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Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: October 1938 Volume 1 Number 5, Pages 7–12
Early Settlements in the Delaware Valley by the Dutch, Swedes, Finns and English
(Continued from April issue - Part I)
Editor's Note: Please note that in the April issue, the word "Beversreede" appears as "Beversrede"; we believe the correct spelling is "Beversrede," and have since corrected references in this article to "Beversrede," except where it appears in quotes.
This report was corroborated by Van Tienhoven, Secretary at Fort Beversrede, on Nov. 9th.
"The Swedes do here as they please. The house which they have built at Beversreede, is the greatest insult that could be offered. They have also occupied all the land around the fort upon which they have planted Indian corn this year, so that we have not near the fort as much land that we can make a little garden in the spring. It is a shame that they act thus. I trust your honor shall provide for it. Symon Root has begun to build his house, but it has again been violently and forcibly torn down by the Swedes. Therefore the building of Symon Root and other friends must remain unfinished until further orders from your honor."
"In respect to the trade here; it is severely injured, for we must give two fathoms of white and one of black wampum for one beaver, and one fathom of wampum contains three ells, some 1/16 less; so that in my opinion it has been arranged somewhat too costly, for the Indians select the largest of them to trade."
Symon Root and his friends were eventually to have their houses, for, at Manhattan, May 30th, 1649, specifications and contract for two houses were signed by himself, Samensen and Van die Grist.
"Each 32 feet long, 18 do. wide and 8 feet of a story; breast work 3 feet; the wooden frame for a double chimney, with 5 outside and inside doors, 3 window frames, 1 transom window frame, 1 circular window frame, three partitions according to circumstances, the roof there of to be covered with planks, doors and windows as proper. The contractor shall cut and trim the pine timber in the woods, about 200 paces from the place where the house shall stand. The owner shall deliver the timber at his own expense on the ground where the houses are to be erected, 2 planked closets cut off from the square room, 2 bedsteads."
"The proprietor shall pay the contractors sixty winter beavers for the aforesaid work when completed; he shall also convey the contractor, his pardner and servant free to the place of building and furnish the contractor during the job, food and drink, free of cost. When the work is done the contractor with his man and servant shall depart for Manhattan at their own cost."
As may be seen, the specifications are rather indefinite, doubtless much was taken for granted, while the recompense of the contractor is definite and conclusive.
A "Journal of New Netherland" written about this time, offers a brief description of the country; of which the following are extracts:
"The South Bay itself was named New-Port-May, but at the present time Godyn's bay. The South river is somewhat dangerous for inexperienced persons on account of some bars; otherwise there is water enough for those acquainted with the courses. In general it is considered by every person one of the finest, best and pleasantest rivers in the world. Among the rest, is a place up the river called Schuylkill, a fine navigable stream which also was heretofore in the possession of the Netherlanders; but what is its condition? The Swedes now have it also
mostly under their control. There are moreover several beautiful and pleasant islands and other places, heretofore also in the occupation of the Netherlanders and still bearing the names they gave, which afford sufficient and conclusive evidence that the river belonged to the Netherlanders and not the Swedes."
"The English have also sought at divers, times and places to annex this river, being as they say, the nearest to it; but they have been prevented hitherto in this by divers protests and also by their being expelled by force, well knowing that if they once happen to settle there, the river would be lost, for they would swarm to it in great numbers."
The military situation on the South river during the latter part of Governor Stuyvesant's administrations, rival Swedish and Dutch Claimants; was about as follows:
The Dutch Forts 1. Fort Nassau, erected in 1624 by Cornelis Jacobson way on the east side of the river. Most historians place the site of this fort near the present Gloucester Point and at the mouth of the north branch of Timber Creek. The great changes in the river make any attempt to discover the exact site hopeless. This Fort was of little value except to prevent rival shipmasters from sailing above the mouth of the Schuylkill, and it was abandoned in 1651, when the garrison and cannon were transferred down the river to Fort Casimer.
2. Fort Beversrede, erected on the east bank of the Schuylkill near its mouth at Mast Makers' Hook, in 1645; Hazard says at Kingsessing in 1638, described as down the river from Fort Nassau. This Fort was unimportant excepting as a defense against any sudden uprising of the Indians.
3. Fort Casimer, erected by order of Gov. Stuyvesant in 1651, armed with 4 iron 14-pounders, 4 small and 1 large iron guns for canister, in place of Fort Nassau, which he condemned as too far up the river and inconvenient, and ordered razed. The location of Fort Casimer was a short distance north of the present town of New Castle, Delaware. Its name excited the surprise of the Company, being a Swedish rather than a Dutch name. Fort Casimer was looked upon by the Swedes as a threat to their supremacy.
The Swedish forts were (l) Fort Christina, erected by Peter Minuit in 1638, about 2 1/4 English miles within Christina Creek and nearly encircled by a marsh, except on the N. W. side where it could be approached by land; at its S. W. side it touched the Kill at a point known as the "Rocks" which formed a natural wharf of stone close to deep water which permitted the vessels to unload directly on shore; now Wilmington. This fort was apparently palisaded and further defended by earthworks.
