Part 1

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Reprinted from
Genealogical and Biographical Record
Vol. xc Numbers 1, 2, 3
(January, April, & July 1959)

Box 201, Wurtsboro, New York


The following is a strictly factual presentation of episodes in the life of a dauntless and durable woman of early Colonial times on the brawling and battling frontier of what was to later become the Empire State. This woman, Magdalena Dircks, styled the "Flying Angel" in correspondence between the Dutch West India Company and Director-General Peter Stuyvesant, was a daughter of Dirck Volckertsen the Northman and his wife Christina Vigne, and through the latter a granddaughter of the Walloons, Guillaume Vigne and Adrienne Cuvelier, and a niece of "the first male born of Europeans in New Netherland, named Jean Vigne," according to the Journal of Jasper Danckaerts under date of September 1679.

At dawn of the day September 15th, 1655, sixty-four canoes manned by Indians swept down the East River and swarmed on the lower Manhattan strand (Pearl St., from Wall St. to Hanover Sq.). The mosquito fleet was, it seemed, merely making a stop on some expedition of the season for hunting and intertribal warring. The natives and the colonists had been at peace for ten years. The faces of many Indians in this band were familiar to residents of the "just beginning city" of New Amsterdam. A few of them debarked and started along the narrow streets. What were they after? they were asked by burghers of the rattle watch. Other Indians, they said.

‘Twas a ticklish time to have heathen warriors gathered in force below the wall of palisades (Wall St.), as so many of the Christian fighting men were then away from "the Manhattans," as the lower Hudson settlements were called. Director General and Captain Admiral Peter Stuyvesant’s great armada of three warships and four transports had sailed off with six hundred men three weeks before on an expedition to oust four hundred Swedish "squatters" from the South (Delaware) River basin. Even now, by classic maneuvers with heavy artillery, he was effecting a bloodless capitulation of their stronghold, Fort Casimir.

The scheme of the heathen to wipe out the Christian settlements during the absence of "Sachem Woodenleg" and his cohorts looked too dubious at close view, in so far as New Amsterdam was concerned. The city’s home guard was springing to arms; and in the background loomed Fort Amsterdam with its terrible "big thunder sticks" and its garrison. So, when several plucky home guarders rushed to the strand and ordered the armada to "move on to Pagganck (Governors Island)," the Indians shoved off. But suddenly, as they paddled away, they let the dismissal delegation have a volley of arrows and musket balls.

Three guardsmen were hit; and one of them, Cornelis Hendricksen Van Dort, was carried dead or dying to his home on Slyck Steght (S. William St.). Magdalena Dircks - his wife for three years and the mother of his child, Marritje Cornelisz was now a widow.

Judged by the known facts of his brief career, young Van Dort had been an up and coming burgher - a doer and darer. Boat building was his business, and his standing in it was already such that he was employed as an expert, to advise the city court as well as various individuals. He was one of the contractors for construction of cannon mounts and the repair of a scow for the provincial government when an attack by the English seemed imminent. He it was, "Kees De Caper" (Kees the Sailor), who retrieved Thomas Young’s ketch from the Hell Gate whirlpool when nobody else would take the chance for the sake of the reward. From a financial condition so poor that he was defaulting in rent payments to Evert Duyckingh the glassmaker, he worked up to buying the house and lot, and acquiring a tailor-made cloak forsooth.

However, the loss of any one person at the Manhattans, an area embracing some eight hundred colonists, was immediately swallowed up in the general holocaust. Although the main band of savages was thwarted in its designs on New Amsterdam, other bands were striking successfully at many outlying plantations and trading posts. About sixteen hundred savages were on the warpath, provoked by the recent shooting of a peach-pilfering squaw by the addlepated Hendrick Van Dyck. More than a hundred colonists were massacred, more than a hundred and fifty taken captive.

Only a few suburban properties, such as Stuyvesant’s stockaded and garrisoned Great Bouwery at Nechtanc (Corlear’s Hook), escaped devastation.

