This page conforms to the XHTML standard and uses style sheets. If your browser doesn't support these, you may not see the page as designed, but all the text is still accessible to you.

SCHENECTADY DIGITAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

Bringing the heritage of Schenectady County, New York to the world since 1996

You are here: Home » Resources » MVGW Home » Chapter 12

History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 12: History of Albany, the Mohawks and the Mohawk Valley, 1614-1664.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 203-219 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Biographies | Illustrations | Maps | Portraits

Go back to: Chapter 11 | ahead to: Chapter 13

1614, Establishment of Fort Nassau by Captain Hendrick Corstiaensen of the United New Netherland Co. — New York and Albany, the oldest cities in the thirteen original states — Albany settled in 1614 — Six years before the landing of pilgrims — 1614, three Dutchmen explore the Mohawk River to Canajoharie — 1618, Council of Elkins with Mohawks, Mohicans and Delawares at Tawasentha — The first chain of friendship between the Dutch and the Mohawks — 1621, the Dutch West India Co. — 1623, Building of Fort Orange — 1625, Mohawk-Mohican War — Settlers flee to Manhattan — 1630, The great manor of Rensselaerwyck of 700,000 acres, embracing a small part of the lower Mohawk Valley — 1634, Van Den Bogaert's mission to the Mohawks and Oneidas — 1637, coming of Van Curler — 1642, Dominie Megapolensis arrives — First church — Father Jogues captured by the Mohawks — Treaty with the Mohawks — Fort Cralo built — Friction between the Director General and the Rensselaerwyck authorities — 1644, Father Jogues escapes from Mohawks — 1646, Jogues returns — Slain at Osseruenon (Auriesville) — 1648, First school at Beverwyck — Visit of Stuyvesant — 1649, First council held by the Dutch with the Mohawks at one of their castles,Osseruenon — 1658, Glen settles at Scotia on the Mohawk, first permanent white settlement in the Mohawk Valley — 1659-1660, Scourge of smallpox among the Mohawks — 1661, Schenectady settled — 1664, English conquer New Netherland — Colonel Cartwright visits Esopus, Fort Orange and Schenectady establishing English rule — Fort Orange becomes Albany and New Netherland becomes New York

The settlement of present Albany, by Hollanders in 1614, marks an epoch in the history of the United States. The location there, of Fort Nassau in 1614 and of Fort Orange in 1623, formed the beginnings of a center which was destined to become the historical keystone of the Colonies. Albany was the fourth important American city in order of settlement, being preceded by Jamestown in 1607, Quebec in 1609 and New York in 1613. Albany is also the second oldest city in the thirteen original states, being next only to New York, which was first permanently occupied in 1613, while Albany dates its birth from the year 1614. Jamestown, Virginia, the first settlement in the area mentioned, was burned in 1676 during Bacon's rebellion. All of the foregoing, cities antedate those of New England, and, small as were the first settlements in Virginia and New Netherlands, yet the making of America was well under way before the Pilgrims made their landing at Plymouth in 1620.

It is as the parent city of the Mohawk Valley, that Fort Orange and its name successor, the city of Albany, deserve consideration in these pages. This chapter covers the first settlement of the extreme eastern end of the Mohawk Valley and it also (from 1614 to 1664) deals with the Mohawks, whose history is regarded as much a part of this book as is that of our Mohawk Valley white pioneers.

In the year 1614, Captain Hendrick Corstiaensen, with a few traders and trappers, sailed up the Hudson River and landed on Castle Island, or, in Dutch, Kasteeul Eylandt, now called Van Rensselaer Island. It was here that French traders had located in 1540. On the ruins of the old French works, Corstiaensen built a stone house and a palisade. He called this post Fort Nassau and here the Dutch traders carried on a brisk traffic in furs and peltries with the Indians. Corstiaensen was murdered shortly after this and his lieutenant, Jacob Jacobsen Elkins succeeded him, as agent for the United New Netherlands Co. And so passed Corstiaensen, who bore so large a part in the early founding of the Capitol City of the Empire State, which later resulted in the settlement of Schenectady and the Mohawk Valley. His name is only briefly mentioned in our histories, where it is generally spelled Christiansen and even Hendricksen.

The original location at Fort Nassau was primarily to further trade in furs for the benefit of the United New Netherlands Co. As traders and trappers are human beings, and as the settlement was a permanent one, it was historically a settlement and a Colonial occupation in every sense of the word — fully as much so as if the hardy Dutch traders had brought with them a floating Leviathan filled with all the paraphernalia and worries of civilization. One of the most ludicrous historical assertions is that this occupation by burly, brawny Hollanders was not a true settlement because they did not bring with them Dutch families, live poultry, agricultural tools, pigs, sheep, cattle, et cetera.

