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

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pirates' Paradise

Pirates have existed since ancient times, but the most notorious reign of piracy occurred during the 1700's in the Caribbean Sea. The phenomenon was, in some ways, inevitable. Spain, England and France had sufficiently resolved long standing conflicts over territorial rights to the newly colonized region and they downsized the numbers of fighting vessels in their navies. Sailors who had sailed on the decommissioned navy ships found themselves suddenly landlocked, with no prospects for employment.

For these men who had known only sailing as a livelihood, there was a strong lure to the sea and to piracy, as vast number of galleons and cargo ships sailed the coastal region of the Americas surrounding the Caribbean Sea, particularly the coast of South America. The straits between South Florida and the islands of the Caribbean where the Gulf Stream flows became known as the Spanish Main. Countless vessels laden with treasures of gold, silver, precious gems, spices, hardwoods, and chocolate sailed through these waters and the Caribbean became a favorite hunting ground for pirates to make their fortune.

However, the less known but also very active were pirates of the Far East. Among such pirates who flourished for a time in that area were Adam Baldridge, an English buccaneer turned pirate.

Lying 250 miles off the East Coast of Africa, the beautiful tropical isle of Madagascar is a large island (slightly smaller than the state of California).  It sits within striking distance of the Indian Ocean and--during the Golden Age of Piracy--the luxurious treasures of the Great Mogul in the Red Sea.

An old map showing Madagascar, once called St. Lawrence Island

Madagascar became the pivot point for pirates sailing the Pirate Round, the long, arduous journey from the Atlantic Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope to the Indian Ocean and the return home. The island had deep harbors, expansive beaches for careening vessels, freshwater springs, an abundance of citrus fruit for preventing scurvy and ample livestock to fatten the crew.

To the pirates' delight, British warships rarely ventured east of the Cape of Good Hope and, although the East India Company's merchant ships were well-armed, their undermanned crews offered relatively no resistance to bloodthirsty pirates.

Pirates had a system of hierarchy on board their ships determining how captured money was distributed. However, pirates were more "egalitarian" than any other area of employment at the time.  The majority of plunder was in the form of cargo and ship's equipment with medicines the most highly prized. A vessel's doctor's chest would be worth anywhere from £300 to £400, or around $470,000 in today's values. Jewels were common plunder but not popular as they were hard to sell, and pirates, unlike the public of today, had little concept of their value. There is one case recorded where a pirate was given a large diamond worth a great deal more than the value of the handful of small diamonds given his crew mates as a share. He felt cheated and had it broken up to match what they received.

Spanish pieces of eight minted in Mexico or Seville were the standard trade currency in the American colonies. However, every colony still used the monetary units of pounds, shillings and pence for bookkeeping while Spanish, German, French and Portuguese money were all standard mediums of exchange as British law prohibited the export of British silver coinage. Until the exchange rates were standardized in the late 18th century, each colony legislated its own different exchange rates. In England, 1 piece of eight was worth 4s 3d, while it was worth 8s in New York, 7s 6d in Pennsylvania and 6s 8d in Virginia. One 18th-century English shilling was worth around $58 in modern currency, so a piece of eight could be worth anywhere from $246 to $465. As such, the value of pirate plunder could vary considerably depending on who recorded it and where.

Ordinary seamen received a part of the plunder at the captain's discretion but usually a single share. On average, a pirate could expect the equivalent of a year's wages as his share from each ship captured, while the crew of the most successful pirates would often each receive a share valued at around £1,000 ($1.17 million) at least once in their career. One of the larger amounts taken from a single ship was that by Capt. Thomas Tew from an Indian merchantman in 1692. Each ordinary seaman on his ship received a share worth £3,000 ($3.5 million) with officers receiving proportionally larger amounts as per the agreed shares with Tew himself receiving 2½ shares. It is known there were actions with multiple ships captured, where a single share was worth almost double this.

Madagascar then became an especially prosperous pirate haven, following the successful exploits of Henry Every and Thomas Tew in the Red Sea. The island was so well-suited for the pirate fraternity that Adam Baldridge, a veteran buccaneer himself (1660?-after 1706), became one of the early founders of the pirate settlements in Madagascar.

Henry Every is shown selling his loot in this engraving by Howard Pyle. Every's capture of a Grand Mughal ship in 1695 stands as one of the most profitable pirate raids ever perpetrated.

Fleeing from Jamaica after being charged with murder, Baldridge sailed to Madagascar.  When Baldridge arrived, he immediately became embroiled in an inter-clan war on the main island, and his participation earned the working capital of 70 cattle and a number of slaves. Realizing it had the best defensible harbor in the Madagascar island chain, Baldridge turned entrepreneur.

Building a mansion that could be seen from offshore, he built huge warehouses and a 40-cannon battery of captured French and Spanish cannon to protect against rival pirates or the warships of the East India Company. He traded with anyone and everyone.  Baldridge’s trading post was financed by an enterprising merchant in New York named Frederick Philipse, who had emigrated to New Amsterdam in the 1650’s as "Frederyck Flypsen," one of Peter Stuyvestant’s carpenters.

Under the generous surrender terms offered by the English, the Dutch-born Flypsen anglicized his name and swore a simple oath of allegiance to the crown, thereby qualifying as a loyal subject with all the rights and privileges of an English citizen. He married a wealthy widow, who had been left a fortune in ships and building lots in Manhattan, and once the English annexation of New Netherland was consummated, the entire English empire was open for trade.

Philipse built his early fortune not only by supplying English manufactured goods for the upriver Indian trade and carrying the valuable furs back downriver for shipment to England, but he was also involved in the reshipment of Virginia tobacco to England, in addition to the shipment of logwood, which came from the Yucatan.12 It is tempting to speculate on a pirate connection made from doing business with the logwood cutters of the Yucatan, most of whom were on-again/off-again pirates themselves.

English and colonial vessels had begun importing Malagasay slaves into the West Indies, Massachusetts and New York in the 1670s as a cheaper alternative to the Royal Africa Company (RAC) monopoly on the West African coast. Extremely profitable, it cost only ten shillings in goods to purchase a Malagasay slave whereas a sum of £3 to £4 was required on the west coast of Africa, where the RAC’s slave factories tightly controlled the trade in human chattel. In the 1680s and 1690s, vessels from New York, controlled by prominent merchants like Stephan Delancey and Philipse, engaged heavily in this trade.

In a remarkable display of entrepreneurship in the depressed 1690s, the New York merchants, aware--possibly because of the Yucatan connection--that pirates utilized Madagascar as a base, decided to supply them there. In return for liquor (rum, wine and beer), salt, guns, gunpowder, lime juice and clothing, the pirates would trade expensive textiles, drugs, spices, jewels, gold and hard currency.

By 1685, Baldridge had established a base of operations on Île Ste. Marie [Island of St. Mary]. By the following year, Baldridge controlled the inland waterway into Ste. Marie, having established a virtual stronghold overlooking the island harbor as well as protecting the settlements' warehouses.

In his contemporary account, Capt. Charles Johnson [1] explains how the Madagascar pirates, cognizant of native tribal enmities, overcame inferior numbers with superior firepower and forged alliances with certain local princes in order to obtain island fiefdoms for themselves. The pirates took native prisoners of war and utilized them as slaves or sold them to Baldridge, the “Pirate-King.”

It is actually impossible to write a story of the complete life of Adam Baldridge, since nothing is known of his life before the 1690s or after the early 1700s. Of his early life and his later life, we can only guess as to his activities. Adam Baldridge was probably born in England around 1660, although some have suggested that he may have been born in New York or on the island of Jamaica. Both of these locations seem unlikely, however, as the majority of the English speaking privateers and pirates operating during this period of history in the late 1600s were born in either England or Scotland.

In an historical record of New Castle, NJ, dated 1706, we find that a man named Adam Baldridge was listed as a donor for the construction of a Presbyterian church. Assuming that this is the same Adam Baldridge--which appears to be the case--his affiliation with a Presbyterian church suggests that Adam Baldridge was of Scottish descent or possibly even born in Scotland as was his contemporary, Capt. William Kidd.

It is also unknown about the nature of his upbringing in England, although the fact that he could apparently read and write suggests that he was intelligent and that he might have had some schooling. Furthermore, his personality was not that of an uncouth, swashbuckling individual who we might visualize as the typical pirate.

