Words To Remember

"The truth is this--genealogy is our living, and we are busy every minute, [and we] could use more hours." --Jane Wethy Foley, 1942

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Holland, The Dutch West India Company and New Jersey

Between the Reformation sweeping throughout Europe and the Thirty Years' War, Holland--of all the circle of nations--had guaranteed safety to people of every religious belief and enforced, within her own borders at least, respect for civil liberty.  As a result, she became the harbor of refuge and the temporary home of thousands of the persecuted of almost every country; The Brownists from England, the Waldenses from Italy, the Labadists and Picards from France, the Walloons from Germany and Flanders, and many other Protestant sects, all flocked into Holland.

Across her borders flowed a continual stream of refugees and outcasts.  This influx of foreigners, augmented by the natural increase of her own people, caused Holland to suffer seriously from overcrowding, particularly in her large cities....In the few years preceding 1621, several voyages of discovery and adventure had been made by the Dutch to New Netherland, but no colonies had been founded.  Letters from these voyagers declared that New Netherland was a veritable paradise--traversed by numerous great and beautiful rivers, plentifully stocked with fish; great valleys and plains, covered with luxuriant verdure; extensive forests, teeming with fruits, game, and wild animals; and an exceedingly fertile and prolific soil....

In 1621, the "States-General" took steps looking toward relief from the situation and on 3 June 1621 granted a charter to "The Dutch West India Company" to organize and govern a colony in New Netherland.  Thirty Dutch families braved the weeks-long sea voyage to New Amsterdam and began a settlement on the lower end of Manhattan Island.  Capt. Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, leader of the first expedition, decided he did not like the job of being director of the new colony and soon returned to Holland, leaving matters first in the hands of William Verhuist and then finally with Peter Minuit in 1626.

The first colony was not a success.  The colonists were "on the make."  Aside from building a few rude bark huts and a fort, they busied themselves dickering with the savages for skins and furs.  They tilled no ground and, for three years, were non-supporting.  In June 1629, the "States-General" granted a bill of "Freedoms and Exemptions" to any and all private persons who would plant colonies in any part of New Netherland, except the island of Manhattan. 

Special privileges were also granted to members of the West India Company.  Whoever of its members should plant a colony of fifty {50} persons should be a feudal lord, or Patroon, of a tract "sixteen {16} miles in length, fronting on a navigable river and reaching back eight {8} miles."  And yet, only a few exploring parties bent on trade with the savages traversed Bergen and Hudson Counties in New Jersey.  No one had ventured to "take up" any lands there until Michael Pauw--then burgomaster of Amsterdam--received grants  in 1630 of two large tracts, one called Hoboken Hacking and the other Ahasimus.

But Pauw failed to live up to conditions set forth in his deeds and was obliged, after three years, to convey his "plantations" back to the West India Company.  His lands went to Michael Paulesen, an official of the company, who oversaw them as superintendent.  It is said Paulesen built and occupied a hut at Paulus Hook early in 1633; if so, it was the first building of any kind erected in either Bergen or Hudson County. 

Later that same year, the company built two more houses: one at Communipaw (afterward purchased by Jan Evertse Bout), the other at Ahasimus--now Jersey City, east of the Hill--(purchased by Cornelius Van Vorst).
Paulus, Bout and Van Vorst were each in succession superintendents of the Pauw plantation, which then kept its headquarters at Communipaw.  During his tenure, Van Vorst kept "open house" and entertained the New Amsterdam officials in great style.

Early in 1638, William Kieft became the Director-General of New Netherland and, on 1 May 1639, granted to Abraham Isaacszen Planck (Verplanck) a patent for Paulus Hook (now lower Jersey City).  Myndert Myndertse of Amsterdam--bearing the ponderous title of "Van der Heer Nedderhorst"--obtained an enormous grant in 1641 of all the country west of Achter Kull {Newark Bay} and from there north to Tappaen {Tappan}, including what is now Bergen and Hudson Counties.  Accompanied by a number of soldiers, Myndertse occupied his purchase, established a camp, and proceeded to civilize the Indians by military methods.  It is needless to say that he failed.  He soon abandoned the perilous undertaking of founding a colony, returned to Holland, and forfeited the title to this grant.

There were now two plantations at Bergen, those of Planck and Van Vorst, with parts of these lands leased to and occupied by twelve {12} settlers.  All these, with their families and servants, now constituted a thriving settlement.

From the Genealogical History of Hudson and Bergen Counties, New Jersey, ed. Cornelius Burnham Harvey (New York: The New Jersey Genealogical Society. 1900)

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