The History of New York State
Book II, Chapter I
Part III

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

In April, 1622, a petition came before the States-General, stating that some 60 families of Walloons, residing in Amsterdam, were desirous of going to American, and settling in the countries that had come into the possession of the Netherland by virtue of the discoveries of Hudson and other navigators acting under Dutch auspices. There was nothing to be said against the proposal from the point of view of the Netherlands government, and so preparations for the expedition proceeded and in March of the following year everything appeared to be in readiness. A ship considered large in those days and appropriately named the "New Netherland," of 260-ton burden, and, therefore, more than three times the size of the "Half Moon," was fitted out for the transportation of 30 of the families , who were to precede the rest. An armed yacht, the "Mackerel," accompanied the larger ship. It was commanded by Captain Cornelius Jacobsen May, who was to be governor of the colony, and was directed to make his headquarters on the Delaware after he had seen to the establishment of such of his company as had chosen as their destination points on the Hudson River.

Then there were the English Separatists. Earlier than this Walloon emigration we find these exiled Puritans approaching the New Netherland Company on the question of taking up residence on the lands owned by the company in America. The New Netherland Company was still functioning in 1620. The West India Company was at that date still within a year of its formal creation, but when it was created it seems to have inherited the files of the older company. Thus it comes about that we find among the archives of the later company a document, dated February 12, 1620, which is a petition addressed by the directors of the New Netherland Company to Maurice, Prince of Orange, chief executive of the republic. In this document they say: "It happens that there is residing at Leyden a certain English preacher, versed in the Dutch language, who is well inclined to proceed thither (i. e. to New Netherland) to live, assuring the petitioners that he as the means of inducing over 400 families to accompany him thither, both out of this country and England, provided they would be guarded and preserved from all violence on the part of other potentates, by the authority and under the protection of your Princely Excellency and High and Mighty Lords States-General, in the propagation of the true, pure, Christian, religion, in the instruction of the Indians in that country in true doctrine, and in converting them to the Christian faith, and thus through the mercy of the Lord, to the greater glory oft his country's government, to plant there a new Commonwealth, all under the order and command of your Princely Excellency and the High and Mighty Lords States-General." The directors were apparently very much in earnest in regard to the appeal, for they are said to have made large offers, including free transportation in the company's ships and offering cattle enough to supply each family. They requested from the Dutch government two ships of war to convoy an expedition, necessarily very costly, and guarding it against the perils of war and piracy. But it appears that the States-General, following the counsel of their Board of Admiralty, decided they could not spare the two ships of war to go on an errand so uncertain, for was had already at the time stated on their borders and the truce with Spain was nearing its end. So the scheme of the Netherland company was abandoned and the English exiles were not established on Manhattan Island.

Early Settlers on Manhattan--Meanwhile the "New Netherland" arrived at Manhattan with its company of Walloon settlers, and there is a story extant to its fining a French vessel in the harbor on its arrival bent on an errand similar to its own. The Dutch vessel lefty on Manhattan Island the men who desired to stop there, and then ascended the Hudson. Who were the people landed and where they were landed we cannot learn from direct and contemporary testimony. From the formal deposition, however, of Catelina Trico, before Governor Dongan, 64 years later, based upon her personal recollection as a passenger in this ship, we learn that eight men were placed on Manhattan Island and the balance went up to settle on the present site of Albany. It appears also that some of the European families were left on Staten Island, too. Sarah, the first girl of Rapallo or Rapalje, was born in June 6, 1625, at the Wallabout, i. e., the Waalen Boght, or Walloon Bay, now a part of Brooklyn. The name would appear to indicate that there had been a settlement of Walloons on this shore of Long Island, and before Simon de Rapalje fixed his abode at Wallabout he had been a settler on Staten island, apparently with a number of other belonging to his own group. The Walloons were good workmen, with a knowledge of various crafts, and we may assume that they showed proficiency in creating homes.

In the meantime the directors of the West India Company had begun seriously to consider the advantages that were to be drawn from the colonization of New Netherland. They were men of affairs who looked far ahead and had a particular eye for the essentials. How thorough were their plans is indicated by the move of one of the directors, Peter Evertsen Hulst, who provided at his own expense three ships, for which the government furnished armed escort. Two of the ships were fitted up to carry over 100 head of cattle. A special deck was constructed for their stalls, which were kept thickly sanded, and numerous other devices were applied to ensure that cleanliness for which the Dutch were noted. Great tanks of water were placed beneath the deck on each ship. On the third ship was stowed the needed supply of fodder, while the vessel also carried six families numbering 45 persons, who went over as colonists. The cattle were so well cared for that only two of the animals died on the voyage. Arrived in Manhattan Harbor they were landed on governor's Island to present their being lost in the thick woods of the larger island, However, Governor's Island proved unsuitable and they were finally carried over to Manhattan, where among other things water was more easily procurable. Great care was taken of the beasts, but the risks were great and 20 of them died from the effect of grazing on poisonous weeds. However, the cattle proved of tremendous benefit to the new settlers, as might easily be inferred. It is to be noted that it was not before 1627 that cattle were transported to New England. It is very probably that the serious death rate among the New England colonists in the winter of 1620 and 1621, the first encountered by them in the new country, would have been greatly mitigated, had the community at Plymouth brought beeves, hogs and sheep with them.

