A Jan Joosten Van Meteren Line: INTRO & DIRECTORY

John Van Metre the Indian Trader

In this post we will be discussing who John Van Metre the Indian Trader actually was. There are three theories we’ll discuss and some interesting stories of his adventures.

Who was John Van Metre the Indian Trader?

There are many stories and biographies about our intrepid “John Van Metre the Indian Trader”. 
  • Is it our Joost Janse Van Meteren, as many biographies assume?
  • Or is it Jan Joosten Van Meteren son of Joost Janse Van Meteren aka John Van Metre? as others assume?
  • Or is it the John Van Mater, son of Krijn Van Meteren, who was the son of Jan Joostens cousin, Jan Gysbertse Van Meteren, that at least one biographer assumes?

Based on the most likely sources of information, it seems clear to me that Jan Joosten is our John Van Metre the Indian Trader. My reasoning follows:

  • His name is Anglicized to John, where his father’s name is not.
  • The dates of events make it more likely as the significant dates range from 1716-1740. Joost Janse would be a bit old to be scouting by that time.
  • Joost Janse does not show up in any records after his granddaughter was born in 30 October 1706, where he is showing as a witness. Many assume he died shortly after that, although his wife, Sara shows up in a 1709 record showing her as wife of Joost Janse (not widow).
  • John Van Matre the Indian Trader is said to have four sons named John, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  John Van Metre is the only one of the three with sons with all of those names, as noted below:

Joost Janse (born 1660) has the following sons:

      • John Van Metre[3] (born: 1683)
      • Isaac Van Metre
      • Hendrick Van Metre

Jan Joost aka John Van Metre born 1686 has the following sons:

      • Johannes “John”
      • Isaac
      • Henry
      • Abraham
      • Jacob
John Van Mater (born 1688) had the following sons:
      • John Van Mater (who appears to have been disabled)
      • Guisbert Van Mater
      • Richard Van Mater
      • Chrineyonce Van Mates

Table of Contents


Sources for John Van Metre the Indian Trader

Genealogies and Sketches of Prominent Old Families

by Benjamin Van Meter, 1901, page 47:1

“The Van Meters of the United States have, so far as I have been able to learn, all sprung from two men, a father and son who came from Bommel, in south Holland, and landed at New Amsterdam in 1663, when that village belonged to the Dutch. … This father and son located in [New] Ultricht, in King’s County, and afterwards removed from there to Monmouth County, New Jersey. The above facts are all on record in Bergen’s Kings County, pages 245, 346 and also the follow facts, viz: The son married Neltje (Nellie) Van Cleef, of New Ultricht, September 9, 1683.

He [Krijn] is on assessment roll of New Ultricht from 1675 to 1709; was a member of the Dutch Protestant Church in 1677, and was a deacon of that church in 1699. He is on Dongan’s patent of 1686, and took the oath of allegiance to the British Crown in that town in 1687. He is assessed for forty-six acres of land in New Ultricht in 1701. In 1709 he removed to Middletown, Monmouth County, New Jersey. His children were: Jan, baptized April 24, 1687 (it was the custom of that church to baptize infants on or before the time that they were one month old); Engeltje, Gysbert, Kay, Benjamin, Eyda, Joseph, Cyrinius, and Janitje. The time of the baptism of each of the above named children is recorded in the old church records of New Ultricht and Middletown. The father of this family signed his name finally Kryn Van Meteren, and sometimes Kryn Jansen Van Meteren, for all of which see Bergen’s Kings County, pages 345 and 346, and church records as above stated.

Jan Van Meteren, this eldest son, as above shown, was the afterward noted Indian trader who went in command of a band of Caugh Indians, a friendly tribe, on a trading expedition to Virginia in 1739. He had meantime moved his family from New Jersey to New York. On this expedition in 1739 he explored the country then almost unknown to the white people, the valley of the south branch of the Potomac (known then by the Indian name of the Wapatonica). This man soon became sufficiently Americanized to spell his name John instead of Jan, and finally dropped the “n” off, thus leaving the name van Metre. My father frequently received letters with his name spelled in that way when I was a boy, and said that was the old style way to spell it.

When John Van Metre returned to his home in New York from the beautiful valley of the Wapatonica he urged his sons to lose no time in possessing that land, declaring that it was the most beautiful and fertile country he had ever seen. Four of his sons emigrated to Virginia about the year 1740, viz: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and John.

Abraham and John settled in Berkeley County, on the east side of the Alleghany Mountains. Jacob settled at the lower end of the South Branch Valley, and Isaac on the beautiful valley of the South Branch, known as the Indian Old Firelds, in what is now [1901] Hardy County, and there he constructed his fort, as this was then a frontier and much exposed to Indian depredations. John and Isaac had procured a grant of forty thousand acres of land through Governor Gooch, of the British Crown. They sold on half of this grant to Joist Hite, which left them about ten thousand acres, each, which they located and settled upon, as above stated.

