Schenectady heirlooms come home

Family donates artifacts to historical society

Lawrence the Indian is well known to many county residents, and a statue of him stands proudly in Schenectady's Stockade, but now residents can also see an 18th century painting of the man behind the name.

The Schenectady County Historical Society received a donation from the direct descendents of Laurens Claese Van Der Volgen's family, better known as Lawrence the Indian, and on Friday, July 9, the new collection was displayed at the Faces of Schenectady exhibit in the society's museum.

"We're delighted that they decided they wanted that painting back here in town where it originated," said Ona Curran, main curator of the project. "They contacted us, and we are so grateful for that " so often these paintings are given to institutions far away, far from their origin."

The exhibit, which will be open for six months, is a rare opportunity for the public to see a large collection of portraits and artifacts from Schenectady's history. Some of the paintings are on loan from institutions and museums and will only be in Schenectady for the duration of the exhibit.

"Often what you see, unfortunately, with these paintings is that after they go out of the family, sometimes they're bought by private collections and they're slowly lost," said Kathryn Weller, co-curator. "This is one of the few paintings of a Schenectady resident during the first half of the 18th century that we have here were it belongs " where it was originally from."

Mary and Ronald Chatfield, who do not live in the area, were the descendents of the Van Der Volgen family, which possessed the collection and decided to donate it to the society for preservation and display. For nearly 300 years, the family heirlooms were passed down and never lost or sold.

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