Patroon, in United States history, a Dutch landowner who had manorial estates in New Netherland (later called New York). The word means “patron." In 1629 the Dutch West India Company issued a charter offering to grant large estates, or patroonships, along the colony's navigable rivers to company members who could establish settlements of 50 adult persons within four years. The patroons received perpetual land tenure and such feudal rights as that of establishing courts and appointing officials. The settlers were to pay the patroon in money, goods, or labor.
Only Kiliaen Van Rensselaer (1595–1644), an Amsterdam diamond merchant, succeeded in establishing a patroonship under this charter. He received nearly 50 square miles (130 km2) on both sides of the Hudson River surrounding Fort Orange (later called Albany). One other patroonship was established under a new charter in 1640, which made all Dutch citizens eligible to receive smaller patroon estates. When the English gained control of the colony in 1664, the two patroons were permitted to keep their rights. The English government then sold manor grants, with similar feudal rights, along the Hudson River. Traces of the patroon system remained until New York abolished perpetual leaseholds in 1846.