Before we confine ourselves exclusively to one branch of this family, we will go back to state that the emigrant father, Janse Gisbertsin Van Metren, also married a Miss Van Cleef, who was no doubt, an aunt of the son’s wife, and raised a family of children in New Jersey, some of the descendants of whom are still in that State, as well as in New York and the rStates; many of them bearing the names of Van meter and van Matre. These New York and New Jersey families intermarried with the early Vanderbilts, Bennets, Hendricksons, Schencks and other families , some of which have become quite noted for wealth and influence.

Some of the sons of John and Abraham, and perhaps Jacob were among the very early emigrants from Virginia to Kentucky, as far back as 1780-1790. Some of them settled in the southwestern part of the State, and quite a number of their descendants are there now. Two or three sons of John settled at that time in what is now Harrison county, Kentucky, but after a sojourn there of some ten or twelve years they all removed to Ohio, and one of them, named Morgan van Metre, lived and died there, and founded Morgantown, which was located on his farm and named for hi. Many of the descendants of these brothers went further west and are living in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and other western States. Some of the descendants of the early emigrants to the southwestern part of Kentucky are now is Missouri, Illinois and other Western and Southwestern States.

We will now deal more exclusively with Isaac Van Metre, or Van Meter (as the name was spelled sometimes on way and then the other), and his family and descendants: Isaac, the son of John Van Metre, the enterprising Indian trader, this same Jan, the eldest son of Krine Jansen Van Meteren, the juvenile emigrant from Bommell, in South Holland, with his father, Jans Gisbertsin Van meteren, Isaac Van Metre and his family, consisting of a wife and fort children: viz:Henry, Garret, Mary and another daughter, who’s name is not known, but who marries Jacob Hite, and died leaving no children. These parents and four children took up their permanent abode at Fort Pleasant, in the Indian Old Fields, now Hardy County, West Virginia, in 1744.

In evaluating this excerpt, the author is apparently not aware of Jan Joosten Van Meteren, who came to America the year before Jan Gysbertsen Van Meteren, and originally settled in the Kingston, New York area. These two are believed to be first cousins.

Also of note is that the four sons of John Van Metre the Indian Trader are noted: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and John. John Van Mater (son of Krijn) did not have sons Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.  His son John appears to be disabled, based on the following will. Joost Janse had sons John and Isaac, but not Abraham and Jacob. Jan Joost aka John Van Metre did, however have sons Johannes aka John, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Below is the transcript of the will of John Van Mater, son of Krijn showing the names of his children:2

1758, Mar 7. Van Mater, John, of Middletown, Monmouth Co. [New Jersey], yeoman; will of.   
Wife, Eitie, all my estate, and, after her decease, to my son, Chrineyonce Van Mater, £100. Sons, Chrineyonce Van Mater, Richard Van Mater, and Guisbert Van Mater, and my daughters, Yonnechy Sutfan, Nelly Van Levy, Eltie Sutfan, Mary Van Mater, Caty Van Mater, Anne Van Hater [sic] and Charity Van Mater, all my moveable estate, except my negro James, to be for my son, Guisbert. Son, Guisbert, all my lands, and he is to maintain my son John, as long as he shall live. Executors–sons, Chrineyonce, Richard and Guisbert. Witnesses–Benamin Lefferts, Peter Lefferts, John Polhemus. Proved April 1, 1761.


The Origin and Descent of an American Van Metre Family

By Samuel Gordon  Smyth3:

“John Van Meter a Dutchman from the Hudson, was an Indian trader and pioneer explorer of the Shenandoah Valley who spied out the land about the time of Governor Spotswood’s expedition in 1716. He equipped a band of Delaware Indians at his own expense and traveled far southward and over unknown land. On his return, he advised his sons to take up lands in the Wappatomaka (Potomac) Valley, on the South Branch River above ‘the Trough,’ as it was the finest land he had ever discovered. Subsequently his sons, John and Isaac, took his advice and petitioned Governor Gooch, in 1731, for 40,000 acres [each], which was granted, and which they later transferred [40,000 acres] to Jost Hite….”

“Thus, it was that John Van Metre beheld and explored that “land of promise” where he envisioned the future as he looked upon the beautiful valley of Virginia sweeping southward, enfolded by the evergreen Blue Ridge, whose western slopes fell gently to the verdant meadows and sheltered limestone bottoms that were washed by the swift waters of the Shenandoah and those of the placid Potomac. This sylvan wilderness of Lord Fairfax, which he called “the Northern Neck” of Virginia, was the “land of Goshen: to which the restless pioneers of the east shortly came, and whose first settlement may be traced to the intrepid trader Van Metre; and it actually began with the granting of a vast area to his sons on the 17th of June 1730.”

