New Netherland and Beyond
Van Rensselaer Bowier Manuscripts
Kiliaen van Rensselaer to Johannes de Laet
June 27, 1632
Voyage of the ship "Whale" and Yacht "The Squirrel" - May 24, 1632.
The naming of places and farms; establishing other farms.
Goods to sustain the people; the purchase of animals; wages and incomes.
Future plans for the Colony.
Henri de Foreest
Rutger Hendrixsen van Soest
Roelof Jansen van Masterlandt
Johan de Laet
David Pietersen de Vries
Gerrit de Reux
Wouter van Twiller
To: Mr. Johan de Laet, at Leyden
Dated: In Amsterdam, 27, June 1632
Your honor will doubtless have heard how our ship den walvis, (The Whale), which together with the yacht Teencourntgen (the little Squirrel), 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 the
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 Teencourngen being still with her. Meanwhile, Guilliamme Lefant, being dissatisfied with the command of David Pietersen (de
Vries), or according to my opinion rather because he was afraid, left the ship and returned over to land, to the disgust of the confraters, so that Henri 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 Minuit, 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 is 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 Minuit has given me a map of the additional land lately purchased, situated between Beren Island and Smax Island. there are about 200 morgens 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 days' 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 Beren Island to Momnenis Castle, being about six hours' walk¹, 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 Paep Sickenees kil northward
past the falls of de Laets thus named by me, which creek runs far inland and in which rock crystal is found, according to Director Minuit, to which we must pay more attention in the
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
stand on de Laets kil.One of the three farms, named de laetsburch, 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 seed later as far as
the seed reached. Said Roelof Jansen had four horses and 11 sheep, and the cows and hogs which I bought of Gerrit de Reux were also to given him, so that he has a complete farm and a
suitable house. The island which lies a little further northward o the east side, I have 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 island of Paep Sickenees on the east side towards the south, I have named Godyns Islands; the mill (creek, i.e. Normans Kill) on
the west side at the end of Castle Island, where the first sawmill was erected, I have named Godyns kil. This creek 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 be named Godynsburch.
The fourth creek above Fort Orange on the 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 sails tither, with horses and tools and all sorts of supplies needed for himself as well as for the other farms. This farm shall be names
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,
Rensselaers Island. Castle Island I have named the West Island and that for (obvious) reasons 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 life on the director's farm and shall also get my nephew Wouter van Twiller, who now goes tithter as director of the Company, to buy still other, 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 Godyns 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 quickly gives and also quickly takes) 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 form surprisals.
Now at 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 til the first of January 1634 on a yearly salary; but after that, all expenses and wages of laborers must 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 laborers' 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
purpose there is already a brew kettle there, and then 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 a last would produce 14,000 guilders, one could for 4,000 or 5,000 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 cheaply that 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 some 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 form
year t 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 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
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¹ According to the map of Rensselaerswyck, one hour's walk = 1600 rods and one Dutch mile = 2000 rods.
Van Rensselaer Bowier Mss, Translated by A. J. Van Laer, (c)1908, p 196.