The Directors General of New Netherland during Dutch rule, from 1623 to 1664, were Captain Cornelise Jacobsen Mey, 1624; William Verhulst, 1625; Peter Minuit, 1626-1633; Wouter Van Twiller, 1633-1638; William Kieft, 1638-1647; Petrus Stuyvesant, 1647-1664.

The Mohicans were then the overlords of the Albany neighborhood. They received the Dutch kindly and gave them the land on which Captain Corstiaensen built Fort Nassau. The Hollander Captain repaired and rebuilt the dilapidated French post. This was a palisaded square, 58 feet on each side, surrounded by a moat, eighteen feet wide, with a strong stone storehouse, 26 by 36 feet in the center. This post was furnished with cannon and garrisoned by a dozen Dutch soldiers. It was a force which could easily have been wiped out by the Indians, but the fort with its cannon, probably seemed very formidable to the Algonquins and the Mohawks who visited it. The trading posts of Manhattan and Fort Nassau were governed by the local agents of the United New Netherland Co. and Elkins, who succeeded Captain Corstiaensen, is noted because he won the good will of the Mohawks — one of the influences that brought about the all important Iroquois-Dutch alliance.

The Netherlanders of Fort Nassau began operations as traders immediately upon their location there and also sent out an exploring party, probably with the idea of locating the Indian tribes so that they could be induced to bring their peltries to Fort Nassau instead of trading them with the French. This party of commercial agents consisted of three Dutch traders from Fort Nassau who passed up the Mohawk Valley, probably to Canajoharie, crossed over to Otsego Lake and went down the Susquehanna as far as Wyoming, in the year 1614. Here they crossed the mountains to the Delaware where they were made prisoners by the Indians. They were ransomed in 1616 and returned to New Netherland. This was probably the earliest exploration of the Mohawk, the Susquehanna and Delaware by white men. In making this journey, these Hollanders must have visited several of the Mohawk castles which lay on the way.

We, fortunately, have a record of this early exploration of the interior of New York State in a map drawn from descriptions furnished by these adventures of 1614, from which we learn that one of them was named Kleynties. The map maker made this note regarding it:

"Of what Kleynties and his Comrade have Communicated to me respecting the locality of the Rivers and the position of the Tribes which they found in their Expedition from the Maquaas into the interior and along the New River downward to the Ogehage (that is the Enemies of the aforesaid northern tribes), I can not at present find anything at hand, except two rough drafts of Maps relating thereto, partly drawn with accuracy. And, in deliberately considering how I can best reconcile this one with the rough drafts Communicated, I find that the places of the Sennecas, Gachoos, Capitanisses, and Jottecas ought to be marked down considerably further west into the Country."

Another map was made in 1616 from further explorations by the Dutch traders and it is probable that, from 1614 onward, there were constantly in our Valley, Dutch bosloopers and French couriers du bois — both terms meaning "wood runners", a name applied to the rough adventurous woodsmen of these two nations who visited the Indian tribes for trade and the excitement of adventure, which ran strong in those days of "do and dare." Many sons of the Dutch settlers of Fort Orange were soon engaged in this daring commerce, particularly after trade was made free in 1642. From this wilderness life among the Indians, many of the early pioneers of Fort Nassau and Fort Orange are said to have become more like Indians than Hollanders. In this way they acquired Indian traits, Indian habits of thought and deed and skill in woodcraft, qualities which left an impress upon their descendants and which transmitted certain Indian traits into the early American character.

Floods and freshets made the situation of Fort Nassau as untenable for the Netherlanders as it had been for the French, and so, Elkins, in 1617, moved four miles down the river and built a new Fort Nassau on the Tawasentha, now known as the Normanskill which enters the Hudson on the southern limits of the present city of Albany.

In 1618, on the Tawasentha, Elkins held a council with the Algonquin Indians of the surrounding country and the Delawares and the Mohawks who claimed suzerainty over all the others. This was the famous council where "the chain of friendship" was first made between the Mohawks and the commandants of the Albany forts. It was an alliance of the Mohawks with the Dutch and English which remained virtually unbroken until the Revolution, a compact which forms one of the great influences in World history which has affected the destinies of practically every nation in the world. Some historians of today are inclined to discredit this conference of 1618, because there is no record that a treaty was actually made. Regardless of this, there seems to be no question but that the Tawasentha council was the beginning of the famous alliance of the Mohawks with the Dutch and English governors of New Netherland and New York. The Mohawks never broke this alliance and only once did the white parties to it infringe upon it — when in 1623 the dullard, Commandant Kriekebeeck, joined the Mohicans against the Mohawks and was defeated and killed in the subsequent battle. The Fort Nassau-Fort Orange district, because of this friendship with the Mohawks, was forever free from Indian troubles and the present Albany section grew strong and rich, while Manhattan was several times involved in bloody and disastrous Indian wars. The Manhattan section's development was thus greatly retarded while Fort Orange continued to progress and to send out Dutch settlers who peopled the Hudson from Kingston on the south to the Hudson River section above Half Moon on the north; eastward to Hoosic and westward to Schenectady on the Mohawk, before the year 1700. The settlers of this Albany district were mainly Dutch, while those of Manhattan district were more cosmopolitan.

