Stephen Van Cortlandt was born in Brouwer Street, New Amsterdam on May 7, 1643, the eldest child of prosperous merchant Olaff Van Cortlandt. He received a good education from private tutors and became a merchant. He was appointed to the Governor's Council in 1674 and became the first native-born Mayor of New York City in 1677. In that capacity, he presided over the Mayor's Court. In 1691, he was appointed (with Nicholas Bayard and William Pinhorne) to the Committee for Preparing the Prosecution of Jacob Leisler. When the Supreme Court of Judicature was established in May 1691, he was appointed Fourth Judge. He became Chief Judge on October 30, 1700, less than a month before his death on November 25, 1700.
Van Cortlandt acquired a large land holding along the Hudson River and by royal patent dated June 17, 1697, the Van Cortlandt Manor (ultimately 87,000 acres) was established. The manor house was built at Croton-on-Hudson.
Hamlin, Paul M., and Charles E. Baker. Supreme Court of Judicature of the Province of New York, 1691-1704. New York, 1959.