Richard Mather Bayles.

History of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time online

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caused by the ebb flowing out along there with such rapidity.
Between the Hamel's-Hoofden the width is about a cannon's
shot of 2,000 [yards]. The depth 10, 11, 12 fathoms. They
are tolerably high points, and well wooded. The West point is
an island, inhabited by from eighty to ninety savages, who sup-
port themselves by planting maize. The East point is a very
large island, full 24 milesS long, stretching East by South and
East Southeast along the sea-coast from the river to the East
end of the Fisher's Point. 1

* * * * *

' TheHamels-Hoofden being passed, there is about a mile width
in the river, and also on the West side there is an inlet, where
another river runs up about 20 miles to the North-North-East,
emptying into the Mauritse River in the highlands, thus making
the North-West land opposite to the Manhatas, an island 18
miles long. It is inhabited by the old Manhatans ; they are
about 200 to 300 strong, women and men, under different chiefs
whom they call ' Sackimas.' This island is more mountainous
than the other land on the South-east side of the river, which
opposite to the Manhatas is about a mile and a half in breadth.
At the side of the before-mentioned little river which we call
Achter Col*[ there is a great deal of waste, reedy land ; the rest

* Sandy Hook so named after Samuel Godyn, one of the directors of the West
India Company at Amsterdam.

t The Lower bay of New York also called Port May or Godyn's bay.

Hamel's Hoofden the Narrows, between Staten and Long Islands. These
"Hoofden," or headlands, were named after Hendrick Hamel, one of the
directors of the West India Company.

Dutch miles a Dutch mile is equal to about three English miles.

I Visschers Hoeck Montauk Point.

T[The Kills.


is full of trees, and in some places there is good soil, where the
savages plant their maize, upon which they live as well as by
hunting. The other side of the small river, according to con-
jecture, is about 20 to 30 miles broad to the South river, in the
neighborhood of the Sancicans, as well as I have been able to
make it out from the mouths of the savages ; but as they live
in a state of constant enmity with those tribes the passage is
seldom made ; wherefore I have not been able to learn the exact
distance; so that when we wish to send letters overland they
(the natives) take them way across the bay and have the letters
carried forward by others unless one amongst them may hap-
pen to be on friendly terms and who might venture to go

The Indians dwelling on Staten Island at the time of its
discovery were the Raritans, a branch of the great nation of
Dela wares or Leni-Lenapes. From indications found in various
localities, such as large collections of shells and bones, it is evi-
dent that they dwelt on or near the shores of the island, where
fish, scale and shell, were easily obtained ; this is also confirmed
by the fact that their burial places have been found in the
vicinity of those places, neither of these indications of human
occupancy having been found in the interior. Stone hatchets and
stone arrow-heads, and springs rudely built up with stone walls,
have been found at no great distance from the shores ; one of
the latter may still be seen a short distance northeast of the
Fresh pond, or Silver lake, in Castleton, and is known by the
name of the Logan spring.

The interior of the island was their hunting ground, where
deer, bears and other animals of the chase were found. The
shores also afforded an abundant supply of water fowls, and
thus, all their resources considered, the Indians were well sup-
plied by nature with the necessaries of life. In addition to
these, they had wild berries and fruits, maize, of which it is
said they cultivated large quantities, beans, tobacco, and other
articles of their own cultivation. The proximity of the island
to the mainland enabled them to extend their hunting expedi-
tions indefinitely. The wild animals which were found on the
neighboring continent were also found here, but they, as well
as their human contemporaries, have gradually retired or per-
ished as civilization advanced.

It is supposed that the Indians of Staten Island, in common


with those of the neighborhood, were subject to the Mohawks,
and stood in constant and mortal fear of them. Their clothing
was the skins of the beaver, fox, and other animals, and con-
sisted of but little more than a covering of the thighs and loins.
Their food was maize or Indian corn, fish, birds and wild game.
Their weapons were bows and arrows, the latter sharpened with
Hint stones or the bones of fishes. Boats were made from a
single piece of wood, hollowed out by fire. Some led a wander-
ing life, while others had fixed abodes built with rafters, and
oven-formed, covered with the bark of trees, and large enough
to accommodate several families. A few mats, wooden dishes,
stone hatchets and smoking tubes composed their scanty fur-
niture The fire was kindled in the middle of these dwellings,
from one end to the other, and the smoke let out at an opening
in the crown of the roof. On hunting and fishing expeditions
they erected temporary huts in the same fashion.