The widowed Magdalena Dircks made her debut into court records two months after her husband’s death, in the first session of the Orphan-Masters’ Board, established to protect the interests of children bereft of a parent. Finding that the deceased Kees Van Dort had no adult blood relative in the country, the Board selected an uncle of the widow, Jan Vigne the Schepen (Alderman), to act as one of the two guardians for the orphan. But Uncle Jan was constrained to report at a later session that the widow had refused to let him inventory the estate. Asked for an explanation of her attitude, Magdalena stated that her uncle Jan had been an "adversary" of her husband and herself and had never "had conversation" with either of them. As a matter of fact, Jan Vigne had been a sponsor at the baptism of the daughter of the couple; but he didn’t argue the case, he simply begged to be excused so that he might tend to his own business, brewing. The Board accepted Magdalena’s choice of a different uncle, Abraham Verplanck, and a different associate, Andries De Haes, who had been a fellow member with her late husband in the Burgher Guard.

The real rub between Magdalena and her uncle Jan had to do with the estate of her grandmother, Ariaentje Cuvilje, who had died in May of that year possessed of the residuary estate of the wealthy Jan Jansen Damen, her childless second husband, who had died in June of 1650. The inventory of Damen’s holdings is seventeen pages long. From Ariaentje, as his "sole heir," stem the titles to some of the most valuable land on earth, the Wall Street belt across lower Manhattan. The old lady was hardly in her grave before her four heirs-at-law-her son and, as their wives’ guardians, her three sons-in-law, were splitting hairs in the calculation of fourths. The church had to go to court to collect its fee for her burial. Of the three sons-in-law, Dirck Volckertsen "De Noorman," Magdalena’s father, was the "oldest stander" in the community. He had come from Norway at some time before 1632, probably in the group of Northmen for which Secretary Isaac De Raisiere had applied to the West India Company in 1626 — Northmen who would know how to render pitch from the pines here. In 1632, Ariaentje Cuvilje, about to be married to Damen (the "Old Jan" of the Manatus map of 1639), made the customary settlement with her children by her previous marriage, to Guleyn Vigne, promising each of her married children, Maria and Christina, 200 guilders from the estate of their father, "her lawful husband deceased," and promising each of her unmarried children, Jan and Rachel, 300 guilders plus their keep and schooling until of age. Dirck Volckertsen, Christina’s husband, put his mark to the agreement. Jan Roos of Haarlem, Maria’s husband, died without having done the same, leaving a son, Gerrit Jansen Roos. Maria took a second husband, Abraham Verplanck of Edam, who had arrived in America in 1634 with his cousin, Jacob Planck, the first commis (clerk) of Rensselaerswyck.

Dirck Volckertsen and Abraham Verplanck stuck together. They and their growing families made their home with mother Ariaentje and stepfather Jan till 1638, when old Jan, tired of being steward for all of Guleyn Vigne’s offspring, threw the whole caboodle of Volckertsens and Verplancks out of the house, injuring Dirck’s wife Christina in the process, and secured a decree of Council approving his action. His youngest stepdaughter, Rachel had just been married off to Cornelis Van Tienhoven, who had come to New Netherland as koopman (keeper of accounts) with Van Twiller in 1633 and been promoted to the provincial secretaryship by the new Director-General, Kieft. The Volckertsens settled at Green Point, across the East River; and the Verplancks at Paulus Hook, across the North River. But, after being forced back to Manhattan by the Indian war of 1643-1645, the two families united again and eventually moved to houses of their own built on adjoining lots in Smit’s Vly (Pearl St., from Wall St. north).

Old Jan, it would seem, owed his start to the Vigne widow he married. The Vigne plantation was the foundation piece of his real-estate holdings. He was probably the "Jan Damont, laboreur" who had signed the round robin of Walloons seeking passage to "Virginia" in 1621. If so, he undoubtedly migrated to New Netherland with the other Walloons in 1624, — long after the Vignes had settled there.

Guleyn Vigne and his wife, Ariaentje Cuvilje, were Walloons from Valenciennes. Thumbing over the collection of writings on "The Troubles brought to Valenciennes on account of Heresies," one notes that the names De la Vigne and Cuvelier (the latter the French equivalent of the Dutch Cuvilje) thunder loudly in the index of victims of the Spanish Inquisition and explain a flight of surviving relatives to tolerant Holland. There, a Jean De la Vigne served as Amsterdam’s Walloon dominie from 1585 to 1622; and there, in 1613 or earlier, a Guillaume De la Vigne and Adrienne Cuvelier evidently found employment in expanding Dutch commerce, and their names became Dutchified.

