Description of the New Netherlands/Part 2
(as the same are at the present time;)
THE FRUITFULNESS AND NATURAL ADVANTAGES OF THE COUNTRY,
AND THE DESIRABLE OPPORTUNITIES WHICH IT PRE-
SENTS, WITHIN ITSELF, AND FROM ABROAD, FOR
THE SUBSISTENCE OF MAN; WHICH ARE
NOT SURPASSED ELSEWHERE.
TOGETHER WITH REMARKS ON THE CHARACTER AND PECULIAR
CUSTOMS OF THE SAVAGES, OR NATIVES OF THE LAND;
A PARTICULAR DESCRIPTION OF THE WONDERFUL NATURE
AND HABITS OF THE BEAVER.
A DIALOGUE BETWEEN A NETHERLAND PATRIOT
AND A NEW NETHERLANDER, ON THE
ADVANTAGES OF THE COUNTRY.
ADRIAEN VAN der DONCK,
Doctor of both Laws, at present in the New Netherlands.
TO WHICH ARE ADDED,
THE REGULATIONS OF THE AFFAIRS OF THE COUNTRY, BY THE
COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF AMSTERDAM, etc
THE SECOND EDITION,
With a Map of the Country.
At Amsterdam, published by Evert Nieuwenhof, Bookseller.ANNO DOMINI, 1656.
Following the title page in the original work there is, in the first place, an extract from the Privilege or Copyright, granted to the Author by the States-General of the United Netherlands for the term of fifteen years, on condition that he obtain a like authority from the Province or Provinces in which the book shall be printed and sold: Dated at the Hague, May 24th, 1653.
Next succeeds a similar license from the States of Holland and West Friesland, in which the book was published: Dated at the Hague, July 21st, 1653.
Lastly, an extract from the Minutes of the Directors of the West India Company, at the Chamber of Amsterdam, February 25th, 1655, setting forth the request of Evert Nieuwenhof, bookseller, for the approbation of the Company in reference to the same work, which was accordingly granted. Certified in the absence of the Advocate, by E. Van Seventer, 1655.
To the Illustrious, Most Wise, and Prudent Lords, the Honourable Ruling Burgomasters of the far-famed commercial City of Amsterdam,
- John Huydekooper, Knight, Lord of Maerseveen and Neerdyck, &c,
Cornelius de Graef, Free Lord of South-Poelsbrook,
John vande Pol Hermansz,
Hendrick Dircksz Spiegel: -
The glory and renown of this good city of Amsterdam are not only spread throughout the world by reason of the extensive commerce of which it is the seat, but also, in an especial manner, from the fact that a great number of far distant lands have been sought, discovered, and visited by sea from its port. Amongst those by whom such discoveries have been made in this last century, not the least in consideration are the two Companies of the East and West Indies, under whose direction voyages have been performed; and although the West India Company seems to be now in a declining condition, yet that part of North America called New-Netherlands, (of which this book treats,) possesses so great an intrinsic value, that it deserves to be held in high estimation, as well as on account of the extensive trade with it, which is constantly on the increase. For which cause, and especially in view of the good and noble disposition manifested by your Honours, more and more every day, for the support and restoration of the, alas! almost ruined West India Company, I have ventured to dedicate to you, with becoming reverence, this little and inconsiderable treatise, containing a description of that part of the world; trusting that it will not be taken ill of me for so doing, inasmuch as it is a sincere expression of respect from one who is, and ever will be,
- My Lords,
- Your Lordships' very humble, faithful,
- And obedient citizen and servant,
- E. Nieuwenhof.
Their High Mightinesses, the Lords Proprietors of the West-India Company, at the Council Chambers of Amsterdam.
My Lords, - As soon as this History came to hand, I deemed it necessary and proper to print and publish the same, thereby to make known the beauties and advantages of the flourishing Colony of New-Netherlands, which, under your wise and careful direction, is advancing in prosperity, all of which should be publicly known, particularly in Amsterdam. And when your Honours, with great care and vigilance, are providing to increase the power of the Colony by settlers therein, (which in all ages has been considered the firmest bond to secure conquered countries, as well as newly discovered lands,) it therefore appeared proper to make it known to my countrymen, particularly to many of my brave and faithful fellow-citizens, to the end that they may be invited by the pure air and fruitfulness of the New-Netherlands to go thither, where (if they be not fastidious, lazy plodders) they may, with industry and economy, acquire property and gain wealth, and enjoy the fruits of the earth and of their industry, in as healthy a climate as can be found on the surface of the globe.
And inasmuch as your Honourable Company provide for the necessary intercourse with the Colony, supplying the inhabitants and settlers with the articles which are required, and not yet produced therein, and have provided for the establishment of the true Christian religion, and for extending light from the Word of God in the country to those who sit in darkness all of which is worthy and commendable : Therefore I trust that this notice may not be unacceptable in regard to the work which is now preparing for the press, as the same will be published by a sincere well-wisher of the Company, and of the Chamber over which your Honours do most wisely and carefully preside. With which I remain,
- Most honoured Lords, &c
- Your obedient and obligated servant
- Evert Nieuwenhof.
TO THE READER
Honoured Reader, - As I have remarked the great zeal shown by our High and Venerable Lords Burgomasters of this City, together with the Most Worshipful Directors of the West India Company, in respect to the affairs of the New-Netherlands, which their Worships, as Founders and Patroons, for the benefit of the public, have taken much to heart; I also have become inflamed with a like zeal, to republish the Description of those countries, and for the better understanding thereof, have added a small map of thesame. Besides the accurate description of the nature and qualities of the soil, it also contains the excellent regulations of their Worships, tending to the special advantage of those who are disposed to emigrate thither; to whom they have granted as much land as each shall be able to improve for pasture or cultivation, under the same restrictions as are imposed on landholders at home. The understanding reader will learn from the articles comprised in these regulations, the sincere desire of their Worships to make a liberal provision for those countries; and thus will be exhibited new proofs of their wisdom.
May you receive my labours with favour. Farewell.
- E. Nieuwenhof.
[The dedication to the Burgomasters, and the address to the Reader, are translated by the Editor, not being included in the translation of Mr. Johnson.]
ON THE PATRONS AND THE HISTORY OF NEW-NETHERLANDS
- Still Amstel's faithful Burgher-Lords do live,
- Who East and West extend their faithful care;
- To lands and men good laws they wisely give,
- That like the beasts ran wild in open air.
- With aged care Holland's gardens still they save -
- And in New-Netherlands their men will ne'er be slaves.
- Still Amstel's faithful Burgher-Lords do live,
- Why mourn about Brazil, full of base Portuguese?
- When Van der Donck shows so far much better fare;
- Where wheat fills golden ears, and grapes abound in trees;
- Where fruit and kine are good with little care;
- Men may mourn a loss, when vain would be their voice,
- But when their loss brings gain, they also may rejoice.
- Why mourn about Brazil, full of base Portuguese?
- Then, reader, if you will, go freely there to live,
- We name it Netherland, though it excels it far;
- If you dislike the voyage, pray due attention give,
- To Van der Donck, his book, which, as a leading star,
- Directs toward the land where many people are,
- Where lowland Love and Laws all may freely share.
- Then, reader, if you will, go freely there to live,
- Evert Nieuwenhof.
Where New-Netherlands is situated
This country is situated in the New American World, beginning north of the Equinoctial Line, 38 deg. and 53 min., extending north-easterly along the sea-coast, to the 42d deg., and is named New-Netherlands, by the Netherlander, for reasons to be related hereafter; lying in the latitude of Sardinia and Corsica, in the Mediterranean Sea, and of Spain and France along the Ocean; the South River corresponding exactly with the Flemish Islands, with the rivers of Lisbon, with the south point of the Island of Sardinia, and of the Punctum Meridionale of the Orientals, reckoning an easterly course from the Canary Islands by west, upon the 316th degree, or counting due west 44 degrees from the Punctum Meridonale, whereon we hold the Canary Islands, being 660 miles, corresponding with Cape Mesuratta on the Barbary coast in Africa, in the kingdom of Tripoli, and with Cape Spartivento, being the uttermost corner of Italy against the Mediterranean Sea. New-Netherlands is a fine, acceptable, healthy, extensive and agreeable country, wherein all people can more easily gain a competent support, than in the Netherlands, or in any other quarter of the globe, which is known to me or which I have visited.
When, and by whom, New-Netherlands was first discovered
This country was first found and discovered in the year of our Lord 1609; when, at the cost of the incorporated East India Company, a ship named the Half-Moon was fitted out to discover a westerly passage to the kingdom of China. This ship was commanded by Hendrick Hudson, as captain and supercargo, who was an Englishman by birth, and had resided many years in Holland, during which he had been in the employment of the East India Company. This ship sailed from the Canary Islands, steering a course north by west; and after sailing twenty days with good speed, land was discovered, which, by their calculation, lay 320 degrees by west. On approaching the land, and observing the coast and shore convenient, they landed, and examined the country as well as they could at the time, and as opportunity offered; from which they were well satisfied that no Christian people had ever been there before, and that they were the first who by Providence had been guided to the discovery of the country.
Why this country is called New Netherlands
We have before related, that the Netherlanders, in the year; 1609, had first discovered this country, of which they took possession as their own in right of their discovery, and finding the country fruitful and advantageously situated, possessing good and safe havens, rivers, fisheries, and many other worthy appurtenances corresponding with the Netherlands, or in truth excelling the same; for this good reason it was named New Netherlands, being as much as to say, another or a new-found Netherlands. Still the name depended most upon the first discovery, and upon the corresponding temperatures of the climates of the two countries, which to strangers is not so observable. We notice also that the French in the same quarter of the new world, have named their territory Canada or Nova Francia, only because they were the first Europeans who possessed the lands in those parts, for the temperature of the climate is so cold and wintry, that the snow commonly lies on the earth four or five months in succession and from four to five feet deep, which renders it costly to keep domestic animals there; and although this country lies no farther than fifty degrees north, still the air in winter is so fine, clear and sharp there, that when the snow once falls, which it commonly does about the first of December, it does not thaw away except by the power of the sun in April: If a shower of rain happens to fell in winter, (which is seldom,) then it forms a hard crust on the surface of the snow, that renders the travelling difficult for man and beast. The air there is clear and dry, and the snow seldom melts or thaws away suddenly.
The Swedes also have a possession on the south (Delaware) river, which they name New-Sweden, The climate of this place by no means corresponds with that of Sweden, as it lies in latitude 39 degrees north. But, although they have formed a settlement there, still their title is disputed, for they can show no legal right or claim to their possessions.
The country having been first found or discovered by the Netherlanders, and keeping in view the discovery of the same, it is named the New-Netherlands. That this country was first found or discovered by the Netherlanders, is evident and clear from the fact, that the Indians or natives of the land, many of whom are still living, and with whom I have conversed, declare freely, that before the arrival of the Lowland ship, the Half-Moon, in the year 1609, they (the natives) did not know that there were any other people in the world than those who were like themselves, much less any people who differed so much in appearance from them as we did. Their men on the breasts and about the mouth were bare, and their women like ours, hairy; going unclad and almost naked, particularly in summer, while we are always clothed and covered. When some of them first saw our ship approaching at a distance, they did not know what to think about her, but stood in deep and solemn amazement, wondering whether it were a ghost or apparition, coming down from heaven, or from hell. Others of them supposed her to be a strange fish or sea monster. When they discovered men on board, they supposed them to be more like devils than human beings. Thus they differed about the ship and men. A strange report was also spread about the country concerning our ship and visit, which created great astonishment and surprise amongst the Indians. These things we have frequently heard them declare, which we hold as certain proof that the Netherlanders were the first finders or discoverers and possessors of the New-Netherlands. There are Indians in the country, who remember a hundred years, and if there had been any other people herd before us, they would have known something of them, and if they had not seen them themselves, they would have heard an account of them from others. There are persons who believe that the Spaniards have been here many years ago, when they found the climate too cold to their liking, and again left the country; and that the maize or Turkish corn, and beans found among the Indians, were left with them by the Spaniards. This opinion or belief is improbable, as we can discover nothing of the kind from the Indians. They say that their corn and beans were received from the southern Indians, who received their seed from a people who resided still farther south, which may well be true, as the Castilians have long since resided in Florida. The maize may have been among the Indians in the warm climate long ago; however, our Indians say that they did eat roots and the bark of trees instead of bread, before the introduction of Indian corn or maize.
Of the limits of the New-Netherlands, and how far the same extend.
New-Netherlands is bounded by the ocean or great sea, which separates Europe from America, by New-England and the Fresh (Connecticut) river, in part by the river of Canada, (the St. Lawrence,) and by Virginia. Some persons who are not well informed, name all North-America Virginia, because Virginia from her tobacco trade is well known. These circumstances, therefore, will be observed as we progress, as admonitions to the readers. The coast of New-Netherlands extends and stretches mostly north-east and south-west. The sea-shore is mostly formed of pure sand, having a dry beach. On the south side, the country is bounded by Virginia. Those boundaries are not yet well defined, but in the progress of the settlement of the country, the same will be determined without difficulty. On the north-east the New-Netherlands abut upon New-England, where there are differences on the subject of boundaries which we wish were well settled. On the north, the river of Canada stretches a considerable distance, but to the north-west it is still undefined and unknown. Many of our Netherlanders have been far into the country, more than seventy or eighty miles from the river and sea-shore. We also frequently trade with the Indians, who come more than ten and twenty days' journey from the interior, and who have been farther off to catch beavers, and they know of no limits to the country, and when spoken to on the subject, they deem such enquiries to be strange and singular. Therefore we may safely say, that we know not how deep, or how far we extend inland. There are however many signs, which indicate a great extent of country, such as the land winds, which domineer much, with severe cold, the multitudes of beavers, and land animals which are taken, and the great numbers of water-fowl, which fly to and fro, across the country in the spring and fall-seasons. From these circumstances we judge that the land extends several hundred miles into the interior; therefore the extent and greatness of this province are still unknown.
Of the forelands and sea-havens
The coast of New-Netherlands extends south-west and northeast, as before mentioned, and is mostly clean and sandy, drying naturally; and although the bare, bleak and open sea breaks on the beach, still there is good anchorage in almost everyplace, because of the clean, sandy bottom. There seldom are severe gales from the sea, except from the south-east, with the spring tides. When the winds blow from the north-west, which domineer the strongest, then there is an upper or windward shore, with smooth water and little danger. For those reasons, the coast is as convenient to approach at all seasons, as could be desired. The highlands, which are naturally dry, may be seen far at sea, and give timely warning.
The forelands are generally double, and in some places broken into islands, (affording convenient situations for the keeping of stock,) which would lead seamen to suppose, on approaching the shore, that the same were the main land, when the same are islands and forelands, within which lie large meadows, bays, and creeks, affording convenient navigable passages, and communications between places.