All the agriculture was done by the women, who of course
knew nothing of plowing or spading the soil, nor the culture of
wheat, oats, barley or rye. Their universal grain was maize, or
turkey corn, of which they made bread and "sapraen" or
mush. They also cultivated beans, pumpkins, squashes and
tobacco. The old men made wooden bowls, ladles and baskets.

Their hatches were made of stone, in shape like rude wedges,
about a half foot long, and broad in proportion. A notch was
made around the thick end, which received the two parts of a
stick split at one end which formed the handle. The jaws of
the handle were then firmly bound with thongs to the hatchet
and the implement was ready for use. Sometimes these hatchets
were not handled at all, but were simply held in the hands
when being used. Their chief use was to make good fields for
maize plantations, by girdling the trees and thus clearing the
ground by taking advantage of the natural course of decay and
time in removing the wood growth.

When the Indians wished to fell a thick, strong tree they em-
ployed fire. This was done by heaping a great quantity of
wood about the trunk of the tree, and burning it, continuing
this process until the trunk was burned through and the tree fell.
But to prevent the fire consuming the part which they wished
to save they made a swab with which, fastened to the end of a
pole, they kept applying water to the trunk a little above the
h're. When it was desired to hollow out a log they applied fire



in a similar way and kept wetting the part that was to be pre-
served. After thus burning and charring the inside of the
trunk they finished it by chipping and scraping the burnt parts
with their stone hatchets, Hints and sharp shells. Canoes were
often made thirty to forty feet long.

Instead of knives they used little sharp pieces of flint or
quartz or some other hard kind of stone, and these were some-
times substituted by sharp shells or pieces of bone which they
had sharpened. At the end of their arrows they fastened
narrow angular or pointed pieces of stone. These points were
commonly pieces of flint or quartz, but sometimes other hard
kinds of stone were used, and again the bones of animals or
the claws of birds were sometimes used.

They had stone pestles, about a foot long and as thick as a
man's arm. These were made of a black sort of stone, and
were used for pounding their maize, which was an important
article of their food. Sometimes they used wooden pestles.
For mortars they hollowed out the stumps or butts of trees.
The old boilers or kettles of the Indians were either made of
clay or of different kinds of stone. The former were made of
a dark clay mixed with grains of white sand or quartz, and
burnt in the fire. Many of these kettles had holes in opposite
sides of the upper edge, through which a stick was passed, and
by this means the kettle was held over the fire to boil. These
kettles seldom had feet, and were never glazed either inside or

Their tobacco pipes were made of clay, or pot-stone or ser-
pentine stone. The clay pipes were shaped like our common
pipes of that material, though they were much coarser and more
rudely formed. The tube was thick and short, often not more
than an inch but sometimes a finger in length. In color they
were like our pipes that have been long in use. The celebrated
" pipe of peace" was made of a fine red stone, not found in
this part of the country, and it was probably almost unknown
to the Indians of Staten Island.

For fishing they used hooks made of bone or the claws of
birds. Fire was kindled by rubbing one end of a hard piece
of wood against another dry one till after a time the friction
became so great that the wood began to smoke and finally to

The Indians in personal character and appearance were


healthy, strong, robust and well proportioned. In social life
they were polygamous, their chiefs having several wives. They
were faithful, however, to the marriage relations, and the
women often preferred death to dishonor, Wassenaer of
Amsterdam, who wrote in 1621-33, says that the Indian women
"are the most experienced star-gazers; there is scarcely one of
them but can name all the stars their rising and setting, the
position of the Arctos, that is, the wagon, is as well known to
them as to us, and they name them by other names." All the
natives paid particular attention to the sun, moon and stars in
connection with their seasons. The first moon following the one
at the end of February was greatly honored, and as she rose
they had a festival, feasting on fish and wild game, and drink-
ing with it clear, fresh water. The Indian year now com-
menced, and this moon was hailed as the harbinger of spring,
and the women began to prepare for planting. At the arrival
of the new August moon another feast was celebrated for the
coming harvest.