Inasmuch as their son Jan, born in 1614, was "the first male born of Europeans in New Netherland" it is reasonable to suppose they were members of the crew of one of the Dutch trading ships which visited Hudson’s river in 1613, the fourth year after his discovery of it. Of the four ships, one, the Fortune, remained over the winter at Castle Island in the upper river, where Fort Nassau was being established? and another, the fine new Tiger,† caught fire off Manhattan Island and was beached. Guleyn Vigne and his wife must have been in the Tiger’s crew, which passed the winter in huts on the southern shoulder (at about 39 Broadway) of the wooded ridge while the tiny Restless (New York’s first ship) was being fashioned from salvaged and green materials.


† A relic of the Tiger - the forward end of its keel and the after end of its stem, scarfed together, with two charred ribstubs attached — was uncovered at a depth of 30 ft., beneath the fill of 1763, by workmen excavating at Dey and Greenwich Streets in 1916 for a subway extension. The relic is in the Museum of the City of New York.


That "some Hollanders" stayed continuously in New Netherland from 1613 on is evidenced by many items in the records, such as the statement by Governor Sir Fernando Gorges of Virginia‡. It is significant that, in laying out the fort and bouweries on Manhattan in 1625, when the regular colonization of the island began, Kryn Fredericks , the engineer for the Dutch West India Company, passed over the near and nice bouwery site which was to turn up later as property of Guleyn Vigne’s widow, for the engineer had been instructed not to displace any settler from land already cultivated by him. Obviously, Guleyn Vigne, a "free person" — as distinguished from the regular colonists, who were bound to the Company — was in possession of the tract; and Old Jan Damen acquired it by marrying Guleyn’s widow and paying her obligation to her children by Guleyn. The payment to the youngest, Rachel, is evidenced by her husband’s receipt for the 300 guilders due her.


‡ Gorges reported to the English government that Captain Thomas Dermer, while sailing down the Atlantic seaboard in 1620, had conferred with "some Hollanders that were settled in a place we call Hudson’s river, in trade with the natives."


The location of Guleyn Vigne’s land was just what would seem to have been ideal for people staying at the Manhattans to collect peltry brought down the trails or over the waterways. Most of the surface of lower Manhattan was covered with glacial boulders and conical hills of gravel drift; but there was a fertile tongue of land sloping down to the East River from the north-south ridge (Broadway), bathed by the morning sun, with a clear brook (Maiden Lane) on one side and an inlet (Broad St.) on the other. Manhattan Indians from their village of Werpoes on a point in the Fresh-water (later the Collect) Pond had long since cleared patches of this land and planted maize and tobacco. The tradition is that Guleyn Vigne built his cabin on the East River strand at the spot where Wall St. now intersects Pearl St. His son, Jan Vigne, retained this part of the Old Jan Damen real estate until his death in 1689, though meanwhile other parts were sold off or released to co-heirs of his mother, Old Jan’s sole heir.

That Guleyn Vigne’s wife, Ariaentje Cuvilje, had been endowed by her schismatic forbears with a violently rebellious streak, may be presumed from the report in Holland that she played football with Indians’ heads brought to Fort Amsterdam after Kieft’s unholy attacks in 1643. That her daughter, Christina Guleyns, inherited the streak is evident from Christina’s resistance to ouster by her stepfather. That her daughter’s daughter, Magdalena Dircks, was in turn the conduit of the streak we shall see. Living in the American wilderness, as Kiliaen Van Rensselaer observed, didn’t tone down people’s bad streaks — if such they were.

