William S. (William Smith) Pelletreau.

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was not favored by the government, the principal reason being
that as all the territory was claimed by England, it was un-
advisable to colonize it with English settlers, even if they had
adopted Holland as a dwelling i)lace.

There is no better opportunity than this to relate briefly
the history of the two great com])anies which, established in
Holland, played so important a j^art in founding the colony of
which our state is the successor. Holland had been for long
years the great field of battle l)etween Protestantism and Koman-
ism, and in this strife, after a sanguinary struggle, the former
conquered. The "Twelve Years' Truce," made in 1609, ren-
dered the States of Holland free forever fi-om the yoke of Spain


and Romanism. Even during the long war, Dutch couunerce
had vastly increased. Their shi]is sailed to every coast. The
merchants who rescued Cornelius Houtman from imprison-
ment in Portugal by paying the fine levied upon him, in return
for the valuable information which he furnished, formed them-
selves into a company and added others to their number, and
the association was incorporated under the name of the "C*om-
•pany of Distant Lands." In 1598 they sent a fleet of eight ves-
sels, equally ])rcpared for trade or war, which sailed for the
Indian ocean and retui'ued lichly laden with the i^roducts of
the eastern woild. In l(i(!() another fleet of six vessels went to
the East Indies and defeated the Portuguese in a naval battle.
Many expeditions followed in rapid succession, and two of them
even ventured on the long and dangerous voyage through the
Straits of Magellan and across the Pacific; but most of them
took the safer route around the Ca]ie of Good Ho]ie. I-^very
effort was made by Spain to destroy the shi])s and bi'eak up
the trade, nut without success. One result of this ])rofitablo
trade was the competition between the various companies of
merchants. The voyages were long and dangerous, their vessels
had to encounter the enemies of the republic, and the ]irofits
were greatlv reduced. The only remedy for that was consol-
idation, and they were all united in a single national organiza-
tion under the name of the "General East India Company,"
which received its charter in 1602. Its capital Avas the immense
sum (for those times) of (),oOO,00() florins, or $2,600,000. The
comimny had tlie ]n'ivilege of making treaties with the bar-
barous ])owers in the East Indies, and could carry on war and
make conquest of territories and erect fortifications for the ])iir-
pose of holding and defending them. The objects of this com-
pnny were carried out with the utmost skill and vigor. During
the same year a fleet of fourteen ships were fitted out and were


so successful that iu four years a dividend of seventy-five per
cent was declared. Witliin seven years forty vessels, employing
Rye thousand men, were sent to tlie eastern seas, and the re-
ceipts reached the enormous sum of $12,000,000. Xo enterinise
had ever heen crowned witli such well merited success. As
curious items to show the profits of the trade we may mention
that pepi)er, wliicli cost eleven cents a i)ound, was sold for
thirty-two cents; cloves costini>- twelve and a half cents sold for
$1.2(', while mace ))ought for sixteen cents, was sold for $2.40.
It was while this company was in power that Henry Hudson
sailed on his famous voyage.

In 1597 the Dutch merchants were each separately granted
the privilege of foniiing a company for the purpose of trade
with the West Indies. Their companies were united iu one.
On a plat of ground granted by the city in Amsterdam a ware-
liouse was erected, and such was the origin of the "West India
Company, so famous and powerful in later years. Its begin-
ning was not so glorious, nor the first results so prosperous as
its great rival. An expedition sent to Brazil met a worse enemy
than Spain or Portugal, in the form of the yellow fever, of
which more than a thousand men perished, and the design was
abandoned, and its failure caused great delay in the formal
establislmient of the company.

The real founder of the West India Company was William
Csselinx, a native of Antwerp, but a resident in Holland. Every
argument and every means that could be used by a man who
was intent upon one great object was used by him. Although he
nad many able supporters, he had more than as many able oppo-
nents. The jealousy of different cities had no small influence,
and it was not until June 3, 1621, that its charter was duly
signed and sealed. By this charter the States General author-
ized the formation of a national societv of merchants, and to