In fact, after his “retirement” in New York in the late 1690s, he was described by the governor of the colony as a “sober and responsible man.” This again suggests that he was not the product of the London slums and he may very well have grown up as the second or third son of a hardworking English family who felt that it was in their son’s best interest to “go off to sea.”

It is possible if not likely, that as a teenager young Adam Baldridge joined the crew of a merchant ship or possibly a privateer. Whatever the case, the fact that by 1685 Adam Baldridge was in Jamaica strongly suggests that at some point, his career had turned to that of a privateer, pirate or slave trader.

We also cannot help but note that he got into the business of trading with privateers, pirates, slave traders and wealthy New York merchants at precisely the right time and he got out of the business at an equally opportune time. Furthermore, despite the questionable nature of his business, he retired a wealthy man and he was never incarcerated nor hanged for the crime of piracy as were so many of his contemporaries including Capt. Kidd.

Baldridge was the first of a number of factors sent by Philipse to Île Ste. Marie in order to stimulate colonial trade in the depressed 1690s. In Philipse’s own words, slaving was the key, “For negroes in these times will fetch thirty pounds and upwards in the head...It is by negroes that I finde my cheivest Proffitt. All other trade I look upon as by the by.”

The trade with pirates, however, was likewise extremely profitable, and offered unique opportunities for the  pineapples, bananas, coconuts, yams, oranges and lemons), rice, taro, honey, chicken, turtle, fish and beef (in the form of cattle, a pirate culinary lineage that can be traced to the Caribbean boucaniers of the early part of the century); bays and inlets for concealment from hostile shipping and long sloping beaches to careen their wooden ships, where the mariners cleared them of weeds and barnacles, repaired leaks and replaced timbers riddled by the Toredo worm.

Though endowed with the natural bounty of the land and sea, the pirates who utilized Ste. Marie as a base lacked other vital necessities, most notably rum and beer, as well as manufactured goods. Philipse sent a random assortment of original cargo with Baldridge [2] and continued to regularly send supplies which were sold at premium prices, in return for Malagasy slaves, gold, diamonds, jewels, spices, silks, ivory and “pieces of eight,” the Spanish coins ubiquitous in pirate lore that were regularly circulating in the Indian Ocean trade networks.

Baldridge was an astute businessman and he quickly saw the value in a partnership with Frederick Philipse, an international trader from New York. Philipse, a member of the governor’s council in New York, carried on a lucrative trade with pirates.  He was Baldridge’s chief supplier of goods.  Pirates and colonial privateers flocked to Ste. Marie to buy and sell. Pirates had to depend on Baldridge for supplies and provisions.

Trading with pirates, particularly in North America, proved highly profitable for all parties, especially merchants, because of the many trade restrictions Britain imposed on its colonies.  Colonists had to buy goods manufactured in England.  They were forbidden from manufacturing them because that would have meant competition for the English providers of those goods.  These Navigation Acts in essence forced reputable merchants to deal with Madagascar pirates, whom they referred to as the "Red Sea Men," in order to supply the colonists with the goods and luxuries denied them by the government. 

The public seemed to support the pirates, even though they broke the law because the pirates robbed heathens.  Others, both merchants and colonists alike, publicly decried piracy, claiming it to be a cancer on the body politic, but in secret they either fenced or bought the pirates’ ill-gotten gains.  When the first cargo arrived in New York, the plunder quickly disappeared and merchants made a considerable profit compared to their original cost for the goods.

In his island fortress on Île Forbans [Forbidden Island] in the middle of the bay, Baldridge exchanged silver, silks and slaves for food, drink and women. It cost them dearly, but they paid. A bottle of rum--its normal price was 1 shilling--sold on the island for 3 pounds sterling (81 shillings). There was a constant stream of ships and men along the island's harbor and towns. Île St. Marie, like Hispaniola [Haiti] before her, would soon become the new base to outfit a ship "going on the account," to turn pirate.

Capt. William Kidd visited Baldridge's island paradise in 1698. 

The busiest years at the Baldridge’s “Pirates' Paradise” were 1694 through 1697, where sometimes as many as one-half dozen ships were moored in the inlet harbor or resting on the sandy beaches being careened by their crews. Some historians write that as many as 1,500 pirates lived full time on the island at one point, although this figure is probably greatly exaggerated.

To the benefit of the pirate colony on Ste. Marie, a major earthquake on the island of Jamaica in 1693 destroyed the city of Port Royal. Previously to that point, Port Royal had been the main rendezvous location for pirates in the Atlantic Ocean and its destruction as well as the general demise of the piracy business in the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans encouraged pirates to look to the Indian Ocean for more lucrative targets. Madagascar and Île Ste. Marie off its west coast were ideally suited to capture the new business.

By the late 1690s, Baldridge's settlement had become a popular haven among pirates of the Mediterranean, with Baldridge supplying pirates in exchange for high fees. It is a matter of speculation whether he had a family while living on Ste. Marie, although he reportedly lived a luxurious and extravagant life on the island, which included his own harem of island girls, until 1697. 

Île Forbans [Forbidden Island], Baldridge's headquarters

Previously in 1697, England and France had signed a treaty of peace ending years of war. With the war over, England was no longer in need of privateers who had been commissioned to attack the enemy ships. As we mentioned earlier, the British governor of the colony of New York had been handing out commissions to privateers who he must have known were using their ships to attack all vessels regardless of the nationality of the ship. This was piracy. The governor, Benjamin Fletcher, was paid for issuing the commissions and he grew wealthy by simply looking the other way and ignoring the illegal trading.

With the ending of the war however, the British government turned their attention to stopping piracy and the illegal trading of goods with the Americas in violation of the Navigation Acts. Gov. Fletcher was recalled to England and a new governor was sent to replace him. Shortly after the arrival of the new governor, Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont, a major investigation of piracy began. At the same time, the wealthy merchant and slave trader, Frederick Philipse, was removed from the Board of Trade.

Some historians believe that Adam Baldridge left Île St. Marie and his trading empire intentionally but disagree over whether he intended to return there. Some have suggested that Baldridge got greedy or that he made a colossal mistake in dealing with the natives.  A more likely scenario was that he realized the immense and immediate profit he stood to gain by selling the natives into slavery.  This was in his best long-term interest, especially if he foresaw the possibility that the pirate trade might be in its decline. 

With the ending of the war however, the British government turned their attention to stopping piracy and the illegal trading of goods with the Americas in violation of the Navigation Acts. Gov. Fletcher was recalled to England and a new governor was sent to replace him. Shortly after the arrival of the new governor, Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont, a major investigation of piracy began. In a master stroke of irony, Capt. William Kidd was commissioned by Gov. Coote to "capture pirates."  At the same time, the wealthy merchant and slave trader, Frederick Philipse, was removed from the Board of Trade.

Nevertheless, Baldridge's decisions in July of 1697 also suggest a man prepared to depart.  His first action was to purchase a major interest in the brigantine ship Swift that had stopped at Ste. Marie for trading and careening.

His second action was the most controversial, as he then tricked many of the local natives on the island--men, women, and children--by inviting them to come out to the Swift, which was moored in the harbor and to join him in a celebration party. His crew then proceeded once the natives were on board, to haul the natives below deck, slip shackles on their wrists and chain them to the walls. They were being sold into slavery. Baldridge and the crew of the Swift immediately departed from the island.

In other colonial records, we learn that his ship, the Swift, was reported to have run aground in March 1698, off the coast of North Carolina near the village of Currituck. When the ship was finally located by the colonial authorities, it was found abandoned but undamaged and “all provisions and stores robbed.”  It is far more likely that the ship had not been robbed but, following the grounding of the ship, the pirate crew had scattered, taking with them everything on board. Whether or not Adam Baldridge was onboard when the Swift made its unintentional landing is unknown, although it would seem likely.

The ship once recovered was seized by the authorities, hauled back into the sea and sailed back to the port of New York. Adam Baldridge--sometime in the middle of 1698--learned that his ship had been seized. His name is mentioned several times in the Colonial records, including in one dated 26 Nov. 1699 wherein he appealed to the Court for the return of the Swift.

Unfortunately, it is unknown whether Baldridge ever recovered the Swift, although it appears unlikely. There was ample evidence that the vessel had been engaged in the act of piracy. What is strange however is that the colonial authorities maintained the right to hold the ship, but they were never able to arrest and convict Adam Baldridge of piracy.