Anyhow, Magdalena — the woman of whom nothing previous to her second marriage is known, according to the pretentious Rosenkrans genealogy — had family roots in New Netherland running down to the very first year of Dutch occupation. And, in 1655, when she lost her first husband, her relatives were among the high and mighty of the colony; her uncle Van Tienhoven was provincial Schout-fiscal and city Schout and "everything followed his behest," as the suffering Commonalty complained; her uncle Verplanck, a trader, who held a grant of all the land he wanted anywhere on the South River, had sailed in Peter Stuyvesant’s personal entourage to view the conquest of the Swedish "trespassers"; her uncle Vigne was a New Amsterdam magistrate; and her father Volckertsen, whose house on Smit’s Vly had been burned by the savages, was at least one step ahead of his creditors, thanks to his expectations from Ariaentje Cuvilje’s estate and Van Tienhoven’s advances to him from the same.


"There is the chimney sweep in the door, his chimney is well-swept," cried Magdalena Dircks as she and a sister of hers tripped past Litschoe’s tavern and she caught sight of the proprietor, who was incidentally a Fire Warden of the city.

Just what she was implying, we can only surmise — it was the day of her second marriage and she had undoubtedly had some wine — but the jibe struck a sore spot and the warden flew off the handle and the bystanders jeered and some sort of fracas developed. As a result, three days later Magdalena was facing the bench of the city’s Burgomaster and Schepens to answer charges against herself and "her bridegroom."

As the court minutes of the first of March 1657 inform us, Schout De Sille voices his distress that the defendant "has presumed to insult the Fire Wardens of the city on the public highway and to make a street riot," and he demands condign punishment "for the maintenance of the aforesaid gentlemen’s quality." The defendant "admits that she and her sister passed by the door of the Fire-Warden Litschoe and, as they always joked when Fire-Wardens came to their house to inspect chimneys, she spoke the alleged words — and not another word."

The "qualities" involved would naturally be an important consideration in the minds of Stuyvesant’s hand-picked magistrates. Complainant Litschoe is not merely a Fire-Warden of the city, he is the hero of a shooting action, in which he struck Patroon Van Rensselaer’s flag for Stuyvesant, settling a jurisdictional dispute of long standing, for which service Stuyvesant has promoted him from Sergeant to Lieutenant. Defendant Magdalena belongs to a family over which a cloud of disrepute has come; her uncle Van Tienhoven has disappeared after being removed from his high offices by order of the Amsterdam Chamber; her uncle Vigne has been denied a reappointment to the city magistracy by Stuyvesant; her uncle Verplanck has incurred magisterial enmity by insulting and threatening burgomaster; and her father has charges against him awaiting trial, for stabbing a cooper in a dice-game brawl. Accordingly, when the worthy men on the bench have jotted down their individual findings, as is the practice, the average spells out a verdict of guilty and a penalty of "two pounds Flemish" for the joking bride.

Since parts of the court minutes are missing, there is no telling what other monstrous crimes Magdalena may have committed. It seems, however, that tongue wagging was a sufficient reason for banishment from New Netherland during the consulship of Peter Stuyvesant. At some time in the spring of 1657, Magdalena was notified that she and Geertje Jacobs, wife of Guert Coerten, were slated for a one-way yellow ticket to Amsterdam. Geertje’s only offense — so far as the records show — had been some tongue wagging: she had gossiped about Francis Rombout and Engeltje Mans, wife of Borger Jorissen the blacksmith, saying the two "had been discovered in something disgraceful," and her plea that she had mentioned no names was rejected, for she admitted saying, "Such people as nobody would suspect."

Magdalena’s new husband was a soldier, Harman Hendricksen Rosecrans from Bergen, Norway, sometimes called "Harman the Portuguese" — an indication of service as a Company soldier in Brazil, from which reinforcements had been brought in 1655. Harman secured a discharge by special act of the Council on April I7th, 1657; and, with a view to Magdalena’s exile, he sold her house and lot to Joost Goderis the porter on August 13th, the property being subject to the 500 guilder mortgage held by the guardians for Magdalena’s daughter by her first husband. Come October, when the Waegh and the Hoop sailed for Holland, Magdalena and Geertje were ushered aboard one ship or the other, as was also a third tongue wagger, a Lutheran minister whose tenets irked Peter the Tyrant. Both vessels were detained in an English port on their course to Amsterdam and didn’t reach that city till the middle of March 1658.

