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|Jochem KUYTER and Cornelis MELYN in New Netherland|
|Source: John O. Evjen. 1916. Scandinavian Immigrants in New York, 1630-1674: Part II, Danish Immigrants in New York, 1630-1674. K.C. Holter, Minneapolis, MN. Boldface added.|
Jochem Pietersen Kuyter
Jochem Pietersen Kuyter, one of the most influential colonists
in New Netherland, arrived at New Amsterdam, in July, 1639. He was
a native of Dithmarschen (not Darmstad, as some have said). He came
in a private ship De Brant von Trogen (The Fire of Troy).
Captain David Pietersz De Vries, who was not far from New Amsterdam
at the time and who has left us accounts of several of his voyages, has
also given us some information about Kuyter:
"...We found two ships had arrived from our Patria, one of which was a ship of the company, the Herring, the other was a private ship, The Fire of Troy, from Hoorn, laden with cattle on account of Jochem Pietersz, who had formerly been a commander
in the East Indies, for the King of Denmark. It was to be wished that one hundred to three hundred such families with laborers, had come, as this would very soon become a good country."Where Kuyter got his name, often spelled Cuyter, has not been ascertained. Sometimes it occurs as Kayser. Could the original have been Keyser or Reyser or Knyter? For twelve years, he had been, according to tradition, in the service of the Danish East India Colonies. Mr. N. Andersen, of Denmark, who has written about Bronck (Personalhistorisk Tidsskrift VI R. Vol. V, Part I) leaves it an open question as to what the position which Kuyter held actually was. Kuyter may, he says, have been in the service of the fleet or in the service of the East India Company as "capitaine d' armes" or as skipper, "capitaine de vaisseau."
Kuyter was a man of good education, what is evident by his dealings with Governor Kieft, whom he gave many a thrust in his well-written documents.
It has been said by historians that Kuyter's friend, Jonas Bronck, another Dane, came over in the same vessel with Kuyter: 1639. I will not dispute this. But I have seen no direct proof of the statement. If E.B. O'Callaghan's list is correct in History of New Netherland II, 531, Bronck got land in New Netherland as early as 1637. This early date, however, seems to be a mere conjecture.
Kuyter associated much with Bronck, whose sister he seems to have married. But his name is more intimately connected with that of Cornelis Melyn. Both he and Melyn were pleading for justice to the Indians, when the government of New Netherland was flagrantly disregarding the rights of the Red Man.
A Mandamus of April 28, 1648, shows that the government had received a communication from Kuyter and Melyn, stating with what difficulty they had to wrestle in coming over to New Netherland and in their endeavor to colonize parts of it. It says:
"The States General of the United Netherlands, To the first Marshal or Messenger having power to serve when requested, Greeting: Make Known, that we, having received the humble supplication presented to us by and in behalf of Jochem Pietersz Cuytewr and Cornelis Melyn, containing that they, petitioners, with permission and leave of the Assembly of the XIX of the General West India Company, with wife and children and with private
means, besides a large herd of cattle, in the year one thousand six hundred and thirty nine, transported themselves from these countries to New Netherland, so that they, petitioners, after enormous expenses, difficulties and inexpressible labor, got into condition, in the year sixteen hundred forty three, their lands, houses and other undertakings which in the aforesaid year on account of the war (waged by Director Kieft unjustly and contrary to all international law, with the savages or natives of New Netherland) they have been obliged to abandon and as a consequence lost all their property." (Collections of the New York Historical Society, Second Series, Vol. III, p. 88.)What is set forth in this Mandamus is correct except as to the year of Melyn's arrival. He came with his family to New Netherland in 1641, not 1639, but he had made an inspection of it earlier.
Cornelis Melyn, formerly a leather dresser at Amsterdam, sailed for New Netherland in May 1638, by the ship her Wapen van Noorwegen (The Arms of Norway), arriving at Amsterdam about August 4. Melyn was supercargo. The colony of Rensselaerswyck had a half interest in the ship which on its trip, May-August, 1638, was so heavily laden that the sailors protested that they would not risk their lives on it. It carried over a number of colonists and a large quantity of goods, including eighteen young mares, thousands of bricks, ironwork, clothing material, spices, cheese, soap, oil and a box filled with earth in which were planted young grape vines. (Bowier Manuscripts.)
About this ship, see Education Department Bulletin, No. 462. Not all the ships were so aptly, named as The Arms of Norway. One entering the port of New York was called King David, another King Solomon, a third Adam and Eve, etc. (576)
After arriving in New Netherland and after inspecting the new country,
conceived the plan of rounding a colony on Staten Island. He returned
to Holland, and in July, 1640, got a deed for all of Staten Island save
that which David Pietersz De Vries had occupied. In August,
in the same year, he set sail for New Netherland with his people, cattle,
goods and all other implements necessary for agriculture, but he was taken
by a Dunkirk frigate. He got assistance, however, and arrived, 1641,
with the ship Den Eyckenboom (The Oaktree) in New Netherland
on Staten Island with 41 persons. He began to build houses, to
plough land, and to do everything conducive to establishing a good colony.