The charter of the United New Netherland Co. expired on January 1, 1618, and the merchants of the company were unable to renew their monopoly and trade in New Netherland became open to all Hollanders for the next three or four years. Between 1618 and 1623, at Fort Nassau, Elkins remained, so tradition says, and carried on a lucrative trade with the aid of the Holland ships. It is very probable that some of the early traders stayed here and joined themselves with the settlers who came to Fort Orange under the West India Company in 1623.

The Plymouth pilgrims, then resident in Holland, wished, in 1620, to settle in New Netherland but were refused because of the plans of the West India Company, then in process of formation.

June 3, 1621, the congress of Holland known as the States General, incorporated the Dutch West India Company, one of the greatest combination monopolies and governments of its time. It was invested with almost regal powers for carrying on trade and planting settlements, from Cape Horn to Newfoundland, for a period of twenty-four years and it had exclusive control and governing power over New Netherland. It was managed by a board of nineteen directors in Holland and it was not fully organized until 1623 when colonization plans were vigorously pushed.

In April, 1623, the good ship New Netherland, under the command of Cornelisen Jacobsen Mey, sailed from Holland for America with thirty families of colonists, chiefly Huguenot Walloons — Protestant French-speaking people of southern Belgium who had been driven out by religious persecution. Some of these passengers on the New Netherland went ashore at Manhattan, some settled in present Brooklyn and a few at Esopus (Kingston). Eighteen families sailed up the Hudson and settled on the site of Albany, under command of Adrien Jorise, lieutenant of Mey. Jorise built Fort Orange on the site of present Steamboat Square, Albany, the exact location being that of the Fort Orange hotel which was burned in 1847. Adrien Jorise is said to have been the Company's governor of the province, in 1623. He remained at Albany all winter. Cornelise Jacobsen Mey was governor in 1624 and William Verhulst in 1625.

The Company's commissaries at Fort Orange were Vice-Directors of the West India Company and Commandants of the fort. Among those recorded as serving at Fort Orange during Dutch occupation (1614-1664) were Daniel Kriekebeeck, Peter Barentsen, Bastian Jansen Kroll, Jorissen Houten, Harman Mynderts Van den Bogaert, Arent Van Curler, Carl Van Brugge, Jan Labadie, John Dyckman, John De Decker, John La Montagne.

In 1625 two shiploads of cattle, horses, sheep and swine arrived in New Netherland from Holland and the growth and development of the infant colony seemed assured. One of the fools who make history as well as the wise men, now stumbled across the path of progress. This was Commandant Daniel Krieckebeeck who was induced, by the neighboring Mohicans, to join one of their war parties against the Mohawks, with whom the Dutch had sat around the council fire at Tawasentha in 1618.

Krieckebeeck set out with six of his Dutch musketeers and the party of Mohicans. A few miles from Fort Orange they were met by a war party of Mohawks, armed with bows and arrows, who defeated their enemies in a sharp battle. Krieckebeeck, three of his men, and a number of Mohican warriors were killed, while the rest fled for their lives. The Mohawks then ate their first and only known meal of roast Dutchman. The Mohawks did not bear the Hollanders any great ill will because of this conflict. They valued the Dutch friendship because of the goods and weapons which they obtained in trade at Fort Orange and soon again were on good terms with their Netherlander neighbors. This war was general between the Mohawks and Mohicans and raged in the Mohawk Valley. The Mohicans had some success but eventually were defeated.

Peter Minuit was an excellent Director General of New Netherland, from 1626 to 1633. He sailed up to Fort Orange and brought back to Manhattan all the colonists who were frightened by this savage warfare. Sixteen soldiers were left to garrison Fort Orange. And so the Huguenot Walloons departed to have their places taken by subsequent Dutch pioneers who came in soon after, as there are about a dozen farmsteads indicated about Fort Orange on both shores of the Hudson, in a map of 1630.