Replying to Stuyvesant’s letter of October 22nd, 1657, the Amsterdam Chamber of the West India Company, which owned New Netherland, wrote on May 20th, 1658, "The two women of bad reputation, Magdalena Dircks and Geertje Jacobs, whom you sent back here on account of their dissolute life, shall not again receive our permission to return to New Netherland, and if they shall come there again by deceitful practices or under a false name, you may punish them, as they deserve it." But, by June I3th, 1658, the Chamber reversed its stand and passed a formal resolution consenting to the return to their colony of Harman Hendricksen and Magdalena Dircks, "alias the Flying Angel," on condition they did not keep a tavern or sell intoxicants.

Whence this alias? Had Magdalena started keeping a tavern under a Flying Angel sign? Had she been given the sobriquet because of high-flying talk or angelic conduct during the long voyage? Had she or her husband or some good friend of theirs told the directors a heart-touching story? All we know is that her husband was with her now, if he had not been on the way over, and the couple were already "flying" back, a child with them. The Chamber was trying to strengthen its weak hold on the American mainland: powder and lead had been dispatched on the Moesman, and soldiers on the Bruynvisch ten days later. On the latter ship’s passenger list were "Harman Dircksen from Norway and wife and child." Either this was a slightly false name for Harman Hendricksen or Harman Dircksen disappeared en voyage.

Not long after their return to the Manhattans, in June 1658, Harman and Magdalena decided — or had it decided for them — that their future lay elsewhere. A man with military training would be a welcome settler at Esopus, where Dirck Smit, an ensign who had crossed with the Rosecranses on the Bruynvisch, was assuming command of the garrison. On November 22nd, 1658, Harman took out "small burgher" papers at New Amsterdam — fee 20 guilders — payable in beavers within eight days — hoping no doubt that the trading privileges would prove advantageous at his new location. He and his wife must have reached there before the winter of 1658-1659 was over, for their son Alexander, baptized in New Amsterdam on April 12th, 1659, registered later as a native of Esopus; and the likelihood that he was is confirmed by references to much coming and going of civilians on military supply yachts, in correspondence between Smit and Stuyvesant, and by the lack of a settled dominie at Esopus, Harmanus Blom having returned to the fatherland to be ordained.

Esopus (the Dutch version of the Alonquian word "siposis," meaning "creeks," the distinguishing feature of the region being the two creeks, Esopus and Rondout) was a point on the Hudson’s west shore, three fifths of the way from Fort Amsterdam to Fort Orange. The fertile lowlands and the prospect of owning a plot in fee had been drawing colonists from Rensselaerswyck, where land could be held only on lease from the patroon, ever since two Englishmen from Virginia, Christopher Davis and Thomas Chambers, led the way in 1652, buying tracts from the Indians and getting confirmatory grants from the Dutch authorities. In the spring of 1657, the Indians became hostile, harassing settlers and murdering skipper Bamboes. Stuyvesant promptly appeared on the scene with sixty soldiers, directed the construction of a stockade on the heights overlooking the fields and the removal of houses to the inside. Then, and again in the fall, when he made another trip to Esopus, he demanded indemnities from the Indians and pressed them for a deed to the whole region, to remove the chief causes of friction; but what few sachems of theirs he could assemble slipped away without answering. During the winter, however, Sergeant Louwrens, commander of the Esopus garrison, finally succeeded in getting the sachems’ marks on the deed.


On the evening of September 2Ist, 1659, a party of Indian farm hands was having a spree by a brook on the land of Thomas Chambers, who had donated a bottle of brandy after the day’s corn husking. Chambers said he had no more of the stuff when a second bottle was begged; but a soldier of the escort was more accommodating. The spree waxed livelier, and one of the excited savages fired off the powder charge in a musket. Ensign Smit, the garrison commander, sent out a patrol to investigate. Upon its return with a report that nothing but a heathen frolic was taking place, the Ensign, under orders not to provoke hostilities with the heathen, decided not to interfere.

Some of the settlers were not so level-headed. All the time since delivery of the deed, they had been badgered by Indians who, seeing more and more of the land taken over, complained of delay by Wooden-leg in delivery of the presents due for the land. Only under protection of an armed escort had men been able to work their lawful fields. Even inside the stockade the men couldn’t find peace: on a Sunday in August, while Dominie Blom was preaching his first sermon, the heathen had milled about the strand gate howling for Wooden-Leg and jeering at the latest excuse — Wooden-Leg was sick — offered by Chambers and interpreted by Kit Davis.