The Indians seemed to have no knowledge of God or religion.
Some of them paid homage to the Devil or evil spirits, but not
with so much ceremony as the native Africans do. They be-
lieved in good and evil spirits, and their spiritual affairs were
entrusted to Kitzinacka, a sort of weather priest. He visited
the sick and dying, and sat beside them bawling, crying and
roaring like a demon. He was a kind of Capuchin, with no
abode of his own, lodged where he pleased, and never ate food
prepared by a married woman. It must be cooked by a maiden
or an old woman.

Wampum was the universal money among the Indians. It
was made of the thick and blue part of sea clam-shells and
oyster shells. The thin covering of this part being split off a
hole was drilled through it and then the outward shape given
to it by means of a stone upon which it was rubbed or
ground. The form was sometimes eight sided, but generally
round or nearly so, and in size resembling the cylindrical
glass beads sometimes known as "bugles." The beads were
usually about an eighth of an inch in diameter. When fin-
ished they were strung upon cords of some kind, and these
strings of wampum were measured by the foot, yard or
fathom. In their manufacture from six to ten feet in length
were considered a day's work. It was of two kinds, white


and purple or black. The latter was wrought out of the
mussel shells. With the Dutch governors six beads of the
white or four of the purple were equal in value to one penny.
This currency was used by the Europeans for many years after
their settlement here. The Indians made belts of wampum
by weaving the strings into widths of several inches and they
were two feet or more in length. It was sometimes called seewan.
Both the Dutch and English recognized it as currency fora long
time. In 1683 the schoolmaster at Flatbush, L. I., was paid
his salary in wheat at " wampum value." Among other fees he
received for supplying water for baptisms twelve styvers, in
wampum, for every baptism. In 1693 the ferriage for passen-
gers from New York to Brooklyn was eight styvers in wampum
each. It was also used for ornamenting the person and as an
emblem of agreement in treaties. The belt of wampum removed
the remembrance of injuries and bloodshed. On Staten Island,
Long Island and the neighboring shores of the mainland are
found numerous beds or heaps of clam shells broken into very
small pieces. These were without doubt the scenes of this
manufacture. When we remember that this article was the
currency of all the tribes even away inland, and that the ma-
terials of which it was made were only found on the sea coast,
we can see what an important and advantageous position the
Indians of this locality, occupied.

In their burials the dead were placed in the earth without a
coffin, but with all their costly garments of skins, in a sitting
posture, upon a stone or block of wood. Near the body were
also arranged a pot, kettle, platter and spoon, with some wam-
pum and provisions, for their invisible journey to the Spirit
Land. Over the grave was heaped a pile of wood, stone or
earth. A few of these spots of sepulture have been found in
different parts of the island. One of these was on or
near the old Pelton place at West New Brighton. Here have
been found, in years long gone by, various trinkets a copper
box, copper earrings and a glass pipe. The last was found in
the mouth of an Indian skeleton.

Tradition says that the point of the island now occupied by
Tottenville was once a favorite burial spot with the Indians.
The remains of several have been exhumed there within a few
years past. One was found while digging a cistern on the
premises of Mr. Appleby, and several others were dug up on


the premises of Joel Cole. The peculiar beauty of the site, it
is said, made it attractive to the aborigines for sepulture, af-
fording as it did an uninterrupted view of the rising and the
setting sun. The site was also a favorite meeting place during
the periods of their spirit worshipping. Friendly tribes from
Long Island, Manhattan island and the Jersey shore were wont
to join the natives here, on their festive occasions, when doubt-
less the surrounding forests and the neighboring hills resounded
with the untutored songs of thousands of the children of
nature's wilds.

The treatment of the Indians by the Dutch explorers and
the Dutch government was not such as to inspire friendly re-
turns from the savages. The disgraceful barbarities with which
the Indians were often treated are too common matters of his-
tory to need repetition here. In consequence of the savage
passions which this treatment aroused Staten Island was re-
peatedly scourged by the spirit of retaliation naturally evinced
by the sons of the forest. Of some of the more notable de-
monstrations of hostility between the two races we shall speak.

