Furs Lured Settlers: Beaver Put on Seal

Early Dutch Company Given Monopoly of Trade in all Section Roundabout

Hudson was especially attracted by the rich peltry yielded by the new country which he had explored and disclosed by sailing the Half Moon up the Hudson. Already the Dutch merchants trafficked largely in furs, sending a hundred ships yearly to Archangel for pelts. As soon as Hudson reached Amsterdam, late in 1609, and told of the immense numbers of fur bearing animals he had seen and how it was possible to barter with the friendly Indians, the shrewd Dutch merchants speedily planned to establish trade. In 1610 the mate of the Half Moon commanded a ship that came out for a cargo of furs. It was successful, and the backers of the enterprise profited greatly, so much so that two years later the Fortune, commanded by Hendrick Christiaensen, and the Tiger, commanded by Adrian Block, set forth on a trading voyage to the Mauritius River, as the Hudson is called in some old Dutch chronicles. These enterprises also are successful, and the next year three vessels came captained by De Witt, Volckertsen, and (W__?). Thus the fur trade became firmly established and the present city of New York had its beginnings.

Arrangements were made for establishing regular communication with Manhattan island and to station permanent agents here to buy and collect furs while the ships were taking their full cargoes back to Holland. Captain Christiaensen was appointed the first agent. About where No. 39 Broadway is now he threw up a redoubt for defensive purposes and inside it he built four small houses, or huts, in two of which he and his assistants lived, while the remaining two were used for the storage of furs. Captain Adrian Block also was a pioneer on the Island.

Block was a driving energetic man and found sufficient spare time on his hands to build, in 1614, the first vessel constructed on the island. She was named the Restless, and was of sixteen tons burden. Another vessel which he built was burned as Block was about to sail in her for Holland.

Block Island is named after Captain Adrian Block. The Dutchmen found the Indians friendly and at first used them well. They paid them for their pelts and for the food which they brought to keep the little band of white men nourished through the winter.

A few months before Block returned to Holland the States General of the Netherlands, with a view of encouraging emigration, passed an ordinance granting the discoverers of new countries the exclusive privilege of trading at Manhattan during four years. Accordingly, the merchants who had sent out the first expedition had a man made of all the country between Canada and Virginia, calling the territory New Netherlands, and claiming to be the original discoverers, petitioned the government for the promised monopoly. The petition was granted, and on October 11, 1614, they obtained a charter for the exclusive right of trade in the territory within the 40th and 45th degrees of north latitude.

New Province Named

The charter also forbade all other persons to interfere with this monopoly. In the penalty of confiscating both vessels and cargoes, with a fine also of 50,000 Dutch ducats for the benefit of the holders of the charter. The new province first formally received the name of New Netherlands in this document, and Dutch merchants, associating themselves under the name of the United New Netherlands Company, prepared to extend their operations on a more extensive scale. Trading parties to the interior hastened to collect furs from the Indians and deposit them at Fort Nassau, or Albany, as it was later called, and Manhattan.

Jacob Eelkins, a shrewd Dutchman, received the appointment of trader at Fort Nassau. Previously the Indians thereabouts had proved hostile, and killed the first trader, who was Captain Christiaensen. This was the first killing by Indians of a white man in the new province, save for a member of Hudson's crew who was slain by an arrow near Sandy Hook, in 1609.

Between the Indians and the Dutch a treaty was made in 1617. The Dutchmen and the Iroquois smoked the pipe of peace and went through the formal ceremony of burying the hatchet at Fort Nassau. This treaty, as may be imagined, greatly increased the strength, confidence and profit of the Dutch traders, who before had merely maintained their hold, without treaties, by sufferance of the Indians. The fur traders pressed further and further into the wilderness, giving muskets, beads, knives and other articles for beaver and similar valuable furs. The trade developed so profitably that when the charter of the company expired, in 1816, they sought to obtain renewal, but failed. They were permitted to continue their trade two or three years longer under a special license.