During September the nervous tension had been increasing. Rumor had it that two Dutch soldiers deserting Fort Orange had been murdered by Indians while making for the English settlement at Hartford. Kit Davis and Claes De Ruyter, the bosom friends of the Esopus tribe, said that they had been advised to get out of the section. A visit by an Indian delegation, who brought sewan to compensate the settlers for a recent trivial offense and dropped remarks about building an Indian fort to offset the white men’s, had a sinister significance. It was high time for the settlers to do something for themselves, if Stuyvesant was sick or still thinking in terms of balance due on indemnities rather than on land purchase. Here was a golden opportunity to strike terror in the savage breasts.

Led by Jacob Stol and Evert Pels, and shouting, "We’ll slap their mouths," a band of men rushed forth with musket, cutlass, and axe and fell upon the hapless party of Indians on the Chambers plantation, killing and wounding but in the darkness failing to exterminate. Ensign Smit, disgusted by the senseless conduct of people he was trying to protect, threatened to withdraw the garrison as Stuyvesant had authorized him to do, To forestall such action, Chambers and other burghers raced to the strand and removed all river craft within reach. A compromise with Smit eventuated, and Kit Davis was dispatched down the river to inform Stuyvesant of the situation and obtain his instructions.

Eighteen armed men, partly soldiers and partly burghers, the veteran Harman Hendricksen Rosecrans among the latter, escorted Kit to his canoe. While returning to the stockade, the group ran into an ambuscade. Four of the number made a break for freedom and succeeded; the other fourteen, including the leader, Sergeant Louwrens, surrendered without firing a shot. Soon a host of whooping savages was investing the stockade, their flaming arrows pelting the roofs of the buildings within and keeping bucket brigades busy at all hours. Sheds and stacks in the outside fields went up in smoke, and farm animals which had not been brought behind the palisades, became food for heathen.

Of the fourteen captives taken by the Indians, five were forced to run the gauntlet and then tortured to death by slow fire — among these Jacob Stol and Jan Sleght the brewer’s son — and seven were held for ransom. The thirteenth, a son of Evert Pels, was lucky enough to strike the fancy of some Pocahontas and be adopted into her tribe. Just one contrived somehow to elude his captors. In a letter to Stuyvesant eight days after the ambuscade, Ensign Smit wrote: "At the date of this letter we have got back one prisoner, who ran away from them. I have asked this returned captive, Harmen Hendricksen, how strong they may have been; he said in answer to me that they must have counted over four hundred, and thought our prisoners were all still alive."

So, Magdalena Dircks, whose sister Grietje had already had two husbands slain by Indians — both husbands ex-soldiers turned trader — didn’t lose a second husband as she must have feared for a week or so. This escape of Harman was, as we shall see, but one of several evidences of his adaptability to frontier life. Through such experiences as this during the earliest phase of our country’s history, there was being developed the woodcraft which, a few generations later, would equip great scouts like Daniel Boone and Kit Carson, men of a type peculiar to our continent. Compare a Harman Hendricksen with the Hans Vos from Baden, a "wild-schut" (gamekeeper), whom Van Rensselaer shipped here with a comment that he "may be employed at the proper time in killing game to supply food, and at other times in cutting wood." After a venture or two into the American wilderness, Hans confined his activities to service as a "steeboo" (court messenger).

Stuyvesant, advised of the situation at Esopus, took heroic measures to recruit an overwhelming relief force, offering a moratorium on debts, a grant of land and oxen and a bounty to volunteers and finally drafting able-bodied men by lot. By the 9th of October, he had assembled a hundred and sixty men, besides a band of Long Island Indian auxiliaries. Taking along a Mohawk chief and a Mohican sachem to arrange an armistice for ransom of captives, he landed at Esopus; but the mediators couldn’t induce Esopus sachems to face Wooden-Leg in another parley, though they did release two captives at a price. Accordingly, Stuyvesant entrusted the campaigning to Smit’s leadership and returned to Fort Amsterdam to negotiate neutrality pacts with tribes which might otherwise aid the enemy.