It has pleased God to protect against the raging sea those parts of the coast which have no double foreland, with natural barriers of firm, strong, and secure stone foundations, that preserve the coast from the inundations of the mighty ocean, (which are ever to be feared,) where the coast, if not thus protected, might be lessened and destroyed; particularly the nearest sea lands, against which the sea acts with most violence. Nature has secured those positions with firm, high, and accommodated rocky heads and cliffs, which are as perfect formations, as the arts and hands of man, with great expense, could make the same.
There are many and different sea havens in the New-Netherlands, a particular description of which would form a work larger than we design this to be; we will therefore briefly notice this subject, and leave the same for the consideration of mariners and seamen. Beginning at the south and terminting at Long Island, first comes Godyn's bay, or the South (Delaware) bay, which was the first discovered. This bay lies in 39 degrees north latitude, being six (Dutch) miles wide and nine miles long, and having several banks or shoals, but still possessing many advantages; convenient and safe anchorages for ships, with roomy and safe harbours. Here also is a good whale fishery. Whales are numerous in the winter on the coast, and in the bay, where they frequently ground on the shoals and bars; but they are not as fat as the Greenland whales. If, however, the fishery was well-managed, it would be profitable. After ascending the bay nine miles, it is terminated in a river, which we name the South river, to which we will again refer hereafter, and pass on to the bay, wherein the East and North rivers terminate, and wherein Staten Island lies; because the same is most frequented, and the country is most populous, and because the greatest negotiations in trade are carried on there; and also because it is situated in the centre of the New-Netherlands. Hence it is named quasi per excellentiam, "The Bay." But before we speak more at large of this place, we will attend to the places, and their advantages, which lie between this bay and the South bay.
Between those two bays, the coast, almost the whole distance, has double forelands, with many islands, which in some places lie two or three deep. Those forelands as well as the islands, are well situated for seaboard towns, and all kind of fisheries, and also for the cultivation of grain, vineyards, and gardening, and the keeping of stock, for which purposes the land is tolerably good. Those lands are now mostly overgrown with different kinds of trees and grape-vines; having many plums, hazel-nuts and strawberries, and much grass. The waters abound with oysters, having many convenient banks and beds where they may be taken.
Besides the many islands which lie between the aforesaid bays, many of which are highland, there are also several fine bays and inland waters, which form good sea harbours for those who are acquainted with the inlets and entrances to the same, which at present are not much used; particularly the Bear-gat, Great and Little Egg Harbours, Barnegat, &c, wherein the anchorages are safe and secure. But as New-Netherlands is not yet well peopled, and as there are but few Christians settled at those places, these harbours are seldom used, unless the winds and weather render it necessary for safety.
The before-mentioned bay, wherein Staten Island lies, is the most famous, because the East and North rivers empty therein, which are two fine rivers, and will be further noticed hereafter. Besides those, there are several kills, inlets, and creeks, some of which resemble small rivers, as the Raritan, Kill van Col, Neuversinck, &c. Moreover, the said bay affords a safe and convenient haven from all winds, wherein a thousand ships may ride in safety inland. The entrance into the bay is reasonably wide or roomy, without much danger, and easily found by those who have entered the same, or are well instructed. We can also easily, if the wind and tide suit, in one tide sail and proceed from the sea to New-Amsterdam, (which lies five miles from the open sea,) with the largest ships fully laden; and in like manner proceed from New-Amsterdam to sea. But the outward bound vessels usually stop at the watering-place under Staten Island, to lay in a sufficient supply of wood and water, which are easily obtained at that place. We also frequently stop far in the bay behind Sand Point (Sandy Hook) in waiting for the last passengers and letters, and to avail ourselves of the wind and tide.
Along the seacoast of Long Island, there are also several safe, commodious inlets for small vessels, which are not much frequented by us. There also are many spacious inland bays, from which, by the inlets, (at full tide,) the sea is easy of access; otherwise those are too shallow. The same also are not much frequented by us. With population several of the places would become important, which now, for brevity's sake, we pass over.
Between Long Island and the main land, there are throughout many safe and convenient places for large and small vessels; which may be occupied, if necessary. For in connection with the whole river which is held by many to be a bay, there are in the main land and in the island opposite to the same, many safe bays, harbours, and creeks, which are but little known to us, and which the English, by their devices have appropriated. Although this subject is spoken of in the remonstrances of the New-Netherlands, we will pass over it without waking the sleepers, and attend briefly to the most important rivers, waters, and creeks.
Of the South River (Delaware River)
The right which the Netherlanders have to the South River, and how they acquired their right, has been sufficiently shown already, which it is unnecessary to recapitulate at length again. This is the first place of which the men of the Half Moon took possession, before any Christian had been there. There we have built our forts, commenced agriculture, and have driven trade many years in succession, without the intervention or molestation of any persons; until by wrong measures (which we design to notice) a small band of Holland-Swedes set themselves down along the river. We acknowledge freely that we are unable fully to describe the value and the advantages which this river possesses, for in addition to the negotiation and trade, which are great, and not to be despised, there are fourteen navigable rivers, creeks, and streams which fall into this river. Some of the same are large and boatable a great distance, and may well be named rivers, as the ordinary tides flow several miles up the same, where the waters meet and are fresh, and still remain wide and tolerably deep. There are also many streams presenting rich and extensive valleys, which afford good situations for villages and towns. The river itself is roomy, wide, clean, clear and deep, not foul or stony, with good settings and anchorage. The tides are strong and flow up near to the falls. The land is fine and level on both sides, not too high, but above the floods and freshets, except some reed-land and marshes. Above the falls the river divides into two large boatable streams, which run far inland, to places unknown to us. There are several fine islands in this river, with many other delightful advantages and conditions, which are estimated by those who have examined the river, and who have seen much of the world, not to be surpassed by any other river which is known. Equalling in many respects the celebrated river of the Amazons, although not in greatness, yet in advantages with which this river and the neighbouring land is favoured, we would regret to lose such a jewel by the devices and hands of a few strangers.
Of the North River
We have before noticed the name of this river, with the population and advantages of the country; and, inasmuch as a particular and ample account of the same is preparing for publication, we will at once say, that this river is the most famous, and the country the most populous of any in the New-Netherlands. There are also several colonies settled, besides the city of New-Amsterdam, on the island of Manhattan, where the most of the trade of this river centres. The river carries flood tides forty miles up the same. Several fine creeks empty into this river, such as the Great and Small Esopus kills, Kats kill, Sleepy Haven kill, Colondonck's kill or Saw kill, Wappincke's kill, &c. We can also pass from the North river behind Manhattan island by the East river, without approaching New-Amsterdam. This river still remains altogether in the possession and jurisdiction of the Netherlander, without being invaded; but if the population did not increase and advance, there would be great danger of its long continuation. This river is rich in fishes: sturgeon, dunns, bass, sheep-heads, &c. I cannot refrain, although somewhat out of place, to relate a very singular occurrence, which happened in the month of March, 1647, at the time of a great freshet caused by the fresh water flowing down from above, by which the water of the river became nearly fresh to the bay, when at ordinary seasons the salt water flows up from twenty to twenty-four miles from the sea. At this season, two whales, of common size, swam up the river forty miles, from which place one of them returned and stranded about twelve miles from the sea, near which place four others also stranded the same year. The other run farther up the river and grounded near the great Chahoos falls, about forty-three miles from the sea. This fish was tolerably fat, for although the citizens of Rensselaerwyck broiled out a great quantity of train oil, still the whole river (the current being still rapid) was oily for three weeks, and covered with grease. As the fish lay rotting, the air was infected with its stench to such a degree that the smell was offensive and perceptible for two miles to leeward. For what purpose those whales ascended the river so far, it being at the time full forty miles from all salt or brackish water, it is difficult to say, unless their great desire for fish, which were plenty at this season, led them onward.
Forty-four miles from the sea this North river is divided. One part by four sprouts ascends to the great falls of the Maquas kill, which is named the Chahoos, of which we will treat presently. The other part which retains the name of the North river, is navigable for boats several miles farther, and, according to the information of the Indians, rises in a great lake, from which the river of Canada also proceeds. This should be the lake of the Iracoysen (lake Ontario), which is as great as the Mediterranean sea, being about forty miles wide, when in the middle of the sea, no eye can see land or see over it. The lake also has extensive reed and brocklands of great breadth, wherein great multitudes of water-fowl breed in summer. When the Indians intend to cross this lake, they know certain islands which lie therein, and proceed from one to another by daylight, to the number of three or four, without which they could not find their way over the same. This, however, we relate on the information of the Indians. They also assert that we can proceed in boats to the river of Canada, which we deem incredible.
The other arm of the North river runs by four sprouts (as we have related) to the great falls of the Maquas kill (Mohawk river), which the Indians name the Chahoos, and our nation the Great Falls; above which the river is again several hundred yards wide, and the falls we estimate to be one hundred and fifty or two hundred feet high. The water glides over the falls as smooth as if it ran over an even wall and fell over the same. The precipice is formed of firm blue rock; near by and below the falls there stand several rocks, which appear splendid in the water, rising above it like high turf-heaps, apparently from eight, sixteen, to thirty feet high; very delightful to the eye. This place is well calculated to exalt the fancy of the poets. The ancient fabulous writers would, if they had been here, have exalted those works of nature, by the force of imagination, into the most artful and elegant descriptive illusions. The waters descend rapidly downwards from the falls, over a stony bottom, skipping, foaming and whirling boisterously about the distance of a gunshot or more; when it resumes an even course, and flows downwards. We name this the Maquas Kill, but still it is wider in most places than the Yssell of the Netherlands. It however always runs one way; is navigable for boats; being tolerably deep and not rapid; but it extends above sixty miles, and runs through the Maquas and Senecas countries to a lake, remaining boatable all the way. The river passes through fine land, and abounds with fish. The Indians, when they travel by water, and come to trade, usually come in canoes made of the bark of trees, which they know how to construct. When they come near the falls, they land, and carry their boats and their lading some distance below the falls, and proceed on their voyage; otherwise, they would be driven over the falls and destroyed. An occurrence of this kind took place here in our time. An Indian, whom I have known, accompanied by his wife and child, with sixty beaver skins, descended the river in his canoe, in the spring, when the water runs rapid and the current is strongest, for the purpose of selling his beaver to the Netherlanders. This Indian carelessly approached too near to the falls, before he discovered his danger, and notwithstanding his utmost exertion to gain the land, his frail bark with all on board was swept over by the rapid current and down the falls; his wife and child were killed, his bark-shattered to pieces, his cargo of furs damaged. But his life was preserved. I have frequently seen the Indian, and have heard him relate the perilous occurrence or adventure.
Of the Fresh River (Connecticut river)
This river is called the Fresh river, because it affords more fresh water than many other rivers. It has advantageous navigable situations. It also has finely situated land, and the country affords a tolerably good fur trade. But as this river with its advantages is mostly in the occupancy of the English nation, to the injury and disadvantage of the Hon. the West India Company, which they continue to occupy, whereby the Company is injured every year. It will be painful to us to recapitulate the subject, as the same is stated in the remonstrance of the New-Netherlanders; where we leave the matter and pass to the East river.
Of the East River
This river is thus named, because it extends eastward from the city of New-Amsterdam. By some this river is held to be an arm of the sea, or a bay, because it is very wide in some places, and because both ends of the same are connected with, and empty into the ocean. This subtility notwithstanding, we adopt the common opinion and hold it to be a river. Be it then a river or a bay, as men may please to name it, still it is one of the best, most fit and most convenient places and most advantageous accommodations, which a country can possess or desire, for the following reasons: - Long Island, which is about forty miles in length, makes this river. The river, and most of the creeks, bays and inlets joining the same, are navigable in winter and in summer without much danger. This river also affords a safe and convenient passage at all seasons to those who desire to sail east or west; and the same is most used, because the outside passage is more dangerous. Most of the English (of New-England) who wish to go south to Virginia, to South river, or to other southern places, pass through this river, which brings no small traffic and advantage to the city of New-Amsterdam. This also causes the English to frequent our harbours, to which they are invited for safety. Lastly, this river is famous on account of its convenient bays, inlets, havens, rivers, and creeks, on both sides, to wit, on the side of Long Island and on the side of the fast or main land. In the Netherlands, no such place is known. Of this and the other rivers of New-Netherlands, enough has been said, in our opinion, for this time and for our purpose.
Of the several Waters, and their Diversity
In this place we will briefly notice the waters, before we notice other matters. In general, we say, to describe per species would take too long, and draw us from our original plan. We find in New-Netherlands many fine waters, kills, brooks and streams which are navigable, large and roomy, as well on the sea-board as far inland; also many runs of water, sprouts, stream-kills and brooks having many fine falls, which are suitable for every kind of milling work. Inland, there are also several standing waters and lakes, as large as small seas, also large rivers abounding with fish. The rivers have their origin in sprouts which flow from valleys, and in springs, which connected form beautiful streams. But inasmuch as a report has already been published of a principal part of the waters, near the sea, and of the rivers before mentioned, there still remain several which deserve the names of rivers. There are also several inland waters; some are large, and others of less dimensions, which mostly lie near the sea-shores south of the North River; many of which are navigable and roomy kills and creeks suitable for inland navigation; and those by the industry of man are susceptible of great betterments and improvements, as may be seen by the chart of the New-Netherlands. There also are, as before remarked, several falls, streams and running brooks, suitable for every kind of water-work for the convenience and advantage of man, together with numerous small streams and sprouts throughout the country, serving as arteries or veins to the body, running in almost every direction, and affording an abundance of pure living water. Those are not numerous near the sea-shore, where the water in some places is brackish, but still the same is of service, and is drank by the wild and domestic animals. Many of the springs run into the rivers, and thence into the sea. In addition to those, there are also many fine springs and veins of pure water inland and in places where no other water can be obtained, as upon the mountains, high elevated rocks and cliffs, where like veins the water flows out of fissures and pours down the cliffs and precipices, some of which are so remarkable that they are esteemed as great curiosities. Other streams rise in bushy woods, through which the summer sun never shines, which are much trodden by the wild beasts, and wherein the decayed leaves and rotting vegetation falls, all which tend to render the water foul. Those however in their course again become clear and wonderfully pure. Some of them possess the extraordinary quality of never freezing in the bitterest cold weather, when they smoke from their natural warmth, and any frozen article immersed in those waters thaws immediately. If the unclouded sun shone on those springs for whole days with summer heat, the water would still remain so cold that no person would bear to hold his hand in it for any length of time in the hottest weather. This peculiarity makes these waters agreeable to men and animals, as the water may be drank without danger; for however fatigued or heated a person may be who drinks of these waters, they do no injury in the hottest weather. The Indians, gunners, and other persons use those waters freely at all seasons, and I have never heard that any pleurisy or other disease had been caused by their use.
The Indians inform us that there are other waters in the country differing in taste from the common water, which are good for many ailments and diseases. As this is intimated by the Indians, therefore we do not place full confidence in the information, not knowing the facts; yet we deem the reports probable, because the land abounds in metals and minerals, through which spring veins may filter and partake of the mineral qualities, and retain the same.