2. Fort Gatesborg or New Gattersborg, erected in 1643 by Gov. Printz, on the southern part of Great Tinicum island, of immense green hemlock logs one upon another; burned down in 1645 and was never rebuilt, since Elsinborgh controlled the river below.
3. Fort Elfsborg or Elsinborgh, erected in 1643 by Printz, on the east side of the mouth of the river which it commanded. Mounted with 8 12-pound brass cannon. Well placed strategically but often insufficiently garrisoned. The great changes effected by the tides and floods has caused some uncertainty as to the precise site.
Hazard quotes an old resident as the authority for Elsinborg Fort Point, 3 or 4 miles below Salem Creek. On the South side of Fishing (now Mill) Creek there was an island of upland, here the fort stood, protected by the river on the west, Fishing creek on the north and an immense expanse of wild marsh on the east and south. It is believed that the mosquito-infested marshes caused its abandonment.
4. Fort Korscholm or Manayunk, began in 1643 and "pretty nearly ready" by 1647, as reported by Printz, situated near the mouth of the Schuylkill on Kingsessing Creek, opposite or western side from Fort Beversrede. This fort was also upon a small island or cluster of rocks, called Lapwing's Point, seamed on the west side by the creek, and perhaps not far from Bartram's Garden. It commanded the Schuylkill. The strong house Wassa nearby and Mondal on Cobb Creek, were effective defenses only against small bands of Indians. In addition to their garrisons totaling about 80 or 90 soldiers, the Swedes had a number of able-bodied settlers engaged in farming; of which last the Dutch had few beside those resident in their official capacity.
Gov. Printz was a veteran soldier but agreeable to his instructions, merely protested when Gov. Stuyvesant erected Fort Casimer, and, since the Swedish government withheld the means he deemed essential to success, he returned to Sweden without permission, leaving the government in the hands of his son-in-law, who served but a short time only, during which time many resident Swedes abandoned the river.
Printz's successor, John Claudius Rising, arrived in the Royal "Aren," with, so it is stated, 300 souls. He cast anchor before Fort Casimer and prepared to carry out the secret orders, or as it has been otherwise asserted, in disobedience to his instructions; to capture or reduce the fort.
The Dutch Commandant, Gerrit Brinker, was requested by Adriaen Tienhoven, Clerk of the Court of Justice; the freemen and Company's servants, to give orders for defense, but he replied "There is no powder," A Corporal later testified that Drinker's wife had once said it was better to trade the powder for beaver than to give it to the soldiers. About 11 o'clock, 20 Swedish soldiers landed under the command of Capt. Suen Shute, better known as Skytte; and Brinker came out to meet them, saluted, conducted them through the gate which stood open and on into the fort where the Swedes divided, some wont to the bastions or bulwarks, while others overpowered and disarmed the 10 or 12 Dutch soldiers who formed the garrison, and took the fort without bloodshed, on Trinity Sunday, May 31, 1654, but the victory cost Sweden dear.
In the crisis Gov. Stuyvesant bided his time and for awhile contented himself with taking sworn statements from loyal agents and soldiers who had returned to Manhattan. Perhaps it was well that Brinker did not return but took the oath of fidelity to Sweden. Tienhoven also obtained statements of the damages and abuse received by Dutch residents and the status of the Indian land grants claimed by the Swedes. All this and more, Stuyvesant sent the Directors of the General West India Company.
The loss of Fort Casimer had at last aroused the States General and a fleet of 7 armed vessels and some 317 Dutch soldiers was collected under the Command of the doughty "Peter the Headstrong" to reconquer the South river. The fleet, composed mostly of light vessels and armed with not more than four guns each, nevertheless was the largest and most formidable naval and military forces yet seen on the South river. The Armada consisted of the yachts "Dutch Frontier," "Princess Royal," "Dolphin," "Abraham's Offering" and the Balance;" The galiot "Hope," and the flyboat "Love," The fleet was commanded by an Admiral, Vice Admiral and Rear Admiral. The galiot was a small galley of a single mast and 16 or 20 rower's seats, since it was propelled by sail and oars combined. The flyboat was distinctively Dutch, a large flat-bottomed boat with high stern and of over 400 tons burden; used chiefly in the coasting trade and probably in this instance as a transport for the soldiers.
According to the report of Rising, the fleet arrived in the bay on August 30, 1655, and anchored before the Fortress of Elfsborg, which they dismantled and ruined; the next clay they passed Fort Casimer, landed troops a little above, summoned Capt. Skytte to surrender and proceeded to throw
up some works and on September 2, also appeared in considerable force on the opposite bank of the Christina Creek from Fort Christina where Rising was stationed, and in his words: "On the 5th the Dutch ships went up to the Third Hook, where they landed their men, who passed over to Timber Island and thence over the great falls and so invested Fort Christina on all sides. They brought their ships into the mouth of the creek and planted their great guns on the western side of the fort and when we burnt a little powder in a couple of pieces to scare them, they fired several shots over our heads from Timber Island and announced to us that they had taken up a position on the west side, by regular volleys " Fort Casimer surrendered on the 11th without firing a shot, and Fort Christina on the 15th, without loss of life on either side. The historian should read Washington Irving's humorous account of the battle, in his "Knickerbocker's History of New York."
