Early Settlement of the Hudson River

In 1610 a Dutch ship visited Manhattan to trade with the Indians and was soon followed by others on like enterprise. In 1613 Adrian Block came with a few comrades and remained the winter. In 1614 the merchants of North Holland organized a company and obtained from the States General a charter to trade in the New Netherlands, and soon after a colony built a few houses and a fort near the Battery. The entire island was purchased from the Indians in 1624 for the sum of sixty guilders or about twenty-four dollars. A fort was built at Albany in 1623 and known as Fort Aurania or Fort Orange. From Wassenaer’s “Historie van Europa,” 1621-1632, as translated in the 3d volume of the Documentary History of New York, a castle—Fort Nassau—was built in 1624, on an island on the north side of the River Montagne, now called Mauritius. “But as the natives there were somewhat discontented, and not easily managed, the projectors abandoned it, intending now to plant a colony among the Maikans (Mahicans), a nation lying twenty-five miles (American measure seventy-five miles) on both sides of the river, upwards.” In another document we learn that “The West India Company being chartered, a vessel of 130 lasts, called the ‘New Netherland’ (whereof Cornelius Jacobs, of Hoorn, was skipper), with thirty families, mostly Walloons, was equipped in the spring of 1623.”

West India Company

In the beginning of May they entered the Hudson, found a “Frenchman” lying in the mouth of the river, who would erect the arms of the King of France there, but the Hollanders would not permit him, opposing it by commission from the Lord’s States General and the Directors of the West India Company, and “in order not to be frustrated therein, they convoyed the Frenchman out of the rivers.” This having been done, they sailed up the Maikans, 140 miles, near which they built and completed a fort, named “Orange,” with four bastions, on an island, by them called “Castle Island.” This was probably the island below Castleton, now known as Baern Island, where the first white child was born on the Hudson.

In another volume we read that “a colony was planted in 1625 on the Manhetes Island, where a fort was staked out by Master Kryn Fredericke, an engineer. The counting-house is kept in a stone building thatched with reed; the other houses are of the bark of trees. There are thirty ordinary houses on the east side of the river, which runs nearly north and south.” This is the description of New York City when Charles the First was King.

Moreover, we should not forget that Communipaw outranks New York in antiquity, and, according to Knickerbocker, whose quiet humor is always read and re-read with pleasure, might justly be considered the Mother Colony. For lo! the sage Oloffe Van Kortlandt dreamed a dream, and the good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, and descended upon the island of Manhattan and sat himself down and smoked, “and the smoke ascended in the sky, and formed a cloud overhead; and Oloffe bethought him, and he hastened and climbed up to the top of one of the tallest trees, and saw that the smoke spread over a great extent of country; and, as he considered it more attentively, he fancied that the great volume assumed a variety of marvelous forms, where, in dim obscurity, he saw shadowed out palaces and domes and lofty spires, all of which lasted but a moment, and then passed away.” So New York, like Alba Longa and Rome, and other cities of antiquity, was under the immediate care of its tutelar saint. Its destiny was foreshadowed, for now the palaces and domes and lofty spires are real and genuine, and something more than dreams are made of.

The Original Manors and Patents

The Original Manors and Patents.—According to a map of the Province of New York, published in 1779, the Phillipsburg Patent embraced a large part of Westchester County. North of this was the Manor of Cortland, reaching from Tarrytown to Anthony’s Nose. Above this was the Phillipse Patent, reaching to the mouth of Fishkill Creek, embracing Putnam County. Between Fishkill Creek and the Wappingers Creek was the Rombout Patent. The Schuyler Patent embraced a few square miles in the vicinity of Poughkeepsie. Above this was the purchase of Falconer & Company, and east of this tract what was known as the Great Nine Partners. Above the Falconer Purchase was the Henry Beekman Patent, reaching to Esopus Island, and east of this the Little Nine Partners. Above the Beekman Patent was the Schuyler Patent. Then the Manor of Livingston, reaching from Rhinebeck to Catskill Station, opposite Catskill. Above this Rensselaerwick, reaching north to a point opposite Coeymans. The Manor of Rensselaer extended on both sides of the river to a line running nearly east and west, just above Troy. North and west of this Manor was the County of Albany, since divided into Rensselaer, Saratoga, Washington, Schoharie, Greene and Albany. The Rensselaer Manor was the only one that reached across the river. The west bank of the Hudson, below the Rensselaer Manor, is simply indicated on this map of 1779 as Ulster and Orange Counties.

