As we welcome October, our thoughts often turn from Thanksgiving gatherings to pumpkins, Halloween, shorter days, and cooler weather. In this, we see a proliferation of Halloween costumes and decorations in stores, and, of course, TV shows and movies with a more ghoulish feel. A popular Halloween movie from the not-so-distant past is The legend of Sleepy Hollow and the story of the Headless Horseman. There have been numerous versions created for the screen based on the work published in 1819 by author Washington Irving. The fictional “gothic horror” story takes place in a small Dutch village called Sleepy Hollow, near Tarry Town (Tarrytown), New York. While the story may be fictional, Sleepy Hollow the place is real.
A few years ago, while examining the history of a local family, we unexpectedly came across a connection to Sleepy Hollow and a bit of mystery surrounding the last name. But let’s take a step back first, before we take the story home, so to speak.
Wolphert Gerretse Van Kouwenhoven, a Dutch immigrant, arrived in New Jersey around 1615. Various spellings of the surname have been used over time. Wolphert’s son, Gerret Williamse, used the spelling of Counover’s surname, while a third generation used Couenhoven and Covenhoven. Wolphert’s great-grandson, Edward Couenhoven (also spelled Covenhoven) came to operate a renowned hotel in New Amsterdam (later New York City) and is known to have been highly regarded in General George Washington’s confidences. Washington is said to have resided at this hotel during his stays in New York City, and the hotel became home to many groundbreaking meetings. However, things may not always have been what they seemed, as published stories of the American Revolution indicate that Edward Couenhoven kept an eye on General Washington’s conversations and plans by means of a large canal that connected the general’s meeting room and the basement kitchen, and suspicion suggests that Edward passed on what he learned to others who opposed the revolution. Edward died in Sleepy Hollow, New York, in 1786. Several generations of the Couenhoven / Covenhovan family are buried in the Old Dutch Burying Ground at Sleepy Hollow.
One branch of the family, descended from Edward’s sister (or cousin), Anna, enjoyed great fame and success in Canada: Anna Covenhoven married Abraham Van Horne. Their son, Cornelius Covenhoven Van Horne, along with his wife Elizabeth Veeder settled in Montreal, where their son, Sir William Cornelius Van Horne (1843-1915) reached new heights as a railroad tycoon and ruler, and one of the most influential Canadian businessmen. of his time. He built a large summer estate near St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick, which he nicknamed “Covenhoven”, and which is now a National Historic Site in Canada.
But back to our story of Covenhoven, Sleepy Hollow and Mississauga.