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Historical Documents, 1624-1626


Document B
Letter from Jan van Ryen to the Directors of the Zeeland Chamber of the West India
Company, Fort Nassau, Wiapoco, April 25, 1624 (1627?)


The Honorable, Wise, Most Prudent Gentlemen, the Directors of the Chartered West India Company, at the Chamber of Zeeland1

Honorable, most prudent Gentlemen: After greetings, this serves to inform you that we arrived safely in the river of Wiapeco and landed there with our ammunition and other goods entrusted to us. Praise be to God. As soon as we came into the river, we learned that Captain Haudaen's2 men came here with a bark and divided themselves over three places. For some time they lived peacefully together, but as a quarrel had arisen between the Lieutenant and the Sergeant, it happened that the Lieutenant, coming from Cannaribo,2 and bringing with him much cassava and other provisions, was welcomed by the Sergeant, who at once took a pistol and shot him with it. The Sergeant was put in irons, but released again after a fortnight and made Lieutenant. Proceeding farther up the river, they fired a shot from the bark and forced the Indians to bring them cassava and other victuals, and, as the Indians were a little slow about it, the Sergeant beat them and threatened to shoot them. This provoked the Indians, who were, moreover, incited by the English to attack the Dutch. For when the Dutch had visited the English and the Indians asked what the Dutch had said, the English told them that the Dutch had come here to kill the Indians. So that the Indians, having been hurt in the first place by th arrogance of the Dutch, were on the other hand stirred up by the English, which were the principal reasons why the Indians attacked our people there in three places, first near the shore, thereafter here, where I am encamped now with my troop, and thirdly at Canaribo, so that of the fifty that were there but three escaped with their lives, of whom we have kept one with us and are sending over the others. Concerning our plantation, I hope to send the gentlemen some of its products by the next ships, praise be to God. I have at present almost 2000 tobacco plants in the ground, which have already been transplanted and which are in fine condition. I hope daily to transplant more, but as it is impossible for me to cross the water without sloop or canoe, I am unable to get more plants. The Indians are not willing to barter a canoe, small or large, even if I offered them as many as 20 axes for it, for they fear and believe that we have come to avenge the other Dutchmen. I have tried my best to convince them of the contrary, but they have little confidence in this, and consequently I cannot procure one. I also need 20 more men to plant the sugar-cane, for there are too few of us here to star the plantation, and I do not like to divide my men as long as the times remain so uncertain. I would also request to have blacks sent rather than Dutchmen, for the blacks are more inclined to work than the Dutch. As to the cotton, I have about 1000 plants in the ground, which grow up nicely, so that next year or with the first ships I shall send the Company some of the fruits. No more for the present, except to pray the very honorable and reverend gentlemen not to fail to send me a sloop similar to Captain Claude's,4 for I am here on an island and cannot go farther than to the water's edge, and there can only stand and look. Besides, the honorable gentlemen promised me a sloop at the time we made our agreement, and, furthermore, we cannot accomplish anything with the net that was given to us, without a sloop. Moreover, the net is half-rotten, and instead of having a new net, as was sent along for me, Jan Pieters5 has given me the aforesaid old rotten net, so that we shall hardly be able to make a haul with it without tearing it. Some day I hope to make him pay for that, as one who violated his oath. No more for the present, gentlemen, but to wish the Company all happiness and prosperity and to recommend myself to your honors. If you have any further orders to give me, I pray your honors not to spare me. Actum, the 25th of April, in Wiapeco, at Fort Nassau, anno 1625.6
Signed: Jan van Ryen.