New Amsterdam

For about fifty years after the Dutch Settlement the island of Manhattan was known as New Amsterdam. Washington Irving, in his Knickerbocker History, has surrounded it with a loving halo and thereby given to the early records of New York the most picturesque background of any State in the Union.

Among other playful allusions to the Indian names he takes the word Mannahatta of Robert Juet to mean “the island of manna,” or in other words a land flowing with milk and honey. He refers humorously to the Yankees as “an ingenious people who out-bargain them in the market, out-speculate them on the exchange, out-top them in fortune, and run up mushroom palaces so high that the tallest Dutch family mansion has not wind enough left for its weather-cock.”

What would the old burgomaster think now of the mounting palaces of trade, stately apartments, and the piled up stories of commercial buildings? In fact the highest structure Washington Irving ever saw in New York was a nine-story sugar refinery. With elevators running two hundred feet a minute, there seems no limit to these modern mammoths.

The Dutch and the English

From the very beginning there was a quiet jealousy between the Dutch Settlement on the Hudson and the English Settlers in Massachusetts. To quote from an old English history, “it was the original purpose of the Pilgrims to locate near Nova Scotia, but, upon better consideration, they decided to seat themselves more to the southward on the bank of Hudson’s River which falls into the sea at New York.”

To this end “they contracted with some merchants who were willing to be adventurers with them in their intended settlement and were proprietors of the country, but the contract bore too heavy upon them, and made them the more easy in their disappointment. Their agents in England hired the Mayflower, and, after a stormy voyage, ‘fell in with Cape Cod on the 9th of November. Here they refreshed themselves about half a day and then tacked about to the southward for Hudson’s River.’

“Encountering a storm they became entangled in dangerous shoals and breakers and were driven back again to the Cape.” Thus Plymouth became the first English settlement of New England. Another historian says that it was their purpose “to settle on the Connecticut Coast near Fairfield County, lying between the Connecticut and Hudson’s River.”

From the very first the Dutch occupation was considered by the English as illegal. It was undoubtedly part of the country the coasts of which were first viewed by Sebastian Cabot, who sailed with five English ships from Bristol in May, 1498, and as such was afterwards included in the original province of Virginia. It was also within the limits of the country granted by King James to the Western Company, but, before it could be settled, the Dutch occupancy took place, and, in the interest of peace, a license was granted by King James.

The Dutch thus made their settlement before the Puritans were planted in New England, and from their first coming, “being seated in Islands and at the mouth of a good river their plantations were in a thriving condition, and they begun, in Holland, to promise themselves vast things from their new colony.”

Sir Samuel Argal in 1617 or 1618, on his way from Virginia to New Scotland, insulted the Dutch and destroyed their plantations. “To guard against further molestations they secured a License from King James to build Cottages and to plant for traffic as well as subsistence, pretending it was only for the convenience of their ships touching there for fresh water and fresh provisions in their voyage to Brazil; but they little by little extended their limits every way, built Towns, fortified them and became a flourishing colony.”

“In an island called Manhattan, at the mouth of Hudson’s River, they built a City which they called New Amsterdam, and the river was called by them the Great River. The bay to the east of it had the name of Nassau given to it. About one hundred and fifty miles up the River they built a Fort which they called Orange Fort and from thence drove a profitable trade with the Indians who came overland as far as from Quebec to deal with them.

The Dutch Colonies were therefore in a very thriving condition when they were attacked by the English. The justice of this war has been freely criticized even by English writers, “because troops were sent to attack New Amsterdam before the Colony had any notice of the war.”