But the fact that, upon returning to New York, Baldridge tried to convince the new governor to establish Île Ste. Marie as a new colony--thereby effectively circumventing the Navigation Act--strongly suggests that he did not intentionally leave his island paradise.

In March 1699, the Council of Trade and Plantations ordered the Colonial Governor, Lord Bellomont, to prosecute Adam Baldridge for piracy. It was after all a well known fact that he had operated the pirate trading post at Ste. Marie in Madagascar. Almost comically, however, Lord Bellomont reported back to the Council two months later that he was unable to prosecute Baldridge for want of a “good judge.”

Apparently, all of the good judges had been or could easily be bribed and Baldridge obviously had the means to do so. In return for not being prosecuted, Adam Baldridge agreed to give his 15 May 1699 deposition and in doing so he implicated others as being guilty of piracy.  According to his deposition, he learned later that the island natives in retaliation for his trickery (not his words, for he never acknowledged what he had done) killed 30 of the white men who remained on the island and burned the settlement to the ground.  Although many sources indicate that Baldridge was still on the island and narrowly escaped with his life at the time of this raid, we only know that per his deposition, he had already left the Madagascar area in October 1697.

There is some evidence that, once Adam Baldridge returned to America and discharged his problems with the New York authorities, he did not entirely give up his career as a privateer or pirate. In the Colonial Records of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia dated 12 Nov. 1703, there is recorded a discussion as to whether or not to return to New Jersey the five French prisoners captured by “Ball and Baldridge Privateer,” who had landed and discharged their prisoners in Egg Harbour, NJ. The Council decided to return the prisoners. Nothing was mentioned about the other items pirated from the French ship by “Ball and Baldridge Privateers” that were not returned.

Another interesting observation that might suggest that Adam Baldridge, merchant, continued as a privateer/pirate was his purchase on 27 July 1699 of a 500-acre island, then named Melcum Island, located in the middle of the Delaware River off the western border of New Jersey near the village of Salem. Was Adam Baldridge trying to recreate another Île Ste. Marie for the purpose of trading his captured goods?

We can only guess as to his motives. There is no documentation that he ever occupied the island or used it to store trading goods. What we do know is that on 28 April 1702, he sold the island which at that point had been renamed Adams Forest Island. Perhaps he had realized that his business plan was flawed. There is also a record of an Adam Baldridge purchasing a house and land in Salem, NJ, on 3 Oct. 1701 and in this record Adam is referred to as a “Salem Merchant.”

There are obviously a lot of things about Adam Baldridge’s behavior that are unsavory. Two issues that have been discussed were his trickery of the island natives when he lured them to a party on board his ship the Swift and then bound them in chains and sold them into slavery and then, several years later, he informed on his compatriots in his deposition to save himself from prosecution.

"Adam Baldridge’s first and only known marriage was to Elizabeth Buckmaster, the wife of Edward Buckmaster. Their marriage ceremony was held at the Fort of New York sometime between 7 Sept. and 8 Oct. 1699," writes C. A. Baker, family researcher.  "Edward Buckmaster, who like Adam Baldridge was a pirate, was arrested as such in New York City in June of 1699. Colonial records indicate that on 25 Aug. 1699, Buckmaster escaped from prison and was not heard from again. Apparently, his wife Elizabeth thought that with her husband now out of the picture, it was reasonable for her to remarry, even if she was not officially divorced or widowed. Prior to this marriage, there is another record showing that on 2 Dec. 1684 an Edward Buckmaster married a Margaret Mathews.

"Assuming that this is the same Edward Buckmaster, it suggests that Margaret must have died and Edward remarried to his second wife Elizabeth. We know from other records that Edward Buckmaster had a least three children born between the years 1685 and 1687. We know this because after Edward’s departure (escape), his wife Elizabeth placed all three of Edward’s children into indentureship." The first child was indentured on 7 Sept. 1699 and she signed the papers under her name Elizabeth Buckmaster. When the other two children were indentured on 9 Oct. 1699, she signed her name as Elizabeth Baldridge and, in one case, Adam Baldridge signed as a witness.

Clearly, according to Baker, the newlywed Elizabeth Baldridge wanted to begin her marriage without the burden of taking care of the children of her former husband. It is believed that the marriage of Elizabeth and Adam Baldridge produced at least two children, then we must assume that Elizabeth was probably younger than both her first and second husbands, who were both near 40 years of age in 1699.

"Placing young children into indentureship was not particularly common in early America. Many of the early immigrants to America arrived from England as indentured servants and their indentureship was the manner in which they paid for their passage. I suspect that parents in America who placed their children into indentureship were poor and could not afford to pay for their care. In the case of Adam and Elizabeth Baldridge, however, they were not poor--quite the opposite--and Elizabeth, probably a flighty girl in her late twenties, just did not want to care for Richard, Hannah, and Mary Buckmaster, who were all under the age of 14. Adam Baldridge, not a man of high character as we have seen, either went along with his new wife or encouraged her decision to give up the children," says Baker.

There are two other mentions of Adam Baldridge in the Colonial records worth noting one of which is actually a positive suggesting that perhaps as Adam got older he had mellowed. The first is a mention of Adam and Elizabeth in the will of Griffith Jones of Kent County, Delaware dated 2 May 1703. It lists in the will that his beneficiaries were “Wife: Elizabeth. Sons: Griffith and Thomas. Daughter: Elizabeth. To: Elizabeth, daughter of Adam Baldridge . . .”. It goes on to list Adam Baldridge as one of the executors of the will. Griffith Jones’ will provides us with two pieces of information. First, Adam Baldridge’s wife appears to be the daughter of Griffith and Elizabeth Jones and secondly, Adam and Elizabeth had a daughter who they named Elizabeth who was born sometime between October of 1699 and May of 1793.

Another intriguing but unsolved mystery is who was John Jones, the man who purchased from Adam Baldridge the 500-acre island in the Delaware River. It is too much of a coincidence not to believe that he was a relative of Elizabeth Jones Baldridge. John Jones is listed as being from New Castle, DE. The latest historical document that I could locate naming Adam Baldridge was dated 1706 and it lists him in New Castle, DE, as one of the donors to a fund for the construction of a new Presbyterian Church. Hopefully by this point in his life, Adam Baldridge had settled down with his wife and children and mostly abandoned his unsavory life.

History records the names of only two of the possible children of Adam and Elizabeth Jones Baldridge. That Elizabeth Baldridge was their daughter is pretty well documented, per the will of Griffith Jones previously mentioned. Their other child was probably a son whom they named Adam Jr. Baldridge. Unfortunately the son’s name appears only once in the Colonial records and that is in a copy of his will that was prepared on 1 Oct. 1777 in New Utrecht, Kings County, Long Island. There are no known documents that support the belief that these two men were father and son, although obviously the commonality of their names and the fact that Adam Jr. Baldridge was born in the early 1700s about the time Adam and Elizabeth Baldridge were having children suggests a relationship.

The will of Adam Baldridge, the possible son, that was probated after his death in 1780 does provide us with the intriguing suggestion that one of Adam Jr’s sisters, possibly Elizabeth Baldridge, married a man named Abraham Collins. It appears that both men, Baldridge and Collins, lived in the western end of Long Island at some point in their lives and they must have known one another. They were also about the same age as Abraham Collins was born around 1698 and Adam Jr. Baldridge was born about 1704. What is really intriguing however was that Adam Jr. Baldridge left the bulk of his estate to the three daughters of Abraham Collins, an action that strongly suggested that there was a family relationship and not just a friendship that bound the two men together. Furthermore, the relationship between Adam Baldridge and the Collins family was long lasting, since Abraham Collins had moved to Blooming Grove in Orange Co., NY, by the 1730s and he died there in 1756.

Additionally, the will of Adam Jr. Baldridge lists each of the Collins daughters by their married names, “I leave to Sarah Coleman, Jemina Seata [Seeley], and Elizabeth, formerly the wife of David Cameron...all of my estate," which indicates he obviously had stayed in touch with the girls after their father’s death--again suggesting that they were his nieces.

There is one more circumstantial but compelling piece of evidence that supports the belief that Abraham Collins married a daughter of Adam (the pirate) and Elizabeth Baldridge. It has to be more than a coincidence that Abraham Collins and his wife named their first son Adam and their second daughter Elizabeth, after their grandparents. Incidentally, Adam Collins was not mentioned in Adam Jr. Baldridge’s will because he had died in 1770, seven years prior to the preparation of the will. It was a very common practice in this period of history to name children after their grandparents.