enable tlieiu to cany out their purpose a capital of seven million
of florins (or $2,800,000) was to be subscribed, and four-ninths
of this was to be held in shares by persons in Amsterdam. For
the space of twenty-four years, after July 1, IGi'l, it was tu
have the exclusive privilege of sending ships for trading pur-
poses to the countries of America and Africa that bordered on
the Atlantic ocean, while the remainder of the globe was as-
signed to the East India Company. They had the same privi-
leges of making treaties and alliances with princes and powers,
and to erect forts in friendly and conquered territories, and
the Directors could appoint governors and other officers and
levy troops and lit out fleets. The Grovernor-General was to be
appointed and commissioned by the States General. In case of
actual hostilities, the general government was to provide
twenty ships, while the Company was to man them and furnish
all supplies, and also to furnish an equal number of vessels.
One of the most important items was, that the Company had the
privilege of exporting home manufactures, and of importing
the products of the countries along the Atlantic free of duties
for eight years. They were to "promote the populating of fer-
tile and uninhabited regions." The capital required was not
readily subscribed, but in 1G22 all vessels except those of the
Company were forbidden to procure cargoes of salt in the West
Indies, and six months later the entire capital was procured.
On December 21, 1623, the first fleet was dispatched. It
consisted of twenty-six vessels. The New Netherland Com-
pany was entirely superseded, but New Netherland was not
the main object of this enterjjrise. The fleet proceeded to Brazil,
and San Salvador was captured, but lost the next year. In l()2(i
vast treasures, which were about to be sent to Spain, were
taken, and sugar alone, to the value of $148,000, was a part of


the spoils. The climax of prosperity was in 1628, when the
Spanish silver fleet was eaptnred, and the prize was $4,600,000,
while other ))rizes amonnted to $1,600,000. A dividend of fifty
]ier cent was declared in 1629, and another of twenty-five per
cent in 1680. After that the Company declined; finally, bnr-
dened with debt, it was dissolved in 1674, and a new West
India C'ompany was organized in 1675, and continued its opera-
tions in a feeble manner for a long period. At length, as a
result of the French Eevolution, the two famous companies
were swept out of existence in 1800.

The establishment of the West India Com2)any furnished
the first liasis for a regular form of government for New Xeth-
erland. A small colony existed on Manhattan island, another
on the upper Hudson, and another on the Delaware. The first
director for all of them was Captain May, whose term expired
in 1624, and he was succeeded by William Verhulst, but his
care seems to have been confined to the Delaware Colony. Dur-
ing his term an ex])edition was sent with especial view to col-
onization. Four ships conveyed one hundred head of cattle
and six families of forty-five persons, which were landed on
^fanhattan island. The first real governor was Peter ]\Iinuit,
who had the title of Director-General, and arrived in May, 1626,
and with him the regular history of New Netherland begins.
It is strange that the veracious Diedrich Knickerbocker, whose
"History" has provoked so many smiles and an equal amount
of frowns while narrating at length the career of "Walter the
Doubter," "William the Testy," and "Peter the Headstrong,"
tells us nothing of Peter ]\[inuit, who preceded them all.

In 1628, the States General granted a seal for New Nether-
land, representing a shield bearing a beaver i)ro])er, over which
was a count's coronet, and around the whole were the words,
"Sio-illum Novi Belgii."


The seal of New Amsterdam, with its crosses solitaire, is
also here given.


It is unfortunate that the history of the first few years of
New Nether I and is involved in obscurity. Of the administra-
tion of May and Verhnlst we know but little. With the arrival
of Herr Director Peter Minuit, the real history begins. With
him came his council, consisting of five members — Peter Bj^velt,
Jacob Elbertsen Wisinck, John Jansen Brower, Simon Dirck-
sen Pos and Re^^lert Harmensen. Their duties were to advise
th.» Director upon all matters pertaining to the government of
the colony, with a special eye to the advancement of the in-
terests of the West India Company. They were also a court
for the trial of offenses, but the ])unislniient was limited to a
fine. Cai)ital cases were to be referred to the government in
Holland. These councillors were termed schepens. The other
officers were a secretary (Isaac de Rasieres), and a sellout
fiscal, who combined the duties of sheriff and district attorney.
The first to hold this position was John Lampe.