The “Encyclopedia Britannica” thus briefly puts the history of those far-off days when New York was a town of about 1500 inhabitants: “The English Government was hostile to any other occupation of the New World than its own. In 1621 James I. claimed sovereignty over New Netherland by right of ‘occupancy.’ In 1632 Charles I. reasserted the English title of ‘first discovery, occupation and possession.’ In 1654 Cromwell ordered an expedition for its conquest and the New England Colonies had engaged their support. The treaty with Holland arrested their operations and recognized the title of the Dutch. In 1664 Charles the Second resolved upon a conquest of New Netherland. The immediate excuse was the loss to the revenue of the English Colonies by the smuggling practices of their Dutch neighbors. A patent was granted to the Duke of York giving to him all the lands and rivers from the west side of the Connecticut River to the east side of Delaware Bay.”

“On the 29th of August an English Squadron under the direction of Col. Richard Nicolls, the Duke’s Deputy Governor, appeared off the Narrows, and on Sept. 8th New Amsterdam, defenseless against the force, was formally surrendered by Stuyvesant. In 1673 (August 7th) war being declared between England and Holland a Dutch squadron surprised New York, captured the City and restored the Dutch authority, and the names of New Netherland and New Amsterdam. But in July, 1674, a treaty of peace restored New York to English rule. A new patent was issued to the Duke of York, and Major Edmund Andros was appointed Governor.”

New York

On the 10th of November, 1674, the Province of New Netherland was surrendered to Governor Major Edmund Andros on behalf of his Britannic Majesty. The letter sent by Governor Andros to the Dutch Governor is interesting in this connection: “Being arrived to this place with orders to receive from you in the behalf of his Majesty of Great Britain, pursuant to the late articles of peace with the States Generals of the United Netherlands, the New Netherlands and Dependencies, now under your command, I have herewith, by Capt. Philip Carterett and Ens. Cæsar Knafton, sent you the respective orders from the said States General, the States of Zealand and Admiralty of Amsterdam to that effect, and desire you’ll please to appoint some short time for it. Our soldiers having been long aboard, I pray you answer by these gentlemen, and I shall be ready to serve you in what may lay in my power. Being from aboard his Majesty’s ship, ‘The Diamond,’ at anchor near. Your very humble servant. Staten Island this 22d Oct., 1674.” After nineteen days’ deliberation, which greatly annoyed Governor Andros, New Amsterdam was transferred from Dutch to English authority.

“In 1683 Thomas Dongan succeeded Andros. A general Assembly, the first under the English rule, met in October, 1683, and adopted a Charter of Liberties, which was confirmed by the Duke. In August, 1684, a new covenant was made with the Iroquois, who formally acknowledged the jurisdiction of Great Britain, but not subjection. By the accession of the Duke of York to the English throne the Duchy of New York became a royal province. The Charters of the New England Colonies were revoked, and together with New York and New Jersey they were consolidated into the dominion of New England. Dongan was recalled and Sir Edmund Andros was commissioned Governor General. He assumed his vice regal authority August 11, 1688. The Assembly which James had abolished in 1686 was reestablished, and in May declared the rights and privileges of the people, reaffirming the principles of the repealed Charter of Liberties of October 30, 1683.”

From this time on to the Revolution of 1776 there is one continual struggle between the Royal Governors and the General Assembly. The Governor General had the power of dissolving the Assembly, but the Assembly had the power of granting money. British troops were quartered in New York which increased the irritation. The conquest of Canada left a heavy burden upon Great Britain, a part of which their Parliament attempted to shift to the shoulders of the Colonies.

A general Congress of the Colonies, held in New York in 1765, protested against the Stamp Act and other oppressive ordinances and they were in part repealed.

A Page of Patriotism

During the long political agitation New York, the most English of the Colonies in her manners and feelings, was in close harmony with the Whig leaders of England. She firmly adhered to the principle of the sovereignty of the people which she had inscribed on her ancient “Charter of Liberties.” Although largely dependent upon commerce she was the first to recommend a non-importation of English merchandise as a measure of retaliation against Britain, and she was the first also to invite a general congress of all the Colonies. On the breaking out of hostilities New York immediately joined the patriot cause. The English authority was overthrown and the government passed to a provincial congress.