"There is unfortunately one unsolved mystery before we can announce unequivocally that Adam Baldridge, the pirate, is the grandfather of the children of Abraham Collins, including Jemina Collins," Baker states. "On 11 Aug. 1728, the marriage of Abraham Collins to Ann Major was written into the records of the Grace Church in Jamaica, Queens County, Long Island. If this Abraham Collins is the father of Sarah, Elizabeth, and Jemina Collins, all of whom are mentioned in the 1777 will of Adam Jr. Baldridge, then we have to question the Abraham Collins’ supposed marriage to the daughter of Adam Baldridge.

"Almost all the family trees on Ancestry.com that list Jemina Collins (1736-1770) and her sisters and brother, show that their mother was the daughter of the notorious pirate Adam Baldridge. There is a question as to whether or not the mother’s name was Sarah or Elizabeth, but no one seems to question that their father’s name was Abraham Collins and their maternal grandfather was the pirate Adam Baldridge....Jemina Collins was my 5th great grandmother and the great, great grandmother of my great grandmother Helen Rappleye Baker. Jemina Collins married Nathaniel Seeley (1732-1770) in 1752."

Since the first daughter of Abraham Collins, Sarah Collins, is believed to have been born around 1728 close to the date of Abraham’s marriage to Ann Major, it hard to imagine that Ann Major died and Abraham Collins’ remarried all in the span of a year or less. Nevertheless, historians and genealogists in order to justify their belief that the Collins’ girls were descended from Adam Baldridge have assumed that Ann Major must have died young and Abraham remarried before any of his children were born.

Baker writes, "Unfortunately, I could not find any records containing either a death date for an Ann Major Collins or a marriage date for an Abraham Collins marrying a woman named Baldridge. All of this clouds the issue of whether the Collins girls were descended from the pirate Baldridge which, in turns, spoils my ability to brag that I am the 7th great grandson of a 17th century Pirate. On the other hand, no one can prove that I am not descended from a pirate, so we will just leave it at that."


  1. For a long time, the true identity of Capt. Johnson was believed to have been Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe and Captain Singleton among others (General History of the Pirates is still indexed under “Defoe” by most libraries). Given the strong stylistic similarities and literary content, this is unsurprising, though inaccurate. Johnson’s account is now generally accepted as historical, though there is no way of verifying the veracity of the dialogue.

  2. 44 pairs of shoes and pumps, “6 dozen of worsted and threed stockens”, carpenter tools, 5 barrels of rum, four casks of Madeira wine, 10 cases of spirits, 2 old stills full of holes, 1 worme, 2 grindstones, 2 cross saws, 1 whip saw, 3 jars of oil, 2 iron pots, 3 barrels of cannon powder, books, catechisms, bibles, garden seeds, and 3 doz. hoes.



Baker Family Tree: Chapter 30: The Pirate Adam Baldridge. http://bakerfamilytree.blogspot.com/2012/01/chapter-30-pirate-adam-baldridge.html

Deposition of Adam Baldridge, Privateering and Piracy in the Colonial Period: Illustrative Documents.

Johnson, Charles, (1724-1736) A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. (intro. by David Cordingly), New York: Conway Maritime Press, 1998.

Judd, Jacob, “Frederick Philipse and the Madagascar Trade,” NYHS Quarterly, Vol. LV, No. 4 (October 1971).

McDonald, Kevin, ‘A Man of Courage and Activity’: Thomas Tew, Anglo-American Piracy, and the Manhattan to Madagascar Trade Network, 1690-1720. http://cwh.ucsc.edu/SocialBiog.MacDonald.pdf; accessed 21 Oct. 2012

Philipse to Baldridge, 25 February, 1695, cited in Judd, p. 358.

Platt, Virginia Bever, “The East India Company and the Madagascar Slave Trade”, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 26, Issue 4 (Oct., 1969), 548-577.

Platt, op cit., p. 550-551; Ritchie, p. 37-38; Jameson, p. 153-257; and Judd, p. 363.

"Pirate Island." The History Channel. 21 Oct. 2012.

Ritchie, Robert C., Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1986.

The Comparative Value of Money between Britain and the Colonies. retrieved 21 Oct. 2012. http://www.coins.nd.edu/ColCurrency/CurrencyIntros/IntroValue.html

Vallar, Cindy, Notorious Pirate Havens, Part 6: In League with Pirates. http://www.cindyvallar.com/havens6.html; accessed 21 Oct. 2012

-----, Pirate Treasure, http://www.cindyvallar.com/treasure.html; accessed 21 Oct. 2012.

Wilczynski, Krzysztof, Golden Age Piracy. http://www.piratesinfo.com/cpi_Golden_Age_Piracy_513.asp; accessed 21 Oct. 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Town Poor of New Haven, CT 1786

After the new towns of Hamden and North Haven were set off from New Haven, CT, in 1786, an agreement was made diving the town poor between the original town and the daughters.  This document is among the collections of the New Haven Colony Historical Society and the following verbatim copy has been contributed [to Ancient Families of New Haven by Donald Lines Jacobus] by the librarian, Miss Ethel Lord Scofield. (pp. 1535-1536)

"At a Meeting of the several Committees appointed by the several Towns of New Haven Hamden and North Haven to make an Equal Division of the Poor Persons supported by the said Towns as belonging to them as being heretofore the Towns Poor of said New Haven & now divided to each Town according to their lists on the fifteenth Day of December A. D. 1786 the aboue Division was mde and agreeed to and the said Poor are divided and set to the several Towns as above & said Towns to take and support them accordingly--in the above division Daniel McNamarra and wife and Francis Claridge and Family are not divided but still remain a charge upon all said Towns according to their sd Lists

Witness our Hands in New Haven
this 15th day of December 1786

Samuel Bishop}
David Austin}
Timothy Jones}             Comee  of New Haven
Charles Chauncey}
Stephen Ball}

Simeon Bristol}
John Hubbard}              Comee  of Hamden
Isaac Dickerman}

Ephraim Humston*}
Samuel Mix}                 Comee  of No Haven
Joshua Barns**}

[The names should read:  *Humiston; ** Barnes.]

New Haven

Joseph Mix and Wife    ₤    0  -  8  - 0
Ebenezer Wilmot                      7 -  0
Widw  Culver                          4 - 0
Andrew Reed                          6 - 0
Abigail Tuttle                           5 - 0
Timothy Thomas                     7 - 0
Widow Fry ---(?) and child     12 - 0
Stephen Beecher                      6 - 0
Mrs  Howes four Children       13 - 0
Easton Sabin                            2 - 0     
                    [Total]       ₤ 3 - 10 - 0   

Abigail Andrews
Sarah Thompson
Elizabeth Punderson
Thomas Sherman dec'ds Child
Simon King
Widw  Ruth Gordon
Hannah Bingley
Nathan Smith
Jerom Smith
Anna Gibson
Widw  Graham
Solo  Townshends Wives Child


Widow Kimberly           0 - 6 - 0
Sarah Wilds                       3 - 0
John Melone                      7 - 0
Joel Alling                        11 - 0
Ichabod Barns** Child        3 - 0
Silas Culvers Child              3 - 0
Margaret Doyle                  3 - 0
                  [Total]   ₤ 1 - 16 - 6   

Andrew Ives
Thomas Ives
John Melones Wife
Widw  Mary Potter
Widw  Sarah H aabard (?)+

[**Barnes; + possibly Hubbard?]

North Haven

Mercy Parker                                  0 - 4 - 0
Stephen Clark                                       5 - 0
Enos Blakesley                                      5 - 0
Rachel Barns**                                     5 - 0
Nancy Doyle and infant                          9 - 0
Thankful Tuttle                                      1 - 0
Widw  Fryars boy at Timo Turners          3 - 6
Oliver Bradleys child                               3 - 0
Widw  Fryars boy at Jocelins                   2 - 9
                                       [Total]  ₤ 1 - 18 - 3

Caleb Turner
Thomas Sanford
Elias Forbes
Daniel Hotchkiss
Ebenezer Humistone*
Sarah Hunt

[*Humiston; ** Barnes]

Friday, May 4, 2012

English Licenses to Crenellate: 1199-1567

By Philip Davies

{This article was previously published in The Castle Studies Group Journal, No. 20: 2006-7, pp. 226-245.  The English spelling has been retained.}

The serious study of castles is riddled with past assumptions, prejudices and 'theories' that have gained popular credence and move into the work of established 'fact'. Castles were erected, from the start, to be powerful symbolic buildings and through the past and in to the modern world various contemporary symbolic values has been attached to the 'fortifications' of castles and their like. The study of licences to crenellate is a particularly good example of this.

