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

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wild Times in Wildwijk, NY

 --Additonal information included in brackets { } is mine.

The Dutch traded at Kingston Point as early as 1613, but no permanent occupation seems to have been made, so far as appears from any manuscript records, prior to 1652.  In that year Thomas Chambers, an Englishman by birth, with a colony of settlers from the Manor of Rensselaerswyck, began a permanent occupation of the region of Esopus {originally Hesopues}, presumably by consent of the aborigines or by purchase of farms from them. [The History of Ulster County, edited by Alphonso T. Clearwater, Kingston, N. Y., 1907, pp. 33-34.]

Rev. Johannes Megapolensis and Rev. Samuel Drisius {leading ministers of the established Reformed Dutch Church in Nieuw Amsterdam}, in August 1657, writing to the Classis of Amsterdam {Netherlands}--the governing body of the church--refered to Esopus as follows:

"About eighteen [Dutch] miles [about 54 English] up the North River, half way between the Manhattans and Rensselaer or Beaverwyck, lies a place called by the Dutch Esopus or Sypous and by the Indians Atharhaeton [Atkarkaeton].  It is exceedingly fine country there.  Thereupon some Dutch families settled there, who are doing well." [Ecclesiastical Records of New York, vol. 1, p. 398]

Although the Dutch authorities had forbidden the sale of brandy and other liquors to the Indians, Chambers reported to Governor and Director General {Pieter} Stuyvesant in May 1658 that "great trouble" occurred at the Strand "through the fearful intoxication of the barbarians."  The cause of the outbreak, as Chambers described it, was no doubt correctly stated--men crazed by the "strong water" which the settlers or traders had supplied.  They had obtained an anker of brandy (about five gallons), and, lying under a tree at the tennis-court had, in their "madness," fired at and killed one "Harmen Jacopsen...and during the night has set fire to the house of Jacob Andrieson, so that the people were compelled to fly." 

At a previous date the Indians, under the influence of liquor, had become quarrelsome and had compelled the settlers, under threat of arson, to plow their lands for them, killed some hogs and a horse or two that had strayed on their plantations, and, in the estimation of their white neighbors, "used great violence every day." [Clearwater, supra, p. 34]

"The savages besiged and surrounded the place during twenty-three days; fired with brand-arrows one dwelling house and four grain stacks"; killed and wounded a number of settlers and took others prisoners...

On an appeal to Stuyvesant for assistance, the Governor went up from Manhattan to the scene of the disturbance. In an interview with the inhabitants he pointed out to them it was not advisable to think of war against the Indians. He then suggested that they should build closer together and enclose the whole place with palisades.  He marked out for them a site for a village on the north side of the Great Plat, and in 1661 it was called Wildwijk.... [Ibid, pp. 34-35]

The agreement of the inhabitants by which they bound themselves to live close together, upon the assurance of protection from Stuyvesant in case of attack by the Indians, is the first entry in the extant Dutch records now put in print.  A photogravure of the record of this agreement accompanies this translation. {See the post below, Dutch Records Found, for this engraving.}

The Indians were not pleased with the action of the white men, and complained to Stuyvesant that the land taken for the village had not been paid for, but after a conference with him they agreed to yield their claim "to grease his feet with, because he had made such a long journey to come and see them." 

Peace was concluded July 15, 1660, "under the blue sky."...{1} By its terms, the Sachems promised to surrender, as compensation, all the territory of the Esopus and to remove to a distance from there, without ever returning again to plant."  In other words, they promised to give up the Great Plat which Stuyvesant wanted and which the settlers hoped to obtain without payment. [Ibid, pp. 33-38]

Matters proceeded with more or less friction until a settlement was soon commenced which was called Nieuw Dorp, or New Village, about three miles west of Wildwijk, or the Old Village.  The sachems protested. They "were willing to allow the erection of dwellings, but would have no fortifications made," and claimed positively that the two large pieces of land on which the settlers clearly were determined to settle were not included in the Peace Treaty signed in 1660.  

The Indians would not allow the settlers to plow, sow, plant, or make pasture out of the property until the they "were paid for it," making many threats to burn and destroyed what had already been done. The lands spoken of are supposed to have been to the east of and at what is now known as Old Hurley...obviously clear, open river bottoms or meadows.

The storm broke on the settlements on the morning of the 7th of June, 1663.  The "barbarians," as they were called, attacked the New Village when the male settlers were at work in the fields, "burned twelve dwelling places, murdered eighteen persons (men, women and children), and carried away as prisoners ten persons more."  A report filed with the Director General's office continues, "the New Village has been burned to the ground, and its occupants are mostly taken prisoner or killed, only a few of them have come safely to this place." {Wildwijk}

The disaster did not stop there. The attacking "barbarians" had planned the destruction of both villages, had penetrated the Old Village under the pretense of trading, and at a pre-arranged signal, struck down inhabitants and set dwellings on fire. Eighteen Wildwijk settlers were killed, eight wounded, and twenty-six made prisoners.  Total destruction of Wildwijk by fire was only averted by a change in the wind.  Men at work in the fields rallied to drive the invaders out.  Within its palisades and around its ruined homes, the settlers gathered when night came on and kept mournful watch.

Dutch forces, led by Martin Kregier, and accompanied by 65 Marsepequa Indians from Long Island carried sword and cannon into the heart of Esopus country.  They burned the Indian villages in the more immediate area of Wildwijk and then crossed the hills and destroyed the Indians' palisaded towns of Kerhanksen and Shawagunk.  The Dutch killed a large number of barbarians, destroying their wigwams and plantations.

Peace finally came on May 15, 1664, leaving the Dutch with the beautiful valley of Esopus.

{1} This incident is mentioned in the post Biography of Rev. Henricus Selyns.

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