Up to this time the Hollanders had considered Manhattan as a trading post merely, and made no attempt to found a village or city more substantial than was provided by the rude huts that served the agents. British navigators had by now explored the American coast and laid claim to the entire territory from Virginia to Canada and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This aroused the Dutch to the importance of taking steps to defend their possessions in New Netherlands. They inaugurated a policy of discouraging all emigration save from Holland, and the States General in 1621 chartered the Dutch West India Company for twenty years, giving that corporation entire jurisdiction over New Netherlands.

It is a question whether the exclusion policy adopted by the Dutch operated to their advantage, for instead of serving to populate New Netherlands with hardy, industrious English and other nationalities it confined the emigration to the Dutch, who failed to flock to the New World in as great numbers as had been expected. Thus the Dutch colonies grew slowly and were never strong enough to be adequately defensive. The Dutch West India Company speedily became a power. Having the exclusive right of trade, so far as the Dutch were concerned, its influence upon this immense territory was boundless in making contracts with the Indians, building forts, administering justice and appointing public officers. In return the new company bound itself to colonize the country. The government of the company was vested in five different chambers, representing the largest of the Dutch cities. The States General had pledged itself to give the company governmental support and encouragement by an appropriation of 1,0000,000 guilders, and in the event of the colonists being attacked, to supply war vessels and men.

All Religions Tolerated

With the granting of the charter the Amsterdam chamber of the company fitted out a ship of 250 tons, called the New Netherlands, and in 1623 sent her over, with thirty families aboard. Captain Wey, who commanded the expedition, was appointed the first director of the province. Most of the emigrants were Walloons, or French Protestants, from the borders of France and Belgium. They were encouraged to come here by the hope of escaping persecution for their religious belief.

With the arrival of the New Netherlands a new era in the domestic career of the settlement began. Soon sawmills supplied the necessary timber for comfortable dwelling houses in place of the bark huts built Indian fashion. The new buildings generally were a single story high, with two rooms and a thatched roof farret. For want of brick and mortar the chimneys were of wood. The interior was scantily supplied with furniture and household gear, the great chest from the Fatherland being the most imposing and valued article. Tables were extemporized from barrels and casks, rough shelves were nailed up for cupboards, and the chairs were hewn from logs. To complete the furniture, there was the "sloap banck," or sleeping bench, the bedstead, topped by the pride of the Dutch housewife's heart, a huge feather bed. The houses clustered about the present Battery and Coenties Slip, and were surrounded with gardens. Often the Indians would raid the gardens or the fruit trees. Later on a serious Indian war was caused by the shooting of an Indian girl who was pilfering peaches from an orchard in Broadway, near Bowling Green.

On her return voyage to Holland the New Netherlands carried furs worth $12,000. Later there came out three ships and a yacht, bearing many families, with 103 head of cattle. Fearing that the cattle would stray away and be lost, the colonists landed them on Nutten's Island, now Governor's Island. Two more vessels brought other families, and soon there were two hundred persons in the little colony.

Wey was succeeded as director by William Verhulst in 1624. Then came Peter Minuit, invested with power to organize a provisional government, with himself as Director General Minuit arrived on May 4, 1626, aboard the Sea Mew, Adrian Joris captain. A seal had been granted the province, which had for its crest the beaver thus giving credit to the little animal the fur of which provided the financial mainstay of the new domain. Minuit immediately opened negotiations with the Indians for the purchase of Manhattan island, which was accomplished by the transfer of goods valued at $24 or 60 guilders. For this the Dutch acquired full and legal title to about twenty-two thousand acres of land.

Minuit was aided in governing by an executive council, who chose a keepman, who was secretary to the province and keeper of the books and accounts of the public warehouses. Another important official was the schout-fiscal, who acted as sheriff, attorney general, executive officer of the council and customs collector. That year the colony exported $19,000 worth of furs.

Land Given to Patroons

New Amsterdam, for so the little village had been called, in 1626 consisted of thirty log houses, which straggled along the East River waterfront, a block house, a horsepower mill and a stone building, or government house, which was the most imposing structure in the place. In 1629 Holland granted the New Netherlands a charter of privileges and exemptions, which in a manner transplanted the fundaments of the ardent feudal system, for patroons were allowed to take up lands by patent and were given control of the lives and property of the persons living within the limits of their patents. But the charter also enjoined the establishment of schools and churches.

