| American History Stories, Volume I|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of early exploration and founding of American colonies, conflicts over religion, and troubles with the Indians, culminating in the French and Indian War. Ages 8-12 |
NEW YORK IN 1673
THE DUTCH IN AMERICA
 In Europe there is a small country called
Holland. It is a strange little country; it is
flat, and so low that the whole country would
long ago have been swallowed by the ocean
had not the sturdy people built great walls of
mud and stone to keep back the water.
Holland is sometimes called the land of windmills,
because there are so many of these great
wheels whizzing and whirring about the country.
Now, the merchants and workmen of this
 little country were far ahead of those of England in these
days of which we are reading. Although there was hardly
a stick of timber in the whole land, yet Holland built
more ships and did more trading than England had thought
It was not long, therefore, before some of these
enterprising Dutch merchants became interested in the long
sought for short route to China and the Indies; and in the
autumn of 1693 they engaged Henry Hudson, an
Englishman, to search for the passage for them.
In the spring of the following year, Capt. Hudson, with a
crew of about twenty men, set sail from Holland in the
Half Moon, and following a map and letter sent him by his
friend, Capt. John Smith, he arrived on Sept. 31
fine bay now known as New York Harbor. As he entered
the bay, the Indians came hurrying out from the shores in
 canoes, paddling up to the Half Moon. They were
friendly—as Indians generally were
until some act of treachery or
cruelty on the part of the white men put them
on their guard—and they freely traded
with the sailors of the strange
Then Hudson sailed as far up the beautiful river as he
could with his vessel, and then sent boats up as far as
what is now Albany. "Perhaps," said he, "this river cuts
through the continent to the other ocean, and will prove to
be a short route to the Indies."
But, as you and I know now, he was disappointed in this.
The river grew less and less navigable as it neared its
source, and Hudson was obliged to sail back into New York
bay. But so beautiful had the country seemed to him, and so
valuable were the furs which the Indians offered in trade,
that Hudson, on his return to
 Holland, gave a most glowing description of the
opportunities for making wealth in this new world—so
glowing, indeed, that it was not very long before the
wide-awake, enterprising little country sent traders to
settle upon the banks of the river, and to build up
villages for themselves.
Holland, accordingly, now claimed the whole country
around the river, and named it New Netherland. The Dutch
colonists went to work at once trading with the Indians,
cultivating the land and building their mills with the
great whirring sails. The Indians were terribly afraid of
these monsters, which were able to grind corn or saw
boards. They would sit for hours staring at the strange things,
wondering if they were alive. Often they would set fire to them,
believing an evil spirit must be in them.
 But on the whole the Dutchmen got along
very well with the Indians, and it was not
many years before they bought from the
Indians the whole island of Manhattan
and began the building of their city—New
Amsterdam; or, as it is now called, New York.
Some of the very first governors of this Dutch colony are
said to have been rather remarkable men in one way or
another. There was Peter Minuit, an enterprising
man, I am sure you will believe, when you hear that
one of his first acts was to buy the whole of Manhattan
Island from the Indians for twenty-five dollars, and that,
too, paid mostly with beads and trinkets, of which the
Indians were very fond.
Minuit was followed by Van Twiller, the second governor. Of
this man I will give you Washington Irving's own
descrip-  tion. He says, "Van Twiller was exactly five
feet six inches in height and six feet five inches in
circumference. His head was a perfect sphere, and of
such dimensions that Dame Nature, with all her ingenuity,
would have been puzzled indeed to construct a neck capable
of supporting it. Therefore, she had declined to try and
had settled it firmly on the top of his backbone just
between his shoulders. His body was oblong. His legs were
short but sturdy in proportion to the weight they had to
sustain; so that when erect he had much the appearance of
a beer barrel on skids."
Then, by and by, came gallant old Peter Stuyvesant. He was a
grim old fellow, battle-scarred, and no more movable when
his mind was made up than a wall of solid granite. How he
did puff and steam as he stumped
 around on his funny old wooden leg, shouting his
orders and telling of his own wonderful feats in battle!
But for all this he was a good governor; and his love
for the colony, his pride in it, and his honest desire
to see it all and the best it could be, will never be
quite forgotten by the New York people. They say that
sometimes the bump, bump, bump of the old wooden
leg even now is to be heard dark
nights moving as of yore up and down the aisles of St. Mark's
church, near where his
bones lie buried. Well, if this is so it only goes to prove
that he still loves old Manhattan Island as he loved it
in those early days when he was its ruler and its
It was while brave old Peter Stuyvesant was governor
that the English first sailed into the harbor of New
Amsterdam and demanded the surrender of the city, under the
 the country belonged to the English, having been
discovered by Cabot.
The fact is, the English king, having learned that the
Dutch had secured a very
valuable fur trade through their friendliness with the
Indians, made up his mind that he needed it. He
accordingly gave the territory of New Netherlands to his
brother, the Duke of York, and sent several ships to
capture the city.
The Dutch were too few to resist; and the appeals of Gov.
Stuyvesant to defend the city were vain; and so New
Amsterdam passed into the hands of the English on
August 29, 1664. The city was then named New York; and,
although eight years later the Dutch re-took the city,
Holland finally gave up all title to New Netherlands and
it became an English colony. This was in 1674.
 New Amsterdam was an odd little city at that time, looking
for all the world like a little Dutch city dropped down
upon the new continent.
The little wooden houses had gable roofs;
the ends of the houses were of black and yellow brick;
over the door were great iron figures telling when the house
was built; and on the roof there was sure to be a
gay-looking weather vane whirling around in the strong
wind, trying, so it seemed, to keep pace with the
whirling windmills that stretched their great arms over
Inside the houses you would have found great, roaring
fire-places, with pictured tiles up and down the sides.
Such funny pictures!
telling all about Noah and the Ark, or perhaps about the
children of Israel crossing the Red Sea. Can you not fancy
just how the older
 brothers and sisters used to sit by these great fireplaces
pointing out the wonderful pictures to the little children?
I am always glad to think of these little children of the
Dutch colonists. They were all so much happier and freer
than the little Puritan children. Their homes were so much
more cheerful, their parents so much less grim and severe,
and there was so much more love and joy everywhere about
Such fairy stories as these Dutch people could tell as they
sat about their great fires in the long winter evenings, or
out upon the doorsteps in the warm summer nights! Not a
forest nor a dale, not a single peak of the Catskill
Mountains but had its legend or mysterious story for them.
When the thunder rolled, the people would say, "Hark! that
is Henry Hudson and his
 companions playing at nine pins up among
the mountains." And the children would shout
and laugh and say, "Good Henry
Hudson! Good Henry Hudson! the wicked sailors could not
kill you when they bound you and put you afloat on the cold
ocean! The little fairies guided you back to your own
river and to your own blue-topped Catskills. Kind little
fairies! Good Henry Hudson!"
There are so many other stories to tell of this early
history of our country that I am
going to leave this colony just here. It seems too bad, for
these Dutch people were so strange in their dress and
customs, and had such odd ideas, that I should like to
tell you a score of stories about them. I should like to
tell you about Rip Van Winkle, who slept for twenty years up
in the mountains; I should like to tell you about old
 Crane, who thought he was pursued by a ghost; of Henry
Hudson and his crew playing nine-pins up among the
mountains; but you must read Irving's Sketch Book and his
Knickerbocker History. There are stories enough there to
keep you all busy for a year. But now I must ask you to
leave these queer old Dutch people and hurry across to
Maryland with me. There is another kind of people there
waiting for us.
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