Luther Cortelyou

LUTHER CORTELYOU was for many years one of the prominent grain merchants of Kansas, and in later years has given his chief attention to the management of the Farmers State Bank of Muscotah, of which he is president. Mr. Cortelyou has resided in Muscotah for nearly thirty years. His family is a prominent one in Atchison County, and his son Peter J. is now postmaster of Muscotah.

Mr. Cortelyou was born in Somerset County, New Jersey, December 23, 1851, and is descended from some of the original stock of the Jersey Coast. His ancestors were both Dutch and French. In 1701 a Dutch company from Long Island bought a tract of 10,000 acres in Franklin Township, Somerset County. Among the men in the enterprise were Peter Cortelyou and Jacques Cortelyou. In those early days the name was sometimes spelled Cortilleau. Jacques Cortelyou had arrived in New Amsterdam about 1651 as private tutor to the children of a prominent Dutch family, Van Werkhoven. Jacques Cortelyou married Nelt je Van Duyn, and both were of French extraction. Among their children was Jacques II. Hendrick, son of the second Jacques, was born April 11, 1711, and settled on lands owned by his father adjoining the tract of 10,000 acres bought by Peter Cortelyou and others. Hendrick married, August 3, 1731, Antie Coeste Van Voorhees. Their son Hendrick married Sarah Scothoff. Hendrick, third, born in 1761, married Ann Dehart, and for his second wife Elizabeth Voorhees. Hendrick the fourth was born November 5, 1789, and died in 1856. It was through this line of the family that Luther Cortelyou is descended.

An old history of Somerset County, New Jersey, contains the following reference to some of the earlier generations: "In 1671 Captain Jacques Cortelyou acted as one of the commissioners to settle the disputed boundary line between Brunswick and Newton. He was also the surveyor on that occasion. His sons Jacques and Peter were also prominent land surveyors. Jacques second or third, surveyed the Harrison tract in 1703 and received from the company as compensation a tract of two hundred eighty acres extending from the Middlebush road to the Millstone River. Jacques first is represented as being somewhat singular and eccentric in his ways. The Cortelyou families have been uniformly distinguished for their industry, economy, peaceful demeanor as citizens, and their friendship to the prosperity of the church and her institutions."

James G. Cortelyou, father of Luther, was born in Middlesex County, New Jersey, November 11, 1816. He spent his life in his native state, chiefly at Harlingen in Somerset County, where he followed farming. He died at New Brunswick February 19, 1892. He was a democrat and was a very active member of the Reformed Church and served as an elder many years. He also belonged to the Masonic fraternity. James G. Cortelyou married Cornelia Polhemus. This also is one of the oldest Dutch families of New Jersey. Cornelia was born in Somerset County January 26, 1816, and died at New Brunswick May 20, 1893. Their children were: John Gardner, who was born in the Town of Harlingen, New Jersey, January 13, 1849, was a New Jersey farmer, afterwards moved to Polk County, Nebraska, where he was a banker until 1894, and then retired to Los Angeles, California, where he acquired extensive real estate holdings and died in that city in July, 1901; Luther, who was the second in age of the children; Peter J., born at Harlingen May 25, 1857, was a farmer, removed to Corning, Kansas, in 1898, was a grain merchant in that City and died there April 13, 1902.

Luther Cortelyou was educated in the rural schools of the Town of Harlingen, and also finished the junior year at Rutgers College at New Brunswick. He left college in 1873 and lived on his father's farm until his marriage on November 14, 1877.

After his marriage Mr. Cortolyou spent twelve years as a farmer in Talbott County, Maryland. In 1889 he came to Muscotah, Kansas, bought an elevator, and became extensively interested in the grain business, having relations that extended well over the state. He sold his elevator in 1907, and in 1911 organized the Farmers State Bank of Muscotah, of which he has since been president.

Ho was one of the organizers of the Kansas Grain Dealers Association, and served as president five years. In the National Grain Dealers Association he was second vice president and later first vice president. In 1904 Mr. Cortelyou built his modern home on Kansas Avenue in Muscotah. Among other interests he still owns 250 acres of farming land in Atchison County, five miles north of Muscotah.

Politically his actions have been in line with the democratic party. For eighteen years he served as a member of the school board of Muscotah, was township treasurer two terms, and several times was elected mayor and also councilman.

He married for his first wife Miss Gertrude F. Stelle, of Middlesex County, New Jersey. Mrs. Cortelyou died February 6, 1905. She was the mother of four children, Luther Jr., Stelle, Peter J. and Frank Morgan. Luther, Jr., was born May 23, 1881, is a graduate of the Atchison County High School at Effingham, and is now assistant-cashier of the First National Bank of Parsons, Kansas. Stelle, born July 25, 1883, was for several years a stenographer in the Government employ and died at Ancon, Panama, July 28, 1905. Frank Morgan, the youngest son, was born October 29, 1886, graduated from the Atchison County High School at Effingham, and took the civil engineering course in the University of Kansas. He was honor man of his class when he graduated. He is now associated with the firm of Waddell & Harrington, civil engineers, of Kansas City, Missouri. He has been resident engineer in charge of the construction of three large bridges. One was in Portland, Oregon, another at Fort Smith, and he recently returned after superintending the construction of a bridge built at a cost of $1,750,000 between Portland and Vancouver on the Pacific Highway.

Peter J. Cortelyou, third son of Luther Cortelyou, was born on a farm in Talbott County, Maryland, June 25, 1885, and was four years of age when his parents removed to Muscotah, Kansas. He attended the public schools there, graduated from the Atchison County High School in 1904, and then for several years was associated with his father in the grain business. During 1910-12 he owned and edited the Muscotah Record. In November, 1913, he was appointed postmaster of Muscotah, under President Wilson, and has filled that office to the present date. On July 1, 1916, Mr. P. J. Cortelyou again bought the Muscotah Record, and is editor and proprietor. This paper was established in 1884, and has an influential circulation throughout Atchison and adjoining counties. It is conducted independent in politics, and is a weekly paper. The plant and offices are situated on Kansas Avenue. P. J. Cortelyou, who is unmarried, is affiliated with Muscotah Lodge No. 116, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and in politics is a democrat.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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