Victorian concerns with empire and strong centralised government led to Victorian scholars describing licences to crenellate as a requirement imposed by central authority to control over-mighty lords, a view still widely stated. It should be made clear that there is no evidence whatsoever for this view. Much of what has been written about licences to crenellate was based on a few examples, often atypical, and on a misreading and misattribution of other historical documents. Very few scholars have done in depth study of the subject, the most notable is Charles Coulson. [1]

In particular it is important to understand that the so called 'adulterine' castles of the Anarchy of Stephen were not 'unlicenced', as sometimes stated. They were 'tainted' because they had been built and used in a rebellion. A licence to crenellate was supposedly a grant that gave permission for a building to be fortified.

This concept may have originated in the Carolingian Empire as a way to control castle building to prevent local lords from becoming over-mighty or too strong, but in English feudal society the licence was used both by king and baron as a symbol of their status, and with "few exceptions at times of turbulence, the king's right as overlord to license was a right to grant, not to refuse, permission to crenellate" (Coulson, 1982, p 71). "In reality, no feudal or sub-feudal ruler could either in law or in practice deny to his vassal the protection by self-help fortifying which he, as lord, had failed to provide." (Coulson, 1982, p.  97 n. 10).

It was not in reality necessary to obtain a licence to crenellate to erect a fortified building. There was "very slight chance of interference by royal officials even in so intensively governed a realm as England, but a licence was prestigious and could be had for the asking." (Coulson 1982 p 70) [2]  Fortifications were not restricted by law, but the cost of building and, particularly, of providing a garrison, restricted true military castles to a very limited number anyway.

In England licences to crenellate were granted by the Monarch; the Bishop of Durham, in his position as ruler of the Palatinate of Durham; the Earl of Chester, in his position as ruler of the Palatinate of Cheshire and after the formation of the Palatinate of Lancashire in 1351, the Duke of Lancaster.

Few documented records survive from before the thirteenth century. One of the earliest supposed licence to crenellate for which some form of reliable documentation exists is one in 1141 to Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, made by King Stephen. This grant was repeated by Empress Matilda and named as his new castle on the Lea (novum castellum super Lviam), usually considered to be South Mymms. This is a retrospective 'grant' in complex charters obtained by Geoffrey at a time during the Anarchy, when he was able to dictate terms, and when he was imposing his noble status.

Of the later surviving grants it is clear that these were not an attempt to control the major lords but were mainly granted to relatively minor knights for quite small manor houses, many of which could only have had token fortifications. Licences to crenellate were mainly symbolic representations of lordly status "castellation was the architectural expression of noble rank" (Coulson 1982, p. 72) and also "to publicly prominent ecclesiastics and lay magnates in England a licence had the extra cachet of royal recognition, acknowledgement and compliment. Unlike other royal patronage, it conferred no fiscal advantage whatever, but it was as eagerly sought by the socially ambitious as any lucrative privilege." (Coulson 1982, p 83).

The distribution map shows the tendency for municipal licences granted to build town walls mainly to be a feature of coastal towns.  Distribution is fairly random and there is certainly no evidence of a concentration of licenced "fortifications" in the Scottish march or the coast.

The building that often, but not always, resulted from these licences, which had some show of fortification, like battlements, moats and gatehouses, were also mainly symbolic, although they probably represented some defence against thieves. Coulson goes to some length to express the idea that much fortification' in ecclesiastical and lay buildings was symbolic, both for the occupants and the 'mob' they were a defence against. The gatehouse was the most powerful symbol and the strongest part of the defence, yet mobs often attacked the gatehouse, rather than simply push over a surrounding, relatively weak, precinct wall; however, the gatehouse was rarely manned enough to resist an attack anyway.

In effect many 'defences' were like modern burglar alarms and CCTV; some are sham and even when they are not they represent more an expression of legal ownership and intent to prosecute rather than a real preventative measure. (Strong doors, good locks and fear of being caught stops thieves, alarms may help somewhat with this last psychological barrier but, of themselves, alarms do not stop thieves).

No fee was normally charged for a licence; the handful of fees recorded are small (half a mark or a mark) [3] and are clearly to cover the bureaucratic cost of searching the records or writing the licence and not to raise money. It has been said an annual fee was required; this is due to a misinterpretation of a single reference. Most licences were issued as patent letters granted under the privy seal.


Author's Notes:

[1] Charles Coulson’s wealth of supporting evidence and profound understanding make him the most credible author on the subject.

[2] Coulson writes, "The 'control over fortification' exercised by William Marshall and then by Hubert de Burgh during Henry III's minority, was aimed at preserving the peace (won after the battle of Lincoln in 1217), repressing war-like occupation of sensitive places and provocative fortifying by small men beyond their proper station. Illicit wartime seizures and fortifying (namely castra adulterina) had to be reversed or regulated to reassert the rule of law. There was no prejudice against seigneurial castles as such.  Royal orders on the Rolls prohibiting fortifying or crenellation are very scarce after c. 1232. Interference was more likely to be due to local officiousness or resentment, but still highly rare." (1982, p. 06, n. 9)


Additonal Note:

[3] The mark was equal to 2/3 of a pound or 160 pence. English kings based their coinage system on that of Charlemagne: the pound, the shilling and the penny. A silver pound was divided into 240 pence. For hundreds of years, the silver penny was the only coin the English minted and the earliest coins contained one pennyweight of silver. Pure silver is too soft to make coins that withstand heavy use. From 1158, England adopted silver coins that were 92.5 percent silver, with the remainder consisting of base metal. The sterling standard remained in effect until 1920.


Coulson, Charles, "Structural Symbolism in Medieval Castle Architecture" in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Vol. 132, 1979,  pp. 73-90.

Coulson, "Hierarchism in Conventual Crenellation" in Medieval Archaeology, Vol. 26,  1982, pp. 69-100.

History of English Coins, accessed 4 May 20102 at http://www.ehow.com/about_5444297_history-english-coins.html#ixzz1twvcL36m.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Portage des Sioux, St. Charles Co., MO

This township, including the islands, contains about eighty square miles, and embraces the point of land lying between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. It is about twenty-two miles in length, and a little more than six miles in width at its widest part. The township, however, between the two rivers, at Portage des Sioux, is not more than two miles across.

Portage des Sioux with Mississippi River at flood; the statue is Our Lady of the Rivers

The surface of the land is almost entirely level, it being what is called "bottom" land, and is remarkably productive. The staple products are wheat and corn. The corn grown here is of a superior quality, and is known as the "St. Charles White," being excellent for grits and meal. It commands, in the St. Louis market, from one to one and a half cents more on the bushel than any other corn shipped to that city. The farmers are in good circumstances, many of them cultivating large tracts of land, from which they have annually gathered abundant crops which have made them wealthy. A portion of the township is subject to overflow in extreme high water.

The forest which originally covered these bottoms were dense and luxuriant; much of it has been cleared away for farms and firewood; much of it has been cut into cordwood, sold to steamboats and shipped to St. Louis, and still the timber is not only inexhaustible, but of an excellent quality. The township has no running streams, but contains a few small lakes, the largest of which is Marais Temps Clair.


Of the early settlements in the county, perhaps Portage des Sioux retains the traces of its peculiar more closely than any other. It is only of late years that the French population, which at one time composed the entire settlement, has been broken in upon by the representatives of other blood. In the latter part of the summer of 1799, Francis Leseuer, then a resident of St. Charles, in a hunting excursion to the lakes in the prairie bottoms, visited an Indian village a short distance from the Mississippi, and in company with some of the Indians came as far as the river, where there was another Indian settlement. The neighborhood pleased him so much as a site for a village, that on his return to St. Charles a colony was organized to settle the locality. Lieut.-Gov. Delassus, then at St. Louis, made a grant of land the same fall, and a number of families, principally from St. Charles and St. Louis, erected their tents on the site of Portage des Sioux. Francis Saucier was appointed commandant, a position which he continued to hold until the change of government.