Current map showing the area that John Van Metre "Spied Out The Land" most likely followed the Potomac from the Chesapeake Bay Northwest, then West, and then South into the South Branch of the Potomac. Now West Virginia.
Current map showing the area that John Van Metre "Spied Out The Land" most likely followed the Potomac from the Chesapeake Bay Northwest, then West, and then South into the South Branch of the Potomac. Now West Virginia.

A History of the Valley of Virginia

by Samuel Kercheval, 18334
In A History of the Valley of Virginia, Samuel Kercheval writes below:”This narrative by Kercheval, originally published in 1833, has been freely accepted and copied by most writers who have had occasion to refer to the Van Metre pioneers in Virginia.”5

Tradition relates that a man by the name of John Vanmeter, from New York, some years previous to the first settlement of the valley, discovered the fine country on the Wappatomaka [South Branch of the Potomac]. This man was a kind of wandering Indian trader, became well acquainted with the Delawares, and once accompanied a war party who marched to the south for the purpose of invading the Catawbas. The Catawbas, however, anticipated them, met them very near the spot where Pendleton Courthouse now stands [1833], and encountered and defeated them with immense slaughter. Vanmeter was engaged on the side of the Delawares in this battle. When Vanmeter returned to New York, he advised his sons, that if ever they migrated to Virginia, by all means to secure a part of the South Branch bottom, and described the land immediately above ‘The Trough’ as the finest body of land which he had ever discovered in all his travels.— One of his sons, Isaac Vanmeter, in conformity with his father’s advice came to Virginia about the year 1736 or 1737, and made what was called a tomahawk improvement on the lands now owned by Isaac Vanmeter, Esq. immediately above the trough, where Fort Pleasant was afterwards erected. After this improvement. Mr. Vanmeter returned to New Jersey, came out again in 1740, and found a man by the name of Coburn settled on his land. Mr. Vanmeter bought out Coburn, and again returned to New Jersey; and in the year 1744 removed with his family and settled on the land.”. Isaac Vanmeter, Esq., of Hardy, detailed this tradition to the author [Samuel Kercheval].

* Isaac Vanmeter, Esq., of Hardy, detailed this tradition to the author.

Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants

by Thomas Kemp Carmell:6

“No friendly tribes dare go west of the Blue Ridge from the lowlands in Virginia, nor come from the north and cross the Cohongortuga into the forbidden country on hunting forays, knowing full well that such savage tribes as the Shawnees would either exterminate them or be exterminated. John Van Meter is the only white person of whom there is any well-founded evidence that he entered the forbidden country prior to 1725. Van Meter accompanied the Delawares through the lower valley in quest of big game; they met the Catawabas coming from the south. Both tribes disputed the right of entry; a terrific battle occurred, and the Delawares suffered a crushing loss. Van Metre barely escaped; the whole tribe would have been annihilated had it not been for the return of the Shawnees from their annual hunt on the south branch of the Potomac. They encountered the Catawbas on Cedar Creek and overwhelmed them with such slaughter, as to gratify the remnant of the Delaware band; and John VanMeter’s traditionary history of the battles and his venture, has been carefully preserved and handed down through succeeding generations. VanMeter saw no white people.”



  1. Van Meter, Benjamin,"Genealogies & Sketches of Prominent Old Families,"John P. Morton & Company, Louisville, 1901, page____. Reviewed online at Ancestry.com: https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/12599/images/dvm_GenMono001821-00001-1?ssrc=&backlabel=Return&pId=1 (Accessed 11 March 2023).
  2. New Jersey, U.S. Abstract of Wills, 1670-1817, Volume XXXIII, page 451, reviewed online at ancestry.com: https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2793/ (Accessed 11 March 2023).
  3. Samuel Gordon Smyth, The Origin and Descent of an American Van Metre Family, 20 Oct 1923, p 25-26.
  4. Kercheval, Samuel, "A History of the Valley of Virginia", Third Edition, revised and extended by the Author, 1902 (originally written in 1833), page 51 reviewed online Google Books at https://www.google.com/books/edition/A_History_of_the_Valley_of_Virginia/NeJ4AAAAMAAJ? (Accessed 11 Mar 2023).
  5. Samuel Gordon Smyth, A Genealogy of the Duke-Shepherd-Van Metre Family.
  6. Thomas Kemp Cartmell, Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants: A History of Frederick County, Virginia, 1909. P. 265.

The family Information was retrieved from a variety of family trees, webgens and family stories. I will note citations as appropriate and hope the information assists you in your research, but please do not use this as proven evidence. Feedback is welcome!

Pat Burns. Copyright © 2024. All Rights Reserved.

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