It is a great convenience and ease to the citizens of New-Netherlands, that the country is not subject to great floods and inundations, for near the sea, or where the water ebbs and rises, there are no extraordinary floods. The tide usually rises and falls from five to six feet perpendicular, in some places more, in others less, as by winds and storms affected. The flood and ebb tides are strong but not rapid. Sometimes where the wind blows strong from the sea, at spring tides the water rises a foot or two higher than usual; but this is not common, hence, of little inconvenience. But, at the colony of Rensselaerwyck, Esopus, Catskill, and other places, from which the principal upper waters, flow, they are entirely fresh at those places. The lowlands are sometimes overflowed once or twice in a year when the wind and current are in opposition; but even then, they who guard against those occurrences in time suffer but little. Sometimes the water may wash out a little in places, but the land is manured by the sediment left by the water. Those floods do not stand long; as they rise quick, they also again fall off in two or three days.
Of the Formation, Soil, and Appearance of the Land
Having spoken of the waters, we will now treat of the land, with its natural, superficial appearance, beginning with the formations of the earth. Near and along the seashores, the soil is light and sandy, with a mixture of clay, which enriches the land. The productions are different kinds of wood, various fruits and vegetables. Barrens and sterile heath land are not here. The whole country has a waving surface, and in some places high hills and protruding mountains, particularly those named the Highlands, which is a place of high, connected mountain land, about three miles broad, extending in curved forms throughout the country; separated in some places, and then again connected. There also is much fine level land, intersected with brooks, affording pasturage of great length and breadth, but mostly along the rivers, and near the salt water side. Inland most of the country is waving, with hills which generally are not steep, but ascend gradually. We sometimes in travelling imperceptibly find ourselves on high elevated situations, from which we overlook large portions of the country. The neighbouring eminence, the surrounding valleys and the highest trees are overlooked, and again lost in the distant space. Here our attention is arrested in the beautiful landscape around us, here the painter can find rare and beautiful subjects for the employment of his pencil, and here also the huntsman is animated when he views the enchanting prospects presented to the eyes; on the hills, at the brooks and in the valleys, where the game abounds and where the deer are feeding, or gamboling or resting in the shades in full view.
The surface of the land generally is composed of a black soil intermixed with clay, about a foot or a foot and a half deep, in some places more, and in some less; below, the stratum is white, reddish and yellow clay, which in some places is mixed with sand, and in others with gravel and stones. Here and there, large rocks and stones appear on the surface. There are also hills of pure clay, but sand hills I have not seen, except near the seashore, which have been cast up or formed by the ocean. There also are very rocky places which our naturalists suppose abound in minerals. The mountains and highlands are in some places tillable and fertile, the soil being composed of clay intermixed with stone. Other parts are composed of rocks, of various colours, but all overgrown with wood, growing in the seams, rents, clefts, and ravines. Such are the aspects of the mountains, the hills and inland country. Near the rivers and water sides there are large extensive plains containing several hundred morgens; in one place more and in another less, which are very convenient for plantations, villages and towns. There also are brooklands and fresh and salt meadows; some so extensive that the eye cannot oversee the same. Those are good for pasturage and hay, although the same are overflowed by the spring tides, particularly near the seaboard. These meadows resemble the low and outlands of the Netherlands. Most of them could be dyked and cultivated. We also find meadow grounds far inland, which are all fresh and make good hayland. Where the meadows are boggy and wet, such failings are easily remedied by cutting and breaking the bogs in winter and letting off the water in the spring. There also would be much more meadow ground, but as the soil is natural for wood, and as the birds and the winds carry the seeds in every direction; hence, those moist, low grounds are covered with timber and underwoods which we call cripple bushes. The situations are curious to behold where those lands are cleared and cultivated. They are wonderfully fertile, which in short, is the general quality of such land, and of most of the places we have noticed. Thus we tender to the kind reader the fruitfulness of this land, subject to his own judgment. I admit that I am incompetent to describe the beauties, the grand and sublime works, wherewith Providence has diversified this land. Our opinions are formed by the eye alone, therefore we cannot do justice, and give assurance to the heart.
Of the wood, the natural productions and fruits of the land
The New-Netherlands, with other matters, is very fruitful, and fortunate in its fine woods; so much so, that the whole country is covered with wood, and in our manner of speaking, there is all too much of it, and in our way. Still it comes to hand to build vessels and houses, and to enclose the farms &c. The oak trees are very large; from sixty to seventy feet high without knots, and from two to three fathoms thick, being of various sizes. There are several kinds of oak, such as white, smooth bark, rough bark, grey bark and black bark. It is all durable wood, being as good as the oak of the Rhine or the Weser when properly worked, according to the opinion of our woodcutters, who are judges of timber and are sawyers. The nut-wood grows as tall as the oak, but not so heavy. It is probable that this kind of wood will be useful for many purposes, it grows straight and is tough and hard. We now use it for cogs and rounds in our mills and for threshing-flails, swivel-trees and other farming purposes. It also is excellent firewood, surpassing every other kind, and setting at naught our old adage, "The man is yet to come, who can find better wood to burn than oak." This wood is far better as well for heat as duration. It possesses a peculiar sap, which causes it to burn freely, whether green or dry. If we draw it up out of the fresh water where it has lain a long time, still, on account of its hardness, it is even then uncommonly durable on the fire. We all agree, that no turf, or other common fuel is equal to nut-wood. When it is dry, it keeps fire and sparkles like matches. Our women prefer nut-coals to turf for their stoves, because they last longer, and are not buried in ashes. This kind of wood is found all over the New-Netherlands in such abundance, that it cannot become scarce in the first hundred years with an increased population. There also is oak and ash enough to supply its place for many purposes. The land also is so natural to produce wood, that in a few years large trees will be grown, which I can say with certainty from my own observation; and that unless there be natural changes or great improvidence, there can be no scarcity of wood in this country.
It has happened when I have been out with the natives, (Wilden, for so we name those who are not born of Christian parents,) that we have come to a piece of young woodland. When I have told them, in conversation, that they would do well to clear off such land, because it would bear good corn, that they said, "it is but twenty years since we planted corn there, and now it is woods again." I asked them severally if it were true, when they all answered in the affirmative. This relation was also corroborated by others. To return to the subject: this woodland was composed of oak, nut and other kinds of wood, but principally of oak and nut; and there were several trees in the same which were a fathom in circumference. The wood was so closely grown that it was difficult to pass through it on horseback. As the wood appeared young and thrifty, I give credit to the relation of the natives. I have also observed that the youngest woodlands are always covered closest with wood, and where the growth is small, the woods are so thick as to render walking through the same difficult. But where the woods are old, the timber is large and heavy, whereby the underwood is shaded, which causes it to die and perish.
The Indians have a yearly custom (which some of our Christians have also adopted) of burning the woods, plains and meadows in the fall of the year, when the leaves have fallen, and when the grass and vegetable substances are dry. Those places which are then passed over are fired in the spring in April. This practice is named by us and the Indians, "bush burning," which is done for several reasons; first, to render hunting easier, as the bush and vegetable growth renders the walking difficult for the hunter, and the crackling of the dry substances betrays him and frightens away the game. Secondly, to thin out and clear the woods of all dead substances and grass, which grow better the ensuing spring. Thirdly, to circumscribe and enclose the game within the lines of the fire, when it is more easily taken, and also, because the game is more easily tracked over the burned parts of the woods.
The bush burning presents a grand and sublime appearance. On seeing it from without, we would imagine that not only the dry leaves, vegetables and limbs would be burnt, but that the whole woods would be consumed where the fire passes, for it frequently spreads and rages with such violence, that it is awful to behold; and when the fire approaches houses, gardens, and wooden enclosures, then great care and vigilance are necessary for their preservation, for I have seen several houses which have recently been destroyed, before the owners were apprized of their danger.
Notwithstanding the apparent danger of the entire destruction of the woodlands by the burning, still the green trees do not suffer. The outside bark is scorched three or four feet high, which does them no injury, for the trees are not killed. It however sometimes happens that in the thick pine woods, wherein the fallen trees lie across each other, and have become dry, that the blaze ascends and strikes the tops of the trees, setting the same on fire, which is immediately increased by the resinous knots and leaves, which promote the blaze, and is passed by the wind from tree to tree, by which the entire tops of the trees are sometimes burnt off, while the bodies remain standing. Frequently great injuries are done by such fires, but the burning down of entire woods never happens. I have seen many instances of wood-burning in the colony of Rensselaerwyck, where there is much pine wood. Those fires appear grand at night from the passing vessels in the river, when the woods are burning on both sides of the same. Then we can see a great distance by the light of the blazing trees, the flames being driven by the wind, and fed by the tops of the trees. But the dead and dying trees remain burning in their standing positions, which appear sublime and beautiful when seen at a distance.
Hence it will appear that there actually is such an abundance of wood in the New-Netherlands, that, with ordinary care, it will never be scarce there. There always are, however, in every country, some people so improvident, that even they may come short here, and for this reason we judge that it should not be destroyed needlessly. There, however, is such an abundance of wood, that they who cultivate the land for planting and sowing can do nothing better than destroy it, and thus clear off the land for tillage, which is done by cutting down the trees and collecting the wood into great heaps and burning the same, to get it out of their way. Yellow and white pine timber, in all their varieties, is abundant here, and we have heard the Northerners say (who reside here) that the pine is as good here as the pine of Norway. But the pine does not grow as well near the salt water, except in some places. Inland, however, and high up the rivers, it grows in large forests, and it is abundant, and heavy enough for masts and spars for ships. There also are chestnuts here, like those of the Netherlands, which are spread over the woods. Chestnuts would be plentier if it were not for the Indians, who destroy the trees by stripping off the bark for covering for their houses. They, and the Netherlanders also, cut down the trees in the chestnut season, and cut off the limbs to gather the nuts, which also lessens the trees. We also find several kinds of beech trees, but those bear very little. Amongst the other trees, the water-beeches grow very large along the brooks, heavier and larger than most of the trees of the country. When those trees begin to bud, then the bark becomes a beautiful white, resembling the handsomest satin. This tree retains the leaves later than any other tree of the woods. Trees of this kind are considered more ornamental and handsomer than the linden trees for the purpose of planting near dwelling-houses. We can give no comparison with this species of trees, and can give the same no better name to make the wood known. There also is wild ash, some trees large; and maple trees, the wood resembling cedar; white-wood trees, which grow very large, the Indians frequently make their canoes of this wood, hence we name it Canoe-wood; we use it for flooring, because it is bright and free of knots. There are also two kinds of ash, with linden, birch, yew, poplar, sapine, alder, willow, thorn trees, sassafras, persimmon, mulberry, wild cherry, crab, and several other kinds of wood, the names of which are unknown to us, but the wood is suitable for a variety of purposes. Some of the trees bear fruit. The oak trees in alternate years bear many acorns of the chestnut species. The nuts grow about as large as our persimmons, but they are not as good as ours. The mulberries are better and sweeter than ours, and ripen earlier. Several kinds of plums, wild or small cherries, juniper, small kinds of apples, many hazel-nuts, black currants, gooseberries, blue India figs, and strawberries in abundance all over the country, some of which ripen at half May, and we have them until July; blueberries, raspberries, black-caps, &c, with artichokes, ground-acorns, ground beans, wild onions, and leeks like ours, with several other kinds of roots and fruits, known to the Indians, who use the same which are disregarded by the Netherlanders, because they have introduced every kind of garden vegetables, which thrive and yield well. The country also produces an abundance of fruits like the Spanish capers, which could be preserved in like manner.
Of the Fruit Trees brought over from the Netherlands
The Netherland settlers, who are lovers of fruit, on observing that the climate was suitable to the production of fruit trees, have brought over and planted various kinds of apple and pear trees, which thrive well. Those also grow from the seeds, of which I have seen many, which, without grafting, bore delicious fruit in the sixth year. The stocks may also be grafted when the same are as large as thorns, which, being cut off near the root and grafted, are then set into the ground, when the graft also strikes root: otherwise the fruit is somewhat hard. But in general, grafting is not as necessary here as in the Netherlands, for most of the fruit is good without it, which there would be harsh and sour, or would not bear. The English have brought over the first quinces, and we have also brought over stocks and seeds which thrive well. Orchard cherries thrive well and produce large fruit. Spanish cherries, forerunners, morellaes, of every kind we have, as in the Netherlands; and the trees bear better, because the blossoms are not injured by the frosts. The peaches, which are sought after in the Netherlands, grow wonderfully well here. If a stone is put into the earth, it will spring in the same season, and grow so rapidly as to bear fruit in the fourth year, and the limbs are frequently broken by the weight of the peaches, which usually are very fine. We have also introduced morecotoons (a kind of peach,) apricots, several sorts of the best plums, almonds, persimmons, cornelian cherries, figs, several sorts of currants, gooseberries, calissiens, and thorn apples; and we do not doubt but that the olive would thrive and be profitable, but we have them not. Although the land is full of many kinds of grapes, we still want settings of the best kinds from Germany, for the purpose of enabling our wine planters here to select the best kinds, and to propagate the same. In short, every kind of fruit which grows in the Netherlands is plenty already in the New-Netherlands, which have been introduced by the lovers of agriculture, and the fruits thrive better here, particularly such kinds as require a warmer climate.
Of the Grape Vines and Vineyards
It will not readily be credited how numerous the vine stocks are in the New-Netherlands, where they grow wild throughout the country. We do not find a district or a nook of land without grape vines. Many grow in the open fields; many in the woods under the wild trees; many along the rivers and the brooks; many along the hills and at the foot of the mountains, and run up the trees; some run over the scrubby bushes, some over the brush and weeds, some over the grass and ground, so that we are frequently, on horseback and on foot, entangled in the vines, and are extricated with difficulty and with loss of time. The vines which run up the trees bear grapes, but not many except in some years, when they bear everywhere in great abundance, and then it is gratifying and wonderful to see these natural productions, and to observe such excellent and lovely fruit growing wild; and very little attention is paid to the same. The country when the vines are in bloom, is perfumed with the lovely fragrance of the blossoms, and it is delightful to travel at this season of the year, It is a pitiful sight to see the grape vines run up the trees, over the bushes, and hidden among the weeds, neglected, untrimmed, and uncultivated, where the roots never feel the sun, by reason of which, the grapes do not ripen in the proper season. This, however, is true. Many of the vines extend to the tops of the trees, and to the outer branches, where they are hidden and covered by the leaves, and never nourished by the rays of the sun, which causes the fruit to be sour, harsh, fleshy and strong, which with proper attention would be good. As a proof of this subject, we find that the vines which run up the dead and dry trees, (from which the bark has been stripped by the Indians, to cover their dwellings,) and are of course exposed to the sun, bear sweeter and earlier grapes than ordinary. The like also occurs where the vines run along the brooks in a southern exposure, where the sun shines direct on the vine. I, with others, have seen this difference, and in such situations have found, gathered, and eaten, delicious ripe grapes in the middle of August. For the grapes to ripen thus early is not common; but we may infer, and it is our opinion, that the fruit would be much earlier, if the vines were dressed, trimmed, and manured, than it now is, but this is never done to the wild vines. That the wild vines, with proper care and management, will produce as good grapes and as good wine as is made in Germany and France, is clear and undeniable. Proofs and examples of this fact are seen at the South river, where the Swedes reside, who have laid down vines from which others have sprung, which they name suckers, from which they make delightful wine year after year. The grapes and their juice are not all of one kind or colour. They have blue grapes, of different shades; others are reddish, and others entirely white, like the Muscatels; hence the colour of the wine is also different. The grapes and the clusters are also of different sizes. The white and the reddish grapes grow as large as the Netherland Muscatels. Of the blue grapes, some are large, and others small; the largest are commonly fleshy, and are therefore called pork grapes by the citizens. But those who have a proper knowledge of vineyards say, that discreet cultivation will remove this objection, and that the juice of the grape may be as good as in other places. Some of the native wine is white; some is also reddish; another kind is as dark as the wine Française, but this kind is only made from the blue grapes, and to my knowledge from no others. They press a juice out of the blue grapes, which runs thick and is of a dark red colour, resembling dragon's blood more than wine; a small glass of this wine will colour a can of water as deep red as the common red wine in Spain.
