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

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explained to them, and they were requested to visit the director
at the fort in New Amsterdam, they refused to go until he had
pledged himself for their safety.

On what part of the island the Indian village, which has been
spoken of as having been burned by the Dutch expedition in
1644, was located is entirely a matter of conjecture. There is
a tradition that an Indian village once stood on the shore of the
Lower bay not far from the present Annadale, but no remains
have been found to establish its site. From numerous relics
and Indian remains that have been found about Tottenville,
Kreischerville and Watchogue, it is possible that, the village
may have been at one or other of those places.

During the year 1655, another and more serious calamity be-
fell Staten Island than anj- which had preceded it. Hendrick
\ r an Dyck, former attorney-general at New Amsterdam, on
rising one morning, discovered a squaw in his garden stealing-
peaches ; in a moment of anger he seized his gun and shot her,
killing her instantly. Of this rash act, little, if any, notice was
taken by the authorities, but the Indians did not overlook it ;
immediate measures were taken by them to avenge the outrage.
Several of the neighboring tribes united, and early on the morn-
ing of the 15th of September sixty-four canoes, containing nine-
teen hundred savages, some of whom were Mohicans, and
others from Esopus, Hackingsack, Tappaan and Stamford, sud-
denly appeared before New Amsterdam. They landed and dis-
persed through the various streets, while many of the people
were still asleep. They broke into several houses on pretense
of looking for "Indians from the North," but in reality to



58 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

avenge the death of the squaw that Van Dyke had shot. As
soon as they were discovered, an alarm was sounded. The
officers of the colony and city, and many of the principal inhab-
itants, assembled, and the leaders of the savages were requested
to meet with them, which they did ; they accounted for their
sudden appearance under pretext of searching for some hostile
northern Indians, who, they pretended they had been informed,
were either in the city or its vicinity. After much persuasion
they were induced to promise to leave Manhattan island at sun-
set, but when evening came they were still there, and manifested
no disposition to leave. They became unruly and the people
became excited, and violent acts were committed by both
parties ; Van Dyck, the thoughtless author of the trouble, paid
the penalty of his rashness by being killed with an arrow, and
Paulus Leinderstein Van Der Grist, one of the city officials,
was killed by a blow with an axe. The soldiers in the fort and
the city guard were called out, and attacked the invaders, driv-
ing them back to their canoes. Crossing the river, the savages
attacked the settlements there, and killed or captured most of
the people. Thence they went to Staten Island, which at that
time had a population of ninety souls and eleven flourishing
bouweries ; twenty-two of the people were killed, and all of the
remainder who did not escape were carried away captive, and
the bouweries were desolated. The Indians continued their
ravages three days, during which time they killed one hundred
whites, took one hundred and fifty prisoners, and ruined three
hundred more in their estates. Alarm spread throughout the
entire region, and there was no safety anywhere, for the hostile
Indians were prowling about by day and by night, even upon
Manhattan island, where they killed all who came within their
reach. Stuyvesant employed every means in his power for the
protection of the settlement at New Amsterdam and the neigh-
boring settlements, and after awhile the ransom of all or nearly
all the prisoners taken by the Indians was accomplished, the
Indians receiving ammunition in return for the captives.

This bloody siege has been known as the "Peach war,"
from the circumstance of its origin as already narrated. The
island was now almost entirely depopulated, and the settlement
had to be recommenced from the beginning. Adrian Post, the
overseer for Baron Van de Cappelan was one of the sixty -seven
who escaped massacre and was taken captive He affirms, with



HISTOKY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 59

reference to Staten Island, " that all the dwelling-houses were
burned in the known conflict with the savages in 1655, and that
no other effects were then left than a few beasts, which he, after
his imprisonment by them, collected together, and of which the
greatest part died, while the few remaining were sold by him
for the maintenance of his wife and children." In relation to
the affair we also quote from the reminiscences of Altie Widelar,
wife of Thomas Burbank, who "settled at V: Duses:" " She sd.
there was 2 or 3 houses at Old Town and at Carlsneck & the
Indians run off the Island and murderd. at Old Town all Except
a little girl who run into the woods the indian put on her
fathers Cloths and Decoyd. the Girl supposing it to be her
father her they savd. The Indians Came principally from
Bergain."