Ensign Smit, with eighty men on his muster roll, staged a series of expeditions to make the savages "keep their noses out," destroying their stores of food, capturing a few of them and killing their ancient head sachem, the beloved "Rain-maker," who refused to flee. By April 1660, three Mohican sachems visited Stuyvesant at Fort Amsterdam to report the despondency of the Esopus tribe over the death of the head sachem and the capture of other members, and the tribe’s willingness to evacuate the whole area if the captured members were released. Stuyvesant settled the "if" by transporting Smit’s captives to Curacao to be sold into slavery. Then, in July, he met delegates of the Mohicans, Wappingers, Minisincks, Hackensacks, and Mohawks for a peace conference at Esopus, to which four sachems of the local tribe were induced to come by threats of the delegates. Articles were signed confirming the cession of the region by the Esopus Indians and awarding them 800 schepels (616 bushels) of maize in ransom of the captives they still held. A hatchet was trampled into the earth to signify termination of hostilities.

Thereafter the garrison, except for one squad at the riverside redoubt (Rondout), was withdrawn from Esopus and the Burgher Guard, in which Harman served as an adelborst (cadet), took over the defense. On May 16th, 1661 — after Roeloff Swarthwout, who bore a mandate from the Company for the establishment of local self-government with himself as Schout, had cooled his heels for a year — Stuyvesant issued a charter to the settlement, which he named Wiltwyck. A commission began laying out a "Nieuw Dorp" (Hurley) on land farther up the Esopus valley, of which Stuyvesant reserved a choice plot for himself. Philip Pietersen Schuyler, a son-in-law of Magdalena’s uncle Verplanck, was an associate grantee of another huge plot; it was divided into small farms, which were offered rent free for the first year together with a loan of animals and equipment for cultivation.

Harman received at that time Lot No. 3 in a distribution of additional sites for a home and garden within the stockade. On June 24th, 1661, Magdalena joined the church, to be among the first thirty members. Harman, working as a day laborer and trading on the side, was having a hard time to make ends meet. Even the 10 percent in "good-strung and current sewan" due his stepchild on the 500 guilder mortgage on 10 Slyck Steght, New Amsterdam, was not coming in, as uncle Verplanck notified the New Amsterdam court on September 15th, 1661, asking release from his bond as trustee for the child. With so many other colonists in the same straits, Harman couldn’t collect what was owed him for work for Pieter Hillebrantsen: he had to appeal to the court for an order on Pieter to pay 8 schepels of wheat which Pieter admitted owing, and had to be satisfied with an order requiring a payment Of 3-1/2 schepels within three days and the balance within six weeks. Harman, in turn, was among those in arrears with their dues for the dominie’s salary — 10 guilders in "heavy money" (Holland coin) per lot per year.


During the forenoon of June 7th, 1663, as Indians by twos and threes trickled through the gateways into the Wiltwyck stockade, apparently bent on peddling beans and other produce as usual, the people who were there thought little about it, though all but a score or so of the men had gone out to work in the lowland fields. There had been signs of Indian unrest, such as the shooting of a horse at the new village, but the local sachems had just been notified that Wooden-Leg himself would visit Esopus bringing presents in the near future, and the sachems had agreed to meet him, provided the meeting should be in an open field with both sides unarmed.

An hour before noon, several Nieuw Dorp settlers came riding wildly toward the mill gate and shouting that their village was being wiped out by the Indians. The heathen who had infiltrated the stockade and were scattered about the thirty or forty houses drew weapons from concealment and sprang upon any Christians who couldn’t get out of reach too quickly. The men they knocked on the head or shot down without mercy; the women and children they took captive, except two women "big with child," whom they slew. They broke into homes to get at the occupants and find cover from which to shoot down men coming to the rescue. Buildings to windward were set afire.

