INTRODUCTION TO NEW NETHERLAND
waited for exploration. During the early seventeenth century, the Dutch
established commerce between Europe and this New World. They hoped to build
settlements in North America for the purpose of trade and colonization. Explorer
Henry Hudson charted the New York waterway during his search for the elusive
Northwest Passage to China. He brought his ship up river as far as Albany and
sent a smaller vessel to explore the land to the north.
By 1621, the first Dutch settlement grew on the lower tip of an island inhabited by
the Manhattan Indians. The colony of New Netherland was placed under the
jurisdiction of the Dutch West India Company to be governed by directors. In
1624, Manhattan Island was purchased from the Algonquin nation during the
infamous trinket deal. Then, the city of New Amsterdam began to flourish upon
The Dutch colony stretched from the Delaware River Valley in the south to New
Jersey in the west; the Catskills & Albany in the north; as well as Long Island and
Connecticut to the east. Peter Minuit was chosen to become the first director. In
1624, the first settlers arrived. They were thirty Walloon families who, except for
eight members of the group, settled in Fort Orange, now known as Albany.
In 1629, the patroon system was established along the Hudson River as an
incentive for settlement and an attempt to extend feudal ways to the New World.
Each patroon was granted sixteen miles of land along one side of the Hudson
River or eight miles along opposite sides of the river as long as they could settle
50 tenants within four years. But these tenants had limited rights and never
hoped to own the land where they spent their lives working. Eventually, the
system crumbled due to the various other opportunities of the New World.
After the decline of the large properties ruled by patroons, small farms, called
bouweries, came into existence. A typical Dutch farm of 1638 was comprised of
several acres of fertile land. The farmer might have built a home averaging about
25-feet in length, 20-feet wide and 40-feet deep. They might have a few cows,
oxen, horses, wagons and necessary farm tools. The barns were large and often
attached to the home for convenience as well as the safety of the livestock.
Typical Dutch features included double doors to prevent pests from entering the
house while allowing proper ventilation of the kitchen. Certain farms had a
bergh, an open shed with a roof to shelter hay or grain. Also typical were planked
roofs, a front porch with carved benches; a cos or decorated cabinet for
possessions; a bed that was built into the wall, much like a closet, to prevent
drafts. The kitchen fireplace jutted out into the room, unlike the receding
fireplaces of English design. Fires were plentiful in the Dutch homes, which
might explain why there are more colonial English farmhouses than Dutch
farmhouses in existence today. By 1639, approximately thirty such bouweries
existed on Manhattan Island.
Tobacco was a common crop after its initiation by the second Director Walter Van
Twiller. Grain, fruit, vegetables, herbs and flower gardens were also abundant.
The last Director, Peter Stuyvesant, introduced the peach to the New World and it
was fashionable to have a peach tree in the orchard.
In I638, the Dutch initiated settlements on Long Island in Brooklyn. Brooklyn was
one mile away from the East River where a ferry station provided service from
Long Island to Manhattan. Men such as David deVries explored the surrounding
By this time, Peter Minuit retired and was replaced by Walter Van Twiller. Van
Twiller found that governing the colony was a difficult task. In addition to
widespread trouble with the Native people, he encountered unrest in Delaware
where the Swedes had established an unlawful settlement, New Sweden. In
Connecticut, fighting between the English and Dutch escalated.
In 1638, William Kieft followed Van Twiller as Director. Kieft was harsh compared
with Van Twiller. He immediately planned for the growth of the colony beginning
with the upgrading of Fort Amsterdam at the southern tip of Manhattan Island.
Kieft's fort consisted of a five point stone fortification some 300-feet by 250-feet.
The fort contained guardhouses, barracks, the Director's brick home, the Dutch
Reformed Church and three windmills. Bastions jutted out to provide the militia
with strategic positions for fighting any foe.
The citizens settled easily into life in New Amsterdam. Skating on the frozen
ponds, bowling on the green, games and, festivals were common. Traders,
farmers and trappers gathered in taverns. A few English settlers relished the
freedoms of Dutch rule, especially the religious tolerance. So, they relocated to
New Netherland. With official approval, the English were permitted many
settlements on Long Island beginning with Southampton. However, Director
Kieft's Indian policy was a shameful aspect of his career. Murdurous raids upon
innocent village brought about fear and slaughter.
In 1647, Peter Stuyvesant succeeded Kieft as director. A soldier who lost his leg
during a battle in the Caribbean, Stuyvesant was a commanding figure with a
wooden peg leg and violent temper. His administration was marked with
contrasts. He imposed taxes to govern liquor and mill prices. He insisted that
there be a curfew, a fire department, new building ordinances and obligatory
Dutch Reformed Church attendance. He also dug canals on the lower section of
But social ills shaded any progress. Slavery was widely accepted with African
slave labor responsible for much of the city’s construction. Ownership of the
land was tainted by prejudices. When Jews were expelled from Brazil they found
shelter in New Amsterdam, but were unable to purchase land. They were forced
to live in a ghetto with restrictions generally uncharacteristic of the colony.
Stuyvesant was also known for his harsh treatment of Quakers. He passed laws
forbidding the growth of the Quaker sect, punished those who aided Quakers,
imprisoned them, fined them, even whipped them. In 1657, Quakers of Flushing
signed a rebuke to the Director for his actions and called for religious tolerance.
Stuyvesant agreed to the terms of the Flushing Remonstrance and abolished his
Just as little sparks of accomplishment and freedom ignited, the Dutch
colonization of the New World ended abruptly. For decades, the English set
sights upon owning the entire the Atlantic seacoast. In 1664, a fleet of English
vessels appeared in New York harbor. Stuyvesant wanted to fight, but his people
did not. Not one gun was fired and the English put an end to the Dutch rule in the
New World. Now, only a few words and ways remind us of our Dutch heritage in