In 1629 a charter of privileges and exemptions was passed for the encouragement of patroons to settle colonies and, in the following year, several wealthy and influential directors of the Dutch West India Company hastened to avail themselves of its advantages. One of these was Killian Van Rensselaer, pearl merchant and jeweler of Amsterdam, who bought from the Indians the great manor of Rensselaerwyck, (in 1630 and 1637), extending for twenty-four miles along the Hudson River, above and below Fort Orange, and forty-eight miles in width — extending inland twenty-four miles from the east and west shores of the river. Bastiaen Jansen Kroll, commissary, and Dierck Cornelissen Duyster, under commissary, made the first purchases of this greatest of Colonial landed estates, which embraced 700,000 acres and included the present counties of Albany and Rensselaer and part of Columbia County. Rensselaerwyck also took in the sprouts of the Mohawk and the south shore of the lower Mohawk River from its outlet westward to present Niskayuna, a distance of about ten miles. Thus, although the Valley area is small we have here the beginnings of the white man's occupation of the Mohawk Valley. Its settlement cannot be traced through deeds as all occupants were tenants of the patroon. Cornelisse Antonisen Van Slyck was living in this lower Valley section near Cohoes Falls in 1641, and he may have been its first pioneer. Van Slyck was a trader who had an Indian wife in the Mohawk castle near present Canajoharie and, by her, had several children, four of whom are intimately connected with the first settlement of Schenectady, as will be noted later. Van Slyck is one of the most interesting and important figures in early Mohawk Valley history and the ancestor of the Van Slyck family in our Valley.

The Rensselaerwyck purchases of 1630, about Fort Orange (Albany), were from the Algonquin tribe of Mohican Indians, who had, on Havers Island in the Sprouts of the Mohawk, a stronghold called the castle of Menominee. These sales by the Mohicans were probably made largely because of their defeat by the Mohawks in 1626. The Mohicans moved into Rensselaer County, where their main towns were located, and later moved into Connecticut, and seated themselves on the Thames River. A part of the tribe later returned to the Hudson.

Early in the spring of 1630, a number of colonists, with their families, sailed from the Texel in Holland in the Company's ship. They were provided with farming implements, stock and all other necessities. Those who settled at Rensselaerwyck were followed by others and the growth of the patroon's "colonie" was slow but sure from that time onward. In 1630, the population of Nev Netherland probably did not exceed 600 people, with a possible hundred or more about Fort Orange.

The laws of Holland and the ordinances of the West India Company were in force in New Netherland and Rensselaerwyck but the great power, with which the patroon was invested and the remote location of the colony of Rensselaerwyck fostered the development of a small state around Fort Orange, which was almost self ruling and which had almost virtual independence. Naturally clashes soon arose with the authorities of Manhattan and with the representatives of the West India Co. in Fort Orange.

The early government of Rensselaerwyck is interesting to us, even though it controlled only a small part of our Valley. Th colony of Rensselaerwyck had a General Court, which exercised executive, legislative, municipal and judicial functions. It was composed of two commissaries and two councilors, who answered to modern justices of the peace. Adjoined to this court were a colonial secretary, a sheriff or schout-fiscaal, and the court messenger or constable. There was a public prosecutor who tried delinquents before a court of five persons. The most important official was the schout or sheriff, the first of whom was Jacob Albertsen Planck.

Jacob Elkins, who had been the second in command at Fort Nassau, became captain of an English trading vessel in 1633. In that year he sailed into New York harbor and up the Hudson to Albany, despite the comic-opera threats of the foolish Dutch Director, Van Twiller. Goaded to action by De Vries, Van Twiller at last sent a boatload of Dutch soldiers to Fort Orange who broke up Elkins' trade and who then escorted him back and showed him his way out to sea at the Narrows.

In 1634, Marten Gerritsen was commissary and commandant at Fort Orange. Harmen Myndertse Van den Bogaert was the surgeon there. Trade in furs was dull and the French were drawing the traffic of the Indians to themselves, to the injury of the Dutch factor at Fort Orange. This was made possible by a truce then existing between the Mohawks and the French. Van de Bogaert was a burly, courageous, fighting Hollander, who readily undertook a midwinter trip into the Iroquois country, with the object of offering those Indians inducements to continue the trade at Fort Orange. With two companions, Van den Bogaert went through the Mohawk country, visiting all the castles, and ended his trip at Oneida castle on upper Oneida Creek, near the site of present Munnsville. He left a very interesting and historically important journal, which is the earliest description of our Valley. It is published in a later chapter.

Arent Van Curler came to Rensselaerwyck in 1637, at the age of seventeen, as assistant commissary. He was a cousin of Van Rensselaer and soon secured advancement to the position of Commissary-General or Superintendent of the Colony of Rensselaerwyck and acted as Colonial Secretary until 1642, when he was succeeded by Anthony de Hooges. Van Curler was one of the greatest figures connected with the early history of the State of New York. He was the leading spirit in the settlement of Schenectady in 1661-1662 and had a prominent part in Fort Orange, Albany and Mohawk Valley affairs until his death in 1667. Adrian Vander Donck succeeded Planck as schout and sheriff. He started a conspiracy against Van Curler which fortunately failed and Vander Donck was forced to quit the colony.