The Indians of Staten Island after the coming of the whites
rapidly diminished in numbers. As they gave up their lands
to the white settlers they moved back into the country. But in
reality comparatively few of them moved in that way. Most
of them ended their days either by wars among themselves or
were destroyed by small-pox, a disease with which they are
said to have been unacquainted before their commerce with
Europeans, but which afterward made sad havoc with them.
And in addition to these causes a writer during the middle of the
last century said, " But Brandy has killed most of the Indians.
This liquor was likewise entirely unknown to them before the
Europeans came hither; but after they had tasted it they could
never get enough of it. A man can hardly have a greater de-
sire of a thing than the Indians have of brandy. I have heard
them say that to die by drinking brandy was a desirable and
honorable death; and indeed 'tis no very uncommon thing to
kill themselves by drinking this liquor to excess."

The last of the old Staten Island Indians were " Sam" and
"Hannah," and their daughter "Nance." The old couple
lived at Fresh kill near the Seaman farm, and upon it they used
to depredate for timber of which they made baskets, for this
was their occupation. They were very old during the first
quarter of this century. They sold their baskets for rum, and
then they would quarrel. Hannah finally disappeared, and no
one knew what had become of her. It was supposed that Sam
had killed her, for he always new into a rage whenever any one



60 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

asked him where she was. After the death of one or both of
her parents it is supposed that Nance left the island.

The first idea of value that was conceived by the Dutch in
view of the newly discovered regions here was not associated
with any design of forming settlements here. The climate of
Holland and other countries of Europe, rendered furs indispen-
sable to their inhabitants; hitherto these had been obtained
chiefly from Russia, and at great expense. The Dutch had dis-
covered that there were furs in the countries newly discovered,
which were easily procurable in exchange for articles of ex-
tremely trifling value; the temptation to engage in a traffic so
exceedingly profitable, was too strong to be resisted by a people
so prompt to promote their own interests. Accordingly, in 1611,
a vessel was dispatched to the Manhattans as an experiment, and
so successful was the venture, that a spirit of commercial enter-
prise was at once awakened. Two more vessels, the "Little Fox"
and the "Little Crane," were licensed, and under the pretense
of looking for the northwest passage, sailed direct for the newly-
discovered river. This was in the spring of 1613. Having ar-
rived, the traders erected one or two small forts for the protec-
tion of the trade on the river. The position of the island of
Manhattan for commercial purposes was so favorable as to strike
the Europeans at once, and the traders who had scattered in
various directions made that island their head-quarters. Hen-
drick Cortiansen was the superintendent of the business, and
with his small craft penetrated every bay or stream where In-
dians were to be found, in pursuit of furs.

The results of these expeditions were successful, and many
others were projected, and crowned with similar success. When
the intelligence of these discoveries reached the projectors of
the several voyages at home, steps were immediately taken by
them to secure to themselves the benefits of their enterprise and
perseverance. All the country lying between the 40th and 45th
degree of north latitude was called " New Netherland." Ex-
clusive privileges to trade to these countries for a limited
period were given to them. A trading house was at once erected
on an island in the Hudson, near the present site of Albany,
and the country on both sides of the river thoroughly explored
in quest of furs; and by the time of the expiration of the grant,
which was at the close of 1617, some of the merchants engaged
in the trade had realized immense fortunes therefrom.



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 61

The charter having expired, the trade of New Netherland
was thrown open, and adventurers from all parts of the father-
land eagerly enlisted therein ; the former traders, however,
held on to the advantages they had gained by their prior occu-
pancy.

Different commercial associations were formed, whose several
interests began to interfere with each other, and all contention
and disputes were at last adjusted by the consolidation of all
interests in the organization and charter of the " Dutch West
India Company."