In the spring of 1640 some parties, on their way from New
Amsterdam to South River, Delaware, stopped at Staten Island
to take in water, and while there stole some hogs from the settlers
on de Vries' bouweries. The Indians residing on the Raritan, and
who had manifested a hostile disposition, were at once charged
with the theft, which was regarded as a serious offense, and Gov-
ernor Kieft to punish them sent a company of about seventy
men, under command of his secretary, Van Tienhoven, with in-
structions to invade the Indian country, capture as many of the
natives as they could, and destroy their crops. When the
party reached their destination they became insubordinate, and
the secretary lost control over them. They declared their in-
tention to kill every Indian they could find, and though re-
minded that such a course would be going beyond their instruc-
tions, they persisted, and the secretary, seeeing that expostula-
tion was in vain, left them to execute their wanton determina-
tion. Several of the unfortunate savages were killed, and the
chiefs brother was barbarously murdered after he had been
made a prisoner by one of the party named Govert Loocker-
mans. Their crops were destroyed, their wigwams burned,
and other outrages perpetrated. Having satiated their fiendish
spirit, the Dutchmen retired, leaving one of their number,


whose name was Ross, supercargo of the ship "Neptune," dead
on the field.

The Indians, goaded to desperation, not only by the unjusti-
fiable destruction of their crops, and slaughter of their brethren,
but by a long continued course of frauds practised upon them
by unscrupulous men, who first intoxicated and then cheated
them in bargaining with them, resolved upon revenge. One of
their first acts was to invade Staten Island, where in 1641 they
attacked the settlement that de Vries had begun, and killed
four men and burned two of his houses.

Not long before, a young Indian, smarting under a sense of
wrong, vowed to kill the first Dutchman who crossed his path, and
he kept his vow. Governor Kief t, forgetting that he himself was
the instigator of all these outrages, announced his intention of
taking summary vengeance upon the savages. It was in vain
that the prominent men of the colony counselled moderation
in vain that they represented to him that his course would be
adding fuel to the fire he replied to all their remonstrances
that the law was "blood for blood," and he meant to have it ;
he recognized the applicability of the law to the whites, but not
to the savages. His anger was chiefly directed to the Raritans,
and he entered into an agreement with some of the river Indians
to assist him in annihilating that tribe, and to excite their blood-
thirsty dispositions, he offered ten fathoms of wampum for the
head of a Raritan, and twenty fathoms for the head of every
Indian engaged in the murdei's upon Staten Island. At this
time he built a small redoubt upon the island.

In the meanwhile, the Indians upon Long Island began to
manifest a hostile disposition, and Kieft found himself involved
in new troubles. It was evident from some of his measures
that he began to regret his precipitancy, and if nothing else
had occurred to irritate him anew, he might have consented to
forget the past, and to "bury the hatchet;" but just at this
juncture some traders happened to meet an Indian of the Hack-
ensack tribe, who was clothed in a dress of valuable beaver
skins, whom they made drunk, and then robbed. On recover-
ing his senses, the savage vowed to kill the first Swannakin
(white man) whom he should meet. He did that, and more ;
an Englishman who was a servant of de Vries on Staten Island,
was met by him and killed, and shortly after a man named Van
Vorst, while engaged in repairing a house in the vicinity of


Newark bay, met the same fate. Apprehensive of further
trouble, a deputation of chiefs of some of the neighboring
tribes, waited upon the director, whom they found greatly ex-
cited, and not disposed to reason with them. He informed them
hat the only way to keep peace was to surrender the murderer.
"We cannot do that." they replied, "because he has fled, and
is out of our reach." They offered to make compensation for
the crime, according to the customs of their people^; nothing,
however, could propitiate Kieft but the possession of the mur-
derer. The Indians represented to him, that it was not they who
committed the murders, but the white men's rum ; "keep that
away from the Indians," said they, "and there will be no more
murders;" but Kieft was inexorable he was resolved upon
war, unless they surrendered the murderer, who was as far out
of their reach as out of his.

