THE DUTCH ON THE DELAWARE

"About three miles further up on the west bank in a stream called the Minquas Kil... is a fort named Kristina... This was the first fort to be built by the Swedes under the command of Peter Minwit in the year 1638... This Peter Minwit once served the honorable Company as director in this country."

-- "Delaware Papers," 18:1

Peter Minuit

Peter Minuit was a Walloon whose protestant parents had moved from Doornik, Henegouwen in the southern Netherlands, which then included present-day Belgium, to Wesel in Germany, in order to escape from the Catholic Spanish colonials, who were not favorably deposed to those people who had left the Catholic Church to become Protestants. Minuit's birth year is not exactly known but it is somewhere between 1580 and 1589.

For more on Minuit, see his page in our collection of Prominent Dutch-Americans 

With its natural harbor free of ice in the winter, ease of defense, and size enough for a major settlement with supporting farms, Manhattan Island seems like the clear choice for the administrative center of New Netherland. However, it was not the first choice of the colony's administrators, who in 1624 chose High Island on the South (present-day Delaware) River. Likely influenced by erroneous reports that described the area's climate as temperate and essentialy devoid of winter, the West India Company's directors sent instructions that most of the incoming colonists were to be settled there.

In 1626, however, Peter Minuit (pronounced Min-We), the colony's new director and someone well acquainted with its various climes, moved the colony's center from High Island to Manhattan Island. His immediate reason was an Indian War centered at Fort Orange (present-day Albany) that threatened the security of all outlying settlements, but Minuit's knowledge of the climate—High Island was frequently isolated for months in the winter when the Delaware River froze—likely played a part in his decision. 

In 1638, it would be Peter Minuit, under the flag of Sweden, who would lead the establishment of the first permanent colony on the Delaware. Sweden was eager to capitalize on Minuit's knowledge of the area after his dismissal by the Dutch West India Company. Minuit perished at sea shortly thererafter. 

In the following decades, the Dutch and Swedes would struggle for control of the region. By 1655, the Dutch under Peter Stuyvesant gained complete control of the area and held it until the English takover in 1664. 

* In the 'Dutch Treat' orange box is the flag of Wilimington, Delaware, modeled on the flag of Sweden. 

About the New Netherland Institute

For a quarter century NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. Directed by Dr. Charles Gehring. More

 

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