Our Netherlanders are unaccustomed to the management of vineyards, and have not given much attention to the cultivation of the vine. Some of them have occasionally planted vines, but they have never treated them properly, and for this reason they have derived very little profit from their labour. I have, however, frequently drank good and well tasted domestic wine, and remark, that the fault is in the people, not in the grapes. Within the last few years, the lovers of the vineyard have paid more attention to the cultivation of the vine, and have informed themselves on the subject. They have also introduced foreign stocks, and they have induced men to come over from Heidelberg who are vine dressers, for the purpose of attending to the vineyards; and to remedy every defect in the management of the grape, men are also coming over, who posses the most perfect skill in the planting and management of vineyards.
At this time, they have commenced the planting in good earnest, and with proper care. Several persons already have vineyards and wine hills under cultivation, and Providence blesses their labours with success, by affording fruit according to the most favourable expectation. Hereafter, from year to year, the cultivation of the vine will increase; for every one takes hold of the business one man learns from another and as the population increases rapidly, it is expected that in a few years there will be wine in abundance in the New-Netherlands.
Of the Flowers
The flowers in general which the Netherlanders have introduced there, are the white and red roses of different kinds, the cornelian roses, and stock roses; and those of which there were none before in the country, such as eglantine, several kinds of gillyflowers, jenoffelins, different varieties of fine tulips, crown imperials, white lilies, the lily frutularia, anemones, baredames, violets, marigolds, summer sots, &c. The clove tree has also been introduced; and there are various indigenous trees that bear handsome flowers, which are unknown in the Netherlands. We also find there some flowers of native growth, as for instance, sun flowers, red and yellow lilies, mountain, lilies, morning stars, red, white, and yellow maritoffles, (a very sweet flower,) several species of bell flowers, &c.; to which I have not given particular attention, but amateurs would hold them in high estimation, and make them widely known.
Of the Healing Herbs, and the Indigo
No reasonable person will doubt that there are not many medicinal and healing plants in the New-Netherlands. A certain chirurgeon who was also a botanist, had a beautiful garden there, wherein a great variety of medicinal wild plants were collected, but the owner has removed and the garden lies neglected. Because sickness does not prevail much, I suppose the subject has received less attention. The plants which are known to us are the following, viz: Capilli veneris, scholopendria, angelica, polypodium, verbascum album, calteus sacerdotis, atriplex hortensis and marina, chortium, turrites, calamus aromaticus, sassafras, rois Virginianum, ranunculus, plantago, bursa pastoris, malva, origænum, geranicum, althea, cinoroton pseudo, daphine, viola, ireas, indigo silvestris, sigillum salamonis, sanguis draconum, consolidæ, millefolium, noli me tangere, cardo benedictus, agrimonium, serpentariæ, coriander, leeks, wild leeks, Spanish figs, elatine, camperfolie, petum male and female, and many other plants. The land is full of different kinds of herbs and trees besides those enumerated, among which there undoubtedly are good simplicia, with which discreet persons would do much good; for we know that the Indians with roots, bulbs, leaves, &c. cure dangerous wounds and old sores, of which we have seen many instances, which, for the sake of brevity, we pass by.
The Indigo silvestris grows naturally, without the attention of any man, and there is no doubt but that with proper care and attention, much profit might be derived from its cultivation. We have seen proofs of this, in the colony of Rensselaerwyck, where Kilian V an Rensselaer, (who always has been a zealous lover of the New-Netherlands,) sent seed, which was sown late on Bear Island, which has not above a foot of soil above the rock, and where no grass would grow well. The seed came up fine, but the dry summer turned the crop yellow, and dried the plants. We however saw, that if the seed had been sown in season, in a proper place, the result would have been good. Afterwards a certain citizen named Augustin Heerman, who is a curious man, and a lover of the country, made an experiment near New-Amsterdam, where he planted indigo seed, which grew well and yielded much. Samples of this indigo were sent over to the Netherlands, which were found to be better than common. Ridge planting has not been tried, but as the land is rich and strong, there is no doubt of success when the experiment is made. Mr. Minuit writes that he has sown Canary seed, and that it grew and yielded well; but he adds, that the country is new, and in a state of beginning, and that the time of the cultivators should not be spent on such experiments, but to the raising of the necessaries of life; for which, God be praised, there is plenty and to spare, for a reasonable price. And we begin to supply provisions and drink in common with our Virginia neighbours to the West Indies and the Caribbee Islands, which we expect will increase from year to year, and in time become a fine trade, in connexion with our Netherlands and Brazil commerce.
Of the Agricultural Productions
The pursuit of agriculture is not heavy and expensive there, as it is in the Netherlands. First, because the fencing and enclosing of the land does not cost much; for instead of the Netherlands dykes and ditches, they set up post and rail, or palisado fences, and when new clearings are made, they commonly have fencing timber enough on the land to remove, which costs nothing but the labour, which is reasonably cheap to those who have their own hands, and without domestic labour very little can be effected. The land whereon there are few standing trees, and which has been grubbed and ploughed twice, we hold to be prepared for a crop of winter grain. For summer grain one ploughing is sufficient, If it is intended to sow the same field again with winter grain, then the stubble is ploughed in, and the land is sowed with wheat or rye, which in ordinary seasons will yield a fine crop.
I can affirm that during my residence of nine years in the country, I have never seen land manured, and it is seldom done. The land is kept in order by tillage, which is often done to keep down weeds and brush, but for which it would have rest. Some persons, (which I also hold to be good management,) when their land becomes foul and weedy, break it up and sow the same with peas, because a crop of peas softens the land and makes it clean; but most of the land is too rich for peas, which when sown on the same grow so rank that the crop falls and rots on the land. Some of the land must be reduced by cropping it with wheat and barley, before it is proper to sow the same with peas. We have frequently seen the straw of wheat and barley grow so luxuriant that the crops yielded very little grain.
I deem it worthy of notice, that with proper attention, in ordinary seasons, two ripe crops of peas can be raised on the same land in one season, in the New-Netherlands. It has frequently been done in the following manner, viz. The first crop was sown in the last of March or first of April, which will ripen about the first of July; the crop is then removed, and the land ploughed, and sowed again with peas of the first crop. The second crop will ripen in September, or about the first of October, when the weather is still, fine and warm. The same can also be done with buckwheat, which has frequently been proved; but the first crop is usually much injured by finches and other birds, and as wheat and rye are plenty, therefore there is very little buckwheat sown. The maize (Indian corn) is carefully attended to, and is sufficient to the wants of the country.
The Turkey wheat, or maize, as the grain is named, many persons suppose to be the same kind of grain which Jesse sent parched by his son David to his other sons of the army of Israel. This is a hardy grain, and is fit for the sustenance of man and animals. It is easily cultivated, and will grow in almost every kind of land, in the worst and strongest in the country, even in a foul and worn-out soil. It is a good crop to subdue new land, and to prepare it for other purposes. When the timber has been removed, and the brush burnt up, then we take a broad hoe, and cut out hills about six feet apart, and plant five or six grains in a hill, with which some persons also plant Turkey beans (as before noticed). After the grain shoots up and grows, it requires two dressings. The weeding and cleaning is done with a broad adze, without breaking up the ground, and is not very laborious work. The weeds and trash in the first dressing, are cut off and placed in a row between the hills. The second dressing is easier. Then the weeds and sprouts are cut off around the hills, and the weeds and rubbish of the first cleaning, are drawn round the corn-hills, which afterwards grow high and tall, and smother all the weeds, stumps, and trash, and kill all other vegetation except pumpkins; those will grow among the maize.
When the land has been treated as above described for one summer, it is fit for any other use; or it may be planted with maize again, which will then grow better than in the first year, and be easier kept clean, and with less labour. Tobacco may be planted on the land, or it may be ploughed and broken up for other purposes, which can then be easily done, because the roots are in a state of decay and easily broken up. After a corn crop is gathered, the land may be sowed with winter grain in the fall without previous ploughing. When this is intended, the corn is gathered, the stalks are pulled up and burnt, the hills levelled, and the land sown and harrowed smooth and level. Good crops are raised in this manner. I have seen rye sown as before described, which grew so tall that a man of common size would bind the ears together above his head, which yielded seven and eight schepels, Amsterdam measure, per vin of 108 sheaves, of which two vins made a wagon load.
The Rev. Johannis Megapolensis, Junior, minister of the colony of Rensselaerwyck, in certain letters which he has written to his friends, which were printed (as he has told me) without his consent, but may be fully credited, he being a man of truth and of great learning, who writes in a vigorous style, states, with other matters, that a certain farmer had cropped one field with wheat eleven years in succession, which to many persons will seem extraordinary, and may not be credited. Still it is true, and the residents of the place testify to the same, and they add, that this same land was ploughed but twelve times in the eleven seasons twice in the first year, and once in every succeeding year, when the stubble was ploughed in, the wheat sown and harrowed under. I owned land adjoining the land referred to, and have seen the eleventh crop, which was tolerably good. The man who did this is named Brandt Pelen; he was born in the district of Utrecht, and at the time was a magistrate (schepen) of the colony of Rensselaerwyck. We acknowledge that this relation appears to be marvellous, but in the country it is not so, for there are many thousand morgens of as good land there, as the land of which we have spoken.
During the period when I resided in the New Netherlands, a certain honorable gentleman, named John Everts Bout, (who was recommended to the colonists by their High Mightinesses, &c.) laid a wager that he could raise a crop of barley on a field containing seven morgens of land, which would grow so tall in every part of the field, that the ears could easily be tied together above his head. I went to see the field of barley, and found that the straw, land by land, was from six to seven feet high, and very little of it any shorter. It has also been stated to me as a fact, that barley has frequently been raised, although not common, which yielded eleven schepel, Amsterdam measure, per vin of 108 sheaves. Therefore, all persons who are acquainted with the New-Netherlands, judge the country to be as well adapted for the cultivation of grain, as any part of the world which is known to the Netherlanders, or is in their possession.
With the other productions of the land we must include tobacco, which is also cultivated in the country, and is, as well as the maize, well adapted to prepare the land for other agricultural purposes, which also, with proper attention, grows fine, and yields more profit. Not only myself but hundreds of others, have raised tobacco, the leaves of which were three-fourths of a yard long. The tobacco raised here is of different kind, but principally of the Virginia kind, from which it differs little in flavour, although the Virginia is the best. Still it does not differ so much in quality as in price. Next to the Virginia it will be the best; many persons esteem it better, and give it a preference. It is even probable, that when the people extend the cultivation of the article, and more tobacco is planted, that it will gain more reputation and esteem. Many persons are of opinion that the defect in flavour arises from the newness of the land, and hasty cultivation, which will gradually be removed.
Barley grows well in the country, but it is not much needed. Cummin seed, canary seed, and the like, have been tried, and Commander Minuit testifies that those articles succeed well, but are not sought after. Flax and hemp will grow fine, but as the women do not spin much, and the Indians have hemp in abundance in the woods from which they make strong ropes and nets, for these reasons very little flax is raised; but the persons who do sow the seed, find that the land is of the proper quality for such articles.
Of the Minerals, Earths, and Stones
To the persons who will please to notice the formation of the country of the New Netherlands, which is mostly elevated above the floods, and free from the overflowings of its upper waters; and that it is mountainous in many places, and that it is situated in a temperate climate, such persons will, on contemplation, readily conclude that the country possesses minerals; although the Netherlanders have not been at much cost or trouble to examine and search for mines and minerals, which has not happened so much from ignorance and negligence as may be imagined, but from other good considerations. The prevailing opinion of the common people has been, that the country abounds in minerals; and it is true and certain that it possesses many valuable minerals, including gold and other precious metals. But such must be sought for by men of science. It cannot be done by the common people, which our rulers have had no disposition to encourage; while, on the other hand, the common citizens have other employments.
Considering that the Netherlanders are not numerous in the country, the discovery of minerals of more value than iron would attract the attention and cupidity of powerful and jealous friends, who in time might easily oust us, and shut the door against us, and then occupy and rule in our possessions. Passing by such speculative probabilities, and to satisfy the inquiries of our real friends, we will describe more particularly some facts and occurrences which have passed at several places, on the subject of minerals. It is now placed beyond a doubt that valuable minerals abound in the country, as experiments and satisfactory proofs have been made to establish those facts by the direction of Governor Kieft, in several instances, as well of gold as of quicksilver. I was present, and an eyewitness to the experiments, when the minerals proved to be rich and good, and know that specimens of the same from time to time were sent for the Netherlands which were all lost in the sea. In the year 1645, a mine was discovered on the Raritan, by accident or chance, which is held to be richer and better than any other before known. This discovery was the subject of much conversation at the time. For the information of the curious, we will briefly relate an account of another occurrence according to the truth.
In the year 1645, we were employed with the officers and rulers at the colony of Rensselaerwyck in negotiating a treaty of peace with the Maquas, (Mohawk Indians,) who then were and still are the strongest and fiercest Indain nation of the country; whereat the Director General, William Kieft, of the one part, and the chiefs of the Indian nations of the neighbouring country, on the other part, attended. To proceed with the treaty, the citizens of Rensselaerwyck procured a certain Indian, named Agheroense, to attend and serve as an interpreter, who was well known to the Christians, having been much among them, and who also spoke and understood all the Indian languages which were spoken by the parties that attended the negotiations. As the Indians are generally disposed to paint and ornament their faces with several brilliant colours, it happened on a certain morning that this Indian interpreter, who lodged in the Director's house, came down stairs, and in presence of the Director and myself sat down, and began stroking and painting his face. The Director observed the operation, and requested me to inquire of the Indian what substance he was using, which he handed to me, and I passed it to the Director, who examined the same attentively, and judged from its weight and from its greasy and shining appearance, that the lump contained some valuable metal, for which I commuted with the Indian, to ascertain what it contained. We acted with it, according to the best of our judgment, and gave the same to be proved by a skilful doctor of medicine, named Johannes La Montagne, of the Council in the New-Netherlands. The lump of mineral was put into a crucible, which was placed in a fire, and after the same (according to my opinion) had been in the fire long enough, it was taken out, when it delivered two pieces of gold worth about three guilders. This proof was kept secret.