With the growth of Rensselaerwyck, a little town began to grow up around Fort Orange, which became known as Beverwyck — "beaver place or town", because of its trade with the Indians in beaver skins.

New Netherland lost one of its best governors in 1633, when Peter Minuit was replaced by Wouter Van Twiller, who ruled from 1633 until 1638, only to be replaced by a villain in office in the person of William Kieft, a man with a soul as brutal as that of the most barbarous savage, and an official who was naturally despotic and most unpopular.

Wind, water, and horse mills were probably built as early as 1631 at Fort Orange. There was a mill on Governor's island in 1639 and a horse mill on Rutten Kill in 1646. Saw mills and flour mills were also erected. A brewery was built in 1637, and by that year, Fort Orange or Beverwyck probably had all the small industries necessary to a frontier town and a population center. Water commerce with Holland and the West Indies by sloops and yachts (small ships) must have necessitated some sort of a ship yard which was doubtless here located at an early day.

In 1638 the Dutch West India Company adopted a more liberal policy in New Netherland. Trade and manufacturing and the right to hold and own land were made free to all. This policy did much to boom the colony. Its effect, however, was less on Rensselaerwyck than elsewhere, because this vast estate was held by the patroon Van Rensselaer and his copartners in a feudal rule which controlled its tenants according to its own laws.

Although the regulations of the province made it a capital crime to sell firearms to the Indians, the Dutch of Beverwyck began to sell them to the Mohawks about 1640. Thus armed, our Valley Indians were more able to cope with their enemies and their conquests then went on more rapidly. The Indians allied with the French were armed with guns before the Mohawks received them.

Popular government had its beginnings in New Netherland when Director Kieft convened the heads of families in Manhattan to consider hostilities against the Indians. The head men selected twelve men to confer with the Director and this representative body was called the Twelve Men. Kieft reduced it so that it was called the Eight Men in 1643, and, under Stuyvesant, the people's representatives became the Nine Men. This small assembly was in many conflicts with these two Directors, both of whom desired a personal despotism, while the people's representatives desired a popular government like that of New England.

The year 1642 was marked in Beverwyck, by two events of much religious importance. The first was the capture of Father Isaac Jogues, the French Jesuit priest, and his torture and imprisonment in the lower Mohawk castle of Osseruenon at present Auriesville. Van Curler made a trip to this Indian town and endeavored to secure the release of Jogues but failed. On his return trip, he examined the site of Schenectady with much interest.

Van Curler found the Mohawks living on sites different from those visited by Van den Bogaert in 1634. In 1642 the chief Mohawk castles were Osseruenon, at present Auriesville; Andagoron, west of present Fultonville; Tionnontogen, at present Sprakers. All these chief towns have had various spellings.

In 1642, Johannes Megapolensis, the first dominie of Rensselaerwyck arrived, having been engaged by the patroon. A church was built for him in 1642, the first Reformed Dutch church of Albany, the predecessor of many later ones in the Capitol City district, and in the Mohawk Valley. Megapolensis became one of the great men of New Netherland. He settled at New Amsterdam in 1648. In 1643 Megapolensis began to preach to the neighboring Indians and even converted some of the Mohawks. He is the first Indian missionary who is known to have given religious instruction to the Indians, as John Eliot did not begin his Indian missionary work in Massachusetts until three years later. In 1644 at Greenbush, Dominie Megapolensis wrote his famous description of the Mohawk Indians which is given in a later chapter.

That he had the friendship and the confidence of the Mohawks is clearly shown in this historic paper, in which he also gives the first known account of our lower Mohawk Valley great falls of Cohoes.

In 1642, Fort Cralo was built in Greenbush (now Rensselaer) as the east shore manor house of Rensselaerwyck. It has had a most important history and today probably is the oldest house in New York State and one of the oldest in the United States. Here Dr. Shuckburgh, an English army surgeon, originated the first "Yankee Doodle" lines — words to an old jingle which later were changed to fit the times and became our first American national air during the Revolutionary war.

The "Colonie of Rensselaerwyck" and the Dutch authorities at Manhattan now began to have frequent clashes, the directors of the colony claiming practical independence of the Director-General. These squabbles continued almost up to 1650. The Colony ship "Arms of Rensselaerwyck," was held up at Manhattan in 1643 and its cargo requisitioned by Kieft. Fort Orange was under the rule of the West India Company and its commandant and his soldiers had frequent clashes with the officials of the Colony who generally had the support of the people and even of the Mohawks. The quarrel took on the aspect of the constant trouble in the Colonies which eventually caused the Revolution — the objection of the settlers to their rule by outsiders.