The powers and privileges with which this company was
invested were not confined to the narrow limits of the New
Netherlands ; they embraced the whole range of the American
coast, from the Horn to the Arctic sea, and on the west coast
of Africa from the Hope to the Tropic of Cancer, not pre-
viously occupied by other nations. On the American coast
settlements had been made by the French at Canada, by the
English at Virginia, and by the Spaniards at Florida. The prep-
arations made by the directors of the newly chartered com-
pany to improve the privileges granted to them, attracted, in
England, the attention of the government, and a strong remon-
strance was sent to Holland, insisting that all the territory
claimed by the Dutch was embraced in the charter of Virginia,
and therefore was under the jurisdiction of England. The
matter was from time to time brought before the authorities of
both countries, and the discussion protracted by the Dutch for
the purpose of gaining time, that the preparations of the new
company might be completed.

Thus it will be seen that the first Europeans who visited this
part of the continent came for the purpose of trading, not of
settling permanently ; but having become favorably impressed
with the soil and climate of the country, they began to enter-
tain the idea of making it the place of their future abode, and
to devote to agriculture that part of the season when furs were
not obtainable. The country was organized into a province, a
few settlers were sent out, and a form of government was estab-
lished, with Peter Minuit at its head as director ; this was in
the year 1624. In the same year, and probably in the same ship
with Minuit, a number of Walloons arrived and settled on
Staten Island ; this is the first settlement on the island of
which we have any knowledge. These people came from the



62 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

country bordering on the river Scheldt and Flanders ; they
professed the reformed religion, and spoke the old French, or
Gallic language ; they were good soldiers, and had done efficient
service in the thirty years' war. Two years before their arrival
here, they had applied to Sir Dudley Carleton for permission
to emigrate to some part of Virginia, upon condition that they
might build a town of their own, and be governed by officers
chosen by and amongst themselves. This application was
referred to the Virginia company, and met with a favorable
response so far as the mere settlement was concerned, but the
privilege to elect their own officers was too long a step toward
popular freedom, and could not be conceded ; the permission
to settle upon the company's land was fettered with so many
conditions affecting their civil and religious liberty that they
declined to entertain it, and turned their attention to the New
Netherlands, where so many arbitrary conditions were not in-
sisted on. On their arrival here they appear to have aban-
doned the plan of settling in a colony or single community,
and separated, going in different directions, a few families taking
up their abode on Staten Island. It is supposed that among
these was a family by the name of Rapelje, among whom was
one George Jansen de Rapelje. Surrounded by the savages arid
separated from their friends at Manhattan, they did not long-
remain here. Yielding to the necessities of their condition,
lacking both food and clothing, they returned to Rapsie, the
southern extremity of Manhattan island, where they found not
much relief but were subjected with the other colonists to ex-
tremes of privation and suffering. But relief soon after came
by the arrival of a ship from the mother country. The Rapelje
family soon after removed to Wallabout, on Long Island, and
are recorded as the first European settlers upon that island.
Their child Sarah has down to the present time borne the honor
of having been the first child of European parentage born in
the colony. Her birth is dated June 9th, 1625, and though some
have claimed that it took place while the family were upon
Staten Island, the facts indicate more strongly that the honor
belongs to Long Island. She lived to be the wife of two hus-
bands and the mother of twelve children, from whom has
descended a large and highly respectable lineage.

For many years the traffic with the Indians for peltries had
been exceedingly profitable, and large fortunes had been



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 63

secured by many of the traders, but in the course of time, as
the articles of the Indian's traffic became scarcer, and the val-
ue of the Dutch commodities depreciated in consequence of
their abundance, the trade gradually decreased, until at length
the cost of sustaining the colony was greater than its revenues,
and the West India company found itself rapidly descending
to the verge of bankruptcy.

