Old Bergen

Chapter XI.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

KIEFT was superseded July 28, 1646, by Peter Stuyvesant, who arrived at Fort Amsterdam May 11, 1647. He found the situation somewhat alarming, for crime was rampant, and anarchy prevailed. By the exercise of his administrative ability, he succeeded in restoring confidence among the colonists. The Indians, however, claiming that the conditions of the treaty of peace were not complied with, again became dissatisfied and aggressive. In order to effect a satisfactory arrangement and avoid the disasters of another war, nine men were selected by the Directors to advise the government when requested. Michael Jansen of Pavonia, and Cornelis Van Vorst, were of this number. Through the exercise of diplomacy, and a conciliatory policy, the settlers had no special difficulty with the Indians for some years, and until 1655 they gave their full attention to the improvement and development of their holdings.

The West India Company having relinquished its monopoly of the Indian trade oil payment of a small duty by individual traders, the enterprise of the latter made itself felt. The colonists spread themselves throughout the country, and many came from the Fatherland to engage in what now promised to be a profitable occupation. Each sought to advance his own interest, and many lived among the Indians in order to trade advantageously with them.

Houses were hastily constructed of stone or logs, as either material was the more easily obtainable when a settlement was made. They were usually covered with branches, thatched over with reeds or grass collected from the surrounding marshes, and large stone fireplaces were built, connected with an outside chimney or flue made of scantling or the bark of trees.

Being thus conveniently located, the settlers were enabled the more easily to gather in from their savage neighbors large quantities of skins and furs, for which a ready market was found at the Company's trading post on Manhattan Island. Soon, however, competition became so fierce that deception and underhand practices were indulged in, and this unjust treatment again excited the natural jealousy and distrust of the savages. Notwithstanding their protests, the greed for gain blinded the settlers as to their danger, and their unjust exactions and oppressions continued.

The Indians, recognizing the advantage of the market brought to their doors by the adventurous whites, sullenly submitted to the injustice of their treatment, rather than, by the exercise of their superior force, destroy such market by the extermination of their oppressors. However, frequent outbreaks occurred, and a feeling of unrest and insecurity was excited. Constant watchfulness on the part of the settlers was required to prevent surprise by the Indians, who were ready, on the slightest pretext and at the first favorable opportunity, to avenge their wrongs. The houses of the whites became their fortresses, and the common danger allayed to a great extent the bitter feeling among them engendered by their rivalry in trade.

In spite of the unsettled state of affairs during this interval, numerous grants of land had been made in Pavonia. Maryn Adriaensen, who was one of the Twelve, secured a grant of fifty morgens at Weehawken; Dirck Zieken, a plantation below Communipau, back of Cavan Point; Jacob Jacobson Roy, one at Constable Hook; Claas Carstensen, land at Greenville ; and others between Communipau and Bergen Point.

During the absence of Gov. Stuyvesant, who, having determined to expel the Swedes settled at and about South River, was directing in person an expedition against them, new difficulties arose. The Dutch burghers at Manhatta had experienced great annoyance from frequent depredations upon their fruit and vegetables by unknown parties. Their gardens were unusually exposed, as they were located in the rear of their dwellings and extended down to the water's edge, thus affording free access to marauders, who could stealthily approach by boat from the opposite shore, and readily escape in case of interruption. The burghers determined upon stringent measures, and strict watch was kept. One night in July, 1654, the watchman, discovering that some one was stealing peaches, fired his blunderbuss with such effect that an Indian maid was killed, while the rest of the party took to their boats and escaped. This seemed the one thing necessary to excite the already inflamed savages to commence their work of devastation.

On the 15th of September, a force of five hundred warriors in sixty-four canoes, secretly landed at Manhatta and attempted to secure the murderer. They scattered through the streets, but were discovered by the guard, who attacked them and drove them to their canoes. Crossing the river to Pavonia, the savages destroyed the houses there, laid waste the plantations, destroyed a large amount of maize, killed or carried off a number of cattle, and took with them some of the settlers whom they had captured. Pavonia was again desolated, and the survivors fled for safety to New Amsterdam, so that once more the savages held unrestricted sway over the territory. Emboldened by their successes, the latter hovered around the outskirts of New Amsterdam, with the determination of now securing a full recompense for the indignities heaped upon them in the past by the injudicious whites.

The close watch of the force protecting the town foiled their efforts, and the action taken by Governor Stuyvesant, who hastened his return upon hearing of this attack, prevented any further efforts. He immediately adopted measures for the full protection of the province. He endeavored to conciliate the Indians, and entered into negotiations with them for the ransoming of their prisoners. Pending the result, a large body of savages with their prisoners were stationed at Paulus Hook. Their proximity, and evident reluctance to hasten negotiations, produced considerable excitement at New Amsterdam. The relatives and friends of those who had been captured were naturally indignant at the delay, and they made threats against the Indians and attempted retaliatory measures. To lessen the danger of an outbreak, the authorities ordered that no intercourse of any kind should be had with the savages, and continued their efforts to secure a peaceful termination to their negotiations. After considerable bartering, a price was agreed upon, which being paid, the captives were released, and the second general Indian war ended.

Michael Jansen, who was living with his family at Communipau, escaped the general slaughter; but in view of the unsettled condition of affairs, he had removed to New Amsterdam, so that there was not left at this time a single white man within the limits of this territory.