Prairie wildlife at Marais Temps Clair Lake, Portage des Sioux

The colony remained during the winter of 1799-1800, hewed timber, and in the spring built some houses. From a petition drawn in October, 1803, for a grant of "Commons," we gather the following names as the original settlers of Portage des Sioux: Francis Saucier, Francis Leseuer, Simon Lepage, Charles Hibert, Julian Roi, Augusta Clairmont, Etienne Pepin, Abraham Dumont, Louis Grand, Jaques Godefroi, Bapiste Lacroix, Brazil Picard, Patrice Roi, Joseph Guinard, Antoine Lepage, Pierre Clermont, David Eshbough, Charles Roi, Thomas Whitley, Matthew Saucier and Solomon Petit. The first white child born in the settlement was Bridget Saucier, a daughter of the commandant. She was born in March, 1800, and afterwards married Stephen De Lile [sic: Etienne Bienvenue dit De Lisle] and was living in the town in 1875.

Portage des Sioux was formerly a celebrated stopping place for the Indians on their voyages up and down the river. Frequently the Mississippi, in front of the town, would be covered with fleets of canoes, while the village would swarm with swarthy voyageurs. During the Indian troubles the inhabitants were not molested. About 1808, however, one of the residents was killed by a drunken Indian. The assassin was at once surrendered to the whites and was taken to St. Louis, where, however, he either escaped or was set at liberty.

The place was of some importance during the War of 1812. A force was stationed here to intercept the enemy on their way to St. Louis. Along the river below the town stood a fort, the site of which disappeared in one of the inundations of the Mississippi. There was also a block-house at the head of the island below the town.

An Indian village, belonging to the tribe of Kickapoos, stood about two and a half miles south-west of the town; and another called Lassowris, from the name of an Indian chief, was below on the Mississippi. The treaty of peace between the United States government and the confederate tribes, who had engaged in the war under Tecumseh, the Missouri and Illinois were present in large numbers. General Clark acted in behalf of the United States government. The flat below the town was the place for holding the council.

The name of Portage des Sioux had been given to the place by the Indians, and was adopted by the French settlers. Here the distance between the Missouri and Mississippi is scarcely two miles. Bands of Indians on their journeys were accustomed to disembark, carry their canoes across the narrow neck from one river to the other, and thus save the long journey of twenty-five miles around the point of land, which runs up from the confluence of the two rivers. For many years after the settlement of the country the old trail could be distinctly traced. Perhaps an incident, which tradition still preserves, was of service in establishing the name, particularly in reference to the tribe of Sioux.

"The Osage Indians occupied a village on the Missouri, at or near the mouth of the Kansas. The Sioux lived on the Mississippi, above the mouth of the Des Moines. A hunting party of the Osage wandered over towards the country of the Sioux, and fell in with some hunters of that tribe, and killed one or more of their number. This greatly incensed the Sioux, and they resolved on Indian revenge. They formed a war party, fitted out a fleet of bark canoes, descended the Mississippi to the mouth of the Missouri, and ascended the latter river to the neighborhood of the Osages. Here they secreted their canoes and made a night attack upon their unsuspecting enemies, of whom they massacred a large number. Their revenge was signal, terrific and complete.

a, scalping-knife; b, ditto, in sheath; c, d, war-clubs; e, e, tomahawks; g, whip.

"The Sioux then returned to their canoes and fled, but in less time the Roderick Dhu could marshal his ready clansmen, a strong war party of Osages was formed, who, panting and thirsting for vengeance, launched their canoes upon the dark waters of the Missouri, and gave chase to their retreating foes. Both tribes were distinguished for their skill in water craft. The race was a contest for life and death. On they sped, the pursued and the pursuers. Each party employed all its skill and strength and cunning -- the fugitives prompted by the love of life and hope for escape -- the pursuers urged on by the desire for revenge and thirst for blood. The Sioux made great speed down the muddy river, but the Osages gained on them.

"The signs of the chase freshened; neither party stopped for rest, nor flagged; on, on they sped for days, the Osages still gaining, until, in one of the long stretches of the river, they came in sight of the Sioux. A loud, wild cry of exultation from the pursuers rang out upon the welkin, and was echoed back by a shout of defiance from the Sioux. The last trial of strength and skill was now made, and every nerve strained to its utmost capacity. On they sped until a certain bend of the river concealed the fugitives from their pursuers.

"Under this cover they soon reached a point on the Missouri, about twelve miles above its mouth and only a mile from the Mississippi, nearly opposite a point on the Mississippi where Portage des Sioux stands, and, taking advantage of this sudden turn of fortune, disembarked, withdrew their canoes from the water, and concealed themselves from their pursuers. Soon, however, the party of Osages came, noiselessly, yet swiftly as an arrow in its flight, gathering new life and fresh courage from the glimpse of a broken paddle, as it glided by them on the turbid waters, or some useless article of which the Sioux had disencumbered themselves in their flight.

"A moment of breathless suspense, into which was crowded an age of hope and fear and anxiety, is now experienced by the fugitives as their pursuers near the place of their concealment -- another moment and their pursuers are passed and lost to view in the next curve of the river. Manitto has smiled on the Sioux--the Osages are foiled.

"Hastily gathering up their canoes they bear them on their shoulders across the narrow portage, relaunch them on the Mississippi and resume their flight up that river, while the Osages continue down the Missouri to its mouth and then up the Mississippi. This successful strategem enabled the Sioux to gain on their pursuers some 20 or 30 miles, and secured their escape. The point where they re-embarked is the sight of Portage des Sioux, the portage of the Sioux, by which name it has ever since been known.

"The seal of the town is a circle with two bands encircling a field, with an extended view representing a portion of that plane of country immediately above the junction of the rivers. The "armorial chievement" is simple, yet highly suggestive, and commemorates the incident above related. It consists of a party of Sioux with canoes on their shoulders, courant, comme le diable, and is surrounded with the words "Seal of the town of Portage des Sioux." [1]

Ebenezer Ayers came from one of the Eastern States and settled on what is known as "the point" in St. Charles county at a very early date. He built the first horse-mill in that region of country. He was also a large fruit grower, and made a great deal of butter and cheese. He lived in a large, red house, in which the first Protestant sermon in "the point" was preached. In 1804 he and James Flaugherty and John Woods were appointed justices of the peace for St. Charles district, being the first under the American government. Mr. Ayers had four children, one son and three daughters. Two of the latter died before they were grown. The son, Ebenezer Davenport Ayers, married Louisiana Overall, and settled where Davenport, Iowa, now stands, the town being named for him. His surviving sister, Hester Ayers, married Anthony C. Palmer, who was a ranger in the company commanded by Capt. James Callaway. Mr. Palmer was afterward elected sheriff of the county, and served one term. He had a good education, was an excellent scribe, and taught school a number of years.

Samuel Griffith, of New York, settled on the point below St. Charles in 1795. He was therefore one of the very first American settlers in the present limits of the State of Missouri. Daniel M. Boone had been here previous to this arrival, and the rest of the Boone family must have come about the same time that Mr. Griffith did. They all came the same year at any rate. Mr. Griffith was married in North Carolina, and had four children: Daniel A., Asa, Mary and Sarah. Daniel A. married Matilda McKnight, and they had five children. Asa married Elizabeth Johnson; they had five children. Mary married Wilson Overall, and Sarah married Foster McKnight.

Alexander Garvin, of Pennsylvania, married Amy Mallerson, and settled in St. Charles county, Mo., in 1819. His cabin was built of poles, and was only 16x18 feet in size, covered with linden bark weighted down with poles. The chimney was composed of sticks and mud. The house was built in one day, and they moved into it the next. Mr. Garvin and his wife had seven children: Amy, Margaret, Permelia, Alexander, Jane R., Julia A. and Fannie D. Amy, Julia and Permilia all died single. Margaret was married first to Thomas Lindsay, and after his death she married Joles Dolby, and is now a widow again. Alexander married Elizabeth Boyd. Jane R. married Robert Bowles. Fannie D. married Robert Roberts.

[1] Atlas Map of St. Charles County.

--from The History of St. Charles County, Missouri, p. 261-281

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Intermarriages Among Harlem Pioneer Families

At the beginning of the 18th century, the little isolated community of Harlem consisted of half a hundred homes. The small two-story Dutch homes generally sheltered each a half-score or more of sturdy youngsters. "Intermarriage," says Riker, "among the resident families was the rule, and he was thought a bold swain truly who ventured beyond the pale of the community to woo a mate."

