First Settlements in New York

First Settlements in New York, Henry Hudson's ShipHenry Hudson

It was July of 1609 that Samuel Champlain first entered the State of New York. It was on the 3rd of September of the same year that Hudson discovered New York Bay. Henry Hudson was an Englishman who engaged in the service of some Amsterdam merchants and set out to find a north-east passage to India. The daring sailor left Holland in the little ship, the Half Moon and tried to India by sailing north of Sweden. He was driven back by the ice, but, still unwilling to give up turned straight about to find a westerly way to Asia.

He touched first on the shores of New Foundland, steered south, mended his sails in Maine, saw Chesapeake Bay, and turning back to the north entered the river to which others have given his name. Knowing nothing of the breadth of the continent, he hoped that the stream would prove a passage to the Pacific; but when he had followed the river for over a hundred miles and found it growing shallow, he turned back; then having spent a month inside Danhy Hook, he steered out into the deep, never again to return. On his next voyage, still looking for a north-west passage, he entered Hudson Bay. Here with his little son he was set adrift by his rebellious crew and perished.

The First Settlements

Although the Cabots had discovered the continent more than a hundred years before the voyage of the Half Moon, yet the favored spot thus found by the Dutch was in the midst of a vast unclaimed wilderness. Hundreds of miles to the south were a few starving Englishmen at Jamestown; far to the north were camps of French traders among the snows of Nova Scotia and Montreal: all else was forest and savages. The Mayflower had not yet sailed. When another or perhaps a second summer came around, the Indians, who had watched the sails of Hudson disappear, gladly welcomed the ships of some Dutch fur traders. These men bought and sold and went back.

Thus they continued coming and going, until in the fourth year after the discovery the traders built a few huts on Manhattan Island, so that it is said that New York was settled in 1613. Soon after, a strong building was put up where the foot of Broadway now is, to serve as a store-house and fort. About the same time the adventurous traders made their way nearer the heart of the fur trade and built a fort on Castle Island, below the present Albany. But cabins, forts and store-houses did not really make a settlement; they were shelters but not homes.

Discoveries and Claims 

While many of the thrifty Dutch were busy bartering their brass trinkets and fiery liquor for the skins of otters and beavers, other visitors to the new land were following the lead of Hudson and examining the coasts. Captain May sailed about Delaware Bay and left his name on its northern cape. Adrain Block, " first of European navigators steered through Hellgate" and sailed on Long Island Sound; he discovered the Connecticut River and found and named Rhode Island and Block Island.

From the discoveries of Hudson, Block and others the Dutch laid claim to the land and gave it a name. The Delaware they called the South River ; the Connecticut the Fresh River; the Hudson the North River or the Mauritius (maw-rish-i-us). They called the country New Netherland and claimed that it extended from the forty fifth parallel of latitude. Later on they defined New Netherland as lying between the Delaware and Cape Cod, and in later years they would have been glad to fix the Connecticut River as the northern and eastern boundary.

The First Homes

These claims were held simply by trading posts until 15 years after the discovery of the Hudson, when thirty families of persecuted French protestants came. They were the first white people who made the land of New York their home. Eight of these families settled on the lower end of Manhattan Island; and about them grew the town called later New Amsterdam, destined to become New York city. Other families went to the New Jersey shore, where the land was called Pavonia. Eastward across the river from Manhattan on Long Island a little company of these people took the name Breukelen (Brooklyn). A few went to the Connecticut River and some to the Delaware River, while others sailed a short distance above the abandoned fort on Castle Island and built Fort Orange, the beginning of the city of Albany.

These families were sent out by a society of Dutch merchants called the Dutch West India Company, an organization which had been chartered a few years before and which had received the entire control of New Netherland. The government of Holland still retained supreme authority over the territory; but all the internal affairs of the colony rested with the stockholders of the West India company.

continues ... The Patroons, the Government and the Indians of New York