Friction was caused by the great feudal estate of Rensselaerwyck, created by the West India Company, which the latter monopoly now found to be a serious rival of its authority on the Upper Hudson. From a historical point of view, here is a queer anomaly — a great feudal, almost mediaeval estate, set up in the wilderness of the New World, contesting for the right to govern itself and, in its claims, supported by its tenantry, who evinced early signs of a characteristic American love of liberty.

In 1644 Nicolaus Coorn as commander of Rensselaerwyck, completed a fort on Beeren (Bear) Island. It mounted several cannon and commanded the river. The Colony then practically assumed the function of an independent state by claiming a "staple right" or duty of five guilders ($2.00) on every trading craft passing up or down the river, which was also obliged to lower its colors in honor of Rensselaerwyck, which thus asserted a sovereign jurisdiction over a navigable highway, against all persons save and except the servants of the West India Company. Coorn fired on one skipper who refused to salute. Then the wordy war of Manhattan versus Rensselaerwyck raged fast and furious and continued, with varying strength, until 1650, when the States General decided against Rensselaerwyck, which formerly claimed the very ground on which Fort Orange was built. This decision confirmed the title of the land of the West India Company, and assured it the ownership of the territory within a cannon shot of the fort and the trail across the patroon's estate, leading to the Mohawk, at present Schenectady.

In 1643-5 a fierce Indian war raged about Manhattan caused by Kieft's diabolical midnight massacre of the defenceless Indians at Pavonia and Manhattan in 1643. The pioneers of Rensselaerwyck were spared these horrors because of their remote position and their friendship with the Mohawks, with whom Arent Van Curler made a treaty for the Colony in 1645.

Van Curler was director of the Colony in 1644, when a party of Mohawks brought the captive Jesuit priest, Father Isaac Jogues, with them to Albany. Van Curler and Dominie Megapolensis aided Father Jogues to escape to France on a Dutch ship. He subsequently, in 1646, wrote an account of New Netherland from his observations at this time, which is most interesting. His figures are, of course, guess work, as he was hidden in a house while in Beverwyck. He wrote that "on the island of Manhattan and its environs, there may be four or five hundred men of different sects and nations. The Director-General told me there are men of eighteen different languages".

Regarding Fort Orange (Albany), Jogues wrote: "A miserable little fort called Fort Orange, built of logs." Regarding Rensselaerwyck he wrote:

"The colony is composed of about a hundred persons who reside in some twenty-five or thirty houses built along the river as each found most convenient. In the principal houses lives the patron's agent; the minister has his apart in which service is performed. * * * All their houses are of boards and thatched, with no mason work except the chimneys. The forest furnishing many large pines, they make boards by means of their mills, which they have here for the purpose. They found some pieces of ground all ready, which the savages have already cleared and in which they sow wheat and oats for beer, and for their horses, of which they have great numbers. There is little land fit for tillage, being hemmed in by hills which are poor soil. This obliges them to separate and they already occupy two or three leagues of country. Trade is free to all; this gives the Indians all things cheap, each of the Hollanders outbidding his neighbor, and being satisfied provided he can gain some little profit.

"This settlement is not more than twenty leagues from the Agniehronons [Mohawks] who can be reached by land or water, as the [Mohawk] river, on which the Iroquois lie, falls into that which passes by the Dutch, but there are many low rapids and a fall of a short half league, where the canoe must be carried."

Jogues' figures probably would be more correct if the population of Beverwyck were put at over 100 and that of the Colony of Rensselaerwyck more than twice that number in 1644. We have the names of the settlers in Rensselaerwyck from 1630 to 1646. The adult male settlers alone who came to this place in those years totaled 175, up to 1646. A number brought their wives and children, as in the case of Dominie Megapolensis. This would indicate a population, in 1644, of about 200 or more in the entire colony of Rensselaerwyck, some of whom probably then lived about the mouth of the Mohawk.

Jogues was also in error as to all the houses being of wood inasmuch as Fort Cralo had been built of brick in Greenbush, opposite Fort Orange, in 1642. This was the east shore manor house of Rensselaerwyck and was a fine mansion for its day.

In 1646, Jogues returned to the Mohawks on two different occasions. The Mohawks secretly passed sentence of death upon him and he was murdered shortly after his arrival at Osseruenon, on his second journey.

Kilian Van Rensselaer, the first patroon, died in 1646. His son, Johannes Van Rensselaer, a minor, succeeded him, while Johannes Van Wely and the ex-Director Wouter Van Twiller were the executors. They appointed Barent Arent Van Slechtenhorst, of Niewkerke in Gelderland, as director of the Colonie, who came to Rensselaerwyck in 1647. Andries Jansz became the first schoolmaster of Fort Orange in 1648.