The surrender of Rising terminated Swedish authority on the South River. Their influence had extended up into the present Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as far as the present limits of Philadelphia with happy results to both the Swedes and the Indians, for the former had only occupied the small islands and open meadows along the river, without attempting to penetrate the interior or destroy the forest or game, and they maintained friendly relations with the natives by fair dealing.
It may be that, surrounded as the Lenapes were, with powerful and often hostile tribes, that they preferred the ancient Dutch way of appearing in ships periodically to trade and departing when the goods were exchanged, but on the whole the natives had little to fear from either or both, since they would have scarcely leveled the forest in the course of centuries.
The Dutch made haste to reaffirm by written contract, the purchase of the Schuylkill region from the three local sachems, and made a great stir of activity when Vice-Director Jacob Alricks arrived at New Amstel on April 21, 1657, with a shipload of new colonists.
This educated and influential personage made frequent and liberal requisition on the Company for supplies of every description, even lumber, tile and brick. The return cargoes were in tobacco, skins of bear, deer, beaver, etc., or oftener in timber, which latter, except perhaps black walnut, scarcely paid the freight to New Amsterdam.
He early complained of the poverty, laziness and illness of the settlers.
"Things here are in their infancy and demand time. Many who come hither are as poor as worms and lazy withal and will not work unless compelled by necessity."
Several shiploads of emigrants arrived, but evidently few of the right kind. Many alm house children were sent over to be bound out. A Swedish parson who attempted to preach the Lutheran dogma, was forbidden,nothing but the Reformed was tolerated. The settlers were in need of cattle but refused to take the risk since the animals might stray in the forest and become lost or killed by the Indians; eventually they accepted cattle from the authorities for half the increase.
After taking the Dutch oath, the Swedes requested that they be not obliged to take sides if any trouble should arise between the Crown of Sweden and the State of Netherland at home. This was agreed to by Alricks without objection on the part of the Directors General.
The Swedes and Finns were peculiarly fitted to cultivate the soil and were encouraged to settle. In 1657 permission was granted them to form villages at Upland, Passayunk, Finnland, Kingsessing, or such places as by them may be considered suitable. Armigard, daughter of former Gov. Printz, petitioned for the "bowery" or farm at Printzdorp and Tinicum, "partly cleared by free men who have returned to Sweden," and partly by her father's orders,
"and after he had cultivated the same for several years, it was granted him by the king and also confirmed by Her present Royal Majesty."
Her request was granted by Stuyvesant. Later she requested that she might deliver at Althena a fat ox, fat pigs, and corn bread for her taxes.
The Hon. Alricks died at New Amsterdam, December 30, 1660, and for a tine Willem Seeckman, Commissary and Vice Director at Althena, assumed charge.
The second year under the Dutch was noted for an almost complete failure of crops and a general illness of the people, during which time more than 100 died.
Capt. Huys in 1660 reported that were there a tolerably healthy population, a reasonable harvest and a parcel of good farmers, the Colony would prosper and the people pluck up fresh courage.
The next year there was great mortality among the Minquas from smallpox and they were hard beset by the Iroquois which rendered the usual traffic in furs impossible. Trouble also thickened through the settlers supplying the soldiers and natives with strong drink, which the authorities appeared unable or unwilling to prevent.
However, the Dutch tenure was brief, Charles II of Great Britain gave to his brother James, Duke of York and later James II, all of the territory embraced in the present states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, which the Dutch held, and were compelled to surrender August 27, 1664, Soon after the English took possession and continued to hold with the exception of a short period, 1673-1674, when it was repossessed by the Dutch. In May, 1675, Gov. Andros of New York, visited the settlements on the Delaware, and on the 13th and 14th held a special session at New Castle, where it was ordered that
"highways should be cleared from place to place within the precincts of the government."
It was also ordered that the church in the town should be regulated by the Court and that the Meeting at Crane Hook should continue as previously, and that the church at Tinicum Island should serve for Upland (now Chester) and adjoining sections.
The Magistrates were ordered to have a church built at Wiccaco which would serve for the inhabitants of Passayunk and those higher up the river, and at the same time Magistrates were empowered to levy a tax for this purpose and maintain a minister. This was of course the Established Church of England.
Before Penn's acquisition, the Delaware Valley had been variously claimed and named:
Neuw Netherlandt, 1609-1638, Holland.
We may accept Sidney George Fisher's remarks, with some reservations, in his "Making of Pennsylvania," as illustrating the difference in national character.
"The Dutchman builds trading posts and lies in his ship to collect furs. The gentle Swede settles on the soft rich meadow lands; his cattle wax fat and his barns are full of hay. The French enter the forests, sympathize with their inhabitants and turn half savage to please them. All alike bow before the wilderness and accept it as a fixed fact. But the Englishman destroys it. There is something significant in the way his old charters gives him the land straight across America from sea to sea. He grasped at the Continent from the beginning and but for him the oak and the pine would have triumphed and the prairie still been in the possession of the Indian and the buffalo."
Page last updated: 2012-03-30 at 14:24 EST