After the peace was made, an officer with a few men were sent to the Berg mountain, to which the Indian directed them, for a quantity of the mineral, who returned with about a bucket full, intermingled with stones, as they deemed best. They did not observe that the place from which they took the earth had been dug before. Of this mineral several experiments were made, which proved as good as the first. We supposed that we had secured the discovery safely. The Director General thought proper to embrace the first opportunity to send a small quantity of the mineral to the Netherlands, for which purpose he despatched a man named Arent Corsen, with a bag of the mineral to New-Haven, to take passage in an English ship for England, and to proceed to Holland. This vessel sailed at Christmas, and was lost at sea. Misfortune attended all on board.
The Director General, William Kieft, left the New-Netherlands for the Netherlands, in the year 1647, on board of the ship Princess, taking with him specimens of the proved minerals, and of several others. This ship was also lost, and the minerals remained in the sea.
Now we have Cornelius Van Tienhooven for Secretary of the New-Netherlands. Being here in Holland, he states that he had tested several specimens of the mineral, which proved satisfactory; the subject therefore need not be doubted.
This example I have deemed it proper to state, to which others might be added, but it would then become tedious. We find in the country up-drifts, and signs of many mines, but mostly of iron. The people of New-England already cast their own cannon, plates, pots, and cannon balls, from native iron. We now have people in the New-Netherlands who understand mining, who declare that there are much better and richer metals of different kinds there, than in New-England. But in our feeble opinion, it would not be advisable to go any further in disclosing and exposing those matters, as long as the place has so small a population.
The country has hills of fuller's earth, and several sorts of fine clay, such as white, yellow, red and black, which is fat and tough, suitable for pots, dishes, plates, tobacco-pipes, and the like wares. It is known from experience that bricks and tiles can be baked of the clay, and there is no doubt but that the business would be profitable, and the country be benefited if the trade was driven. Meantime crystal, like that of Muscovy, is found there; there is also an abundance of serpentine stone, but of a deeper green than that which is sold in Holland; there is also grey flagging, slate, grit or grinding-stone, but mostly of a red kind; much quarry stone, several kinds of blue stone, suitable for mill-stones, for walls and for ornamental work. We also find a kind of stone like alabaster and marble with others of that species. But as the population is small, such things are not valued. When the population increases, and pride advances, then the same will be held in high estimation.
Of the Dyes and Colours
The original colours of the New-Netherlands may properly be represented in two classes, viz. paints and colours composed of minerals, and made from the same, and from stone; and those prepared from vegetables. The natives, as has been remarked, paint and ornament their faces and bodies with different colours, in various ways, according to their customs. For this purpose, they usually carry small bags of paints with them, keeping their colours separate, such as red, blue, green, brown, white, black, yellow, &c. The colours which they esteem most, are such as possess the most brilliancy, which shine like pure metals. Such was the kind spoken of as proved in the year 1645. Colours of this kind are mostly made of stone, which they know how to prepare by pounding, rubbing and grinding. Such they hold in higher estimation than the colours derived from herbs and plants. There, however, are various plants from which the Indians prepare several fine, lovely and bright colours, differing little in appearance from the stone colours, except in the glossy metallic appearance of the latter.
To describe perfectly and truly how the Indians prepare all these paints and colours, is out of my power. Their stone colours, they have informed me, are prepared as before stated; but whether they add any greasy or adhesive substances to the preparations, I know not; but I do know that all their paints of this kind have a fat and greasy feeling.
With the other colours which they prepare from plants and herbs, they usually pursue the same process. Without detaining the reader long, I will relate the process which I have seen performed; others may be done in the same manner. A certain plant springs up and grows in the country, resembling the Orache, or golden herb, having many shoots from the same stalk, but it grows much larger than the Orache. This plant produces clusters of red and brown berries, which the Indians bruise, and press out the juice, and pour the same on flat pieces of bark, about sit feet long and three broad, prepared for the purpose; these are placed in the sun to dry out the moisture. If it does not dry out fast enough, or if they intend to remove, which they frequently do in summer, then they heat smooth stones, and place the same into the juice of the berries on the bark, and thus they dry out the moisture speedily. The dry substance which remains on the bark is then scraped out, and put into small bags for use. This produces the finest purple colour I have ever seen. The Indians, when they use this colouring, temper the same with water; hence it comes off easily; but we believe if it was properly prepared by artists, it would be highly esteemed.
The paintings of the Indians are of little importance, being mostly confined to the colouring of their faces, bodies, and the skins which they wear. We have seen some counterfeit representations of trumpets in their strong houses or castles, wherein they hold their council assemblies, but their paintings are not spirited and ingenious. They also paint their shields and war hammers or clubs, and in their houses on the rail-work, they paint representations of canoes and animals, which are not well done.
On this subject I have another case which I have seen worthy of notice. The Indians use instead of plumes, a beautiful kind of hair, some of which is long, coarse and stiff, and some of it shorter and very fine. This they know how to unite and fix together in such a manner as to make the same appear beautiful, when they are dressed and ornamented with it. The hair they tie with small bands to suit their own fancies and fashions. They also know how to prepare a colouring, wherein they dye the hair a beautiful scarlet, which excites our astonishment and curiosity. The colour is so well fixed that rain, sun, and wind will not change it. It, however, appears better and more brilliant in the fine than in the coarse hair. Although the Indians do not appear to possess any particular art in this matter, still such beautiful red was never dyed in the Netherlands with any materials known to us. The coloured articles have been examined by many of our best dyers, who admire the colour, and admit that they cannot imitate the same, and remark that a proper knowledge of the art would be of great importance to their profession.
Of the Animals of the New-Netherlands
We will now speak of the cattle and animals of the New Netherlands, including such as have been introduced by the Christians, and those which are native to the country; beginning with the tame stock, which at the settlement of the country were brought over from the Netherlands, and which differ little from the original stock. The horses are of the proper breed for husbandry, having been brought from Utrecht for that purpose, and this stock has not diminished in size or quality. There are also horses of the English breed, which are lighter, not so good for agricultural use, but fit for the saddle. These do not cost as much as the Netherlands breed, and are easily obtained. There are Curaçoan and Arabian horses imported into the country, but those breeds are not very acceptable, because they do not endure the cold weather of the climate well, and sometimes die in winter. The whole of this breed require great care and attention in the winter. Fine large horses are bred in the country, which live long and are seldom diseased. There however is a plague, which is natural to the country, and destroys many horses. A horse which takes this plague is well, and dead in a short time. There appears to be no remedy for this distemper. The distemper appears like a paralytic affection; the diseased animal staggers like a drunken man, falls down, and dies in a short time. This malady has attracted the attention of many men, and there are those who have preserved the lives of many horses. It is therefore not considered as dangerous now as formerly. The origin of this disease has excited much attention, but the cause remains undiscovered. There also is an opinion prevailing that scientific horsemen, who are plenty in many places, but scarce in the New-Netherlands, will discover a remedy for this disease and ascertain its- cause.
The cattle in New-Netherlands are mostly of the Holland breed, but usually do not grow as large, because the hay is not so good, and because the heifers are permitted to play in the second year for the purpose of increasing the stock. When this is not permitted until the proper time, they raise as fine cattle as we do in Holland. The Holland cattle, however, were subject to diseases when they were pastured on new ground, and fed on fresh hay only. This at the first, before a remedy was discovered, was very injurious; but it is now prevented by feeding with salt, by giving brackish drink, and by feeding with salt hay. There are also cattle brought over from the province of Utrecht, which are kept on the highlands at Amersfoort, where they thrive as well as in Holland; the increase is not quite as large, but the stock give milk enough, thrive well in pasture, and yield much tallow.
They also have English cattle in the country, which are not imported by the Netherlanders, but purchased, from the English in New-England. Those cattle thrive as well as the Holland cattle, and do not require as much care and provender; and, as in England, this breed will do well unsheltered whole winters. This breed of cattle do not grow near as large as the Dutch cattle, do not give as much milk, and are much cheaper; but they fat and tallow well. They who desire to cross the breeds, and raise the best kind of stock, put a Holland bull to their English cows, by which they produce a good mixed breed of cattle without much cost. Oxen do good service there, and are not only used by the English, but by some of the Netherlanders also, to the wagon and plough. The grazing of cattle for slaughtering, is also progressing, as well of oxen as of other cattle, which produces profit in beef and tallow.
Hogs are numerous and plenty. Many are bred and kept by the settlers in the neighbourhood of the woods and lowlands. Some of the citizens prefer the English breed of hogs, because they are hardy, and subsist better in winter without shelter; but the Holland hogs grow much larger and heavier, and have thicker pork. In some years acorns are so abundant in the woods, that the hogs become fine and fat on the same, their pork frequently being a hand-breadth in thickness. When it is not an acorn year, or where persons have not an opportunity to feed their swine on acorns, in those cases they fat their hogs on maize, or Turkey wheat, which, according to the accepted opinions, produces the best pork, being better than the Westphalia pork. The heavy pork is frequently six or seven fingers in thickness, and will crack when cut. The persons who desire to raise many hogs, take care to have sucking pigs in April. When the grass is fine, the sows and pigs are driven woodwards to help themselves. At a year old the young sows have pigs. Thus hogs are multiplied, and are plenty in the New-Netherlands.
Sheep are also kept in the New-Netherlands, but not as many as in New-England, where the weaving business is driven, and where much attention is paid to sheep, to which our Netherlander pay little attention. The sheep thrive well, and become fat enough, I have seen mutton so exceedingly fat there, that it was too luscious and offensive. The sheep breed well, and are healthy. There is also good feeding in summer, and good hay for the winter. But the flocks require to be guarded and tended on account of the wolves, for which purpose men cannot be spared; there is also a more important hinderance to the keeping of sheep, which are principally kept for their wool. New-Netherlands throughout is a woody country, being almost every where beset with trees, stumps and brushwood, wherein the sheep pasture, and by which they lose most of their wool, which by appearance does not seem to be out, but when sheared turns out light in the fleeces. These are reasons against the keeping of sheep. The inhabitants keep more goats than sheep, which succeed best. Fat sheep are in great danger, when suffered to become lean; of goats there is no danger. Goats also give good milk, which is always necessary, and because they cost little, they are of importance to the new settlers and planters, who possess small means. Such persons keep goats instead of cows. Goats cost little, and are very prolific; and the young castrated tups afford fine delightful meat, which is always in demand.
The New-Netherlanders also have every kind of domestic fowls, as we have in Holland, such as capons, turkeys, geese and ducks. There are also pigeoners, who keep several kinds of pigeons. In a word, they have tame animals of every description, including cats and dogs. Respecting the dogs which are trained to the gun for hunting, and to the water, better dogs are not to be found, and it is useless and unnecessary to take any to the country.
Of the Wild Animals
Although the New-Netherlands lay in a fine climate, and although the country in winter seems rather cold, nevertheless lions are found there, but not by the Christians, who have traversed the land wide and broad and have not seen one. It is only known to us by the skins of the females, which are sometimes brought in by the Indians for sale; who on inquiry say, that the lions are found far to the southwest, distant fifteen or twenty days' journey, in very high mountains, and that the males are too active and fierce to be taken.
Many bears are found in the country, but none like the grey and pale-haired bears of Muscovy and Greenland. The bears are of a shining pitch black colour; their skins are proper for muffs. Although there are many of these beasts, yet from the acute sharpness of their smelling, they are seldom seen by the Christians. Whenever they smell a person they run off. When the Indians go a-hunting, they dress themselves as Esau did, in clothes which have the flavour of the woods, (except in their sleeping and hiding season, whereon we will treat hereafter,) that they may not be discovered by their smell. The bears are sometimes seen by the Christians, when they are approached from the leeward side, or when they swim across water courses. The bears are harmless unless they are attacked or wounded, and then they defend themselves fiercely as long as they can. A person who intends to shoot a bear, should be careful to have a tree near him to retreat to for safety; for if his shot does not take good effect, and the bear is not killed instantly, which, on account of their toughness, seldom happens, then the hunter is in danger; for then the bear instantly makes a stopper of leaves or of any other substance, as instinct directs, wherewith the animal closes the wound, and directly proceeds towards the hunter, if in sight, or to the place whence the smoke ascends and the gun was fired. In the meantime the hunter should be up the tree, which should be thick and full of limbs, otherwise the bear would also climb the tree easily. In this position the hunter has the advantage, and should be prepared to despatch his adversary; otherwise he must remain in his sanctuary until the rage of the animal is abated, which has frequently lasted two hours, and he retires. Hunters have related these particulars, who have preserved themselves as related.
The bears of this country are not ravenous, and do not subsist on flesh and carrion, as the bears of Muscovy and Greenland do. They subsist on grass, herbs, nuts, acorns and chestnuts, which, we are told by the Indians, they will gather and eat on the trees. It is also affirmed by the Christians, that they have seen bears on trees gathering and eating the fruit. When they wish to come down, then they place their heads between their legs, and let themselves fall to the earth; and whether they fall high or low, they spring up and go their way. Bears are sometimes shot when on the trees.
The Indians and the Christians are firmly of opinion that the bears sleep and lay concealed twelve weeks in succession in a year. In the fall they always are fat. During the winter they eat nothing, but lie down on one side with a foot in the mouth, whereon they suck growling six weeks; they then turn on the other side and lay six weeks more, and continue to suck as before. For this purpose they usually retire to the mountains, and seek shelter under projecting rocks in a burrow, or in a thick brushy wood, wherein many large trees have fallen, where they also seek shelter from the wind, snow and rain. The Indians say that the greatest number of bears are taken during their sleeping season, when they are most easily killed. The heaviest bears which are taken, (judging from their skins,) are about the size of a common heifer. The animals also are very fat, as before stated, the pork frequently being six or seven fingers in thickness. The Indians esteem the fore quarters and the plucks as excellent food. I have never tasted the meat, but several Christians who have eaten bear's flesh, say it is as good as any swine's flesh or pork can be.
Buffaloes are also tolerably plenty. These animals mostly keep towards the southwest, where few people go. Their meat is excellent, and more desirable than the flesh of the deer, although it is much coarser. Their skins when dressed are heavy enough for collars and harness. These animals are not very wild, and some persons are of opinion that they may be domesticated and tamed. It is also supposed that a female buffalo, put to a Holland bull, would produce a cross breed which would give excellent milking cattle, and that the males would form fine hardy working animals when castrated. Persons who have got them when young, say they become very tame as they grow older, and forget the wild woods, and that they fatten well. It is remarked that the half of those animals have disappeared and left the country, and that if a cross breed succeeded, it would become more natural to the climate.
The deer are incredibly numerous in the country. Although the Indians throughout the year and every year, (but mostly in the fall,) kill many thousands, and the wolves, after the fawns are cast, and while they are young, also destroy many, still the land abounds with them everywhere, and their numbers appear to remain undiminished. We seldom pass through the fields without seeing deer more or less, and we frequently see them in flocks. Their meat digests easily, and is good food. Venison is so easily obtained that a good buck cashes for five guilders, and often for much less.