The stockade was pandemonium as men inside who had survived the sudden onslaught, "most of whom had neither guns nor sidearms," battled the savages with whatever weapons they could lay hand on, while "by degrees" men from the fields outside rushed in to aid. Lieutenant Hendrick Schoonmaker of the Burgher Guard streaked for home from the river gate, where he and Jacob Pietersen the miller had been standing, and "was severely wounded in his house by two shots," but evidently he saved himself and the others there. Captain Thomas Chambers managed to break through, though wounded on his way from his farm, and to issue commands "to secure the gates, to clear the cannon and to drive out the savages." After this fashion the Christians rallied and the heathen, "through God’s mercy," were "chased and put to flight." Thanks to a timely shift of the wind, fire fighters were able to limit the loss of houses to ten or twelve.

By nightfall, "69 efficient men, both qualified and unqualified," were guarding the palisades. Twelve men, including three soldiers who had happened to be at the guardhouse, had been killed and eight others had been wounded, one fatally; four women and three children had been struck down or burned alive; four women and six children were missing, among them the wife of surgeon Gysbert Van Imbroeck and the wife and child of Dominie Van Laer. Magdalena Dircks, veteran of three Indian wars, had not been caught napping, it seems. The baptism of her fifth child during the next month indicates that she had given birth to it at about the time of the massacre.

When, on the third day after the massacre, ten Wiltwyck burghers on horseback sallied to the Rondout, they found that it had not been attacked and several people from the Nieuw Dorp had taken refuge there. But this few and the few who had escaped to Wiltwyck, one of them wounded, were all that were left of the new village’s population. Three men had been murdered and one man, eight women and twenty-six children had been taken captive.

A relief force of forty-two soldiers under Sergeant Niessen arrived from Fort Amsterdam in a yacht three days later and had to fight its way from the landing with three cart loads of munitions and provisions, suffering casualties of one killed and six wounded. The main force, about thrice as large, commanded by Burgomaster Kregier of New Amsterdam, landed eighteen days later yet — on the 4th of July — and for three days a heavily guarded wagon train shuttled between the stockade and the yachts without being molested.

As fast as leads were developed, Kregier staged drives for resorts of the Esopus tribe, meanwhile angling through Mohawk emissaries for redemption of Christians held by the tribe. During the last days of July, guided by an escapee, Rachel de la Montagne, the surgeon’s wife, his grand expedition Of 210 men captured the Indian fort up the Rondout valley (at Wawarsing) where she had been held; but the two cannon and two wagons had slowed progress so much that only one female Indian was trapped.

In early September, however, when Lieutenant Van Kouwenhoven, who was in a yacht off the Indian Danskamer (several miles above Newburgh) working with a Wappinger go-between on prisoner exchanges, had learned about a new fort the Esopus Indians were building, Captain Lieutenant Kregier induced a Wappinger to lead him to it and, taking a stream-lined force Of 55 — 22 of his own Company, 74 of Lieutenant Stilwell’s English Company, 7 burghers and 2 Negro slaves — set out between spells of "great rain," crossed the raging Rondout Kill, followed its tributary the Wallkill up to its meeting with its Shawangunk branch, and then followed the branch. Shortly after noon, forty-eight hours from the start, the force reached the half-finished Indian stronghold (on the east side of the Shawangunk, about two miles south of Bruynswick), on which the Indians were busily at work. Moving "along the hill so as not to be seen and in order to come right under the fort," Kregier’s men charged for the palisades. When the chase was over, fifteen Indian warriors, including sachem Papequanaehen, lay dead on the field, along with seven of their women and children. "Probably many more were wounded." Thirteen had been taken captive; and twenty-three Christians had been released from captivity, thanks to the Mohawk who had visited the fort on the preceding day and laughed at the Esopus Indians for shepherding their captives to the hills each night. The Dutch losses in the fight were three killed and six wounded. So, having only eight horses with them, Kregier’s men had to destroy all but the choice items of loot that would "well fill a sloop" — guns, powder horns, bags of powder, skins, kettles and so forth.

Kregier, with his force doubled, revisited the site a week or so afterwards to devastate it more thoroughly. Thereafter, he made two or three raids on other sites. His contingent of Long Island Indians scoured the region, tracking down Esopus Indians. Lieutenant Van Kouwenhoven continued his prisoner-exchanging activities. In the course of two or three months, all except possibly one or two of the missing Christians were accounted for, and the Esopus tribe’s fragments were scattered among their neighbor tribes.

(To be continued)


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This page was last updated on February 26, 2007 .
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