You are here
Letter from Kiliaen van Rensselaer to Johannes de Laet, Plans for the Colony, June 27, 1632
Letter from KvR about plans for colony (excerpt) Kiliaen van Rensselaer to Johannes de Laet
Mr. Johan de laedtt, at Leyden
In Amsterdam, 27 June 1632
Your honor will doubtless have heard how our ship den walvis, which together with the yacht Teencoorntgen sailed from the Texel on the 24th of May, was on the 26th ditto for nearly two hours tossed about on the banks before Dunkirk, not without great danger of losing the ship and the goods, as most of the people had already left the ship and jumped into the shallops. Nevertheless it pleased Almighty God to rescue the said ship from the said banks, but as it was very leaky and much damaged, they stopped on the 28th at Portsmouth near the Isle of Wright to have her repaired. There, the yacht Teencoorngen being still with her. Meanwhile, Guilliamme lefant, being dissatisfied with the command of David Pietersen, or according to my opinion rather because he was afraid, left the ship and returned over land, to the disgust of the confraters, so that henrij de foreest will probably be useful to supply the place left vacant by Guilliamme. Said Guilliamme made out that the leak was very large and irreparable, but from the letter of David pietersen to confrater Godyn, dated the 11th of June from Portsmouth, we understand that the same was nearly repaired and that he expected to go to sea at the first opportunity to complete his intended voyage in God's name, drawing on confrater Godyn for 60 pounds sterling on account of his expenses there. It would be a pity if we missed the whale-fishing again, as Director Minuijt, who has come here, assures us that there are quantities of whales in the South River and that the savages of those quarters wear on their heads mostly small feathers made of whalebone. So much for matters with which the Company of Ten concerned.
Coming now to our private colony on the North River near Fort Orange, I should have liked best if your honor had called some time at my house so that I could have shown you the situation and condition of the same. Director Minuijt has given me a map of the additional land lately purchased, situated between beeren Island and Smax Island. There are about 200 [ ] of cleared land (or which has been seeded before by the savages) at the water's edge along the river, but stretching toward the woods and inland two day's journey, so that we have at present bought and obtained from the Mahicans by legal conveyance all the shore along the river, on the west side, from beeren Island to Momnenis Castle, being about six hour's walk, the account of the cost of which is still in the hands of the Company. As to the east side, we have the lands situated opposite Fort Orange and Castle Island, from paepSickenees kil northward past the falls of de laets kil thus named by me, which creek runs far inland and in which rock crystal is is found, according to Director Minuit, to which we must pay more attention in the future.
On the east side I ordered three farms with a grist-mill and a sawmill to be established. I am advised not to put up the sawmill. The grist-mill, according to the last letters, was almost ready and stands on de laets kil. One of the three farms, named de laets-burch, had been established there, of which roelof Jansen van Masterlandt is farmer. He had prepared about five morgens of land to be seeded with winter wheat, but for want of seed, seems to have seeded these last March with summer wheat and a goodly number of morgens more which he would see later as far as the seed reached. Said Roelof Jansen had four horses and 11 sheep, and the cows and hogs whic I bought of Gerrit de reux were also to be given him, so that he has a complete farm and a suitable house. The island which lies a little further northward on the east side, I hae named de laets Island so that I have commemorated your honor's name on the east side. The name of confrater Godyn I have commemorated as follows: the islands of paep Sickenee on the east side towards the south, I have named Golyn Islands; the mill on the west side at the end of Castle Island, where the first sawmill was erected, I have names Godyns kil. This creeks runs very deep inland, has quantities of fish, principally bullheads and lampreys, and near by is found much beautiful, arable and meadow land on which in time may be established another farm, which shall then be named Godynsburch.
The fourth creek above Fort Orange onthe west side is called Blommaerts kil, where on the arrival of this ship shall be established a farm according to the contract made with gerrit de reux, who with two men and two boys sailed thither, with horses and tools and all sorts of supplies needed for himself as well as for the other farms. This farm shall be named Blommaertsburch.
The five small island lying a little further northward on the west side have been named Blommaerts Islands.