The Indians were restless. One of them, of the Weckquaskeek tribe, murdered a white man. The government promptly demanded of the tribe that it surrender the murderer. Governor Kieft was looking for an opportunity to exterminate the Indians. A savage massacre of them was the result of his plotting with a few citizens, for the vast majority of the white population would have no war with the Indians. The Indians retaliated. Within a short time they reduced some thirty farmhouses on Manhattan Island to four or five. Melyn's colony was saved for a time, but late in 1643 it was attacked. This attack left everything in ruin.
Kuyter's plantation was devastated by the Indians in the following year.
Melyn and Kuyter, having sustained enormous loses, knew that the government, with Kieft at the head, was to blame. Its shortsighted policy in dealing with the Indians had brought on the disaster to the whites. They therefore made their influence felt against Kieft and worked for getting a better government.
But--to come back to the beginnings of Kuyter's plantation. Kuyter settled with his farmers and herdsmen upon a tract of four hundred acres of fine farming land, of which he had obtained a grant from the West India Company. This tract stretched along the Harlem River from about the present One Hundred and Twenty-seventh to One Hundred and Fortieth streets, and was commonly known, long after his memory had faded away among men, as "Jochem Pieter's Flats." Kuyter himself called it Zegendaal, or "Vale of Blessing." (Cfr. J.H. Innes, New Amsterdam and Its People, p. 108f.)
Kuyter spent much of his time at the other end of Manhattan.
But he was interested in the growth of the village. In 1642, he was
chosen 'kerkemester,' to oversee the erection of the new church in the
fort. His insight into architecture and command of people and building
material was, no doubt, better than his command of Reformed theology.
He had evidently been a Lutheran when in Dithmarschen, and the assertion
of the pastor in New Amsterdam, that Kuyter was a "good Calvinist"
was possibly made to ward off
current ideas to the contrary. Kuyter was also Elder of the church.
None of the other Danes in New Amsterdam obtained the social prestige of Kuyter. He was a member of the Board of Twelve Men from August 29, 1641, to February 18, 1642; of the Board of Eight Men which board existed from September, 1643, to September, 1647. After a journey to Holland he was made a member of the Board of Nine Men, which existed from September 25, 1647, until the city was incorporated, in 1653, when he was made Schout or Sheriff.
Kuyter's plantations were yielding good returns of tobacco. But they were exposed and unprotected and could be ruined by the Indians speedily and without opposition. Like most of the Twelve Men, Kuyter was opposed to using violent measures against the Indians. He foretold Director Kieft the quick retribution which would ensue for their massacre.
His own bowery house was well palisaded. It therefore escaped the first devastation of the Indians, but on March 5, 1644, his buildings were set on fire in the night and destroyed by the savages. Kuyter himself was absent. The house was guarded, but little resistance was offered. Among the guards was Pieter Jansen, a Norwegian. (See article Pieter Jansen. Part I.)
One of Kuyter's concerns was, as has been indicated, to get a better government and a better Director.
Director Kieft, in order to increase the finances of the
West India Company, imposed an excise upon the wines and spirits at the
rate of four stivers per quart, likewise upon every beaver skin one guilder.
In proclaiming this excise, Kieft acted in opposition to the Board
of Eight Men. They claimed that imposing taxes was an act of sovereignty
which the West India Company did not possess and that the hiring and keeping
of soldiers was the business of the company and not of the settlers. Kieft
showed himself rude in dealing with the Board of Eight Men. Once,
he snubbed the board by summoning three of its members -- Kuyter,
and Hall -- to come a certain day at eight o'clock in the morning.
They came and waited till past noon. Kieft had gone off somewhere
on other business, and the three finally went off "as wise as they came."
Another error of Kieft's was that once when the brewers refused to pay the taxes, he caused sundry casks of liquor to be confiscated and handed over to thirsty soldiers!
After six months of wrangling, the Eight Men sent their eloquent "Memorial" to the States General, in which they described the condition of the country and registered their gravamina. The petition asked for a new governor and for some limitation of his power by representatives of the people.
Meantime, Kuyter had been forced, on account of the burning of his bowery house, to move to New Amsterdam. He purchased a small house at the corner of Pearl and Broad Streets. His former neighbor, Cornelis Melyn, proved a faithful ally to him. But like Kuyter he was a thorn in the flesh of Director Kieft.
Kieft was now replaced by Peter Stuyvesant, who had been governor of the island of Curacao. Stuyvesant had lost a leg in a fight with the Portuguese at San Marin, had returned to Holland in 1644, and was appointed as Director General of New Netherland in May, 1645, but did not arrive before in May, 1647.
When Kieft surrendered the government, he asked the people to give his administration their formal endorsement. They refused. Kuyter and Melyn declared they had nothing to thank him for. Within a few days after Kieft had delivered up his office, Melyn and Kuyter, as representatives of the old Board of Eight Men, brought a formal complaint against Kieft and asked for an inquiry in the abuses of his late government and respecting his treatment of the Indians.