Peter Minuit is said to have come from Wesel, a town of
Rhenish Prussia, near the borders of Holland, which had been
a city of refuge, and thousands of Protestants had fled thither
to escape ])ersecution. He was a deacon of the Dutch Church.
The ship in which he came to the New World was the "Sea
Mew," and the first of his administration was to purchase
the island from the aboriginal owners for the sum of sixty
guilders, or twenty-four dollars. This was paid not in money,
but in articles of trifling value and cost to the buyer, but dear
to the hearts and of great value to the sellers. A ship named



the "Arms of Amsterdam" arrived ou July 27, 1626, and sailed
on a return voyage on the 23d of September, carrying the news
of the purchase, and the following hotter comnnuiicated the news
to the States General :

"High Mighty Sirs.

"There arrived yestrdy the shi]) the Arms of Amster-

Peter Stuyvesant.

dam, which sailed from New Xetlnland out of the ^lauritius
Eiver, on Sei)teml)er 28; they rei)ort that our people there are
of good eonrage and live peaceably. Their women also, have
borne children there. They have bought the island Manhattes
from the wild men for the value of sixty guilders, is 13000 mor-
gens in extent. They sowed all their grain the middle of May.
and harvested it the middle of August. Thereof being samples
of summer grain, such as wheat, rye. Barley, oats, buckwheat,
canary seed, small beans and flax. The cargo of the aforesaid
shi]) is 17246 Beaver skins, 178T:, otter skins, 675 otter skins, 48
mink skins, 36 wild cat (lynx) skins, 33 minks, 34 rat skins.
Manv logs of oak ami nut wood. Ilerewith l»e ve High ^Mighty


Sirs, Commended to the Almighty's grace. In Amsterdam
Nov. 5, 1626."

From the letter of Dominie Jonas ]\Iii'haelius we learn that
Governor Minnit was one of the elders of the chnrdi. One of
the most important acts of his administration was the granting
to Killian Van Bensselaer an immense tract of land, twenty
miles -wide, on each side of the Hndson river, and known as
the manor of Bensselaerwyck.

One of tlie results of early enterprise was an undertaking
by the Walloon shipbuilders, to build a vessel. Timljer of the
largest size was close at hand, and in 1630 they launched a ship,
larger than any built in the Fatherland. According to some
authorities this was of twelve hundred tons burden, but others
place it as of eight hundred tons. This ship received the name
of "New Netherland." Tliis was the second vessel built on
Manhattan Island, the ship "Restless," built by Adriaen Block,
being the first. The thirty houses already built was greatly in-
creased in numbers, and in 1628 the inhabitants numbered two
hundred and seventy. The fewness of these is in strange con-
trast to the four thousand people already settled on James
river, in Virginia, under the English government.

Wliatever was done in the infant colony, the rights of the
West India Company were held supreme. To advance their
interests was the first duty of all officers, and the company did
very little in return to protect or defend. It was ])robably
because Director Minnit was more careful to advance the in-
terests of the colony than the company that led to his recall,
and in 1632 he, in company with the schout fiscal, Lampe, em-
iiarked for Holland, and a new man reigned in his stead. He
was afterward the projector of a colony on Delaware river, and
established Fort Christiana, and is said to have died there in


The next director, or governor, was Walter Van T wilier,
immortalized in the veracious history of Diedrich Knicker-
bocker as "Walter the Doubter." He had been sent as early
as 1629 to select the site for the patroonship of his relative Van
Kensselaer, and it is supposed that it was through his influence
that Minuit was recalled. It was not till a year after the de-
parture of the latter that Van Twiller arrived to take the
directorship, in the ship "Salt Mountain," in April, 1633. With
him came a force of one hundred and four soldiers. His council
were men afterwards prominent in the settlement — Captain
John Jansen Hesse, Martin Gerritsen, Andrew Hudde and
Jacques Bentyn. The secretary was John Van Remund. At
this time appears Cornelius Van Tienhoven, who was made
"Book Keeper of Wages," and later i)layed an imi)ortant part
in the annals of the city. Shortly after came Captain David
Pietrsz de Vries, who wrote a book, published in 1655, giving
a very interesting account of the Dutch settlements in the New