There are also white bucks and does, and others of a black colour in the country. The Indians aver that the haunts of the white deer are much frequented by the common deer, and that those of the black species are not frequented by the common deer. These are the sayings of the Indians. The truth remains to be ascertained relating to the preference between the animals.
There is also another kind of animals in the country, which are represented to be large, and which are known to the people of Canada, who relate strange things concerning the same. I have heard from the mouth of a Jesuit, who had been taken prisoner by the Mohawk Indians and released by our people, and come to me, that there were many wild forest oxen in Canada and Nova Franca, which in Latin they name boves silvestres, (the moose, or elk,) which are as large as horses, having long hair on their necks like the mane of a horse, and cloven hoofs; but that, like the buffalo, the animals were not fierce. I have also been frequently told by the Mohawk Indians, that far in the interior parts of the country, there were animals which were seldom seen, of the size and form of horses, with cloven hoofs, having one horn in the forehead, from a foot and a half to two feet in length, and that because of their fleetness and strength they were seldom caught or ensnared. I have never seen any certain token or sign of such animals, but that such creatures exist in the country, is supported by the concurrent declarations of the Indian hunters. There are Christians who say that they have seen the skins of this species of animal, but without the horns.
Wolves are numerous in the country, but these are not so large and ravenous as the Netherlands wolves are. They will not readily attack any thing, except small animals, such as deer, (but most commonly when young,) calves, sheep, goats, and hogs. But when a drove of hogs are together, they do not permit the wolves to do them any injury, as those animals defend and assist each other.
The wolves in winter know how to beset and take deer. When the snow is upon the earth, eight or ten wolves, hunter-like, prowl in the chase in company. Sometimes a single wolf will chase and follow a single deer, until the animal is wearied, and falls a prey; but if the deer in the pursuit crosses a stream of water, then the wolf is done, because he dare not follow, and remains on the margin of the stream to see his chase escape. Wolves frequently drive deer into the rivers and streams. Many are taken in the water by persons who reside in the neighbourhood of rivers and streams, by the means of boats, with which they pursue the animals. If the deer is so near the shore as to be likely to gain the land before the boat can be near enough to take the prize, the person or persons in the boat shout and holloa loudly, when the echo from the land and woods frightens the animal off from the place to which it was swimming, and fearing to land it is easily taken by these stratagems.
Some persons are of opinion, that a driven deer will not betake itself to fresh water for safety, but we of the New Netherlands know to the contrary, and that there is no difference. When deer are chased upon an island near the sea, or on land near the sea, they will enter the open ocean, and frequently swim so far from shore that they never find their way to the land again.
Beavers are numerous in the New-Netherlands. We will treat at large of these animals hereafter. There are also fine otters in the country, very fine fishes, and wild cats, which have skins nearly resembling the skin of the lioness; these animals also resemble them in form, but they have short tails, like the hares and conies. Foxes and racoons are plenty; the skins of the latter are streaked, resembling seals, and are excellent applications for bruises and lameness. When their meat is roasted, it is delicious food, but when stewed, it is too luscious, on account of its fatness. The racoons usually shelter in hollow trees, wherein they lay up food for the winter, which they seldom leave, except for drink. It is a pleasure to take racoons; the trees wherein they shelter are discovered by the scratching of the bark, which is done by the racoons in climbing and descending the trees. When their haunts are discovered, the trees are cut down. By the fall of a tree, the racoons are stunned, and on leaving their holes they stagger as if drunk, and fall an easy prey to the hunter. Minks, hares, and conies (rabbits) are plenty in the country. Tame rabbits run at large in New England. Musk-rats are abundant; these creatures smell so strong of musk, that it can hardly be endured: when the skins are old and dry, the smell is retained, and all articles which are kept with the skins, are impregnated with the musky smell. Maeters, and black and gray squirrels, are also numerous. One kind of squirrels can fly several rods at a time; - this species have a thin skin on both sides from the fore to the hind legs, which they extend and flap like wings, with which they fly swiftly to the desired place. Ground hogs, English skunks, drummers, and several other kinds of animals, for which we have no names, are known and found in the country. Their description is passed over.
Of the Land and Water Fowls; and first, of the Birds of prey
Birds of prey are numerous in the New-Netherlands; among which there are two species of eagles, so different in appearance that they hardly resemble each other. The one is the common kind, which is known in Holland. The other kind is somewhat larger, and the feathers are much browner, except the whole head, a part of the neck, the whole tail, and the striking feathers, which are as white as snow, and render the bird beautiful. This kind are called white-heads, and they are plenty. Falcons, sparrow-hawks, sailing-hawks, castrills, church-hawks, fish-hawks, and several other kinds, for which I have no name, are plenty; but every kind feed on flesh or fish, as they can best take the same. Those hawks might easily be trained to catch game, to which nature with art would perfect them. The small kind live on small birds, the larger kinds watch for woodpeckers, corn-birds, quails, &c; each that kind which it can overcome. But the eagles look for higher game, and bring terror where they appear. They usually frequent places where the trees are old, and where the ground is free from underwood, near the bay sides, or near large rivers, where from the tops of the trees they can have their eyes over the fish, the swans, the geese and the ducks, with which they can supply themselves; but they do not commonly feed on fowl, because they prefer fish. They frequently strike a fish, and jerk it living from the waters. When a bird is crippled by a gunner, or is otherwise disabled, then the eagle's eye will see them, where the human eyes have looked in vain. The eagles soar very high in the air, beyond the vision of man, and on those flights they are always looking out for prey, or for a dead carcase, near which they are commonly seen. They seldom kill corn birds, or fowls which live on fruit. Eagles are fond of the flesh of deer, for which they watch the places where the wolves kill deer, and have left a carcase partly eaten, which they discover on the wing. Many persons who know the nature of the eagle, and observe their sailing, have followed in their direction and have found the deer for which the eagle went, partly destroyed and eaten by wolves. It also happens that the hunters wound deer which escape, and die from the loss of blood. Such are also sometimes found uninjured by the direction of the eagles. There is also another bird of prey in the country, which has a head like the head of a large cat. Its feathers are of a light ash colour. The people of the country have no name for the bird. The Director Kieft says, the bird is known in France, and is named Grand Dux, where it is held in high estimation by the nobility, who have them trained for sporting. They are difficult to break, but when well trained they are frequently sold for 100 French crowns per bird.
Of the Land Birds and Fowls
The most important fowl of the country is the wild turkey. They resemble the tame turkeys of the Netherlands. Those birds are common in the woods all over the country, and are found in large flocks, from twenty to forty in a flock. They are large, heavy, fat and fine, weighing from twenty to thirty pounds each, and I have heard of one that weighed thirty-two pounds. When they are well cleaned and roasted on a spit, then they are excellent, and differ little in taste from the tame turkeys; but the epicures prefer the wild kind. They are best in the fall of the year, when the Indians will usually sell a turkey for ten stivers, and with the Christians the common price is a daelder each. Sometimes the turkeys are caught with dogs in the snow; but the greatest number are shot at night from the trees. The turkeys sleep in trees, and frequently in large flocks together. They also usually sleep in the same place every night. When a sleeping place is discovered, then two or three gunners go to the place together at night, when they shoot the fowls, and in such cases frequently bring in a dozen or more. The Indians take many in snares, when the weather changes in winter. Then they lay bulbous roots, which the turkeys are fond of, in the small rills and streams of water, which the birds take up, when they are ensnared and held until the artful Indian takes the turkey as his prize.
There are also several kinds of quails in the country, some of which are smaller, and. others larger than those of the Netherlands. The sportsmen have given them distinguishing names, and they afford fine sport. In the Netherlands it is not believed that they will alight and sit in trees; but it is true that many are shot from trees in this country. I have done it several times, and have killed a hundred or more from trees. I have also heard from respectable authority, that eleven heath-fowls have been killed at a shot at Rensselaerwyck, off of a palisade fence, with which fields are enclosed. In some places, in the hedges and brush, the small quails are abundant, and they are so tame that they run along the roads and enter the gardens, and sometimes fly into houses; and they frequently lay in the grass, as it were under the traveller's feet, and in rising sometimes fly against them and frighten them. Many of those kinds of birds are killed with rods and sticks. There are also woodcocks, birch-cocks, heath-fowls, pheasants, wood and water snipes, &c. and many cranes, of which great numbers are shot on the mowed lands in the fall of the year, and they are fine for the table. Quacks and bitterns are also plenty. The pigeons, which resemble coal pigeons, are astonishingly plenty. Those are most numerous in the spring and fall of the year, when they are seen in such numbers in flocks, that they resemble the clouds in the heavens, and obstruct the rays of the sun. Many of those birds are shot in the spring and. fall, on the wing, and from the dry trees whereon they prefer to alight, and will sit in great numbers to see around them, from which they are easily shot. Many are also shot on the ground, and it is not uncommon to kill twenty-five or more at a time. The Indians, when they find the breeding places of the pigeons, (at which they assemble in numberless thousands,) frequently remove to those places with their wives and children, to the number of two or three hundred in a company, where they live a month or more on the young pigeons, which they take, after pushing them from their nests with poles and sticks.
There are also quails, (quartets,) differing from those in the Netherlands in their drumming, and somewhat in size. Woodpeckers (spechten) are also found there; these birds are spotted with handsome feathers, and have a fine top-knot. The country people call them tree-peckers, which is their common employment, and they peck with such power, that at a distance the noise resembles the striking of a hammer. I have seen many trees into which those birds had pecked large holes, wherein they built their nests. Large blackbirds also are very plenty, to which the people have given an appropriate name, calling them (maies dieven) corn thieves, to which they have a strong propensity. It is necessary after planting, to watch the corn fields to keep off those birds, whereon they frequently alight in large flocks, and are so stout that shooting will not drive them away. In places frequented by eagles, the blackbirds do very little injury. I have been informed by men of veracity, that a certain Jacob Van Curler had killed one hundred and seventy of those blackbirds, which he took up, at a shot, besides the cripples which escaped. From this occurrence an opinion of the probable numbers of those birds may be formed. There are also ravens, crows, kaws, owls, swallows, land-runners, with many other kinds of small birds, such as finches, chipping birds, wrens, hedge-sparrows, &c. Some of the birds sing beautifully; others have handsome plumage. I have seen birds of a lustrous blue colour, shining much; others of a yellow and orange, resembling the aurora, with a high flame colour; but those have black beaks, and some black wing feathers.
There is also another small curious bird, concerning which there are disputations, whether it is a bird, or a large West India bee. We will pass over those disputations, and describe the bird, its form, manner and appearance. The bird is about the length of a finger, exclusive of its beak; its tail is about the breadth of a thumb; its feathers are of various shining colours; having a beak and feet like other birds. I have not observed that it pecks and eats with its beak; but it sucks its nourishment from flowers like the bees, for which it has members in its beak like the bees. It is everywhere seen on the flowers regaling itself; hence it has obtained the name of the West India bee. It is only seen in the New-Netherlands in the season of flowers. In flying they also make a humming noise, like the bees. They are very tender, and cannot well be kept alive. We however prepare and preserve them between paper, and dry them in the sun, and send them as presents to our friends.
Of the Water Fowls
Among other subjects wherewith the New-Netherlands is abundantly provided, are the fowls that keep to the waters, which we find there principally in the spring and fall of the year. At other seasons they are not as plenty. But at those seasons, the waters by their movements appears to be alive with the water fowls; and the people who reside near the water are frequently disturbed in their rest at night by the noise of the water fowls, particularly by the swans, which in their seasons are so plenty, that the bays and shores where they resort appear as if they were dressed in white drapery. The swans are like those of the Netherlands, and come regularly in their proper seasons.
There are also three kinds of wild geese. The first and best kind are the grey geese, which are larger than the Netherlands geese, but not so large as the swans. Those fowls do much damage to the wheat fields which are sown near the places to which they resort. There are persons who believe this species to be the trap geese; but this cannot well be credited, because they are so numerous. A great many of those fowls are shot, and they are esteemed before the other kinds for the table. I have known a gunner named Henry de Backer, who killed eleven grey geese out of a large flock at one shot from his gun.
The other kinds are the black geese, and the white heads. Some of the latter kind are almost white, like unto our tame geese. Those kinds, in cold weather, frequent and resort to places near the sea shores in great numbers, where many are killed, often eight or ten at one shot. A Virginia planter of my acquaintance has killed sixteen geese at a shot, which he got, when several which he wounded escaped.
There also are several kinds of ducks, with widgeons, teal, brant, and many species of diving fowls, such as blue bills, whistlers, coots, eel-shovellers, and pelicans, with many strange fowls, for which we have no names, being of less importance; but which to persons who understand the art of preserving birds, might afford them a profitable business, as they are plenty and cheap. After the increase of our population, the fowls will diminish. Even feathers are now considered of little value or importance.
Of the Fishes
All the waters of the New-Netherlands are rich with fishes. Sturgeons are plenty in the rivers at their proper season; but these fish are not esteemed, and when large are not eaten. No person takes the trouble to salt or souse them for profit; and the roes from which the costly caviær is prepared, are cast away. Salmon are plenty in some rivers, and the striped bass are plenty in all the rivers and bays of the sea. The bass is a fish which in its form differs but little from the salmon. The inside of the latter is red, and of the other white. The bass are also a fine fish, and their heads are delicious food. The drums are a tolerably good fish, somewhat like the cod in form, but not so stout. I have heard it said, that the drums were named Thirteens, when the Christians first began fishing in the New-Netherlands. Then every one was desirous to see the fishes which were caught, for the purpose of discovering whether the same were known to them, and if they did not know the fish, then they gave it a name. First in the fishing season they caught many shad, which they named Elft. Later they caught the striped bass, which they named Twalft. Later still they caught the drums, which they named Dertienen. For those fishes succeeded each other in their seasons, and the same are still known by the names which were thus derived. There are also carp, snook, forrels, pike, trout, suckers, thickheads, flounders, eels, palings, brickens and lampreys. Some of the latter are as large as a man's leg, and above an ell in length. There are also sun-fish tasted like the perch, having small shining scales, with brilliant spots, from which they have derived the name of sun-fish. In the winter season, the creeks and back waters abound with a small kind of fish which comes from the sea, about the size of a smelt. Some call them little mullets. Those fishes are so tame that many are caught with the hand; and as those come with the frost, we call them frost-fish. Outside at sea, and in some of the bays of the East river, the codfish are very plenty; and if we would practice our art and experience in fishing, we could take ship loads of cod-fish, for it can be easily accomplished. There are also shell-fish, week-fish, herrings, mackerel, roah, hallibut, scoll, and sheeps-heads. The latter are formed like the sun-fish, but much heavier, with cross stripes, being about the weight of the largest carps. They have teeth in the fore part of the mouth like a sheep, but are not voracious, and are an excellent fish. There is another species of fish, called black-fish, which are held in high estimation by the Christians. It is as brown as a seek, formed like the carp, but not so coarse in its scales. When this kind of fish, which are plenty, is served upon the table, it goes before all others, for every person prefers it. There are also porpoises, herring-hogs, pot-heads or sharks, turtles, &c. and whales, of which there are none caught, but if preparations were made for the purpose, then it might be easily effected; but our colonists have not advanced far enough to pursue whaling. A lost bird, however, is frequently cast and stranded, which is cut up. Lobsters are plenty in many places. Some of those are very large, being from five to six feet in length; others again are from a foot to a foot and an half long, which are the best for the table. There are also crabs, like those of the Netherlands, some of which are altogether soft. Those the people call weak crabs, and they make excellent bait for hook fishing. There are also sea-cocks, (horned crabs) sea-colts, sea-concks; and periwinkles are very plenty, which in some seasons are cast ashore by the sea in very great numbers. From these the Indians make wampum. Oysters are very plenty in many places. Some of these are like the Colchester oysters, and are fit to be eaten raw; others are very large, wherein pearls are frequently found, but as they are of a brownish colour, they are not valuable. The large oysters are proper for roasting and stewing. Each of these will fill a spoon, and make a good bite. I have seen many in the shell a foot long, and broad in proportion. The price for oysters is usually from eight to ten stivers per hundred. Muscles of different kinds are plenty; the St. Jacobs and mother of pearl shells, with Alis or stone crutches. There are also several other kinds of shell-fish, for which there are no names. There are also shrimps and tortoises in the waters and on land. Some persons prepare delicious dishes from the water terrapin, which is luscious food. There are also sea-spiders, and various other products of the ocean, which are unknown in Holland, and are of little consideration, as they contribute little to the wants of human society.