As for my own name, I have not forgotten that either, having named the colony situated on both sides of the river, Renselaerswyck and Beeren Island, where our colony begins, Renselaers Island. Castle Island I have named the West Island and that for the reason [ ] on which island lies the farm named Renselaersburg, on which Rutger hendrixsen van Soest is farmer and which has a comfortable dwelling house and barn. Said rutger hendrixsen had before the departure of the vessels seeded 12 morgens with winter wheat and four morgens with winter rye, which looked as fine as any on the best land in this country. As he has enough horses, he will apparently seed at least eight or 10 morgens more with summer seed and as I hope to obtain some more animals which are left on the director's farm and shall also get my nephew wouter van Twiller, who now goes thither as director of the Company, to buy still others, I confidently expect to obtain enough animals to establish another farm on the said West Island, as it is 136 Rhineland morgens in extent. The said farm shall be called weelysburgh, for my wife. Paep Sickenees kill, now named Renselaers kil, on the east side opposite the mill creek or Godyn's kill, I suppose that by this time we have bought already with the exception of the woods in the rear, that is the land along the river only, which contains about 600, 700 or 800 morgens of flat and clear land, mostly clay and brown soil, on each morgen of which in good years might be raised one last or at least 3/4 last of wheat. However, our principal profit will come from the cattle, for which there is plenty of fine pasture and hay for nothing but the labor (though it is true that the trade yeilds quick returns but also quickly causes loss) while on the contrary the clearing of the land proceeds with slowness but a certainty of which I have no doubt at all if the Lord preserves us from surprisals.
Now at the first we must have a little patience and necessarily spend money to obtain possession. After the first harvest, which is at hand, I hope that our people will no longer have lack of wheat, milk, butter or cheese; they can catch plenty of fish with little trouble and in the course of time they will also have plenty of meat as they have already oxen in the field, of which they can slaughter one at killing time. I intend now by this ship to send six or eight more heifer calves. If we had cattle we should have money and if we had horses we should have wheat. I take good care to avail myself of all opportunities to acquire cattle, which makes many jealous of me, but they have to stand it, as every one is free to do what is best for himself. The contract which I have made with gerrit de reux runs till the first of January 1634 on a yearly salary; but after that, all expenses and wages of laborers much be deducted, and of the remaining grain, milk, butter and increase of animals, one half shall belong to us and the other half to Gerrit de reux. I hope to deal with the other farmers on the same basis, as if we had a fixed yearly income; but as during the first years things are not in order, they want to receive monthly wages, as is reasonable. As increase shall count only such animals as are in excess of the original number and before they then get their share, they must give to the patroon the opportunity of purchase at a fixed rate if he so desires. Their share of the wheat I think it for the present not advisable to buy from them at a definite rate, as that can always be done.
As to the profits on which we may count, we have various strings to our bow. The Company will have to keep at Fort Orange yearly some 25 men, from whom, by providing them with everything, we may draw some 2500 guilders a year and therewith pay the laborer's wages. As soon as there is a supply of grain on hand, I intend to erect a brewery to provide all New Netherland with beer, for which pupose there is already a brew kettle there, and when there is more grain, I intend also to erect a brandy distillery, as there are several brandy kettles and wood can be had for the labor.
I also intend to grind meal with a view of selling the same to the Brownists toward the north or to the English toward the south. At the worst, if we had over 100 lasts of grain, which at 100 gold guilders at last would produce 1400 (14,000) guilders, one could for 4000 or 5000 guilders hire a ship to fetch the same and in going load it full of animals, as I have now found out that one can send over animals, feeding them meal without hay. The animals we could keep there so cheaplythat the hides would pay the expense and the meat and fat we would have for nothing. I have also given order to raise many hogs, which during the day can run in the woods and during the night stay home, and provided care is taken to put soe meal in their drinking water they may be fat before the winter comes. Here I run somewhat ahead, but before three years have elapsed I hope that we shall yearly, as surplus for ourselves and the farmers, grow over one hundred lasts of grain, which will increase from year to year if it please the Lord. I shall try to have a map made of our colony, which being done, I shall send each of the confraters participants a copy. Further, as I have already advanced various sums of money and must daily advance more, we have thought it advisable that each 1/5 share should contribute 200 guilders and I therefore request that your honor be good enough to send me the said 200 guilders for your 1/5 part by the first opportunity in order that I may not count interest as I have done before. Wherewith ending, honorable, wise, prudent and discreet sir, I commend you to the gracious protection of Almighty God and greet you heartily.
In witness that it has thus been resolved to contribute 200 guilders for each fifth part, we the undersigned participants have also signed this on the 27th of June 1632 at Amsterdam.
Underneath was written: Kiliaen van Rensselaer, S. Godin, S. Blommaert.