But a far more important event occurred when, in April,
1633, there arrived in the harbor an English ship named
"William," which had been sent liy a company of London mer-
chants to carry on a trade in furs upon the Hudson's river.
This w^as the first actual attempt to enforce the claim of Eng-
land to all that region. With this ship came one Jacob Elheus,
who might be termed a renegade Dutchman, who had entered
the English service, having for misdemeanors been dismissed
from the employ of the West India Company. The captain of
this ship, repudiating all title of the Dutch government, ad-
vanced up the river to Fort Orange, and began to trade with
the Indians. After some delay. Van Twiller sent a few small
vessels with a com])any of soldiers, who soon compelled the
English captain with his ship to return to ^lanhattan, where


they were made to give up the store of furs which they had
collected, and were sent back to England, where the captain
related his grievances, which only added to the claims against
Holland, to be enforced at a later day. About this time began
a contest with the English colonies in New England, the details
of which would fill a volume. Sufficient to sa}", the Dutch
claimed the region on the Connecticut river, and the English
conquered and held it. During the administration the fort,
which had so long been building, was completed in 1635.

It may be mentioned here that in the same ship with Van
Twiller came Reverend Everardus Bogardus, the noted min-
ister of the Dutch church. Under the direction of Van Twiller,
several large boweries, or farms, were laid out, and the cultiva-
tion of tobacco was greatly favored. In connection with this
apijear the names of George Holmes and Thomas Hall, very
prominent in after times.

Trade had vastly increased. While in 1633 there were
exported 8,800 beaver skins and 1,383 otter skins, valued at
91,375 florins, or $36,550, in 1635 were exported 11,891 beavers
and 1,413 otters, valued at $53,770.

Director Van Twiller seems to have been a man of violent
temper, addicted to drunkenness, and engaged in frequent
quarrels with the minister, Bogardus, as well as others. But he
greatly increased the extent of cultivated lands and during his
term many important villages were founded, especially on Long
Island. In September, 1637, he was recalled. As to his "un-
utterable ponderings, " behold, are they not written in tliL'
pages of the veracious Knickerbocker ! He remained in the
colony for many years, devoting himself to the advancement
of his own interests, in which he was successful. He after-
wards returned to Holland, and died there in 1657.

On ^lareh 28, 1638, came his successor, Willem Kieft,



better known to some by the title bestowed upon liini by the
veracious Knickerbocker as "William the Testy." He came
in the shi]) "Haering, " of two hundred and eighty tons and
mounting twenty cannon, which signalled his approach. His
principal recommendation appears to have been a reputation
as a person of determination and activity. In other particulars
liis reputation was not above reproach. His power was prac-
tically absolute. Instead of a council, he had only one associate
and advisor, in the person of Johannes De La Montague, a
physician, and a Protestant refugee from France. In this
"council," if it could be called such, the director had two votes
and He La Montague had one. The office of provincial was
filled by Cornelius Van Tienhoven, who was formerly "Koop-
man," or commissary and chief bookkeeper. The schout tiscal.
or executive officer, was Ulrich Leopold, who was soon re](laced
by Cornelius Van der Huygens.

Governor Kieft found Fort Amsterdam dilapidated, the
public buildings out of re|>air, the windmills out of order, and
the eomiiany's boweries untenanted. The greatest disorder
prevailed. Hlicit trading with the Indians was ])racticed, the
•soldiers were insu))ordinate, and everything was in such a con-
dition as to require a strong hand. To the West India Com-
pany, Xew Xetherland was one of the most insignificant of their
possessions, and little attention was ])aid to its wants or reijuire-
ments. In 1(5.38 special orders were sent to the Directors to make
liberal arrangements with new settlers in the mutter of a-.- piir-
ing land. The I'esult was that new settlers arrived in -.^reat
numbers, not only from Europe, but from Virginia and Xew
England, thus introducing an English element, which ultimately
absorbed or excelled all the rest, and under Kieft a period of
]iros]ierity was insured. It was during his administration that
a comparjv of English settlers from Lynn, Massachusetts, at-



tempted to form a settlement at what is now Port Washington,
in the toWn of Oyster Bay. Being driven off, they retired to the
east end of Long IsUmd and there founded the town of South-
ampton, the first English town on the island.