Of the Poisons
During my residence of eight or nine years in the New-Netherlands, I have not discovered more than one poisonous plant in the country, which is named the poison artichoke, although it does not resemble the artichoke much, as it bears blue flowers in clusters, which are handsome to the eye, resembling pope's caps, or moon-heads, as they are named in Brabant.
Several kinds of black, speckled and striped snakes are found in the country. Some of these have bellies of the colour of the rainbow, and keep on the land and in the water, and are said to have connections with the eels. Snakes of those kinds do no damage except destroying young birds. Unless they escape from travellers and farmers, they are usually put to death. The Indians do not fear snakes of this kind, for they will run after and take them by their tails, and then take hold of them behind their heads and bite them in their necks; thus they kill them. There is also another snake about the size of a tobacco pipe. This kind of snake keeps in the weeds and high grass, and is seldom seen. Many are of opinion that it is venomous, but I have no proof of it. Rattlesnakes like those of Brazil, are found in the country. To persons who have never seen any of those reptiles, a description of them will necessarily be imperfect. Many affirm that the fiery serpents' which plagued the Israelites in the wilderness, were rattlesnakes; but this is uncertain. Those are vile serpents, which seldom go out of the way of man or beast. They are speckled with yellow, black and purple colours, chub-headed, with four sharp teeth in the front of the mouth, which the Indians use for lancets. The body, except the tail, is fashioned like the bodies of other snakes; at the end of the tail it has a hard, dry, horny substance, which is interlocked and jointed together, with which these snakes can rattle so loud that the noise can be heard several rods; but they never rattle unless they intend to bite. The rattling is made by the thrilling of the tail, to the end of which the rattles are by nature attached. The rattles increase one joint every year. Snakes with six or seven rattles are very common, and I have seen one with fourteen rattles (which is an uncommon instance). When those snakes intend to bite, they have a dreadful appearance. The head is then spread out, and they open a wider mouth than they appear to have, and then also they open a bluish skin or valve, which lies at the root of the teeth of the upper jaw, from which the poison issues by the teeth into the wound inflicted by the serpent. In appearance the poison resembles a bluish salt, which I have seen by causing the snake to bite at a long stick for observation, on Long Island. When persons are bitten by those serpents and the poison enters the wound, their lives are in great danger. I have seen persons who were bitten by the serpents, that were not bad, and others whose whole bodies became coloured like the snakes by which they had been bitten, before death. The Indians also dread those snakes, and when bitten by this species they also frequently die of the bite. Fortunately the rattlesnakes are not numerous, and a person who does not frequent the woods and fields much, may reside in the country seven years without seeing one of those snakes. There is a certain plant which grows in the country, named snake-wort, which is a sovereign remedy for the bite of the rattlesnake. I have witnessed an experiment made on Long-Island with snake-wort, on a large rattlesnake, when a person chewed a quantity of the green plant, and spit some of the juice on the end of a stick, which was put to the nose of the snake, and it caused the creature to thrill and die instantly. The Indians hold this plant in such high estimation, that many of them always carry some of it, well dried, with them to cure the bites of those serpents. Adders also are found in the country, but I have never heard of injuries done by them.
Lizards like those found in Holland are in the country, and also another species which have pale bluish tails. Those are much feared by the Indians, because (as they say) this kind will crawl up into their fundaments, when they lay asleep on the ground in the woods, and cause them to die in great misery. When the toads are added, I have given an account of the poison and of the poisonous reptiles which I have discovered in the country, and according to my original design, hereafter will treat of the winds, air, sea, seasons, and of the natives of the land; and also give a particular description of the beavers.
Of the Winds
The swift and fostering messengers of commerce are the winds that prevail in the New-Netherlands. They blow from all quarters of the compass, without any monsoons or regular trade winds. In winter, the cold comes with the northerly winds; in summer, the south and south-westerly winds prevail. It is seldom calm in winter, as it is in Holland. In the heart of winter, when it is calm, loof still, and cold, turn either way, and you have it in your face. The north-west winds which bring the most cold weather usually blow sharp and steady, except at the foot of the mountains, which break the winds. All the storms which arise, usually come with easterly winds from the sea, at the spring tides, and seldom last more than three days. If they come more from the south, then it usually blows hard, and with more warmth, and a hazy sky or rain, which frequently happens. The westerly wind usually blows severe and squally, but as it comes from the land, and blows across most of the rivers to the sea, it gives windward stations and is not feared. The north-west and north winds bring the cold, as the east and north-east winds do in Holland. Should it be warm southerly weather, whenever a northerner rises, the air will change from heat to cold in a short time. On these occasions it will blow hard and severe, but as it leaves an upper shore, it seldom does damage at sea. The sea then washes against a windward shore; hence no damage is apprehended. The damage arises from the easterly winds. When the north-west gales blow, then much damage is done in the timber lands, by the blowing down and cracking of the trees, and then is the proper time for the gunners to approach their game. In summer, a southerly sea breeze usually sets in on the flood-tide at New-Amsterdam, which blows over a cool element, and brings refreshment with it. The warm weather in summer frequently brings thunder storms from the west, when it will frequently rain one, two or three hours, after which it will blow from the north-west, and be succeeded by fine cool weather: so that within an hour the clouds will appear as if they would spew cats, and in another hour scarcely a cloud will be seen. The easterly winds seldom blow in the interior parts of the country, sometimes not once in a year: those winds appear to be stayed by the highlands and the mountains.
Of the Air
The sweet ruler that influences the wisdom, power and appearance of man, of animals, and of plants, is the air. Many name it the temperament, or the climate. The air in the New-Netherlands is so dry, sweet and healthy, that we need not wish that it were otherwise. In purity, agreeableness, and fineness, it would be folly to seek for an example of it in any other country. In the New-Netherlands, we seldom hear of any person who is afflicted with a pining disease. Many persons from the West-Indies, Virginia, and other quarters of the world, who do not enjoy health in those parts, when they come into the New-Netherlands, there become as active as fishes in the waters. The Galens have meagre soup in that country. We may say that there are no heavy damps or stinking mists in the country, and if any did arise, a northerly breeze would blow them away, and purify the air. Hence the healthiness of the country deserves commendation. The summer heat is not oppressive in the warmest weather, for it is mitigated by the sea breezes, the northerly winds, and by showers. The cold is severer than the latitude seems to promise, which arises from the purity of the air, which is sensitive and penetrating, but always dry with northerly winds, against which nature directs us to provide, and to clothe ourselves properly. Cold damp weather seldom arises. Such weather is caused by southerly winds; and whenever the wind blows from the south in winter, the cold ceases. If the south wind rises in the middle of winter, which frequently occurs, and blows some time, then the weather becomes as warm as in Lent, and the ice gives way. The country is seldom troubled with much moist damp weather, nor does it last long. Still there is plenty of rain, but more in some seasons than in others. When it rains the water falls freely, which extends to the roots of the vegetation. By the thunder and lightning, which is common in the warm weather, the air is purified, and the state of the atmosphere corrected. This is regulated by the seasons, and adherent to particular seasons of the year.
Of the Seasons
The changes of the year, and the calculations of time, are observed as in the Netherlands; and although these countries differ much in their situations in south latitude, still they do not differ much in the temperature of cold and heat. But to discriminate more accurately, it should be remarked that the winters usually terminate with the month of February, at New-Amsterdam, which is the chief place and centre of the New-Netherlands. Then the spring or Lent-like weather begins. Some persons calculate from the 21st of March, new style, after which it seldom freezes, nor before this does it seldom summer; but at this season a change evidently begins. The fishes then, leave the bottom ground, the buds begin to swell; the grass sprouts, and in some places the cattle are put to grass in March; in other situations they wait later, as the situations and soils vary. The horses and working cattle are not turned out to grass until May, when the grass is plenty everywhere. April is the proper month for gardening. Later the farmers should not sow summer grain, unless they are not ready; it may be done later, and still ripen.
Easterly winds and stormy weather are common in the spring, which then cause high tides; but they cannot produce high floods. The persons who desire to explore and view the country, have the best opportunity in April and May. The grass and herbage at this season causes no inconvenience in the woods, and still there is grass enough for horses. The cold has not overcome the heat produced by the wood burnings, and the ground which has been burnt over, is yet bare enough for inspection. The flowers are then in bloom, and the woods are fragrant with their perfume. In the middle of May, strawberries are always plenty in the fields, where they grow naturally; they are seldom planted in the gardens, but there, in warm situations, they are earlier. When the warm weather sets in, then vegetation springs rapidly. It is so rapid as to change the fields from nakedness to green in eight or ten days. There are no frosts in May, or they are very uncommon, as then it is summer. The winter grain is in full blossom. The summer may be said to begin in May, but it really is calculated from the first of June, and then the weather is frequently very warm, and there is seldom much rain. Still there are no extremes of wet and dry weather, and we may freely say, that the summers are always better in the New-Netherlands than in Holland. Rainy weather seldom lasts long. Showers and thunder-storms are frequent in summer, and will last an hour, an hour and a half, and sometimes half a day. It seldom rains three hours in succession, and the rains seldom do any injury, because the earth is open, and the water settles away, and on the high lands the rains are always desirable. A summer shower frequently will produce water sufficient to extend to the roots of the vegetation, and be immediately succeeded by a north-west wind, which will clear off the sky, as if no rain had fallen. Heavy dues are common, which in the dry seasons, are very quickening to the vegetation.
Now when the summer progresses finely, the land rewards the labor of the husbandman; the flowers smile on his countenance; the fishes sport in their element, and the herds play in the fields, as if no reverses were to return. But the tobacco, and the fruit of the vines, come in in September. There is plenty here for man and the animal creation.
The days are not so long in summer, nor so short in winter, as they are in Holland. Their length in summer, and their shortness in winter, differ about an hour and a half. It is found that this difference in the length of the days, causes no inconvenience; the days in summer are long and warm enough for those who are inclined to labour, and do it from necessity; and for those who seek diversion. The winters pass by without becoming tedious. The reasons for this, and the objections thereto, we leave to the learned, as we deem the subject not worthy of our inquiry. The received opinion on this subject is, that the difference in the length of the days and nights arises from the difference of latitude of the New-Netherlands and Holland. The former lies nearer the equinoctial line, and nearer the centre of the globe. As they differ in length, so also they differ in twilight. When it is midday in Holland, it is morning in the New-Netherlands. On this subject there are also different opinions. Most men say that the New-Netherlands lay so much farther to the west, that its situation causes this variation; others go further, and dispute the roundness of the globe. As the creation of the world is connected with this subject, which none will deny, and as the difference in the appearance of the eclipses supports the truth of the first position of the roundness of the globe, therefore the other position appears to be unsupported.
The autumns in the New-Netherlands are very fine, lovely and agreeable; more delightful cannot be found on the earth; not only because the summer productions are gathered, and the earth is then yielding its surplusage, but also because the season is so well tempered with heat and cold, as to appear like the month of May, except that on some mornings there will be frost, which, by ten o'clock will be removed by the ascending sun, leaving no stench or unwholesome air, and causing little inconvenience. On the other hand, the vegetation and grass produced in summer falls, and is trodden down, which is succeeded by a fall crop, growing as it does in Lent, bringing delight to man and pasturage for animals. There is not much rain in autumn except in showers, which do not last long; yet it sometimes rains two or three days. Otherwise there is day after day, fine weather and a clear sunshine, with agreeable weather. In short the autumns in the New-Netherlands are as fine as the summers of Holland, and continue very long; for below the highlands, towards the sea coast, the winter does not set in, or freeze much before Christmas, the waters remaining open, the weather fine, and in many places the cattle grazing in the fields. Above the highlands, advancing northerly, the weather is colder, the fresh waters freeze, the stock is sheltered, the kitchens are provided, and all things are put in order for the winter. The fat oxen and swine are slaughtered. The wild geese, turkeys and deer are at their best in this season, and easiest obtained, because of the cold, and because the woods are now burnt over, and the brushwood and herbage out of the way. This is also the Indian hunting season, wherein such great numbers of deer are killed, that a person who is uninformed of the vast extent of the country, would imagine that all these animals would be destroyed in a short time. But the country is so extensive, and their subsistance so abundant, and the hunting being confined mostly to certain districts, therefore no diminution of the deer is observable. The Indians also affirm, that before the arrival of the Christians, and before the small pox broke out amongst them, they were ten times as numerous as they now are, and that their population had been melted down by this disease, whereof nine-tenths of them have died. That then, before the arrival of the Christians, many more deer were killed than there now are, without any perceptible decrease of their numbers.
We will now notice the winters of the New-Netherlands, which are different at different places. Above the highlands, towards Rensselaerwyck, and in the interior places extending towards New-England, (which we still claim,) there the winters are colder and last longer than at New-Amsterdam, and other places along the sea coast, or on Long Island, and on the South River, (Delaware.) At the latter places, there seldom is any hard freezing weather before Christmas, and although there may be some cold nights, and trifling snows, still it does not amount to much, for during the day it is usually clear weather. But at Rensselaerwyck the winters begin earlier, as in 1645, when the North River closed on the 25th day of November, and remained frozen very late. Below the highlands and near the sea coast, as has been observed, it never begins to freeze so early, but the cold weather usually keeps off until about Christmas, and frequently later, before the rivers are closed; and then they frequently are so full of drifting ice during the north-west winds, as to obstruct the navigation; and whenever the wind shifts to the south or south-east, the ice decays, and the rivers are open and clear. This frequently happens two or three times in a winter, when the navigation will be free and unobstructed again. Much rainy weather, or strong winds which continue to blow from one quarter a long time, are not common, or to be expected in the country.
