Old Bergen

Chapter V.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

In the spring of 1623, the first permanent colonization of the New Netherlands was attempted, under the authority of the Dutch West India Company, the successor of the New Netherlands Company. They sent a company of thirty families of Walloons under the superintendence of Cornelius May, before spoken of, who arrived at the mouth of the Hudson in May, 1623. Some of them were located on Manhattan Island, to take possession there on behalf of the West India Company. Several families were sent for a like service to Long Island, and the balance to Fort Orange.

Manhattan Island, from its location, soon became the chief shipping port, and on the opposite or west ban]: of the river a small redoubt was thrown up, the immediate object in view being to secure the safe prosecution of traffic with the native tribes. This is the first positive evidence of any attempt at settlement 111 what is now Hudson County, although there is a belief that there was some kind of a trading post here contemporary with, or about the time of, the Dutch settlement in New York, in 1613. Whether it became permanent, or was only resorted to from time to time for the purpose of bartering with the Indians, is not positively known, although O'Callaghan's "Documentary History of New York" alludes to a settlement about this time. In a few years the trade with the natives was greatly extended, covering the whole country, even to the lakes.

On February 12, 1620, application was made on behalf of the "Brownists" for permission to found, a colony in the New Netherlands. These were the Puritans who were driven from England by religious persecution during the reign of Elizabeth, and who reached Amsterdam in 1608. The next year they went to Leyden, and remained there eleven years. Having flourished and increased in numbers, they desired to teach the faith of the Cross to the savages, and to colonize a new empire on the shores of the Hudson under the auspices and protection of the Prince of Orange.

The statesmen of Holland were more ambitious in their designs, and rejected the petition of the Brownists, preferring that a great and powerful monopoly should grow up, whose concentrated wealth and energy should not only assist in the colonization of the New World, but be a powerful ally in any controversy with outside nations. The Brownists thereupon directed their course to the New England shores instead of the New Netherlands, landing at Plymouth Rock, December 21, 1620. The "Pilgrims," by this refusal, became the founders of New England, instead of, as was their intention, imparting their sturdy qualities to the territory about the Hudson.

May was trade the first Director of the infant colony, and his administration continued throughout the year 1624. The advantages of the country being now favorably known, other vessels with settlers arrived; and in 1625 the colony had increased to two hundred souls. May was succeeded by William Van Hulst as second Director. His administration, likewise, lasted only one year, and at the expiration of his time he returned to Holland. The West India Company now despatched Peter Minuit, of Wesel, to assume the chief command, as their third Director. Up to 1626 the Dutch held their possessions only by right of occupation and discovery, but after many controversies with the Indians, the rights of the original owners were recognized, and they determined to purchase the territory from them. Shortly after Minuit's arrival, he opened negotiations with the savages, and concluded a treaty which conveyed the whole Island of Manhattan, about 22,000 acres of land, to the Dutch for the sum of sixty guilders, about $24 in our money. A fort was staked out at the southern end of the island, and houses were built, among them a stone building with thatched roof, for the Company's counting-house.

The States General, recognizing the great danger arising from controversies among the different bodies of settlers, determined early upon a fixed and uniform government, and consequently in 1629 established articles of order and government, that should be generally recognized in the different settlements. They authorized the various departments of the West India Company to appoint a Council of nine persons, who should have general authority and command over all the settlements in the New Netherlands. Local governments were formed under the Schout and Schepens, and Krankbesoechers, or " Comforters of the Sick," who on Sundays read to the people portions of the Scriptures, and the Creed.