Petrus Stuyvesant, the Director-General who was chosen to succeed Kieft arrived in 1647. He changed the name of Manhattan to New Amsterdam and almost immediately became involved in a quarrel with Van Slechtenhorst over the status of feudalism and of semi-independence claimed by Rensselaerwyck. This squabble continued violently for four years and intermittently until the English conquest in 1664. It did great harm to Dutch interests and particularly to the little town of Beverwyck, (Beaver Town) which had grown up around Fort Orange.

The beginnings of this bloodless civil war was signalized by the appearance of two whales which came up the Hudson River during the spring freshet of 1647, one of which grounded on the largest island of the Sprouts of the Mohawk, which was after known as Waalvisch (Whale) Island. Six whales entered the Hudson that year. The one which stranded on the Mohawk island was boiled out for oil by the Beverwyck settlers, but its remains polluted the air for months in the vicinity of Whale Island.

In 1648, Director-General Stuyvesant came to Beverwyck with an armed guard. He bitterly berated Van Slechtenhorst for defying his orders and authority. The patroon's commissary stood his ground and nothing resulted but a bitter war of words between the two officials.

Jean Baptiste Van Rensselaer was the first of the patroon family to come to America. He settled in Beverwyck in 1651, and was elected one of the magistrates and became director of the Colonie in 1652. His brother Jeremias Van Rensselaer succeeded to the directorship in 1658 and continued until 1674, receiving a new patent for his domain from the Duke of York, after considerable trouble. Jeremias proved himself to be a fine, intelligent executive, whose influence with the Mohawks was exceeded only by that of Van Curler.

The Mohawks became disgruntled in 1651 and an attack from them was feared. A committee was appointed to visit them in their castles on the Mohawk River. At a council, the Dutch made a liberal distribution of presents which restored good feeling.

In 1652 (in the year in which New Amsterdam became a city), Dutch pioneers from Fort Orange settled at Esopus (Kingston). Alexander Lindsay Glen, in 1655, bought land of the Mohawks at Scotia, opposite present Schenectady, where he settled in 1658. In 1660, Claverack was settled by Dutch from Albany. In 1661 Hollanders from Albany, led by Arent Van Curler, settled Schenectady. In 1664, Captain Goosen Van Schaick bought the Half Moon patent, included in which was the present site of Waterford on the north shore of the Mohawk at its outlet into the Hudson. Settlers on this patent soon followed, among them being Guert Hendrickse Van Schoonhoven. About this time, the Boght on the Mohawk northwest of Cohoes was settled by the Fonda and Fort families. In 1667, Illetje (Alice), daughter of Cornelis Antonisen Van Slyck and his Mohawk wife Otstoch [also written Ots-toch], was granted the Great Island in the Mohawk at Niskayuna. She also received the Boght at Watervliet on the Hudson and the Willigen Vlachte (Willow Flat) on the Mohawk below Amsterdam. Her husband was Pieter Danielse Van Olinda.

Thus we see how the early Hollander pioneers from Fort Orange settled the present Capitol City district, including the Mohawk from its mouth to Schenectady. They created a populous, strong district, which, at the time of the Revolution, was a tower of strength to the patriot cause. The settlements in the Mohawk Valley, which spread from Schenectady are mentioned in the chapter on the founding of that city.

In 1652 New York became a city. It then had a population of 800 while that of New Netherland was estimated at 2,000. The figures are probably low, at least for the province. There probably were 500 or 600 people or more in the Colony of Rensselaerwyck in 1652. In 1656, a new Reformed Dutch church was built at Albany as the old one of 1643 was dilapidated and had grown too small for the people of Beverwyck.

While Stuyvesant, in 1655, was absent subduing the Swedes on the Delaware, war with the Indians again broke out around New Amsterdam. In 1658, Esopus suffered from a war with the neighboring Algonquins which raged again in 1660. Rensselaerwyck escaped both of these horrors. It was threatened with war between the Mohawks and Mohicans in 1664, when rumors reached Governor Stuyvesant of the threatened invasion by the English.

In 1658, Alexander Lindsay Glen made the first permanent white settlement in the Mohawk Valley. He located on the Mohawk's north bank at Scotia, opposite later Schenectady, on lands which he had bought of the Mohawks in 1655.

In 1659, a terrible scourge of smallpox visited the lower Mohawk castle at Osseruenon (at present Auriesville) and hundreds of its people died from this dread disease, which was particularly fatal to the Indians who were practically free from contagious diseases before the coming of the white man. The surviving Mohawks of the lower castle removed about a mile westward (from the east to the west side of present Aurieskill) and there built a new castle called Gan-da-wa-gue, the lower castle being the town of the Turtle clan. Here the Dutch of Beverwyck held a council with the Mohawks in 1659. The Turtle clan desired the Dutch to drive their horses up the Mohawk and help the Indians move the palisades of the old castle to the new site. The Dutch refused but, on several later occasions, aided their Mohawk neighbors in this way. One thousand Mohawks are said to have died in this smallpox epidemic in 1659-1660.

