The First Settlers of New Harlem Part II

 
 

The adventurous Montagne was accompanied by his wife and son, Johannes, junior. On the voyage was born a daughter, who
was named Marie, after her grandmother De Forest. The little family landed at the Battery, called "Capsee" by the first
Dutch settlers, and spent a short time in the village, where Montagne exchanged news, gathered information as to the outlying districts, furnished himself with a dugout, and demonstrated his daring temper by forthwith paddling up the East River far beyond the limits of the colony, past Blackwell's Island, and landed with his family and farm hands at the turn in the shore, which afterward received the name of Montagne's Point. Thereafter he ascended the creek which then formed a tributary of the Harlem, subsequently known as Montagne's Creek, which wound its course from a point approximating the intersection of I32d Street and Eighth Avenue. An old Indian trail followed the course taken by St. Nicholas Avenue to-day. At its intersection Vith Seventh Avenue, Dr. Montagne started a bark cabin to shelter his family for the winter, and, simultaneously, Henry De Forest, Dr. Montagne's brother-in-law, also took up his residence on Montagne's Point.

Governor Kieft was at this time ruler of New Amsterdam. From him 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." He
was yet to find, as did his neighbors, that this retreat was not so peaceful as it first seemed. The Red Man lurked too near at hand.

The land which Montagne occupied, and to which he gave the sentimental name, 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 after these settlements, former director Van Twiller became interested in the Harlem district, and settled on Ward's
Island. His friend, Jacobus Van Curler, preempted 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 a hundred years after Harlem's founding.

In this triangle, whose southern line was 102d Street, and whose northernmost point touched the Harlem River at about
I25th Street, lay these three Harlem settlements while the first winter passed.

With the ushering-in of spring Van Curler finished his primitive dwelling and out-buildings on the northern bank of Montague'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 New York except by water.

Henry De Forest died in July of the next year, and 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.

From an account of the bill of fare at Van Curler's, still surviving, it appears that the guests were fed on savory venison ;
deer being so plentiful on the Island as to stray within gunshot oi the farmhouse. Besides game, they had fish and salted eels. Pea soup was included in the menu, together with wheat and rye bread, butter, eggs and poultry. The settlers also adopted the Indian dish called sapaan, made of Indian corn.

Dr. Montagne continued to look after the estate of his sister-in-law until the year following, when a former member of Van
Twiner's council1, Anclries Hudde, won the hand, heart and lands of the young widow De Forest. Particularly noteworthy
is this event, leading up as it did to the first groundbrief, 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 lets than a generation later by the Town of New 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 July 20, 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 Mrs. Hudde's
widowhood.

The claim remaining unpaid, the farm was offered for sale for the benefit of the widow. At the auction which followed, Dr. Montagne bid in the property for 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 are interesting, showing, as they do, the progress made by the little Harlem colony in the three years of its existence. The lease, which was executed on January 25, 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 live stock and butter and one-eighth of all the grain "with which God shall bless the field."

The success attending these early efforts in the rich soil of "Muscoota," the name given by the Indians to all the Harlem
River lowlands from Hellgate to High Bridge, had by this time spread abroad, and had attracted the attention of a Danish
capitalist. Captain Jochem Pieter,' who finally settled on the land above I25th Street. His farm, which reached approximately to 130th Street along the Harlem River, was forever afterward known to the patentees as Jochem Pieter's lots.

The wording "House and Lot," of the groundbrief, or patent, to Hudde (who succeeded De Forest, and was in turn succeeded by Montagne) indicates a custom of the time, that of giving settlers a house-lot,' and also a farm-lot. Jochem Pieter's and Van Keulen's lots were thus divided for farming purposes, the whole farms being cut up into strips terminating at the water's edge, and running back to the woods which fringed the meadow.

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 New York in July, 1639, and at once took up his residence on the banks of the Harlem.

 

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

Source:

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