(/'Yom tlic Xtii' York Mirror. /M^i^

During Kieft's term of office there was great trouble witli
the Indians, with frightful reprisals on either side, and the out-
lying settlements were almost entirely destroyed, but a peace
was finally arranged. Hostilities, however, were soon recom-
menced, and only ended after a fearful struggle. At the end,
it is stated, that not over one hundred white men remained on


the island of Manhattan — some had gone to Fort Orange
(Albany), and many had retnrned to Holland. All the settle-
ments on the west side of the river had been destroyed, and the
Westchester region abandoned. In 1(i95 a more lasting peace
was declared, and the colon}' was once more in a prosperous

On the 11th of ]May, KUT, the disastrous administration of
William Kieft came to an end. It was remarked by one of the
historians of the time that in the early part of his term "one-
fonrth part of New Amsterdam consisted of grog sho])s, or
houses where nothing is to be got but tobacco and beer." In
1()47, Governor Kieft sailed for Holland on board the ship
' ' Princess. ' ' Among the passengers was the Eeverend Evarar-
dus Bogardus, whose quarrel with Von Twiller had been con-
tinued with even more animosity. The ship was lost, and all on
board perished.

His successor, Petrus Stuyvesant, was the greatest and
the last of the Dutch governors, and perhaps Diedrich Knicker-
bocker alludes to his most prominent characteristic when he
terms him "Peter the Headsti'ong. " The colony was ])rosper-
ous, but the inevitable contest with England had begun, with
the constant encroachments of the settlers of New England, who
had extended their settlements as far as Greenwich, C'onnecti-
cut, and were still advancing. The name of one part of the
region is a lesson in history and geograi^hy. To the Dutch, com-
ing from the west, it was known as the "Oost Dorp," or East
Village, while to the English, advancing from the east, it was
the "Westchester."

The whole career of Stuyvesant was a scene of constant
activity, at one time endeavoring to negotiate with the English
at Boston, at another prosecuting a vigorous cami)aigii against
the Swedes on the Delaware. There were also troubles at home,
for a band of disappointed spirits were endeavoring to stir up
commotion, with a view of conijiletely overturning the authority



of tlie governor and the ])ower of the West India Company as
well. He fully I'eallzed the danger of an English conquest, the
story of which will be told in another chai^ter. With this con-
quest, which occurred in 1664, the official career of Stuyvesant
came to an end. Ketiring to his bowery, or estate, which was
then a long distance from the city, he died in the early part of
167:^, and was buried in a vault on his own ground, and in the
church he had erected. lT]ion the vault in the new St. Mark's
church, is a stone bearing the inscription:







His descendants are numerous, and his name is honored
in the citv he ruled so long and so well.

Dutch Church at Flatbush.


Of the few views wliieli we possess of the Island Manhattan,
all agree niion one points — tliat is was a hilly etnintry, and mostly
covered with woods. We can only give a brief description as
derived from notices given in ancient deeds, and the description
of early travelers.

'J'he island at its lower end terminated in a i)()int whicli to
the early settlers was known as Schrnyer's Hook, or Shuntei's
Point. The extreme end was a very short way below the ])resent
State street, and seems to have been a rocky point known as
"Capskie," or Little Cape, a name afterward changed to
Copse. The original name of State street was Copse street,
and changed to its ijresent name after the Revolntion. The
lots on the original Pearl sti'eet Avere mentioned as bonnded
north ]iy the Pep.rl street, and soutli towards tlie water. The
lots sonth of Penrl stre?t. on the west side of what is now White-
hall street, are spoken of in old deeds as bonnded east to the
water. "What w;is known in later years as "Whitehall Slip ex-
tended north as far as Penrl street, bnt this in later years vras
filled in. When Washington left the city at the close of the
Revolntion. after bidding adieu to his officers in the fann)ns
meeting at Frannces' Tavern, he embarked at Whitehall Sli;).
which tlien l)egan at F]-ont street. The original water front to
the east was the ])]'esent sonth line of Pearl street. Along th?
water side was a narrow sandy beach, whicli was boixlered on tlu>
north by the n])land. This sandy beach was called the "Strand."
On the west side of the point, the last lot on Pearl street is de-


scribed as bounded on tlie west "partly by the Strand, and
partly by the Governor's Garden." The Strand at that place is

Online LibraryWilliam S. (William Smith) PelletreauHistoric homes and institutions and genealogical and family history of New York (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 26)