The first great landed proprietors in New Netherland were
called "patroons; " they were Samuel Godyn, Samuel Bloemart,
Killian Van Rensselaer and Michael Pauw. The two first named
settled in Delaware. Van Rensselaer obtained a patent for a
large tract on the Hudson in the vicinity of Albany and Troy,
and Pauw became the proprietor of all the country extending
from Hoboken southward along the bay and Staten Island
sound, including Staten Island ; this grant was made to him by
the directors in 1630. At the same time the country was
purchased from the natives for "certain cargoes or parcels of
goods,'' and called Pavonia. The name of this proprietor still
attaches to a part of his possessions in the locality known as Com-
munipaw. It is to be mentioned to the credit of the company,
that they made it a condition in the patents which they granted,
that the recipients should extinguish the Indian title by direct
purchase, and this was exacted in every instance. By some it
is claimed that the director general and council had purchased
the island of the Indians in 1626, but what the authority is for
the statement we do not know. The consideration paid to the
natives was not money, which would have been useless to them,
but cloths of various kinds, culinary utensils, ornaments, etc.,
but not fire-arms.

The value of the articles paid for the fee of the island varied
at different times, for the Indians sold it repeatedly. Pauw's
acquisition was not of much benefit to him ; it is not known
that he made any effort to colonize it, or that he ever cleared a
rood of it, for very soon after acquiring it, difficulties arose be-
tween him and the directors, and he disposed of his territorial
rights on the island and on the continent to his associate direct-
ors for the sum of 26,000 guilders. He was a man of conse-
quence in his own country ; he was one of the lord directors
of the company, and among their names we find his set down
as the Lord of Achtienhoven.

In 1636, David Pietersen de Vries obtained a grant for a



64 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

part of the island, and began to make settlements on it,
but the precise locality is not known ; it is supposed, how-
ever, to have been at or near Old Town (Oude Dorp). The
dwellings of the settlers, on their arrival, were generally con-
structed as speedily as possible, that their families might be
sheltered. Excavations 1'or this purpose were generally
made in the side of a hill, or other convenient spot,
and lined and roofed with rude planks, split out of the trees ;
sometimes the roofs were covered with several layers of bark ;
these were only meant for temporary dwelling places, until
better ones could be provided.

The date of the grant which had been obtained by de Vries
from Wouter Van Twiller was August 13, 1636, and de Vries
set sail for Holland two days afterward for the purpose of gath-
ering a colony to come and occupy the land. He returned with
his settlers about the end of the year 1638. This was the third
time de Vries had sailed across the ocean to the New Nether-
lands, and when the ship neared the entrance at Sandy Hook
he was called upon to pilot her in, as the following extracts
from his journal will show :

" Sept. 25, 1638. On board the ship of the West India Com-
pany, sailed from Holland.

"Dec. 26. Got sight of Sandy Hook. The captain * *
at the request of the passengers, who all had their homes in the
New-Netherlands, solicited me to pilot the ship in, which I did,
and anchored the same evening before Staten Island, which was
my property, and put my people on shore."

Other memoranda made by de Vries at different dates tell
in his own language something of his connection with the
island. Under date of August 13, 1636, he says: "I requested
Wouter Van Twiller to put Staten Island down in my name,
intending to form a colony there, which was granted." Under
date of January o, 1639, he writes: "Sent my people to Staten
Island, to commence the colony and buildings." But his pos-
session of the island was disturbed as we see by this entry of
August 20, 1641: " Arrived, the ship Eyckenboom, and had on
board a person named Malyn, who said he was the owner of
Staten Island, that it was given to him and to Mr. Van Der
Horst by the directors of the company. I could not believe
this, having left the country in 1638 to take possession of this
island, and in that time have settled there. I could not think



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 65

that the directors of the company would act in this way, it be-
ing granted by the sixth article, and we being the first occu-
pants and of course it could not be taken from us."