New troubles now arose with the Long Island Indians. Thus
far they had remained quiet, but the Dutch, with an infatu
ation utterly unaccoiintable, suffered no opportunities to pass
to excite them to deeds of violence. Matters were becoming
worse daily, and an oxitbreak of Indian fury could not have
been suppressed much longer, when, through the unremitting
assiduity of the philanthropic Roger Williams, a meeting
between Kieft and several Indian sachems took place at Rock-
away on the 25th of March, and a reconciliation was effected.

The peace thus concluded was of short duration. The Indi-
ans continued to commit depredations upon the property of the
settlers, and especially was this the case upon Staten Island.
Many of them still held their residence there, and could not
resist the temptation to appropriate the products of the agri-
cultural skill and labor of their white neighbors, which were
so much superior in quantity, quality and variety to their own.
Remonstrances had proved ineffectual, and it became necessary
to adopt severer measures. In addition to this, the Raritans,
who were the offending tribe, had interrupted the communi-
cation between the two shores of the river at New Amster-
dam, and it had become perilous to attempt to land on the
west shore.

In the winter of 1G42-3 two armed parties from Fort Amster-
dam attacked the Indians at Corlear's Hook and Pavonia (Ho-
Koken) slaying thirty at the former place and eighty at the
latter. This outrage led to almost fatal consequences. From


the Raritan to the Connecticut the war-whoop was heard, and
eleven tribes declared open war against the Dutch. All settlers
they met with were murdered, men, women and children-
dwellings were burnt, cattle killed and crops destroyed. In the
spring of 1643 peace was secured, but it was unsatisfactory to
the river Indians, and the war-fires were again kindled. Pa-
vonia, and the greater part of Manhattan and Long islands,
were in the hands of the savage foes, now embracing seven
tribes and numbering 1,500 warriors. To oppose this uncivilized
body the Dutch forces amounted to not more than 200 to 300
settlers and between 50 and 60 badly munitioned soldiers. All
the "Bouweries," or plantations at Pavonia, and with one excep-
tion only on the Long island shore, were destroyed. An early
chronicle says: " Staten Island, where Cornelius Melyn estab-
lished himself (1643) is unattacked yet, but stands expecting an
assault every hour."

Early in 1644 an expedition against the Staten Island Indians
was organized. It consisted of forty burghers under Joachim
Pietersen Kuyter ; thirty-five Englishmen under Lieutenant
Baxter, and several soldiers from the fort under Sergeant Peter
Cock, and the whole being under command of Counsellor La
Montange. They embarked after dark, and at a late hour
landed upon the island. They marched all night, and when
the morning dawned, had arrived at the place where they ex-
pected to find the Indians, but there were none there. Secretly
as the whole enterprise had been conducted, the savages had
discovered it and escaped. The troops, after burning the vil-
lage, returned, taking with them over five hundred schepels of

To the honor of a few, however, be it said the Dutch were not
unanimous in their inhuman hostility to the Indians. Promi-
nent among the few who comprehended the situation, and
understood what course of policy would have been best for the
colony, was the minister, Dominie Bogardus, and de Vries, the
patroon of part of Staten Island. They were strongly opposed
to the course pursued by the directors in their dealings with
the Indians, and the event showed the wisdom of the policy of
forbearance and conciliation which they recommended. So
persistent were they in pressing their views upon the authori-
ties, that they excited their anger, and were charged with a

* A schepel was almost three pecks.


design of ingratiating themselves into the favor of the Indians
for selfish purposes, and to the prejudice of the interests of the
colony at large. The Indians understood these men and rec-
ognized them as friends, and when, in one of the raids they
made upon the settlers on the island, they had killed some of
de Vries' cattle without knowing to whom they belonged, they
expressed their regret for the act, calling him the friend of the
Indians. At another time, when a difficulty had occurred with
some of the Long Island Indians, and Kieft found himself in a
dilemma, he was very desirous of making peace with them, but
he could find no ambassador who was willing to trust himself
in their power, until de Vries offered to visit them for the pur-
pose. He was hospitably received, and when his mission was

Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 6 of 72)