Biography of John V. Cortelyou

John V. Cortelyou, who took the chair of German at the Kansas State Agricultural College in 1904, was at that time only recently returned from Germany. Professor Cortelyou holds his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Heidelberg University, though he is an American by birth and training, and represents a long and interesting lineage of some of the old Dutch families of New Jersey.

He was born on a farm near Harlingen in Somerset County, New Jersey, September 19, 1874. He is a son of John G. and Mary (Van Zandt) Cortelyou, both natives of New Jersey and in both lines descended from old families of this country.

The paternal ancestry goes back to Jaques Cortelyou, who was a native of Utrecht, Holland, and of both French and Dutch lineage. The name Cortelyou is French. Jaques Cortelyou who came to America in 1652 settled at New Amsterdam, now New York City. His descendants afterwards became numerous in the states of New York, New Jersey and also on Long Island, and they are now represented in many parts of the Union. Professor Cortelyou is in the tenth generation from the original Jaques. Jaques had a son, Jaques Jr.; the heads of the next four successive generations bore the given name Hendrick. Then came an Abraham Cortelyou, and following him James G. Cortelyou, grandfather of Professor Cortelyou. James G. Cortelyou married Cornelia Polhemus. That is one of the most familiar family names in New Jersey genealogy. Cornelia was born in New Jersey, and was directly descended from Dr. Johannis Theodorus Polhemus, the first of that family in America. He came from Holland as a missionary to Brazil in 1635. About 1654 he accepted the pastorate of three churches on Long Island. One of them was at Brooklyn.

Professor Cortelyou’s mother was also of Holland Dutch stock, the Van Zandts having come to America prior to the Revolutionary war.

John G. Cortelyou, his father, was a farmer in New Jersey, but in 1884, removing to the State of Nebraska he engaged in banking, at first in Ewing, but from 1890 until his death in 1904 at Omaha.

John V. Cortelyou was ten years of age when his parents removed to Nebraska. He completed his high school course at Omaha, and in 1897 graduated B. A. from the University of Nebraska. The following two years were spent in teaching at Humboldt, Nebraska, and he then resumed his studies in the State University, and gained his Master of Arts degree in 1901. The following three years he spent abroad at the University of Heidelberg. He is one of the ablest scholars and men of broadest culture connected with the State Agricultural School at Manhattan. He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa, the Phi Kappa Phi and the Alpha Theta Chi.

Doctor Cortelyou was married in 1904 to Miss Grace Rushton, daughter of J. H. Rushton of Omaha, Nebraska. They are the parents of four children: Rushton Gardner, Helen Van Zandt, Mary Josephine and Dorothy Margaret.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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