New York Sons of Liberty

—In 1767, in the eighth year of the reign of George III, there was issued a document in straightforward Saxon, and Sir Henry Moore, Governor-in-Chief over the Province of New York, offered fifty pounds to discover the author or authors. The paper read as follows: “Whereas, a glorious stand for Liberty did appear in the Resentment shown to a Set of Miscreants under the Name of Stamp Masters, in the year 1765, and it is now feared that a set of Gentry called Commissioners (I do not mean those lately arrived at Boston), whose odious Business is of a similar nature, may soon make their appearance amongst us in order to execute their detestable office: It is therefore hoped that every votary of that celestial Goddess Liberty, will hold themselves in readiness to give them a proper welcome. Rouse, my Countrymen, Rouse! (Signed) Pro Patria.”

In December, 1769, a stirring address “To the Betrayed Inhabitants of the City and County of New York,” signed by a Son of Liberty, was also published, asking the people to do their duty in matters pending between them and Britain. “Imitate,” the writer said, “the noble examples of the friends of Liberty in England; who, rather than be enslaved, contend for their rights with king, lords and commons; and will you suffer your liberties to be torn from you by your Representatives? tell it not in Boston; publish it not in the streets of Charles-town. You have means yet left to preserve a unanimity with the brave Bostonians and Carolinians; and to prevent the accomplishment of the designs of tyrants.”

Another proclamation, offering a reward of fifty pounds, was published by the “Honorable Cadwalader Colden, Esquire, His Majesty’s Lieutenant-Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Province of New York and the territories depending thereon in America,” with another “God Save the King” at the end of it. But the people who commenced to write Liberty with a capital letter and the word “king” in lower case type were not daunted. Captain Alexander McDougal was arrested as the supposed author. He was imprisoned eighty-one days. He was subsequently a member of the Provincial Convention, in 1775 was appointed Colonel of the first New York Regiment, and in 1777 rose to the rank of Major-General in the U. S. Army. New York City could well afford a monument to the Sons of Liberty. She has a right to emphasize this period of her history, for her citizens passed the first resolution to import nothing from the mother country, burned ten boxes of stamps sent from England before any other colony or city had made even a show of resistance, and when the Declaration was read, pulled down the leaden statue of George III. from its pedestal in Bowling Green, and molded it into Republican bullets.

In 1699 the population of New York was about 6,000. In 1800, it reached 60,000; and the growth since that date is almost incredible. It is amusing to hear elderly people speak of the “outskirts of the city” lying close to the City Hall, and of the drives in the country above Canal Street. In the Documentary History of New York, a map of a section of New York appears as it was in 1793, when the Gail, Work House, and Bridewell occupied the site of the City Hall, with two ponds to the north—East Collect Pond and Little Collect Pond,—sixty feet deep and about a quarter of a mile in diameter, the outlet of which crossed Broadway at Canal Street and found its way to the Hudson.

Greater New York

Greater New York.—In 1830, the population of Manhattan was 202,000; in 1850, 515,000; in 1860, 805,000; in 1870, 942,000; in 1880, 1,250,000; in 1892, 1,801,739; and is now rapidly approaching three million. Brooklyn, which in 1800 had a population of only 2,000, now contributes, as the “Borough of Brooklyn,” almost two million. So that Greater New York is the centre of about six million of people within a radius of fifteen miles including her New Jersey suburbs with almost five millions under one municipality.


Brooklyn.—In June, 1636, was bought the first land on Long Island; and in 1667 the Ferry Town, opposite New York, was known by the name “Breuckelen,” signifying “broken land,” but the name was not generally accepted until after the Revolution. Columbia Heights, Prospect Park, Clinton Avenue, St. Mark’s Place and Stuyvesant Heights are among the favored spots for residence.

Jersey City

Jersey City occupies the ground once known as Paulus Hook, the farm of William Kieft, Director General of the Dutch West India Company. Its water front, from opposite Bartholdi Statue to Hoboken, is conspicuously marked by Railroad Terminal Piers, Factories, Elevators, etc. Bergen is the oldest settlement in New Jersey. It was founded in 1616 by Dutch Colonists to the New Netherlands, and received its name from Bergen in Norway. Jersey City is practically a part of Greater New York, but state lines make municipal union impossible.

Bruce, Wallace. The Hudson; Three Centuries of History, Romance and Invention. New York: Bryant Union Company. 1907.

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