In 1661, Arent Van Curler bought the Groot Vlachte, or Great Flat, at Schenectady, from the Mohawks. In 1661 this great American of Holland birth led eleven families from Rensselaerwyck over the trail and on the banks of our Mohawk River made the first Valley settlement and laid the foundations of the present great City of Schenectady. Then Albany ceased to be the western frontier city and Old Dorp on the Mohawk took its place. Schenectady became the eastern terminus of Mohawk River traffic and speedily took on a position of importance. The town was palisaded and a small garrison was kept there. The extent of fertile, treeless river flats made the farms very valuable. Stuyvesant issued patents in 1664 for lands at Schenectady. The settlement of Schenectady in 1661-1662 is covered in a later chapter.

In 1664, New Netherland was rapidly growing into an important Dutch possession. The population was yearly increasing from New Amsterdam at the mouth of the Hudson to Schenectady on the Mohawk. New Amsterdam was the best built town along the Atlantic coast, with a thriving commerce and a population of 1,500 in the city. The province numbered 10,000 people or thereabouts. Beverwyck was a town of five or six hundred people while Rensselaerwyck and the present Capitol district probably held several thousand Dutch inhabitants. The lower Mohawk Valley probably had several hundred pioneers, with most of them in Schenectady. After bloody wars and many disappointments and setbacks, the Dutch county of New Netherland seemed about to become a rich and powerful colony of Holland.

By a secret expedition, an unjustifiable act of spoliation, England wrested the Hudson Valley from Holland, while the two nations were at peace. A squadron, under command of Colonel Robert Nicholls, sailed into the Lower Bay and, after prolonged conferences and in spite of the opposition of "Old Wooden Leg", (Stuyvesant), New Amsterdam was finally surrendered, on August 29th, 1664, to the representatives of King Charles the Second, and the Duke of York, and the Atlantic seaboard became a country under one rule. Unjustifiable as was this act, it had great importance, in that it gave the thirteen English colonies a common government and a common cause in their fight for independence. Twelve colonies, split in twain by a Dutch province, would have been handicapped in their later struggle for liberty. This wanton capture of New Netherland caused war between England and Holland, but it proved a godsend to the cause of American liberty.

Nicholls commissioned Colonel Cartwright to go up the Hudson and secure the submission of Esopus, Fort Orange and Schenectady. "In order to secure the transfer to the English of the friendship which the Iroquois had manifested toward the Dutch, Nicholls requested some persons who had experience in dealing with the savages to accompany the military officers of the expedition." One of these was Willett of Plymouth, great-grandfather of Colonel Marinus Willett, the famous American officer of Mohawk Valley Revolutionary days. The others were Captains Breedon, Manning, and Brodhead, ancestor of the historian of that name.

When Cartwright reached Fort Orange, he found De Decker, an unwise Dutchman, trying to rouse the people of Rensselaerwyck to oppose the English occupation. La Montagne, the Company's commissary and commandant of Fort Orange, and the magistrates, had no desire to resist and the change of government was peacefully made. Beverwyck became Albany, after the Scotch title of the Duke of York. All the civil officers and magistrates were continued in their offices. An English garrison occupied Fort Orange, which was then renamed Fort Albany and placed under command of Capt. John Manning.

"Soon afterward, several Mohawk and Seneca sachems appeared at the fort and signed, with Cartwright, the first treaty between the Iroquois and the English. It was covenanted that the Indians should have all the commodities from the English which they formerly had from the Dutch; that offenses should be reciprocally punished; and that the [Hudson] River Indians and those below Manhattan should be included in the treaty. The next day it was further agreed that the English should not assist the hostile Eastern tribes; that they should make peace for the Iroquois with the nations down the river, that the Iroquois should have free trade and be 'lodged in houses' as formerly and that if they should be beaten by the Eastern tribes, they should 'receive accommodation' from the English. The friendship thus established continued to be maintained, with remarkable fidelity on both sides, for more than a century until the American Revolutionary war."

Esopus and the other settlements on the Hudson accepted the change of rulers without a murmur, as well as Schenectady with the few hundred pioneers resident there and elsewhere in the lower Mohawk Valley.

And so, after a sway of fifty years, Dutch dominion passed from America and the lower Mohawk Valley.

Go to top of page | back to: Chapter 11 | ahead to: Chapter 13

You are here: Home » Resources » MVGW Home » Chapter 12

http://www.schenectadyhistory.org/resources/mvgw/history/012.html updated August 23, 2010

Copyright 2010 Schenectady Digital History Archive — a service of the Schenectady County Public Library