[Endorsed]
1628
Copy of the letter of Jan van Rijn, written on the 25th of April, 1625 at Fort Nassau in Wiapece, to the Honorable Direcors at the Chamber of Zeeland.
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1The letter of Jan van Ryen is listed in the catalogue of Manuscrits provenant des Collecions des Chevaliers van Rappard, de M. le Pasteur H. A. F. Lutge d'Amsterdam, e.a., Frederik Muller and Cie, 16 et 17 juin 1910, No. 1795, among a group of "Documents sur la Nouvelle-Neerlande, 1624-1626," but in reality it relates to the colony established by van Ryen in 1627 on the river Wiapoco, or Oyapok, the boundary between French Guiana and Brazil, and has no connection with New Netherland. The document apparently comes from the same source as those listed in the catalogue under Nos. 1796-1798, which relate to expeditions sent out by the Zeeland Chamber of the West India Company to the Amazon, the Essequebo, and Senegal, and suggests that it, as well as the copies of the documents relating to New Netherland, printed in this volume as Documents A, C, D, E, and F, belonged originally to some person connected with the Zeeland Chamber of the Company.
Jan van Ryen, or van Rien, sailed with 36 colonists under a contract with the Zeeland Chamber signed by him on January 16, 1627, which is recorded in a volume entitled Colonien, Commissien, Instructien, Conditien van Coloniers aen en van Zout schepen, 1626-1671, which forms part of the records of the West India Company in the Rijksarchief at The Hague (W.I.C. Oude Co. No. 42). They embarked on the ships "Ter-Vere" and "Leeuwinne" and the yacht "De Vliegende Draeck," commanded respectively by Admiral Hendrik Jacobsz Lucifer, Vice-Admiral Jan Pietersz, and Captain Geleyn van Stapels, which sailed from Vlissingen (Flushing) on January 22, 1627. They sighted land near the entrance of the Amazon River on March 3 and on March 5 cast anchor two miles from Comaribo, at the mouth of the Oyapok. The next day they proceeded up the river and on the 7th they anchored before Caribote. The colony of Jan van Ryen was soon destroyed by the natives, most of his men being murdered. Two men escaped to the island of St. Vincent and two others reached Tobago, where they were found in 1628 by the colonists sent out under the auspices of the Zeeland Chamber by Burgomaster de Moor. The men could not tell what had become of van Ryen, but he must have found his way back to Holland, for on December 21, 1630, he registered a colony in "Quaro" with the Zeeland Chamber, and on July 25, 1632, the Directors of that Chamber were authorized to settle with him regarding his claims growing out of the Oyapok expedition. (See Joannes de Laet, Historie Ofte Iaerlijck Verhael van de Verrichtinghen der Geoctroyeer de West-Indische compagnie, pp 111-113, 131; P. M. Netscher, Geschiedenis van de Kolonien Essequebo, Demerary en Berbice, pp. 53-57; Report of U. S. Commission on Boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana [55th Congress, 2d Session, Senate Document No. 91]. 1:184; 2:43; Rev. George Edmundson, "The Dutch on the Amazon and Negro in the Seventeenth Century," in The English Historical Review, 1903, 18:659-60; 1904, 19:5; and Van Rensselaer Bowier Mss., p. 176.
It follows from the foregoing statements that the date of the letter as given in the copy is wrong, and that the letter must have been written in 1627. It was probably received in Holland in 1628, the year written above the indorsement.


2 Captain Nicolaes Oudaen. In Jesse de Forest's Journal of a Voyage to Guiana (Mrs. Robert W. de Forest, A Walloon Family in America, 2:259) it is stated that "On the 23d of May [1625] there arrived at the said Tawya [on the Oyapok] the boat of a ship called the 'Green Dragon,' which was commanded by Gelyn van Stapels of Flushing, who had been with Admiral Lucifer in the River of the Amazons conveying there Captain Odan and eighty to one hundred soldiers." A circumstantial account of the fate that befel Captain Oudaen's men is found in de Laet's Historie Ofte Iaerlijck Verhael, pp 112-13, of which a translation is given in The English Historical Review, 1903, 18:659-60. In this account the name of the lieutenant referred to by Jan van Ryen is given as Pieter de Bruyne and that of the sergeant as Matruyt, in the translation incorrectly spelled "Marruyt."

3Comaribo, at the mouth of the Oyapok. (See Jesse de Forest's Journal in Mrs. Robert W. de Forest, A Walloon Family in America,2:256-59, and "Map of the River Wyapoko," accompanying said Journal, and on p. 170 of the same volume.)

4Claude Prevost, who entered into a contract with the Zeeland Chamber on December 31, 1626, to sail with the ship "Arnemuyden," skipper Adriaen Bolaert, to plant a colony on the Amazon, the Wiapoco, or the Isekepe (Essequebo), wherever the conditions might be most favorable. (See P.M. Netscher, Geschiedenis van de Kolonien Essequebo, Demarary en Berbice, pp. 53-54.)

5Vice-Admiral Jan Pietersen, commander of the ship "Leeuwinne" (Lioness). (See note 1.) Jan van Ryen must have been on this ship.

6Apparently an error and intended for April 25,1627. (See note 1.)

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Documents relating to New Netherland 1624-1626, In The Henry E. Huntington Library, Translated and Edited by A.J.F. van Laer, ©1924, p 21-33, 256-258.







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