The First Settlers of New Harlem Part III

 
 

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

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 Manhattans and Wickquaskeeks, the Indian tribes of the region, that civilization was soon to rob them of their
beloved hunting grounds. Despite Minuit's purchase' of the island, and subsequent purchases by Harlem of Bronx and Westchester lowlands, the Red Men became aggressive; declaring that twenty-four dollars was an inadequate price for the whole of the island, their tone became threatening.

Governor Kieft, by nature a blusterer, and at heart a coward, added fuel to the smouldering fire of the Indians' anger by
attempting to levy a tax on the surrounding tribes. In vain did Dr. Montagne protest. 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. 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 Red Man's bow.

Nor were the outskirts of the Battery settlement safe from attack. Even the bouweries1 in the immediate suburbs were
deserted as a result of Kieft's ill-advised act. "Almost every place is abandoned," wrote Kuyter and others of Kieft's Council, in a letter of November 3, 1643, imploring aid from Holland. " We wretched people, with our wives and little ones that survive, must in our destitution find refuge together in and around the Fort at Manhattan, where we are not safe even for an hour, as the Indians daily threaten to overwhelm us. Very little can be planted this autumn, and much less in the spring; so it must come to pass that those of us who may yet save our lives will necessarily perish next year by hunger and grief, as also our wives and children, unless our God have pity on us.

It took two years for the citizens of New York to quell the ill-feeling Kieft had caused. At the end of that time the settlers, by courage and diplomacy, conquered the Indians, and what was hoped to be a binding peace was signed at Fort Amsterdam by all the powerful sachems of the surrounding tribes. In 1645 the Harlem farmers once more returned to their desolate bouweries. Upon the establishment of peace, Kieft issued a grant, dated June 5, 1646, to Sibout Claessen, one of the Burghers of New York, of one hundred acres opposite the end of Blackwell's Island.' Claessen called his farm Hoorn's Hook, and as such it was known throughout Harlem's history.

Kieft's next grant was at Papparinamin' (Spuytcn Duyvil). Here Matthys Jansen van Kuelen obtained a grant of 100 acres, on August 18, 1646. His farm covered the meadow land on the very northern end of the Island, through which Kingsbridge road now passes.

Next, on the south, Kieft granted the Jansen and Aertsen patent, comprising some 200 acres, including the site now known
as the Dyckman homestead, through which now runs the Government Ship Canal. Kieft also rendered valuable services to
the pioneers by confirming the grants of Van Keulen's Hook and of Dr. Montagne's Point and Flat.

Kieft's administration, while it was characterized throughout by a tactless treatment of the Indians, had not been without practical advantage to the Harlem settlers in the matter of property relations. The Director's attention to the confirmation of individual rights was, in the main, satisfactory to the outlying colony, but this fact was not sufficient to prevent much bitterness of feeling toward him on the part of his northern neighbors. There was much open criticism of the Governor.

Jochem Pieter was particularly incensed, for the Dane had done all in his power to protect Kieft, and felt himself to be
greatly aggrieved. It was during Pieter's absence in the Governor's service that the Indians stealthily surrounded his stockade, surprised the sleeping guard, and in the dark of the morning shot a burning arrow into the thatched roof of the Captain's house.

In the high wind the house and all Jochem Pieter's effects were destroyed. During and after the conflagration, so a report
of these hours of terror reads,' the savages made the night hideous by whooping and the discharge of firearms, to the terror of the perishing women and children, whose shrieks at times drowned the roaring of the flames.

Pieter did not forget his loss when Kieft, at the close of his term, called all the people together at the Battery and thanked them for their numerous courtesies and for the loyal way in which they had supported him.

Remembering the burning arrow, Pieter declared that the people of Harlem had nothing to thank Kieft for, and added that
the former director had been the means of ruining them all; that it would have been better for them if Director Kieft had never been born, or words to that effect.