This simple, natural practice of marrying among neighbors was fraught with consequences not to be foreseen by the 30 families who constituted the village of Harlem two centuries ago. As a matter of fact, all--or very nearly all--of those who today bear the names of the 23 original patentees of Harlem and the 700-800 hundred others of different surnames who later married into these families are knit together by ties of kinship of which few are aware.

The wish tree is originally a Dutch wedding tradition. Guests wrote a message or wish on a note and hung it on the tree, which was then to bring the wishes to life.

The children and grandchildren of the patentees were nearly all cousins. Some 250-300 children and grandchildren of the original settlers were all closely bound by ties of blood relationship. Fifty years after the village was settled, or about the end of the first quarter of the 18th century, there was scarcely one of the families of the patentees who was not related to every other of the 25 or 30 families who first settled the village and they were not further removed than the fourth degree.

The following list of intermarriages of the children of the patentees may interest some of their descendants:

Of the Waldron family, Resolved Waldron had four daughters. Aeltje married Johannes Vermilye; Rebecca married first Jan Nagel and afterwards Jan Dyckman; Ruth married first Jan Delamater and afterwards Hendrick Bogert; Cornelia married Peter Oblinus. Their brother Johannes married Anna Van Dalsen. These marriages resulted in ties of close kinship between the seven families of Waldron, Nagel, Dyckman, Vermilye, Oblinus, Delamater and Bogert.

Of the Bussing family, Arent Harmanse Bussing, the patentee, married Susan, the daughter of Jan Delamater. His son Peter married Rebecca, daughter of Johannes and Aeltje Waldron Vermilye. John and Margaret Bussing married, respectively, a daughter and son of Cornelis Jansen Kortright. Elizabeth Bussing married Matthew Benson and Engeltje married Abraham Meyer. Of Peter Bussing and Rebecca Vermilye's four children, two married Bensons and two Meyers/Myers.

Of the Dyckman family, Jan Dyckman married first, Madeleine, the daughter of Daniel Tourneur, and after her death, as already mentioned, Rebecca Waldron, who was at the time of her second marriage the widow of Jan Nagel.  Jan Dyckman's son Jan married his cousin Deborah Nagel, while his sister Magdalena married Deborah Nagel's brother, Jan Nagel II. Jacob Dyckman married Jannetje Kiersen; Sarah married {text missing here}; sister Rebecca married Joseph Hadley, and their daughter Mehitabel Hadley married her cousin Isaac Vermilye.

Of the Meyer/Myer family, Adolph Myer married Maria, the daughter of Johannes Verveelen, and their children married respectively into the Van Dalsen, Benson, Bussing, Waldron, Lent and Haringh/Haring families; while their grandchildren married into the Dyckman, Waldron, Bussing, Delamater and Kortright families.

Of the Vermilye family, Johannes Vermilye's daughters--besides Rebecca, who married Peter Bussing--Maria married Peter Kiersen; Sarah married Teunis Van Dalsen; and Hannah married Jonathan Odell, the great-great-grandfather of one of New York's governors.  And in the two following generations of the Odell and Vermilye families and the Dyckman family, there were no less than ten intermarriages of cousins belonging to the three families. Aeltje Vermilye, a granddaughter of Johannes and Aeltje Waldron, married John Kortright.

Maria Vermilye, sister of Capt. Johannes, the patentee, became the second wife of Jean de la Montagne and her children married into the Bogert, Bussing and Kortright families. Nicasius de la Montagne, the son of Jean de la Montagne by his first wife Rachel De Forest, married Christina Roosevelt.

A Dutch trouwbeker, or wedding cup, from which the bride and groom drank

Of the Tourneur family, Daniel Tourneur's children married into the Kortright, Oblinus, Dyckman and DeVoe families, while his grandson Jacobus married a granddaughter of Laurens Jansen Low.

Of the Verveleen family, in addition to the connection by marriage between the Verveelen and Meyer families, already noted, there is that established by the two grandchildren of the old ferryman, Johannes Verveelen. Bernardus and Jacobus married, the one a Delamater and the other a Nagel.

Of the Bogert family, Jan Louwe Bogert's two daughters, Margaret and Cornelia, married a Haring and a Quackenbos {Quackenbush} respectively, while his granddaughter Jannetje became a Waldron and his great-grand-daughter Anna married Jacobus Roosevelt.

Of the Nagel family, Jan Nagel and Rebecca Waldron had a son Jan, who married his cousin, Magdalena Dyckman.  Another son, Barent, married Jannetje Kiersen and a daughter, Johannes {sic: Johanna} became the wife of William Waldron.  Sarah, their granddaughter, married Peter Oblinus, and her sister Deborah married Benjamin Waldron.

Of the Brevoort family, Jan Hendricus Brevoort's grandson Hendricus married a Delamater; William Haldron's grandson Cornells married Anetje Meyer and Jan Kiersen's daughter Jannetje married Jacob Dyckman.

Of the Oblinus family, Joost Oblinus' daughter married Isaac Vermilye and his grandchildren married respectively into the Nagel, Tourneur and DeVoe families. The children and grandchildren of Laurens Jansen Low intermarried with the Bogert, Delamater, Tourneur, Oblinus and Meyer families; and those of Cornelis Jan Kortright into the Dyckman, Benson, Bussing, Quackenbos {Quackenbush}, Delamater, Meyer and Vermilye families.

Dutch wedding wooden shoes


{edited slightly by Madehlinne}

Pierce, Carl Horton, William Pennington Toler and Harmon De Pau Nutting, New Harlem past and present: the story of an amazing civic wrong, now at last to be righted (New Harlem Printing Co., 1903)

Monday, February 13, 2012

List of Original Patentees of Harlem

The following is a list of the names of the original Harlem Patentees and Associates:

John Delavall,

Resolved Waldron,

Joost Van Oblinus [Oblienus],

Daniel Tourneur,

Adolph Meyer [Myer],

John Spragge,

Jan Hendricks Brevoort,

Jan Delamater,

Isaac Delamater,

Barent Waldron,

Johannes Vermilje [Vermilye],

Lawrence Jansen [Low],

Peter Van Oblinis [Oblenus],

Jan Dykeman [Dyckman],

Jan Nagel,

Arent Harmanse [Bussing],

Cornelis Jansen [Kortright],

Jacqueline Tourneur,

Hester Delamater,

Johannes Verveelen [Van Valen],

William Haldron [Holdrum],

Abraham Montanie [De La Montanye],

Peter Parmentier,

Jan Louwe Bogert,

Johannes Benson,

Charles Congreve,

Zacharias Sickels,

Marcus Tiebout,

John Kiersen,

William Holmes.

Settling Harlem, New York

Harlem, named after the original Harlem in the Netherlands, was founded by the Dutch on a site which is now almost the geographical heart of New York City. Patterned after similar villages in France and England, this little settlement of about 20 families received power to own, buy, sell, or distribute property, elect officers, assess members, build churches, hold court and govern itself in the exercise of an authority common to corporate towns of the day.

Attempts at earlier settlement on the northern end of Manhattan Island had proved futile but began in earnest with the arrival of Hendrick (Henry) de Forest, his brother Isaac de Forest and their sister and brother-in-law, Rachel and Dr. Jean Mousnier De La Montagne, Franco-Dutch immigrants in 1636.

 Hendrick and Isaack lost no time in seeking a favorable situation for a plantation. They came prepared to earn their living by raising tobacco, for which it was said the New Netherland soil of Manhattan Island "on account of its great fertility was considered well adapted." A stretch of rich bottom land in the northern part of the island was soon selected. This tract was called Muscoota (the flat land) by the Indians, who had doubtless already cleared and cultivated a considerable part of it.  The Muscoota included all the Harlem River lowlands from Hellgate to High Bridge.

Early Manhattan Island Native American village

Hendrick promptly secured from Director Wouter van Twiller a grant of 100 morgens of land (about two hundred acres) on this fertile plain, extending "between the hills and the kill," that is, from the high land known today as Morningside Heights to a little stream now called Harlem Creek, which ran in a southerly and easterly direction until it emptied into the Harlem River. The northern boundary of the tract was at about 124th Street, while on the south it included the high land in Central Park at about 109th Street. Near this latter boundary was a copious spring or, as the Dutch called it, a fonteyn, which still flows almost as it did then, a rippling brook with little waterfalls, until it empties into Harlem Mere in the northern part of the park.

