Skip to main content

Van Velsor, Cornelius (1768–1837)

Known as "the Major," Cornelius Van Velsor was Whitman's jocular, hearty, loud-voiced maternal grandfather. He was born to Garrett Van Velsor and Mary Kossabone. The Major married Naomi (Amy) Williams and, after her death, remarried. Residing on the Van Velsor homestead near Cold Spring, Long Island, he bred and raised horses, which Whitman sometimes rode. As a boy, Whitman would sit next to his grandfather on their large farm wagon and travel some forty miles to deliver produce to Brooklyn. The "old race of the Netherlands," says Whitman in Specimen Days, "so deeply grafted on Manhattan Island and in Kings and Queens counties, never yielded a more mark'd and full Americanized specimen than Major Cornelius Van Velsor" (8).


Allen, Gay Wilson. The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman. 1955. Rev. ed. 1967. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985.

Whitman, Walt. Specimen Days. Vol. 1 of Prose Works 1892. Ed. Floyd Stovall. New York: New York UP, 1963.

Back to top