Heterogeneous Population in New Netherland--There was a good deal of variety in the seed first sown in the American province that was to be conspicuously reinforced as time went on in its cosmopolitan character. The Walloons laid no claim to Germanic blood. They rather boasted of a long descent that carried them back, like the Gaels of Ireland and Scotland, and the Britanni of Wales, to the Celtoi and Galli and Belgae, who resisted the legions of Caeser of Gaul. They spoke an old French dialect and occupied the provinces of Artois and Hainault, which now form the northwestern part of Belgium and the northern part of France. These two provinces, in which Avennes and Valenciennes were the principal towns, had joined with the Dutch and Flemish Netherlands in the revolt against Spain; but as they were difficult of defence and the population was predominately Catholic, the revolt in those provinces soon fizzled out. It was then that the Protestant inhabitants moved in considerable numbers into the Dutch lands. They supplied brigades to he armies of the republic and some of them, it appears, took part in the earliest American expeditions. Thus Champlain, writing in 1615, concerning certain Flemings, who were trafficking in the fortieth degree of latitude, said that three who had been captured by Canadian Indians were returned to their friends as their speech proved them to be Frenchmen. Walloons, however, as one historian notes, formed only one element in the heterogeneous population from which New Netherland was to draw its settlers. In the corner of Europe where the Dutch, Flemish, French and German provinces approached each other, native strains of blood were mixed and political affinities had often changed; and this natural complexity was increased by the waves of Protestant immigration which, directing themselves chiefly towards the Dutch provinces, but eddying over a much wider area, flowed in from England and Scotland, from the northern and western parts of France, and after the Thirty years' War Germany.

From the people of these border lands, from the many kinds of foreigners who had asylum in the republic itself, and from their half-Hollandized children, as well as from the pure Dutch and Flemish stocks, the colonists of New Netherland were year by year recruited, while the Scandinavian countries also sent it their quota. Its settlement did not bear witness, like the settlement of New England, tot he discontent of men in a single land with their home conditions, but to a much wider agitation, tot he general unrest produced by the great European struggle between Protestantism and Catholicism. "Many of the founders of New Netherland were bilingual; family names were hardly used as yet by the middle and lower classes, from which all but a scanty few of them came; such as did exist were written as any writer chose; and families of different origin were constantly intermarrying. Therefore, even when the immediate parentage and the place of birth of one of these founders is known, it is often impossible to pronounce upon his nationality. It is lawful, however, to speak of them collectively as Dutchmen, for as Dutchmen they came to America, and in America they still considered themselves sons of the Dutch Republic. By the end of 1623 these Dutch, in planting their trading posts and little settlements, had dropped the first seed of civilization on the soil of what afterwards became five of the Thirteen Colonies--New York New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware--and in the first two had laid the foundations of enduring communities. The English plantation in Virginia was then 13 years old and the one at Plymouth was three years old, while tentative settlements existed in New Hampshire and Maine. All the rest of the group of colonies which were thus beginning to take root on American soil were of later birth, and the youngest of them, Georgia, was not born until the one that the Dutch has founded was 100 years of age."

Geographical Character of Province--Thus it came about that the Dutchmen had succeeded in selecting for their abode the leading seat for commerce on the north American coast. The voyage from the Netherlands took on the average six or eight weeks, and, when the passage was difficult, often a longer time. They approached America by way of the Canary islands and the Caribbees, sometimes touching at Guiana, passing northward between the Bahamas and Bermuda toward Virginia, and then up along the coast, a somewhat indirect route, but one that avoided the storms of the northern Atlantic and made the passage between ports shorter than it would otherwise have been. As they got near Manhattan the Lower Bay offered the voyagers welcome shelter behind its projecting sandy arm or hook. Thence through a deep channel, capacious enough for the largest ships, they entered the great land-locked Upper Bay. At the head of this bay lay along narrow island, washing by the lordly Hudson, at that time navigable to the northward for more then 150 miles, and second in importance on the Atlantic coast in the north to no river excepting the St. Lawrence. The Frenchmen had made a bold stroke in establishing themselves on that mighty river. The St. Lawrence was the one great natural continental highway, the only navigable river which gave access tot he Great Lakes, whence the headwaters of the tributaries of the Mississippi, opening a water route to the Gulf of Mexico, could easily be reached. Holding this highway the French controlled not only the fur-producing regions of the interior, but were able eventually to establish a line of outposts which threatened the English colonies with extinction, or at best with restriction to the narrow strip of seacoast, the latter expansion of which was represented by the Thirteen Colonies. As a way of commerce, however, the St. Lawrence had decided disadvantages. The approaches to it were prolonged and perilous, and its mouth was closed by ice during five months of the year, with the environs subjected to the drawbacks natural to a land close to the Arctic regions.