Stuyvesant was averse to entertain the complaint. He saw that it would form a precedent in case his own administration proved inefficient. His dignity was ruffled: the sacredness of the Directorship must be sustained.
Kieft was enraged and accused Kuyter and Melyn of being the real authors of a "Memorial of the Eight Men" sent to the States General. He said the memorial was a false libel, which Kuyter and Melyn had sent to Holland without the knowledge of their colleagues.
They were accordingly summoned to show cause why they should not
be banished as "pestilent and seditious persons." They appeared and
answered so well for their acts that Kieft had to
take up a new line of proceeding. They offered to bring forward the four survivors of the Eight Men to testify that these had signed the charges against Kieft of their own will and not through the influence of the persons accused.
John Fisk says:
"Indictments were brought against Kuyter and Melyn on sundry trumped-up charges chiefly alleging treacherous dealings with the Indians and attempts to stir up rebellion. With shameless disregard of evidence, a prearranged verdict of guilty was rendered."Melyn was sentenced to seven years' banishment and a fine of 300 guilders, Kuyter to three years' banishment and a fine of 150 guilders. They were sentenced on July 25, 1647.
On August 17, in the same year, Kieft set sail for Holland. He took with him Melyn and Kuyter as prisoners. In the same ship was Domine Bogardus, who had his share of trouble with Kieft and was to answer charges in Holland. By some error of reckoning, the ship struck on the rocks near Swansea. Eighty-one persons, including Ex-Governor Kieft and Reverend Bogardus were drowned. Twenty reached the shore in safety. Among these were Kuyter and Melyn. Kuyter told how he had lashed himself to a portion of the after deck of the vessel and how when the first dim light broke after the night of horror, he had discovered himself to be alone upon the floating fragment, except for what he took to be another person likewise lashed fast. Speaking and receiving no answer, he concluded that the man was dead; it turned out to be a cannon, which, with the wreck and Kuyter, was thrown by the violent storm upon the beach. (J.H. Innes. New Amsterdam and Its People, p. 114f.)
Kuyter and Melyn had the shallow waters dragged, for three days, until they brought up a chest containing their most important papers.
Kuyter and Melyn reached Netherlands at the end of the year 1647 and laid their case before the States General. This body was favorably disposed to them. An appeal was granted from the verdict pronounced upon them by Governor Stuyvesant and his Council. Stuyvesant was summoned to appear before them to justify his acts.
It was arranged that Melyn should go back to New Netherland
and have the papers served on Stuyvesant. Kuyter should, however, remain in the Netherlands, to be in readiness if Stuyvesant acted treacherously or arbitrarily.
Melyn arrived in New Netherland in March, 1649, Kuyter followed later.
There is on record a letter from the Prince of Orange to Director Stuyvesant, informing him that Melyn and Kuyter had received permission to return to New Netherland and ordering the Director not to molest them. It reads thus:
"The Prince of OrangeKuyter made his peace with Stuyvesant, whom with two others he admitted in 1651 into joint ownership with himself in his plantation on the Harlem flats, where he was now actively engaged
in restoring his impaired fortunes. But in 1654 he was murdered by the Indians at Harlem.
Kuyter was married to Lentie Martens, who possibly was a sister of his friend, Jonas Bronck. As Bronck's full name appears to have been Johannes or Jonas Martensen Bronck, his father's name was Marten or Morten; hence the daughter's surname would be Martens.*
On April 24, 1654,
"Leyntie Martens, widow of Jochem Pr. Kuyter, late elder and schepen of New Amsterdam, confers powers of attorney upon Govert Loockermans, merchant, and Dirck Van Schelluyne, notary public, especially for the purpose of representing her in settling affairs regarding lands named Segendael with ... Stuyvesant ..., Roodenborch, Cornelis Potter, as per contract dated Sept. 23, 1651. Witness Arent Van Hattem, Burgomaster, and Paulus Leendersz Van Die Grift, schepen." (Year Book of the Holland Society of New York, 1900, p. 178.)Lentie Martens did not long remain a widow. On December 18, 1654, she was married to Willem Jansen, from Gelderland, the superintendent of the Harlem plantation. But during the outbreak in the fall of 1655, she too was killed by the Indians. She was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church.
Kuyter left no children.
J. Riker, the historian of Harlem, says about Kuyter:
"By his bold defense of popular rights he conferred invaluable benefits upon his fellow colonists and those succeeding him, and which entitles him to a place on the roll of public benefactors. Kuyter should have a memorial in Central Park..."
|*Transcriber's Note: His sister didn't have a surname; Martens was her patronymic. This was not only not unusual, it was typical, particularly for women. The Dutch were not mandated to adopt surnames until 1811. For further discussion of patronymics, click here.|
|[legend of a drawing]
The East River Shore Near the "Graft," 1652. From New Amsterdam and Its People, by J.H. Innes; copyright, 1902, by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
A. Houses on the Marckveldt.
|*Transcriber's Note: Jacob Loper was Cornelis MELYN's son-in-law.|
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