The two following entries give us de Vries' view of the Indian
massacre of 1641. September 1st of that year he writes : "My
people were murdered on Staten Island by the Indians of
Raritan. They told an Indian who was assisting my people
that we should now come to fight for the killing of the men as
we formerly had done for the hogs, with the stealing of which
they were wrongfully accused. It was done by the servants of
the company, then going to the South river, who landed first at
Staten Island to take in wood and water, when they stole the
hogs and the blame was laid on the innocent Indians, who
tho' cunning enough, will do no harm if no harm is done to
them. And so my colony of Staten Island was smothered in
its birth by the management of Governor Kieft, who wanted to
avenge the wrongs of his people on the Indians." On the day
following, that is, September '2, 1641, we have this entry : "An
Indian chief belonging to the Tankitekes, called Pacham, came
to the fort in much triumph, with the hand of a dead man
hanging on a stick, saying it was the hand of the chief who had
killed our people at Staten Island, who had avenged tbe wrongs
of the Swannekins, whose friend he was."

De Vries is said to have been a literary man, and was the
author of a historical work. There is no evidence that he re-
sided upon the island himself. The settlers introduced by him,
however, prospered for a time, until, as we have already seen,
their bouweries or farms were desolated by the savages. DeVries
remained in the colony for several years, and for some time
thereafter maintained his hold on the "bouwerie" on Staten
Island, but the relations existing between the Dutch and the
Indians were not favorable to the growth of a settlement here,
and though we have evidence to support the above statement in
the fact that de Vries' bouwerie was excepted from the grant to
Melyn, and also the fact that an Englishman residing here in
the service of de Vries, was killed in 1642, yet it is probable
that he soon afterward abandoned the attempt to maintain a
settlement here.

The third attempt to found a settlement on Staten Island was
made by a Dutch merchant by the name of Cornelis Melyn.*
He came from Antwerp, and his first visit was made here in

5



66 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

1639. July 3, 1640, he obtained an order from the directors in
Holland, authorizing him to take possession of Staten Island
and erect it into a "Colonie." But on his passage hither, in
February, 1641, the vessel in which he sailed was captured
by the "Dunkirkers." and he thus lost all he had on board,
and was glad to reach his native shores in safety. He was
obliged then to apply to the directors for a passage to the New
Netherlands, which he obtained, and again embarked, with his
family and some goods for trade with the Indians, to the
value of about 1,000 guilders. This voyage was made on
board the ship "Eyckenboom "(meaning "oak tree"), and he ar-
rived at New Amsterdam August 20, 1641. He received letters
patent from the directors, bearing date June 19th, 1642, for
the whole of Staten Island (excepting the bouwerie of Capt. de
Vries), and constituting him patroon of the island, investing
him at the same time with all the powers, jurisdiction and '
pre-eminences of that privileged order.

During the administration of Kieft, Melyn, the patroon of
Staten Island, lived in a state of unremitting hostility with
him. Having adopted, in a great measure, the policy of de
Vries in the treatment of the Indians, though not as success-
fully, he found himself in almost constant collision with Kieft,
who was prompt to notice and avenge every act of the savages
which he could torture into a hostile demonstration.

Kieft continued to reside at New Amsterdam for a short time
after he had been superseded, and Melyn improved the oppor-
tunity to prefer charges against him. Stuyvesant, though on
the whole disposed to deal justly with all men, would brook no
direct attack upon the dignity of the directorship, either in his
own person or in that of his predecessor, and this was the light
in which he chose to regard Melyn' s complaint, so when these
charges were preferred they were met by counter-charges from
the ex director, among which was one that Melyn had said he
could get no justice from Kieft. However true the assertion
may have been in its application to Kieft, it proved quite true
in application to Stuyvesant, for after a long investigation, the
attorney-general expressed an opinion that both Melyn and
Kuyter, who had also been implicated in the charges, ought to
suffer death. The director, however, knowing that his public
'acts were likely to be reviewed, was disposed to deal more
leniently with them ; he therefore, with the consent of the



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 67

majority of the council, condemned Melyn to a banishment of
seven years and a fine of three hundred guilders and Kuyter to
three years' banishment and a fine of one hundred and fifty
guilders.

In accordance with this sentence, the defendants were sent to
Holland.* The attention of the government was immediately
called to the manner in which justice was administered in the
colony, by an appeal which the banished patroon and his asso-
ciates took on their arrival. An elaborate investigation followed,
and the sentence was reversed; the director was also censured,



Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 7 of 72)