Unfortunately for the speaker, his remarks fell upon the ears of the new Governor, Peter Stuyvesant, the most picturesque
figure in the history of Dutch rulers, a stern, resolute, iron-tempered man, whose wooden leg smote the cobbles of New Amsterdam with a sound of inflexible authority. To Stuyvesant the words were more than unseemly, they were seditious. He accordingly imprisoned Jochem Pieter and another, named Melyn, on a charge of slander. Subsequently, at the trial, Stuyvesant quoted Bernard de Muscatel : "He who slanders God, the magistrate, or his parents, must be stoned to death," and added from the Scriptures : "Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

If the incident served to warn the colonists of what stuff their new Governor was made, its sequel revealed also the mettle
of the offenders.

Jochem Pieter was not stoned to death, but was arbitrarily banished in disgrace. He and Melyn, unwilling to surrender,
appealed to Holland. They were therefore transported to Amsterdam, and, to make their disgrace more keenly felt, were
forwarded on the same ship in which Kieft departed for his old home, they in irons, Kieffc treated with honor.

The story proceeds tragically, for the prisoners were soon to be freed by a storm, which shipwrecked their vessel on the
coast of Wales. In the wreck, Kieft, as he faced death, exclaimed : " Jochem ! Melyn ! I have done you wrong ; forgive me!"

Kieft perished, but Jochem Pieter and Melyn survived the storm, reached Holland, were acquitted by the Amsterdam court,
and returned to New York with their papers of reinstatement. To disobey his superiors' command was out of the question, and
Stuyvesant1 therefore reluctantly restored to the men their estates. Thus early was won an American battle for free
speech.

In consequence of this stand, which had cost him most of his fortune, Jochem Pieter was forever after greatly respected by the colonists. He was depleted in pocket, however, and found it necessary to borrow money in order to re-stock and work his vast Harlem estate.

In his dilemma, Stuyvesant, who inwardly admired a man of such determination and courage, consented to give Pieter pecuniary
help. Two other capitalists also agreed to a loan; the money to be expended by Pieter in improving and running the
property.

The resulting articles of agreement, consisting of several hundred words, solemnly affirm that whenever the four partners
shall decide to divide the property, "Mrs. Pieter is to keep for her family some hens and ducks." It also provides that
whenever the parties to the agreement may wish to divide the estate, each shall receive a quarter interest in everything, except Mrs. Pieter's hens and ducks.

Mention of the hens and ducks indicates the value placed upon poultry by the early settlers. It was a common occurrence
for rent to be paid in capons or hens, and the Dyckman estate, comprising some 2OO acres at the end of the Speedway, now
worth over $1,000,000, was rented to its first tenant, some 200 years ago, for two hens a year for seven years.

Of more serious significance was the tendency this agreement showed toward the common ownership of lands, and the equal
distribution of common property, according to the share of each partner.

Jochem Pieter did not live to see the good effects of the agreement, being soon afterward killed by the Indians in his "
Peaceful Valley." This murder stirred Harlem to its depths. Terror-stricken, the inhabitants again fled to New York in almost
a worse plight than twelve years before. During the exodus fifty settlers were killed, and only blackened stumps marked the
region where once lay well-filled barns. Several of the more daring, despite the Indians, would have again returned to the work after peace was declared, in 1655.

Stuyvesant, however, issued an ordinance prohibiting all persons from dwelling in exposed situations, and requiring farmers upon isolated bouweries to come to town ; another indication of the universal desire for a settlement in a village, with common pasturages and common farms, as distinguished from isolated dwellings and farms. The decree of the Governor put an end to unprotected settlements, for the time. Harlem could attain a village existence only when it had provided itself with a stockaded retreat. To provide this became its immediate and pressing concern.

 

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: The First Settlers of New Harlem Part III
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina

Source:

BIBLIOGRAPHY:  New Harlem Past and Present by Carl Horton Pierce, New Harlem Publishing Company 1903
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