Turnpike and the Brooklyn and Jamaica Turnpike, two important roads that connected the towns of Brooklyn and Bushwick to the southeastern Kings County towns, intersected there.