New Amsterdam became the principal centre of the fur and coasting trade of the patroons and the lesser colonists. All cargoes had to be landed at New Amsterdam or shipped from there. In 1630 the imports amounted to 113,000 guilders and the exports to 130,000. A duty of 5 per cent was imposed upon all the trade.

Shipbuilding was engaged in extensively. The colonists took great pride in their most important product in this direction, which was a vessel of eight hundred tons__large for that age__which they named the New Netherlands. The embargo against foreign immigration was lifted and settlers from countries other than Holland came flocking in. The West India Company attracted settlers by transporting them at a cost of 12 1/2 cents a day for passage and food, and gave them free all the land they would place under cultivation. Religious toleration was broad, and Walloons, Calvinists, Puritans, Huguenots, Quakers, Papists, Jews every prescribed sect came and were made welcome in New Amsterdam.

England looked with covetous eyes upon the Dutch possessions. Finally the question of which should rule over the New Netherlands came to an issue. Conflicts arose between the company and the patroons over various questions, and Governor Minuit, who was suspected of favoring the patroons, fell into disfavor and was recalled. Returning to Holland aboard the Eendragt, stress of weather forced the ship to take refuge in Plymouth Harbor. There she was detained on the ground that she had illegally interfered with English monopolies. A correspondence arose between Holland and England. Holland based her right to the country upon Hudson's discoveries in 1609, the maintenance of Forts Nassau and Manhattan and the purchase of Manhattan Island from the Indians. The English argued that Cabot's discovery of the Hudson antedated that of Henry Hudson, that the charter granted to the Plymouth colony covered New Netherlands, and that as the Indians were a migratory race they could not be held to have title to Manhattan island and so could not have sold it. Internal troubles in England forced that country to relinquish her claims for the time being, so the Eendragt was released.

Governor Wouter van Twiller came out to New Amsterdam in 1633, bringing with him 105 soldiers and a Spanish caravel which his ship had attacked and captured on the way across the Atlantic. Among the passengers were Dominie Everardus Bogardus, New Amsterdam's first clergyman, and the city's first schoolmaster, Adam Roelandsen. A wooden church was erected fronting the East River in Pearl street, between Whitehall and Broad streets. A graveyard was laid out in Broadway, near Morris street.

Governor Against Preacher

Van Twiller and Bogardus clashed. The governor resented the interference of the Dominie in public matters, and rebuked him, and Bogardus, from his pulpit, denounced Van Twiller as "a child of Satan." One of Van Twiller's feminine adherents, having slandered the Dominie, according to the old records of the town, was "obliged to appear at the sound of the bell in the fort, and, before the Governor and Council, say that she knew he was honest and pious and that she had tied falsely."

Van Twiller strengthened the fortification on the Battery, the labor being supplied by slaves who had been introduced from Africa. The mettle of the Governor was tested by the attempt of Jacob Eelkins, who had been the company's trader at Fort Nassau, but was dismissed, to trade in the colony under the English flag. Eelkins had taken service with the English and come with a ship to proceed to Fort Nassau. Van Twiller essayed to stop him, and ran up the Dutch flag and fired three guns in honor of the Prince of orange. Eelkins broke out the English flag at his masthead, fired three guns in honor of King Charles and sailed up the river, while Van Twiller, red faced with wrath, stamped about the parapet of the fort and shook his fist in impotent rage. The indignation of the citizens at Van Twiller inspired him later to send a ship to Albany, where the store that Eelkins had set up was destroyed, and Eelkins, in his ship, was sent to sea with a warning to never again set foot on Dutch territory.

At this time Pearl street was on the waterfront of the East River. Near by took place the earliest conveyance of city property of which record remains, a lot 34x110 feet having been sold for 29 guilders, or $9.60.

Commerce and the fur trade steadily increased. A profitable traffic was carried on with New England. Dutch vessels brought tobacco, salt, horses, oxen and sheep from Holland to Boston. An old account says they came from the Texel to Boston in five weeks and three days, and "lost not one beast or sheep." Potatoes from Bermuda sold at 3 pence a pound. A good cow was worth from 125 to 130 and a yoke of oxen 110.

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Furs Lured Settlers: Beaver Put on Seal
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 The News Tribune September 25, 1909 Page: 6
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