It is probable, (and many persons support the position with plausible reasoning,) that the subtlety and purity of the atmosphere changes the water before it comes to the earth, or whilst it is still retained in the clouds, or in its descent to the earth, into hail or snow. The latter is sooner to be credited, for during the winter much snow falls, which frequently remains weeks and months on the earth, without thawing away entirely. But below the circle of the highlands, the southerly winds are powerful; there the snow cannot lay long, but is removed by the southerly weather.
It frequently happens once or twice in a winter, that the trees are silvered over with sleet, which produces a beautiful and speculative appearance when the sun shines on the same, particularly on the declivities of the hills and mountains. Many persons say that sleets and heavy hail are signs of good fruit seasons in the succeeding year.
It is strange and worthy of observation, and surpasses all reasoning, that in the New-Netherlands, without or with but little wind, (for when the weather is coldest, there seldom is much wind,) although it lies in the latitude of Spain and Italy, and the summer heat is similar, that the winters should be so much colder, as to render useless all the plants and herbs which grow in those countries, which will not endure the cold weather. The winter weather is dry and cold, and we find that the peltries and feltings are prior and better than the furs of Muscovy. For this difference several reasons are assigned, which we will relate, without controverting any, except in remarking that in most cases wherein many different reasons are assigned to establish a subject, all are frequently discredited. Some say that the New-Netherlands lie so much further west on the globe, and that this causes the difference, others who compare the summer heat with Spain and Italy, deny this position; others declare that the globe is not round, and that the country lies in a declining position from the sun. Others assert that the last discovered quarter of the world is larger than the other parts, and ask, if the world formerly was considered round, haw that theory can be supported now, when about one-half is added to it? Some also say that the higher a country is situated, the colder it is. Now, say they, the New-Netherlands lie in a high westerly position; ergo, it must be cold there in winter, and as warm in summer,; Many remark, and with much plausibility also, that the country extends northerly many hundred miles to the frozen ocean, and is accessible by Davis Straits (which by some is doubted,) and that the land is intersected and studded by high mountains, and that the snow remains lying on them and in the valleys, and seldom thaws away entirely; and that when the wind blows from and over those cold regions, it brings cold with it. Receiving the cold from above and from beneath; (both being cold,) it must of course follow that the cold comes with the north-westerly winds. On the contrary they say, that whenever the wind blows from the sea, if it be in the heat of the winter then the weather becomes sultry and warm as in Lent.
The cold weather, however, is not so severe as to do much injury, or to become tedious; but for many reasons it is desirable for the benefit of the country, which it frees from insects and every other kind of impurity in the air, and fastens firmly in their positions all the plants, and screens the same from the effects of the cold, against which nature has thus carefully provided.
There is everywhere fuel in abundance, and to be obtained for the expense of cutting and procuring the same. The superabundance of this country is not equalled by any other in the world. The Indians do not clothe as we do, but frequently go half naked and withstand the cold, in fashion, and fear it little. They are never overcame with the cold, or injured by it. In bitter cold weather, they will not pursue their customary pleasures, particularly the women and the children; for the, men do not care so much for the cold days in winter as they do for the hot days in summer.
The garden products in the New-Netherlands are very numerous; some of them have been knows to the natives from the earliest times, and others introduced from different parts of the world, but chiefly from the Netherlands. We shall speak of them only in a general way; amateurs would be able to describe their agreeable qualities in a more scientific manner, but having been necessarily occupied with other subjects, we have had no leisure to devote to them. They consist, then, of various kinds of salads, cabbages, parsnips, carrots, beets, endive, succory, finckel, sorrel, dill, spinage, radishes, Spanish radishes, parsley, chervil, (or sweet cicely,) cresses, onions, leeks, and besides whatever is commonly found in a kitchen garden. The herb garden is also tolerably well supplied with rosemary, lavender, hyssop, thyme, sage, marjoram, balm, holy onions, (ajuin heylig) wormwood, belury, chives, and clary; also, pimpernel, dragon's blood, five-finger, tarragon, (or dragons-wort,) &c. together with laurel, artichokes, and asparagus, and various other things on which I have bestowed no attention.
The inquirers into nature inform us that plants are there less succulent, and therefore more vigorous than here. I have also noticed that they require less care and attention, and grow equally well; as for instance, the pumpkin grows with little or no cultivation, and is so sweet and dry that it is used, with the addition of vinegar and water, for stewing in the same manner as apples; and notwithstanding that it is here generally despised as a mean and unsubstantial article of food, it is there of so good a quality that our countrymen hold it in high estimation. I have heard it said, too, that when properly prepared as apples are with us, it is not inferior to them, or there is but little difference, and when the pumpkin is baked in ovens it is considered better than apples. The English, who in general think much of what gratifies the palate, use it also in pastry, and understand making a beverage from it. I do not mean all sorts of pumpkins, and cucurbites that may be found anywhere, and of course in the New-Netherlands; the Spanish is considered the best.
The natives have another species of this vegetable peculiar to themselves, called by our people quaasiens, a name derived from the aborigines, as the plant was not known to us before our intercourse with them. It is a delightful fruit, as well to the eye on account of its fine variety of colours, as to the mouth for its agreeable taste. The ease with, which, it is cooked renders it a favourite too with the young women. It is gathered early in summer, and when it is planted in the middle of April, the fruit is fit for eating by the first of June. They do not wait for it to ripen before making use of the fruit, but only until it has attained a certain size. They gather the squashes and immediately place them on the fire without any farther trouble. When a considerable number have been gathered, they keep them for three or four days; and it is incredible, when one watches the vines, how many will grow on them in the course of a single season. The vines run a little along the ground, some of them only two or three steps; they grow well in newly broken wood-land when it is somewhat cleared and the weeds are removed. The natives make great account of this vegetable; some of the Netherlanders too consider it quite good, but others do not esteem it very highly. It grows rapidly, is easily cooked, and digests well in the stomach, and its flavour and nutritive properties are respectable.
Melons, likewise, grow in the New-Netherlands very luxuriantly, without requiring the land to be prepared or manured; there is no necessity for lopping the vines, or carefully dressing them under glass, as is done in this country; indeed, scarcely any attention is paid to them, no more than is bestowed here in the raising of cucumbers, and the people in that part of the world have every reason to be well content. They plant no more than they think will come to maturity, but when it unfortunately happens that any are destroyed, they put fresh seeds into the ground. Melons will thrive too in newly cleared wood land, when it is freed from weeds; and in this situation the fruit, which they call Spanish pork, grows large and very abundant. I had the curiosity to weigh one of these melons, and found its weight to be seventeen pounds. In consequence of the warm temperature of the climate, the melons are quite sweet and pleasant to the taste, and however many one may eat, they will not prove injurious, provided only that they are fully ripe.
The citrull or water-citron, (citerullen ofte water-limoenen,) also grows there, a fruit that we have not in the Netherlands, and is only known from its being occasionally brought from Portugal, except to those who have travelled in warm climates. This fruit grows more rapidly and in greater abundance than melons, so much so that some plant them, even among those who are experienced, for the purpose of clearing and bringing into subjection the wild undressed land to fit it for cultivation. Their juice is very sweet like that of apricots, and most men there would eat six water-citrons to one melon, although they who wish can have both. They grow ordinarily to the size of a man's head. I have seen them as large as the biggest Leyden cabbages, but in general they are somewhat oblong. Within they are white or red; the red have white, and the white black seeds. When they are to be eaten, the rind is cut off to about the thickness of the finger; all the rest is good, consisting of a spongy pulp,, full of liquor, in which the seeds are imbedded, and if the fruit is sound and fully ripe, it melts as soon, as it enters the mouth and nothing is left but the seeds. Women and children are very fond of this fruit. It is also quite refreshing from its coolness, and is used as a beverage in many places. I have heard the English say that they obtain a liquor from it resembling Spanish wine, but not so strong. Then there is no want of sweetness, and the vinegar that is made from it will last long, and is so good that some among them make great use of it.
Cucumbers are abundant. Calabashes or gourds also grow there; they are half as long as the pumpkin, but have within very little pulp, and are sought chiefly on account of the shell, which is hard and durable, and is used to hold seeds, spices, &c. It is the common water-pail of the natives, and I have seen one so large that it would contain more than a bushel. Turnips also are as good and firm as any sand-rapes that are raised in the Netherlands. There are likewise peas and various sorts of beans; I shall speak of the former under the head of field products. Of beans there are several kinds; but the large Windsor bean, which the farmers call tessen, or house beans, and also the horse-bean, will not fill out their pods; the leaf grows well enough though delicate, and ten, twelve, or more stalks frequently shoot up, but come to little or nothing. The Turkish beans which our people have introduced there grow wonderfully; they fill out remarkably well, and are much cultivated. Before the arrival of the Netherlanders, the Indians raised beans of various kinds and colours, but generally too coarse to be eaten green, or to be pickled, except the blue sort, which are abundant; they somewhat tend to cause flatulency, like those we raise in Holland, but in other respects they furnish an excellent food, of which the Indians are especially fond. They have s peculiar mode of planting them, which our people have learned to practise; - when the Turkish wheat, (Indian corn,) or, as it is called, maize, is half a foot above the ground, they plant the beans around it, and let them grow together. The coarse stalk serves as a bean-prop, and the beans run upon it. They increase together and thrive extremely well, and thus two crops are gathered at the same time.
- The river Delaware.
- The Punctum Mertdionale of the orientals, is probably the meridian assumed by Ptolemy, which passed through the farthest of the Canary Islands. The Dutch geographers and mariners pitched upon the Peak of Teneriffe for their meridian. See Chambers. The Arabian geographers chose to fix their meridian upon the utmost shore of the Western ocean, which was then the most westerly part of the known world, and may be the Oriental Meridian referred to, and adopted by Ptolemy, who flourished 150 years before Christ, and reduced Geography to a regular system. After the fall of the Roman empire, Europe was enveloped in darkness, when the arts and sciences were preserved by the Arabians and the orientals of Asia. - Trans.
- Van der Donck alludes to the Swedes. They were subdued by Governor Stuyvesant. - Trans.
- A Dutch mile is about three English miles.
- This is careless guessing, the falls being seventy feet high. - Trans.
- A Morgen is somewhat less than two acres.
- The author undoubtedly refers to our buttonwood tree, (Platanus occidentalis) otherwise called Sycamore. - Trans.
- The Liriodendron tulipifera. - Trans.
- A chapter on the products of kitchen gardens follows next in the original, but having been omitted by the Translator, will be inserted hereafter. See p. 185. - Ed.
- A schepel is three pecks English.
- The peas referred to on page 157 of this translation, the author says, are the large grey kind, called Old Wives, having blue and white large pods or shells. Few are sown on an acre, but most in the gardens. The author does not state what kind of barley he refers to, whether it was winter or summer; but we judge it to have been winter barley. We have seen oat straw six feet long, but have never seen barley above five feet high. We, however, have seen ten acres of winter barley, which yielded 600 bushels of merchantable grain, and sixteen acres of summer barley, which yielded 42 bushels per acre. We have also conversed with a respectable farmer of Yates county, (Mr. Dox,) who stated that he had cropped one field with wheat seven years in succession, and that the last crop was fine wheat. Van der Donck's relation on the subject of wheat and barley may therefore be credited. - Trans.
- The mineral thus mistaken for gold was probably pyrites. The English settlers often made the same mistake. - Ed.
- The colouring matter spoken of by the author, we believe to have been made from the Poke berries. - Trans. (Phytolacca decandra. - Ed.)
- The animal here referred to is probably the Cougar, (Felis concolor,) known at the north under the various names of panther, painter, and catamount, and in South America, as the puma, or South American lion. - Ed.
- A good price for a Cat-Owl. - Trans.
- The Dutch word is patrijsen the European partridge, which is about the size of our quail. - Ed.
- The drumming noise is made by the partridge of the eastern States - the pheasant of the south, (Tetrao umbellus,) which is probably the bird here referred to. - Ed.
- The swans, the pelicans, the grey and white-headed geese, and the grey ducks, have now forsaken the waters of the State of New-York. - Trans.
- There is a tradition that there were but ten species of fishes known to the Dutch when they discovered America, and that when they caught the shad, they named the fish (Elft) Eleventh; the bass (Twalft) Twelfth; and the drum (Dertienen) Thirteenth. The numbers in the Dutch are good names. - Trans.
- The omission of this chapter by the Translator was discovered too late for its insertion in the proper place, (page 155,) and the absence of Mr. Johnson in attendance upon the State Legislature, of which he is a member, has rendered it necessary for the Editor to supply the omission by translating the chapter, and inserting it out of its original connexion.
- By the English the author means the inhabitants of New-England, where pumpkin pies still hold a prominent place among the luxuries of the land. - Ed.
- The Spanish or mammoth pumpkin is still preferred. See Bridgeman's Gardener. New-York, 1840.
- Roger Williams, the celebrated founder of the colony of Rhode Island, describes the same plant in the following manner: - "Askutasquash, their vine-apples, which the English from them call squashes; about the bigness of apples, of several colours, a sweet, light, wholesome refreshing." - Key into the Languages of the Indians. London, 1643. Reprinted in Collections of Mass. Hist. Society, 1st series vol. iii. Dr. Webster, in his quarto Dictionary, derives the name of this vegetable from a Greek root. - Ed.
- The water-melon, as it is now called. The French give the name of citrull or citrouille, to the pumpkin. The fruit mentioned by our author under the name of melon, seems to have been the musk-melon, which, being then cultivated in Holland, did not require a particular description. But the water-melon at that period was comparatively little known, as Van der Donck states, and not regarded as a melon. On this account he describes the fruit so minutely that it cannot well be mistaken. It was sometimes termed by English writers the Citrull cucumber. Botanists place the water-melon in the same genus as the pumpkin, calling it Cucurbita citrullus. - Ed.
- Prof. Pallas, in the account of his journey to the Southern provinces of Russia, in 1793-4, speaking of a colony of Moravians at Sarepta, or Sapa, on the Volga, says, "The ingenious inhabitants of this town brew a kind of beer from their very abundant and cheap water-melons, with the addition of hops; they also prepare a conserve or marmalade from this fruit, which is a good substitute for syrup, or treacle." Other instances of a similar character might be adduced to confirm the general correctness of the author's observations and statements, but it seems to be unnecessary. His remarks betray no want of familiarity with the subject of gardening, notwithstanding the modest disclaimer which he makes at the outset. - Ed.
- The Dutch bushel (schepel) is about three pecks English.
- Bridgeman makes a similar statement in regard to the 'large Windsor bean,' and other varieties of the English Dwarfs. He says, " the principal cause of these garden beans not succeeding well in this country, is the summer heat overtaking them before they are podded, causing the blossom to drop off prematurely; to obviate this difficulty they should be planted as early in the year as possible." p. 31.