Fonda, Jellis Douw

last name (variants): Fundee; Funde; Fondee; Funda
honorific(s): Mr.
Other names: Major
Birth: March 24, 1727 in Schenectady, NY
Death: June 23, 1791 in Palatine, NY

New York State Senate


Dutch Reformed Church




merchant, county judge, justice of the peace, county supervisor, state senator

Marital status

He married Janetje Wemple Vrooman (1730-1894) on January 6, 1751. They had seven children: Maria Vrooman, Margarita, Margarita Vrooman, Dowu Jellise, Henry Vrooman, Rachel Vrooman and Barent Jellise.


Jellis Douw (also spelled Jelles Douwse) Fonda was a prominent merchant and land speculator in the Mohawk Valley. He was the son of Douw Jellese Fonda (1700-1780) and Maritjie Vrooman, part of the extensive Fonda family in the area descended from Jellis and Hester Jans Fonda who immigrated from the Netherlands to Albany in 1651. Before the American Revolution, Douw Jellis (the father) founded the Dutch village of Fonda at the site of the Mohawk hamlet of Caughnawaga along the Mohawk River about 30 miles west of Albany. Jellis Douw, his son, was the most prominent of the early Fondas. He was the first merchant in the Mohawk Valley west of Schenectady and was a close friend and associate of Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Fonda fought in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, and though he was a Captain commanding a company of exempts in that war, he was known thereafter as Major Fonda, perhaps as an expression of respect. He served as a county judge, justice of the peace, county supervisor in Tryon and Montgomery counties, and Commissioner of Indian Affairs after Johnson's death. Fonda was also one of the executors of Johnson's will and designated guardian of his children. He was elected a state senator from 1779-81 and 1788-91, and died in office. In his preaching tours of the Mohawk Valley, Occom records lodging with Major Fonda several times during the period of 1786-89, and using the "ferry" Fonda had over the Mohawk River.

Further reading

Fonda is mentioned in the novel "In the Valley" by Harold Fredric and also the novels by Robert W. Chambers about the Mohawk Valley.