In comparison Manhattan and the valley of the Hudson had many of the advantages common to both northern and equatorial latitudes. Its situation almost midway between Newfoundland and Florida was easy to approach. Although the river itself might be occasionally icebound in winter, the passage into the Upper Bay was always free. The soil was rich, its wealth in timber apparent to the eye; and the climate, while cold in winter and hot in summer, in comparison with the temperature of Northern Europe, was devoid of the extreme rigor that visited Canada in winter, and the enervating warmth of the Equatorial South.

The great river, moreover, cutting through the diagonal line of the great Appalachian Mountain system, s one historian notes, gave easier access to the interior of the continent than could elsewhere be found south of the St. Lawrence. "When the Dutchmen set their first posts far up the river they commanded the end of the great Iroquois trail, a path about 15 inches wide, beaten hard by Indian feet, running through the forests, and everywhere avoiding wet as well as open places, which led up the Mohawk Valley, and beyond it to a point just above Niagara Falls. This trail passed through the only place on the continent whence waters flow towards the St. Lawrence, the Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico, a watershed where affluents of Lake Ontario and of the Susquehanna, the Delaware, the Potomac, the Ohio, and the Hudson have their springs. As some of these nascent streams, connected by short portages, were navigable for canoes, bands of savages from regions as distant as the further shores of Superior easily brought their packs of pelts to the shores of the Great river. therefore, the fur trade flourished in New York long after it had died out in New England. The chief of the interior water routes, the Oneida portage-path, ran from the upper waters of the Mohawk by a portage only a mile in length, called the Great Carrying Place, to Wood Creek which flows into Oneida Lake, and from this lake down the Oswego River to Lake Ontario. When the struggle between France and England grew acute in the New World this route, which flat-bottomed boats could take, was of the utmost importance; and the famous fort called Stanwix, now enclosed in the city of Rome, was built to defend the Great Carrying Place. The early Dutchmen were not much concerned with the fact that the same great break in the Appalachian barrier that gave access to the northwest afforded the chief natural passage from Canada toward the south, by way of the Richelieu River, Lake Champlain, Lake George, another Wood Creek, and Hudson's River. To their descendants, however, and the English rulers of the province, it was a fact of capital significance. After a while this route, the Grand Pass from New York to Montreal, became another main channel for the traffic in furs; and its existence made the frontier city of Albany, whence a navigable river ran down to the finest harbors on the coast, the strategical key to the English position in America, the pivotal point in all the wide region between the territories of France and Spain. Because this point was in the province of New York, and because the harbor of Manhattan held a midway station on the English seaboard, New York came to be called the pivot province of the King of England's domain. While the geographical character of the province was thus highly advantageous in one way, a source of danger in another, in still another it proved unfortunate when, in the English days, New York had been shorn of a great part of the territory that the Dutch had claimed. The high rocky hills that flanked the valley of the Hudson so limited the arable lands of the province that, largely, for this reason, although partly because of its less liberal government, it was quickly surpassed in population by Pennsylvania, and, in spite of its unrivaled harbor, its capital city could not keep pace with Philadelphia."

The Dutch were soon at home in the new country and the letters sent home by them were cheerful. "We could not wish to return to Holland," writes one, "for whatever we desire in the paradise of Holland is here to be found. If you will come here with your family you will not regret it." It was letters such as these, send to kindred in the old land that induced numerous persons among those of foreign origin who had been forced to take refuge in Holland to cross the Atlantic also. They did so "in the hope of earning a handsome livelihood, strongly fancying that they will live in luxury and ease whist here, on the contrary, they must earn their bread by the sweat of their brow.' It was, therefore , with strong hopes, without the mourning characteristic departure of the Puritans, that the stalwart Dutch left their own garden-like land to make a new Netherlands watered by a greater Rhine in a greater continent.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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