Montanye's Fonteyn in the early 20th century

Roughly speaking, between 3,000-4,000 acres, every foot of which is now extremely valuable, was granted to the Corporation—the Town of New Harlem—whose first settlers broke ground near the foot of 125th Street and the Harlem River on 14 Aug. 1658. Erf (plural erven) was the Dutch name for a house-lot and morgen (two acres) meaning farm-lots. An owner of erf and morgen-rights was entitled to draw as many acres of the undivided common lands as he held of these rights.

Harlem Original Plot Map, 1670; map drawn by James Riker

Dr. Montagne, whose name has been variously misspelled, a descendant of French Huguenots who--like many other Nieuw Netherlands settlers--had fled persecution to settle in Holland. Jean Mousnier de la Montagne from the time of his arrival in Nieuw Netherland signed himself simply La Montagne, though he was often called Johannes La Montagne or Montanye, and the name was frequently pronounced according to the latter spelling.

Riker's Map of Original Farms and Lots of Nieuw Haarlem

From Gov. William Kieft,  Dr. Montagne obtained a grant of the land on which he had settled and expressed a sense of gratitude for the contrasting peace of his new home in calling it Quiet Dale or Vredendal. The land which Montagne occupied soon became known as Montagne's Flat. The tract, divided by the present line of St. Nicholas Avenue, ran from 109th Street to 124th Street and contained about 200 acres.

Shortly afterward, former director Wouter Van Twiller became interested in the Harlem district and settled on Ward's Island. His friend Jacobus Van Curler pre-empted the flat opposite Ward's Island known as the Otterspoor, a name signifying "otter tracks." This was afterwards sold to Coenraet Van Keulen, a New York merchant, and hence the name Van Keulen's Hook, which clung to this part of the district for more than 100 years after Harlem's founding.

With the ushering-in of spring, Van Curler finished his primitive dwelling and out-buildings on the northern bank of Montagne's Creek and secured a stock of all things necessary for a well-regulated plantation of the day—domestic animals, farming tools, and a canoe for passing to and from New York. At that time, and for a considerable time thereafter, there was no thought of reaching Nieuw Amsterdam except by water.

The success attending these early efforts in the rich soil of Muscoota had by this time spread abroad and had attracted the attention of a Danish capitalist, Capt. Jochem Pieter, who finally settled on the land above 125th Street. His farm, which reached approximately to 150th Street along the Harlem River, was forever afterward known to the patentees as Jochem Pieter's lots. Jochem Pieter's full name was Jochem Pietersen Kuyter. The Dutch, not unlike their American descendants, were quick to abbreviate names. Kuyter, therefore, was always known as Jochem Pieter.

When Jochem Pieter first made known his intention of coming to Manhattan, the authorities offered him the farm he subsequently occupied. Pleased with their generosity, Jochem Pieter hired a ship, invited his friend Jonas Bronck to accompany him, stocked the vessel with fine Holstein cattle and, with the Pieter and Bronck families and numerous herdsmen, arrived in Nieuw Amsterdam in July 1639 and at once took up his residence on the banks of the Harlem.

Bronck, his associate, settled opposite in what is now Bronx Borough--to which he lent his name--and at once started to erect a stone house, covered with Dutch tiles, a barn, tobacco houses and barracks.

A Dutch farm in Drenthe, Netherlands, resembles those that would have been built in Nieuw Amsterdam.

When Hendrick De Forest died in July 1637, Dr. Montagne took charge of the widow's plantation. He also saw to the proper harvesting of her crops and boarded with Van Curler while finishing the house and barn which his brother-in-law had started in the rough.

 Dr. Montagne continued to look after the estate of his sister-in-law until the year following, when a former member of Van Twiller's council, Andries Hudde, married the young widow De Forest. Particularly noteworthy was this event, leading up to the first ground-brief, or land patent, which was issued relative to Harlem lands, "granting, transporting, ceding, giving over, and conveying, to Andries Hudde, his heirs and successors, now and forever" a site owned less than a generation later by the town of Harlem.

After his marriage, Hudde, wishing to visit Holland with his bride, engaged an overseer for the farm and applied to Director Kieft for a patent to avoid all question of title to the property during his absence. Hitherto no similar action had been taken, but Kieft, recognizing the value of the Harlem settlement as a protection against the Indians and recognizing also that settlers would not continue to dwell on and improve property where titles were insecure, inaugurated the custom of giving ground-briefs for Harlem farms, in course of improvement, by issuing the Hudde Patent, dated 20 July 1638.

By the time the newly-wedded pair reached Holland, however, their affairs on this side of the water were complicated by Dr. Montagne's demand for the settlement of a debt of $400 due him for the management of the estate during the widowhood of Mrs. De Forest, now Mrs. Hudde.

View of the Herengracht, Amsterdam

The claim remaining unpaid, the farm was offered for sale for the benefit of the widow. At the auction which followed, Dr. Montagne bid for the property at 1,700 guilders, or about $680, which sum purchased not only the farm, but also the fixtures, house, barn, fences, farming tools and wey schuyt (as the Dutch called the canoe), "domestic fowls, two goats, two milch cows and other cattle, and portions of the recent crops of tobacco and grain." Thus the claim to New Harlem's land called Montagne's Point and Montagne's Flat became merged under one ownership, where it remained until the formation of the New Harlem Corporation.

Claes Cornelissen Swits, a New Yorker, leased the farm which Van Kuelen purchased from Van Curler. The terms of his lease were interesting, showing the progress made by the little Harlem colony in the three years of its existence. The lease, which was executed on 25 Jan. 1639, included two span of horses, three cows, farming utensils and 12 schepels of grain in the ground, for which Swits was to pay rent in livestock and butter and one-eighth of all the grain "with which God shall bless the field."'

Dr. Montagne was yet to find, as did his neighbors, that this retreat was not so peaceful as it first seemed. The Native Americans lurked too near at hand.  Instead of the former quiet of the forest, the squeak of the ox-cart's wheels and the swish of the scythes in the meadow now warned the Manahattans and Wickquaskeeks, the Indian tribes of the region, that civilization was soon to rob them of their beloved hunting grounds.

Pieter Minuit trades for Manhattan Island. The Natives thought they only sold the hunting rights.

Despite Pieter Minuit's purchase of the island and subsequent purchases of the Bronx and Westchester lowlands, the Native Americans became aggressive, declaring that $24 was an inadequate price for the whole of the island, and their tone became threatening.

Gov. Kieft added fuel to the smoldering fire of the Indians' anger by attempting to levy a tax on the surrounding tribes. In vain did Dr. Montagne protest, but Kieft was vindictive. His demands being refused, he ordered an attack on the Raritan Indians. Several were killed, and, in the words of Dr. Montagne, "a bridge had been built over which war was soon to stalk through the land."

Swits was the first to fall in the trail of death which ensued. Kieft unwisely demanded the head of the assassin. New York's Council not supporting him, however, no active measures were taken to capture the culprit. Doubling their precautions, now that one of their number had been killed, the settlers along the Harlem returned to their crops and renewed their labors in the shadow of a constant danger.

Dutch troops prepare to attack Native Americans in retaliation.

Kieft again contrived to blunder in his relations with the Indians and his blunders were always particularly costly to the little Harlem colony. In the fall of the year he ordered the slaughter of some harmless, unarmed Indians who had sought, at the fort, a refuge from their enemies, the Mohicans.

Immediately the Indians rose, thirsting for revenge and swarming like angry hornets from the forests, boldly attacked the Harlem outpost of Manhattan Island civilization, killed some of the settlers and drove the remainder southward to New York.  Such attacks were repeated again and again in the next five years until Montagne and his neighbors were ruined, their cattle killed, their well-filled barns burned, their gardens and fences uprooted, their fields laid waste; and again the forest's silence was broken only by the cry of birds or the twang of the bow.


De Forest, Emily Johnston and Jesse De Forest, A Walloon Family in America (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1904)

Pierce, Carl Horton, William Pennington Toler and Harmon De Pau Nutting, New Harlem past and present: the story of an amazing civic wrong, now at last to be righted (New Harlem Printing Co., 1903)